Cats and Writers Throughout History

Since the time before the written word, humans have been inspired by their fellow animals. In case of certain animals, the relationship has gone full circle from worship (ancient gods and goddesses with animal forms) to subordination (domestication) back around to worship. The dog, though certainly deserving of glorification due its tireless loyalty and affinity for humans, is in a way undeserving of worship due to those very traits. The cat, aloof and unknowable, is much more disposed to cultish devotion.

The cat influences a plethora of human works, especially literature. Aside from the obvious books which take cats as their subject, feline inspiration has spurred the creations of a wide variety a respected authors.

Edgar Allan Poe. Poe used cats as symbols of the sinister in several of his stories, although he himself owned and loved cats. His tortoiseshell cat, Catarina, was the inspiration for his story The Black Cat. In winter 1846, Catarina would curl up on the bed with Poe’s wife, who was dying of tuberculosis, and provide warmth.

The Brontë sisters, Anne, Emily and Charlotte, were nineteenth century poets and novelists, the daughters of a poor Irish clergyman. The three sisters were well-known as cat lovers. Their novels and poetry often included cats. Charlotte and Anne frequently referred to their cats in their diaries. “A cat is an animal that has more human feelings than almost any other being.” Emily Bronte

Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickelby, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol) not only had a cat, Wilhelmina, but when she produced a litter of kittens, he kept one known as “Master’s Cat”. She stayed nearby as he wrote. Reports say that, when she wanted his attention, she would snuff out his reading candle.

Louisa May Alcott was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women and its sequels. She once listed an “inordinate love of cats” among her faults, and her love of cats shone through her writing. In Little Women, the March sisters have a cat, and in the story Beth is seen playing with the cat and her kittens.

Raymond Chandler (Phillip Marlowe private eye novels) Chandler spoke to his black Persian, Taki, as if she were human (of course) and called her his secretary. She had a habit of sitting on his manuscripts as he tried to revise them. He once said, “A cat never behaves as if you were the only bright spot in an otherwise clouded existence…this is another way of saying that a cat is not a sentimentalist, which does not mean that it has no affection.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. She’s best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A Maltese cat allegedly walked into her house one day. She named it Calvin after her husband and it sat on her shoulder while she wrote.

An accurate list of writers and their cats would probably take up an entire book in itself. Here’s a further sampling:

“Everything human is alien to me.” Patricia Highsmith

So if you’re writing and you don’t have at least one cat, what are you waiting for?

Rosemary Stevens

Follow me on Twitter where there will sometimes be cats.

Please follow and like us:

Meet Josh Pachter

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Josh Pachter to the blog this week!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Not long after my ninth-grade English teacher, Mary Ryan, gave me a copy of the June 1966 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, I decided to try my hand at writing a crime story myself. The result, “E.Q. Griffen Earns His Name,” appeared in EQMM’s “Department of First Stories” in December 1968, and in December 2018 I’ll be celebrating my fiftieth year as a published writer. Along the way, I’ve contributed almost a hundred short stories to various magazines and anthologies, written a zombie cop novel collaboratively with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge (Styx, Simon & Schuster, 2015), seen all ten of my Mahboob Chaudri stories collected as The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, also 2015), edited half a dozen anthologies, and translated dozens of short stories and novels from Dutch to English. In my day job, I’m the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus. My wife Laurie is an editor for a government agency in DC, and our daughter Becca is a county prosecutor in Phoenix.

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

If you don’t count fish and a hermit crab, the only pet I’ve ever had is our dog Tessa, who is a loving and lovely collie/terrier mix. Laurie rescued her from the pound about sixteen years ago, when she (Tessa, not Laurie) was just a few months old. Laurie and I met ten years ago — we “met cute,” and you can read about that here — so Tessa’s been a part of my life for the last decade. I haven’t put her into my fiction yet, but that might well happen at some point 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 case you didn’t click on the link above, I’ll tell you that I have been horribly allergic to fur and feathers and wool, my whole life long — making my ability to be around Tessa something of a miracle. Because I grew up unable to be around animals, I never developed an appreciation for them … and have never much written about them. In the 1980s, I collaborated with the wonderful Edward Wellen on a story about a migratory stork that smuggles uncut diamonds from the mines in South Africa to the jewelry industry in Amsterdam; it was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and we called it (ahem) “Stork Trek.” But, until Tessa came into my life, that nameless stork was really the only animal character I ever created. Now, though, I’m a lot more open to writing about furry and feathery characters. In fact, I have a story called “The Supreme Art of War” in the upcoming Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter anthology Fur, Feathers and Felonies that includes a female cat named Mister.

What are you reading now?

A couple of years ago, I was asked how much I would charge to translate one of the 300+ Belgian graphic novels about a pair of teenagers named Suske and Wiske into English. More kidding than serious, I said I’d do it for — instead of money — a complete set of the books. To my amazement, the publisher agreed. So I did the translation, a giant box of books flew across the Atlantic Ocean to my front door, and I’m now up to number 185. (In English, Suske and Wiske are called Luke and Lucy, and you can read Auntie Biotica, the adventure I translated, for free here.)

What writing projects are you currently working on?

As I answer these questions, I’m focused more on editing than writing. I’m working on three different collections, which will be published by three different publishers in 2018. Amsterdam Noir, which I’m co-editing with René Appel, is an anthology of dark stories set in the Dutch capital, and it’ll come out as a part of Akashic Books’ City Noir series. Dale Andrews and I are putting together The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, a collection of pastiches and parodies, for Wildside Press. And I’m editing The Man Who Read Mr. Strang: The Short Fiction of William Brittain on my own for Crippen & Landru. But I’ve just begun a new short story I’m calling “Killer Kyle,” which starts out pretty nicely, I think. I can’t wait to see how it ends!

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh, gosh, that’s like asking me to name my favorite movie or song. I don’t have one favorite author. There are so many authors I’ve loved reading, and my “favorite” would depend on when you asked me and how I was feeling at the moment. I can tell you that, along the way, my favorite authors have included John Updike and Ray Bradbury (who showed me that prose can be poetry), Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse (who made me laugh), Carlos Castaneda and Jane Roberts (who made me think outside the box), Ellery Queen, Ed McBain, and Lawrence Block (who taught me whatever small amount I know about crime writing), and a host of friends whose books I read because they were written by people I know and respect and admire (including but far from limited to Les Roberts, Loren D. Estleman, Bill Pronzini, and, in Dutch, Hilde Vandermeeren, Bavo Dhooge, René Appel).

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I’m not sure how funny this is, but can I go back to that hermit crab? When my daughter Becca was tiny and we were living in the upstairs half of what’s called a “Lakewood double” just outside Cleveland, Ohio, she really wanted a pet … but I had those allergies I’ve mentioned. So we bought Hermie the Hermit Crab, and we kept him in a little plastic terrarium and fed him and petted him and played with him. One day, though, Hermie mysteriously vanished from his terrarium. I never found out for sure how that happened, but I suppose Becca must have taken him out to play with him and forgotten to put him back, and he just wandered off. Days later, I came home from work to find a plastic bucket sitting outside our door and a note taped to the door: “We found this in our bedroom. Is it yours?” And, sure enough, Hermie was in the bucket. How he got down a flight of stairs and into the neighbor’s apartment, I’ll never understand. (Hermie, by the way, went to Hermit Heaven many years ago, but I still have his shell, which I keep on my desk and use as a paperweight.)

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

I sometimes talk to middle-school groups about writing, and I always start by asking, “How many of you want to be a writer someday?” Generally, three-quarters of the hands go up, and that allows me to tell them that they already are writers, and have in fact been writers ever since they learned how to write. A writer isn’t something you should “want to be,” I tell them. A writer is something you already are. What you can want to be is a professional writer, a paid writer, a famous writer, even just a better writer. So, when did I know I was a writer? I guess when I learned how to write. But I think I had the idea of becoming a professional writer in my head from a pretty early age. In grade school, I wrote a “book” about Japan — a country which to this day I have never visited — and “published” a weekly handwritten newspaper for a couple of months. In junior high, I co-wrote a column for my school paper. And I sold my first short story to EQMM at the age of sixteen. When I went off to college at the University of Michigan, my intention was to study journalism. It turned out that the U of M’s undergraduate j program at that time was pretty sucky, but I really liked Ann Arbor, so I scouted around for an alternate major and finally settled on communication studies.

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

Well, I know the whole “bucket list” thing is still pretty popular, but I don’t really have one. I taught overseas for fifteen years — in Holland, Germany, England, Spain, Greece, Italy, Bahrain, Kuwait — and still do a lot of international traveling. I have a happy marriage. I have raised a brilliant and talented daughter. I like my job and make a decent living. Although my writing, editing and translating haven’t made me rich and famous, neither of those things is particularly important to me. I suppose it would be nice to win some sort of an award. A story I translated was nominated for an Edgar in 1986 and another was nominated for a Derringer in 2016. The Tree of Life was nominated for a Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville. But it would be fun to actually win something. As I mentioned before, next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of my first publication and, since I started young, I’m “only” sixty-six years old. I figure if I can just keep on breathing for a while longer, sooner or later somebody’ll have to give me a lifetime achievement award!

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

One pile contains another hundred or so Suske and Wiskes, and another pile has about twenty Dutch-language novels which have been given to me by various Dutch and Belgian authors I’ve translated. I’ve also got a bunch of English-language novels and short-story collections piled up on my iPhone; I recently joined Wildside Press’ Black Cat Mystery Magazine club, which gets me seven e-books a week for a year, so I’ve definitely got my e-reading cut out for me!

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

Actually, most of what I know now I’m glad I didn’t know when I started, because it probably would have scared me off. Even with all the amazing new possibilities contemporary technology has given us — the Internet, POD publishing, Babelcube, the list goes on and on — it’s still the case that most of the people who’d love to be able to make a healthy living as a writer of fiction won’t. For me, though, writing has always been (and remains) a hobby … and, as a hobby, it’s given me an enormous amount of pleasure for the last half century, and I expect it’ll continue to do so for whatever amount of time I’ve got left!

On September 25, two days after I responded to Heather’s interview questions, our sweet Tessa Marie came to the end of her journey. My wife Laurie was out of state on a business trip, but I called her on my cell from the vet’s office, and she talked lovingly to Tessa until the vet came in with the needles. Then we hung up, and I held the old girl tightly, my head close beside hers, as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I stayed with her until she was gone, and for a long while after, and then went home to a very empty house. 

Because of my allergies, we can’t risk another dog. A month after Tessa left us, we bought a 29-gallon aquarium to make the house less empty and have populated it with two dozen fish: danios, platies, cory cats, weather loaches, rasboras, a whole community. We’ve named them all, and we enjoy looking at them as they swim around and eat. But we can’t walk them or pet them, and they don’t answer when we talk to them, as Tessa did. We like them, but we don’t love them. Not yet, anyway. Maybe that’ll come. I doubt it. They’re nice, but they’re not Tessa.

 Regards,

Josh

 

Josh’s Biography:

JOSH PACHTER is a writer, editor and translator. Since his first appearance in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1968, almost a hundred of his short crime stories have appeared in EQMM, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, New Black Mask, Espionage, and many other periodicals, anthologies, and year’s-best collections.  The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, 2015) collected all ten of his Mahboob Chaudri stories and he collaborated with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge on Styx (Simon & Schuster, 2015). In his day job, he is the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus.

Let’s Be Social:

Website

Facebook

Please follow and like us:

Meet Laurel Peterson

www.utechristinphotography.com

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Laurel Peterson to the blog!

Before I answer any questions, I just want to thank you, Heather, for having me on your blog. I’m really honored to be here and I enjoyed answering your questions.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I am a poet and a novelist, as well as a community college professor—which allows me to eat and pay the mortgage! I’ve got three books of poetry out, and have always thought of myself as more of a poet than a fiction writer. However, I love mystery novels, starting with Nancy Drew, and decided about a decade ago that I wanted to try the form. It’s been great fun testing and honing my storytelling skills, as well as thinking about ways I can use the genre to communicate messages about human experience. My first mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was released in 2016.

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

The main character in my Clara Montague mystery series is too fastidious to be a dog person, but her police chief lover definitely needs a dog. I love Labrador retrievers, which is the dog I had as a child—all my father’s brothers and their children ended up with Labs—because they are so friendly and patient and sweet. My dog wants nothing more than to hang out with us and to chase things we throw. His favorite game is to chase a Frisbee, which he then refuses to give back until he’s good and ready.

What are you reading now?

There is always a huge pile of TBR books on the floor.  At present, I am enjoying Tomas Transtromer’s the great enigma, and William Kent Krueger’s Sulfur Springs.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a book of poems about flying and the stars. My father was an airline pilot and a conspiracy theory lover. Somehow those two themes cross in this book, and I’m having fun playing with the various directions they are taking me. I’ve also had fun with sources: NASA posts pictures from the international space station; FermiLab puts out newsletters on particle physics research (toned down for people like me who don’t understand the half of it), and of course, looking at old photos of my father in various flying garb.

I also woke up this morning thinking about the next book in my Clara Montague series. In this one, she works with an underwater archeologist. At least that’s the version this week.

Who is your favorite author and why?

In the mystery genre, my favorite author is Sara Paretsky. She’s just so smart, and I love smart people. I learn so much from them, and Paretsky is no exception. She has a PhD in history and an MBA from the University of Chicago, and you can see that attention to detail and accuracy in her novels. In addition, I love that she takes on issues in her work—faulty body armor or race relations. The mystery is about more than a murder; it’s about the fault-lines running through our communities and our nation. Attica Locke is another writer who is taking on issues. Black Water Rising and Bluebird, Bluebird both deal with race issues in America, as well as presenting an interesting whodunit.

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

H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald, is a fascinating memoir of her time training a goshawk to hunt, as a way of mourning her father’s death. Mabel, the goshawk, becomes a character in her own right, and the development of their relationship is funny and sharp and dark all at once.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

It’s not so much a one-time event as a pet habit. When my cat was still alive, we fed him in the basement, which he accessed through a cat door. This kept the dog from scarfing all his food. In the evenings, after the cat had eaten, he would come up the stairs and sit behind the pet door, waiting. The dog, smelling him there, would stand on the other side, staring. This stand-off usually lasted several minutes, with one of them poking at the door with a nose or paw to try to tempt the other into engagement. Finally, the dog would relent a little, the cat would burst through the door and speed past him in to the living room, and there would ensue a wild, but short-lived scramble before the cat popped onto the ottoman and whapped the dog on the nose with his paw. Every single time.

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

I think this is a really hard question to answer. I can point to a moment in my childhood when writing became important to me—after I was bullied on the school bus and wrote a story to get my private revenge—but I don’t think I identified as a writer until after I left college and discovered that all other jobs were to support my writing time. By the time I went to grad school in my late twenties, I was sure writing was where my heart lived, but calling myself a writer probably didn’t come until after I’d started publishing on a regular basis in my early thirties. It’s a good thing we have a lifetime to figure ourselves out!!

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

The number one item on my bucket list is to visit Greece. I have wanted to go there since I was in fourth grade and Mrs. Marshall taught us all about the Greek myths. (Coolest, scariest teacher ever. That’s what I aim to be.) Since my father was an airline pilot, we did a fair amount of traveling when I was younger, but we never made it there. I want to see Athens, the Greek islands, and those fascinating monasteries built up high on the cliffs in Meteora. Of course these things are all in different directions.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

I lost a cat last February and he’s been very hard to replace. He used to come and sit on my desk next to me when I wrote. He was a big black and white cat, with a rumbly purr and tendency to rub my cheek with his. I miss him and his sweetness and playfulness intensely. The dog sleeps until it’s late afternoon, and then starts bugging me for a walk and dinner. For the dog, it’s all about him.

 

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

I have one very large TBR pile. It has books of poetry, books about immigrant life in the U.S., a book by a French food writer (mmm, getting hungry), Irving Stone’s Depths of Glory, a book by a poet I have to introduce at an event in a month, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, John Cheever’s journals, and a DVD on yoga and relaxation which is, frankly, where I should start.

About Laurel:

Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College and her poetry has been published in many literary journals. She has two chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds (Finishing Line Press) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press). Her full length collection, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer? (Futurecycle Press) was released in January 2017. She has also written a mystery novel, Shadow Notes, which is available through Barking Rain Press. She currently serves as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate.

You can find her at www.laurelpeterson.com, on Twitter: @laurelwriter49, or on Facebook. You can purchase her mystery novel here: Buy and her poetry here: Buy.

SHADOW NOTES by Laurel S. Peterson

Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.

Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.

Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder.

Clara Montague has been gone from home for fifteen years, but when she dreams her mother is in danger, she comes home. A few days later, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?

Please follow and like us:

Our Jake

Years ago, my husband, Murphy, and I enjoyed an unusual, heavy snow storm during the middle of January in Greenville, South Carolina.  Our six-month-old, red-haired, Australian shepherd, Sydney, raced around, his little legs sinking into the fluffy, white stuff.

Murphy had pulled a plastic, red sled to our hilly street. Sydney refused to sit on my lap. Instead, he herded the sled, yipping, as I slid down the mounds.

Ready to go again, a Black lab pup raced from the woods and plopped himself on my lap. His brown eyes stared into mine.  Startled and confused, I glanced around, looking for his owners.

Syd woofed. “Get lost. These are my people.”

The Lab ignored Sydney. I put one arm around the Lab’s chest and down we went. His ears lifted in the wind as we raced down the slope. After a few minutes, Sydney played with the newcomer. We romped until my fingers and toes froze.

“Time to go home, little guy,” He cocked his head. “You’ve got to be hungry and cold.” He sat, staring, his tail whipping the snow. I turned to Murphy. “He has to be a neighbor’s dog!”  After a few steps, I twisted around. “Oh, dear. He’s following.”

In the garage, I noticed his thin body. “He’s mustn’t be a neighbor’s dog. I wonder how long he’s been loose?”                 

Murphy ran his hands over body. “Look. He’s been hurt. And he never showed any signs of being injured. I’ll dry him, while you grab some blankets.”

In the garage, he ate small amounts of boiled rice with chicken broth and small chunks of chicken over a period of time. Murphy cleaned his wounds. We made a cozy place for him to sleep and named him, Jake.

Since our city had no snow equipment, we waited three days for the snow to melt before Jake could get medical attention. I had left messages with the local vets, animal shelters, and the newspaper, giving them our phone number. Jake’s low-key personality differed from our active, noisy Aussie. They became best friends, never leaving each other’s side.

At the Veterinarian’s office, Dr. Hill, believed Jake had been attacked by a pack of dogs and guessed his age of around seven-months from his size and weight of forty-five pounds. We made-up a birthday, gave him a red collar with tags, and he became our first rescue dog.  Jake taught us about patience, resilience, and determination which we would refer to later as we rescued other dogs.

The following week Jake returned for another appointment. One wound hadn’t healed and needed a stint. He had gained fifteen pounds! Every visit after that he’d gained weight. Dr. Hill laughed, saying, “He’ll plateau sometime!”

Jake settled in, and his real personality emerged. Since he had wandered into our neighborhood, we should have known he was a nomad.

One afternoon, the two dogs played outside. I watched from the front porch. Since we lived in the woods, I had made sure the dogs knew where we lived. They’d run up and down our long driveway. I’d call their names and they’d dash back.

But one time, I got no response.

I walked up the drive, thinking they had been distracted by a scent and needed a little prodding to return. But they were nowhere in sight. My heart fluttered. My stomach ached. I paced and grew hoarse calling. I entered the woods at the end of the cul-de-sac. Sydney had never been farther than the neighbor’s front yard across the street.

Thirty long, minutes later, the longest minutes of my lifetime, I saw a bedraggled, red-haired puppy limping from the woods.

Crying, I ran toward him and lifted my muddy fella into my arms. He burrowed his face into my shoulder.  I cried in his ear. “Oh, Sydney. Where’s Jakey?” His worried, golden-eyes stared into mine.

After a bath, I called the neighbors, leaving messages for those who weren’t home. Then I drove with Sydney, down a street behind our woods and up the first driveway I spotted. A woman gardening glanced at me. I stuck my head out the window. “Any chance you’ve seen a small, Black lab? We live right behind this area.”

She pushed her straw hat up and smiled. “Matter of fact, I have one on my back porch. Showed up a few minutes ago. He seems mighty friendly. Go on back and see if he’s yours.”

A head poked out between the wooden railings. It was a Black lab with a red collar. “Oh, Jakey. It’s you.” He pulled his head out and raced down the stairs.  I opened the car door, and he leaped in. Sydney barked and nosed him.

I thanked the neighbor and explained how Jake had found us three weeks earlier. I gave her my phone number, just in case he ever appeared in her yard, again.

After that scary incident, Murphy decided with eight acres of land, an electric fence might be the answer. We took one day, draping the wire around our property and sticking white flags in the ground. The flags marked the boundary, and as they approached closer, a chirping signal warned them to back-off.

Sydney learned after one crossing of the line and being zapped. But Jake took days and many zaps to be deterred. He never went any farther than the cul-de-sac and played with the other neighborhood dogs, and always came home for dinner.

He whined and barked, hating to cross the line. I’d pull him across, letting him get zapped, and telling him, “NO.  You must stay here!” He learned, but never one-hundred-percent!

While Murphy and I were at work or on an outing, Jake stayed in our yard, and got bored. Being very much a mischievous puppy, he uprooted entire azalea plants, leaving gaping holes in the ground.  He chewed the branches off the trees as high as his body could reach. One tree trunk had a hole as if it had been devoured by a beaver. The tree survived, but was deformed. Jake ate the electrical wires to the garage door opener, the boat trailer, and the tongues from Murphy’s yard shoes. Jake couldn’t be trusted in the house, alone, or our furniture and rugs would have been devoured.

During a dog class, the trainer shared ideas that would not harm the dog, but deter them from trouble.  Murphy blew up colored balloons and popped them. I screamed. Once the dogs seemed afraid of the balloons, we taped them inside our azaleas, and on the electrical wires, and on Murphy’s work bench.

The neighbors laughed when they saw our colorful yard. But as the air dissipated, Jake would rip off each balloon and eat it. We’d find balloon poop on the grass and decided balloons could be dangerous.

Our daughter’s wedding invitations and decorations arrived one afternoon, and Jake’s curiosity destroyed the box. When our son arrived home, he spent hours cleaning-up purple confetti from the shredded napkins, and invitations.

Education is a wonderful tool. We learned later, Jake suffered from separation anxiety. If we had crated him, we could have prevented these problems.

As you bring home a rescued dog, you have no idea about their past. Jake watched our interaction with Sydney, and over time, he longed for affection. His tail wagged all the time. By age two, he weighed ninety-two pounds, and trusted that we’d never abandon him. He lived to be thirteen-and-a-half.

Please follow and like us:

Meet Mary Reed

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mary Reed to the blog this week!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 As Eric is wont to say, we began writing together after we married because he had no choice! We’ve been fortunate in having a number of short mystery stories set in different eras and locations published in a number of historical mystery anthologies as well as in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. We also co-author two series: the John, Lord Chamberlain mysteries set in and around the sixth century Constantinople court of Emperor Justinian I and our newest venture, the Grace Baxter series taking place in wartime Britain.

 What are you reading now?

 Le Queux’s The Mysterious Mr. Miller, which gets off to a cracking good start. Mr Massari, an Italian and obviously a gentleman, takes a room at the London boarding house at which narrator Godfrey Leaf is staying.

Massari, newly arrived from the Continent, is taken ill that night and Leaf, who speaks his native tongue, sits up with him. During the night Massari speaks of keeping a woman’s secret and later gives Godfrey a sealed packet of papers he says are of considerable value to certain of his relatives in Italy, asking him to give it intact to the Italian ambassador three years after his death, which rapidly follows….

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

 We’re busy writing the next entry in the Lord Chamberlain series. John is able to get into Rome, then encircled by the Goth army, in connection with a particularly convoluted investigation involving a close friend.

The situation is complicated by the fact John has been exiled to Greece and it is highly likely he will be executed if Justinian learns he has left that country without permission.

 Who is your favorite author and why?

 As a fan of Golden Age authors it’s difficult to pick just one, so today I shall mention Ethel Lina White.  My favourite novels of hers are Wax, which involves a run-down waxworks, minor crimes whose explanation is surprising, and a darkly ironic ending, The Spiral Staircase aka Some Must Watch, a tense book set in an isolated not fully electrified old house with a murderer loose in the immediate area, and Fear Stalks The Village, in which poison pen letters bring death to an idyllic village, including two suicides for an unusual but convincing reason.

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

 It’s possible I may be the only mystery writer whose first childhood pet was a budgie with a Geordie (Tyneside) accent. These birds can be taught to mimic human speech, but the only word he ever learned to say was his name Peter, or as he would squawk Pe’er because he learnt it from a voice whose accent features glottal stops, or as I’d say it glo’al stops. One day I came home from school to find poor Pe’er dead. So he was buried in the back yard in an old sink where I attempted to grow nastursiums, which local stray cats liked to grub up during their bathroom visits. Can’t complain really, given there was very little open ground in our urban area so streets and roads were covered in concrete or tarmac except for graveyards, an occasional small park, and the odd demolition site. So poor Pe’er in his domino box did not rest in his graveyard for very long. It has occurred to me a budgie’s accent being that of a place a person of interest in a crime claims never to have been would make a good clue in plain sight, although of course such a person might well claim he or she purchased the bird from someone from the relevant area.

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

 Both. In One For Sorrow, the first Lord Chamberlain novel, there was an unfortunate bear who had been subjected to bear baiting. We made sure his trainer met his doom at the paws of the bear when it escaped its cage. The same bear also broke the nose of an intoxicated man who poked him with a big stick, and serve him right too.  In a later novel Empress Theodora orders the bear taken from its current home, the imperial menagerie, to be freed on a country estate. There the bear has further adventures, some of a humorous nature.

 Also in One For Sorrow a starving feral cat saves the Lord Chamberlain’s life by accident. This cat was modeled on Rachel, who came into the family when he showed up in a bad state one winter night. He was a tom cat named by children too young to know the difference and had obviously been someone’s pet at some point because he arrived neutered and declawed and therefore was not able to defend himself or fight for food when out in the world. We could never be sure if he had just run off as cats will occasionally do or if someone had abandoned him.

 In our fiction Rachel is usually seen in the company of a smaller cat based on Sabrina, his long time real life friend. She was born in a garage down the street to a feral mother and while all the kittens in the litter were found homes, the house owner could not persuade the mother to stay. Generally speaking the two cats are to be found in our fiction doing something in the background and are included as a little nod to their memories.

 Why do you include animals in your writing?

 They are generally there to to provide local colour although occasinally they interact with a given character. A few examples would be a man carrying a wicker cage stuffed with squawking chickens fleeing his village, which he believes is doomed due to certain omens (Three For A

Letter) or the old crone selling partridges in Constantinople, all of whose birds are purchased and set free by one of the more prominent characters (One For Sorrow).

 Then there’s a noirishly comic scene involving a donkey, whose skittishness interferes with the attempts of a major character to dispose of a body at night, leading to increasing frustration on his part although he eventually manages to solve the problem. (Ten For Dying). The same novel included a scene or two involving frogs in unusual circumstances.

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

 The most unusual working animals we have created so far appeared in Three For A Letter. This is a herd of fortune-telling goats living on an island along the coast from Constantinople. The seeker after knowledge must write their question on a piece of parchment and then burn it before sunrise in a bowl on a pedestal under an open-sided shelter opposite the island. A local woman provides the answer to the question by interpreting the positions individual goats are seen to have taken when the sun has risen. The same novel also involves a mechanical whale whose workings we based upon the writings of Hero of Alexander concerning the construction of  automatons. Although mechanical, he’s a working mammal as he is integral to the play based upon the story of Jonah and the Whale which kicks off the plot.

 Then there’s an oracular snake with a human head in Six For Gold. As is the case of what must at first glance seem bizarre and unlikely trimmings in our novels, he also is based on an historical account, being inspired by just such a snake utilised by the charlatan Alexander the Paphlagonian.

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

 Stephen King’s Cujo. It’s a frightening book demonstrating how easily ordinary lives can be affected by outside forces in terrible and unexpected ways, in this case when a beloved pet falls ill. But can we blame the dog? After all, it wasn’t poor Cujo’s fault he became rabid, but the results are heartbreaking for his family, for others, and ultimately for Cujo himself.

 What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 Now and then Sabrina attempted to take over Rachel’s role as boss cat by tussling with him. In some way she knew he had  injured one of his legs.

It stuck out at a strange angle when he was sitting, the result of who knows what adventure in the wild before he was taken in and so she would try to get under his guard to nip at it. Seeing her advance, Rachel would raise a threatening paw but she generally took no notice and still went for that leg. On one occasion however he made a surprise move. A big cat, he turned a complete somersault and she ran off in terror. How I wished I had had a camera to hand on that occasion but alas….

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

 Rachel and Sabrina are both gone now, but Sabrina could always be found velcroed to Eric’s knees when he was writing. She was a one person cat and although the memory remains terribly sad, she died on the knees of that one person. Whereas Rachel tended to distribute his affection around more and was very friendly, really more dog-like than most cats though we never could get him to fetch a stick <smile>.  When one of us was writing he could often be found lying down or sleeping at our feet.

Biography:

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer’s most recent Lord Chamberlain novel is Murder In Megara (2016) and, as by Eric Reed, Ruined Stones (2017), set in wartime England, both from Poisoned Pen Press. Their most recent short story, “Time’s Revenge”, appeared earlier this year in the anthology Bound By Mystery.

Let’s Be Social:

Website

Twitter

 

Please follow and like us:

The Dogs In My Life: Part II Einstein by Judy Penz Sheluk

In my first post, I wrote about Sandy, a golden-something mix from my childhood. It would be many years before I would get another dog, but I finally managed to talk my husband, Mike, into getting a purebred Golden Retriever. We named him Einstein, after the dog in Dean Koontz’s novel, Watchers

When it came to Einstein, Mike and I did most things wrong, starting with where we bought him. Not from a reputable breeder, but from an ad in the newspaper. Our first clue should have been where we picked Einstein up (a condo apartment). Our second clue should have been the fact that his mother wasn’t anywhere to be found. But we were young and excited about getting a dog. Who had time to do research?

We were to learn, too late, and much later, that Einstein was a puppy mill dog, but we loved him all the same, even after he failed obedience school. Twice. I can still remember the horrified look on one owner’s face when we were instructed to “switch dogs” with another owner. As I handed her Einstein’s leash, I overheard the hushed tone of her husband whispering, “Oh my god, you’ve got Einstein.”

Einstein settled down a lot when he was 15 months. Too much, in hindsight, though we were just so happy when he did that we didn’t think to question it. We just figured he was growing up to be a good dog. And he was… he never barked, growled, jumped up on people, or any of that. Not even when he was at his craziest. He just wanted to be loved and petted, to be part of our family. Einstein had grown up to be the perfect puppy.

Mike was out of town (as he often was during his working life) when one evening, as I was walking Einstein,  I noticed a van following us. I started walking faster until the guy rolled down his window and said that he was trying to find a certain house number. The driveways in our neighborhood were long (ours was 85′ long) and it was dusk. I bought the story but hustled my way, dog in tow, to our house.

I was inside the house about five minutes when the doorbell rang. It was the guy from the van. I opened the door, but kept the screen door closed. Einstein was sitting next to me, growling softly.

“I’m here from the gas company,” the man said, holding a clipboard. I remember thinking how clean his nails were, how smooth his hands. My dad had been in the trades. He could never keep his nails looking like they’d just been manicured, or his hands not roughened by weather, no matter how hard he tried. Why was the van white, without a gas company logo? And why was Einstein growling?

“I have a report here to inspect your furnace,” the man said, at which point he attempted to open the screen door. Einstein was having none of it. My calm, quiet dog went crazy, barking, baring his teeth, and literally scaring the guy into stepping backwards. I slammed the door, shaking, and then called the gas company.

Einstein Sheluk

You can probably guess what comes next. The gas company hadn’t sent a guy to look at my furnace. I called the police, who came promptly. There was a man, the officer told me, fitting my guy’s description. He’d been getting unsuspecting women into their basements and then beating and raping them. Without Einstein’s intervention, I would have been his next victim.

Einstein was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer two weeks later. He died at eighteen months, a puppy mill pup who never really had a chance. But to this day, I believe he was put on this earth to save me from getting raped, or worse.

RIP Einstein. Your spirit has lived on in every dog I’ve owned since. It lives on, inside me. #ForeverGrateful

 

A Holiday Giveaway: Win one an Audible audiobook copy of either The Hanged Man’s Noose OR Skeletons in the Attic (winners choice) by signing up for my newsletter before December 15th. The winner will be notified by email before December 18th. Here’s the link.


 

 

SaveSave

Please follow and like us:

Meet Madeline McEwen

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Madeline McEwen to the blog for #WriterWednesday!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m an ex-pat from the UK, bi-focaled and technically challenged. Positivity and disabilities fill my daily life. I am passionate about humor and its therapeutic benefits.

Tell us about your pets.

A rescued gray, female, tabby who is minute and mute, but otherwise perfect. A ginger and white tabby who is bad tempered, extremely affectionate, and could win a yodeling contest. A male, 120 lb. Labradoodle masquerading as an Irish Wolfhound which possibly explains why the breeder lost their license. A female, rescue mutt [mother Poodle / father Labrador] who looks like a Labradoodle. Go figure.

What are you reading now?

The Seagull by Anne Cleeves which I’ll review on NetGalley soon.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I can only pick one? M. C. Beaton, Sue Townsend, Colin Cotterill, Erma Bombeck, and Terry Pratchett for their humor, Dorothy L. Sayers for her plots, P. D. James, and Elizabeth George for their psychological torture.

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

Cats, rabbits, and goldfish–they consumed each other, no doubt contributing to my bloodlust in later life.

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

They often accompany taciturn characters and provide insight for the discerning and intelligent reader.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like to agree with the commonly held belief that people and their pets are similar in temperament and disposition. We humans often betray our true nature by how we interact during any random encounter with an animal.

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

Watership Down, by Richard Adams, a heart-breaking and poignant epic. Lassie, Come Home, the TV series, watching in black in white in England. I loved them because they were adventurous and tender, which my mother dubbed “syrupy, sentimental American drivel.” Perhaps that’s when I decided to emigrate.

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

I do not have a bucket list. I’ve had more luck in life than most.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Assuming I have already walked the dogs, they lie on the floor within licking distance of my un-manicured toenails. [California = barefoot]

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

I have three physical stacks of TBR books: bedroom, floor of car, and a kitchen corner, and one virtual stack on Goodreads. I like the latter best because it doesn’t need dusting.

 

Madeline’s Biography:

Madeline McEwen and her Significant Other manage their four offspring, one major and three minors, two autistic, two neurotypical, plus a time-share with Alzheimer’s. In her free time, she walks the canines and chases the felines with her nose in a book and her fingers on a keyboard.

 Her new novelette TIED UP WITH STRINGS is now available on Amazon for pre-orders:

Amazon

GetBook

Let’s Be Social:

Website 

Amazon

Pinterest

Twitter 

Facebook

Goodreads

Website

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Meet Amy Reade and Orly

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Amy Reade to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write mysteries. The first three mysteries I wrote were standalones, then I wrote three mysteries for my Malice series, set in the United Kingdom. And I just finished my first cozy mystery, The Worst Noel,* which is the first novel in my Juniper Junction mystery series. When I’m not writing, my favorite things are reading, cooking, and traveling. I used to practice law, but I didn’t love it—I love writing.

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

I have a dog, Orly, and two cats, Athos and Porthos. When Orly was a puppy we also had two rather elderly cats, Faust and Shadow, who were the most affectionate cats I’ve ever known. I suppose I had Orly in mind when I wrote a couple scenes in The Worst Noel, but not intentionally (or even consciously)!

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

There is a dog, Addie, in The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, but I wouldn’t say Addie was based on any animal I knew. She was a stray who wandered onto the page and ended up as an important character in the book. There were also two horses in the story, though they played a much more minor role.

In House of the Hanging Jade (my third standalone), the main character, Kailani, has a cat named Meli. Meli has an important part to play in that story, which is set on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In Murder in Thistlecross (the third book in my Malice series), horses play a role in the romance that buds between two of the characters and they also play a role in the ending of the story.

The Worst Noel features a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier named Barney, and he plays the same role in the story as Orly plays in my life—as a constant companion and loveable friend.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Fifty Shades of Cabernet, a mystery anthology I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of, and Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers. It’s the first in the Lord Peter Wimsey series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently gathering ideas for the second book in the Juniper Junction series, plus I have two other mysteries in the works: a contemporary mystery and one set in the 1600s.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It depends on the day, but I have several favorites. Each is a favorite for a different reason—I love Phyllis Whitney because I could read her gothic mysteries a thousand times and never get tired of them. I love Ernest Hemingway because he was a master at saying so much with so few words. I love Jane Austen because…who doesn’t love Jane Austen? And I love M.C. Beaton because she has a wickedly sharp sense of humor.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in some of my books because they add extra richness to a story. I tend to use animals more as characters than props, so they have an important role to play. I also think you can learn a lot about a character by watching the way they interact with animals. That helps the reader to get to know my characters a little better.

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

There are so many, and the answer to that question has changed through the years. For example, when my kids were little we loved the movies “Homeward Bound” and “The Incredible Journey.” I’ve also always loved anything by James Herriot; in fact, he’s the reason I began college with the intention of going to veterinary school (organic chemistry derailed that plan, but it didn’t change how I felt about Dr. Herriot). Then there’s Asta of “The Thin Man” movie fame.

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

There are two things that tie for first place on my bucket list: learning Greek and seeing an owl in my own neighborhood (preferably in my own yard). I want to learn Greek because I love learning about languages other than English. Greek seems appropriate because so many English words derive from Greek and because it’s fascinating to me how long people have been speaking Greek.

As for the owl, if you’ve ever read Owl Moon by Jane Yolen you know what a beautiful story it is and why it’s been one of my favorites since I first discovered it. I wanted to see an owl in my own yard from the very first time I picked up that book to read to my children.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Orly lies at my feet or next to me while I write. When I get up to stretch or move around, she follows me until I go back to my desk. As for the cats, Porthos ignores me. Athos will come around to stand on my keyboard when my concentration is at its fiercest. He seems to know when that is. Every. Single. Time.

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

How much time do you have?

I have two TBR piles: physical books and ebooks. The top three books in my physical TBR pile are The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence, Cape May County, New Jersey: The Making of an American Resort Community by Jeffery M. Dorwart, and The Ripper Gene by Michael Ransom.

The top three books in my ebook pile are The Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey, On the Chopping Block by Jenny Kales, and Eben Kruge: How ‘A Christmas Carol’ Came to be Written by Richard Barlow Adams.

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

First, I wish I had known how much time I would spend on marketing. I, like a lot of other authors, thought I would write and the publisher would promote, but that isn’t the way the industry works. Publishers help promote, but the huge bulk of the marketing falls to the author.

Second, I wish I had realized years earlier how much I would love fiction writing and how much I would love being part of the writing community. The authors I’ve had the honor of knowing are beyond generous with their time, their support, and their friendship. I would have started writing long before I did!

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today. Pens, Paws, and Claws is part of that generous and wonderful writing community I referred to in my last answer.

*The Worst Noel is one of twelve Christmas-themed cozy mysteries in a set called The 12 Slays of Christmas. The set comes out on December 5, 2017, and is only 99¢ right now. ALL proceeds from the sales of the set will go to no-kill animal shelters and charities. You can learn more about the set at www.12slaysofchristmas.com

Amy Reade

Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, community volunteer, and recovering attorney.

But she also writes (how could she not write with that last name?) and is the author of The Worst Noel (part of The 12 Slays of Christmas boxed set), The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross), and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

Let’s Be Social

Websites: www.amymreade.com and www.12slaysofchristmas.com

Blog: www.amreade.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/AmyMReadesGothicFictionFans

Twitter: www.twitter.com/readeandwrite

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/amreade

Instagram: www.instagram.com/amymreade

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade

 

Please follow and like us:

Pet Cloning — Yea or Neigh?

by Barb Goffman

Cloning is one of those things people joke about. Or maybe just I do. On busy days, I wish I had a clone to order around. Clone, do the laundry. Clone, edit that book. Clone, cook something. Anything!

Alas, the reality is there is no human cloning. And even if there were, an actual clone would not be like a robot you could order around to do chores. A clone is, essentially, an identical twin, simply born at a later date. The twins should look the same, but they’d have separate minds and thus separate personalities.

But even knowing all this, the idea of cloning appeals–especially when facing loss in the face.

Before my prior dog, Scout, got old, I made him promise he’d live forever. Of course he couldn’t live up to that promise. But he’s lived on in my heart and memories during the past four years.  And if I’d had the money to spare, I could have had him live on–sort of–in my house through … you guessed it … cloning. Yep, dog and cat cloning is here.

Scout

It appears there are several companies that offer this service. I recently read about one in Texas, Viagen Pets, that will clone your dog for $50,000 and your cat for $25,000. How does it work? According to Viagen Pets’s website, before (or very soon after) your dog or cat dies, you send a skin tissue sample to them so they can freeze/preserve the animal’s DNA. When you’re ready for your new pet, they take a donor egg, remove its genetic material, and replace it with that of your beloved pet’s. After that, an embryo is produced and then implanted in a surrogate animal. And you wait for your pet’s identical twin to be born.

According to their website, Viagen Pets has cloned thousands of animals. They say that each cloned puppy or kitten will share many attributes with its twin, often including intelligence, temperament, and appearance. It’s interesting that appearance is on the “often including” list because I would think a cloned puppy or kitten would always look exactly like the original (as a puppy or kitten) because they are supposed to be identical twins. But I’m not a scientist, so perhaps I’m missing something.

It’s interesting, too, that the company says the clones are often similar in intelligence and temperament.  I would think these attributes would vary from dog to dog. I would be interested in seeing study results on cloned animals to see how often the clones really are similar, as well as how similar, to the originals. I’d expect a clone of Scout would look like him as a puppy, but since the clone would be his own dog, with his own experiences and own mind, there’s no reason to think he’d act like Scout as he grew. But it’s nice to dream that he would.

And that is what is likely behind the growth of this market. The desire to  essentially keep the essence of the pet you love–his/her personality–alive. I understand Viagen Pets has a waiting list of people who probably have similar dreams.

Of course, any discussion of cloning pets should address the potential inherent problems. Any owners who’d expect an exact duplicate of their beloved pets would bound to be disappointed, which wouldn’t be fair to the clone. And is it right for someone to bring another animal into the world when you can find one of the same breed, likely looking nearly the same as your own beloved pet, through your local shelter or a breed rescue? An animal that’s already alive and needs a home? (Of course, that question would apply to any animal purchased through a breeder.)

Eggs (not the type involved in cloning)

And then there are the logistics of the process to consider. The cloning company says they get a donor egg. How? Does this involve surgery on a female dog?  How hard on the dog is such a surgery? If it’s quite invasive (and I don’t know if it is), is it right to use a dog in that manner? It’s not like the dog is an adult human who can consent. And once the embryo is created, it’s implanted in a surrogate dog. How invasive a procedure does the dog have to undergo to become impregnated? (All these questions also apply to the donor cat and surrogate cat, who may or may not be the same cat.)

For those of you thinking it, I realize that all these questions could be asked of any owner who chooses to breed his or her pet. The dog or cat doesn’t ask to become a parent, to be used for breeding purposes. I’m not saying it’s wrong (or right) to do these things, ranging from breeding your dog to having your dog used as an egg donor or as a surrogate mother. I’m just thinking on the page. As moral questions, there aren’t any hard right or wrong answers. But the questions are worth considering.

So, what say you, dear reader? Would you clone your pet if you could afford it? And what do you think of the issues involved with cloning (and breeding)?

Please follow and like us: