Sunday, July 22, 2012

Books, Dogs and HOPE

Forgive me for being absent from posting for a while.  I’ve had my writer’s hat on, certainly, but my time has been spent, in recent days, working more on the business side of the craft than on the creative side.

I’ve got some great news flashes I’ve been wanting to share with you, Dear Reader, but first let me describe where I am—because I really can’t write a blog post without talking about the mountain.  I know you understand….

At the beginning of the summer, I bought an inexpensive HP laptop so that I could do this:  I’m sitting in the swing on the front deck.  It’s about 3:00 in the afternoon.  A light breeze is blowing through the oak tree canopy surrounding the cabin, cooling my skin and mimicking the sound of water rushing over rocks in a faraway stream.  Punctuating that sound is the chatter and call of some  bluejays, chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, dark-eyed juncos, a titmouse or two, and something that sounds like a guinea pig making its “week-week-week” sound.  Sugie hears them, too.  She’s sprawled out in the dappled shade a few feet from the swing pretending to relax, but she is ever-vigilant.  Beware, my feathered friends; do not land too close.

So.  Part of what has kept me busy in recent weeks has been writing book reviews.  Some writer friends have had books released (hurray!), and summer gives me (too much?) insouciant time to sit as I am now, enjoying the outdoors while turning pages.  (It’s okay to be envious; that will all change in winter when it’s snowing and the swing is packed away in the garage.  Of course, then I’ll be sitting in front of the fire….)

Libby Grandy, a long time blogger and Chicken Soup author, has seen the release of her first novel, Desert Soliloquy.  I was privileged to read it in manuscript form, but the book had been so diligently edited I really didn’t have much of a critique to make.  I love a good mystery, and this one is tightly woven.  She does not go over the top with red herrings (hate that), but keeps the suspense taut—not only with the mystery of the attempted murder but also with the deeper, perhaps more mysterious question of who the protagonist will choose to spend her life with.  Loved it—and hate the fact that Libby has a second novel nearly ready for publication but feels inclined to wait until next summer for its release.  But I want to read it nowwwww.

Paula Priamos, also a blogger and a professor of all things literary, just saw the release of her memoir, The Shyster’s Daughter.  I’ve been waiting for this book for nearly two years, ever since Paula’s husband, author James Brown (The Los Angeles Diaries), bragged about it at a writers conference.  I have to warn you, if you read memoirs because you enjoy reading light-hearted tales told by upbeat people who managed to keep smiling through hard times, better buckle your seatbelt for this one.  Priamos’ writing is stark and tight and gripping.  And geez, does she ever have a story to tell about growing up in SoCal with her high-profile attorney father, an inappropriate uncle, and other characters guaranteed to ensure a kid’s quick loss of innocence.  I had kind of a weird, schizophrenic response to the book as I read it; I’d read a few pages, mutter “oh my god” out loud, put the book down because it reminded me far too much of my own childhood, then pick it up and start reading again.  It’s the most compelling memoir I’ve read in years.

Since I’m talking books, please indulge me for a moment.  The Kindle version of MartinLastrapes’ book, Inside the Outside, made it all the way to Number One on Amazon’s Horror list a few weeks back.  As you may know (because I seem to mention it often), Martin was a student of mine way back when I taught English 1A for Chaffey College.  All I said was, “Martin, you could be a writer,” and look what the kid did.  Geez….

Finally (and can I have a drum roll here, please?), my memoir, The Dogs Who Saved Me, came out this month.  I want to shout “Hurray!” in jubilant celebration… but I think I’m still recovering from writing this book.  I was so cavalier two summers ago when I began work on this project.  “I’ll just write about my dogs!” I thought.  “Easy peasy!”  No.  This was the most challenging writing task I’ve ever assigned myself.  Little did I know how tough it would be to recall those dark adolescent days and other points in my life in which I needed the unconditional love of a dog to sustain me.  Now, though, I’m glad I kept trudging through it (with frequent breaks, I kid you not, to simply walk away from the keyboard, out into the forest, to let the tears fall until I could breathe normally again).  My intent with this book is to honor the dogs who quite literally saved my life.  I think telling their stories does that.  But… to honor them further, I’ll be donating all the royalties from this book to animal rescue.  The first royalty check will go to HOPE rescue in Upland, California.  HOPE is comprised of a tiny crew of amazing and selfless people who work tirelessly to rescue dogs and cats slated for euthanasia or that have been found on the streets.  My little Sug was just such a cat, taken in by HOPE, placed in foster care where she was loved and spayed and brought to good health, then made available for adoption.  Had she gone to a public shelter, she would never have made it out alive.  And what would I do without her?  Recently the good folks at HOPE rescued a beautiful Beagle mix puppy from a high-kill shelter and a volunteer is now fostering her.  I love these peeps, so every time someone buys a copy of Dogs, I get all happy, because I know that the royalty from that sale will enable HOPE to do just a bit more of the heroic work they do.

So you can see why I’m busy trying to promote this book.  I’ve set up some readings/signings, which I’ll be announcing here.  I always love doing these events (what author doesn’t?), but they’re especially fun when I know that the end result will enable me to contribute to the fur community.  Win!  Win!  Win!  

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