Monday, June 29, 2009

Kaye Barley & Harley

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me and Harley. My name's Kaye Barley. Harley and I live with my husband Donald in Boone, NC, which is a small town in the Western Carolina mountains. When I'm not working, I'm "Mistress of Meanderings and Muses," a terrific little blog which recently had a virtual party in celebration of welcoming 10,000 visitors. And that's after having been around for less than eight months. I'm pretty proud of that, and over the moon proud of Meanderings and Muses where we host writers and fans from the mystery/crime fiction community as guest bloggers. While most of us have roots in the crime fiction world, our conversations at M&M are all over the place. It's fun and it's interesting, and I hope some of your readers will stop by for a visit. You never know who you'll see there, or what we'll be chatting about.

What's your dog's name, gender, age, breed?

Harley's full name is Harley Doodle Barley. We added the "Doodle" 'cause he was born on the 4th of July, 2005. (We sorta changed the song to "he's a Harley Doodle Barley ... born on the 4th of July." Silly, silly, I know).

We named him Harley 'cause Donald has always wanted a Harley. This one, sadly enough, is the only one we can afford. Now, while Donald may not be able to hop on and ride this Harley on the open road like he could a Harley-Davidson, I'm doubting very much he'd ever love a motorcycle as much as he loves this little Corgi.

There are two types of Corgis - Pembrokes and Cardigans, and ours is a Pembroke. They're the ones without a tail. Tasha Tudor always owned Corgis when she was living - sometimes as many as 14 at a time and here's what she said about them in The Private World of Tasha Tudor - "They're such characters - a mixture of a dog and a cat, I think. They especially don't like to be scolded in public. They talk back; they growl and show their teeth and pretend they're frightfully savage. However, they never criticize. You're always beautiful to them."

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The occasion is just a lovely Sunday morning at home. Early morning is a favorite time of day at our house. We are suckers for a sunrise, and a North Carolina mountain sunrise can be pretty spectacular.

What's brewing?

What's brewing is organic Costa Rican medium roast from Higher Grounds. Pressed. Served in pretty pottery mugs hand made by a local Boone potter. A little sugar and a dollop of Half & Half, please.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Still warm from the oven blueberry muffins made with local hand picked blueberries. Slathered with butter.

Any treat for Harley on this occasion?

Well, of course! A brand new bacon flavored chew bone which not only makes him happy, but helps keep his teeth clean.

How did Harley come to be united with you?

Donald and I had two cats. George and Martha. We got George and Martha at the Humane Society the day we returned home from our honeymoon. George graced us with his presence for 15 years, and Martha for 18. Losing them was, of course, heartbreaking and the saddest thing ever. Coming home from work to an empty house with no little loving furry creatures to greet us was also heartbreaking, but we just weren't quite ready for new kitties, so decided maybe it was time for a dog. We had met a couple of Corgis and thought they were very cool, very smart and just the right size for our little house. We found a woman in South Carolina who raised Corgis so we planned a "meet and greet." Obviously, it went well. I cannot imagine life without Harley. Vacation now means finding a place to stay that is "dog friendly," but that's not as difficult as we thought it might be. We've even imposed on friends and family when we've visited, and so far Harley has shown himself to be an exemplary house guest and minds his manners nicely.

Where do you usually take Harley out for fresh air?

We live in the wilderness and have a little bit of land. While walks with me are pretty boring for Harley, walks with Donald are a great adventure. They usually take a walk or two every day exploring. He has a pond he occasionally jumps into and he has a creek he loves to cross. He also has a huge fenced in area that he can get into simply by walking out the back door and off the deck. It's his own little world out there with some open space where he can run, and a big flat rock [photo, right] which he has claimed as his own special place to just sit and "be," and there's an area that has lots of trees and is shady.

Where is the best nearby dog park?

There is a dog park in town - about 12 miles away from where we live, but we haven't been there. Harley takes after his mom and dad and is a bit of a homebody.

Is Harley's bark worse than his bite?

Pfft. Yes. Yes it is. He has a really, really loud bark. And he does everything Tasha Tudor wrote - he talks back; he growls and shows his teeth and pretends he's frightfully savage. And totally cracks us up in the process. But of course, we tell him we're scared to death and that his every wish is our command.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick, ...?

Stick. Harley loves to chase a stick. And most of the time he'll bring it back and expect it to be thrown again. When he gets tired of that game, he'll just lay down and eat the stick.

Would Harley rather chase a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, ...?

Well, he doesn't have a tail...

I think he likes to chase rabbits the best. We have a lot of rabbits living around our house. But they are smart and they are fast, so so far they've been safe.

Would Harley rather catch a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, ...?

I think actually he's pretty happy when he catches the mailman. If the mailman will scratch his belly.

Which TV dog is Harley most similar to?

Oh my - that would have to be Lassie, wouldn't it?! He is very brave and very smart and would somehow figure out how to pull us out of a well, should that need ever occur. I'm sure of it.

What's the most embarrassing thing Harley ever did?

Well. He burps. Big man sized burps. Gobbles up his dinner, sits down, looks you dead in the eye and burps.

Learn more about Kaye Barley and Harley--and see more photographs of the corgi--at Meanderings and Muses.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kristina Riggle & Lucky

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Kristina Riggle, a writer and occasional freelance journalist and my dog, Lucky. Lucky is going on two years old, he's a boy, and our best estimation as to his breed is that he's a border terrier-chihuahua mix. It's hard to tell from this picture, but he weighs 12 pounds and is about the size of a largeish cat. His coat is wiry, which is good for my husband's allergies. Another distinctive feature is a curlicue tail which makes a complete circle in its normal, happy-dog position.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Lucky and I took a walk to our local coffee/ice cream/car wash place (yes, really, drive-through or walk-up service) because tonight is the launch party for my debut novel ("Real Life & Liars") and it seemed like a nice, relaxing thing to do before all the excitement.

What's brewing?

I don't normally go for frou-frou coffee but it's so bloody hot here, today. It's not even noon and it's already almost 90 degrees, so I ordered a frozen blended drink. But it is mocha flavored, so at least slightly reminiscent of actual coffee.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Not this time! So hot I don't have much appetite (or maybe it's launch party nerves).

Any treat for Lucky on this occasion?

I gave him a dog treat upon our arrival home for being a good sport while trying to take our picture. Too much "people food" makes him barf, and he always seems to do that when I'm the only one home to clean it up.

How did Lucky come to be united with you?

I was initially against getting a dog. I was always a cat person, and anyway, I felt I had my hands plenty full with our toddler and older son. But I relented after my book deal, partly because my husband has been so supportive of my writing career, I felt it was a way to repay him. Also, my son really wanted a dog. The things we do for our kids.

At first I was too skittish about adopting a rescue dog, fearing unpredictability. But after some more research, testimony from friends, and the sticker-shock of a purebred border terrier, we found Lucky via, identified as a border terrier mix who was good with kids and already housetrained. He was seven months old at the time.

Now I'm really glad we adopted a dog and I would recommend the same for anyone. Also, look at that face! He's so cute.

How did Lucky get his name?

My son Sam named him. We surprised Sam with the dog; my husband went by himself to go pick the dog up. As soon as Sam saw him, he lit up with pure joy and said, "I'll name him Lucky, hi Lucky!" and that was that. Sam had been reading a bedtime story about a boy with a dog named Lucky. I always liked the name Frodo for a dog, so in my next book, I named a dog Frodo (and also gave Lucky a role in the book, too!).

Where do you usually take Lucky out for fresh air?

We go around the block, usually with my son on his bike and my 2-year-old daughter Avery in the stroller. He also likes to harass the squirrels and birds in our backyard, and there's mutual harassment going on with the feral cats who live in a patch of woods behind our fenced-in yard. They taunt him from just the other side of the fence.

Where is the best nearby dog park?

I'm too nervous to take him, because as a novice dog owner, I'm just not good at knowing when harmless roughhousing turns serious. Also, Lucky has a bit of "short guy syndrome" and he can only be friendly with a bigger dog for about 30 seconds before getting intimidated and trying to nip. Since most dogs are bigger, that can be a problem. I need the Dog Whisperer's help with this one!

Is Lucky's bark worse than his bite?

Oh much worse. He has a deep voice for such a little dog and everyone's surprised by it. He sounds terribly fierce but he's actually very cuddly and friendly (except with bigger dogs, see above).

Tennis ball, Frisbee, stick, ...?

Lucky loves to chase a stick, but then he sits down to eat it. We're working on "fetch."

Would Lucky rather chase a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, ...?

Squirrel, no contest. And we have lots of them.

Would Lucky rather catch a squirrel, a cat, a car, his tail, the mailman, ...?

He does his best to catch those squirrels and frankly I hope the squirrels always stay one step ahead of him.

Which TV dog is Lucky most similar to?

He has his "Lassie" moments where he barks up a storm, runs to us and then whines and dances around in place, making this face: "Timmy fell down the well! You've gotta do something!" though he's typically just alerting us to some dangerous interloper like the paperboy or another neighborhood dog walking by. Or a squirrel.

What's the most embarrassing thing Lucky ever did?

I don't know if it's embarrassing really, but he gave us all a fright shortly after we got him when he dashed out through our back fence, which my son had left open only briefly. I suddenly heard Sam screaming Lucky's name frantically and I ran out to find Sam in tears and hysterical because he'd run away. We already had a microchip in him so I tried to reassure Sam we'd find him. Meanwhile, our lovely neighbor had heard the commotion and she and my husband ran off to search the neighborhood. Some OTHER lovely neighbors had seen him wandering, knew he was lost, and had scooped him up. They were carrying him when the first neighbor saw him. All told, he was only gone about five or ten minutes, but I had to admit those five or ten minutes were agonizing, even for me, a supposed cat person.

