Welcome, Kathy Aarons/Kathy Krevat!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Kathy Aarons/Kathy Krevat to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write the Gourmet Cat Mystery series and the Chocolate Covered Mystery series under the pen name Kathy Aarons. I’m excited to be working with Lyrical, an imprint of Kensington Books. The Trouble With Murder, starring Trouble the cat, came out in December 2017, and The Trouble With Truth will be out on August 28.

I started writing when my youngest daughter was in preschool five mornings a week, mostly to avoid doing housework. (I can’t do the dishes – I’m writing!) Before being a stay-at-home mom, I was a marketing director for a software company and assumed that because I knew how to write ad copy, that I knew how to write a novel. I was so wrong! Luckily, I joined Romance Writers of America San Diego where I first began to realize how much I didn’t know about writing fiction. (Insert snarky comment about marketing being a lot like fiction…)

I attended conferences and workshops and bought practically every writing craft book known to man. Sometimes I even read them. I wrote and re-wrote my first book – PTA Meetings Are Murder – at least one hundred times. It hasn’t been published yet, but my agent liked it so much, she signed me.

My first book – Death is Like a Box of Chocolates – was published by Berkley two weeks after my youngest daughter went off to college! Looking back, I probably would have been published earlier but I was also Queen of Volunteering – the list of my volunteer job is just too long, but includes PTA president and assistant puppet maker.

I’m still stuck on volunteering. I’m president of the board for Partners in Crime – San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime and Playwrights Project, a literacy organization. I also help to organize the CCA Writers’ Conference, the only free writing conference for high school students in the US.

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

Growing up, I had tons of pets – cats, dogs, guinea pigs, horses, gerbils, and a rabbit. My husband is allergic to dogs and cats, so our children grew up with birds, guinea pigs, mice and a bearded dragon. We no longer have pets, but my daughter has a rescue – a one-eyed Shih Tzu named Atlas – so I get to play with him when I need a pet fix.

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

Trouble is an orange tabby cat and was the inspiration of Colbie Summer’s business, Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food. Colbie found Trouble abandoned in an empty apartment of a building she was managing. She figured out that Trouble had digestive issues, so she started cooking for her. When friends began asking to buy her food for their own digestive-challenged cats, her company was born.

In the Chocolate Covered Mystery series, Coco the stray cat visits all the shops on Main Street, including Chocolates & Chapters, a combination book and chocolate shop. She has starring role in all three books of the series.

What are you reading now?

I’m on deadline, which severely cuts back on my reading time. Right now, I’m reading Carleen O’Neil’s HAIR OF THE DOG, the third book in her Cypress Cove series. I’m going on a trip soon and have downloaded a bunch of cozies including Terrie Moran’s READ TO DEATH and Nell Hampton’s LORD OF THE PIES.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing THE TROUBLE WITH TALENT, third in the series. I’m also working on a young adult mystery proposal.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have two: J.K. Rowling, because she created a magical world that my family and I fell in love with, and Janet Evanovich, because reading her hilarious Stephanie Plum mysteries inspired me to write. I got the chance to meet her at a book signing and told her!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When I was at band camp in high school, a cat had a litter of kittens on someone’s bed in my cabin. On the last day, I called my mom on a pay phone (a LONG time ago) and convinced her that they would starve and/or freeze if I didn’t bring them home. She wanted to know why I was the only one in the camp who was willing to do it, but I was pretty sure she’d say yes. We managed to find them all homes, but kept the mom. That was when we hit the maximum number of pets in the house – 18!

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

I loved writing in high school but didn’t think it could lead to a career. I took a lot of writing classes in college and went into marketing and public relations when I graduated.

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

That’s hard. My number one unrealistic item is meeting J.K. Rowling. My number one “do-able” item is spending a month in Ireland.

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

My daughter had a bearded dragon lizard when she was in elementary school. I had no idea they grew so big!

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

One, that the only way to get better is to keep writing! I’ve heard that it takes writing over one millions words to get to the level needed to become published. Second, that publishing is a very different ball game than writing. It takes a lot more time to do the business side than I could ever imagine.

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

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep writing!

The Trouble With Truth

By Kathy Krevat

Available August 28, 2018

Things are looking up for single mom Colbie Summers. After relocating back to her California hometown with her adolescent son and taste-testing feline, Trouble, she’s ready to take her gourmet cat food company to the next level. Until helping a teenager gets Colbie mixed up in a fresh case of murder… 

Trying to balance her hectic family life with her growing business—including a coveted contract with the local organic food store—leaves Colbie scrambling to keep all her balls in the air. But when a Sunnyside resident is found dead in his garage, she takes on a new role: harboring a suspected killer.

The eighteen-year-old murder suspect, a former foster kid and Colbie’s part-time chef, had a powerful motive to snuff out the high-profile businessman. The real question is, who didn’t? Sifting through the victim’s sordid history unearths a cat’s cradle of crimes, including money laundering and abuse. Now, to clear an innocent girl’s name, Colbie must sniff out the truth before a killer who smells trouble goes on the attack again.

About Kathy:

Kathy Krevat is the author of the GOURMET CAT MYSTERY series featuring cat food chef Colbie Summers and her demanding cat Trouble, the culinary muse behind her recipes. She also writes the bestselling CHOCOLATE COVERED MYSTERY series under the pen name, Kathy Aarons.

Kathy lives in San Diego with her husband of twenty-six years in the perfect location – close to Philz Coffee and the beach, and within visiting distance of her two grown daughters. When she’s not writing, she’s an advocate for youth arts education and president of Partners in Crime, the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

You can follow Kathy on Facebook or Twitter or visit her at: www.kathykrevat.com.

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Esther the Wonder Pig

I am enchanted with the Esther the Wonder Pig posts on Facebook (I’m not the only one; she has well over 1.3M Facebook fans and followers). I did some poking around and found Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter’s story. Many thanks to them and Esther for letting me share this with you all.

Esther, born in 2012, loves watermelons, mangoes, and Oreo cookies. Esther is smart, clever, and funny. They had to pig-proof their cabinets and refrigerator because she quickly learned how to open doors and sneak food. All of her clothes and outfits are handmade and sent to her by her fans.

Steve (a realtor), Derek (a magician), and Esther live in Georgetown, Ontario, Canada, and the story began when Steve brought home a “mini-pig” who ended up topping out at 650 lbs. She was almost 250 lbs. by her first birthday, and they were surprised to learn that Esther was a commercial pig. Even though she wasn’t the “mini” they thought she was, the pair fell in love with her. They did some research on commercial livestock. Esther changed their way of thinking and living. The pair eventually adopted the vegan life that they call “Esther Approved.”

In 2014, Steve and Derek established Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary (which started as a crowd-funded effort) where they rescue and rehabilitate abandoned farm animals. Please check out the link below.

To learn more about Steve, Derek, and Esther, watch the Tedx presentation that they did in 2017.

And stop by Esther’s social media sites and websites and check out her book.

Let’s Be Social:

Website

The Esther Farm Sanctuary Store

Facebook

Twitter

Instragram

YouTube

TedX Presentation

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Welcome, Mollie Hunt!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mollie Hunt to the blog!

Mollie Hunt & Tinkerbelle, Registered Pet Partners

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m Mollie Hunt, a native Oregonian, and I write cat fiction including the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series and some speculative cat fantasy sci-fi. I’m a member of the Cat Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, Willamette Writers, and the Oregon Writers Colony.

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

With me, it’s all about cats. Little, my 12-year-old black female has been with me since she was 2, and Tyler, my 15-year old tabby who acts like a kitten was adopted last year. Both came from the Oregon Humane Society where I volunteer.

Little is one of the Crazy Cat Lady series clowder. Tyler hasn’t been with me long enough to have a role, but I’m sure he will soon.

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

Lynley Cannon, the not-quite-crazy cat lady hero of my series, has a varying number of cats in her care, but the number is usually around 8. In the latest book, “Cat Café” (out this fall) they are Little, Tinkerbelle, Dirty Harry, Solo, Violet, Big Red, Emilio, and Mab. Sometimes there are guests such as Cary Grant and Clark Gable, a pair of identical red Maine coons who worked as actor cats for a television pilot in “Cat Call”.

 What are you reading now?

“Waypoint Kangaroo” sci-fi by Curtis Chen; “Tea with Milk and Murder” cozy mystery by H.Y. Hanna; “Murder and Mendelssohn” cozy mystery by Kerry Greenwood.

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

I tend to work on several projects at once. Currently I’m in the final revisions for “Cat Café”; writing the first draft of a Crazy Cat Lady Christmas Novella called “Cat Noel”; and in the process of putting together a chapbook of cat poetry. I also have a cat fantasy sci-fi called “Cat Summer” out to an agent. (Wish me luck)

 Who is your favorite author and why?

How can anyone choose one from the millions of authors, current and past? I love Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series because her stories paint a colorful picture in my mind and her words are often poetry. This, along with a good mystery story, makes her books irresistible. Ditto Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey cat mystery series. Joe and his cohorts are magical cats with a backstory that stems from deep Celtic fantasy. The book I’ve reread the most throughout my life is “Titus Groan” by Mervyn Peake. It’s another case of painting a vivid picture in my mind, except this one is of a weird gothic castle in an alternate world.

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

Though the cats in my stories don’t talk, they are endowed with those feline telepathic skills any cat person will instantly recognize, so they have been known to help solve the crime and save the day. Besides being sweet and funny, I employ them to educate people about cats. Through them, I can introduce all sorts of subjects from health to behavior to animal rights.

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

Thank you for that question. I love that you recognize the important roles working animals play in our society.

Tinkerbelle is a ten-year-old shelter stray who Lynley has trained as a registered therapy cat. Together they visit assisted living facilities and hospice patients as an ongoing thread in the series. Tinkerbelle is based on a real cat, though she is now retired.

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

I came from a family that read a lot, and I wrote my first cat story in Mrs. Wilson’s fourth grade class. When I took up mystery writing several decades later, I knew it was my passion because when I write, time goes away and I’m lost in a world I love. Not to say writing isn’t work– it is, but where others would find it tedious, I leap from word to word with unspoiled wonder.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

They mostly sleep, with a few sojourns across the keyboard just to keep me on my toes.

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

I have basically 3 TBR piles: Audio books that I listen to in my car; eBooks I read on my phone; real books. (There are more than one pile of real books.)

A few on the list are: “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore; “Lil Tom and the Pussy Foot Detective Agency” by Angela Crider Neary; “River City” by Doc Macomber; “Dressed to Kill” by Vicki Vass; Long Walks, Last Flights” by Ken Scholes.

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

The first million words are practice, and even the best writer needs a good editor.

 Thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed your choice of questions and hope your readers will like the answers.

 Mollie Hunt

Mollie’s Biography:

Native Oregonian Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. Mollie is the author of the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series, including Cats’ Eyes, Copy Cats, Cat’s Paw, Cat Call, and Cat Café (coming 2018). The series features Portland native Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip. Mollie also published a non-cat mystery, Placid River Runs Deep, which delves into murder, obsession, and the challenge of chronic illness in bucolic southwest Washington. Two of her short cat stories have been published in anthologies.

 Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, Willamette Writers, and the Cat Writers’ Association. She won a CWA Muse Medallion for her blogpost series, “Life Stages”, and has received several CWA Certificates of Excellence for other cat-centric work. Mollie lives in Portland’s eclectic Hawthorne district with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like Lynley, she is a grateful shelter volunteer.

 Let’s Be Social: 

Mollie’s Website

Mollie’s Amazon Page

Mollie’s Facebook Author Page

Mollie’s Newsletter

 

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Cuteness: A Survival Tactic

This is Kathleen Kaska’s final post with Pens, Paws, and Claws. We’ll miss her in our regular rotation of bloggers, and we’ll hope she’ll stop by from time to time for a visit.

Do you ever wonder why most people go gaga over babies—human and otherwise?

When I was studying physical anthropology at the University of Texas, one of my professors caught slack after he said that baby animals were cute so that their mothers would take care of them. Anthropomorphism in the world of science was a big no-no back then, and still is in certain academic situations. However, recent brain research seems to support my professor’s claim.

There is a recent article in The Telegraph by Sophie Jamieson about an Oxford University study concluding babies and puppies have evolved cute characteristics as a way to survive. It goes beyond visual attributes like big eyes, chubby cheeks, and infantile giggles. Sounds and smells also stimulate the nervous system to give care to the cute. Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry Professor Morten Kringelbach led the research and said, “Infants attract us through all our senses, which helps make cuteness one of the most basic and powerful forces shaping our behaviour.” That also might be why we more often choose young animals for pets rather than older ones.

Beyond stimulating our need to nurture, owning a pet, regardless of the animal’s age, can make us healthier. It’s no secret that pets relax us when we’re stressed, but did you know there’s a scientific reason for that? Cuddling a pet releases the chemical oxytocin sometimes called “the cuddle chemical.” Oxytocin calms and soothes both the owner and the pet, which leads to a strong bond between both. That bond between dog and human is the strongest. Dogs are the only animal that consistently run to meet their owner when frightened or happy to see them. They are the only ones to make eye contact with people when they need attention, food, or protection.

Other studies show that owning a pet improves our cardio-vascular system, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduces the risk of asthma. Cuddling or petting a pet reduces the stress hormone cortisol in those who suffer from clinical depression. Dogs are also being trained to detect, usually by smell, certain diseases or malfunctions of the human body. For example, trained dogs can detect minute changes in the function of the adrenal glands of people suffering from Addison’s disease. Some can use their sense of smell to detect the development of cancer or diabetes, and others learn to detect early signs of epileptic seizures and to warn their owner.

I used to teach middle-school science before I retired. Although I loved my job, I usually left the classroom stressed. A half-hour commute home through heavy traffic added a tight knot between my shoulders. Only when I turned down my street did I begin to relax. When I looked at my front window and saw my little brown, mixed-breed hound Jenny watching for me, the tension washed away completely.

Links:

https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/

http://www.kathleenkaska.com

http://www.blackopalbooks.com

https://twitter.com/KKaskaAuthor

http://www.facebook.com/kathleenkaska

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Meet Teresa Inge, Luke and Lena

Pens, Paws, and Claws Blogger, Teresa Inge, tells us about her writing and her love for pets. 

 Tell our readers about yourself and your writing.

 I am a short mystery author of several anthologies.

 My stories have been included in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, a collection of short stories set in Virginia.

 My latest publication is in 50 Shades of Cabernet, “Love the Wine You’re With.” The story features Jules Riley who has three things on her mind. Plan the Virginia Beach Wine Fest, rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, a hot local musician, and keep her sister Em sober. But when Em serves up a deadly appetizer that Jules made, she is accused of murder.

 Tell us about your pets?

 I have two dogs Luke and Lena who were named after my husband’s grandparents. Luke is a country boy, part shepherd, part lab. Lena is a city girl, part shepherd and Husky mix.

 Tell us what you are currently writing?

 I am completing a novella dog walking mystery that includes myself and three other authors. My story, “Hounding the Pavement,” features dogs Cagney and Lacey who help solve a crime and theft.

 Anything else you want to share?

 I am a Sisters in Crime member and president of the Mysteries by the Sea chapter in Chesapeake, Virginia. Our chapter is currently coordinating the Mysteries by the Sea anthology.

 I am also a board of director with the Chesapeake Humane Society and love helping animals.

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A Service Dog to the Rescue

A Service Dog to the Rescue

 By Sheri S. Levy

Kathy, sobbed on the phone. “Logan’s missing! My husband’s golfing and hasn’t returned my call.”

“I’m on my way.” I filled my pouch with treats and snapped his water bottle to my belt. “Let’s go, Syd.”

Kathy stood out front, waving her arms.

Sydney and I bolted from the car. I held her hand as she blubbered information. “Logan had a meltdown when his brothers left to play golf. With his autism, there’s no way Logan can sit in a golf cart all morning.”

I clasped my hands together, easing my tension. “I’ve only played hide and seek with Sydney. He’s a service dog in training, not a search and rescue dog. But Logan and Sydney have made such a strong connection on the beach, Syd may be able to find Logan. But you’ll need to stay here.”

Kathy’s eyes widened.

I touched her shoulder. “You have to be here in case he comes home or someone calls.”

She sobbed. “I’ll go crazy, waiting.”

