Tonya Plank's Blog
December 20, 2016
So so SO over the moon about this review from the esteemed Romantic Times.
“The storyline is unique, the interaction between the emotionally complex protagonists is compelling, and the dash of suspense adds to the fast pace.”
I am so happy that people – both readers and editorial reviewers alike – are liking the Sasha duet. Honestly, Fever veered a bit toward women’s fiction, but I feel that writing from the man’s perspective forced me to focus on the romance more. I now feel like a proper romance author. In the future, I will definitely write more from the hero’s perspective. It’s actually quite fun!
October 30, 2016
SASHA Book Two is now up for pre-order at a special price of only 99 cents. It will go up on its release date, November 16.
If anyone wants an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review before its release date, please fill out this form, if you haven’t already.
Thank you and happy reading!
October 20, 2016
Just a heads up that SASHA, Book One will be FREE on Amazon from October 20-25. So, if you – or a friend – haven’t downloaded yet, now is the time! It will go back up to $2.99 on October 26th.
Also, SASHA just got an excellent review in InD’tale Magazine!
“‘Sasha’ is an excellent read, and one that will entice readers to read more of Ms. Plank’s books and eagerly await the next installment of Sasha and Rory’s story.”
I’m so psyched because I’m a big fan of this journal, and their annual late-summer California conference, and because I know what hard-asses they are with their star system So, a getting a four-star review there really means a lot to me.
I’ve finished SASHA, Book Two, the final installment of this duet, and will have it up for pre-order shortly. Its release date is November 21st. If you want an ARC in exchange for an honest review, here is the sign up form.
Thank you so much for your support, you guys!
July 17, 2016
ExploreDance.com has a new Kickstarter campaign to help with costs of running the magazine and paying writers. This is an excellent online magazine, and it’s one I used to write for, and hope to contribute to again What makes it so wonderful is that it covers all kinds of dance anywhere in the world (where there are reviewers of course!) It doesn’t discriminate against or favor any kind of dance. They let me review ballet performance in New York, big ballroom dance competitions in England and Florida, and small studio-run dance showcases. I even reviewed some ballroom dance classes. They cover anything and everything dance related. But they need help to continue running the magazine.
So if you want to support good, critical writing about this most important and amazing dance form, please consider making a small contribution!
July 12, 2016
I am super honored to have a short story included in the new anthology, SUMMER SIZZLE, put out by the Los Angeles Romance Authors chapter of RWA. My story is called “Lead Me” and is set in a ballroom dance studio. Of course!
There are lots of great romance authors in the collection as well, including best-sellers Samanthe Beck, Charlene Sands, Lynne Marshall and Roz Lee, and some newer but really good authors like Mia Hopkins, Claire Davon, Ophelia Bell, Beverly Diehl, Kara Winters, Karen Ehrenberg, Shelby Ellis, etc. etc. etc. There are all subgenres of romance. There’s a story involving a dog — and I am always a sucker for stories with animals
June 9, 2016
I am super excited to announce that Sasha, Book One is now available for pre-order and will release on June 14th! Sasha tells the Fever story but from Sasha’s mad hot Russian dancer perspective! The Sasha subseries will be a duet, so it will conclude with Sasha, Book Two, which will be out soon.
Here is the blurb:
From the moment I saw her, I knew we were destined to be together. Both on and off the dance floor. I was second-place World Latin ballroom champion. I just needed the right partner. And with her passion, her immense talent, and her beautiful, sweet soul, I knew Rory was the one. But she was also a ghost of someone I’d lost back in Russia, and missed dearly. And she had her own demons, I soon realized. We were two halves in desperate need of completion. Before we could rise to the top, we had to heal each other.
If you would like a FREE advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review, and you have a kindle for me to send it to, please fill out this form.
As always, thank you so much for your support, everyone! And happy reading
March 19, 2016
If you’re in LA or will be on April 9th and 10th, the Southern California chapters of Romance Writers of America will have a booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
March 5, 2016
Last night marked the grand opening of The Ripped Bodice, the first brick and mortar bookstore in the U.S. to sell exclusively romance novels! So of course a couple bookish friends and I went down to Culver City for the festivities.
It’s a really lovely space, right on Main Street, with a very cozy, female-centric vibe. It was founded by sisters Bea and Leah Koch, which they backed by their kickass Kickstarter campaign, through which they raised over $90k. I love their mission statement, which hangs on the wall right when you walk in:
The store is fairly large and beautifully designed with lots of cozy chairs and couches and reading nooks. There’s a nice little reading space in the back that has outlets where you can connect to mobile devices. They have sections devoted to every romance sub-genre (that I know of anyway), including sports romances, which was close to the food bar so I got a good look at that area! They also have some mainstream women’s fiction (like Jennifer Weiner) and literary novels. I saw some self-published books as well as books put out by big and small presses. They even had a Spanish language section. Lots of Sylvia Day, Eloisa James, Courtney Milan, Shayla Black, Tessa Dare, Kate Perry, Katy Evans, Tiffany Reisz, etc. etc. – too many authors to mention. And a whole table devoted to Nora
I didn’t see (but could have just missed; it was so crowded!) a section devoted to local authors. I just like those; they’re always the place I find authors new to me, like the wonderful Betty Webb, who I found at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ.
They had a large cardboard statue of Fabio at the front to greet people Here I am with him and my friend, writer Tiffany Current:
The founders have said they hope to have lots of signings and readings and book launch parties, as well as lectures and panel discussions centering on “issues currently at play in the genre.” And, they plan to have a book club and do screenings of romance-related TV shows and movies. All sounds fabulous to me! And they have seem to have a large enough place for all of that.
In addition to books, they have some artwork for sale, jewelry, demitasse teacups, tea towels, candles, picture frames, etc. But there are mostly books
Here are some more pics:
This evening, they’re having their first series of tea-time readings, by Tessa Dare, Rebekah Weatherspoon, and Francesca Lia Block, followed by jazz and champagne. Visit their website for more info.
Thank you to my fabulous friend, the literary publicist extraordinaire, Liz Donatelli, for inviting me Always so exciting when a new bookstore opens, right!
January 25, 2016
If you’re a fan of ballet, or just a really good, well-told story with lots of suspense, you’ll love GIRL THROUGH GLASS. The novel releases tomorrow, and you can enter a giveaway here (see bottom of post).
The novel goes back and forth between Mira, an eleven-year-old ballet student living in New York in the late 1970s, and Kate, a dance historian and college professor living in Ohio in the present day. It doesn’t take long to realize Kate and Mira are the same person, but the novel’s central mystery is the story of that transformation.
Mira is a ballet student whose love of the art form becomes all the more intense after her family life starts to unravel. Her hippy-esque mother runs off to California, and her father soon becomes involved with another, very plain woman who has little aesthetic sensibility and respect for dance, seeing ballet mainly as an eating disorder waiting to happen. Mira meets an older man named Maurice, a patron of New York City Ballet, who is crippled by polio. When Mira is accepted to the prestigious School of American Ballet, Maurice becomes her main support, as she navigates this hyper competitive world. Through hard work, raw talent, and advice from Maurice, who tells her she can’t achieve beauty without sacrifice, Mira becomes a favorite of George Balanchine (A Mr. B girl), and she’s cast in lots of coveted roles for young dancers, such as Marie in his Nutcracker. At one point, Mr. B even remarks that Mira reminds him of “Tanny” – Tanaquil Le Clercq, a star NYCB dancer, and partner of Balanchine, who was in her prime when she was tragically stricken with polio. This foreshadows Mira’s impending downfall.
When Kate receives a mysterious letter she is compelled to return to the New York of her childhood, to try to make amends with her past. I won’t say any more because I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a really intense story about loss of self, broken dreams, recovery, and reinvention. I couldn’t put it down. And, for dance fans, it’s chock full of details about what it was like to live during the Balanchine era, by far the most exciting period in ballet history in this country. Mira’s story made me feel like I was there with her. And Kate’s narrative made me so sad for what she had lost but hopeful that she could find the same intense passion in her adult life that she had in her childhood. That’s the best kind of fiction in my opinion, when the reader begins to live the main character’s story.
The winner of the giveaway will receive a hardcover signed by Ms. Wilson, who is a former dancer from New York. It will ship directly from HarperCollins. To enter, just comment below, or on the post on my Facebook page. The winner will be announced next Monday, February 1, and I’ll collect the address then. Good luck!
December 27, 2015
2015: wow. I’ll start with the very first day of the year, January 1, New Year’s Day. It seems like an apt place to start. I woke up initially having no idea where I was. I was in a crate, in a very quiet place. There were no other crazy yapping, howling, barking dogs, like there had been. There were no big scary men walking around with loud, clanking chains, speaking in loud, deep voices. There were no honking horns and I wasn’t cold. I was in a crate a little bigger than me on top of a warm cushion (and a wee wee pad), in a warm indoors area.
Suddenly, a door opened and someone walked out, making a loud, jingling sound with clanking metal objects, similar to the men back where I had been. I heard a dog come out, on a leash. It startled me and confused me. So I did what I always do when startled and confused: I barked. And barked.
“Oh no, shhhhh, what’s wrong?” I heard her before I saw her. A lady with a soft voice came running up to me, unlatched the crate and patted the carpet floor, indicating I should come out. I immediately trusted her. I ran out, and she picked me up and held me. Then it all came back to me.
Yesterday, I was in the big kennel I’d been in with a bazillion other dogs – mostly chihuahuas – in the scary place with the people making loud noises. I’d been there for a few weeks, with my sister, Estrella. Ella and I were taken out briefly by several nice ladies with soft voices, who took us to a park for a day and dressed us in cute pink bandanas. At first I thought we were out of the scary place forever, but then at the end of the day we got taken back. And then a few days later, Ella was taken out again. She didn’t come back. I was alone. I was so sad. The other dogs were okay but they were not Ella, and the humans and their loud voices and clanking chains made me really scared. There wasn’t a lot to eat, and it was cold, and I cowered in the back of the kennel.
But yesterday, this lady came by and she called out my name. “Sofia, Sofia.” How does she know me? I was still too scared to come. The other dogs went running to the front but she kept calling my name, looking around. I still didn’t come out. So she went away. Then I was upset. I should have gone. But she came back, this time with another girl. The nice girl who worked there sometimes but not always.
The nice girl unlocked the door and came in. She looked around. I didn’t budge. Then the lady said, “Hey, that’s her, in the shadows!” I knew I liked this lady. She was happy but not too crazy excited like some people, especially little kids. She reminded me of the lady in the park. So I wagged my tail and wiggled out just a little bit.
“There you are,” said the nice girl, who walked over and picked me up. She brought me outside to a little bench and she and the lady held and cuddled me. I was happy and wagged my tail a lot and gave them both gooey-eyed faces and let them rub my tummy. I made the lady giggle a lot.
“I’ll take her!” she said.
I had to go in the back and have a big man with a loud voice and jangly chains get me all ready. He put a leash and collar on, and filled out a bunch of papers while I sat shivering, not knowing what was going on. I cowered and rolled myself into a little ball when he touched me. Where did the lady go?
Finally, he brought me out to the front. “She’s very timid,” he warned, handing her my leash.
“Okay,” the lady said. She took me outside and opened a car door and put me in back. “Ready to go home, Sofia?” She started the car and slowly drove. I was so scared. Where were we going? Back to the park? Or somewhere else? I started whimpering. “Oh no, don’t cry. We’ll be there soon, sweetie.” She had thrown her big black coat with a fake furry neckline into the back seat and it was right next to me. I was so nervous, I hate to admit, but I just started eating the fur. It wasn’t very tasty, but it was something to do, and it put my mind at ease.
A little while later, she pulled into a garage, stopped the car, and opened the back door. “Oh dear, did you do this?” She looked around at the floor. I followed her gaze. There were clumps of black furry material everywhere. She didn’t seem mad. I wagged my tail at her, happy the ride was over and I was getting out. Car rides sometimes made me queasy. “Well, it was old and I should have known not to leave it in back with you,” she said, with a little laugh. She pulled me out by the leash and led me through the garage which echoed and was kind of scary, then up some stairs. I was scared of the stairs because they had spaces between them that you could fall through. I didn’t want to walk on them. “Aw, poor thing,” she said, picking me up. She carried me up the stairs to a big outdoor patio area with a big blue pool with lots of flowers and potted plants surrounding it. It looked nice and I wanted to eat the plants. I was hungry. But she kept carrying me, around the pool, up some more steps, down a long hall, and finally, she took out some scary jangly metal things and used them to open a door.
After she pushed the big door open, I immediately saw them. Squirrels. Albeit very weird looking ones. They were bigger and had pointy ears and fatter bodies and skinnier tails. They were sitting on the top of the couch back. I did what I always do the second I see squirrels, I darted toward them. They both completely freaked out, as squirrels do, and scampered away. Well, one did anyway. So I chased that one. She clearly wanted to play. But she ran straight toward a window and tried to climb it. The latch opened and the window started to open with it.
“No no no no no, Stop!” the lady squealed. She pulled the over-sized squirrel off the window latch, and picked up the other one, now crouching next to the couch, and carried them into a back room. I heard a door shut. I looked around. I sniffed. Food. I ran with my nose to the ground, letting my sniffer lead me, as always. There they were: two big bowls of wet food. I ate up both bowls in one bite, then drank the entire bowl of water sitting next to it. Being scared and confused made me thirsty. I was always hungry.
The lady came running back and looked down at the now empty bowls. “Okay, I shouldn’t have left the cats and their food out like that,” she said in a whisper, like she was talking to herself. As she picked up the bowls, I looked around. The room was big and there was a huge window that overlooked the street down below. There were people walking around down there, and dogs. And birds in the trees, and squirrels. Normal ones. And another dog on a loud, clanking leash. And another dog with a very big human beside him, off in the distance. This was all too much. I barked, and barked, and barked. I ran around the room in circles, jumped up and over the couch where the weird squirrels had been sitting, up on a chair, then leapt to the other chair across from it, then to the ottoman in between them, then back to the couch, where I nearly jumped straight over it with one leap. But I didn’t quite make it and fell back down into the couch cushion. I quickly got up to start the obstacle course all over again, but the lady was too fast.
“Calm down, calm down, Sofia,” she said. She tried to pet me but I was way too excited. I scrambled out of her arms and ran back to the big the window. I saw yet more people, loudly laughing and shouting at each other. I barked again. She picked me up again and tried to pet me but it was all too much. Finally, she took one of those phone things out of her bag and punched some numbers into it and then talked into it. I always found it so weird when humans did that with those little devices. I resumed running around the room. I smelled some more food and ran into a side room with a tiled floor and stood on my hind legs, to try to see the counter-top. I pawed at it but it was too high. I couldn’t reach. So I ran back out and down a hall to a back room. There were two big boxes with poop in them. Score! I headed straight for them, but the lady came after me and scooped me up.
“Okay, that’s enough,” she said, carrying me back to the main room. On the way, we passed a door. Someone made a sound behind it that sounded like “reow,” and then scratched at it. Those weird squirrels must be in there. They wanted out, they wanted to play. I barked. But the lady kept going, still carrying me. She grabbed a bag from the table and the jangly metal things, and took me back outside. We went back downstairs, to the car. She put me in back. I began whimpering again. Where were we going now? To the park? Back to the scary place?
No, this time we went to a big blue building. Inside it was super quiet and it smelled like something I recognized. Something not good. It was a hospital. I was going to have another operation. Or I was going to get poked with sharp needles. I started shaking something awful and whimpering.
“Oh no, it’s okay, it’s okay,” the lady said, sitting down on a bench, cuddling me in her arms, kissing me on the head. As good as this felt, I was terrified.
Someone came out and took us into a back room, where it smelled even worse and I shook even more. Then another lady with a soft voice came in and tried to touch me. I backed into the first lady – my lady- getting as close to her as I could, and growling at the other one.
“She’s already bonded with you,” said the other lady.
“I know. It’s amazing,” said my lady. “But I’m scared for my CATS. She went right for them.”
The other lady took out a bag of very good-smelling things and began handing me treats. After enough of them, I eventually trusted her enough to let her touch me. She felt me all over while she talked with my lady about these things called CATS. My lady must have said that word at least fifty times. She was really upset about something. That and the word BARKING.
Whatever the second lady said seemed to make her feel better, because my lady seemed to calm down. I’m very attuned to these things. Her voice went back to normal and she was breathing more regularly. I was thankful for lady number two for this, but only momentarily. Because then she picked me up and took me into a back room, where some other people with soft voices stuck me with those nasty sharp needle things. Several times. Sometimes soft, mouse voices can be VERY deceiving.
We drove back to the big room, and this time my lady, who began calling herself Mommy, took me down to the back room with the poop. But before I could get to it, she picked up the poop boxes and took them down the hall. Then she brought me back to that room and closed the door. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t bark because there was really nothing to bark at. No squirrels, no people, no dogs. It was quiet back there.
She came back a few minutes later and opened the door again. This time there was a crate in the big room, and a big playpen filled with toys. And the big window was covered over with plastic strips and there was some soft music playing. My nose told me there was something good to eat in that playpen, and sure enough, I found a little red plastic thing, loaded with peanut buttery morsels. Yum.
So, back to the first day of the year. My lady – Mommy, as I was starting to know her – put my leash on and took me outside. We got to those crazy stairs. I still wouldn’t go down.
“Come on, sweetie, we have to go pee,” she said. But I stood my ground. She picked me up and walked me down and out the front door. We were now on the street below, the one I had been looking down on the day before from inside. There were people and dogs and birds, and everything just as before. I tried to chase birds, but Mommy pulled me away saying “No, no, no.” We met up with a couple dogs. I liked smelling the dogs, and they smelled me back, but their humans freaked me out. Humans were just so giant and most of them had loud, booming voices and stompy shoes, and big hands and when they came down to bop me on the head, it scared me. Plus, many of them carried the scary jangly metal things like the big men at the shelter. So I barked. Mommy apologized and explained that I liked other dogs but was “timid” around people.
I also soon realized that there was food everywhere on this street! At the two ends of the street, there were lots of people sitting outside and talking and eating. Mommy wouldn’t take me there yet for fear I’d go on a barking frenzy, but I could hear quite well. And I could smell even better. But it wasn’t just the food smells that wafted up the block; it was the food itself! I found a half-eaten mini bag of potato chips, three french fries, a half of a hot dog bun with ketchup on it, and a barbecue chicken bone all in one walk!!!
“I never realized how messy people were around here,” Mommy said, continuously pulling things out of my mouth. Or trying to anyway.
When we came back up, Mommy played music and kept the window closed but I could still hear noises coming from outside. Especially the person next door, who was always coming out, jangling metal and taking the dog out.
“Sofia, you have to calm down and stop barking. We live in an apartment. Noise travels,” Mommy said in a super soft voice, petting me and rubbing under my chin, which I loved. “You’re just like a cat,” she laughed. That word again.
After the second walk, when we were coming back in, one of our downstairs neighbors was outside smoking. “Oooh, it’s bunny man,” Mommy squealed. Immediately, I knew this guy was okay. He had a soft voice, and he flicked out his cigarette and sat down on the ground, so he was at my level.
“Hello there,” he said. I wiggled up to him and let him pet me and cuddle me and rub my tummy.
“Thank God! She likes someone!” Mommy said.
“Of course, everyone likes me,” he said, and he and Mommy laughed. Then, he let me go inside his apartment and meet his pet rabbit! That rabbit was much nicer to me than the weird squirrels I’d met my first day here. Where were they, I wondered. He touched noses with me and let me sniff him. When I did a play bow, though he backed away. Mommy said that was enough, the bunny wasn’t a dog and played differently. Like the CATS played differently. That word again.
The next day we went back to the bad place where I got stuck with needles. Except this time we didn’t go in the same door as last time; we went through a side door, which led into a room full of – other puppies! But lots of humans as well.
“Come on, it’s puppy play time. Go play,” Mommy said, taking off my leash. I sniffed a few puppies, but then a big human hand came down toward my head. I got scared and ran to Mommy. “She’s so cute!” said that human. “What is she?”
“I don’t know. The vet said a chihuahua mixed with Italian Greyhound and likely lots of other things. She’s timid around people,” Mommy said, with a nervous laugh. “Come on, honey, go play!” I tried to play with the other dogs but their humans were very loud and kept squealing how cute I was and trying to whack me on the head. They all had such big hands. A few humans sat down on the floor and held their palms toward me. When they did that, it was better. Especially when they had treats. But when that happened, all the dogs came running and bumped me right out of the way.
“You did very well,” Mommy said on the way out. “Especially for your first puppy play time. Mommy’s proud.”
A few days later, Mommy heard her phone thingy beep and she pulled it out of her bag and looked at it. I could tell it wasn’t very good. Her eyes widened and her breathing increased. She looked like she was going to cry. Then she shrugged and picked me up, carrying me to the back room, and closing the door. The boxes with the poop were no longer there. I heard a bunch of banging around outside. Doors opening, big things clanking, feet stomping, and then I heard the “reows.” A lot of them. Those weird squirrels were still here. I got excited and barked. “Sofia, shhhh,” Mommy said. “It’s okay. Just a second more, okay. Please?” She sounded very stressed out. I stopped.
Soon, she opened the door and carried me into the other room, the room I’d heard the “reow’s” coming from. This was a whole new room – with a bed and a desk and computer and another big huge window. Now my crate and my playpen – full of even more toys than before – were in here!
“We’re going to try this for a while because you were barking too much out there,” she said, a worried look in her eye. Right then, there came a scraping sound at the door, followed by a “reow.”
“Crap, Rhea hates closed doors.” Mommy sounded exasperated. But I couldn’t help it. One of the weird squirrels was right outside the door, ready to play! I ran up to the door, and rapped back. Rhea rapped in response. I jumped up and pounded on the door. “Sofia, honey, that’s too much.” But it wasn’t too much. Now the rapping came from up higher, near the door knob. The weird squirrel was climbing the door! Mommy picked me up and put me in the playpen, threw some treats at me from a bag, and opened the door. “Come on, Rhea.” When she opened the door, I got a glimpse. It was the solid-colored weird squirrel. The one who didn’t run from me. I yipped excitedly, but Mommy shushed me and slammed the door.
There was some more banging around. And then Mommy was back. “Okay, Mommy has to get some work done,” she said, walking to the desk and turning on the computer. She turned on the radio and a couple of fans, then sat down and typed ad nauseam. It was okay; she’d given me lots of toys. I played myself silly.
A few days later, another soft-voiced lady named Jessica came over. She was super nice and gave me tons of treats. She said “yes!” a lot and clicked on a plastic thingy and that’s when I got the treats. It was a super cool game. We walked around the apartment building, and up and down the block – she, Mommy, and I – and we explored and “got to know” various things – like the scary plastic rooster sitting outside of one man’s apartment and the crazy parking cones that were always in the middle of the street, and an evil plastic bag that moved maliciously in the wind, a big black balloon that was up to no good, and yes, the crazy stairs with the spaces in between that you could fall through. But when I just sniffed things and eventually befriended them, without barking, Jessica gave me a treat! Then we got home and sat in the big room. Mommy put the weird squirrels – who I now knew were those CATS she was always talking about – in the back room so that we could focus on not barking when the lady next door took her dog out. There was something so calming about Jessica. When she gave me a treat, I knew right away there was nothing to be scared of and that I didn’t need to bark.
For Valentine’s Day / President’s Day, we took a road trip to Phoenix, where Mommy is from. I liked taking short trips but once we got on a freeway and started going fast, my stomach got a bit queasy. So I spent most of the ride snoozing in the car seat.
Since Grandpa doesn’t like animals in his house, we stayed at a pet-friendly motel in Scottsdale. It was right next to a big park called McCormick Ranch, where Mommy took me to play. They had a big train that went around choo-chooing and carting children about. Mommy thought I might be scared of it but there were so many birds hopping about and children dropping food particles, I almost couldn’t even hear the horn tooting.
Mommy went to see a ballet with Grandpa. Apparently Ballet Arizona was doing some big Danish ballet that had never been shown in America before. Mommy writes about dance, so she was really excited. But dogs couldn’t come, she said. And I wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. So, I stayed in the motel and luxuriated in the softy silky sheets.
We visited one of Mommy’s cousins so that I could play with her dogs. She had several miniature dachshunds. Boy was Mommy right. I loved dogs, and especially small dogs! We played and played. But then something really scary happened. All of a sudden a big man came clanking up. He was wearing super big chains. It was the man from the horrible shelter. I knew it. I just knew it was him. It sounded exactly like him. I barked and barked and barked.
“Why’s she so scared?” Mommy’s cousin asked.
“I don’t know. Sofia, calm down, sweetie. It’s okay,” she said, even more mouse-voiced than usual.
But it wasn’t okay. I didn’t want to go back. I was happy with Mommy. I loved Mommy and Jessica and our neighborhood with food and plastic roosters and balloons, and puppy playtime, and trips to parks, and the weird squirrels. I didn’t want to go back. I barked and barked and barked, until the man left. When the door shut, and I calmed down a bit, Mommy’s cousin gave me an antler and two chews. I concentrated on them. But then the man came back. Why? What had I done? I barked and barked and barked again, as if my life, my freedom, depended on it. And it did.
“I think it might be the keys,” I heard Mommy say over the barking.
The next day, before going back to L.A., we met Grandpa at a restaurant with an outdoor patio. Mommy gave me a little bowl of water and some dry food. Everything was going fine, Mommy drinking her juice at the table, Grandpa reading the paper, me eating below, curled around Mommy’s leg, when suddenly a crazy person came up to the table and started shouting at Mommy. I got up and started barking something fierce.
“Sofia, calm down, honey, it’s okay,” Mommy said. But no, I couldn’t let anyone hurt her. She was my Mommy, and someone had already tried to take me away from her. I kept barking. “Honey, that’s just the waiter. Mommy needs to order so she can eat.” She bent down to pet me while talking to the man. He didn’t talk back. As long as he didn’t yell at her. But then he returned a couple of times, and, even though he didn’t really speak, he’d already made himself an enemy and I wasn’t letting him get away with anything.” Mommy just sighed and kept telling me to calm down.
“Sofia, I want to be able to eat out with you, honey. You can’t get so scared of waiters,” Mommy said to me on the car ride back home. Whatever that meant.
The next time Jessica came to visit, we worked on “jangling keys.” It was craziness. Mommy and Jessica walked all around the apartment jangling keys. At first it was really scary because it reminded me of the man at the bad place. But it wasn’t. It was just Mommy and Jessica being weird. After an hour and a half of it, I was so sick of jangling keys, they were like anything to me, like the sound of running water, or Mommy turning on the computer, or the classical music radio station, or the fans. Or like Rhea rapping on the door. No, not like that. That still made me nuts – not in a bad way though. I wasn’t scared of her. I just wanted so badly to play with her! “We’ll work on the cats next time,” Jessica whispered to Mommy as she left.
In May, Mommy went to Ohio to visit Grandma, and then to Dallas for a writers conference. She couldn’t take me because the plane trip was too long and I’d have nowhere to stay while she was gone all day at panels and parties in Dallas. Which was fine. Because I got to stay with some friends in Korea Town! They even had a CAT – Sprinkles! I got along with her just splendidly, which greatly pleased Mommy. In the picture at left, we are all sitting nicely waiting for treats.
The next time Jessica came over, we practiced CATS. Mommy opened the back door and let me roam freely about the big room. The little stripey cat who ran from me – honestly, she looked like a cinnamon donut, scampered away as fast as she could. She ran straight into the back room and hid under the bed.
But the other cat, Rhea, acted totally normal. I ran up to her and did a play bow. She looked at me like I was weird and walked away. But I followed her and she let me sniff her butt, and she even turned back and touched noses with me.
“When I got Rhea, the ASPCA told me she was a hoarding victim, so I suppose she may have experience with dogs,” Mommy said. “I’ve had Katusha since she was a baby kitten and I know she has no exposure. So, it’s going to take her longer.” Whatever. Why does it take any time at all anyway?
In June, these things arrived. Mommy was so excited. “My first romance series, Sofia! And you totally helped me, sitting at my feet and keeping me company the whole time I wrote!” she squealed, picking me up and planting big wet kisses all over my snout. I returned by licking her eyes and nose and forehead, making her giggle up a storm.
Then came June. Can you say crazy? The whole month. First, we were on a walk and this person walks up wearing a string of birds around her neck. But the birds didn’t have heads. It was really nerve-wracking and confusing. Of course I barked my head off. “Sofia, stop,” Mommy said, half laughing. “I’m so sorry,” she said to the headless bird person, who was laughing as well. When we got home, she took out her phone thingy and pressed on it and then talked into it. “Oh my God, this drag queen was walking down the street wearing a black feather boa and Sofia starts barking her head off at her!” I could hear laughing coming out of the phone thingy. Humans are weird. It wasn’t the least bit funny.
Later that month was the Pride Parade, which we were invited to participate in by a place I went to for doggie daycare from time to time (when Mommy needed a “break from cat and dog fighting”). They gave her a t-shirt and me a little striped bandana and we took a loooong walk with them. Along the way, there was a crazy person screaming things – and I mean, screaming – into a big plastic thing that made his voice boom even louder. He kept saying “hell.” He was scaring the crap out of me and I was afraid he’d hurt Mommy, so I started barking. The weirdest thing happened. Everyone started laughing, and then clapping at me. They were clapping at my barking. Which was a first. A first big time. Humans, I’ll never get them. They don’t know whether to try to appease me, talk in mouse voices, laugh, or clap when I bark.
At one point, someone noticed that there was a Magic Mike float behind us. This sent everyone into near hysterics, pointing and giggling and squealing. Who was this Magic Mike I wondered? As I said it was a day of insanity.
We had a fun summer. We went to two doggie beaches – one in Malibu, with Mommy’s friend, Kathy, and one in Long Beach. As much as I love the water fountains at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, I just didn’t understand the crashing sounds the water made when it hit the sand, and all the resulting foam. Mommy tried to get me to go in, but I just wasn’t that into it. The sand was fun though – at least in the shady areas made by Mommy’s umbrella.
Mommy also took me to a couple of dog parks, down in Orange County. Mommy likes getting out of L.A. She particularly likes Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, and Dana Point. I like dog parks better than the beach, I have to say. More shade, no scary waves.
After our last beach trip, Mommy told me she had a special surprise for me. I smelled and needed a bath, but, surprise, I wouldn’t have to go back to the vet this time for my cleaning. We walked outside as if going on our walk. There was a lady at the entrance to our building. I didn’t recognize her face right away but I definitely recognized her scent. It was the lady who’d originally taken me and my sister out of the shelter and to the park!
“It’s Aunt Liz, Sofia!” Aunt Liz sat down at my level and held her hands out. She knew I was “timid.” But as I said I recognized her scent and I ran right up to her, rubbed up against her and cuddled. “Sofia, Sofia!” she and Mommy both squealed. She then took me to her big van that she drives around in giving dogs baths. This was the best bath ever! And I even got a little red pawdicure