Welcome, Helena Fairfax!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Helena Fairfax to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I live in the north of England near the Yorkshire moors and the home of the Brontë sisters. The moors were the setting for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Living near such a wild, romantic landscape, it’s little surprise that I was inspired to start writing romance! My first novel, The Silk Romance, was published in 2013, and since then I’ve had several novels and short stories published. My works have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize and the Global Ebook Awards. I also work as a freelance editor, and I’ve found I get as much enjoyment from helping others get the best out of their manuscripts as I do with my own writing. Telling stories is my passion.

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

I have a rescue dog called Lexi, who is a Staffie cross. Lexi was abandoned as a puppy. When we first took her home she was very wary around strangers and highly reactive towards other dogs. Once she gets to know people, she is the most affectionate and loving dog imaginable. She’s playful and intelligent, she loves to walk the moors with us where it’s nice and peaceful, and every day we go out is like a brand new, exciting day for her. We wouldn’t be without her now for the world.

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

Although I love my dog to bits, strangely I’ve only ever had one dog in one of my books. I have a short story called Come Date Me in Paris. [link http://mybook.to/DateMeParis ] The story features a little French poodle called Sweetie who is totally cute – and most unlike my own dog! Alice, the heroine of the story, appears on a reality TV dating show – and Sweetie proceeds to steal the show in a disastrous way. The story was really good fun to write!

What are you reading now?

I’m reading a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett called The Making of a Marchioness. A Little Princess was one of my favourite books as a child. I’d never heard of this novel until I was given it as a present. It’s really charming and I’m absolutely loving it!

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a non-fiction history of the women of Halifax – a former mill town in Yorkshire near where I live. Next year is the centenary of the first women in the UK getting the vote, and the book is planned for release around the centenary.

I’m also working on an anthology of stories with a group of authors from the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Our stories will each be based on the same shop in a town local to us. Miss Moonshine’s Shop of Magical Things is the working title. I’m really excited about putting it together!

Who is your favorite author and why?

That is such a difficult question! I think perhaps in romance it would probably be Georgette Heyer. I can read her novels time and time again, and never get bored. Her heroes and heroines are always different, even though she’s written so many books. Her heroines are spirited and charming, each in their own way, and her heroes are always men to fall madly in love with.

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

I was one of seven children, so my poor mum had no time for pets as well…! I’d have loved to have had a dog as a child, so I’m making up for it now.

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

Probably my favourite movie with an animal is The Wizard of Oz. I love Judy Garland in anything. She has an amazing voice and such an ability to convey emotion. Toto is such a sweet dog and the perfect animal to accompany her on her adventure.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When my mum was a child they had a little mongrel dog they’d found abandoned. The dog really took to my granddad. My granddad used to take the dog on the bus with him, and give it a pie from the butcher’s. After a while the dog learned the route, and he used to hop on the bus all by himself, sit at the front with the driver, and make his own way to the butcher’s. After being given a pie, he’d go to the bus stop and get the bus home!

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

Lexi is getting old now, which is quite sad for us after seeing her bounding about the moors as a young dog. Nowadays we don’t walk as far as we did, and when I’m writing she’s quite happy to cuddle up next to me and sleep. Sometimes her snores disturb my concentration, but it’s lovely to have her to talk to about my characters. She’s a great listener!

A Year of Light and Shadows covers a year of mystery, suspense and romance in the life of Scottish actress Lizzie Smith and her bodyguard, Léon, culminating on New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh.

When Lizzie is offered the chance to play the role of a Mediterranean Princess, her decision to accept thrusts her into a world of intrigue and danger. Alone in the Palace, Lizzie relies on her quiet bodyguard, Léon, to guide her. But who is Léon really protecting? Lizzie…or the Royal Princess?

Back home in Scotland Lizzie begins rehearsals for Macbeth and finds danger stalking her through the streets of Edinburgh. Lizzie turns to her former bodyguard, Léon, for help…and discovers a secret he’d do anything not to reveal.

Buy link: http://mybook.to/lightandshadows

About Helena Fairfax

Helena Fairfax is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
Helena’s novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize, the Global Ebook Awards, the I Heart Indie Awards, and the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme Award.

Social Links

Newsletter (all new subscribers receive a romantic novella): http://eepurl.com/bRQtsT

Website and blog: www.helenafairfax.com

Besides the above, I also post photos of the moors and other places I’ve visited on social media.

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

Twitter https://twitter.com/HelenaFairfax

Pinterest https://uk.pinterest.com/helenafairfax/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/helenafairfax/

The Dogs in My Life Part III: Ranger

By Judy Penz Sheluk

Ranger with Judy, fishing in Collingwood

In my previous posts, I shared stories of my first dog, Sandy, and my second dog, Einstein. Neither of those stories had a happy ending, though they did come with a message, and hopefully, a lesson that can be shared.

You might think that after our heartache with Einstein that my husband, Mike, and I would find another breed. But we both love Golden Retrievers, and so this time we were determined to do things differently. We were going to do our research.

This was in November 1992, long before the Internet and Google, so we bought books, read lots, and went to dog shows. It was at one of those shows that we met Liz and Bruce Russell, owners of Gowrielea Goldens. As luck would have it, a litter was due in January 1993. We went to the premises, where we were able to meet the mother, as well as several other Gowrielea Goldens. We’d found our breeder.

Gowreilea’s Forest Ranger was born on January 23, 1993. Every Sunday for the next seven weeks, we went to the Russell’s to watch Ranger and his siblings grow. Week eight, Ranger came home with us, pretty much house trained.

Obedience school followed, and Ranger thrived on learning his commands. He was a gentle, bright boy who loved his soft toys and could be trusted alone in the house (though he did like to sleep in his crate with the door open).  In fact, his only real fault was a propensity to pull on his leash (not sure if there were gentle leaders and harnesses then, if there were, we weren’t aware of them). He also had “selective” hearing when off leash, but only if water was nearby. That dog loved to swim.

For more than nine years, Ranger was a terrific dog and wonderful companion.  He particularly loved a cottage Mike and I rented every October in Collingwood, right on Georgian Bay. It was while we were vacationing there in 2002 that we realized something was very wrong. We cut our vacation short and took Ranger to our vet, only to discover he had a large, inoperable tumor. He died in November, in our arms, in his own home, just two months shy of his tenth birthday. At the time, Mike and I truly believed we’d never have room in our hearts for another dog, let alone another Golden Retriever.

Then we met Copper. Stay tuned for Part IV!

In non-dog related news, my most recent audiobook, LIVE FREE OR TRI, is now available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. And yes, one of the short stories take place in Collingwood!

Welcome, Barbara Schlichting

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes Barbara Schlichting to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 I enjoy teasing and having fun with my grandchildren. My granddaughter and I are planning to take a short trip to Iowa next summer so I can drop by a few bookstores.  Her blue eyes and smile sells my books. I write mysteries and children’s picture books plus poetry. I’ve also been known to wear red shoes and eat too much ice cream.

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

I’m not sure if you can consider deer, squirrels, birds and chipmunks as pets, but I lived in the woods with the Mississippi River out my back door for seventeen years.

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

 In my poetry, I have a number of poems about wildlife.  In my picture book, Red Shoes, I feature Maggie, a three-legged kitty who lost her shoes. Peter the puppy and Bonnie the bunny help her find them.

What are you reading now?

I just finished two Rex Stout books, Fer-De-Lance and the League of Frightened Men.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just published my first historical mystery. Body on the Tracks is set in 1943 and begins with a body in the Chicago railyard and finishes in Denver. There’s a Nazi onboard who causes all sorts of murder and mayhem.

 Who is your favorite author and why?

Agatha Christie. She’s so good at hiding her clues. I love reading her.

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

We had a dog when I was in high school. When I married, we had a dog for many years for our boys to play with, Clumsy was her name.

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

In the picture book, Red Shoes, the animals are definitely the characters.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals are sweet and loveable.

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

Actually, I should write a mystery with a service dog. My brother had been a police officer and used a service dog to detect drugs so I have an easy reference. Thanks for the idea!

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

 I knew I was a writer from the beginning of time. In seventh grade I got an English penpal, and we’ve been writing ever since. That’s approximately fifty-five years!

 Biography:

I graduated from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, MN. After marriage, we moved to Bemidji where we raised our two boys. I graduated from Bemidji State University with an undergraduate degree in  elementary education and went on to earn a masters degree in special education. I taught in the school district as a substitute for many years.

Let’s Be Social:

http://www.barbaraschlichting.com

https://barbaraschlichting.wordpress.com

https://barbaraschlichting.blogspot.com

https://www.goodreads.com/BarbSchlichting

 

 

The Care and Feeding of the Small Evil One

Pens, Paws, & Claws is happy to welcome Donna Andrews, author of the multiple award-winning Meg Langslow mystery series. She’s sharing about a fictional dog you may recognize.

The Care and Feeding of the Small Evil One

by Donna Andrews

Somewhere in my files I probably still have a set of instructions with that title. It dates from one of the times when I was taking care of the real-life Spike, who served as model for the feisty canine in my Meg Langslow series. One of these days I should try to find it, so I can prove that I’m not maligning the original Spike—just giving him the title his doting owners bestowed on him.

Spike was a stray when my friends Tracey and Bill adopted him. He wasn’t fond of men other than Bill, and his pathological hatred of umbrellas and brooms and rakes clued us in to the fact that he had probably been abused. We never knew exactly what mix of breeds he was—our best guess: part chihuahua, part something else not a lot bigger.

When I started writing Murder with Peacocks, I based a character on him. I changed his name, and replaced his sleek honey-colored coat with long hair. Tracey and Bill still recognized him. So when he died—at what was, as far as they knew, a fairly ripe old age—shortly before I turned my book in, I offered to change the name of my fictional dog to Spike. Heck, it was a better name anyway.

They gave copies of that book to everyone he ever bit—which meant most of their friends and relatives. Had Spike lived another year or two, I could have been a New York Times bestseller solely on the strength of the many books I inscribed to his former victims.

I took a poll once to see which of my characters—other than my heroine—were my readers’ favorites. I wasn’t surprised to find that Spike placed high up in the list—right behind Meg’s dad, if my memory serves, and slightly ahead of her grandfather.

I’m grateful that readers rarely ask that awkward question: isn’t Spike getting a little long in the tooth by now? If I were writing stark realism, I’d say yes. He was middle aged and cranky when it began, and the series has now been running for nearly twenty years. If I’d known it would run this long, I’d have made him a puppy to start with.

But it’s my fictional world. Meg’s children have grown from babies to preteens, and Meg and Michael might eventually develop a few gray hairs. But sorry, fans of extreme realism. I’m never going to inflict an Old Yeller scene on my readers. Spike may grow old and crankier—if that’s possible—but I’m not killing him off.

I’m open to knocking off a few humans, though. Any suggestions?

Welcome, Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson to the blog for Writer Wednesday!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m a seventh generation Texan and a third generation wordsmith. I sold my first novel to a NY publisher in 1979 and have since published around 35 novels – I really don’t remember exactly how many. I was one of the founders of Romance Writers of America and currently serve as the Texas representative on the Southwest Regional Board of Mystery Writers of America. Now I am mainly self-publishing under my Sefkhat-Awbi Books imprint. In addition, I’ve been Editor in Chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups, an actress/singer, Supervisor of Accessioning in a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, a travel writer, a jewelry designer, a talent agent, a document checker in a travel agency… plus more stuff. Yes, I bore very easily!

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

I’ve had pets most of my life. First there was Lady (a golden Cocker Spaniel) and her daughter T-Square. I had a parakeet. I had a white rat named Junder for whom I made a halter and leash out of pink grosgrain ribbon. We stopped traffic when we went for walks, especially in winter when I wore my full length fur. For a while I babysat a 6-7 foot long anaconda when my cousin (a world-class herpetologist) was ill. That was a fascinating experience, though I never could get service in that apartment again for all the years I lived there… When I moved out of my parents’ home, I had cats, as I worked long hours and they weren’t as labor intensive as dogs.

For years I had a recessive gene semi-feral Siamese named Sekhmet who was solid black with bright green eyes. She was also the most intelligent animal I’ve ever known, who could open any door in the house except the two outside doors, which I kept deadbolted, and used to turn the lights off and on just to amuse herself. Sekhmet hated people and would simply vaporize when anyone came over. There were those who – when I told them stories about Sekhmet – would swear that I didn’t have a cat, that I would go out and pluck tufts of cat hair from the bushes and rub them into the carpet just to pretend I had a cat. Yes, I have strange friends. Sekhmet also liked to answer the telephone, which drove the telemarketers wild. (Good girl!) She lived to be 21, and I miss her to this day.

After Sekhmet I got a ginger cat named Marmelade. She was very obviously mentally deficient, probably because she had been taken too early from her mother. She was grown when I got her, but didn’t know anything about being a cat. She would get into the litter box, vigorously dig a hole in the litter to the bottom, put her front feet into it and then poop over the side. I had to teach her how to use a litter box properly. It was no fun at all, and is not a fit topic for conversation. She never was very well and died less than a year after I got her.

I didn’t have any animals when I started dating the man who would become my husband, which was a lucky thing. He hated cats and told me years later that he would never have dated anyone who had a cat! It took some guile on my part, but I did get a cat after we had been married about two years – just in time to keep me company during his first overseas deployment. Shadow was a stray who crawled into our yard, too emaciated and weak to walk and tattered from attacks by other animals. An old cat, he had been declawed and could neither escape or protect himself. Of course I took him to the vet immediately and did everything I could to take care of him. We had him for several years. We got a little tuxedo cat to keep him company. When she came to us she had been declawed in all four feet – first time I ever saw that – and was very skittish. All our animals are rescue animals, by the way, and usually from horrific situations. Her name was Boots, but I used to know a woman named Boots, and I didn’t like the name. Usually we don’t change our animals’ names – they’ve been through enough trauma without adding another name change – but ‘Boots’ had to go. She had a tiny little voice so I started calling her Squeaky Boots, hoping to transition easily to Squeaky, but she had to have orthodontic surgery. Her teeth were so bad and so abscessed that her jaw bones were rotting, and so her official vet records were done as Squeaky Boots, so it was as Squeaky Boots she ended her days.

About this time I saw at our local pet orphanage a tiny little white poodle named Harriette. She was 14, had had surgery to remove a tumor from her leg (common in tiny poodles) so most of her backside was shaved, and the rest of her was unimaginably scruffy. It was love at first sight. As soon as The Husband came home from work I grabbed him even before giving him dinner and off we went to the pet orphanage. We came home with a dog. We had Harriette for nearly a year – it turned out she also had a rare cancer and despite two surgeries we just could not keep her alive. She died just before The Husband left for yet another Iraqi deployment. While he was gone I adopted another cat, a pathetic older cat named Chloe who had been seized from a home where she had been tortured for years. She’s the biggest cat I’ve ever seen, and very beautiful, but constantly terrified. It took her years to become easy with The Husband and me. It’s sad, because although her mental faculties are still sharp, she is losing control of her bowels and bladder. She is 17, after all. We’ve had to create her a room within in a room that is lined with plastic where she can roam. Her bed and litter box and feeding tray are in there. We clean her enclosure and change her bedding at least once a day, and take her into the den with us several times a day, but it hurts that we cannot give her the freedom of the house. Before you ask, we’ve had her looked at by the vet several times, tried a variety of medicines, but nothing helps. She will live as comfortably as we can make it until she dies.

When The Husband returned we decided to get another dog. He will only consider a little dog, so we went to the pet orphanage – only to find that the only little dog they had was promised to a woman from out of town who was coming to get her at the end of the week. The staff – many of whom are friends – knew that The Husband was just back from a year in a war zone, so when I asked if we could just play with her for a little while they were happy to let us. We were in an exam room and when Mindy came in we knew she was Our Dog. She’s a small dog, half terrier mix and (I swear) half diva. She was scruffy (she’s always scruffy – it’s the way her hair grows) and wearing the ugliest little dress I’ve ever seen. We lost our hearts.

After about half an hour the director of the orphanage – whom we didn’t know – came in to pick Mindy up. We told her we wanted the dog. She told us that was impossible, that they had been talking to this woman from out of town and she was coming to pick up the dog in a few days. I said, “When she calls to tell you she doesn’t want the dog, call us because we do.”

The woman said it was ridiculous, that they had been talking to this woman for over two weeks and she was coming to get the dog. We went through this dialogue with increasing intensity several times before she finally agreed to take my phone number, probably more to shut me up than anything else.

The pet orphanage is 4.4 miles from our house. We had not made it home before my phone rang and this tremulous little voice said, “Mrs. Patterson? We just heard from (the woman) and she doesn’t want the dog.” We picked Mindy up the next morning and she has brightened our home ever since. For as long as she worked there, though, the orphanage director was very obviously careful never to be alone with me. I do wish, however, that I knew what I had done! It could be a very useful skill.

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

This question gave me pause. As involved as I am with animals, it was a shock to me to find that I don’t put animals in any position of prominence in my stories. My stories are so intense, and so involved, and usually set in odd places, that animals just don’t fit. I’m going to see about changing that. One thing I’ll never do is have animals that talk or solve crimes on their own.

I did put a cat in a book called LURE OF THE MUMMY – sort of. It’s a story of a cursed cat mummy and was the very first pure horror novel ever published by Carina or its parent company Harlequin.

What are you reading now?

Currently I am re-reading my friend Salima Ikram’s DIVINE CREATURES (about sacred animal mummies in Ancient Egypt) as research for a possible novel idea. For fun I’m reading an omnibus of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s short stories.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am one of those people who are not happy unless they have several projects going at once. At this exact moment I am working on the third Flora Melkiot mystery MURDER AT FIVE TO ONE, which is set in Las Vegas; Flora is a wealthy widow of a certain age who has been described as the ‘dark side of Miss Marple.’ I love her and kind of wish I could grow up to be her! I’m also working on a straight medical romance called FEVER HEAT about a medical team sent to the Mexican coast to help after a devastating hurricane. I’m about halfway through a straight romance called INDIAN SUMMER about two grandparents each of whom want sole custody of their orphaned grandson, so of course they fall in love. I’ve just finished the first book in my new Dr. Rachel Petrie, contract archaeologist series called A KILLING AT TARA TWO. It’s getting cold so I can start my editing process with a clear head before it goes to the real editor. I have just had a contemporary gothic romance called THE MASTER OF MORECOMBE HALL (about an American bride in England), a straight romance called ROMANCE AT SPANISH ROCK (about an LA photographer who inherits a ranch in Texas’ Palo Duro canyon) and a murder mystery called MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT (about murder and antiquities smuggling at a scholarly Egyptological conference) edited and am just waiting until I have time to format and self-publish them.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh, this is easy. Barbara Michaels, aka Elizabeth Peters, aka Dr. Barbara Mertz. She had such a way with words, and such a gift for storytelling. I still am in awe of her talent. She is one of the reasons I decided that I really might make writing novels my own career instead of just a life-long hobby. It was truly a blessing was that we met and became dear if sporadic friends. What was truly funny was that although by the time we met I had almost a dozen novels published what brought us together was our work in and passion for Egyptology – not our shared career of writing!

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

My mother didn’t really care for pets, but when I was a small child we had a tribe of cats that lived outside and which we fed. Very rarely was I allowed to bring one inside as a special treat. I remember there being lots of them, but the names of only two – Lampshadey (hey – I was only three!) and Favorite. I do remember that a wild cat moved into our area and was killing our cats. My father borrowed a .22 rifle from a friend and chased the wild cat (which may even have been rabid – again, I was no more than four) into the garage where we had stored some furniture that wouldn’t fit into our tiny house. He finally killed the cat – after shooting the piano bench. I still have that bench, complete with the .22 slug in the seat.

Years later my father, who had had dogs all his young life, decreed that we get a dog. In the same year that Lady and the Tramp was released we got a cute little golden cocker spaniel named (no surprise) Lady. Her real name was Lady Ginger Banner Marinus Underfoot May – each name has a special meaning, but they’re too long to go into here. She had several litters of puppies, all of whom we found homes except for one which I refused to let go of. She was solid black, parentage unknown, but had a perfectly formed T on her chest and a perfect square on her left back foot, both in pure white. As my parents had an advertising agency and in the graphic arts a T-square is a basic tool, of course the dog became T-Square. We had both of them for years, until they were poisoned. We never knew who or why. There were no more animals in my life until I moved out on my own and got Sekhmet.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Oh, this is going to get naughty. Years ago, many years before I even met The Husband, I had a date with a nice young man. After dinner and a movie he took me home and we ended up in a heavy petting session in my darkened living room. I hadn’t seen fit to tell him that I had a cat – first of all because at the moment I had other things on my mind besides the cat and second because I knew the cat wouldn’t come out if someone strange was in the house. Well, the room was dark except for the glow of a streetlamp coming through the single window and we were… well, you know, snuggling on the couch when all of a sudden this nice young man let out a shriek. I didn’t usually have that effect on men, so I looked around and saw two bright red eyes glowing in the dark. Immediately I knew it was the cat – remember, she was pure black – sitting on the arm of a chair, just in the right place where the light behind her could make her eyes glow without showing her silhouette. Before I could say a word the nice young man jumped up and dashed out of the apartment, screaming all the way. Later I tried to reach him, but he never would take my calls. I had his shirt, his jacket and his shoes for almost a year before giving them to charity.

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

Two of my grandmothers were teachers. One grandfather was the publisher of a small town newspaper when that was a position of real power. My mother was a teacher, a producer of plays, a magazine columnist and an advertising agent. My father began as a printers’ devil when he was nine, edited and published newspapers all over Texas, taught journalism at Texas A&M (where he separated the journalism department from the English department and made it a separate discipline), then with my mother began the family advertising agency which for 16 or the 17 years of its existence was one of the top 300 in the country. So, you see I didn’t have a snowball’s chance of becoming anything but some kind of a wordsmith.

My parents never knew when I learned to read, but I did read them a short story from the newly arrived Saturday Evening Post (which neither of them had even seen) when I was three. By the time I entered the first grade I had read most of Boswell, some Pearl Buck, some Ellery Queen and most of Shakespeare. One of the biggest disappointments of my life was that once I got to school they started teaching us the alphabet and reading Dick and Jane aloud to us instead of discussing the motivations in Troilus and Cressida! I hated school from that moment of disillusion.

When I was four I wrote my first book. It was a tale of some children playing in the park who capture an escaped lion and make it home in time for supper. I printed and illustrated each page by hand, after having begged some paper and sewing thread from my parents. Daddy had told me about the different kinds of binding, saying that signature sewn was the best. I sewed twelve copies of my little book together. I think there are one or two still extant stored with my late mother’s papers. I’ve been writing ever since – sometimes for publication, sometimes not, but always writing no matter what else I did.

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

This changes just about every day. Right now it’s vacillating between getting back to Egypt for a relaxing holiday, as we haven’t been there in 3 years, and taking a loooong European river cruise. We’ve never taken a cruise like that (they are expensive!) and I would absolutely love to. Or it could be to go spend a month in England, visiting friends and doing research. Or it could be to go visit my dear friend in Peru.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

Chloe the cat is either in her plastic lined room or sitting beside my desk in her carrier. With her incontinence problems we cannot let her run free around the house any longer, but at least in her carrier she can be wherever we are, feel as if she is still part of the family, and we do take her out and hold her in our arms often. Mindy the dog is either running around barking at leaves, postmen and marauding moths, begging for scraps from my lunch or sleeping stretched out on the back of the couch.

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

Piles? Mountains are more like it. I live in a house with three libraries, and The Husband and I are contemplating a fourth. Plus, I have over 3,000 unread books on my Kindle – which I never use, as I prefer to read on my phone during the few short times I actually get to read for pleasure. The Husband and I prefer to buy our good reference books in hardcopy – he is an expert on war history and firearms, I research crime and the English Regency, and we are both avid amateur Egyptologists. (We met through our Egyptological studies, and he even proposed to me in a moonlit garden across the street from the Pyramids. Yes, those Pyramids!) If it weren’t for electronic reading our house would be so full of books we would have to sleep in a tent in the back yard!

Janis’ Biography:

Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson is a 7th-generation Texan and a 3rd-generation wordsmith who writes in mystery, romance, and horror. Once an actress and a singer Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. Janis’ husband even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.

Janis’ Website 

Four is Fun…

You probably all know how hard it is to lose a dog, even if they’ve lived a long and happy life.  It’s wrenching.  Dogs (and cats) are part of the family, they become woven into the fabric of our lives, of our homes, of our hearts.  For five years now, we’ve had either two or three dogs.

Last summer, we lost Blonde Bella.  Bella was half of a bonded pair that we adopted from Lab Rescue of LRCP almost six years ago.  We still have the “other half” of the bonded pair, Midnight Mia.  She’s eleven now, but still going strong.  She doesn’t seem eleven.  She doesn’t have much white on her muzzle, bounces around with the other dogs in typical Lab fashion.  She likes to steal food out of the dog food bins – knocking off the lids, nudging them aside, bumping them till they fall over.  She’s quite a clever girl.

We also have, as many of you know, a two-year-old Irish Water Spaniel, Tucker.  IWS’s (not to be confused with ROUS’s) are rowdy, happy, clowny, non-stop fun.

And yet, the house seemed empty after Bella crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  I was used to walking three dogs in between writing binges.  I’d write a while, walk a dog, write some more, walk a dog, write for another stretch then – you guessed it – walk a dog.  Now, I was in danger of gaining weight because, hey, one less dog to walk!

Writing is solitary and many who do it are introverts.  They don’t mind spending hour upon hour alone.

Me? Not so much.  I’m an off-the-charts extrovert.

I have to go have Starbucks every morning so I can talk to the barristas and any neighbors I happen to run into there.  Walking the dogs lets me run into MORE neighbors (or strangers who like dogs) and have a chat.

That means I get to feed my extrovert side in between writing time where the only people I talk to are those in my head.  Too much solitude and I actually CAN’T write.  I’ve learned that the need for the real humans must be met in order to keep on putting the fictional ones on the page.

Right after the New Year, (which, for us, came in with a few too many nasty surprises, alas!), we decided we needed a Happy 2018 present.  We needed something to keep us positive.

We decided to go back to the fab folks at Lab Rescue and get another dog.  With Mia at 11 and Tucker at 2, we thought it would be great for Tuck to have a slightly younger companion to romp with and that, in turn, would give Mia a break from his insistent, and near-constant demand to PLAY!

We thought we were so smart…we went to an adoption event.  So lovely!  But by the time we got there, 90% of the dogs were adopted.  Yay, Lab Rescue!  But Curses, Foiled Again! for us!  So we went on the Lab Rescue site and started talking to both our initial rescue coordinator from 5 years ago (yep, still coordinating!) and a new coordinator as well because we’d asked – foolish humans! – about a bonded pair that seemed perfect for us.

We hadn’t planned to adopt two more dogs.  Nope.  Just one.  But those two seemed like they’d fit right in.  Too bad they’d been adopted already.  Sigh.

BUT…said the coordinator, there was a new pair coming in.

They’d come from West Virginia.

Their owner had died and they were bereft….

We were totally smitten with those faces, and heartbroken over their story.  On one of the coldest days in January, we loaded our dogs and our boys into two cars and drove nearly 2 hours away to see this pair.  Our dogs played with them, our boys played with them.  We played with them.  Everyone decided it was a good fit, and home everyone came to their forever home with us.

There were a few bumps in the road – chewed boots, disappearing socks

, shredded toys – but a month in, I’ve now got four walkies on my writing days rather than three, and a veritable wolfpack of fun to keep me laughing when I’m here in the writing cave.

So, Mia, Daisy (a 2 y/o blonde darling), Dakota (a 4 y/o, huge, black, gentle giant) and Tucker have forever homes here at Chez Adams, and I may actually meet my New Years Resolution of going down another pant size, thanks to all those walkies!

Have you ever adopted a dog from a rescue group?

What about a shelter?

If you’ve bought from a breeder, what breed did you get?

If you’re thinking about a pet, please, please, please do NOT buy from pet 

stores – a friend just had a heartbreaking, nightmare of a situation, which reinforced the stereotype of puppy-mill-puppies being sickly.  PLEASE!!!  Go through a reputable breeder, or a reputable rescue group like Lab Rescue and you’ll get your Happily-Ever-After Hound!

Oh….and Happy New Year to all the Pens Paws and Claws readers!

(As you can see, Tucker believes ALL the dog beds are his for 2018!)

Welcome, Vicki Batman!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Vicki Batman to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. I’m Vicki Batman and for about thirteen years, I’ve been writing romantic comedy mysteries and short stories. A friend pushed me into writing, and I’ve worked hard to get published. I belong to several chapters within RWA, and Guppies.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? I had two kitties, a gray prima donna named Romper who loved Handsome, and her sister, a velvety beige and brown tabby who loved me, named Scooter. Mostly, we called them Scoo and Roo. Eight years ago, we adopted two adora-poos, smokey-colored Jones (like in Indiana Jones), and a white alpha male, little Champ. It’s too much fun to include my buds in my stories.

What writing projects are you currently working on? Currently, I’m working on Temporarily Out of Luck, book 3 in the Hattie Cooks mystery series. (*eyes rolling* cause it is driving me crazy!), Romeo and Julietta, a Christmas Story featuring characters named after the doomed Shakespeare duo, and Pixie Trixie, a contemporary romance with paranormal elements.

Who is your favorite author and why? I can’t name just one!! I cut my teeth on reading mysteries like the Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Belden. In fact, I would have traded my sisters for Trixie’s brothers in a New York second.  I swooned over Dick Francis. Toss in these goodies: Mary Stewart, P. D. James, Elizabeth George, Julia Spencer Fleming, Janet E., Sophie Kinsella, M. M. Kaye. When I discovered books that incorporated a lot of humor, I fell for them, too. Because life is funny.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. My first was a huge gray tabby, Smokey, because gray is the color of smoke. Then I had a brown tabby named Mischief. My sister had a golden hamster named Honey. We got a kick out of the cats watching the hamster run on its wheel.

Why do you include animals in your writing? People have pets. It’s a fact and without them, my characters would be one dimensional.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I felt validated as a writer when I sold my first short story. Then I sold thirteen in a row to the True magazines. That’s when Handsome said, “I guess you are a writer.” LOL. I wanted to strangle him.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? To go to Machu Pichu. Because it was lost, then found. A challenge to get to and I like challenges like that. But truly, doing anything with Handsome is fun.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? I have several shelves of TBR, some of which are romantic suspense, mysteries, contemporary and historical romance. I also have a drawer by my bed with books to read. I love to read and having a book is having a best friend.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing? 1/ You have to do it your own way. 2/ Persistence. Persistence. Persistence

Vicky’s Biography: Award-winning and Amazon best-selling author, Vicki Batman, has sold many romantic comedy works to magazines, several publishers, and most recently, two romantic comedy mysteries to The Wild Rose Press. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and several writing groups. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Choc-a-holic. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome Hubby. Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking “What if??”

Let’s Be Social:

Website: http://vickibatman.blogspot.com/p/more-about-me.html/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vicki-Batman-sassy-writer-of-sexy-and-funny-fiction-133506590074451/  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickiBatman/  

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/vickibatman/  

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4814608.Vicki_Batman/      

Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/author/vickibatman

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=116288777&trk=hb_tab_pro_top/  

Email: vlmbatman@hotmail.com

Got Passport?

Though I confessed to being a Catless Cat Lady, that hasn’t always been the case.

When I lived for a year in Romania, I adopted a sassy little calico kitten named Maitreyi (pronounced ~ my-tray).

Woah, back up a second, Kristin!  Why Romania?

Well, my pre-fictionista career I was a corporate banker.  My first job after earning my shiny-new MBA degree was to help Citibank open a corporate bank branch in Romania’s capital city, Bucharest. I’d already lived for many years overseas, but this assignment was a bit of a culture shock as few single Western expats signed up for jobs in Romania. Life was long work weeks with few socializing opportunities on evenings and weekends. So, when one of my Romanian colleagues was scrambling to find homes for a new litter of kittens, I raised my hand.

Maitreyi was my *comfort pet* before I ever even knew that was a thing.  She was an early riser with a preference for prowling my villa at zero-dark-thirty. Her purr projected from several rooms away, and she held court at the local Romanian jellicle ball. Yes, her many beaus would come a-courting that spring to see if her dance card was empty.

What does this have to do with anything literary a la Pens, Paws and Claws?

Glad you asked! Maitreyi was a literary cat in two regards.

First, I figured a Romanian kitten needed a Romanian name, so I polled my Citibank colleagues.  They all agreed the best name was Maitreyi, which was the name of the romantic heroine of a novel by the Romanian author, Mircea Eliade. The novel’s erotic story arc mirrored my kitty’s secretive escapades as she came of age. Want to know more about the story?  The Goodreads synopsis can be found here.

Secondly, as most cat *owners* can relate, Princess Maitreyi ruled me with an iron paw.  I was well aware that while I had no rights to proactively pick her up, she could make herself comfortable on my person whenever and however she pleased.  Her one particular pet peeve (pun intended!) was my reading.  She couldn’t abide my being distracted by books.  Anytime I erred, she’d hop on said offending item and stare me down until I redirected my attention toward her.

So, what became of Maitreyi?

When I relocated back to the United States, I found a local Romanian family to adopt her.  They promised to adore her in the manner to which she’d become accustomed.

As of today, I remain her loyal subject.

Meow!

 

Let’s be social…

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Welcome, Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. I’m a fourth-generation Californian who has now lived in Massachusetts longer than I lived in California. I’m a gardener and world traveler, the mother of two fine adult sons, and a full-time novelist writing cozy and historical mysteries and short stories north of Boston.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? Yes! My tuxedo cat Birdy, who sadly died last summer, is the foundling kitty in the Country Store Mysteries. Always curious and desperate to get on the other side of any door, he was also a cuddler. Preston, our Norwegian Forest cat, is the farm cat in my Local Foods Mysteries. And Christabel is the kitchen cat in my historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries.

What are you reading now? I’m almost done with Aimee Hix’s debut mystery, What Doesn’t Kill You, and next up is Shari Randall’s Curses, Boiled Again, followed by Bruce Robert  Coffin’s second Detective Byron mystery and Kellye Garret’s Hollywood Homicide. There is never a shortage of books I want to read!

What writing projects are you currently working on? I’m polishing Strangled Eggs and Ham, my sixth Country Store Mystery (even though the fourth comes out only next week). Next up is my second Cozy Capers Book Group mystery, and then my fifth Quaker Midwife Mystery.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. We had only two cats, Punky and Blondy. Punky ran away and Blondy died of what my mother called cat fever. My dad found he was allergic to cats and we never had any more pets beyond fish. Loved those neon tetras, though.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing? They are characters important to my protagonists, but they don’t talk or solve crimes. Even though I don’t know dogs very well, I do have a sweet husky-mix who belongs to the detective in the Local Foods Mysteries

Why do you include animals in your writing? I have animals in my life who mean a lot to me, and many others also do. I include animals for the same reason I include romance in my stories – it’s part of life.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why? I love Charlotte’s Web. We had the book on cassette tape (yes, I am that old) read by E.B. White himself, and my sons and I listened to it on many a car trip to Quebec and back when they were young. I love the intelligent Charlotte, the wicked Templeton, and dear Wilbur, as well as the human characters. The story tells of love and death and all the emotions in between, but it also has moments of humor.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I wrote lots of stories as a child, and at about age nine, my mother told me I was a good writer. I took that to heart! I fell away from fiction for thirty or forty years, but I kept my wordsmith chops honed by doing journalism, academic writing, more journalism, and technical writing. Then I realized my true love was making people up, killing off one or two, and restoring justice to a fictional community.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? There are many, but the most likely to be realized first is a trip to Italy with my beau. Or maybe I should say seeing my firstborn get married – he and his sweetie are engaged and looking at wedding venues, so that’s definitely going to happen within a year or so!

What do your pets do when you are writing? Pretty much what they always do – lie around sleeping. Birdy loved to sneak into my office and sleep on my feet or on a corner of my desk, but the other two stay mostly downstairs.

Readers: What do your pets do when you’re trying to focus on a task? Do you stick to cats or dogs, or have both your home? I will give away a signed copy of the new book to one commenter, so be sure to include your email address!

Biscuits and Slashed Browns: For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration. Robbie drops her maple-curry biscuits to crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky and murderous trap.

Biography and Social Media Links:

Edith Maxwell is a 2017 Macavity and Agatha Award nominee and has also had several short stories nominated for an Agatha. She writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries set in Amesbury, and the Local Foods Mysteries. Under the pseudonym Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies, and she is honored to serve as President of Sisters in Crime New England and 2018 co-chair of New England Crime Bake.

A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens, and wastes time as a Facebook addict north of Boston with her beau and two cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors.

My web site, edithmaxwell.com, includes information about all my writing, including my historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries, my other contemporary series, and my award-winning short stories. Please stop by, and sign up for my newsletter, too. You can also find me at the following links:

Facebook: Maddie Day and Edith Maxwell

Twitter: @edithmaxwell and @MaddieDayAuthor

Pinterest: EdithMaxwell

Instagram: EdithMaxwellAuthor

 

The Pets in My House and in My Stories

Pets are family, and they play a huge part in our lives. My husband and I share our home with two crazy Jack Russell Terriers, Disney (the brunette) and her brother Riley. They are two little bundles of energy. They love playing tug with their sock monkeys, chasing squirrels, and long walks. Riley takes great pride in saving us from delivery drivers, joggers, and dog walkers in the neighborhood. Riley can also hear a cheese wrapper or the fridge open from 100 yards away. Their favs are cheese, bacon, and popcorn.

Disney and Riley hang out in the office when I write. They also listen when I plot story lines or read dialog aloud. So it’s quite natural that animals would be a part of my novels and stories. 

In my novels, Margaret the Bulldog is the sidekick to my sleuth’s partner, Duncan Reynolds. She has a starring role in Secret Lives and Private Eyes and The Tulip Shirt Murders. Margaret is a brown and white log with legs. She’s not much security around the office, but she’s good company. She’s also the slobber queen, and her two favs are snacking and napping. Margaret is Duncan’s constant shadow, and she likes riding shotgun in his Tweety-bird yellow Camaro. (Secret Lives and Private Eyes also features a pair of Alpacas, Joe and Myrtle.)

I’m working on a novella called, Moving on. It should be out later this year. This cozy features a little Jack Russell named Darby who uncovers a murder. She’s based on my JRT Disney. Darby is a bundle of energy who likes walks, games of rope tug, snuggles, and lots of treats. I have another novel in progress, and it has a JRT named Bijou. Disney was also the model for her. Riley’s feeling a little slighted, so I’ll have to base the next dog on him.
Here’s Disney on one of the many dog beds in our house. This is also her “helping” me wrap Christmas presents.

My short stories also have dogs and cats. In “Washed up” in Virginia is for Mysteries, there are dogs that romp on Chic’s Beach in Virginia Beach. My story, “Spring Cleaning” in Virginia is for Mysteries II has cats who rule the roost of the story’s victim in Roanoke, Virginia.

 

Why types of pets do you have?

Heather Weidner’s Biography: 

Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, and James River Writers. The Tulip Shirt Murders is her second novel in her Delanie Fitzgerald series.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.