Category Archives: novels

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

Reading Together

Books

One of the greatest pleasures of a good book is sharing it with friends. We analyze plot twists and compare notes on our favorite characters. We ponder what made the author choose a detail to highlight or direction to follow. We examine our own lives and the choices we’ve made, whether they were similar or in opposition to how the characters behave. Our discussions can be love fests or debates, but either way, they increase the joy of the reading experience.

Imagine the possibilities when an entire city reads a book together.

In my area, we have One Book, One San Diego, a community reading program led by KPBS and the San Diego Public Library. This week I had the privilege of attending the kickoff event for the 2013 program.

I sat at a table with book-loving friends, new and old, from Adventures by the Book, KPBS, a Little Free LibrarySan Diego Writers, Ink and Write Out Loud.  Together, we learned about this year’s selection process and listened to publishers present their recommendations for our One Book. I suspect we were all thinking the same thing. There are so many great books and not enough time to read them all.

In the past, the Advisory Committee has chosen a few books and the community voted on the selection for that year. This year, to increase involvement, we all have the chance to nominate our favorite books. The committee will choose our One Book based on those recommendations.

From the KPBS web site…

Book Criteria for One Book, One San Diego Selections:

1. Story (fiction or nonfiction) is of high literary quality, is significant and compelling, and has a strong narrative and well-developed characters.
2. Themes resonate with local and/or global communities.
3. Inspires discussion, conversations, and action.
4. Available in paperback and hardcover.
5. Author is alive.
6. Should have professional reviews (the book is currently in print and available in large quantities).
7. Suitable for high school study and up (and for people of all backgrounds).

If you live in San Diego County and you have a favorite book that meets those criteria, nominate it today! Nominations are open through March 31st and forms are available online and at all San Diego Public Library locations. The 2013 One Book, One San Diego selection will be announced in May.

If you live elsewhere, your city might have a community reading program, too. Or you could participate in a national reading program like The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts. They select several books every year and many cities around the country hold literary events related to those books. In San Diego, Write Out Loud will present events based on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 during the month of April.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing information about the One Book, One San Diego selection process with my book clubs and reading friends, encouraging them to participate, and deciding which of my favorite books I want to nominate.

Do you have a favorite book that you think your whole city should read?

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Filed under Authors, Books, Friendship, novels, Reading

Perspective: a guest post by Lola

Lola's Serious FaceThere’s a lot of writing going on at our house, but somehow it isn’t getting onto the blog, so I decided to help out again. I’m very busy patrolling the yard and taking my person out for walks, but I don’t mind sacrificing a nap here and there so I can have a chat with friends.

My person has been working on a lot of short stories lately. She says it’s nice to actually complete a project sometimes. I guess novels are so long that they can seem impossible to finish. Dogs don’t ever let the size of a job intimidate them, though.  If you see a big pile of dirt, just start digging. Eventually, it will be flat. If there’s a tall hill in front of you, you don’t have to make the trip in one leap. Put one paw in front of the other and you’ll find your way to the top.

A big job doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s all in how you look at it. Perhaps one day my person will understand this.

Kway Paay Peak is a steep climb, but if you keep moving forward, you get to the top.

Kwaay Paay Peak is a steep climb, but if you keep moving forward, you get to the top.

She reads some of her stories to me and I like them a lot, especially the ones that are about dogs.  I was even the main character in one of them. In that story I’m outside in the back yard at night and then… never mind… I don’t want to spoil it for you.

If she works hard, she might get it published and then you can read it, too. Maybe the same will be true of her novel. It’s more about people than dogs, but there are dogs in it and she said I might have a cameo role.  I don’t know what that means but it sounds delicious.

It’s almost time for my next nap and I need to make one more pass around the yard. I hear a hawk calling and he’s probably perched in one of my pine trees. I’ve got work to do!

   Barking       Hawk

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Filed under Dogs, Gardening, Hiking, Lola, novels, Short Stories, Writing

Winning NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2011 is over. Finally! I’m so happy to say that I wrote more than 50,000 words in the month of November. What did I win? The privilege of posting the winner badge on my page. I can also buy a winner a t-shirt. But I gained so much more than that.

I turned off my internal editor for an entire month. Her name is Mrs. Peabody and she’s loud and mean. (Do I sound like a nutcase for having named her?) She’s the reason it can sometimes take me two hours to write one paragraph only to delete it the next day. Without Mrs. Peabody, I worked faster and there were several days when I wrote 1,000 words in an hour.

I have a few more chapters to write before I reach The End of my NaNo manuscript. The 50,110 words I do have are rough, but I’m not stuck at the end of Chapter One, unable to move forward with my story. I have 165 pages for Mrs. Peabody to edit. I wish she’d be more gentle in her criticism, but she’s pretty good at her job.

She’s been on vacation for a month, so I’m hoping that she’ll come back to work with a better attitude. If she doesn’t, at least now I know how to shut her up. I’ll just give her more vacation time.

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Filed under editing, free writing, Manuscript, NaNoWriMo, novels, Writing