Dec 242018
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was probably a high school reading assignment that introduced me to John Steinbeck’s novels. My guess is that we started with The Grapes of Wrath and, while I may have grumbled about the assignments as much as anyone else, guess who dominated my independent reading for some time after? I’d be hard-pressed to choose between Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, and Travels With Charley. I loved each and every character and was hooked on feeling transported to a completely different place and culture.

If you’ve visited my blog before, you know I’m fascinated by thinking. And brains. Click To Tweet

If you’ve visited my blog before, you know I’m fascinated by thinking. And brains. I’ve noticed that, as I think about various books and authors, they show up as a category. For example, when I was a single Mom with a young child, we were fortunate to leave New England in early spring and visit relatives in the sunny South. At the time, the release of John Grisham’s novels coincided neatly with those trips and became a bit of a tradition for me.  Runaway Jury comes to mind.

That leads to my love of series. Andrew Vachss’ Burke series is full of honest, gripping stories and compelling characters. It’s dark. And accurate. And has been described as “prose as forceful as a hollow-point slug.” When recommending a starting place, I can’t choose between FloodBlossom, or Hard Candy.  They all fit the bill as novels that tell the truth. Hard truth.

Every novel in Andrew Vachss' Burke series fits the bill as fiction that tells the truth. Hard truth. Click To Tweet

Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series (One for the Money,   Two for the Dough) is as silly as Vachss is revealing. They’re a lot of fun.

And of course, there are my friends who write. I love them — no only for the feedback and encouragement they share but for the work they produce. They keep me traveling to genres that I might now always choose for myself. I enjoy David-Matthew Barnes’ short plays and romances. (Ambrosia is pretty funny.)

I turn to my sometimes-neighbor Barbara Bond for mature chick-lit that takes place on my island home… although I’m going to a launch party for her new release Everyday Enemies next week. And I can’t thank Nancy Blanton enough. Sharavogue — the first book in her series of 17th-century Irish historical fiction — boasts well-drawn characters and enough “action” to make me a fan of a previously untasted genre! There’s something wonderful (and a little naughty) about knowing The Prince of Glencurragh is waiting for me on the bedside table.

Do you read fiction? Please make a recommendation or two in the comments.

Nov 212018
 

Hi, my name is Lazarus Jones, and I’m a dog. Actually, I used to be a dog. Now I’m a dead dog. And, yes, I’m talking to you from the other side.

Apparently, some people don’t like to read books about dogs because in the book we always die. Well, duh. Newsflash: our species doesn’t live as long as yours. Sorry. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I don’t like hearing that. After all, if that’s logical then so is the idea that people shouldn’t “get” dogs. Or, that we shouldn’t eat cookies because, unless you’re a labberdog, at some point you gotta stop. There are lots of things in humanish that still baffle me… that’s why I decided to write this book.

What? A dead dog writing a book? How can that be?

Actually, it’s pretty simple. In my case, once I got here, I got turned into a moose. Oh, wait… that’s not the right word. Muse. That’s it. That means I can put stories into humans, or at least into one particular human. Cool, huh?

Here’s the thing. It is true that humans outlive their dogs and, believe you me, we are deeply sorry for that. In fact, several of us are circulating a petition to Dog Almighty to see if we can get that clause changed. In the meantime, we’re all stuck with the way it is.

Those of you who are very fluent in doggish know this: that the one-way trip to the veterinarian is not always the end. Some of us have figured out how to stay with you and a few of you are learning how to notice the messages we send. You need to find out more about this. But first? People keep asking how I got here.

Those of you who are very fluent in doggish know this: that the one-way trip to the veterinarian is not always the end. Click To Tweet

At first, when the police and the lady with the papers came to save my baby human from the drug house, I was happy all over… until I realized they weren’t going to let me go with her. When they said “animal control”… I took a deep breath, pushed past them and bolted as fast as I could, directly into the path of a fast moving vehicle. I knew the driver wouldn’t be able to stop and I’d be on my way back to my baby much sooner this way.

Remember those churches that did all that hateful stuff and said Dog Almighty told them to do it? Ever since then, it has been against the rules for us to give out too many details but, I’ll do my best.

When I got to the other side, the first order of business was to meet with one of the Minder Dogs to get sorted.

