Welcome, Debra Sennefelder!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Debra Sennefelder to the blog. Congratulations on your new release!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Born and raised in New York City, I now live in Connecticut with my family which includes two slightly spoiled Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy. They are my writing companions, though they sleep a lot on the job. When I’m not writing I love to bake, hang with the pups, read or exercise. Over the years I’ve worked in pre-hospital care, retail and publishing. Currently I’m writing full-time. I write two mystery series, The Food Blogger Mystery series and the Kelly Quinn Mystery series.

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

Susie and Billy are the only pets we have now. Susie is 14 years old and Billy is 13 years old. Susie is full of life. She loves to walk and meet people. She gets miffed when someone doesn’t pay attention to her. She’s so funny. She loves a good game of tug of war and she loves to roll around on the grass. Billy has lost his sight due to genetic condition so he’s not as playful these days, but he enjoys walking outdoors and he’s never too far from me.  He’s a little trooper. Over the years we’ve had pet ducks, 9 in total. We got them as ducklings and raised them and at one point 2 of them needed to recuperate (one had a broken leg and the other had an infection) so they had to live in our house. That was an interesting period of time. The cat, we had Howard for 14 years, was not amused by the ducks. We’ve also had two Prairie Dogs, awesome pets by the way, and a hedgehog we rescued. Her name was Tiggy. Sadly, she’d been sick and died eleven months after we took her in. Right now the only pet that is a model in my writing is Howard. He appears in the Kelly Quinn books. He was a friendly, orange cat that liked to cuddle. It’s been 14 years since he’s passed so I’m able to write about him. I’ve chosen not to include Susie and Billy in any books at this time, perhaps in the future.

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

In The Uninvited Corpse there are two dogs. Bigelow is on the cover of the book and he’s a charmer with bad manners. Bigelow is a Beagle so he’s very friendly and playful and a handful. Buddy is a Golden Retriever who lives down the street from Hope Early and visits during his long walks with his owner. Howard is an orange cat that will be in the Kelly Quinn books.

 What are you reading now?

I’m always working my way through my massive TBR list. I’m reading I Know What You Bid Last Summer, a Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery, by Sherry Harris.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

 ’m working on the third book in the Food Blogger Mystery series. The second book, The Hidden Corpse, will be available in early 2019. I’ve also just submitted the first book in The Kelly Quinn mystery series to my editor. The title of that book hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a difficult question to answer. I have so many favorite authors. I have a bunch of authors who are an automatic buy, when they have a new book I’m preordering it. Those authors include Sherry Harris, V.M. Burns, Katherine Hall Page, Bethany Blake, Krista Davis, Jenn McKinlay, Ellie Ashe.

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

Growing up we had a German Shepard named Lady and a cat named Tiger. Lady was sweet and she was very protective. Tiger only liked my mother. I remember a lot of hissing from her. When I was a teenager we got another dog, a Doberman Pinscher named Coffee, she was a rescue and incredibly lovable.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When Susie was a year old we decided to get another dog and we brought Billy home. They immediately took to each other and played for 3 days straight. It was like one long play date and then they started to settle down. But the playing continued. One day I found Susie barking at the carrier. She never liked the carrier, still doesn’t, but Billy liked it and would go in there to sleep. She was barking so loud for a couple of minutes I went to look in the carrier. I found Billy had stashed all of the toys Susie played with inside the carrier. I think he figured out Susie wouldn’t go in there. Then one afternoon Susie raced into the living room with Billy following after her, she had a toy Billy was playing with in her mouth, she stopped by the sofa and tossed it up there. Billy tried to get up on the sofa, but he was too small to jump up. Hmm…I think she knew that.

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

That’s easy. I want to go Costa Rica to visit the sloth sanctuary. I think they’re so adorable.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

They sleep while I’m writing. They each have a bed in the study and that’s where they spend most of their days. If the weather is nice and the windows are open, Susie is perched on the back of the sofa with her face practically pressed against the screen.

Debra’s Biography:

Debra Sennefelder is an avid reader who reads across a range of genres, but mystery fiction is her obsession. Her interest in people and relationships is channeled into her novels against a backdrop of crime and mystery. When she’s not reading, she enjoys cooking and baking and as a former food blogger, she is constantly taking photographs of her food. Yeah, she’s that person.

Born and raised in New York City, she now lives and Connecticut with her family. She’s worked in pre-hospital care, retail and publishing. Her writing companions are her adorable and slightly spoiled Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America. She can be reached at Debra@DebraSennefelder.com

 Let’s Be Social:

Links – Website – http://debrasennefelder.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraSennefelderAuthor/



Pens, Paws, and Claws Welcomes Kathleen Kaska and Kristina Stanley

Kathleen Kaska

Kristina Stanley

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Kathleen Kaska and Kristina Stanley as permanent bloggers. Watch for their posts about writing and pets in the upcoming rotation.

Check out Our Authors page to read more about them and our Let’s Be Social page for links to their social media sites.

Teresa Inge Interviews Gwen Taylor about her Volunteer Work at For the Love of Poodles

This week, Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Gwen Taylor. Teresa Inge interviews her about her volunteer work with For the Love of Poodles.

Tell us about yourself.
My name is Gwen Taylor and I am a plastic surgery nurse and a huge dog lover. I grew up in Hanover County, Virginia. I had a Jack Russell Terrier for nearly 17 years. His name was Emmitt and he was the love of my life.

Are you involved with any animal organizations or do volunteer work?
I am a foster mom and volunteer for the small non-profit name organization, For The Love of Poodles. We are based out of Richmond, Virginia and rescue small dogs.

Ever foster or adopt any pets?
I have fostered 6 dogs.  Recently, I adopted Mickey a 5 year old shih tzu. The sixth adopted dog is Figaro.

What is your funniest pet story?
Just last night I stopped and got a box of KFC chicken after work. When I got home, I put my plate on the coffee table and went to the kitchen for my glass of tea. When I returned, Figaro my #6 foster dog, a 10 pound poodle/shih tzu mix had jumped on the table and had a chicken leg in his mouth. Which by the way looked like a dinosaur leg in his tiny mouth. Mickey was under the table waiting to share in on the delicious food.

Anything else you would like to share?
The loss of a lifetime companion truly broke my heart. But volunteering For The Love of Poodles and being a foster mom is very healing. Please remember, adopt don’t shop for a pet.

For the Love of Poodles – Facebook

Welcome, Andrew Welsh-Huggins!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. By day I’m a reporter for The Associated Press in Columbus where I cover criminal justice issues, including the death penalty, the opioid epidemic and terrorism prosecutions. By earlier in the day I write the Andy Hayes private series published by Swallow Press (http://www.ohioswallow.com/author/Andrew+Welsh+Huggins), about a disgraced ex-Ohio State quarterback turned investigator in Columbus. The fifth installment, The Third Brother, comes out April 13. I also write short crime fiction.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? As my website says in tongue-in-cheek fashion, I’m the ‘owner of too many pets.’ We have a mixed breed dog, Mikey, two black cats, and two parakeets.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? My private eye has a Golden Lab, “Hopalong,” named for Howard “Hopalong” Cassaday, an Ohio State running back who won the Heisman Trophy in 1955. Hopalong has appeared in all five books.

What are you reading now?

I just read, in order, The Late Show by Michael Connelly, The Dry by Jane Harper and All Day And A Night by Alafair Burke.

 What writing projects are you currently working on? My sixth Andy Hayes mystery, Fatal Judgment, coming in April 2019 (once again featuring Hopalong), and various short stories.

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

We always had cats when I was growing up, starting with “Charley,” a gray and white domestic shorthair when I was about five. Our most famous family cat, “Melrose,” once faced down a buck with a full set of antlers in our back yard in western New York State–and won.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

My character, Andy Hayes, is a dog person. I like having Hopalong in his life as something that makes him seem more real. More than one reader has said they appreciate the fact he actually has to remember to come home and let the dog out. Also, although I’ve never owned a lab, I have a good friend who does, and I enjoy researching Hopalong’s activities by seeing what my friend and his dog are up to.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

In August 1989, my wife and I were moving from Providence, Rhode Island, to Bloomington, Indiana, with all our belongings, including our cat, Ezra. Someone recommended we put butter on his paws to calm him while we drove. Instead, we ended up a wigged-out cat and butter all over the moving van’s windows as Ezra didn’t take kindly to the idea. Later that day, we stuck him in a duffel bag and tiptoed to our room past a hotel lobby clerk–those were the days before hotels were as pet friendly as they are today. We thought we were very sneaky. Ezra wasn’t amused.

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

I’ve wanted to be a writer more or less when I started reading around age six or so. I knew because I immediately started writing books on whatever paper was around the house.

What do your pets do when you are writing? I work on my fiction from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. each morning. As soon as I sit down, my 14-year-old cat, Frankie, emerges from wherever she’s hanging out in my home office, jumps on the reading chair beside me and demands to sit on my lap. She stays there, snuggled under my bathrobe, the entire time. Mikey the dog and Theo, the other cat, are usually sacked out–separately–upstairs.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? Bedside, I have Going Long, an anthology of journalism about track and field; They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, a popular culture essay collection by Hanif Abdurraqib; and How To Read A Novelist by John Freeman. In my downstairs pile are Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne, and The Metal Shredders by Nancy Zafris (plus many mystery short story anthologies and magazines, including Best American Mystery Stories 2015, the collected Sue Grafton Kinsey Millhone short stories, and copies of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine). My third TBR “pile” consists of podcasts, audio short stories and various audio novellas on my phone for the car–most recently including Anne Perry’s annual Christmas novellas.

Author Biography:

Andrew grew up in a small town near the Finger Lakes in western New York State, where one of his favorite Christmas presents as a child was “Thurber on Crime,” thus launching him on a path involving both a love of detective fiction and his future home in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Kenyon College where he majored in Classics and more importantly, met his future wife, Pam, at your standard early 1980s dating hotspot: a Medieval banquet.

Andrew started his writing career as a newspaper reporter in Providence, R.I. and worked later for papers in Bloomington, Indiana, and Youngstown, Ohio. He moved to Columbus in 1998 to work for the Associated Press, covering the death penalty, crime and courts, the Statehouse and long-lived zoo animals.

Andrew is the author of five Andy Hayes mysteries published by Ohio University Press, featuring a disgraced ex-Ohio State quarterback turned private eye, including the upcoming The Third Brother. Andrew has also written two nonfiction books, also published by OU Press: No Winners Here Tonight, a history of Ohio’s death penalty, and Hatred at Home, about one of the country’s first domestic terrorism cases.

Andrew’s short mystery fiction includes “The Murderous Type,” which won the 2017 Al Blanchard prize for best New England short crime fiction, and appears in Snowbound: The Best New England Crime Stories 2017.

When he’s not writing or reporting, Andrew enjoys running, reading, spending time with family and trying to remember why having a dog, two cats and two parakeets seemed like a good idea at the time.

Let’s Be Social:



Welcome, James Dorr!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome James Dorr to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 Hi.  I’m James Dorr. I’m a writer. 

I write short fiction and poetry, mostly dark fantasy and horror, but also some science fiction and mystery.  I do see a difference between horror and dark fantasy as dark fantasy, to me, incorporates elements of the supernatural while horror is more a description of the readers’ reaction, evoking feelings of fright or unease.  So there can be psychological horror as well as such things as dark mystery, dark science fiction, even dark humor. But then I write cross-genre work as well, one example being my most recent book, Tombs (more on which in a bit), which is listed by Amazon as both “horror” and “dystopian science fiction,” while I, on my blog, will often keyword it as “dark fantasy,” “science fantasy,” and even “dark romance.”

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

 My mostly black “Goth” cat Triana came to me from the local animal shelter just about a year ago, replacing Wednesday (named for Wednesday Addams of the 1960s TV series The Addams Family) who had recently passed on.  As it happens, I had written an as yet unpublished short story that Wednesday inspired, “Pelushe,” about a very fluffy cat (which Wednesday was) in a steampunk setting.  As a rule, however, I don’t usually use my pets in my writing. 

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

 The above does not mean I never use pets, as animals with a special and usually positive relation to humans, but possibly in less usual ways than one might expect.  There is one story titled “Pets,” for instance, in my collection The Tears of Isis which refers to people in isolated conditions, such as soldiers in a remote outpost during a war, who might make pets of creatures normally thought of as vermin — in this case cockroaches.  And another, also reprinted in The Tears of Isis, is “The Christmas Rat” about a lonely elderly woman who adopts a rat as a companion.  I must warn, however, as a horror writer, that neither of these necessarily ends well.     

What are you reading now? 

 Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is a retelling of familiar fairy tales, but in a way that brings in myth, psychology, feminism, and a compelling sensuality in a language sometimes approaching poetry.  It’s a deep experience, and one that I’m dipping into in an on-and-off manner, reading one tale, then giving myself time to let it be absorbed before coming back to another.  It’s also a book that I found out about only recently, but several years after seeing and being highly impressed by a movie made (with, I understand, the author’s sharing in its production) of  its next to last story, “The Company of Wolves.” 

What writing projects are you currently working on?

My latest book, Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, came out from Elder Signs Press less than a year ago, so a fair bit of what I’ve been doing lately has still been trying to spread the word around (and for which, thank you; every interview, every reader who gives a review, every blogger just mentioning a book is helping its author immensely).  Tombs is a mosaic novel, or novel-in-stories, concerning life, love, and death on a far-future dying planet as pieced together by a surviving ghoul-poet – an eater of corpses not normally given to abstract thoughts – in hopes of discovering the particular spark that made humans human.  As such, it’s a romance to some extent, composed of a series of “snapshots,” of stand-alone stories for us to piece together for ourselves, but a very dark one with elements of science fiction, philosophy, and horror, and is loosely inspired by a pair of quotations from Edgar Allan Poe: the first of the most poetic topic being the death of a beautiful woman, and the second of the boundaries between life and death being “at best shadowy and vague.”  If these concepts be true, and in an already dying world, can love be a power to even transcend death?   

Who is your favorite author and why? 

 I’d like to mention two, really, the first Edgar Allan Poe as noted above and joined by Ray Bradbury for poetry and beauty even in their darker works; Poe especially for a juxtaposition of beauty and horror – a nexus of Eros and Thanatos in Freudian terms, of sex and death in both his tales and poems.  Then if I might be allowed two more, at least in terms of influencing some of my own work, Allen Ginsberg in poetry combining the beatific with the sometimes tragically ugly, and Bertolt Brecht for his ideas of “epic theatre,” allowing the notion of artistic distance, yet combined with emotional intimacy in such works as Mother Courage.

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

 In this case I’m assuming animals not considered pets as such, in terms of relationships to humans, but as more than just a part of a story’s background.  While I don’t think I use animals very often, three stories do come to mind which may give an idea of the ways I might use animals.  The first is a story called “When Cats Are Away,” a light fantasy which includes the Egyptian cat goddess Bast who, in one scene, presents the central character with a kitten in return for a stolen jewel (so, okay, maybe that’s a pet too, but that’s not the point of the story); the second, called “The Christmas Vulture,” is an allegory warning against excessive celebration before driving; and the third, “Bitter Perfume,” is about a woman who’s also a were fox.   As for the “why,” it’s really a case of the nature of the story requiring that it have an animal in it – a fourth example, for instance, comes to mind now, “The Bala Worm” (also reprinted in The Tears of Isis) about a hunt for a dragon in Wales, where you can’t very well have a dragon story without at least mentioning a dragon.   

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

Harking back to question 4, I’d have to say one of my favorite movies is The Company of Wolves.  It’s based on “Little Red Riding Hood,” but approaches its subject from multiple directions, exploring the natures of people and wolves, and even societies from varying aspects, presenting a sort of mosaic effect as opposed to just a straightforward story – and making it work!  In fact I think it may have provided some inspiration for my own Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, in creating something like the effect I was looking for too.  Then for another, this one where I’d read the book first many years ago, I recently re-watched Watership Down, impressed that even in animation the rabbits actually do seem like rabbits, not just people in animal clothing.      

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

 It was probably a more gradual thing than the question implies.  As a college undergraduate, I was art editor on the humor magazine, for instance, that ended up with my filling in as a writer for last minute articles from time to time.  Then shifting to graduate school in Indiana, I became editor on an arts magazine, this time on the writing side though with occasional last minute illustrating.  This led to a stint as a technical writer and editor for the university’s computing center and, later, freelancing on business and consumer topics, but it wasn’t until about that time that I also started working seriously on artistic writing as well. 

 So finding an exact moment might not be so easy.  My first sale was a semi-pro one for which I received a one dollar bill in the mail, which seemed like I still had a way to go.  When I was accepted as an Active Member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and, subsequently, the Horror Writers Association, on the other hand, it was certainly a validation.  But maybe this could stand for an actual single moment:  I’d had a story published called “The Dripping Nose that Wouldn’t Wipe” (a sort of absurdist zombie tale) and, in a review, it was commented that once one got past “that title,” it wasn’t a bad story at all.  It seems to me that when you can do that, there’s an amount of professionalism involved.  

What do your pets do when you are writing?

 Playing with the cat, petting the cat, what a wonderful way to wind down from a long writing session!  And while she was in the bedroom most of the time I was writing this (naptime on the bed takes a certain precedence), Triana usually finds a spot in the room I’m in.  On a practical level, she’s learned that there’s a space to the left of the keyboard of one computer I use that it’s okay for her to be in (but beware, if a paw gets on the keyboard she may get yelled at) so sometimes she’ll lie there, getting an occasional petting or scratch on the head during brief pauses while I’m working.  (On the other hand, at my writer’s group meeting a few months ago I pointed out, in a critique of one member’s work, a string of five or six incoherent letters as “the cat’s comment.”  A paw apparently had gotten on the keyboard when I’d gotten up for something, and I hadn’t noticed until after I’d printed it out.)  Or with a different computer, an off-line one I do most of my original composition on, Triana will often be fast asleep on a work table just behind me. 

 James Dorr Bio:

James Dorr’s latest book is a novel-in-stories published in June 2017 by Elder Signs Press, Tombs:  A Chronicle of  Latter-Day Times of Earth.  Born in Florida, raised in the New York City area, in college in Boston, and currently living in the Midwest, Dorr is a short story writer and poet specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction.  His The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses:  Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves:  Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all poetry Vamps (A Retrospective).  He has also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full time non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician, and currently harbors a cat named Triana.

 Social Media:

Blog: http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/james.dorr.9

 Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/James-Dorr/e/B004XWCVUS/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1380306038&sr=1-2-ent

 Buy Links:

Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth:


 The Tears of Isis:




Welcome, Kristen Jackson!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I live in Pennsylvania with my husband, two grown sons, and three large-breed dogs. I love to read, write, and spend time with my family at our small cabin in the Pocono mountains. A creek runs right through the yard, and the dogs love going there on the weekends as much as the humans do. I find this setting the perfect place for writing. I leave my worries and responsibilities at home so my mind is clear for the story.

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

I have three large-breed dogs. Koda is a Bernese mountain dog, Sophie is a landseer Newfoundland, and Chewie is a Saint Bernese (Bernese mountain dog/Saint Bernard mix.) They’re the best! They are always models for dogs in my writing! Though my upcoming Februay 1st release does not have a dog in it because of the logistics of dimension travel, I’ve written several stories that do include dogs. The very first novel I ever wrote was a middle grade fiction book called SNOW DOG, though it is unpublished. In my current work in progress, I introduce two dog characters, and though they are different breeds than my three, I use the personalities of my dogs to base my canine characters after.


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

In SNOW DOG, I introduce a canine character named Bacon. He’s a large-breed mix. A rescue dog, he’s very introverted…until the main character wins him over with – you guessed it – bacon! My current work in progress, BENEATH THE WAVES, has two dogs in it. A very comical and stubborn senior bulldog named Rufus, and another rescue mix named Crash. Crash plays a central role in the story … but I don’t want to give anything away!

What are you reading now?

I am currently reading a young adult novel: ‘The Scorching’ by Libbi Duncan.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

An adult sci-fi/fantasy novel entitled BENEATH THE WAVES. The story takes place in Cape Cod, where strange shiny objects are washing up on the beaches. A school teacher finds one of the objects, and calls it a trinket. A gamer’s dog finds the same thing, and he wears it on his collar. A marine biologist finds the same type of object lodged in the mouth of a great white shark she is tracking, and a retired police officer has had one for years, and calls it his good luck charm. What will happen when these strangers find each other, and the secret power of these small discoveries is revealed?

Who is your favorite author and why?

Nora Roberts. She’s my favorite because I can’t put her books down until I finish them! I always say she could write about dirt and make it interesting…

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

I had hamsters all my life, but I always knew I wanted a dog. Finally, after years of pestering, my parents gave in and got me a puppy for my birthday when I was in 6th grade. It’s especially memorable because I was sick with chicken pox, but I forgot all about that when I opened the box to the fuzzy little pup inside. His name was Beau, and he was my best friend. He was a beautiful German shepherd/old English sheepdog mix.

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

Oh, no, they are always central to the story, and play a role just as important as the human characters.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I can’t imagine a life without animals in it. They are more than pets to me. They’re a part of our family. It’s as simple as that. I makes me happy to include pets; especially dogs, in my stories. I often catch myself smiling as I’m writing these parts of the story.

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

Well, of course I have to say Beethoven is my favorite dog movie. It’s when I began my love-affair with large-breed dogs. Before the three dogs I have today, my very first Saint Bernard was Bear. I like to say he was my soul-dog. We were connected, and were very close, he and I. My favorite book is MARLEY AND ME. I absolutely loved that book, though I sobbed at the end and had to put the book down because I couldn’t see the words through my tears. Another favorite book is FREE DAYS WITH GEORGE. It’s such a heart-warming story! (And, or course, the breed is the same as my Sophie!)

 What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Do I have to pick just one? LOL!

Chewie, our Saint Bernese, is quite the hugger! He’ll jump up on the couch, sit between us, and bend himself in half to lay his head on top of ours. I read an article recently that stated that dogs don’t really like to hug. Ha! Obviously, they’ve never met Chewie!

Another story…We had a cat named Casper, who wedged himself between the kitchen floor and the basement ceiling under the duct. We heard him meowing and it took us forever to find where he was. We had to cut a hole in the kitchen floor to get him out! Totally worth it!

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

I’ve always said I wanted to be a writer. (I know, that’s everyone’s story, but it’s true!) I’m a teacher, and I started with children’s picture books. (By the way, I have a children’s picture book coming out later in 2018 called JOCELYN’S BOX OF SOCKS.) As I mentioned earlier, I had an idea for writing SNOW DOG, and it was just too long to fit into a 32-page children’s picture book, so I decided to write a novel and discovered my love for it! I haven’t stopped since.

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

I always joke and say that my dream is to be a stay-at-home dog-mom! Wouldn’t that be great? I could stay at home, take care of the dogs, and write. If I had a huge house with lots of land, I’d love to run a large-breed dog rescue.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I write on the couch with my laptop, and usually one of the dogs is snuggled up next to me while I’m writing.

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

My son, who lives with us, has two ferrets, Smokey and Bandit. We have a rescued cockatiel named Shady. In the past we’ve had lizards, frogs, a turtle, and a cat. Yes. I guess you could call us animal-lovers.

About Kristen

I’ve been a teacher for over twenty years, and I live in Reading, Pennsylvania with my husband, two grown sons, and three large-breed dogs. Books inspire me. From children’s picture books to adult literature in all genres, I have loved reading all my life. Becoming a published author is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to sharing my stories with you! Sign up on my website to follow  my blog.

I love writing, reading, and spending time with my family and dogs at our cabin in the Poconos…my favorite place to escape and write!

Kristen L. Jackson, Author of KEEPER OF THE WATCH released 2/1/18

 Available for Pre-order at:

Black Rose Writing




Barnes & Noble


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First Puppy Love

Gretchel- Our first puppy

Many years ago, my family moved from Southern California to Atlanta, Georgia. It didn't take long before Charlie, a German shepherd, spent more time at our house than hers. I cared for children after school, and when David arrived home, he walked across the street with Charlie following. Curious why Charlie's ear bent at the half way point, I had asked. "What happened to Charlie's right ear?"

David lowered his head. "When I was a baby, Mom said I pulled on her ear and broke the cartilage."

Murphy fell in love with Charlie and when the neighbors moved away we kept her. Charlie attached herself to Murphy as he did yard chores. At age ten, she had cancer and we had to let her go. Murphy's despair was painful to watch.

The children lamented, "Dad needs another dog." We decided while he traveled for work, a new puppy would be a wonderful birthday surprise.

My six-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son were elated. We spent s few days scouring shelters, and breeders. I believed Murphy needed a dog that didn't remind him of Charlie. After reading an ad for White German shepherd pups, we headed there.

With the puppies' parents in the backyard, I learned about their easy- going personalities. My children had wandered over to the crates and called to me. "Mom, this one. This one."
One eight-week-old shepherd pup with a bent ear stared at us. She was adorable, and we didn't hesitate to choose her. This pup had so many fleas, she could have been part Dalmatian. She couldn't be bathed with flea soap at her young age, and I hoped water would wash them away.

Driving home, we played with names. We were new to the south, and I came up with a perfect southern name. "This pup was born in May, and she is a SHE." I asked my children, "What do you think about naming her Shelia May?"

The laughter started first, and then moans and groans came louder. "No way, Mom. That's awful." The children decided Dad needed to name her.

We had two days before Dad arrived home. I pulled out a porta crib from the attic and wound a sheet through the slants. The puppy took her paws and shoved them down and squished her tiny body through the small openings.

If she was left alone for any time, she'd do all her business on the carpet. I slept downstairs in our finished basement to keep her company and wondered if I had made a huge mistake. My kids were independent, and now I had a new baby.

The afternoon Murphy arrived home, the children made him sit upstairs on the couch and close his eyes. He asked all kinds of questions.

Their excitement spilled out. "We have a birthday present for you."

I carried the pup upstairs and plopped her on Murphy's lap. The second she sat on his lap, a scratchy, wet tongue slid across his cheek and nose. His eyes popped open, and to say the least, he was surprised.

Now it was time to name her. My sweet children had a great laugh with my choice of name.

Murphy stared at me and chuckled. When he caught his breath, he started suggesting German names. Gretel or Gretchen. Our young daughter mixed the two names, and it was so cute we named our pup, Gretchel.

Over time, Gretchel became the children's dog. Murphy had built a fort in the backyard and the neighbor boys played there. Gretchel climbed the wooden ladder to be in the middle of all the fun.

Our daughter, who wanted to ride horses, trained Gretchel to jump over bushes, and to follow her many other commands.

As we walked around the neighborhood, Gretchel would fill her mouth with small rocks one at a time. She'd tilt her head sideways to adjust the rocks. When she had no room for one more rock, she'd spit them on the street and rearrange them one at a time. And sure enough, she'd get one more in her mouth.

She became a water dog as we water-skied every weekend. At first, she was small enough to sleep under the dashboard. As she grew, she'd leap into the lake with the children and could climb the ladder to get into the boat. She enjoyed camping with us and would stand guard the bathroom, waiting for her best friends to reappear.

Gretchel was our first chosen puppy. When she died at eleven-years-old, she left a huge hole in our hearts. We didn't wait too long before we filled our gap and chose our first Australian Shepherd.
And that will be another story!

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!


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.

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