Author Archives: Val Muller
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:
I am happy to share that my story, “Making a Family,” appeared in a recent edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s the story of my childhood dog, Chip, and the way he influenced our family–even those of us thought to have a heart of stone.
Chicken Soup has recently made my story available to read for free. You can click here to read all about Chip and the way he changed my family.
My publisher, Barking Rain Press, has made all of the company’s ebooks available for just $1.99 from now until July 10. If you love dogs, check out Seven Days to Goodbye by Sheri Levy, a novel about a therapy dog in training. You can also check out my young adult novel, The Scarred Letter, or dozens of other titles.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was called Four Puppies (I found a few copies available on Amazon.com here). At that age, I loved the changing weather and enjoyed watching the four puppies learn not to mourn the loss of each season.
Recently, however, I remember having a conversation with someone: we both agreed that each season offers something more to look forward to in terms of what follows—except for autumn. Winter offers the promise of spring, of melting snow and blooming flowers. Spring offers the promise of endless and carefree summer days, of wind whispering through leafy trees and painting patterns of light and shadow on the lawn. Summer offers the promise of cooler autumn days, of blazing foliage and cozy harvests. I personally never look forward to the cold, crippling snow of winter.
For my corgis, Leia and Yoda, their “looking forward” is a bit different than mine. For them, summer still offers the promise of a respite from heat (as well as all the awesome smells of autumn’s decaying leaves); autumn promises the fun of a crisp snow (Yoda could sit in snow for hours!); and winter offers the promise of melting snow, smelly mud (for mud baths!), critters emerging from winter hiding (all the smells!); but spring offers only the promise of weather that’s too hot for my corgis to enjoy. Indeed, I could never convince my corgis to enjoy water, whether a large body of water, a little wading pool, or a squirt from the hose. They’d much rather hang out inside, where they take turns napping on the prime kitchen vent, through which the cool air conditioning brings their heavy coats to a more tolerable temperature.
I never understood why they feared water so much. If only they gave it another try, maybe they’d see what they were missing. It’s the same way I feel about a certain relative of mine (ahem!) who refuses to try seafood of any sort. If only she would give it an honest try, she would likely see what she’s been missing. (I can’t believe she gives up the opportunity to have bacon-wrapped scallops every Christmas!)
My dad always told me, “A coward dies a thousand deaths; a brave man dies just one.” Although I knew what he meant, even I was hesitant to take chances, especially in my younger days. I preferred the familiar. And it’s true—we mostly regret the things we didn’t do, not the things we tried.
It’s a lesson I wish Yoda would learn (for a growing list of things he’s afraid of, check here). In Cora Cassidy and the Craven Corgi, a book I based largely off of Yoda, I write of a corgi who is afraid of, well, almost everything; and his owner, the opposite, looks forward to each new experience.
In celebration of the changeover to spring, my publisher is offering the book from now until March 31 for only $10, shipped! You can purchase here for the special $10 promotion.
I just happened upon a news story about a dog that was presumed dead for weeks–found safe and sound.
It’s a timely reminder about the importance of hope, even if a situation seems rife with despair.
In the nine months leading up to the birth of our daughter, we noticed that Yoda seemed drawn to my belly, and the baby seemed to love kicking him from inside. In fact, Yoda used to move his head from side to side on my stomach, and the baby’s kicks seemed to follow.
I thought he would be fast friends with the baby from the moment she came home. But that was not the case. After a traumatic few days leading up to his human sister’s birth, Yoda seemed terrified of the Six-Pound Terror.
At first, Yoda would barely stay in the same room as the baby. He preferred hiding in corners and darkness.
In a time that should be filled only with joy, I felt a little sad. Yoda, my favorite buddy, my best friend, was afraid to be in the same room with me. I didn’t think things would ever be the same with him, and I wondered if Yoda would ever be happy again.
And it continued to be a sad situation. Literally, all the baby did for weeks was–sleep. How, I wondered, could that be so horribly terrifying to a dog five times her weight? I researched tips on how to introduce dog and baby, but nothing seemed to work. I wondered if I’d ever get my old Yoda back.
But as the weeks (yes, weeks) passed, he snuck closer and closer to the little “terror.”
But as soon as her little baby arm would flail anywhere near him, Yoda scattered to the corners of the house. Until one day, when all hope seemed lost…
One of the smoke detectors upstairs had just started chirping, and I decided I would fix it later. I was tired from sleepless newborn baby nights and sad at Yoda’s lack of affection toward the baby (and, by extension, me, since baby was practically attached to me for those few weeks).
Of course, there’s no noise more frightening to my corgis than a chirping smoke detector. I have no idea why. The actual smoke alarm went off twice in our house, and the corgis didn’t react one bit. But the little chirping sends them into a frenzy. They tremble for hours afterward and hide in the basement or whatever dark corner they can find. And if they can find me, they hide on me, too.
So of course as I was sitting there with the baby, the two corgis come barreling down the stairs to find me on the couch in front of the fire. Leia took a leaping run to my right, sitting so she was touching my leg but not touching the baby. Yoda took a running leap to my left and soon found himself touching–dun, dun, dun!–the baby’s foot!
But the chirping smoke detector is exponentially more terrifying to the world’s scarediest fraidy-dog that he took no heed of the baby, instead drawing comfort from the physical contact. When the dogs settled down many moments later, Yoda realized he was touching the baby. I saw the realization come into his eyes, and I fully expected him to scatter.
But he didn’t. Instead, he sniffed the breath coming from the softly-sleeping child. Then he curled up, allowing his paw to touch her foot. I didn’t want to move or make a big deal out of it, lest the progress fall by the wayside.
But the next day, when the smoke detector was well fixed, I asked Yoda to “sit.” I wanted to hold the baby on him so that she’d be sitting on his fairy saddle. I would be right there in case anything happened, and maybe Yoda would take comfort in that. And, finally, an entire month into the baby’s existence, Yoda made his peace.
Now, one of his favorite things to do is a game called “get petting from the baby.” Yoda, the gentle “giant” (well, compared to a tiny baby, anyway), allows her to grab his ears, eyelid, fur, you name it… I think she may grow to be his new favorite person in the world.
And as long as the two of them are happy, that’s a title I’m willing to give up–for the both of them.
All three Corgi Capers books are now out for Kindle! They’re part of the Kindle lending library, so if you are subscriber, you can read them for free. If you’ve bought the paperbacks from Amazon, you’re also entitled to a free copy of the corresponding Kindle edition. Haven’t read them yet? They’re only $2.99 each and available here:
Authors love book reviews! If you review (or have reviewed) any of the Corgi Capers books, email me the link to your Amazon.com review, and I will send you a coupon code for a free Kindle version of the next book in the series!
I’ve taken a bit of a break from this blog as I focused my energies on bringing my new daughter into the world! And what a story it was—she decided to arrive in the middle of a historic storm (Winter Storm Jonas).
The whole night made me think about Corgi Capers: Curtain Calls and Fire Halls. In this third book in the series, Adam volunteers at a fire company and contemplates what actually makes a hero. Sometimes I think we’re trained to think heroes have to be “Big,” like Superman. Adam makes the same mistake.
What he learns through his adventures is that a hero is someone who is simply there for others—someone who lives his or her life making the world a better place. Adam’s direct experience with this comes in the form of firefighters, and I was fortunate enough to be able to witness this first-hand.
While I was sitting in the living room in pain, and wondering how in the world I was going to make it safely to a hospital when there were four-foot snowdrifts out there, a small army of firefighters were digging a pathway so that a fire department SUV could get close enough to my door so that I wouldn’t have to trudge through snow while battling contractions.
And then, once on the ambulance, I realized how many heroes there actually are. While most people were snuggled up by a fire or having a movie marathon at home during the blizzard, these emergency responders were out there on long shifts, driving through dangerous conditions to make sure anyone needing assistance received it. From the ambulance driver to the EMTs who kept me (and each other) calm, to the doctors and nurses who became stranded at hospital for days because of the storm, a night like the night my daughter was born is enough to restore faith in humanity and make me want to find a way to pay it back—and pay it forward.
Corgi Capers book 1, 2, and 3 are now available for Kindle. If you’ve purchased a paperback copy at Amazon.com, you’re entitled to a free Kindle edition! Each Kindle edition is only $2.99:
Authors love book reviews! If you review (or have reviewed) any of the Corgi Capers books, email me the link to your Amazon.com review, and I will send you a coupon code for a free Kindle version of the next book in the series!
Today, I’d like to give a shout out, err—I mean, a “woof out” to my best childhood friend, Chip. Chip was a little bichon frise with a huge personality. I was delighted to learn that a memory I wrote about him was accepted for publication in the recently-released Chicken Soup for the Soul book:
What I wrote about is how Chip brought out the best in each member of the family. Dogs seem to have an inherent understanding of human beings. They seem to know what we need even when we do not. I can’t count the number of days that my spirits have been lifted by a simple greeting from my corgis upon coming home from a challenging day at work.
Chip was no exception to this awesome ability. He brought out my dad’s creative side. He provided company to my mom. He encouraged my sister and me to be more outgoing and be diligent in teaching him tricks. Looking back through photo albums, I see that Chip was always there: posed among our stuffed animals when we were younger, curled up in bed when we were sick, dressed up in all manner of Halloween costumes over the years as we became teenagers… Chip was the dog we didn’t realize we needed—all of us.
In writing Corgi Capers, I was naturally drawn to dogs with strong personalities that both mirror and contradict the personalities of their people. Like Adam, corgi pup Zeph is hesitant and smart. Like Courtney, Sapphie is rambunctious and impulsive. Through interacting with their dogs, Adam and Courtney learn about their own personalities as well. They become better humans for having dogs.
As, of course, Zeph and Sapphie know just when to cuddle with a stressed-out human.
As do all dogs.
That’s why we love them.
With the Star Wars craze in full-bloom, you’d think that someone with corgis named Leia and Yoda would have been first in the theatre! But no, I have not seen the film yet. I prefer waiting it out a couple of weeks until the theatres are a bit less crowded.
So in the meantime, I helped to dissipate my outer-space enthusiasm with some doodling by the fire. At first I doodled about Christmas, then about summertime (since I greatly miss those beautiful temperatures). But then I wanted to be even more whimsical, and I ended up drawing Corgis in Space:
It got me thinking about the reason I love the concept of outer space so much. Why am I such a fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who? Why does the idea of corgis flying around outer space fascinate me?
It’s the same reason I love sharing a life with dogs.
In a universe that includes space travel, possibility is nearly unlimited. The Doctor can travel through time and space—finding almost any possibility somewhere in the universe. The crew in Star Trek can explore the universe to find types of life previously unimagined. And, of course, the characters in Star Wars have the chance to fight for the type of world they want to live in.
And so it goes with having a dog. No, they can’t literally travel in time. But dogs can help us manipulate time, slowing down a stressful day simply by sitting on our laps or engaging us in a game of catch. Maybe they’re not discovering new forms of life in the vast corners of the universe. But they certainly can find any new forms of life that manifest in the back yard, opening our eyes to what would otherwise go unnoticed! Like children, they find magic and wonder in everyday life, and if we pay enough attention to them, we may, too.
While I’m sitting here typing, Leia and Yoda are chasing each other around a loop in my basement, play-fighting over a single white sock they found under the couch. Who knew the possibility of such fun existed in a single, mateless sock?
Certainly not me.
But then again, I’m not a space corgi!
May there always be food for you to mooch,
Always a warm bed fit for a pooch,
Always a human to hold you tight
In the darkness of winter and blackness of night.
May there always be squirrels for you to chase,
A bird in the garden, or a kitty to race,
And always a smile and wiggly tail
Because you love everything–and are grateful for it all!
Love life like we do, be always amazed
And thankful for each moment for the rest of your days!