Plumbing and puppies

Angel Joe is taking a little time off work today to finish up the plumbing in the house. I say he’s “taking off,” but I can hear him chiming in on a phone meeting as he plumbs. The house came with polybutyl pipe, which is prone to developing pinhole leaks (we had some). That kind of pipe was recalled later on, with the attendant class action suit. Anyway, Joe has been steadily replacing it with copper over the years. The two upstairs bathrooms were the last to do. He’s very excited about the prospect of turning the water pressure up to full.

Josie went to the vet this morning for her second-to-last round of vaccinations. Dr. Bauman was impressed by both Josie’s health and temperament. Apparently she has two regular Chi clients who are pains in the ass.

Josie has incredible amounts of energy. I’m so looking forward to being able to take her on walks, but that will have to wait until her last vaccinations, at the end of Feb. She and Musette are getting closer to actual contact all the time. Last night Musette let me carry her on her back through the living room, and then put her on her back in my lap and pet her. I was on one end of the couch, and Joe and Josie were on the other.

This morning I was able to squat with Josie in my lap while petting Musette, who was milling around. I was praise talking like crazy, which I’m sure they both thought was directed at them. When Musette rubbed along my thigh, Josie stuck her nose in that big plumy tail as it wafted by. Then she shook her head like, “That tickles!” I’m sure there will be ups and downs, but they’re very calm in each other’s presence right now. Will trim Musette’s claws again. I’m thinking a nose sniff will come very soon.

The “When Will Josie Climb the Stairs” pool. No fee, win stuff.

Josie, my Chihuahua puppy, is bound to try to climb the stairs to the second floor at some point. I’m offering a free advance review copy of The Portrait of Doreene Gray to the person who guesses closest to the date/time she does. It’s just like sports betting, only cuter and fluffier! (Also, no one named “Brass-knuckle Chuck” will come to your house and beat you up if you lose.)

Here are the stats.
  • Josie weighed two pounds, two ounces as of yesterday, January 26.
  • She is three months old.
  • Two days ago, she put her front paws on the bottom stair and looked up. That’s all she’s done.
  • There were no stairs in her previous house.
  • She has had one instance of being timid with a shallow outside step.
  • Each stair riser is 7.5 inches tall. There are 14 stairs.
  • Josie’s legs are 4 inches long.
  • The cat hangs out upstairs.
  • So does Angel Joe, and Josie LOVES Angel Joe.
  • We are not encouraging her to climb the stairs. That’s the cat’s safe space, and it’s also carpeted up there, and Josie isn’t fully housebroken.

You can leave your guess as a comment here or on Facebook. Once you pick your date/time, you can’t change it. There will be two prizes:

An ARC (advance review copy) of The Portrait of Doreene Gray goes to the person who guesses when Josie will climb all the way to the stop of the stairs.

Some glow-in-the-dark Chihuahua Soap goes to the person who guesses when Josie climbs at least two stairs, but doesn’t get all the way to the top.

If I were guessing, I personally wouldn’t guess within a week and a half of now, but this is my first puppy. You long-time Chi owners may know better.


Dorothy MacKay-Holmberg, (here), Jan. 29, (time?) Note: I applaud Dorothy’s faith in Josie. It was clever of her to guess the tail-end of this weekend, because Josie is out of her pen more on Sat & Sun than on weekdays.

Nikki of Obsessive Chihuahua Disorder, Jan 31, 10:00 am

Shirley Blanks-Pettis, FB, Feb 3, noon

Deborah Sheeler, FB, Feb 8, 11:00 am

Theresa Edkins Danley, FB, Feb. 9, 11:00 am

Fawn Frazer, FB, Feb 10, 10:00 am

Shawna Nicole McCain, FB, Feb 10

Denise Fain Bast, FB, Feb 14, 10:30 am (Thank you for getting the ball rolling!)

Anna Fontana, FB, Feb. 14 (time?)

Wilhelmina Callaghan, FB, Feb. 14, 7:00 pm

Bloomers Chihuahuas, FB, Feb 17, 5:00 pm

Karen Bryant Doering, (comment below), Feb 18, 10:00 pm

Debra Cochran, Feb 23, 6:30 pm

Marlene Morrill, FB, Feb 27, “before 2:00 pm”

Marsha Graves-Realtor, FB, Feb 29 , 8:00 am

Faith Craig, FB, March 6

Debbie Fanton, FB, March 10

Dianne Lynn Stebens, FB, “never”


Update: Debbie Fanton from FB won this.

The number one requirement of a book title

Yesterday I spent at least an hour on the phone with my parents, working on a replacement title for what used to be called Telling Lies, a book I’m going to self-publish real soon now. This book has had that title for probably 7 years, but in the middle of last year, someone came out with a mystery of the same name. I was about to say, “Eh, screw it,” and use that title anyway (they’re not copyrightable) when I got an email from the author (whom I’ve never met) asking me to nominate her book for an Agatha. It was just too much, you know? The hunt was on.

What makes a good book title?

It makes people buy the book. That is the number one requirement of a book title. Do not get this aspect confused with how well a title fits a book after it’s read. I don’t care how much someone appreciates your clever wordplay when they’re done with the book. “See, not only was she telling lies, but the lies she told were telling – about her!” Great, but remember, the book is already paid for at that point. P.S. My dad says that if a title really doesn’t fit a book, he might find that annoying enough to shun a second book by the author, even if he really enjoyed her writing. But Daddy fits no one’s idea of the average person, so let’s move on.

How does a title sell a book?

1) The title has tension, asks a question the reader wants answered, or piques the reader’s interest so much that he buys the book. Everyone knows that telling lies is bad, but it’s also sometimes necessary. One word can convey tension, which is why there are about a million romances with reckless in them. If you don’t mind a long title, you can create a whole scenario with tension. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Sometimes tension comes from words that seem to war with each other. The Accidental Tourist. How is that possible? (Oh, look, it asks a question, too.) Try piquing their interest: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. WTF?

2) The title tells the reader the tone of the book. This works particularly well with books of a specific flavor, especially one that isn’t widely available but has hardcore fans. Southern lit used to be rare enough that putting Sweet Potato Queens in the title was enough to make the right reader snatch it off the shelf. I don’t know if that’s the case anymore. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Speculative fic readers LOVE that title, and for good reason. It’s frickin’ brilliant on so many levels. (In case you don’t know, that book became Bladerunner.) How ’bout The Da Vinci Code? Sounds kind of like an art-themed thriller, doesn’t it? (Btw, Da Vinci Code would also make a great self-help book title, a la The Seven Habits of Highly Lengthy Titles.)

3) No one else has used the title, at least not recently, or famously, or in a book that’s really similar. Yes, Telling Lies was a great title. I’m trying to get over it, okay?

Let’s talk about stuff to avoid.

1) Clichés. My book deals with a reluctant Tarot reader, so all kinds of card-related sayings suggested themselves. Wild Card. Full Deck. In the Cards. Meh. Clichés pass through the mind with barely a trace. You want a title that rattles around in the ear canal like a moth with fangs. 

2) Insulting potential readers. We briefly considered Mystic Lies, then realized that title would piss off every Tarot reader out there, and they might be expected to buy the book because there isn’t much fiction with Tarot in it. (Note to Tarot readers: This book is not anti-Tarot. You can safely buy it.)

3) Titles that make no damn sense. There may have been books with nonsensical titles that made it big, but I’m pretty sure they became famous because they had a publicity machine behind them. Case in point – I can’t remember any of them.

