Thursday, January 27, 2011

Big Cat Habitat

Sunday I had the chance to go to the Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota, Florida. What a wonderful thing these people do to provide a sanctuary for these animals. They are a non-profit organization running entirely on donations. They provide a safe haven for big cats, bears, and other animals in need. They primarily take in exotic animals, but they also had some goats, turtles, and greyhound dogs. They were looking for homes for the dogs. It is a family run organization founded by Kay Rosaire who has had more than thirty years experience working with exotic animals. The commitment the Rosaires make to these animals is one for life. When they take an animal in it will be their last residence.

I had the pleasure of meeting a lion named Handsome, a liger (no it's not a's a cross between a lion and a tiger) named Mia, and a chimpanzee named Ricky. Guess what? Ricky was having a book signing. Yeah, a chimp signing his books. He had quite a crowd around him, more than I usual get. I think maybe I could learn a few things from Ricky. Maybe he could teach me to make those funny noises. But then I don't have my picture on the front cover of Jon Stewart's "Earth," a book that spent ten weeks on the New York Times Best Seller's list.
It's not a fancy place, and it's not as large as they would like (although they are expanding) but it's a loving shelter for animals that wouldn't survive elsewhere. If you're ever in Sarasota, stop in and see the service the Rosaires and their staff of wonderful volunteers provide.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Great GALS in Florida

When I talk about the great GALs of Florida, I'm not talking about the woman with the purple hat walking her white shiatsu dog clad in booties, a pink skirt, and matching sunglasses. Nor do I speak of women like Lucille Ball who was purported to own a home on Bird Key. No, I'm talking about the men and women who volunteer as child advocates for abused and neglected children. They are Guardian Ad Litems, or GALs and they spend many hours investigating the child's life to help determine what is the best course of action for the court to take for this child.

I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of new CASA GALs (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in Sarasota, Fl a few days ago. What a delightful experience. They asked great questions and I could hear the compassion and the eagerness in their voices as they started this new chapter in their lives.

Since my book, The Advocate, deals with juvenile court, I left each volunteer with a copy as a thank you for their unselfish act. I wish I could do that for every CASA graduating class, but at least I can say thank you for all the GALs out there who are serving our children. I, for one, appreciate your hard work and dedication. And a special thanks to the 12th Judicial Circuit Guardian Ad Litem Program of Sarasota, DeSoto, and Manatee counties.

If you have any interest in becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate there is lots of information on the CASA website. Check it out. It might be just the thing for you.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

What are you reading?

Unfortunately, I don’t get to read as many books as I’d like. I’ve never spent so much time surrounded by books and not able to read them. It seems if I’m not at a book signing, I’m writing. But I’ve managed to read a few and most recently I’ve been listening to books on tape since I’m spending an inordinate amount of time in the car.

A dear friend of mine recommended Philippa Gregory’s “The Red Queen,” which I just finished. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres—second only to mysteries. And the Tudor era is of particular interest to me. It was a wonderful read and I’d highly recommend it if you have any interest in that genre. I’m anxious to read the rest of her novels.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is now playing in my car as I drive from one book signing to another. Yes, I finally got around to Stieg Larsson and it’s about time. What a treat. Although I’m only on the third disc, out of about thirteen, I’ve already purchased “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” It’s a very compelling story. I think it’s a particularly good book to listen to on tape because the names are all so unfamiliar and on tape you don’t have to stumble over them. I guess we can’t all be an Olson or a Johnson…oh wait…I was a Johnson.

So, what are you reading?


Monday, January 17, 2011

CASA in Florida

On Thursday, January 20th, I have the privilege of speaking to a graduating class for CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate, also known as Guardian Ad Litems or GALS. This particular group is the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida, advocating for children in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties.

CASA is an incredible organization where ordinary citizens volunteer to look out for the needs of children in the juvenile court system. The volunteers need to submit to a background check and go through an extensive training program. They are then appointed by a judge to advocate for the well-being of children who have fallen victim to parental abuse or neglect. The CASA worker (the GAL) fights for the safety of these children and often changes their lives in profound ways.

The GAL's role is to get acquainted with the child and everyone in that child’s life such as the parents, teachers, relatives, social workers, etc. In the San Diego juvenile system where I practiced for twelve years, the GALs often worked very closely with the minor's attorney. The volunteer then reports back to the court regarding the child’s needs and often with a recommendation for permanent placement for the child.

Being a CASA volunteer can be an extremely rewarding experience but it’s not always an easy job and it takes a serious commitment of time and energy. The volunteer must agree to stay with a case until it closes. I believe the average time is approximately one and a half years but I’ve certainly known cases to take much longer. I commend anyone who is willing to make that sacrifice for those innocent, little children.

I’m really looking forward to meeting with the next graduating class in Sarasota, Florida. I’m honored to be a part of their program.


Friday, January 14, 2011

The Advocate #3

As you may well know, I’ve been working on my third novel. With all the book signings I’ve been attending, the book is not quite on the schedule I had hoped. I do most of my writing from my home in San Diego and since I haven’t been home much it has been difficult.

A brief insight into The Advocate #3 without giving too much away:

Sabre receives a sudden influx of cases dealing with victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse. Of course, her friend, Bob, is back and admits he likes the idea of having a case different from the everyday physical and sexual abuse or tox-baby cases. Only Bob could get excited about a case involving chicken feet and goat blood.

JP is also a returning character with his Stetson hat, his cowboy boots, and his Texas slang. JP’s investigation stays closer to home this time. So far he hasn’t left southern California (but there’s still quite a few chapters left so who knows). He works diligently trying to uncover the source of the satanic-like behaviors exhibited by the juvenile court clients, while he does his best to keep Sabre out of whatever mess she finds herself in.

The novel includes at least one murder, a “devil-house,” missing children, and people in power with a great deal to lose. Sabre has to protect her minor clients and try to answer the nagging question: Did the devil make them do it?