Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Walkies - a fun fantasy novel for all ages with talking cats and dogs and their many adventures - by Maggie Knutson


 

Me and my novel WALKIES


Imagine if dogs and cats could talk

And, if they could, what would they talk about?

And what if dogs and cats could understand humans?

Wouldn't that give them an advantage over us mere mortals?

And what if dogs and cats had the same variety of personalities as humans?

That would mean that no two dogs or cats were completely alike.

Although if you're a pet owner, you already know this. 

 

But what if you think that talking animals is ridiculous

But an interesting idea to consider?


So, why not suspend disbelief and allow your imaginations run wild.

After all, in these Covid-19 days, wouldn't it be a welcome distraction?

Particularly if  you found yourself laughing out loud.

  

                                   So, here's my personal story


Our first family dog, Syder, was a pure bred Border Collie and didn't he know it: a magnificently beautiful dog with a loving temperament but with a will of his own, a love of lying in snow, sucking on a snowball and chasing any kind of ball...endlessly.  

Daughter Lou had been keen for us to have a dog so when she discovered that there was a litter of puppies at our local stables, she dragged my husband and myself to have a look-see. "We're just going to look," we said. "We're not making any promises." 

The puppies, of course, were adorable and one in particular, caught our attention by chewing on husband John's shoe laces. We were like babes to the slaughter. So, Syder came home with us and we had a wonderful fifteen years with him until he died, as sadly pets do.

 

Syder


It took almost a year before we felt ready to look for a new dog and so I visited our local Blue Cross Animal Rescue Centre every week, having decided that we wanted to give a dog who needed a home a new start in life.  I didn't know what kind of dog I  was looking for but I knew that I would know when I saw him or her.  

Just when I was giving up hope and had decided that my next visit would be the last one, there was Archie, a Jack Russell crossed with a Collie, in his kennel, waiting for me. The staff told me later that whenever a visitor approached his territory, he barked at them furiously, which always put them off. But what I got from this spirited little dog was his paw held up as a greeting, as if he was choosing me

He'd had a very difficult life previously and I was told that he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and needed a lot of care. We would be his very last chance. Luckily for Archie, I had fallen in love with the little rascal so that was that. And husband John did too. So, we had a new dog. 

But while Syder was calm and well-behaved, Archie was excitable and difficult to control. The Jack Russell in him wanted to explore boundaries so we had to erect fencing all around the garden to keep him in and sometimes we lost him temporarily whilst on country walks. Training sessions plus advice from the dog psychologist (!!!) from The Blue Cross transformed him into a great family dog with a loving personality and an adorable cheekiness. When he died, also aged fifteen, we were devastated.


Archie


It took over a year before we agreed on a new search for another dog. I spent each day for months trawling the internet and viewing hundreds of dogs at The Blue Cross, The Dogs Trust and Dogs 4 You on their websites.


It was then that I saw that each dog had something different about him or her and that each one had its own personal story to tell. That was when my creative juices kicked in and I started to imagine how it would be if they could talk and understand each other and humans. I found this so much fun that, as a writer, I decided that it would be a real hoot to write a novel about talking dogs. So, I stopped writing the Murder Mystery novel I was working on to concentrate on this new project.

 

 ***

 

Now for the cat in Walkies.  When I was a teenager, my dad gave me a black, female kitten whom he'd called Snowball and I adored that cat until she came to a sad end, fast asleep under a bale of hay. But circumstances changed and it wasn't possible for me to even consider getting a new cat.

Fast forward decades until we reach the day when my daughter, Lou, had an encounter that would change her life and that of her partner.  She'd had a rough day in her teaching job in an inner-city school and was desperate to get home and collapse. To her annoyance, she'd had to park some distance from her flat but when she got out of her car, there was a tiny black cat desperate for a stroke.

So, Lou being Lou, did so and the cat started purring happily. But when Lou set off for a cuppa and a lie down at home, the cat followed her all the way back. As soon as Lou unlocked the outer door, this tiny cat dashed inside. Ignoring the first door, which led to to the shop below the flats, it chose the stairs by the second door and dashed up them. Then, ignoring the neighbour's door, it sat facing Lou outside her flat.

Tiredness now changed into concern for this cat with no collar and seemingly no home. And what would Lou's partner say when he got back home and found a strange cat there, already making itself very comfortable?

Turned out that he loved cats so that was one problem solved. But how to find the owners? They took it to their local vet, who found that it was a male cat with a microchip giving the name of Kato and an address and phone number in London but these had been de-activated. Next, Lou and her partner spent days searching the nearby streets for signs of a missing cat poster but found nothing. And therefore Kato became their first ever cat.

They had many happy years with Kato until he developed a fatal medical condition and so then they had no cat. But almost immediately, a stray cat whom they'd fed from time to time on the kitchen window sill, decided that she'd like to come inside and so there was Hoover

Then a work colleague of Lou's partner desperately needed a new home for her cat and  there was cat number two, Luna. And finally, their next door neighbours couldn't take their cat to their new home ... and Socks moved in with them. So, they had not one cat but three, each very different from each other, all in the space of a few weeks.

I had intended to just focus on dogs as the main characters in my novel but Lou would often have funny stories to tell me not just about Kato but also her three 'girls' and so I decided that I would include a cat to act as a foil to the dogs. I called this cat Plato, in memory of their very small, very black, very sweet-natured Kato. But I made him the exact opposite of Kato in breed, size, appearance and character. Therefore, Plato became a large, apricot Siamese cat with the nature of a devil. And like all cats, he increasingly demanded to play a central role in the novel. So, of course, he got it.

 

***

 
And thus my novel Walkies was born. I had a hundred limited 1st edition paperback copies published and recently I made it available as an e-book on Amazon.    
 


Here's the blurb about the novel 


Anna has thrown off her high heels and boring office job to become a professional dog walker. But she soon suspects that her dogs can not only understand humans but also each other. Her charges  range from Derek the hippy Alsatian to Tigi the cross-gender cockapoo and boy do they have some stories to tell. And then there's the evil cat Plato lurking close by and just who is in the bushes?


Character List


Anna: Professional Dog Walker and loved by all the dogs

Kiz: Anna's girlfriend - a children's party organiser

Lottie: a Scottie dog - rather critical of others - best friends with Derek

Derek: the hippy Alsatian - a failed police dog who far prefers to chill out

Rocket: a curry-loving Jack Russell rescue dog - surprisingly well-balanced

Archie: a Jack Russell/Collie, also a rescue dog - a dog with attitude

Boxer: a Boxer dog - gentle and kind

Tigi: a 'cross-gender' Cockapoo - a nightmare of a dog - despised by the others

Maisie: a Golden Retriever - the 'mother-figure' of the group - who loves food

Syder: a pure-bred Border Collie - the natural leader of the group

and then there's Plato, a pure-bred Siamese cat who has a superiority complex and hates dogs, other cats and all people.

and there's a surprise late entrant  but you'll have to read the novel to find out who that is                                                                                                     
(As you can see, both  Syder and Archie feature in Walkies.)


   ***


We did find the perfect dog for us after all that searching: our fantastic Betsey, a cross between a Border Terrier and a Whippet. She'd been found living on the streets in Wales and had ended up at the same animal rescue centre where we'd found Archie. As soon as we saw her photograph we knew that she was meant for us. She's a little cutie: so well behaved, a dream to walk and so much fun. For such a small dog she has an enormous personality. She is now staring in Walkies 2 - The Great Adventure, which is well underway.

 

 
Betsey and me

  Betsey with husband John in Torreviaja, Spain. She is a well travelled dog and so perfect for WALKIES 2: THE GREAT ADVENTURE, which is based in Spain and Morocco, both countries she  has visited several times with us in our Motor Home. Absolutely nothing phases her.

 

***


Front and back covers of the paperback version of Walkies

 


 

The art work is by the brilliant Danish artist Pernille Harrtung


 ***

 

Previous publications of my work 

 

Short story  Renaissance published in Saucy Shorts for Chefs (Accent Press) 2005

Short story  September in Italy published in Quality Women's Fiction 2005

Short Story The Love Bug published in Sexy Shorts For The Beach (Accent Press) 2006

Short Story  Breaking and Entering published in The Yellow Room 2012

Eight freelance articles published in The Hampshire Chronicle

 

  ***

 

To order a copy of Walkies from Amazon - priced £2.49 - click here   

 

*** 

 

Original Paintings by Pernille Harrtung

 



 
 

Sunday, 1 November 2020

The choice of two paths in responding to Covid-19

I was inspired to write this by a news article on Friday on Channel 4 News about the US election, so this is my version. Which is: We have two paths to choose from in dealing with not just  Covid-19 but also life in general.

1. The path of Individuality. In the UK this is the 'I'm going to do what I want and fuck everyone else. If I choose to not follow the government guidelines to limit the spread of Covid-19 then that's my human right. If I want, I can party with my friends, have at least six people in my home, not wear a face mask, not social distance, not quarantine when I come back from a foreign holiday. If I catch Covid-19, then I probably won't even have any symptoms if I'm young and if I'm older, then if I die earlier than I need to that's my choice. And if I spread the virus to others, that's their problem. But if I need hospitalisation, then that's also my right to have treatment. If I'm an extra burden on already exhausted hospital staff, then that's their job so what are they complaining about? And if the crisis lasts longer than it needs to because of 'free-thinking' people like me and there are fewer jobs because businesses are going bust, then I can get state benefits because that's my right. 

In the US, the greatest follower of this path is Donald Trump plus many of his followers, and it extends to the use of firearms to protect property and scare voters and, in the case of some police officers, it means the right to kill someone of colour because, heck, they won't get out of their car or they're running away from me or they deserve to be taught a lesson. Of the many tweets and statements playing down the seriousness of Covid-19, Donald Trumps' latest about 'we're turning the corner with this virus which is just a little flu' belies the fact that the virus is spreading in the US at an alarming rate and deaths are of staggering proportions.

2. The path of Collective Responsibilty. If you choose this path, you look after yourself but also others. You behave in a way that you, yourself, would like to be treated. You obey the government guidelines not because you're a dumb sheep following the flock but because you know it's the best way to limit the virus. And it's the right thing to do. Even if those guidelines are tough and restrictive and sometimes unfair. Even if too many people in positions of influence and responsibilty do not, themselves, obey the guidelines and brag that no, they're not going to wear a face mask and yes, they're going to have a full house at Xmas, and 'I thought the guidelines had changed about not going out when you've tested postive'. Think Dominic Cummings and my case could rest there except that although he was the first to break the guidelines he's not the last.

My theory of the two paths can also be applied to other countries with their own particular circumstances.

I am a great believer in human rights but I choose the second path. I choose to not exercise my rights if it's going to hurt other people and I feel empowered by that, not diminished.

Each one of us has the right to choose which path we take but each one of us must also live with our own conscience for far longer than this pandemic.