Friday, September 25, 2015

Part 2 Thank you, Rachel Koch, from those who speak with tails

Welcome back, Rachel. Last time you visited, you told the story of Max, a special dog. This time, we're going to talk more about dog fostering and adoption in general.

Rachel with her pack
How many Great Pyrenees live with you ? I have 7 Great Pyrenees at the moment: 3 males and 4 females.

How do you introduce a new dog to the pack?
I just walk with the new dog and the rest will follow.  I’ve never had any problems.  If it is a young Pyrenees with a lot of blabla I present them to the pack and normally the blabla disappears very quickly when they are confronted by 7 other Pyrenees. Behavioural problems like that normally solve themselves.
I remember you once said it was like a man walking into a bar full of really strong people - he doesn't put on a tough act in that situation.

The pack chez Rachel
Do you intervene in the relationships between the dogs?After a month or two, maybe three, the pack will find out themselves where the new dog will be in rank. I never intervene. A pack is a pack and I am not a dog, but I am the pack leader so all the dogs stand under me. That has to be clear from day one!

I know that you worked with huge packs of hunting dogs in England. How did that come about? What did you gain from the experience?
Through friends that I had met through hunting I came into contact with various large dog packs in England and France.

The old saying is 'look at dogs and you will learn'. People do not take the time to observe and they treat dogs like humans and that is where all the trouble is coming from. A dog has a different way of looking at things. I see so many mistakes that people make and dogs going into a shelter because it is allegedly a mean dog who has attacked children. But for a dog, a child can be seen as another dog. 

This is very important - if a child walks by with a sausage, the dog will take it because he thinks that the child is lower in rank than he is. The dog would never try to steal the same sausage from a higher-ranked dog. That is why you should not intervene in a pack and normally they will sort themselves out. A dog that is too late for dinner eats less than the rest etc. Of course it is a difference if you have one dog or 10 or 60 but  basically it is always the same. If you want a stable environment, whether you have one dog or many, you must be a pack leader otherwise the dog will take over!

Christmas chez Rachel
You have succeeded with all kinds of dogs, including those who have been labelled as dangerous, aggressive with people or with other dogs; what is the secret of your success?
Especially in the beginning with an aggressive dog (by the way not so many dogs are aggressive it is mostly through fear that they developed that behaviour) but the best thing to do in the first encounter with a dog not to look at him and not to touch him just avoid him and give the dog time to come to you. I also think that as a pack leader you need a certain energy that the dog will pick up; do not hesitate and again maybe only 2 or  3% of dogs are really dangerous and the rest is simply bad behavior that you can correct with time.

Feeding Time
How do you cope when dogs you’ve fostered, and loved, go to new homes?
You simply have to. Of course it is not always easy but as a foster home you cannot keep every dog  and I am always happy if they find good homes.

As somebody who offers foster care, you have to work with many organisations. Do you ever find it hard to stay on good terms? If you disagree with their advice? Or if you know that the conditions in which the dogs are kept are appalling?
It is sometimes not easy. Some organizations are happy that the dog is in a foster home and think that the problem is solved. You have to ask them again and again to find an adoptant. They always think that you will keep the dog but the problem is that if you want to continue to foster dogs you cannot keep them all.

Let’s talk about money. Sometimes thousands of euros can be spent getting one very ill dog transported hundreds of miles to be rescued, while another healthy abandoned dog in a SPA, near the rescuer, is put down. Do you think associations make rational business decisions?
No I think a lot of organization are not run as a business but are run by people who react from their heart and not with rational thinking. I also think that organizations put sad pictures on the internet to get the most amount of money to finance other things. I had that with a dog from Spain who was in a very bad situation for months and months I was called by two ladies who had already donated 1000 euros to get the dog to France. However the dog was still in Spain and there was always an excuse why the dog could not be transported but they kept putting the most horrible pictures on the internet demanding for money.

