The 25th Cat Writers’ Association Conference was the Cat’s Meow

CWA Conference and Awards Banquet brochures created by Wendy Christensen.

I attended the Cat Writer’s Association’s 25th anniversary conference in St. Louis this past May. The conference took place at the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch which was literally steps away from the famous landmark. CWA is an association for authors, illustrators, photographers, and others who produce work featuring felines. They host a contest with a variety of prizes and awards and hold an annual conference in different locations. I received a Certificate of Excellence for my cozy mystery,  Love on the Rocks, in the category of mystery fiction books.

For a recap of the conference and my experience in St. Louis, read my blog post here. My cat Harry also “wrote” a post on my character cat’s blog about the cats who attended the conference. You can see all the cute cat photos and read that post here.

Besides the great donations aka “swag” that I brought home for my kitties along with all the information I gathered from the workshops and sessions, it was wonderful meeting other cat lovers and writers. It was also lots of fun wearing cat ears and clothing. The highlight of the conference was participating on the “Communicating, Capitalizing, and Connecting in a Fictional World” panel with three other cat fiction authors.

For those who might be interested in joining the Cat Writers’ Association, check out the website for information and an application.

Cat Writer panelists at the CWA Conference: Top left to right: Mollie Hunt, author of the Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries; Patricia Fry, author of the Klepto-Cat series; Bottom left to right: Sandra Murphy, short story author; Debbie De Louise, author of the Cobble Cove cozy mystery series

The DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM Authors Talk Writing, Mysteries, and Pets

My pals from the Deadly Southern Charm mystery anthology are my guests today.  Please welcome, Lynn Cahoon, Frances Aylor, Kristin Kisska, J.A. Chalkley, and Stacie Giles. They’re here to talk about writing, books, their pets, and our new anthology.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

 Heather: We have two crazy Jack Russell Terriers, Disney and Riley. They’re from the same litter, and they keep us on our toes.

Lynn: Right now, our house is a little quiet. We lost our long-time companions, Homer (14) and Demon (19) in January of this year. They were Pomeranians. Homer was attacked by neighbor dogs in HIS yard and Demon decided it was his time a few weeks later. So it’s just Thor right now. He’s my way too tall cat. But next week, we’re getting two new puppies –Keeshonds. Dexter and Quinn.

Frances: Over the years I’ve owned a cocker spaniel, a labrador retriever, five cats, several goldfish and a hamster. The lab was a frisky, high-spirited dog that I took to obedience school so I could learn to manage him. While there I saw two beautiful, well-trained German shepherds. The German shepherd puppy in my thriller Money Grab combines the beauty of those dogs with the friskiness of my lab.

Kristin: I’m sorry to report that I don’t have any pets at present—not for want of loving them! That said, I drew on my experience horseback riding English saddle, both as a teen and an adult, to write my short story, “Unbridled.”

J.A.: I don’t have any pets at the moment. My last pet was a border collie mix named Woody. He was a rescue, and I later found out he had a brother named Cowboy.

Stacie: I grew up with a “guard” chihuahua named Taffie who used to boss all the neighborhood dogs and cats, including our other pets. Taffie and I were so close that my parents kept her death during my freshman year of college from me for weeks, thinking it would make living away from home too hard for me! I still miss the first dog I had as an adult, D’Artagnan–we called him D’Art–who was loving and lively, and would play fetch for hours. Now I enjoy an aging Staffordshire Terrier named Tinkerbell who patiently follows me everywhere, and endures the teasing of our cat who simply cannot leave poor Tinkerbell alone.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

 Heather: Most of my short stories and novels have animals. In my Delanie Fitzgerald series, Margaret, the English bulldog is a fixture in the private eye’s office. She’s a brown and white log with legs. I partnered with three other dogs on a novella project, To Fetch a Thief. My story is “Diggin’ up Dirt,” and it features a JRT named Darby who was based on my dog, Disney.

Lynn: Of course! Emma is Jill’s Golden Retriever in the Tourist Trap series. She even found a missing boy in an early book. Cat Latimer just got a barn cat and four kittens in book four of the series. And Angie from the Farm to Fork series has Dom – a St Bernard, Precious – a goat, and Mabel – the last remaining hen from Nona’s flock.

Frances: Webster is a German Shepherd puppy in my thriller Money Grab. He’s purchased by one of the characters as a guard dog, but his care and maintenance fall to the wife, who’s not a pet person. My main character Robbie later adopts the dog and considers him a faithful companion. He will be a recurring character in future novels.

 Kristin: I’ve only ever featured animals in one of my stories, “Unbridled.” The three show horses—Bay, D’artagnan, and Spade—all board at the same equestrian center in South Carolina’s Low Country. As readers soon find out, they are as commanding as their rider/owners.

J.A.: I’ve been working on a detective novel where the lead character owns two tabby cats, named Lenny and Squiggy. I’m telling my age with that reference.

Stacie: As I develop my main character, I plan for her to have a Siamese cat named Loopy who is almost preternaturally attuned to Vera’s recurrent migraines.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

 Heather: I am working on a cozy mystery novel, and it features a Jack Russell Terrier named Bijou. I am also working on a dog mystery for the second Mutt Mysteries series. It features a Rottweiler named Oscar, and the story’s called “The Fast and the Furriest.”

Lynn: As I write this, I’m working on book 4 of the Farm to Fork mystery series. The working title is DEATH ON A STICK. It’s set in my home state of Idaho and I love writing a late summer weather scene while the snow outside my window keeps getting deeper. After that, I’m doing my first Farm to Fork Novella which will have snow, but maybe I won’t be so sick of it by then.

Frances: I’m finishing up the second book in the Robbie Bradford mystery series. In this one, Robbie goes to Switzerland with a client, to help her manage some issues with family money. The third book will be set in either Egypt or Jordan, both of which I recently visited. I’m also working on financial presentations for various groups, to give people guidance on how to manage their money.

Kristin: I’m polishing my second suspense novel, which is a quest for a missing Faberge Egg throughout Prague and other Central European cities. I’m also in the process of drafting my third novel, a domestic suspense, which features Lulu the tabby cat.

J.A.: I’m working on a short story for a sci fi/fantasy magazine submission

Stacie: Actually, I am currently working on a nonfiction project, a college-level online resource on the United States Intelligence Community, drawing on my background as a CIA analyst. I’m also trying to hone my fiction writing skills and develop a series of short stories set in Memphis, Tennessee from 1920 through the 1960s in which Vera and her policeman cousin Burnell navigate the turbulent social changes of the time while solving crimes in a way that is both merciful and just.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 Heather: My Jack Russell Terrier Riley has a thing for paper. One day, I set my open purse on the floor next to my desk while I was working. When I got up, I noticed the ATM receipt for $40 was wet and on the floor. Curious, I rummaged through my purse. Riley had pulled it out along with a twenty. He ate one of my twenty-dollar bills.

Lynn: Thor (the cat) liked to hide behind the television when the dogs went out first thing in the morning. Then he’d pop out and stand on his hide legs and pretend to be an attacking bear. One morning, Homer wasn’t having it. He bulldozed the cat into the television stand, then went to stand by the door waiting for us to let him out. Thor stopped playing that game after that.

Frances: When I was a child, we visited a family friend whose dog had recently had puppies. When my parents got ready to leave, they found me sitting on the floor in the utility room, with all five puppies lying on my outstretched legs, determined that I was going to take them home with me. My dad convinced me that the pups were too young to leave their mother, but promised I could come back later and pick out one for myself. That cocker spaniel puppy and I grew up together.

 J.A.: We adopted Woody for my son, who was seven at the time. They grew up together. Woody would listen to everyone, but my son. Woody wasn’t allowed on the bed, yeah that rule didn’t last long. When he heard our bedroom door close at night, he would jump on my son’s bed. Anytime he heard the door open he’d jump down and play innocent.

Stacie: My children were young when hyperactive D’Art joined our family. The kids would put on roller skates to take him on “walks” which were really mad careening around the neighborhood! They could only stop by collapsing on the lawn or, occasionally, running into a tree!

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Heather: There are two dog beds on either side of my desk in the office. They nap mostly while I’m writing or editing. Sometimes, they help with plotting.

Lynn: Thor sleeps on my desk. I’m hoping the new puppies will hang out under my desk. (As long as they don’t chew on the cords.)

Frances: My lab was an outdoor dog who enjoyed exploring the woods behind our house.

 Kristin: Oh, I wish I had a cat. If it were like my previous fur babies, it would ignore me actively until I tried to pet it, then shun me. Is there anything more divine than purring???

Stacie: Tinkerbell lies on the floor just outside the open door of my office. She seems to feel she is guarding me. The cat Azzie has to climb on my lap or, if I’m standing up using my sit/stand desk, he’ll reach up and claw my legs until I pick him up and let him investigate what I’m doing. Once satisfied, he’ll curl up in a comfy chair near me and snooze.

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?

 Heather: I grew up in a suburban house. We had a couple of gold fish over the years. My dad, a 46-year veteran of the Virginia Beach Police force, had a police dog once. I didn’t have dogs until I moved out.

Lynn: I had a grey cheek parakeet once. She was part of a breeding pair. She didn’t like men. So she’d bite me every time my husband or my son would come close. But she did like drinking Coke out of the lip of my Coke can.

Frances: We once had an aquarium filled with exotic fish. I especially liked the neon tetras, the angelfish, and the whiskery catfish.

Kristin: My family had lots of pets while I grew up, from dogs and cats, to fish, birds, and gerbils. The most unique pet, though, was our ferret, Bartles.

J.A.: I didn’t grow up on a farm, but somehow we always seemed to have farm animals. Over the years there were chickens, calves that needed to be bottle feed till they were big enough to release into pasture, and goats. My mother loved goats. We had at least one for years. There were dogs, cats, hamsters and for a brief period rabbits.

Stacie: We had some geckos when we lived in Hawaii. They were amusing to watch climb the walls and ceilings! But it wasn’t amusing when my husband brought home flying cockroaches from work to feed them! Of course, the cockroaches got away. Sigh.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

Heather: Writing is a business. You need to treat it like that. It includes a lot of record-keeping and marketing. You also need to guard your writing time. There are so many distractions and obligations. You really do need a writing schedule.

Lynn: It’s okay to stand up for what you want and how you want your book to look. You can’t wait for the muse to hit to write. Set a word count and meet it. Otherwise, the book won’t rise to the top of your to do pile. I write first because I’m better in the morning and I don’t write well late at night. Your mileage may vary.

Frances: Writing a novel takes so much longer than I thought it would. I have to schedule a time to write each day; otherwise, other projects intrude on my time. Marketing a book is even more time consuming. Mastering social media is a continuing challenge.

Kristin: I wish I’d known that once I type The End, an author is really only a third the way through the publishing process. The next third is revising and editing, and the last third is publishing/marketing the work (of course, while working through the next project). Also, many words can be written before sunrise. Use your time wisely!

J.A.: Writing is hard work. Not just the writing, but the business side of it.

Stacie: Well, I truly am just starting in fiction writing now. One thing I already know from my nonfiction work, however, is that writing takes rewriting, and rewriting, and double checking, and rewriting some more!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

Heather: I love to write at the beach when we’re visiting. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and I miss the ocean. When at home, I love to write on my deck on sunny days.

Lynn: I love writing at my desk because I have a desktop with a 32-inch screen. But I can and do write anywhere. Reading, I need good light. My favorite place to get story now is during my commute in my car.

Frances: Most of the time I write on my laptop at my office desk. In warm weather, I take the laptop out to the gazebo. Most of my reading is done in bed at night, just before I go to sleep.

Kristin: I get my best writing done in my silent, quiet writers cave at home. Even better, when everyone in my family is either asleep or away. Reading, however, I can do absolutely anywhere, but my favorite place is in a bookstore café.

J.A.: I have an office space set up in my she cave at home. It’s quiet and comfort.

Stacie: I am happy as a clam to read wherever I am! But for writing, I prefer my office, where I’m surrounded by all the things I need – all kinds of materials and, most importantly, a comfy chair and a lovely view out the window when I need to clear my head!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Heather: Be persistent. Don’t give up. Writing and publishing are hard. You need to keep at it.

Lynn: Make sure it’s really what you want to do. You spend way too much time working and alone for it to be just a whim.

Frances: Know why you want to write. This is a very competitive business. If you’re writing to be rich and famous, perhaps you should pick another line of work. If you’re writing because you have stories you want to share with others, then stick with it.

 Kristin: The only requirement for being a writer is to actually write. All other rules you hear are merely suggestions and guidelines. It also helps if you read a lot, too. Good luck!

J.A.: Read a lot. Find authors who’s style you like and study it. Figure out why you like it. In the beginning you may find yourself imitating other writers, but with time you’ll find your own style.

Stacie: Remember that writing is fundamentally a solitary endeavor. You can and should make lots of connections with other writers and readers, but most of your time must be devoted to writing, something no one else can do with you. You’re on your own! Make sure you’re happy with the solitude.

Heather Weidner
Lynn Cahoon
Frances Aylor
Kristin Kisska
J. A. Chalkley
Stacie Giles

About Us

Frances Aylor, CFA combines her investing experience and love of travel in her financial thrillers. MONEY GRAB is the first in the series. www.francesaylor.com

Lynn Cahoon is the NYT and USA Today author of the best-selling Tourist Trap, Cat Latimer and Farm-to-Fork mystery series. www.lynncahoon.com

 J. A. Chalkley is a native Virginian. She is a writer, retired public safety communications officer, and a member of Sisters in Crime.

Stacie Giles, after a career as a political scientist, linguist, and CIA analyst, is now writing historical cozies with a twist.  Her first short story is in honor of her grandfather who was a policeman in Memphis in the 1920s.

Kristin Kisska is a member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime, and programs chair of the Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia chapter. www.kristinkisska.com

Heather Weidner is the author of the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries. She has short stories in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 SHADES OF CABERNET and TO FETCH A THIEF. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and Jack Russell terriers. www.heatherweidner.com

Let’s Be Social

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LethalLadiesWrite/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LethalLadiesCVA?lang=en

Website: https://www.sistersincrimecentralvirginia.com/anthologies

Book Links

Wildside: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-paperback/

Wildside eBook: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-epub-kindle-pdf/?ctk=92a212b3-7ff7-473d-a5dd-78ab99163c27

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Southern-Charm-Mystery-Anthology/dp/1479448397

 

Welcome, June Whatley!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome June Whatley to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write under the names of June Breland Whatley or June B. Whatley. I’ve been married for 48 years to my husband Jim. We have one son who is grown, married and has four children. My husband and I are both retired and live in Tennessee with our two fur babies Bear and Millie.

My first book, published in 1996, was for homeschoolers on the topic of socialization. We homeschooled our son junior high through high school and he went on to college and then got his Masters’ Degree.

My second book was published in 2016 and is available on Amazon. The title is #LifeChange: A Treasure Hunt for More. It is based on a dream from the Lord that shows how and why people fear having a relationship with Christ and shows why, even after coming to Christ, people are attacked by the enemy. The book leads the reader through steps of accepting Christ, learning how to pray, and how to protect themselves from the enemy after their salvation experience. It ends with a biblical explanation that shows the Kingdom of God is real.

My writing is driven by a need to introduce people to or draw people closer to the Lord. My belief is that the Return of Christ is coming soon. Time is short and people need to have a personal relationship with Jesus in order to be saved.

My current work, follows a similar pattern, but engages the younger reader in a story to aid in expressing these principles.

Tell us about your pets.

Bear is my ‘rescue’ dog. It took three trips to the shelter before I found him, then he ‘rescued me.’ J I was a cancer survivor and had undergone chemo, surgery and radiation. I was cancer-free, but my strength and lung capacity were not back to normal. I had little energy and was gloomy most of the time. Bear got me up, out and moving. He was a 9 lb ball of fur and energy, just what I needed to perk up my spirit and encourage me to be more active. Six and a half years later, he is now about 100 lbs and I’m still cancer-free and in much better health. Shortly after getting Bear, we moved to Tennessee.

In Tennessee, I had seen the large, furry Great Pyrenees dogs and wanted one. I met a man who was giving away puppies. The first owner had neglected them terribly, so Stan purchased them from him, and worked to get them healthy, then he was giving them away. I drove to his house and Millie greeted me at my car. She waddled her three-month-old, 37 lb body up to my car. I called Stan to be sure he still wanted to give her up and he did, so I put her in a travel cage in my car and headed for the veterinarian’s. She was checked over, given a bath and declared in good health so I took her home.

By this time, Bear was so spoiled, people questioned how he would get along with another dog, but I wasn’t worried. When I opened the door, and set her down on the floor. Bear, now about 39 lbs. and Millie looked at each other, their eyes lit up and they started chasing each other around, inside the condo. It was adorable. They’ve been best buds ever since.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading, The Emotional Craft of Fiction, by Donald Maass. It is by far the best book I have read on the subject of writing or crafting a story or novel. The book that I have in progress, is ‘finished,’ but now I am going through Mr. Maass’ book and literally addressing every area that he discusses. I thought my book was good before, but now I see what was missing. Hopefully this book will reach many young people and show them the love of Christ and God.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a book for ages 8-12+ readers called, Beware the Fallen. It is the story of three siblings from a Christian home. The middle child, Ashton age eleven, feels left out and unloved, but neither is true. It takes a life-changing event (being kidnapped by a dragon and nearly losing his life) to bring him to a true relationship with the King and His Son.

This also brings love and understanding into his relationship with his older brother, Mican (thirteen) and younger sister, Shayla age ten. The story follows them for the next year and their many visits to talk with the King. The sequel follows Mican, Ashton and Shayla on their travels through time portals where they witness Biblical scenes, as they happen.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I love Jane Austen. Her characters and scenery are so vivid. I also love Agatha Christie. Her mysteries are intricate, without being gory. And a more recent author, Andrew Peterson is a new favorite. Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga is amazing. It is great for young people, but held my attention to the end.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

When I was a kid, we had three acres. That’s not vast, but allowed us to have dogs and cats. I still remember all the names of my dogs: Peanut, Snowball, Pharaoh, Blue, and Foots. When we found Foots, he was a puppy, but had enormous feet, that’s where the name came from. He turned out to be mostly Great Dane and was huge.

My favorite cat and there were many, was Persia, a smoky gray Persian.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

In my new book, the animals are not pets, they are characters in their own right. Some of the animals are in the service of the King. For example: Warrior, a noble horse; Patrice the leader of the butterflies; Ozwan the swan; Omuth the dragonfly; and of course a dove (the Holy Spirit).

Why do you include animals in your writing?

For this book, Beware the Fallen, it was a logical progression to use animals.

Since the new book takes place partly in a fallen, Garden of Eden-type setting, the dragon (Satan) has his followers. These animals are villains who inhabit the mysterious garden and create havoc for the three main characters.

Do you have any working or service animals in your stories? Tell us about them.

The animals that I mentioned by name in question #7, who are in the Kings’ service are not ‘service animals’ as we use the term, but they do the King’s bidding, such as guiding the children to safety in various instances. They also talk and teach the children lessons during their journey.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

As a fifth grader, I needed to do a book report and I found Black Beauty. I was a very slow reader, but I’ve always loved horses, so the horse in the book got me through. I now understand that there is a ‘lag-time’ between when my eye sees a word and when my brain registers it. “Way back then,” they didn’t understand problems like mine. I had a large vocabulary, but I always struggled to read. I never let it stop me. I went on to get a Master of Arts Degree from Regent University.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Take time to learn your craft. There is much more to writing than grammar and punctuation. Read contemporary best sellers in the area in which you want to write.

Contemporary, because although Jane Austen is amazing, most young people won’t sit still long enough to get through all of the details in the way she wrote. It is a different time that we live in.

And my best advice to any writer would be, ‘don’t be in a hurry.’ When I started writing I believed that God had a ‘mission’ for me and that I needed to hurry and get it done. Now I realize that even with a calling, waiting and timing are important.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

Hire an editor to do deep edits, not just to put commas in the right place. It is pricey, but it is very necessary. Sometime you are so close to the story, you mentally read in what should be there. Your readers don’t have that luxury and an editor needs to check continuity and other issues. Use an editor that is in the business, not just a free-lancer. You can also learn a lot about the business side of publishing from an editor.

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Creepy Crawlies in the Cat Bed

 

Hello again! For my second post, I have some disturbing news to share.

Creepie Crawlies in the Cat Bed

There is a vector on the rise that you need to know about if your household includes at least one cat, dog, or rabbit, and secondary food source, such as yourself. The critter in question is the cheyletiella mite. We recently had an infestation on our strictly-indoor cat, Patience, and co-occuringly, on the rest of us. The rise in the appearance of this mite is attributed to the increasing use of flea-control products that do not contain a pesticide aimed specifically at mites. Climate change is also implicated as a factor.  

If you have a strong stomach, you might want to check out this web site for more information and a truly disturbing photograph. 

 

Symptoms

Signs that your cat might be afflicted with mites include irritability in the cat caused by the itchy bites and sensations that something is crawling across their skin. Granted, irritability in cats caused by an infestation of mites is difficult to distinguish from your everyday feline irritability. If the infestation is severe enough, you will notice the same symptoms in yourself, accompanied by a plethora of itchy red bumps that can drive you to complete distraction. If you are weak-willed and cannot resist scratching, these bumps only become more itchy and break into patches of open, bleeding blisters. Caution: giving in to the itchiness will also measurably up your irritability score.

As you might guess from their extremely small size, unlike other blood-sucking pests, these mites do not carry on board an anesthetic to be injected before sinking their feeding parts into your skin. Thus, their bites are often accompanied by a sharp pain much like a tiny bee sting. The itchy red bump follows a day or so later. None of this is going to improve your ability to get along with others. 

The most reliable sign that your house is infested with mites is actual sightings of the mites themselves. For this you will need a bright light and a four year-old with perfect near-vision. If your household does not include such a person, and is instead made up of several vision-impaired older folks equipped only with “cheater” glasses from the discount store and a dusty magnifying glass, sightings of these mites may prove impossible.

If you do think you have spotted one, a tiny dot on a light-colored surface where your cat has recently been napping, you can try staring at the dot, watching for it to start crawling. Be careful not to breathe too enthusiastically while you stare as, due to their extremely small size, a single puff of air can blow them right out of Kansas. (This is a Californian’s feeble joke about tornadoes. I recognize that if you are reading this from most other parts of the country, tornadoes are no joking matter.) In any case, my point is, the dot can easily be blown away. Yes, they really are this small (that’s a penny to show scale). This mite is recently deceased.

 

If the dot you have spotted is alive, it eventually will begin moving, and usually in the direction of yourself. Mites are attracted to body heat and CO2, both of which you emit in abundance.

Collecting Evidence

Once the dot begins crawling, do not try to pick it up with your fingers or roll over it with a fingernail to kill it. Take it from me, neither of those techniques will work. The mite is too small for you to feel, unless you are dozing fitfully at two in the morning and it crawls across your neck. You will feel it then, and will come abruptly awake, twitching, thrashing, and clawing at your neck. But I digress.

What I’ve found works best is to scoop the dot up with a funnel made from a white index card. These critters move fast, so have a small, preferably clear container handy with an air-tight snap-on lid. Tap the funnel over the container until the dot drops inside, and snap the lid on tightly. You will need this exhibit to prove to your veterinarian that your household is truly infested with invisible dots that crawl on your skin. Without this evidence, you are in some danger of being remanded to the local detox facility with a presumed diagnosis of delirium tremens. It is not unlikely that your veterinarian, primary care physician, and pest management company will all insist they have never seen, nor even heard of these mites, so take the name of the mite with you along with your carefully collected evidence.

Treatment

Lucky for all concerned, the treatment for an infestation of cheyletiella mites is relatively simple and effective. Because both our dogs are on a flea-control product that contains a drug to kill mites, ivermectin*, the dogs were only transiently effected. Patience was not on any medication since she only leaves the house once a year and only then for the five minute ride to the vet’s office. We secured the ivermectin there, and within just a few days of its application our sightings of mites have significantly decreased.

Treatment should also include washing all of the pet’s bedding on your machine’s hottest setting and drying on high heat. If you are as squeamish as I, you will also want to similarly wash your own bedding, pajamas, towels, and all clothing. Thoroughly vacuum carpets, floors, drapes, and upholstered furniture. Wipe all washable surfaces with diluted ammonia including window sills, television consoles, and any place you have ever seen your cat sitting. Ever. I do not know that any of this is strictly necessary, but it will keep you busy while the ivermectin works its magic.

Check your flea-control medication box to see if it also controls mites. If not, you may want to begin your search for crawling dots. I sincerely hope you do not find any.

*Some herding breeds (of dogs) can have life-threatening reactions to ivermectin. There is a DNA test that can determine if your dog has the genetic mutation causing this reaction. Please check with your veterinarian before using this product on your dog.

 

 

Cherie O’Boyle, author of the Estela Nogales Mystery series, and On Scent, a working dog novel of suspense.

 

Welcome back, Kristin Kisska!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome back our friend, Kristin Kisska.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Thank you for hosting me on the Pens, Paws, and Claws’ Writer Wednesday. I am a former contributing writer to this blog, and I’m thrilled to be a part of your animal-loving readership again!

My name is Kristin Kisska and I write suspense fiction. So far, I’ve published seven short stories. “Unbridled”, my horse-themed whodunit, is part of the Lethal Ladies’ mystery anthology, DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

“Unbridled,” as then mane suggests, is a horse-themed short story. In it, I have three horses that all board in the same equestrian facility located in South Carolina’s low country. Their riders are preparing for the opening competition of the spring season’s horse shows when one of them trots into his stall with an empty saddle, a broken rein, and no sign of his rider.

I’m currently writing my third novel, a domestic suspense which features a tabby cat named Lulu. She’s an intuitive pet, and knows when her teen owner needs a little TLC to cheer her up. Lulu also has a tendency to walk circles under her family’s feet, so can also be a bit of a liability.

What are you reading now?

I’ve just finished reading ICE BLONDE by Elaine Viets. While the novel didn’t include pets, I love a good forensic investigation. Her heroine, Angela Richman, didn’t disappoint. I recently had the privilege of meeting Elaine and hearing her make a presentation on incorporating forensics in writing. It’s amazing how many new investigation techniques are available today!

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing my third novel, which is called MY GUARDIAN DEAR. It’s a domestic suspense about a grieving mother who searches for her late-son’s child, the granddaughter she learned of only after he passed away. As I mentioned above, this novel includes a sassy little feline named Lulu.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

I grew up with all sorts of pets: cats, dogs, parakeets, gerbils, fish, and even a guinea pig and a ferret. There was no animal immune to my mother’s adoration! The one pet that comes to mind was Maitreyi, the Romanian calico cat that adopted me when I lived in Bucharest in my late twenties. She was queen of our little corner of villas and had beau vying for her attention most nights.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

For me, I use animals sparingly in my writing because I feel that the strength of their presence in a scene can risk distracting the reader from the plot or even present conflict. I either write them to diffuse the tension for the moment and give the reader a mini-break, or to help convey an emotion the character is experiencing. Animals are highly intuitive creatures, so for example, if a cat is purring, all in her near vicinity is calm.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When I was a young teen, my mother left to run an errand, but didn’t realize our cat had been napping on the top of her station wagon. I saw it and chased her down the street, but she didn’t year me yelling and screaming after her. The cat, by this point had awakened and instead of jumping off the car, sat upright facing the direction of traffic as calmly as if it were driving. Apparently, after leaving our neighborhood, multiple cars kept honking at her to alert her, but it wasn’t until she reached a stoplight that another driver knocked on her window and told her the cat was on the roof. I was never so relieved as to see my mom return home with the (perfectly safe and unharmed) cat sitting in her lap.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

Becoming a writer was a big surprise to me. My education and professional experience was in business and finance, as I was analytically and mathematically bent. It wasn’t until I was almost forty years old when I was inspired to write a story. Within a week of my first inclination, I’d jotted an eight-page outline of a fleshed-out plot for a contemporary thriller. Three years later (I had little kids then so I was only writing when they slept), I finally typed the magic words, “The End.” That novel was never published, but it holds a very dear place in my heart. I’ve been writing short stories and novels ever since.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

I wish I’d known that typing “The End” at the end of my manuscript didn’t really mean that I had a completed book. Sure, it’s a moment to be celebrated, but an author is still facing many rounds of revising, editing, critiquing, and polishing before she has a professional quality book. Often times, the post-production time takes longer than drafting the novel.

I also wish I’d known that while writing is mostly a solo adventure, there’s a huge writing community available to support me and cheer me on along my writerly journey. From my local Sisters in Crime chapter, to the writers I’ve met online (Twitter and Facebook) and in person at conferences, I’ve found my tribe with a wealth of resources and experience to help me improve.

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

My absolute favorite place to read is on a balcony overlooking the ocean. The beach my ultimate happy place, so of course, a novel must be open on my lap.

As far as writing goes, I create best while I’m in my home office, sitting at my desktop computer, with absolutely no background noise whatsoever. Anything else is a distraction. I’m envious of authors who can write anywhere, even on the go. I guess I get too distracted by different surroundings and activities.

About Kristin:

Kristin Kisska used to be a finance geek, complete with MBA and Wall Street pedigree, but now Kristin is a self-proclaimed fictionista. Kristin contributed short stories of suspense to seven anthologies, including Malice Domestic’s MYSTERY MOST EDIBLE (2019). She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Vice President of Sisters in Crime-Central Virginia, and James River Writers. Kristin lives in Virginia with her husband and three children.

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Travels with Shammy

By Maggie King

Have you ever traveled with a cat? I don’t mean those horrendous drives to the vet with a shrieking animal in the back seat. I’m talking about soaring above the clouds, “flying the friendly skies,” with your favorite feline tucked under the seat in front of you. While you relax and sip your Cabernet, you feed tidbits to little [insert cat’s name here]. All is well.

Shammy was a sweet and glam calico cat who liked traveling. In the car, I’d let her out of her carrier and she’d gaze out the window, enjoying the passing scenery through the Antelope Valley of Southern California. Sometimes she’d crawl under the seats and get under my feet as I drove—not a good thing.

When Glen and I moved from California to Virginia in 1996, we had many things to consider (where to live, were to work, etc.). But the most pressing concern: how to get Shammy cross country. Sure, she enjoyed being a car passenger—but would she like it for three days in a car loaded up with our possessions? And the overnight stops at strange motels?

We came up with the purr-fect solution: Glen would drive the packed car and sleep in the strange motels. I would ship my car, leaving Shammy and me to travel in style, by air.

I learned that I didn’t have to put Shammy in cargo; she could accompany me in the cabin. I purchased a special carrier that would fit under the seat. The vet dispensed tranquilizers. We were all set.

At security, the TSA agent demanded that I take Shammy out of the carrier. If I’d anticipated this (this was pre-911 times) I would have brought a leash. I maintained the tightest of grips on Shammy until we made it through security and I could return her to the carrier.

On board, I braced myself for loud complaints from allergy-ridden passengers. Thankfully, the plane wasn’t full, and Shammy and I had three seats to ourselves. No one complained, in fact everyone was kind and asked how she was doing.

How was Shammy doing?

Anxious, bewildered, awake—those adjectives suffice to describe her state. I expected the tranquilizer to make her drowsy, but she remained hyper alert for the duration. She couldn’t stand up in the carrier that had to meet size regulations for under seat storage. Thankfully, she was quiet, and endured it all with her customary dignity.

And how was I doing?

I suspect that Shammy fared better than I did. I found the whole ordeal nerve-wracking to say the least. Mostly because of my concern for Shammy and not knowing what to expect from one minute to the next. Sure, we soared above the clouds, “flying the friendly skies.” But relaxing it wasn’t. As for tempting Shammy with tidbits . . . let’s just say she resisted temptation.

Minutes before boarding after a stopover in Baltimore, the heavens opened. Problematic, as we had to walk outside to board the puddle jumper that would take us to Charlottesville. A kind young man in an airport shop gave me two large plastic bags. I covered Shammy’s carrier with one, and draped the other over my head and shoulders. We dashed to the plane and boarded, Shammy completely dry, me only slightly damp.

Once in Charlottesville, we took a cab to pick up my car and headed for the motel where I had a reservation. The next day I got the keys to the apartment where we were to live for three months while we looked for a permanent home. Glen arrived four days later.

Shammy didn’t eat or use the litter box for a couple of days. After that, she loved the place. Squirrels, chipmunks, and birds came right up to the patio door where she parked herself 24/7. Occasionally she and a cat had a hissing contest.

That wraps up “Travels with Shammy.” Shammy crossed the rainbow bridge in 2002. When the Albemarle County (Charlottesville) SPCA built a new facility, Glen and I purchased a brick and dedicated it to our special friend: “Shammy King, in our hearts.”

In my Hazel Rose Book Group series, Hazel’s backstory reveals that her beautiful calico cat named Shammy accompanied her when she moved from Los Angeles to the east coast and settled in Richmond, Virginia.

Shammy lives on, in our hearts … and on the page.

Shammy has appeared in Pens, Paws, and Claws before. Read it here.

 

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. Her short stories appear in Deadly Southern Charm, Virginia is for Mysteries (Vols. 1&2), and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: www.maggieking.com

Facebook: MaggieKingAuthor

Twitter: MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: authormaggieking

Amazon: Maggie’s Amazon Author Page

 

 

 

Welcome, Linda O. Johnston

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Linda O. Johnston to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m Linda O. Johnston. I used to be a transactional real estate lawyer but I’m now a full-time writer. I write both mysteries and romantic suspense, and I’ve also written paranormal and time-travel romance. I have written four mystery series: the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery Series and the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink, and the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries and Pet Rescue Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. I’m also currently writing for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. And nearly all my recent stories include dogs!

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

I’m addicted to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Right now, my Cavaliers are Mystie, a Blenheim (red and white color) and Cari, a tricolor. They’re my babies!

My first mystery series was the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries. Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her tricolor Cavalier, Lexie. At the time, I was also a practicing lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills, and Lexie was our tricolor Cavalier. Unfortunately, our Lexie is no longer with us.

So far, none of my other stories have included Cavaliers, but that could always change!

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

The protagonists in my mysteries always are owned by dogs. In my current mystery series, the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, the protagonist Carrie, a veterinary technician who also owns a barkery where she sells the healthy treats she’s developed, as well as a human bakery, has a dog named Biscuit, a golden toy poodle-terrier mix who hangs out a lot in the barkery and accompanies Carrie most other places she goes.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

When I was a child I had a brindle Boston Terrier named Frisky. Frisky was frisky! I really loved her, and she inspired me to want to become a veterinarian, though that didn’t happen for many reasons. But she did help to increase my addiction to dogs.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

The animals, primarily dogs, in my writing are characters in their own right, though I don’t get into their points of view. But they’re there for their owners, who are the major characters in my stories, providing emotional support, humor and love.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Because I love animals, especially dogs! They add so much to people’s lives, whether they’re pets or just there inspiring us to help them and to be better people.

Do you have any working or service animals in your stories? Tell us about them.

K-9s and service dogs show up sometimes in my stories, In Second Chance Solder, my first K-9 Ranch Rescue story for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, the story takes place at–what else?–a ranch where dogs are trained to be possible police K-9s. The hero Evan Colluro is a former military K-9 trainer and moves to the ranch with his former military K-9 Bear to help train the pups there. The sequel to this story is Trained To Protect, which also takes place at the K-9 ranch. There will also be a spin-off series soon about rescues, but I’m not sure how many K-9s will be involved there.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I suppose I’ve always known I was a writer. I started my first book, which remains unfinished, in high school, and I always enjoyed assignments where we had to write an essay or anything else.

The professions I’ve had also involve writing: advertising, public relations, and transactional lawyering–yes, contracts are a form of creative writing! I started getting short stories, then novels, published when I was a practicing attorney, and got up an hour earlier than anyone else in my household so I could write before getting the kids ready for school.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why?

Well, my husband and I have been talking about the possibility of taking an African safari–which, these days, is fortunately to see and photograph animals, not harm them in any way. Why? Because I love animals, and this could be an amazing experience!

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Mystie and Cari hang out with me, or with my husband, or stand on our front porch looking out the locked gate and telling me when other dogs walk by–or when one of our wonderful neighbors arrives with treats for them. When they want something, such as to go outside or for me to open the front door or anything else, one or the other of them will come into my office, sit down beside my chair, and just stare at me. Or sometimes Mystie will bark at my shoes in the kitchen to let me know she wants to go out.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

I can’t count the number of TBR piles in my house, or the number of books in them, but you can be sure that most of them involve dogs!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Just do it! Write! It’ll come to you even if you think you don’t know how. The other thing I’d suggest is to join one or more of the many writing organizations, particularly those specializing in the genre you want to write in, and attend as many chapter meetings as you can. Writers are very supportive of each other.

About Linda:

Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, writes the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery Series for Midnight Ink.  Her fifth and final book in the series, For a Good Paws, is a May 2019 release.  She has also written Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink, and the Pet Rescue Mystery Series and Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  Linda also writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and nearly all her current stories involve dogs.u!

Let’s Be Social:

Linda’s Website

Linda’s Facebook Page

 

I CAN Have it All by Jayne Ormerod

Dogs and vegetable gardens do not go well together. Call me a germaphobe, but I just don’t like the idea of dog poo in my oregano.

My instincts were confirmed in an article in yesterday’s local paper, The Virginian Pilot. The opening paragraph caught my attention:

“Animal waste tainting fresh produce is one of the major causes of food-borne ailments. So farmers markets and pick-your-own growers who fear fecal contamination are increasingly guarded about tolerating pets near their edibles.” You can read the entire article by clicking here.

My reaction was, “People really need to be told the basic sensibilities of life?”

But alas, yes, it seems people need to be told everything to think, feel, and do anymore. But that’s another topic for another more socially conscious blog. This one is about dogs.

I have waged a battle my entire adult life…do I want fresh grown vegetables and herbs or do I want playful pups? Pups won out, every single time! Fresh herbs can be procured at the market, puppy snuggles cannot.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon what I thought would be the perfect solution to my little dilemma. A stackable garden higher than an aging girl dog could pee, and I could tuck it discreetly away from the spot in the lawn where she routinely (more like religiously) did her business.

 

Problem solved! That year we enjoyed what I called the Scarborough Fair medley of fresh herbs (Really? You don’t know what the Scarborough Fair medley is? Why, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, of course!) (Old Simon and Garfunkel song. You can listen to it here.) (I fear my age is showing…again!)

Anyway, things changed when we got the puppies, Tiller and Scout. Perhaps more aptly named The Destructo Brothers!

 

Don’t let that innocent look fool you. That stack of tissue paper did not shred itself! They LOVE to chew on anything and everything.

I let them out in the backyard one sunny afternoon and ran inside to do something real quick, and raced outside seconds later, to find my herbs scattered hither and yon throughout my backyard. Not full plants, but tiny pieces parts as if each tender little plant had provided 3.2 seconds of a tug-o-war before they’d moved on to the next. Three tiers (12 plants) gone in the blink of an eye.

When my husband came home with two flats of fresh herbs, I knew I had to do something. He very kindly cobbled together a fence made of castoffs and garbage-day finds. Voila! A little side yard for my garden that was safe from the pups. He then suggested I channel my inner farm girl. Nope, not gonna till that earth that had been a popular potty spot for the pups. I let my fingers do the shopping on the Internet and found the perfect solution. Something three feet off the ground, and would be tucked behind the aforementioned fence. It is 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. It is filled with over 2 dozen little (but growing quickly!) plants! It took a lot of fresh soil to fill the basin. A lot. Like 13 bags. Overall, I figure the one sprig of thyme I put in my last casserole cost me $50. It’s gonna be a long time before this little garden pays for itself, but in the meantime, it’s safe from the beasts. Any time a recipe calls for a soupçon of tarragon or a snip of fresh chives, I can walk outside and harvest all I need. All the time singing another old favorite song, “Old McDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.”

So, in this wonderful world of imaginative people who solve all sorts of problems, I CAN have it all…and more! If you’re ever in the neighborhood, stop by and harvest some basil or cilantro, I think planted more than I can use in a lifetime!

That’s all from this dog-loving city farmer this round. Next time I’ll wax poetic on the joys/horrors that are part of the every day life with rescue pups. In the meantime, I’m working hard on writing my second Mutt Mystery, tentatively titled “Yappy Hour.” Watch for more info on that, soon!

 

ABOUT JAYNE

Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town then went on to a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her degree in accountancy, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.) She married a naval officer and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, have settled into a cozy cottage by the sea. Jayne is the author of the Blonds at the Beach Mysteries, The Blond Leading the Blond, and Blond Luck, as well as a doze other short stories and novellas. Her most recent releases are Goin’ Coastal and To Fetch a Thief.

LET’S BE SOCIAL.

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Welcome, Gayle Bartos-Pool

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Gayle Bartos-Pool to the blog.

(Q) Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. (A) I grew up with a dad in the Air Force. We lived in a few foreign countries and I got a terrific education. When I started writing I thought I would write spy novels using my dad’s experiences and my imagination to come up with stories. Ten years of research and writing later, I had three books, very long books, but no publisher. Then my husband said: “You used to be a private detective. Why don’t you write a detective story?” Yes, I used to be an undercover private investigator. So I started writing detective novels. I now have three series in print: the Gin Caulfield series featuring an over fifty gal who still packs heat; the Johnny Casino Casebook series about a private eye with a past, he just hopes it doesn’t catch up with him; and Chance McCoy in his first book, Second Chance, about a private detective who dies on a case, but he gets the opportunity of a lifetime. But my writing also includes a trio of Christmas stories and a pair of short story collections filled with murder and mayhem and a few laughs along the way. There are a few other books with my name on them as well. I guess you could say: “Writing is my life.”

(Q) Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? (A) My husband and I have had a passel of pets over the past thirty-three years and yes, many of them have made guest appearances in my books. Gin Caulfield and her husband Fred have two Italian Greyhounds named Sherlock and Foxtrot, named after the two boys we got from the Los Angeles Pound one Fourth of July weekend. I saw Sherlock first and fell in love, then this other skinny guy walked over to him and put his paws on Sherlock’s back like he was protecting him. Needless to say, we took both dogs home. Watson came from Pooch Heaven, an animal sanctuary that rescues animals. Candy came to us when some neighbor kids knocked on our door and said they found this mutt walking down the street and they thought it might be ours. I was holding her in my arms by then. I said she wasn’t ours. They said they would take her to the pound. I said, “No. We’ll keep her.” And we did and have her still. Cookie came from a guy outside of VONS who was giving away dogs. Sir Winston was gotten from the Glendale Humane Society after I heard that soldiers going off to the Gulf War were dropping off their dogs since they couldn’t take them into battle. I spotted Winston and adopted him. His health wasn’t the best and after a few years we lost him. Cookie had grown quite attached by then and his loss was hard on her. I saw an ad for a found dog in the local paper. I called up and said the dog wasn’t ours, but if they couldn’t find him a home, we’ll take him. We got Noodles a few days later. Duffy came from the Glendale Humane Society. Angel, a cat, was found wandering through a vacant lot. Sylvester was given to me by co-workers when I lost Duffy. Cat (that was his name) was a stray and Duffy’s best friend. And then there was Fred. I’ll tell you about him a little later. You asked if these guys show up in my work. You bet.

(Q) What are you reading now? (A) Currently I have been reading the works of E. Phillips Oppenheim. He wrote almost a hundred years ago, but his mysteries and spy novels read like they were written yesterday. I found his book Spies and Intrigues, a collection of novellas and short stories, on line. I also bought a collection of 100 of his novels (you read me right – 100) in e-book format on line as well. I am 72% through the e-books. There are a few other writers that wrote nearly a hundred years ago as well. Let me introduce you to Anna Katharine Green. She started by writing very intricate plots with clever details and clever sleuthing techniques. She wrote stories about a young debutante who solved crimes, a young man who analyzed a crime scene down to the lint in the victim’s pockets, and a spinster lady who helped out the local police in solving crimes.

If this sounds a little too much like Nancy Drew or a young Sherlock Holmes or a Miss Marple, let me mention that Anna Katharine Green was born in 1846. Her books predated the great writers of these previously mentioned tomes. She is considered the Mother of the Detective Novel. Women weren’t writing much more than poetry back then and there were very few male writers of fiction, much less mysteries. She had to discover new territories and did it unbelievably well. She did get reviews and notoriety. In fact, the Pennsylvania Senate debated whether or not a woman could have actually written her first book, The Leavenworth Case. She wrote it and 39 more stories. The Pennsylvania Senate had to eat a little crow. I also like Mary Roberts Rinehart. She wrote a batch of mysteries nearly a century ago. Her books are fantastic.

As for contemporary writers, I totally love M.M. Gornell and her Route 66 stories. Ms. Gornell takes us to these small towns along Route 66 and we meet the most intriguing people. Her latest, The Movie-Maker, had an ending that knocked my socks off. Sasscer Hill writes books about the racetrack much in the vein of Dick Francis. Matt Coyle has a marvelous series featuring Rick Cahill. Jacqueline Vick has a bunch of books. Her Civility Rules is a hoot. They all write mystery/detective stories, but that’s what I like to read.

(Q) What writing projects are you currently working on? (A) For several years I was Speaker’s Bureau Director of Sisters-in-Crime/Los Angeles. I set up author panels, but I also had the opportunity to teach a few writing classes to help fellow members work on short stories that they wished to submit to our anthology published every other year. I enjoyed teaching the class, but in preparing for that job I realized that I actually had a method in the madness that we call writing. I formatted a class curriculum and wrote up a lengthy handout for attendees. A little while after I began those classes, I turned that class handout into a book called The Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook. It consists of fairly basic prompts and thoughts about writing not only short stories, but things that might help with other writing endeavors. I happen to belong to a web blog with fellow writers that I have known for a number of years. We all are published, but we all learned many things from each other as we went down this path to publication. Our blog has a purpose: “We are a group of published writers who come here weekly to entertain, inform, and encourage you in your writing and your reading journey. Grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and join us.” https://thewritersinresidence.com/ That is our mission. As one of the members, I have been penning articles on writing based on the short bits from my workbook, expanding the thoughts and turning them into more detailed pieces. I am just about finished with the book to help writers called: So You Want to be a Writer. It will debut next year.

(Q) How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing? (A) Animals do appear in my work. In the Gin Caulfield books the two dogs just share the house with Gin and her husband. They don’t get involved with the detecting… yet. The two humans spend the bulk of each story hunting for the bad guys. In my Christmas stories, the case is quite different. In the very first book, Bearnard’s Christmas, a Polar bear features predominantly in the story as well photos of many of the Christmas decorations in my home and miniature houses that I built. I have nearly 5000 Santas in my collection. It’s the story about Elaine Ivy, a woman who loves animals, but sometimes she gets herself into trouble trying to defend them. Even her husband tells her she can’t save them all. At a Christmas Party she is given a stuffed Polar bear. A magical voice tells her its name is “Bearnard.” On Christmas Eve, Elaine falls asleep under the tree and wakes up at the North Pole where she meets Santa Claus, Mrs. C and a big Polar bear named, of course, Bearnard, and a bunch of other furry and feathery friends. But it turns out even the animals at the North Pole need a little help, but it will take more than human kindness this time to make everything right. For this book I built the Santa castle and fashioned many of the inhabitants including Santa, Mrs. C, and Bearnard out of clay. This was truly a labor of love.

(Q) Why do you include animals in your writing? (A) Animals are included because they are so much of my life. From my first dog, Sukoshi, that I got on my eighth birthday to the ones we rescued from the pound or the street or were given to us, pets have always occupied a large part of my heart. They each have had a personality so naturally they show up on the pages of books I write.

(Q) What’s your real-life funniest pet story? (A) There are many funny or touching stories about the pets I have had, but one that comes to mind goes all the way back to when my dad was stationed in France back in the 60s. Before we got the house we were to stay in for three years, we stayed in a nice hotel in Laon, France. Our dog Sukoshi got to accompany us on the ship that took us to France along with our 1956 pink and white Plymouth. Sukosh would be relegated to the hotel room while we were out getting breakfast or shopping. One time we came back to the hotel and were told Sukosh was in the dining room with the owner. It seems that the Beagle had been barking and the owner decided it best to keep her downstairs with her. We had dinner that night at the hotel and Sukosh was allowed to sit at our table. This was France, after all. The waiter said he would bring her some steak tartare as a treat. The raw, chopped steak was set before the little Beagle and she turned up her nose. No raw meat for her. The waiter took the plate back to the chef and they cooked it. She ate that. I guess Southern Beagles didn’t know French cuisine.

(Q) When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? (A) Back in about the sixth grade we were given one of those forms asking us to list three occupations that we might want to be when we grew up. My answers were: writer, writer, and writer. Even before that, in 1955, when I was eight, I put together my first book. It was several newspaper clippings for the movie The Lady and the Tramp glued onto paper and folded into book form. I loved the movie (It was about dogs for goodness sake.) and wanted to have a remembrance. I still have the book.

(Q) Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? (A) I read in bed in the morning after Richard goes off to work and sometimes in the evening for an hour or two before I join him in the living room for some television. I turn on one of the music channels on the TV and enjoy the background sounds. I tell this part to people attending my writing classes. I mention that there should always be somebody to root for in their story. I also say that I want the main characters to be people I would invite into my house because when I am sitting in bed, I don’t want anybody in there with me that I don’t like. That always gets a laugh, but I am serious. I have closed books that had such disagreeable characters that I didn’t want to spend any of my time in bed with them. I hope my students got the hint.

(Q) What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? (A) Years ago I worked in a bank. I was writing my first book back then, writing from eight at night until midnight. At the stroke of twelve, whether I was in the middle of a paragraph, a sentence, or a word, I stopped and went to bed. Several of my co-workers knew my ambition to be a writer, a published writer. One guy introduced me to a young man who wanted to know how to be a writer. I asked him what he had written so far. “Nothing,” he said. This young man was not a writer. Writers write. I didn’t tell him: “You’ll never be a writer, fool, until you sit down and write something, anything. Read it, edit it, and keep writing. Finish a story or even a book and then come back and ask me that question again.” No, I didn’t “jump in his chili,” as it were. But I did tell him he needed to think of a story, write a paragraph about it, then expand it to a short story and then flesh it out into a novel. I never heard from him after that. But my advice goes to anyone who wants to be a writer. The advice: WRITE.

(Q) What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share? (A) Whether you are just starting out in the writing field or you have a few books under your belt, always remember that it’s your name on the front of that book you wrote. You want it to be the best product you can produce. That means editing it a few more times than you first thought was necessary. It means asking advice from others in the writing field, but take the advice with a grain of salt. If your book is rejected by an agent, try another one. If a publisher doesn’t think your book would fit their imprint, try another one. If people tell you not to follow your dream, tell them that’s not the direction you want to go and it’s not a dream. There are always other avenues. Always do your very best. Never give up. It isn’t a dream.

(Q) What book would you like to mention today? (A) Since the Pens, Paws, and Claws Blog is mainly about those feathery and furry loves of our lives that might also turn up in the pages of our books, I wanted to mention Second Chance that has a rather “coincidental” tie-in to the subject of pets. The book blurb under the title on the first page reads: Chance McCoy just got the opportunity of a lifetime.

The blurb on the back of the book reads:

Chance McCoy is a private detective killed during a routine case, but he is given a second chance to make good. But with his track record as a P.I., he just might blow this chance, too.

That book blurb tells us about Chance, but no pets… so far.

All through the book, Chance views people he encounters as some kind of pooch. Droopy Bloodhound eyes on one guy. A teenage girl’s bodyguards are viewed as Bulldogs. Another set of hired muscle are called Rottweilers. Chance even enlists the services of a cadaver dog named Maurice to see if a body is buried in someone’s backyard.

It really wasn’t a coincidence on my part to make these comparisons because, you see, I dedicated the book to Freddy J. Feathers, our beloved parakeet who had recently passed away. I found Fred wandering in the backyard about six years earlier and he got a “second chance” with us. That fact fit perfectly with this particular book. And the short section at the end of the book ties my love of pets up with a big red ribbon. You see, Chance is asked to go to the local pound and… Wait a minute. You’ll have to read the book to see what happens there.

But pets, or members of the family as we call them in our house, have been a large part of my life and they seem to have played a big part in my writing as well. I guess we do leave bits of our heart in everything we write.

And one more thing about Second Chance, all the profits from the sale of this book go to pet rescue sites. So far we have donated to Best Friends Animal Society, Karma Rescue, and the ASPCA after Hurricane Harvey. It may not be much, but we do what we can.

About Gayle:

A former private detective and a reporter for a small weekly newspaper, Gayle Bartos-Pool (G.B. Pool) has numerous books in print: The Johnny Casino Casebook 1- Past Imperfect, The Johnny Casino Casebook 2 – Looking for Johnny Nobody, and The Johnny Casino Casebook 3 – Just Shoot Me; Media Justice, Hedge Bet, and Damning Evidence in the Gin Caulfield P.I. Series; From Light To DARK and Only in Hollywood, collections of short stories; Eddie Buick’s Last Case, Second Chance, The Santa Claus Singer, Bearnard’s Christmas, The Santa Claus Machine, Every Castle Needs a Dragon, and Who Killed Christmas? Other stand alones: CAVERNS; Eddie Buick’s Last Case; Enchanted, The Ring, The Rose, and The Rapier. Spy novels: The Odd Man, Dry Bones, Star Power. She is the former Speakers Bureau Director for Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and also a member of Mystery Writers of America and The Woman’s Club of Hollywood. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” “How to Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line” in sunny Southern California. Website: www.gbpool.com.

Let’s Be Social:

Websites: www.gbpool.com, https://thewritersinresidence.com/ , https://www.facebook.com/gayle.bartospool

 

 

Teresa Inge’s Interview with Alison Fechino

Alison, tell us a little about yourself and how did you get involved with animal welfare? 
Thank you so much for having me! I have always loved being involved in animal welfare. I started volunteering in a shelter at age 13 and continued to do so through college. I studied Animal and Poultry Sciences, which gave me a broader understanding of what “welfare” means with regard to more than just companion animals. I adore chickens and even became president of the Virginia Tech Poultry Club. I got my first job in animal sheltering at the Virginia Beach SPCA in 2013, and I never looked back.

How many animals do you have and what are their names and ages? 

I have two dogs – more than that and my landlord would kick me out! My first dog, Addie, has been with me since high school. She’s a Chow Chow mix who is about 12 years old. Addie is a complete priss who thinks she’s better than everyone else. My other dog, Colin, is 5 years old. He’s a Shetland Sheepdog/Whippet mix which means that he has a long snout with giant eyes. People tell me he looks like an anteater. Colin loves eating and will do anything for a snack.

What is a typical or non typical day like for you while working at the Chesapeake Humane Society? 
A lot of folks think working in animal welfare is sad. While its true that there are sad and trying moments in this field, there are even more moments to celebrate. Every day, I see volunteers give their time and energy to improve the care our animals receive. The staff work tirelessly to attend to our clinic patients and educate their caregivers. Donors stop by to drop off donations of food, cleaning supplies, or funds without even being asked. Adoptable pets find loving homes, and families celebrate all the unique ways their dog or cat makes them happy. All my days, typical or not, show me how much people really do care about the animals in our community.

Anything else you wound like to share with our readers about yourself, the Chesapeake Humane Society, upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, or supporting the Chesapeake Humane Society? 
Chesapeake Humane Society recently went through an exciting expansion! We hired a second veterinarian and have added additional veterinary services, such as mass removals and other soft tissue surgeries, in order to better serve pets whose owners could not otherwise afford such lifesaving care. We are thrilled to be able to offer this option to our community in addition to spay/neuter surgeries, dental procedures, and vaccinations. The programs we offer are supported by annual fundraisers, like our 5K and 1-Mile Doggy Dash coming up on May 4th, and contributions from individuals and businesses. Those interested in learning more about our services, volunteer opportunities, or ways to give can visit www.chesapeakehumane.org for more information!

Teresa Inge grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today, she doesn’t carry a rod like her idol, but she hot rods. She assists two busy executives and is president of the Sisters in Crime Mysteries by the Sea chapter. Teresa is the author of “Corked for Murder” in Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II, “Shopping for Murder,” and “Guide to Murder” in Virginia is for Mysteries, “Fishing for Murder” in the FishNets anthology and has coordinated several anthologies.