Author Archives: Val Muller
Yesterday was Leia and Yoda’s 12th (!!!) birthday!
I’ve been swamped with the transition to distance learning with my high school students, but the corgis have been on my mind. First, I’m working on book 4. It has only a working title right now. I know it’s not right, and I’ll know the right title when I see it. I can say that book 4 is the hardest for me to write because it takes place during a snow storm, and I’ve had bad experiences! But I’m hoping to channel those into something kids will love.
Second, the corgis have been on my mind because–well, they are at my feet. All. The. Time. The benefit of distance learning is that when I teach from home, Leia and Yoda snooze under my desk. Most of the time they keep quiet, but at least they save their barking until I am right in the middle of a class 😉
During a creative writing class, I had my students write an autobiographical poem. I always try to write along with the students–something new–to show them how even experienced writers struggle with the writing process. So, in honor of the corgis’ birthday, I wrote a poem about the day we brought the corgis home. Here it is! I hope you enjoy 🙂
And, now that my kids are both sleeping through the night, I plan to blog on here much more frequently!
The Day of Improbable Things
by Val Muller
We took a rare drive that morning,
Into the next county,
To see a matinee.
It was a children’s movie,
And we had no kids.
But Neil Gaiman was well worth the money.
We should have been home sleeping
Instead of in the car,
But there we were, driving,
Thinking about the Improbable Things
We’d just seen in Coraline:
Her improbably name,
A woman with a million dogs,
Training mice for a circus,
Having Another Mother,
A world of doppelgangers;
Two people with no kids,
To see a children’s film
On a day when
We could have slept in.
It was as Improbable as
Driving by a utility pole
At the very moment
A person with a hammer
Nailed up a sign that said
CORGI PUPPIES FOR SALE
As Improbable as
Looking at me knowingly,
“Seems like we better stop.”
Being the first ones to look
At the pen of four dogs,
The largest running up to me,
Our eyes telling each other,
“You are the one.”
The dog-hater looking me in the eye
“Hadn’t we better get two,
And the owner,
Liking that idea,
Saying, “I’ll give you a deal
If you take two.”
The three males were named already,
Identified with personalities.
But their sister was not.
“You can’t take two males,”
The owner said.
“You’ll have to take the female.”
She looked regretful and mumbled,
“She’s okay, I guess.”
“The female” had that diva look about her,
Sometimes bullying the other three,
Sometimes being bullied,
Never fitting in.
Loaned us a book about corgis
As we drove to the ATM
And had lunch
About whether these two dogs
Would really be ours,
An Improbable conversation
For a day beginning
With a matinee.
“The female,” the outcast, the afterthought,
Was held hostage when we returned
By the Hello Kitty Apocalypse,
Two young women–sisters–
Dressed in pink and black
And Hello Kitty purses
And matching shoes
And Hello Kitty seat covers
In their pink and black convertible.
“The female” snuggled in the arms of the older Kitty.
My eyes locked with her round, brown, canine ones.
Her eyes were a universe,
A Schrodinger’s window
Through which I saw in a flash
One of her futures:
Days of dressing up–
Doggy raincoat and boots,
Boots matching collar matching tutu
Matching a pink cushion on the couch.
A second supernova in her eyes
Showed another world:
Grass and mud,
Frogs and squirrels
And her brother,
Who I had already mentally renamed Yoda
(because of the ears)
Always at her side.
“Hi Princess,” Hello Kitty was telling the dog.
And it was like the two worlds in Coraline,
A perfect world of button-eyed Hello Kitties,
Or an ordinary one with me.
The owner looked at me with frantic eyes.
I don’t think she liked the Kitties.
“These two ladies were wondering,” she croaked,
“If you changed your mind.
They want to take the female home.”
“Her name is Princess,” Kitty said.
The owner’s eyes screamed at me,
As if she too had seen
The female’s Hello Kitty Future
“Yes,” I said. “We’ll take them both.”
I never knew Hello Kitty could kill,
But in those eyes shone murderous intent.
“The female” turned to me, my Yoda already in my arms,
Then leapt away from her captor,
Leapt away from her Other Mother
And those creepy button eyes,
Leapt into the surprised arms of my husband.
She trembled just a moment,
Perhaps shaking off the limbo of
The world that could have been.
Then she took a look at Yoda.
Princess did have a nice ring,
To match her brother.
And then Leia stopped squirming
And settled into the crook of my husband’s arm
Because she knew
Finally, after an Improbable day,
She was home.
I had the honor of speaking at the rescue picnic for the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of the Potomac in August. One of the club’s objectives is “to maintain an organized rescue service” to help homeless or displaced Pembroke Welsh Corgis find a good home. The picnic, an annual tradition, was held to honor those who had rescued such corgis.
While I was invited to speak about my own corgis, Leia and Yoda, and their inspiration in my mystery series Corgi Capers, in preparing for the picnic I reflected on what my dogs truly mean to me. A highlight of the picnic—aside from the barbecue (thanks, Kathy and Stephon!)—was hearing the stories of rescuers adopting their dogs. The sacrifices, the time and energy, the love poured into the bond between human and canine. More than that, it was seeing all the corgis and the joy they brought and bring their people—and vice versa–even in the summer heat.
My daughter who came along, loved going around and asking to pet all the dogs. I wasn’t sure who was happier—her or the corgis. For the three-year-old, there was no pouting at this picnic. And that’s what I really think matters about dogs in our lives. It’s the mutual joy–the way they bring out the best in us. They make us slow down and appreciate details we might otherwise miss in life.
Talking to her grandkids, my grandmother always lamented the fact that we would one day grow up, that kids make everything more fun. While this may be the case, I say one of the secrets to prolonged youth is having an animal to care for–and to care for you.
In my own experience, my corgis have helped me to see other perspectives. It could be as simple as looking at a thunderstorm from two inches off the ground (it’s terrifying!), or learning that I need to dig out snow tunnels in the winter (check out the snow Olympics here).
In early morning walks around the yard with my dogs, I’ve seen sunlight streaming through a dew-speckled spider web, felt mole tunnels collapse under my feet, caught dozens of winter sunrises blazing through the white landscape, and relaxed to summer sunsets kissing the world to sleep. These are things I would likely have missed, relegated instead to the comforts of air conditioning and heat, if not for Leia and Yoda prancing and dancing and “Aroooing” at me to join them.
Once, in the dead of winter, I heard the sound of complete silence. No bird, plane, car, human, or canine. Leia and Yoda, normally barkers, froze as if entranced by the same winter magic that captivated me.
And it goes further back.
Growing up, the family dog, a bichon frise named Chip, made every day an adventure with daily walks and playtime. My sister and I peeked into sewers, checking out the tunnel systems with him. I walked in total darkness while listening to rustling leaves, sparking my imagination and strengthening my courage. We kept track of changing scenes around the neighborhood, and introduced ourselves to those we would not otherwise know. Scenes from my canine adventures have certainly made their way into my Corgi Capers novels, and for good reason.
To me, dogs bring me perpetual childhood. They splash in puddles, they run through bushes. Heck, they stop and smell the roses. I think my grandmother was onto something when she said that we all lose a little something when the children in our lives grow up. But she didn’t have dogs. I suspect that if she did, she might have felt a bit differently.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here, and I admit I’ve been remiss. With Leia and Yoda, and their two human siblings, things can get extra hectic, and spare time has been spent scratching dogs behind the ears rather than blogging.
But I have been writing. In addition to the weekly (free) flash fiction over at www.ValMuller.com, I’ve been working on Corgi Capers book 4.
The fourth installment of the Corgi Capers series opens on a quintessential Christmas morning. Things don’t stay peaceful for very long, but in that opening scene I wanted to capture what Christmas morning was to me as a child.
In the scene, Adam and Courtney are opening presents with puppies Zeph and Sapphie. Mom and Dad are in the room, of course, but are far removed from the Christmas magic of childhood. In the background, the song “Marshmallow World” is playing. (If you’re not familiar with the song, you can catch a version here, with lyrics: https://youtu.be/0ujM9wreqGQ).
The song, to me, embodies everything magical about Christmas. A red sun, “like a pumpkin head.” A friendly metaphor for snow—a world covered in marshmallows. The world as a snowball, a world meant for sweethearts. In that first scene, Adam and Courtney each receive a gift ripe with all the possibilities of Christmas. Their parents, while physically present, are not part of that magical world of childhood, and when Mom and Dad are whisked away onto a cruise, it’s up to Adam and Courtney to work a bit of Christmas magic on their own—during a blizzard.
I’m enjoying writing the novel and can’t wait until it’s released. My goal is to have it out in time for the holidays next year—right around November 1.
The way kids act at the holidays brings me full circle to corgis and the Corgi Capers series. Dogs, like children, always seem to see the magic in things that grownups are too tired to busy to notice. An annoying coating of snow for a grown-up may mean extra time to shovel or travel, but for a dog or a kid, it’s a chance to romp around, build forts, and snack on the tasty white treat. Christmas wrapping paper means extra time clearing the floor before being able to vacuum—if you’re a grown-up. For kids and dogs, it becomes a fantastic campsite, with colorful balled-up paper for throwing and lounging on.
I remember magical evenings as a child. Mom was in the kitchen cooking dinner, and the living room was darkened. I slid across the hardwood floor while The Nutcracker played on (I’m dating myself here) our sound system that still played records. The Christmas tree was lit, as was the orange glow of candles in the window and the rainbow glow of a glass pine tree on the end table. The colorful glow in the darkness held every magical possibility to me, and the whole thing felt surreal. Sugarplum fairies and Christmas elves could emerge at any second. That would have been just as believable as my mother entering the room. I could hardly believe, entering the kitchen and its bright lights and normal dinner, that I had been on the same planet in those few moments before dinner.
That’s the magic of the holidays, and it’s something kids and pets often hold all year round. No matter your age, I hope you’ve found some magic of your own.
Happy new year 😉
To celebrate the new year, I am giving away two of my other novels: Faulkner’s Apprentice and The Scarred Letter. To enter, use the easy Rafflecopter form/link below:
I was lucky enough to be home with them–I am on maternity leave–to wish them a happy birthday. Their day started with an after-breakfast treat of peanut butter, followed by an after-dinner treat purchased by their human dad: hamburgers! And of course, lots of treats during the day.
And they had two exciting disruptions to their daily routine: they got to bark at a salesman (he was invited, and they barked politely), and I broke protocol and let them chase two deer in the yard.
But perhaps my favorite part of the day was when my toddler got home from her school. On the way home, I told her it was the corgis’ birthday, and she was so excited, talking about baking a cake for them (until I told her they’d prefer hamburgers) and singing “Happy Birthday.”
And that got me thinking. “Dog people” love their dogs. But why? For many, it’s a canine’s simple happiness that can bring a smile even after a rough day. Dogs mirror our enthusiasm, wagging their tails at the mention of squirrels or treats or toys or–well, anything, really. But it’s more than just that. They bring their own enthusiasm, even as they slow down.
A neighbor recently learned that her dog had a blood cancer that was no longer responding to treatment. She knew her days with her best friend were limited, but she smiled every day as I passed them on their daily walks. She found happiness, she told me, in Ranger’s happiness. He didn’t get bogged down by his illness: he chased after my toddler and looked for squirrels and for other dogs and for nasty, scrumptious scents to roll in. On our walks, I wasn’t sure who was happier–my squealing toddler patting Ranger, or Ranger basking in the attention.
In some ways, having a dog is like having a perpetual toddler–in a good way. Toddlers are enthusiastic about the world. Many things are new and exciting, and some things–like the song they listen to on CD over and over and over–never cease to bring thrills. My daughter asks me to tell the same story over and over again, and she basks in every detail. My adult brain reels in boredom, wondering what the purpose is. But the little tykes don’t think that way yet. They still know how to enjoy the moment. When I try to tell my daughter about all the things we have to do in a day, she retreats into the now, giggling about a cool looking truck we’re passing by, or telling me about the shape of the bite she took out of her cookie. Toddlers appreciate the little things, and the present.
And so do dogs. While toddlers bring tantrums with them, dogs keep their enthusiasm with a more even temperment. The corgis enjoy going outside no matter how many times they’ve gone for the day. Each time I ask “Do you corgis want to go out?”, they jump up and bark, behinds wagging, as if they’d never been asked before. The “now,” the current moment, is what they have.
I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite poems is “Golden Retrievals” by Mark Doty, about how a dog’s purpose is to draw its person into the now, to enjoy the moment rather than allowing future moments or worries to deny us the present.
And that is why I’m so appreciative of all the time I have with the corgis. Their enthusiasm–even when the barking is excessive–is a reminder of the excitement each moment has to offer. Imagining the way they perceive each moment gives me great pleasure as I plan their next adventures in the Corgi Capers series and the characters Sapphie and Zeph who are modeled after them.
For all the “dog people” out there, enjoy your four-legged friends and all the moments they bring. For those without dogs, may you find moments now and again to think like a dog–or maybe a bit like a rambunctious toddler.
He always seemed to love all of our dogs growing up, and we tried several times to convince him to get his own dog, but he never did. I was surprised in helping to clean out his house that there were boxes of dog biscuits. Although he didn’t have his own dog, he fed neighbor dogs and took great pleasure in doing so.
My family gave me a stack of books, many of which I wrote, that belonged to my uncle. Since I already have several copies, I wasn’t sure the best thing to do with them.
It was around that time that I learned from the Facebook Corgi community that there was a dog found in need with someone serious liver conditions. The person who adopted the dog had two choices. Try to save her or let her go. The community rallied together, and Lily is doing well.
The thing about dogs is how they exemplify the true nature of love. We love to help them, and that in turn makes us feel better. Dogs are so great about returning the love that we give. It’s nearly always instant gratification– a very obvious example of how love can spread and make the world a better place.
To try to help with some of the vet bills, the Corgi community put out a call for auction items. I took one look at the stack of books that came from my uncle and knew what I should do with them.
If you are interested in helping out by treating yourself for a loved one to a corgi-themed gift, check out the auction. The auction ends tomorrow, so act quickly.: https://m.facebook.com/pg/Iron-Corgi-Maggie-Thatcher-519107171460607/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1696061390431840
Out of the 10 books that I put up for auction, all but three have bidders. I’m sure my uncle would be happy to know that his books were helping out a dog in need.
What was it like living day-to-day with a dog that could attack at any moment?
“After rescuing him, Lance didn’t adapt to us; we adapted to him. Although we always held out hope he would get his act together, we gave Lance wide berth in the house, rarely petted him—and then only for seconds—and dared not pick up any food that landed on the floor if Lance was nearby. We also made sure lights were on to prevent surprise attacks. I didn’t fully realize what we had gone through until after Lance was no longer with us. After a seven year storm, the peacefulness has been eerie. I notice him in his absence just as, when he was with us, I was very aware of his presence.”
It’s clear that–despite his problems—Lance could be very entertaining. What would you consider his funniest caper?
“Well, there are so many to choose from. His swimming contest with a swan certainly ranks up there. That seems to be a favorite of readers. Of course, any car ride with Lance was absolute bedlam. Then, there’s the time he snuck off our property and ended up on a school bus…that earned me a visit from a policeman. After the officer left, I checked the entire perimeter of our fenced yard for any digging (found none) and wouldn’t you know Lance followed me on this tour, merrily wagging his tail. I had the strongest feeling he was laughing up his sleeve because he was escaping the yard and I couldn’t figure out how. Months later, I did, but I’ll leave that as a surprise for those yet to read the book.”
You utilize various slogans from 12-step groups. How did that come about?
“Years ago, I had my own battles with drugs and alcohol and I’m currently a drug and alcohol counselor. Some of the 12-step slogans fit seamlessly into the story.”
In the book, you refer to Lance as a teacher. Can a dog really teach?
“Lance taught by example. He struggled to overcome years of horrific maltreatment. He held on to his enthusiasm. He made the best of what life gave him. He never completely gave up. He fought to overcome his mental/physical handicaps. All this, even though he had been turned into a semi-feral animal with a damaged mind and body. I’d say he set quite an example.”
Chapter 40 is loaded with self-disclosure. Was it difficult to write?
“I belong to a writing group wherein we critique each other’s work. One member told me, ‘People are going to want to know what your connection with this dog is.’ At the time I thought Well, I like dogs, this dog was in a bad spot so let me get him out of that bad spot. End of story. Later I realized that every once in a while I’d thought of Lance and me as a couple of—pardon the pun—underdogs. That’s what led to chapter 40 in which I compare my childhood to Lance’s years of abuse. I’m a private person by nature but I decided to let it all hang out to make the book better, more impactful. Since dog lovers consider their canines family members, connecting a dog’s experience to a human’s seems natural.
The age-old question: Why did you write this book?
“The reasons for writing Lance: A Spirit Unbroken morphed over time. When I first sat down to write a book I was challenging myself to, once and for all, complete a project. I’m an accomplished procrastinator (pun intended) and, as a result, I’ve had many creative projects or ideas in the past that never got anywhere near completion. This time I was determined to finish something I had started. When it came to deciding on a topic for the book, the list was short and it always came back to Lance. I knew he was a very unusual experience for my wife and me. I had no idea if anybody else would find his story interesting and the only way to find out was to write and publish it. The response from readers has been truly gratifying. At this point, just having written this book is no longer enough. A portion of any book sale is going to animal rescue operations that I have vetted. I think that’s what Lance would want me to do. I have also put together a PowerPoint presentation that is half-lighthearted, half-serious and ends with me asking people to do something to help dogs that are in dire straits like Lance was. Actually, the call is to do something to help four-legged or two- legged creatures, just do something. I show it at libraries, senior centers, schools, YMCAs—wherever I can. I would ask your readers to please contact me if they have a venue in mind for such a presentation.”
Why should someone read Lance: A Spirit Unbroken ?
For a dog lover, it’s a natural. Marley and Cujo rolled into one dog—Lance. Even non-dog people marvel at his resilience and enjoy his humorous side. I also think a person in recovery from addiction, an abusive childhood or some other trauma can take heart hearing Lance’s story. Beyond that, Lance: A Spirit Unbroken appeals to anyone that can laugh, cry, or enjoy having his/her faith in humanity restored.
Go to www.lanceaspiritunbroken.com to read Chapter 1 for free!
Follow Lance on Facebook and Twitter
Comments? Questions? Email the author!
I’m amused at how fiction and reality interact. As an English teacher, I like examining the lives of authors to see if themes emerge in their lives that repeat in their writing (Kafka and Poe are classic examples, though there are authors who are a bit more, uh, positive in the ways their lives influenced their writing.).
I enjoyed the coincidence of a fire alarm at my work with the release of Corgi Capers: Curtain Calls and Fire Halls. At one point, my principal jokingly asked if maybe I’d set up the fire alarm as a publicity stunt. (No—hadn’t thought of that!)
In planning Corgi Capers 4, I outlined the scene so that the birth of a baby would coincide with a historic storm. I planned this long before I’d even thought about having a child of my own. Then, when the possibility of having a winter baby became reality, I decided to put the novel on hold out of superstition. It didn’t matter: it had already been outlined, and I welcome my child to the world during a historic blizzard.
Luckily, I’ve only found real connection between my life and Corgi Capers, not my darker works for young adults and grownups. In that sense, I enjoy seeing how my corgis, whose personalities served as the model for Zeph and Sapphie in the books, continue to fit those roles in real life.
This week’s case-in-point. It’s been so dry here lately, so our neighborhood didn’t hear many fireworks on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of July. But after a heavy rain on the 5th, many neighbors seemed to have felt it was safe enough to celebrate. So just at twilight, our neighborhood sounded like a battlefield.
True to her nature, Leia (the inspiration for the rambunctious Sapphie in the novels) expressed a bit of fear but simply placed herself underneath the open footrest of the recliner.
Yoda, on the other hand, embodied his inner “Zeph” and ran up to my lap, trembling. (Leia, true to her jealous “Sapphie” nature, quickly joined him.) As the barrage of fireworks continued, Yoda trembled despite my calming voice and constant petting, and Leia dozed off to sleep.
And another Yoda/Zeph connection: in the novels, the human siblings Adam and Courtney buy dog beds for Zeph and Sapphie: Zeph gets a rocketship bed, and Sapphie gets a princess bed. The corgis in the novel end up switching beds, a fact that horrifies Adam. He doesn’t want his dog to sleep in the girliest bed he’s ever seen.
Well, Yoda, who is afraid of most things, decided he absolutely loved it when our toddler was gifted a princess tent. In fact, I’m not sure sometimes who loves the tent more: Yoda or the toddler. Anytime I hear her giggling in the tent, I know it’s because Yoda’s in there with her. The two of them continue to make me laugh, especially since Yoda (in typical fearful “Zeph” tradition) was terrified of the kiddo when she was just an infant. Glad they are best friends now.
This prompt was inspired by a writing event I attended. At the Loudoun Library’s Words Out West Festival, I shared from my newest novels, The Man with the Crystal Ankh and The Girl Who Flew Away. Afterwards, author Bobbi Carducci shared some writing prompts with the audience, and I stayed to participate.
The prompt was the first line in the story below.
While most people thought of literal riders—horses, I had corgis on my mind. I couldn’t help but remember the legend of the fairy saddle, so of course in my mind, the four riders were fairies, all riding fairy steeds—corgis!
Petunia’s Corgi Steed
From behind a lacy curtain she watched as four riders galloped toward the house. They were the same four as last time, and they held the fur of their corgi steeds with wild abandon. The corgis flew through the dewy grass, leaving four dark trails through the otherwise pristine lawn. As they neared, Petunia could see that the corgis’ fur was wet from dew.
They approached the house, and the corgis left stains of water and mud on the patio. She could only imagine the mess they would leave in the house. Just like last time.
The leader of the four, a fiery fairy with golden hair and wild, orange eyes, dismounted. He shaded his eyes from the morning sun and glanced up at the window. “Petunia, we know you’re up there. We see you at the window. Come out.”
Downstairs, the dog barked.
Petunia pulled the curtain aside and called through the open window. “There was too much trouble last time, Sunbeam.”
“Nonsense. We’re riding to the pond today. The beavers have dammed the stream again, and there’s all sorts of mud pooling around for our steeds to enjoy. We’re going to eat dandelions and rose petals and bask in the sun.”
The mud she could do without, but rose petals were her favorite. But after what happened last time…
“Fluffy got in so much trouble last time. And she was given a—” She lowered her voice. “A bath.”
Downstairs, the dog barked again.
“Don’t call her ‘Fluffy,’ ” Sunbeam said. “You know her name just as well as I. Shadowdancer of the Weeded Meadow.”
Petunia sighed. “Her name is Fluffy, and she’s not supposed to get out while the humans are away. It always upsets them so. Last time after the bath, they kept her inside for days.”
The rider snickered. “What are you going to do, watch ‘Fluffy’ sleep on the floor all day? What kind of life is that for a corgi? Corgis are made as fairy steeds. They are meant to run through meadows and grass and mud. And guardian fairies like you are meant as riders—not house fairies!”
Another rider called up to Petunia. “Just look at how happy our steeds are.” Lilac waved her lavender locks as the corgis twirled in circles on the patio.
Petunia sighed. A breeze brought the scent of grass and flowers, and the curtain brushes her wing.
“Okay.” She sighed. Then, with a low whistle, Fluffy—Shadowdancer of the Weeded Meadow—arrived, ready to carry her fairy rider into the great outdoors.
The pair pranced down the stairs, over the pristine carpeting the humans had just cleaned, past the neatly-folded laundry in the hallway, and across the sparkling floor of the kitchen. Petunia stopped her steed by the door. Should she really do this? There would be yelling. Fluffy would have a bath. Was it worth it?
Fluffy—Shadowdancer—scratched the door and barked.
With a smile, Petunia hovered in the air and unlocked the mechanism humans loved so much. Outside, her four companions hovered, too, using all their might to pull open the heavy glass door. In a quick moment, Shadowdancer was free, and she joined her four companions. The five fairies descended to their steeds, and they rode into the breeze that carried the scent of mud and dandelions and rose petals and adventure.
Corgi Capers book 4 is in the works. In the meantime, you might consider my two new young adult releases:
For the younger end of the YA spectrum:
No good deed goes unpunished when freshman Steffie Brenner offers to give her awkward new neighbor a ride home after her first day at school. When her older sister Ali stops at a local park to apply for a job, Steffie and Madison slip out of the car to explore the park—and Madison vanishes.
Already in trouble for a speeding ticket, Ali insists that Steffie say nothing about Madison’s disappearance. Even when Madison’s mother comes looking for her. Even when the police question them.
Some secrets are hard to hide, though—especially with Madison’s life on the line. As she struggles between coming clean or going along with her manipulative sister’s plan, Steffie begins to question if she or anyone else is really who she thought they were. After all, the Steffie she used to know would never lie about being the last person to see Madison alive—nor would she abandon a friend in the woods: alone, cold, injured, or even worse.
But when Steffie learns an even deeper secret about her own past, a missing person seems like the least of her worries…
Find it at Amazon and other retailers. And from April 30-May 14, find it discounted directly from the publisher during the Spring Fling Sale!
And for the slightly older YA crowd:
Sarah Durante awakens to find herself haunted by the spirit of her high school’s late custodian. After the death of his granddaughter, Custodian Carlton Gray is not at peace. He suspects a sanguisuga is involved—an ancient force that prolongs its own life by consuming the spirits of others. Now, the sanguisuga needs another life to feed its rotten existence, and Carlton wants to spare others from the suffering his granddaughter endured. That’s where Sarah comes in. Carlton helps her understand that she comes from a lineage of ancestors with the ability to communicate with the dead. As Sarah hones her skill through music, she discovers that the bloodlines of Hollow Oak run deep. The sanguisuga is someone close, and only she has the power to stop it.
Find it at Amazon and other retailers!
The morning was going relatively smoothly. The toddler, who now tries to “help” feed the corgis, had not tried to eat any dog food this morning. She had also refrained from playing “witch’s cauldron” with the corgis’ water.
The corgis had not gone off chasing early-morning deer, nor was the neighbor’s half-corgi out to start a barking war at 6 a.m. And Leia had even refrained from rolling in the tempting scent of whatever was using the space under the pine tree as a pooping ground.
I’d even packed my lunch, full of freshly-cut fruit and vegetables. I filled my water bottle and glanced at the clock. It was only 6:39.
All in all, a good morning!
I still had time for—could it be?—breakfast! I set the toddler down at her play kitchen. She seemed content drinking her milk while dancing to the alphabet song that plays each and every time she presses the stove button.
A, B, C, D, E, F, G…
A, B, C, D….
A, B, C…
The song rang aloud as in my head as I sang to myself about the possibilities of breakfast.
A, B, C, D….
A bagel, banana, perhaps a yogurt?
A, B, C, E, F, G, H, I….
A breakfast sandwich in the freezer… Or, dare I sit down to a bowl of cereal?…
The possibilities seemed as endless as the repetition of the alphabet song.
I glanced in the pantry and noticed Yoda watching me shyly from the living room. He usually sleeps on the kitchen rug near the kitchen sink. Why was he cowering in the living room? I looked at Leia, normally the source of his terror. But she wasn’t being her normal menacing self. In fact, she seemed to be cowering, too. A moment more of extended eye contact, and she whined, then backed up a few paces toward Yoda.
Something was going on.
Thoughts of breakfast faded and I grabbed the toddler to examine the living room.
And there it was.
Three bright red streaks on the beige carpet.
I first checked the toddler. No blood. Of course not. I would have noticed.
But this was a lot of blood. Wouldn’t I have noticed if one of the corgis was bleeding that much?
“Corgis, outside now!” I urged. Something in my voice made them move especially efficiently. I shoed them out onto the deck and shut the glass door, glancing for traces of blood.
Earlier in the season, I’d discovered something had tunneled underneath our patio. And the night before, there had been a huge opossum hiding behind our grill. (I mean huge: larger than Leia, it seemed. We’re talking Rodents-of-Unusual-Size-from-The-Princess-Bride-huge). I didn’t know much about opossums, but I wondered: would they attack if provoked? And how was it that all morning I didn’t notice an injury on either corgi capable of producing that much blood?
Or another option: had Leia caught another mouse? She is more persistent, if not clumsier, than a cat, and has caught her share of mice. Could that red streak be… I shivered at the possibility, especially imagining what might happen if the toddler got her hands on a mouse corpse.
Since the corgis seemed content outside, I hurried to clean up the blood, before the stain had a chance to set. While I cleaned, I let my mind work. Did I have time to run the injured corgi to the vet before work? Should I collect a sample of the blood?
As I cleaned, I noticed that the stain came right up—not typical of blood-on-carpet-experiences of the past. It also smelled kind of fruity. My sleepy mind meandered around logic. Could it be diarrhea? Maybe one of the corgis had some bathroom issues and then wiped themselves on the carpet after coming in…
I wrapped the toddler in a blanket and went outside to investigate. The corgis were still sitting on the deck (looking at me rather strangely), and their piles of poop were as normal as ever there in the back yard.
I came inside and gave them an extra treat, an attempt to convince them I wasn’t losing it. I then called my husband. The night before, he’d run our automatic vacuum robot, and I wondered if maybe the vacuum had dragged something red across the carpet.
“Hey, what’s red and squishy and may have left a streak on the carpet?” I asked.
I could hear his eyebrow raise.
“I don’t think it’s blood,” I added.
He sighed. “Weren’t you cutting up strawberries this morning?”
“Right! Thanks!” I ended the conversation, relieved. Of course I’d been cutting up strawberries, and I’d given a little slice to each of the corgis. Leia, as usual, devoured hers immediately. But Yoda does this thing.
Whenever anyone gives Yoda a treat, whether it’s a bit of meat, a piece of fruit or vegetable, or a cookie or rawhide, he trots off with it, his paws clicking on the kitchen floor as he prances away with his treasure. He drops the delight in front of the two stairs that form a landing in the living room. I remember when we moved into the house, the literal first thing Yoda did was run into the living room and rub his back against those two stairs. Since that first day, the side of the bottom stair has been crusted with dog hair: it’s his altar and his friend, his favorite square foot of the house.
He repeats the motion anytime he gets food, only instead of rubbing his back against the stair, he places the food in front of the stair and rubs his back and neck on the food.
“Yoda,” I called. Yoda approached, hesitantly.
He obeyed my command, and I looked carefully in the black fur of his tricolored coat. Sure enough, there at the neck, was a tiny speck of sweet-smelling strawberry juice, evidence of his early morning adventure with a strawberry treat and reassurance to his frazzled corgi-mom that all was indeed right with the world.
At least for the rest of the morning.
As an English teacher, an avid reader, and a new mom, I was thrilled to discover a podcast run by two young girls named Lu and Bean–and their very organized mother. Each week, the girls talk about a book or books that they have read or are reading. Some of their shows even have excerpts from the authors reading the works.
I am honored that they featured me on one of their episodes. You can listen to or download the podcast here. (If you’re new to podcasts, you don’t need any special software to listen; a simple web brower will do).
In the podcast, I share two of my favorite chapters from Corgi Capers book 1: Deceit on Dorset Drive. If you haven’t read the Corgi Capers series yet, you can find the books in paperback, or the ebook edition is only $2.99 by visiting the Amazon links below: