~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~I love animals. I’ve had pets all my life. Dogs¸ cats, fish, birds (parakeets, canaries and finches), rabbits, guinea pigs¸ gerbils, mice, an iguana, salamanders, chameleons, hermit crabs, snakes, frogs. Oh! And tadpoles found in a creek near my house when I was in fourth grade that wonderfully and magickally turned into frogs! Pets are wonderful.
However, despite my love of animals there was a time in my life where I (stupidly) never quite understood the people who treated their pets like, well, people. I worked with a lady who spent thousands of dollars on chemotherapy for her Chihuahua, and I was like—What? A friend of mine dropped a couple thou on acupuncture and Chinese herbs for her Brittany spaniel. Again, I thought it was crazy. And what I really thought was nutso were those people who claimed that shelter pets were the best pets to have. “They know you rescued them,” people would insist.
Knew they’d been rescued? What bullshit, I would think. What poppycock. How could an animal know such a thing? They’re just animals. They’re not people.
Boy was I dumb.
When I ran out of steam, Belinda (my friend) said to me “Didn’t you say that after Doug (my ex), you didn’t know if you would ever find love again? That you didn’t know if you wanted it?”
“Ah,” I answered.
“And didn’t you tell me that you loved R?”
“You said you couldn’t believe your luck and that R had come into your life and that he was the best thing that ever happened to you.”
My throat seized up (I am fighting the tears even as I remember this....) and I couldn’t respond.
“So does it matter that you don’t understand R’s feelings for Betty? Does it make any difference if you understand why some people consider their pets to be people? What the hell is five hundred dollars if it makes R happy and gives him a little more time with his little person?”
I drove home in shame. But I’ll tell you this, by the time I got there I’d made up my mind. R and I had happened to save exactly five hundred dollars to build a koi. I told him to use it for Betty.
When Betty got home, she...loved...me.
She followed me around the house. She napped next to me on the couch when I watched TV. When I had trouble sleeping she curled up around my head and softly purred me to sleep.
My God, I thought. She knows...
And with that moment I was becoming the person I used to make fun of.
A few years later I was at Gay Pride and was strolling along through the vendors booths and the tents that served the local animal rescue shelters for the weekend.
And that’s when I met Sarah Jane.
She’s a dachshund and Yorkshire terrier mix and she has become the light of my life. We discovered almost immediately that she had been severely abused, and yet in no time she proved to us that she is joy personified. Sarah Jane is love and laughter and delight. She is a bubbling font of happiness. And she loves me. There can be no doubt. She is a shining example of agape. Sarah Jane showed me that all life is sacred. All life. It is rare that I kill a spider these days, but instead scoop it up and put it outside. When Sarah Jane looks at me with her big warm eyes, swimming with intelligence and awareness, I know—I know—that she is not the end result a random molecules coming together and struck by lightening some one to three billion years ago. She is a being in a Grand tapestry woven by some mysterious Master Intelligence.
And—Hey, Ben!—what does all this have to do with MM Romance or your new book in particular?
I’m glad you asked.
It’s because Sarah Jane is a part of my life—one of the very best parts—and an author’s experiences give him or her the paint to splash across the canvas that make up our art. Sarah Jane is unconditional love and love is what I write about!
I knew I had to write about dogs and that got me to thinking about the heroes who work for practically nothing—if not actually nothing—to rescue and care for our four-footed friends and find them forever homes. Organizations like Heartland SPCA (from where we got our Sarah Jane) or the KC Pet Project that found homes for close to 1,700 animals during the 2013 holidays! (I am getting teary-eyed again!) I started talking to these people who ran such shelters and listened to their stories. Tales that ran the gamut from horrifying to those filled with joy at the happy endings. It was then I knew I had something I wanted to write about.
And so from that experience was birthed one of my favorite characters ever: Hillary “Hound Dog” Dameron.
And I love my dog and animals so much, appreciate the no-kill organizations so much, that I asked my publisher if we could do something for the ASPCA. Dreamspinner was only to happy. So all the proceeds up until midnight on December 31st, 2013 went to the ASPCA! I have no idea how much money that was—I am sure I will find out—but I hope it helped even in some small way.
Here’s the blurb for my new novel Hound Dog & Bean.
There's been little love in H.D. "Hound Dog" Fisher's life since the death of his beloved mother when he was a boy. Bounced around the foster care system, he ran away as soon as he could… and took a foster dog with him. As far as he's concerned, only dogs have no ulterior motive, never hold a grudge, and offer unconditional love. Now he helps run a no-kill shelter and leaves relationships where they belong: in the back room.
"Bean" Alexander settled in Kansas City to open his coffee shop after years of traveling. He never expected to open his heart as well. When a man with a grudge takes a swing at H.D. while in line at Bean's shop, Bean jumps to intervene.
So taking a hit for H.D. gets Bean noticed, and H.D. feels obligated to pay a debt. But then the unexpected happens. A series of misadventures causes H.D. to open up—but falling in love makes him want to turn tail and run. Trust is a tough road to travel. Will good friends, a sweet little dog named Sarah Jane, and a bit of folk magic be enough to bring Hound Dog and Bean a happy ending?
And here’s an excerpt, where our heroes must rescue as many lives as they can from a puppy mill...
“There!” cried Bean so suddenly that H.D. gave a shout of surprise and slammed on the brakes, and wasn’t it lucky they were on such a small road or they might have been rear-ended? He looked over at Bean, who was pointing at an opening in the trees that was practically hidden with overhanging vines and tall grass. How Bean had even seen the mailbox with the words “Huxlies” scrawled on it H.D. wasn’t sure. He sure was glad they’d taken the big van though. He might have been afraid to drive a car through that. Were there no laws about such a thing?
“Thanks,” he managed to say and turned the car in through the opening and down a road that was not much more than two ruts for the tires. Grass grew up heavy in the middle, and he could hear it brushing up against the bottom of the van. There would be snakes and who knew what all in that grass, and H.D. hoped he wouldn’t have to step out into
it. Luckily, after a moment, they came over a small rise and there was a two-story house with a long porch. It was old and ugly, and the paint was peeling away in sheets. But the lawn in front was at least half cut—a riding lawn mower was parked to the side of a gravel driveway.
Bean pointed. A sign was sticking out of the ground next to the house that said, “The Huxlie’s” and a second one that said “Privat Propirty. Keep Out.”
The front door opened and a woman came out onto the porch. She was wearing an oversized T-shirt and jeans. Her hair was dark and pulled back in a fierce knot, but some had come free and was falling in her face. She was wiping her hands on a towel, and she looked frantic—her eyes wide and mouth a slash of dread.
H.D. looked over at Bean, who nodded, and they both got out.
“Ar-are you with the animal p-people?” she called out.
“Yes, ma’am,” H.D. answered.
She zipped past them and down the gravel drive, and H.D. had to take off at a jog to keep up with her.
The woman went back around the house, and there was a second building, a garage it might have been called at one time long ago, and she bent and grabbed at the door handle and yanked.
“Need help with that?” Bean asked.
The door opened with a rusty scream, and the woman cried out and, pinwheeling her arms, almost fell backward. Bean was there and caught her, but that only seemed to distress her more. She whirled away and back and cried, “In there!” and pointed into a fetid gloom.
The smell hit them from five feet away. The smell of rot and shit and piss and who knew what else? H.D. steeled himself for what he might see, but Bean was already moving inside.
“Oh, Christ,” he heard Bean say.
It was a mess. All kinds of boxes and furniture and chairs were piled in the middle of the room. There were several more lawnmowers, including an antique push mower and another riding one that looked like it hadn’t been used for at least a hundred years, as well as a rusted, scary-looking device that could be dragged behind a tractor. A rototiller? Against one wall were several bicycles in various states of repair—or disrepair—and even a motorcycle with a sidecar. H.D. wouldn’t have gotten in that sidecar for a hundred thousand dollars. It was filled with cobwebs and spider webs and no telling what else. All the crap and junk certainly left no room for a car. What little space was left was taken up by a set of cages that brought tears to his eyes. They were made of rough wood and piled two high, six across. The doors were made of old storm fencing, the edges curled this way and that like cruel spikes, some aimed inward.
Thank God most of them were empty. But the occupants that were there made him want to scream.
You’ll have to read the book to see what happens. But remember, I love animals. And you will get more than one kind of happy ending when you read “Hound Dog & Bean!”
And hey! Comment and you’re eligible for an e-copy of the book!
And second prize will be a wall calendar—but please note you’ve got to be in the continental United States for the calendar. I am very proud of it too!
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