Pre-order, The Sacred Dog

The Sacred Dog: How It Starts

Right now, I feel like I’m the mother of several children who all need my attention. Certainly, as the mother of six, I’ve had good practice, but I’m talking about the books I have written and soon to be released. Following the Lead, no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, will be out Nov. 3 on Kindle. Then, as announced this week, The Sacred Dog, which has a Dec. 27 release, is available for pre-orders. Of course, there are the others I’ve written.

Today I am going to give a little attention to the next-born.

As I noted before, The Sacred Dog was the first novel I completed a very long time ago. Despite the efforts of an agent, it failed to get picked up. So, I held onto it, giving it the attention it deserved, and now I’m glad my publisher, darkstroke books, has taken it on. Darkstroke also publishes my mystery series.

The Sacred Dog, set in 1984, is not a mystery but a thriller about my favorite setting, the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. I feel I know the area so well from my many years living here and certainly when I was a reporter and then an editor. Of course, that includes stories about personal conflicts and feuds between people who live there, but none so dark as between my book’s two main characters, Frank Hooker and Al Kitchen.

Frank is an all-around good guy who runs the town of Holden’s only bar, The Sacred Dog. But he has a fault. He hates Al because he blames him for the death of his reckless brother, Wes. And Al hates him for the way he’s been treated. Al grew up in one of those rough households with an abusive grandfather and a loyal although faulty grandmother.

If that weren’t enough, there is Verona Hooker, Frank’s ex, who will be returning to town with their daughter — and a secret.

The Sacred Dog is fast-paced and as those who have read it already have said, suspenseful. Here I will give you a look on how it starts.

Frank Hooker, tall, broad, and as handsome as an aging cowboy actor, lit a cigarette from the pack he kept beside the bar’s double sink. The rain fell hard, and it had started lightning. The storm, he was certain, would finish off tonight’s softball game at the Rod and Gun Club between the team he backed and Glenburn Sanitation, sponsored by a guy in the next town who pumped out septic systems.

Right now, Frank figured the men were sitting in their pickup trucks and cars, drinking beer, and waiting to see if the weather broke until the ump made the official call. Then, rather than go home to their families and ruin a good night out, they’d head to The Sacred Dog, or The Dog, as the regulars called his bar. Taking a drag of his cigarette, Frank anticipated their early arrival. He made a quick check inside the cooler, satisfied to see it filled with cold bottles of beer.

A pickup truck pulled into the parking lot, its tires grinding into the crushed stone Frank had put in this past spring, and Early Stevens, the only customer in the bar, twisted his head toward the door to see who would be the second. Early, his given name Ernest, had been sitting on his stool since 4:45 that afternoon after he was done hauling the day’s outgoing mail from the Holden Post Office to the one in Butterfield. He drank his usual: a Budweiser with a peppermint schnapps chaser. His topic of discussion today was a story he read in a magazine he found at the toilet in the Holden General Store that claimed the world was going to go to hell in 2000. 

“The way it looks, we’ve got about sixteen years to get ready,” Early said. “What do you think, Frank?”

“I think you should find better readin’ material,” Frank answered.

Minutes later, when Al Kitchen came through the bar’s front door, Early muttered under his breath, “Shit, here comes trouble.”

The muscles around Frank’s mouth tightened as Al lumbered across the room to take a stool one over from Early. Al was all-smiles because he thought maybe he was on decent terms with Frank these days. But Frank stared at him blankly as he stubbed out his smoke. “What’ll it be?” he asked as if this wasn’t Al but someone else in front of him.

“Give me a Bud,” Al said, as he retrieved his wallet.

No tabs for Al. That was one of Frank’s rules. Another was a two-beer limit. Frank came up with the second after Al’s grandma, who raised him, begged to let him have some place to go closer to home, and considering The Sacred Dog was the only bar in town, this was it. For years, Al didn’t have the nerve to show his face in his bar. 

“Two beers. He won’t be stayin’ long at your place if that’s all he gets,” Jenny Kitchen had said. “Besides, what’s the harm in two beers?”

Frank wanted to tell this old lady, who smelled like kerosene, what harm her grandson had already done. Jenny only came up to his chest, but she made her eyes small and defiant when she faced him. He told her if there was a lick of trouble, Al was out for good, and he’d call her and the cops.

Besides, Frank reasoned it was better to keep someone he disliked at close range. Actually, disliked was too soft a word to describe his feelings for the man, considering what happened to his younger brother, Wes. 

LINK: I hope I have interested you in reading The Sacred Dog. Kindle readers, here is the link to pre-order which helps with ratings on Amazon:

And here is the link for Following the Lead:

You won’t have to wait so long to read that baby.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: I spotted this metal sculpture of a duck somebody left on a stone post beneath the railroad trestle bridge in my village of Shelburne Falls. 

Pre-order, The Sacred Dog

And Now The Sacred Dog

Okay, it’s official: Pre-ordering begins for my next novel, The Sacred Dog. Its release is Dec. 27 for Kindle — paperback will follow.

This is my third book published this year. First, Working the Beat, no. 5 in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, was released in late January. No. 6, Following the Lead, has a Nov. 3 release by my publisher darkstroke books.

The Sacred Dog is not part of that mystery series although it takes place in my favorite setting: the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Yes, there is a bar and a slew of country characters that came out of my head. This is a story about an ugly feud between two men that leads to a dramatic climax. I also throw a big secret that involves both men into that personal conflict.

I will be sharing a whole lot more in future posts. So, I’ll start with the book’s title.

The Sacred Dog is the name of a bar owned by one of the lead characters, Frank Hooker, and where a great deal of the book’s action takes place. The bar’s name was inspired by a black Labrador retriever Frank, who lives alone in a trailer beside the bar, found wandering around its trashcans. The dog was probably dumped because she was bone-skinny and had no collar. So, Frank decides to keep her. Her spot is typically behind the counter when the bar is open.

Here’s a scene in which Frank plays cards with his best buddy, Early Stevens that reveals more.

Frank decided on the spot to save her. It’d been a while since he had a dog, and he took to calling her Louise after a girl he once knew who bore the same mournful expression. He fed her as much as she wanted and within a few weeks, she became eternally grateful. One slow night, when Frank and Early played cribbage, Louise nudged the topside of her head beneath Frank’s hand. After a while, he told her to “git,” and although the dog was clearly disappointed, she left him alone while he played and talked with Early.

“You know, Early. That dog is a saint, a pure saint. She never complains, even when those kids come in Sunday night to bother her. Look at ’er. The way she sets there, you’d think she was something sacred.” He paused while he studied the fan of cards in his hand. “Yeah, that’s what she is. Louise is the sacred dog.”

“Oh, shit, Frank, you’ve gone off your rocker. Dogs aren’t sacred. They shit where you go. They eat shit and roll in shit.”

“Louise is different, I tell you.”

“Frank, why don’t you shut the heck up and git me another beer.”

What had been a pet owner’s moment of tenderness became an inspiration for Frank. A few weeks later, he decided to officially change the name of his bar, which was still Ronnie’s, to The Sacred Dog. Truthfully, he was thinking about getting a new name when it dawned on him it was rather foolish to have a bar named for his ex-wife. He discounted using his own name or anything with the word Holden in it. The town had enough buildings named after Holden, the town’s founder. Early suggested the Bowtie, but Frank said no one ever wore one in his bar and he expected no one ever would.

“A John Deere cap or torn T-shirt would be more like it,” Frank said, and Early laughed as if he had a tickle in his throat.

The Sacred Dog suited Frank fine, so he asked a lawyer in town to draw up the papers to make it legal. Then, he asked Early to make the sign. The regulars thought Frank was joking, but then he told them the story and they agreed it was a good name for a bar. Some stiffs in the back room of the general store did grumble to Frank about it. The pastor of the Holden Congregational Church called to complain, but Frank, who had only been to church as an adult for funerals and his own wedding, said he didn’t see the connection.

But Louise is more than a beloved pet. She plays a key role much later in this book.

Actually, my inspiration for the bar’s name came from a real dog, a black Labrador retriever who came with the name Sheena. One day, she showed up in our yard. Her owners, neighbors, had moved and left her tied. I called the man to see if they still wanted the dog, but he said no. When he brought her dish and leash, Sheena didn’t even give the man a glance. I don’t blame her.

Sheena knew her name, and though it was never one we would have chosen, we let her keep it. She came at a time when our home was lively with lots of young kids. Even at their noisiest moments, she would lie there, watching the action and looking regal. That’s when I called her The Sacred Dog. I remember fondly at the years she spent with us.

LINKS: Here’s the link to order your copy: I am appreciative if you do because it helps with ratings.

And here’s a link for a previous post introducing this book: