Poodle Mistress



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Somebody Appreciates Me

Posted on March 10, 2017 at 4:50 PM

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. And for that, I am truly sorry for leaving you all in a lurch. To say I’ve been busy is quite an understatement.


Right now my sweeper sits in the middle of the floor. But Heloise says that is O.K. It can be a sign that I am in the midst of cleaning. I’ll buy that. And I was going to say I have some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you. But my geography is better than that.


This February marked a couple of milestones for me. First of all I’ve been writing for the Columbus Messenger that long. That’s a weekly newspaper with five editions and I write for three of them. I sit through council meetings, school board meetings, trustees meetings, area commission meetings. Meetings where hardly anything is said or done. Meetings where so much is said and done that I hardly know where to begin. But it’s a life I chose some 60 years ago.


I was also taught to do some community work. I’ve answered phones at hotlines, the most recent being at HandsOn Central Ohio for the past 16 years. Every Monday for four hours. I answer the Food Line and schedule people to go to food pantries.


I also read to children who tour a stop on the Underground Railroad and lead them through a workbook on life in the 1860s.


After my husband passed away, and not wanting to be alone on holidays, I borrowed a page from a friend and asked if I could help out at Meals on Wheels. I spend holiday mornings getting paperwork ready for the drivers to deliver meals. At times I have gifts to prepare for those routes.


This past weekend I discovered what people think of me. I got my mail that evening and found a letter from a local TV station. Why would the station be sending me a letter? Curiosity got the better of me and I quickly opened the envelope. The letter said I had been nominated for the prestigious Jefferson Award that the station gives out for community service. It also said I didn’t win, but hey, it’s an honor to be nominated.


What is it you do as volunteer service in your community?


Miami Book Fair Experience

Posted on November 19, 2016 at 8:05 PM

I had a wonderful weekend. I was signing books. Something unusual happened.


I was signing Poodle Mistress when I glanced up and saw a group of school children around my table. I smiled at them and asked if they were skipping school. A little smile back and the shaking of a head. A couple of boys wore shirts from one school. Then a couple of boys wearing shirts from another school or their school mascot.


Then questions from the side of the table.


Why did you write the book? I wrote it after ‘Marley and Me’ came out. That was the story of one dog. I had nine.


How long did it take you to write it? I wrote a character description of one dog for an assignment in a creative writing class in 1980 and then set it aside. I didn’t start writing again until 2008.


When did you publish it? I sent it to the publisher in October 2010 and it came out in February 2011.


I had a stack of books to sign and a bookmark to put in each one as I handed it to a waiting recipient. But these children grabbed a book off the pile and picked up my business card and handed me the book so I could sign it for them.


“If you’re all in the same class, you can read it and have a class discussion afterwards,” I told them.


They smiled at me.


“When I heard about your book on WLRN, I Knew I had to get it.”I looked up and saw an adult woman. “I have to get two. One for me and one for the teacher who set this up but couldn’t attend.”


I was pleased.


Throughout the afternoon I asked around. What is WLRN? Where is it heard? Is it radio or TV? II was getting both answers there. It’s a public radio/television station. It’s popular in South Florida. Truthfully, I need to learn more about it.


But I did learn that a school let its children come to the Miami Book Fair on Friday, a free day. My book Poodle Mistress had been featured for the children and they flocked to my booth. Now if I could only find out who they are and communicate with them.


And by the way, I hope they enjoy the book.




Bunny Bob is My New Love

Posted on October 26, 2016 at 10:30 PM

What happens when you are getting ready for a big event? Surely something will go wrong. Bunny Bob agrees with you.


Bunny Bob is a little white rabbit that lives in the field across the fence from farmer Brown and his wife. Easter is a few days away and that means all the bunnies are busy preparing those baskets. Bunny Bob included.


He’s not your normal bunny, however. He wants to help but he makes mistakes. That’s why he’s called the Bumbling Easter Bunny. It starts when he wants to help gather the eggs. I’m not going to spoil the story.


Bunny Bob: The Bumbling Easter Bunny is the title of my latest book. After a couple of memoirs, I jumped genres and published a children’s book.


I submitted the manuscript, and a children’s book guru shared the manuscript with her illustrators. What came back to me almost made me cry. Everyone fell in love with Bunny Bob — his story and the illustrations.


I know. It’s not Halloween yet and I’m writing about Easter. Talk about rushing the season. But I’m proud of this project. It’s also given me a little boost to keep trying my hand at children’s books.


Meanwhile I’m still writing other works, also. I’m going to be at some holiday craft shows in Franklin County. I’m also trying to set up readings of Bunny Bob at libraries and Easter Egg Hunts come spring.


Oh yes, you’ll find a surprise at the end of Bunny Bob: The Bumbling Easter Bunny.


You can find Bunny Bob wherever you purchase reading materials online – amazon.com; barnesandnoble.com; booksamillion.com; and schulerbooks.com.


While Bunny Bob was being developed, I found a box of Ty’s Beanie Babies and came across Hippy, a bunny that looks like my Bunny Bob at the end of my story.



Wichita, Kansas

Posted on September 13, 2016 at 3:10 PM

I spent much of last week (Sept. 8 to 11) at the NFPW annual conference in Wichita, Kansas. I had a great time – reconnecting with people I see once a year; seeing new sights, learning about communications, and what others are doing. Not to mention the good food.


I arrived in the Aviation Capital of the World around noon. The city got its name because of the construction of planes used in general aviation, like Beechcraft and Cessna. The conference was in the hotel across the street from the airport. Could have walked to the hotel, but they wouldn’t let me cross a freeway.


After an early-morning meeting we headed to a coffee shop that was in an old five-and-dime. Long and narrow. A partial second floor where financial people used to work, the ones who took the money out of the little cars on a moving track from the clerks. The painted tin ceilings.


After a light rain, the two vans then headed through town and some scenic byways to an art glass shop where we watched the workers take molten glass out of the oven at the end of a stick and roll it into a shape. I’m always amazed at their talents.


Our last stop was lunch – in another old five-and-dime. What good food. In the evening we went to Olde Town where a public radio station had only recently relocated to what had been an old depot. The chicken on a stick was so tender. A steady rain kept us from walking to a restaurant for dinner. The bus took us back to the hotel.


Presentations on reporting on disasters; using websites to your advantage; what to do after retirement; using local history in your work. That was what I got to. Many more were on the schedule.


We also have a silent auction which I visit and bid on items, hoping to get at least one. Or more. All of this sandwiched in between meals. We had an opportunity to sell books. I didn’t sell any Poodle Mistress, but I did sell two Newsroom Buddies. I had sold 12 copies of Poodle Mistress the previous two weeks, thanks to my participation in an ad in the New York Times.


One from our membership was chosen as Communicator of Achievement and contest winners received their certificates.


Did I mention rain? Twice our cell phone alarms went off, telling us of a flash flood warning in our area. We didn’t see that much water.


Wow! What fun! Looking forward to next September in Birmingham, Alabama. And hopefully more good food.


Pitching books to movie producers

Posted on June 4, 2016 at 10:25 PM

I had a couple of work friends always tell me some day I’d be rich and famous. I would laugh at them. Well, now it may not be as funny. I just completed pitching both my books to movie producers. Or since they all looked so young, maybe they were assistants. (Everyone looks young to people my age, but there were at least two people in this group of 100 or so who were in their 80s.)


This goes back to last Christmas when I had a surprise phone call from an iUniverse marketing specialist. I didn’t even know they had such people. Poodle Mistress had been out since February 2011, and Newsroom Buddies came out in May 2014 and no such call. I was encouraged to go and pitch Newsroom Buddies. Later Poodle Mistress was added.


I searched various places to find out how to do this. I got tips from here and there. I wrote drafts. Revised. Tore up and started anew. Gee, you would have thought I was writing a novel rather than a two-minute spiel. Does Marvin Lewis spend that much time on a two-minute drill for the Bengals?


I had a new idea and worked around it at Ohio Writers Guild. We members worked it over the day before I left. I scratched and rescratched when I got here to Las Vegas. I had a practice pitch session and got tips. I rewrote and read it many times.


I wanted to make a good impression when I went in to do the speed pitching. Seven tables, two minutes at each table, bell rings, move. The producer is judging me as I talk. Do they want t read my book? Do they think I have a good enough topic that will make a movie?


Now I wait. I should know in a few weeks if they want to read my books and how many requests my books get. Then comes an option offer that means someone thinks there is a possibility and it brings a little bit of money. There’s more money if they say they are casting, have a director and budget. And still more money if the movie is made.


I’m trying not to get excited, put the cart before the horse and all that. I’m just thrilled that someone thinks my books are worthy of something. I’m just glad to have had the opportunity to come to Las Vegas, even though the temperature is around 108. I can hear Red now – “If you have an opportunity and don’t take advantage of it, you’ll be kicking yourself forever because you never know if it will come again.”


What did I think of the whole process? I did thank the practice pitch guy for his tips and encouragement and he apologized for making me tear up, but that’s what happens when you write about losing your best friend, whether it is human or canine. And what did I really think? Stay tuned for DVD being made of our exit interviews.




Day 1 in Las Vegas

Posted on June 2, 2016 at 9:40 PM

I’m in Las Vegas for a few days. What an excursion so far.


I arrived around 9 a.m. local time. Heaven knows what time zone I’m in or how many I crossed. Or how long I’ve been up. But I’m having a good time, even though the temperature was 90 degrees when I arrived and soared to beyond the 100-degree mark by mid-afternoon when I could check in at my hotel room. And it is supposed to be hotter tomorrow. At least we don’t have the 95 percent humidity that plagues my friends back in Columbus, Ohio.


I checked my bags at my hotel (Caesar’s Palace) and went sightseeing. I walked across a busy street and found myself adjacent to the Flamingo Hotel and along a lot of shops and eateries. Also the world’s highest observation wheel and a monorail.


Since I couldn’t remember when the last time I ate a decent meal, I figured I better find some place to get some food. I chose a buffet. Pancakes, French toast and cheese blintzes next to the corn and macaroni and cheese. Cereal next to the chocolate cake. Who cares? It looked good, tasted good, and I was going to get my $20 worth.


Then off to shop – window and otherwise. I bought a birthday gift and a Christmas gift. I can’t buy much because I have to carry this one piece of luggage that will have an 800-page book in it that I finally finished.


I watched the World’s Highest Observation Wheel – 550 feet – and saw a monorail. I bought a 24-hour pass for $12 and rode the air-conditioned monorail for an hour. I must go back tonight and ride some more. I also talked myself into a ride on the observation wheel -- $20 for seniors! It was air conditioned, too. It took a half an hour to make a full revolution. And I got a souvenir photo for more than I paid to ride.


By this time I could get into my room. What a view! I can see The Mirage Hotel and behind that the Trump Tower. Is that an oxymoron or what?!


That’s a lot for one day. Check back tomorrow and I’ll share more experiences with you.


The LA Times Festival of Books,Day 2

Posted on April 11, 2016 at 7:50 PM

Sunday, Day Two of the LA Times Festival of Books dawned dry and sunny. No rain in the forecast. Thank heaven, because putting the plastic poncho on and taking it off again the day before split the right side seam a little more each time.


I got to the USC campus in good time to get to the Children’s Reading tent. Henry Winkler was speaking at 10 a.m. The program started with a young husband-and-wife team singing and dancing and entertaining preschool aged children. One little boy was so funny.


Then came Henry Winkler and his co-author Lin Oliver. He was dressed in bright green corduroys and a purple sweater. He got a lot of applause from the adults in the audience when he said children should not be taught just to take a test. And he also said children should also be judged on what is inside them.


They read from their Hank Zipfer books. I laughed so hard. Oh, yes, he did slip in a sentence in the voice of The Fonz.


I loved the booth that had t-shirts with the name of an author or literary character on back along with a number, then something on the front representative of that person. For instance, Prynne and the number 8 were on the back and on the front was the letter A.


I was wearing a red sweatshirt with six poodles on it and the names of six of my dogs. I was signing Poodle Mistress that day. People liked my sweatshirt and I gave them my card, tried to sell the book out of my golf bag. They could get a free copy at my booth or they could also buy it at Author Solutions book gallery.


I took a rest break and listened to music that bordered on mariachi music. Then I found the C-Span trailer. The C–Span2 channel (looks like it is on Time Warner) has 48 hours of nonfiction books on weekends. (I have ATT, Uverse).


I was signing at 1:30 p.m. Actually, I started early. I had 75 books to sign. While signing, one of my guests was the young woman who was the NFPW High School Journalism Award of Excellence winner from last year. My publisher host told me at 1:30 p.m. that I had only 17 books left.


I got a big poster each day. I had flyers and bookmarks. My posters were so big I couldn’t get them in my luggage so the hotel is going to send them home to me. I will use them at upcoming book signings.




Many Pets Are Forgotten

Posted on March 13, 2016 at 5:35 PM

Sunday, March 13, 2016, was the 74th anniversary of the Army’s creating the K-9 Corps. Moments after I posted that little fact on my Facebook page, a friend asked if I wanted to go to a pet cemetery to pay tribute to some K-9 veterans.


Despite a cold drizzle on my end of town, I accepted the invitation. The pet cemetery is on the other side of town, across from the airport.


What sad shape the cemetery is in. Burials have been taking place since the late 1930s. Think the oldest I found was from 1938. “Gone but not forgotten” was inscribed on many markers. Sadly, these close friends are forgotten. And so is the cemetery.


Rain had fallen harder on that side of town and the leaf-covered ground was soggy. A lake had formed in one area. At first I thought it was natural, but my friend told me about a marker in the middle of the lake.


Markers are off their bases. Some of tilted. The back of the cemetery is eroded away and some markers have fallen down the hill and into the creek below. Perhaps some of the markers had help, my friend and I decided.


Among the graves was that of Army Sgt. Fleabite Smith. He served during World War II and came home to live out a normal life. We found another Army veteran – Muscles. And couldn’t forget Cpl. Pat Sheets, U.S.M.C.


One marker told us the dog was registered with the American Kennel Club. A few others told of the dogs’ championship lines. Or his history in greyhound racing. One marker paid tribute to two cats and a bird. Another honored two pet ducks.


I also saw a lot of decay as I sloshed my way through the grounds. Overgrown bushes. Fallen trees, and they looked like they were rotted. My friend carried a battery-powered saw and did a little sawing but didn’t get very far until the battery wore down. He pointed to a pile of cut wood – “I cut it and dragged it over there,” he said.


A crocus bud was coming out. Nearby daffodils were sporting buds. How long had those flowers been there? Fifty years? Oh, here’s a marker for a dog of a friend. The owner is no longer with us. Do I care for that little plot?


These pals, buddies, Inky Dinks, Patty Anns, Gigis, Dukes, whoever lies beneath those handsomely engraved markers deserve to have a clean ground just as much as their owners do. But the Humane Society and other animal care groups have opted to focus on the living pets. And it’s way too much for one person to do.




Touring the Steele Mansion

Posted on March 4, 2016 at 11:20 PM

The last weekend in February I’ve been attending a women’s writer’s retreat. This year the retreat was in Painesville, a new location for us. I thought I’d share with you a story of that mansion.

One Sunday morning early in 2011, Carol Shamakian of Painesville, Ohio, sent her husband Arthur to the grocery store for a few items. More than an hour later when he hadn’t returned, she began to worry. Soon after, he came home.

“Here are the groceries,” he said, putting the bags on the kitchen table. “Ánd here’s the deed to a mansion.”

On his mission that morning he passed the George Steele mansion at 384 Mentor Ave. (U.S. Route 20) and saw a sign advertising an auction. He had stopped to find more information and was soon chatting with the man who lived next door.

The mansion had been built between 1863 and 1867 for George Steele, a member of a family from the Western Reserve in Connecticut. He had vowed to become rich and powerful and have the biggest house in Painesville, a city northeast of Cleveland.

He worked at a variety of jobs and became interested in politics. He was a Republican and entertained such people as Ulysses S. Grant, James A. Garfield and Rutherford B. Hayes. In fact, Garfield, whose home Lawnfield is a few miles down the road in Mentor, delivered campaign speeches from the Steele front porch.

The area that supported the circular front porch also served as a safe room on the Underground Railroad.

“Harriet Tubman stayed here 11 times,” Carol said.

Rumors had it that George’s brother Horace was a banker and embezzled $400,000 in coins. What he did with that many coins was finally confirmed by the family. Carol said that he gave them to the runaways so they’d have something when they got to Canada.

After Steele’s death, the money stopped and the house slipped into bankruptcy in 1917 and was foreclosed upon, Carol Shamakian said.

Lake Erie College across the street bought the mansion in 1921, using it for the president’s home. The third-floor ballroom became a gymnasium. Some of the rooms, especially in the servants’ headquarters in the two-story addition in back, served as the women’s dormitory.

In the basement, one big gathering room held a secret entry for the girls.

“There was a door down here that the girls could use to enter late at night,” Carol related on a tour.

Another famous visitor was aviatrix Amelia Earhart. She visited when an Aviators’ Club was founded at the college.The Shamakians honored Earhart by naming a room for her.

“We don’t know what room she stayed in, we just picked a room and gave it her name,” Carol said.

When men were admitted to the college, the house was turned into a men’s dormitory. The college sold the house in 1981 when the upkeep became too much. The new owners converted it to apartments.

“In 2001, some repairs were being done to the roof and the worker lost control of the blow torch,” Carol said.

Only the top floor was damaged, but the large house sat idle for 10 years. During that time, scavengers stripped the house of metal and wiring, anything they could sell.

“This was the home’s most dismal period,” Carol said, noting that the wood was exposed to the elements and rotted.

The day Arthur made the commitment to buy the property for what Carol calls “the value of the land” was only weeks away from a scheduled date with a wrecking ball.

“We had built houses for 20 years so I guess we needed a fixer upper,” said Carol who was a radiologist. Arthur, who earned his degree in finance, could play with other peoples’ money, she laughed.

They hauled away 17 Dumpsters full of debris; reconstructed the servants’ wing and added a third story “because we could.” They replaced 138 windows and enlisted restoration specialists to restore the woodwork and fireplaces.

“We don’t have real fire in them” Carol said. “It’s had one fire and that’s enough.”

The Shamakians used products from Lake and neighboring Geauga counties. Antiques came from Carol’s visits to estate auctions and other antiquing ventures.

“This is my favorite,” she said pointing to a collection of rug beaters hanging on the wall in another basement gathering room.

Old-time photos hang in the hallways of the former servants’ wing.

“I keep hoping someone will say ‘That’s Grandmother,’ but they haven’t yet, said Carol.

While they were working on the house, people who recognized their car would stop and see what we were doing, Carol said.

Last June 1,000 people showed up when the Steele Mansion opened as a bed and breakfast and party house. It has 16 guest rooms, some of them with a sitting room. Carol is reluctant to say how many rooms there are overall.

“How do you count the sitting rooms off guest rooms? Or what about the little room off the conservatory?”

Rooms have names of Steele family members, or perhaps the color scheme. For instance, Room 202 is in the front whose immediate view is the top of the circular porch where a spotlight at night shines onto the house as well as into room. That room offers a view of Lake Erie College. It is also known as The Red Room because of the deep red in the background of the carpeting; the deep red bedspread, the upholstered ottoman (that also helps short people into bed) and the seat cushion on the rocking chair.

The continental-style breakfast is ready by 8 a.m. in the basement in the rooms through which the Lake Erie College girls made their late-night escapades. The spread generally includes scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, bacon or sausage, oatmeal, cold cereal choices, yogurt, fresh fruit, breads for toasting, plus juice, coffee, hot water for tea.

A variety of other activities find their way to the mansion. One recent weekend, a writers’ group held a retreat and used rooms in the basement while on the main floor a rehearsal was held on Friday night in preparation for the Saturday afternoon wedding ceremony in the conservatory and dinner in the room adjacent to the bar. Writers were advised if they wanted to leave for an evening meal or other activities, they could use the back door without interrupting the wedding party.

Some of the mansion’s guests have been speakers who come to the college, said Arthur, taking time to snap a few pictures of a group who visited one weekend.

The Shamakians try to promote their community and it isn’t unusual to find locals in for Comfort Food Mondays; Happy Hours on Hump Day Wednesday and Finally Friday; Dessert and Tours on specific dates; a perfume-making class; a Millionaires’ Row Speech and Dinner; or even a craft show.

The back door has a ramp which makes the huge building handicap accessible. That entrance winds past the kitchen to the elevator that makes stops on all three floors.

“The bed and breakfast is payback for all we’ve put into it,” Carol said “We’re trying to make it pay for itself. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll turn it into assisted living.”

If You Go

The Steele Mansion is a bed and breakfast located at 348 Mentor Avenue which is also U.S. Route 20 in Painesville, Ohio, in Lake County. Besides the 16 guest rooms, the mansion has a parlor, library, conservatory and gathering room for public use. Rooms rent for $199 a night, breakfast included. Rooms with a sitting room are $229. Rates are expected to be adjusted in April 2016. Wifi is complimentary.

Further information is available by calling 440-639-7948 or visiting www.SteeleMansion.com.

Food for Freddie

Posted on January 30, 2016 at 12:55 PM

Poodle Mistress is the story of my husband and me raising nine toy poodles in the first 27 years of our marriage.


I didn’t start writing this until about eight years after we had lost the last dog. Perhaps I had started it 30 years before that when I had a creative writing class. The assignment was to write a character description. I described one of the dogs as a person.


The article got set aside and I lost contact with my Muse. She found her way back into my life around 2008.


I decided to tell the story chronologically. I worked my way through the life-and-death cycle of nine dogs, their antics, their effects on us. I wondered how to end the book.


What did we do after the dogs? I chose the story of my husband building a house for the squirrels that we had been feeding for years.


I had learned where the directions were for a squirrel house and printed them out for him. One day I heard him pounding away in the basement. I went down to check on him. He was making a squirrel house. After he hung it on the tree in the front yard, we had much enjoyment watching the squirintrels.


I set up an author appearance in the area where my husband grew up. The librarian who was hosting me purchased two copies of the book, one for each branch. She read the book. She gave me a thank you gift the night of the appearance.


How surprised I was to pull some squirrel food out of the bag.


Oh yes, my small audience was so alive that night, asked a lot of questions, and laughed a lot. I also sold two books.


Now that I’ve piqued your interest, you’ll want to buy it. The book is available in both paperback and ebook, from the publisher iUniverse, also www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.







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