Monday, January 4, 2010

Diane A.S. Stuckart & Ranger, Delta, Oliver and Paprika

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Diane A.S. Stuckart, author of various romances, short fiction, and mysteries, including my current Leonardo da Vinci mystery series published by Berkley Prime Crime. With me is my Italian greyhound, Ranger. He just turned six years old in December. He's what they call a "biggie Iggy" since he's about 25 pounds and 19 inches tall. Most Iggies are half that size.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Are you kidding? I can't eat or drink ANYTHING without Ranger and his brother and sisters wanting to join in!

What's brewing?

I'm no coffee snob. My favorite brew is fresh MacDonald's coffee, small, with two creams. I also have a weakness for chai tea latte ... Starbucks' version, in particular. Ranger likes cappuccino (hey, he IS Italian!)

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

If it's chocolate, it goes with coffee.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

Our guys' current favorite treat is chicken jerky wrapped in dried sweet potato strips. But since the manufacturer has quit making that particular goodie, my husband has started dehydrating sweet potato strips for them.

How did your dogs come to be united with you?

Ranger and his sister, Delta (also an Iggy), came from a breeder in Oklahoma. Ranger was supposed to be my dog after my sweet white German shepherd, Aspen, died, but Ranger bonded more with my husband, Gerry. We had to go get Delta so that I'd have my very own Iggy. Oliver, our Australian shepherd, is three years old and is a rescue dog. Our friend Shelby took home a mama Aussie and her four 2-week-old pups from some woman trying to sell the little guys in a garage sale! She raised them in her condo until they were old enough to be adopted out, and then we brought Ollie home with us. Since he didn't go through the usual tail bobbing, he's an "Aussie with a Tail" which makes him look almost like a different breed. Paprika--or Rika Red Rocket, as we call her--is another rescue dog also three years old. She originally was sold in a pet shop as a miniature pinscher, but we're pretty sure she's half dachshund. We're her third home, and she's with us for good.

How did they get their names?

Ranger's full name is Lone Star Ranger. Though we live in Florida now, we're from Texas originally. He is white with chocolate markings that look like a Western vest and a little mask like the Lone Ranger wore, so the name seemed to fit. My husband chose Delta's name...he was riffing off of Ranger and came up with Lone Star Delta, as in Delta Force. But since she has a bad leg and ended up being a little fatty, we nicknamed her "Delta Bark", a play on Delta Burke (both of them are plump but beautiful). Paprika is red and spicy, just like her name, and Oliver just seemed like a good name for a big old fluff head.

Do they have any influence on your writing?

Rika sits under my desk when I write, and when she thinks I'm staying up too late, she'll jump in my lap and go to sleep, which tells me it's time for bed. But Ranger is the one who's really the literary dog. He was the inspiration for "Pio" the Italian greyhound who appears in my Leonardo da Vinci mystery series. In fact, he was the cover dog on the second installment, Portrait of a Lady. My husband was so thrilled to see his dog on my book that we bought the original art.

What's an ordinary day like for your dogs?

Since both my husband and I work full-time, they spend the day on the big screened-in sun porch on the back of our house. Once we get home, they run around outside for awhile, come in for awhile, go out for awhile...and repeat until bedtime, when all of them but Oliver crawl under the covers with us and go to sleep.

Do you & the dogs have a favorite place to go for walk?

We're on more than an acre, so they have plenty of room to run right here on the property. But every so often, we'll go for walks in the neighborhood (kind of a risky business, since we're in an area where there are no sidewalks and certain people feel free to let their dogs roam unleashed). Their favorite thing, though, is to hop in the back of my SUV when I get home at night and ride with me the whole 20 feet down the driveway from the gate to where I park. What fun!

Stick, tennis ball, frisbee...?

Ollie and Rika are big on fetching any of those. Ranger and Delta prefer to chew on their stuffed toys and rip the squeakies out of them.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Squirrel chasing is a big pastime here, as is trying to catch birds at the bird feeders. Rika is fast enough that she's snagged a couple. And then there was that rather grisly incident with the baby bunnies. As for cats, we have two orange tabby boys, Butch and Sundance. Dogs and cats, they all get along just fine together. The only problem is that Butch is a bit flighty, and inevitably he will run if he sees Rika or Ollie heading toward him. So, of course, they chase him, and the race is on. Ollie and Rika think it is great fun...Butch, not so much. The postman (actually, a postwoman) drives in a car, so she just gets barked at.

Want to share a favorite dog story?

Soon after we got Ranger, we headed out to Lake Powell in Utah for a houseboat trip we'd planned for a long while. At that time, we only had Ranger and our previous Aussie, Matilda. Both of them wore life jackets while on board. Ranger was still a little guy back then, so anytime we needed to we could just pick him up by the handle on his life jacket and carry him around. And he was a big hit every time we docked. People--women, especially--would see him prancing around in his little yellow life vest and decide he was the cutest thing ever. My husband calls him a chick magnet, as a result.

What's each dog's best quality?

Of course, ours are the best dogs in the world! Ollie and Ranger are the people persons, er, dogs. Rika is the star athlete despite her stubby legs, and Delta is the pampered princess.

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

All the dogs are proud of Ranger being on the cover of a book AND having his very own page on his mom's website, especially since he puts their pictures on the site, too. Their most embarrassing moments? Any time mom catches them counter surfing, or eating the kitties' food, or sticking their snouts in the kitty box.

Besides Ranger's appearance in your Leonardo da Vinci series, have you used any of your other pets as characters in your books?

Our Mitred Conure, Rascal, inspired a parrot in one of my romances. And the two cats who try to raise a mummy cat from the dead in my short story, "Once We Were Worshipped" (which appears in the A Constellation of Cats anthology from DAW), were based on various cats we've had over the years, although none of them actually talked or performed magic. But one of my favorite animal characters was Tiffany the talking rat in my short story, "Business as Usual" (also in a DAW anthology, this one called Familiars). Tiff was no ordinary talking rat, but was a reincarnated saleswoman who'd been a queen of mean in life and was sent back to earth to help a meek coworker win a sales award. Unfortunately, she finds it hard to change her ways, even in rodent form.

Visit Diane A.S. Stuckart's website and learn more about her latest novel, A Bolt from the Blue, the 3rd Leonardo da Vinci mystery.

View the video trailers for A Bolt from the Blue and Portrait of a Lady.

--Marshal Zeringue