Monday, June 8, 2015

chapter 4 mike and deke

“Do you want to go to Alice’s?” asked Mike. I danced around barking. Alice is Mike’s best friend. Mine too. I ran out to the Jeep, in an effort to encourage Mike to get a move on. I hope she’s making lasagna.
Alice greeted us at the door and let us in. I definitely caught the scent of lasagna along with freshly made dog biscuits. Store bought dog biscuits are fine but Alice’s are so much better. She offered me one. I didn’t turn it down.
“How did your meeting with Jim go?”
“OK but I had to do some fast talking after Deke jumped overboard. I really hope I’m going to be able to trust him to have my back when it counts. He knows everything he needs to know, he has the instincts and the skills to be an effective canine partner, and we certainly have a bond. But he just doesn’t seem to know when it’s time to play and when it’s time to work.”
Alice thought it over for a while. “Have you ever worked with him on the boat?”
“No, we’ve always used the dog trainer’s boat for water training.”
“So, Deke associates your boat with fun times. Did you use any signals or commands to let him know he needed to be in work mode?”
“Not until he jumped overboard. I put him in a down stay. He behaved himself after that.”
“Sounds like your answer then, doesn’t it?”

Mike slapped himself lightly across the forehead. “How could I have forgotten something so basic? Thanks, Alice.”

Saturday, June 6, 2015

chapter 3 mike and deke

Chapter 3
I can tell Mike is nervous about making a good impression on our new client so I am feeling on edge too.
I hope I won’t have to get a bath. I love water but hold the soap.
I watch Mike pile up the paraphernalia he would be packing into the Jeep. Hmm, it looks like we’re going boating. This day might not be so bad after all. I started to get excited and I even helped by carrying what I could in my mouth.
My first load out to the Jeep, I can see the boat is already hooked up. YES. This day just got a whole lot better.
We have the boat in the water with everything in place on board, when the client arrives. Mike throws him a lifejacket and we’re ready to go.
“I thought this was going to be about business. What’s with the dog?”
“His name is Deke and he’s my partner,” said Mike. If Mike had hackles, they’d be rising. “When we’re working, he goes wherever I go.”
The man sighed. “Very well.” He squatted in front of me, reached out a hand to pet my head, and said, “Hi Deke, I’m Jim.”
About a half hour later, Mike drops anchor, offers Jim refreshment and they start discussing the case and Mike’s terms. I’m starting to dose off when I hear a splash.
Whoa! A fish!!! Before I knew what had happened, I heard another splash and realized it was me. Oops, that can’t be good. The client’s eyes narrowed and his brows furrowed into a unibrow. “Just what does your dog think he’s doing out there?” he growled.
Mike turned to look at me like he was surprised to see me in the water and seriously considering how in the world I might have gotten in it. “I have no idea what he’s thinking, but I think he’s doing the dog paddle. Yes,” he added thoughtfully,” It’s definitely the dog paddle. It’s the only stroke he knows.”
After what seemed like several tense minutes, but was only seconds, the man guffawed and slapped Mike on the back. Mike calmly reached for the boat hook, snagged the handle in my life jacket and pulled me in.
“Looks like you’ve done that a few times before,” Jim laughed.
By the disappointed look on Mike’s face, I suspected I’d screwed up. He confirmed it, when he put me in a down stay. Softly, he said, “I need to know you’re safe. Please behave yourself.”
He couldn’t have made me feel worse. I was worried he might start questioning his ability to depend on me when he needed me the most on the job. I licked his hand in apology and he patted me on the head.

He seated himself beside Jim and described my water retrieval skills as if this scene had been planned. Jim seemed impressed and I finally realized the importance of working together and depending on each other.

Friday, June 5, 2015

chapter 2 Mike and Deke

Chapter 2
“DEKE! Get your tail out here NOW!”
Oops. Mike must have found his phone. I knew I should have taken the time to remove it from the pool. He would have just thought he forgot it outside.
Yup, he definitely found the phone.
Mike leaned over and fished the phone out of my pool. Holding the dripping phone, he yelled, “What is my phone doing in your pool?”
Does he really expect an answer? He doesn’t understand dog. This seems like a good time for appropriately contrite. I give him my best hangdog look.
“Aww, Deke,” he says, his voice softening. “How do I make you understand we need this thing, Bud? It’s how we get cases and without cases there is no roof over our heads and no food on the table. Does it hurt your ears, when it rings, Bud? Is that why you keep throwing it in water?”
He sat down beside me on the deck and rubbed me behind my ears. “I don’t think there is much chance of salvaging it this time. Well, let’s go get a new one. I could use one with some updated features, anyway.”
While we rode in the Jeep, Mike talked about all of the new stuff he could get on his new phone. He actually sounded excited. That’s what I love about Mike. He always sees the unseen benefits.
We left the cell phone store with a new phone and the retrieved information from the old phone. The downside is now we are on a boring stakeout for Mr. Cheapskate. Mike is struggling to stay awake with another mug of coffee from his largest thermos as I relax beside him. He seems pensive.
Finally, he says, “You know Deke, before you came along, my dad and I worked a lot of the big local cases. Then he retired and shortly afterward, I got you. I think we’re ready to take on some of the bigger cases together, don’t you?”
Finally! I was born ready, Mike. I sat up alertly, and gave him a big wet one on the nose.
He chuckled and said, “I guess that’s a yes. OK I’ll call Alice tomorrow and let her know we’ll work the case she found for us.”
Alice, I love that woman. I dozed off thinking of her belly rubs and lasagna.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sleuth and Scribe by Deke the Dog

A rough draft of the first chapter of my next book

Chapter 1
Mike and I need to find a case that has some teeth in it. Oh, I freely confess that’s not Mike’s ambition. He’d be content to keep on finding missing people, catching people in divorceable acts, or retrieving lost items. How any sane person can enjoy the second one … well, what can I say, perhaps a clue to that answer lies in the question. My favorite naturally is retrieving anything, because it comes so naturally. As long as those types of cases keep coming in, Mike has little motivation to reach a bit higher for the Frisbee in the sky.
Mike’s getting stressed out since it has been a bit too long between any kind of case. OK, that might be my fault. More on that later. Right now, I need you to understand where I’m coming from. Mike wouldn’t need to work so hard at all these little jobs, if he could land one solid one to put us in gravy for awhile. We need a stockpile of dog biscuits to get us through the lean times. Besides, whatever I haven’t lost or chewed up of my chew toys, have been eaten by Mike’s lawn mower. Those things don’t come cheap, the lawn mower that is.
So back to the reason why we haven’t been getting much work of late. I accidentally dropped Mike’s cell phone in my inflatable wading pool when I recognized the phone number of one of our cheapest customers. Yes, I do know about the old rice in the bag trick to dry them out but there are just so many times you can teach an old cell phone an old trick. The phone has been in the filled pool for the last two days and it has been raining besides. It’s well saturated. I can only hope it doesn’t recover this time.
Maybe then, Mike will be motivated to find a big case that pays the big bones.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


The old woman picked up the glass jar of buttons, used to prop up her books.
   She tilted the jar so the buttons tumbled from side to side. There, that pearl like button was from the wedding dress her mother had made for her. Dan had looked so handsome in his tuxedo, he took her breath away.
   That tiniest button was from Susan’s christening gown. She had been so small and fragile. The woman had been afraid to pick Susan up the first time; afraid she wouldn’t make it long enough to be baptized. She had thought to alter the heirloom gown after her mother brought it to her. It had been handmade by her grandmother. Even though the gown swamped Susan, her mother was insistent it remain unaltered.
   The yellow button was from Susan’s yellow sundress. The woman smiled as she remembered Susan making sandcastles in that dress.
   The blue button was from John’s baseball uniform. He was so proud the first time he hit a home run. She thought Dan would burst the buttons on his shirt too.
   The larger blue button was from Dan’s favorite shirt, worn thin enough to be almost transparent. She had attempted to throw it out several times but somehow Dan always rescued it.
   The two round black buttons had originally come from the woman’s mourning dress when Dan had died, too young. She couldn’t bear to look at the dress after the funeral and had thrown it out after removing the buttons (her mother had raised her to be practical).
   Later two of the black buttons became the eyes for her granddaughter’s much-loved teddy bear.

   Now she handed the jar to her great granddaughter. “Take these,” she said. “They are not just buttons.”

Monday, April 13, 2015

Halcyon Days of Bubble Gum and Baseball Cards

Was the Bazooka gum popular because of the Topps cards or were the cards popular because of the gum?

I long for those idyllic times when bubble gum and baseball cards went together like. . .well. . .like baseball cards and bicycle wheel spokes. It was a time when every boy was skilled at popping gum and cool was judged by how big a bubble you could blow before it broke. It was a time when the images on the cards like Mickey Mantle and Willy Mays were still heroes that boys could look up to and kids didn’t worry that playing with them could ruin them.

Even a kid with a quarter allowance could afford a pack of gum and baseball cards.

If you didn’t like a player, or a team, or you had duplicates, you either traded them or stuck them in your bicycle wheel spokes, another proof of how cool you were. The faster you pedaled the louder the card got until it finally wore out.

Many moms, in the process of cleaning out closets after their grown sons left home, threw the cards out, making the ones that survived that much more valuable.

Some of those lucky few, who rediscovered their cards while unpacking long forgotten boxes, managed to keep the hobby alive.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Rules of Writing are Made to be Broken

An experienced writer should have a firm grasp on the rules of writing so they may be broken with aplomb and finesse..Every author of acclaim, that I can think of, is a master at breaking the rules. If  a slave to books on writing style, an author has no style to call his or her own.

Creativity and constriction don't play well together.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Should Today's Authors Use Pen Names?

Using a pen name makes for some interesting conversation starters at local book signings. "Do I know you? You look familiar but I don't recognize the name." Friends and family are confused and concerned about what they should call me in public or online. "Why Mary Russel?" they ask. "It's a combination of my middle name and my husband's first name," I explain. They usually smile and shake their heads.

I never liked my own name and I saw it as an opportunity to change my name to something I liked. I have been online since 2000 and used Mary Russel as an online name. Hence, my online friends only knew me as Mary Russel. When I was published, 10 years later, I felt it would be easier to explain the name change to a few face to face friends and family than to the much larger online communities of those who knew me as Mary Russel.

Using Mary Russel as my pen name seemed like a good idea at the time but if I had it to do over, I would have gone with my own name.

Kristen Lamb's observations regarding pros and cons of the use of pen names make me wish I had had the opportunity to read her blog before I made the decision to use a pen name.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Please join me on Goodreads

I have just become a Goodreads author. If you are on Goodreads, I would be honored to have you as a friend.
Sign up to see what your friends are reading, get book recommendations,and join the world’s largest community of readers.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fleeting Ambition

The skies are a cloudless expanse of cerulean. After a week of rain, the weather is an unexpected reward, like discovering money in an old jacket.
   The weather reflects my mood or perhaps my mood is influenced by the weather. Either way, I feel a resurgence of energy and the desire to tackle some nagging chores, if only I can decide where to begin.
   Should I start with the easiest and work my way up? Maybe the most difficult would be a better plan of attack. That way, if I run out of steam quickly, the other chores might be easier handled on a day when I feel less ambitious.
   I decide to make a list of the chores in their order of magnitude.
1. Clean and organize the basement. Well, that would require a consultation with my husband regarding what he was willing to throw away. Almost everything in the basement belongs to him and he is a pack-rat. It’s too nice a day to be stuck in the basement anyway.
2. Clear out the two downstairs bedrooms AKA junk rooms. We have been using them for my husband’s hobbies. Well that’s not going to work, since the only place to put the contents is in the already overflowing basement.
3. Paint the blue bedroom. Not going to happen until it is cleared out. (See number 2).
4. Paint the main floor hallway. That should be easy. I don’t have to move anything to get to the walls. I go down to the basement to get some paint only to discover husband’s junk is piled up in front of the paint cabinet. I can’t move that junk without creating an avalanche of the surrounding junk.

   By now, I’m feeling a waning of my energy. The sky is turning cloudy and threatening to rain. Perhaps, I’ll check out the pockets of our old jackets. Maybe I’ll find some money.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Private Investigators, Flickertail & Paint in Ireland

To celebrate St. Patty's Day: A repost of a story I wrote several years ago

After they visited Scotland, Flickertail, the llama and Paint, the horse took a detour to Ireland before going home.
As they were touring the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery in Dublin they met Lochlann, the Leprechaun who was crying in his beer about a stolen pot.
“When did you discover it was missing?”
“Around the same time that the Brewery was robbed. It was the biggest robbery in the history of the brewery.“
“What was taken from the Brewery?”
“450 kegs of Guinness.”
“Could the same person or people who stole the Guinness have stolen your pot?”
“Possibly, but the Garda Siochana Police Force didn’t find my pot.”
“Where did you last see the pot?”
“At the end of the rainbow of course. Everyone knows that. Are you sure you can help me?” he asked doubtfully.
Flickertail looked at Paint and whispered, “I think this guy’s had one too many Guinness.”
“Just go along with him,” said Paint.
“Show us,” Flickertail said to Lochlann.
“We’ll have to wait until it rains. While we’re waiting for it to rain lets have another Guinness all around.”
By mid afternoon it started raining while they were singing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” Several songs later a rainbow appeared.
“Follow that rainbow,” Lochlann shouted.
When they reached the end of the rainbow, there was no pot. All that they found was an empty pint of Guinness with a note inside.  It said I’m holding your pot for ransom. If you want to see it again, bring more Guinness to the next rainbow and no cops. You’re being watched.
“Hmm, sounds like he might be nearby,” said Flickertail.
“Isn’t there supposed to be gold in the pot?” Paint asked
“That’s a bunch of blarney.”
 “What is in the pot then? Surely no one would bother to steal an empty pot?”
“Guinness, of course.”
“What good is the pot once it’s empty?”
“It refills itself but only if you are Irish.”
“So we know the pot thief isn’t Irish.”
“Everybody’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day.”
“Well that’s not until the 17th. Today’s only the 15th.”
“I don’t think that Lochlann should go alone,” said Paint. “The thief may just try to kidnap him so that the pot keeps refilling.”
“What do you suggest?”
“I think you should dress like a leprechaun and go in his place.”
“Why me?”
“You’re smaller than I am. I’m as big as a horse. No one is going to believe I’m a leprechaun.”
“He’s going to be awfully upset when he finds out I’m not Irish.”
“I’ll be within ear shot.”
“Me too; I want my pot back and I can help. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, if we need them,” said Lochlann.
So the trio went to the end of the next rainbow where they encountered Hamish the Coo. “What are you doing in Ireland?” the detectives asked in unison.
“I followed you from Scotland. The only thing that comes close to Guinness in Scotland is Tennent's Stout.”
“YOU’RE the thief!”
“No one is going to believe that a Scottish cow stole a leprechaun’s pot for Irish beer.”
“Well, this is certainly one for the Guinness Book of Records.”

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Rich History: Loving Our Old House

We moved here in 1976. The longer we are here and the more I learn about this house, the more I fall in love with it. 
   Several years ago, we put it up for sale as we looked for a home to fit with our dreams of a Bed and Breakfast. I think, we were both somewhat relieved when it didn’t sell.
   Looking toward the ceiling of the basement, we can see that hardwood floors were used throughout the first floor. The main floor flooring was completely covered when we moved here by carpeting or linoleum, but the living room and downstairs bedrooms were uncovered at one time because they were stained and varnished. The upstairs bedrooms were uncovered hardwood when we moved here. The kids had apparently been experimenting with cigarettes because there are round burn marks in the wood. I'm sure the upstairs hallway is also hardwood but we haven't removed the carpeting from the stairs and hall, although I would like to do that some day.
   The man who built the house around 1945 is living across the street. He was a firefighter and built a few homes in this neighborhood on his days off. He lived in four of them over the years. If I remember the sequence correctly, this house was built first and the family lived in it for a few years while he built the one next door. They lived in that one briefly, while he built one on a street behind ours. Apparently, the fourth house he built to live in, was the charm because he has been living there since the 60s.
   He planted roses along our driveway that still thrive today. When he retired, he volunteered as a gardener for the Galloway House, a local historical residence and attraction.
   A few years ago, I met his daughter while she was visiting with my next-door neighbor and I invited her to relive her childhood memories of the house. Her two brothers shared the upstairs bedroom that is now our second bath. She and her sister shared the bedroom, currently used as our master bedroom. The outside door in the "boys' bedroom" leads to a flat roof covering the downstairs sun-room. She told me the boys were jumping off the roof one day when their mother, who was working in the kitchen, saw them. She was understandably upset and put an immediate halt to their fun. She also told me about a storage area that runs along the back of the "girls' bedroom." We didn't realize it was there because it is closed off. If we opened it up, it would make the bedroom about three feet larger.
   When we replaced the windows in the basement, we decided to keep the one glass block window because not only do I like glass block but also because one of the boys had been playing with a BB gun and there is a BB hole in one of the blocks. Fortunately, it doesn't go all of the way through. The recreation room, once used for square dancing, has a wood burning red brick fireplace.
   The smallest downstairs bedroom, originally the nursery, became a guest bedroom. The largest downstairs bedroom, designed as the master bedroom, has two closets.
   The original knotty pine paneling still graces the walls of the dining area, sunroom, and stairwells.
   Although we have done considerable interior remodeling, we have kept the original touches of those things we love most. We believe the tangible proof of the previous residents’ lives lends to the home’s charm and colorful history.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Arizona 1968 vs Florida 1970

I liked Florida better than Arizona. I'm not a big fan of desert creepy crawlies. Our Tucson apartment had a gap under the door that let in sand and small desert creatures. Stink bugs were especially populous. The commissary sold floor wax with built in insecticide. 
   Of course, Florida had the prolific love bugs that turned our burgundy car black every time we parked it.
   Being in the military, we couldn't afford to buy much off base. Those were the days of gas price wars. We could fill the gas tank for $5 even off base. In Tucson, waitresses often worked for tips only, so service was good. A small zoo near the apartment in Tucson had free admission. We visited several times a month to feed the prairie dogs for a quarter. The habitat featured see through glass so we could watch them underground. When we got homesick for snow, we went to Mount Lemon or A mountain. Thanks to my husband's sergeant's wedding gift, we spent our honeymoon at Mount Lemon Lodge.
   We washed our clothes at the laundromat and, to save money, brought the wet clothes back to the apartment to hang them on the clothes line. About two o' clock, we could plan on gully washers so we had to get the clothes off the line by then.
   Our Florida apartment was a bit nicer and newer. It had central air. We had access to washers and dryers in a breezeway. Unfortunately, we also had a stubborn mold growing in a corner of the bedroom. I tried bleach and Lysol to remove it but it kept coming back. Florida was also humid and hot, damn hot, making central air more of a necessity than a luxury. We went to Lithia
Springs often, to swim year round. The water was crystal clear and surrounded by palm trees. Thanksgiving weekend, it was in the 60s and we had the place to ourselves. 
   My favorite memories are of Arizona but I still prefer water over sand.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Flickertail & Paint Dreaming of a Caribbean Vacation

“Last night I dreamt we went to the Caribbean and all of the steel drums were missing,” Flickertail the llama told Paint the horse.

“I’ll bet the tourists were unhappy.”

“They were all threatening to leave because they couldn’t listen to island music.”

“Did we find out what happened to the drums?”

“A Sweet Calypso Woman told Yellow Bird the drums were Hot Hot Hot.”

“As in stolen?”

“No, it turned out Three Little Birds, Marianne, and Matilda, were on the Emerald Shores when they noticed the Girl From Ipanema Under The Boardwalk Putting on the Ritz. As she dove Under the Sea she waved a Jamaican Farewell.”

“So she took the drums?”

“The Banana Boat picked her up in St. Thomas and from there took her to Kokomo. The Konga Man finally found My Island Girl in the Kingston Market doing the Limbo Rock.

“What did she say for herself when she was found?”

Don’t Worry, Be Happy. I Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”

“Did we ever find the steel drums?”

“They were under the Lemon Tree the whole time.”

“Well you do know, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Flickertail & Paint in the Case of the Missing Socks

Flickertail the llama hung up the phone and turned toward Paint the horse. “Well, that’s bizarre! The lady who just called said all of her children’s socks are missing. She checked her washer and the hose.  Then she checked the clothes in the dryer because she often found socks clinging to other clothing but no socks there either.”
“Did she check the floor around the washer and dryer and the laundry chute?”
“Yup, the laundry basket too.”
“Does she have a dog? Dogs like to play tug of war with socks.”
“No dog.”
“Maybe the kids borrowed the socks for a school project or something.”
“They told her they have no idea where their socks are. Besides everything we’ve come up with would only account for a sock or two at most. I never heard a case where all the socks went missing.”
Flickertail’s phone rang again and as he was picking it up, Paint’s phone rang too. Both calls were reports about missing socks.
After he hung up, Flickertail checked his messages. They were all complaints of missing socks. “Did you check your phone messages?” he asked Paint.
“Just now. Sounds like just about everyone in town is missing their socks.”
“What would anyone want with all of those socks?”
“Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me. Sorry couldn’t resist.” Paint whinnied.
“I once knew a 50s retro sock puppet singer called Bobby Sox. He was totally tubular.”
Paint was standing near the window when a movement caught her eye. “What on earth? Look out the window.”
Flickertail joined Paint at the window and they both saw pairs of socks running all over the streets and yards. “Let’s follow that pair of athletic socks.”
When Flickertail and Paint caught up the athletic socks, Flickertail asked them, “What’s going on?”
“Well socks are usually antisocial and tend to despise their partners. Two socks of the same design often repel each other but we’ve decided to try pairing up toward a common goal.”
“Which is?”
“Finding all of the missing shoes.”

Flickertail & Paint in the Case of the Missing Shoes
While Flickertail & Paint were interviewing the athletic socks who were helping to look for missing athletic shoes, they noticed a pair of Red Sox running along side the White Sox. Flickertail excused himself to go to talk with the White Sox.
“What missing shoes are you looking for?” he asked them.
“We’re looking for the shoes of “Shoeless Joe Jackson.”
“I always wondered what the story was behind his nickname.”
“While Joe was playing for the Greenville Spinners in 1909, a new tight fitting pair of cleats caused blisters, so he removed the shoes while he ran the bases in his socks. Some fan called him a Shoeless Son of a Gun and the name stuck. It was the only time he ever played without shoes.”
“What happened to those shoes?”
“Joe told a reporter he threw them out. If we can find his shoes we should be able to sell them for some pretty good money and donate the money for shoes for the homeless. Joe’s bat, Black Betsy, sold for $577,610 at auction.”
Paint, who had been standing nearby listening said, “They are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Did you know that after he earned the nickname he started wearing expensive alligator and patent leather shoes when he wasn’t playing? Some people believe that he wore them as a statement that he wasn’t just some uneducated country bumpkin who went around shoeless. Maybe some of those shoes can be found instead.”
Meanwhile the athletic socks shouted, “Hooray.” They had found a pair of athletic shoes hanging from their laces on the telephone wire.