Please help me in welcoming a woman I have found incredibly fascinating, Sarah Madison! Today, she is talking to a topic near and dear to my heart, fuzzy four-legged babies and their perils in fiction!
I’m not what you’d call a tough gal.
Oh sure, I’ve wrestled a python to administer a dewormer, and carried a copperhead across a river in a trash can to deposit it on the far bank where it wouldn’t threaten our campsite. I’ve faced down angry Rottweilers that have broken out of their pens and are threatening the staff. I’ve deflected the belligerent client, pulled the snarling feral cat out of the ceiling, carried hundred pound Labradors into the therapy pool, and chased loose cattle out of the road. I guess you could say that when it comes to physical challenges, I’m no slouch.
But emotionally, I’m a big weenie.
Which is why I write staunchly Happily Ever After stories. Yeah, I might traumatize my characters a bit. I do love me some Hurt/Comfort. I believe in making my characters work for their HEA. But I’m going to give it to them. In fact, if I do indulge in the angst-ridden story, you can be sure that it will fall in the Angst-Lite category. There’s a reason for that.
My day job can be emotionally challenging. I deal with life and death in a microcosm on a daily basis. I’m a veterinarian in a rural area—many of my clients don’t have the money to take care of themselves, let alone their pets. While I love my job, it can be incredibly stressful—especially when nearly every week I have to have at least one tough conversation with a client that results in their decision to euthanize a beloved pet—a family member. Jeez, I teared up just typing those words.
Because the longer I’m in the business, the more the grief and heartache of other people affect me. I’ve also become less tolerant of emotionally battering stories in general—I just need a break. I need to believe that despite all signs to the contrary, things will turn out all right in the end. That people will find true love, and a place to call home. That at the end of the day, there is something hopeful to hang on to. Which is why when it comes to my entertainment, I tend to read and write stories that end well. I include animals in my stories because they are such a huge part of my life—and for most of my adult life, my animals were the only family I could really call my own. This is a trend I’ve noticed among my gay and lesbian clients as well—the unconditional love that animals provide allows many people to ‘build’ their own families through pets and the people they’ve chosen to call family over their flesh and blood relations.
That’s not to say I won’t ever put an animal in jeopardy in one of my stories. In Unspeakable Words, one of the main characters rescues a kitten that was being tortured by some kids. I am happy to say, however, that Phoenix not only makes it, but is adopted by Jerry and Flynn.
So while I have a long list of things I’d prefer to avoid in my entertainment (zombies being one—shudders), the one thing I feel strongly about are stories in which the dog dies. Call it the Ol’ Yeller effect if you will. The movie was before my time, but Disney movies live forever, and it was one I saw at a formative age. Ol’ Yeller is probably the best of all the ‘yes, the dog dies’ films, and it introduced to an entire generation the movie concept that you can kill the dog if you provide a puppy from the same dog in the final scene, a technique used to effect in the much later Turner and Hooch.
I have only seen Ol’ Yeller once. Despite the fact that Rotten Tomatoes gives it a perfect 100% score and that it is touted as one of the best boy-and-his-dog films of all time, I can never watch it again. I’m glad that I saw it. I recommend it to people (especially ignorant clients who think it’s unnecessary to vaccinate their pets for rabies). But I can never watch it again.
If I see that an animal features in a story, I have to get someone to read the story for me and make sure that it survives. I have strong feelings about the killing of animals in stories for the sole purpose of emotionally manipulating the audience. I love David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, but I have to flip to the final chapter of each new book and make sure I see the name of Honor’s treecat, Nimitz, before I’ll buy the latest edition. I adore Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, but she is very hard on animals in her series. The fact that I re-read them anyway is a testament to how amazing these stories are. Do I believe that stories should warn for the death of animals in them? Well, no. I accept that this is my own personal bugaboo and that it’s my responsibility to decide to read or watch the product on my own. However, I’ve been blindsided a few times…
A few months ago, Anchorman was airing on television and my boyfriend and I started watching it, as I hadn’t seen it before. I was mildly enjoying it, right up to the point where the main character has lost everything in his life, and he turns to his little dog and says, “Well, at least I have you.”
Another character grabs the little dog and throws him off of the bridge they were standing on. I totally lost it. I began to sob, wailing at the boyfriend, “That’s not funny! How can anyone think that’s funny? I have to deal with stuff like this every day and IT’S NOT FUNNY!”
I had to leave the room, heading into the bedroom to lie face-down on the bed and cry into the comforter. Okay, maybe it had been a bad day. But the idea that anyone could even remotely think this was funny? At least I was at home at the time and not in the movie theater. After I pulled myself together, I came back out and eventually discovered that because this was a comedy, the dog didn’t die when thrown off the bridge, and he magically returned in the nick of time at the end of the movie.
Ha-ha. Pardon me for not thinking this was a riot.
Which is why I was utterly delighted when I discovered this website called DoesTheDogDie.com. Seriously. Where has this been my whole life? The website lists hundreds of movies, providing avatars that indicate if any animals die or get injured in the film. It ROCKS. Click on Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and you can see from the icon that the dog bites it. Click on Man of Steel, and the happy dog face tells you the dog makes it! Color me impressed!
Now if we could just build a data base for novels, I’d be a happy camper.
Unspeakable Words is available through Dreamspinner Press. The sequel, Walk a Mile, will be released in Sept-Oct of 2014.
Sarah Madison is a veterinarian with a big dog, a big horse, too many cats, and an extremely patient (and supportive!) boyfriends. She writes because it is cheaper than therapy.
The Boys of Summer
Genre: Contemporary/Historical M/M Romance
Blurb: David McIntyre has been enjoying the heck out of his current assignment: touring the Hawaiian Islands in search of the ideal shooting locations for a series of film company projects. What’s not to like? Stunning scenery, great food, sunny beaches…and a secret crush on his hot, ex-Air Force pilot, Rick Sutton.
Everything changes when a tropical storm and engine failure force a crash landing on a deserted atoll with a WWII listening post. Rick’s injuries, and a lack of food and water, make rescue imperative, but it takes an intensely vivid dream about the war to make David see that Rick is more than just a pilot to him. Will David gather his courage to confess his feelings to Rick—before it’s too late?
Finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. Nominated Best Historical in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards. Selected as a Best Read in 2013 by Jessewave. Winner of Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards.
Crying for the Moon
Genre: Paranormal M/M Romance
Blurb: Vampire Alexei Novik may have the teeth and the coffin, but he’s given up the lifestyle for an old fixer-upper in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Weary of his past, Alex plans to keep to himself, but it seems his sexy, new neighbor, Tate, can’t take the hint—a good thing, since it turns out he’s handy for all kinds of things around the house. Tate even gets along with Alex’s werewolf friends, though one of them pointedly reminds Alex that their friendship is a bad idea.
If a platonic relationship is a bad idea, the growing attraction between Tate and Alex is a disaster waiting to happen. Loving Tate will draw him into Alex’s dangerous world, and Alex is torn between having the relationship he’s always craved and keeping Tate safe. Tate won’t take no for an answer, however, and seems to handle everything Alex can throw at him without blinking. Just when he thinks things might turn out all right after all, Alex’s past catches up with him—forcing him to make a terrible choice.
Winner of the Coffee Times Romance Recommended Read Award. August 2011 Recommended Read by Reviews by Jessewave. First Runner Up in the Love Romances and More’s Golden Rose Awards for Best Paranormal of 2011.
Unspeakable Words (novella)
Genre: Contemporary/Paranormal M/M Romance
Blurb: Special Agent John Flynn is everything Jerry Parker is not: dangerously handsome, coolly charismatic, and respected by his peers. Special Agent Parker is dedicated and meticulous, but his abrasive personality has given him a reputation for being difficult. When new information on a cold case appears, Parker is assigned to work with Flynn, and the sparks fly as their investigative styles clash. Contact with a strange artifact changes everything when it bestows unusual and unpredictable powers on Flynn… and the two men must learn to trust each other before a killer strikes again.
Part One of the (planned) four part Unspeakable Words series. Part Two, Walk a Mile, will be released by Dreamspinner Press in Oct 2014.