Some readers messaged me on Facebook asking for more pictures of my now 7-week-old m'loot Alaskan malamute puppy, so I thought it would be nice to share a few on my blog as well. Here is our new little guy at 6 weeks (the day we brought him home):
He rides well in the car!
Giant Malamute puppy 6 weeks
He rides well in the CART!
And look at that face!
M'loots are without a doubt the best dogs ever! This little guy is currently around 15 pounds, and has a lot of growing to do—his mom is 170 pounds, and his dad tops 180! M'loots were originally bred for defense, as a draft animal and to hunt polar bears! They are very loyal, smart, and great with kids (if you follow me on Facebook you probably noticed how Max used to let my kids dress him, and wore the stuff all day!).
In addition to potty training this guy, I am still adding to Jesse Daniels Reimagined, and am getting ready for an autumn road trip!
I'll be honest. I was going to edit a non-fiction piece I wrote for one of my college creative writing classes for this blog post. But I opened up the file and I was like, "Nah." Because I am already editing Year of Luke, and that tiger piece is just too wordy.
In case you have not noticed, I am not a fan of wordy.
And the irony here is that this will be a long post. lol
I've finished up the Brother series, and I have several other projects I am working on (all of which contain recurring characters, may I add). But today I'm going to talk about my inspiration for Spirit Guide, since I've already been asked where I got the idea ... several times.
In the summer of 1999, I got my head stuck in a tiger's mouth.
Yes, really. It was a live tiger, too. Not all tigers kill people—who knew?
And by the way, I may write fiction, but I am not making this up. This happened.
At the time, I worked as a kennel assistant for a veterinarian in northeastern Pennsylvania. I cleaned, did laundry ... that sort of thing. I was essentially Cinderella, only with a paycheck, and the animals didn't talk.
Well, this veterinarian, Tom, had a wife named Margaret, who had a bunch of animals at her rehab center next door. I kept hearing about them from my mom, who was Margaret's hairdresser. I know, kind of odd that I did not sooner notice these mountain lions and a tiger running around next door to the vet clinic I worked at—but in my defense, I just never ventured that far behind the clinic.
When I went exploring, I heard the mountain lions. They have very funny, distinct calls that sound a lot like "Oh, wow!", and it's adorable. I would go to them on my lunch break and feed them grass (yes, they eat grass!), disregarding the signs showing people's fingers falling off if they stuck them through the fence.
Well, I was always the daring type.
When I realized it was my mom's client running the place, I had my mother set me up with a job.
It was not a full-time job, it was just a come-in-when-you-can summer job. And it was a volunteer position—I even signed a waiver saying I was working there at my own risk, and that they can not be held liable if I died. Yeah, my dad was just thrilled about that—lol.
So what did I work with at this place? Monkeys (those nasty little animals flung dung at me, lol), a bearcat (binturong), coati (South-American raccoon), a sloth, bats (not my favorite but probably more pleasant than the monkeys, now that I think about it), one remaining mountain lion (I held the 2nd one's paw as it died), and a Siberian tiger named Reba.
Reba was born to a milkless mother at another center, bottle-fed with her surviving siblings and nursed back to health by Margaret. She would not have survived in a zoo or elsewhere, but she was not weak—in fact, she was pretty badass. She'd protectively killed a male lion since.
My coworker, Yellow Feather (a native American lady) never let me in the cat room unsupervised. Mainly because they had a young stunted mountain lion in there with rickets (spaghetti legs) that wanted to use me as a chew toy.
It was during these supervised visits that I learned the basics of not dying:
1) Never wear deodorant or perfume.
2) Never wash before work (Sounds gross, I know, but shampoo is smelly)
3) Don't panic. Stay calm.
4) Never, ever turn your back on them. They need to see your face the entire time.
So much for those last two....
I was feeling particularly brave one afternoon. So Yellow Feather asked, "Do you want a tiger hug?"
Seriously, was that even a question?! Who the hell wouldn't want a tiger hug?
She opened the gate to the cat room, and we stepped in. "Reba, give Chrissy a hug!"
On her bench at my level, Reba eyed me. I approached her, in awe, uncertain. But seriously, the woman promised me a tiger hug—and my crazy 18-at-the-time self was not about to pass on the bragging rights!
"Well, what are you waiting for? Wrap your arms around her!" Yellow directed as I reached the bench.
I ran my fingers through her mane, and Reba reached for my shoulder. Her arms wrapped around me, and her paws quickly gripped my back. Before I knew it, I was breathing in her chest.
She was powerful.
I hugged her for a moment. It was about as cute and cuddly as you can get.
And when I tried to move away, I found that I couldn't.
I felt her breath on the side of my face. She intently sniffed my hair. Her rough tongue ran over my face ... over the top of my head.
She sniffed again. Tightened her grip on me. Pulled me further into her chest.
I tried to remember for a moment if I'd washed before work. But I didn't have much time to really worry about my hygiene, or lack thereof.
Because her jaws gripped my head.
So up until then, I was giggling, because her tongue felt funny.
That juxtaposed into sort of a panic. I could tell she felt me stiffen, and at that point, she tightened her jaws. Her teeth pressed into the top of my head.
It was not painful—in fact, it just felt slobbery. But I could feel every tooth in her mouth, pressed onto my skull.
"Oh my God," I said with a nervous laugh. I pushed on her cheeks gently, trying to free my head.
"I would not panic if I were you!" Yellow preached. "She'll pop your head like a grape!"
So, naturally ... what's the first thing I did? I panicked.
Because, why not make the situation WORSE?
"Let her go Reba," Yellow pled, her voice easy. She clearly was not as nervous as I was.
But then, she was not drenched in tiger spit.
And, because I was not squeezed enough, her arms tensed around me even more.
I waited, heart in my throat. Slobber down my ... everything.
"Reba, let Chrissy go."
I still wasn't breathing.
Drool dripped down my head, my neck, into my ears, and down my shirt. It smelled like ... squirrel?
Yes, definitely squirrel. She'd been chewing on that bone-hard frozen squirrel earlier.
I'm not sure how long it lasted. When your head's in a tiger's mouth, it sort of feels like an eternity.
And as quickly as she gripped it, Reba released my head, throated a Rrrrr, and licked my face.
Jittery, I started backing up toward the gate. She got to her paws on her bench, jumped off, and strolled toward me.
"Good girl, Reba!" Yellow opened the gate.
And I was out.
That's why you're reading this today.
As it turns out, she probably didn't even consider killing me. I'd like to say that's 'cause I'm awesome, but the truth is, Reba was just grooming me. She'd done it to Margaret millions of times.
And what is the first thing I did when I got home that day? I told my horrified parents about getting my head stuck in a tiger's mouth. My father's response?
"You need to quit that job, right now!" Well it's a good thing I'm 18!
I went back. Because I'm a rebel. And they could not stop me.
And in case you haven't figured it out, I don't regret it at all. It was the most amazing experience of my life.
Now, Spirit Guide is fiction. But there is no better way for a writer to research tigers, than to get her head stuck in the jaws of one. lol
The setting for Spirit Guide is in northern Alaska, where I hope to visit again once or twice this summer. So if I'm missing in action for a little while, you'll know where I am, because I need the inspiration!
I'm really looking forward to this book (more on that to come)! Although this is a stand-alone novel, it's also got Troy De La Fontaine in it (yeah, my teen beta-reader is thrilled, lol)!
And I'm sure you can guess who I will dedicate this book to! Because, after all, she let me live to write it.
We love and miss you, Reba. ~ Chrissy Image credit: A huge thanks to my dear friend, Margaret Hunter, for the pictures of her beloved Reba. You can follow me on Facebook for updates on new books.
Early release! My Best Friend's Brother: Making Up Blake is now available! You can pick up a copy at iBooks, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. I've included an excerpt below! Happy reading! = )
*** Excerpt from Making Up Blake ***
To my displeasure, we each had to say a few words when our name was called to fetch our diploma. It could’ve been a speech, a thank you, words of wisdom ... pretty much anything.
The auditorium buzzed until just after six, when the lights dimmed. Our collective parents—hundreds of them—snapped pictures from the bleachers. Cameras were recording. Our every move would be watched, over and over again, for generations.
Yeah, it made me sick.
Even I snoozed through Anna’s valedictorian speech. I felt bad, because I knew how hard she prepared for it. I knew how hard she worked just to be able to give it—but at the same time, I needed toothpicks for my eyelids.
Since Pawlak comes after Morrison, Luke sat rows behind me. But I could feel his eyes on me, and I couldn’t wait for nine o’clock the next morning, so I could feel more than just those on me.
Mr. Bias handed out diplomas. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this clueless man being my last encounter with high school staff, ever. But, even though he’s an idiot, I still kind of liked him.
I liked him, because he actually got me out of math class. I liked him, because—on very rare occasions—his advice was helpful. I liked him, because, with him, I could talk about anything.
I liked him, because—if I ever dared to miss him—I could easily just watch a Cuba Gooding, Jr. movie, and feel like I’m seeing him again.
“You know, I was your age once,” he said with his permanent grin. He stood on stage in black pants, a white dress shirt and red tie. “I remember all too well how you’re feeling this very moment—how much I couldn’t wait to get out of school and just get on with my life!
“And here I am, twenty years later—still in school, and not going anywhere.” His smile faded. “In a way, it’s like life in prison, without the possibility of parole.”
The crowd laughed. Cameras flashed at him in the dim room.
“The thing is,” he continued, his voice echoing, “it’s not all bad. I mean, most of it is. But on occasion, I get satisfaction from my job. When someone comes to me for advice, I help them out, and I feel accomplished—whether I’d helped them prepare for the SATs, helped them decide on a school, or comforted them when their best friend landed herself in the newspaper,” he said, looking at me with that grin.
I shrunk a bit when others joined him. The place grew hot when people didn’t look away fast enough.
It’s okay, though, I saw Lilly shrink, too.
“I want everyone here to know that they can always come to me. Any time. If you ever have a problem,” Mr. Bias exclaimed, “or if you have news you'd like to share—college graduation, marriage, a new baby, or especially if you win the lottery—feel free to call and share!” His gaze fell, and he sniffled into the microphone. “I’m not going anywhere.”
He stopped to compose himself for a moment, then picked up a list off the lectern. “Jake Andrews,” he read, preparing the first diploma.
People actually cheered—he must have a large family. He dashed up on stage in his black cap and gown, claiming his diploma and holding it victoriously for all to see.
Cameras flashed at him. “I did it! Now it’s time to party!”
And, believe it or not, the crowd went wild.
“Alex Anniston,” Mr. Bias continued, just as I felt my phone vibrate.
I reached into my gown and pulled it out of my pocket. There was a message notification, and I knew it was surely from Nikki.
I looked at the bleachers, where Andre sat by my parents, Troy, and the Jacobsons, in a red tee shirt and black jeans. The guy looks great in red, which, I’m sure, is why he wore it so much—it made him fiery hot.
Gino rushed on stage, grabbed his diploma and flashed a thumbs up for the camera. “I’d like to thank my ma for her support, my dad for his guidance, and my ex-girlfriend for making the Barones filthy freakin’ rich! You already paid for my college, baby!”
People laughed and glanced at Lilly.
Gino jetted off stage.
Mr. Bias continued calling the rest of the B’s, so I figured I had time to answer a little question. I clicked on the message icon. To my surprise, the message was not from Nikki, but from her boyfriend, Blake:
Hiya, hot stuff.
I stared at it. Surely this is intended for the supermodel he’s dating?
You messaged the wrong account,
I typed in response, and put the phone back in my pocket.
A minute later, it vibrated again.
No I didn’t.
A friend request popped up. I stared at the screen.
“Jenna...” I vaguely heard Mr. Bias say, and she hurried up on stage.
“Like, oh my God!” she squealed. “It’s time to shop!”
I quickly accepted the friend request, still kind of confused. This incredibly handsome guy—with dirty blond hair, dreamy chocolate eyes, and an amazing build—wanted to be friends with me.
Not the first time that’s happened, I thought as I felt my ring.
I grew suddenly nervous. Nikki would surely see this friendship—wouldn’t she expect an explanation?
And why is he sending me a winky face?
“Lilly Jacobson!” Mr. Bias held up her diploma.
Lilly hurried on stage, her veil of blond hair practically trailing behind her. She really was turning into Rapunzel.
She grabbed her diploma and squealed. “I want to thank my mom for being awesome; I want to thank my brother for his super-hot friends; I want to thank Troy De La Fontaine for being born,” she gushed, waving to him in the bleachers. “And since my dad didn’t show up, I want to thank Burke Jacobson for raising me!”
The crowd cheered. A sea of cameras flashed, and she actually curtsied.
And, although I should’ve been cheering for Lilly—and about to be called on any minute myself—something possessed me to go through that Blake guy’s photos. Because, you know, that’s what friends do.
And we were friends now, Blake and I.
For some odd reason.
I’m not sure why looking at the guy’s pics was a priority. I’m not sure why I even friended him. I’m not sure why he would bother noticing me, let alone be messaging me.
I’m not sure why I was salivating!
The first of many was a picture of him under the shower head. His expression was hot, his muscles were tense, his abs were wet. He looked absolutely luscious under that steaming hot shower.
And I was thinking,
Who the hell took this picture?
The next one showed him outside, shirtless on a bright summer day. He sported denim shorts, and he leaned against a large tree trunk. His body glistened, like someone rubbed oil all over him. It was quite refreshing.
Was it sweat? Sweat from what? Outside. By a tree.
In the next photo, he was in a swimming pool. His hair was wet and sleek. His biceps were monstrous, his lower lip curled seductively, and his eyes were deep. It’s like he was making love to the camera or something.
I scrolled to the next picture, of Blake on the beach, in a red speedo, dusted in sand. His eyes were soulful, his every curve was delightful, his bulge—
“I wasn’t looking at his johnson!” I blurted.
And after an instant of deathly silence,
The crowd. Went. Wild.
They roared with laughter.
Cameras blinded me.
They shone a freakin’ spotlight on me.
I stumbled out of my chair, disoriented as an idiot.
Beside myself, I made my way past a maze of legs, afraid someone would trip me.
Because, you know ... I wasn’t embarrassed enough.
I staggered breathlessly onto the stage.
People still snapped away—hundreds of photos per second. I could feel the red in my face, and I wasn’t breathing.
I don’t even recall looking at Mr. Bias. It was all a blur. Humiliated, I couldn’t think.
I was ... I was ... forgetting something.
My speech. I’d forgotten my speech.
And I didn’t want “I wasn’t looking at his johnson!” to be my senior speech—the last thing I uttered to anyone in that school.
So, in a breathless panic, all I could think of were the ironic words of a Chinese proverb,
“Wisdom is attained by learning to hold one’s tongue.”
Fantastic news! Making Up Blake is going to print, and you'll be able to pick up a copy soon! I've had a lot of fun writing it, and hope you'll have even more fun reading it! =) In the meantime, I've already started on Book 5, Year of Luke! It should be out this summer—you can preorder it on iBooks, Amazon, or online at Barnes & Noble! Now, I'm going to be honest. I could be farther along in Book 5 than I currently am. But the reason I'm not is this guy:
Yeah, he has been acting up since my boyfriend left. The guy came up to visit for a week—Max never met him before—and Max's reaction was ... well ... love at first sight. Needless to say, the man passed the sniff test. I've never seen Max like that around anyone—not even me. And I even feed the little devil. Okay, so maybe he's not so little.... Poor Max has been depressed, acting up and talking back ever since his new buddy left, so he's been a big distraction from my writing. Thankfully, he's coming around, and will be back to his old self soon... Which means my socks will start disappearing again in no time. You can follow me on Facebook for updates on new books (or Max).