Oh. I forgot. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a human, and you might be worried about sorting. Don’t. There’s no wrong way to connect with Dog Almighty, and there’s no hot, torture place that’s any worse than a Florida theme park in July. Sorting puts us in the right classes so we can be more effective if we’re lucky enough to get another ride on the earthy-go-round.

The Minder Dog looked at my record and sighed.

“Wow. Advanced Decision-Making and Intermediate Impulse Control. It looks like you had decent grades in both of those courses — until the final exam.”

So she paired me up with Mally. The last time he had a body he was working as a police dog. Maybe that’s why he asked so many questions.

“Do you think humans can picture themselves here?” he asked.

“I think they spend a lot of time pondering about it,” I replied, “Especially as they get older.” I stretched, taking up more space on the couch. “I wonder what they’d think of this part.”

“You mean the Watching of the Loved Ones? I’ll bet even if they can imagine it, they would think about looking in on birthdays and holidays. Especially the Meat Holidays,” he said. A bubble formed on his lip. It shimmered briefly before turning into a full-blown stream of drool.

I knew that different breeds of people had different Meat Holidays, but I think Mallie and I had only incarnated in North America. He sometimes kidded me that being a retriever was responsible for my choice of the Turkey Day as my favorite.

I knew that different breeds of people had different Meat Holidays, but I think Mallie and I had only incarnated in North America. Click To Tweet

My mind drifted from the Meat Holidays to my favorite episodes. I would watch them again and again if I could. And, camped out here in Eternity, this was not such a far-fetched idea, was it?

“Jones?”

Apparently, I’d missed a question from my bestie.

“Huh?”

“Remember the time we watched your girl Bethany bite that kid on the playground? I forget… Why’d she do that?”

He knew. He was just trying to help me focus.

“It was right after she got ‘dopted, wasn’t it?” Mally asked, bonking me with his muzzle.

“Yeah. She was so excited about being furever with her Grandma that she bounced and yapped like a terrier, didn’t she?”

We both grinned. I continued.

“Then Connor Bienemann from the 3rd grade made fun of her. Said Grandma wasn’t a real parent and that her ‘doption was just a longer foster placement.”

“She shoulda bit him harder. And maybe on the neck,” said the former K-9. “I still can’t believe they quarantined her for such a small bite.”

“I know, I know. We sporting dogs are soft on crime.” I laughed a little. “Besides, it wasn’t quarantine, silly. I think it’s called the pal’s office.”

Remembering the connection to my person was helping me feel a little less homesick. Mal had one more question for me.

“Which time is your favorite?” he asked softly. “Which one made you most grateful we have the Watching of the Loved Ones?”

I was lucky. Our bond was strong, and I had seen many moments of her life. I watched her flash her girlie parts while she pointed and stared at the south pole of her favorite boy. I knew she always stood up for smaller kids, tried to help stray animals, liked vanilla ice cream and wasn’t quite right unless there was a dog nearby. But my favorite moment? Mally knew, and he wanted me to keep it firmly in mind.

“Tell it again, “ he insisted.

As much as Bethany loved her Grandma, her first reaction to moving in was much as it had been each time she’d gone into a stranger’s house. Quiet. Cooperative but wary. She didn’t sleep much but, unlike other little ones her age, didn’t complain about it either. She watched the world around her. I always thought she was looking for me, so I was grateful to have a collie… a colleague on the ground with her. I saw my girl make friends with Grandma’s dog and sneak extra food to share. I was a little jealous but happy to see a fellow dog do a good job. And my girl? She was better off with him there.

“It was a regular day in the middle of the week,” I started.

Mal looked at me expectantly, vibrating like he was about to go for a ride in a cop car.

“Bethany, her Grand, and The Collie had just finished dinner…”

“And???”

“And Bethany went to her room to play with a book,” I said.

“And why is that your favorite?” my dear friend asked.

“Because she didn’t take food from the table to hide in her room,” I said softly. “She had started to believe she would be fed every single day. She felt a little safer and, soon after? She stopped crying into The Collie.”

Mallie and I were quiet, appreciating the enormity of the event.

“That Collie’s a good one… but still I think I could have stopped her from biting that Bienemann kid.”

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