Welcome, Shea Butler!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Shea Butler!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind.  Be led by the dreams in your heart.” 
― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart

 Our dreams and our aspirations make us unique.  I love reaching for the stars, experiencing all that we can and being creative.  I was that little girl who huddled beneath her sheets after “lights out” with a flashlight reading when I was supposed to be sleeping.  I loved being transported to new worlds, experiencing new adventures through the characters and being taken on marvelous journeys.  I hope to do the same for others with my storytelling.  Through my characters and my stories, I hope to illuminate and explore this amazing world we live in, both past, present and future.  I was born in Cairo, Egypt to American parents living abroad and had the great good fortune to be an airline brat.  My father was a 747 Captain for TWA which enabled me to travel the world, experience and see this amazing world we live in.  I am a horsewoman.  I grew up Fox Hunting and in my early thirties I played polo, being on a team that won a National 5 Goal Indoor Polo Championship.  I love reading, gardening and fishing.  I am also a certified scuba diver.  Some of the places I’ve dived include Mexico, Hawaii, California and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  I work in the television and film business.  I am an award winning writer, producer and director.  While most of my focus has been on television and film, I am now venturing back into novel and short story writing.  I write action and adventure but am planning on expanding into sci-fi.  I believe one should live life to the fullest, experience all one can and share with others.  I love being adventuresome, love exploring new places and things.  I believe it inspires and enriches my storytelling. 

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

I cannot imagine life without a fur baby of some sort.  I grew up with a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats, horses, sheep, cattle, chickens, a racoon, hamsters, fish, and even a baby alligator.  I love dogs and horses and miss having both but was fortunate to grow up with them.  Each one holds a special place in my heart and I know I’ll see them all on the other side of the rainbow bridge.  Recently, my heart broke when I had to put down my big, grey Thoroughbred, Silver Matt.  I know I will get another horse and another dog but right now, the only pet I have is Lucy, a long-haired tri-color cat.  She was a stray that showed up on my doorstep as a tiny kitten.  I came home from work late at night and there she was.  Imagine, after giving her a bowl of milk and some treats she never left!  Several characters in my stories have stray cats that just showed up and stayed.  Art imitating life.

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

While not a pet, I just finished a children’s book, “Finding Home: The Adventures of Abo, the Wild African Puppy,” about a Wild African Puppy who is lost in the Okavango Delta of Botswana.  I wrote the book as a prop for the short film, “Finding Home,” which I wrote and directed (currently in post production.)  The film is about a mother reading her son’s favorite book to him while he’s in a coma in the hopes that the story and her voice will help bring him out of his coma and back home to her.  I intercut between the hospital room, the children’s book and African footage I shot while on a horseback riding safari in Botswana.  After writing the script for the film, I realized that I would also have to write the children’s book.  That was quite the adventure in and of itself as I had never written a children’s book before.  It was so much fun to tell the story of Abo and his interaction with all the wild animals in his search for his pack in the book through my still photos from my trip.  The Wild African Dogs, or Painted Dogs as they are also known, are an endangered species and hopefully I’ll find a publisher for the book so proceeds from sales can go to the conservation of these beautiful animals.

 In my short story, “Giving Up The Ghost,” my main character, a private investigator, has a beat up, stray alley cat named Tazer who just showed up on the fire escape outside her office.  I hope to expand the short story into a novel and Tazer will definitely be a character in the story.  Like many cats, he’s demanding, indignant and entitled even though he’s a stray.

 I have also co-written a comic book:  Undercover Cockroach: The C.I.A.’s Smallest Undercover Roach.  Cockroaches aren’t exactly pets but I love the little critter.  You can find the comic on Amazon.

What are you reading now?

 I have a stack of books by my bed.  I’m an avid and very fast reader.  I love “beach” reading – romance, mysteries, westerns, crime and science fiction.  Right now, I have “The Wolves of Winter” by Tyrell Johnson, “Shattered Mirror” by Iris Johansen, “Hold Back The Dark” by Kay Hooper and “The Walls” by my friend Holly Overton.  I am in the process of re-reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” and “Directors Tell The Story” by Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just finished the first draft of a coming of age screenplay that I hope to direct next spring.  In terms of novel writing, I am adapting my film noir, bounty hunter screenplay into a novel that will become an on-going book series.  I am also writing a new short story about a murder that takes place during a baking competition.  After that, I hope to tackle expanding “Giving Up The Ghost” into a full length novel.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Dick Francis is one of my all time favorite authors.  All his novels are set in the world of English horseracing.  As an ex-jockey for the Queen of England, he knew that world well.  As an avid equestrian, I love being immersed in the world of horses.  I am also a big Patricia Briggs and Stephen King fan and love the Eve Dallas books by J.D. Robb.

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

Animals were a staple of my life growing up.  I have pictures of my father holding me as an infant on one of his polo ponies and pictures of our German Shepard puppy in Egypt where I was born.  Of course, there were always horses.  My sister and I also had a donkey named Tequila, TeeKee for short, a border collie named Lady, a racoon, a baby alligator (see below for that story) as well as numerous cats. 

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals are amazing and enrich our lives.  They are part of the world we live in so interacting with animals and pets is a daily part of people’s lives.  So, it makes sense that they would be part of the daily lives of the characters I create.  Pets are always happy to see you and no matter how horrendous your day was, they will give you unabashed love and devotion if you give it to them in return.

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

“The Black Stallion” is a favorite, both the book and the movie.  High seas, a mysterious stallion, and a ship wreck – as a child I was transported into this fictional world.

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

I was always a voracious reader.  My mother read to me as a toddler and I couldn’t get enough of books as a child.  I loved books even more than watching television or going to the movies.  So, it was only natural that I started scribbling little stories in a notebook growing up.  My first real story was about a girl and a young foal she rescues when its mother died.  Hmmm… horses again.  I do see a recurring theme.  I moved a lot as a child and during one of those moves, the handwritten tale got lost.  I do wish I still had a copy of it but I’m sure I’d cringe if I read it today.  But completing that story fired my imagination to create more stories and I knew from that time that I would always write and tell my stories, whether published or not.

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

While I will always write regardless of being published or not, I would love to see one of my books published in hardback and up on library shelves.  That is one of the top five on my bucket list.  Other items on my bucket list include travels to Scotland and Norway (I have ancestral ties to those countries), directing a full length feature film and enjoying life day by day. 

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Lucy, my tri-color kitty, is rather bored by the process.  I am usually curled up on my bed or in a big armchair with my laptop when I write and totally focused.  She will occasionally insist on being the center of attention by getting between me and my laptop and demanding that I pet her.  If she doesn’t get her way, she has been known to pounce.  She has very sharp teeth and lets me know that she’s not happy I’m paying more attention to my fictional characters than I am to her.  After all, life for a cat is all about them!  But for the most part she’ll stroll outside and nap in the sunshine in my garden.

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

The most unusual pet I ever had was a baby alligator.  Years ago, and before it was illegal, a friend of my father’s shipped him a baby alligator.  It was the size of a salamander and my older sister and I begged to keep it.  My parents were exceedingly open to allowing my sister and I to experience and explore the world and everything in it, so they said yes.  Off we went to the store to get a large aquarium and a mesh top for it.  We kept the baby alligator until it got to be about a foot long feeding it raw chicken.  By then, it was getting too much to handle, even with gloves, and the aquarium was too small.  At that point, we donated it to a zoo and we’d go and visit it there.

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

I have always loved to read curled up in bed.  I think it goes back to when I was a child with that flashlight.  But honestly, I can read anywhere.  On a train, a plane, in a car, at the beach and certainly sitting in my garden.  I will lose all track of time and totally become immersed in the world of the story and the real world will disappear.  In regard to my writing, I prefer to write curled up on the couch or in a big armchair with my laptop.  I do have a desk but it seems too business-like and sterile.  I love to have the windows and doors open to hear the birds, the rustle of the wind and smell the flowers.  Many times, I will suddenly look up from writing (or reading) and realize it is the middle of the night and hours have passed.

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

Writing is hard work, time consuming and there’s a lot of rejection.  So, love the telling of stories and the creation of unknown worlds in and of itself.  While being published is fabulous and we all love to be recognized for our hard work, it may be years before you are.  Love the process.  If you do, persevere because, bottom line, you aren’t a writer unless you write.  So, butt in the chair, hands on the keys and… ready, set, go!

About Shea:

Shea is an award-winning filmmaker for her short films “The Trial of Ben Barry,” “The Waystation,” and the 2017 web series, “Trouble Creek.” Currently, she’s in post-production on a short film, “Finding Home,” and writing the feature film, “Dare,” to direct in 2019. Shea’s an alumni of Ryan Murphy’s Half Foundation Directing Fellowship and the Warner Bros. Television Director’s Workshop. She’s been a development executive, a segment producer for reality TV and a script supervisor for television and film with an MA in TV & Film. She’s a member of the Writers Guild, IATSE 871, Alliance of Women Directors and the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, Sisters In Crime and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

 She is a certified scuba diver and avid horsewoman and was on a polo team that won a U.S. National 5 Goal Polo Championship. Born in Cairo, Egypt to American parents living abroad, Shea has traveled extensively throughout the world, her most recent trip being a horseback riding safari through the Okavango Delta in Botswana. 

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Welcome, KB Inglee!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, KB Inglee and her menagerie to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is KB Inglee. My parents started calling me KB as an infant to differentiate me from all the other Katharines in our family. When I attended my first writing conference in the 1990s, I was surprised how many other women were using their initials instead of their full name.

I write historical mystery short
stories, and work as an interpreter at a local living history museum. The
picture I have included shows me in 18h century farm wife attire trying to keep
a sheep from running out the open gate behind me. I am not reaching down to pat her.

I write three protagonists, Emily Lawrence, lady detective in the late 1800s, Faith Ivey in early colonial New England, and Iccarus Norton, in the early republic. Only Iccarus has an animal, his horse, Medusa. I think I came up with the pair because I had no animal in my other work.

Emily has her own book, The Case Book of Emily Lawrence. The others appear in short story anthologies.

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

We have five turtles, two budgies (Blueberry and Pi), four cats, and one dog.  None appear in my writing. Though after much urging by my dog Wendy, I have started a series of short stories about a service dog.

What are you reading now?

Aria to Death by Nupur Tustin.  I love fiction about real
people, and this is a well researched series. No pets. No farm animals.  I
think she mentions a cart horse now and then.

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

When I realized I had no animals,I did two things. I went back and gave Emily a kitchen cat and I named one of the carriage horses Benjamin.  Last Christmas, for my holiday story, I started a series about a service dog and the college professor who relies on him to get around. It is fun to write. Anonymous Dog has yet to find his way into print.

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

I’ve started a series of short stories about a Portuguese Water Dog/Irish Wolfhound that is a support dog for a college professor with a degenerative bone disease. The human is based on my daughter who is just beginning her search for the right dog. The story is from the point of view of the dog, so I don’t have to be specific about the ailment, or much of anything else. How much do dogs actually know? Like all dogs he is red green color blind but he has great senses of smell and hearing.

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

I love the Will James books about life in the west. They are illustrated by the author with action packed line drawings. They are about horses but when I read them I felt like I was reading an adult book.

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

I think it was fourth grade. I wrote a story about a girl and her horse. When my daughter was young, I wrote a series of kids’ stories that she could have read to her when I was away. I didn’t start writing adult stuff until I was in my 50s and ready to retire from my day job as a psych social worker.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Wendy (the dog) finds writing boring, so she sleeps through it. The birds yell. Do you think they are sending me plots? The cats are in the other room, and the turtles don’t care about anything except food.

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

My bedroom floor is my TBR. It divides into fiction and non-fiction. I read probably one non-fiction for each two fiction. Lots of the nonfiction is research either for my writing or my job. I just finished a book on the difference between how native people and European settlers behaved toward animals. Fiction pile consists mostly of mysteries.

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

We had an iguana that came from an iguana rescue. Something was wrong with how her front legs worked, but she got around well anyway. Oh, yes and a rooster who lived in my dining room. The museum got a shipment of chicks to work in the garden, lay eggs for us and on occasion, provide a meal. We chose dominiques since they would have been common in the 1750s. One bonus chick was included, a Hamburg rooster. The Dominique hens beat the s**t out of him, so I took him home to heal, but I was never able to introduce him back into the flock.

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

Start early and persist until you learn the craft. Find a community to support and teach you.’

Visit KB at her website.

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My First Aussie, Sydney

My First Aussie, Sydney

After saying goodbye to Gretchel, our White Shepherd, my husband and I chose our first eight-week-old, red-merle, Australian shepherd, and gave him a unique name, Sydney! We had been told Aussies could learn words like a two or three-year-old child. Since I was teaching special needs children, I had to give it a try.

We spoke to him, using one or two words at first. I named his toys and when he knew the word ball, he also distinguished the difference between a ball or a football. After doing research to see if dogs saw colors, I taught him the names of colors. He recognized shades of blue, light yellow, darker yellow (sort of brown), and very dark gray.
Sydney craved learning new things. My husband and I started spelling words, thinking he’d not understand. But he listened to us spell and picked up on the meaning by our actions. His favorites were: BED! GO! CAR! TRIP! WALK!

He was a red, brown, and white bundle of energy, and needed to be kept active, mentally and physically. His instinct of herding became a problem when our petite, three-year-old niece visited. She could not walk down the hall. She ran. Her rapid movements made Sydney want to nip her ankles. We kept him on leash when she visited, until she grew larger and he matured.

Every year we traveled to Edisto Beach with our best friends and spent long, delightful weekends in an old house, overlooking the ocean. Digging in the sand, chasing seagulls, and biting the waves kept Syd busy. Unfortunately, he learned the hard way not to drink the salt water. A tablespoon of pumpkin everyday helped the bad effect of the ocean water.

My husband and I fell in love with the high maintenance of an Aussie personality, and have had three other Aussies. After Sydney’s death, I wanted to keep his memory alive and he became my main character on Edisto’s setting in Seven Days to Goodbye. I had as much trouble writing the last chapters as the readers who were affected.

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Welcome, L. C. Hayden

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, L. C. Hayden to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is L. C. Hayden and I’m known for my adventures and for my travels. Readers are always curious as to why this is so. To answer this, let’s take a glance at my books. Aimee Brent, my character in the Aimee Brent Mystery Series, learned how to scuba dive. Do you really think I’m going to let her have more fun than me? No way! She had to learn how to scuba dive, so I learned how to scuba dive—and I’m loving it!

On the Bronson Thriller Series, my character Bronson has a motor home and travels all over. Well, guess what? I have a motor home and I travel all over. No way Bronson is going to travel all over and not me!

I suppose I can call myself lucky as I feel I have been touched many times by miracles and angels. Those experiences led me to write a series based on mine and others’ angel and miracle experiences. Thank God, these books are very well received, both nationally and internationally.

One of my greatest joy is being a grandmother, which is the reason I wrote the children’s picture books. Naturally, they feature various animals.

Being an adventurous soul, I have also authored other books in various genres, but my love still remains with mysteries/thrillers and the angels series.

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

At one time, I had 10 dogs. That was quite a circus. My mom used to joke that she would never have grandkids, only granddogs. Now, mainly because of all the traveling I do, I only have one dog who to me is my child with four legs. She is slowly working her way into my Bronson series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently writing the fourth book in the angels/miracle series. But as I write this one, my mind is actively with Bronson and his next adventure which will introduce Honey, the Basenji dog. Yay!

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

Since I haven’t yet written the book, I’m not sure how it’s going to go. But I foresee introducing Honey to this series and as the series progresses, Honey will have a larger and larger active part in the stories.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

The question should be why do you not include animals in your writing? They are a natural. No matter what breed or type of animal they are, they are a very big part of us humans. In one of my children’s books, Puppy Dog and His Bone, I use dogs, monkeys, birds, fish and a host of other animals to show children the importance of team work.

In my latest thriller, What Lies Beyond the Fence, I use the majesty of a white wolf to add danger but also to show the intelligence of this breed.

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

As a child, I was never much of a reader. Then one day, for some unknown reason, I picked up a book and started reading. It was called Tan, the Wild Dog. I fell in love with that dog and with reading. Ever since then I have become a voracious reader, thanks to that particular book. The sad part is that I don’t even remember what the book is about. I guess I should try to find that book and re-read it. So thank you, Tan, the Wild Dog and its author, for opening a whole new world for me.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My husband Rich decided to nap. He’d been asleep no more than ten minutes when Honey, our Basenji dog, walked up to him so that her face is close to Rich’s. Then she let out a loud yelp. I rushed over to her so that she wouldn’t wake Rich up, but Honey was insistent. She let out another big yelp and another . . .

Naturally, Rich woke up and looked at the dog who continued to yelp. “What are you trying to tell me? You want to go outside? Is that it?” He got up, and as soon as he did, Honey jumped up on the bed and laid down where Rich was.

She got what she wanted. What a dog. Sigh.

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

Ever since I was a little girl, I always enjoyed story telling—and just telling other’s stories, both those I made up. As I grew, I started writing them. Mostly, they were romances or stories that featured a pet. As I became an adult, that passion grew and now I have over 25 books published. I will never stop writing. It’ll be a “’till death do us apart” type of thing.

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

I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights. I have attempted to do so four different times, but they have fizzled out—too cloudy, just didn’t show up, too far away. Sigh. One time in Yellowknife (upper Canada) I did get to see them but only for about two to three minutes. That small view only wet my appetite for seeing the “real” thing.

Is it hard to travel with your pet?

That’s a question I often get asked. The answer is no, but you do have to plan ahead. If traveling by car, you need to know which motels accept dogs and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make reservations. Of course, if you’re traveling in a motor home as I often do, then there are no problems. It also helps if your dog is quiet, such as Basenjis. This is a breed of barkless dogs. But they are not silent. They yodel and yelp, but if your dog is like mine, not 100% Basenji, she can still bark when she wants to, but it seldom happens.

What makes you think your pet is intelligent?

I know my dog is super intelligent because she has shown us over and over again who rules this nest. During this one particular time, we had all three grandkids over and each wanted to give the dog a treat. We let them. Then I fed Honey. Normally, after she eats, we give her 2 treats. Since she already had 3 treats, I told my husband, Rich, to give her only one treat. Honey didn’t like that. After she ate her first treat, she barked and barked until we gave her the second one. Geesh!

About L. C. Hayden

Award winning author L. C. Hayden is the creator of the popular Harry Bronson and Aimee Brent mystery series and the standalone, Secrets of the Tunnels. Hayden is known in the mystery field for her edge of the seat suspense and her surprise endings. Her mysteries have hit the Kindle, the B&N, and the Pennsylvania Top Seller Lists. The books have been finalist for the Agatha and the LCC Awards and others.

Her nonfiction angel/miracle series consists of spiritually uplifting books that leave the reader wanting more. They have often hit various Kindle Top Seller Lists.

Besides being an accomplished author, Hayden is a popular speaker who is often in demand. She has done workshop and school presentations, has spoken to clubs and organizations, and was hired by several major cruise lines to speak while cruising all over the world. From October 2006 to October 2007, Hayden hosted Mystery Writers of America’s only talk show, Murder Must Air.

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Welcome Guest Author Edith Maxwell & An ARC Giveaway!

Judy Penz Sheluk reporting in…July 14th is my author rotation date for this multi-author blog, but as luck would have it, July 14th is my birthday (I won’t tell you which one) AND I’m going to be on vacation with very patchy internet (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Fortunately, my friend, award-winning author and the awesomely talented Edith Maxwell has agreed to fill in for me. Not only that…she’s offering an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) giveaway of her latest book, Death Over Easy, for one lucky commenter. Can I pick a guest author or what? Take it away, Edith! 

Where Did Birdy Come From? by Edith Maxwell

I’m delighted to be back on this lovely pet-centered blog. Thanks to Judy for inviting me! I’ve saved my last advance copy of Death Over Easy (release date July 31, 2018) for one commenter here today, and I’m hoping whoever wins it will love the read and be eager to post a positive review.

I want to introduce you to the foundling kitty in my Country Store Mysteries. He’s named Birdy and he waltzed into book one, Flipped for Murder, this way:

I fastened on my helmet and was about to throw a leg over the cycle when I heard a plaintive sound from the antique lilac a long-dead shopkeeper must have planted a century earlier. I heard the sound again. It was coming from under the bush, whose leaves had turned a winey deep red. I leaned the bike against the wall and squatted to look.

 A forlorn cat huddled there, its long-haired black coat lightened by a white face with one black eye patch. I’d never seen it before.

 Hey, kitty cat. Come here.” I scratched the ground in front of me. “It’s okay.”

 The cat made its way slowly toward me. But when I reached out to pet it, it retreated under the bush again, keeping its eyes on me with a hungry look. I stood, watching it.

 Whose kitty are you? And why are you afraid?” When I got no response, I unlocked the door and filled two small dishes, one with milk and one with water. I set them on the ground near the bush, made sure I locked up again, and set off down Main Street.

My protagonist Robbie Jordan names him Birdy because he chirps when he purrs. I named my real life rescue cat Birdy, whom I had for fourteen sweet years, for exactly that reason. Always curious, always playful, he never slowed down until he got very sick and died in two short weeks a year ago. I still miss his youthful energy around the house.

In the series, Birdy has a cat door and gets to go in and out at will during the day, although Robbie locks him into her apartment at the back of her country store restaurant, Pans ‘N Pancakes, at night. He’s not supposed to be in the restaurant for public health reasons, but when she’s doing prep after hours, she lets him browse and supervise. He, like the real Birdy, is fast and endlessly curious, and the other side of a closed door is always more interesting.

I’m delighted Kensington puts Birdy on the cover of every book. In the new book, he’s even in one of Robbie’s B&B rooms, which is strictly forbidden. Did I say he was sneaky? The artist’s rendition isn’t exactly true to his handsome looks, but it’s close.

I set several scenes in Death Over Easy at the Bill Monroe Music Festival grounds, which are in Beanblossom in southern Indiana. Yes, that’s the name of a real town, and it has its own covered bridge, just like in New England, where I live. Too bad a murder victim turns up in the bridge…

I hope you enjoy the read. I love writing this series and being back in the region where I lived for five happy years in my late twenties, and where my Maxwell ancestors settled two hundred years ago.

Readers: Which covered bridges have you traveled through? Have you had tuxedo cats, and if so, what are their names? Or just ask me a question – I promise I’ll answer.

About the author: Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mysteries, the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. She is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau and two elderly cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com and KillerCharacters.com. Read about all her personalities and her work at edithmaxwell.com, and please find her on social media – she loves to talk to readers.

Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect from Death Over Easy: Restaurateur Robbie Jordan is ready for the boost in business a local bluegrass festival brings to South Lick, Indiana, but the beloved event strikes a sour note. The celebration is cut short when a performer is found choked to death by a banjo string. Now all the banjo players are featured in a different kind of lineup. To clear their names, Robbie must pair up with an unexpected partner to pick at the clues and find the plucky killer before he – or she – can conduct an encore performance.

FIND THE BOOK

Leave a comment for a chance to win an ARC of Death Over Easy! 

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Welcome, D. A. Spruzen!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome D. A. Spruzen to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I grew up near London, England and came to the U.S.A. in 1966.  In the 80’s I became Manager of Information Systems in the high-tech industry, then Manager of Publications for a defense contractor.  I had wanted to write fiction for many years and technical writing didn’t quiet the itch.  I’d abandoned my artistic background, which included a degree in dance education, leading to a stint on the faculty of a London theater school.  Finally I resigned, taught ballet again and ran my own art business, but still craved the music of the written word and the vivid images I could create with stories rather than paint.  When I turned 60, I woke up.  If not now, when?  I took workshops before working with a mentor, who urged me to apply to graduate school.  I earned my MFA in creative writing with a concentration in fiction.  Now I do what I love: not only write poetry and fiction, but also teach other adults with a dream and watch them progress.

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

At the height of our menagerie, we had five cats and three dogs, not to mention hermit crabs, birds and fish! I only have one dog now, a cavalier King Charles spaniel, Samson. Sam is a sweet cuddlebug and perfect company. We have a house on the Chesapeake Bay and it’s easy to pack a dog in the car and go. Not so easy with a cat—they don’t appreciate change.

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

Samson appears in my novel in progress, Sleuthing with Mortals. I’m quite sure he will show up again. I’ve had him for a couple of years, adopted from a friend when he was two. My late Jack Russel terrier Henry appeared in Not One of Us, and my late top cat Jaspar appears in a short story.

What are you reading now?

I just finished the latest Bruno, Chief of Police (Martin Walker) mystery, to my sorrow. It’s always hard to leave the south of France. I’m about to embark on the new Matthew Pearl novel The Dante Chamber.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I should be working on two sequels; one is the third in a mystery trilogy about a female serial killer, and the other historical fiction—a sequel to The Blitz Business. However, after a number of personal losses, I found myself in a slump and realized I had to break free and do something entirely different. I’ve always loved Scandinavia and Norse mythology, so I decided on urban fantasy. Thus, Sleuthing with Mortals was born, in which a Norse goddess living in a Northern Virginia suburb decides to become a private detective. Lots of opportunity for sequels!

 Who is your favorite author and why?

British author John Lawton is a favorite. He is a former investigative reporter who writes a mystery series set in London just before, during and after World War II (my favorite historical period). His protagonist is the son of a naturalized Russian aristocrat, a wealthy publisher. He has to overcome the disdain of his colleagues, who find it hard to believe a young man from an aristocratic family, educated in the finest schools, could possibly prove himself a competent and courageous detective. Lawton writes beautifully and with historical accuracy. His diverse characters are made of whole cloth.

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

Rover was a Welsh Border Collie, who used to try to herd the family on walks. He lived to be sixteen.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like to immortalize my pets in my work. I’ve used four: Sam, Henry, Jaspar, and a Siamese cat named Sascha. I tend to use them as creatures that help heal their people of whatever troubles them.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I won’t go into the entire series of events. We were living in Saudi Arabia at the time and had an irascible Sudanese servant named Abdul, who disliked our cat, whom our children had imaginatively named Mr. Cat. In one misunderstanding of many, I thought Abdul was complaining about a backache. I gave him some Tiger Balm (like Ben Gay) and told him to rub it in. When my husband came home he emerged from his room and talked quietly with him, before going back into his room and slamming the door on Mr. Cat, who sat outside making strange noises. My husband came inside and asked, “Whatever did you give Abdul Karim for his hemorrhoids?” I could have sworn that cat was laughing.

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

I love Oman and its people. The Royal Botanical gardens is still under construction. It will hold each plant that grows in Oman (some only grow in Oman), maintain a store of seeds and conduct research. It promises to be an impressive accomplishment. When it is open to the public, I want to visit. Also, the Royal Opera House in Muscat is an incredible state of the art venue. When I go back I will also attend a performance there. Then off to a resort in the south! The father of the current Sultan was quite reactionary and kept Oman back. In just forty years, the Sultan has achieved first rate systems for education, health, transportation, and infrastructure. While it is a traditional society to a point, Omanis are easy going and hospitable. Foreigners are welcome and made to feel comfortable.

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

I have no idea how many books I have in my queue! Kindle is a problem that way. I see a good review in the Washington Post or a friend makes a recommendation and, clickety click!

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

I have my own study that has a window looking out on the front yard. But my favorite place when I am alone is what we call the Garden Room, which looks out on the back yard with a birdfeeder strategically placed so I can look up from time to time to see who has come to call. I like to paint there, too.

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

Learn your craft! Attend classes and workshops, be part of a community of writers. Work at it. Understand that writing the first draft is the easy part. The real work comes in the revision process.

About D. A.

Dorothy Hassan, who writes as D. A. Spruzen has lived in Northern Virginia since 1971, except for a two-year hiatus in the Middle East. She grew up near London, U.K., where she graduated from the London College of Dance and Drama Education before joining the faculty of  London Theater School. Many years later, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and teaches writing for the McLean Community Center when she’s not seeking her own muse.  She also runs private critique workshops in her home and is a past president of the Northern Virginia Writers Club. In another life she was Manager of Publications for a defense contractor.

 Dorothy’s short stories and poems have appeared in many publications, most recently in three anthologies, Joys of the Table (poetry, Richer Resources Publications), the Creatures, Crimes and Creativity conference anthology, and Crossing Lines (Main Street Rag). Her novel The Blitz Business, set in WWII England, was published by Koehler Books in August 2016 and a poetry collection, Long in the Tooth, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Dorothy self-published the first two novels in her Flower Ladies Trilogy and Crossroads, two novellas. When she’s not writing, Dorothy likes to read, paint, and garden.

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Welcome, Skye Taylor

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Skye Taylor to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

The saying, Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming … WOW! What a ride!” is my mantra. Life is an adventure and I’m still working my way through an exciting bucket list. I’m a mom and grandmother. I’ve jumped out of perfectly good airplanes and love sailing, skiing, swimming, hiking and riding horses. I joined the Peace Corps in my 50s and had the most amazing experience in a tiny island nation in the South Pacific. And while I haven’t yet seen all the states, I’ve spent time in 28 of them and lived in eight. I’ve traveled on four continents, visited 15 countries and lived in two. I started out as a stay-at-home mom but have since been employed in several different fields and am thoroughly enjoying my latest career as a published author. I’ve hiked over glaciers, gone up in a helicopter, gone swimming with whales, crawled through lava tubes and dove into underwater caves. And just think of all the things I haven’t tried yet! One of the best things about writing novels is that I get to create characters who get to do some of the things I’ve done and some of those I haven’t had the time for yet.

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

My first dog was an English Bulldog named Salty who decided  after my dad posed me with him for a photo when I was about 6 months old that he needed to be in every picture of me thereafter. We rescued an abandoned baby squirrel when I was a kid and we’ve had gerbils, hamsters, parakeets, cats and fish too. Some of them are definitely models in my novels. My current pet, a mutt named MacDuff (picture attached) is my writing companion and my social director. I live on the beach and everyone in my neighborhood goes past my house to get to the sand. Duff has decided not only does he need to monitor this activity, but I need to come out to say hello to everyone who greets him on their way by. Which gets me out of my chair on a regular basis. It’s good for writers to be reminded to chat with real people now and then.

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

In my Camerons of Tide’s Way series there are pets in every book. But a couple of them are special. In Loving Meg, there is a police K-9 named Kip who is still grieving for his lost partner, and he intuitively takes on the task of helping my heroine, who is a Marine lieutenant just returned from a war zone with a ton of guilt and PTSD. Together they help to heal each other. While researching this book, I discovered a non-profit group, K-9s for Warriors in Northeast Florida that rescues dogs from shelters and trains them as service dogs for returned warriors who are suffering from PTSD. As of June 2018, this group has rescued 880 dogs and 445 soldiers. All my royalties from Loving Meg are donated to this cause. Kip has also appeared in other books in the series as has the kennel Ben Cameron runs and the program he initiated to train service dogs.

In my new series I have given my protagonist two pets: a cat with a lot of attitude named Seamus and a young lab named Murphy, for obvious reasons.

What are you reading now?

I just finished listening to Seeing Red by Sandra Brown and the newest Tom Clancy novel. On my phone I just finished the first book in a new series by J.H.Webber – a cozy mystery with an amateur sleuth who is a real estate agent. The book’s title is A House to Die For. I’m also reading Death at Nuremberg by W.E.B.Griffin, and Sailing Away from the Moon by Ann Henry. I’m also reading a book I picked up at a conference titled, Bullies, Bastards and Bitches – How to write Bad Guys in Fiction, by Jessica Morrell. An awesome book considering my newest project.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

With Keeping His Promise, the fifth book in my contemporary romance series completed and released, I have turned my energy and enthusiasm to a totally new project, a mystery (I hope will become a series) with a female deputy sheriff detective as the protagonist. She’s lived the life her mother ordained for her right up until her husband cheated on her with a woman only a few years older than his own daughter. Now it was her turn to live the life she always wanted – to be a cop like her dad. And it turns out she’s good at it. To complicate her life, she has a disapproving mother, a son who barely speaks to his father and a daughter who thinks her dad’s new lady friend is far more interesting than her mom. Jesse’s partner, her mentor and the man who would like to be more than a friend round out the nucleus of this new cast of characters. Set in Northeast Florida, in a town named Coquina Beach, the series starts with a woman murdered in her own home. Her husband is the obvious suspect, but Jesse is convinced he didn’t do it, so who did?

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have so many it’s hard to name them all, but for a start: Elizabeth Ogilvie, Georgette Heyer, W.E.B. Griffin, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Lee Child, A. E. Howe, Diana Gabaldon and Johanna Spryi. All of them because they write a great story with people I can really care about. Some of them write stories that keep me on the edge of my seat, others I can curl up with to enjoy on a cold rainy day or take to the beach.

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

In some of my stories, like Kip in Loving Meg, are an important character in their own right, in others they are there because it’s a way of life for me and there seems to be something missing when there isn’t a pet wagging in greeting at the door or winding their way through your legs as you try to put dinner on the table.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals in stories play a number of roles. Sometimes they are just comedic relief. Other times they give the author a great vehicle to show a human character’s good or bad side. How a man treats an animal says a lot about what kind of person he is.

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

See the answer to the question above. Kip started out his career as a Police K-9, but later becomes a service animal for Meg. In later books, he shows up as a therapy dog when Meg visits the hospital at Camp Lejeune to help injured Marines find a positive attitude in dealing with injuries, both physical and emotional.

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

The book, Until Tuesday, by Luis Carlos Montalvan is the true story of how a beautiful golden retriever named Tuesday rescued this seriously injured, both physically and mentally, soldier and gave him back his life. The beautiful, trusting relationship that grew for these two was heartwarming and gave such promise for other wounded veterans. There are several other books out about Tuesday and Montalvan telling how he used his success to motivate others.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

For this question, I’m just going to give you the link to my blog post about the time my dog took off in the middle of a thunderstorm to swim ashore (like that was safer than the solid wooden cottage he was in at the time)

https://www.askyetaylor.com/blogging_by_the_sea/view/237

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

Which pile?  The one beside my bed? The one on my desk? Or perhaps the one on the ottoman in front of my comfy reading chair? Then there’s the audible books on my phone and the e-books on my Kindle. And there’s Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader beside the toilet. Beside my bed is my Bible, two romances and a children’s book. On my desk are books on formatting, character development and police procedure. On the ottoman the pile changes constantly and includes magazines, newspapers and any other print book I’ve got going. Currently the aforementioned Bullies, Bastards and Bitches, and Jeff Shaara’s newest book, The Frozen Hours. On my phone in audio book are a half a dozen titles and at least 30 I haven’t read yet on my Kindle. I think I need to live to about 300 to get all of them read!

About Skye

Skye Taylor, mother, grandmother and returned Peace Corps volunteer lives St Augustine Florida, soaking up the history, taking daily walks along one of the prettiest beaches and writing novels. She posts a weekly blog and a monthly newsletter, volunteers with the USO and is currently working on a new murder mystery series. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Florida Writers Association, and Sisters in Crime. Her list of published novels include: The Candidate, Falling for Zoe, Loving Meg, Trusting Will, Healing a Hero, Keeping His Promise and Iain’s Plaid. Visit her at www.Skye-writer.com

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A Virtual Zoo — All in One Book

by Barb Goffman

It’s July, the perfect time for a beach read. You know, a book that’s fun and not too dark. Something you can read on the sand in between naps. And what could be better for the beach than a book of mystery short stories? Especially one filled with animals–perfect for the fun factor.

I’ve talked briefly before about Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies, which was published this spring by Wildside Press. But you haven’t had a chance to meet the stars of this book. So without further ado, I present both the fur and the feathers. In this book you’ll find stories with all of these animals. I hope you’ll check it out:

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Welcome, Carol Hedges

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Carol Hedges to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 I write historical crime fiction, set in the Victorian period. My books feature the newly formed Detective Division of the Metropolitan police. The main characters are Detective Inspector Leo Stride, and Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. In some of the later books, they are joined by Inspector Lachlan Grieg, who has come to London from Scotland, to remake his life after a broken heart. The books have been compared to Charles Dickens, in their tone and style, a compliment that I find overwhelming!   I have chosen to set my books in the 1860s ~  at the time Dickens and his famous contemporary Wilkie Collins were writing. This is a deliberate choice: there are an awful lot of Victorian novels, past and present, set in the 1880s. I didn’t want to add to their number.

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

 I am a cat person. I have been owned by a succession of lovely cats. The present boss is a tortoiseshell/Siamese female called Halley (Kitteny, the grandchildren call her). All my lovely cats have been rescue animals ~ I would NEVER buy a pet when there are so many who have been abandoned and need a forever home. Halley is a wonderful mix of Tortie obstinacy and Siamese volume! She has far more character than a cat should have! I love her dearly, even though she isn’t a lap-sitter and cuddler, more a sitter-next-to. I am also aware, given my age and health, that she might be my last cat, so despite being a ‘cat that sits by herself’, she is cherished and very special to me.

What are you reading now? 

Right now, apart from researching for the seventh novel, I am reading Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd. For someone who is Jewish, and lost family in the Holocaust, this may seem an odd choice, but I am trying to understand what is happening in my country (the UK) and in the US and wider afield. The book shows how ordinary people gradually began to accept the terrible philosophies and actions of Hitler and the Nazis; how what started out as horror became the everyday. It is terrifying to see, in my opinion, history repeating itself. I am very active in the ‘Stop Brexit’ movement in the UK: I have marched, lobbied my MP, waved flags outside Parliament. I have even managed to get my German citizenship ‘restored’ so that should the UK follow down the same route as the US, I and my family will have options. I’d recommend the book to anybody who wants to understand how one powerful and evil person can completely and effectively impose their will upon an entire nation. It is salutory reading.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

 I have just finished the sixth book in the Victorian Detectives series. It is called ‘Fear and Phantoms‘. It is on its way to my second editor, and will, I hope, be ready for you to read in September. In theory, I am supposed to be writing the seventh one. I have written three thousand words, including the ending (I write like that), but a lot of other stuff has intervened, so I am not beating myself up, and will wait until some time emerges. I had major cancer surgery in December, followed by a month of radiotherapy in January, so I guess I am still in recovery mode.

Who is your favorite author and why?

 It is VERY VERY hard to pick just one writer, as I read different authors for different reasons. Of course I love Charles Dickens, for the whirling plots, the characters, and the political anger behind so many of his books. OK, can I narrow this down? A writer whose books I always buy as soon as they are published is Robert Harris. He writes thrillers, frequently set in the near past (Archangel, Enigma). His style is impeccable, and, unlike many writers, he seems to be able to maintain the same standard and quality in each book. His last book was Conclave; I actually bought it in hardback. That’s how much I enjoy reading his work.

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

I had hamsters when I was growing up. The good thing about hamsters is that they are low maintenance, and you learn a lot from keeping them. The two main things you learn about are responsibility ( because you have to feed them and clean them out daily) and death (because hamsters don’t live much beyond two years). I always wanted a cat, and pleaded for one, but my mother refused to let me have one. Thus, as soon as I had moved out, the first thing I did was get a cat!

A real life funniest pet story

 When we first got Halley, as a small feisty kitten, I was working away at my laptop, when I heard the most FEROCIOUS yelling and growling coming from the garden. Thinking she might have been attacked by a fox or some other animal, I rushed out to see what was happening. There was this tiny kitten, fluffed to twice its size, incandescent with rage, patrolling round and round a tree while making a noise that could be heard throughout the whole neighbourhood. Up the tree, and looking bug-eyed with fear, was the local HUGE black bully-cat. He was staring down, terrified. She’d got him treed and trapped! Guess who got extra tuna for her tea?

When did you first know you were a writer?

 I have always written stories, ever since I could write. I remember making teeny-tiny books for my soft toys to read (bit like the Brontes ~ though I’m not comparing myself with their geniuses). I used to tell stories to my younger brother when we went on long car journeys. We had a set of running characters (I can’t remember them now) and I’d relate their latest adventures, which stopped the endless ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ that drove my parents mad. I think the first inkling that I might become a writer for REAL was at secondary school. I was fortunate to have a teacher who valued creative writing and used to set us intriguing titles each week. I loved producing a story, or a piece of descriptive prose. I loved that feeling when the ideas just arrived out of the blue.  I always came in the top three, and my efforts would be read out. The thrill of seeing my book on top of the pile, and hearing my words read out made me think I’d like to do this when I grew up. Of course it took a lot longer, and there were a great many rejections before I saw my first actual novel in print (I was forty). But that excitement has never left me.

 What does you pet do when you are writing?

Halley is such a clever little cat! She has developed this *thing* she does. Let me tell you: I usually write in the afternoons, as the morning tends to be taken up with chores or dickering about on the internet (it’s MEANT to be research, but as all writers know, it’s just an excuse NOT to be writing). So, I go upstairs to the back bedroom, where the little purple laptop that isn’t connected to the internet lives. Halley is usually asleep on the bed. I start writing. She sleeps on, unperturbed. BUT as soon as I leave the room, to make a cup of green tea, or answer the door, the cheeky cat leaps off the bed and curls up on my writing chair. And she is VERY difficult to dislodge, once she is ensconced in what she clearly considers to be *her* seat!

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

 Follow your dreams. But make sure you have a day job.

About Carol:

Carol Hedges is the successful UK writer of 17 books for Teenagers/Young Adults and Adults. Her writing has received much critical acclaim, and her novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal. Her ebook Jigsaw Pieces, which deals unflinchingly with many of the problems that beset today’s teens, is available on Amazon as is her Dystopic Fantasy The Last Virus.

 Carol is also the writer of ‘The Victorian Detectives’ ~ a series of novels set in 1860s London and featuring Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his side-kick Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. 

The five books in the series are:

 Diamonds & Dust

Honour & Obey

Death & Dominion

Rack & Ruin

Wonders & Wickedness

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Bits of her writing life can be viewed on her blog: http://carolhedges.blogspot.com

 Her Amazon page is at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Carol-Hedges/e/B0034PUES6

 Connect with Carol Hedges via Twitter: @carolJhedges

 Visit her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thecuriousVictorian/

 

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