Tag Archives: Shih Tzu

The Three Blogs of Sandra Bell Kirchman


BLOG IDEAS (Photo credit: owenwbrown)

I read somewhere that blog followers are just as interested in the subject of a blog as they are the author.  Therefore, you may be interested in my other blogs, or you may not.  Heck, you might even want to touch base with them now and then just to see if I can keep up with all three.  I’m interested in that myself. On the off-chance that you are interested in one or more of my blogs, I’ll list them here, including the one you’re reading now, including the linked title and a brief description.

Tilly, Oreo, Ling Ling - picture (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman

Tilly, Oreo, Ling Ling – picture (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman

Puppy Dog Tales – This is my newest blog, started two weeks ago.  It is a casual, somewhat humorous and helpful compilation of true stories about my three little Shih Tzu dogs.  Goal is one tale per week.  Readers are enthusiastically encouraged to share stories of their own dogs.

Guru 4 gurus

Guru 4 gurus (Photo credit: sapojump)

News, Views, and Gurus – This is my second oldest blog, started in 2011.  As a writer and former journalist on the press release list, I get a lot of PR‘s from various agencies.  Some of the stories, although not hard news, are just too good to throw back on the pile.  So I set them up as a post, adding my own comments and experience, if any, with the subject matter.

"Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories" edited by Sandra Bell Kirchman

The unicorn on the cover of “Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories,” edited by Sandra Bell Kirchman.

FantasyFic – This is my original blog, started in December of 2010.  As the blog description states, it is a celebration of fiction writing and especially fantasy fiction.  I love fantasy fiction and write it almost exclusively, although my second love is mystery, closely followed by historic fiction.  This blog contains quite a bit of my writing–flash fiction and excerpts from novels.  It also shares some of my experience from the decades of writing I have engaged in…from character building to world building and anything in between.


CHAPTER SIX – A Hard Lesson, Learned the Hard Way

CHAPTER SIX – A Hard Lesson, Learned the Hard Way

 (from the novel, The Rocky Road to the End of the World)
Copyright (c) 2013 by Sandra Bell Kirchman
All rights reserved.

         My eyes had barely closed, when Mark patted my shoulder.  “Alex, wake up.”  I jerked awake and sat up stiffly, which produced a groan of protest from Tilly.

“It’s too dark for me to continue in unfamiliar territory.  I don’t want to switch on the lights on the Jeep in case looters spot us.  We just can’t tell where they might show up, and the Jeep is a pretty good prize for anyone heading north.”  Mark rubbed his eyes and yawned.  “I’ve pulled the Jeep over on the other side of the ditch, and I hope we’re hidden by trees here.  It might just be a small patch or it might be a huge forest.  I can’t tell, but it’s the best we can do for now.”

I patted his hand.  “You’ve done great, Mark.  Do you want me to stay up and watch, first shift?”

“I don’t think so,” Mark replied.  “No point in staying up to watch when you can’t see past your nose, it’s so dark.  I would if the moon was out, but you know what a light sleeper I am.  It’s almost as good as being away.”  He laughed, and I smiled, glad that he could still make his little jokes.  “Let’s get some rest, and we might make reasonable time tomorrow.  I hope we can find some purple gas, though.  I don’t want to use our last few cans of regular gas.”  He yawned again, practically inhaling all the Jeep’s oxygen in the process.  “I hope the dogs will sleep okay.”

I hoped they would too and fell asleep practically before I finished the thought.

My dreams were scattered and unresolved, pretty much the way my day had been.  What woke me up was Oreo whimpering in his sleep.  I shouldn’t have taken him our of his carrier then; he was still sleeping along with everyone else.  Mark always said I worried way too much about the dogs.  In retrospect, it was a hard way to learn a lesson I’ll never forget.

I reached past Justin, who apparently slept like the dead, as we had already seen the previous day.  By twisting quietly and kneeling, I could just back and slip open the door of the carrier stacked sideways behind Justin’s seat; Oreo cautiously pushed it open with his nose.

Usually he bounded and/or wiggled his way to me, his tail waving with delight.  This time he crept…past the gap between Justin’s seat and the rear door.  I picked him up, just about breaking my puckering string in the process.  Oreo was a husky little bundle.  Tilly greeted him quietly and Oreo pressed against me, trembling.  How terribly hard this was on him.  He hated the car, and twenty hours in one was almost too much for him.  I felt I should have let him out when we stopped for a little exercise and a potty break.  I have to admit I didn’t want to face Mark with such a request.

Oreo shivered and whimpered again, and I knew what the main problem was.  He had to go out, and not just pee this time.  I didn’t know what to do.  I looked over at Mark and he was sleeping as if he too were dead.  He must have been exhausted.  He wasn’t a youngster anymore, and dealing with people stressed him out.  I began to realize what I had done to him by inviting Justin and Patty to ride with us.

Oreo whimpered again, more urgently, and I made up my mind.  I quietly opened the door and let Oreo down on the ground.  Tilly thought that was a great idea and jumped down as well.  Her silvery coat glowed in the moonlight.  I look up and thought, damn, it’s almost as bright as day.  This is not a good idea.  Oreo had run ahead to find the “perfect” spot for a poo.  I picked up Tilly and trotted after him.  I could see well enough to spot him in the underbrush and I let Tilly down to do her own little duty.  Just as I was picking her up, the sound of someone crunching through the brush made me spin around.

“All right, lady,” a man said, emerging into the full moonlight, “you’re gonna help me get that vehicle.”  He waved his gun at me.  “I will use this if I have to.  I want that Jeep.”

I gasped.  “You’re the man from our last rest stop.  How-how did you catch up to us on foot?  It’s not possible!”

He gave a low chuckle and couldn’t resist a macho boast.  “You never saw me in my old beat-up Chevy.  I came to, just as your tail lights winked around the bend, and followed you.  I’m not stupid enough to attack a vehicle full of possibly armed bozos, so I was just waiting for my chance.  And you’re it.”

He grabbed me roughly by the arm and thrust me ahead of him.  “You’re going to go back to the car and wake up the driver and tell him he has to come out.  Tell him anything…like, you twisted your ankle and can’t get back in the car by yourself with the dog.  That’s it.  Give him the dog.  That’ll distract him.

“Get moving, and limp like you mean it.”

I had almost blurted out about Oreo still in the brush, then thought better of it.  It would serve no useful purpose letting him know about the dog, and maybe Oreo might startle him at a good time.

He gave me a push to get me started.  I stumbled and started limping.  At the same time, a whirlwind of growling fury flew at us…at the man, actually.  I had never seen Oreo in a killing rage, but he had only one thing in mind: to get this terrible man away from his beloved Mommy.

The man pivoted with a startled exclamation just as Oreo grabbed his shin.  From the sound of it, my dog must have taken a chunk out of the leg.  Oreo may have been small, but he had very sharp teeth.  The man was yelling, I was screaming, then there was a shot.  I stood still for a moment, staring at Oreo crumpled on the ground, a dark stain on his side oozing heavily, smearing his fur.  I dropped to my knees, still holding Tilly and set her carefully against me.  She was trembling and didn’t want to go anywhere.  She nuzzled Oreo.

I felt the pulse at his carotid artery, but there was nothing.  I held my hand to his little nose but felt not even a whisper of air.  The pain of his passing crushed my heart, and filled my eyes with tears that would not fall.  I thought I was having a heart attack, but I didn’t care.  My little baby was dead, and it was my fault.

The man jabbed cold steel against my neck.

“Get up, lady.  You are just lucky I don’t put bullets in you and the other little mutt here.”

I got to my feet and trembled, feeling sick to my stomach, and stood there.

“Now turn very—“

Another shot rang out and the man’s body slumped against me.  I convulsively pushed him away, and Tilly yipped as his hand swiped her on the way down.  He lay still at my feet, right beside my baby.  The nightmare enveloped me, my life was running right out of me.  I wanted to scream my sorrow until I had no voice.  I knelt on the ground, sobbing.

A hand gently gripped my shoulder.  “Are you hurt?” Mark asked.

I shook my head, unable to get any words out, the sobs building up into something I didn’t think I could control.  Mark walked over to the man and pushed him onto his back with his boot.  Kneeling down, he felt for a pulse.  He stood up and shoved him again, a monumental disgust showing in his motions.

“Oreo?” Mark asked, bending over to touch the still dog.

That’s when the dam burst.  I cried as I hadn’t since my mother died twenty years ago.  My heart felt like it was about three sizes too large for my chest, and I had trouble catching my breath.  My beautiful little Oreo, such a gentle, sweet soul, and he was gone…and it was my fault.

Mark touched me on the shoulder again.  I looked up and saw the sorrow on his face.  I made a huge effort to get myself under control.  Oreo had been Mark’s little buddy.  He was always telling Oreo, “It’s hard looking after da wimmins all day.  Us guys gotta stick together, right, Buddy?”  A shudder went through me but I clamped down on it.

“Babe, we better get going.  We don’t know if that guy had any friends around, or if all this noise is bringing someone to investigate…or loot.”

I nodded my head vaguely.  “Sure, Mark, soon as we bury Oreo.”

Mark was silent, and I looked up at him again.  His stunned expression faded quickly to a look of hopelessness.

That look shocked me into a state of realization.  I was putting him another corner.  Here I had not only gotten Oreo killed, but I was jeopardizing Mark, the other two people, and the other two dogs with my sentimental notion that a burial was necessary.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of wild animals tearing his little body apart.

Mark jumped up.  “Wait here, I have an idea.”  He ran back to the Jeep while I felt Oreo again to make sure he was dead.  From the placement of the entry wound, it looked like the man had got Oreo with a purely lucky shot, right in the heart.  He was definitely dead.  I tried to convince myself that nothing that happened to his body now was going to hurt him.

Mark returned, carrying Oreo’s carrier, still with the pee pad and the quilt and blanket.

“You’re worried about animals eating Oreo, right?  We don’t have time to bury him, but we can put him in here, bundle him up, and put the carrier, tightly closed and locked, up in a tree.  That will keep him safe.”

Tears streamed down my face.  “Thank you, Mark,” I said softly.

It didn’t take us long to wrap him lovingly in his blanket and for Mark to put the carrier up in the limbs of a burr oak.  It was silly, I know, but I liked the idea of the pretty place we’d found for him.  He had loved barking at strange noises and he loved sitting in the sunshine in our beautiful backyard.  He would feel somewhat at home here.  Oh, damn!  I shook my head and hurried back to the Jeep.

Tilly had followed Mark back to the Jeep and he had put her inside.  She sat on my seat waiting for me.  I needed my dogs now, and Mark sensed it.

“We should probably let Ling Ling out to do her thing,” he said.  “I think with just one other dog, we can let her loose in the vehicle.”

Gratefully, I took her outside.  She wasn’t interested in playing, she was too sleepy.  She quickly did her job and hopped into the Jeep and onto my lap.

By now, both Justin and Patty were awake.  They wanted to know what had happened.  Mark explained quickly to them, and they both offered condolences to us about Oreo.  I didn’t want to talk about it now, so I changed the subject, while Mark backed us out of our spot and back onto the road, heading north.

“Mark’s driving without the headlights on because the moon is very bright tonight,” I explained.  “Hopefully, no one will spot us.  Good thing the Jeep is dark green.”

“Yeah,” Justin said.  “Too bad there isn’t much wind.  The sound of the Jeep will carry.”

Mark agreed.  “There’s not too much we can do about that.  It’s a smooth-running vehicle, but they’ll hear it whether it’s night or day.  If it becomes too much of a liability, we’ll have to abandon it.  But it’ll be at our timing and our choice of location.”

Apparently, Justin wasn’t too fond of the idea of leaving the Jeep, because he was fairly quiet after that.

And I sat there, hanging on to Ling Ling as if my life depended on it, the empty void inside me paining like someone had severed something vital.

* * * * * *

(Author’s Note:  Sorry for being late with this installment.  I had an accident which cause me to rest more than I normally do.  I don’t want to say what it was, but my gluteus maximus and a fall downstairs were involved.) 



CHAPTER 1 – The Rocky Road to the End of the World

Some time ago, I mentioned that I was going to thank you all for following my blog so faithfully by unfolding a chapter at a time of my WIP, THE ROCKY ROAD TO THE END OF THE WORLD, in my FantasyFic blog…this one.  Yes, it is fantasy, but it is a specific sub-genre of fantasy, i.e. apocalyptic fantasy, which can also claim to be science fiction, depending on how it is written.  In addition, although it is definitely fiction, it is also based on how I think I might handle this kind of situation myself.

This book is the first in a trilogy, which have already been mapped out.  At the end of this book, I will be giving you the first peek into the second book and where it will lead.

For now, I will be posting a new chapter once every two weeks and will collect the entire novel as it appears in my new section, The Rocky Road….  

The time has come, and I present to you Chapter 1 (You Never Think It Will Happen To You) of this novel.  Enjoy.  Feel free to leave your comments and/or constructive criticisms at the end of the chapter.  THANKS!!

The Rocky Road to the End of the World

By Sandra Bell Kirchman

Copyright © 2013 by
 Sandra Bell Kirchman.
 All rights reserved.

CHAPTER ONE – You Never Think It Will Happen to You

“Are you packed?” Mark asked, throwing his jacket on the table. The question and his grim expression set my bad-things-are-happening senses tingling.

I stared at him. “What are you talking about?”

“You should listen to the radio more often,” he said. “Throw some warm clothes and blankets into your duffel bag. Pack canned goods, utensils, matches, medicine kit and your medications into it. Nothing that the two of us can’t carry for a few miles.”

The shock I was feeling drained the blood from my face. He patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. I’ve thought a lot about this ever since the Mayan calendar scare a couple of years ago.”

“Oh, my God! The Mayan prediction? It’s happening after all?”

“Nope,” he said. “Get the details on the radio. They’re broadcasting them pretty often.”

I hurried into the bedroom and listened to the radio while I packed my duffel bag. My blood was running cold by the time I had finished. The announcer was vague on what was happening, but very precise on when and where.

NASA has released a statement warning of an unidentified electro-magnetic-type Wave sweeping over the planet. Scientists cannot say exactly what the wave is or where it originates. Apparently, NASA scientists are debating whether this is the Mayan prediction of the end of the world coming some years later than the predicted Dec. 21, 2013.

The Wave hit the east coast of New Zealand and the Pacific islands in that area about an hour ago. We have no reliable information on the precise effect of the Wave. One last broadcast from New Zealand was garbled and indistinct, but words of devastating destruction and people dead or dying were understood through the overpowering static. The Wave continued on to Australia and the southern tip of Africa, then stopped. Nothing has been heard since from these countries.

Canadian Prime Minister Monique Leger has declared a state of emergency. If the Wave moves north, she has ordered help stations set up in every province in the most populated areas. Pundits predict going south may the best route, since, with winter on the horizon, the north turns to a survivalist’s nightmare in two months, adding to the challenges of surviving the Wave itself. Ultimately, each person will have to make his or her own decision. And may God go with you.

Depending upon unfolding developments, this may be the last live broadcast from this station. In any event, we will continue to transmit the information on the situation that we have to date. Any updated information will be remotely uploaded to the station’s broadcast system and transmitted. We will continue to keep you informed as long as we can.

Listening to the brief buzz after the broadcast, then a spate of frenetic music that threw itself against the speakers, I looked around the room to see if I had forgotten anything. Trotting into the kitchen, I grabbed another bag and mechanically started packing cutlery, utensils, knives, and several small pots, along with an economy size box of wooden matches. Mark’s camping skills will pay off, I thought, and opened the dog cupboard, staring at the dog food and treats lining the shelves.

Mark hadn’t mentioned anything about stuff for the dogs!

I ran to the top of the stairs and shouted down. “Mark, what about food and medication for the dogs?” There was silence, then, “Never mind about that.”

Fear froze me for a second. I started down the stairs slowly, using my cane to steady me. I reached the bottom and stood watching Mark in his precise, calm way as he finished packing one duffel bag and reached for another.

“What do you mean, don’t bother about food for the dogs?”

A look of what I could have called panic, except that the person I was looking at was Mark, flickered in his eyes for an instant. He spoke slowly. “Alex, be reasonable. We are on the run, going as far north as we can for as long as we can. There is no guarantee that we will follow the roads…if there even will BE roads…or gas…or food. The dog food we have will last maybe a week at the most. We can’t take the dogs.”

Our three little Shih Tzus had trotted downstairs to see what was so important down here that required my unaccustomed presence in the basement. Tears filled my eyes as I looked at the three little ones, their perpetual puppy faces smiling, their brown eyes filled with love and trust. They knew Mark and I would never do anything to hurt them. They were our family.

I turned without saying anything and made my way upstairs. The big bag of kibbles supplement was sitting just outside the back door into the garage, near where our Jeep Cherokee four-wheel drive utility vehicle sat. Mark took good care of his belongings and especially his vehicles. I could bet that the Jeep was filled with gas, had had the oil changed recently, that all the fluids were topped up, all the belts tightened, and all moving parts oiled.

I grabbed the kibbles and wrestled the big bag into the house. If it cost me my life, I was not leaving my babies behind. They would learn to eat kibble and they would survive. Throwing the kibble into an old kit bag of Mark’s, along with a box of treats, I picked out three small toys and threw them in the bag as well. I knew Mark would think me foolish, but there was no way these dogs were being abandoned.

In a moment of clarity, it struck me. Mark wouldn’t abandon the dogs…he would shoot them to save them from the terror and suffering that otherwise awaited them. I threw in a water dish and three small kibble dishes and zipped up the bag.

Next stop was the medicine cabinet, and it took a while to get all the meds out and packed into another bag. I didn’t see how we could carry all we had so far, even excluding the kit bag, but hopefully Mark had a plan. He usually did and he usually finally shared it with me.

I supposed it was too late too late to try filling more prescriptions at the Pharmasave. If I ran out of pain pills, that wasn’t too bad. I guessed the end of the world might rank higher than the aches and pains that often came my way, not to mention the neuropathy in my hands and feet and legs. But I wasn’t sure how long I would last without my diabetic pills. Perhaps the extra exercise would reduce my need for the Metformin. There’s a cloud in every silver lining, I told myself wryly.

I wasn’t sure what else was essential to my survival, but I suspected the blood pressure pills were up there. Maybe if the exercise reduced my need for medications, it would handle my blood pressure as well. I was pretty sure that the end of the world might raise my BP pretty high; at the same time, apart from my breathing exercises, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I shrugged and started carrying stuff out to the Jeep. I left them on the garage floor, since Mark preferred to load the vehicle himself.

Mark came up carrying three bags filled with his precious gun equipment, hunting knives, hunting tent, foldable hunting blind, and three sleeping bags. I rummaged around for the dogs’ carriers stowed neatly away under Mark’s work counter. Defiantly, I added them to the pile, along with a pile of pee pads in a paper bag.

“We are NOT going to kill members of our family just for our convenience, Mark.” I rarely tried to change Mark’s mind. They invented the word “stubborn” just for him, and I had better things to do with my time. However, at this point I had no intentions of budging. To my amazement, Mark simply nodded and placed the carriers in a neat row near the Jeep.

“Help me get the fishing rods down. We can dismantle them and carry them in another bag,” he said.

I looked down at the stack of bags and other items waiting to be packed in the Jeep. “I dunno, Mark,” I said doubtfully. “It’s an awful lot to carry.”

He nodded again. “I’m taking the big backpack. We may have to discard some of these things if we have to head for the hills, but at least we can start with them while we still have the vehicle.” His American accent came out clearly when he was under pressure. There is a certain way that Americans pronounce “vehicle,” like they pronounce the “h” and emphasize the word. It must be the love that Americans have for their fancy cars and powerful trucks.

I heaved a sigh of relief. He wasn’t going to kill them now, anyhow. Maybe I could show him how well-behaved they were becoming. I ran back to the foyer between the kitchen and the garage, grabbed leashes and harnesses, and squeezed them into the kit bag.

Then I got to work on the fishing poles. We had four of them…one of them was mine, just an ordinary spin reel. Mark had the other three: one was like mine, one was a trolling rod, and one was a fly-casting rig. I finished taking mine apart and started on Mark’s spin reel, just as he finished the last one. He grabbed an axe off the wall and a jug of pure water, and started packing the Jeep. It looked like we almost might have to take the Ford truck, but he managed to get everything in, leaving his guns to the last. I thought this was ominous but didn’t say anything. Just as he turned to get his guns, the doorbell rang.

I got up to get it, but Mark grabbed me. “Leave it be,” he said softly.

I struggled to get free. “Stop it, Mark. It’s our neighbour from across the way, Justin Slotsky.”

Justin peered in through the window, shading his eyes. Fortunately, we were beyond his range of sight, on the other side of the Jeep. “Alex, you can’t trust anyone in a life-threatening situation like this. Your neighbours can turn on you like rabid dogs.”

I sighed, thinking of all the times Mark had ranted about people and how stupid they were. I used to try and show him how that was so untrue, but he remained unconvinced.

“Get the dogs in their carriers, and I’ll go and lock up the house as best I can,” he said.

I called and the three of them came running. “Who wants to go for a car ride?” I asked them teasingly. The two girls loved going in the car; however, Oreo, our little male, was terrified because of an experience he had had before he came to us. Still, the promise of a treat calmed him sufficiently to get him into his carrier. He liked his carrier because he felt safe in there. I left them to get my boots on and grab my collapsible cane and a small flashlight. Immediately the three started yipping. I hurried back and hushed them. They must have heard the fear in my voice, because they quietened right away.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curiosity

This is a picture I took a couple of summers ago.  It’s me taking a picture of my husband taking a picture of our Shih Tzu, Ling Ling.

Ling Ling is looking up at him and saying, “What are you DOING, Daddy?”  If it hadn’t been so hot (somewhere in the 90s), she would have gotten up and investigated.

Mommy taking a picture of Daddy taking a picture of Ling Ling.

"What are you DOING, Daddy?"

The only fantasy story I can think of is perhaps the world is being invaded by shadow people.  People think they are evil and try to destroy them, but the animals know and are okay with them…universally.

Can you think of a fantasy story stimulated by this picture?