Finally seeing some progress with Musette la Plume (cat) and Josie O (Chihuahua puppy). The basic problem was that Josie would run toward Musette ’cause she wanted to meet her. Musette, a real dogophobe, would freak out and run, and this set the pattern for their encounters.
One suggestion that made this book worth buying was that you feed the animals treats when they’re in the same room, to give them a positive association with the other one’s presence. I don’t think that’s how it works. I think that the treats 1) distract Josie so she doesn’t pay attention to the cat, and 2) eventually teach her that if she sits in one place while the cat is around, she’ll get treats. Essentially, I’m training her to “stay” in the cat’s presence. For Musette’s part, the treats 1) give her a reason to be near the dog, and 2) probably make her think, “If that animal can be distracted by treats, it doesn’t want to get me all that much.” However it’s working, Musette is coming downstairs and wandering around more, even when she sees Josie is there. It took a month, and I know I made some mistakes along the way, but finally things are heading in the right direction. It helps to have a smart dog. Having a super-wimpy cat is no help at all, bless her.
There have been compensations. Musette’s insecurity about the situation has made her revert to earlier, more affectionate behavior. We have never let her sleep with us (I have allergies, Angel Joe has trouble sleeping). It used to be that when we opened the bedroom door in the morning, she would rush in, jump on the bed, and throw herself down for morning petting. Then it switched to the floor, and then petting time got shorter and shorter until she basically said, “All right. Fill my dish, open the pet door, and let’s get this show on the road.” Well, now she’s back on the bed. Haha.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Bebe, from Obsessive Chihuahua Disorder.
I asked Nikki, Bebe’s owner, how food-oriented Bebe is, on a scale from 1 to 10. She said, “Eleven.”
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.
Nikki of Obsessive Chihuahua Disorder, my favorite Chihuahua-oriented blog, gave my free Christmas story a really nice plug:
I downloaded it and uploaded it to my Kindle to read last night. It was such a delightful read. It was nice because it was like getting to laugh along with old friends since I loved these characters in the first novel.
It’s a great short story and I recommend it for people who enjoy reading mysteries, laughing and of course who have a love for dogs (especially Chihuahuas).
You can read the full review here. And you can find Nikki’s very active Facebook page here. I’m on there all the time, to get my fix of cute dog pictures. Bebe is my favorite on most days, but the others give her a run for her money, especially Monte.
And if you’d like to read ‘Twas the Chihuahua Before Christmas, just click the cover.