Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Donna Ball & Kodi, Rhythm, Destiny and Glitter

Who is in the photo at right?

Pictured here is Donna Ball (also known as Donna Boyd, Rebecca Flanders, and five other people!), a full time writer of novels of every description, with her four long-time companions: Kodi the Collie, Rhythm the blue merle Border Collie, and Golden Retrievers Destiny and Glitter.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Today I start the third book in the Ladybug Farm series, so why not procrastinate a little? I’m also working on a novella in the Raine Stockton Dog Mystery series which I’d love to get out before Christmas as a special gift to readers, but I think my ambition may be bigger than my abilities. So it’s time to take a break, have a cup, and rethink the situation.

What's brewing?

In my dreams, it’s caramel mocha latte with real whipped cream. In reality it’s plain old Folger’s gourmet blend, black.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

We’re in the middle of apple season here so it’s fresh apple-walnut cake with carmel icing.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

My guys know they always get a taste of the leftovers, which is why they watch me with such devotion.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

Kodi and Destiny were chosen by me as puppies from their breeders. I raised Glitter from age 8 weeks for the Canine Companions for Independence service dog program, but at 18 months we realized she did not have the temperament to be an assistance dog, so I adopted her permanently. That was one of the happiest days of both our lives. Rhythm came to me from North Carolina Border Collie Rescue at age two. I was supposed to just foster him for a week or so, but it was love at first sight. I couldn’t fill out the paperwork to adopt him fast enough.

Do your dogs influence your writing?

Without the dogs, and the lessons they teach me every day, I never would have written The Raine Stockton Dog Mystery series, or—surprisingly enough—the Devoncroix werewolf saga (as Donna Boyd). There is a dog in every book I write now, even if he only plays a minor role like Rebel the border collie in The Ladybug series. This is my way of honoring what the canine world has brought to me.

How did they get their names?

My dogs have great names! Kodi is actually Tsalagi Dakota Legend, because I knew he’d be famous some day (and so he is!). Destiny Written in the Stars was trained from puppyhood to be a canine musical freestyle performer, and she did grow up to be a star. She’s appeared on national and international television, in magazines and on book covers, and on the front pages of newspapers wherever she performs. Rhythm came to me with the name “Blue” because of his one blue eye. I changed it to Rhythm and Blues when I realized he had a real talent for dance. The story of how Glitter got her name is probably the funniest. Service dog litters are named according to letters of the alphabet: All the pups in the first litter of the year will have names starting with “A”, the second littler will all have “B” names, etc. When Glitter was born, the organization sent me an e-mail with the subject line “G-litter is here!” It was weeks before I realized my puppy’s name was not actually “Glitter” (it was, in fact, Gwenna) and by that time she was already Glitter in my mind. When I adopted her, I officially changed her name from Gwenna to Glitter and have never looked back!

Tennis ball, stick, frisbee...?

Glitter is wild about tennis balls, and Rhythm is manic for Frisbees.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Kodi is on squirrel patrol every day of his life. They are, in his opinion, the natural enemy of civilization as we know it and need to die, die, die...

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

Rhythm wakes up when he hears the automatic coffee maker come on, and he jumps on my bed to let me know. This alerts Glitter, who fetches my slippers and places them on my pillow (she is, after all, a service dog) . We then wake the older dogs and go downstairs for breakfast. Kodi and I walk two miles in the morning. As soon as we return, I take Glitter, Rhythm and Destiny down to the play yard for a rousing game of fetch, Frisbee and chase. When we return, Kodi and Rhythm go on squirrel patrol while the Goldens and I settle down to write. Five o’clock is the highlight of their day: Dinner! In the evenings we all pile into the big chair to watch t.v. or finish up the writing for the day, and at 11:00 it’s time for a milk bone and bed.

Who is each dog's best pet-pal?

Rhythm and Glitter are inseparable; I think because they’re so close in age. Kodi and Destiny have been together for 8 years, so they tend to pair up, but when it comes time to pick a playmate, Kodi always chooses Glitter.

What's each dog's best quality?

Kodi: Beauty

Destiny: Education

Glitter: Devotion

Rhythm: Everything

What's each dog's proudest moment so far?

All of my dogs have jobs, and they’ve all been tremendously successful in their chosen careers. Kodi’s proudest moments probably have to do with the show he puts on for schools, libraries and children’s hospitals called How Dakota Legend Became Famous—about an ugly duckling collie who failed at everything he tried until he realized that his real talent was just doing what came naturally—jumping and barking—and he became a famous Dancing Dog. In the finale, he dances to “Fame” and brings down the house. This little show has been used to teach everything from “be true to yourself” to the importance of keeping the arts in schools, and will probably be a children’s book someday if I ever get the time to write it.

My proudest moment was when Kodi and I did this show at a camp for children with serious illnesses. Afterward, Kodi was mobbed with adoring fans, as always, and I heard one of the children say to him, “Boy, I bet all those kids who made fun of you in school are sorry now.” I realized that the little boy had seen himself in Kodi’s struggles and that the story had given him hope. Is there anything better than that?

Donna Ball published her first book in 1982. Since that time she has written over eighty works of commercial fiction under various pseudonyms. She is known for her work in women’s fiction and suspense, as well as supernatural fantasy and adventure. Her novels have been translated into well over a dozen languages and have been published in virtually every country in the world. She has appeared on Entertainment Tonight and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and has been featured in such publications as the Detroit Free Press, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and even T.V. Guide. She is the holder of the Storytelling World award, 2001, the Georgia Author of the Year Award, 2000, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards for consecutive years 1991-1996, the Georgia Romance Writer’s Maggie Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times, among others.

Her most recent titles are the Ladybug Farm series: A Year on Ladybug Farm
(March 2009) and At Home on Ladybug Farm (October 2009). She is also known for The Raine Stockton Dog Mystery Series and, under the pseudonym Donna Boyd, The Passion and The Promise.

Visit Donna Ball's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue