Monday, July 29, 2013

Fido and Friend in Five: Annemarie, Zola and Zar!

Annemarie O'Brien
Tim Jessel's gorgeous cover!
Annemarie O'Brien and I go way back on the long, and sometimes, arduous road to publication. We first met around 2006 at Nancy Sondel's amazing Pacific Coast Children's Workshop, one of the very few writer's conferences just for folks who write fiction for middle grader's and teens. Neither of us had published--yet. She was deep into Vermont College's
 Master's program in writing for children and young adults; I had just written my first novel, The Ring, and was impatient to get published. We met several times again at Nancy's PCCW. While I railed against the rules and difficulties of getting an agent, much less an editor, Annemarie patiently worked and refined her skills and manuscript.

And now here we are! Annemarie's debut novel, Lara's Gift, will hit the bookstores on August 6th, and my humble little blog is the first stop in her blog tour! As she said, it just seems fitting.

Lara's Gift is a beautifully crafted story set in Imperial Russia about the love and devotion between a young girl and her dog. And this is not just any dog: Zar is a borzoi, the hunting dogs of the Tsar himself. Lara is being groomed to do what her family has done for generations: run Count Vorontsov's kennel which provides these stately and noble dogs to the Tsar. The borzois and Lara have a special connection, one that both frightens her and makes her proud, a gift that her father views as an abomination. Will Lara be able to convince her father it is her destiny to run the kennel? Will she be able to convince him that even though Zar is the runt of the litter, he has the courage and heart worthy of a Tsar? The ever-stingy Kirkus reviews gave Lara's Gift a starred review, describing the book as "engrossing and powerful."

Annemarie is able to write so convincingly about Russia and borzois in Lara's Gift because she once lived and worked in the former Soviet Union, and she shares her life with two borzoi, Zola and Zar. Let's kick off Annemarie's blog tour with this very special Fido and Friend in Five!

1. How did you and your dogs find each other?  Both of my borzoi, Zola and Zar, are rescues through their respective breeders. They inspired the fictional characters in Lara's Gift. We found Zeus,
Zola & Zar
our silken windbound (best described as a miniature borzoi) from breeder Cynthia Dell. I fell in love with borzoi when I was gifted a puppy in Moscow where I worked after graduate school. Dasha was like no other dog I'd ever had. I grew up with spaniels and retrievers who wanted to be everyone's pal. Dasha was selective in the people she allowed to pat her on the head, so she made me feel special.

Let's run Mom!
2. What makes Zola and Zar's tails wag?  The leash, my running shoes, and of course, a meat bone!

3. If your dogs could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  That's an easy question. If they could, I'm sure they would snap their paws and make me an instant lottery winner so I wouldn't have to work so much and could take them for more runs!

4. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  This one is hard because there are so many. But I guess I'd have to go back to my kid days and say Lassie Come-Home, Lady and the Tramp, or 101 Dalmations. 
Breed of the Tsars

5. In just five words, tell us what Zola and Zar mean to you:  Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

Love. Love. Love
Okay, so I know after you read this, you're just chomping at the bit to read LARA'S GIFT! So here's your chance to win a free, signed copy! All you need to do to enter a drawing to win a signed copy is leave a comment below and share this post on your fav social media site! Could it be any easier? I'll draw the winning name on August 15th. 

For more opportunities to win a copy of LARA’S GIFT and/or a manuscript critique by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor, check out these blogs on these dates: Fiction Notes (7/31); Kissing the Earth, Quirk and Quill, or Simple Saturday (8/1); Coffee with a Canine, Dog Reads, or World Reads (8/5); Dear Editor (8/6); Word Spelunking (8/7); Random Acts of Reading (8/8); The Hiding Spot (8/9); Beth Fish Reads (8/13); and Sarah Davies’s blog at Greenhouse Literary (TBD).

For more information about LARA’S GIFT, check out the web page:

Teacher Guide:

Book Trailer:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Big Ben! One Rescued Dog's Story

I have the great good fortune to live in a dog-loving community with its own amazing animal rescue organization, Friends of Animals Utah. I've worked as a volunteer with them for many years and have heard some truly inspiring rescue stories. This is one of them. Every year, FOA Utah has a fundraiser (the emphasis on Fun!) called Bark in the Park. At Bark in the Park, they honor one of their amazing rescues. This year it was Big Ben. My BFF, Charlene Brewster, is my guest blogger today, telling Ben's story. Get your hankies ready!

Every year we feature one of our rescued dogs on our race shirt.  This year, the dog is “Big Ben, the
Dr. Prior and Ben 
Miracle Dog” and the tag line is “Courage to Walk, Courage to Run.”  He has been an inspiration to many and we thought we would tell you his story.

November 25th, 2012 was a Sunday.  That was the day a young Great Pyrenees was hit by a car out on Route 248 near Stock Lumber.  He appeared out of nowhere and jumped in front of a car –  there was no way to avoid him.  The driver who hit him stopped as did several other people.  It was apparent he was badly injured.  He was in much pain and couldn't use his back legs.  There are many dogs used in the ranching community that are “free range” – guiding and guarding livestock with little or no human interaction or supervision.  This dog was one of them.
Healing Touch!
Many ranching dogs are not considered pets.  They are tools of the trade and treated as such.  Basically, if your shovel breaks and it costs more to fix it than buy a new one, then you throw out the broken one and get yourself a new shovel…  That was exactly what the rancher wanted to do with this broken dog: he wanted him shot by the sideof the road.

By this time, Animal Control, local veterinarian, Carl Prior and Friends of Animals were on the scene.  Dr. Prior and the folks gathered around wanted to give the dog a chance.  Worst case, he would be humanely euthanized in Dr. Prior’s office.  But maybe, just maybe…  there was a chance that he would make it.  He deserved that chance.  After more than a few tense moments, the rancher relinquished the dog to Animal Control and Friends of Animals Utah took responsibility from there. 
Ben's Wheels
The badly injured dog could not walk.  He did have a small fracture in his spine, but Dr. Prior was quite sure that given time for the injury to heal and the swelling to go down in his spine, he may very well walk again.  He was given the name Big Ben.

Now keep in mind, this dog had not spent much time with people and had probably never been inside a building or house for any amount of time ever in his life.  In a tremendous amount of pain and surrounded by strangers, you might think he would lash out in fear or mistrust.  That never happened. 
He spent more than a month at Park City Animal Clinic. For the first few weeks, he could not walk.  He had to be helped outside and to be moved into new positions.  He learned to use a doggie wheelchair and continued to heal.  Slowly but surely he began to use his back legs and eventually take some steps.  He grew stronger.

 Word got out in the dog community about this amazing dog.  People who heard about Ben would stop by the clinic and visit him.  People donated funds to pay for his medical care. 
There were several people who were truly his guardian angels.  One of the people who stopped to help the day of the accident was Billie Harsch.  She visited Ben every day at the clinic during his recovery and rallied the community around his story with her facebook reports on his progress and fundraising to pay for his care.  Fox 13 TV station did a story about him and Ben soon became a local celebrity – everyone wanted to know how Ben was doing.

Wow, A Bed & Toys!
When he was able to walk pretty well on his own, Ben went to the first of several foster homes.  The Bednars with Active K9 took him home for Christmas.  He then spent several months with Kim Brown and George Forbes at their house.  Utah Pet Rehab donated rehab services to help him get stronger and learn to walk properly.  In late February, Ben went to a new foster home.  Colleen Keblish and her family opened up their homes and heart to him.  He is still there today, not as a foster but as a permanent part of their family.  They have a small ranch in Silver Creek and he gets to run, swim and have fun every day.

So many great people came together to give this dog a chance.  In his honor, a fund has been started at Friends of Animals Utah called Ben’s Bank.  It's money that can be used to help badly injured or sick animals who need special care.  Who need a chance.  If you would like to contribute to Ben’s Bank,
Oh Yeah, Shopping!
please click here.   

Is that an amazing and inspiring story or what?! Please share with your friends and consider donating to Ben's Bank. Any donation will be tax deductible.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Authors for Catherine's Dream Wrap Up!

I wanted to just update everyone on how the "Authors for Catherine's Dream" signed book auction turned out. Over thirty authors generously donated signed copies of their books to be auctioned off; many of the authors donated more than one title or more than one copy. As a result, over forty books were auctioned!
Wishes DO come true!

From the end of May until June 22nd, 115 people bid on books. Isn't that amazing?! And these were folks from all over the United States--Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Colorado, Mississippi, Virginia, Connecticut, Utah and many other places. There were some hot and heavy bidding wars going on, particularly for Leslea Newman's Hachiko Waits, Patricia MacLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall, and (not surprisingly) this year's Newbery winner, The One and Only Ivan. 

"But Bobbie, how much money did you raise?" you may be asking. I'm so happy and thrilled to tell you that we raised a little over $4,000.00, and donations are still coming in! Every penny of that goes to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary fund. All the authors and myself are paying the postage to mail the books to the winners.

I want to thank all the authors who were kind enough to donated signed copies of their books and some of whom also bid on books and donated to the fund. My crazy idea of raising money to honor this sweet little girl could never have happened without them.

And many, many thanks to all of you who bid on books during the auction. Whether you won a book or not, you were the ones who made it successful beyond my wildest dreams!

If you didn't have a chance to bid on a book and would still like to help make Catherine's dream of an animal sanctuary in Newtown a reality, you can donate here. Your donation will not only be tax deductible, but will be so very appreciated!