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Dream Big, Be You: What Do You Want To Be?

Dream Big, Be You: What Do You Want To Be?

I didn’t start out to be a writer, so how the @#$%^&*! did I end up here? I just heard from the Cat Writers’ Association that my fiction book HIT AND RUN just won a Certificate of Excellence Award, with consideration for a Muse Medallion. I always wanted to write fiction, but it only happened when forced to reinvent myself and dream big. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to be remembered for? What will your legacy be?

what do you want to beThe Accidental Writer

I’ve written about my journey several times and have blogged off and on for 20+ years. But the blog only gained traction about ten years ago when I took an Email course on branding and social media from Kristen Lamb (read her blog!). She asked lots of “thoughty” questions:

What do you (want to) write? What are your interests, besides the writing topics—because we are so much more than (fill-in-the-blank). Who do people “see” when they look at you? Is that the BRAND you desire to create? It must be the real you—pretend won’t cut it. People see through the phony-isity of such things. As an actor, someone able to put on a persona for different people or events, that struck a chord with me.

Taking Off the Mask, Being YOU

Okay, she didn’t use those words, but you get my drift. I had an acting coach tell me the same thing, and I wrote about it in another blog, that you are enough. Bring YOU to the table—that’s enough.

And that’s scary! Dang. And it leads me to another question–what did YOU want to be when you grew up? Kids seem to know and show even in the games they play what path they’ll take through life. Me? I wanted to be an actor because they were glamorous, people liked them, and they never laughed too loud or were at a loss for words. I could be whoever I wanted, and if folks rolled their eyes, it wasn’t about me, but the persona. Being real, though–EEEK! Then if they don’t like you (or your work), what then?

writing advice what do you want to be

“I own this content!”

What Do You Want to Be…?

As a kid, my brothers and I put on plays in the basement, and directed marathon “let’s pretend” soap operas. The recurring kid, horses, dogs, and cat characters and stories were so real, they had us in tears—and made my folks roll their eyes.

I never played with dolls, much to the dismay of my grandmother. Nope, it was stuffed animals and best-bud pretend pets who could “really talk!” Mom always said, “When Amy grows up she won’t have babies, she’ll have puppy-dogs and kitty-cats.”

Mom knew.

Write Your Passion—Be YOU, Not Someone Else’s Idea

Early in my writing career, people constantly questioned why I didn’t write about more important topics, like starving children or world peace? And was cautioned, “You’ll never make a living writing about just pets!” Thpbpbpbpbpbpbpb! (insert raspberry sound effects!)

I write about pets because that’s me. It’s what and who I am, and I am enough. No, it’s not ALL that I am, but it’s a big part. I’m not on Broadway–yet! But all my stage and tv experience serves the pet writing causes. I listened to my furry muses. And I have the bling ready for when the big moment comes.

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Writing about dogs (and cats) is serious business.

Becoming My Best Self

Something unexpected happened along the path to becoming Amy. I’m no longer at a loss for words—and instead I have to work at NOT jumping into every conversation. The animals taught me that. I don’t need to bark, howl, wag my tail (no wise cracks!) or hiss all the time to get ahead. I’ve never found being a “whisperer” to be particularly effective.

I’ve learned to be a pet “listener.” If you listen with your eyes and your heart, animals tell you what they’re thinking and why they’re acting in certain ways. Works with humans, too.

When I was a kid, I wanted to wear sparkles, tell stories with happy endings, and have bestest-bud animal friends who really talk. As an adult, when a career on the stage seemed out of reach, I turned to writing as a creative outlet, and it turned into an extraordinarily rewarding career. What did you want to be when you were a kid? Are you there yet?

what do you want to be remembered forWhen I Grow Up…

I always wanted to write fiction but at first, only made headway with nonfiction. My childhood dream came true only happened when I lost my grownup nonfiction writing career ten years ago and gave up writing to teach high school choir.

For the first time in years, I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. So I wrote the novel I’d always wanted to READ in twenty-minute increments: before work, on lunch breaks, and after classes.

I don’t have two-legged kids. My legacy will be my written works, and I hope I will be remembered for helping cats and dogs and those who love them. And now and then, helping fellow writers with tips that helped me, like this webinar on beating writer’s block.

And today, my peers have honored my fifth book, HIT AND RUN, (complete with puppy-dog and kitty-cat characters), something I never could have predicted.

What do you want to be? There’s still time!

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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? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. 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!

 

You. Are. Enough! How to Handle Rejection

You. Are. Enough! How to Handle Rejection

I’m feeling philosophical today, after a disappointing experience a few weeks ago. Doesn’t matter what that might be (plenty disappointments come along, that’s life). But I also feel guilty for feeling bad–cuz I’m way more fortunate than many. So I’m revisiting how to handle rejection and deal with criticism.

The creative mind of authors, actors, musicians, and artists takes criticism and rejection so personally, a perceived sneer can quash the muse. I’m an author, actor, playwright, songwriter, musician, and artist, so maybe I got hit with a multiple-dose of sensitivity. Dang gene pool . . .

Those who read this blog know I first started submitting my writing to magazines. I could have papered the walls with all the rejection letters. My husband complained about the cost of snail-mail until finally I won the attention of an agent. Boy, did I build up calluses from all the rejections and criticisms to find the agent, and later, to weather publishing slings and arrows. Since switching to independent publishing, I pay editors for criticism (how twisted is that?!). Everyone needs critical feedback to improve, and keep pushing ahead.

Rejection never ends. I get to publish what I want now from nonfiction to thrillers, to plays. Maybe because of that, I’m a bit out of practice with how to handle rejection. But each time I bravely step out of my self-protective cocoon to take a chance on FILL-IN-THE-BLANK, criticism rolls in.

Bad reviews from readers? Check. Rejected for a role? Checkity-check. Emails ignored? Check-erooonie. Not invited to XYZ event with colleagues? Checkisity. Offhand comment from stranger–or a friend? Checkmate.

*whimper* THEY HATE ME!

how to handle rejection how to deal with criticismRejection Hurts, But Comes With the Territory

I suspect you’re like me, whether you’ve published, performed, created for years or just recently dipped toes into the creative abyss. Dozens of great reviews or performing a fun role leave me with a temporary glow. But it only takes one blistering comment to negate all the positives.

And we LOOK for those negatives, don’t we? The reader who posts a modest review must not have liked the book all that well. The director who cast someone else, the audience that didn’t whistle and guffaw, the show that failed to sell out–they all must hate us! If the artwork failed to sell, art critics and customers hated the artist. How dare we aspire to create something others might appreciate…what were we thinking?

Many artists can’t separate our creativity from personal worth and identity. Outsiders appreciate (or reject) our “gift” as a product, a separate “thing” apart from the creator. Rejection fosters feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.

I think. Hope. Hell, maybe they really do HATE ME! I’m gonna go eat worms and die.

Nothing’s Personal—Just Feels That Way

It must be in the definition of “artist” to question our own talent and worthiness, even without help from outsiders. Self sabotage destroys more careers than anyone can measure. Because it’s safest to do nothing—pull all the books from the shelves, never write again, put the cello in the case and close the door to theatre. To try and fail feels so painful, we’d rather close ourselves off and stop trying than risk the hurt. Again.

So how many of y’all have shut down the laptop, put away the viola, thrown out paints, or given up thespian aspirations? I’ve made that “decision” dozens of times. Tempting to do so again with the latest hurt.

But it never stuck. Because this is who I am. It’s what I do.

Learning To Be Vulnerable

Years ago I attended an audition workshop with the brilliant Del Shores, who noted that many people have !!@#$%^! -loads of baggage. Nobody gets out of life without some bumps, bruises, and the scars can be visible, deep inside, or both.

Successful performers (and writers also ARE performers!) learn to tap-dance into this wealth of virtual crappiocca, use it to create memorable damaged characters on stage, screen, canvas, music scores—and in our books, essays and other writing. Unblemished, perfect paintings, book characters, photos and music are freakin’ BORING!

how to deal with criticismPerfect People, Perfect Pets = BORING!

In dog and cat behavior (another of my worlds), the perfect pet is a stuffed toy that has no potty accidents, no cost to feed, no need to walk in the rain, and no chewed up shoes or clawed sofas. But real pets also have baggage, seen and unseen—baggage is normal, folks. It’s what makes them special, rather than cookie-cutter same-old-thing. The old days of “punish the bad” have shifted to “reward the good.”

I counsel clients to ignore the bad, and instead catch their pet in the act…of doing something good, and then rewarding with praise, treat, a ball or whatever floats the pet’s boat. We’ve learned that constant brow-beating or (heaven forbid!) actual beating causes pets to shut down.

It shuts down people, too, and it flat-out murders the creative process. Here are some tips to deal with writer’s block.

What floats your boat? How do you reward yourself? You are worthy, ya know! Lift yourself up, stop beating yourself up, and do the same for others. Helping others feeds your own muse!

You Are Enough

Del Shores is fond of saying, “You are enough,” to his actors. No extra bells and whistles required. It applies to all creative people. Lessons learned—and I hope these tips help you, too:

  1. Let yourself grieve the rejection. It hurts. Acknowledge that.
  2. We’re all damaged goods. No blame, we just are what we are. Creatives use that part of ourselves. Mine the gold and let it resonate in your work.
  3. Ignore the bad. Reward the good. Wear the scars as badges of learning and courage.
  4. Wait. Reflect. Breathe. Breathe again. I promise, time heals. Look outside the “door closed” moment for the “open window” that appears. It’s there, if you really look.
  5. Keep challenging yourself. If you get push back, that’s good. Nobody ever succeeded by fading into the woodwork.
  6. You. Are. Enough.

It’ll take practice for me to believe that. But I’m getting better. How about you?

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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!

Scared Cat? Teaching Shrinking Violet Shy Cats

Scared Cat? Teaching Shrinking Violet Shy Cats

scared cat

Is your kitty shy? How do you bring her out of her Shrinking Violet shell? (Image copr. Missi Hostrup via Flickr, a picture of Tiger Lily)

Working with fearful and scared cats can be a challenge. Does Sheba hiss at strangers? Does Tom dive under the bed when the doorbell rings? Do your kitties attack other pets (or humans)? What can you do to stop bad behavior if even a mild correction sends the cat into fearful meltdown? Alexa posted her Ask Amy question to my Facebook page, and the answer is in today’s video.

Helping Shy & Scared Cats

We often feel that our fur-kids must have been abused and feel bad to make THEM feel bad. But they still need to know limits. One of my favorite ways to train is using positive rewards. Instead of waiting for kitty to scratch the wrong object and then interrupting the behavior–why not REWARD her when she scratches the RIGHT object?

Using kitty clicker training can also build confidence in shy cats by teaching them what happens is in their paws. Here are more tips for dealing with scared cats.

Stranger Danger & Fearful Felines

While a normal dose of caution keeps cats from becoming coyote kibble, extreme fear makes cats miserable and disrupts your happy home. A hiding cat may not bother you, constant anxiety increases stress that can make cats sick. For instance, stress can aggravate bladder inflammation (cystitis), which prompts hit-or-miss bathroom behaviors from feeling pain. Even when the bladder doesn’t hurt, anxious cats use potty deposits or will increase scratching behavior to calm themselves—sort of the way nervous humans bite their fingernails. Noises can scare cats, and this post about dog noise fear may help kitties, too.

scared catMore Tips for Helping Shy Cats or Stressed Out Kitties

Do you have a shy cat? How does s/he react to strangers or new situations? What tips have you used to bolster confidence? You can use scent enrichment to help reduce your cats’ stress. Are you concerned (like Alexa, below) about damaging your pet relationship during training? How do you avoid that?

Of course you can find lots more fur-kid care tips in the pet books. Many of the tips in MY CAT HATES MY VET! will also help. But I hope anyone with a burning furry question (or heck, ANY question! *s*) will share in the comments and perhaps it’ll be a future Ask Amy feature!

Ask Amy Shojai: How Can I Teach My ...
Ask Amy Shojai: How Can I Teach My Shy Cat Right from Wrong?

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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? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. 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!

Thoughty Thursday: What’s YOUR Bliss?

Thoughty Thursday: What’s YOUR Bliss?

MagicKiss blissI’ve had a lot of jobs over the years, all why searching for my own personal bliss. Some were glorious adventures while others hit big numbers on the suck-ometer. That happens, when you follow your muse…in my cases, a furry one.

Jobs, Careers & the Bliss Factor

I’m a college graduate (woo-woo! thanks Mom and Dad!) with a double major in music and communication (aka theater/writing/fill-in-the-blank). So what’s my work history with such credentials?

Cashier, actress, newspaper delivery person, optometric associate, legal assistant, TV news reporter/anchor, voice teacher, vet tech, bank compliance officer, author, behavior consultant, spokesperson, middle school and high school choir teacher. For a while, I wondered if my folks had wasted their money sending me to college when it seemed my “just a job” treading water (to put, you know, bread on the table) had little to nothing to do with my original aspirations. Along with each came a boatload of shoveling crappiocca (and dodging what was lobbed my direction).

Grubby paws can mean you’re digging for gold!

Being Grateful For Crap

Would I change a single day? Well yeah…there are a few I’d give anything for a do-over. The worst times made me that much more determined to reach that shiny brass ring. And some days, I made enough headway to see it up close and personal.

I think without the bad times, I wouldn’t be as appreciative of the not-bad-times. The contrast makes each stand out more stark and bright and distinctive. It’s a struggle sometimes to be that optimist especially when the world around us has lost it’s sparkle, and the darkest portions seem to catch the spotlight attention, drowning out the goodness that I know is there.

For me, I gotta focus on the good stuff or I’ll drown in the pessimism. Goodness doesn’t always come in a spotlight, either–it rarely attracts the hand-waving LOOK-LOOK-LOOK that media wants. No, the goodness comes quietly, without fanfare, and sort of sneaks up on you: A grocery store clerk going out of her way to help find an elusive product. A stranger in the car ahead paying for a Starbucks. Prayer chain at church making a difference. A car stopping a line of traffic to let a mom-duck and ducklings waddle safely across the road.

If the “big bad” throws a large shadow, each of these tiny pinpricks of light are cumulative. You don’t need one big GOOD THING to throw the darkness back where it belongs–taken together, those individual star-shines out-shout the sun.

Finding Bliss Means Watching For Star-Shine Moments

No more dwelling on doom and gloom for me. Today, I resolve to take stock on a daily basis. Watch attentively for the tiny sparks of goodness that together banish the bad. Oh, and to add my own tiny flame to help fan that ember to full light.

Some folks-in-charge aren’t nearly as classy as this lil’ fellow. 

We all make excuses. It’s the human thing to do. But if something or someone tried to keep me from my fur-kids, from writing my heart, from shiny objects or my music, my God-gifted bliss—I’d by-heaven find a way over, through, or around. And shame on me for letting anyone try to take that away!

“Bliss is a ball . . .”

There’s a rush, a natural “right-ness” and physical Snoopy-Dance-‘O-Joy feeling in doing what is meant to be. It never gets old, but there’s no real destination, either. It’s a moving target that makes you reeeeeach just a bit beyond comfort level time and again.

I’m ready to stretch a bit. How ‘bout you? What is your bliss? What’s kept you from reaching out for that brass ring? Are you ready to join your spark to the light shining just over the horizon?

Magic says…”Bliss is Frisbee-Fetch!”


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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!

ARE YOU AUDACIOUS? JOIN AMY’S STREET TEAM!

ARE YOU AUDACIOUS? JOIN AMY’S STREET TEAM!

TripleA-Logo

JOIN AMY’S STREET TEAM OF
AUDACIOUS ALLIES!

In the words of Velma Kelly (from “Chicago”), “I can’t do it alone!”

Actually, authors have very little to do with attaining success. READERS create author success by reading/liking the books, posting positive reviews and then recommending books they love to everyone they know.

That’s only one reason I’ve created AMY’S AUDACIOUS ALLIES, aka TRIPLE-A TEAM. I’m also passionate about mentoring but have limited time so this is one way to pay-it-forward without bankrupting my energy, LOL!

The TRIPLE-A TEAM is a select group of 50-75 members given exclusive access to early chapters and advance readers copies (e-versions) of forthcoming books, first dibs on give aways and a private forum to discuss our love of books and pets–and yes, help share my books in reviews, social media, blogs . . . whatever you want!

FIND AMY’S BOOKS AT AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, KOBO, AUDIBLE, iBOOKS

BOOKS-ALL-NEWI also want to share some of the great pet care and fiction books from colleagues, too (did you SEE that haul of books I got from Thrillerfest?). Heck, I get lots of great pet products that my fur-kids can’t always use (don’t tell Magical-Dawg!), and would be delighted to pass ’em on to members of the TRIPLE-A TEAM.

And for those that want ’em, I’ll create a TRIPLE-A TEAM BADGE you can share/post on your personal blogs, websites, Facebook pages, etc. I’ll set up a special members-only FaceBook group, too, where we can support each other–I want y’all to make this group into something valuable for you.

Apply with the form below (it’s filling up fast!), and I’ll let you know if there’s an opening, and send info about next steps as soon as I can. Please be patient–I may be traveling (and collecting more goodies for give-aways!).

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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!

You Wrote WHAT? Why I Write What I Write

Magic-Seren-BooksSome of y’all know that my *virtual HIDE AND SEEK book tour* ran during June and July, and I had a wonderful time visiting various blogs and sharing about my writer-ly journey. All the links to various blogs can be found on my website here.Fire

But now I’ve been tagged for another virtual tour, a way for my Sweet Peeps to find out about other paw-some writers and their work. My author-friend, Angie Baily, invited me to join The Writing Process Blog Tour. Be sure to check out Angie’s blog and find out all about her works-in-progress. If you love quirky humor and love cats, you’ll find a treasure there!

The Writing Process Blog Tour is a way for bloggers to share their own writing process and current projects with readers, as well as introduce them to a couple of fabulous authors they might not be reading … which they should. I’m supposed to answer these four questions–so hang on tight, and I’ll try to be concise.

*snicker* Yeah, THAT’s gonna happen!

What am I working on?

Wow, probably too many projects to list. Here’s the short list at the top of my to-do’s:

  1. I’m awaiting the return of final edits on my next nonfiction book COMPLETE PUPPY CARPuppyCareCoverE, due to release later this month. This book will be the companion title to mirror my best selling COMPLETE KITTEN CARE book. Hey, I have to give equal time to the fur-kids!
  2. Writing the next book in my suspense/thriller series, titled SHOW AND TELL. The books feature an animal behaviorist, September Day. She lives with a trained Maine Coon cat and suffers from PTSD which is helped by her German Shepherd service dog named Shadow. Shadow is a favorite character because he has his own viewpoint chapters, character arc and storyline (but no, he DOESN’T talk).
  3. Strays Logo2-LoRezPreparing for the debut of STRAYS, THE MUSICAL, a full-length play co-written with Frank Steele. We’ve got a workshop scheduled to teach folks some of the music and introduce to the script, auditions scheduled, and performance taking place November 6-7-8, 2014. This show is very close to my heart, as it incorporates my love of cats and dogs with music and theater (all characters are cats or dogs). You can expect some blog posts in the future detailing this STRAYS journey!
  4. In the planning stages for a writers’ guide “how-I-did-it” short book, hopefully this fall, to provide a one stop place to answer many of the writing and publishing questions I receive. It will be based on the several conference talks and webinars I offer.
  5. SUPER-SECRET-SOON-TO-BE-REVEALED PROJECTS that I can’t yet announce, but will be PAW-some for cats, dogs and pet parents. Yes, it has to do with great health and behavior information, and some opportunities for bloggers to get involved, too. Stay tuned!

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Some of my work is very similar to my colleague’s, in that I strive to provide great actionable information that helps pet parents and the cats and dogs they love. It differs in that many of the venues or platforms are outside the box, and that I try not to limit myself to one avenue to reach my audience.

For years I wrote very prescriptive nonfiction books and articles–and I still love sharing that information. But now I work to “edu-tain” readers who perhaps aren’t specifically looking for pet care advice or information. Reading a book told through “dog voice” opens a window into how and why dogs behave certain ways. Watching a play in which cats and dogs offer insight into their world and it’s all from their purr-spective may offer some ah-ha moments for pet parents. Using a variety of publishing platforms, from the Internet and blogs to Ebooks, traditional print and even audio books or songs, increases the chance more folks will benefit from the work.

Why do you write what you do?

I was put on this earth to be a voice for the voiceless–I truly believe that. Writing about cats and dogs gives me great pleasure, and it’s fun! How neat to wake up every morning excited to go to work and–basically–play with cats and dogs for a living. I am truly blessed!

How does your writing process work?

Hmnn. Often, I get ideas from readers asking questions, or from news stories that make me go “wow…what if?” Typically I work 6-7 days a week, although I try to take at least half a day off on Sunday. My world would go off the tracks without to-do lists. I love putting together lists, and crossing off each item once completed! My calendars (several, both paper and online) are highlighted and color coded to keep track of various projects, and often look like a peacock exploded.

For book-length projects, I do my best to meet a daily word count, and calendar progress toward the deadline. Otherwise, with so many things to juggle, something’s liable to go SPLAT when it’s dropped. Once a book-length draft is finished, I work on a different project for a time and come back to edits with fresh eyes. Books generally go through several rewrites and drafts before going to beta readers and later to my editor, so it’s an involved process. Shorter work like articles can be turned around much more quickly. Blogs (like this one) often are written in one sitting.

Now it’s time to tag two more wonderful writer friends. Please head on over to their blogs/websites and check out their work. I promise, you’ll be glad you did!

JaneA Kelly is a contributing author to Caster.com and is the webmaster and chief cat slave for Paws and Effect, an award-winning cat advice blog written by her cats, for cats and their people. She is a professional member of the Cat Writers’ Association, and has been a speaker at the BlogPaws and Cat Writers’ Association conferences. In addition to blogging about cats, JaneA writes contemporary urban fantasy, and whatever else strikes her fancy.

Carol Shenold has been a nurse for forty years, and a writer/artist almost as long. She writes the Tali Cates mysteries, as well as urban fantasies with weirdly wonderful characters (“The Monster under the bed…is real!”), and nursing textbooks. She also writes nonfiction in general interest, technical magazines, newspaper columns and more. You can find Carol at her website and her blog–when she’s not busy painting pictures of her cat or dogs or grandkids.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. 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!

 

 

Caption My Ass-ets! #FunnyCats Rule

KarmaButt

I’m head-down busy today preparing edits to send back to my editor on the new COMPLETE PUPPY CARE book. And my “helper” Karma has made editing a new challenge. I’ve shared a couple of these pictures on my Facebook page (have you “liked” me yet?!) but wanted to post here, too.

How do your pets “help” you with your work? Is their attention welcome or aggravating? Do tell! Oh…and let’s have some fun in the comments. Suggest captions for the two pictures. 🙂

KarmaEditI love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. 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, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, 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!

A Day In The Life…Of A Pet Writer

Magic-Bowl

“What’s wrong with this picture….IT’S EMPTY!!!” Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

This morning as I stared into the face of my grinning German shepherd and dodged his bruising tail flagellations, I envied him. And I envied my Siamese wannabe who still hadn’t roused herself from her daily 16-plus-hour sleep marathon. I mean, I really had a moment of green-eyed angst that Magic lives a dog’s life and Seren lives in a dream-world (literally!) while my husband and I bust our buttons keeping them in kibble. But is this a fair assessment? Just for fun, here’s a comparison.

Dog’s Morning: Runs through the field baptizing everything in sight. “Helps” collect the newspaper at the front gate. Eats breakfast. Takes a nap.

Cat’s Morning: “Helps” make Amy’s bed. Relocates to printer. Sleeps.

Seren is determined to satisfy her resolutions.

Seren is determined to break her all-time sleep record. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

Human’s Morning: Slaps bug bites from tromping through field after the dog. Collects newspaper while keeping dog from lunging at morning traffic. Fills dog bowl, reads paper. Eats breakfast. Fends off doggy begging for leftovers. Fills cat bowl—wonders where cat is. Showers, checks email, writes. Twitters. Writes some more. Checks email again. Facebook posts. Writes. Answers phone, hangs up on telemarketer. Stares at computer screen.

Dog’s Noon: Barks. It’s Frisbee time! Goes outside, plays fetch. Plays fetch some more. Baptizes stuff. Runs into tank. Comes inside. Shakes off stinky water. Plays tug with towel. Naps.

Cat’s Noon: Moves from printer to front cat tree perch. Checks food options. Sleeps.

Amy’s Noon: Applies bug bite ointment to shins. Wipes down walls, floor, appliances from dog shake-off of dirty water. Fixes lunch. Fends off begging dog. Fends off begging cat. Writes.

Dog’s Afternoon: Barks. Time to play—Frisbee? Ball? Chase the hose? Car ride? Yes yes yes YES!

Amy’s Afternoon: Checks email. Takes dog for car ride to check snail mail. Argues with dog about driving. Goes to gas station. Argues with dog about staying in car. Goes into post office. Comes out of post office. Makes dog move from driver seat. Drives home. Wipes dog drool off car windows. Fills the dog bowl. Writes. Writes some more. Grateful for dog naps.

Cat’s Afternoon: Checks food bowl, nothing’s changed. Crunches several bites. Empties bowl. Checks dog toys. Checks empty dog bowl. Checks dog bed. Revels in dog absence. Hears dog coming home. Races to second cat tree to glare. Sleeps.

Dog’s Evening: Hasn’t played in HOURS, going through serious play-withdrawal!

Amy’s Evening: Shuts down computer. Runs dog outside. Tries to wear dog out. Fails. Brings dog inside. Dumps dog toys, one by one, off of lap where dog deposits them. Tries to eat dinner.

Cat’s Evening: Wakes up. Checks empty food bowl. Meows. Meows some more. Looks for dog, and meows again to get dog’s attention. Hisses when dog approaches. Cat smile when dog gets in trouble. Leaps to Amy’s chair to check her dinner. Human food sucks. But dog wants it. Dares dog to approach. Hisses.

Dog’s Night: Brings balls (thirteen different kinds), four stuffed toys, three Frisbees and five chew bones into living room. Thrusts them one by one into human’s laps. Again. And again. Waits with expectation. Can’t believe nobody understands the play invite. Humans aren’t very bright. Sighs. Grabs consolation bear and sucks like a pacifier.

Cat’s Night: Glares at dog. Races around up and down stairs. Thumps toys. Scratches—loudly—on upstairs cat tree. Riles up dog. Success! Only cats know the right way to play! Dog gets in trouble. Cat’s job is done. She sleeps.

Amy’s Night: Dreams about Frisbees, writing, and lap-purring cats.

Would I really trade places with my fur-kids? Hmnn. Maybe the better question is would they trade with me? After all, I’ve got thumbs to open doors and food bags, scritch hard to reach itchy spots, drive cars and flip Frisbees.

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, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter.

Thanksgiving–The Pet Writer Way

Magic8Weeks

Magical-Dawg age 8 weeks…the first day he came home! Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and I plan to take the day off, for a change, and enjoy spending time with my family. This blog post revisits a similar one from a couple year’s ago but is no less true now. Hope it’s appropriate to share my THANKS list with those of you who also love pets. And I hope you’ll add to the list of thanks by posting about your blessings in the comments.

I’m thankful to be home with my family—furry and human—rather than traveling. For many years I spent the weekend before Thanksgiving at conferences and so I’m grateful that can’t-miss event has been moved to an earlier date. I’m thankful that I’m not on the bumpy road and bumpier plane. I’m thankful my human family, though miles away, remain close-knit and loving. And I’m thankful all remain healthy.

I’m thankful for veterinarians who make life better for the pets we adore. I’m thankful for researchers who work to find diagnoses, treatments, and cures for our ailments, both for pets and for people. I’m thankful for the animal welfare volunteers who do the work of the angels when others somehow let pets down.

SerenOnStair

Seren still loves her sun baths. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

I’m thankful that I have the best job in the world, sharing information about the cats and dogs that have become so important to our emotional and physical health. I’m thankful for publishers, editors, magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows, websites, bloggers and email lists that share these important resources to benefit cats and dogs and the people who love them. And I’m thankful to writing organizations, teachers, agents and all those who promote the craft of good communication and help others pursue this rewarding craft.

SerenBaby

Nekkid tummy after spay–when Seren came home with us for good! Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

I’m thankful that I found a dumped kitten sixteen years ago and brought her into my home and heart. I’m thankful that Seren-kitty still acts like a kitten and stays so healthy–despite her arthritis and recent bout with schneezles. I’m sure my veterinarian also is thankful Seren remains spry, since she is not a happy patient and the clinic staff likes to keep their fingers intact. I’m thankful she’s given up playing “gravity experiments” with my fine breakables, and has decided it’s okay to nap on my lap nearly every evening. I’m also thankful that she’s decided the dog is a boob and great fun to torment.

Greta-Magic-Baby

Momma dog “Greta” with Magic and his siblings (can you guess which one is Magic?). Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

I’m thankful for responsible breeders who ensure purebred dogs and pedigreed cats have a healthy paw-start in life. I’m thankful that Magic-dawg at age seven has become a bit…just a bit…less driven. I’m thankful for water hoses, and tennis balls, stuffed teddy bears and Frisbees that wear Magic out without exhausting me at the same time. I’m thankful my roughneck dawg hasn’t had any injury this year, and that his limping swollen paw turned out to be bug-sting reaction easily diagnosed and treated. I’m thankful Magic is smart, funny, a comedian, and a wonder to train—and doesn’t argue but has accepted that the cat is the boss of him.

I’m thankful that although he never grew up with pets, my husband loves Seren and Magic as much as I do. I’m even more thankful they adore him back (that could get awkward!). I’m thankful for my church family—pet lovers or not—who also support my furry notions. I’m particularly thankful to the Cuchara Gang (you know who you are) and partner in musical-play-writing crime who lift me up with friendship and love.

Finally, I’m thankful to you—yes, those who read this blog or any of the other venues mentioned. Without you, I would not have a career, and my life’s passion would remain unfulfilled. Without you, your pets wouldn’t have the wonderful love and care you provide. Without you, there wouldn’t be any reason for this heartfelt—THANK YOU.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. And please share all your special thanks in the comments–let’s get a THANK-fest going!

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, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter.

Pets, Theater & Music, Oh My!

Last night I attended the SCP Volunteer Appreciating Dinner and Preview Performance of the annual fundraiser show. This year, it starred four local vocalists, the extremely talented Paul Jordan, Nick Timmerman, Aaron Adair and Blake Rice in FOREVER PLAID, directed by Nikki Silva. The show runs this weekend and next, August 2-11, at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman, TX.

Run, do not walk, to get your tickets!

If you love music, if you love comedy, if you love theater–this is the show for you and the whole family. The four characters, wannabe 1950s songsters, missed their chance at stardom when nearly 50 years ago they were T-boned by a school bus and died–and have now come back from the grave for a one night performance. The close harmony is spot-on, the patter funny, the reactions subtle–and deadpan hilarious–and choreography so campy the audience doesn’t know whether to groan or give a standing-O. The elevated set, a bandstand that seems to hover amidst the clouds, makes the most of the available space while the onstage keyboard and bass player give all the support needed. Deceptively simple lighting and sound enhance the experience, and the costumes–white dinner jackets and later their namesake plaid tuxedos–stay with the theme of a low-rent concert. The crooning to Perry Como’s golden sweater will make you swoon. The featured solos (each actor gets several opportunities) literally rock the house!

Full disclosure–I know the guys in the show and would expect no less, and I also know the talented director. Having never seen the show, I’d suspected it would be a fun night with a thoroughly forgettable script. But this is one you’ll be buzzing about for weeks to come–and kicking yourself if you don’t go. Call for tickets now, the seats won’t last long, I guarantee. Here’s the number…903-892-7652…and learn more about the theater here.

Seren-ViolinI was invited to the Volunteer Dinner because last season I played cello as a volunteer orchestra member in the production of SEUSSICAL, and also volunteered as an usher. Many of y’all know that I perform now and then as well.

I love music and so do pets. Couldn’t get away from music during my growing-up years, since my Dad was a music teacher. Piano lessons started in second grade and our Sheltie used to rest underneath the piano when I practiced. Cello lessons in fifth grade, and I found my “major” instrument (voice) in high school. Yep, I was a music major in college–sang opera, among other things.

And then I ended up with a career writing about cats and dogs. Funny how that happens. Today I also write music (never saw THAT coming!) and just invested in some new Bose computer speakers after my CD player died. After not being able to listen to some of my favs in many months, it’s a joy to finally be surrounded by music once again. Oh, and in my thriller series, the main character plays cello. I’ve not yet decided how her cat Macy and dog Shadow should react–maybe some of your comments from your own pets will give me some inspiration, so do tell!

I do find some music distracting, though, and must be very selective about type of music when I write. As much as I loved FOREVER PLAID I couldn’t listen to them while working. I’d end up singing along and never get any writing done, or imagine the way certain pieces are arranged. Do you listen to music while you work? What kind is best for your favorite activity? Does it help or hinder your inspiration?

Our animal companions also have a relationship to music. That can be good–or bad, depending on if your pets have the same taste as you.

GSD-Music Magical-Dawg howls along if I happen to sing above a certain range. Everyone’s a critic–I guess it’s good that I chose writing as my work. Dogs (and coyotes) answer sirens with howls, and probably think human singers are simply inept at howling. Ahem.

Seren-kitty turns on her lion cough…ACK-ACK-ACK-ACK…when I play certain notes on my cello. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of the violin if/when my husband finally gets around to taking lessons.

On a more practical note (pun intended), music can be a therapeutic tool in your pet’s home health care kit. Pleasant music can mask scary noises like thunder or New Year’s fireworks, or upsetting sounds like barking neighbor or raccoon scrabbling in the back yard. But more than that, the cadence of certain sounds influences the body’s natural rhythms and can speed them up and energize the listener, or slow them down to calm him.

So, does your dog or cat appreciate music? what kind gets his woofer working and purrs bubbling? Here’s an article with more details about how you can make music work for your dogs (hint: it helps cats, too!).


 

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. 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, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, 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!

Pet Passions & Channeling My “Inner Dog” (and Cat)

UschiFunnyI’m feeling a bit philosophical these days, as I continue to swim the fiction waters of the HIDE AND SEEK thriller sequel, once again with dog viewpoint and cat-astic plot points. Between the puppies.about.com nonfiction postings, this blog and the weekly newspaper columns, my work–and life–revolves around pets. For more than twenty years, I’ve puzzled over their actions, behaviors, motivations and care, nearly 24/7. Pets rule. That’s who I am.

Some folks write to change the world. They do so with passion, dedication, and great skill, and I admire them greatly. I also write to make a difference. Sometimes manage to save lives.  I rarely know what impact the work has, though, because those who most benefit from my writing never read it. I blogged about how cats read a couple of weeks ago, but some critters skip the reading and instead probably baptize it. Please don’t leave my newspaper columns on the floor. It’s disheartening.

After decades puzzling about P’ETiQuette and studying furry foibles, I’m channeling my “inner dog” with the current thriller to extrapolate what pets think–and specifically, what Shadow (the hero service dog) wants out of life in general and this adventure in particular. Macy the Maine Coon in the story has a much bigger role this time around, and I’m having a ball as his feline character develops.

There are some clueless humans, too, that September and her fur-kids must deal with. I get to speculate what exactly pets see in humans that allows them to put up with clueless folks who seem scent-blind and hearing-stupid toward all the clear-as-crystal animal talk being sent our way.

So I accept that I’m different. Pets are my obsession, my fixation, my passion in life. My true readership will never ask for a pawtograph, or care if I have initials after my name. But they will do back-flips for the right treat, and wag and purr with delight should a human finally understand that tail-talk.

But until my audience comes out from under the bed, or tires from dog-earing one of my books and actually SPEAKS in language most owners understand–and puts me gloriously, wonderfully out of business–I’ll keep typing, blogging, and fiction-ing away.

So now it’s your turn. Listen to your inner “pet” and please share–what do you think your dog or cat (or both) want their clueless humans to understand? Maybe it’ll go in the HIDE AND SEEK book, too!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. 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, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, 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!

Thanksgiving the Pet Writer Way

Happy  Thanksgiving! It’s time once again to count my furry blessings. I don’t do that often enough.

I’m thankful to be home with my family—furry and human—rather than on the bumpy road and bumpier plane. I’m thankful my human family, though miles away, remain close-knit and loving. And I’m thankful all remain healthy.

I’m thankful for veterinarians who make life better for the pets we adore. I’m thankful for researchers who work to find diagnoses, treatments, and cures for our ailments, both for pets and for people. I’m thankful for the animal welfare volunteers who do the work of the angels when others somehow let pets down.

I’m thankful that I have the best job in the world, sharing information about the cats and dogs that have become so important to our emotional and physical health. I’m thankful for publishers, editors, magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows, websites, bloggers and email lists that share these important resources to benefit cats and dogs and the people who love them. And I’m thankful to writing organizations, teachers, agents and all those who promote the craft of good communication and help others pursue this rewarding craft.

17 days old GSD puppy "Magic"

My, how Magic has changed…here at 17 days old.

I’m thankful for responsible breeders who ensure purebred dogs and pedigreed cats have a healthy paw-start in life. I’m thankful that Magical-dawg at age six has become a bit…just a bit…less driven. I’m thankful for water hoses, and tennis balls, stuffed teddy bears and Frisbees that wear Magic out without exhausting me at the same time. I’m thankful my roughneck dawg recovered from his mystery medical issue this year. I’m thankful Magic is smart, funny, a comedian, and a wonder to train—and doesn’t argue but has accepted that the cat is the boss of him. And I’m thankful that these furry muses inspire me daily with their presence.

I’m thankful that although he never grew up with pets, my husband loves Seren-kitty and Magic-dawg as much as I do. I’m even more thankful they adore him back (that could get awkward!).

I’m thankful for my church family—pet lovers or not—who also support my furry notions. I’m particularly thankful to the Cuchara Gang (you know who you are) who lift me up with friendship and love. I’m thankful for the gift of music I get to share with colleague musicians who have become wonderful friends, and especially thankful for my partner-in-play-writing-crime who helped make our theatrical dreams come true this past year when life threw us some Kurves.

Finally, I’m thankful to you—yes, those who read this blog, the folks who have “adopted” my new thriller, those who offered awesome applause and support me in so many  ways.

Without you, I would not have a career, and my life’s passion would remain unfulfilled.

Without you, your pets wouldn’t have the wonderful love and care you provide.

Without you, there wouldn’t be any reason for this heartfelt—THANK 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, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, 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!

KURVES, the REVIVAL CAST

KURVES LOGO, hi rez

Local playwrights Amy Shojai and Frank Steele announce the revival cast of KURVES, THE MUSICAL. This family friendly show returns by popular demand to The Rialto Theater in Denison, Texas in mid-October.

Eight quirky characters, misfits all, become trapped inside MAXINE’S, a woman’s gym in Kurves, Texas. Despite numerous failed attempts to find happiness and true love, they finally succeed—but in unexpected ways.

The ensemble cast remains onstage the entire show. KURVES features laugh out loud dialogue, and twelve original songs—from ballads to blues, gospel to 40s-style numbers—complete with full orchestration.

Frank Steele directs the show and plays the cross-dressing Maxine/Max who owns the women’s gym and sings the title song. He has appeared in many TV and radio commercials, movies and TV shows including DALLAS. He taught drama for twenty-seven years and has appeared in over fifty plays as an actor or professional musician.

Amy Shojai directs the music and plays Celia, the bling-wearing visitor who sings, “Dreams For Sale.” Shojai is a local author with 26 published pet books, and has a performance degree in music and theater. She has appeared in several dozen plays in six states, most recently as Golde in Fiddler On The Roof, and has made countless TV and radio appearances both locally and nationally, including CNN and Animal Planet.

Nikki Silva is cast as the many-times-married Mabel, director of a soup kitchen, and sings the rousing gospel number, “Suck It Up, Sweetheart.” Silva is a theatre director and debate teacher at Denison High School. She graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a degree in drama, and is currently working on her Master of Arts degree in directing. Nikki has been singing and performing since she was five years old in musical theatre and country music opries, jamborees, and contests around the state. She has directed, co-directed, and/or performed in over 45 productions during her career, co-writing and touring an original musical in 2001. She wishes to thank the KURVES cast for inviting her in to their little family and being so helpful, kind, and encouraging.

Theresa Littlefield is cast as mousy poetry teacher Jane who transforms from plain-to-sparkling in the duet “Poetry & Jazz.” Theresa has performed in numerous college, church, and community productions.  She is an active member of the First United Methodist Church choir and handbell choir. She often plays saxophone for high school plays and church programs. She is a counselor at Fairview Elementary in Sherman.

Hilary Gregory-Allen is cast as newlywed Ronnie, and sings about her insecurities in the plaintive song, “The Picture.” Gregory-Allen majored in Theatre at Austin College and attended the Stella Adler Summer Conservatory. She most recently performed as Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, and has appeared in leading and featured roles: as Viola in Twelfth Night, Kolenkhov in You Can’t Take it With You, and Ophelia in Hamlet. She also directed The Zoo Story and stage managed Waiting for Godot. She would like to thank her family and friends for all of their tireless support. She plans to pursue a career in theatre.

Johnny Flowers is the inept but lovable movie-quoting robber Fingers who laments his lack of finesse and brings down the house in the song, “Silver Screen Blues.” Johnny has been active in theater for the past 30 years. Most recently he delighted audiences in productions of The Odd Couple, Arsenic & Old Lace, and Smoke On the Mountain III. Johnny is also involved in the Music Ministry at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison. He is a graduate of Grayson County College and works at the Sherman Kroger’s Store.

Joe Maglio plays ladies’ man Boots and sings, “You’re The Chick For Me.” He was one of the original dancers on American Bandstand and will show off smooth moves in KURVES. He attended Lon Morris School of Drama and worked for eleven years as technical director at Finley Playhouse. He graduated from Southeaster School of Theatre in 1988, moved to Hollywood and was active with Group Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood. Joe is a member of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and served on the nominating committee for the SAG awards. Joe most recently booked a role in the feature film Redwing starring Bill Paxton and Glen Powell, in which he plays Bill’s Mexican foreman “Louis.”

Gil Nelson plays Ronnie’s husband, Troy Chadwick Noonan IV, who literally holds the key to MAXINE’S and ties up all loose ends in the song, “Life Happens.” Gil Nelson was a professional radio broadcaster for 25 years and has spent over 25 years acting in leading rolls in Community Theater productions such as The Odd Couple, Moonlight and Magnolias, 12 Angry Men and The Nerd just to name a few. He is also a talented playwright and in 2011 partnered with Gene Lenore to write the musical, The Lone Star Truck Stop, produced in cooperation with the Grayson College Theater Department.  He is employed part time with Workforce Solutions Texoma, performing resume, interviewing and resource seminars.

Mickie Martin is stage manager. Rehearsal space is courtesy of Leah, Rachel and Rebekah Martin. The Martin family has lent their considerable talent both onstage and off with the Sherman Community Players and Theatricks for many years.

KURVES, THE MUSICAL returns to The Rialto Theater in Denison, Texas at 8:00 pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday October 11, 12 and 13. Tickets are $10 adults and $5  for kids (12 and under). For individual or group reservations call the Rialto at 903-465-SHOW. For reviews, song samples and pictures from the original production and to learn more about KURVES, THE MUSICAL here.

Guest Blog: Doggy Assistant, Excuse, or Both?

Today I sniff out new territory and welcome my first-ever GUEST BLOGGER! Please help me welcome my colleague Natalie Markey, who balances a writing career, marriage, motherhood, and special-needs dog–in other words, she’s like many of us who call ourselves freelancers. There can be pitfalls when working for yourself, though. I often tell folks that my “boss” is a b*tch who always knows when I’m goofing off–but truly it can be hard to toe the line and juggle all those balls (and Frisbees). How do YOU do it? Even if you don’t have the two-legged children, the fur-kids and significant others demand attention, too. Natalie shares her answers to these questions. Take it away, Natalie!

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I traded in my fancy suits and briefcase from the “corporate world” for college t-shirts and Victoria Secret sweats (they are comfy) to write full time from home. Some people turned to working from home when the economy went south. The truth is, more and more professionals are working from home as freelancers, consultants and writers. Some companies even allow employs to work from home as incentives to save on gas and long commutes.  And then there are the brave stay-at-home-moms AKA CEO’s of the home. Whether you work professionally from home or deal with the normal daily chores that faces us all, dog owners all have one thing in common— Our dogs and if you’re like me your dog wants to help with everything!

My dog, Oscar sees himself as the man of the house whenever my husband isn’t home. Gosh, sometimes he still probably feels that way when my husband is home! As a working from home mom and author I’ve learned from my experiences how to manage my schedule so that I can be a great mom, dog owner and professional. I’m currently prepping my next Writing Moms workshop and I’m reminded that so much parenting advice can be applied to anyone with a dog.

If you have children and dogs then you will probably agree with me that children are in many ways easier. I can take my daughter to the grocery store, church, etc. Most places don’t want to see eighty-pound Oscar, even though I know he is such a gentlemen and anyone who knows him is blessed. Oscar is my other baby.  So how can you use that to help you with your work?

Your dog can help you around the house, whatever you are working on. Treat him like an assistant. Don’t let him be an excuse for not getting things done.  Arrange your routine to incorporate him. I work in my office so I made him a comfy bed set up under my desk. When I write, he lays on my feet keeping them warm and providing company.

Before I set up his addition in the office he would constantly be trying to get me away from work to spend time with him. He doesn’t get as much mommy/Oscar time as he use to because of our daughter. Whenever she naps, he wants to spend time with me. Of course I do give him my full attention throughout the day but when I’m working I’ve made it possible to combine time with Oscar with productivity.

There are many things you can do to incorporate your dog into your daily routine. Start with your relationship with him. Know your dog and you will know how to best incorporate him into your work, chores and goals.

How has your dog become part of your routine at home?

I’m giving away a “seat” in my March Writing Moms class, which begins Monday March 5. To participate visit my blog and leave a comment. I will put your name in my virtual hat and draw!

Natalie C. Markey is a seasoned freelance writer including popular columns like the Special Needs Dog Care Examiner. She is the author of “Caring for Your Special Needs Dogs,” and also writes fiction from her Arkansas home, where her dog Oscar assists her. Follow her on Twitter, Pen to Publish blog, and her website.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. 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, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday WARNING!

”WARNING

A colleague of mine recently sent a link to something called the Writers Pitch Book that purports to “Connect Writers With Agents, Editors & Movie Producers.” The idea is that YOU (the author) send them your ‘pitch’ and they publish it in the book which goes out to the “right people” to get you noticed and published/produced.

Oh yeah, did I mention there’s a fee involved?

Shoot-fire, it’d be worth it to spend $50 to get your pitch before those with the golden keys to the kingdom, wouldn’t it? That’s what these folks bank on, people! Let’s take a deeeeeep breath and think for a minute.

TAKING ADVANTAGE, GRRRR!

What’s the benefit here? Well, you will get your pitch published. The “pitch book” certainly may be sent/delivered to all the movers-and-shakers in Nooo Yawk and Hollywood, very likely that will happen.

But why in the wide world of sports (or publishing/movie making) would those editors/agents WANT TO READ THIS FREAKIN’ BOOK? I mean, come on, people–agents and editors receive thousands (yes, that’s several zeros) of pitches a week. Not a year, but in a week. Ask yourself, just who is this publisher/person who has the means to persuade a busy editor or agent or (gasp!) movie producer to open up a book filled with pitches, sift through, and say, YES, I want to make YOU a star!

I apologize if this offends anyone but it makes me jump up and down and gnash teeth and say SIC-‘EM MAGICAL-DAWG! when anyone takes advantage of the hopeful aspirations of writers. There are many online sites that already purport to “connect writers with X” and they’re just as ineffective.

SCAMS, DREAM-KILLERS, SUCKING WRITERS DRY

Is it a scam? Well…some are, some aren’t especially if they do what they promise–publish a pitch and send that pitch to the agent. But the only people benefiting are the ones that take your check.  That sucking sound you hear is your wallet being lightened.

Similar “opportunities” are offered to actors for getting their head shots and resumes in front of casting directors–you submit your teeeeeny tiny picture and info to these ginormous catalogues that end up as a doorstop (at best) or hamster bedding (at worst).

Please, people. It’s never been easy to get work seen by editors, agents or producers. And nobody can do it for you. Instead of spending your hard earned money on one of these “short cuts” that don’t work, save those nickles and dimes and invest in a really good writer conference that allows you a face-to-face with an agent or editor. You’ll also hear success stories–and cautionary tales–from writers in the trenches, just like you.

I wish there was a magic wand–or magic book–that would do the job for you–and for me. If you ever happen to find that sparkly magic spell, please clue me in. Until then, watch out for the dream-killers. Protect your dream, it’s priceless, and don’t let ANYONE devalue your work with such things.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. 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, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

KURVES, the MUSICAL CAST

Local playwrights, co-authors Amy Shojai and Frank Steele, have cast KURVES, THE MUSICAL with eight popular local performers. The original show features twelve catchy original songs with full orchestration, an ensemble cast, and laugh out loud dialogue. KURVES, THE MUSICAL will be performed for three nights only, March 1, 2, 3,  2012 at newly renovated Rialto Theater in Denison, Texas.

Frank Steele directs the show. He has appeared in many TV and radio commercials, movies and TV shows including DALLAS. He taught drama for twenty-seven years and has appeared in over fifty plays as an actor or professional musician. “I’ve co-written several benefit shows,” says Steele, “including the sold-out Star-Struck Night musical benefit with Amy Shojai, produced for Theatricks some years ago.”

Shojai directs the music. She is best known as a local author with 23 published pet books. “But I have a degree in music and love composing and performing,” she says. “Frank Steele and I have acted and written together, so we decided to combine forces to write fun and poignant characters that we’d like to perform.” She has acted in several dozen plays in six states, and made countless TV and radio appearances both locally and nationally, including Animal Planet appearances as an expert. KURVES is her third co-written show.

Eight quirky characters, misfits all, become trapped inside MAXINE’S, a run-down woman’s gym located in Kurves, Texas. The cast remains onstage the entire show. Despite failed attempts to find happiness and true love, they finally succeed—but in unexpected ways.

cast-in-costume-small

ORIGINAL CAST: L to R, back row: Joe Maglio, Cheri Anderson, Craig Sturm, Johnny Flowers, Frank Steele. Middle L-R: Amy Shojai, Theresa Littlefield. Front: Leah Martin

ReviveCast-Kurves-Costumes-lorez

REVIVAL CAST L-R: Frank Steele (Maxine), Joe Magio (Boots), Theresa Littlefield (Jane), Amy Shojai (Celia), Gil Nelson (Troy), Nikki Silva (Mabel), Hilary Gregory-Allen (Ronnie), Johnny Flowers (Fingers).

THE CASTS

Steele plays the cross-dressing Maxine/Max who owns the women’s gym and sings the title song “Curves.”

Shojai plays Celia, the sequin-wearing visitor to Maxine’s who sings “Dreams For Sale.”

Cheri Anderson is cast as the many-times-married Mabel, director of a soup kitchen, and sings the rousing gospel number “Suck It Up, Sweetheart.” She has performed in many local theater productions, including all three Smoke On The Mountain shows and the recent Ring Of Fire music review. She has performed gospel, bluegrass, country and classic rock-n-roll and performs with a number of country musicians in the area. She works as a Paralegal at Abernathy, Roeder, Boyd & Joplin P.C. in McKinney.

Nikki Silva is cast in the revival as Mabel. Silva is a theatre director and debate teacher at Denison High School. She graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a degree in drama, and is currently working on her Master of Arts degree in directing. Nikki has been singing and performing since she was five years old in musical theatre and country music opries, jamborees, and contests around the state. She has directed, co-directed, and/or performed in over 45 productions during her career, co-writing and touring an original musical in 2001. She wishes to thank the KURVES cast for inviting her in to their little family and being so helpful, kind, and encouraging.

Theresa Littlefield is cast as mousy poetry teacher Jane who transforms from plain-to-sparkling in the duet “Poetry & Jazz.” Theresa has been in numerous college, church, and community productions.  She is an active member of the First United Methodist Church choir and handbell choir. She often plays saxophone for high school plays and church programs. She is a counselor at Fairview Elementary in Sherman.

Leah Martin is cast as newlywed Ronnie, and sings about her insecurities in the plaintive song, “The Picture.” Leah has logged countless hours working backstage with Sherman Community Players and has performed leading roles in The Mousetrap and The Miracle Worker. She most recently appeared in The Big Friendly Giant, and has appeared in the City of Sherman “Can the Trash” commercial. She works as a Nanny for Dr. Clint Hayes and his wife Sunni’s children.

Hilary Gregory-Allen is cast as Ronnie in the Revival show, and majored in Theatre at Austin College and attended the Stella Adler Summer Conservatory. She most recently performed as Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, and has appeared in leading and featured roles: as Viola in Twelfth Night, Kolenkhov in You Can’t Take it With You, and Ophelia in Hamlet. She also directed The Zoo Story and stage managed Waiting for Godot. She would like to thank her family and friends for all of their tireless support. She plans to pursue a career in theatre.

Johnny Flowers is the inept but lovable movie-quoting robber Fingers who laments his lack of finesse in the song, “Silver Screen Blues.” Johnny has been active in community theater for the past 30 years. Most recently he delighted audiences in productions of The Odd Couple, Arsenic & Old Lace, and Smoke On the Mountain III. Johnny is also involved in the Music Ministry at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison. He is a graduate of Grayson County College and works in the produce department for the Sherman Kroger’s Store.

Joe Maglio plays ladies’ man Boots and sings, “You’re The Chick For Me.” He was one of the original dancers on American Bandstand and will show off smooth moves in KURVES. He attended Lon Morris School of Drama and worked for eleven years as technical director at Finley Playhouse. He graduated from Southeastern School of Theatre in 1988, moved to Hollywood and was active with Group Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood. Joe is a member of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and this year serves on the nominating committee for the SAG awards. KURVES marks his return to performance after a 19-year retirement.

Craig Sturm plays Ronnie’s husband, Troy Chadwick Noonan IV, who literally holds the key to Maxine’s and ties up all loose ends in the song, “Life Happens.” Craig has seen over 80 Broadway musicals, and has performed in many musicals both in the orchestra pit as a percussionist, and on stage.  Craig brought the butler character to life in the Finley’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2003. He is a gifted arranger and composer, often sharing original compositions at Trinity Lutheran Church where he serves as pastor.

Gil Nelson plays Troy in the Revival show. Gil Nelson was a professional radio broadcaster for 25 years and has spent over 25 years acting in leading rolls in Community Theater productions such as The Odd Couple, Moonlight and Magnolias, 12 Angry Men and The Nerd just to name a few. He is also a talented playwright and in 2011 partnered with Gene Lenore to write the musical, The Lone Star Truck Stop, produced in cooperation with the Grayson College Theater Department.  He is employed part time with Workforce Solutions Texoma, performing resume, interviewing and resource seminars.

Special thanks to Trinity Lutheran Church for rehearsal space. Mickie Martin serves as stage manager, and Garrett and Greg Guymon and The Rialto provides lights, sound and the performance venue. Show time is 8 pm and tickets are $10 adult and $5 (general seating) and can be purchased for the March 1, 2, 3, 2012 performances by calling the Rialto Box Office at 903-465-SHOW. Learn more about KURVES, THE MUSICAL here.

Tuesday Tips: Reverse, Reveal, Surprise

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Some of y’all who “like” me on Facebook know I’m deep into edits on a thriller WIP. Yes, I’m channeling my inner child to try my paw at some fiction writer-icity. Only time will tell whether readers will lap it up or howl and bare their teeth but it’s great fun for me all the same. Sort of like brain-candy as a break from some of the more serious nonfiction topics of daily work such as expressing puppy anal glands (EW!) or de-skunking your pet (double EW!). Actually some of that could make its way into my fiction since one of the viewpoint characters is a service dog. Hey man, it’s what I do!

DANGER! KNOWING TOO MUCH?

New writers are often told to write what you know. But there’s danger in that, too. When the author knows so much about a particular topic, info-dump-itis becomes a huge risk. (Guilty.) So in a way, writing about what you DON’T know might make more sense, and indulging in research only to the point needed to move the story forward. I really could care less how bullets are made, or why this gun sounds differently than that one. When I read a thriller I just want the gun to shoot when it’s supposed to.

BAD RESEARCH KILLS STORIES

But I also know readers who become distracted and jarred out of the story if the cop-hero carries the wrong firearm. I wouldn’t know or care. But I’m offended by authors who get dog/cat facts wrong in their novels–I’ve stopped reading at least one BSA for that reason when the hero/vet-tech gave her SAR dog Tylenol for muscle aches.

CHOOSING THE “WRITE” WORDS

How much is too much? What’s not enough? Just show the tip of the iceberg instead of dropping the whole lump-‘0-ice into the brew that takes the steam out of the story.

At least that’s what I believe Mr. Finder says in the latest video, below. I plan to take a page from his pacing playbook, too, and tape these three words above my computer: reverse, reveal, surprise.

JOSEPH FINDER SPEAKS

The past several Tuesday Tips have featured a series of video tips from Thrillerfest and best-selling authors. These include tips from Karin Slaughter,  a video of Michael & Daniel Palmer’s Thrillerfest Song,interview with master author R.L. Stine, Ken Follett, and  John Sanford.  Last week’s video featured pacing tips from Andrew Peterson and Jeffery Deaver.

Today I’ve got the next installment of that panel.  You can check out a boatload of Thrillerfest pictures here.  Where else but Thrillerfest could you get so much bang-for-your-buck with James Rollins interviewing a whole panel of best-selling-authors! Today the video offers tips on pacing and character from best-selling author Joseph Finder.

How do you manage characterization in your novel without resorting to the dreaded info-dump-icity? Do you season in details like salt and pepper–or do you throw everything in the pot to boil and worry about diluting the broth later? Is it important for the author to know all of that backstory to write valid, compelling characters? What’s YOUR biggest hurdle in the fictioning process? (Hey, I’m a writer–I can make up words if I want to!). Please share!

This video is only a small taste, of course. You can get the full deal recording (and those of the other panels) of CDs, MP3s and DVDs of Thrillerfest here.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. 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, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Do-Over…Would You?

It’s the back-to-school time of year, and that conjures up a mixed bag of memories. I loved being a student–yeah, I was a school nerd, and classes were pretty easy for me maybe cuz I took the “artsy” classes like writing, singing, and suchlike. I had mixed feelings about my parents being teachers, though. And lots of angst when for a short time I actually became a high school teacher. On Facebook my relationship with school would be “it’s complicated.”

Part of that is disappointment, I think. After study of music and acting I had every intention to take Broadway by storm. Ha! Then life happened. I met someone special, we fell in love, got married, and my “dream life” was no longer practical. That empty spot inside begged to be filled up with some kind of creativity. So I “made do” with writing. *snort*

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”448″ caption=”My in-house editor, Seren, never holds back her opinion.” Seren "Editing"

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Yep, I’m an accidental writer who actually made a career out of making do. I wonder how many of us end up with accidental careers?

The dreams we have early in life evolve as we grow and have obstacles and hard choices thrown in the path. Have you ever regretted a choice you made? Would you go back in time for a “do-over” if you had the chance? Are you satisfied with your life today? All those choices along the way–the doors opened or slammed shut, the “mistakes” that lead to other opportunities–for good or ill, they get us to this spot–HERE, NOW, where we are at this moment. A different choice 10 years ago, or even last week surely could lead to a different reality but who’s to say it would be better?

Today I head back over to the Denison High School–where I taught for that brief wonderful-awful-glorious-crazy period of time–for a rehearsal. I’ve been invited to perform in a fund-raiser “talent show” for the theater department this Saturday night. So what better choice than an original song from the new musical dramedy KURVES written with my co-author Frank Steele. Oh, it’s cast and will be presented in full in early February, stay tuned…

Wait a minute, what happened there? Yes, after all these years that drama-dream resurrected with a detour into accidental script/music writing. That’s some scary crappiocca, I gotta say! And guess what? The 8 characters angst over missed opportunities and whether to risk what they have for a do-over new chance at happiness.

Sort of gotz me a theme going, ya think?

A couple of decades ago I could have turned down that marriage proposal, headed to Noo Yawk and who knows what would have happened? I do know what would NOT have happened: 23 books, pet writing and behavior consults, teaching music, Seren-Kitty and Magical-Dawg, moving to Texas, meeting y’all–none of that would have happened.

So what about you? What do-over would you wish for? If you had a chance for a “do-over” would you take it?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Get Into Something Good!

Okay, what are YOU into? Something good, I hope.

What else makes you smile? I’m working on the thriller today, yee-haw! And the cat is helping. Dang, I’ve got my dog, my cat, my writing, my music–I am REALLY into something good.

If you need a smile just take a look at this fun-tastic video. My thanks to Terry Albert for sending me the link.

 

Tuesday Tips: Pix, Tricks & Writers Fighting Dirty

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Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and blogs and writer-icity crappiocca. But I collected so much great stuff over the past week, yesterday’s blog concentrated on furry content and today’s Tuesday Tips catches the writer-icity spillover.

What are some of your favorite writer tips? Do you have a blog you love to visit? Or maybe there’s a book on craft that you can’t live without and made all the difference in your success. Add ’em in the comment section. Heck, if it’s your own tip, blog or book that rocks the world, you have MY PERMISSION for today to shout-about-it here in the comments. Spread the word, and we’ll make today’s Tuesday Tips a lasting resource.

CAN I USE THAT PHOTO?
My colleague Andrea Dorn always shares great writer and grammar tips with Cat Writers Association members (see her blog here). She shared that if you’re planning to use photos as news (that is, for the purpose of reporting on what happened at your event in newspapers, magazines or websites), permission isn’t necessary. However, if you intend to use photos in promotional or commercial materials, you need written permission from all individuals who can be identified in the photos. Publishing the art of a living artist on a web page, newsletter or brochure requires the artist’s permission. These and other questions related to “Can I use that photo?” are answered by Iowa State University experts.

INDIE WRITERS BEWARE

Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware recently posted that she’s received questions about a new awards program: the IndieReader Discovery Awards for self-published authors. Is it legit? What questions should you ask about Indie opportunities? The blog has some tips and insights you won’t want to miss.

INCREASE BLOG SUBSCRIBERS

. . . or subscriptions to newsletters or whatever else you want to share with your readers. I’ve done some of this but may add to my list. Derek Halpern offers tips for seven places on your blog where you can place sign-up forms to increase your chances that people will actually sign up and thus build your email list. I wouldn’t go with the pop-up box, though–that really hisses me off.

HOW TO FIGHT DIRTY FOR FICTION SUCCESS

I love Jenny Hansen’s “More Cowbell” blog and today’s Techie Tuesday offers GOLD for fiction writers wanting to escalate tension between characters. Learn how to use dirty fighting to your advantage!

KINDLE-GRAPH! WOOT!

Did you know that you can get autographed E-books on Kindle?  You need to have a Twitter account, but I am SO going to look into this!

WANT YOUR INDIE BOOK REVIEWED?

Full disclosure–I’ve not submitted my books for review to any of these sources, but they have received favorable comments from other authors on KindleBoards. I know that some are authors themselves, others simply avid readers and book lovers. They also review “traditionally” pub’d books. Check ’em out and read some of their reviews before submitting your own book. Report back about how it worked for you. And hey, you just may discover a new fav Indie author!

Red Adept Reviews:   Because Red has a team of reviewers, her site covers a variety of genres, including nonfiction.

Grace Krispy  reviews mysteries/cozies/thrillers, some fantasy, some urban fantasy and women’s fiction.

Books and Pals mostly reviews Indies.

E-Bookworms appears to review mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy.

www.DailyCheapReads.com mostly offers “bargain books” but sometimes also reviews them.

So what are your fav review spots for books? How do you judge if a new book is worth opening your pocketbook? Do you have a terrific writerly tip or resource to share? Add your comments and share the blog today with others and let’s get lots of stuff posted–I’ll do a recap later on all the goodies (and YES, include a shout-out to the submitters as well).

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Tuesday Tips: Musically Thrilling Writer-icity

”Amy

Okay, I gotta share another fan-girl moment–yes, that’s THE Michael Palmer at the reception just before the Thrillerfest Banquet. And I got to meet his son, debut author Daniel Palmer earlier in the day at the book signing event. Yep, got both of their books autographed. And because I had the books shipped (my bad back couldn’t take schlepping ’em on the plane), I just got the books this week and have just started Daniel’s debut thriller, Delirious. And for all you dog-lovers, a main character in Daniel’s book adopts an adult rescue Beagle named Monte…you’ll love this dog! Oh, and then Michael’s  book is just A Heartbeat Away on my list to read next.

Why is this on today’s Tuesday Tips? Well–the video might explain. You see, both these talented writers also are musicians and offered some great fun tips during their presentation at the Thrillerfest banquet. The quality of the video sucks, I know, cuz the light wasn’t great and frankly, I was laughing too hard to hold the camera steady.

This video is only a small taste of the whole Thrillerfest experience, of course, and you can get the full deal recording (and those of the other panels) of CDs, MP3s and DVDs of Thrillerfest here.

What are YOUR favorite author tips? Do any of these sound familiar?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Hummers, Writers & Antsy-R-Us

”How

Ants invaded the hummingbird feeders. This isn’t two or three , but a thundering horde. They squiggle into the birdy faucets, clog up output, and commit ant suicide in the sugar water. This doesn’t seem to bother the hummers–more protein, yum!–until the floating ant DOAs exceed a half inch depth.

Setting the pole in a pan of water works for half a day until the 110-degree weather steams it away. The little bit left provides the bugs with water ski opportunity. The little buggers cry, ‘WHEEEEE!’ as they slalom a pathway to reach a drink.

Smeared Vicks on the holder won’t keep them at bay. It just clears tiny ant sinuses so they appreciate the sweet taste all the more.

These days, fiction writing time gets clogged up with ant-icity just like the hummer juice. Some of these “bugs” offer necessary protein. They suck away a modest amount and bring in $$. And hell, these days the economy–like Texas temperatures–creates a climate that demands everyone bow to the forces of nature. House payments come due, AC goes out, fur-kids need kibble in the bowl–life’s funny that way. But when lots of the ant-icity bring nothing to the table other than a giant sucking noise, something’s gotta give.

The fiction am a-calling. So’s the play. Two more nonfiction books are on the to-do list. All those projects feed a writer’s soul the way hummer juice switches on birdy delight.

You’re a writer. You know what I’m talkin’ about. Yet ant-distractions demand more and more time.

When the ant-load gets too deep for sparkly tennis shoes to navigate, the hose comes out. The hummers–and writers–deserve a bit of uninterrupted beverage, after all.

How much ant-icity clogs up your soul? What are your limits–2 or 3 bugs in the juice, a dozen, a half-inch of floaters? When do you cry UNCLE and get out the hose? How do you flush away the the sucky parts so you can enjoy the nectar?

Cuz I don’t want the hummers to get chased off by #$%^&*!@#$%T^&! ants.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Monday Mentions: Plague, Spam & Writers

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Welcome to all the new followers! After last week’s Monday Mentions after the amazing Thrillerfest weekend, lots of folks “discovered” the blog. Turns out that folks who read (and write) thrillers often have a furry muse in the background–and also may be considering the pros and cons of continuing the traditional pub route vs “going rogue.” *ahem* I mean, ‘indy.’

More on specific writer-icity tomorrow as the weekly Tuesday Tips Kindle-lization Journey continues with tips on self promotion. This blog focuses on furry stuff usually on Woof Wednesday and Feline Friday. Monday Mentions–hey, that’s today!–offers a mash up of awesomeness, some of the great blogs, articles and other assorted WOW schtuff that makes me sit up and take notice. So I figure it’ll wag some other writerly tails, too.

To that end, those who have a new book, blog, article, fill-in-the-blank that might be a fit, please email me (amy AT shojai.com) with the particulars of your book/work and I’d love to feature you on a future blog. Hey, it’s all about helping each other out, right?

I suspect thriller writers (including those with a fantastical bent) appreciate some of the biting tidbits in today’s blog. Enjoy and share.

MINI BOOK REVIEW

Got a copy of “the Things That Keep Us Here” by Carla Buckley (Bantam) as a freebie at the Thrillerfest banquet. Started reading on the plane flight home. Couldn’t put it down, read straight through and finished it late that night. OUTSTANDING!

It’s what I’d call a “quiet” thriller, one with such internal tension and driving characterization that you nearly explode waiting to see what happens next. It’s “Hot Zone” meets “Ordinary People” and is awful and heartrending and scary-bad in just the way a thriller should be–with brilliant writing. Oh, and a dog appears in the story with a pivotal role.

WRITER CRAPPIOCCA NEWS

Rejections-R-Us: 30 Famous Authors’ Rejections–plus some more Well Known Self-Pub’d Authors and now they’re thumbing their collective noses, doncha think?

Spam Hits Kindle  Okay, this is old news to self published folks, but others may not be aware of the latest get-rich-quick scheme to “aggregate” content (legally? illegally?), roll it into a ball and self-pub for big bucks. Uh…nope. IMO readers are smarter than that. But it does create lots of crappiocca.


CANINE CURIOSITIES

AMAZING pictures and story that purports to be the dog SEAL that cornered Osama Ben Laden

Seeing Eye-To-Eye: How Dogs REALLY See the World, a fascinating look at eye structure and debunking past ideas about canine sight.

New AKC Therapy Dog Title — it’s about time! Dogs that have met the criteria can be awarded the AKC Therapy Dog title (THD)

FANTASTIC FELINE FACTS

Should You Get Your Cat From A Pet Store? My colleague and outstanding cat writer Christine Church has an excellent examiner.com column you’ll want to check out

Where Does Kitty Roam? A study of free-ranging ferals and housecats, covers some amazing ground. All you folks writing about were-cats and suchlike might want to take a look at how real cats do it.

SCARY SCH*T & LOL!

Bubonic Plague Affects Pets–And People!  It affects cats most often because they hunt critters infested with disease-carrying fleas, but dogs also can catch the disease. That “cat fight abscess” might instead be a bubo! (Anyone else thinking “medical thriller plot?”)

Learn To Pick Your Battles–A Tale of a Metal Chicken a hilarious blog my friend Judy Gharis sent me, enjoy!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Feeding The Muse

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Due to the magic of WordPress, I get to write this EARLY and have it posted tomorrow morning while I’m flying to New York. Can you see my arms a-flappin’ (insert “twack-thwackity-thwack” sound effects)?

I don’t have a lot to say today other than–I’m excited, exhausted, anxious, and thrilled all rolled up in one. Excited because Thrillerfest is the absolutely BESTEST-FUNNEST-INSPIRING-EST conference I attend. Exhausted because I’ve managed to cram a week’s worth of work into two days so I wouldn’t be distracted with (ack) work while there. Anxious because flying ain’t near the adventure it used to be and crappiocca always–ALWAYS–happens (wonder if I”ll be profiled this time?).

And thrilled because I get to see my favorite authors, reconnect with friends and make new acquaintances.

For writers, nothing gives us a goose in the ass-terick like a writer’s conference. We get to schmooze and express our jealousy admiration for all those successful folks; steal all learn the secrets of their success; hang out with cool people in the bar during seminars  and find out–

They’re people, too. And they have some of the same angst-icity and writerly challenges that face the rest of us. Oh, and some of ’em worked for DAYS and WEEKS and sometimes MONTHS before they had an overnight success (I kid…more like years or decades in many cases).

So what’s the most inspiring part of being among people who really understand us–why we bang our heads on the virtual door of publication forever. It’s not that we’re born masochists. Okay, well, some folks are. And it’s not that we’re totally clueless about our lack of talent. Wait–maybe that fellow waa-a-aay over there might be a wee bit . . . never mind. For sure it’s not because we enjoy rejection.

Creative types do it because–it’s who we are, not just what we do. And gathering at a writer conference like Thrillerfest, or at a music festival or Harley Davidson convention, dog or cat show, quilt exhibition, or ComicCon or whatever floats your creative boat FUELS THE MUSE.

I’m already feeling all inspired-like.

What feeds your muse? How do you energize your creative side? When do you feel most in need of a pick-me-up, and where do you find the necessary go-get-’em juice to press on?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

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