A load of gravel hit the pit of my stomach, one stone at a time. “Will Logan get in the water?”

She shook her head. “Not without his life jacket. He may walk a long way and forget how to get home. He doesn’t know his phone number and can only say his first name.”

Relieved, I smiled. “That’s good, he won’t get in the water. Can you give me an item he wears? Sydney needs his scent.”

As I clicked-on Syd’s vest, his amber eyes brightened and his lips spread into a grin. He was on duty.

Kathy rushed over, carrying Logan’s ball cap and spoke in spurts. “I’m surprised he…ran off without… this.” She gasped. “He doesn’t like… the sun in his eyes.”

“That’s perfect.”

I held Logan’s ball cap up to Sydney’s nose. “Find, Logan.”

He inhaled the scent, backed up, jiggled his stub, and shoved his nose again into the cap. That was his signal, “I know what you want me to do.”

“Good boy, Syd. Find, Logan.”

I let him run, getting his bearings. He lunged into the bushes behind Logan’s house, and then circled the sea grass in the dunes. As he dashed toward the water, his nostrils opened and closed level with the sand, and then he made a U-turn. Racing on dry sand, he sniffed his way up the coast. After each inspection, Sydney woofed. Logan would recognize Syd’s bark and come running.

If he heard. Or if he could? Shivers ran up my neck.

High tide moved down, leaving no foot-prints, no trail of food, and no way to know which way Logan might have gone.

Before heading up a wooden path, I returned the cap to Syd’s nose. “Find, Logan.”

We repeated checking the dunes, and under each house, block after block.  After an hour and a half, I said, “Down,” in someone’s empty carport. Syd panted heavily and rested. Once his breathing slowed, we shared a bottle of water.

What if Logan knocked at someone’s door, and they took him in. My insides shuddered. What if we can’t find him? I wiped my damp face.

Kathy phoned. “My sons are going door to door. And my husband contacted the island police. They’re patrolling the streets.” She took a long breath. “This is the longest he’s ever been gone.”

My voice squeaked out. “So, he’s done this before?”

“Twice. He’s never gone very far, but each time it’s happened, he’s walked a little farther.”

“Did he have a special hiding spot?”

She whispered, “No.”

My chest tightened. “We’ll find him. He’s getting older. I bet he’s just found a better hiding place.”

“Okay, Syd. Find, Logan.” He turned in circles, excited to be back on the job. When we reached the pier, I said a prayer. Maybe he’s up there watching the seagulls, or looking for dolphins.

As I looked left, despair swallowed any relief. On the other side of the pier, strangers camped in tents or in trailers at the State Park.

We scoured every corner of the pier and restaurant. My stomach quivered with no sign of Logan.

Collapsing on the pier, I sat crossed-legged. My hands covered my face and I cried. Sydney put his nose under my arms, lifting my hands to lick the dripping tears.

I looked into his tired eyes. “You need a rest.” We walked down the stairs, and I undid his vest.

Sydney dashed at the small waves, popping the white bubbles in the foam. I didn’t care if he got wet. He was free to relax.

The sun blazed, making the sand too hot for bare feet. I worried about Sydney’s feet, and then Logan’s. Would he look for shade?

Five minutes later, I strapped-on Syd’s vest and lifted Logan’s cap to his nose.

“Find, Logan.”

He turned in circles, wiggled his rear end, and darted to the dunes. Then he put his nose close to the sand, sniffing like a hound dog. Chills traveled up my body. He was onto something. It better not be a fish.

Sydney tramped up to a tree in someone’s backyard, turned around and circled me like he was saying, “Hurry up.”

“What do you smell, Syd.”

He barked and showed me foot prints. They were small, bare feet.

“Okay. Show me.”

Sydney sniffed the ground. I followed. He circled the dune once more and followed footprints from the ocean to the trees. He wouldn’t move forward.

“What is it Syd?”

I glanced between the dune and the trees. Steps to someone’s house, painted sky-blue, had disguised a three-sided outdoor shower under the wooden steps. An ocean-blue plastic shower curtain decorated with colored fish closed the opening. Syd crept towards the shower stall.

I pressed my lips together. Could Logan be inside? Was he hurt?

Sydney stood at attention. “Good boy.”

Syd’s body squirmed, making an indention in the sand with his bottom.

I slid the curtain back, an inch at a time. There was a small bench on the back wall and shaded by the tree. Sleeping with one arm under his head and one arm hanging off the ledge, Logan breathed, peacefully. He had no idea of the ordeal he had begun.

My eyes teared. Face to face with Sydney, I whispered, “Good Boy. You have the honor of waking him.”

Sydney’s eyes sparkled. He slinked in, put his nose under Logan’s limp arm and licked his cheek.

Logan’s eyes opened. He squealed, “Syd-ney. Syd-ney. Want see.” Logan sat, lifting his beaming face, showing two missing teeth on the top and on the bottom.

I snatched Logan’s hand and said, “Sydney, home.”

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Welcome, Lesley Diehl

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Lesley Diehl to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write cozy mystery series. Two of the series are set in rural Florida and two in Upstate New York. I also write short stories, the most notable of which have appeared in several anthologies such as The Killer Wore Cranberry and Happy Homicides: Fall into Crime. My short stories are often based upon events in my childhood.

