Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Meet Blanco, owner of children's author Kai Strand

Today we have an unusual gust on Pets & Their Authors... a dragon!

I hope you'll enjoy his guest post.

See my spikes? I’m fierce. Ask any cricket! My name is Blanco. I’m a bearded dragon. Kai Strand is my author. Kai and I go way back to the Christmas of 2008 when I joined the family. I was just a little tyke then, hadn’t fully grown into my fierceness. I’m what they call a pale dragon. My color is lighter than many others, hence the name Blanco (meaning white). I’m actually named after a villain from one of Kai’s middle grade novels (this one hasn’t sold…yet). Yep, the creepy villain of the story sends shivers up your spine like I do when I spread myself wide and hiss.

Kai has a laptop, so she will sometimes tuck her feet up under her on the couch next to my vivarium (cage) and write. I like it when she does that because the clicking sound of the keys sounds like a murder of crickets climbing over each other to get away from my razor sharp teeth. It often lulls me to sleep.

As a matter of fact, I ended up going into an extended state of hibernation (what we refer to in my beardie world as brumation) last winter when she was working on final edits of her tween book, The Weaver. The Weaver is about a young girl, Mary, who lives in a town of storytellers. Mary’s mother is the most revered story weaver around, but poor Mary is suffering through her third year of novice word weaving. Mary meets a strange little gnome-elf who grants her one wish, but instead of weaving a better story, she suddenly is weaving strange little yarn charms to accompany her still pathetic tales. Because of my state of brumation, I never did hear if Mary resolved her problem. Maybe one of you can let me know. Feel free to contact me through Kai. You can read more about her and her writing at www.kaistrand.com. Or stay up-to-date on book info on her Facebook page.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Five cats spill the beans on children's author Lisa Cottrell Bentley

I apologize to my canine friends for having FIVE guest cats on my blog today (as if just one wasn't enough!). Anyway...

Say hello to Connor, Bronwyn, Astrid, Fiona, and Finnegan!

Q: So, hello, kitties. Who are you and who is your human?

A: We are Lisa Cottrell-Bentley's five adorable cats: Connor, age 15, gorgeous orange tabby cat...

Bronwyn, age 1, fluffy white cat who looks and acts exactly like
"Marie" from the Aristocats movie...

Astrid, age 13, sleek and prestigious black cat...

Fiona, age 2.5, skittish tortico who, while our largest, believes she is our smallest and she is scared of all the others...

Finnegan, age 1, soccer loving, sleek pure white cat with the world's fluffiest tail, littermate to Bronwyn, also known as "Finnegan Snowflake Albus Brian Sleek Spock Cottrell Bentley" or "Captain Fluffytail"...

Lisa is the author of the Wright on Time series. She also owns Do Life Right, Inc., an independent publishing company that specializes in children's and YA books about realistic homeschoolers of today.

"Wright on Time" is about an RV-living, homeschooling family who travels the USA. Each book is set in a different state with a different fun and educational theme. So long as Lisa doesn't actually take me on her adventures, I'm good. I don't want to live in an RV. In fact, I don't want to leave the house--ever.

Q: Really Finnegan, did you have to say so much about Lisa right from the start? I was just going to ask about her books to Fiona. So, Fiona, what type of books does your human mom write?

Fiona: Lisa writes? I thought that thing on her lap was just an inadequate lap warmer for when I wasn't around. I do a much better job at keeping her warm.

Finnegan: Action! Adventure! The best kind there are! There aren't nearly enough balls in her stories though... I think I'll go and remind her of the fun of balls. I like to give her presents.

Q: Of all your mom's books, which one is your favorite? Why?

Connor: I like them all, so long as Lisa feeds me. I have been told, however, that there is a minor character (Aidan's best friend) who was named after me. I sort of like this.

Bronwyn: Astrid: I really like "Wright on Time: Utah, Book 2". I particularly like when the Wright family learns how to clean and preserve dinosaur bones. I like to clean things.

Fiona: I love "Wright on Time: Arizona, Book 1". I want tochase those bats!

Finnegan: Definitely "Wright on Time: Wyoming, Book 3". I love the constant playing and going to new places in that book. I'd even love the airplane ride and golf cart excursion.

Q: Have you actually read them?

Connor: No, but I've tried to eat them. They aren't very tasty. Lisa should really work on that.

Bronwyn: I haven't learned how to read yet, but Teagan (my 10 year old) likes to read to me.

Astrid: I have. I've read them at every stage of their development. Lisa doesn't realize it, but I go and read everything on her computer every night after she goes to sleep. Why do you think I sleep all day?

Fiona: I would, except they are kind of hard to keep open with my paws. She keeps telling me that she's having audio versions made. I'm waiting for those.

Finnegan: I hear her pacing and talking out loud all the time. It's great fun to follow her while she does this. Plus, I like the stories, especially the little boy Aidan. I could have so much fun playing ball with him.

Q: Are they any good?

Connor: I already answered this question. They taste awful! Maybe if they were catnip flavored or something...

Bronwyn: I certainly like how the humans I find reading them stay still for a long time. It gives me a chance to really get cozy. So, I'm wanting Lisa to write more so that more humans will let their cats be cozy.

Astrid: My analytical mind says yes. The book series has everything I've seen lacking in children's fiction today. They have homeschooled kids, like the kids who live in my house. The kids love their parents and vice versa, like the people who live in my house. They all learn from life, and enjoy traveling. They are wonderful, wholesome books for kids and parents.

Fiona: Well, honestly, the family shouldn't be so adventurous. Living in an RV? They're nuts! Plus they are always doing crazy things like going into caves, flying in strange airplanes, and otherwise getting into trouble. I'd use caution with having kids read these, because I think kids
should just sit quietly in the corner and grow without going anywhere. It's safer that way.

Finnegan: Oh, yes! How could a book with a seven-year old like Aidan, who loves sports and jokes, be anything but good?

Q: Who is your favorite character in Lisa's books?

Connor: Well, the Connor character, of course, but he hasn't actually shown up in any of the books yet. So, I'll have to go with Nadia, the eleven year old, or Harrison, the dad. Harrison is a gourmet cook, so I know he and I would get along famously. I love food. Nadia would be fun to
snuggle with while she does her researching in books and on her computer. I love to snuggle.

Bronwyn: I like Prince Pumpkin the Third, the cute little turtle of the Wrights. He is cute and little and quiet, just like me.

Astrid: Hmm. This one is tough. I'll have to say my favorites are the various tour guides, and "Bob-characters" (as Lisa calls them). They are all a lot different from each other, but they are all experts at whatever the Wrights are learning about. I like smart people.

Fiona: The mom, Stephanie, is my favorite. She's cautious and careful and doesn't jump into things without thinking and considering the ramifications. She's the most like me. I really don't understand why anyone would jump into anything without thinking it through.

Finnegan: Aidan, the seven year old. He and I are so much alike it's crazy. I really hope to meet him someday. We could have so much fun batting around balls, racing each other, and jumping on things.

Q: What do you do for amusement while Lisa writes and ignores you?

Connor: She ignores me? I don't think so. I'd never let her. If I'm feeling like I haven't been fed sufficiently, I have no problem letting her know. I also enjoy spending that time licking the condensation off the side of her water glasses. I don't know why, but she doesn't really like it if I
try to drink her actual water. She's welcome to mine whenever she'd like. I'm all for sharing.

Bronwyn: What? Did you say my name?

Astrid: I spend that time napping in the bathroom sink. It's lovely and cool in this desert heat.

Fiona: I go and hide out in the loft, where the other cats will leave me alone.

Finnegan: She doesn't mind one bit when I go and sit on top of her hands.

Q: Does Lisa ever ask you for advice when she's stuck? Does she listen to your advice?

Connor: She's always rattling on about something, but I pretty much only hear, "Food, breakfast, snack, hungry." If she's saying those words, then I always wholeheartedly agree.

Bronwyn: Huh? What? Oh, I don't really have an opinion, but I'm fine whenever Lisa wants to pet me.

Astrid: Yes, all the time. In fact, all those good bits in the story--all mine. I don't mind that she is getting the credit, but since you asked I thought I'd let the truth be known.

Fiona: I'm always telling her to stop putting her characters in danger, but she never listens.

Finnegan: When Lisa paces, I like to reach out and grab her as she walks past me. It makes her realize I'm thinking of her. I also encourage her to add action and adventure. A story isn't good until the characters are running or playing a sport.

Q: Where can Lisa's books be found?

Connor: Underneath me. I'm happy to sit on anything. While they aren't tasty, they're not too bad as a bed. I hope you are done asking me questions now thought, because I'm too distracted to answer any more since I'm starving.

Bronwyn: On the bookshelf in our library, but I can't reach them.

Astrid: Lisa sells signed copies on www.WrightOnTimeBooks.com. The books can also be found at online stores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as your local bookstores and libraries. If they don't have them, just ask them to order them for you.

Fiona: On the floor, after I've knocked them off the table or counter to make room for myself.

Finnegan: In kids' hands while they are reading them!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guest Pet Blogger: "Cat Smarts Vs. Dog Smarts: a Cat's Perspective," by Sparkle

For decades, if not longer, humans have been debating whether cats or dogs are smarter. I have found this quite enlightening, not because there are any satisfactory answers (there aren't), but because it says a lot about what humans consider "intelligence." Take the latest study by scientists at Oxford University (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/pets/8151924/Dogs-are-smarter-than-cats.html): they claim that since dogs are more social, and their brains are bigger, they must be more intelligent than cats. So, according to these scientists, being social makes you smarter than if you are a solitary being. Hm. Tell that to writers, most of whom are not terribly social. I'm sure they are not exactly enthused by the implications of this study. From what I gather, most humans who pursue writing as a career tend to be more intelligent than other humans. Maybe not more sensible, but definitely more intelligent.

And as for brain size, wouldn't you say that it's not how big your brain is, but how you use it? While dogs are using their brains to figure out ways to please people and do their bidding, we cats use our brains to get around silly human rules such as "stay off the kitchen counter," or "don't go in the cabinet." Wouldn't you call that type of creative, industrious, authority-questioning behavior more intelligent than blind obedience?

Why don't we look at human beings from the perspective of these Oxford scientists: the most intelligent ones would be those who lived in large communal living conditions, had big brains and who were able to follow instructions really well (which really only uses a small fraction of those big brains). This means the most highly developed human beings are Army privates with big heads. And whether you humans are in the cat camp or the dog camp, you have to agree that that is a pretty wacky supposition. I think the real question should not be "Are cats smarter than dogs?" but "Are humans (especially scientists) as smart as either dogs or cats?"

About the blogger

Sparkle is an award-winning author, blogger, advice columnist and supermodel. She is also a cat – a ruddy Somali of champion lineage, in fact, whose father, GC Tajhara’s Miles Davis, was twice on the cover of Cat Fancy. Sparkle’s first book, Dear Sparkle: Advice from One Cat to Another, won the Wild Card category at the 2007 Hollywood Book Festival and honorable mentions in several other contests. She also recently came home with the Pettie Award — the pet blogging equivalent of an Oscar — for Best Cat Blog. Sparkle lives in Los Angeles with two humans, two feline roommates (both rescue cats), and (unfortunately) a dog.

Dear Sparkle: Cat-to-Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist (Adams Media) is her second book.

You can visit Sparkle’s blog at http://www.sparklecat.com.