Thursday, May 25, 2017

Block Street Block Party

We had a blast this year at the Block Street Block Party in Fayetteville. I've had my eye on this event for the last few years, but there was always a schedule conflict. This year the weather was about as perfect as it can get, and the crowds were huge. It felt like the fall craft fair at War Eagle! Sales were great, which always makes Scott happy, and we met some wonderful people (and dogs).

View from in front of our booth. It went on for blocks!
I must admit, one of the highlights of my day was having a little girl pull money out of her own pocket to get a copy of Vacation Hiro. She had bought Why Kimba Saved The World at Springfest a few weeks before, and she loved it. Book 2 was now a must-have. That's about the best response an author can hope for. Makes it all worth it.

We will definitely plan to do this event again next year. Other authors have asked me if I'd recommend it for them. I have to admit, the children's books sell well, but my adult novel, not so much. So I'm not sure I'd recommend it for those who write for grown-ups. Maybe you could share a booth with other writers and split the expense. Always be sure you have something like a postcard or bookmark to hand out.  You always want to send folks home with some way to find you later, especially if they prefer ebooks. The day after this event, someone purchased a copy of each of my books on Kindle. It's hard to know for sure, but that could have come from a bookmark I handed out. I have bookmarks to go with each of my books. It's nice bling to send home along with a paperback, and it's good advertising for the future as well. That's my two-cents on that.

We take the summer off from events so we can keep up with the excitement at the guest house. June and July are already booking up as much as we'd like them to, so other work gets put on the back burner for a while. I'm really hoping to still get in some writing time each day. That's always the goal! But with guests coming and going, campfires, laundry and cleaning--not to mention the property still on the market and whatever editing work I'm up to--I never know what a day will bring.

My next book, Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess, is in the final gasps with beta readers and will head to the editor in a week or so. Yay! Callista has been working on creating the dragon for the cover, so all of that will be coming together over the summer as well. I'm sure you will be hearing lots about it in the fall. Never a dull moment on our mountaintop.

In closing, Hiro wanted me to share this photo of her lazing in the sun this morning. She thinks she looks fabulous and deserves to be admired. How can I disagree?

Have a wonderful holiday weekend, and read something delightful!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Top Blogger Listing

I'm very excited to be listed as one of the top bloggers for kids about cats at Best for the Kids! You can find the link to all of us from this week by clicking here.

There are lots of other interesting bloggers featured, so be sure to check them all out.

I don't always blog about cats, but I may well have something to say after we attempt to clip Miss Fatty Cat's claws for the first time ever. She has gotten old enough that she doesn't care for them herself anymore and is getting stuck on furniture and bedding. This should be interesting!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Birthday Book Sale

As I mentioned last time, Kimba and Hiro are celebrating their 10th birthdays on April 18th. We are having a party over on Facebook, and you are welcome to join.

Also, just a quick note: I'm having two kinds of books sales during this birthday party (now through the 18th).

1) Why Kimba Saved The World is free on Kindle, and all of my other animal series books are 99 cents. 

2) Paperback are available at event prices for that same time frame. Single paperbacks are $10 and come signed with a matching bookmark. Event prices are--

Any 3 series books: $27
Any 4 series books: $35
Any 5 series books: $43
All 6 series books:  $50

My website shopping cart will not give you these prices, but if you send me an email at this link I will create a sale invoice for you. Payment can be made through PayPal or Square.

Now we just have to decide exactly what kind of cake to make these silly girls. Hiro has suggested that one made of Cheez-Its would be excellent.

Happy 10th Birthday, Silly Babies!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Service Dogs

If you've read Dottie's Daring Day, I hope you enjoyed the whole chapter about Champ, the service dog who works with a blind owner. When I first started drafting Dottie's book, I wanted to highlight all kinds of working dogs, but the story took off in another direction. Guess I'll have to write more dog books to get it all in. But I do want to take a moment to thank two of my best sources of information for making Champ a genuine service dog who is correctly portrayed.

First, here's a shout-out to my writer friend Ronda Del Boccio and her service dog, Jemma.

I snapped this photo of Jemma at a conference Ronda and I attended.
Look at that focus! She is READY.

Jemma is a wonderful example of a service dog. I have sat next to her at several all-day conferences, and she never makes a peep or distracts in any way. Okay, I may get distracted and take photos of how sweet she is when I should be listening, but that's not her fault. She and Ronda make a great team.

Ronda was a huge help in correcting my drafts and making sure that Champ and his owner were working together the way a service dog and a visually disabled human would. And I had quite a bit of it wrong. The axiom "write what you know" really means that you need to find out about those things you don't know as well and represent them accurately. I take that very seriously, especially since I write mostly for children. Thank you, Ronda and Jemma, for helping me get it right. You can follow Jemma's adventures on Facebook at this link.

Second, I am very grateful to the organization Leader Dogs for the Blind (who, coincidentally, trained Jemma). In my early book drafts, I reached out to them and asked what three or four things they would want kids to understand about how a service dog works with an owner. The number one thing they wanted to stress was that the dog doesn't do the actual leading. Service dogs are trained to watch for dangers, like cars in the street, but the owner is the one who decides where to go. In my story, Champ explains this to Dottie to make sure the point was clear. The group was a big help in directing my earliest drafts of the story and developing Champ's part in it. Thank you!

If you haven't gotten your copy of Dottie's Daring Day yet, my next public event will be Springfest on April 15th on Dickson Street in Fayetteville--right where the story takes place. We might even have Dottie come join us for part of the day!

I'll do another post closer to the date, but you can sign up now for Kimba and Hiro's 10th birthday party celebration coming next week on Facebook. 10 years old! There will be book giveaways and sale prices on kindles and kitten pictures galore. Even some fun videos. Join the fun yourself, and invite your friends. It's open to everyone! Click here for the Facebook event page. I've already started posting because I just can't help it.

This weekend, sweet Dottie and her human and diverse animal family, including Miss Slinky, will be moving again to a new (and much nicer) apartment in Fayetteville. I'm sure I will have many photos to share after that. Here's hoping for some better weather to make it all go smoothly. I think we are all ready for spring.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kansas City Pet Expo

After years of people encouraging me to get a booth at a pet expo, we finally did one last weekend. I can see why it was suggested so often, but the results were very mixed for Serenity Mountain Publishing as a business.

Kimba and Hiro are ready to make new friends!!

We made a deal with the Amazing Pet Expo folks for a corner booth and got one right near the main stage and entrance. Great location! Nothing to complain about there.

We caught folks coming and going from two angles, and the booth got lots of attention. We were also the only books there, which always helps. My favorite question of the weekend was "Are these books to read to your dogs?" Um...If you want to. Lots of books went home in the hands of new readers. That is always a win for us.

A photo that needs the title "This is why I write." Love those ears!
We also had a perfect view of the main stage and all the excitement that went on there. The costume contest on Sunday was a very big deal. We felt sad for some lovely young ladies we met who had gone all out for their turtles and hermit crabs. They were simply outdone by some adults who took this event seriously.

Pug Princess Leia

A service pony, giving a ride to a dachshund. 

Spaghetti Collie

They were fabulous, though none of these won. I didn't get a photo of the tiny little dog in a Western outfit who took 1st place. We couldn't even see her!

There were also other wonderful groups there.

This group brought beautiful birds with them both days. All their animals are rescues who cannot be returned to the wild.

This lovely owl is missing half of his wing, but the span was still impressive.

Charlie the crow spent a lot of time making barking noises like the dogs all around.

We also met a new blogger friend (and fellow member of the Cat Writers' Association), along with her dog Preston, who is technically the voice behind the blog. She is clearly heavily involved with the expo nationwide.
Looking forward to what Spencer has to say. He's the one in green.
Overall, we had a good time. And sales were decent. We have a general sense of what percentage of the crowd we should be able to capture, and we were right on track for that. If we had paid our normal $50-$100 for the booth space, it would have been well worth it. Even with two nights in a hotel. The problem for events like this is the cost of the booth space. After the deals we made, our booth was still $500. We debated long and hard about doing it at all. I did have to allow for the "I told you so" afterward from my doubting business manager. Last pet event for us.

What we have seen over and over is that pet owners (mostly dog owners) come to events like this for freebies and to show off their dogs. Most are not interested in purchasing anything...from anyone. We have to balance what simple advertising we get from events against the time and money it takes us to participate. The reality of writing books is that the publishing and what comes after are a business. As the writer, I'm happy to have booths everywhere and shout about my books to the world. Back to the reality of the world, my business manager (aka my husband, who is a professional money guy) has to rein me in most of the time.

