Friday, July 3, 2015

I Can't Read This Book Again, or Can I?

Yesterday was one of those, "I can't do it!" days. I posted this on my FB author page:

"There comes a time when you either humor the shiny new idea or force yourself to fine tune the work you've been reading for months.

The latter is difficult. Forcing anything when you're writing is akin to creative suicide.

One of the perks of self-publishing is the lack of deadlines. I can juggle whichever projects suit me rather than procrastinating.

Whenever I'm not in the mood to edit, my house is spotless, my dogs look fresh from the groomers, and I cook with reckless abandon. I'll do anything I can to avoid writing (or I'll force myself to sit and rather than producing I'll socially network).

This isn't the best course of action for someone working on building a career. To that end I'm going to shifting gears, letting FATAL INTENTION marinate while I get back to Strandville. I have all the time in the world to turn this book in. Why not follow my gut? Speaking of guts, DEPARTURE promises to be full of them! In the meantime, CURE is permafree on all e-reader platforms. If you haven't read books one and two, now's your chance to catch up. Reviews are always appreciated."

...and I meant it yesterday.

I have had it with the same story. Entering the third draft of FATAL INTENTION, it's hard to be objective or even interested in writing it anymore--like that piece of gum you chew until it's flavorless. This is all I've been working on for something like six months and I need a break.

Some would argue that it's time to step away (a day ago I would've been in that camp), but now's the perfect time for me to be critical. Any lags in the narrative are as visible as they'll ever be. While I am plagued by the urge to work on DEPARTURE, it's time to finish FI, to get it out for editing, and to submit it to my publisher. 

There will always be a shiny new idea. An author friend of mine asked me the other day my opinion on him starting a new project or continuing a sequel he's already tens of thousands of words into. I think the answer is to stay the course otherwise nothing will ever get finished. It's time for me to take my own advice.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

50 Shades of Roasted: EL James Gets Burned

EL James is probably fifty shades of mortified following the roast that stemmed from the Twitter hashtag #AskELJames.

Among my personal faves are tweets like: " Can you confirm that you will be writing the story of Ramsay Bolton from his perspective, showing he is just misunderstood?"


"Did you see the abusive relationship of Bella and Edward and think "hmm needs more abuse" "

No matter where you stand on the 50 Shades phenom (and I'm firmly in the just say no camp), EL James is laughing all the way to the bank. Folks have taken to the Internet to either pile on the insults or to support the author's right to speak freely. I'm not here to do either, really. I'm a realist and realistically, the PR people should've seen this coming a mile away. When you give someone as polarizing as EL James a platform it's like Twitterviewing Hitler. Sure a few Nazis might turn up to support him, but mostly you're asking for trouble. James's supporters must've all been reading GREY while this interview was happening because one look at the hashtag shows nothing but poo flinging, torches, and pitchforks.

I could take this opportunity to speak out as so many have against the bullies, but this is the Internet age and there are bound to be keyboard vigilantes. Like EL James's moronic protagonist, it is our job as authors big and small to take abuse. I know, they didn't tell you than when you spilled your heart and soul out in your magnum opus. Either that, or you didn't read the fine print.

Instead of climbing on my soapbox, I decided to have a laugh and meme the hell out of some of my absolute favorite negative reviews of my work. All quotes are taken from Amazon reviews. 

EL James, I doubt you're reading this, but if you vanity search yourself and have landed here by some miracle, know you're not alone. We all get burned sometimes.

Please note: I did not correct reviewer grammar.

What's your favorite burn of your work? I might be inclined to offer up a prize for the best one in comments.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Fatal Intention" Update

Great news if you enjoyed Fatal Reaction

Fatal Intention is about to enter third draft. What does this mean as far as release date? Probably not much but the third draft is my last before the  novel goes to my first reader, the talented Matt Schiariti. The fourth draft (after he critiques) will be the one that gets sent to Thomas & Mercer with fingers crossed.

What can I tell you about it? First, it's always great to get back to favorite characters. Ana is at the center of a series of medical murders that has some of Fatal Reaction's cast in hot water. When a connection to the Sydney Dowling case is discovered, everyone is either a victim or a suspect. There is a bit of tension between Ana and Ethan now that she's chosen to be with Jared and Colby's not giving up without a fight.

One of the things that I struggle with when writing medical murders is coming up with a new twist or squashing some misconception. In Fatal Reaction the centerpiece of the drama was an experimental uterine transplant program. I won't reveal the secret of Fatal Intention, but it deals with something I have seen done wrong in movies and on television. Can someone really be killed this way? Sure, but it's not as easy as you think.

I have a few new chapters to write next week to finish this off. Some of you might remember the April Fool's joke my thumb drive played on me where my entire book file corrupted (along with all of my backups). For someone whose backups have backup, this was a startling catastrophe and nearly the end of this novel. 

Fortunately, I was able to salvage all but the last few thousand words, giving way to a substantially changed ending. I toiled over whether or not to make this the beginning of a spin-off series. Do the characters end here? Maybe. Maybe not. No, that's not a tease. I'm finishing this story, Sydney's story, and if the characters do come back it will be a different venue. Most likely the future of the series will be up to (at least in part) the publisher.

What's next? Well, I'm self-publishing Departure later this year (early next year if I decide to multitask this and a thriller I have in mind). I've already written the first several chapters and look forward to spending some time in post-apocalyptic Strandville. It's been a tough month full of distractions, there's been a lot of back and forth with Fatal Intention,  but I'm finally seeing the proverbial light in the tunnel. Thankfully, it's not a train.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Poe-gress: A Month of Training a Stubborn Mini Aussie

Almost exactly a month ago we brought home Poe, a tenacious eight-week-old miniature Australian Shepherd who turned out to be nothing like the puppy we had met four weeks earlier in a crowded whelping box. 

We thought he was quiet, subdued, and unlikely to be much trouble. Boy were we fooled. He is (as the breed is touted to be) high energy in spurts. He's Velociraptor clever and hardheaded. He knows my buttons and pushes them whenever he thinks he's not getting his share of attention. I wanted a smart dog, but there's such a thing as too smart.

Training this guy has been an exercise in trickery and a battle of wills. First, let me say that if you get a dog known to be a "Velcro" dog and you work from home, expect it to be challenging to ever leave said dog without hysterics. I've never had one who didn't come to love its kennel. Dakota, my ten-year-old Sheltie tries to kennel herself every time I tell Poe it's "box time."

Don't tell her I said so, but she really doesn't fit.

If you've landed here because you, too, have a brilliant mini Aussie, here are a few things I've learned with my thirteen-week-old that might help, especially if you have a crate hater.

First, we were fortunate enough to have multiple kennels from our two previous dogs--a medium and a large. I bought a small for the living room which he seems to be taking to. We set up a long-term confinement area for him in the basement that we call Poe-land for when we ever have to be out more than an hour or two.

This has food, a bed, toys, and a grass potty box in it now that it's complete. There's cable television, too, so he doesn't get bored. Yes, he seems to watch TV. We rarely use this because he's not a fan but it's nice to know we have it in case. He'd rather be in the living room kennel where he's used to hanging out. Don't get me wrong, he still barks when I leave, but he barks less and eventually settles down. I'm able to monitor him on the home security cameras--a big perk because I was able to ascertain that he likes it better upstairs than down even though there are fewer amenities.

Poe Rule #1: He'll crate where he wants, and just because a pup hates the crate in one location doesn't mean they'll hate it in all locations. Mix it up and see if that helps. Poe has a medium kennel outside our second floor bedroom that we use exclusively for sleeping (to avoid any bad feelings about it) and a small one in the living room that I use sometimes when I'm just sitting here so he doesn't always equate crating with me leaving. He will now (after a month) follow us upstairs and go into the sleeping crate willingly, for a treat. I feed Gerber baby treats to my sugar gliders and the dogs love them, too. 

Poe ONLY gets one when he goes into his crate on his own. NEVER otherwise. He's learned to go inside, sit, and enjoy his treat, making kennelling far less dramatic. If you force a puppy in and close the door behind them, they will come to hate their crate. Sometimes you have to do this (I sure did), but it's better if you can reach middle ground. We have bedtime licked. Hallelujah!

His hours are suspect at best, but we went from getting up every couple of hours to getting up at 4:30 AM after going to bed around 10:00. This is an improvement, I guess, but I'd like to be able to go back to bed after the 4:30 potty break. I'm working on this. The kennel treat helps and the last two nights I've been able to get him to go back into his crate until 5:30 and 5:45. Progress. If you rush things, you'll be disappointed and frustrated. Sometimes I am going to have to get up and stay up from 4:30. I know that, but we'll work on him occupying himself with toys until 6 if we can get there.

Boundaries have been set with the old dog. Dakota has gone from terrified to I'm old, but I'm not taking your crap. The first three weeks were challenging, but she eventually stood up for herself. This has to happen under a watchful eye, but it's inevitable. Now the two dogs are friends and can co-exist. We try to give our old gal a break from time to time without her feeling slighted.

Poe Tip #1: I find distraction is the best form of behavior correction. I keep a pocket of small treats (or a bag nearby because he has come to know the sound) and he'll come or sit for food even when he's doing bad things. I often trade a treat for my house slipper. This was tough four weeks ago because his stomach wasn't used to treats. We had some bathroom issues, but when his tummy acted up we'd revert to dry food only. At this age, I'm careful to keep his food and treats consistent. Also, wet food tends not to agree with him. He gets it sparingly--the brand the breeder had him on since weaning.

Most folks don't know this about me, but I battle with anxiety. For someone with difficulty adjusting, it's hard to accept a new family member (aka something new to worry about). I over-analyze everything because I just don't know Poe yet, but I'm learning. Every puppy is different and he's had his days where I thought I had to race him to the vet. Damn Internet. I find Googling new symptoms is the absolute worst thing to do. In general (applies to humans, too). Puppies fluctuate in energy and in bathroom habits. Truth. Hard for them not to when they eat everything. If they're fine otherwise, they're probably good. That's unscientific, but a mantra for those who get paranoid at little new thing.

Still, the crate has been our biggest hurdle (a close second to getting him and Dakota to make peace). 

Poe hasn't learned how to pacify himself yet, and I'm hoping he grows out of that. He doesn't like being alone, but he's getting better. He's gone from following me from room to room every time I move to following me just most of the time. 

It's easy if you're anxious to worry about the pup and check on him so often that he feels he's supposed to be with you. Combine that with "Velcro" dog and you get the superglue upgrade. This isn't good for anyone. Sometimes I just tell myself he knows the dog door, and if he pees it cleans up easily enough (yay, hardwood floors and baby gates to protect the carpet). Me taking some time away on a regular basis (crating during showers or floor cleaning) is easing him into being less psycho when I have to go out. Chalk it up to a work-in-progress. Fortunately, as always, my husband is excellent support.

As for the basics, we've mastered sit, lay down, and paw. Come is at-will (his not mine), but if he thinks I have a treat in my pocket, hes much more likely to respond.

Short spurts, treats, and definitely safe toys to keep him company helps with this crate problem. Also, crate when he's tired. If you crate a pup full of piss and vinegar and they hate the crate, this will not help. Speaking of, the little sprout is looking sleepy so that's my cue to shower. If I come up with anything else, I'll let you know.

Happy training!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sharp Objects: A Novel Review

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**MINOR Spoiler ALERT**

Fresh off a Gillian Flynn bender, the last of her books that I’ve read is her debut, Sharp Objects—a novel with a somewhat misleading blurb.

It starts with “Fresh from a brief stay at a psychiatric hospital” with regards to the main character, Chicago transplanted newspaper reporter Camille Preaker. This might be one of the least important points of the book. More importantly, Camille is a serial cutter with a troubled childhood that on the surface appears storybook.

Returning home to Wind Gap, MO to write a story about the deaths of two young girls, Camille must reconcile her feelings about her young sister’s death with the murders happening in present day—two classmates of her thirteen-year-old half-sister who have been murdered and their teeth removed. The complicated and manipulative Amma, the half-sister Camille barely knows, quickly comes to the forefront as a person of interest.

I expected a procedural or at the very least crime drama, but what I got instead was a family drama about a privileged mother who resents her children and whose passive-aggressive behavior had ruined the lives of those closest to her. I figured the twist midway and when the killer is revealed, the motive falls flat.

That being said, Camille is a compelling character—her propensity for self-destruction and recklessness pulled me through the pages. She’s not likable, but she’s interesting. She makes all the wrong decisions (including sex with an 18-year-old who has recently lost his sister and doing hard drugs with Amma, only thirteen), but I got the sense that Camille was too damaged to know better.

Flynn writes in her usual concise but descriptive prose. Pacing is good, plot is decent, characters are interesting, but the ending didn’t quite do it for me. There was a “Free Adora” project mentioned in the afterword that is evocative of her next novel, Dark Places, which had a “Free Ben Day” project. In fact, the books are strikingly similar making Gone Girl the far and away standout. While I didn’t think I loved that one, in hindsight, the book is probably my favorite of the three.

A good read—twisted in the way I’ve come to expect. If you’ve read Flynn’s work before and liked it, you won’t be disappointed. You might, however, think it’s a bit too familiar.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Most Common Question: How to Make Your Indie Novel a Success

If you're here that means my blog title probably got your attention. You're looking for the secret, and I'm afraid dear traveler that I just don't have a good answer to the most commonly asked question: How do I make my novel successful? 

There are variations on the question, like how do I get more exposure, better social media reach, and more reviews, but the bottom line is that authors seek out tips on how to make their book sell.

Are there things you can do? Sure. Guest author AJ Powers highlights some of the more common ways to reach an audience here.

Some other things that may or may not work are:

  • Paid ads. Most often my ads break even. This isn't a windfall by any means, but the increase in Amazon sales rank influences visibility (and on rare occasion I may actually get a new review).
  • Memes and quotes. I pick quotes or passages and turn them into memes that are a great way around the dreaded Twitter character limit. They look cool and quotes are shared more often and with broader reach (Hello, Pinterest). Quozio and other online quote and meme makers are available and this literally takes no time at all to generate.

  • G+ has some great groups. Readers, writers, and marketing gurus gather to chat all things books. I know, I know. You're rolling your eyes right now because it's a special breed of person who has enough time for Facebook, Twitter, and G+ but check it out.
There are other things to try for sure and there is a whole generation of SEO masters that can hashtag with the best of them and climb the Amazon charts, but I'm not one of them. That doesn't stop me from getting the questions from other authors and doing my best to answer. 

I've been fortunate enough to have a novel with some traction so I get asked. How did I do it? I wrote a book (and luck, mostly). Fatal Reaction released in November 2013. It charted within a couple of months after modest paid promotion on affordable sites (not BookBub who perpetually rejects me) and was picked up in October 2014 by Thomas & Mercer, Amazon's mystery and thriller imprint. Peels back the curtain. I didn't do anything for this book that I didn't do for my other marginal sellers.

I know that doesn't help you, but there is evidence to support that no one knows why a book sells or doesn't. Fatal Reaction struck a chord with readers and reached a broader market than anything I've written. I had no expectation of that when I released it. Market saturation and background noise being what they are, it's a miracle anything sells. Sometimes its just that simple.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Guest Post: You've Finished Writing Your Book--Now Comes the Hard Part by AJ Powers

So you’ve finished writing your book—now comes the hard part.

I am not belittling the monumental effort that goes into completing and polishing a manuscript worthy of publishing—by no means. However, something I learned after launching my debut novel, As the Ash Fell, is that clicking the little publish button is just the first battle of a very long war. So I am here to (hopefully) give you some tips that might help make your launch a good one.

Going into this, I knew that there was going to be a bit of work ahead of me to get my name out there. After all, if nobody knows about my book, no matter how great it might be, then it won’t sell. But how hard could it be? I had in my head that after a week or two of promotion on social media, perhaps a couple of blog interviews, or guest blog posts like this one (Thanks for the opportunity, Belinda!), that my book’s release would go viral—no more having to push the book myself, because everyone else would be doing that for me.

Oh how naïve I was.

The book world, especially when dealing with indies, is beyond saturated. This is both good and bad. It’s good for the reader because they have an insane amount of variety—even folks who have more obscure tastes can find plenty of books that will fit their bill. However, this becomes an issue for indie authors who are struggling to get the recognition they think their books deserve. The results of this over populated literary world is that each author must work as hard, if not harder, on marketing their books to get noticed.

There are caveats of course. Some authors just simply hit the right place at the right time with the right product (which is usually a credit to the author’s talent), and within a few months, without much marketing effort, their writing takes off and they become the coveted “overnight sensation”, but this is extremely rare, so hope for the best, but be prepared for the long haul.

As the Ash Fell has had a very successful launch month for a debut indie novel. I am very excited about this, and believe the book has a promising future. However, it was not without a lot of effort on my end, and a truly incredible support team I found in friends, family, and other indie authors. Which leads me to my first suggestion of launching a book (particularly your first book):

Get some hype before launching. Once I reached the point in writing that I knew I was going to finish this book, and it was going to launch, I started talking about it on social media. Then, as the book was in the editing stages I started getting people hyped up about being beta readers. As the beta readers were delivering feedback, I was trying to get anyone who would listen excited about the positive feedback I got from the beta readers. By the time I launched the book, I had quite a few folks (and not just friends and family) who were not only excited to buy my book, but help promote it when it launched. This was pretty critical. So do what you can to get everyone you know to share the news.

Newsletters. My newsletter subscription numbers are still quite low, but even having those few helped generate some sales and word-of-mouth marketing. Drop everything you’re doing right now, go get a mailchimp newsletter account (free for up to 2,000 subscribers I believe) and start building that. It is one of the most crucial things for an author to have, but also takes a very long time to build up.

Social Media. I know some people who don’t believe this is effective at all, and it’s easy to understand why. In a sea of independent authors (among countless other self-promoting individuals trying to get their product known), it’s hard to be heard. I understand the argument made by those who don’t want to put in the big time sink that is social media. But as an indie author, I will tell you that it’s worth it!

Twitter: This has not only been my most successful platform in which to generate sales, it has also been the most fruitful place to meet great friends. I have made some incredible friendships via Twitter, such as Belinda, who have been incredibly supportive, encouraging, and have provided me with a lot of insight from experience I do not have yet. We can all use tips and tricks from people who have been there, done that so we can avoid the same pitfalls they experienced. These friends are also great to just talk about reading/writing in general, and they have been essential to my writing efforts. I will say this about Twitter though (and it applies to all social media), don’t just spam your book and ignore everything else. I try to only post something about my work every 4-5 hours, and do my best to retweet/share other indie author’s tweets (As author Michael Hick’s says about indie authors “It’s not about competition, it’s about coalition”). I also try to engage individuals with actual conversations, and not just act like a spam/retweet bot.

Facebook: FB is better for general socializing, and I have made some great author contacts there, even have a few fans, but in general this is not the best platform for marketing. There are author/reader groups you can join that sort of act like a Twitter (just a giant timeline of people’s books) that I hit up once a week or so, but in general I don’t use FB nearly as much as Twitter.

Forums: Personally the only author forum I visit is and usually hang out in the “Writer’s Café” section. Great group of folks there, and I know that some of them have purchased my book. But I don’t go there to spam my work, but rather discuss “industry” news, ask/answer questions, and in general be supportive to other folks who are in a similar boat as I am. And if you want encouragement? I can’t tell you how many success stories there are on that message board. Not everyone will be an Amanda Hocking success, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t earning a decent living just writing each day, and I think that’s the goal most of us have anyway. I also visit a few other forums unrelated to writing, but if you are an established member (meaning you go there to actually join in on conversations, not just do drive-by marketing), then a lot of the members there will be supportive when you say “Hey, I released a book!” and will at the very least share your work, and in many cases purchase a copy. Again, actively engage in conversations with people, and over time if your books seem interesting to someone they will purchase it. I know I am far more likely to purchase a book from someone I am friends with, or at least socialize a bit with instead of someone who almost exclusively pimps their work and nothing more.

So to those who say social media efforts don’t pay off, or that they aren’t effective, I will say this: I don’t personally know anyone who lives in the UK. I have no ties there except for people that follow me on social media, forums, or perhaps just read certain hashtags.  Yet, As the Ash Fell briefly hit the top 100 Kindle books of the Post-Apocalyptic genre last week (inside the 10,000 mark of ALL Kindle books). That’s not a coincidence; that’s the power of social media.

And last, but most certainly not least…

Write more books! Since I have not launched a second book yet, I can only go by what others are saying, but it’s consistently the same statement: the best marketing tool you can have is more books. This has been one of the most challenging things I’ve faced. Because if I want to be doing the other things I mentioned above, then it takes time away from writing my next book. But if I spend all my time writing my next book, then nobody notices my first and then it’s hard to get people excited about the next release. It’s a double edged sword that requires you to walk a tight-rope of scheduling. I, personally, am still trying to figure out a balance to this, especially with a full time job and two kids under the age of three. My wife is very supportive of my writing, but I hate taking time away from the family to write, and by the time everyone is ready for bed…I am too! So while I don’t have much to offer in the way of “advice” on how to do this effectively, I will say without a doubt it’s something you must do. Even if your first book is a huge hit, you’re not likely going to find yourself retiring off that one book. Keep ‘em coming, and little by little, you’ll find your full time job salary being replace from book sales…Or at least, that’s the goal anyway.

I hope this post was informative for you. If you are interested in reading my post-apocalyptic drama, please check out:

Life in the frozen wastelands of Texas is anything but easy, but for Clay Whitaker there is always more at stake than mere survival. 

Yellowstone, along with two other Super Volcanoes, exploded with a tremendous fury following months of heightened seismic activity worldwide. The devastating eruptions released unmeasurable quantities of ash into the atmosphere. Coastlines were changed. New canyons were formed. Temperatures plummeted, dragging economies down, too. With no real way to sustain order, governments around the world began to fold, societies collapsed. 

It’s been seven years since the ash rained down from the sky. Populations are thinning. Food is scarce. Despair overwhelming. Clay and his sister Megan have taken a handful of orphaned children into their home—a home soaring 16 stories into the sky. Providing for his adopted family is a 24/7 job for Clay. And with roughly six short months a year to gather enough food and supplies to last the long, brutal winter, Clay is forced to spend much of his time away from home—scavenging, hunting, and bartering. 

Despite the vicious, unforgiving world he lives in, Clay has grown accustomed to his new life. That is, until he meets Kelsey Lambert. 

Now, with winter rolling in earlier than ever, Clay must swiftly adapt to the changes in his life to ensure the safety of those he cares about.

Twitter: @aj_powers

Big thanks to Belinda Frisch for letting me be a guest writer for her blog—it was an honor!

Thank you, AJ, for the excellent guest blog!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Growing Pains: Dogs Have Taken Over My Blog

THIS is a miracle. Dakota and Poe (only two weeks home) shared space. She willingly laid her head on him and slept that way for quite some time. From this picture one would believe that we've found harmony.

One would be wrong.

Yesterday marked a milestone. Dakota (after her near-death vaccine-induced anaphylaxis two weeks ago) finally stood her ground. I'm a big fan of letting nature take its course, to a point. I recognize that dogs are pack animals and that pack order doesn't mean which dog came first, which is bigger, or which is male or female. Pack position is dog dependent and it is up to these two to figure out who is alpha. I will watch to make sure no one gets hurt in the process. Close monitoring of these two is really eating my editing time. I take full blame for these antics. I wanted this puppy.

We've done all the right things: slow socializing (including off home turf where Dakota wouldn't feel defensive of her territory), Poe is crated at night while Dakota runs free (how she's used to being), we put down firm and enforced rules about how these two live in our space, asserting ourselves at the top of the power pyramid.

Puppy Poe has learned much. He picked up the dog door in under a week, though he doesn't realize one hundred percent that the purpose of that is so he doesn't mess in the house. He thinks it's a gateway to the great grass play area. It wouldn't be an issue if he also didn't think acorns were snacks. FYI, oak can be dog toxic. The command "leave it" can often be heard from my back yard and we've done all but cut down the giant tree to keep the acorns and leaves out of the yard until he learns those are bad. Poe is eating well, acclimating, and has favorite places in his new space. He loves both the husband and I, and he is friendly to strangers--a huge perk after ten years with skittish Shelties. We want to preserve this personality,  but struggle with socializing since he hasn't yet finished his rounds of puppy shots.

Dakota, for the first time, has put Poe in his place. She doesn't want to be bitten, climbed on, or searched for milky nipples. She doesn't like anyone in her face and she told him so in no uncertain terms for the first time yesterday afternoon. He's stubborn and thinks she wants to play so I'm monitoring them closely.

See, socializing an old and new dog is two steps forward one step back. I've read enough on the Internet to know some people would want to have my head for bringing a puppy into an old dog home. Realistically, things weren't broken. Why we added chaos into a calm environment is beyond me after last  night, but on those drives with Poe resting happily between his humans on the bench seat of the pickup truck, I know we've done the right thing for us. He will be the perfect dog as long as I can keep him active enough to stave off destructive behavior. I believe Dakota is asserting herself as Mom. She looks for him, almost pines for him, and she corrects him firmly. It's been rough, but she does show signs of enjoying him when he's not hyper.

Last night she sent another clear message: I don't like the puppy upstairs. Since our bedrooms are on the second floor, we have declared that area a dog-free zone. Ripley (my beloved Sheltie we lost last September) and Dakota, his littermate, knew not to go upstairs or in the first floor office. Carpeted areas are off-limits. We put Poe's kennel in our  bedroom, but don't give him free run upstairs. It's so he wasn't lonely while he was transitioning into our household. Dakota took a stand. While she'll behave as if the three stairs down the deck to the lawn are a huge strain on her arthritic old bones, she managed to climb the entire flight up in the night to poop in one bedroom and pee in the other. Our door was, as it always is, closed. I got up in the night and found her on the upstairs landing. With poo. Not my finest hour. I was shampooing carpet at 1:30 this morning. I didn't really give her a hard time about it because I get that she's upset. For as much as she's taking to him, there are growing pains yet.

It's going to be difficult, but this, too, we shall overcome. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes: Dog Days

I'll admit that about forty-eight hours ago I believed I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I love Poe, but we've only been together a week. Dakota, my ten-year-old Sheltie, and I have been together her whole life. My anxiety has been off-the-charts. Stress level Code Red. Sometimes all you have to do is wait for something to give. Eventually, it does.

Yesterday I posted about Dakota's extreme vaccine reaction that happened subsequent to her vet visit last Friday. We've been working closely with her doctor, shoving more pills down the poor dog than I'd like, but we're nearing the end of most of that. Last night, for the first time since Saturday, we were able to keep Dakota inside. No vomiting. No diarrhea. 

Getting back to "normal" is a huge priority in the Frisch household these days. 

Dakota's method of dealing with anything or anyone she doesn't like is to head outside into the fenced back yard. It's her sanctuary. Unfortunately, that restful place has been breached. After running from Poe one too many times, she inadvertently taught this wicked smart nine-week-old how to use the dog door, too. Her world has gone crazy at a time when she felt terrible, but in those two days before her shots, we were seeing the tiniest progress. A hint that she might be interested in who he is and why he's in her house.

Once she started feeling bad, she refused to  stay inside. We felt awful. I even put the music on through the backyard speakers so she didn't feel so bad. We always leave her music when we go out. My neighbors have to be wondering why we're out with flashlights in the middle of the night, playing music (softly) all day, if they can hear it. I try to keep it so only she can. Today, she's coming in.

What changed?

Introducing a new puppy to a skittish old dog takes patience and a lot of setting of boundaries. We have an open concept floor plan so a baby gate just won't do, but I've built a barricade of pillows, blankets, and an ottoman to at least let Poe know that he can't run the entire house. That has given me my sanity back, allowed me to get back to editing Fatal Intention with him sleeping peacefully by my side and Dakota resting comfortably in her usual place in the kitchen.

It's great that Poe knows the dog door and in time, when I can trust him, we'll gladly let him out there. For now, he's better behaved knowing what he can and can't do. He's starting to sleep, Hallelujah. I only had to get up with him twice in the night and dear husband took the wake-up call at 5:30. 

I had been oversleeping before Poe's arrival. I can get back to writing and have more productive time on his schedule. 

Dakota, soon, will be back to her pre-last Friday condition. She's alive, and I'm grateful for that. Her appetite will return, but for now to see her sleeping comfortably inside the house has me thrilled. 

Learning a new pup, having him learn me, and doing what I can to maintain my girl's quality of life has been a bit overwhelming, but life is ups and downs. I'm glad we're finally back to climbing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I Have Met My Match (A Series of Unfortunate Events)

Boy, did I go and do it! 

One week ago today, then eight-week-old Poe joined the Frisch household and turned our world upside down. 

Some of you might remember that I lost my dear sweet Ripley last September. Hardest experience of my life. He was a docile, gentle, loyal, and loving companion that cannot be replaced in my heart. His sister Dakota is still with us but having ten-year-old dog issues. Writing FT gets lonely and though Ripley only sat at my feet, he was good company for me. I thought that with Dakota aging, it would be good for everyone to bring a new life into the house. I might have been optimistic.

Dakota has always danced to her own beat. She watches the family (as herders tend to do) from the outside. She's a bit overweight, at least partially due to inactivity, and I convinced myself that a companion might be just what she needed to motivate her. One week later, I realize maybe she didn't want to be motivated. I'm hoping her issues are short-lived and circumstantial.

Last Friday, disaster struck. Dakota was due for her 3-year rabies vaccine and her annual distemper so I scheduled her and the puppy for a two-for-one with the vet to get everyone what they needed. For the first time in ten years, Dakota reacted to a vaccine. Full-on anaphylaxis. We nearly lost her and it's been an uphill battle with a battery of meds since. I can tell you I wasn't aware of the dangers of vaccinations until now. My Ripley had a reaction once in his nine years, but he reacted immediately and the vet was able to reverse the reaction. Oddly, it was also on a rabies year making me suppose rabies vaccines are the culprit. There was no lingering effect for him. Dakota hasn't been so lucky. Combined with the puppy, she's having a terrible week. I took her back to the vet yesterday morning for subcutaneous fluids (a long-acting dog IV essentially) and some new meds for diarrhea. Her biggest issue right now seems to be that the vet chafed her shaving her butt. Oh the joys of long haired dogs with the runs. Had enough yet? Feel like I've bait-and-switched you with a cute puppy pic? Hang in there. This is all very relevant to the week I'm having, and I'm telling you all this because if you have a dog, especially a shepherd of any variety, maybe you'll land here and be more aware than I was.

What can you do about vaccine reactions?

1. Pre-medicate with Benadryl at an appropriate dosage. Discuss this with your vet.

2. Don't give multiple reactions on the same visit. From here on out, we split them. The dog gets overwhelmed, and it's hard to identify the causative agent when so much goes into them at once.

3. WAIT at the vet for up to thirty minutes after the vaccine. Timing is key. Ripley was treated immediately for his reaction. Dakota got all the way home and back (30 minutes). We nearly lost her, and her systemic reaction was hard-hitting with multiple side-effects. It's been difficult to say the least.

At Dakota's age, she will be henceforth exempt from further vaccines. Poe will be treated with extreme caution. Just because your dog has never reacted doesn't mean they won't.

Now onto the puppy battle of wits.

My husband loves the look of a merle mini aussie (and of course, so do I). We had run into someone with a beautiful mini aussie at our local park and asked for information on her breeder a year or two ago. I followed the breeder on Facebook, and Poe found his way into my Facebook feed. We'll call it a perfect storm, or at four in the morning, a lapse in judgment. I had to have him. 

We admire not only the breed's looks, but also their intelligence. That is seriously playing against me right now. Poe and I are at a standoff. He's had me exhausted with his every-other-hour potty runs. He wants badly for Dakota to accept him, but with her not feeling so hot, she's in no mood. She's out on the deck for the season. Every time he's at her, she runs out the dog door. Well, that has taught my now nine-week-old pup to use the dog door himself. He loves the yard. Worse, he loves to dig and is systematically looking for places he can climb under the fence. I resorted to blocking anything he might work at with wood from the wood pile, in case. I can't take my eyes off him for a second. You might imagine the impact this is having on my writing. 

I'm back to editing a little bit and have one hundred pages left of Fatal Intention to edit as well as a new ending to write following my April Fool's corrupt file drama. One might suspect I've broken a mirror with the Lemony Snicket screenplay that is my life at the moment.

The only thing to do at this point is to try to get back to normal. I will "treat" the new pup into submission, and we're working on deluxe long-term confinement accommodations downstairs so I can get some sleep at night. This is short-term terrible twos. I don't remember puppies being so tough, but I think this is a special case. Poe is brilliant. I'm in trouble. I think he'll only behave if he wants to. As soon as he's vaccinated, we're off to training class. Anyone have any tips?