Category Archives: Story

An Interview with Smythe True, Canine Hero

A guest post by Lola Lola's Serious Face

You all know how much my person loves books. Recently, she read an exciting new mystery, Desired to Death by Julia Munroe Martin writing as J.M. Maison. It’s the first book in Maison’s The Empty Nest Can Be Murder series.

There’s a brave dog in the story, Smythe, who is the trusty canine companion of Maggie True, amateur sleuth. Today, I had the chance to talk to Smythe about her life and adventures and I’d like to share our conversation with you.

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Lola: Names are very important to dogs since we hear them so much. When I meet people and they learn my name, they usually start to sing. Sometimes they sing about a showgirl, sometimes about me getting whatever I want, and sometimes they just sing La La La La Lola. I don’t really care which song it is, I just like it when humans sing. My person says the people at the shelter thought I looked like a Lola, so that’s what they called me. I feel like a Lola, so it worked out pretty well.

What about you, Smythe? What’s the story behind your name?

 Smythe: First, Let me say thank you for the chance to appear as a guest on your (and your person’s) blog. It’s the first time I’ve been asked to answer a Q&A, and I’m so honored! We Labs are a humble bunch and I never thought I’d be asked! And I love your name, Lola! No one ever sang to me before, but my person reads to me all the time.

 When my person’s family first adopted me, my human girl was in third grade, and her teacher’s name was Ms. Smith. It was her favorite teacher ever, and she wanted to name me after her. But the bigger humans said something about Ms. Smith feeling sad a puppy was named after her (can you believe that?), so they changed the spelling of my name to “Smith with a y and an e.” The worst part about my name is when we go to the dog doctor, the human who sits in the front always says my name wrong, so I think it’s another dog’s turn.

 L: I’ve found that humans are easily confused by words and letters. It’s strange, because their language is a powerful tool, but sometimes they can’t smell the things that are right under their noses.

 S: Exactly. Like the trail of that yippy dog Chipster who bit me once, or the deer and skunks who come out at night to eat the garden, or the young humans who drive fast down our street who smell excited. I like to walk slowly so all the people who look out their windows to watch for me will come out and say “Hi.” A lot of them smell like they don’t move very much and they also smell lonely and a little afraid.

 L: Humans are very smart, but I don’t think they can identify people by their scents like we can. It sounds like you’re very talented at that. Tell me a little bit more about your family.

 S: I have four people: two big, two little. And they each have their own smell. The littlest one, the girl, smells the best. The boy smells like the ocean. The Mom person smells like dinner. The Dad person smells like some other place I’ve never been but it’s not too far away. I like it best when everyone is here and all together they smell like home.

 L: My person says that Maggie True is an empty nester because her children have grown up and moved away. I guess that means you’re an empty nester, too.

 S: I don’t know what an empty nester is except when we go to the dog park, I see baby birds sometimes that fell out of their nests and my people yell at me if I try to sniff the baby birds. Just like the baby birds, two of the people in my family fell out of the nest.

 A few years ago the second littlest person, who they call Hank, left to go far away, and now the littlest person, they call her Jessie, isn’t here anymore. She and I used to sleep together when we were puppies. I miss her a lot especially at the end of the day when she used to run in the door and give me a hug (and sometimes her leftover bag of chips or half a cookie). Now she lives so far away I can’t even smell her anymore unless we get in the car and drive a really long way, farther than the farthest dog park.

 For a while after she left, the big people cried a lot and hugged me, but then my Mom person was gone more and more and now sometimes when she goes away, I go into the little person’s room and sleep on her bed. I can still smell her there and I don’t feel so lonely. But even when my Mom and Dad people come home, it’s lonely sometimes because they’re a lot more quiet than the boy and the girl.

 Now I don’t get as many walks, and my people get annoyed with me sometimes because I walk so slowly around the neighborhood, and they “have things to do.” And I don’t get as many treats.

 L: Wow. That’s a lot of change for one dog to handle. And from what my person says about your story, other things are changing in your town, too.

 S: I hear sounds outside at night that none of the humans can hear. I tell them I need to pee so I can go out and see what they are. But by the time I get out there, all I see is a car driving away. And lately there have been a lot of very different and new human smells around the town.

 There’s some weird new person everywhere I go. He has a very strong musky smell and he smells dangerous and I can smell his scent at a lot of houses, wafting from doorway to window. Sometimes my Mom person comes home and she smells kind of new and different, like she’s been to places he’s been. And she also smells more nervous than usual.

 L: My person said that Maggie is searching for purpose. I think that’s one of those crazy human things. What more purpose do you need than to love your family and be happy? But your person gets in a little bit of trouble when she tries to help out a friend, doesn’t she?

 S: That’s what that dangerous person smell is all about! Some kind of mystery my Mom person is nosing around about, that’s what my Dad person says. When my person comes home and smells like that guy, I know she’s going places she shouldn’t go without me! Sometimes she comes home and lies on the couch and I can smell blood! Someone hurt her and if I’d been there I could have bitten that S.O.B. (sorry Mom), but she always leaves me home because she’s worried I’ll get hurt because I’m too old or something.

 L: You’re her protector, but when she leaves you at home, she gets herself into dangerous situations. What would you say to Maggie if you could speak human?

 S: I know, right?! I wish my person would listen to me more. I’m worried SHE will get hurt because she doesn’t have big teeth like I do. One day she and my Dad person were arguing about a guy with a gun, someone who hurt her. And a strange girl person stayed with us who smelled like the dangerous, scary man, but that person was a good person except she was afraid of me.

 I’m really good at nosing around! I need to tell her that I can help, that I’ll be able to keep her safe. Then I’d be able to spend more time with her, too. She should know what a good assistant I’d be because I can smell a French fry at the bottom of a three foot snow drift. So surely I can smell the bad guys from the good ones.

 L: Wow, Smythe. You are a brave dog and a smart one, too. Maggie is so lucky to have you. Just think of how quickly she could solve a case with your canine sense at her disposal. You’d be an excellent assistant detective.

Friends, if you enjoyed chatting with Smythe and if you’d like to know more about the adventures of Smythe and Maggie True, you can read Desired to Death for yourself. The Kindle version is on sale at Amazon.com for $.99 through May 11th. For information about this new mystery series, visit The Empty Nest Can Be Murder web page. Or you can visit Julia Munroe Martin’s web page and blog.

 Just like Smythe, Julia's dog Abby is never far from her side. She was the inspiration for Smythe.

Just like Smythe, Julia’s dog Abby is never far from her side. She was the inspiration for Smythe.

A note from Shary…

Julia Munroe Martin has generously offered to give a copy of the book to one commenter. We’ll put all of the names in a hat this weekend and draw a winner. Good luck!

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Filed under Authors, Books, characters, Dogs, Lola, novels, Story, Writing

Trolley Dances

Dance makes me happier than almost anything else.  Ballet, modern, tap, ballroom… when music plays, it’s hard to keep still. I love how it feels to move, to let my body respond to a melody.

Watching a dance performance gives me another kind of thrill. No matter how many classes I’ve taken or how many concerts I’ve seen, I’m always amazed at the things a dancer’s body can do. Choreographers tell stories using the infinite possibilities of movement in the same way that authors build worlds with words.

One of my favorite San Diego dance performances is the annual Trolley Dances, a site-specific concert that takes place the last weekend in September and the first weekend in October every year. This year is San Diego Dance Theater’s 13th Annual Trolley Dances.

In site-specific dance, the location is as much a part of the choreography as the movement in the same way that setting can become a character in certain novels and stories. The dance might be adapted for another place, but it could never be the same when performed somewhere other than its original site.

The audience of Trolley Dances rides the trolley along the line where they find dancers waiting to perform for them at locations near certain stops. I’m very excited to be a tour guide this year. My job will be to show audience members when to get on and off the trolley and to lead the audience to each performance site.

Yesterday, I went on a dry run with other tour guides to see the places that have been chosen for this year’s dances and we even got to watch a few rehearsals.  Now I can hardly wait to watch the performance when it’s my turn to guide a tour.

This year, Trolley Dances begins at Grantville Station and the audience will ride the Green Line out to Santee with dances performed at several stops along the way.  Choreographers include Jean Isaacs, Minerva Tapia, John Diaz, Allyson Green and Paz Tanjuaquio.

If you’re interested in watching a unique dance performance and love an adventure, give Trolley Dances a try. Just don’t forget to wear walking shoes, a hat and sunscreen.

Performances are scheduled for Saturdays, September 24 and October 1 (Saturday tours leave on the hour at 10, 11, 12, 1, 2 and 3) and Sundays, September 25 and October 2 (Sunday tours leave every half hour at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3 and 3:30). Each tour lasts about 3 hours.

Tickets are $30 for general admission, $20 for seniors and $15 for students and they are available online and on the ground level at Grantville Station on performance days. An all-day trolley pass is included with price of admission.

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Filed under Art, Creativity, Dance, Story