Thursday, April 27, 2017

Meeting Your Fences

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:   Did you see the 60 Minutes story on the Maryland Cup? And the crazy devoted talented brilliant riders who gallop four miles over fencers and water hazards and who knows what else at breakneck (oops) speeds on gorgeous horses? 

Yeah, the fabulous Sasscer Hill does stuff like that, and I cannot wait to talk to her about it at Malice.

She’s got a brand new mystery set in horse racing world, FLAMINGO ROAD, just brand new from St. Martin’s. And, dear Reds, Sasscer is about to see that the course of a book tour is almost as hazardous as a cross country steeplechase. In fact, it may be exactly the same thing.

                              By Sasscer Hill

It’s a cold March afternoon and pouring as my plane skids to a halt on LaGuardia’s runway. I have arrived for the first book signing for Flamingo Road, three weeks prior to its April 18 pub date.

I rush to the baggage area, relieved to see my bag circling toward me. It has the outfit for my event at the posh ladies’ club in Manhattan where I have miraculously landed this gig. I manhandle the bag off the carousel, grab the handle, extend it, and begin marching. Except, the bag is immobile on the floor, and I am holding an unattached handle in my hand.
Have I just said the F word? Was it loud enough to be heard? If you’ve ever suffered an experience like this, did a four-letter word escape your lips?

This won’t do, I admonish myself, remembering the perfect, hand-written letter I received from the club announcing cell phones may not be used inside, and absolutely no photos may be taken, ever. It advised that I must not reveal the name of the club when mentioning the event on social media. A whole new meaning for “private” club.

I arrive at my sister’s apartment a little wet and looking like I’ve just gone ten rounds with my suitcase. The next day, as we arrive at the club, it’s still raining. I remove my rubber boots and slip on my suede Sacha London three-inch pumps. Fortified with fashion and makeup, I meet the ladies. I have never seen so many Gucci shoes and Chanel Suits outside the September issue of Vogue.

The ladies are charming, educated, and talk of their latest travels and the jewelry they bought in South America the previous month. We are having English tea and beautifully arranged pastries. I tell the head lady that I would kill for a Diet Coke and she rustles one up. Soon I’m at the podium to speak.

I go inside myself, focusing like I used to do when I’d ride in a steeplechase race. I meet my fences––which today are bullet points on a sheet of paper––and I don’t falter. Women are leaning forward, listening to every word, no one is whispering, there is perfect silence, and I know I’m winning. At the book signing, I sell out.

Have any of you experienced a recalcitrant suitcase, or wealth intimidation? How do you find your inner strength?

HANK: Heck with inner strength. I want to hear about a club that is so private you can't even talk about it.  

But WHY does something always go wrong in  situations like that? At the worst possible time? How does it know?

At least we can't get last-second runs in our stockings anymore! 

Sasscer, you are fabulous!

Author Sasscer Hill was involved in horse racing as an amateur jockey and racehorse breeder for most of her life. She sets her novels against a background of big money, gambling, and horse racing, and her mystery and suspense thrillers have received multiple award nominations.

Sasscer provided the Kirkus Review, which, she says, provides the most accurate synopsis of Flamingo Road that’s been written.

“The dark and dirty underbelly of horse racing is exposed when a Baltimore cop goes to visit relatives in Florida. Internal Affairs has been very interested in Fia McKee ever since she shot and killed the man who was choking Shyra Darnell, a hot walker at Pimlico who's so afraid of someone that she refuses to answer any questions. 

When Fia's beloved father, a racehorse trainer, was murdered five years earlier, Fia joined the police and has never given up on his case, which has now turned very cold. Put on leave, she answers a call for help from her brother, Patrick, whose wife has walked out and left him with a horse-crazy teen. Someone's been slaughtering people's horses for meat, and when Cody, her niece Jilly's gelding, becomes a victim, Fia gets mad and plots to get even. 

The night of the gelding's death, she meets a man named Zanin who runs the Protect the Animals League and is trying to stop the carnage. Zanin is sure the guilty party is a Cuban-American who lives in the dangerous and lawless area known as the C-Nine Basin, but no one's been able to prove that he's involved. Meantime, 

Fia learns that her problems back home may go away if she agrees to go undercover for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau at Florida's Gulfstream Park, where horses that shouldn't be winning are suddenly showing amazing talent. Fia eases into a job as an exercise rider for an honest trainer while trying to discover what new, so far undetectable, drug is turning ordinary horses into superstars. Hill boasts knowledge of horses and the very real problems in horse racing that fill this sound mystery with thrills and hair-raising action from first to last.”—Kirkus

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Cat Cautionary Tale--And a Furry PSA

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Have you ever had a pet you dearly love?  You’ve known me long enough to have heard of my dear Lola (so tiny when I got her at the SPCA that she couldn’t even go up the stairs in my apartment) and Leon (who I saved from the torment of a pack of street kids on Ponce deLeon Avenue.) Lola lived to be 20, Leon 14. They never acknowledged the other, although lithe lived in the same apartment.

Anyway. I loved them. The incredible Annette Dashofy has Kensi. And the two of them will break your heart with this story. Stop, take a moment, read this. And cherish your loved ones.

Kensi’s Story

We’re only four months in to the year and already it’s provided me with some fabulous highs (contract extension, USA Today Bestseller list, multi-book audio deal, wonderful reviews on the new release) and some devastating lows (my mom’s death, several illnesses, and nearly losing Kensi).

That last one involving my office assistant/kitty cat may not have been on the same level as losing my mom, but on the heels of everything else, having to rush Kensi to the emergency vet and leaving her there drove me to my knees.

Guilt had much to do with the anguish. What happened could have been—should have been—prevented. By me. The often overly cautious cat mom.

Some of you who follow me on Facebook already know the story. What surprised me was the response. Not because of the outpouring of support. I already knew I have the best Facebook friends. What surprised me was the number of pet owners who didn’t know about the hazards of plants.

So by way of a furry PSA, here’s Kensi’s and my story.

I love flowers, especially roses. Who doesn’t, right? So I squeed with delight when this gorgeous spring bouquet of roses and lilies showed up at my door. I also know Kensi loves to chew on plants, so I snapped a photo of the flowers with Miss Nosy checking them out and then promptly put them on top of our armoire, which is the only—and I do mean only—spot in this house where she can’t get to them. For the next week, I admired them and paused to inhale the scent of those gorgeous roses several times a day.

But as cut flowers do, they started to wilt. I thought I’d squeeze one more day out of them. And that was my mistake.

Monday morning was one of those Mondays. The kind you wish you could do over but are afraid you’d end up reliving a la Groundhog Day. I spilled a glass of water. Hubby kicked the cat food bowl sending crunchies all over the floor.

And in the midst of me rushing to get Hubby out the door for work, Kensi starting gakking. As I cleaned up the mess, I noticed something salmon-colored in it. I also noticed a few feet away, at the base of the armoire, several wilted lily petals from the bouquet. Salmon-colored lily petals.

Poor Kensi continued to gak. I followed her around, mopping up the liquid. Two petals had come back up. At first I thought, well that’s good. She should be fine. She’d thrown the things up, so there wasn’t anything left in her system to cause problems.

Except I knew almost immediately that things weren’t fine. She acted like her mouth was sore and she refused her favorite cat treats. So I did what I always do when I don’t know all the facts. I hit Google. 


What I read terrified me. By now it was a little after 6:00 in the morning and my vet doesn’t open until 9:00. Plus he’s not an emergency vet. His staff might very well re-direct me elsewhere. Tamping down the panic, I called the nearest 24-hour emergency vet, which was still 45 minutes away. They did little to comfort me. Oh, they were calm about it, but the bottom line was “get her in here as soon as you can.” Do not pass go. Do not collect two-hundred dollars.

By the time I got her to the vet, she was definitely not herself. However, had I not witnessed her throwing up and not seen the petals on the floor, I wouldn’t have noticed anything wrong. She wasn’t glaringly ill. Just not quite right.
The vet assured me her prognosis was good. I’d gotten her there quickly. They would keep her for two to three days, keep her on IVs to flush her kidneys, give her meds to sooth her stomach, and otherwise support her while she fought the toxins. They would do bloodwork and monitor her vitals.

I’m not sure who was more upset about having to leave her there—Kensi or me. The best news that morning was that her baseline kidney numbers were good.

The information they gave me about cats and lilies (and a number of other plants and flowers) was sobering. Had I waited until she started showing obvious symptoms of being ill, the kidney damage would have been done. Her prognosis would have been bleak. It didn’t matter that she’d thrown up the pedals she’d eaten. If a bit of pollen falls into water and the cat drinks the water, the cat will likely die. They are that deadly.

Our story has a happy ending. Kensi came home after 48 hours. She was still a little off for another two days or so, but is now back to her normal, funny, cuddly self. Any future bouquets of flowers will be adored, photographed, and immediately donated to someone without pets.

To all of you slaves to fur babies out there, educate yourself. Not all plants are toxic, but avoid bringing those that are into your pet’s territory.  []

By the way, I can continue to love my roses. They are not toxic to cats!

HANK:  Oh, what a saga! And we are so pleased that Kensi is okay.  I know you were so worried!  Reds and readers, pet stories? Or—what things did you find out the hard way?


USA Today bestselling author Annette Dashofy has spent her entire life in rural Pennsylvania surrounded by cattle and horses. When she wasn’t roaming the family’s farm or playing in the barn, she could be found reading or writing. After high school, she spent five years as an EMT on the local ambulance service, dealing with everything from drunks passing out on the sidewalk to mangled bodies in car accidents. These days, she, her husband, and their spoiled cat, Kensi, live on property that was once part of her grandfather’s dairy.

Her Agatha-nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series includes Circle of Influence (also nominated for the David Award for Best Mystery of 2014), Lost Legacy, Bridges Burned, With A Vengeance, and No Way Home.

A relaxing trail ride turns tragic when Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe Chambers discovers the body of a popular county commissioner in her Pennsylvania woods. Inconsistencies surround the horrible “accident,” but before she can investigate further, she’s pried away by a plea for help from her best friend whose son has been deemed a person of interest in a homicide over a thousand miles away. When he vanishes without a trace, his mother begs Zoe to help clear him and bring him safely home. The task takes Zoe out of her comfort zone in a frantic trip to the desolate canyons and bluffs of New Mexico where she joins forces with the missing boy’s sister and a mysterious young Navajo.

Back at home, Vance Township’s Chief of Police Pete Adams must deal not only with the commissioner’s homicide, but with an influx of meth and a subsequent rash of drug overdoses in his rural community. Bodies keep turning up while suspects keep disappearing. However little else matters when he learns that half a continent away, a brutal killer has Zoe in his sights.

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