Monday, June 29, 2009

Tails of Hope dogs needing adoption

Just got this message from the foster coordinator for Tails of Hope, the animal rescue organization we volunteer with:

We have a number of dogs in rescue right now and will NOT be taking in any more until some of these are moved. Please talk to people that are considering adopting, friends, neighbors and relatives. Please help these kids, because until they are in homes, we cannot save any others:

Ryan...nothing wrong with him except he needs to play... a family dog with kids is perfect – he’s good family dog and needs training.

Katy – the little prima donna but cute and cuddly if she’s an only dog

Pumpkin – needs to be only dog...but loving, friendly, and walks nicely on lead, housebroken

Tiffany – had thousands wanting her before now, needs to be only dog.

Josef, Derek and Sparkles...we need to get these kids out of the kennel...they are shepherds and super dogs...

Pearl - this lovely sweet girl needs that special home... and she’s beautiful too!! [Jeri's note: Pearl is being fostered by a friend of mine, who says she's awesome]

Karma – her ONLY bad thing is she’s a black dog...otherwise, she’s perfect!!! And another great family dog. [Jeri's note: Black dogs have nothing wrong with them--it's just that for some reason people are less likely to adopt them (and black cats) than any other color. Seriously. I don't get it either.)

So if you live in Maryland, DC, south central PA, Delaware, northern VA, or West Virginia, and are looking to adopt or foster a dog, please consider one of these pups. For more information on the application process, visit Tails of Hope's adoption page.

Tails of Hope currently has 26 cats and 53 dogs for adoption. They are also always looking for new foster homes, other types of volunteers, animal sponsors (like Ciara in Wicked Game), and donations of all kinds.

And if you apply, tell 'em Jeri sent you!

Now playing: Led Zeppelin - Black Dog
via FoxyTunes

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ciara & Shane interview--win a book, any book (of mine)

Ciara and Shane from Wicked Game and Bad to the Bone were interviewed over at Amberkatze's Book Blog, where Amber is generously giving away a copy of YOUR CHOICE of any of my books. I will send to the winner:

a) a signed bookplate--the next best thing to an autographed book
b) a signed coverflat of Bad to the Bone
c) a cool little metal bookmark engraved with a paw print and quote about dogs (or cats, if you prefer):

Because Bad to the Bone has animals and it's, you know, a book.

This is Shane and Ciara's first joint public appearance. The contest runs until July 3 (that's next Friday). Enjoy!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Forever books & food moods

Over on Facebook, my friend Kayley tagged me on a meme that I couldn't resist (which is saying a lot). The instructions were:

Don't take too long to think about it: fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. Make sure it's the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

Then we were supposed to tag 15 friends, but I didn't do that. I have a (nonexistent) sign on my (nonexistent) desk that says, "The Meme Stops Here."

With each of these books I remember something different--a scene, a character, a concept, or the way it made me feel in that moment. With most, I can remember where I was when I first read it, the same way I associate certain songs with certain stretches of highway where I first heard them (or where I played them on infinite repeat).

In no order other than when they popped into my brain:

1. Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker
2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
3. Call of the Wild by Jack London
4. Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane
5. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
6. "Notes from the Underground" by Fyodor Dosteyevsky (technically a novella)
7. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
8. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
9. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
10. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engel
11. Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
12. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
13. The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
14. L'Etranger by Albert Camus
15. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Rather than discuss the rationale for each one (because it was meant to be quick, after all), I wanted to point out one book that I was just thinking of a few minutes ago (which led to this blog post): Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

In a central scene, the novel's protagonist Tita is forced to cook the wedding food for her older sister Rosaura, who is marrying the man Tita loves (and who loves her back but for custom's sake has to marry the oldest girl because the youngest has to stay home forever and take care of her mom--bogus!).

Anyway, Tita cries bitter tears as she's preparing the cake, and the tears kinda get mixed into the batter. At the reception, everyone who eats the cake starts crying. These episodes continue throughout the book, as Tita's repressed anger and passion infuse her cooking.

Takeaway message: the spirit in which food is prepared affects its taste. So ever since I read this book, I try to be merry or at least calm when I cook. I have certain carefully chosen CDs that can play while I make dinner. (Most of my favorite music would make food taste really nasty.)

Oh, and a glass of wine or beer helps a lot, but not until I'm finished with the knives.


What are your "Forever 15" books? If you only have a minute, give me five, or even one, and tell me why. What parts of the book will you always remember--the characters, a scene, the philosophy, or the feelings it gave you?

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Signing tomorrow, book clubs, and Shane's Cat & Muse interview

Quick reminder: I'll be at Constellation Books at 303 Main Street in Reisterstown, Maryland, tomorrow 3-5pm. There'll be a reading, signing, discussion, and most important--cookies.

Last night I went to a book club meeting in Central PA where they were discussing Wicked Game. I had a ton of fun (and pizza)--it was great hearing everyone's thoughts on the characters. Really motivated me to keep writing!

If you have a book club in the mid-Atlantic area (within a reasonable drive of my house) and would like me to visit your book club, let me know. I'm also available to talk to book clubs over the phone (within the U.S.) or Skype (anywhere in the world).

As an aside, on the way up I heard The Killers' "Read My Mind," which is one of the first songs on the Wicked Game playlist. It made me "homesick" for the beginning of that book, when Shane and Ciara had just met. Things were so simple then. I'm working on Book 3 now, which takes place three years after their story began in Wicked Game. They're still together (and always will be), but their world has grown a lot more complicated. Such is the nature of a series where characters change and grow and make bargains with paranormal paramilitary organizations.

Anyway, there's a fun interview of Shane from the WVMP books over at Jackie Kessler's Cat and Muse blog. Our boy managed to keep out of the clutches of that former(ish) succubus Jezebel. A testament to his devotion to Ciara, or maybe Jez just isn't his type. He'll never tell.

Now playing: Kasabian - Reason Is Treason
via FoxyTunes

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wha happa to Meadow?

I've been promising this post since late last year, partly as a way to explain why I got so quiet online between October and January (other than Twitter, which was a lifesaver) and even canceled a few appearances, and partly as a PSA for other dog owners.

This is Meadow, for those of you who haven't met her. She's a retired racing greyhound who entered our lives on May 1, 2003. As you can see, she is a huge fan of teddy bears:

Forgive this post for being long and rambly, but at least I've shut up about my books for once.

Flashback, Fall 2004 (hmm, wondering if there's a presidential election tie-in to Meadow's symptoms--note to self: apply for research grant). Meadow was having mysterious pain that made her jump up and cry out for no apparent reason. At first we thought it was her stomach, but a veterinary internist palpated her spine and discovered the source of the ouch: a herniated (or ruptured) disc.

We kept her on "crate rest" for twelve weeks (I put it in quotes because it wasn't strict, which is probably why it took twelve weeks to heal), and she eventually recovered.

Last year she started having these symptoms again occasionally, and they got much worse after a particularly rigorous session of fetch on September 7. Same symptoms as before, but unlike before, she showed no response whatsoever to four different vets pressing down on her spine (not all at the same time). X-rays, ultrasounds, bloodwork showed nada, other than a possible Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever exposure.

The pain got worse. She would just be lying there, then suddenly jump up and scream. She'd run up and down the hall, jump on and off the couches, in a desperate attempt to get away from her own body. We took her to a neurologist, who examined her, then did an MRI and found four (4!!) ruptured discs. Since she had no neurological impairment (could walk, pee, feel her feet, etc.), he prescribed conservative treatment, i.e., crate rest.

Again the pain got worse. We tried acupuncture. Meadow hated it--she cried and even snapped at the vet, something she'd never done before. We tried two more treatments, since acupuncture can sometimes take a while to succeed. She just got worse. She was on an anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxant, and two painkillers (oh, and her allergy meds and an antibiotic for the RMSF, as well as some herbal calming stuff that didn't work).

Our vet was starting to murmur about "quality of life." He and Meadow's acupuncturist thought that if Meadow were this sensitive to pain, she would not handle surgery well. I was crying all the time, so angry that something like a ruptured disc could end up killing my eight-year-old dog, and so guilty over the mistakes we'd made in her care. The pain of losing Tiggy was still fresh, and that had been after a long life and a normal disease of old age (kidney failure).

(Meanwhile, I'm trying to do a major rewrite on Bad to the Bone, occasionally typing through the middle of the night as Meadow literally stood over me, wild-eyed shivering. There's a scene where Ciara goes half-insane with fear (in a funny way, of course), entirely inspired by those long, dark nights of my own soul.)

(A musical aside: During these weeks, I would put Loreena McKennitt CDs on repeat to help Meadow relax. I never want to hear Loreena McKennitt again.)

But then...the neurologist saved our lives. I took Meadow back to him and he scheduled her for surgery the very next day, November 21, and said she had a 75-80% chance of a full recovery (meaning not only no pain but zero neurological impairment). He put a pain patch on her (Fentanyl, which is like morphine) and said to bring her back in the morning.

So yay! We're on the road to Happy Days, right? Ehem. Little did I know the worst night yet was ahead of us. See, the Fentanyl patch started to kick in around 6pm that night, and man, did she look stoned. Called the vet, who said to peel half of it off to cut down on the meds. But it's sticky, right? Imagine the world's most adhesive Band-Aid, and someone's trying to peel it off your raw, furry skin. She wouldn't let us touch it. So in the car we go, back out into the boonies to the neurologist's office, where the overnight vet tech peeled it off while I held Meadow tight in my arms. She cried. It was heartbreaking. I looked at it the place where the patch had come off, and the skin had a thousand little cuts on it. She had literally been flayed! (Yes, I thought of Evil Willow from Buffy.)

We came home to the longest night ever. Whether it was the half-peeled Fentanyl patch or just the pain from her back, Meadow cried all night long. The only thing that would keep her quiet was me petting her and talking. I rambled on nonsensically for hours, just saying the next words that came into my mouth, which often had no relation to the words that came before them. I probably sounded like I was stoned. Eventually I made Chris join me on the couch to help comfort her. Time has never moved so slowly. I kept telling Meadow, "Just four more hours, baby. Just three and a half more hours. Just three hours and twenty-seven more minutes."

Eventually daylight broke and we took her to the neurologist's. She gave me a look of panic as they led her back into the hospital, a look that screamed, "Mommy, nooooo!"

It's all good from here. The doc did dorsal laminectomies on five vertebrae. That means he sawed off the top protrusion of each vertebra (the bony part that sticks up if you're a dog, or out if you're a human standing up). This gave the swollen disc material some space so it would stop cramming itself against the spinal cord and causing pain/impairment.

She actually got up and walked the day after the surgery. This is apparently unusual. Many dogs after this surgery can't walk and can't even feel when they have to pee and poop. But I guess Somebody had decided Meadow had been through enough hell. She came home three days later, her entire back shaven and two lines of staples (a long one on her back and a short one on her butt). Because greyhounds have thin skin, the razor had made a lot of cuts and scrapes. She looked pathetic.

But she was out of pain. I mean, other than from the surgery. Before she went in, she'd been on 6 Tramadol a day. After surgery, one Tramadol. And no yiping or crying, period.

So we embarked upon the eight-week Stage One of her recovery. Complete crate rest. I set up a very nice pen for her next to my side of the bed, with a big orthopedic dog bed and a few blankets for nesting (she likes big fluffy comforters, but I wanted her to lie flat). We stapled a dog bed to the wall to shield her from the cold air.

For the first few days, all she wanted to do was sleep. Our Thanksgiving was very quiet. We watched the Macy*s parade on the main TV, with a video monitor next to it featuring MTV (Meadow television). A week after surgery, Meadow turned back into Bratty Pwincess, barking when she got bored.

For the next six weeks, I relocated my office to the bedroom to keep her company. I listened to a lot of classical music, especially Christmas hymns. It was a peaceful time. I pretty much did nothing for the months of November through January except take care of Meadow (5-6 meals, a bajillion pills and several hot compresses a day), work on my proposal for the third and fourth vampire books, and then write the first half of Book 3. This is why I got so far behind in blogging, e-mail, contests, everything. Sorry (not really).

By the end of January, Meadow was off all her medications and allowed to go for ten-minute walks. By the end of February, it was two ten-minute walks a day. She had several hydrotherapy treatments (where she swam, or rather, floated), which helped with her pain and muscle redevelopment. Here's one of the few photos we have of her recovery period (I put myself in her place and thought I'd never want to be photographed in that state):

Meadow turned nine years old today. She went for two walks, visited with the neighbor's kids and horses, and even chased a rabbit in the backyard. Seven months ago, we weren't sure if she would ever see this day.

For more information on canine disk disease, check out Dodger's List. The group was a huge help to me during and after Meadow's surgery. But the biggest savior was the neurologist and his wonderful staff. If I had a million years, I could never thank them enough for giving us back our girl.

Hug your pups and kitties tonight.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Appearance at Petsage in Alexandria tomorrow

Just a quick reminder that I'll be at Petsage, the wonderful holistic pet supply store in Alexandria, Virginia, tomorrow from 11:30am to 1pm. We're starting with some refreshments and a social half hour, then I'll do a reading and Q&A about writing and dog rescue, and then the book signing.

Yes, a pet supply store, not a bookstore. I did an event there a few years ago, after the manager read my Aspect of Crow series and thought her friends and customers would enjoy the animal magic in those books.

Now, of course, there's Dexter the vampire dog in Bad to the Bone. Ciara herself is involved in dog rescue as a sponsor (people who pay for shelter dogs to move to private kennels to get them out of the shelter and make room for other pets; and who often teach the dogs manners to make them more adoptable).

I know this is late notice, but I hope you can make it!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Workaholics and OCD vampires

What could these possibly have in common? More than you think (unless you're thinking, "Quite a lot," in which case, it's not more than you think).

I wrote an essay about writers and workaholism over at SF Novelists. I think I've already made the First Step by acknowledging I have a problem (the other Eleven Steps are kinda yucky, so I'm stopping there).

At Patricia's Vampire Notes, I expound on vampires and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which is so central to my WVMP Radio urban fantasy series, I can't believe I haven't blogged about it before. Duh. Comment to enter to win a signed copy of Bad to the Bone.

Don't forget, you have through Friday to enter to win a copy of Danielle Joseph's Shrinking Violet, the film rights for which were just bought by the Disney Channel. Big congrats to Danielle!

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Guest blogger Danielle Joseph, author of SHRINKING VIOLET

For our next installment in the Mostly Debut Author interview series, I'm thrilled to have Danielle Joseph, whose first novel, Shrinking Violet, came out last month.

Danielle and I first met in that decrepit old bar known as MySpace (just kidding--it wasn't decrepit back then). It turned out that we had the same editor, the lovely and brilliant Jennifer Heddle. Not only that, we each wrote about radio stations! How cool is that?

So of course I had to read her book, especially when I discovered that the main character, Tere Adams, is painfully shy. This may come as a surprise to those who have met me at a convention, but I could totally relate.

Like all shy people, Tere has an amazing imagination, and often dreams of being someone different, someone "better." Her secret fantasy alter ego is Sweet T, the hottest new DJ on Miami's SLAM-FM. She knows the new music scene inside and out, and senses in her heart that given the opportunity, she could be a fabulous disc jockey.

As an intern on her stepfather's radio station, she gets her chance. Of course she's terrified--millions of people hearing her voice? What if her classmates recognize her? What if the hot, sensitive guy from English class--the one who loves the same bands and who actually talks to her--finds out she's been living a double life?

Despite her fear, she goes on the air as Sweet T, and that's when her life changes.

I fell in love with Tere as she struggled to find her voice, both literally and figuratively. Her pain at being looked at and expected to speak--speak now, speak up, for crying out loud!--I could feel in my gut. I loved that she lived out her dream not because she wasn't afraid, but in spite of her overwhelming terror. That's true courage. I also loved that the Hot Dude in Question, Gavin Tam, appreciated her for everything she was--her real self and the Tere she knew she could be.

Though the book is ostensibly targeted at a teen audience, there's a lot here for us over-twenties, particularly music lovers and anyone who's had to overcome the fear of being oneself.

Danielle was kind enough to subject herself to my silly questions, and generous enough to offer a signed copy of Shrinking Violet to one lucky commenter.


Q. I saw on your website that you were a DJ yourself for a few years in Boston. Care to share any funny or just plain odd stories with readers? What was it like the first time you went on the air?

Danielle: I will say that I had a lot of creeps call when I was on air. I don’t know what possesses people to let you know intimate details about what they’re doing while listening to the show. For awhile there I thought maybe the station’s phone number got mixed up with a phone sex line! And as for my first time on air, I was definitely nervous but it was also thrilling!

You've probably had this question a million times, but were you shy like Tere growing up?

I was shy growing up, especially when I started Kindergarten and had just moved from South Africa a couple of months before school started. I was never as shy as Tere but certainly experienced many of her fears.

I loved the lyrics you wrote for the song contest in SHRINKING VIOLET, both the funny ones and the poignant winning entry. Have you always written poetry and songs, or was this your first effort? Do you have melodies in mind for the songs in the book? If so, can you hum them for us? ;-)

Thanks! Well, if this interview came with sound, you’d probably run—lol! I am not the best singer in town! But I do love music and did write poetry in high school and college. I also wrote a song in college and a friend used some of the lyrics for a CD that he recorded with his band. I wouldn’t mind getting into songwriting one day!

What's the most surprising/thrilling thing about being a debut author?

I really love mostly everything about being a debut author. The whole ride is a thrill. But one thing that really makes me happy is hearing from readers that can relate to Tere and how much they enjoyed the book.

If you could inhabit the life of any of your characters, enter their world and deal with it as that person, which one would you choose?

Hmm, tough question but I think I’d chose Gavin. First off, I’d find out what it’s really like to be a guy and I’d love to be a musician. Through Gavin’s eyes I’d really see Tere evolve at a peer level.

Conversely, which of your characters would you most like to bring to life in our world (as a friend or a little bit more ;-) ?

Again Gavin comes to mind. Actually, an old high school friend wrote me after reading Shrinking Violet and said she had one question: “Who was my Gavin in high school?” My answer, “I didn’t have one.” So I’d bring him back to high school with me!

Which author, living or dead, would you most love to collaborate with?

Oh, I have so many authors that I admire but if I could only pick one untouchable, I’d pick Maya Angelou. I think her poetry is amazing and would love to write a young adult novel with her. Although even talking to her would probably put me into a state of shock!

What's the weirdest tidbit of research you've ever incorporated into a book?

It’s not necessarily weird but for Tere’s first kiss I did surf the internet and found some very interesting sites that actually teach you how to kiss. The kid in me giggled reading the how-to’s!

What's your earliest memory?

One of my earliest memories is of my nursery school in Cape Town, South Africa. I remember my dad walking me into school one day and I told him I was going to walk in backwards. I thought I was so cool!

Do you have any phobias?

