Tag Archive | Eldercide

Eldercide available now on Kindle

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At long last, my novel Eldercide is available on Kindle, and you’ll soon be able to buy a printed copy and other e-pub versions as well. I first published the novel in 2008, but it’s as timely as ever. Here’s what I wrote for the 4000-character description that people will see when they bring up the book on Amazon. If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Does this promo tempt you to buy the book?

When quality of life declines with age and illness, who decides if you’re better off dead? Nursing supervisor Claire Lindstrom suspects a killer is making the final judgment call for the clients of Compassionate Care. 

A woman with Alzheimer’s disease dies unexpectedly in the night. Another is found dead beside a stream. Claire sees the beginnings of a sinister pattern, but Paula Rhodes, her temperamental boss, doesn’t want her raising questions. The survival of the home health care agency in upstate New York depends on its reputation for quality care, and a rash of mysterious deaths could kill the business.

Claire antagonizes the county coroner and becomes the prime suspect in the eyes of the police. All the while, from his vantage point near her cottage on Kooperskill Lake, a killer called Gabriel is watching, channeling his obsession with Claire into passionate paintings. Under another name, he’s a man she already knows – but which one? And is he part of a far larger scheme of Eldercide, taking orders from a shadowy organization?

Author Julie Lomoe knows home health care from the ground up. After working as a creative arts therapist in a psychiatric hospital for over a decade, she founded ElderSource, Inc., a Licensed Home Care Services Agency in upstate New York. As President and chief administrator, she handled quality assurance, human resources and marketing, while a nursing supervisor was responsible for patient care. A Registered Art Therapist and counselor with training in family therapy, Julie couldn’t legally provide hands-on care, so she became trained and certified as a Personal Care Aide. Filling in when other staff couldn’t be found, she learned the business at the most basic level, helping clients cope with their declining bodily functions, comforting Alzheimer’s patients through sleepless nights, waiting impatiently for relief staff to arrive. In the process, she developed enormous respect and empathy for the aides who make home care their life’s work, and Eldercide is dedicated to them.

As a small, start-up business facing stiff competition from established agencies, ElderSource built its reputation and case load with an ever increasing emphasis on round-the-clock live-in care, recruiting many of the aides from New York City. Compared to Compassionate Care, ElderSource had relatively smooth sailing. Some of the agency’s seriously ill clients died during the agency’s watch, but all of natural causes. But as ElderSource grew, so did Julie’s stress. Like Paula Rhodes, she agonized over meeting the payroll and packed on pounds while trying to cope by means of comfort food and antidepressants.

Eventually, realizing the agency could quite literally be the death of her, Julie transferred the staff and clients to another agency, and ElderSource closed its doors. Several years passed before Julie came to terms with the loss and gained the perspective she needed to explore the experience through fiction.

In the years since Julie first published Eldercide, the real-life issues and ethical questions raised in the novel have grown ever more acute. The percentage of elderly in America continues to swell, yet the services to care for them have not kept pace with the need. With less disposable income, working harder and longer to meet basic expenses, people struggle to provide care for their elders, and the tensions and conflicts that tear apart the families in Eldercide are if anything greater than ever.

Our society is rapidly aging, our allotted life spans growing ever longer, but at what cost? Eldercide explores ethical dilemmas most of us will face sooner or later—if we live long enough.

Does this description tempt you to buy the book? If so, why not head over to Amazon right now? Type in my name, Julie Lomoe, and you’ll see Hope Dawns Eternal and Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders as well as Eldercide. Just think: you could own all three of my published novels for less than $9.00—the price of a fair-to-middling glass of wine. And you’d earn my undying gratitude. If you do decide to click on that shopping cart icon, please let me know so I can thank you personally.

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Above is the cover for the original edition of Eldercide. If you see it on Amazon, don’t buy it there! I’m no longer with the original publisher, and I won’t see any of the profits. I’m still fond of the cover illustration, which I did in pastels, but I decided to go with something less terrifying, since the killer in Eldercide is kinder and gentler than he looks here. But if you’d like to buy this version with my original artwork, I still have some around. Just contact me at julielomoe@gmail.com and we’ll work it out.

 

 

 

 

 

First Editions, Final Sale: Eldercide and Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders

Eldercidefrontcover[1]Want an autographed first edition of Eldercide or Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders? I can get it for you wholesale! I have only a few dozen copies of each novel left, and I’m offering them for $12.00 apiece, or $20.00 for both. If you want more than two, each additional copy will also go for $10.00. Shipping and handling is additional.

I self-published both books with the print-on-demand company Virtualbookworm, and for now, they’re both available from Amazon at $14.95 each. You’re welcome to order them there, but I’m suspicious: many people have told me they ordered them, but my royalty checks have been pitifully few and far between. Soon I’ll be withdrawing these editions from Amazon and replacing them with new editions on Kindle and CreateSpace, to coincide with the launch of the new paranormal novel I’ve been blogging about.

Thanks to my fellow Michael Easton fan, Alison Armstrong, for inspiring this idea. Her vampire novel Revenance looks intriguing, and we agreed to trade books via good old-fashioned U.S. mail. She said she’d prefer I send the one with the character based on Michael. Sorry, I thought, I haven’t finished that one yet, but then I remembered: his Caleb Morley character was a major inspiration for Gabriel in Eldercide – a charismatic and charming serial killer with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Below, I’m reprinting the segment of Chapter One that introduces Gabriel. He’s killed an elderly woman a few hours earlier, and Claire, the nursing supervisor for the home care agency providing live-in care for the woman, has just learned of the death.  I hope this excerpt intrigues you enough to buy a copy and read more about him!

 From Eldercide, Chapter One

Copyright 2008 Julie Lomoe

Across the lake, Gabriel squinted through the telescope. Claire Lindstrom sprawled motionless on the chaise, her head turned toward the morning sun. Her wavy blond hair curtained her face from view. Too bad – he’d have liked to see her expression. When she’d made the call, her back had been turned. He felt a flash of anger. Watching was part of what made his work worthwhile, and she was depriving him of the pleasure.

The scene was deceptively idyllic, like a watercolor on the cover of an L.L. Bean catalog. The slender blonde in a turquoise tee and khaki shorts stretched on the forest green, Adirondack-style chaise, her skin still summer tanned. The big dog, its hair a shade lighter than Claire’s, lying nearby on the lawn that swept down to the water. The kayak, a nifty accent in fire engine red, pulled up on the beach, the lake sparkling in the morning sun, encircled by deep green hills.

Maybe he should start painting again. He’d taken a couple of courses in college, and the instructor had told him he had talent worth pursuing. The network kept him fairly busy, but although the number of assignments was increasing, there were still stretches of inactivity. And painting might bleed off some of the nervous energy he felt when he’d successfully completed a mission. 

Last night, for example. The old lady’s death had progressed perfectly, exactly as planned. He had shone the flashlight full into her face, watched the confusion, the slow dawning of comprehension segueing into terror, the creeping paralysis as the drug took hold. Even after the breathing stopped, the eyes clung desperately to life. It was hard to pinpoint the exact moment she crossed over, but he kept the light focused on her face for a full five minutes as he watched the life glow fade from her eyes. Then, still wearing the latex gloves, he closed her lids.

Death by paralysis had to be ghastly, but at least the suffering was short-lived, infinitely superior to the endlessly prolonged agony and degradation that modern medicine inflicted on the chronically and terminally ill. He’d had his fill of that in the nursing career he’d abandoned.  

The new affiliation had come as a godsend, and the money wasn’t half bad. But the role they’d cast him in was too limited, too predictable. The powers that be had cautioned him to follow their protocol precisely. No room for creativity or improvisation. He was just a cog in a much larger machine. But that could change with time. If he played by their rules, they promised, the potential for advancement was virtually limitless.

He watched through the scope as Claire climbed off the chaise. She raked her fingers through her hair, daubed at her eyes. He caught a glimpse of her elegant features before she turned and headed for the house. Before long she would probably be at Harriet Gardener’s place. He wished he could join her there, savor her reaction. But that was out of the question. 

He’d called in his report hours ago, and a day of enforced idleness yawned in front of him. All at once he knew how to spend it: he would drive to New York City, pick up some supplies at that discount art supply store in SoHo. Pearl Paint, on Canal Street, near Chinatown. He’d be down and back before nightfall, and if they had a new assignment for him, they could always reach him on his cell.

He decided to buy oil paints. They had a squishy, sensuous feel that was more satisfying than acrylics. Cadmium red light would be perfect for the kayak, and it was good for mixing flesh tones, too. He wanted to do justice to Claire.

Caleb Port Charles promo 

 If you’d like to read more, e-mail me at julielomoe@nycap.rr.com and we can work out the details. I’ll be delighted to inscribe the books to you personally, and who knows – they may be worth more than ten or twelve dollars some day!

NaNoWriMo – can I write a novel during National Novel Writing Month?

This is the first sentence of my new 50,000 word novel. Yes, I’ve signed on for the exercise in masochism known as National Novel Writing Month. That big a word count averages out to 1,666 words a day, according to the site’s organizers, or about six and a half pages. That’s not an impossible goal on a good day, but I’ve never cranked out a novel that fast. Now that the race is on, my anxiety is already kicking in – I’m hyperventilating and my heart rate is rising.

NaNoWriMo (www.NaNo.WriMo.org) was launched in 1999, and it’s grown steadily since then. Last year 200,000 people participated, and of that number, 30,000 completed 50,000 words or more. Those who reach the finish line get some kind of sticker and certificate. There’s no fee to enter, and no one sees or reads the finished manuscript. When you reach 50,000 words, you upload your novel to their web site to verify the word count. If you’re paranoid, you can do a “save-as” and scramble the book a bit to insure that no one can steal your plot.

So why did I make the first line of this blog the novel’s first sentence? Because I plan to make my 50,000-word manuscript a form of performance art in order to beef up my word count and blend fact with fiction. I’ll alternate fictional scenes with stream-of-consciousness ramblings about my creative process, some of which will end up on this blog. Who knows, the process may open up new horizons for me as a writer.

I entered NaNoWriMo several years ago but dropped out after a week because the break-neck speed made me excruciatingly nervous. As a writer, I’m accustomed to taking my time, backtracking and editing as I go along. I agonize over the perfect words and phrases and make changes directly on the computer, so that before I print out the new pages, I’ve got a fairly coherent and engaging first draft, or so I hope.

With NaNoWriMo, there’s no time for that kind of lollygagging. As in a marathon, I need to sustain my pace. No time to fix typos or check for repetition, let alone worry about the finer points of spinning a compelling tale – there’s only time to spew, no time to analyze the vomitus.

Word’s spell-check just underlined vomitus with a red squiggle, telling me it’s not a legitimate word. Normally I’d take time to consult an online dictionary for fine-tuning, but not now – I have to meet my quota. But then what does this Microsoft program know? It doesn’t even recognize the word “blog.”  

No need to agonize in solitude – NaNo has lots of online forums where people can share the misery. You can find out who’s participating in your own geographical region and even meet them in person. In three hours I’ll be dining on free pizza, hobnobbing at East Line Books, an independent bookstore in Clifton Park, where the owner, Robyn Ringler, is throwing a NaNo kick-off party. Apparently some NaNo participants converge on local libraries and coffee shops to write together en masse, but I think I’ll pass on that – I’ve never done my best writing in a group setting.

You too can share in this November madness. There’s still time to sign up. I don’t see any entry deadline on the website, but of course every day you lose means more catching up in the remaining days. As the say on their home page, with a nod to Maurice Sendak, “let the wild rumpus begin!”

Anyone care to bet on whether and when I finish my 50,000 words? Give me your best guess, down to the date, hour and minute, and I’ll send the winner copies of my two mystery novels, MOOD SWING: THE BIPOLAR MURDERS and ELDERCIDE.

There, I’ve just written 647 words – over a third of today’s quota!

Venting negative thoughts in writing – is it always therapeutic?

Edward Munch

Commenting on my “Slump-A-Dump” poem in the last post, Bob Sanchez praised my quasi-rap rhyming and characterized the piece as “healthy venting.” He got me thinking – how healthy is using your writing as a way of venting negative thoughts? Can it be counterproductive? I’m afraid that sometimes the answer is yes.

This morning I attempted a poem about the depression that’s been plaguing me since May. One passage reads:

I score my mood on scales of one through ten,

with one as suicidal, ten as manic, trying to uncover

conscious weather patterns I can manipulate at will

by choosing wholesome activities that bring me pleasure

or failing that, alleviate the pain. Writing works sometimes.

Writing didn’t work today. I woke up with my mood at three or four, but wallowing in negativity for the hour it took me took me to come up with a first draft left me feeling like a two. I wrote about the heat wave that’s forecast to roll in tomorrow,* and how that will give me a more valid excuse for misery than I’ve had during the recent stretch of gorgeous summer days. Did committing my thoughts to paper have a positive cathartic effect? On the contrary, I felt even worse.

M.E. Kemp commented that short stories are one option for barreling through a creative block. I began one a few days ago about a woman who decides to take to her bed for good. She converses with a shadowy archetype who encourages her in her resolution, and speculates about how high a dosage of her favorite sleeping pill, Lunesta, would prove fatal. Only the need to feed her cats prevents her from carrying out her plans – for the time being.

As I wrote about Gladys’s sweat-stained sheets and wondered how long it would take for her cats’ hungry nudges and love nips to morph into full-blown attack mode – would she have to die first? – I realized I didn’t want to go down the path my imagination was taking me. I couldn’t envision an epiphany for Gladys, something for her to live for, nor did I want to accompany her on a slow and painful death. After three pages, the story peters out, possibly for good.

On the other hand, healthy venting fueled the fire that inspired both my mystery novels. Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders is about transcending the stigma of mental illness, and Eldercide explores the ethical dilemmas that arise as our allotted life spans grow ever longer. For me, writing has to spring from conviction, something I feel passionately about that I’ve absolutely got to get down on paper. I’m waiting impatiently for that subject to manifest itself.

 *The heat wave is here, threatening to break all kinds of records in upstate New York, and sure enough, the external excuse for misery helps me feel a little better about myself. I wrote this post a few days ago but felt it was too downbeat to publish unless I could come up with a more positive ending. But what the heck – I need to get something up here regardless. Maybe you can come up with some more upbeat comments to help cheer me up.

 

Nursing home placement – another form of elder abuse?

Edward Munch Self Portrait

Elder abuse takes many forms. Nursing home placement may be a humane solution, but to many elders it feels like involuntary confinement. I was moved by Jean Henry Mead’s comment on my last post, about the 98-year-old woman who jumped to her death from a nursing home window. My own father experienced a similar sense of abandonment when my stepmother abruptly placed him in a nursing home without consulting the rest of the family.

I was in New York City in my ninth month of pregnancy when I got his furious call from Michigan. She’d betrayed him, he said, and he wanted a divorce. Although he’d suffered from mild dementia, the outrage triggered total lucidity. I’m also convinced it killed him, because a cardiac event – what doctors sometimes call a sympathetic storm – caused his death early the next morning, before my husband and I could help make alternate arrangements.

That wrongful death preyed on my mind for years, and ultimately swayed my decision to choose eldercare as a profession. The same is true of Claire Lindstrom, the protagonist of Eldercide, my novel of medical suspense, as you’ll see if you read to the end:

              The trilling of the cell phone was so subtle that the sound carried barely twenty feet from shore, harmonizing with the chirping of the sparrows and the soft cooing of the mourning doves. If not for her dog Freia, Claire Lindstrom would have missed it entirely, but the big blond Labradoodle was dancing on the dock, wagging happily as she bounced around the little black instrument of torture.

            “Good girl!” Claire murmured as she steered the kayak in for a landing. She’d taught the dog this silent pantomime in deference to the neighbors, most of whom didn’t appreciate being stirred from sleep by a salvo of barks, no matter how magnificent the sunrise.

            Setting down the paddle, Claire grabbed the cell phone and peered at the caller ID. The number was Harriet Gardener’s. 

            A shiver swept over her, despite the rising heat of the early September day. As nursing supervisor for a couple of dozen home care clients, Claire was accustomed to getting calls at all hours of the day and night. Call her compulsive, call her a workaholic, but she’d made it clear to everyone on staff that she wanted to be brought up to speed on anything out of the ordinary, no matter what the hour. Most of the clients at Compassionate Care were elderly, and many were gravely ill. The aides knew better than to leave Claire out of the loop when it came to making judgment calls about the people in their charge.

            But Harriet Gardener was in excellent health, physically at least. She suffered from mid-stage Alzheimer’s and needed supervision to prevent her wandering away or burning down the house with her absent-minded attempts at cooking. But she was strong, and she rarely came down with so much as a sniffle. For the time being, thanks in large part to her live-in aide Dahlia Douglas, her quality of life was excellent. But inevitably that would change. Although they tried not to show it, the fact that she was fated to endure many years of painfully slow decline, culminating in the eventual loss of all her mental and physical functions, distressed her overwrought family no end. . . .

 Halfway across the lawn, she had the cell phone out of the bag, her finger poised over the callback button. She jabbed the button as she set foot on the first step, and the phone was ringing by the time she reached the deck.

Dahlia answered on the third ring, her voice weak and shaky. “Harriet’s gone,” she stammered. “It must have happened sometime in the night.”

Claire’s heart sank. “But Dahlia, how could she get out without your knowing? Everything’s locked up tight. You sleep right across the hall from her, and I know you’re a light sleeper.”

“Not that kind of gone.” Dahlia’s careful diction had yielded to the earthy dialect she usually reserved for the other Jamaican aides, and the melodic lilt of her voice was incongruously at odds with her message. “She’s gone. I mean she passed. I don’t understand. She was fine when I tucked her in bed last night. She had such a strong heart, and you know how the family used to kid around with me. We thought Harriet would outlive us all.”

Just like my father. Claire shivered. She took Dahlia’s report, somehow got through the formalities, hung up. Then, suddenly wobbly, she sank onto a chaise. Nine years ago, on a flawless September morning much like this one, she’d gotten a call from the nursing home where he’d been admitted the day before, suffering from mild dementia. He had gone to bed ostensibly healthy, died sometime in the night. A previously undiagnosed cardiac problem, they said. Or, as Claire always thought of it, a broken heart. He’d been furious when her mother shunted him off to a nursing home against his wishes, vowed to get out if it was the last thing he did. He had fulfilled his vow, although not the way he planned.

He shouldn’t have died that way, abandoned and alone in an institutional bed. His death shocked Claire into abandoning graduate school and entering nursing. She found her way into home care, where she could help keep people away from those warehouses for the dying. All these years spent making amends, and now it had happened again.

 Read the entire first chapter of Eldercide here on my blog. You can order the novel from Amazon or directly from me – see the page on how to order my books for contact information. I did the cover illustration for Eldercide – perhaps you can see that Munch is one of my inspirations.

World Elder Abuse Day – a cause near to my heart

Reading Dear Abby this morning, I learned that today, June 15, is World Elder Abuse Day. It’s a subject close to my heart. As President of my own licensed home care services agency, ElderSource, Inc., I witnessed the extreme pressures that can lead to potentially abusive situations, even among loving families who are doing their best to provide quality care for their elders.* Unfortunately, most seniors are not nearly as well off as our clients were.

The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that as many as one in ten elders experience some form of abuse, but only one in five cases gets reported. They define elder abuse as “neglect, exploitation or ‘painful or harmful’ mistreatment of anyone 65 or older,” and the abuse can be financial, physical or psychological.

We’ve all heard the horror stories that surface regularly in the news – the abusive caregivers, the financial scams that can cost gullible elders their homes. Perhaps less obvious is the neglect that can stem from isolation, especially when dementia, mental illness or substance abuse are involved. Elders living alone, far from involved family, can suffer from self-neglect when they’re unable or unwilling to care for their own needs.

My 81-year-old brother in the Bronx has a wonderful support network of neighbors he’s come to know over 30 years in the same apartment building, but suburban neighborhoods of single-family dwellings don’t offer the same comfortable familiarity. Personally, I plan to age in place – our home is already too small for all our stuff, and I can’t picture downsizing any further. But it’s not a prospect I look forward to with great enthusiasm, and it’s all too easy to envision myself as a neglected recluse in some not so distant future.

What can you do to help prevent elder abuse, including self-neglect? First, learn more about how to recognize the signs and symptoms by visiting informative websites like the following:

Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect, University of California at Irvine (www.centeronelderabuse.org)

National Center on Elder Abuse (http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/)

Keep in contact with your older friends, neighbors and relatives so as to help decrease isolation, a risk factor for mistreatment. Be observant for signs of abuse or neglect.

Report possible mistreatment or neglect to your local adult protective services agency or to 911.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging office to help identify possible sources of support like Meals on Wheels.

Volunteer, either formally or informally. With elderly neighbors living on either side of us, my husband and I drove them to doctors’ appointments and ran errands. I’m grateful for the stories they told me and the closeness we developed near the ends of their life spans, and I hope my own younger neighbors may reciprocate someday. More formally, as administrator for the Memorial Society of the Hudson-Mohawk Region, I help educate people about affordable funerals and how to avoid one of the most common financial rip-offs that plague our seniors.

But why get involved in yet another cause, when there are so many clamoring for our attention? Because we’re all part of a beloved community, both globally and locally, and the person who needs your help may be as close as your next-door neighbor.

 *My experience as President and CEO of ElderSource inspired my novel Eldercide, which addresses the question, “When quality of life declines with age and illness, who decides if you’re better off dead?” The book explores elder abuse taken to the extreme, but fortunately it’s pure fiction – at least from my perspective. Unfortunately, the plot is all too plausible. You can read more about Eldercide on this site.

Dogs I’ve loved in life and fiction

Congratulations to Karen Walker, winner of my 50,000 hits contest. Though Karen lives across the country, we’ve shared a lot over the past year through the Blog Book Tours group. I invite you to visit her wonderful blog, Following the Whispers. Here’s the post I contributed to her blog for my Blog Book Tour last November.

Truth can be stranger than fiction:

the tragic saga of Lucky, my golden retriever

Lucky and Me (Author photo for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders) Courtesy Hot Shot Photos

Dogs have long played a central role in my life and my fiction but Lucky, the beautiful golden retriever in my author photo for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, may have been the last dog I’ll ever own. Six months after the photo was taken, he died of lymphoma, and in the years since then, I’ve switched to cats. Setting up this Blog Book Tour, reading my hosts’ reactions to the photo, I realized I’d never written about Lucky. Since Karen’s blog focuses on memoir and nonfiction, this seems like the perfect time.

But Rishi, the dog before Lucky, deserves pride of place. He’s a major character in Mood Swing. In fact, his image is in my cover illustration, and his name is the first word in the first chapter:

            Rishi was halfway out the window and onto the fire escape when I tackled him. Arms around my dog’s massive shoulders, I groped for his choke chain and yanked hard. Half a dozen pigeons flapped skyward, squawking.

            I described him on Page 2:

            He’s leaner and rangier than a German shepherd, stockier than a Doberman, bigger than a Rottweiler. Despite his forbidding looks, he’s a basically friendly beast, but sometimes it’s in my best interests not to let people know that.

That last sentence was literary license. Rishi was wonderfully affectionate and loving, but only to our immediate family, and he was never adequately trained. Despite a near-death experience with a neighbor’s hammer that left a permanent dent in his skull, Rishi lived nearly ten years, a good long life for a big dog. But his death threw me into a deep depression.

Enter Lucky, a year or so later. He came into our lives with what seemed at first to be joyous synchronicity. At a Woodstock party given by friends of my daughter Stacey, someone mentioned having a golden retriever who needed a new home. I was instantly intrigued – we’d owned a beautiful golden named Shawna when Stacey was a child, and except for her propensity to chew up the woodwork during thunderstorms, she’d been a wonderful member of the family.

Right after the party, I paid a home visit to meet Lucky, fell instantly in love, called my husband on my cell, and within a week we had a beautiful four-year-old male golden. He came with a tragic back story: he’d been the beloved companion of an 84-year-old man who lived alone in the Catskills, and when the man was hospitalized, one of the nurses befriended both him and Lucky. Shortly after the man’s discharge, he was brutally murdered by a neighbor he’d known and trusted for years, a handyman in search of money for drugs.

The nurse took Lucky in, and in turn passed him on to the folks who gave him to us for adoption. The poor dog was threatening the family’s togetherness. They already had a couple of young kids, a poodle and a cat, and a rambunctious young retriever sent them over the top. The husband’s job took him on the road a lot, but when he was home, he told us, he and Lucky slept together downstairs while the wife, kids, poodle and cat slept upstairs. Not exactly a prescription for marital bliss, so Lucky had to go.

Soon after the photo session with Lucky, his health began spiraling downward. He couldn’t seem to keep food down, and he was weakening and losing weight. After extensive testing, the vet diagnosed lymphoma. In a futile attempt to buy more time, we opted for extensive – and expensive – surgery. In retrospect, that was a mistake, but he’d been so young, so lovable, that we thought it was worth the gamble.

He died in early fall. We buried him in the garden out back, marked the spot with a marble plaque bearing an iris design my husband had carved years before. I planted dozens of bulbs – crocus, daffodil, and hyacinth – and they’ve bloomed luxuriously in the three years since.

Dogs play a major role in both my novels, but they never, ever come to a bad end. In fact the villain in my suspense novel Eldercide nearly refuses an assignment when he thinks it might mean harming the victim’s Jack Russell terrier. And I could probably never write that scene where the neighbor tries to murder Rishi with a ball peen hammer, with me coming between them, shrieking that he’ll have to kill me first, screaming bloody murder until the neighbors call 911 and the police arrive. On the other hand, maybe enough time has passed – and after all, the dog survived in the end.

 As I write, my cat Lunesta is writhing around on the desk next to my computer, tempting me to rub her tummy and doing her best to bat the mouse out of my hand and onto the floor. Does she sense I’m writing about dogs? Is she demanding equal time? For now, she’ll have to wait.

Post script five months later: it’s a beautiful spring day, and the green shoots of the crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths are pushing out of the ground atop Lucky’s grave. Lunesta is sleeping in a basket by my side, soaking up the sunshine.

I did the cover illustrations for both my books, by the way. The medium is pastel.

How about you? Any pet stories you’d like to share? Have your pets played a role in your fiction?