Groucho Marx said, "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." Was he right?

I'll take his word for it. Lucky is too small for any books except maybe mass market paperbacks.

"'Real Life & Liars', Kristina Riggle's sumptuous and rich debut novel, examines the complications that arise in family and marriage, love and heartbreak," according to New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch. "With lush writing and nuanced, relatable characters, this book is a must-read for anyone who has ever been both grateful and driven mad by the people they love most: their family."

Visit Kristina Riggle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chris Knopf & Sam

Who’s the guy with the dog?

That would be me. I’m Chris Knopf, writer of the Hamptons Mystery series and partner in Mintz & Hoke Communications Group. The dog’s name is Sam, after Samuel Beckett, another famous Irish existentialist. Sam’s a 9-year-old soft-coated Wheaten terrier, not a schnauzer or a cock-a-poodle, as some have alleged. And it’s advisable not to make that mistake in front of Sam. That and talking birds are the only things that piss him off.

You obviously have a coffee routine with Sam.

I do. Every weekend, my wife and I walk Sam into Southampton Village where we sit on a park bench and drink the uniquely delicious flavored coffee served by the Golden Pear. Sam entertains children and other passersby and barks at black pickup trucks, because a dog in the bed of a similar vehicle once barked at him and now he thinks all black pickup trucks are, in fact, dogs themselves. I’ve yet to convince him otherwise.

What is Sam’s most intimate involvement with coffee?

He’s had some, which he seemed to like quite a bit. My wife’s father lived to be 98 years old secure in the belief that dogs should be fed at the table. His daughter, on the other hand, felt the exact opposite. A titanic war of wills ensued. At one meal, she’d successfully blocked offerings of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and vanilla ice cream. But then, exhausted from the struggle, failed to see him slip a full cup of black coffee under Sam’s nose.

Ever since, whenever I pour myself a hearty mug of joe, you can see in Sam just a hint of distant longing.

What is Sam’s nationality?

He’s a Canadian, born in Toronto. This evidences itself in his generally easy-going nature, resistance to intense cold and preference for government subsidized health care. I was recently in Toronto on a publicity tour for my books, and made the mistake of revealing his roots to an interviewer. From there on out it was, “Okay, okay, enough about the books. Tell us more about the dog, eh?”

Sam must have found his way into your mysteries.

He did indeed, nearly in whole cloth. Sam Acquillo, one of my protagonists (no relation), has a dog named Eddie Van Halen. I got the name from my son, who growing up had a few imaginary friends, Eddie Van Halen being prominent among them. Eddie doesn’t look anything like Sam the dog. Eddie’s a mutt, with strong German Shepard leanings. He also gets to run free. Sam has to stay inside a fenced in yard. In every other respect they’re exactly the same. I did this to save my strength for making up things about the human characters, who are far simpler, but more plentiful.

So Sam’s a pure bred?

Unfortunately, yes. The concept behind pedigree dogs is people think they’re designing the exactly perfect animal for some special circumstance. What they’re actually doing is providing a solid revenue stream to the veterinarian industry. The healthiest dogs in the world are the ones you see around those gigantic mountains of garbage in third world countries where they team up with women and children to scavenge for food. This is Darwin at his best. These dogs get to breed with whoever they want, eat whatever they want, and get lots of exercise playing tug of war with rotting chicken carcasses. Sam gets plenty of exercise, but is only allowed to eat specially prepared food from a severely restricted menu and his breeding days never quite got off the ground before we turned him into a castrato.

You mentioned exercise. Does Sam like to play catch?

I tried to introduce him to the concept when he was a puppy. The first time I tossed a ball he chased it, since he’d never seen a ball before and likely mistook it for some form of strange rodent. But after he picked it up in his mouth, he immediately dropped it, realizing it was not only inedible, but clearly part of some cruel hoax. The second time I tossed the ball he just looked at me as if to say, “Look, it was your idea to throw the damn thing. You want it that bad, go get it yourself.”

Then he probably isn’t big on tricks.

He only has one trick, which my wife taught him. He smiles for his highly-refined, special-order, million dollar treats. This is cute as hell in person, but when we try to capture it on film, he looks like a rabid, snarling hound from hell. Which he’s anything but.

So he’s friendly.

To a fault. You get the feeling that he’d gladly go off with any human being that bent down to pet his head, without looking back. What he doesn’t know is that not all households stock his special food, allow him the run of the furniture, have fully-fenced-in yards and provide their pets unrestricted access to the Internet.

"Hard Stop," Chris Knopf's fourth and latest Hamptons Mystery novel, is now available from booksellers everywhere. One reviewer called protagonist Sam Acquillo an "appealing hero" who is complemented by "a colorful entourage that includes endearing Eddie, the anti-Marley dog, mak[ing] for a lively and entertaining mix."

Learn more about Sam and Chris at Chris Knopf's website.

--Marshal Zeringue