All right, so what title did we come up with? I’m not going to claim it’s great. I did use some card imagery, although I think I dodged the cliché bullet. I think it has tension. It works well with the cover art I picked, and also with the blurb. Here’s my very preliminary mock-up of the cover. Because it requires some photo manipulation (putting the card in the model’s hand), Angel Joe is going to clean it up this weekend. It will change in other ways.

And here’s the blurb.

LeeLee Moldovar’s mother is dead, leaving her debts, her angry Chihuahua, and her abandoned Tarot clients. After losing her job, LeeLee decides to read Tarot for a living. Her first client is a very attractive man, and there’s definite chemistry. The cards say Adrian should dump his newest girlfriend – or is that what LeeLee wants? It’s only after Adrian leaves that LeeLee discovers he’s dating her best friend. When the next client arrives, she’s afraid to say anything and risk another Tarot disaster. But something inside LeeLee speaks out, giving advice she doesn’t anticipate and can’t control. To silence this unwanted voice and regain her sanity, LeeLee must discover her true self, despite attractive men, best friends, and the specter of her mother’s loving wishes for her.

Oh, look, I’ve already changed the cover.

Comments? Suggestions? Lay ’em on me.

A new sweater for Josie O and an upcoming book on Kindle

I’ve been taking Josie O outside, just on the porch and the grassy area immediately beyond. Our house doesn’t front on the street, so I figure this is safe. She hasn’t been through her entire vaccination cycle, so that’s as much as I dare risk, to minimize the chances of her getting diseases from other dogs.

Being outside distracts her from the fact that she’s wearing a harness and leash, and she’s getting used to them pretty quickly, but it’s cold outside, and she starts shivering within about a minute. I’ve been looking for a sweater small enough to fit her, and Petco came through for me yesterday. Yes, the brand name is Smoochie Pooch. If you can’t embrace the cute, don’t get a Chihuahua.

(Put your cursor on the pix to get mouseover captions.)

In other news, Telling Lies, the book I’m going to self-publish, came through its reading with the psychologist with flying colors. (It has a therapist in it, and I wanted to check for realism.) She was very complimentary, although I don’t have permission to quote her yet, so you’ll have to take my word for it. This story also includes a Chihuahua, although the poor thing has some problems. Don’t worry – happy ending, happy ending.

So the next three things on my agenda are:

1) learn to format the book for Kindle and start that process,

2) compose back-cover copy, including a descriptive blurb,

3) decide whether I want to use the cover I made with clip art, which is acceptable, or hire a graphic artist to spiff it up (especially in the title font area) or even start from scratch.

Second night with Josie O

Josie woke me up with some squeaking a couple minutes earlier than yesterday – 5:39. I waited until she was quiet, then got up and checked her. Last night, per Nancy’s (her breeder’s) instructions, I made her a sleepshirt out of one of Joe’s orphan socks, and I slept downstairs a second time to make sure she didn’t get tangled in it. She had gotten her arms out and it was around her middle, which is fine. I took it off her, reheated her seed pad, put her back in her pen, and went back to my bed on the couch. She whined for maybe three minutes and then was quiet. I went back to sleep.

Woke up again at 7:22. Joe was stirring upstairs. Josie was totally quiet. I took her out of her pen and got back in bed and snuggled with her for a little, as a reward. Then we played fetch, at which she’s very good.

Nancy instructed me yesterday to use the washable potty pad she’d given me. She said that even thought it was laundered and bleached, it would still have some scent (wow). I had been using disposable pads that were scented with attractant, and Josie didn’t seem to get it. Well, Josie peed twice and pooped, all on the pad. Hallelujah. I’m sure she’ll still have accidents, but I’m still mightily impressed. I praised her to the skies, of course.

She followed me around as I got my breakfast, and I sat on the floor and ate while she played. She also licked my feet, which is like the tiniest foot massage imaginable. I won’t be stopping that behavior anytime soon.

I made a couple of mistakes. First, I got impatient with Musette when she wouldn’t come downstairs after our morning affection time. So I carried her, and got raked on the chest for my troubles. Normally she would never do that, even if she struggled, but all bets are off right now. The other thing was, Josie and I were wandering around downstairs when Musette came back in, and I didn’t pick Josie up. The temptation to see what would happen was so strong (hangs head). Josie saw Musette and gave a surprised little bark, which made Musette trot around the closet area out of sight. That part was fine, but about a minute later Josie went to investigate, and Musette ran. I’m not supposed to let that happen. On the other hand, Josie didn’t really follow her. When I went upstairs later, Musette was super affectionate, like maybe she was saying, “It’s not as bad as I thought!” Later, I got her to come downstairs and past Josie in her pen with a trail of treats down the stairs. Josie didn’t bark, and Musette didn’t run.

I won’t sleep downstairs tonight, although I may get up earlier than usual. Musette will get her regular affection time first thing, and then I’ll go down and eat breakfast and play with Josie. Playing will stimulate her to go to the bathroom and also tire her out. Then I’ll put her in her pen with a chewy and come upstairs to work (she’ll probably nap). That will give me time to hang out with Musette, unless she’s outside, which she is now.

And here I thought having a puppy was going to be hard. It helps that she’s a toy breed, and you can wear her out  just by throwing stuff around the living room.

Tomorrow she gets her new-puppy visit at the vet.

Josie’s first night.

For those of you not on Facebook, this my be the first you’ve heard that I got a Chihuahua puppy named Josie O (the O is for Outstanding). After trying to find an adult, adoptable Chihuahua that would get along with cats, I gave up and got a puppy, figuring that might work better.

We brought Josie home in the car yesterday.

Josie in her doggy car seat on the way to her new home.

She did great during the hour-long trip, whining for a while, then getting used to it and mostly sleeping. We had friends over in the evening. They all lost their minds over Josie’s extraordinary levels of cuteness. All puppies are cute. From the standpoint of prancing, fluffy adorableness, it’s hard to beat a Chi.

Josie did all her bodily functions quite well. She’s weird about her food. Doesn’t like to eat it out of the dish, but dodges in and gets a piece as if the smell is strong. If I throw it on the floor piece by piece, like a game, that works well. She loves her Greenies chew stick, though. Gotta get more of those.

I went to bed on the couch next to her pen. She whimpered for a little on her heated bed, so I got in the pen and put my hand next to her until she fell asleep – maybe a minute. I fully expected to be up and down all night long. When I did wake up, it wasn’t because I heard anything, but because it was morning. I checked my phone – 5:41 am. I looked in the pen. Josie was sitting up on her bed, awake but silent. I picked her up and she shivered a little, whether from excitement or cold I didn’t know, so I reheated her pad in the microwave. She pooped and peed, had a snack, and thus our day began.

I’m not going to count on the same easy night tonight, but who knows? Maybe I got lucky.

As for Musette, Josie barks and growls at her. She did it while backing up against me, so I think she’s scared of her. Something in that slinking feline motion probably says “predator” to her puppy hind brain. Something in Musette’s hind brain says that something that barks and growls is also a predator, and the upshot is that Musette is afraid of a creature that is one-fifth her size. I know…pathetic. Josie seems to be paying attention when I scold her for barking at Musette, or she’s getting used to her. Once that stops, I’m hoping Musette will stop running past Josie’s pen as though the hounds of a very miniature Hell are after her.

Birdee and Bella get a new book.

Birdee, Bella and Beasley are three Chihuahuas owned by Denise Fain Bast. I imagine it’s Denise who will be doing the actual reading, though I’ve heard from several Chi owners that their dogs really do love to listen. Beasley isn’t in the picture. According to Denise,

Beasley has a mind of her own! Bella & Birdee are very ‘treat-motivated’ but Beasley just assumes you are up to something if you try to bribe her… smart?!! … With Bella & Birdee I can get a ‘head-tilt’ by just asking, “Want a treat?” So much fun!