Until 22nd February guests will be joining me to share their thoughts on love in many of its different forms: family love, friendship, passionate and contented love, compassionate love and love of food, music, animals, language and writing. What makes each post unique is that the feelings expressed are individual to every author. What brings these posts together is the underlying theme that love is one of the most powerful forces on earth.

Is there an animal lover in the room? Silly question – we love our animals and pets and our guests today have put together some beautiful posts to illustrate the strength of the animal-human bond. I’m delighted to welcome Ramona (owner of Create With Joy), Annarita Guarnieri, Vickie Johnstone, Sean Keefer, Holly Robinson and Alan Tucker.

Don’t forget to register your vote on the posts – just scroll down to the end of the post to leave your vote once you’ve finished reading. You can vote daily and one winning voter will get a character named after them in my next book, a signed copy of the new paperback edition, plus a $50 Amazon gift card. Two runners up will receive signed copies of the new paperback edition of In Leah’s Wake, plus a $25 gift card each.

And the guest authors can win too! The author who receives the most votes in one day during the event will receive an Orangeberry Social Butterfly package and a 5-day ‘Tweet Me a Storm’ package from Orangeberry Book Tours.


Love of Animals in In Leah’s Wake

Puppy Love

The two hours after school, with her parents still at work, her sister at practice or a game, were Justine’s favorite time of day. She loved the stillness, the quiet, the sounds-water running through the pipes, the tick of a clock that otherwise faded into the noise and busyness of the house. Her mind wandered, free to think and imagine and daydream.

Dog hopped off the bed as Justine opened the door.

Justine set her stew on her desk and bent, scratching the pup’s ears.Crouching, she gave Dog a hug. Dog whimpered in her embrace.

‘Hey, puppy,’ Dog licked Justine’s face. ‘What’s wrong? Let’s see, baby,’ she said, pushing Dog to her feet. ‘Is it your hip again? Here, puppy. Treat?’ She opened the bag of liver treats she kept by her computer and fed one to Dog. ‘Another one? Okay. Here you go.’

The prednisone treatments the vet had been giving the dog were a joke. Poor Dog was in pain. There had to be something better.

Justine logged onto her computer, Dog settling by her feet.

A Google search of Labrador Retriever arthritis and treatment turned up a list of possible options: anti-inflammatory drugs, acupuncture. Here’s one, she thought, Pulsed Signal Therapy. ‘PST is non-surgical and pain free,’ Justine read, ‘with no known side effects. . . a top treatment choice for arthritis.’ Perfect, she thought and copied the article into a Word document, then forwarded it to her mom.

A newly edited edition of In Leah’s Wake has recently been released with a paperback version due for release next week. The newly edited novel features a new chapter and several new scenes, adding new connections and insights, and tightens the book, cutting 60 pages – all while maintaining the integrity of the original edition.

For more information visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble.




Annarita Guarnieri: Feline Love

It is said that only wolves mate for life, and cats are solitary creatures, with no true bonds.

Well, I can attest this is not true. I’ve seen true love between cats.

His name was Ares (a beautiful Oriental, smoke black); her name was Siria(an European black with a beautiful, shiny coat).
Between them, it was love at first sight. I saw they were always together, but I did not think much of it, because Ares was too young, barely six months old but on June 28th Siria gave birth to four kittens, two shiny black females (Freya and Bastet) just like her, and two smoke black Orientals (Lilith and Kanon, the only male) who were their father’s portrait. Ever since their birth, the family could always be seen huddling together, and what really tore my heart was when Ares fell terminally ill: during his illness, Siria and their four children never left his side, not even for a moment.

After he died, Siria never mated again, and till her death she could always be seen with her daughters and her son.

Kanon and Lilith developed the same kind of bond their parents had shared. They weren’t just twins, they were a real couple. They were always together, had a litter together and when Lilith died, Kanon kept looking for her – until he died as well, twenty days later.

I’ve seen more love in those cats than I’ve seen in many human beings.

Born in Trieste, Italy, I started studying and using English at the age of 6, and I’ve been working as a translator and editor for the past 33 years. My first book, Cats: Instruction for Use – How to Survive being Owned by a Cat will soon be published in the US by Inknbeans Press. Divorced, with two grown up daughters, I now live in Northern Italy with my 30 cats and my Belgian Shepherd, Shine.


Vickie Johnstone: A Tail of Love

I guess you won’t be sending a Valentines Card to your dog or hamster, but who hasn’t had a beloved pet at some time? They’re part of the family and as kids we talk to them, thinking they’ll talk back. Let’s face it, as adults we’re still chatting to them and imagining they understand! They bring such fun and surprises, returning our kindness with devotion. If I go away, my cat, Mogsy, spots the case and goes into affection overdrive before sulking. When I’m back she’s at the door before I’ve opened it, rubs my leg, runs around purring, sniffs everything to see where I’ve been and then tells me off with an echo of meows. If only I could translate, but would they be rude words?! Whenever I sit, somehow she’s in my lap before I’ve noticed. If I leave a room, she pads behind. As a kitten she’d even try to jump on my lap in the toilet! Ouch! Mogsy’s enemy is my laptop. It’s in her rightful place, after all, and how dare a bit of plastic take over? She even leaps across it while I’m typing! But, if I have a bad day or I’m ill, she’s there for me. Mogsy is 12, so this is one of my longest relationships – with this little ball of fur. The best part of coming home is being greeted by her rather big mew and little furry face. I know people say cats can’t smile, but I’m sure mine does. And she makes me smile a lot. So, give your fluffy a hug for V Day!

Vickie says: “Hi, my name is Vickie and I live in London. I have a thing about fluffy cats, so much so that I’ve written the Kiwi Series about them. I work as a sub editor, but my fave things include reading, writing, films, the sea, photography, art, music, nature, custard tarts and tea. I also write poetry”.


Sean Keefer: Love of Animals

I wasn’t raised by wolves, but I live with a pack of dogs.


I’ve had at least one dog for the last 15 years. Well, I started with one. That became 2 then there were 3. One day I stopped and did a head count and I discovered I was up to 4.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

They’re all different. They’re all a bit of a test. And all of them have mastered the art of unconditional love.

While it may sound a bit cliche, it comes naturally to most dogs I’ve ever met.

Dogs have amazing abilities, some almost superhuman, but the one quality they all seem to effortlessly display is the powers to love on the spot and to forgive in an instant. Actually, I’m not entirely sure that the concept of forgiveness even exists with the dogs. It doesn’t seem they need it. Mistakes don’t seem to matter. If I’m late getting home or if supper doesn’t come on time, the dogs are perhaps a bit hyper or hungry, but with them all is still right with the world.

I once scoffed, yes scoffed, at people who said they learned from their dogs, but over the last 15 years I’ve learned to pay attention to the pack. While I draw the line at butt-sniffing, the canines have a lot to teach us about life and love. I learn something everyday.

While I have a feeling those of you reading this who are already dog owners are probably smiling having already experienced this first hand, if you don’t share your home with a canine or two, give it a go.

Sean Keefer lives, works, writes and plays music in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The Trust is his debut novel. Presently he is hard at work on a follow up. For more information visit SeanKeefer.com.


Holly Robinson: Adopting CatDog

I never meant to adopt two cats instead of one, much less to fall in love with a cat that thinks he’s a dog. But sometimes life surprises you. Or, in cat terms, sometimes life is a ball of yarn that unwinds into unexpected pleasures.

It all began when I gave into my son Aidan’s request for a kitten. Aidan had a tall order: his kitten had to be gray, white-pawed and female. After weeks of driving around New England, we finally found a shelter with the perfect gray kitten, snowdrop paws and all.

As we waited for paperwork, I glanced into a cage across the aisle. There, all by himself, lounged a cat as long as my arm, butterscotch gold and with a kinked tail. On impulse, I scooped him into my arms.

The cat was as languid in my arms as he’d been in the cage, purring like a motorboat as he nuzzled my neck. Just like that, I was in love. We walked out of the shelter with two cats.

It soon became clear that this cat, which we named Mini Wheat, was no ordinary feline. He is a CatDog, like that hybrid cartoon animal on Nickelodeon, the one with a cat’s head on one end of his body and a dog’s on the other. If I walk our dogs on leashes, this CatDog struts between them as if he’s on a leash, too. When I call the dogs to come inside, Mini Wheat comes running, tail wagging. If I toss a toy, he fetches it for me, purring. Our clever Cairn terrier wisely snubs Mini Wheat for his doggish antics, but our Pekingese lovingly accepts this CatDog into the pack.

As I write this, MiniWheat is curled in my lap, catlike. But I know he’s waiting expectantly for three o’clock, when it’s time for our afternoon walk, me with a Cairn, a Pekingese and one enthusiastic CatDog, who shows me how to think and live outside the box.

Holly Robinson is a journalist whose work appears regularly in national magazines. She is the author of The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir, a Target Breakout Book, and the novel Sleeping Tigers. Her second novel will be published by Penguin in spring 2013. To learn more about Holly Robinson, please visit her website.


Alan Tucker: Animal Love

‘I’m going for a W-A-L-K!’ I call downstairs to my daughter.

I hear a muffled, ‘Okay, have fun,’ in response, mingled with the strains of a Katy Perry song.

Turning, I notice the reason for my spelled out proclamation has silently snuck up behind me. She sits, quivering slightly with anticipation, looking up at me with rich, brown eyes. I smile and nod. ‘Yes. We’re going.’

The response is immediate and exuberant. Forty pounds of yellow labrador begins to bounce, up and down, with unbridled joy.

It’s so easy to anthropomorphize our pets. The emotions they express remind us of children. Happiness, excitement, and, sometimes, shame or guilt when they’ve done something wrong – all these things are readily apparent to us. Love, however, is more complex. We feel it, certainly, for our pets, but do they return that same emotion? Or are we simply projecting it from the behaviors we observe?

An equally valid, though blasphemous sounding, question is: do babies love their parents? To answer this, we must ask ourselves something else: is love a conscious or unconscious emotion?

We say, ‘I love ice cream!’ or any number of other things every day. But that is a misuse of the word, in my opinion. Love is the feeling, deep in the pit of your stomach, the moment your girlfriend’s gaze moves from the ring to your face and says, ‘Yes. It’s the overwhelming surge that comes over you when you look your newborn daughter in the eyes for the first time. And, it’s the simpler, unconditional joy I see looking back at me from chocolate-colored eyes.

But, enough talk of love. I’m going for a W-A-L-K!

Alan Tucker, author of A Measure of Disorder, A Cure for Chaos, and forthcoming Mother’s Heart, is a dad, a graphic designer, and a soccer coach. Mostly in that order. He’s had a lifelong adoration of books, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown, progressing through Alan Dean Foster’s Flinx series, and continuing on with the likes of Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine and Naomi Novik, to name a few.


Ramona (Create with Joy): Lessons I’ve Learned From My Fur Angels

When I think of the biblical definition of love:

Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy or boast
It keeps no record of wrongs.
It always protects, always trusts,
Always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails

I am thankful that God, in His infinite wisdom, has blessed me with fur angels who show me how to love more deeply and live more fully.

They have enriched my life in ways I cannot even begin to measure!

They greet me at the break of dawn and curl beside me as the moon dances across my pillow each night. I treasure their companionship.

When I leave, even for the shortest of outings, they greet me like a long lost prodigal. They’re into public displays of affection.

They comfort me when I’m sad.
They delight in my successes.
They listen without judgment.
They keep all my secrets.


They remind me to play
To not take myself so seriously
To find joy in little things
To take daily naps!

They remind me that life is short, so make the most of the time you’ve been given.

Be a loyal friend.
Live without reservation.
Love unconditionally.

Happy Valentines Day, dear fur angels!

This essay was written by Ramona (The Paper Princess), who receives daily inspiration from her fur angels at Create With Joy.