Can I just stop and say, I love your questions, Jeri!! I hate rats! The fear started in college when I looked under my bed and all my hot chocolate packets were chewed to bits by a rat. I called my mom and told her that I wanted to come home!

My husband hates when people use the word 'barometer' to mean 'measure.' Which word usage faux pas drives you berserkest?

I always cringe when people say ant instead of aunt. I know it’s pretty common in the U.S. so I’m finally getting used to it.

Let's say there's a TV show, movie, or recording artist that has a cult of you. Which is it? (i.e., what do you like that no one else you know likes)?

My husband often makes fun of the TV shows that I like to watch. I don’t watch much TV but for some reason I am drawn to shows like: Unsolved Mysteries, Deliver Me and plenty of TLC specials.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

I’d sleep in at a hotel on the beach and have breakfast on the balcony. Then I’d swim in the ocean, read on the beach and go back to the balcony to do some writing. After that, I’d meet my family for a lovely dinner at the hotel restaurant and watch the sun set with them.

If you could ask your favorite author one question and they had to answer honestly, what would it be?

I would ask Toni Morrison for her writing secrets.

If you could write in a totally different genre than your current one, which would you choose?

I would choose poetry because I never really had the guts to share my poetry with too many people.

What are you working on now, and what new releases can we expect to see from you down the road?

Right now I am working on a YA, Graveyard Shift, which involves humor, love and spirits. My next book is scheduled to be released in Fall 2010 from Flux. It’s called Indigo Blues and is told in two points of view, in which a songwriter's hit tune tells the world about his break-up with his girlfriend, but the two have no concept how much their lives are going to change.

If you could tell a stranger just one thing about SHRINKING VIOLET (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?

I’d tell that stranger that it’s about a girl who chased her dreams, despite her obstacles and that it comes with its own soundtrack if you check out the play list on my web site.


To enter to win a copy of this sweet (in all senses) novel, just leave a comment or question for Danielle--or tell us the biggest fear you've ever overcome--in the comments below.

I'll draw a name Friday night at 11:59pm Eastern Daylight Time. Anyone is welcome to comment, but the prize will be limited to U.S. residents.

As they say in radio, thanks for listening!

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Monday, June 08, 2009

My favorite book & a BTTB giveaway

Starting to crawl out of my post-deadline cave (it's even messier than the deadline cave) and hope to start blogging again on a regular basis, at least for the next few weeks.

Today I'm guest-blogging at Silk & Shadows, the group blog of several wonderful paranormal romance/urban fantasy authors, including Jessa Slade. I was honored to read her upcoming debut novel Seduced by Shadows for a cover quote. I had great difficulty finding the words to describe how much I loved it without using the phrase "OMFG!!", but I managed:

SEDUCED BY SHADOWS blew me away! Sera and Archer won my heart at first glance. Slade creates a beyond-life-or-death struggle for love and redemption in a chilling, complex, and utterly believable world--one I can't wait to return to again and again.

It's coming out October 6, and you must Must MUST read it. It features demons and angels battling it out here on earth, but also a separate group in between, the humans possessed by teshuva, repentant demons who are attempting to escape eternal damnation by fighting the really bad demons (djinn, ferales, and malice, to name a few). It's freaking awesome.

So anyway, speaking of other people's books, today at Silk and Shadows I'm talking about my favorite childhood book (the blog's topic of the week). You won't be the least bit surprised what it is. Leave a comment and enter to win a signed copy of Bad to the Bone. If you already have your copy, give it as a gift! Hope to see you there.

Now playing: Cake - Haze Of Love
via FoxyTunes

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This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation, Jeri's new contemporary YA novel!

Now available in hardcover and ebook.

“A smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self.” —Booklist, **Starred Review**


Order from Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or



"Shattered," a Shade novella!

Available here on this website as a free download in all major ebook formats, as well as a printable PDF (now with photos!).

More about "Shattered"

About the author

Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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Photo © Geoffrey C. Baker

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