December 23, 2007
THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT is a new anthology of stories on the theme of fire by 21 authors, with all proceeds going to help survivors of the San Diego wildfires through the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County.
My story, "Fire and Magic," features my young sleuth, Sam, from SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT. Sam and her mother face a menace from the past. This time, even magic might not be able to save them... Read more at http://cverstraete.com/heatofthemoment.html.
Get a copy for yourself, for a gift, or ask your library to order one to help others!
November 29, 2007
I seem to have unintentionally started a new trend in my writing.
First, it was birds, as in the blackbirds in my spooky short story, "The Witch Tree."
Then it was a dog, namely the mischievous little Dachshund, Petey, in my upcoming mystery, "Searching For A Starry Night."
Now it's a little black cat with shiny gold eyes. The cat appears in my eerie story, "Cat Cries," which will be published in an upcoming issue of Cat Tales Magazine from Wildside Press.
I wonder if I can do a story on an elephant next?
November 17, 2007
It's so exciting to finally see a visual image of Searching For A Starry Night! Isn't "Petey" the Dachshund adorable?
In "Searching For A Starry Night," a nosy Dachshund digs up a family curse...can Sam find the missing miniature replica of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and save her longest friendship? Read a short synopsis at http://cverstraete.com/Starry_Night.html .
Perfect for the young - and young at heart! Coming in spring '08 from Quake/Echelon Press, http://www.quakeme.com/
October 15, 2007
Dog's Best Friend - Dogs and cats are not always mortal enemies, at least not to this Golden Retreiver that decided to nurse a stray kitten. http://davesdaily.com/out.php?id=33253
Two-legged dog - I've heard of three-legged dogs, but wouldn't have thought a dog could get along like this if there wasn't a photo. This poor Chihuahua, found abandoned, is missing its two front legs. Funds are being raised for a doggie wheelchair. Oct. 10 posting at http://www.doggienews.com/
Petey's favorite - October is Adopt a Shelter Dog month. Petey, the fictional Dachshund in my upcoming book, Searching For A Starry Night, came from a shelter and highly recommends people bringing a shelter dog home.
A friend of mine in England has several dogs that she has adopted from shelters. At any given time she has at least three or four dogs at home. Her view is that the old or the ill deserve love, too.
This time, she chose a little Jack Russell Terrier who is old and nearly blind, as she says, " I can't think of her spending the rest of her life in a kennel and most people won't adopt an old dog." The other dog, a Springer Spaniel, had a skin condition and "was a mess," she says. Also unadoptable by most people's standards. The dog's condition is now cleared up, a lesson perhaps in judging by appearances.
September 26, 2007
Everyone knows that dogs love to hang around food and are always underfoot in the kitchen. Betti Brike of Louisiana took the next logical step in her miniature scene of a butcher shop by adding a dog - namely, a Dachshund - eyeing the goods.
Betti was inspired to make this week's featured scene after her friend, Rita, in Germany sent her this mouth-watering array of handmade meats, sausages & hot dogs as a gift. All are made of FIMO polymer clay. Enough to make you hungry, isn't it?
September 14, 2007
September 03, 2007
"Sophie" by Tim Wohlforth, http://www.timwohlforth.com
(** Read beginning of story - Part 1)
Part 2 continues:
Banging at the front door. Sophie and I had nodded off in front of the TV. I got up from my chair determined to confront the intruders. I didn't have a plan. More a conviction that I would stand my ground. I would not be intimidated.
I opened the door and faced a huge man, massive beer belly, covered only with a stained undershirt, bulging out over dirty jeans. One muscular arm knocked me out of the way. He marched into the room and smashed a hairy fist into my face. I fell over on to the floor, blood dripping from my nose.
He swept up a snarling Sophie from my recliner. His lady friend marched in after him, smirk on her face, holding a kennel. He shoved the squirming animal into the kennel and slapped the front grate closed. I could see Sophie cowering and shivering in the rear of the kennel. As if she was at San Quentin and was being prepared for execution. The bottle blond marched out the door followed by beer belly.
I pulled myself off the floor and dashed after them. He turned and punched me with both fists. I fell again to the floor. He laughed, stomped out, and slammed the door behind him. I could hear Sophie's haunting, high-pitched screech in the distance.
I picked myself up off the floor and staggered toward the front door. As I looked out, a battered yellow Toyota pick-up truck pulled away from the curb. Too late. A lot of good I had done to fulfill my vow to protect Sophie. I stood for a moment by the open door trying to clear my head and think of a plan of action. A cold breeze blew a drizzly rain into the door. Refreshing. My first instinct was to call the cops. I could charge that bastard with assault and battery. But he could accuse me of kidnapping his dog.
I decided to go after Sophie. I knew this couple lived on Hemlock Street and owned a yellow Toyota pick-up. I could find their place. And then? Rescue Sophie. But how? This guy was powerful and a skilled fighter. And me? Forget about it. I would need to use brains this time, not brawn. I closed the door, went into the bathroom and washed the blood from my face. God, my head hurt. I swallowed a fistful of aspirins and headed back out into the drizzle.
* * *
The yellow pick-up sat in front of a dingy white stucco cottage I hadn't noticed during my last cruise through the neighborhood. It was set back further from the street than the other houses. A yard covered with knee-high weeds was enclosed by a chain-link fence topped with razor-wire. A good eight feet high. Not a very inviting place. A yellow glow came from windows in the house.
I pulled past the pick-up and parked my car. Then I approached the fence. A heavy chain with a padlock secured a gate that led to a pathway of broken cement slabs. How to penetrate this fortress? I walked the length of the front fence. No holes. A fence appeared to wrap around the entire property. Only one way in. Over the fence.
I went to the corner of the property, took off my jacket, and tied it loosely around my neck. Then I climbed the fence, one painful step at a time. When I reached the top, I covered the razor-wire with my jacket. Then I climbed over the fence. Here and there pieces of razor wire poked through my jacket and ripped at my flesh. I dropped to the other side. I left the jacket there for my exit.
The fresh razor cuts burned as the rain hit them. Dizziness returned. I hadn't had time to recover from the beating the punk had given me. I stood for a moment to regain my equilibrium. Then I crouched down and approached the house.
I will never forget the sight I saw when I peered into a side window at the living room. Dachshunds everywhere. On a tattered couch, on an overstuffed lounge chair, cowering in corners. Feces and pee covered the floor. Newspapers scattered about in a futile effort to catch excrement. Most disturbing were three cardboard boxes with openings cut in the sides to create makeshift dog beds. Emaciated mother dachshunds lay in each with blind newborn puppies snuggling up to them. The odor was so strong that it penetrated outside into the rain-soaked air. I became nauseous.
I searched for Sophie but didn't see her. Of course, she wouldn't be that easy to single out in a room with dozen of little dachshunds. Yet, none of them had collars and nametags. Made me think. Why did Sophie have one? She must have been the first dog this couple had. Once they realized the money to be made off selling puppies, their brood multiplied. The puppies were then sold before they received names. A goddamn puppy mill. A cruel, sickly puppy mill.
A high-pitched sound pierced the night air. Sophie. The only dog in the world that sounded like that. The noise wasn't coming from the house. The backyard. She was close now. I was going to rescue her.
I rushed through the underbrush by the side of the house. I tripped over a rusted wheelbarrow sans wheel. I picked myself up and plowed on. There. I made out the shape of a fenced in area encompassing much of the backyard. The only light was the dim glow coming from kitchen windows. Occasionally a shadow blocked the light. The couple must be in the kitchen, having abandoned the living room to the dogs. I would have to be careful. They could hear me, spot me. And I didn't want to deal with beer-belly.
I crouched down and approached the dog yard. I spotted at least fifty dachshunds, walking around, lying exhausted on the wet grass, crammed into the one shelter in the area - an old rabbit hut. I searched for Sophie. So many dogs. They all began to look like Sophie to me. With soft sad eyes, little legs, long bowed empty bellies, little tails, long snouts.
Then I heard her screech. My eyes followed the sound. She sat all by herself pressed into the far corner of the yard. I could make out her collar and nametag. She spotted me. She ran across the yard and pressed her cold nose into an opening in the mesh fence touching my hand. We were together again. But how was I going to get her out of there?
* * *
I rushed to the gate of the puppy pen. Sophie followed my progress on the other side of the fence. Regrettably barking her little head off. Luckily this gate wasn't locked. They figured they had no security problem as it was entirely enclosed in the outer perimeter fencing. That was the end of my luck, however.
I opened the gate, scooped up Sophie, holding her under one arm like a loaf of French bread, and ran. Scores of Sophie's dachshund buddies dashed out through the gate, yelped their little heads off, and scooted around my legs. I almost tripped, but I couldn't fault the little tykes dash for freedom. A floodlight lit up that backyard as brightly as the noonday sun on a Cabo San Lucas beach. The hulk stormed out the kitchen door of the dump, shotgun in hand, just as I made it around the side of the house.
I crashed through the bushes. Soaking wet as it was pouring rain now. Having left my jacket on the fence, I was freezing. Sophie was blessedly silent. I hoped the fleeing mob of dachshunds would occupy the puppy persecutors until I got out of that place. But how? I could climb over the fence, but I needed my two hands. What to do with Sophie? Then an image from a long-ago trip to Mexico City formed in my mind. I remembered being accosted at each red light by peasant women selling Chiclets, babies strapped to their bodies by large shawls. I had lost my jacket to the razor wire atop the chain fence. But I had a shirt.
I reached the spot in the outer fence where I had climbed over earlier. My jacket was still in place. I put Sophie on the ground. She hovered by my feet. I had become her protector. I stripped off my shirt and created a sling by tying the shirtsleeves to the tail. I picked up Sophie and wrapped her in it. I then placed the sling over my neck and started the climb. Thank God Sophie was a mini. No more than ten pounds. I could feel Sophie pressing her warm body against my side as the wind-driven rain pummeled me. Up to the top, then over. I made it.
I ran to the car and took off. That's when the hulk emerged from the front door. He lowered his shotgun and fired. My back window shattered. I felt a piercing sting on the side of my neck. Involuntarily I took a hand off the steering wheel and felt my neck. Blood. One birdshot had hit its target. Could have been worse. Buckshot. I took the first turn off Hemlock. Out of his firing range. Some consolation. But just as I knew where Sophie's tormentors lived, they knew where I lived. Couldn't go home. But where?
* * *
As I weaved my way through the dark streets of East Oakland with one eye on the rear view mirror, I concluded that the only safe place to go was the police headquarters in downtown Oakland. I grabbed my cell phone - admittedly not a safe practice but neither is dog rescuing - and dialed the emergency number for A.S.P.C.A. An Ellen Holmes answered. I explained what I had found on Hemlock Street.
"We've been after these puppy mills for some time now," she said. "A breed, like miniature dachshunds, becomes popular. Breeders overproduce. Fly-by-night operators move in. The market gets satiated and breeders get stuck with a lot of dogs. Feeding them becomes a drain on their profits. The unscrupulous starve the poor animals."
"Moreover its criminal. We have received a complaint of emaciated dachshund puppies being offered to a pet store in this area out of the back of a pickup truck."
"That's it. Cheap. No questions asked. The storeowner reported the incident to us. We know the source is local, but we haven't been able to uncover the identity of the breeder."
"Can I assume that what they are doing is illegal?"
"Certainly. It's illegal to run a kennel in a residential area, for starters. Then there are tough laws on the books on animal treatment."
"What about Sophie?"
"All the dogs these people possess will be removed from the premises. Then put up for adoption. You will get Sophie.
"I'm headed for Oakland PD. Could you...?"
"Meet you there."
* * *
I walked into police headquarters blood streaming from my neck, dripping water on the floor and wearing only an undershirt. Sophie was tucked under my arm.
"You can't bring a dog in here," the desk sergeant yelled at me.
"She's a witness."
"The mistreatment of one hundred of her fellow miniature dachshunds."
Ellen Holmes walked in at that moment and explained the situation to the cop.
"What do you want me to do about it?" he asked.
"Send some officers out there now."
"Yes, for dogs. If you don't, the A.S.P.C.A. and the Humane Society will be calling upon the Mayor in the morning."
He agreed. Ellen Holmes was one determined lady. She turned to me and whispered.
"Why don't you head on home with Sophie? We'll work on the adoption paperwork later. Just...."
"I know. Look out for a yellow pick-up truck and don't answer the doorbell."
She smiled and then left with two patrolmen. #
By Tim Wohlforth
Hemlock Street? Never heard of it. Somewhere in East Oakland. Yet I was driving down it as if I knew where I was going. I had taken a wrong turn while seeking a short cut from the Oakland Airport to my home in the hills above Montclair. I found myself surrounded by small cottages with ill-kept lawns, occasional boarded up deserted homes. Chain fences and bars on the windows of the better kept up houses suggested a high crime area. I passed two scrawny alley cats hissing and fighting. I had no intention of stopping to ask for directions in this neighborhood.
I spotted a black object in the middle of the street. Moving. I slammed on the brakes. I was going to stop here after all. I climbed out of the front seat to take a look. No one was outside. Not even a car passed me. I walked to the front of the car. The black object didn't move. As I approached I began to make out the shape of a very small dog.
A miniature dachshund sat in the middle of the street chewing away on a fragment of a very old bone. It seemed so thin, ribs showing through its shiny coat. Fur like a seal. A touch of brown above each delicate eyebrow. "Points," I believe they were called. Long snout with brown on the bottom. Floppy black ears. Could be a prize-winning pedigree if it had been given a little more to eat. It paid me no attention.
I stood over the little creature trying to figure out what to do. Would it bite me if I picked it up? Seemed to be a gentle animal. Not a pit bull or a mastiff. Nothing to fear.
The dog noticed me. Clinging to the bone with its long set of teeth, she - I could now see the dog was female - rolled over exposing her tiny brown tummy. She gave me no choice. I squatted down and rubbed her belly. She wagged her little tail. She had me hooked.
She wore a collar. Good. Someone owned her. I noticed an identification tag. This was going to be simple. I would drop the dog off at her home and warn the owner not to let her out into the street. I looked at the tag. "Sophie." Yes, she looked like a Sophie. But only a phone number. I could have started to knock on the doors along Hemlock Street. I scanned the homes again. No signs of inhabitants. A war zone. No, I didn't think knocking on doors was such a good idea.
I picked Sophie up and put her on the passenger seat of my car. I decided to drive to my house and then call the owner. I passed through that desolate neighborhood until I stumbled on a street I had heard of. Then made my way to the freeway and back home. Sophie lay contently in the seat next to me, long head resting in my lap. She was in no hurry to be found.
I took her into my kitchen and gave her a bowl of water. She lapped it up as if she had been hiking in the Mohave. Then I found in the frig some leftover pot roast and roast potatoes. I cut up the food, heated the mix for a few seconds in the microwave, and put the plate out for her. She gobbled up the food. Then looked up at me for more. Not begging. Not jumping on me. Just capturing me with her soulful eyes.
I reached for my phone and dialed the number on her tag.
"Whatya want?" A gruff woman's voice answered. Slight southern accent.
“I have your dog, Sophie."
"You a dog thief?"
"I found her lying in the middle of Hemlock Street. Almost ran her over."
"If you had, I'd sue you."
"I took her home."
"You got your nerve."
"Instead of arguing with me, why don't you come and pick her up."
"Give me your address."
I did so.
"Way up there? You must be loaded."
"Are you coming for her?"
"Be there in a couple."
* * *
I sat on my recliner watching the evening news as I waited for Sophie's owner. Sophie had settled into my lap as if she belonged there. Long body stretched in the crevice between my legs, nose pointed toward me rather than the TV. Sophie wasn't into news. I felt like this animal had been with me always and always would be.
I had been brought up with dachshunds. Even when it seemed the whole family, the whole world, was mad at me, my dachshund remained my friend. Didn't even mind when I tried to tie her to my wagon and get the little creature to pull me. I had missed that unquestioning love over the years. I wasn't looking forward to turning her over to her owner.
I heard banging on the door. I gently placed Sophie on the recliner's seat and got up to open the door. I let in a large woman with dyed blond hair wearing a pink flower-print dress. She had a scowl on her round reddish face. Swollen varicose-vein-covered legs. She said nothing as she walked into the living room.
As soon as Sophie spotted her, the dog let out a strange high-pitched sound. More haunting than a howl. It was as if she was trying to screech in some tone way beyond the range of her vocal chords. She shivered and tucked her little tail between her legs. The lady rushed toward her. Sophie bared her teeth and growled. Then she dashed past the woman, and squiggled under the couch.
"Goddamn that mutt," the lady said.
She knelt down in front of the couch with great effort and reached in for Sophie.
"Yeow!" she shouted, as she withdrew a wounded finger.
"I suggest you leave her there. She clearly doesn't like you."
"When I get that little bitch I'll teach her a thing or two."
"You're not going to touch her."
"Whatya mean? She's my dog."
"I mean she's not leaving this house."
"Says you." She stood up and sucked her finger. "I'm going for help."
"Go bring the cops. I'll call the A.S.P.C.A."
"Who said anything about cops? My old man will fix you."
"She stays here. I'll pay you for her."
For a moment she hesitated. The thought of money seemed to sway her. Then she shrugged her shoulders.
"Bullshit you will. Sophie's AKC. Best breeder I ever seed. $2,000 worth of pups twice a year. Like clockwork. You don't get her."
She stomped out of my house, slamming the door.
* * *
Sophie poked her long snout out from under the couch as soon as her owner had left. I sat back in my recliner, called her name, and she scurried over. She hopped into my lap and resumed her former position. As if nothing had happened.
But something had happened. I had defied Sophie's owner. I didn't even know her name or her exact street address. Soon she would appear again at the door. This time with reinforcements. What could I do? Call the cops? Technically, I was in the wrong. Kidnapped Sophie. Of course, if I could prove abuse it would be a different matter. But how could I prove it? All I had was Sophie's fear. I believed Sophie. She had been abused. But would a cop believe a dog over her owner?
I had developed a new appreciation for Sophie. This trooper had been a mother many times over. All Sophie wanted in return was a little love. The reward she had gotten for her maternal efforts was ill-treatment and barely enough food to keep her alive. Sophie had become this woman's money machine.
I would give her the love she needed. Demanded. I patted her. She snuggled deeper into the space between my legs. She wasn't going back. Somehow I would prevent it.
* * *
* Story continued part 2
Author Tim Wohlforth (http://www.timwohlforth.com/) has agreed to share his heartwarming short suspense story, "Sophie" with us!
This is a fitting story as Tim and his wife have owned their own Sophie (see photo) for about 3 1/2 years.
Tim says they came to own their 6 1/2 year old dog in a somewhat similar (though less heartbreaking) manner as in the story. Tim says his wife was driving in a rather "plush" area (not like the one in the story) near a dog park they go to. Lying right in the middle of the street was Sophie. Her dog tag only had a phone number, so they took the dog home and called the number.
The owner showed up and explained that the gardener had inadvertently let her out. They had to leave her alone much of the time while they worked and hadn't really toilet trained her, so they offered Tim and his wife the dog.
Sometime later while traveling near Bend, Oregon, Tim came across a report on a puppy mill there (different breed) overrun with dogs, some so poorly bred that they had deformations, all half-starved, the house a total mess, etc. The ASPCA had to try to place almost 100 dogs. He combined the two stories and wrote a suspense story. "Sophie" was originally published in FUTURES Mysterious Anthology Magazine. The story was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2003.
* Author Tim Wohlforth has had dozens of short stories published online, in magazines and in anthologies. His story, "Jesus Christ Is Dead!," made the "Distinguished Mystery Stories" list in Otto Penzler's 2005 Best American Mystery Stories. One of his stories was chosen for inclusion in the Mystery Writers of America's Death Do Us Part, edited by Harlan Coben and published in August 2006 by Little Brown. A "Crip and Henrietta" story was published in a Plots With Guns anthology. His story, "Juanita," will be published as part of the upcoming Best of ThugLit to be published by Kensington.
A contemporary noir novel, NO TIME TO MOURN, was published by Quiet Storm. He co-authored the non-fiction book, On The Edge: Political Cults Right and Left, published by M.E. Sharpe. *
See the next post to read the gripping story, "Sophie."
August 19, 2007
Since my upcoming young adult mystery, "Searching for a Starry Night," (coming in spring '08 from Quake, http://www.quakeme.com/) features a nosy Dachshund and a missing miniature Van Gogh painting, "Starry Night," I plan to focus on unique dog and miniature projects here.
A Mini Van Gogh
Let me introduce you to the work of talented Dutch miniaturist, Trees Strijker Marsman, who created this fantastic miniature scene of painter Vincent Van Gogh in his studio.
Trees even painted her own versions of Van Gogh's artworks! She began painting in miniature seven years ago for her own dollhouse. Trees, who paints in acrylic, has done large paintings of horses and other animals, along with smaller sized paintings of children, dogs, and more. She also does custom paintings from photos. Check out her great miniature Dachshund painting!
In miniature, Trees painted Renoir's "A Woman in the Rose Garden," and replicated paintings by a famous local artist. People also have asked her to do paintings of their own pets.
Trees decided to make a miniature Van Gogh scene after realizing that a doll she had would resemble the painter with a few minor changes.
The paintings include: Sunflowers 5.5 x 4 cm; self-portrait 6.3 x 5.3 cm; and Café at Arles at Night, 9.5 x 7.3 cm.
August 11, 2007
I've written a couple of doggy short stories, Getting It! and Angus the Vampire Slayer, plus a romantic suspense set in the world of agility trials, Silent Witness.
My Civil War novel, Firetrail, has been made into a movie, which will premiere August 25 at Augusta, Georgia. Check my website, www.lydiafilzen.us for more about me, my dogs, and my writings.
August 06, 2007
Why? This blog is the perfect vehicle since dogs seem to show up in most of my work, be it fiction, nonfiction, books, or my miniature projects.
My young adult mystery, Searching for a Starry Night, to be published in Spring '08 by Quake, http://www.quakeme.com/, a division of Echelon Press, LLC, features a lovable, but mischievous Dachshund named Petey.
I and my fellow authors, Lee Barwood (http://www.leebarwood.com/) and Lydia Filzen (http://www.lydiafilzen.us) , will be posting some fun tidbits, dog news, book-related items, and more.
We'll also be featuring guest bloggers who include dogs in their work. A special bonus: we'll be running new and reprinted short stories featuring canine characters, so please check back often!
We hope you'll enjoy our view of dogdom. We look forward to your visit and would love to hear from you!