Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Woof! Woof! Say hello to my guest Chia! She's here today to talk about her human mom, Smoky Trudeau, a talented author of both fiction and nonfiction.
Chia is a nine-year-old shepherd mix who was rescued from an animal shelter when she was a five-pound puppy. She grew quickly on a steady diet of kibble and puppy biscuits, and now tips the scales at a whopping seventy-six pounds. When not sleeping under Smoky’s desk, she enjoys playing with her squeaky vet and squeaky lamb chew toys, chasing her cat siblings, Beetlejuice and Po, around the living room, and trying to eat lizards while taking leisurely walks through the neighborhood.
(Hmm. Quick calculation here... how much is 76 pounds in kilos. Aha! 34... Darn, I'm fatter than her!)
Chia lives with her family in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains beyond. While she tries to maintain a low profile, the same cannot be said for her human, Smoky. You can learn more about Smoky at her Website, www.smokytrudeau.com; at her blog on Xanga (authorsmokytrudeau.xanga.com), and on Facebook. She also hosts guests on her radio show!
Okay, all this is very sweet, but let's get to the real stuff, Chia. What's with Smoky? Give us the lowdown!
Smoky is deeply connected to our Mother Earth and to all its creatures, and that connection comes through in her writing. Of course, it’s most obvious in her latest release, Observations of an Earth Mage, which is a collection of essays and poems she wrote about her connection to our planet. I helped her a lot in writing that one. I’m in at least three of the essays; we go walking together a lot, along with her male human, Scott. There’s even a cute picture of me in the book on page 73. The entire book is illustrated with more than 50 of Smoky’s beautiful nature photographs.
But her love of nature is also very evident in her two novels, Redeeming Grace and The Cabin. She describes the beauty of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Southern Appalachian Mountains like the true earth mage she is. I know this because I heard her read the books aloud to my human grandmother, who can’t see very well, when the books were first published.
Hmm. She sounds pretty good. But is she a good pet owner?
As a pet owner, she’s the best. My kibble dish is promptly filled at breakfast and supper time, and she takes me to the vet every six months. I have toys and two cat companions, although Beetlejuice and Po can be pretty annoying at times.
I can imagine! But really, Chia, one can't expect much from cats...
But then again, they unanimously agreed I should be Smoky’s spokesdog for this interview, so I guess they aren’t all that bad. Of course, it helps that I outweigh them both by about seventy pounds. They don’t argue with me too often.
Tell us more about Smoky's books!
I’ve already told you a little about Observations of an Earth Mage. I features stories and photos of places of beauty and wonder all across the country, from the Great Smoky Mountains of the east to the great deserts of Joshua Tree National Park and Red Rock Canyon in the west, to Yosemite National Park and the tidepools of Big Sur on the west coast. I’ve heard her friends talk about the book; they say reading her stories makes it possible for them to visit these places in their minds without having to step foot outside their front door. I’ve heard Smoky tell people her goal in writing the book was to get people to do that very thing, though: get outdoors and take a hike. I agree with her on that one. I love my walkies!
But she writes fiction, too. Redeeming Grace is her first novel. It’s about a young woman’s struggle to save her young sister from the verbal and physical abuse of their father, a zealot preacher on a downward spiral toward insanity who uses biblical verse to justify his behavior. Grace’s husband, Otto, is struggling over his guilt about an accident that claimed the life of a young woman and left his brother severely brain damaged. Tragedy strikes just as Otto’s secret is uncovered, unleashing demons that threaten to destroy the entire family. Grace has to find the strength to save them all, and in the process find her own redemption.
Redeeming Grace is pretty heavy stuff, but it’s been very popular among readers of women’s spirituality fiction and people who enjoy theological debate.
The Cabin is Smoky’s second novel. James-Cyrus Hoffmann has just inherited his grandfather’s farm in Virginia, and with it a mysterious cabin deep in the woods. When James-Cyrus enters the cabin, he is vaulted back through time to the Civil War era, where he meets Elizabeth, the brave young woman who lives in the cabin, and Malachi, a runaway slave. Cora Spellmacher, his elderly friend and neighbor, begins to unravel the secret of how he is able to make his fantastic leaps back and forth through time. In doing so, Cora begins to hope a tragic wrong from her own past can be righted, and that she can regain something precious that was lost to her many years earlier. When James-Cyrus realizes Elizabeth and Malachi are in terrible danger, he undertakes a daring plan of rescue that promises to rewrite his family history and change all their lives forever.
The Cabin is a really exciting read. People interested in Civil War history, time travel, or just a good read will like this book a lot.
Smoky also wrote two books especially for writers. Front-word, Back-word, Insight Out: Lessons on Writing the Novel Lurking Inside You From Start to Finish is a complete writing workshop in a book. Her other writing book, Left Brained, Write Brained, is 366 writing prompts and exercises to help writers stimulate their muse. Whatever a muse is...I’m not sure. I’m a dog.
What the heck! That is a LOT of stuff and in different genres! You must be proud of Smoky. Of all these books, which one is your favorite?
Well, I’d have to say Observations of an Earth Mage, because I’m in it. But she memorialized my dog sister Chance in The Cabin by naming James-Cyrus’s horse Chance; and my dog brother Chico by having James-Cyrus refer to a little chipmunk as “Little Man.” That’s what she used to call Chico. I thought that was nice of her, to make sure they lived on in her books.
So what's with your name: CHIA?
I like my name! People tend to pronounce in CHEE-a, like those silly things you see on TV. They think I’m a CHEE-a pet, which would have been a really dorky name, don’t you think? But actually, it’s pronounced with a long-I sound: CHI-a. Chia means “shadow” in the Bangladeshi language. And I am definitely Smoky’s shadow! So the name is a really good one. It fits me. And actually, Smoky didn’t name me. Her daughter Robin did. Robin was only ten years old at the time; pretty cool a ten-year-old came up with such an exotic name.
Okay, okay, no need to get defensive... jeez... I admit Shadow is a great name.
Does Smoky let you sit on her lap while she writes?
That would be kind of hard. I’m a big girl! But she lets me curl up under her desk, and she scratches my tummy with her toes while she works. That feels really good.
My mom does the same, Chia. So I can relate.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Meet my special guest: Friday! (talk about cute, people! Look at that face!) Friday shares her home with Canadian mystery author Lou Allin. Visit Lou and see more photos of Friday on her website. Be sure to check out her bio. This lady has some impressive credentials!
Okay, so in Friday's own words...
I was born in June of 01, which makes me a brilliant, quick-thinking, and creative Gemini going on nine. My parents were champions of course. My birth name was Chile Pepper, which is perfect for my apricot reddish hair, but I was named Friday, as in “His Girl.” My new parents, Lou and Jan, and my brother Nikon the German shepherd picked me up and took me camping that night. They put a leash on me for the first time, and I shrieked blue murder, earning nasty looks from passersby who thought a puppy was being killed. In the night Nicky got out of the tent and stepped on the remote control for the truck. The horn started beeping and woke up the campground at two in the morning. Was that an auspicious arrival or what?
Nice intro, Friday. So tell us, are you Lou Allin’s boss?
I am everyone’s boss. Let’s get that straight. Sociologists have a word for me, and it’s Alpha Bitch. I knew my destiny the minute I saw the light outside my mommy’s tummy. My bro Nicky never touched a hair on me from minute one. Having a GSD as your muscle is a great idea. When Nicky spoke up with his 120 pounds, dogs listened. Now that he’s at Rainbow Bridge, I have these dippy border collies, Shogun and Zia. Zia competes in agility competitions. Big deal. Who can’t do that? Shogun’s pretty good for scaring off bears when we walk in the clear cuts on Vancouver Island. I sleep with Lou with my own pillow. If I want to get up in the night and shake, I do. If she wakes ME from a sound sleep where I’m chasing prey, I might just growl. There are rumours about me biting when being groomed. Lies, all lies. Once she took a pair of sharp scissors to tidy up my privates and ended up sticking me. I laid fangs on her finger right to the bone. Tell me that you wouldn’t do the same. Ouch. I can still feel that nick.
Boy, and I thought I was arrogant... Tell me, Friday, has Lou immortalized you in any of her books? Did she show your real character or did she exaggerate it for the book’s purpose? Are you happy with her portrayal of you?
Lou started writing about me when I was barely four pounds and four months old. She called me “The Hunchback of Notre Dame with a Rastafarian haircut.” When I had my Anna Karenina cape on and got onto my hind feet to make a run, I look like him, all chesty with shapely legs. I posed on the cover of Dogs in Canada in this outfit, one of many custom made clothes in my closet. I even have a purple parka with my initials and pockets for handwarmers.
Lou called the book Bush Poodles are Murder. That’s because “are murder” has to be in the title. Lots of people have thought that there is a breed called bush poodles and asked her where to buy one. Humans are so dumb. Natch, I was the hero of the book. We got stuck out in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard, and it was -25 below. I’m not gonna tell you how we made it out, but I was an inspiration. The bad woman had even taken the coat from my fictional owner, Belle Palmer. But I got my hunting talents working and found a shrew. Still can’t understand why Belle didn’t want it. But the grouse she roasted tasted pretty good . The cover shows blood on my face and in the snow, but I don’t want to give any more away. In the book they called me Strudel ‘cause I was “good enough to eat.” See how silly people get about poodles?
Yeah, I noticed the blood on your lips on that cover... I was hoping that was rabbit blood. The rabbits in my garden are driving me crazy...
Anyway, have you actually read any of Lou Allin’s books? Are they really as good as she thinks they are?
I’m only in one book, so I can’t be a fair judge of this because why would I read the others? She puts all her animals in her books. Freya, her first German shepherd, has five books of her own. That’s the record. Nikon has one. A Little Learning is a Murderous Thing. It’s an academic mystery, starring him as a pup. Sounds boring to me.
Now, me as a pup is another matter. Shogun has one (And on the Surface Die), and another coming up (She Felt No Pain) in Lou’s new series set here on Vancouver Island. Aren’t those titles stupid? What the heck are they supposed to mean, anyway, from some poems in the 19th century? I keep asking, “Why can’t I be in this one, too? I have zillions of fans,” but she says that her publisher wants her to keep the characters separate.
Every night I whisper into her ear: Return of the Bush Poodle, Return of the.... You get the idea. Hope she does. People bought my book because they thought George Bush was in it. Humans, go figure!
What does Lou do besides writing? Is she a hermit or does she actually set her foot outdoors? My mom is an antisocial hermit. She sits and writes all they long. Totally disfunctional...
My mom has to be dragged outside. Lou used to teach in a college in Northern Ontario,but she retired. Now she has big responsibilities because she is a VP in the Crime Writers of Canada. She’s in charge of British Columbia and Yukon. Sometime I want to go up to Whitehorse YK to see if there are any other bush poodles. Also she takes care of membership, like finding people all over the world who want to join. She also organizes events like the Arthur Ellis Shortlist Release Event at the end of April. Arthur Ellis is the name of Canada’s last hangman. He’s an award given in six categories in crime writing. Arthur is made of wood like a puppet, and when you pull the strings, he dances like he was on the gallows. Is that weird? And people think Canadians are so polite.
What does Lou do to promote her books? Does she ask your advice at times?
I taught Lou everything she knows. I went with her when she signed my book at the big Chapters bookstore in Sudbury back home. I wound around her with my leash so many times that she kept getting tangled up. This was a ploy on my part to take her mind off her own nerves. When little kids came up, I backed off big time. You never know what they are going to do. They stick out a hand and then they pounce. Not that I’ve ever bitten anybody but Lou. That wouldn’t be good for business. She always asks people if they like to read mysteries. Half the time they don’t. If she asked them if they liked dogs, she would get a better response. Maybe someday she will learn this.
It’s been great talking to you! If you’d like my autograph or a lock of my hair, don’t be shy about asking.
You do have a lot of hair, Friday, especially around the eye area... so maybe just a little lock? Woof!
Be sure to check Friday in action on this video: