5 #Blizzard Tips from the ASPCA to Save Your #Pets Life!


Images courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

This post published February 9, 2015 but with the crazy blizzard-icity hitting the country, it’s appropriate to freshen up the info. PLEASE take precautions for both yourself and your pets. SHARE this post with anyone needing the help.



In the past I’ve blogged about cold weather dangers for pets and this past week N. Texas has enjoyed some sunny, warm days. But in other parts of the country–yet another blizzard threatens. Thank you to the ASPCA for sending this important and insightful infographic designed to keep your dogs and cats safe!

You’ll find life saving first aid tips for hypothermia, frostbite, CPR, even cat fan belt injuries and more in The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats — and in my new CAT FACTS book. But prevention trumps after the fact every time. So please SHARE this post far and wide, and get our fur-kids the protection they need!


YouTubeButtonI love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me onFacebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

SHOW AND TELL: Making Of A Video Book Trailer

SelfiCats_80421608_lorezI’ve had a lot of fun cobbling together trailers for my most recent thrillers. And today, I want to share how I put the trailer together, and also added “click-able” links to the video. In other words, pull the curtain aside just a bit for readers, and also for other book writers.

A book trailer is no different than one created for a movie: short, full of impact-icity, and designed to entice or even compel viewers to BUY the book. There’s debate on how much benefit (if any) book trailers have on sales, but heck–more eyeballs and ears just learning about SHOW AND TELL could potentially help.

It’s a given that the book must be good. And it’s a given that it should be available as widely as possible. Those two aspects must happen for the book to garner positive reviews–which also serve to convince readers your book is worth the purchase.

The real unicorn-rainbow-dust is obtaining DISCOVER-ABILITY. I suspect a well-done and compelling book trailer can help.

movie director dog with a vintage camera


There’s no real “rules” about trailers. Just put yourself in the viewer’s seat and take notes. 1. What makes YOU “click” on the video on YouTube or wherever, 2. What makes you STOP watching before it’s done? 3. What makes you watch to the end? 4. After viewing, what makes you A. like/share/recommend B. take the next step (click/buy/subscribe/whatever).

Based on that, I now strive for 1. Click-able cover image 2. Succinct (under 90 seconds…60 is better!) 3. Tension (what happens next? use the CLIMAX scenes of plot, not the whole story) 4. Value added…in my case, free sample chapter

I don’t pretend to be a whiz or professional at movie-making the way many of my actor and producer colleagues are, but for a DIY super-low-budget project, I’m pretty pleased. Using the criteria in the previous paragraph, I’d love your feedback. Does it make you want to click/watch? Did you watch to the end? Would you “click” the link at the end for the free read? (We’ll get to how it was made, including the click-able link, so please keep reading!).

Did you see the clip with Magical-Dawg? Hey, he had to be in there somewhere, since he’s the inspiration for Shadow, my hero-dog character. You can read more about that in this fun blog post.

One of the so-called “rules” is to keep the video short. Apparently, today we’re all ADD-voyeurs with such short attention spans that—–> OOOOH SQUIRREL!

Although now it’s a single video complete with sound, it didn’t start out that way. If you want, watch again and see if you can count how many separate videos, pictures, and sound cues were used to create this final product. Post your guesses in the comments, and I’ll reveal the answer later. *s*

My first attempt at a trailer was nearly 2-1/2 minutes long, yikes! but it’s had over 500 views so I guess folks liked it well enough. For LOST AND FOUND trailer, I shot nearly all the video myself, (some of it OF myself!) and recorded the voice over but purchased the gunshot sound effects. So other than the cost of the software, which I already had, the first video was nearly free. *s* I’ve included that video further down the page, for those interested.

The trailers for the two latest books HIDE AND SEEK and SHOW AND TELL cost more because I purchased more stock video and audio. There are free-share sites for this but be careful of licensing and copyright issues. Authors don’t want books pirated, so we must respect the rights of the photographer/videographer/model/actor. I purchased several clips from DepositPhotos.com (yes, they have video, too). I think that I paid $30 for “web rights” version for each clip I purchased from them. So each of these videos cost me about $100.

My book trailer for HIDE AND SEEK (also included toward the end of the post) not only used sound effects but also mood-enhancing music, and I tried to time the musical emphasis with appearance of the subtitles. For thrillers, I think that works well. Other genres probably it wouldn’t matter quite so much.

In fact, most book trailers I’ve seen consist of still pictures representing characters or setting with captions that sketch the high points of the plot. There are folks able to make these types of trailers compelling, but I’m not that talented. I prefer video to still pictures, and I prefer voice overs to captions. Probably using a combination works best because reading vs listening is more (or less) compelling and memorable depending on the individual. Today with the advent of SmartPhones and easy-to-record video, you can often shoot the video and images you need yourself–and do the whole thing for free.

But once you have all the different 10-second clips of images, settings, characters and actions, how do you put them together? Video software, of course.


There are many kinds of software packages that are easy to use, often free, and provide the effects you’ll want. A simple slide show with captions works well, and can be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo or other host services (even directly to FaceBook) to leverage share-power.

I discovered VideoPad editing software several years ago, and first downloaded the trial version and fell in love. Using the VideoPad freeware, I produced dozens of my short Ask Amy cat and dog behavior videos and several hundred others all available on my YouTube channel here. When you take a look at some of these, you’ll notice the same intro for each (with puppies or kitties added, depending on the subject), so often you can create your own “stock” footage to use time and again.

Here’s how it works. You open the software, click the “add” button to upload images or video clips or audio files, and then drag/drop into various “tracks.” You can layer these as you wish, move them around, create fade in/fade out or other (zoom!) transitions between these components. The audio track runs below the image files so you can time them, and see where (57 second mark) something happens to create your caption to appear/disappear where you wish. I love this software! You can then “export” the file into any of several formats. The MP4 format works for YouTube very well, but you could expert as a .MOV or any of several other options, including low or high definition, save the file to DVD or whatever you’d like. Brilliant!

Stay tuned for future how-to webinars with screen shots and more for DIY trailers, and other writer-icity topics. Yeah, I don’t have enough to do with the books…I gotta add webinars, too. 😛

I promised to share with you the first book trailer I created–here it is, and *blush* I think I could do better now. But I did just add that click-able link to the sample chapter at the very end of the video. That’s a nifty technique and it can be used for ANY video, not just book trailers. I’ll be adding this to many of my Ask Amy videos. To learn how, read on. *s*


You can’t use the “free” version of VideoPad for monetizing. I’m not sure if that counts with simply adding the clickable link on your YouTube account, so you’ll have to check further on that. Several years ago I upgraded to the professional version of VideoPad (it’s only $70!) because it has a few extras that I wanted to use. I just discovered that VideoPad is vailable on Amazon here.  

This is NOT a sponsored post and VideoPad doesn’t know they’re being mentioned…I just like the program a lot and (full disclosure) I could earn an amazon referral fee if you choose to purchase the software through amazon. But get the free trial first.

Anyway, because I have the pro-version, I’m all set for the launch of my forthcoming fee-based video webinars. Stay tuned! I know my cat and dog consulting fees may be out of range for some folks, so these will cover how-to’s solving top cat and dog behavior complaints. If it turns out this post proves helpful, I’ll include some publishing and writing how-to sessions as well and include screen shots and power point and fun pictures and…OOOOH SHINY!

Sorry. Anyway, back to the topic at hand (or paw…)

To add links to YouTube, you first need a YouTube account. Many of y’all already have one, if you’re posting video or sharing it. So login to your YouTube account, and “click” on your icon on the top right-hand side of the page (that’s probably your thumbnail image), and then “click” on your “creator studio.”

That brings up a menu on the left side of the screen. On the drop-down menu for your channel, click the “advanced” button. That’s where you will ASSOCIATE a url with your YouTube account. In my case, I’ve associated my website www.Shojai.com with YouTube, because that’s where most of the pages/content is found that I want to link video to.

For instance, in each of these trailers, I’ve linked the “sample pages” of the book to the book trailer, so that folks who finish viewing the trailer can automatically click-and-read to get a taste of the story. Now, you can associate a site with your YouTube page that you do not own…but then the owner must approve (or not) of that affiliation. Once you have your YouTube account associated with the blog or webpage, then you’re ready to add cards…or clickable links.


Once you have a website associated with your YouTube account, you can add two neato-torpedo types of links. You can add up to 5 “cards” to each video with click-able links. These cards appear wherever you place them, and can have an image with a “teaser” and title. I didn’t use cards in these videos because I wanted folks to watch all the way through–and clicking on a card stops the video and takes the person to that link. I will, however, use cards in some other videos (such as my trailer for STRAYS, THE MUSICAL to include the CD, script and piano score options). In a future webinar I’ll detail how to use the cards and links (even amazon buy links) on YouTube videos.

In order to use an associated link, though, you’ll go to the specific video to which you wish to edit/add a link. Click on Video Manager and scroll (or do a search) to find the video you wish to edit. Click the arrow/menu beside the “edit” button and it will reveal several options. Click on “annotations” and then the top right side the box to “add annotation.” To create a click-able box, select “spotlight” and then move the created box to where you wish–a picture, for instance, or an area of existing text. You can also type in text to appear. There are a few tools for sizing the font or changing colors of type, too.

Then check the “link” box below/left, select from the drop-down menu (defaults to “video” and you want “associated website checked), and then enter the url to the page on your website you want to direct folks. You’ll also want to check the box “open in another window” so it doesn’t stop your video. And be sure to adjust how long you want the click-able box to remain visible, using the “start” and “end” times. Once satisfied, click the “apply changes” in the blue box at the top-right of your screen.

Whew! I wrote a book, it seems! Was this helpful? Have you created YouTube videos or trailers for your books? Feel free to post links to your own book trailers in the comments section!

I’m planning topics now for my webinars (all with SQUEEE-licious dog and cat imagery!), so feel free to make suggestions. What other writing and/or pet topics would be helpful for you? Do tell!

YouTubeButtonI love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

#Thrillers Thursday: H.A. Raynes NATION OF ENEMIES

Horror woman behind the matte glass ,style black and white, Blurry hand and body , soft focus
THRILLER THURSDAY is a new occasional feature of Bling, Bitches & Blood. As a member of International Thriller Writers and alumni of the ITW Debut Author Program, it is my honor to showcase select ITW authors and books participating in the ITW Bloggers Program. If you love reading great books as much as I do, check out my first spotlight guest HOLLY RAYNES!12109194_10207129776748082_8040827475833742861_n

H.A. RAYNES was inspired to write NATION OF ENEMIES by a family member who was a Titanic survivor and another who escaped Poland in World War II. Combining lessons from the past with a healthy fear of the modern landscape, this novel was born. A longtime member of Boston’s writing community, she was a finalist in the Massachusetts Screenwriting Competition and has published a short story in the online magazine REDIVIDER. H.A. Raynes has a history of trying anything once (acting, diving out of a plane, white water rafting, and parenting). Writing and raising children seem to have stuck. 

NationOfEnemies_HARaynesIt’s all about the genetics. DNA. Black & white.

A decade ago the US government mandated that all citizens be issued biochips containing all of their medical information and an ID number indicating a person’s health. Then they made the information public—the implications of which were wide-spread and devastating.

Now on the eve of the 2032 presidential election, the country is deeply divided and on the brink of civil war. But as the two major political parties face off, innocent Americans are dying at the hands of masked terrorists. When the Liberty Party’s presidential nominee is assassinated in a highly-coordinated, masterful attack, it sets off a chain of events that will change the course of history and leave America’s inalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—dangling on the precipice of extinction.


Listen to Holly Raynes in this radio show (along with some other fine ITW authors).

Connect with Holly at these links:





NATION OF ENEMIES, Paperback & Ebook, 528 pages
HarperCollins/Witness Impulse Imprint

 An Amazon reader: Nation of Enemies is a tightly wound look into a plausible view of the future of America. Topics being debated today (NSA overreach in surveillance, electronic health records, technology in general, domestic terrorism, refugee screening and more) are woven together to paint a picture of a not too distant future where the concept of what freedom in America really means is tested and defined. The story is told in a the form of an action thriller that keeps you interested and invested from the first page.”


Barnes and Noble



Disclosure: I am not being compensated for this post, and the featured author is not responsible for the content. THRILLER THURSDAY posts may include amazon.com affiliate links for which I’m nominally compensated.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Enter the Cat Writers Contest, Win $11,000 in Awards & More

Young girl reading a book with her cat at home, sitting next to two piles of books.

Sometimes it pays to be catty—I just finished hosting a Google Hangout On The Air (see bottom of post) about the Cat Writers’ Association annual contest. The international Cat Writers’ Association, Inc. (CWA) founded in 1992 is now accepting entries for its annual Communications Contest with more than $11,000 in prize money plus the prestigious Muse Medallion award in its kitty.

This year, CWA is offering 19 sponsored special awards of $500 to $1,000 each as well as its own Muse Medallions™ to winners in approximately 55 writing, broadcast and graphic arts categories. The special awards cover topics that include veterinary research, health, behavior, nutrition, seniors, kitten care, safety issues, the human-animal bond, humane issues and responsible ownership, plus awards for fiction and new writers.

Our contest showcases the very best in the feline field of professional writers, broadcasters, photographers and graphic artists. You don’t have to belong to CWA to participate. However, we encourage writers to becoCWA-web-logome part of this professional group that strives to improve the lives of cats and serves as a great network of professionals.

CWA’s writing competition is open to work published between June 16, 2014 and December 31, 2015 (a special one-time 18-month contest period). Categories cover feline-oriented articles and columns, short stories and blogs, poetry, fiction and nonfiction books, photography and illustrations published in magazines, newspapers, newsletters and online and video/audio tapes of broadcast material. Awards will be presented at CWA’s annual conference to be held this year June 23-25 outside Phoenix.

Rules and entry forms are available on the CWA’s website. Entries must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, January 19, 2016.

seren_awardI’ve been fortunate to win a few of the CWA-sponsored awards. While the cash is terrific (writers are notoriously underpaid!), the kudos from colleagues and other pros in the field goes even further. Having one of these awards on your resume actually helps land future writing jobs.

CWA also sponsors an annual writing conference. This year the conference is held in conjunction with the BlogPaws Conference, and event that brings together beginning to professional bloggers with a passion for pets. That makes it possible for pet professionals, show people, products manufacturers and media attending the event to also attend the educational sessions. Anybody who’s anyone in the world of cats or dogs (or ferrets, birds, bunnies, even pigs!) will be at this event in June. Yes, it’s a long time away, but now you can mark your calendar well in advance!

Seminars offer help to beginning-to-advance writers, and are presented by a wide range of professionals. Editors in attendance welcome meeting with aspiring article and book authors. In fact, I have personally sold more articles than I can count, and four pet books as a direct result of attending this conference.

Because our members have specialized interest in all-things-pets, seminars and panel discussions in the past have included such varied topics as laws pertaining to animals; veterinary issues and hot topics to cover in the news; and shelter/animal welfare issues. I’ve just confirmed speakers on topics ranging from self-publishing to New York publishing, marketing your work, submitting proposals and more. BlogPaws speakers will offer a plethora of info on blogging, SEO, state of the industry, marketing and more. Stay tuned!

In addition to the great writing seminars, a pet book signing event will be held during the conference featuring many attending authors and their latest books. If you love pets–and you do or you wouldn’t read this blog; and if you are now writing or would like to learn more; consider entering the contest and/or attending the CWA conference and/or entering the contest. Check out this video from contest chair Arden Moore with more information. Hope to see you there!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

New Year Pet Resolutions 2016 Edition

A goal, courtesy of a gift from my brilliant and always astute (and never wrong) Dad.

A goal, courtesy of a gift from my brilliant and always astute (and never wrong) Dad.

It’s 2016 and this year I resolved to NOT make resolutions. Instead, I’m making “goals.” Rather than an end-accomplishment, I’d rather strive for the destination but try to enjoy the journey along the way. In my experience, some of the side-roads along the journey prove to be as much if not more rewarding than the final accomplishment. How about you?

A new year is a time for reflection on the past. This year has been incredibly challenging for my family on multiple fronts, and I’m in the process of reevaluating many things. But I’m also grateful for all of our blessings, and for the opportunity to share my work with other pet-loving peeps.

In the past two weeks, I’ve had two new books released, after much gnashing of virtual teeth. The third book in my thriller series SHOW AND TELL released December 22, and I’m delighted it’s already receiving some glowing reviews. Just so you know, it took nearly a year to write…and rewrite…and rewrite…due to some of those aforementioned unexpected side-roads.

MagicBooksThen last week on December 29 a purring-new cat care book released, CAT FACTS: The Pet Parent’s A-to-Z Home Care Encyclopedia. I can honestly say it took me nearly 25 years to write this book. This massive illustrated book is a compilation of my years as a pet care and behavior advocate and reporter, and my wish is that it helps cat lovers better care for their special kitties. Oh, and no worries for the wagging pets—DOG FACTS is in the works and hopefully won’t take another 25 years to accomplish (there’s one of my goals!).Cat-Facts-Cover-Front-lorez

None of this would be possible without my furry muses. It’s become a tradition to take stock of the past year from a pets’-eye-view, too, and the year to come.

The Magical-dawg had a renewed episode of licking his paws nekkid, and we’re still struggling to resolve that. It’s aggravated by stress, and I have no doubt Magic is feeling and reacting to my own stress so my goal is to DE-stress more to help us both. Magic is now nine, and has clearly begun to slow down and show his age.

Seren-kitty will be 20 in February, but has had no issue with schnorkles this year. She’s become more active and demanding of attention–a good thing! and I attribute that to the arrival of Karma-Kat. She’s become more tolerant of him and Magic, but is forced to move her furry tail to stay out the delinquent cat’s reach. She still makes sure they both know she’s the boss. In my CAT FACTS book the age comparison chart places her in the geriatric range, with a human age equivalent in her late 80s. Mee-wow!

KarmaBooksKarma has grown from a lanky adolescent kitten into a hefty man-kat eager for a game of tag, chase, “towel skiing” and treats. He’s my nighttime pillow-share buddy, and the delight of Magic, makes Seren grumpy, and keeps us humans laughing.

So here are New Year’s Resolutions from Magic, Seren and Karma with commentary by Amy.

Magic: “I will train my humans to spend more time playing. And petting me. ”

Amy: He still insists on fetch. All the time. I mean ALL the time! both inside the house and out, even though his older legs have slowed down on the return time. So my goal is to toss toys shorter distances lower to the ground so he won’t have to leap, and use only the soft stuffed toys to cut down on household damage.

Karma: “I will train my humans to leave open the treat drawer so I can help myself.”

Amy: We’ve had to put an extra door stop on the pantry door to keep him from opening it and chewing through the dog food bag. Any treats must be kept behind doors or in drawers or he carries off the packaging and empties the bag. So my goal is to continue offering Karma cat-healthy treats kept in cat-proofed containers.

Seren: “I will stand on table tops, hassocks and Amy’s lap and cry and yowl to get another taste of yummy canned food.”

Amy: She’s been on a therapeutic food for a couple of years, but started stealing from Karma’s bowl—and at her age, we figure anything she wants is legal. As a result, she’s eating more, gained a bit of weight, and looks and acts better. Besides, Karma steals HER food, too. Yelling for food also gets her attention, a big coup for her to diss Karma. My goal is to keep Karma otherwise engaged so that Seren can enjoy her food without harassment from the delinquent cat.

Magic: “I will kill all squeakers and chew sticky-out wrong parts on toys. And keep Karma from stealing my toys.”

Amy: He amputates teddy-bear ears, and SQUEEEEEKS toys forever to drive us crazy. Magic got to keep the squeakie “Willoughby” bark toys from my role in the recent Mary Poppins show…but Karma steals them now, too. I will again seek to find a Magic-proof squeaky stuffed toy—been looking for years now. And remember to supervise so Magic doesn’t steal Karma’s toys, or vice versa.

IMG_3356Karma: “I will stalk and tease and pounce at Magic so he chases me, and turn Seren into my personal wrestle-toy to make the humans yell, what fun!”

Amy: Karma takes great delight in teasing Magic and getting him into trouble. He also gets on top of Seren to wrestle her, and at over twice her weight, turns her into a pancake of kitty frustration. My goal is to play interactive chase games with Karma each day to give him the exercise, attention and fun he craves and deserves.

Seren: “I will train Amy there’s more to nine lives than paw-tapping and staring at a boxy computer-thing. Like catnip. And whisker-kisses.”

Karma: “I will train Amy that playing with cats is more fun than anything else.”

Magic: “I will train Amy that there’s no such thing as too many treats. But time together is even better.”

Amy: My goal is to listen to my furry muses. What about you?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!