We still had a fun weekend getting away from the house and meeting new people. Although, in our opinion, the freeway system in Kansas City was created by a drunk with a sense of humor. We got lost and ended up in a place literally called The Bottoms that looked like a place where bad things happen. Thank God for the map app on my phone. We followed that little blue dot more than once. We finally figured it out about the time we had to leave.

So, no more pet events. I promise. Sometimes you just have to try and find out. Lesson learned. But I have no regrets about the new friends we met and the books that went out into the world.

And Scott got to eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day (that I didn't have to cook) at Chappell's Sports Bar with football helmets overhead. It's all good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Kitty Litter Box Issues -- Guest Post

Please welcome Kevin Davies to my blog today. I'm no stranger to litter box issues for a variety of reasons over my decades as a cat owner. One of them did involved kidney disease that I didn't understand (and desperately wish I had at the time). Currently, Miss Hiro refuses to use a box for her own reasons (mostly having gotten jumped by Miss Fatty Cat or Cheetara when leaving the box), but we have reached some compromises and consistency for where she will go potty. Hopefully you can find some answers for your current or future litter box issues.

Kitty Litter Box Issues
by Kevin Davies of

Cat Litter Box Problems: What to do When Your Cat Decides Not to Use the Litter Box

When cats choose to urinate or defecate outside of the litter box, cat owners can rapidly become frustrated and angry with the cat. Feline litter box problems are one of the most common behavioral problems cat owners have to deal with and are also one of the most common reasons cats are given up to shelters, abandoned or forced outside to live.

What many cat owners do not understand is that their cat is not acting out of spite when he/she does not use the litter box. There are numerous reasons for litter box problems, but most of them result from disease, mismanagement of the litter boxes by their human owners or normal feline behavior patterns.

What to do When Your Cat Begins Experiencing Litter Box Problems

The very first thing which needs to be done if your cat begins to urinate or defecate outside of the litter box is to have your cat examined by your veterinarian. Numerous medical issues can cause a cat to urinate and/or defecate outside of the litter box. Other symptoms which may or may not accompany inappropriate elimination behaviors include bloody urine, frequent urges to urinate, excessive urination, excessive thirst, loose bowels or diarrhea and difficulty or pain when moving bowels. If disease is present, successful treatment may resolve the litter box mishaps.

Cats which are unable to urinate need to have immediate veterinary care. Urinary tract obstructions are an extremely painful and life-threatening occurrence and can cause death very quickly if appropriate medical intervention is not performed.

Proper Litter Box Management Can Deter Inappropriate Urination and Defecation

If your veterinarian has found no evidence of disease or illness for your cat, litter box management protocols must be critically examined and modified as necessary.
Adequate numbers of litter boxes must be provided, especially in multi-cat households. There should be at least one litter box available for each cat in the house plus one extra litter box. Many cats prefer not to share their litter box with housemates and inadequate numbers of litter boxes can result in inappropriate elimination.

Litter boxes must kept very clean. This usually means removing solid waste at least once daily. For some cats, scooping several times daily may be necessary. Scoopable litters tend to make this task easier and many cats also prefer the texture of scoopable cat litter.

Place cat litter boxes in various areas of the home. There should be at least one litter box on each floor of a multi-level home. Litter boxes need to be placed in low-traffic areas that are calm and quiet. They should be easily accessible for the cat and care should be taken that the cat is not disturbed or frightened when using the box. This means small children and other pets (such as dogs) should be kept away from the litter box area, particularly when it is in use. Litter boxes should not be placed near washing machines and dryers as these machines tend to make noises that frighten many cats as they go through their washing and drying cycles.

Litter boxes must also be chosen to allow the cat to get in and out of the box easily. For older cats with mobility issues and very young kittens, this may mean choosing litter boxes with low sides which the cat can climb over easily.

Litter boxes should also be big enough to allow your cat to stand and turn in the box easily without being cramped or hanging over the edge of the box. Cats tend to prefer large litter boxes to smaller ones.

Choose the Right Cat Litter to Avoid Litter Box Problems

Use non-scented cat litters. Cat litters that have heavy scents may be more pleasant for us, but some cats object strongly to the scents and will avoid a litter box filled with these cat litters.
Some cats have preferences regarding the texture of the cat litter used. In general, scoopable litters most closely resemble sand and many cats prefer these scoopable litters. However, this is not true of all cats. Experiment with different types of litters if your cat is avoiding the litter box. Try different types of scoopable and non-scoopable litters. Try litter substitutes as well, such as Yesterday’s News®, a pelleted form of recycled paper. Fill several litter boxes with different types of litters and place them next to each other. Observe to see which one the cat uses most often to determine which the cat prefers. Once you have identified the type of litter that your cat prefers, use that litter in his/her litter boxes.

Other Environmental Modifications That Can Prevent Cat Litter Box Problems

Stress has been shown to cause urinary tract disease in cats, specifically interstitial cystitis (a form of inflammation within the feline urinary bladder). Most cat owners do not recognize that an indoor lifestyle is generally stressful for a cat. This is true in single-cat households, but is even more of an issue in multi-cat households. Fortunately, there are some very simple things a cat owner can do to make indoor life less stressful for their cat or cats.

▪         Provide plenty of perches for all cats in the household. Cats enjoy being on a raised surface and may feel safer when they are not forced to nap on the ground. They also enjoy examining their environment from their elevated perches.

▪         Provide plenty of hiding spaces for all cats in the household. A hiding place should be a quiet, secure area where your cat can retreat if he/she feels threatened or wants to be alone. Hiding places that block the view of other cats in the house are also helpful in eliminating aggression between cats. These may be cardboard boxes, carriers left open and lined with a blanket or towel, or cat beds.

▪         Provide food and water at various locations throughout your home if you have more than one cat. This eliminates competition for these resources and avoids fighting and stress from a perceived lack of access to adequate food and water stations.

▪         Provide interactive toys which provide mental stimulation for your cat. Cats have a natural tendency to prey on small animals and appropriate cat toys can simulate that prey behavior and keep cats entertained. Toys with feathers can be used to imitate birds, toys which can be pulled along the ground can imitate mice and other rodents, and laser pointers can imitate bugs. Food puzzles can also be used to provide mental stimulation and exercise for indoor cats. Just be certain not to leave your cat untended with toys which contain strings which can entangle a cat or which can be swallowed, small pieces which could be ingested or other unsafe features. Place the toy in safe location where your cat cannot access it when you are not home to supervise play with these types of toys.

Urine Marking, Urine Spraying and Other Territorial Behaviors

Urine marking is a term which is used to describe the act of urinating outside of the litter box in an effort by your cat to mark his or her territory and tell other cats to stay away. Urine spraying is a specific type of urine marking behavior which involves urinating onto a vertical surface, such as a wall or piece of furniture.

Both male and female cats are capable of urine marking. Neutering or spaying is often helpful in controlling urine marking and urine spraying behaviors. However, it should be noted that a small percentage of cats which are neutered/spayed will still mark or spray, especially if the behavior has been occurring for a time before the surgery is performed. Neutering or spaying does not guarantee that a cat will never mark or spray but it is effective in the majority of cases (probably as many as 85-90% in my experience).

Pet owners need to understand that cats which spray or urine mark are performing what is, to them, a perfectly natural behavior. Your cat does not understand that this behavior is wrong and he/she is not marking or spraying solely to annoy you. Cats should never be punished for these types of behaviors. Punishment will only make the cat apprehensive and may actually end up making the problem worse!

Feliway® and Feline Litter Box Problems

Feliway® is a calming pheromone which is produced naturally by all cats. Being a pheromone, the cat’s olfactory system will detect the chemical but you will not be able to smell the product. Feliway® can be effective in controlling inappropriate elimination in cats and preventing urine spraying and marking behaviors.

Feliway® is available as a diffuser which is plugged into an electrical outlet in your home or as a spray which can be used around litter boxes, near doors and windows and in other areas of the home.

While litter box problems are problematic and frustrating for cat owners, there are techniques which can be used to prevent or control the inappropriate behaviors. Proper care of the litter box, choosing the correct cat litter, spaying/neutering all cats and simple environmental modifications can all be used to help fight feline litter box problems.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Houston Author Bash 2017

My book tubs are packed and ready to head to Houston for next weekend's Author Bash. This was a fantastic event last year, even though there was a last-minute change of venue, so I have really high hopes for 2017.

There will be lots of great authors there. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by. And bring a wagon. Seriously. People show up with wagons to hold all the great books they buy. And for those of you who like that sort of thing, some of the romance novelists bring their cover models. Hmmm.

Quite a selection to chose from! And it's held in a wine bar with delicious food, so there's always that for after you shop.

Hope to see you there!