Yesterday I fed treats jointly to Musette la Plume (cat) and Josie O (Chihuahua puppy), as part of my ongoing work to have the cat get used to the dog. Josie was on the floor, and Musette was on the second step up. After I felt they’d had enough treats, I started petting them, but Josie was in a rambunctious mood and put her front paws on the bottom step, trying to reach the cat. Musette hissed at her – once, twice, and then she bopped the puppy on top of her little head. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for Musette to grow a pair of big-girl titties, to mix a whole bunch of metaphors. Josie yelped once, and not very loudly (she can be a real drama queen). I checked, and saw nary a mark. I do think Musette understands that Josie is a baby, so she must have kept her claws in. Man, she’s fast. I’ve always been in awe of cats’ physical abilities. They’re such perfect predators; right up there with sharks.
Unfortunately, the kitty machismo probably won’t last. It takes a long time for Musette to learn stuff, or possibly she doesn’t want to. She continues to run across the living room to the stairs if Josie is there, unless I’m there to distract/restrain all 2.5 pounds of puppy menace. I’ve moved one of the cat posts next to my desk, so Zetty can look out the window and get the occasional butt scratch instead of occupying my lap. She’s still a very happy cat. She’s especially happy that she gets two wet meals a day, which she didn’t before. Life is a mix of shadows and light, small dogs and canned food.
Josie is doing very well on walks, although for the first time today, she decided the outdoors was overrated and she wanted to go back home. Might have been too chilly, or maybe she smelled something scary, dunno. Yesterday was in the 60s, and we got two walks in. Twice people in cars stopped to talk to me about her and pet her from their windows. She didn’t even have a cute little sweater on, just her harness. We live in a town that mostly owns big dogs, suitable for back country hiking and swimming in the creek, so Josie is a novelty. Me, I wanted a dog suitable for neighborhood strolls and sitting on my table at outdoor coffee shops.
Two publishing contracts ago, this book, originally titled Telling Lies, won the Mainstream category of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers contest. Jennifer Unter, my agent, took me on as a result of it. Publishers read it and loved it, but didn’t know how to sell it unless they labeled it Chick Lit, which was considered dead at the time. So we got a lot of rejection letters like this one,
TELLING LIES was utterly clever and fun and often startling truthful. And you’ve really got a wild ride of a writer on your hands. But I think this is just a bit too far on the other side of chick lit for me—the voice wasn’t exactly hitting my chords and I think the tone, overall, falls outside of Harcourt’s best range.
Thanks, though, for the read—which was completely unforgettable.
and this one,
Thanks so much for sending me TELLING LIES. I had great fun reading it.
This is a really charming novel and I think Esri is a promising talent. I especially enjoyed Julio because my neighborhood is full of Chihuahuas with attitude, so he made me laugh. I’m afraid my gut sense was that this isn’t a big commercial hardcover, so it’s not right for me. If I were still buying paperback, it might be a different scenario. I do think that you’ll find a publisher for this, though, and I wish you the best of luck with it. It was by far the most entertaining novel I’ve read all week!
Finally Kensington/Zebra asked if I had any other books for sale. I did, and we left this book behind. And that’s why, six years later, I can offer you what is possibly the best book I’ve ever written – for a buck. At least, for two days it’ll be a buck. After that, it’ll be three bucks.
I believe that with the vast audience of the internet, books can be sold inexpensively. That’s why I’ve turned down a second hardback contract with St. Martin’s and plan on self-publishing my books in ebook and print-on-demand from now on. Here’s your chance to validate that decision. Buy it. Read it. If you like it, review it and recommend it.
I’m working on making Jokers & Fools available on Smashwords and also in print form, through CreateSpace. For now, it’s on Kindle, but you don’t actually need a Kindle to read it. There are free Kindle apps you can download to your PC, Mac, phone or whathaveyou. Here’s a link for those.
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.
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.
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!
I did a search on Petfinder.com for Chihuahuas up for adoption in my area, and found two that looked promising, both from RMPR.
So I drove to the Northglenn Petsmart, where the adoption event was being held. There must have been 25, 30 people there. Amazing, because these dogs are not going for a song. That said, RMPR is clearly a first-class organization, and the members foster dogs until they are fine canine citizens. Still, I was surprised that many people are willing to pay extra for knowing a lot about a prospective pet. Here I thought the economy was bad. Not when it comes to furry friends.
The event was a well-oiled machine, even with that many people. You fill out paperwork (I had filled mine out in advance, then left it on the kitchen table). They have a fosterer interview you (usually the one who fostered the dog in which you have an interest), and then you have a timed visit with the dog in a pen. With some dogs they also require a visit to your home before they make a decision. Others were being taken home right then, to much cheering and applause. It was a little like winning a game show.
Olivia and Gidget were in the same pen. I looked down, Gidget looked back, and then she started barking like I had PISSED HER OFF. Maybe I should have broken eye contact to get her to stop, but I learned a long time ago not to break eye contact with pets – it’s a submissive gesture. While Gidget was barking up a storm, one of the volunteers explained that she doesn’t do that at home. Probably nervous aggression, or maybe she didn’t like my hair and was calling me a dirty hippie. Meanwhile, Olivia laid there, all mellow. When I leaned down to offer my hand, Olivia and Gidget both came over, but Gidget pushed Olivia out of the way a little and also kept barking. I marked Gidget off my list. Later I saw her with a man, having a grand old time and being perfectly adorable. Maybe she doesn’t like chicks.
They had a lot of people to process. While I waited, a very nice couple had their visit with Olivia. They cuddled up a storm with her and announced their intention of getting her if they could. Maybe they have small kids and will be disqualified, I thought. Maybe they live in a swamp. But I got better. If they’re good people for her, so be it.
I had my interview with Benedict, who was clearly a stellar dog fosterer and also had a fantastic ‘stache. Well done. Then I had my visit with Olivia. She was a darling, and that picture does NOT do her justice. I asked if she wanted to sit on my lap. She did. She also wanted to give me kisses and lick the inside of my nose (ah, Chihuahuas). I spoke softly in her ear, ruffled her neck fur, and told her what a good girl she was, and she rolled and offered me her belly to rub.
One of the volunteers came over and said that the woman who fostered Olivia had developed a special relationship with her, so any potential adopters needed to have their home checked out. But this volunteer thought we were a good match – such a good match that she was sad when she found out that other people wanted Olivia. I told her they clearly loved Olivia very much, and I’m not in a hurry. Olivia’s foster mom is gonna call me. I’m going to tell her that if the other couple doesn’t have any kids or pets, Olivia should go with them. If she has the chance to be someone’s only baby, or hang out with other Chihuahuas, then she should. She is clearly special, although you can argue that all dogs are.
RMPR will do a home visit with me anyway, so I’ll be set if the right dog comes along (and no one else wants it). They also don’t know how Olivia does with cats. There is a 7-day return policy, but you hate to put a dog through that.
It’s a difficult situation. I want a Chihuahua, but I don’t want Musette’s happiness to decrease. Ideally it would increase (she wants to be friends with other animals, if they want to be friends with her). Or they could ignore each other. That would be fine, too. She’s outside a lot of the time and there is plenty of love to go around. Anyway, I have connections in the Denver Chihuahua Meetup group now. They’ll probably find me some poor creature to foster that needs a person to build its confidence and a warm kitty to snuggle with.
When I got home, Musette greeted me with happy squeaks and rolled over so I could kiss her belly. Which I did.
I recently received an invitation to attend the Denver Chihuahua Meetup. Thank you, Jessica! Jessica found me through FB as an author, or maybe I found her as a Chi owner. Regardless, she won my heart forever by buying six of my books to give to friends. Seriously, I want to adopt this woman.
So on the Sunday after we got back from our vacation, I got my act mostly together and drove to Brighton, which has a lot of houses, horses and land, and not much else. To be fair, the horses and houses are both beautiful. The land was flat and covered with snow, so I can’t speak for it.
The Meetup was at Dianne’s house and was a potluck. I brought two bags of Lindor chocolate balls, because Angel Joe was putting up the tin backsplash in the kitchen. Or maybe he was installing drawer glides. Anyway, no cooking was going to happen, because he was busy doing other things, haha.
I got to Dianne’s house 15 minutes early and was met at the door by a sizable pack of Chihuahuas.
“Gosh, everyone must be very punctual,” I thought. Oh, no. Those dogs represented just three people’s pets. The main event was still to come, and before we were through, there were 45 dogs in that house. I’m not sure if that included the puppies in the stroller. Let me digress to say that I’m still thinking fondly of tiny Duke, a long-haired white morsel with black ears and a black patch on his back, who although the size of a dollar bill (and worth about 400 of them), gave me a doggy kiss on my fingers and sat on my lap observing the room.
You should marvel at my strength, ’cause I had a checkbook in my purse.
Speaking of licking, Chiahuahuas love to lick. They particularly love to lick your mouth and up your nose. Perhaps that’s why they’re reputed to be good for asthma. There’s no scientific evidence for that claim, but if you let them have their way, I’m pretty sure they’d rout out your sinuses. You can put on makeup for a Chihuahua Meetup, but you will leave with a pink, shiny nose.
Anyway, I made friends with every dog I could lay my eager hands on, and here are some of their names: Oscar (Jessica’s floofy boy), Tia (pure love), Moses (his hair color parted in the middle), Rhett Butler, Draco (a chubby, jolly redhead who is on a diet),
Angela (naked belly), Bonnie, Charlie (a girl described as “viscious” by the shelter, who only wanted to be in your lap), Poncho, Paco, Paulo (I think there was a Paulo), Iffy (seemed plenty okay to me), Olive Ann, Cricket, Ajax or Alex, Daisy (mom of the pups), Hershey, Lola (“my Queen”), Bobo, Benny and Bob. Violet was beautiful but skittish, in the manner of supermodels. I never got close to her. Harley had one eye, an underbite and a heart condition. He looked like a junkyard bulldog that shrunk in the wash, and was impossibly sweet.
I believe there were people there, too. Someone must have brought the Chihuahuas. I’m kidding. There were lovely people there.
Many of them mentioned a Chihuahua named Zoie who died two months ago. She was clearly much loved.
One of many things that fascinate me about Chihuahuas is how varied their colors, shapes and sizes are.
There were Chihuahuas who were related but looked nothing like each other. Humped backs, straight backs, rounded, bony like greyhounds,
long-haired, short-haired, hair so short the dog looked pink, rounded heads, curly tails,
straight tails, bushy tails when the rest of the dog was short-haired and sleek, stubby snouts, and long snouts like little crocodiles.
There were mixes, too, and one Chinese Chin who thought he was a Chihuahua.
Another thing that impresses is how well Chihuahuas get along. You have to wonder if they schooled like fish when they were in a more wild state. Several of these dogs had never been to a Meetup, some were rescues who hadn’t had much socialization, and it was wonderful to see them start playing with the other dogs. There were a few posturing contests by macho dogs, swiftly quashed by their owners. I would be interested to know how many breed Meetups there are. I’m having difficulty picturing a room full of bull terriers playing together, for example.
So that was my first experience with Chihuahuas en masse, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’m determined to get my hands on Violet.
Just a reminder that I have a free Christmas story available, ‘Twas the Chihuahua Before Christmas.
I’ve been quoted in newspapers and on TV as saying that including Chihuahuas in my mystery series was a cold-blooded marketing decision, and I meant it – but not in the way you might think.
The internet is how we find things these days. Anyone can sell things on it, and almost everyone does. As an author, success depends on getting your writing into the hands of people who will enjoy it. You have to cut through the clutter of things clamoring for their attention and say, “Look at me. I’m what you want.” One of the easiest ways to do that is to find a place where your ideal readers are clumped together, and show them you can fill one of their unmet needs. “Excuse me, but is anyone writing fiction about this thing you love? No? Allow me to introduce myself.”
Ideally, an author’s hook should be lively and engaging, something that will add to the books’ tone. It’s even better if it doesn’t bore the general public. And wouldn’t it be great if it had authentic emotional content? It shouldn’t be done to death, or that whole “cutting through the clutter” benefit is lost. Most importantly, it needs to be something the author will enjoy writing about over the long haul. So I took a look at the various things I love: singing, playing guitar, cats, writing, Chihuahuas…hold on a minute. Only one of those things met all my criteria and then some. As a considerable side benefit, the characteristics of Chis, and the character of their owners, matches my writing style rather neatly – funny, mischievious, and very into people.
So yes, the decision to include a marketing hook in my books was cold-blooded, but Chihuahuas were there to be chosen because I am crazy about them. As a benefit, I get to own these dogs in my imagination, when my cat won’t let me in real life. Actually, she will, but she becomes a ghost in her own home. (I’ve tried and may try again.) When Musette dies, clearing my sinuses but breaking my heart, I’ll get a Chihuahua.
P.S. Years ago, before I knew what a marketing hook was, and just as I was getting into Chihuahuas, I wrote a book with one. It got me my agent and my first publisher, but has never been published. The problem, as all the complimentary rejection letters said, was that publishers didn’t know how to sell it. Well, I do, and as soon as I fix the ending and find a new title (the one I had was recently used for another book), I’ll publish it myself. Stay tuned.
P.P.S. You can experience my Chihuahua enthusiasm for free with the short story,‘Twas the Chihuahua Before Christmas. Am I giving away a Christmas story for marketing reasons? Of course. Did I love writing it and want everyone to read it regardless of whether they buy my books? Also yes.
UPDATE:I finally succumbed to my obsession and got a Chihuahua. And by golly, she’s kind of a ringer for the Chi at the top of this page!