Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Dayna Lorentz, Peter and Kerry!

Kerry, Dayna, Peter
Have I mentioned that writers are, by and large, an interesting bunch? Besides hearing voices in our heads all day and making something out of nothing, many of us also have fascinating lives outside of writing. Case in point, author Dayna Lorentz. Dayna is not only a writer of teen and middle grade books, she's also an attorney, a singer and artist, new mom, and passionate dog person. As a matter of fact, she has a whole "alternative bio" on her website called "My Life In Dog." I like that about her. She's just my type. Oh, and she also claims she's so bad at fishing, she once caught a clam. I like that about her too.

Dayna just published an exciting new series with Scholastic, Dogs of the Drowned City. In the first book in the series, The Storm, we meet Shep, the smart and devoted German Shepherd left behind when his family has to evacuate because of an approaching hurricane. Days pass and the food and water run out, and still Shep is alone. Until another dog shows up at Shep's house and convinces him adventure and salvation lie beyond Shep's familiar home. Now you know, I'm not a fan of "talking dog" stories, but there are exceptions, and Dayna's books are one. As Kirkus Reviews said, "If a dog wrote a book about the adventures of a dog, it would sound almost exactly like this..." Dayna has also published teen fiction, most notably No Safety in Numbers (Dial), which has been described as Contagion meets Lord of the Flies.

So as I said, Dayna is a passionate dog person. She shares her life with two rescued mutts, Peter the Pugston and Kerry the Jack Puggle Terrier. Oh, and a cat named Oscar. And a husband who's very funny and  patient, and a baby daughter. Let's meet Dayna and her pack in today's Fido and Friend in Five:

1. How did you and your dogs find each other? 
Peter the Pugston
Peter the Pugston (we think he’s Pug-Boston Terrier) was the first to join our family. In the months before I found him, I had been haggling with my husband to try to get him to agree to let me have a dog. (It should be noted that my husband is a cat person; we disprove the rule that cat and dog people can’t get along.J) My husband pointed out that I was graduating from law school and looking forward to a summer of studying for the bar exam to be followed by a job at a big law firm in the fall—not the ideal time to get a dog. But I would not be deterred by such things as reason! I had grown up with dogs; I NEEDED a dog!

Oscar the Cat
I spent all my procrastination time from studying for the bar trolling profiles on Petfinder and  came across the most adorable little mug, Peter’s smush face. I started the hard bargaining. Finally, my husband and I struck a deal: I could get Peter if he could get a cat. I promptly found Oscar, our Maine Coon cat, at the same shelter; we went out to meet them and fell in love—me with Peter and my husband with Oscar. Peter has yet to fall in love with Oscar.

Kerry the JPT
Kerry the Jack Puggle Terrier joined our family a year later. We had decided that Peter needed a friend. I found Kerry on Petfinder and we snagged her. Funny thing is that Kerry became best friends with Oscar the cat. They even groom each other!

2. What makes Peter and Kerry's tails wag?
Peter is a weird dog in that he rarely wags his tail. When he’s happy, he curls his tail up; if he’s sad or even just relaxed, the tail sort of droops. He will, though, get things wagging if you play Quick Draw, a game where you place the toy between the two of you then wait for the signal to both try to grab it first, with him.

Kerry will wag her curly tail if you say her name nicely. She’s kind of a push over, wag-wise. 

Everyone loves the sun!
3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?
Can I go with movie? My all-time favorite dog movie is All Dogs Go To Heaven by Don Bluth. If I had to say book, I’d go with my daughter’s current favorite, Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie.

4. If your dogs could change just one thing about you, what would that be?
They would make it so that I had nothing else in my life besides them. They are always looking at me like, Fine, go write/do laundry/play with the kid. It’s not like we wanted to go for a long walk or anything. We’ll just lie here on the couch and wait until you’re finished...

5. In five words, tell us what Peter and Kerry mean to you:
Comfort, safety, friendship, love, hair.

Thanks so much to Dayna, Peter and Kerry (and Oscar the Cat) for visiting with us today! Be sure to check out Dayna's website for the latest news and to read her blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

World Book Night and Give Away!

I LOVE signed books!
This coming Monday, April 23rd, is World Book Night, a transatlantic celebration of reading and books! On that night, all across the U.S, the U.K, Ireland, and much of Europe, folks will be passing along a favorite book to someone. Tens of thousands of people in local communities have signed up to be "book givers," reading ambassadors who'll pass along 20 copies of a book they've enjoyed to members of their community, particularly those who may be infrequent readers or don't have easy access to books. Don't you just love that idea: being a reading ambassador!

To celebrate World Book Night, I plan on blogging every day between now and then about a book I love and books that have been very important to me.

The other thing I am doing to celebrate this night of reading is a give-away! The first five people to email me between now and April 24th will receive a signed copy of either A Dog's Way Home or my first book, The Ring--your choice. In that email, I'd love a photo of you reading a favorite book or the cover of a favorite book. That's all you have to do! To email me, go to this link on my website.

Can't wait to hear from you!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Liz Kessler and Poppy!

What is it about mermaids that enchants us so? Is it the magical realm of that world below, so very different from ours? Is it the freedom of swimming underwater forever, half naked? Or perhaps it's the salt water in our bodies that make us long for the sea. Whatever it is, Liz Kessler tapped right into the heart of that longing in her wonderful Emily Windsnap series! It resonated so far and wide and well, it was number 10 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007. I read the first one, The Tail of Emily Windsnap, several years ago and was hooked. Here was this twelve-year-old girl who lives alone with her mother on a boat by the seaside, and she discovers (quite by accident) that she's half mermaid. That was my dream! When I was five, I spent an awful lot of time in the bathtub, trying to grow a tail. Didn't work out too well for me.

But Liz has lived at least part of that dream. She's lived in a boat by the sea, just like Emily Windsnap, and she gets to live vicariously through Emily's mermaid adventures. And so do her lucky readers, like me. There have been four books in the Windsnap series, with a fifth one on the way. Liz also wrote the Philippa Fisher series. Liz had a new book come out last year, A Year Without Autumn, to rave reviews.

Philippa Fisher
Liz grew up in Southport, in the north west of England. Like Augusta Scattergood, Liz started her writing career at the tender age of eight, writing poetry. You can read one of her childhood poems on her website. It's titled "Naughtiness." I really like that about her.

Liz now lives in a lovely little town in Cornwall with her sweet dalmation, Poppy. Liz exercises her inner mermaid by surfing, body boarding, and boating. She also is a passionate photographer and loves doing 'poi'--twirling batons that are aflame. You can see her do that on her website! Really!
Comfortable, Poppy?

1. How did you and Poppy find each other?  Poppy came into my life about five years ago, when she was two and I was...a bit older than that! She moved in with me, and has made herself very comfortable in my life ever since!

2. What makes Poppy's tail wag?  Pretty much anything, as she is generally a very happy dog. Her favourite things are: food (carrots, especially--but they have to come straight from the fridge), walkies, and cuddles.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  Gosh, I'm not sure I know that many dog stories. I recently saw Marley and Me at the pictures and cried A LOT! As a child, Digby the Biggest Dog in the World was one of my top favourites.

4. If Poppy could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  I'd let her sleep on the bed.

Liz and Poppy
5. In five words, tell us what Poppy means to you:  Unconditional love, beautiful walks, cuddles.

Thanks so much to Liz and Poppy for visiting with us today! I'll be sending them a copy of A DOG'S WAY HOME, to give Liz a little more dog reading to do ;)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Augusta Scattergood and Rocky!

You just gotta love someone with the name Augusta Scattergood. And I have to love that person even more when  1) they're a fellow librarian and 2) a fellow Southerner. Add on top of that a someone with a wonderful debut novel called Glory Be, and I just had to have her on Fido and Friend in Five. Even if, technically, she doesn't have a dog. But that's okay because she has a "granddog" who spends a lot of time with her. That counts, in my book.

Like most Southerners, Augusta Scattergood loved words and stories from a very young age. She was a published poet by second grade! The following poem won a poetry contest in the "Memphis Commercial Appeal" newspaper:

                                    This is the story of the stolen loot.
                                 The man who stole it wore a dark dark suit.
                                 He stole it on a dark dark night.
                                It was a very scary sight.

From that point on, Augusta knew she wanted to be a writer. Oh, and a librarian. Like me, she also decided she loved working in libraries in elementary school. She went on to college at Mississippi University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then her Masters of Library Science from Simmons College. She's lived all over--Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, California, North Carolina, and lots of other places. Now she mostly lives in Florida. There she reviews books for a whole bucket-load of periodicals including The Christian Science Monitor. And she wrote her wonderful debut middle-grade novel, Glory Be, which took her about ten years to write. Let me tell you right now, it's well worth the wait. Glory Be takes place in the sleepy little town of Hanging Moss, Mississippi. It's 1964 and eleven-year-old Gloriana Hamphill reckons it's going to be the most boring summer in the history of her life. But she couldn't be more wrong because the summer of 1964 was also known as Freedom Summer.

Let's meet Augusta Scattergood and her granddog, Rocky in today's Fido and Friend in Five:

Ever-patient Barley
1. How did you and Rocky find each other?  I've never been without a dog. My first dog was aptly named Spot, a solid black cocker spaniel. Growing up, my family had more pets than I care to remember, including a particularly fierce Chihuahua named Peppy. Our last dog, a gorgeous yellow lab named Barley, was with me through long days of writing Glory Be. He sat by my side and listened to me pulling out my hair and hollering, "I'll never get this right!" I dreamed up more story lines while walking Barley than I've done since we lost him three years ago. That was probably the saddest I've ever felt about a pet. But our lives have been crazy and we weren't ready or able to add a dog to the mix--yet. 
Enter Rocky, the Rock Star, granddog supreme! My daughter rescued him from Basset Rescue. He lives in a house filled with laughter, singing and dancing, ball throwing, food dropping, and lots of hugs. But sometimes he just needs a break, and he escapes to our place for peace and quiet.

2. What makes Rocky's tail wag?  He likes it when I read aloud to him. And his tail really wags when we sing our favorite Elvis tunes together. Rock is quite the crooner.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  I love dog stories with happy endings. How to Steal a Dog, by Barbara O'Conner (a Fido and Friend alum) is right at the top of my list. Because of Winn Dixie, which isn't exactly totally about a dog, is another novel I love. Oh, and I can't forget Sounder. I could go on and on!

"Seriously? More?"
And good editor!
4. If Rocky could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  I'm mostly very organized and have always kept up with my To Do list. Maybe it was the librarian in me! But lately, some things have fallen by the wayside. I think Rocky's telling me to get with the program and clean up my office so he can have more room to lounge. He's giving this stack of "to be read" books a very hairy eyeball, isn't he?

5. In five words, tell us what Rocky means to you:  Good listener, good singer. And that's Hound Dog True (another book I love a lot, even if it's not a dog book.)

Thanks so much to Augusta Scattergood (have I mentioned I LOVE that name?) and Rocky for stopping in a visiting for a while. Be sure to visit Augusta's website and check out her blog to keep up with all her goings on. And as we say in the South, "Be sweet!"