Panera Bread Book Signing: Paw-tographs for Gifts

Panera Bread book signing

Amy Shojai, Dusty Rainbolt and Lois Richardson will have these (and maybe other!) books at the event. Get a book signed (or PAW-tographed) for holiday gifts!

What do authors, books and Panera Bread have in common? Read on!

For the past several years, I’ve not done many local book signing events. Part of that has to do with the change in books and taking control back of my own publishing. While all of my books are available through online bookstores, the physical brick-and-mortar stores may be able to order the books but aren’t able to stock them. Consequently, bookstores that used to host my signing events (and those of my colleagues) now are not allowed to do so.

*sad face*


In a way, though, that forces author-preneurs like myself to think outside of the box(store) and find innovative and fun ways to connect with readers. Independent book stores ROCK and are still very supportive of all authors. Libraries also celebrate writers and authors in our vast and myriad forms of publication (I’ll be signing/speaking at a Bristol Public Library Dec. 19 in Bristol, Indiana).

And now…one of my favorite go-to local eateries, Panera Bread — one that has saved me countless times by offering free wifi when my Internet went ker-flooey — has gone above and beyond.


Next Saturday, December 10 from 9-11:00 a.m., the Sherman Texas Panera Bread at the Town Center will host a book signing for myself and two other local authors, Dusty Rainbolt and Lois Richardson. YEE-HAW! Come grab breakfast and shop for Christmas, for the book lovers (and pet lovers) in your life!

You can let me know you’re coming on the Facebook Event Page here. Please invite your N. Texas Friends.



Magical-Dawg inspires my thrillers! Well…so do the cats (but don’t tell them or they’ll get big heads!).

Rainbolt, a past president of the Cat Writers Association, is a cat behavior consultant from Flower Mound. She is an award winning author of cat care books and mysteries. She’ll sign her newest book Cat Scene Investigator: Solve Your Cat’s Litter Box Mystery as well as Cat Wrangling Made Easy and Kittens for Dummies. She also will have on “paw” her ghostly historical mystery, Death Under the Crescent Moon.

Richardson, an accomplished artist living in Whitesboro, is a longtime member of Oklahoma Writers Federation. She writes both nonfiction and young adult mysteries. She will sign the first book in her young adult mystery series, The Forbidden Room.

As for me, I’m a certified animal behavior consultant, a nationally known author of 30 pet care and suspense books, and past president of both Cat Writers Association and Oklahoma Writers Federation. I’ll sign copies of my dog-viewpoint September Day thrillers, and my three most recent nonfiction titles: Dog Facts, Cat Facts and New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats.


All of us are eager to answer questions about our writing and publishing journeys and let y’all know more about our books. Dusty and I are also happy to entertain pet questions.

Can’t make it to the event in person? All books mentioned are also available to be ordered from amazon and other fine online retailers. Contact the individual authors through their websites and I’m sure they’ll be happy to send a personalized autographed bookplate to the gift recipient (or in honor of a pet?).

So…are books on your holiday gift giving list? Do you even care if there’s a purr-sonal inscription from the author? And authors, what unique outside-the-box venues have you appeared? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Note: Upon occasion, affiliate links to books or other products may be included in posts, from which I earn a small amount with each purchase from the blog. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? 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!


texas-thespians-headerI’m HOME from Texas Thespian Festival and SHOJAI & STEELE PLAYS met with some amazing talents during our 30 teaching sessions.

To continue the celebration, we’re opening up the drawing to those unable to attend (or too busy to sign up!) at Festival. Here’s your chance to sign up to win a free copy of our STRAYS THE MUSICAL script.

thespian2016We’re also offering DIRECTORS the chance to win a $1500 free license to produce STRAYS at a future time/date (before January 2019). Since not all of our Thespian buddies have a chance to do this, I’m posting the entry info below for the next few days.

ENTER if you wish, and SHARE with those who might have interest, too. This is a limited time entry offer so don’t delay. And…if y’all are at the Festival, stop by our booth and say “howdy.”

What Is Holistic Pet Care?


This gorgeous pup has fun in the “natural” undergrowth…but poison mushrooms are natural, too! Image Copr. D. Garding/Flickr


Is natural veterinary medicine that different than a conventional approach? Many pet products companies have joined the “natural” revolution but is this because they truly feel that’s better for our cats and dogs–or is it simply a marketing ploy? And how can pet parents decide what’s best for their cats and dogs, and see through all the hand-waving hype?

I write about holistic care in both of my CAT FACTS and DOG FACTS book, but never would have done so before researching a much earlier work. Some year’s ago I wrote a book for Rodale Press. It had been out of print for about 10 years but is again available in print, and for the first time as an Ebook and in audio (see below).

holistic veterinary care


new-front-cover-copyBefore researching the book New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats, I really didn’t know a lot–or think very much of–the “natural” wave of pet care since I’m a prove-it-to-me-with-science kind of person. But after interviewing dozens and dozens of scientific-type researchers and veterinarians who embraced some or all of these new-but-old-fashioned modalities (more than 70 for the book!), I not only learned a lot but began to respect the alternative viewpoint.

As with any trend, though, there are those who take advantage and dish up quackery alongside the quality options, so it’s still very much up to us to “vet” our pet care. The same is true for conventional medicine, too. There’s a reason they call it the PRACTICE of medicine–it is as much an art as a science, and what’s the best choice for my animal companions may be the wrong one for yours.

Conventional vs Natural: What’s the Difference?

Veterinarians provides the latest in terms of advanced diagnostic technology, cutting edge drugs and surgery but many pet parents—and veterinarians—also embrace holistic medicine they feel is more natural. While traditional “western” medicine can’t be beat for addressing emergencies like broken legs and acute or critical health issues, holistic approaches may work better to prevent and treat chronic health challenges.

Here’s a broad example that compares “conventional” treatment to a holistic medicine approach. In mainstream western medicine, a drug can be given to stop the puppy’s diarrhea. But that’s like putting a cork in a bottle and may stop the symptoms without getting rid of the cause, so when the drug wears off the diarrhea returns. Instead, holistic practitioners seek to treat the patient as well as the symptom. Mainstream veterinary medicine does that, too, of course, but the approach is a bit different.
holistic dog

What Is Alternative Medicine?

The word holistic refers to a whole-body approach that addresses the health of the pet’s physical and emotional being. Alternative simply means “in addition to” and not specifically “instead of” other modalities.

Rather that treating the “symptom” of disease, the holistic practitioner looks at the entire animal: diet, exercise, behavior, emotions, and even the environment. Conventional “western” medicine tends to focus on the disease, while holistic medicine focuses on the patient.

Other terms are used to describe holistic medicine, including “natural” and “alternative.” My favorite term, though, is “integrated medicine” because that means the best of all worlds—a combined approach of conventional partnered with holistic for the ideal help for your dog and cat.

Why A Natural Medicine Approach?

Holistic veterinarians would rather try to prevent problems like hip dysplasia and to support the body’s immune system to fight allergies rather than scramble to fix problems after they happen. They believe once chronic problems develop they continue to get worse even with ongoing conventional treatment.

This frustration with conventional western veterinary care inspired them to look for other options. Holistic or “natural” alternatives for many became the answer. Once they started to look, veterinarians found and began experimenting with therapies like herbal remedies, flower essences and homeopathy. They looked at natural medicines and treatments that had been used in human medicine for decades or even centuries.

They found out treatments like massage and acupuncture not only worked in people, but equally well in pets. Some of these treatments raise eyebrows, such as sticking needles into your puppy to help relieve pain until scientists proved acupuncture can relieve pain and nausea and even help boost the immune system. Holistic vets have found that garden herbs and Grandma’s home remedies work as well or better than many modern drugs. They often contain the exact same ingredients, but don’t cause the side effects.

You Don’t Have to Choose: Use Integrative Veterinary Medicine

An integrated approach offers your pets the ideal care specific to his needs. Alternative/holistic veterinary medicine works great alongside much of mainstream medicine.

Conventional medicine can’t be beat when it comes to diagnosing problems, so X-rays or blood analysis can reveal a tumor or fracture before the veterinary chiropractor provides a treatment. If your puppy chews through an electrical cord and stops breathing, acupuncture resuscitation can start his heartbeat again until you can reach conventional trauma medicine help. Homeopathy can’t perform surgery, but may help a traumatized pet survive surgery and heal more quickly afterwards.

Evaluating Claims

Be sure to evaluate the claims of different holistic treatments before rushing into therapy. Sadly, when the term “natural” became very popular, some companies simply slapped on the label to increase sales. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe or effective—poisonous mushrooms and venomous snake bite is natural, too.

It’s difficult sometimes to figure out odd-sounding therapies that work from quackery, so ask questions and do your research. Look for studies that back up the claims of a treatment’s effectiveness. Your holistic vet will provide proven science when it’s available. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies alternative care options for people and many of these apply to pets as well. Veterinary journals also publish studies and measure the effects of different techniques.

When a technique or product is very new there may not be scientific studies available. Because some of these therapies are “natural” there’s not much money to be made and so costly evaluations may not be embraced by drug companies. In these cases, testimonials from other pet owners and veterinarians may provide convincing “anecdotal” evidence. Just take some claims with a grain of salt depending on who makes the claims—someone with a monetary gain could be suspect. But other puppy owners and animal health professionals able to recognize true health improvements are more credible.

Choosing A Credible Holistic Veterinarian

When choosing a holistic veterinarian, look for doctors that have training in natural and alternative treatments. Professional veterinary associations or holistic organizations offer study and accreditation. Some of these organizations include:

Do you use natural, holistic or otherwise “alternative” veterinary options with your pets? Do tell! And if you decide to get the newly released NATURAL HEALING pet care book, please post a review and let me know what you think!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Note: Upon occasion, affiliate links to books or other products may be included in posts, from which I earn a small amount with each purchase from the blog. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? 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!

Hack-Wheeze-HONK! Protect Dogs from Holiday Kennel Cough

Coughing dogs are no fun for you, or your dog. With holidays near, many dogs may spend time away from home being boarded. That can expose your furry friend to kennel cough. Learn how to protect your dog, by understanding more about this contagious disease.

kennel cough

I’m sharing this hacking entry about CANINE KENNEL COUGH which is an excerpt from Dog Facts, The Series 11 (Chapter K). This chapter covers a lot of ground, and here’s the topic list:

Kennel Cough, Keratitis, Kidney Disease, Kneecap Slipping, and Knee Injury.

I’ve broken the massive book into discounted treat-size alpha-chapter sections. Folks can choose which ones they most need. Each chapter will release every other week. Of course, you can still get the entire book either in Kindle or 630+ pages of print.



Canine infectious tracheobronchitis, generically referred to as kennel cough, is a highly contagious and common condition affecting dogs. The disease causes an inflammation of the dog’s larynx, trachea, and bronchi (tubes leading to the lungs).

All dogs are susceptible, but the disease is most common in dogs exposed to crowded conditions, such as kennels (hence, the name), shows, or other stressful conditions. Most cases cause only mild disease with signs that tend to be more aggravating to owners than dangerous to the dog. But kennel cough in puppies can cause stunted lung development, and/or develop into life-threatening pneumonia.


The disease can be caused by any one or combination of several different infectious agents. The most common culprits are bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica, the canine parainfluenza virus, and the canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2). These agents attach themselves to the delicate hair-like cilia in the dog’s trachea, or actually cause the removal of the cilia. Cilia normally protect the tracheobronchial tract by clearing away irritants like bacteria and other microorganisms with wave-like motions similar to wind moving a grassy field. When they are destroyed, or the agent can’t be dislodged from remaining cilia–the protective mechanism breaks down, resulting in further irritation to the dog’s respiratory tract.


The typical sign of kennel cough is, in fact, a chronic high-pitched honking cough. It can easily be prompted by excitement, drinking, or gentle pressure applied to the base of the dog’s neck. The dog tugging at his leash may result in a paroxysm. Rarely there is also a nasal or eye discharge, and dogs may suffer a slight fever or loss of appetite. The signs can last from a few days to several weeks.

Infection is spread through the saliva and nasal secretions, and may occur by direct nose-to-nose contact. However, coughing also transmits the agents through the air from one dog to another. Signs develop four to six days following exposure.

Diagnosis is based on the dog’s recent history and clinical signs. Because the disease results in a vicious cycle of irritation causing the cough, and cough causing further irritation, cough suppressants to relieve persistent coughing are very important.

Puppy with fur cap with ear flaps and a scarf


Holistic veterinarians may recommend herbal remedies to help soothe the discomfort and speed recovery. A Chinese herbal liquid called loquat is very sweet, and dogs may lick this willingly off the spoon. Ask your vet about the dosage. You can also make your own remedy by combining lemon and honey. Mix two tablespoons of honey and a teaspoon of lemon juice in one-half cup of water and give to the dog a couple of times a day. For congestion, the herb mullein is available in capsule form and helps break up congestion that may accompany kennel cough.

Antibiotics may be required when bacterial infections are involved. Anti-inflammatory drugs and bronchodilators that open breathing passages to help the dog breathe may also be prescribed.


Preventative vaccinations are available. However, protecting a dog from kennel cough is coipadverticalright_634x982-1mplicated by the fact that many different infectious agents may be involved. Some vaccinations are given by injection, while others are given as drops in the nose to stimulate a local immunity in the nasal passages. However, local immunity is relatively short-lived and may only protect the dog for six months or so.

Dogs at high risk may benefit from annual or oftener vaccinations. These vaccinations may be given alone or in combination, and are often recommended when you anticipate your dog will be placed at risk for exposure, such as boarding at a kennel over the holidays.

Find out more details about other “K” topics in  Dog Facts, The Series 11 (Chapter K).

Will your dog be exposed to kennel cough this year? If visiting a kennel or dog park, check with your veterinarian about keeping your pet safe!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Note: Upon occasion, affiliate links to books or other products may be included in posts, from which I earn a small amount with each purchase from the blog. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? 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!

How To Pet Proof Your Holidays with 11 Life-Saving Tips

Do you pet proof for the holidays? Thanksgiving weekend seems to be a popular time to break out the holiday trimmings, not just in terms of munchies, but decorations, too. There ARE safe foods for cats and dogs, but dangers abound as well.

Holiday homes become pet playgrounds at this time of year. Cats delight in un-decking the halls and climbing the tree. Dogs eat decorations and baptize the tree. The result is a Christmas that’s anything but merry. Refer to these tips to keep your pets safe and your holiday happy.

cat rolling in fresh catnip

Plants and Pets. Dogs and especially puppies chew nearly anything. Cats rarely eat plants, but they do claw them and then lick/groom away the residue. Beware of holiday floral arrangements that contain pet dangers. Lilies can cause kidney failure. Holly and live mistletoe cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy if ingested by your pet. Poinsettias are NOT deadly but can cause nausea and/or mild vomiting. Choose pet-safe plants and set them out of paw-reach. Or consider using silk or plastic holiday plants make an equally showy statement without the poison potential. Check out this list of dangerous plants.

Fire Hazards. Fireplaces offer extra warmth and atmosphere to holiday gatherings, but can prompt singed whiskers or burned paws. Candles prove irresistible especially for kittens who paw-test everything to see what it is, or meet it head-on to sniff and explore. That’s not just painful for pets, it’s a fire hazard for your entire family should Fluffy knock over the Menorah. Instead, electric candles are available for decorating purposes. If you must have the real thing, ensure pets are safely out of the way and candles out of paw-reach. Be sure the fireplace screen is secured against curious pets, too.

Keep poisonous grapes out of dog reach.

DANGER! Grapes are highly toxic and can quickly kill dogs.

Toxic Treats. Gobbling any sort of candy may cause vomiting and/or diarrhea.

  • Chocolate poses special dangers. Too much chocolate, which contains a stimulant called theobromine, can kill your pet. Keep holiday candy out of reach, in latched cupboards, to keep your canine glutton from over-indulging. Valentine’s Day is another time to keep pets safe.
  • Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Affected pets may vomit, act lethargic or uncoordinated and these signs may progress to seizures.
  • Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours. Almonds, pecans and walnuts have so much fat in them, they can cause diarrhea in dogs, or even lead to pancreatitis.
  • Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. Avocado can cause heart damage and death in pet birds.
  • Flavored aluminum foil, grease-smeared turkey strings, and cellophane candy wrappers can be dangerous to pets if swallowed—dogs and cats rarely unwrap treats before eating. Eating raw yeast bread dough also causes problems when the dough rises in the tummy.

Refer to FIRST AID TIPS here for 7 top pet poisons!

pet proof holidays to keep pets safe

Pet proof your holidays to keep your fur-kids safe!

Christmas Tree Tips. Cats consider the tree a feline jungle gym with cat toys that swing, sparkle, and invite paw-pats and biting. Some dogs take “aim” at the tree just as they would your outside shrubs and baptize the greenery. Drinking from treated water in the base can poison pets. Eating tinsel and ornaments can prove deadly, and dogs often chew through electric chords with shocking results.

  • Smaller trees can be set on table tops, inside of baby play pens, or in a room protected by a baby gate. Situate breakable and dangerous decorations on the top of the tree out of reach of inquisitive pets.
  • Make the area around the tree unattractive to keep paws at bay. Clear plastic carpet protectors and place under the tree—nub side up. That makes cruising or lounging under the tree uncomfortable. The soft “tacky mats” available from home product stores designed to keep throw rugs from sliding around work well to keep small pets away because they dislike walking on sticky surfaces.
  • Use your pet’s smell sense to keep her away from the tree. Citrus scents are off-putting to cats so scatter orange or lemon peels (or potpourri) around the base of the tree. Vicks (menthol smell) also works as a good pet repellent. Dip cotton balls in the ointment and stick in the lower branches of your tree. They’ll look a bit like snow and blend in with the rest of the decorations.
  • Create a “pet safe” tree decorated with dog toys and catnip mice. Place these within paw reach on lower branches and reserve the off limits decorations for the top of the tree.

What other steps do you take to help keep your fur-kids safe during the holidays? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook,and get a FREE BOOK when you sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Want the insider info on the latest books and appearances? Join my team and get advance sneak peaks related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!