Vanessa Kelly
Vanessa Kelly


Pets, tribute, Vanessa Kelly

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dogs in heaven

I’ve been thinking about dogs the last few days because our neighbors had to put their girl, a dear old black lab named Poppy, to sleep. Poppy was a rescue dog and truly sweet, although she was skittish around anyone not from her human family. But she’d overcome a lot, and seeing Poppy on her daily walks, indomitable even as she grew terribly arthritic, never failed to brighten my day.

I “owned” at least six dogs over the years, and I adored all of them. Strangely, they shared one common trait; despite their differences in breed, size, and personality, they were all bat-sh*t crazy. Lots of folks have pets that are well-trained, mild-mannered, and always obey their human companions. Not my dogs and I have the eternally strained vocal cords to prove it.

First there was Baba, Duke of Haddonfield (his actual registered kennel name), a feisty Miniature Schnauzer who could be meaner than a junkyard dog. Of course, as my dad used to say, Baba had his standards—he only bit family members. Everyone else seemed to escape his wrath, something none of us could ever figure out since we spoiled him rotten.

Then there was Louie, the magnificent Standard Poodle who was a behemoth of the breed, clocking in at 90 lbs. in his prime. Louis loved to eat dead things. One time, at our house down the Jersey shore, he got hold of a rotting seagull carcass—and I mean rotting. He led me on a merry chase around the yard, bolting down the dead bird before I could catch him. Louie only stopped his mad dash when he’d finally swallowed the damn thing—but for the gull’s webbed little feet, which he thoughtfully spat out on top of my sneakers. The rest of the carcass subsequently reappeared on my mother’s white Berber rug. 

But the craziest dogs I ever lived with were Toby and Max, a dynamic duo created when I moved in with my soon-to-be husband Randy, and his seventeen year old son, Daniel. Toby was my Standard Poodle, so hyperactive that he needed a daily dose of anti-anxiety medication. Max was Daniel’s Cardigan Corgi, a sweet if completely insane dog who engaged in daily “weirds.” Those consisted of Max erupting from a dead sleep to race repeatedly around the house, barking like a maniac the entire time. 


Max and Toby got along very well, thank God, since the rest of us were still trying to figure out the whole “blended family” thing.

But then one day, Daniel came home from school for dinner. Both dogs hustled to greet him and Toby managed to reach Daniel first, which led Max to conclude that Toby was attacking his beloved boy. In Max’s weirdly wired brain, it was now time to launch a full-out attack on Toby.

Anyone who’s ever been in the middle of a dog fight knows how horrible it is. This fight was particularly gruesome because Max would not disengage. Toby, the bigger dog, kept trying to back away, and Max kept after him. Fur flew, blood was drawn, and we only managed to split them up when I threw a pot of cold water on them and Daniel risked life and limb to pick up 40 lbs. of snarling, insane Corgi.

Randy had been outside while this was going on, and only came in at the very end. I was hysterical, Daniel was as white as a ghost, and the dogs were still growling at each other. Randy, who adored Max, instantly decided that everything was Toby’s fault (mostly because he was the bigger dog). He told Daniel that if Toby didn’t “learn to behave,” then he would have to go. I was in the kitchen, trying to rescue what was left of dinner (a really nice Italian frittata), when I heard that comment. The resulting discussion ended with me stating that Toby and I would be happy to go together. I punctuated that statement by dumping the frittata into the sink, taking Toby and locking myself in the bedroom.

Unbelievably enough, the same scenario played out two weeks later, when Daniel came home from school. This time I let Randy pull the combatants apart. Again, fur flew and blood was drawn when Max the Crazy Corgi refused—again—to disengage.

A half hour later, when the adults were drinking alcohol and trying to figure out how to deal with two dogs who clearly hated each other, Daniel called us into the living room. There were Max and Toby, squeezed into the same small armchair, happily cuddled together as if nothing had ever happened. In their little dog brains, they’d probably already forgotten about the fight.

Or they were just crazy.


But here’s the thing: no matter how nutty all my dogs were they were also incredibly loving and loyal (okay, maybe Baba was an exception). And when each one crossed the Rainbow Bridge, my world grew a little darker and I wept. I still miss all of them.

I sincerely hope I see my guys again on that day when I finally cross the Rainbow Bridge. Because as the great Will Rogers once said: “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

For you, Poppy. R.I.P.

What about you, folks? Have you ever had any pets that drove you crazy?

Shana Galen
Shana Galen


Milestones, readers, Shana Galen, tribute


I learned early in my career as a writer that the highs and lows are extreme. You are either super high (I made a new sale!) or super low (my book tanked). No where do emotions run as high as they do at the Romance Writers of America conference. If I walk through the hotel lobby, I’m likely to see a group of three or four authors laughing and toasting because one of the writers has just had a successful meeting with an editor or agent or found out great news about a book. Anything seems possible.

And if I keep walking, I’m likely to pass corners with a couple of authors huddled together in. One is red-faced and teary-eyed because a pitch didn’t go well, the editor did not request the manuscript, or a publisher has rejected a new proposal. The world seems to be ending, and the author’s career is spiraling down in flames.

I’ve been in both emotional places, and sometimes at the same time. In 2008 I was up for the Rita award for my historical Blackthorne’s Bride. The Rita award is an award given to the best books written in romance each year.

ritaThe interesting thing about being up for the Rita award that year was that I was also out of contract. I couldn’t find a publisher who wanted to buy another book of mine, and yet the industry was saying I was one of the best. Yeah. Talk about a high and a low. Unrelated to my highs and lows, our former JQ Emily McKay has a big high tonight. She’s up for a Rita for her young adult novel, The Farm. I know this is a dream come true for Emily, and I know we will all celebrate with her whether she wins or not. A nomination for the Rita is a high in itself.

One of our longtime members, Kristan Higgins, gave the awards luncheon speech today, and boy were emotions running high. A room of more than a thousand people laughed and cried along with Kristan. The RWA luncheon speeches are always memorable. I’ve never heard a bad one. Previously I thought Christina Dodd’s speech was the best I’d heard. Lisa Kleypas, Teresa Medeiros, Suzanne Brockmann, and Nora Roberts have all given speeches that resonated with me. But Kristan’s blew me away.

HiggansHands down. Best speech at RWA ever. I laughed and I cried. And then I thought, okay, she made me cry. That’s done. And then she made me cry some more. And then she made me sob and then she made me so proud to be a romance author, I wanted to yell it from the top of the hotel.

Highs and low. Lots of highs and lows over the years, but one thing remains constant. No, make that two things–readers and friends. Readers remain loyal. Friends remain supportive. The Jaunty Quills, some of my best writer friends, remain steadfast. I can’t wait for the conference next year, and even though I know the coming months will bring both highs and lows, I anticipate those as well.


Shana Galen
Shana Galen


Jude Devereaux, Julie Garwood, Shana Galen, tribute

I just returned from the Romantic Times Bookreviews convention in Kansas City. This year was a celebration of the Pioneers of Romance. Authors like Bertrice Small, Jude Devereaux, Julie Garwood, Robyn Carr, Mary Balogh, Thea Devine, and Laura Palmer were honored. I was able to fulfill the dream of a lifetime when I got to meet Julie Garwood and have books signed by her.

Julie Garwood

I also attended a panel where Jude Devereaux and Julie Garwood spoke and took questions. Jude Devereaux is the author of the first romance novel I ever read. Julie Garwood is the author who inspired me to write historical romance. I’m not ashamed to say I was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane when I met them. And I’m not the only one. I talked to Erin Knightley and Sarah Maclean about the panel, and both of them were also completely star struck.

Photo May 03, 10 04 32 AM (HDR)

Julie Garwood and Jude Devereaux took questions from the audience, and of course I couldn’t think of any at the time, but I thought of one later. What is it these authors did that made their books so iconic? Why do we read them over and over? Why has their work persisted when I’m sure many of the authors who were publishing when Devereaux and Garwood began their careers have long since been forgotten?

And so I’m asking you, the readers and experts. Who is your favorite “pioneer or romance” and what is special about her books? I’m not a pioneer, but I’ll give away a copy of one of my early books, No Man’s Bride, to two people who comment.

A New Crop of Authors: Erin Knightley, me, Vicky Dreiling, Kieran Kramer

A New Crop of Authors: Erin Knightley, me, Vicky Dreiling, Kieran Kramer

Robyn DeHart
Robyn DeHart


9/11, Robyn DeHart, tragedy, tribute

Photo courtesy

There will always be those moments in our lives that we remember precisely where we were, what we were doing, when they happened. My earliest one of those was when the Challenger shuttle exploded. I was in the 6th grade and we were to watch the launch in science class, but I actually stayed home sick. So I was snuggled up on the sofa, settling in to watch TV and the interrupted the programming to show the launch. I remember sitting up as the shuttle burst into flames, I called my mom at work, shocked. And when we went to Arlington cemetery many years later, that was the memorial I wanted to see most because it was something that meant something to me.

I was in college during the Oklahoma city bombing and I could not look away from the TV. It was the daycare that got me the most, yes the other lives lost were tragic, but what kind of monster can put a bomb in a place with a daycare? All those tiny toys charred amidst the debris and them carrying out those little, bloody bodies. It broke my heart. Still does.

And today, today marks the anniversary of the date we all remember. I was at work. I worked at the university, my alma mater, in a small office with just me and my boss. I was talking to my mom on the phone and she was at home watching Good Morning America and they cut in to the broadcasting (it’s aired an hour later here in the CTZ) to report the hit of the first plane. While she and I were on the phone, the second plane hit. My boss came in muttering something about a terrible thing happening in NYC. I tried to find something streaming live on the internet, but the sites were jammed. Someone in another office rolled a TV out into the hall and we all gathered out there and watched. The Pentagon. The field. People jumping. The buildings falling.

Still today it is hard to wrap my mind around such things. Whatever your politics, killing out of some misguided sense of religion is just wrong. But these moments, the ones we remember so precisely, they shape us, change us. I remember as a child being afraid of Lybia because of stuff we learned about in school. And I remember the plane hijackings of the 80’s. But 9/11 was different. It was so terrifyingly real and close.

So you can remember with me today, tell me where you were or what memories you have, you can let it pass. But today, I needed to pause and remember.

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