Welcome, Jodi Rath!

Please welcome author, Jodi Rath, to the Pens, Paws, and Claws blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello, I’m Jodi Rath, and I’m so thrilled to be here! My husband and I are both animal lovers, rescuers (although I believe they rescue me), and animal advocates, so finding this blog was a wonderful things for me! I’m married to the man of my dreams and we’ve been together for 16 years. Currently, we have seven cats. We’ve had 13 cats over the last 16 years and we love them all dearly, and even though we’ve lost some of them as they crossed the rainbow bridge, they will forever be a part of our family and in our hearts. All of our cats will be featured in my new series, The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Five of the seven show up in book 1, Pineapple Upside Down Murder, which comes out 11/23/18 and is available for preorder now and they will all be on the covers of the books at one time or another.

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

Definitely! In book 1, the protagonist, Jolie Tucker, has four of our cats: Lenny Lee, Sammy Jr., Bobbi Jo, and D.J. Lynn. One of her two love interests ends up adopting another of our cats, Stewart at the end of book 1 and there is a hilarious scene that describes how my husband actually met Steward and decided to adopt him. LOL. All of our cats have middle names too, LOL!

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on two flash fiction stories that will be freebies and come out two weeks before the release date of Pineapple Upside Down Murder (so early November this year). They are prequels to lead into book 1, although, people can still read book 1 without reading these, but they are a really fun look at the protagonist as kids in the first and teens in the second and the kitties will show up there too! I’m also working on book 2 which is called Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Murder where Stewart Michael will be on the cover!

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

Hmmm . . . our cats are not MAIN characters in my books, but they are a central part of the book and over time will become more integrated into the later books in the series. There are currently 14 books in this series and I already have each title and book planned out with an overarching theme to tie it all together and the cats are definitely a part of that theme!

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Why wouldn’t I is my question! LOL  I LOVE animals SO much! Our cats are our lives. They are our kids. Just like I can’t imagine living without them, I can’t imagine writing without them or having them in the writing!

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

I do not have any in book 1, but there will be some in later books in the series!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Oh boy, well, one of them is that scene about my husband, Mike, and Stewart which you can read about in Pineapple Upside Down Murder. The other one, hmmm, I’m not sure it’s clean enough for the blog. LOL.  My husband is a snorer. A loud snorer. So, he is lying on his back snoring loudly one night, and Stewart sits on his mouth and he chokes and gets up yelling in fear. It frightened me when he told me what happened, and I’ve never laughed so hard in all my life. Stewart was looking for a way to shut him up! LOL

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

At age five, I used my stuffed animals and dolls as my staff of my “pretend” magazine business. I used my mom’s old magazines and would cut them up and paste things together and use a red pen to mark on them. At age seven, I signed up to win a set of encyclopedias and won! I used to randomly pick out an encyclopedia then open up to any page, read an article and summarize it pretending to be a journalist. When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer as a job, but I think I knew back at age five.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pets all lay around me while I write. I can have anywhere between three to five cats around me at one time while I’m writing.

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

I think I have about 700 books in my Nook. I think I have about one thousand or more physical books. I was an English Literature major in my undergrad work. I LOVE books—all books! I also use the library like an insane person. LOL I have two local libraries near me and I am constantly taking books out for research too. There are books all around me as I read. I’d have to take up a thousand pages to list them all.  Some of the books I am planning to read are anything by Sara Paretsky and her V.I. Warshawski series. I’m all caught up and anxiously awaiting the new one to come out soon! I love Heather Blake, Amanda Flower, Victoria Laurie, and Elaine Viets to name a few more.

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

I love to read in bed at night. My little bobtail kitty, Bobbi Jo, likes to snuggle right up by my belly while I lay on my side to read, and I love it!

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

I have been an educator for close to twenty years.  I’ve had so many teenagers who want to do something in a creative field, like: write, art, act, sing, play in a band, etc.  I think that is wonderful! I think a lot of people think because something is creative that it is all fun. To me, what I do now is more fun than anything I’ve ever done…so that is true. At the same time, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked a lot of jobs that were difficult and time-consuming, but I’ve never put in more time and effort than I have as a writer. Everyone wants a creative, fun job. There is a lot of competition. So, to do it well one has to be willing to put all their time and effort into it if you want it to be a career.

About Jodi:

Moving into her second decade working in education, Jodi Rath has decided to begin a life of crime in her The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Her passion for both mysteries and education led her to combine the two to create her business MYS ED, where she splits her time between working as an adjunct for Ohio teachers and creating mischief in her fictional writing. She currently resides in a small, cozy village in Ohio with her husband and her seven cats.

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True Loves Fact and Fiction

By Tracy Weber

Fourteen years ago, I met one of the greatest loves of my life.  Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’m not talking about him. This love was a five-week-old, completely imperfect German shepherd named Tasha.  Who could resist falling in love with this cutie?

Tracy and Tasha when Tasha was 5 weeks old

Not coincidentally, my protagonist also fell in love (even if she didn’t realize it at first) with a hundred pound, also completely imperfect German shepherd named Bella.

Readers often ask me if Bella is my dog. I give the same answer I do when they ask if Kate is me.

No.

And yes.

Some of the funniest dog scenes in my writing come straight from Tasha’s and my life together. Some of the hardest scenes are based on stories I’ve heard from others. For the record, here’s my comparison of these two Amazing canines.  One is fictional, the other has passed on.  But both are amazing creatures that I’m lucky to have known.

Bella and Tasha: Similarities

  • Appearance: Physically, Tasha and Bella are twins. They are both gorgeous, primarily black, over one-hundred-pound female German shepherds. If they weren’t so busy taking care of their humans, they could be doggie supermodels. Don’t you agree?

  • Health: Tasha and Bella both suffer from an autoimmune disease called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). Bella is diagnosed early in Murder Strikes a Pose. Tasha lived with the disease most of her twelve-year life. EPI is a lifelong condition and fatal if not treated, but with daily medication, dogs with EPI can live long, normal, happy, healthy lives.
  • Personality: Both Bella and Tasha are what dog trainers call reactive, meaning that they are easily frightened, and when frightened, they try to scare the alarming thing away. This works great when they’re convincing a would-be burglar to avoid your house, not so great when they’re lunging at your neighbor’s toddler. In both cases, with positive training, love, and management, they can learn to overcome their fears.
  • Loyalty: Tasha’s trainers and veterinarians all told me that Tasha would be willing to die for me. In fact, whenever she saw something scary, she placed her body between me and the perceived menace. I’ve never known any creature, human or animal, more committed to my well-being. Bella is equally loyal to Kate.

Bella and Tasha: Differences

  • Health: I wish I could say that EPI was Tasha’s biggest health issue. The truth is, Tasha’s EPI was  comparatively easy to manage. She also had a second autoimmune disease, four bad legs, and a bad back. I would never curse an animal, real or imaginary, with all of the health issues Tasha faced. Yet no dog has ever been more loved. That has to count for something.
  • Personality: Like Kate and me, Bella and Tasha have different neuroses. For example, Bella isn’t fond of men with beards, but she’s thinks cats are just great. Tasha had no problem with beards, but she was convinced that cats were Satan’s squirrels.
  • Loyalty: Although Bella’s adult life will be charmed, she came from a puppyhood of abuse. Tasha lived with me from the day she turned eight weeks old until the day she passed in my arms. She never experience harsh treatment. Not once.

Above all else, the two canines were loved by humans who cared for them, adored them, and prioritized their dog’s well-being over their own. In the end, what more could any pup want?

Anyone who’s ever loved an imperfect dog will identify with Kate’s struggles with Bella. Any dog who’s owned an imperfect human will identify with Bella’s struggles with Kate. Of course, the series revolves around murder, so you can bet that Kate and Bella stumble across dead bodies along the way.

Yoga, dogs, and murder. What could be more fun?

My newest Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder is available now  in e-book and paper back copies everywhere! http://tracyweberauthor.com/buy_premeditated.html

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The Dogs Have Their Day

by Maggie King

When I posted about cats in mysteries earlier this year, I promised a companion post about canine mysteries.

And now, at last: the dogs have their day!

I took a democratic approach and pooled my dog-loving social media followers with this question: “What are your favorite mysteries with a dog as a significant character?”

Read on for their responses.

In the Books by the Bay mysteries, Olivia Limoges returns to her home town in North Carolina with Captain Haviland, a black standard poodle. Created by Ellery Adams.

In Bethany Blake’s Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries, you can enjoy the company of both dogs and cats. Krista Davis also pairs dogs and cats in her Paws and Claws Mysteries.

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. All of her dogs find a role in her books.

More than one responder suggested Susan Conant’s Dog Lover’s Mysteries series, featuring magazine writer Holly Winter and a cast of dogs.

Robert Crais wrote a standalone crime story with LAPD cop Scott James and his partner, Maggie, a German Shepherd. Man and dog suffer from PTSD as a result of horrendous experiences. Note: I’m convinced that the #1 pet names are Maggie and Fred!

Waverly Curtis created the Seattle-based Barking Detective series of humorous mystery novels starring Pepe, a talking Chihuahua.

Of course, there’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring the inimitable Sherlock Holmes. The legend of a terrifying, satanic hound of supernatural origin instigates an attempted murder.

Alex Kava’s series features former marine Ryder Creed and his K9 dogs.

Bailey, a very sarcastic canine, saves his companions in Be Careful What You Wish For by Solomon Knight.

Ketch is a key character in J.R. Lindermth’s The Limping Dog, about a dog rescued from a wrecked sailing ship.

One follower suggested White Fang by Jack London. She wasn’t sure if it qualified as a mystery, but we’ll just say it does.

Mystery/thriller author Paul D. Marks highlights racism and immigration in his crime novels. His canine characters are Baron in White Heat and Molly in Broken Windows.

In Louise Penny’s books set in the village of Three Pines, Quebec, Henri is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’s German Shepherd.

Spencer Quinn’s Chet & Bernie series got a few votes. Chet the dog is the faithful companion of Arizona private investigator Bernie Little.

In David Rosenfelt’s bibliography you’ll find a long list of dog-themed mysteries featuring Andy Carpenter, an irreverent defense attorney in Paterson, New Jersey.

Amy Shojai created a “pet-centric” thriller series with September Day, an animal behaviorist/trainer, and her German Shepherd service dog named Shadow.

In Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mysteries, Kate Davidson is a yoga instructor in Seattle with her German Shepherd sidekick Bella.

Seems like German Shepherds reign as top dog in mysteries. Inspector Rex reigns, appropriately enough, on TV. An Austrian police procedural comedy-drama television series, Inspector Rex follows the German Shepherd police dog Rex, his partners, and the rest of the team at the Vienna Kriminalpolizei homicide unit, as they work together to solve crimes. Since 2008, the show has been set in Rome.

There are many, many more mysteries with dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, birds, goldfish, you name it. Look for my upcoming posts. And let me know your favorite mysteries with animals. Our furry friends enrich not only our lives, but our reading as well.

Twinkle was my childhood dog. Truth be told, he was my mother’s dog and loved her best. Twinkle, a Toy Fox Terrier, had a brown and charcoal patch over one eye, and a mere stub of a tail. Below, he poses with my mother and grandmother on “the farm” in upstate New York.

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

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Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2Bj4uIL

 

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Welcome, Marilyn Levinson!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write mysteries, novels for kids, and the occasional romantic suspense. My first published book was a YA called AND DON’T BRING JEREMY, which came out in 1985 or 86. About fifteen years ago I started writing mostly mysteries. My most recent series is the Haunted Library mysteries, which I write as Allison Brook. DEATH OVERDUE (Oct, 2017) and READ AND GONE,(Oct 2018) the first two books in the series, have been receiving a good deal of attention and acclaim. DEATH OVERDUE was an Agatha nominee.

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

 I live with my red tom Sammy, who is thirteen years old. Sammy is very smart and very affectionate. He also bites occasionally, which has earned him a pretty bad reputation among my friends, some of whom wish I’d gotten rid of him a long time ago. But I would never do anything like that! Sammy isn’t a model for any of the cats that appear in my books. Like the cats in my life, the cats in my books have their own distinct personalities.

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

Smoky Joe is an important character in the Haunted Library series. The half-grown grey cat with the bushy tail appears one morning outside Carrie Singleton’s cottage in DEATH OVERDUE, the first book in the series. He jumps into Carrie’s car and since she’s late for work, she brings him to the library. She’s pleasantly surprised when Smoky Joe—as she names him—proves to be people-friendly and a big favorite of the patrons. Sally, her boss, finds herself having to agree that Smoky Joe is now the Clover Ridge Library cat. Of course Carrie brings him home with her at night. He plays an important role in READ AND GONE, the second book in the series.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading a Val McDermid mystery. She’s one of my favorite authors.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished writing the third book in the series. My working title is REFERENCED TO DEATH because the unpleasant reference librarian is murdered. With such an unpopular character that blackmails colleagues and neighbors, you can be sure there are many suspects. Smoky Joe proves to be a loyal companion to Carrie, my sleuth.

Who is your favorite author and why?

There are so many authors I adore and too many to name. I had to reread many Agatha Christie novels when I wrote my mystery MURDER A LA CHRISTIE because my characters, who are in a book club, discuss several Christie books. I discovered I still enjoyed her books and that they held up for me. I also reread Josephine Tey’s mysteries when I wrote MURDER THE TEY WAY. Again, the books were still wonderful to me.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I love to include animals in my books because I’ve had a furry companion most of my life. To me, the animals in my books are characters just like the people. In some of my books the animals play a role in helping to solve the mystery or they help their owners when their lives are in danger..

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

I loved the book and the movie “Lassie Come-Home.” Such a touching story about a devoted collie that wants to live with the boy he loves. I also loved the movie Seabiscuit, though I’ve never ridden a horse.

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

When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a writer or a ballerina. I started writing short stories in the second or third grade. After a while I stopped because I didn’t know how to write anything longer than a few pages. I needed to learn how to plot a story. I came back to writing in my early thirties when I was a young mother. I haven’t stopped writing since.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My Sammy lies close to me on my office carpet as I write. Usually he’s fast asleep. sometimes lying on his back.

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

I have piles and piles of print mysteries waiting to be read. I also have hundreds on my Kindle. I play to read the “Best Mystery Short Stories of 2017” soon and another Val McDermid.

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

I write at my desk iMac, which has a big screen, something I require. I often read in bed or in the recliner in my office. Both places are very comfortable.

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

Keep at it. Read. Join a critique group. Join Sisters in Crime and the Guppies if you’re a mystery writer. Keep on writing.

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Welcome Author Christine Verstraete

Looking for something scary to read? Today, Author Christine Verstraete is here to chat about her writing, her dog, and maybe a little bit about Zombies. Tell about yourself and what you write. Happy Halloween! I’ve been writing since I can remember – and even before that, I think. Ha! I’m a longtime newspaper writer, but I also love writing fiction, especially things with a bit of a spooky or scary twist! I like writing short fiction, but also enjoy writing longer. My books include, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunterand Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall. I also have a companion novella, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. I’ve got info up on my https://www.cverstraete.comor stop by my blog, https://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com How do your pets impact your writing? I’m an animal lover and have always had a dog, so it’s not surprising that somehow they manage to crawl their way into many of my stories. Like real life, right? I always say there’s an invisible string attaching me and my dog as she’s always only a few feet away. (If that!) In my writing, I think an animal makes characters more interesting, and sometimes even more relatable, don’t they? Do you include animals in your stories? I try to. I usually can’t help including them and sometimes they’re even the focus. A story I wrote, Thirteen Horses, (in Descent Into Darkness), is a creepy, ghostly story that I wrote after reading a news story about some horses that were starved to death. It was my way of giving them their revenge. Here’s a Did You Know? Lizzie Borden was a dog lover. She owned several Boston Bull Terriers, which by the way, also were “the” dog to have in Victorian times. So, of course, her dog makes an appearance in my first book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. What is your funniest pet story? My most memorable, I think, happened some years ago with my first German Shepherd, Doc. I was reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, at night, just me and the dog. I’m engrossed and suddenly, the dog moves and scratches the floor. Needless to say, I nearly jumped out of my skin! Haa! Never forgot that moment, but it didn’t scare me off reading more of King’s books!

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Christine Verstraete loves writing both short and long fiction with a touch of the macabre. Her short fiction has appeared in various anthologies and publications including Descent Into Darkness, Baby Shoes: 100 Stories by 100 AuthorsandSirens CallMagazine. She also is the author of Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter2: The Axe Will Fall, and The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. Learn more at her website, http://cverstraete.comor stop by her blog, http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter – C.A. Verstraete Kindle or Print: http://getbook.at/LizzieBordenZombies1 Every family has its secrets… One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become… zombies?

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Welcome, Melissa Gole!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Melissa Gole to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is Melissa Gole. I’m a nurse, a mum, a bellydancer and an author. I wrote blue after losing a colleague to suicide I saw people looked angry and were saying take, a tablet, call a line. I wanted people to know it was more then that. I saw on my therapist’s website he trained PTSD dogs and he often makes dog analogies during our sessions so that’s where the inspiration for blue came from. I think people are kinder to dogs then they are humans. If we know a dog’s been through something we’re kind to it. If a human’s been through something we tell it to toughen up and we can be cruel to it.

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

We used to have a dog called Max who was a maltese x shitszu and would walk on his hind legs to beg. We had to give him away when we moved to Sydney. We are moving back to Port Stephens soon, so I am hoping to get a dog that I can train as a therapy dog. I’d love to do some volunteering.

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

Blue was a great name for my dog because he crosses across so many different themes like feeling blue and the thin blue line. I wanted to get the idea out that the blue doggo is the one we look after.

What are you reading now?

I’m having a break right now but I have been reading many police ptsd stories. There are some great ones by Simon Gillard, Shaun O’Gorman and Jeff Garland. I’d strongly recommend them to see what a real-life hero looks like and goes through. It’s amazing to put a human face behind what they do. Definitely where Blue gets his adventure from. All great advocators and examples of how you can get through hard things too.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently writing another book about looking after people with dementia. I’m looking forward to it as its very poetic, but I want to make it a bit more positive.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Maureen McCarthy. I get lost in her stories. She has a way of making them educational as well as fictional learning about different issues from different times and places.

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

Bugsy the bunny was my favourite. She looked like she had a big fur collar and like she had sass.

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

All of my dogs were there own characters. They made their own world.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Because it would have been no where near as funny or engaging if it was a human.

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

He could be. He works hard. Our police dogs serve as well and can be an essential part of the force. It’s sad hearing when people attack them.

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

Dogs and Cat we’ve seen far too many times but it’s a great adventure.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

They’ve all had their moments of getting in and chewing things.

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

It really was just an idea that came to me. My Dad used to always tell me stories so its kind of funny that its evolved like this now. I love that I’ve been able to integrate health information into a story.

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

I’ve always wanted to go to Paris as that’s where my ancestors are from.

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

How much work it would be and how much it would cost but it’s an important cause. I’m not making any money from it and it’s nice just to say that someone cares.

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

I’m between houses right now, so I’m becoming one o those people who hangs out in coffee shops to write mostly to get wifi, but I feel like I’m becoming pretty cliché.

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

Just follow your heart but think about planning and making a format for what I will evolve into.

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