Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tracey S. Phillips & Jack and Mimi

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Tracey S. Phillips, debut author of Best Kept Secrets. I write psychological fiction about dark female characters. I live in Wisconsin with my husband and 2 dogs, Jack [right] and Mimi [left].

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning I wake up early to write. So it’s always take your dog to work day at my house. After feeding them, I take my warm cup to the lower level where Jack always lays by my feet or on the couch beside my desk while I’m writing. Mimi joins us when she feels like it. She’s more the fickle female type. She goes where she wants and does what she pleases.

What's brewing?

It used to be 2 cups of dark roast coffee but lately I’ve switched to Irish Breakfast Tea. Coffee made me too jittery after writing tense, scary scenes. I had to scale back the caffeine intake. (laughs out loud!)

Any treats for you or the dogs on this occasion?

The dogs get treats all the time! I’ll tell you a funny story about Jack. When he was a puppy, we had a long and very cold winter here, like there are never long cold winters in Wisconsin. He was a very active dog (still is for a 12 year old) and we needed to keep him busy. So we spent time teaching him tricks. He learned how to sit up, roll over, shake, pound it (with a fist), speak, and even play dead. If you shoot him with your finger and say “Bang!” he falls over, dead. He’s very treat motivated so he’ll perform these tricks any time for a handful of Charlie Bears. Funny thing about him though, we could never teach him to come when he was called. Now, they get treats for coming in the house every time. It works!

How were you and Jack and Mimi united?

Jack and Mimi are our angel dogs. Jack was 6 weeks old when my mom-in-law bought him. At the time, my dad-in-law was dying of cancer. Little Jack was way too much dog for them to care for so they couldn’t keep him. My kids were 11 and 14 at the time, and they were delighted to take him. A few months later, my dad-in-law passed away.

Mimi was my mom’s dog and she was a rescue. We don’t know much about her past, only that she lived on the street and had at least 2 litters. She a tough chick and she’ll let Jack know when he’s crossed some invisible line. Mimi came home with me last October after my mom died in hospice care. In those last few days, I went to visit my mom (who lived in Indianapolis) with the intention of bringing Mimi home. I have some amazing stories of Mimi around that time. She absolutely knew what was happening and once I arrived, she wouldn’t let me out of her sight.

Right after my mom passed away, family members lined up at her bedroom door to say their goodbyes. I hugged each person before they entered and at the end of the line, Mimi stood up on her back feet. She needed a hug too. Of course, I picked her up and held her.

How did the dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Not for Mimi, but Jack was named after some of my favorite fictional characters: Jack Skellington, Jack Bower (24) and Captain Jack Sparrow. He has many, many nicknames and I’m pretty sure he knows them all. We have called him Bug, Buggie, Bugswell, Butthead, Jackson, and Jack-alope. Together they are the Mups as in muppet-pups. They remind me of Dr. Seuss creatures and when their hair gets long, they get Grinch feet.

Do your dogs do more to help or hinder your writing?

I think they know when I’m writing. Mostly, they are quiet and respectful right up until it’s time to go for a walk. They have an internal clock or something that goes off about 10 AM. Then they get fidgety and restless. Jack will paw at my leg and Mimi whines. Her whine sounds like whale-talk. My husband calls her Orca sometimes.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

My other job is teaching piano lessons from my home. The dogs love it because of the constant parade of students. And it means more attention, and treats. They do tend to bark at everyone as they come into the house. No one seems to care though. Jack and Mimi are just saying hello.

Sometimes Jack sits on my lap while I’m teaching. They both like listening to the music.

Where is your dogs' favorite outdoor destination?

That has to be my neighbors house. Tom and Phyllis always have treats for the neighborhood dogs. We can’t walk past without the dogs pulling me toward their door.

What do they eat?

Jack and Mimi can attribute their good looks and longevity to a healthy diet. Aside from Iam’s mature dog food, I make lean turkey burger and they get frozen peas added to their meal. For snacks, they eat pears, orange pieces and apples. Jack likes banana chunks but Mimi won’t eat that. She absolutely loves cucumbers and mushrooms. I could toss anything to Jack and he would swallow it whole, even his pills!

If Jack and Mimi could change one thing about Wisconsinites, what would it be?

The dogs love people, so that isn’t an issue for them. I think they would change the local weather though. They don’t like the long winters here, but neither do I.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

I would ask Jack why he is such a nervous dog. He has polydipsia—a condition where he tends to drink way too much water. We have to ration it, ½ cup at a time or he finishes it all. When he’s upset, he asks for water often. I think it’s like a pacifier for him.

If you look into Mimi’s eyes, you’ll think she is very wise. I’d ask her what her life was like before my mom. You can tell she’s been through a lot.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Jack and Mimi could speak, who should voice them?

Bill Murray for Jack! No question and Meryl Streep for Mimi because she needs a mature, wise voice.

Have any actual dogs ever inspired dogs in your fiction?

These two give me enough inspiration. And I try to put a dog in every book. You’ll notice Morgan Jewell’s boyfriend Rob has a German shepherd named Gretta. Gretta gets a good amount of page-time in Best Kept Secrets.

Visit Tracey S. Phillips's website and view pictures of Jack and Mimi on Instagram.

My Book, The Movie: Best Kept Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: Best Kept Secrets.


--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Lisa M. Miller & Daisy

Who is in the photo at right?

The sweet pup to the right is Daisy. She is a three-year-old West Highland Terrier who is as friendly as she is cute. My name is Lisa M. Miller, and I write books that make you want to sleep with the lights on. I help readers face the unknown from the comfort of their reading spaces.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

The morning routine consists of French press coffee with Daisy by my side. It's not the smell of fresh ground beans that motivates Daisy, but the sound of the toaster.

What's brewing?

Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend Dark Roast in the French press.

Any treats for you or Daisy on this occasion?

Daisy is enjoying a pumpkin treat from her favorite gourmet shop, Three Dog Bakery. We splurged on some fancy snacks, it is her birthday month after all!

How were you and Daisy united?

A few years ago, we surprised our sons with a huge Christmas present. As they opened a box for an Xbox gaming system, out jumped a ten week-old Westie.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

She is named after Daisy Buchanan, without all of the Gatsby drama.

Does Daisy do more to help or hinder your writing?

Before I settle in to write or edit, she needs to go for a walk or play with her basket of toys. If not, I will find a pile of stuffed animals at my feet or barking directed towards her leash.

Please tell us about your new novel.

My new YA Thriller, My Skull Possession, released on October 15th, the same day as Daisy's birthday.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

She gets along with cats, greets the postman, but she loathes squirrels. She has a daily race along the fence, hoping her nemesis loses his balance as he scurries along the top of the posts.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She loves her nesting toys. A small plush stump with, what else, little squirrels inside.

Where is Daisy's favorite outdoor destination?

Daisy has visited the beach a few times. She is not a fan of the water but loves hanging out with her family.

Who is Daisy's best pet-pal?

Daisy has a doppelganger who lives down the street from us. She and Mia are good pals.

What is Daisy's best quality?

She is a delightful little dog with a great disposition. But if she senses something is wrong, look out. She'll protect her family with a big dog attitude.

If Daisy could change one thing about you, what would it be?

Less screen time. More fresh air and green time.

If Daisy could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Do you know how unbelievably cute and loved you are?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Daisy could speak, who should voice her?

Michelle Williams. Her response when told she gets to go for more walks, “Oh, how gorgeous!”

What advice would Daisy give if asked?

Life is short. Take the trip. Eat the cake. If you don't, I will.

Watch a trailer for My Skull Possession.

Visit Lisa M. Miller's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue