Welcome, Vicki Batman!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Be Social:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: vlmbatman@hotmail.com

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Got Passport?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what became of Maitreyi?

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

As of today, I remain her loyal subject.

Meow!

 

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Welcome, Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biography and Social Media Links:

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

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

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

Facebook: Maddie Day and Edith Maxwell

Twitter: @edithmaxwell and @MaddieDayAuthor

Pinterest: EdithMaxwell

Instagram: EdithMaxwellAuthor

 

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The Pets in My House and in My Stories

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why types of pets do you have?

Heather Weidner’s Biography: 

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

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

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

 

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Meet Martin Roy Hill

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I am a native Californian. I grew up in Southern California and have lived there all my life, except for military service. I spent twenty-some years in journalism as a crime reporter and investigative reporter, and later as an editor, before switching careers and becoming a Navy analyst in combat casualty care.

The Navy job came about because of my military service as a medic of one kind or another in three branches of the service. In fact, I retired from the reserves in 2016 with 27 years of active and reserve service. I also spent several years as a medical specialist with the local sheriff’s wilderness search and rescue team, and with a federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team. That background inspires my mysteries and thrillers.

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

My wife, Winke, and I are great animal lovers, and our son, Brandon, grew up with the same love for creatures great and small. When we first met, Winke had two orange tabbies, Teddy and Franny. The cats and I fell in love immediately. I’ve always joked I married Winke for her cats, and she agreed to marry me only because the cats insisted.

Currently, we only have one cat, a 15-year-old orange tabby named Harry Potter Maximilian. Unfortunately, Harry’s twin brother, Alexander Theodore, passed a couple of years ago from a stroke. Harry and Alex’s mama cat died in childbirth, and the litter was being hand fed by the owners. But Harry and Alex didn’t respond well to hand feeding. They were near death when they were given to our vet, Dr. Bruce Lindsey. Bruce is a great healer and through a herculean effort saved their lives. About the same time, we lost our two previous cats, Max and Molly, so Bruce gave us Harry and Alex. Harry was the sickest of the two when they arrived at Bruce’s clinic, so we named him Harry Potter, the cat who lived.

We also had a cockatiel we got from my parents. Her name was Tweetie and she ruled the roost. She literally would take no guff off Harry and Alex, but they adored her. They would curl up next to her cage all the time. It’s incredible how much personality can be packed into such a little package.

We also helped raise four or five generations of raccoons. One Christmas several years ago, I looked out our big bay window to find four little bandit faces looking at me over a fence. We immediately put out food and water, and they returned every night until they were grown. Later, the females would bring their babies. Two of the females had distinctive markings, unusual for raccoons, so we could identify them from the others. They always traveled together and would bring their latest babies. We called them Megs and Bines. They would come right up to the window or the sliding glass door and wait for us to put food out. Then they would play or curl up on our deck and sleep. Megs and Bines are gone now, but we still get mommy raccoons bringing their babies to us.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

My latest thriller, The Butcher’s Bill, was published this past June. It’s the second in my Linus Schag, NCIS, series, and is centered around the real-world theft of $9 billion in U.S. cash from Iraq—the biggest heist in history and it’s never been investigated. You can read more about this true-life crime here: https://www.slideshare.net/MartinRoyHill/historys-biggest-heist-and-why-no-one-ever-investigated-it

My current work-in-progress is called Polar Melt and involves a special U.S. Coast Guard team investigating the mysterious disappearance of a research ship’s crew in the nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean. It’s a military sci-fi adventure inspired by global climate change. I spent 13 years in the Coast Guard, active and reserve, and it’s always been my favorite branch.

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

I pretty much grew up with cats, though I also had a dog named Whiskers, a couple of hamsters and turtles, a parakeet, and fish. But cats were always there. When I was just a toddler, we had a cat named Peaches. One day my mother caught me trying to give Peaches a bath in a bucket of soapy water she was using to mop the kitchen floor. Fortunately, she caught me in time. But Peaches never protested or did anything to hurt me. She just put up with me. She was a sweet, gentle thing.

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

I haven’t written much about animals. I write thrillers and I hate the idea of putting an animal in jeopardy in a story. Once I read a James Rollins novel in which a dog was a character. All through that book I kept yelling, “If you kill the dog, I’ll never read your books again!” Fortunately, the dog lived.

I did write a short story once in which a young woman takes vengeance on the man who killed her cat. I wrote it in a fit of anger after reading a newspaper article about an animal abuser. I never sold the story. Probably just as well, because the fate of the abuser was not pretty.

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

I would have to say it was Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey with Sally Fields, Michael J. Fox, and Don Ameche as the voices of the cat and dogs. We watched it all the time when Brandon was little, and we still love it.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

All our cats have had strong personalities, but Franny had the most ferocious personality. We took her to an animal psychic once who said Franny was only the second animal she ever knew who saw no difference between animals and humans. We were all equals in Franny’s eyes.

Once we had to take her to the emergency animal clinic and the vet, a stranger to us, told us Franny was blind because she wouldn’t follow his finger when he moved it back and forth in front of her face. He wouldn’t believe us when we explained she was simply being stubborn because she was upset about being at the clinic. Finally, I said, “Franny, follow the doctor’s finger.” The vet tried again and, sure enough, Franny followed his finger. It blew the vet away. But that was our Franny.

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

In high school, I had an English teacher who enjoyed the compositions I wrote for the class and urged me to consider writing as a career. I got a position on the school paper and started writing short stories. I’ve been doing it ever since.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Due to my work schedule, I do most of my writing on the run sitting in coffee houses and such, using my Kindle Fire and a Bluetooth keyboard. When I do work at home, I sit on the couch with my laptop. When Alex was alive, the laptop was his favorite place to relax. So, whenever he jumped up on the couch and settled down on the keyboard, I knew my workday was over. Harry, on the other hand, likes to curl up on my chest. He drapes himself over my shoulder and chest, and I keep on working.

Harry and I also have a daily ritual. When I get home from work, we go out to our enclosed patio—also known as our “cat-tio.” Harry gets some fresh catnip and I get a Scotch. We call it our “cat-tail hour.”

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

I just finished reading Irwin Shaw’s The Young Lions. I have Ira Levin’s The Boys from Brazil waiting in my Kindle, along with a collection of H.G. Wells’ works, and another collection of Jules Verne’s works. In addition to those, I have several novels written by author friends that I’m planning to read.

Martin’s Website

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A Parting Gift

A Parting Gift by Kathleen Kaska

One question most writers are asked is why we decided to become a writer. For me, that’s an easy one to answer. I became a writer because I wanted to prove I could do it. Another question, but one not so easy for me to answer is, how I got started.

I’d contemplated writing a novel for a long time before I worked on it. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I got the nudge I needed in the summer of 1990. I was a teacher and it was the first day of summer vacation. I came home excited to have a long hiatus from the classroom. When I walked in the door that Friday afternoon, my fifteen-year-old dog, Lito was listless. I could tell he hadn’t eaten much that day and what he did eat, he couldn’t keep down. When his condition didn’t improve, I took him to the vet the next morning. The news was not good—kidney failure. Lito had a couple of weeks at the most. My wonderful vet sent me home with instructions on how to care for Lito and what signs to look for when the time came to help him cross the rainbow.

I was devastated. Lito had taught me unconditional love. I couldn’t image life without him. I was grateful that the situation occurred during the summer, and I could spend every last moment with him. He had always been there for me and it was my turn to be there for him. I decided I would not leave the house, except for a few quick trips to the grocery store and the neighborhood bookstore. At the bookstore, I didn’t even take time to peruse the bookstore shelves. I just walked in, grabbed a book off the bestseller table, and rushed home. During that last month with Lito, I sat by him and read one book after another. I’d always loved to read, but with my busy schedule I managed only one or two books a month. For someone who wants to become a writer, reading a lot is a must. During that difficult time, I probably read twenty books. Lito’s departing gift to me was to develop a passion for reading, which gave me the courage to write. That was twenty-seven years ago. I have nine published books and four more in the queue. The best thing is that, there’s not a day goes by that it don’t think of Lito and all the gifts he gave me.

Lito was a rescue dog. I found him at the pound in Waco, Texas. It was a difficult time in my life and I felt a pet was what I needed to help me through my troubles. When I walked by a pen full of jumping, squealing puppies, I noticed the tiniest one jumping the highest and squealing the loudest. He looked me straight in the eye as if to say, “Get me out of this mess!” I reached in and grabbed him and held him close. He immediately calmed down and I knew at this moment, things would be alright for both of us.

My latest book, Run Dog Run, the first in my new animal-rights mystery series, delves into the world of greyhound racing. A portion of the proceeds from book sales of Run Dog Run will be donated to The Greyhound [adoption organization] Project, Inc. If you read and enjoy my book, a review on Goodreads or Amazon will help spread the word.

Run Dog Run is Kathleen’s first mystery in the new Kate Caraway animal-rights series.

Synopsis:

Animal-rights activist Kate Caraway travels to Texas for much needed rest. But before she has a chance to unpack, her friend’s daughter, who is entangled in the ugly world of greyhound abuse, pleads for Kate’s assistance. On the case for only a few hours, Kate discovers a body, complicating the investigation by adding murder to the puzzle. Now, she’s in a race against time to find the killer before she becomes the next victim.

Kathleen Kaska also writes the awarding-winning Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Kathleen is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Although she spends most of her time on Fidaglo Island in Washington State, she’s a Texas gal. Except for an eighteen-month hiatus living in New York City after college, she lived in the Lone Star State continuously for fifty years. Since then Texas has been hit and miss—a little hit here and there, and a hell of a lot of miss. There was a time when she thought she would happily die in Austin, but things and weather—especially weather—changed that. When she gets homesick, she and her husband plug in the iPhone to Pandora and select Willie—as in Nelson, (I hope you don’t have to ask). Soon they are dancing the two-step, imagining they are at their favorite honky-tonk in Tokyo, Texas where the mayor is believed to be a dog. Who wouldn’t miss that?

Kathleen’s books are available through bookstores, Black Opal Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and her website.

http://www.kathleenkaska.com

http://www.blackopalbooks.com

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Meet Nupur Tustin

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Nupur Tustin to the blog for #WriterWednesday!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.
I’m a former journalist who misuses a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate mayhem in Haydn’s Austria. I also write music. My 1903 Weber Upright is responsible for that crime.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?
We used to have two adorable pit bulls. But Fatty, our oldest, passed on in 2014. Chickie, who really wasn’t all that old, went this last summer. So, unfortunately at this time, we have no pets at all. Once my three children—the oldest is five and the youngest two—are a little older, we might get a dog or two for the family.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?
It’s a strange thing about the eighteenth century, but we never hear about people lavishing attention on their animals. Dogs and horses served a purely utilitarian purpose, and anyone who enjoyed hunting would have owned both. Haydn did enjoy the hunt as did Dittersdorf, a fellow musician, and they were both rather good at it.

Marie Antoinette was thought a bit strange because shortly after she married the Dauphin at the age of fourteen, she asked for a little dog to play with in her chambers. This was as strange as her tendency to invite the children of her chamber maids over to her rooms so she could play with them. In the Viennese court where she grew up, her desire to play and have fun would have been accepted as a natural part of her youthful high spirits. In the Court of Versailles, where etiquette reigned supreme, it was unseemly for the Crown Princess to do anything at all other than to devote herself to her dress and toilette and to observe the proprieties.

Frederick the Great of Prussia was also regarded as eccentric for lavishing as much attention as he did on his Italian greyhounds. They slept on his bed, were served in the best bowls, and the servants were instructed to use the formal “Vous” when addressing them rather than the more usual third person. All of this would have been regarded as being in keeping with his personality: a man who seemed to care little for his fellow humans.

 What are you reading now?

I’m re-reading a biography of Maria Theresa as well reading one of her daughter, Marie Antoinette. A straightforward young girl given over to levity and high spirits, Marie Antoinette was ill-suited for the web of intrigue that was the Court of Versailles. Unlike Vienna, where except for state functions, the royals lived in privacy—indeed almost like country squires—at Versailles, every detail of their lives from sleeping to getting dressed was done in the public eye. Worse still, for seven long years her marriage remained unconsummated.

In giving herself over to pleasure, she was both compensating for this lack of physical intimacy as well as rebelling against the interminable etiquette of the court that constrained her freedom in every manner. But had she heeded her mother’s advice and that of her brother, Joseph II, the revolution might have been avoided. It was fairly easy to make her the scapegoat for everything that was wrong with France, although things had been going wrong for a long time. Louis XV was an extremely unpopular king and the people hoped things would change under Louis XVI.

It’s fascinating to read simultaneously about mother and daughter. Both were pleasure-loving young women. But the mother at twenty-three was tasked with saving the Empire she’d inherited. She had already had two children and was heavily pregnant with her successor, Joseph II. Maria Theresa was forced to take herself to task. But unfortunately, the twin challenges of motherhood and adversity that eventually compelled her to draw upon her inner resources came too late for Marie Antoinette.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on the third Haydn Mystery, Prussian Counterpoint. Haydn will be traveling to Potsdam, a small town in Prussia that Frederick II preferred to Berlin. He spent most of his time there. It might be fun to give Frederick’s Italian greyhounds a strong story role, although I haven’t decided what that will be. They were, apparently, as misogynistic as their master and howled at women!

Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s hard to pick a favorite because there are so many I enjoy. Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti Mysteries are absolutely fascinating. It’s her portrayal of Venice that I find so compelling. Stephanie Barron captures Jane Austen’s voice so perfectly in her mystery series that one almost feels one is words penned by Austen herself. Emily Brightwell’s Mrs. Jeffries Series, so reminiscent of Agatha Christie, have given me many hours of joy as have Kate Kingsbury’s Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries.

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

I’ve always enjoyed writing and since I was always having my essays and stories read out in class, I can’t really remember a time when I, or anyone else, thought I wasn’t one. We used to be given impromptu writing prompts, and I always did well on those. I never had a problem writing a coherent narrative, no matter what the topic.

But was I a storyteller? The confidence to call myself that came much later, once I’d written Minor Deception, the first Haydn Mystery, as well as published a few short stories.

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

I’d like to attend mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. It’s one of the oldest cathedrals in the city, and they still play music by Haydn, Mozart, and their contemporaries. I’m not a particularly religious person. I’m not even Catholic. But what a wondrous experience that would be.

What is the latest Haydn Mystery about?
Aria to Death, the second Haydn Mystery, is about music authentication. Haydn’s friend Kaspar asks him to examine a collection of scores reputed to be the lost operas of Monteverdi. Since seven of the ten operas this great master wrote are lost to us, Haydn is naturally intrigued. Until, of course, the Empress contacts him with a similar request. She, too, has managed to procure a couple of Monteverdi opera scores. Before Haydn can evaluate either set of scores, Kaspar is murdered—brutally beaten and left to die in front of a wine tavern.

The police are quick to dismiss the death as a robbery gone wrong. But Haydn is not so sure. Kaspar’s keys were stolen and his house broken into. Could his bequest be genuine after all? And can Haydn find the true operas—and the man willing to kill for them?

The answer is, of course, in the book!

Aria to Death: A Joseph Haydn Mystery

Genre: Historical Cozy Mystery

Preoccupied with preparations for the opera season at Eszterháza, Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn receives a curious request from a friend in Vienna. Kaspar, an impoverished violinist with an ailing wife, wishes Haydn to evaluate a collection of scores reputed to be the lost operas of Monteverdi.

Haydn is intrigued until Her Majesty, Empress Maria Theresa, summons him with a similar request. Skeptical of the value of Kaspar’s bequest, Haydn nevertheless offers to help. But before he can examine the works, Kaspar is murdered—beaten and left to die in front of a wine tavern.

The police are quick to dismiss the death as a robbery gone wrong. But Haydn is not so sure. Kaspar’s keys were stolen and his house broken into. Could his bequest be genuine after all? And can Haydn find the true operas—and the man willing to kill for them?

About Nupur:

A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem.  The Haydn mysteries are a result of her life-long passion for classical music and its history. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her original compositions, available on ntustin.musicaneo.com.

Her writing includes work for Reuters and CNBC, short stories and freelance articles, and research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. She lives in Southern California with her husband and  three rambunctious children.

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A Calico named Shammy

April 23, 1991 was a very good day. It was the day that Glen and I adopted Shamrock Leah King, a gorgeous long-haired calico, affectionately known as “Shammy.”

We first saw Shammy the day before at the Holiday Humane Society in North Hollywood, California. The shelter required a waiting period of 24 hours before letting us take her home.  When she walked us to the door—no other cat did—we knew that we’d been picked!

At home, Shammy was sweet but timid, with self-esteem issues and a fear of men, including Glen. She came to adore him and became more comfortable with other men. But while her confidence grew, a touch of melancholy stayed with her.

When Glen and I moved from Los Angeles to Virginia in 1996, Shammy accompanied me on the plane. Thankfully it wasn’t full so she didn’t need to stay under the seat in the small carrier the airline required. She was not happy and the tranquilizer the vet had prescribed didn’t seem to take. But she endured the ordeal with her customary dignity. In fact, she fared better than I did!

Eventually Shammy fell prey to that common and dreaded feline condition: kidney disease. By the time she died at home one March morning in 2002, she had lived with us for eleven years. She had always preferred cuddling to lap sitting, but during her last months, she sought comfort in our laps.

We buried her in the backyard of our home in Earlysville, Virginia. I cried for days.

When the Albemarle County SCPA built a new facility, we purchased a brick and dedicated it to our special friend. When we visited the SPCA this past September, we looked for, and eventually spotted, the brick (there were lots of them).

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

Sound familiar?

 

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Meet Patricia Dusenbury

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I used to be an economist who read a lot of mystery stories and dabbled in writing fiction.  When I retired from economics, I began writing fulltime. My mysteries are more puzzle than thriller and more cozy than hard-boiled, but they are not books where someone dies but no one gets hurt. I want to my readers to feel the characters’ emotions. Whether the victim is a homeless man on the margins of society, a nasty old woman, or an aspiring young actress, someone cares that they are gone. I hope the reader cares, too, and cheers when the killer is brought to justice.

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

My husband and I both grew up with dogs, and when our children were young, we had a menagerie of dogs, cats, and guinea pigs, some of which I have used in my writing. I’m down to just one pet these days, a 13-year-old Alaskan malamute named Babe. Every morning, Babe and I walk up a steep hill to a park overlooking San Francisco. If we’re early enough, we catch the sunrise on the bay. It’s good exercise and a good way to begin the day. I have not written about her yet, but I will.

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

Dorian Gray is a large fluffy orange cat and the reincarnation of a large fluffy orange cat my daughter acquired when she was in high school.  Dorian is in all three Claire Marshall books. He is Claire’s companion and comfort. She can tell him anything. And he tries to warn her…   There are also horses in Secrets, Lies & Homicide, because I was one of those little girls obsessed with horses – as was Claire.

What are you reading now?

Zagreb Cowboy by Alen Mattich, a thriller set in Croatia in 1991 just as Yugoslavia is descending into civil war.  It was a Christmas present, given to me because I spent several years working in Croatia after the civil war ended. It’s a page-turner, and I’m enjoying revisiting once familiar places.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I have a “finished” novel and about a third of the sequel in the drawer while I figure out what happens next. Meanwhile, I’ve been writing short stories and have a couple in anthologies, most recently in Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017. I’m in an experimental mood, and short stories allow me to experiment without getting six months down the road and deciding it’s just not working.  One of the short stories I’m fooling around with is a “romance” between a cat lady and a con man.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s a long list because I love to read and there are so many good writers, but If I have to pick one, Elizabeth Strout.  My favorite mystery writer is Louise Penny, and I write the same type of character-driven, not quite cozy mystery that she does.

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

A boxer named Duchess, a hound mix named Chloe, and a German shepherd named Toby were part of my childhood.  My mother resisted rodents as pets, but one of my sisters did have a horned toad. My high-school tying teacher gave me a Siamese cat named Sam that I talked my parents into keeping. Sam has a role in The Cat Lady and The Con Man. For years, I desperately wanted a horse, but it was not to be.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals have been part of my life, and it just feels right to make them part of my main character’s life. I can imagine a world without animals but I wouldn’t want to spend time in it.

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

As a child I devoured Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series (as well as Nancy Drew), but I didn’t like the movies as much.  As an adult, Marley and Me is my favorite. The book and the movie were both wonderful.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Nothing I can repeat here, but trust me, it was funny.

What do your pets do when you are writing?  

Babe lies on the rug by the door to my office. I cannot go anywhere without stepping over her. I believe that’s the point.

Author Biography:

Patricia Dusenbury is a recovering economist trying to atone for all those dull reports by writing mysteries that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, won the 2015 Eppie, the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalitions award, for best mystery. The next two books in the trilogy were finalists for the Eppie: Secrets, Lies & Homicide in 2016 and A House of Her Own 2017. Each book is a stand-alone mystery story. Read in order they are also the story of a young woman’s journey from emotionally fragile widow to a daring new life.  

 Patricia lives on a very steep street in San Francisco and, when she is not writing, can be found hanging out with the grandkids or enjoying the fabulous city that is her home. She is a member of NorCal sisters in Crime.

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