Dog Tunes

I always have music on. I listen to classical and jazz when I edit. I listen to pop or rock when I’m writing. I love all kinds of music, and my playlists are often eclectic. I know it’s #Caturday, but here’s my dog-themed one.

  • “Hound Dog” – Elvis Presley
  • “Gonna Buy Me A Dog” – The Monkees
  • “Who Let the Dogs Out” – The Baja Men
  • “Move it On Over” – Hank Williams, George Thorogood, Travis Tritt
  • “The More Boys I Meet” – Carrie Underwood
  • “I Love my Dog” – Cat Stevens
  • “Every Dog Has His Day” Toby Keith
  • “Black Dog” Led Zepplin
  • “Old Shep”  – Elvis Presley
  • “Ol’ Red” – Blake Shelton
  • “Cracker Jack” – Dolly Parton
  • “Old King” Neil Young
  • “Martha My Dear” The Beatles
  • “Gypsy, Joe, and Me” – Dolly Parton
  • “Like My Dog” Billy Currington
  • “How Much is That Doggie in the Window” – Patti Page
  • “Blue” – Peter, Paul, and Mary
  • “Feed Jake” – The Pirates of Mississippi
  • “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” – Lobo”
  • “Snoopy and the Red Baron” – The Royal Guardsmen
  • “Waymore’s Blues” – Waylon Jennings
  • “Walking the Dog” – Rufus Thomas
  • “Old Blue” – Joan Baes and the Birds
  • “The Promised Land” – Bruce Springsteen
  • “One Too Many Mornings” – Bob Dylan
  • “Hey Bulldog” – The Beatles
  • “Diamond Dogs” – David Bowie
  • “Atomic Dog” – George Clinton
  • “Dog” Ben Folds

And don’t forget about Snoop Dogg, the Pet Shop Boys, and Three Dog Night.

What else would you add to my list?

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Siri Zwemke

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Siri Zwemke to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve always loved to write, but the opportunities that have presented themselves have been short stories or articles for newsletters (work) and the occasional article for a publication. After 20 years as Director (and Founder) of the Siamese Cat Rescue Center, there were so many funny stories I wanted to both remember and share, that it made sense to write them down in book format.

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

Over the years with Siamese Rescue, we have always taken in the cats that couldn’t be adopted out – typically the older ones or the ones with significant behavior issues. Many of the cats we only had for a few years, due to their condition, so over the years of Rescue, as well as before Rescue, I think we’ve had a total of 50 some personal cats. Add into that dogs, horses, chickens, ducks, goats and various other pets growing up; my life has certainly centered around animals. Currently we only have two cats and they are ‘quasi-normal’ for Siamese.

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

Rescue Meez is the story/history/memoir of how I ended up going from crazy cat lady to the Director of a national organization that has rescued over 13,000 cats and spawned separate organizations across the United States. There are some wonderful stories of some of our most memorable cats and the experiences we had together – Koda, Squirrel, PowPow to name just a few.

What are you reading now?

I am a voracious reader, completing on an average two to three books a week. I just finished Lost Horizon by James Hilton and before that Peony by Pearl S. Buck, and I am about to start a reread of Stuart Little. I read a lot of different genres, but the writing has got to be good and I don’t hesitate to put down a book if I don’t like it.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently finishing up an autobiography of my life and the lessons I’ve learned, moving from a very traumatic childhood to where I am now. While I’m going to publish it, I haven’t yet decided if I will release it to the general public or just keep it internal for family members and descendants. After that, I plan to work on a book of short stories from the cat’s point of view, storytelling how some of our memorable cats made it into our rescue program.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I don’t have one favorite author, but a few of my top ten include Catherine Ryan Hyde, Harlan Coben, Kristin Hannah

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

Certainly did. We had horses (three); dogs (two); cats (multiple); chickens, and ducks.

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

My current and first book centers around some of the many cats we rescued over the last 20 years, so they are the primary characters! A book full of true stories, that I worked hard at making enjoyable and happy reading (with just a few tears thrown in here and there).

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I wanted to write about something I knew and had experienced first hand, and animals it was!

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

I am leery about reading animal stories, as I don’t want to read anything that has animal abuse or too much sadness in it – I see enough of that in my career. However I did enjoy the book Racing in the Rain. I haven’t yet seen the movie.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Read the book I’d have to say doing the Dance of the Dead Mouse naked, in my birthday suit, takes the cake.

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

I’ve always received very positive feedback from the articles and stories I did for the twice-yearly newsletter for work.

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

I don’t have a bucket list like other people. I strive, every morning, to find happiness and peace of mind in that particular day.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

I rely on Goodreads (otherwise I can’t remember what I have already read) and I have 861 books on my ‘want to read’ list!

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

Probably the duck that lived in our living room growing up.

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

Writing is the easy part. Marketing is very difficult and time consuming.

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

On the couch. It has a great view and is very comfortable.

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

Persevere! It’s such a great feeling to get a book out there!

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

Nothing happens quickly. Patience will serve you well.

About Siri:

Siri Zwemke is the founder and Director of the Siamese Cat Rescue Center, a 20-year-old internet-based non-profit that spans the Eastern third of the United States and has helped 13,000 cats to date.

Zwemke switched careers mid-stream when her love of Siamese cats turned her into a crazy cat lady, rescuing one too many cats and finding herself trying to fill a need she didn’t realize was out there. When the shelters kept calling and she kept saying yes to Siamese cats that were needing help, Zwemke left her job as a teacher of the hearing impaired and took on building a non-profit that eventually spanned 20 states and had 900 volunteers.

Zwemke has recently put pen to paper to document some of the hilarious situations she found herself in as she learned about cat rescue the hard way. In her first book, Rescue Meez, Zwemke pokes fun at herself in a lighthearted manner as she grows the Rescue from the ground up. From handling rifle-wielding hillbillies in the mountains of Virginia to doing the Dance of the Dead Mouse, Zwemke takes us on a journey through the last 20 years as she shares information on the trials and tribulations of building a cat rescue organization.

Currently residing in Virginia with her husband, Darrell (whom she met through the Rescue), several cats and a dog, Zwemke enjoys gardening, reading, and is working towards her black belt in Martial Arts.

Zwemke can be reached at siri@meezer.org

Let’s Be Social:

Love Siamese?

Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SiameseCatRescue

Follow Instagram: @Siri_Zwemke_Author

https://www.facebook.com/SiriZwemkeAuthor

Booking it!  Rescue Meez available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers

Book Link:

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome back, Debra H. Goldstein!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Debra H. Goldstein back to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your new book.

When the publishers of my first two books each went out of business, leaving me orphaned, I still wanted to write cozy mysteries, but I had a major problem. Traditionally, cozies take place in a closed environment, don’t have blood or sex on the page, and feature a character who demonstrates an expertise at crafts, cooking or baking. I’m not good at crafts and anything to do with the kitchen frightens me. As I thought about my dilemma of not being able to write what I know, I realized there had to be readers who weren’t handy with crafts or dreaded being in the kitchen. Consequently, I created Sarah Blair who finds cooking from scratch worse than dealing with murder.

 Two Bites Too Many is the second book in the Sarah Blair series. In this book, things are finally looking up for Sarah and her Siamese cat, RahRah. Sarah has somehow managed to hang on to her law firm receptionist job and – if befriending flea-bitten strays at the local animal shelter counts – lead a thriving social life. For once, she almost has it together more than her enterprising twin, Emily, a professional chef whose efforts to open a gourmet restaurant have hit a real dead end.

 When the president of the town bank is murdered after icing Emily’s business plans, all eyes are on the one person who left the scene with blood on her hands – the twins’ sharp-tongued mother, Maybelle. Determined to get her mom off the hook ASAP, Sarah must collect the ingredients of a deadly crime to bring the true culprit to justice.

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

 RahRah, the Siamese cat who lives with Sarah, is introduced in the first book, One Taste Too Many, as a primary series character. He, rather than Sarah, runs the show. In Two Bites Too Many, Fluffy, a dog, also becomes part of the ongoing story. Although Fluffy is a recurring character, she knows her role is secondary to RahRah’s.

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

My first pets were three small turtles – Turk, Durk, and Lurk. When my family moved to a new state, I had to give them to the boy next door. After we moved, we got a toy poodle who was part of our family for the next twenty years. When Lord Silver Mist passed away, a bichon frise took over running my life.

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

I use animals in my writing to create a sense of reality for readers and as a means of bringing different personality traits out in my human characters. In the Sarah Blair series, I try to make RahRah and Fluffy pets like those readers might have. That way, they can identify with each animal’s behavior and characteristics. I also want the animals in my books to help readers understand my human characters. As they see the characters interact with the animals in kind, mean, loving or indifferent ways, I hope subliminal clues are sent that generate reactions to the respective characters.

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

 My favorite animal used as a central character wasn’t in a book or a movie, but rather in a television show. As a child, watching reruns of Fury, I was impressed with the magnificence of the beautiful stallion, but what really captured me was the way the stories were written. There was always a good vs. bad plot line that would never have been resolved in the same way if Fury hadn’t been a central character. I think watching how different characters reacted to Fury and how Fury interacted with them taught me the ways an animal can be used to move a story along in a believable manner.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now?

See the picture below — and this doesn’t include what’s on my e-reader.

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

My favorite place to read and write is in an oversized club chair. As her first anniversary gift, my mother had the chair made two inches deeper than normal to accommodate my father’s long legs. The arms of the chair are between four and five inches wide. It was the perfect place for him to read the newspaper, write letters, or draw and for my sister and me to stretch our imaginations.

When my sister and I were children, we used the chair to pretend to ride horses and as the base for covered wagons, stagecoaches and tents. The chair was wide enough for both of us to hide in it or pretend one of us was a passenger while the other was a driver or riding shotgun.

When my father died, my mother took comfort curling up in the chair. When she passed away, other than some artwork, the chair was the only thing I wanted from her home. I had it shipped from California to Alabama. Today, it is where I sit with my laptop. Someday, I hope one of my children will continue the tradition of reading and writing in the chair.

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

 I would tell an aspiring writer to read extensively and think about the feelings each book or story generates. At this point, the reader should read with only the hope of enjoying the work in mind. There is no further agenda other than exposure to the works of an array of writers. Slowly, the would-be writer, now reader, will recognize what is moving, perplexing, exciting or boring. Once a wide gambit has been read, then, and only then, should the would-be writer dissect the stories and books to better understand their internal structure, plots, settings, and characterization. After doing all this, the individual should write the book or story that person wants to write.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

The one lesson I learned is to write what I want to write. Although I read and studied the masters, other books in the genre I thought might want to write in, and what seemed hot on the publishing lists, the lesson I learned was to write the best book or story I could using techniques I’d gleaned from other works, but realizing my tale had to come from me. Trends go out of style; formulas can be broken, but an honest work will stand on its own merit and hopefully find an audience to resonate with.

What’s next for you with your writing projects?

October was a busy month for me. Kensington released the second Sarah Blair mystery, Two Bites Too Many, so I will be busy with launch events and PR. An anthology edited by Michael Bracken, The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods, which contains my first private eye story, Harvey and the Redhead was published by Down & Out Books, Inc. I’ve already turned in the third Sarah Blair mystery, which will be published in September 2020, so besides the PR related to the two October publications, I plan to take two classes to advance my skills, write a few short stories in response to prompts, and begin the fourth book of the Sarah Blair series (yes, they recently bought two beyond the original three).

Show us a picture of your writing space or one of your bookcases. What does it say about your style?

It demonstrates that I don’t have any style because I’m so far behind on things, I don’t have time to establish one.

 About Debra:

Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (One Taste Too Many, Two Bites Too Many). She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra serves on the national boards of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and is president of the Southeast Chapter of MWA and past president of SinC’s Guppy Chapter. Find out more about Debra at www.DebraHGoldstein.com .

https://www.amazon.com/Bites-Many-Sarah-Blair-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07MB4779P

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/two-bites-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1130055243?

Let’s Be Social:

Website – www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/

Twitter – @DebraHGoldstein

Instagram – debra.h.goldstein

Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-h-goldstein

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, N. L. LaFoille!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome N. L. LaFoille to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your books.

I write romantic women’s fiction. Whether it’s historical about pirates or cowboys (Nautical Miles and Lesser Evils, respectively) or contemporary (my upcoming 2020 release, The Pickling Secret), I love seeing my characters learn, grow and, of course, find love in the end.

I’m a mom to a 5-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old rat terrier. I teach sewing as a contributor to Sew News magazine and in monthly videos that can be found on the NationalSewingCircle YouTube channel.

I love to travel. Last year, we spent 10 weeks in Spain and are planning our winter trip this year to Thailand.

I spend my summers at home in Michigan, camping, gardening, foraging and canning the bounty, which inspired The Pickling Secret.

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

My dog, Finley, is an 11-year-old rat terrier. He’s a little brat who’s too smart for his own good. He enjoys snuggling, walking on your thighs with his poky paws, pulling used Kleenexes out of the pockets of yesterday’s pants and hates going for walks.

He is definitely the model for my latest dog character, a golden retriever named Molly in The Pickling Secret, though she is far better behaved.

What are you reading now?

I’ve started alternating reading non-fiction and fiction, which is a big change from when I was a kid and devoured all the novels I could.

I just finished The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which I highly recommend. Now I’m reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which is an enlightening look into the psychedelic subculture of the mid ‘60s.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m just polishing up The Pickling Secret, a contemporary romance set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and have plans for another in that vein. I also have a regency romance and a sword-and-sorcery romance in various stages of progress. It’s an exciting/overwhelming time in my brain pan.

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

I have always had pets. My family kept picking up stray cats when I was a kid, and I’ve never been without a dog. I grew up with a Springer Spaniel, Duchess, then a miniature schnauzer, Jenny.

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

Animals in my stories are always important. The way characters treat animals is a great way to learn about what kind of person that character is. Plus they create cute opportunities for characters to interact.

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

I’ve been jotting down stories since I was a kid. When I was in high school, I completed my first novel, which was terrible, but it made me realize I could string a story together and make it into an actual book.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My Finley likes to wriggle himself under the couch or wind himself up in the afghans. If I ever can’t find him, I just prod the heap of blankets and he’s usually there.

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

My animals were all pretty tame; dogs, cats and fish. I also had a hamster when I was a kid. But my cousin, who lived next door to me, had emus, turkens and a horse, and I got to enjoy those without having to clean up after them.

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

How to outline BEFORE starting to write. I was a pantser purely by incompetence and it made things a lot harder for me.

The first draft is allowed to suck. Just get those ideas down to create your framework and edit later.

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

In our cozy attic, because between a work-from-home husband and a 5-year-old-daughter, it’s the only place in my house that’s quiet.

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

 Read resources on the elements of writing (but only 2-3; all the different methods and opinions can get overwhelming) and read as many books as you can. Being a good reader exposes you to vocabulary and plot devices that you can use as inspiration for your own works.

About N. L.:

N.L. LaFoille writes romantic women’s fiction and lives in Michigan with her husband, daughter, rat terrier and red worm colony.

Let’s Be Social:

Twitter: Twitter.com/NLLaFoille

Facebook: Facebook.com/NLLaFoille

Personal blog: meetthegofamily.blogspot.com/

Writing blog: nllafoille.blogspot.com/

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome back, A. R. Kennedy!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome A. R. Kennedy back to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your new book.

My new book, Sleuth on Safari, was inspired by my travel to South Africa a few years ago. I love animals, especially my two pups, and I love to travel. My favorite trips combine seeing new places and its wildlife.

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

I have two dogs. One is a rescue, H, and one is a miniature schnauzer, River. I’m sure their antics will be used in upcoming books and short stories.

My previous schnauzers, L & H who are still dearly missed, were the inspiration for Laude, in my Nathan Miccoli Mystery series.

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

Animals are a huge part of all my novels. In Saving Ferris, failed out of service school golden retriever Ferris is the star of the book. In the Nathan Miccoli series, Laude is a scene stealer. In Sleuth on Safari, different types of animals play a role—the local wildlife. Searching for the Big Five, and other animals, on the game drives are key parts of any safari. I hope the reader finds themselves immersed in Naomi’s observations of the animals.

What’s your real-life, funniest pet story?

Shortly after graduating college, I got a beautiful black schnauzer puppy, L. One day, while walking the pup, I saw a neighbor who I was holding a package for. My puppy was rambunctious and quick. When I opened my apartment door, my pup saw my roommate’s cat and took off! Taking me with her. I fell flat on my face. I slowly got up, got the package and handed it to the neighbor. She never passed me again without laughing.

What’s the most interesting/fun/dangerous thing you’ve done in the name of research for one of your books?

I didn’t know it at the time but it was on the safari. I slept in a treehouse by myself! It was miles away from the lodge. I was the first in the group to go so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was a night filled with fear, anxiety, and amazing sights. Everyone at the lodge, guests and staff, was so impressed I stayed out there the whole night by myself!

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

I only write at home. The rescue pup is usually on my lap. The puppy is running wild, anywhere and everywhere. I think she wants to be involved in the writing because she loves to chew on my glasses, pens, paper, phone and even my computer!

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

I would give the advice that was given to me when I started by German novelist Beate Sauer — Write. Take a writing class.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?        

Start branding and marketing months ahead of the book’s release. You need at least a six month plan for your release. The ‘write it and they will buy it’ strategy won’t work without a structured plan leading up to the novel’s release.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Wreak havoc. No, that’s just the puppy. I’m fortunate my mother loves her ‘grand-puppy’ and watches her for me so I can write.

What’s next for you with your writing projects?

The Traveler Cozy Mystery series continues in Iceland. We follow Naomi as she travels with another family member and investigates another murder. The yet to be titled book 2 is expected Summer 2020.

Let’s Be Social:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error

What Pets Say about Their Owners by Vivian Lawry

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to thank Vivian Lawry for doing a guest post about what pets say about their owners.

On April 13, 2018, I posted Pets: A Treasure Trove for Writers focusing on how people treat their pets and how pets might fit into plot points and scenes.  Now, I’m turning to the ways pets reflect their owners, and the things an informed character might deduce from simply knowing another character’s pet choice(s).  These are group data, of course, so as a writer you need to decide whether your character reflects the norm or is an outlier.
 

An entry on bakadesuyo.com titled 8 Things Your Pet Says About Your Personality is a good overview.  (Points have been regrouped and edited, so they no longer number eight.)

1) General conclusions about pet owners:

  • Fish owners are happiest.
  • Dog owners are the most fun to be with.
  • Cat owners are the most dependable and emotionally sensitive.
  • Reptile owners are the most independent.

2) Comparing dog people and cat people:
  • Dog people are 15% more extroverted, 13% more agreeable, and 11% more conscientious.
  • Cat people are 12% more neurotic and 11% more emotionally open.
  • Dog owners are healthier: handled stress better, were more relaxed, had higher self-esteem, and were less likely to be diagnosed with depression.

3) Richard Wiseman concluded that people often see their pets’ personality as a reflection of their own.  Maybe a character could ask, “So, what’s your X like?”

4) Younger people who are disagreeable tend to prefer aggressive dogs.

5) Dog owners tend to seek different qualities in their dogs depending on their political leanings:
  • Liberals want dogs that are gentle and relate to their owners as equals.
  • Conservatives want dogs that are loyal and obedient.
6) Likelihood of owners cleaning up after their dogs:
  •  35.3% of males; 58.2% of females.
  • 18.2% of those who are lower income; 68.7% of those with higher income.
  • 72.6% of those who kept their dogs on a leash.

The website medium.com has published at least two articles on this topic: “What Your Pet Says Abut Your Personality and Career” (Mitch Fodstad, 3/6/2017) and  “What Your Pet Says About You” (Dustin Bilyk, 1/10/18).  The Bilyk article was written for humor and is basically an opinion piece, but you might want to read it for inspiration about a character’s opinions.  In addition to personality and career, life stage is addressed.  All of the following points come from these two articles.  Not surprisingly, there is some overlap with the points above.  So, by pet, here are the generalities:

 

Snake people: Owners are unconventional and novelty-seeking, may be bad-ass or wannabe bad-ass, and may have a kinky side.  FYI, male snakes are so focused on reproducing that they don’t even eat during mating season and many of them die.  Snake owners tend to lead unusual lives and make impulsive decisions.  They’re eager for the next move, even when unsure what that move might be.
Common careers: engineer, social worker, marketing/public relations professional, editor/writer, or police officer.

 

Turtle people: They are hard-working and reliable.  Turtle owners harness exceptional commitment, which drives quality performance and bodes well for upward mobility to a higher social class.
Common careers: engineer, social worker, marketing/public relations professional, editor/writer, or police officer.
(VL: Note the  similarities with other reptile people as described above.)

 

Fish people: They are optimistic and not materialistic, unconcerned with possessions.  They prefer low-maintenance pets.  Fish owners are hopeful and confident about the future.
Common career choices: human resources, financial professional, hotel and leisure professional, farming/fishing/forestry professional, or transportation professional.

 

Bird people: These pet owners tend to be outgoing and friendly, expressive, and socially confident.  They communicate effectively and may include some of the most powerful visionaries.
Common careers: advertising professional, sales person, construction worker, or administrative professional.

 

Cat people: Cat owners tend to be adventurous, creative, and anxious.  They enjoy new experiences, often have vivid imaginations, and are likely to be less sociable than dog owners.
Common careers: physician, real estate agent, science/medical technicians, machine operator, or personal caretaker.

 

Dog people: These people tend to be extroverted, confident, and risk-averse.
Common careers: professor, nurse, information technology professional, military professional, or entertainer.

 

Frankly, I find the links between pet, personality, and careers more suggestive than factual.  Writers should still consider the narrative possibilities of such links. 

Scientific American MIND published on-line an overview of the research into what pets say about their owners (Karen Schrock Simring, 9/1/15).  There isn’t much data published in peer-reviewed academic studies, but lots of information is available from huge market surveys within the pet industry and survey responses from pet owners.  Because I don’t want to footnote specific statements, I am not combining info from this article with related statements above.

 

If a character has a dog, he or she is more likely to be in senior management and consider their pet part of the family; live with family members, not have a college degree (although other research suggests dog owners are likely to be a professor, nurse, information professional, military professional, or entertainer); be extroverted, agreeable, and conscientious; have gotten the dog from a shelter or rescue group; live in Arkansas, New Mexico, Kentucky, Missouri, or West Virginia.

 

If the character’s pet is a cat, they are more likely to be divorced, widowed, or separated; live in an apartment; be neurotic and open to new experiences; be college educated; be a physician, real estate agent, science or medical lab technician, machine operator, or personal caregiver; be less socially dominant; live in Vermont, Maine, Oregon, South Dakota, or Washington state.

 

If the character owns a bird, they are more likely to be unemployed, describe themselves as caring and polite, be outgoing and expressive (and socially dominant if female), and live in California, Oregon, Washington state, or Nevada.

 

Horse owners tend to be more assertive and introspective and less warm and nurturing; be aggressive and socially dominant if he is male but non-aggressive and easygoing if she is female; hold an advanced degree; be married and a homeowner; live in a rural area; reside in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, or Louisiana.  They are most likely to describe themselves as dependable and self-disciplined.

 

Cold-blooded exotic pet owners if female, are more open to new experiences than male owners or female owners of traditional pets; if male, they are much less agreeable than female owners or male owners of traditional pets.

If the pet is a snake, the character may describe themselves as neat and tidy, relaxed and unpredictable; be unconventional and novelty seeking; and consider their pet “part of the family.”

If the character’s pet is a turtle, that character is more likely to be hardworking, reliable, and upwardly mobile, and describe themselves as rational and goal-oriented.

Fish owners are most likely to describe themselves as calm and emotionally stable.

 

Rabbit owners describe themselves as sympathetic, warm, and open to new experiences.

Hamster owners were the most likely to have an advanced degree.

Guinea pig owners were least likely to describe themselves as extroverted.

 

Owners of unusual pets were more likely to have a menagerie. For instance, more than half of ferret owners said they had six or more pets. Dog owners, on the other hand, were the most likely to have only one pet.

More than half of cat owners are fond of both cats and dogs.  More than half of dog owners say they only like canines.

Beyond the most common pets, people make a pet of almost any animal: chickens, exotic insects, possums, pigs, etc.

 

Writers note: For people who have pets, those pets are often integral to how owners see themselves.  For example, some men who want to look tough may get a tough-looking dog.  Some people have rabbits or poodles because that’s the family tradition.  Some people who feel misunderstood may seek “misunderstood” pets such as spiders.  If you give your character a pet, choose it for a reason!

And in spite of it all, keep in mind that although 68% of U.S. households have pets, that leaves 32% pet-less.

About Vivian:

Vivian Lawry is Appalachian by birth, a psychologist by training, and a writer by passion. Her short works have appeared in more than fifty literary journals and anthologies, from Adanna to Xavier Review. In addition she has published four books: Dark Harbor and Tiger Heart, Chesapeake Bay Mysteries; Different Drummer, a collection of off-beat fiction; and an historical novel,  Nettie’s Books, A Story of Strength and Change. For a complete list of her publications and to sample her work, visit vivianlawry.com. Vivian Lawry is on FaceBook and Twitter.

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Katie Baldwin!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Katie Baldwin to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write romances. Some have a mystery in the plot, some have paranormal storylines, but they all are romances. I grew up watching 1940s & 1950 musicals and that is where my love of romance began. Then I began to read Barbara Michaels gothic romances and I was hooked.

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

I have one dog. Her name is Marley. I adopted her from my local SPCA in 2015. She was 8 ½ years old and scared out of her mind. She couldn’t even be in the regular shelter. She was upstairs in the offices. Do you know that song? “Just one look” by Doris Troy? I took one look at the sweet min-pin/chihuahua mix with the nervous eyes and I was in love. I said to her “I’m going to spoil you so much.” She then consented to the adoption. After a year, Marley developed diabetes and went blind. I now give her shots of insulin twice a day. She takes it like a champ. This past year she developed glaucoma. So now we have three drops that go in her eyes twice a day. She is the bravest dog. I’m in awe of her tenacity. Marley is the basis for two of my stories – but neither are published at this time. But soon.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? Pierre the chihuahua (I created this character before I met my dog.) will be in every single Spirod book. The first is “A Ghost of a Chance”. Pierre lets his people know when ghosts are around by peeing. It never goes over well. But that’s his special psychic gift. The next one will be set in New Orleans about some nasty Satanist trying to cause trouble called “Old Devil Moon” and the third one is about coven of inexperienced witches who and accidentally open a portal to hell. That one is tentatively titled “Bewitched, Bothered and Irritated as Hell.”

What are you reading now? I’m reading The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx of the band Mötley Crüe. Why you might ask? Especially since I despise Mötley Crüe? Because I’m also writing a series titled “Metalsome Hearts” and it will be a five-part series about a heavy metal band. Two of the members are recovering heroin addicts – thus – the reason I’m dipping into the nasty world of Nikki Sixx.

What writing projects are you currently working on? I’m finishing the first book in my metal series – “Metalsome Hearts” and then in October, I’ll be back with the Spirod team, Pierre and the Satanists in “Old Devil Moon.”

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. My childhood pet was a German Shepard named Elsa. She was the most amazing dog. She passed away in the late 80s and I still miss her. She was such a big dog that when we ate dinner she could put her chin on the dining table. My dad would tell her sternly “down!” and then she would turn her back on us and give a very human harrumph.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing? I love books who put animals in their stories, so it was a no brainer when I started writing. As to if they are characters in the book. Depends on the book. Pierre is a character. Dolly – in Love My Way – is a metaphor for unconditional love.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story? My sister rescued a Pitbull (Lulu) and another smaller dog (Piper) from the Los Angeles area SPCA. They were both the apple of the entire family’s eyes. Including me. And then I adopted Marley. When I introduced my dog to my fur-nieces, the look in their eyes. Betrayal, disappointment, anger. Marley padded over to say hello and Lulu growled at her. So, I had to discipline Lulu. I said “Lulu! No!” She gave me this look – like – seriously? And walked out of the room in a huff. Diva. God, I love that dog. I attached a photo of Lulu and Marley on a sofa together. You can see Lulu is displeased.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I’ve been making up stories since I was a kid. I loved to see the look on people’s faces when they are into my stories. For the most part, I told stories orally. Like they did back in the day. And my sister heard a lot of my stories. When I started to do well in English and writing classes, my storytelling naturally shifted to writing.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? I want to go to Ireland. The problem is that I don’t want to leave Marley so traveling has stopped since she was adopted. When I go away for conferences for work, my neighbor stays with her in my home. Since she is blind, I don’t like her staying somewhere else. She already bumps her sweet nose all the time and she knows her house really well. I’m a helicopter parent for a dog. And I’m fine with that

What do your pets do when you are writing? Marley sits under the desk and looks at me with sad eyes. She is so manipulative, and I love it! When I first got her, she was so desperate to be a good girl, she barely showed any personality. But now, my girl gives me grief all the time. So happy that she is comfortable and safe. She knows she can be a pain in the butt and I’ll still love her.

About Katie:

Katie Baldwin has a secret life. During the day she is a mild-mannered researcher at a prestigious University. By night she writes fantastical tales of romance and mystery. When she is not pacing her home working out dialogue in her mind, she is baking scones and plotting her next chapter. Aside from writing, she has a ferocious passion for Rock & Roll – especially 1980s and 1990s rock, the Green Bay Packers, and her MinPin/Chihuahua mix dog-baby, Marley. She can be found on twitter waxing eloquently about all of her passions.

Let’s Be Social:

She can be reached via twitter @katiebwrites or her website:

Home


Email: Katie@authorkatiebaldwin.com
Follow me on BookBub!
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katie.baldwin.372661
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katie_author/

Please follow and like us:
error

Herding Squirrels by Sheri Levy

Herding Squirrels by Sheri Levy

Every morning I took my dogs to play on a neighbors eight-acres of pasture land. Using the Chuck-It-Stick, I’d fling their red balls a distance for them to chase and retrieve. One day while chasing the ball, the dogs spotted a squirrel dashing up the tree. They spit out their balls and sprinted to the tree, barking and leaping at the trunk. Some squirrels are smart and stay put, but this one decided to run to another tree.

I stood, waiting for both dogs to return. When Slater dashed back with blood dripping from his mouth, I panicked thinking he’d bit his lip. Then Mulligan ran to me with the squirrel dangling from his mouth. I knew then Slater wasn’t hurt. He’d been the one who caught the squirrel. My stomach churned and my heart hurt, believing they had killed the squirrel.

I screamed, “Drop it.”

Mulligan would drop it for a moment, and then Slater would grab it. They repeated this back and forth. Even treats didn’t catch their attention. They were intoxicated with the squirrel.

After a few more attempts of playing keep-away from each other, the squirrel lay on the ground, not moving. Relieved but sad, I planned to remove the body to get their attention. I pulled out a clean poop bag from my pouch. With my thumb and forefinger, I reached down to pick up the sad creature by its tail and began to drop it into my shallow plastic bag.

A second later the squirrel’s head hit the bottom of the bag, bending its head towards my hand and clamped onto my right ring finger. Its sharp teeth penetrated both sides of my finger and I let out a thunderous, ear-piercing scream.

My hand flew from the bag, but the squirrel hung on. Shrieking, I violently shook my hand and both dogs stood below the squirrel, moving their heads up and down. Until it finally let go.

The squirrel landed at my feet just under Mulligan’s head. He tried to bite it again, but the squirrel was faster and bit Mulligan’s lip. As it hung from Mulligan’s mouth, he moaned and whined. His lip lifted the squirrel only inches, leaving the tail lying on the ground. To help Mulligan, I stepped on the squirrel’s tail. It immediately let go of Mulligan’s lip. In that instant, I grabbed the dogs’ collars, hooked their leashes, and we walked home.

Coming in the house, crying and bleeding, my husband met me. His face crinkled in concern, “What happened?”

Slater’s face had been licked clean. All the evidence had disappeared. In tears, I repeated the incident. He didn’t say a word. Only his eyes widened as my story grew.

When I exclaimed how I had grabbed the squirrel to remove it, and how it bit me inside the bag, he started laughing, tears filling his eyes. I stared at him. “What in the world are you laughing at? This isn’t funny. I’m hurt.”

He held his stomach, bent at the waist, hysterical. “When you think of being bit, it’s not ever by a squirrel. Were you trying to save it?”

“Not this time. I wanted to distract the dogs.”

Murphy took a look at my finger. “Let’s wash this. And then you need to call the vet and see if you need a rabies shot.” That sent my stomach into convulsions.

My daughter manages the Vet’s office and answered the phone. I told her what had happened and she laughed. My eyes scrunched. What is so funny.

Dr. Hill chuckled and said, “Squirrels don’t usually carry rabies, but since you’ve been bitten, you should ask animal control.”

Murphy looked up the phone number and helped bandage my finger. I called, and after locating the squirrel, he drove us to the animal control office. With my right palm open, I kept my fingers straight-up to prevent the throbbing. I looked as if I was ready put my left hand on the Bible and say, “Everything that happened is the truth.”

I had an appointment with my doctor the next day. When she walked into the exam room, my finger was wrapped in band aide and pointed upward. She asked, “Sheri. What did you do to your finger?”

Disappointed that she noticed, I said, “Dr. B. I’m not going to die from natural causes. It’s going to be something the dogs have done to me.” I retold the whole story and added, “I thought the squirrel was dead.”

She tried to control her amusement. She went out of the room and brought in a book for medical suggestions. “Let me look up squirrel bites.”

A few moments later, she gasped and smiled. “Sheri, I believe it was playing possum!”

I couldn’t contain myself and let loose with laughter.

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Liz Boeger!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Liz Boeger to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

In the spirit of this blog, I’ll respond with animals in mind. I grew up near Old Tampa Bay in an area of South Tampa that had originally been named Rattlesnake. Eventually, the rattlesnake meat cannery that had become an early tourist attraction in the area closed. Its owner/operator had succumbed to the hazard of his trade. Consequently, there were far fewer rattlesnakes hidden among the palmetto scrubs when my parents arrived years later, from Illinois to raise their growing family.

Many writers will tell you they penned their first stories in elementary or middle school. Not me, I was too busy wrangling multiple litters of kittens and exploring the local beaches. Later, I applied my cat-herding skills to teaching in elementary schools, math and science, primarily. During this time, I got married, and we now have a grown son. Eventually, I became an assistant principal. Beyond humans, I worked with many other fine creatures, including a goldfish, Guinea pigs, a wayward copperhead, occasional migrating alligators, and a Florida Panther who was, thankfully, secured behind the wire mesh inches from my head, in a cargo van.

I must admit, being an administrator had its high points, but it became less about leading schools and more about juggling state testing programs. To relieve job stress, I took to reading traditional and cozy mysteries. Somewhere along the way, all the crazy stories from my youth and my career converged in a dream that introduced a character and a problem. Luckily, I recalled enough details when I awoke to jot down the beginnings of what would become my cozy mystery series: Moccasin Cove Mysteries. My silly spin aside, I love teaching, and left the administrative suite to return to the classroom several years ago, which freed up some time for writing.

The main character in my series, Principal Ana Callahan, is an accomplished school turnaround specialist who rescues failing schools. In the first book, ChainLinked! She has come home to Moccasin Cove to save the failing K-5 of her childhood. Fallout from a local murder threatens her school flip, so she is forced to investigate. Then she’s paired with Mac, the handsome, single, retired Air Force colonel who is the school district’s new Chief of Security. Romantic sparks fly, but before Ana and Mac can pursue a life together, they must untangle their own broken hearts and of course, solve a murder.

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

We currently have two cats in our household. Both are rescues. Neither are in my books, but they do pose for me occasionally if I have feline behavior to describe in the story. Samantha (Sammy) – I call her a calico, but I think there is a more specific name…a tortoise something. She was a rejected adoptee my husband rescued at a pet warehouse store adoption.

GRBRTY (ger-ber-tee) – Was also rescued at a pet store adoption event. This time at barely 8-weeks by my son. He is a pale orange tabby and a chubby tubby. His original name was Racecar, but that did not fit. One day he walked over my keyboard when I was writing and typed G-R-B-R-T-Y. The name stuck.

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

I have two pets in my series. Both are permanent characters.

Muffin is modelled after my dearly departed pup by the same name. In the books, she is a rescue, turned therapy dog. So far, she works with students who have PTSD but later in the series she may branch out to veterans and retirees. She is part King Charles Cavalier and Tibetan Spaniel, like my real girly.

The second pet character in the series is a champagne orange, feral tabby kitten rescued from the mangroves during a storm. He is named Gibson by the rescuer because she trades him for a Gibson guitar. Every cat she rescues is given to a worthy home and named for whatever he or she is traded for. Gibson is modeled after a rescue I adopted in my twenties named Huey, who helped me navigate into my early thirties relatively unscathed.

What are you reading now?  

I’ll list the WHO’s instead, since my TBR has multiple copies of some authors:

Hank Phillippi Ryan, Cheryl Hollon, Terrie Farley Moran, Heather Weidner, Micki Browning, Elizabeth Sims, Ellen Byron, and many more…

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently revising the first book in the series, which I described above. The second book in my proposed series, AppleJacked! is also written, but I’ve made some timeline changes, so it will require another round of revisions later. It tells the continuing story of Ana and her quest to keep her failing school on track and to help turn around the failing economic fortunes of her beloved hometown. In this second book, Ana is in competition for a high-stacks school grant when one of her teachers is murdered. She investigates to clear the name of a parent she believes is falsely accused, In the process, Ana uncovers secrets from her own childhood and a second murder that are all connected.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It is impossible for me to choose. My criteria: Any author of traditional/cozy mysteries who can make me laugh out loud, care about the characters and their story, and who writes intelligent and challenging mysteries that are believable. This is exactly what I am trying to achieve in my series.

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

We had one dog, a white and brown terrier mix who used to dig under the fence and chase cars. Not good. He was put down in his old age due to old age. His name was Goober. Then we had so many cats and kittens you’d think we lived on a farm and not in a suburb. I remember having three litters at once in the laundry room and a favorite cat, Aunt Margaret, who had successive litters in the closet in my room.

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

Muffin, the pup in my series is a Trained Therapy dog. She works with elementary-aged students with PTSD.

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

Larger Than Life, 1996. Funny, poignant, and shows a great character arc for both the main character, played by Bill Murray, and Vera, the circus elephant he inherits unexpectedly.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Mine are slightly dark humor—not suitable for Cozy readers I’ve posted one recently on my blog about class pets, but the hamster story will never see the light of day.

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

I never even thought about writing fiction—despite being a mystery fan. Then an idea literally presented itself as a scene while I was dreaming. That led to creating the series, Moccasin Cove Mysteries, which I will be actively marketing to agents this year.

I won a Royal Palm Literary Award for my unpublished mystery, AppleJacked! from the Florida Writers Association. I knew I had potential when reading the judges’ feedback from that contest and when Elizabeth Sims graciously read the book and wrote a review blurb.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

They usually ignore me, unless it is before dawn and Sammy wants her morning treat. GRBRTY usually pesters to go in/out of the screened porch.

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

I have two stacks-paper and plastic. I prefer holding a paper book in my hand over eBooks. Given today’s publishing world you must have both. Both stacks include mysteries, writing reference books, educational topics (for work) and some quilting magazines.

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

Any place that is quiet and low traffic works for me. I prefer to write at home rather than in the coffee shop like some. Color matters to my eye too, so I like to have teals, blues, greens, and greys in the space. Currently, I have a writing nook where our breakfast nook used to be, before I commandeered it this summer. Our coffee station is within arm’s reach—that’s a perk! I can look outside at the yard through the sliding glass doors and it is not a high traffic area. If the no-see-ums aren’t too nippy on the porch or in the yard, I’ll move out there some cooler mornings or evenings.

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

1-Learn your craft by reading mentor texts and by writing.

2-Join the writing community and contribute.

3-Use social media strategically.

4-Read your genre and others for craft lessons and pleasure.

5-If you get validation for your work, and you KNOW this is the right path, don’t stop.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

It takes a village to raise a writer but not to do the writer’s work. That is my job as a writer. I must continually learn and hone my craft—even with a fulltime job. In the early stage you must be selfish about getting your footing. Then AS SOON as possible, start giving back to the community. This may be in the form of book reviews and shout outs on social media, if you are not yet published. Then once you have some creds, offer to be a contest judge, critique the work of others, offer book review blurbs, and be an encourager. I continue to meet many excellent role models for this in the writing community.

About Liz:

Liz Boeger explored hidden beaches and rattlesnake infested natural preserves while growing up near Old Tampa Bay. A veteran school administrator and teacher, she still lives in Florida and still prefers genuine snakes to the human variety. Her Moccasin Cove Mystery series features an amateur sleuth with too much empathy and wit for her own good. She earned her B.S. at the University of Tampa and her M.Ed. from Saint Leo University. Member of Sisters in Crime and Guppies.

She blogs at Moccasin Cove Mysteries (http://www.LizBoeger.com)

Follow her on Twitter: @LizBoegerAuthor or @MrsBoeger

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Gabriel Valjan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Gabriel Valjan to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is Gabriel Valjan and I write crime with a love and respect for Italy (my Roma Series with Winter Goose Publishing) and an enjoyment of intrigue (my Company Files, again with Winter Goose, and my forthcoming Shane Cleary series with Level Best Books). In all my writing I try to create a group of characters that readers can enjoy and root for, while giving them slices of culture and lost history they may not have known.

The Roma Series is contemporary crime fiction with an American expat abroad. Readers should expect a story with some technology, politics, and Italian culture and food. The Company Files introduces readers to the early days of the intelligence community and the rivalry between the CIA and the FBI. The Shane Cleary series will take readers back to 70s New England, this time to South End Boston—not to be confused with Whitey Bulger’s South Boston. The first of five Shane books, Dirty Old Town, is slated for publication in January 2020.

I’ve been publishing since 2010. My short stories have appeared online, or in anthologies. I’ve been shortlisted for the Bridport and Fish Prizes, and I received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest.

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

I have one cat named Squeak aka Buttons, a rescue tuxedo cat. My followers on Twitter expect to find some missive from Squeak on Caturday (Saturday in the Twitterverse). Squeak has been my writing companion and the inspiration for one of two cats in Roma Series Book 5: Corporate Citizen. In Dirty Old Town, the first Shane Cleary novel for Level Best Books, readers will meet Delilah, my main character’s cat and voice of conscience.

Many writers have pets and I’ve found that readers both enjoy the distraction and interpret how the character treats his or her pet as indicative of their morality. I think it’s true to say that many people find unconditional love and a nonjudgmental attitude with their fur-companions. Buttons and my late cat Squawk aka Banzai have been a joy in my life.

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

Buttons is Bogie, the male in the couple of Bogie and Bacall in Corporate Citizen. Bianca, my main character, is rather prickly and standoffish but Bogie and Bacall elicit a warmer and caring side of her personality. The real treat for readers is how Silvio, a gifted translator of sorts, communicates with cats. Silvio had also adopted a cat orphaned when his owner was murdered.

Delilah or Dee in the Shane Cleary series takes Shane to task on some of his choices. Without giving away too much, she sits and stares at him (literally) when he comes home after doing something that he shouldn’t have. Shane knows it and he ‘talks’ to Delilah. She won’t have any of it and lets him know it in no uncertain terms.

What are you reading now?

I just finished Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Murder List and Edwin Hill’s The Missing Ones, and am anxious to get my mitts on Louise Penny’s The Better Man. In the interim, I’m reading a brief short story collection by Italo Calvino, Under the Jaguar Sun. I read between books I’m writing to avoid undue influence. I find short fiction a welcome palate cleanser.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

At the moment, I am editing Dirty Old Town for Level Best Books. In revisiting the writing, I want to make sure everything ‘adds up’ and that I’ve seeded the book with questions that will get answered as the series progresses. I have written five books and had a long-arc view of conflicts and resolutions.

Who is your favorite author and why?

This is a hard question to answer because I enjoy many authors for different reasons. As an only child, I found solace and company in reading books. I was also fortunate to have teachers who thrusted books into my hands. My seventh-grade teacher gave me a copy of Agatha Christie and I proceeded to read all of her work in the next two years. As a child of the Seventies, I had a fondness for historical sagas that were all the rage, so Clavell, Hailey, Jakes, Levin, Peters, and Wouk are nostalgic touchstones for me. As for contemporary historical fiction, I’ve enjoyed Robert Harris’s trilogy on Cicero.

As a writer, you feel ‘on’ most of the time and oftentimes your inner critic interferes with your enjoyment. When I sit down with a writer I enjoy, I like to think I’m spending time with an old friend or making a new one. Good writing like good food is sustenance; it can offer escape and yet fortify you against the troubles in Life. In terms of style, I’ve come to appreciate the clean and elegant sentences of Margaret Millar, her husband Ross Macdonald, and Rex Stout. I began writing with poetry and moved to short stories. Short fiction is a difficult art form and I think most readers avoid it because they’ve been traumatized by high school English classes. Stefan Zweig was a master of the form, and I admire the stories we get from Bonnie Jo Campbell, EJ Levy, and Art Taylor.

I read broadly, but yet I’ve tried to seek out writers who are different from either how I’ve experienced the world, or how I would write a story. Writers I have enjoyed: RG Belsky, Andrea Camilleri, Bruce Coffin, LA Chandlar, J. California Cooper, Dick Cass, Colleen Gleason, Maurizio de Giovanni, Peter Hamill, Cheryl Head, Reginald Hill, Jim L’Etoile, Laurie King, Dannie Martin, Gabriel García Marquez, Eryk Pruitt, Stephen Mack Jones, Sara Paretsky, William Martin, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Walter Mosley, James Ziskin, and many more.

However, my absolute favorite, my desert island author is Shakespeare.

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

I did. My mother had a miniature poodle named Lulu, who was a terror and spiteful force of nature. To give you one example, she hated baths so she would run outside and roll in the dirt the minute she escaped the tub. She got on with my mother and nobody else. My grandparents had a German Shepherd named Nero, who was the most chill and calming living thing I’ve ever encountered. Protective, intuitive, and a gentle being.

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

I try to stay true to how animals function in our lives. They are our friends and family; they understand us in ways our biological relations do not, and they do so without judgment. Buttons helped me get through aggressive radiation treatment. He’d wait at the door when I came home and snuggle up to me until I fell asleep. That was selfless and compassionate. Then he would eat. If you know him, you know he likes his food, but when I was sick, I came first and I’m grateful to him for that. There’s an understanding there I think people don’t understand.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in my writing for the same reason people infuse humor into their stories. Pets add dimensionality, reveal our humanity, our shortcomings, and I think we are quick to defend animals because they are innocent and unconditional. Think of Tony Soprano, a killer, who became upset and distraught when the horse Pie-O-My and the dog Cosette died. Even he, despite his sociopathy, understood pets deserved to be protected.

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

Not until after I was 40. I’ll be honest: as a reader all my life, I never gave thought to writing a novel or anything. When I turned 40, I set myself a goal of writing a short story a week for one year. My earliest artistic impulses were in drawing and painting. When started writing, I accepted the fact that most of it would be terrible. I had slapped together a novel, just to get certain things out of my system. A year later, I had a handful of stories that I thought were decent (I’m very critical of my own work), so I submitted two stories to magazines, and both were published. One of them was shortlisted for the Fish Prize in 2010. I wrote most of the Roma Series while dealing with the aftermath of radiation; there’s a reason why food is a thread throughout the novels. My later novels were born of my own curiosity and explorations in history.

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

Respect your reader’s intelligence and their time. Give them a story and an experience, and not your ego for 300 pages where you demonstrate your wit and vocabulary. People thirst for intimacy and a hardscrabble few will pick up a book instead of the TV remote. Write authentic. I can’t define what that means for you, and perhaps that is why I waited until I was 40 years old.

You are the sum of a lifetime of reading and your relationship with language. What you do with language is unique to you, so find it and cultivate it…in workshop babble, it’s called Voice, and it can’t be taught in any MFA program. The rest of it…humor, how you turn a phrase comes from your own peculiar way of observing the world around you.

Don’t make excuses. Set aside distractions. Trust me, you’ll make the time for what is important to you. Set aside distinctions such as genre and literary and create a where you want to spend time in and swim in. There’s a good chance others will enjoy it. If you enjoy a particular writer, break it down for yourself what it is you enjoy about them, and think about how they did it, and then do it your way. Learn craft, the ways of creating character, pacing and rhythm, and dialogue. Yes, you can learn it from a book or from a teacher, but I think it’s best to teach yourself, on your own terms because you’ll never forget the lessons or tools you created for yourself. Last but not least, it’s easy to be a critic, so be selective about what you allow into your sphere. Keep writing and strive to improve your skills.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

There are no guarantees. Be careful of how you define success. There are a lot of ‘successful’ books that are nothing more than soapboxes for ego, that lack structure, or are formulaic stories. I’ve learned that books that I thought were successful because of awards and vigorous marketing were poor in sales. Publishing is a business and money is what matters. Right time. Right place. There are too many variables, so write what you are proud of and can speak for you when you’re not in the room.

About Gabriel

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series and the Company Files with Winter Goose Publishing. The first of five Shane Cleary novels with Level Best Books is scheduled to appear in January 2020. Gabriel is a member of Sisters in Crime, and attends Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and New England Crime Bake. He lives in Boston.

 Let’s Be Social

 Facebook: Gabriel Valjan

Twitter: @GValjan

Web: www.gabrielvaljan.com

Blog: https://gabrielswharf.wordpress.com

Exclusive Excerpt of The Naming Game: https://wp.me/p1Ykp4-rX

Please follow and like us:
error