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

I grew up on a farm in Northern Illinois, so I was always surrounded by animals and had several cats growing up. Now I have two cats, both rescues from Key Largo, Florida where we used to spend the winter and were part of a cat rescue group there. The cats are now 17 (Squeak, female) and 14 (Marley, male) years old. I have never adopted feral cats before, and I find these cats different from my other cats. I think there is much in a feral cat from a restricted group that is hard-wired in the cat’s behavior. They are lovable animals, funny, smart, but a bit shy around strangers and suspicious of anything unusual. That’s true of any cat, but the wariness is more pronounced in these. We got the male cat when he was tiny, tiny, and he almost seems to be imprinted on me. He does not like me out of his sight. He’s affectionate but can get angry at me if he feels he’s not getting enough attention. I’ve not yet written any of my cats in a story, but it could happen soon!

I’ve also had several dogs. One I inherited from the man I bought my house from. He simply left his cat and dog when he moved out! I vowed to keep the dog outside or in the garage, but when I saw her sitting outside my window when it rained, it broke my heart. She became my best friend, sleeping on the floor by my bed and traveling with me when I went cross-country to visit family. I used her sweet, playful personality for the dog (Samantha) in my Laura Murphy mysteries.

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 stand-alone cozy mystery Angel Sleuth, a pot-bellied pig named Desdemona is one of the characters. She has been adopted by Jeremy, a young boy in the story. While the protagonist is not certain she wants a pig as one of her house guests, she comes to love Dessie. I found Dessie such a compelling character that I made her a sleuth in a short story (“Dessie’s Jaded Past”) published by Untreed Reads in one of their detective anthologies. I liked the idea of having a pot-bellied pig as a sleuth so much that I wrote another story featuring yet another pot-belly, this one named Willa Mae. The story entitled “When Pigs Fly” will be one of Kings River Life’s podcasts later this year.

What are you reading now?

Since I am a lover of British mysteries, I am now reading the third of the Royal books by Rhys Bowen. I just finished several of Puleston’s Inspector Drake mysteries, the last two Lee Child’s Reacher books and am halfway through Tim Dorsey’s Cadillac Beach. I just downloaded Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley and Havers mystery.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Book 7 of the Eve Apple mysteries is due to my publisher June 1, so I’m working on that now. I will also release the third book in the Big Lake Murder mysteries, Scream Muddy Murder.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have two favorites: Elizabeth George and Robert Parker. I like them for different reasons. George writes deep character psychology and uses class issues to make her characters as important as the mystery. Parker is a genius at terse dialogue and packing more in a short sentence than most writers put in a paragraph.

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

I never use them just in passing. All the animals in my books have unique, sometimes helpful personalities, personalities that sometimes reflect aspects of a human character’s such as my pot-bellied pigs who are amateur sleuths themselves. Even the dog I mentioned in my Laura Murphy mysteries (her name is Samantha) is like her owner, fun-loving, playful, loyal to those she sees as friends, and as nosey as her owner. I think she will help solve a murder in a book to come.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals have always been an important part of my life and, since my protagonists hold values similar to my own, why wouldn’t they have pets in their lives? While the Eve Apple series doesn’t feature a pet in Eve’s family, the series does include wildlife in the rural Florida area.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My dog Princess loved food, any food, all food. She would wander out of the yard around dinnertime in the summers, and I’d know she went down the road to one of the neighbor’s to see if she could beg when they were cooking on the grill. She was chubbier than she should have been, so I asked the neighbors not to feed her, but she did her “cute” act, and they gave in with apologies to me.

She really loved chocolate, which I never gave her, but one Easter a friend brought me a foil-wrapped chocolate bunny, which I left on my coffee table, untouched, and went to bed. The next morning the foil wrapping was still on the coffee table, but the bunny inside was gone. Princess had chocolate on her breath. She didn’t get sick, but I still can’t figure out how she managed to eat the inside without eating the foil.

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

When I won the MWA Florida Chapter’s short story contest in 2009, I began to feel like a writer, but when my first book came out the following year, I was a believer. Isn’t it funny how I had to have external confirmation to make it so? Now I understand being a writer is simply all about writing.

 Wat do your pets do when you are writing?

The two cats I have now have become less and less interested in my time at the keyboard. Several years ago, the female sat in my desk chair, reached up and typed 5589, then yawned and got down, acting as if she had written her singular most important work and was done with it. The other cat sits on the printer next to my computer and waits quietly until I close the laptop. He then jumps into my chair and is ready for “twirly,” where I spin the chair around with him on the seat. I spin one way, then reverse the spin. He loves it! Like a carnival ride for cats. And this from a cat who gets car sick.

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

Two? Let me give you a list.

No, I won’t be able to afford that house on the Bay in Key Largo.

Everyone expects a free book.

Writing is fun; promotion is work.

Your publisher will not pay for a book tour.

Getting your book published is only the beginning: you have to sell it.

Your publisher expects you to do most of the promotion and publicity.

Sometimes no one shows up for the book event you spent hours preparing for.

Sometimes lots of folks turn up at the book event, but no one buys a book. (this happened with an audience of 125 people who were supposed to be book lovers.)

Often few people show for a book event, so you just chat with them and have fun.

Discoverability: no one knows how to do it, but everyone has ideas, so try some out.

Writing is fun, but so is talking to people about writing, so don’t limit yourself to an internet presence only.

Most important. Don’t write in a vacuum; there are writers’ organizations and writing conferences where you can learn your craft and improve on it.

Let’s Be Social:

Please visit me on my website and blog: www.lesleyadiehl.com and www.lesleyadiehl.com/blog for more information about me and my work

On facebook at lesley.diehl.1@facebook.com

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Welcome, Maureen Bonatch

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Maureen Bonatch to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello! I’m Maureen Bonatch from small-town Pennsylvania. I write humorous paranormal romance and fantasy. My stories are meant to allow you to escape from the ordinary world for a little bit to visit the underlying extraordinary.

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

Currently Scuff, our Shih Tzu, is our only pet. I often use my pets in my writing, but usually change their name. Scruff is in a WIP. My featured book today, EVIL SPEAKS SOFTLY, stars Mozart. He is a Lhasa Apso and modeled after our beloved 14-year-old Lhasa Apso, Bummy who died 5 years ago. Before you ask, we kept the name he had when we got him. He was dubbed “Bummy” because he was a “bum pup” or “the runt” of the litter and we loved him dearly. He was my baby long before I had babies.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Where do I start? I’m always working on something. Right now, I’m waiting for my editor to finish Book #2 for The Enchantlings Series entitled NOT A CHANCE. I also have multiple works in progress in varying draft states.

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

The first pet that was an indoor pet was Mimi. She was a toy poodle. I call her my pet, but in reality, she was closest to my Mom. We always had cats, a few rabbits and my dad always had ‘hunting dogs’ (even though I don’t know how often he actually went hunting with them, lol), but they lived outside.

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

The animals in my writing always end up being a secondary character. I have so much fun writing them. They are often a pet, or some type of guardian. One of my WIP has a shifter in it and when she shifts she can talk to other animals.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I believe that most people love animals and feel as if they’re part of their family. I like to write the animals in my stories the same way. Plus, they allow me to show my hero or heroine’s vulnerabilities and compassion.

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

I don’t know why, but Boo, from Dean Koontz’s book ODD THOMAS comes to mind. I love those stories.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I consider Scruff my writing assistant. He usually comes up to my office and either pesters me for a treat, or lays right behind my chair so I’m forced to keep on writing. He also will decide when I need a break and fuss until I get up and toss a toy around, or just give him a little attention.

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

My twin girls are both big animal lovers. They’re 16 now, but when they were growing up, we had a range of critters that they considered pets, whether they really were or not. Starting from worms (each ‘Wormy’ rarely survived the night), frogs and toads, tadpoles, fish, hermit crabs, a hamster and lastly two guinea pigs. Our last guinea pig died about six months ago.

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

 I wish I would’ve realized how much easier it would be to finish each series before starting another one. The story is always there and will wait. Allowing myself to become distracted by other shiny new ideas has resulted in having multiple series, and standalone stories, in progress. It becomes challenging to move from each story without a lot of rereading.

I wish I would’ve realized from the start how each book can be promoted and marketed for a lifetime. Initially I felt as if once a book was out for six months or so, that I should focus on promoting the next, or newest story, when a book is always new to someone.

Author Biography:

Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

Let’s Be Social:

Amazon Author Pagehttp://www.amazon.com/Maureen-L.-Bonatch/e/B00KHY1KK8/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/mbonatch

Websitehttp://www.maureenbonatch.com

Newsletter:  http://eepurl.com/1AV4L

Pinteresthttp://www.pinterest.com/maureenbonatch/

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Welcome, Jane Finnis

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Jane Finnis to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello, pet-lovers! I’m joining you from Yorkshire, northern England. I live near the coast here with my husband Richard and our cocker spaniel Rosie. I write a series of mysteries, novels and short stories, that are set in Roman Britain. I’ve been fascinated by history all my life, and love the research I need to do to get the historical background right. My main sleuth (you can’t really say “detective” for those times) is Aurelia Marcella, a Roman settler who runs the Oak Tree Inn on the road to York. She and her sister and twin brother get drawn into solving crimes that lead to trouble and often danger. There’s plenty of both, because Britannia in Aurelia’s day was a raw frontier province, quite recently conquered, and simmering with barely suppressed violence. It’s a wonderful backdrop for stories of murder and mayhem.

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

We share our home with Rosie, a black cocker spaniel aged 11. She’s lively, clever, and loving, and of course she’s got us well trained to provide walks, food, and attention. She’s our fourth cocker spaniel, and when a spaniel turns those appealing eyes on you, you can’t refuse anything! My husband keeps fish too, the brightly coloured sorts like koi and golden orf. Interesting pets though not exactly cuddly, and their pond make a lovely addition to our garden.

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

There are dogs aplenty, because the Romans valued them, not just as pets but for farm work and guarding. It’s no surprise that one of the best-known mosaics unearthed in Pompeii has the warning “Beware of the dog”, but whether the residents really had a fierce guardian or just didn’t like visitors much, who knows? My innkeeper Aurelia keeps pet dogs, different ones as the series progresses through the years. Our first dog, going back forty years or so now, was a smart black labrador cross called Lucky, and she makes a cameo appearance in Aurelia’s first adventure, SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT, when she discovers the body of a horse in the woods. There are also, as you’d expect at a country inn, several household cats, sort of pets but mainly kept for pest control duties.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m in the middle of another Aurelia Marcella novel, LABYRINTH OF LIES, which takes Aurelia away from her inn and down to London (but not away from mysteries!) That’s still a work in progress so there’s no publication date yet. Right now I’m just finishing an anthology of short stories set in Roman times, and several include Aurelia and her family. The collection is due out in May, and is called SIX ROMAN MYSTERIES, unless I can think of a more original title.

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

Yes. I specially remember a red cocker spaniel called Wendy who produced four pups, very exciting; and we had two tabby cats called Tinker and Tailor. I kept rabbits too, one at once because you know what rabbits are, and used to take them with me to and from boarding school.

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

Animals are as important in my stories as they were to the people I’m writing about, which means very important indeed. I don’t use them actually to do the detecting, but they and their actions, such as leaving or following telltale tracks or appearing unexpectedly, can be crucial for unravelling the twists and turns of a mystery plot.

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

Yes, heaps of them. As I’m writing about the long-ago past, pre-steam and pre-petrol, transport animals abound. From glossy horses to dusty mules and donkeys and lumbering oxen, they bring customers and their problems to Aurelia’s door. Then there are farm animals, army mounts, and I can’t resist mentioning hunting dogs occasionally, as British dogs were highly prized. by hunters even in Rome itself. According to the ancient writer Oppian, the native Britons raised a breed they called Agassian, “…endowed with feet armed with powerful claws and a mouth sharp with close-set venomous tearing teeth…For tracking it is the best there is.”

Aurelia doesn’t hunt but she does enjoy riding when she can, This is in character… and needless to say it comes in dead useful for plot purposes sometimes!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Richard and I and our first dog Lucky went touring on holiday once in a caravan. One beautiful evening we parked in a field by the sea, and went for a walk on the sands; Lucky always loved water. As we headed back for supper Richard realised the one and only caravan key had somehow slipped from his pocket and got lost. We searched far and wide with no luck; dusk was falling and panic set in. Then we spotted Lucky sitting calmly in the middle of the sands, refusing to budge even when we called her. Lo and behold, she was sitting on the missing key! You can bet she got extra treats with her supper that night.

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

I moved my TBR pile onto a shelf after it began to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There are 40+ titles there, all sorts of mysteries, also biographies and science fiction and even some poetry. Now I just need one more volume…an instruction book on how to bend the physical laws of space/time so I can double the number of hours in my day.

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

First, there are many useful lists of “rules” by eminent people telling you how to write novels, and it doesn’t hurt to read them. Second, having read them, it doesn’t hurt to disregard them if you like. Tell a good story in an interesting way, that’s the only rule you really need.

About Jane Finnis

FYI my married name is Jane Copsey, but I always write and blog as Jane Finnis.

For more information visit my website,  www.janefinnis.com,  or find me on Twitter where my handle is Jane_Finnis.

Brief biog: I was born in Yorkshire, but went to University in London and  then worked in the civil service, in computers, and then for BBC Radio. When I married, Richard and I came back to Yorkshire and ran a craft shop. Now we’re retired and I have time to write fiction.

My novels are available in  print and as e-books. They are published in the USA by Poisoned Pen Press, Arizona, and in the UK and Commonwealth by Head of Zeus, London.

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Welcome, Val Muller

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes Val Muller to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

By day, I’m an English teacher. By night, I’m a corgi-tamer, toddler-chaser, and writer. I’ve written a range of work from the middle-grade mystery series Corgi Capers to The Scarred Letter, a young adult reboot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous work.

As an English teacher, I get to talk about writing all day. When watching movies with family, I have a habit of analyzing storylines and writing techniques and, as my husband notes, I have the uncanny ability to tell whether a movie is “good” during the first few minutes.

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

My two corgis, Leia and Yoda, are the inspiration behind the Corgi Capers mystery series. The series follows a fifth grader named Adam and his seventh grade sister. The two corgis in the novel, the fictional Zeph and Sapphie, are modeled after my corgis.

Yoda is afraid of almost anything. Thunder and chirping smoke detectors, strange people, aluminum foil shaken too loudly, a ceramic duck… but he has a heart of gold. He’s protective and concerned: if his sister is up to her usual antics, he’ll run up to me and howl—his “tattle tale.” He’ll even tattle tale on the toddler, which is sometimes a big help.

Leia is almost the opposite. She’s rambunctious and nearly fearless (for some reason, she is terrified of the chirping smoke detector, too. It might be because when we moved into our current house, the detector was chirping). She frequently rolls in and eats dirt, mud, sand, grass, and various other unmentionables. She is the most vocal and the definite inspiration behind my favorite Corgi Capers character, Sapphie, who is always getting everyone into trouble with her playful attitude and lack of judgment.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Funny story. I have the outline done for Corgi Capers book 4. Actually, I had it finished over two years ago, right before my daughter was born. On the release date for Corgi Capers 3, a fire alarm went off at my work, and the fire company showed up. I thought it was a coincidence because book 3, Curtain Calls and Fire Halls, features a fire station and an accidental near-fire.

Fast forward to book 4. It takes place during the winter, and there’s a disabling blizzard. My daughter’s due date was February 7, and I was afraid that if I wrote the book beforehand, she might be born during the storm, which is something that happens to a family member in the novel. Turns out I should have written the book. My daughter was born during the historic blizzard (I blogged about it here: http://www.valmuller.com/2016/02/11/stormborn-by-val-muller/). Now, every time I sit down to finish the novel, I struggle to find the happy magic of snow and am afraid it will become too dark for a chapter book.

In other writing endeavors, I have a novel half written and on the backburner. It’s about some of the issue that arise in the public school setting. I see it as a mix between The Chocolate Wars and a more modern young adult work, with some of The Grapes of Wrath mixed in for good measure. This has been the most difficult book for me to write because it has the potential to be the most serious and hits close to home.

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

Growing up, my pal was Chip, a bichon fries. He was probably the most spoiled dog I’ve ever known in terms of being the recipient of constant attention. He had his choice of which bed he wanted to snooze in, he was walked multiple times a day by each of us, he was given custom toys made by my dad (who had previously sworn he had no interest in dogs)… the list goes on.

I made him Halloween costumes (my favorite was when he dressed as a hippie), brought him up to my treehouse, fed him scraps under the table. He had my parents trained to mix gravy or ranch dressing in his food to make him eat it. He really brought us together as a family and solidified in my mind the importance of pets in fostering love, empathy, and community.

I blogged about the little guy here: https://corgicapers.com/2016/03/02/woof-out-wednesday-chip/

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

In Corgi Capers, the corgis threaten to steal the show! In my other works, animals are more of a passing thought.

In Corgi Capers, the chapters alternate. Some are told in the perspective of one of the humans (usually Adam or his sister Courtney). The other chapters are told in the perspective of Zeph or Sapphie, the corgis. In each mystery, the corgis’ observations are integral in helping to solve the mystery or help the humans gets to where they need to be in order to do so. But the problem is, the humans cannot understand what the corgis are saying, so it sounds like barking to them. The corgis could literally be barking out the answer, and the humans would have no idea. Sapphie and Zeph have to find more clever ways of solving problems.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

My idea to write Corgi Capers started when I lived in a large section of townhomes. I would walk my dogs there daily, and they (being the cute corgis they are) would often attract the attention of neighborhood kids. Each time we stopped for petting time, the kids asked me what my dogs did when I wasn’t home. I shrugged at first, admitting they probably napped. The kids insisted I was wrong: they told me my dogs went on secret adventures. Their names (Leia and Yoda) meant they had special bone-shaped light sabers they used to escape the bounds of my house and defend against enemies. I decided to play along, making up stories about random things my dogs did while I was way. The idea stuck, and it turned into a novel. And another. And another.

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

As an English teacher, I love teaching (and re-reading) The Life of Pi. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t read it, especially since the story can be read metaphorically. But there is a huge Bengal tiger featured in the story, and animals of all types play an integral role.

This goes back to what I wrote about Chip. Whether or not you believe animals have human-like traits and emotions, it’s fairly clear that animals help us bring out our human-like traits and emotions. The same goes for the main character Pi in The Life of Pi. His family ridicules him for assigning human emotions and motives to animals. Whether or not he is correct in doing so, his understanding of animals helps him understand the truth of the universe and the nature of man more effectively than any book or religion.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I mentioned my childhood dog, Chip. Because of all the attention he got (he was never truly treated like a dog), he developed several quirks. The weirdest one he learned from my sister. I’m not sure how it got started, but we had a bunch of sewers in our neighborhood. They were the kind that contained a grate right on the street, so you could look down and see the little waterways below. Somehow, we got in the habit of dropping pebbles down into the sewers and listening for a “plop.”

Chip got in the habit as well. He learned the command as “look,” and when we told him to “look,” he would run to the nearest sewer and push a pebble in with his nose. It was an impressive trick—until he got to the point that he wouldn’t walk fast (it was possible to actually gain calories on a walk with him—that’s how slowly he went!) unless you continually told him to “look.” In that way, we got him to prance from one sewer to the next, pushing pebbles in each one.

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

As soon as I could write, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. In fact, before I knew how to write, I dictated stories (very bad, long-winded stories about aliens and bicycles and flowers and such) onto cassette tapes. In first grade, I wrote a poem, and my first grade teacher had me read it in front of the fifth grade class. In second grade, my teacher wrote in my “yearbook” that she would look for my work in books and magazines one day. It continued on to the point that two college professors questioned whether I had actually penned some of the assignments in the time allotted (I had, as I explained to them; I’d had so much practice writing that I could crank out “A” work very quickly).

Of course, being a full-time writer is a risky business, so I went into teaching to make sure I had some security. I blogged about the time I made the transition to serious writer: http://www.valmuller.com/2012/02/10/the-mentor-giveaway/

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

I don’t make lists like that. I follow that cliché about the best-laid plans. I had it in my mind to meet my favorite author, Ray Bradbury, but he passed away before I could figure out how to make that work. My birthing plan was very simple—there were literally only 2 things on it, and yet a blizzard caused everything to go awry. From these experiences, I learned to be flexible and simply look for enjoyment in each day.

I also think that as a writer, my mind is a much more vivid place than much of the world. When I used to run track, I followed a strict diet, and I could often convince myself not to eat something delicious (like ice cream) simply by imagining the experience. It’s the same these days: I can use my imagination to transport me to places and times I’d like to experience.

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

First, think of the reader. I’d heard so much mixed advice about this, including that a writer should simply write for herself. But I’ve read too many books that don’t seem to keep the reader in mind or respect the reader’s time, background knowledge (or lack thereof), etc. I try now to picture a specific reader for each story and write for them.

Second, read a wide variety of works. As a younger reader, I stuck with what resonated with me. But as I read more and more, I realize that reading things beyond my comfort zone help me understand myself as a writer. Sometimes, it’s even helpful to read something I don’t particularly like: this shows me what kind of a reader I am and helps me think more metacognitively as a writer. I recently gave this advice to a teenage writer I often work with, and he started reading War and Peace (despite my warnings). He actually likes it and is learning about the craft of writing—including what he doesn’t prefer as a writing style.

About Val

www.CorgiCapers.com

www.ValMuller.com

www.facebook.com/author.val.muller

https://twitter.com/mercuryval

The Corgi Capers Series:

https://www.amazon.com/Corgi-Capers-Deceit-Dorset-Drive-ebook/dp/B01CIJWVBG

https://www.amazon.com/Corgi-Capers-Sorceress-Stoney-Brook-ebook/dp/B01CILY7AC

https://www.amazon.com/Corgi-Capers-Curtain-Calls-Halls-ebook/dp/B01CIOC4CW

 

 

 

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