So I decided to contact with the organization and informed them that I would take care of transport with the money they already had from the two ladies and otherwise I would expose the story on several sites. I arranged transport and the dog was brought to me the following week me in an extremely bad condition. I am not certain if he had been kept for much longer in the shelter in Spain where he was being fed bread if he would have survived.

I sometimes feel that the money that is spent bringing a dog in from a far away country could be better spent closer to home. Am I against taking dogs from Spain?That depends if somebody falls in love on the internet and wants to pay transport etc. to adopt that dog. There is nothing wrong with it but I am against organizations that use that kind of pictures to gain money even if it is to finance other things because I had the good example of the two ladies who paid 1000 euro for one dog and the dog nearly died in Spain. In my opinion that is bad management!

As somebody who fosters dogs, you make loads of money, don’t you? And get lots of other support too?
I never received any money except for the transport of the Spanish dog paid by the two ladies and it took a while to convince the organization!  I always pay the vet and the food. I see that as my contribution to help.  So as a foster home I have never received any money.

How do you keep your spirits up while working with abandoned, abused and ill dogs in a world that seems ever worse for them?
I always think that one dog saved is one dog saved. As harsh as it may sound, I do what I can but you simply cannot save them all.

Twilight barking chez Rachel
Tell us about some of the dogs who’ve come to live with you. 
We kept several dogs mostly because they were already quite old or very difficult to place.  Cimba, who tried to climb up the walls out of fear when he first came to our house and Weasson who had been maltreated.  Unfortunately they all died several years after they came to us, from causes that began in their ill treatment. 

Weasson died from a brain tumor, probably caused by being hit on his nose by his previous owner. He developed a tumor above his nose). Cimba was mistreated with a stick in his mouth when they wanted to move him from one box to another in the refuge.  He died from cancer of the jaw probably from the injury.  Max died from lymphatic cancer and that was very difficult for me because he finally had a good home but had such  a short time to enjoy it.

So yes, it is a great joy to be a Foster Home and yes, it is also difficult to lose a dog who in your opinion would have deserved a better life for many years but that is life and it does not always go as you want to.

Thank you, Rachel. 

If you would like to win an ebook of my story 'Someone To Look Up To' just post a comment below, before 30th September, in any of the blog posts about Rachel. If you already have my story from the viewpoint of a Great Pyrenees, please choose another book.

Rachel is happy to answer any questions you might have so feel free to post them below.

amazon link

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Meet horror's dark queen Suzi Albracht

I am petrified of my first guest in The Most Excellent Worldwide Book Tour so let's give a terrific chilling welcome to Suzi Albracht, who's only happy when she's frightening her readers. Be warned: this is a writer not to be scorned. 'Scorn Kills.' Children and scaredy-cats like me should not be reading these books so I'm hoping I can make it through the interview without hiding behind the cushions.

Contact Suzi: 
email her if you want to be alerted of new book releases.

Pull up a chair and tell us about yourself, Suzi.

I love to write horror thrillers with intense personal relationships between characters. I started reading earlier in life than most of my friends and spent many hours hidden in closets and under beds, sneaking in just another ten minutes of whatever book I was reading. As soon as I was old enough, my mother would send me to the library to pick up books for her. This delighted me because it opened up a whole new world of books not available in school.

I read everything I could get my hands on but was drawn to sci-fi, horror and thrillers. As I matured, I would say my main influences became Stephen King, Dean Koontz and William Faulkner. My writing definitely reflects those influences.

I can honestly say my twitter bio describes me to a T - Write, scare myself, turn all the lights on, write some more. Take a break, play pool, kick butt/get butt kicked, go write more horror, double lock door.

Stephen King, Dean Koontz and William Faulkner. What impresses you about each of these writers? How do you think they influenced you?

I fell in love with William Faulkner first. I love the way he makes music with words. From the moment you first open my favorite Faulkner book – A Light in August – you find yourself swept away with the melody he plays. Sometimes that tune is dark and gloomy, other times it is wistful and longing. He fills me with emotion. Dean Koontz captivates me with his stories. To me they could be happening right next door. While he is totally a horror writer, he is also a writer of human experiences. 

But Stephen, oh baby, he speaks to my heart. He takes Faulkner’s melodies and Koontz storytelling to a new level of heart wrenching, soul stomping, in your face horror. He weaves his stories of horror in such a way that I feel they are happening to me. The first SK story I read was Salem’s Lot. By the time I read The End I was hooked for life. I felt the desperation, the fear, the need for normalcy, every emotion the characters felt. He also surprises me with this stories. Each is unique and none of them are cookie cutter Stephen King. I especially love him because he hasn’t resorted to the slasher novels that are so trite to me, instead he relies on the readers imagination. He takes you to that dark place where you fear going and then leads you into even darker places. Because my writing is in the style of Stephen King, I only hope I never get boring and can capture your imagination the way SK has captured mine.

How do you think the horror genre is perceived by other writers?

Interesting question. I think true writers, no matter their genre, respect the horror genre. They know the hard work everyone puts into their writing and they know that includes horror writers. There are some writers who look down their noses at the horror genre but to be honest, those individuals are not true artists. Just because someone puts a few words on paper and even self publishes a book on Amazon doesn’t make them a true writer. They authored a book, that’s it. True artists study the craft. They grow with each sentence they write. Each word they put to paper is critiqued in their minds and shined to perfection before it is allow to stay there. A writer like that appreciates other genres because writing is a gift that is earned.

Why do you think people actually want to be scared? Isn't fear a negative emotion?

Let’s start with the negative emotion aspect. Isn’t every emotion that makes you feel something good? Some people just go through the motions of life without feeling anything. No joy, no anger, no fear, nothing. They think they are happy but are they? I say no. As human beings, we were designed to feel emotions. Sure love or happiness make you feel secure but fear makes you feel alive. Once you experience fear in a novel, the emotion of love will be richer and more vivid than before. 

I can’t speak for anyone else but when I write or read a novel, I can experience things I’d never experience in real life. And that means emotions too. While I’m not a thrill junkie, diving out of airplanes or jumping onto moving trains, I can get that same heart pounding thrill in a novel. When a novel is really good and puts goosebumps on my flesh, it gets me so pumped up that when I close it, the sheets on my bed feel silkier, the perfume of my shampooed hair hangs in the air and my own breathing is reassuring to me. I feel ALIVE.

I think there are many reasons for people to want to feel scared. As I just mentioned, it makes me feel more alive. For others, it is an escape from whatever boredom they live through every day. For still others, they need to forget their car that needs a new transmission and their looks that are leaving them at a rapid pace.

You've said that what you most want is for readers to feel the emotions of your characters. Do you identify with your characters and their situations? Any that you specially drew you in?

Actually, I don’t identify with any of my characters or situations. I do wish I could meet some of them in person. Mikael, for instance, is someone I could admire. He is loyal to a fault and has the kind of compassion more people need. He’s also funny and fun to be with. He both loves and adores his wife and son. Hey, I could date him! Teasing, but seriously, both Mikael and Jake are men who are interesting and multi-layered. To be fair, Carl is a very complicated person who would be fun if he wasn’t such a jerk. I think there is more to Carl that will come out in future books. I hope before he meets his end. I like all my characters, even snarky Bill. I find every dimple, every character twitch to be interesting, and even when they are being total d**ks, I want to know more about them.

Do you have any little writing habits?

I just keep a supply of a special brand of pens in purple and hot pink nearby. I can’t go without my neon colored index cards. Whenever I am starting a new book, I start jotting snippets of the story on my index cards. I carry those cards everywhere with me and jot down my snippets in the weirdest places. Once I get enough, maybe three inches, I type them into the computer. I’ll juggle and re-juggle them until I get the backbone of my story and a flow of potential chapters. After that, it’s all champagne and roses as I begin to flesh out and write the story. That part is euphoric for me. I feel all the emotions the characters experience, smell all the scents, even hunger if they do. It’s like living my own personal story.

Tips for new writers, especially of horror as a genre?

Develop a thick skin. There is an abundance of critics who are quick to offer suggestions that may or may not work for you. You have to learn how to decipher whether a criticism is deserved and should be taken to heart, or if that person just has a different opinion from you. It is also critical to your own sanity to keep in mind that trolls are everywhere, even among your fellow writers. You should still keep an open mind, unless it is an out and out attack. 

Most importantly, if someone says you have typos in your story, say thank you and fix them. If you are putting your book out there, even if it is free, you are obligated to provide the most honest product you can. That includes giving your reader an enjoyable read that is not marred by typos. 

Lastly, always, always be true to your character and story. Just because you write horror does not mean you can feel free to throw in gratuitous slasher scenes or gross-out sex lines to sell your story. When you do that, you are lying to yourself and your art. Only put in what moves the story along and tells your story as it is meant to be told. Oh, and have fun. I do every single day and I love it.

Thank you for joining me on my blog, Suzi. Your passion really makes me want to read your books. Perhaps a peek. In daytime...

Scorn Kills, Death Most Wicked and The Devil’s Lieutenant are all part of The Devil’s Due Collection

Book link
Book Description
The thing Evil craves most is innocence. When small children disappear, you can be assured that Evil has crawled out of its dirty corner. And when those children turn up dead, Evil has clawed its mark on humanity.

What if you were a homicide detective and little girls were suddenly being kidnapped and murdered by a devious pedophile? And what if that pedophile left no evidence behind except for the broken bodies? What would you sacrifice to save just one innocent child? Would any sacrifice be too great? What if it cost you someone you loved? What if, by saving that child, you unleash a horrific monster into your own life?

Mikael Ruskoff was living his dream. He was a highly successful, homicide detective working a career he loved. He had a mother who adored him, a son he took skateboarding, and a wife he loved more than words could express. He played a mean drum set every Thursday night with his best friend on guitar. His life was comfortable and pleasurable. Then he caught a case that would change his life forever.
Here are some reviews of Suzi's books to make up for the fact I just can't read or watch horror. I get nightmares and I avoid anything that might spark them off. However, I have every respect for the genre and for those of you who like to feel the fear and read it anyway, these are for you!


Death Most Wicked
By B. Martin 

This is one creepy novel. First you have a man who wants a little sister so desperately he's willing to kidnap children, only to kill them when they refuse to live inside his shed. Then you have this hellish substance that turns victims into puddles of bloody liquid. And in the middle of all this is Mikael Ruskoff, a homicide detective who's charged with solving a seemingly never ending string of murders.

Suzi Albracht has a fantastic imagination, and she does a wonderful job bringing this disturbing tale to life. Twists abound. Characters are connected in ways you least expect. And it's all presented in a way that will leave you on the edge of your seat. (or in my case, my bed) Definitely a novel horror fans will want to check out.

Book link
The Devil’s Lieutenant
By Glen Barrera 

After reading and enjoying Albracht's Scorn Kills, I knew what was in store when I began reading this novel. I wasn't let down. In fact, after the first few pages I was convinced the author had taken this tale of horror to an even greater level. Like any good novel, horror or not, it's the well written characters that drive the story. 

In this department, Albracht didn't skimp: Jake Holyfield and his pregnant wife, Caroline; his brother Bobby and friend Max - the good guys - pitted against evil in the form of Carl and Dimitry Ivanovich. Quite simply, the bad guys want the good guys on their team, by whatever means. And they do have interesting means. 

But this story is also about the frailty of the human condition. What moral price would someone pay for unlimited money, youth, or the woman of their dreams? This is a fast paced read, with unexpected twists and turns, leading to a well-done ending. I definitely want to read Albracht's next book.
Book Link

Watch the Book Trailer if you dare: The Devil’s Lieutenant