Thursday, June 30, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Ladies of Trade Town

DISCLAIMER: one of the stories in this anthology, "Do Unto Others", is mine. I considered not reviewing the book, but the work is consistently excellent. On an ethical note, I'm going to refrain from reviewing my portion and let other reviewers speak.

An anthology's like a well-programmed radio station. Both anthology editors and program directors must consider the content flow. While the stories are not precisely alike, you've got to have a fit that keeps readers moving from one story to another without any dissonance.

The are four editors whose collections I will buy without question. Martin H. Greenberg (RIP), Marion Zimmer Bradley (RIP), Esther M. Friesner, and Lee Martindale. I have learned more about crafting short stories from just reading the works these editors have chosen than any writing class.

Ladies of Trade Town offers both reading pleasure and excellent writing examples. I'd recommend the book for teen readers and above. While the subject matter is prostitution in its various forms, there's very little erotic content.

The anthology opens with an introduction by Elizabeth Moon. I don't usually read introductions, but I've read hers twice.

  • "The Ballad of Eskimo Nell Revisited" by Jim Reader is a 'steamy' tale that should be added to steelman John Henry's Urban Legend. So, I did:

    Wikipedia entry for John Henry (Folklore)

  • "First Fruits" is Merlyn Finn's initial foray into fiction and I daresay it will not be her last. She transports us to an Asian flavored mythic future where bioengineering creates a beautifully crafted 'peach' of a love story.

  • "Dreams of Blood and Milk", Mary A. Turzillo's alternate history details rights of sex-workers who serve vampires when a wannabe actress with a past tries to find a job on Broadway.

  • "What a Man Wants" by Cecilia Tan occurs in a future Japan where wealthy men utilize robotic wives. When a corporate CEO offers one of the best WifePilots a chance to control his own wife during a strategic business deal, the pilot discovers he's in far deeper than he ever expected.

  • "A Touch of Ginger" is a short story from the world a full-length novel by Melanie Fletcher featuring Doyle and Marcott, an investigative team which spans centuries of expertise. I will never think of the phrase 'finding a stiff in a hotel' the same way again thanks to her uproarious opening. Ms. Fletcher also deserves credit for the cover art as well.

  • "Queen of Knaves" by Tracy S. Morris takes us back to high fantasy realms as the Queen of Whores must serve the Queen of Knaves in order to save their kingdom's heir.

  • "In the House of Allures" by Rob Chilson takes us to a distant future where an aging prostitute revisits her past in order to secure a better life for her daughter.

  • "Silk and Steam" by Brandie Tarvin returns us to wartime in a steampunk Europe. She ably answers a question how a woman can establish and thrive in a small town with the permission of the town's wives.

  • "Art" is a minimalist definition of what a Japanese brothel hit upon hard times does to improve their status. Gloria Oliver's got a unique gift to explain a cultural phenomenon.

  • "Do Unto Others" written by me. Feel free to add your comments if you've read it.

  • "Duty Free" by Mark Tiedemann gives food for thought about contracts and intentions. I normally yawn through legal arguments, but this story from his Secant Universe had me turning pages and wanting more from this world.

  • "Mother Laurie's House of Bliss" by Catherine Lundoff is another crime investigation tale. When a highly-placed official dies in his presence, a youth hoping for freedom from prostitution must face a magical trial.

  • "The Lady of Trade Town" is by the editor. A faithfully-wed captain about to face the front for the first time is given an extremely awkward present from his troops.

  • "The Last Virgin" by Jana Oliver takes us to a very unexpected place, Heaven, where sex-work still occurs.

  • "The Oldest Profession?" follows on a similar vein with God settling an age-old argument between Adam and Lilith. Melinda LaFevers's sense of timing and humor struck the perfect end-note for the collection.

Ladies of Trade Town is available here at HarpHaven Press's site.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Ingenue -- Jillian Larkin

Like Jillian Larkin, I'm a strong fan of the 1920's flappers and the Jazz Era. I read her debut novel, Vixen with a good deal of interest.

And frankly, I was somewhat tepid:

"This is an interesting read and a very light taste of the times. If you really want to read about the Roaring Twenties, read F. Scott Fitzgerald and other writers of the time. Vixen is; however, a fun beach, or in this case, stuck at home during a snowstorm, read."

I will still recommend Fitzgerald, because he lived during the period rather than researched it, I was much more pleased with Ingenue. It's always good to see when a writer really begins to shine.

Here's the Amazon review with some additions:

takes up a few weeks after Vixen left off. The original cast of narrators has moved from Al Capone's Chicago to New York City with a new addition. Vera Johnson, the eighteen-year-old African-American sister of jazz pianist Jerome Johnson, has discovered her brother is on a mob hitlist and she's coming to New York to warn him. She's joined by Evan, the horn player in Jerome's band.

Meanwhile, Gloria Carmody, the runaway deb, is hiding from the mob in New York City with her African American lover, Jerome. The formerly wealthy young woman has to resort to stealing food in order to survive and in the racially-embroiled climate of the 1920's, she and Jerome are hiding their love. Both still have hopes of finding a career in jazz, but they've quickly discovered the Mob's blacklisted them.

Gloria's former best friend, Lorraine, is managing a Mob-run speakeasy called The Opera House. She's angry at what she believes was Gloria's betrayal and working under direction of a mobster who wants vengeance on the couple.

Finally, Clara, Gloria's cousin, is in New York with her new beau, Marcus. She's moved to Brooklyn to avoid her former 'Queen Sheba of the Flappers' image and a lurid past.

These four young women are caught up in a web of gangland machinations during a very turbulent period in our country's history. The jazz was hot, the liquor and pleasures forbidden, and the people were trying to get past the devastation of World War 1 and the flu pandemic that happened before.

The narrative is much faster-paced than the original novel. I actually read Ingenue in one sitting, where I left Vixen several times. Ms. Larkin opened both stories with a bang, but didn't quite carry the pace on the first try. Of course, this time Larkin's got a bigger buy-in when, Bastien, a skeevy character from the previous book, is killed in front of Vera. Right up front, you know that Gloria and Jerome are at risk and perhaps the others as well.

The characterization is deeper achieving a stronger balance between plot and people. This is definitely an improvement, I initially was more interested in the plot than the people. This is not a good thing for someone who is primarily a character reader like me.

I believe Ms. Larkin has had a chance to get to know the three original characters (Gloria, Lorraine, and Clara) and she's conveying their needs and wishes much more strongly.

In the first book, Gloria read more like a 'paper doll' to me. She's now much more real, strong, and committed to the path she's chosen.

Lorraine is still Lorraine. She's spiteful and doesn't think things through. I'm actually looking forward to seeing what Ms. Larkin does with her in the final book. Not every character grows at the same pace as her 'sisters' and she may come out a heroine in the end.

Clara's been my favorite from the beginning. She's obviously not the privileged deb that Gloria and Lorraine are and she's doing her best to fit in to society while hiding her past. In Ingenue, the struggles deepen, as she tries to learn who and what she really wants to be.

Vera Johnson makes an excellent addition to the cast enabling Larkin to further explain the racial tensions of the period. She's a bolder, girl-of-the-street than the other three and she adds some authentic sass to the crew. I have a feeling that like me, Ms. Larkin was fascinated with the glimpses of Vera she gave us in the first book and wanted to add her story to the other girls'.

There's not really a serious parental warning on this book. Sex (which is a word I would not use in an Amazon review because it may well automatically throw the darn thing out) occurs offstage. The language is less than young adult girls would hear on television or the playground. There's drinking, but Prohibition defines the era.

As with every series, I feel like it's a reviewer's responsibility to comment on whether you should read the first book to understand those subsequent. In this case, the first book Vixen does explain why the characters are in their particular predicaments. If you are fascinated with the period, I would read Vixen first. It is possible to read between the lines and pick up the issues reasonably well in the sequel, kudos to Ms. Larkin for making the 'middle child' stand on its own.

I'm excited about the new branch of historical fiction coming into the young adult genre. History's a weak subject in the school system and books like these can engender love of the often under-appreciated topic in youth. Additionally, people like me who are fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald get a chance to read more about a favorite period in history. I'm definitely looking forward to the third book, Diva, which will be available in 2012.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


At about three, I went to visit my Aunt Bea's farm. They had a pet squirrel whose name I do not recall. I had a wonderful time petting and feeding that little fuzzy squirrel and I wanted one of my very own. I didn't have a pet at that time, so it seemed fairly reasonable to me.

When I pointed out a free-roaming squirrel to my father, thinking I would get a pet, he grabbed Uncle Jack's gun and shot it right in front of me. Keep in mind, I was a city kid and I had never seen a gun fired much less an animal die. Right then and there, my father was worse than the hunter who killed Bambi's Dad.

Then, he suggested we take the squirrel home for dinner. My reaction was beyond sickened and appalled despite assurances from my father and his family that squirrel tastes "just like chicken."

Needles to say, the squirrel did not come home with us. We didn't visit the family farm much after that either and I became a passionate squirrel advocate from that day on.

Fortunately, there were no more squirrel shooting incidents. Either my father was ashamed of himself or me, I will never know.

I grew up in an older neighborhood with a lot of established nut trees. Most people thought there were enough nuts for all. Mom and I loved watching the squirrels play and got a kick out of them fussing at us or the cats. (Yes, I finally got a cat)

My Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Dick (from Mom's more civilized side of the family) actually fed their squirrels. They have a lovely home at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. As the years progressed, their squirrels got tamer and tamer until the final generations were so gentle they'd perch on Uncle Dick's shoulder and take food from his hands. Just don't be late with breakfast, though. They learned to hitch their claws into the screen door and swing, banging the door until the human occupants woke up and offered their repast.

Move forward to my marriage. Again, Tony and I lived in an established area. I wasn't aware we had a 'pet' until Tony asked me where I got the nuts and why wasn't I sharing.

"What nuts?"

He pointed to shell fragments on our front porch.

"Not mine," I told him. "I'm allergic to pecans, remember? And I would share nuts." (I might not share chocolate, but that's another story altogether)

The mystery was solved a couple of days later when we saw a male squirrel on that pillar eating pecans. Now, you're going to ask how I knew he was a male. Even I could see his 'nuts' from a distance. That little squirrel would be the envy of every human male save for a few porn stars who cannot wear "cheap motel" jeans (i.e. no 'ball room')

He was christened Mr. Big Nuts on the spot. And yes, Tony and I bought pecans at $4 per pound and left them on our front porch for him.

Imagine Tony's surprise when he climbed up on our garage roof to effect some minor repairs and nearly got shot with a pellet rifle.

"Hey!" He yelled in the direction of the shots. "Whoever's firing, stop! I'm up here!"Meanwhile, I'm on the ground torn between calling the police and screaming myself.

That's when we met Mr. Farmer, who was a cat-e-corner backfence neighbor. (That's Oklahoman for diagonal, y'all) Mr. Farmer explained he was shooting at the 'tree rats' who were stealing his pecans.

"Next time you shoot, you might want to give some warning," Tony advised Mr. Farmer, not the least bit ameliorated by his explanation. "Someone could get hurt."

A few days later, we met Mr. Farmer under more pleasant terms. He explained that he collected the nuts from his trees and ate them. He was stunned and disgusted to learn that we fed the squirrels.

"Don't worry," I told him. "We buy the nuts from the supermarket."

Mr. Farmer just shook his head.

All would have been peaceful had I not been reading in the backyard, minding my own business when I hear the crack of pellet gun fire and something whizzing a little too close to me for comfort.

I wasn't near as nice as Tony was when I yelled for Mr. Farmer to stop firing. I advised him if I caught him at it again, I'd file a police report and I'd keep filing them until he stopped.

No response from Mr. Farmer, but apparently my threat worked. At least, neither one of us caught him firing on us or the squirrels. However, we began aggressively feeding Mr. Big Nuts and the rest of his family, partly in hopes of keeping them away from Mr. Farmer and his pellet rifle.

While we were shopping in one of those wonderful boutique shops, we saw a cute card with a squirrel on the front of it. The poem went something like this:

Happy is the squirrel in the wintertime
For all the nuts for off the trees
And crack so he has plenty of food

On the inside, it said: Hope you freeze your nuts off this winter.

Right on the spot, we bought that card and signed it "Love, Mr. Squirrel" and sent it without a return address to Mr. Farmer.

Less than a week later, Mr. Farmer's house had a for sale sign in the yard. He apparently sold cheap, because next Spring we had a brand-new neighbor who didn't like pecans and was fine with sharing her crop with Mr. Big Nuts's kids.

And best of all, we could enjoy our backyard without worrying about gunfire.

BOOK REVIEW: Never Eighteen -- Megan Bostic

It's always good to see a friend and fellow writer succeed. At the infancy of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards competition, I was certain Megan Bostic would get published. While Megan is an excellent wordsmith, she also understands marketing very well. She worked hard at getting her name out: networking, doing excellent video reviews of other writers' excerpts, and creating a blog.

I was pleased to receive an ARC of Never Eighteen, Megan's debut novel which is to be released in January 2012.

I had the dream again. The one where I’m running. I don’t know what from or where to, but I’m scared, terrified really.

Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. But in the short time he has left there’s one thing he can do: He can try to help the people he loves live—even though he never will.

It’s probably hopeless.

But he has to try.

My TBR pile is high and I'm years behind, but the minute I read the blurb and the first sentence, I had to read further and I didn't stop until the end.

Being seventeen going on eighteen is tough enough, but add to that the knowledge that you've got a terminal disease. Some kids would go dramatic, some would just hide, some would do selfish things. Austin's on a mission to change the world--at least, a the little part of it that he can.

"Maybe if we all just tried to put the pieces back together as soon as they fell out of place, the puzzles in our lives would feel more like an accomplishment than a chore."

This quote is the only place where I stopped reading. I immediately typed it into my iPhone and turned it into my Facebook status. Since then, I've advised Megan to make t-shirts, buttons, and bumperstickers. The quote's a whole lot clearer than the old saw, "a stitch in time saves nine."

While Austin is a good and generous person, he does have some making up to do. One of the most memorable scenes is when he goes to the home of one of the kids he bullied in elementary school.

The relationship between Austin and his best friend, Kaylee, is wonderful. They've been friends since third grade, but as the pages turn, we see them grow into much more. It's totally believable and much better than teen books that are written strictly as a romance.

I think the best thing I can say about Never Eighteen is that Megan's not just created a memorable character in Austin, she's constructed a positive role model for both kids and adults. This book is definitely an excellent addition to the libraries of readers of all ages.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

RIP Clarence Clemons

Few times I have cried over the death of a stranger, but yesterday was one of them. RIP Clarence Clemons, The Big Man. That rock'n'roll band in heaven is going to be swinging today.

I can't recall the first Springsteen song I ever heard. The Boss came online during my turbulent high school years. The one thing I'll tell you is what stood out aside from the sheer man-from-the-street poetry of his music was the wailing saxophone.

Hold the phone--then I saw the E-Street Band on one of the rock shows and I realized that sax was played by a Black man. Pretty cool, considering the fact that even New Orleans jazz groups didn't like "cream in their coffee" and vice versa. This was the kind of music I wanted to hear because being a "Star Trek Idealist" this was the kind of future I wanted to see.

For me, the "Born to Run" album sealed the deal. That music spoke to where I was at the time. If I could have driven, I'd have been a long haul driver or some other gypsy occupation.

Was trying for years to see The Boss and his Band. Almost made it in Austin. Was buying tickets when I heard that the concert was postponed because Clarence had a detached retina.

Shit, I knew all about eye surgery and I was praying for his to be successful. My first detachment was 1969 and that surgery resulted in blindness in my right eye. In 1979, I had my second detachment after a protracted retinal bleed. Luckily, I managed to keep my vision in my left eye.

Finally, Tony and I were able to see The Boss in Atlanta in 2009. What an amazing show.

Okay, I admit it, the first player I looked for was Clarence. From my seats, I wasn't sure I would see him--but when they call Clarence Clemons "The Big Man" they were not kidding. He stood taller than the rest of them and he got introduced last with "as the next possible King of England..." I think.

Yeah, I've been waiting and hoping that The Boss would come around here again with the E-Street Band. I won't be going this time, though. It just wouldn't be the same without Clarence.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Book Launch -- Ladies of Trade Town

Getting accepted to Lee Martindale's Ladies of Trade Town anthology was a huge high in itself. Lee's one of my pantheon of favorite sci-fi authors and editors.

Imagine my surprise when Lee told me there would be a huge book launch at A-Kon in June. I had to go.

For those of you who are not familiar with science fiction and fantasy fandom, A-Kon is fandom convention. Their primary interest is anime and gaming, but the convention covers a broad scope of fannish interests from anime to writing and probably some X,Y, and Z topics, too. In addition, A-Kon has Doll-A-Con beneath its wing. Doll-A-Con is a mini-convention for fans of BJDs (ball-jointed dolls).

What I didn't know at that moment was A-Kon would be the largest sci-fi convention I have ever attended. I'm a reasonably well-socialized introvert, but large crowds really exhaust me even if they are my kind of people.

Lee assured me I wouldn't be interacting with all 17,000+ fans. Most of our events would net about 100 people. My vision's getting worse. With a narrowing angle of view, people can pop up out of nowhere. I try to be careful in crowds, but A-Kon was a whole bunch of fans who had their shot to let their freak flag fly. Most weren't looking where they were going and some were costumed so heavily they could have used my help getting around.

By Friday, I felt as though I'd collided with half of the attendees. I normally do fine with public speaking, but I was getting nervous as a long-tailed cat in a rocking-chair contest.

The convention attendees were housed at the downtown Dallas Sheraton with art shows, panels, exhibits and gaming scattered between the convention center and the Marriott. Lines formed for everything from bathrooms to the elevators. Hey, we even saw a guy in a ghillie suit lying down in the elevator. I almost had to check for a pulse, but this was apparently part of a LARP (live action role play) going on somewhere in the con.

It didn't help to see that lines for the writing track panels were a hundred plus people who'd waited in crowded hallways for an hour or more. The two people I'd managed to see presenting, Peter S. Beagle and Mookie, were brilliant. Honestly, I've attended some great panels. These two gentlemen are right up there on the top.

The big moment arrived. I finally was going to be on a panel. I took my seat behind the table because that was as close to hiding as I could get. Elizabeth Moon walked in. I've seen her once in my life at a signing for Adventures in Crime and Space and I stammered how much I loved Paksenarrion and ran away with my signed copy of Remnant Population which turned out to be my new favorite of her work. Ms. Moon had a couple of options for seating and she sat by me. Better than a dream come true, sitting on a panel and next to me one of my pantheon of Writer Goddesses.

I honestly don't remember what I said. I hope it was something at least interesting instead of what I was thinking. (Holy shit, I can't believe I'm up here...LOL!)

Next, came the signing. That was better. Lee gave us a quick lesson since several of us were new to signing. She, as editor, signed beneath the inside title. We could sign on the inside cover, the index or on our own story as the fan preferred. I was behind a table and fans just came up and presented books to me. Smile, sign, and thank the fan then repeat. In case anyone wants to know, the general preference for those who have not signed a page in an anthology is for writers to sign the front page of their own story.

On a practical note, I realized I rarely sign my full name anymore. I don't write checks and my credit card is not my full name. I felt a little bit foolish writing Rebecca McFarland Kyle over and over again on pages of typewriter paper, but that paid off in having my signature more or less ready and legible because when you sign a book someone else has paid for, you want it perfect. My suggestion is to have several pens that are comfortable to write with at hand. Gel pens are great, but they don't dry quickly enough to close the book so the fan can get another autograph. I used ballpoint, which was also better for a lefty because they don't run on your hand.

After the signing we had a pause to grab something to eat, get back to our rooms and dress and make ready for the evening's festivities. I hate to shop for clothing, particularly in a size huge. One thing I noticed about the local formal offerings was that they were either "prom" or "Dolly." Neither look worked for me, so I took my own advice from years ago to a friend and went with something I could repurpose: a long black skirt and a red satin blouse. I was most happy with my black gladiator flats, thinking if I had to stand, I'd at least be comfortable. (Key the dramatic music....little did she know...)

Next, came our private toast. We met in the Presidential Suite for champagne and tuxedo strawberries. We were joined by special guests, Esther M. Friesner and her wonderful husband and Lynn Abbey.

I like bubbly in all its alcoholic glory, but I must find out somehow what was provided for this toast because the champagne was nose tickling tart and the most delectable I've ever had. I don't care much for strawberries or white chocolate, but the berry was plump and tart and the dark chocolate scrumptious enough to overcome my dislike of the light.

Next, we traversed the warren of secret inner-workings of the Sheraton to elevators that would take us all en masse to our launch party on the 38th floor. That march did a lot to ease my nerves and gave me a fascinating glimpse of the 'downstairs' of our upscale hotel.

Everyone's ears were popping as we ascended. While I've technically been higher at the Space Needle in Seattle and The Tower of Americas in San Antonio, I have only been to the 25th story of an actual building.

What an amazing sight. Our launch took place in the Chaparral Club, which is floor-to-ceiling windows. The room was lit subtly with candlelight on the scattered tables. Dallas was spread out at our feet like a black velvet carpet its lights like glittering gems.

We were promised cake and I already knew A-Kon does nothing in a small way. I'm not sure the photos will do this torso justice--the baker built us some mighty bazooms!!!! Better yet, the cake tasted as good as it looked.

We got to talk with each other and some fans. I even got a lovely pair of fanboys for a few minutes. Sweet guys and very flattering.

I cried when Lee, Esther Friesner, Elizabeth Moon and Lynn Abbey asked me to sign their books. That was a signal honor to have my humble story in their collections.

Thanks to Lee Martindale, A-Kon and Jamie Boughen, my fellow contributors, Esther M. Friesner and Lynn Abbey who were completely gracious, and, of course, Tony for one of the most spectacular evenings of my life.

Here's to many more book launches in the future for all of us.

If you're interested in purchasing Ladies of Trade Town, copies are available online here:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why I became a Foster DogMa

Recently Tony and I had the privilege of being foster parents for a heartworm positive mini Collie named Andy. Many of our friends and family have asked exactly what led the two of us to do this.

Believe me, this didn't happen by any direct path. Back in February, I received a review copy of one of those heartwarming animal tales books I have been addicted to since childhood. Only the warmth some of the stories generated was more like heartburn.

The story was entitled "A Lesson in Love." Livy found four orphaned kittens. Since she was newlywed and they'd just adopted other animals, her husband would not allow her to do anything more than foster the babies until they could go to forever homes. She loved one of the kittens in particular and when she could not have that one, she decided to turn her attention on the runt in an experiment of love. Well, the runt started to thrive and the husband relented and allowed her to keep it. Then, the runt died of a bone calcium deficiency.

So, at the end, Livy opted to visit the three kittens to see how her experiment in love had worked. One kitten was sharp and unfriendly. The other was sweet and bland. The final (smart) kitten hid from her in fear.

By the end, both of us were physically sick. What was Livy thinking? She proved nothing that didn't already exist in ream after ream of nurture studies.

And what did she actually accomplish? Well, at least the third cat had the god-given sense to hide from her. But moreover, she gave three homes poorly adjusted pets who'd have difficulty all their lives functioning as loving members of their families and perhaps end up in a kill shelter as undesirable.

Then, I had to stop and think of the terrific people who'd fostered all the loving and intelligent cats and one dog who've come to live with me. Sure, no animal is perfect, but I knew every one of my animals had been pre-loved before they came to their Forever Home with me. What a gift these foster families gave.

Right now, Reese is snoring on the couch opposite me. The first time I met him, we loved each other. Somehow through every visit before we could adopt he knew me and came straight for me. Then, there's Heather, his sister who'd love any animal who came to the home and help if they were ill. And, our youngest cat, Indy, who's brat, but can go limp in your hands when you're about to throttle him then purr like a vintage muscle car and blink his baby blues at you. Our eldest member has some issues. She was dumped. The Austin ASPCA found her and loved her the best they could. And so do we.

That story bothered both Tony and me. We kept bringing it up at odd moments as I reviewed the book, then passed it on to a friend for her library.

I guess if you put something out in the Universe often enough, it does come to you. In April, Jennifer Tippens, the President of Collie Concern and a friend of ours, called and asked if we wanted to foster a heartworm positive dog. We'd mostly have the animal crated for 28 days and only get them out for potty breaks.

My immediate answer was yes. While I hadn't prayed for an opportunity, doing this seemed like a great way to pay back at least some of the kindness we received from the foster parents of our pets. Tony was a lot more reticent. He needed to have answers and details like was the heartworm contagious (very unlikely, but we used Advantix on the cats to be sure), was the dog good with cats, etc. Finally, Tony wanted to meet the dog we'd foster just to see if we were a fit.

The first dog was a no-go. He was in Birmingham, AL. We didn't have a way to meet him but fortunately, another Collie Rescue took him.

The second dog was named Orphan Andy. One look at the little tri's big brown eyes and I was sunk. We met him at an adoption event and applied as fosters.

We had to wait a bit. Jen's workplace got cyber-hacked and she was working double shifts. We finally got Andy on Easter morning.

Let's just say he's the best Easter gift I have gotten in a long time even if I couldn't keep him. From the beginning, I knew Andy was a very sweet dog. Yes, he'd seen some damage. He was reserved with strangers. But he also showed a patience with the cats and a willingness to please that still makes me believe that dog could do well anywhere he was placed with proper care and training.

That's where the hard part came in. Somewhere down the line, Andy was a woman's baby. He wanted very much to sit on my lap and lie on the couch. Those would both be fine if he were my dog, my battle-scarred calfskin couch has marks from more cats and one dog than you can count. But, if Andy were to go to a small woman or an elderly woman, his forty pound weight could be a problem. And many people do want nice furniture as well as pets. From the beginning, I had to think in terms of good manners and what might get him returned to Collie Concern. While Andy is a great dog, I knew he could only take so many moves and I planned to make sure his move to his forever home would be his last.

That was hard, though. Love is medicine and there was no way I'd withhold my love from him. But I had to toughen up, too. Every day I told him I loved him but I was just getting him well for his Forever Mom. I really wasn't sure he'd understand, but it was the best I could do and I knew Andy loved to hear people talking to him.

Fostering a heartworm positive dog seems easy, but it's not. You've got to treat heartworm positive dogs like glass once they've gotten the shots to cure the heartworms. Those dead heartworms disengage from where they are lodged forming bloodclots which the dog's body eliminates normally within that 28 day crate rest period. Anything that gets that dog's heart beating too fast can dislodge those clots and cause a stroke that'd result in paralysis or death.

Poor Andy spent a lot of his time in his crate staring at the family on the couch. When he got out for his three potty breaks per day, he wanted to play and run. We couldn't let him. He did get out every evening for a brief obedience lesson in sitting and settling to watch television.

Tony was champion. I intended to do most of the work and walking. Unfortunately, I dropped two liters of shampoo on my bare foot and couldn't walk for nearly ten days of Andy's confinement. I read to him and kept him company during that time and Tony picked up the slack walking him three times a day.

And I combed that dog. Andy had crate-head and I figured the one thing almost as bad as a bloodclot would be a hairball. He shivered when anyone touched his hips so I worked gently massaging and scratching.

One good aspect for us was to see how our four felines would take to the foster dog since Jen knew someday I did want another dog of my own. Reese, the big Siamese, spent twenty or thirty minutes the first night just staring into Andy's crate telling the dog who was boss. Tara and Indy were afraid. Heather took to the dog like she was the foster Mom.

Animal kindness doesn't surprise me. I've seen our one dog, Drew, clean every single one of our cats each night. He'd get them between his paws and gently lick them from head to tail. He loved those cats and when his particular kitten, Spider, died of cardio-myopathy, only another kitten would get him out of that tailspin of doggie depression.

Heather spent a lot of time in front of the crate. Sometimes, in passing she'd go to the side of the crate and just peek in, chirruping a cheerful greeting to Andy. When he came back from the vet after his heartworm injections a week after we'd gotten him, Heather seemed to know Andy needed more. She'd spend hours in front of the crate and sometimes come and get me if she thought something odd was happening. Instead of sleeping up near my head, she'd taken to sleeping between my feet so she was closer to the door and her 'goggie.'

Milestones came and went. One day, he backed up between my knees and wiggled his bum. I realized he wanted me to scratch his butt. When I did, he never shook or looked back. I had tears in my eyes by the time I was done.

Every little sound had me wondering. I knew I had to watch out for a cough. He coughed once--probably got something in his mouth. I was up half the night listening for more. Thankfully, he didn't end up with any complications.

Later, near the end of his 28 day jail sentence, Andy got restless. I remember waking early one morning to a massive bang. Heather jumped off the bed chirruping anxiously. I followed, struggling to waken rationally and pull my glasses on and grab the house phone in case I needed to call for help.

Andy was sprawled upside down in the crate looking like a giant had twisted him. His back feet were in one direction, his front the opposite. And his face bore a huge doggy grin.

Heather sat in front of the crate. Her coat was fluffed and her ears were so far back, you could see a distinct 'bat face' part between them. Her wide blue eyes were narrowe and I realized the look on her face was utter disgust. If she could have gotten in that crate, I think she would have smacked Andy up the side of his head for worrying her!

I sat down beside her and laughed til tears ran down my cheeks.

I posted reports on Andy often in my Facebook account. My goal was primarily to raise awareness. I expected a Tennessee family to adopt Andy. I was surprised when Pam, a friend I'd met through doll collecting, expressed an interest in him. I knew she wanted another dog since their beloved shepherd Chelsea died a couple of years ago, but I'd thought the dog was going to be another shepherd. I suggested she contact Collie Concern and put in an app.

Then, I crossed my fingers and said a prayer or three. Over the years, I've come to respect Pam very much for her thoughtfulness and her thoroughness. If I were a dog, I'd want to belong to her. As much as I was trying not to, I was getting attached to Andy. I was certain having him go to a home where I knew he'd be loved and spoiled rotten would make giving him up a lot better.

Andy and I both were getting anxious by the last week. He came out of his crate running in circles, frantic with pent-up energy with us struggling to brake that exuberance with his lead and verbal commands. I knew we were close to leaving on vacation and I wanted someone approved to take Andy because I just didn't want that poor dog going to another temporary situation. He needed his Forever home and I needed the assurance that I was handing him over to good people first-hand. (I didn't think I was that much of a control freak, but I was invested!)

Finally, Andy was free. Our wonderful friends, Pam and Brian Trainor of River Dog made him a cake with his name on it. He got to eat the cake with their dog Cooper at the store. And yes, he got several excursions that last week.

Every day, I kept telling Andy he was going to his Forever Home. Soon, he'd have his parents. I didn't think he understood, but I knew he liked it when I talked to him. I'm not a Dog Whisperer, but I'm definitely a Dog Talker. LOL!

Then, I got the news I was waiting for. Collie Concern had approved Pam. They were coming down Friday night to bring Andy home with them to DC!!!!

Pam was probably more excited than I was. The night before an eight-hour drive she stayed up til one AM baking doggie treats. She knew instinctively the way to that dog's heart.

Of course, Andy loved the treats. The big surprise was Andy was far less reserved with Pam's husband Rick than he's been with any man. They sat and talked for a bit with us while they petted Andy.

Then we went out to dinner and came back. By the end of the evening, Andy was willingly sitting at their feet.

He stayed one more night with us. Again, in the morning, I told him his Forever Parents were coming. He had to know what I'd said because when the doorbell rang, he nearly pulled my arm off on the lead getting to that door.

He's been with them several days now. Already he's made friends with most of the family and he's been by himself in their home for five hours, which was my big concern about him. Andy's found his forever home.

Yes, we miss him. Heather most of all, because I don't think she understood that she couldn't keep her goggie.

People credit us with saving Andy. Sure, we helped, but it took Collie Concern to pick him from the shelter and decide to put him in the program. It also took Dr. Babbi Dilbeck's expertise to give him the right dose of the heartworm treatment that'd make him better without having negative effects. Bless them all.

And bless Andy and his new family. May they live together many happy years.

BOOK REVIEW: Mockingbirds -- Daisy Whitney

Alex awakens nude in the bed of a stranger. Gradually, she recalls his name and a few details. Frightened, she gets up and commences to dress and sneak out. The young man awakens and crassly asks her if she'd like another go.

Feeling sick, Alex departs the room thinking she might have had sex with him. But she can't remember...Gradually details come back to her.

What happened to Alex was date rape.

Alex is the "piano girl" at New England's Themis Academy. The school for gifted-and-talented kids is great at creating an environment for intellectual growth, but like many schools, not so great at policing student behavior.

Once she realizes what has happened to her, Alex doesn't want to tell her parents, the police. Quite honestly, she's not sure of the whole story. Like many victims or rape, memories gradually return giving her nightmares and making her afraid to venture out of her safe dorm room. When she finally breaks down and tells her roomie and friend, she learns she has another option--The Mockingbirds.

The Mockingbirds are a student organization at Themis which arose from the students' need for justice outside of what faculty provided and the law. Alex is initially reluctant to go to the group, but as the boy starts spreading sexual rumors about her, she has no choice.

Soon, there will be a trial and yes, there will be consequences if Alex's rapist is found guilty.

"Mockingbirds" is not an easy read. Alex's narrative makes readers uncomfortable from the beginning and the storyline keeps up the pressure through most of the book. There were times I was torn between putting "Mockingbirds" down and walking away for a break and just getting it over with.

Alex and her friends were good companions to take through such a tale. The characters were well drawn and the emotions surrounding the situation felt real and solidly grounded. Details of the rape were handled in a matter-of-fact manner that does not linger or dwell on too harsh moments.

Not to say the story is not upsetting. Ms. Whitney's narrative is real, powerful, and thought-provoking. She confesses in the biographical notes on the book's back cover that she herself was raped and the story very much reflects her own experience sans the Mockingbirds aid.

One rule to remember, "Silence is not consent. The only real consent is saying yes."

I'd suggest every young adult girl read the book preferably before she starts going to parties and events where date rape could happen. Young women need to make pre-arrangements with trusted friends to watch their back and help get them out of situations that are potentially hazardous. They also need to know how to party responsibly because like it or not, Parents, your daughters going to do party at one point or another even at so-called Christian events. What got Alex into her predicament was that she was a novice drinker and she didn't realize she needed to eat along with alcohol or it'd go straight to her head.

Older readers like me will still find the book instructional and perhaps a bit traumatic. For me, the book brought back some memories.

There were a number of times I was just plain lucky. In second grade a friend and I were jumped by several older boys coming home from elementary school. The last thing I remember is being held and seeing my friend's sweater removed. I know we got away, but I can't tell you how. Yes, memory loss is common among rape victims and apparently even attempted rape, too.

Then there was the time when I was in ninth grade walking home from school and got hit by a car at a crosswalk. The very concerned male driver suggested I get in so he could take me to Saint Anthony's. I admit I was hurt and I was bruised afterwards, but I was not getting in the car with him. Luckily, friends were coming along the way and I called to them. The driver pulled away fast. I'm pretty certain he didn't have my welfare in mind or he'd have stuck around.

Like I said, I was really lucky in both cases, but believe me, some girls are not. And yes, they need to understand that it's a tough world out there. The school they attend may not have the Mockingbirds, but they can learn from even a fictional character's mistakes and determine ways to protect themselves and their friends. And perhaps if they have been attacked, they will not feel so alone. Both of these reasons to read "Mockingbirds" are valid.