The Pets in My House and in My Stories

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why types of pets do you have?

Heather Weidner’s Biography: 

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

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

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

 

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Meet Martin Roy Hill

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

Martin’s Website

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Meet Nupur Tustin

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What are you reading now?

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

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

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is, of course, in the book!

Aria to Death: A Joseph Haydn Mystery

Genre: Historical Cozy Mystery

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

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

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

About Nupur:

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

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

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Meet Patricia Dusenbury

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?  

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

Author Biography:

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

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

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Meet Josh Pachter

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Josh Pachter to the blog this week!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Not long after my ninth-grade English teacher, Mary Ryan, gave me a copy of the June 1966 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, I decided to try my hand at writing a crime story myself. The result, “E.Q. Griffen Earns His Name,” appeared in EQMM’s “Department of First Stories” in December 1968, and in December 2018 I’ll be celebrating my fiftieth year as a published writer. Along the way, I’ve contributed almost a hundred short stories to various magazines and anthologies, written a zombie cop novel collaboratively with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge (Styx, Simon & Schuster, 2015), seen all ten of my Mahboob Chaudri stories collected as The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, also 2015), edited half a dozen anthologies, and translated dozens of short stories and novels from Dutch to English. In my day job, I’m the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus. My wife Laurie is an editor for a government agency in DC, and our daughter Becca is a county prosecutor in Phoenix.

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

If you don’t count fish and a hermit crab, the only pet I’ve ever had is our dog Tessa, who is a loving and lovely collie/terrier mix. Laurie rescued her from the pound about sixteen years ago, when she (Tessa, not Laurie) was just a few months old. Laurie and I met ten years ago — we “met cute,” and you can read about that here — so Tessa’s been a part of my life for the last decade. I haven’t put her into my fiction yet, but that might well happen at some point in the future!

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

In case you didn’t click on the link above, I’ll tell you that I have been horribly allergic to fur and feathers and wool, my whole life long — making my ability to be around Tessa something of a miracle. Because I grew up unable to be around animals, I never developed an appreciation for them … and have never much written about them. In the 1980s, I collaborated with the wonderful Edward Wellen on a story about a migratory stork that smuggles uncut diamonds from the mines in South Africa to the jewelry industry in Amsterdam; it was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and we called it (ahem) “Stork Trek.” But, until Tessa came into my life, that nameless stork was really the only animal character I ever created. Now, though, I’m a lot more open to writing about furry and feathery characters. In fact, I have a story called “The Supreme Art of War” in the upcoming Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter anthology Fur, Feathers and Felonies that includes a female cat named Mister.

What are you reading now?

A couple of years ago, I was asked how much I would charge to translate one of the 300+ Belgian graphic novels about a pair of teenagers named Suske and Wiske into English. More kidding than serious, I said I’d do it for — instead of money — a complete set of the books. To my amazement, the publisher agreed. So I did the translation, a giant box of books flew across the Atlantic Ocean to my front door, and I’m now up to number 185. (In English, Suske and Wiske are called Luke and Lucy, and you can read Auntie Biotica, the adventure I translated, for free here.)

What writing projects are you currently working on?

As I answer these questions, I’m focused more on editing than writing. I’m working on three different collections, which will be published by three different publishers in 2018. Amsterdam Noir, which I’m co-editing with René Appel, is an anthology of dark stories set in the Dutch capital, and it’ll come out as a part of Akashic Books’ City Noir series. Dale Andrews and I are putting together The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, a collection of pastiches and parodies, for Wildside Press. And I’m editing The Man Who Read Mr. Strang: The Short Fiction of William Brittain on my own for Crippen & Landru. But I’ve just begun a new short story I’m calling “Killer Kyle,” which starts out pretty nicely, I think. I can’t wait to see how it ends!

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh, gosh, that’s like asking me to name my favorite movie or song. I don’t have one favorite author. There are so many authors I’ve loved reading, and my “favorite” would depend on when you asked me and how I was feeling at the moment. I can tell you that, along the way, my favorite authors have included John Updike and Ray Bradbury (who showed me that prose can be poetry), Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse (who made me laugh), Carlos Castaneda and Jane Roberts (who made me think outside the box), Ellery Queen, Ed McBain, and Lawrence Block (who taught me whatever small amount I know about crime writing), and a host of friends whose books I read because they were written by people I know and respect and admire (including but far from limited to Les Roberts, Loren D. Estleman, Bill Pronzini, and, in Dutch, Hilde Vandermeeren, Bavo Dhooge, René Appel).

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I’m not sure how funny this is, but can I go back to that hermit crab? When my daughter Becca was tiny and we were living in the upstairs half of what’s called a “Lakewood double” just outside Cleveland, Ohio, she really wanted a pet … but I had those allergies I’ve mentioned. So we bought Hermie the Hermit Crab, and we kept him in a little plastic terrarium and fed him and petted him and played with him. One day, though, Hermie mysteriously vanished from his terrarium. I never found out for sure how that happened, but I suppose Becca must have taken him out to play with him and forgotten to put him back, and he just wandered off. Days later, I came home from work to find a plastic bucket sitting outside our door and a note taped to the door: “We found this in our bedroom. Is it yours?” And, sure enough, Hermie was in the bucket. How he got down a flight of stairs and into the neighbor’s apartment, I’ll never understand. (Hermie, by the way, went to Hermit Heaven many years ago, but I still have his shell, which I keep on my desk and use as a paperweight.)

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

I sometimes talk to middle-school groups about writing, and I always start by asking, “How many of you want to be a writer someday?” Generally, three-quarters of the hands go up, and that allows me to tell them that they already are writers, and have in fact been writers ever since they learned how to write. A writer isn’t something you should “want to be,” I tell them. A writer is something you already are. What you can want to be is a professional writer, a paid writer, a famous writer, even just a better writer. So, when did I know I was a writer? I guess when I learned how to write. But I think I had the idea of becoming a professional writer in my head from a pretty early age. In grade school, I wrote a “book” about Japan — a country which to this day I have never visited — and “published” a weekly handwritten newspaper for a couple of months. In junior high, I co-wrote a column for my school paper. And I sold my first short story to EQMM at the age of sixteen. When I went off to college at the University of Michigan, my intention was to study journalism. It turned out that the U of M’s undergraduate j program at that time was pretty sucky, but I really liked Ann Arbor, so I scouted around for an alternate major and finally settled on communication studies.

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

Well, I know the whole “bucket list” thing is still pretty popular, but I don’t really have one. I taught overseas for fifteen years — in Holland, Germany, England, Spain, Greece, Italy, Bahrain, Kuwait — and still do a lot of international traveling. I have a happy marriage. I have raised a brilliant and talented daughter. I like my job and make a decent living. Although my writing, editing and translating haven’t made me rich and famous, neither of those things is particularly important to me. I suppose it would be nice to win some sort of an award. A story I translated was nominated for an Edgar in 1986 and another was nominated for a Derringer in 2016. The Tree of Life was nominated for a Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville. But it would be fun to actually win something. As I mentioned before, next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of my first publication and, since I started young, I’m “only” sixty-six years old. I figure if I can just keep on breathing for a while longer, sooner or later somebody’ll have to give me a lifetime achievement award!

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

One pile contains another hundred or so Suske and Wiskes, and another pile has about twenty Dutch-language novels which have been given to me by various Dutch and Belgian authors I’ve translated. I’ve also got a bunch of English-language novels and short-story collections piled up on my iPhone; I recently joined Wildside Press’ Black Cat Mystery Magazine club, which gets me seven e-books a week for a year, so I’ve definitely got my e-reading cut out for me!

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

Actually, most of what I know now I’m glad I didn’t know when I started, because it probably would have scared me off. Even with all the amazing new possibilities contemporary technology has given us — the Internet, POD publishing, Babelcube, the list goes on and on — it’s still the case that most of the people who’d love to be able to make a healthy living as a writer of fiction won’t. For me, though, writing has always been (and remains) a hobby … and, as a hobby, it’s given me an enormous amount of pleasure for the last half century, and I expect it’ll continue to do so for whatever amount of time I’ve got left!

On September 25, two days after I responded to Heather’s interview questions, our sweet Tessa Marie came to the end of her journey. My wife Laurie was out of state on a business trip, but I called her on my cell from the vet’s office, and she talked lovingly to Tessa until the vet came in with the needles. Then we hung up, and I held the old girl tightly, my head close beside hers, as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I stayed with her until she was gone, and for a long while after, and then went home to a very empty house. 

Because of my allergies, we can’t risk another dog. A month after Tessa left us, we bought a 29-gallon aquarium to make the house less empty and have populated it with two dozen fish: danios, platies, cory cats, weather loaches, rasboras, a whole community. We’ve named them all, and we enjoy looking at them as they swim around and eat. But we can’t walk them or pet them, and they don’t answer when we talk to them, as Tessa did. We like them, but we don’t love them. Not yet, anyway. Maybe that’ll come. I doubt it. They’re nice, but they’re not Tessa.

 Regards,

Josh

 

Josh’s Biography:

JOSH PACHTER is a writer, editor and translator. Since his first appearance in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1968, almost a hundred of his short crime stories have appeared in EQMM, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, New Black Mask, Espionage, and many other periodicals, anthologies, and year’s-best collections.  The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, 2015) collected all ten of his Mahboob Chaudri stories and he collaborated with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge on Styx (Simon & Schuster, 2015). In his day job, he is the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus.

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Meet Laurel Peterson

www.utechristinphotography.com

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Laurel Peterson to the blog!

Before I answer any questions, I just want to thank you, Heather, for having me on your blog. I’m really honored to be here and I enjoyed answering your questions.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I am a poet and a novelist, as well as a community college professor—which allows me to eat and pay the mortgage! I’ve got three books of poetry out, and have always thought of myself as more of a poet than a fiction writer. However, I love mystery novels, starting with Nancy Drew, and decided about a decade ago that I wanted to try the form. It’s been great fun testing and honing my storytelling skills, as well as thinking about ways I can use the genre to communicate messages about human experience. My first mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was released in 2016.

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

The main character in my Clara Montague mystery series is too fastidious to be a dog person, but her police chief lover definitely needs a dog. I love Labrador retrievers, which is the dog I had as a child—all my father’s brothers and their children ended up with Labs—because they are so friendly and patient and sweet. My dog wants nothing more than to hang out with us and to chase things we throw. His favorite game is to chase a Frisbee, which he then refuses to give back until he’s good and ready.

What are you reading now?

There is always a huge pile of TBR books on the floor.  At present, I am enjoying Tomas Transtromer’s the great enigma, and William Kent Krueger’s Sulfur Springs.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a book of poems about flying and the stars. My father was an airline pilot and a conspiracy theory lover. Somehow those two themes cross in this book, and I’m having fun playing with the various directions they are taking me. I’ve also had fun with sources: NASA posts pictures from the international space station; FermiLab puts out newsletters on particle physics research (toned down for people like me who don’t understand the half of it), and of course, looking at old photos of my father in various flying garb.

I also woke up this morning thinking about the next book in my Clara Montague series. In this one, she works with an underwater archeologist. At least that’s the version this week.

Who is your favorite author and why?

In the mystery genre, my favorite author is Sara Paretsky. She’s just so smart, and I love smart people. I learn so much from them, and Paretsky is no exception. She has a PhD in history and an MBA from the University of Chicago, and you can see that attention to detail and accuracy in her novels. In addition, I love that she takes on issues in her work—faulty body armor or race relations. The mystery is about more than a murder; it’s about the fault-lines running through our communities and our nation. Attica Locke is another writer who is taking on issues. Black Water Rising and Bluebird, Bluebird both deal with race issues in America, as well as presenting an interesting whodunit.

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

H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald, is a fascinating memoir of her time training a goshawk to hunt, as a way of mourning her father’s death. Mabel, the goshawk, becomes a character in her own right, and the development of their relationship is funny and sharp and dark all at once.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

It’s not so much a one-time event as a pet habit. When my cat was still alive, we fed him in the basement, which he accessed through a cat door. This kept the dog from scarfing all his food. In the evenings, after the cat had eaten, he would come up the stairs and sit behind the pet door, waiting. The dog, smelling him there, would stand on the other side, staring. This stand-off usually lasted several minutes, with one of them poking at the door with a nose or paw to try to tempt the other into engagement. Finally, the dog would relent a little, the cat would burst through the door and speed past him in to the living room, and there would ensue a wild, but short-lived scramble before the cat popped onto the ottoman and whapped the dog on the nose with his paw. Every single time.

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

I think this is a really hard question to answer. I can point to a moment in my childhood when writing became important to me—after I was bullied on the school bus and wrote a story to get my private revenge—but I don’t think I identified as a writer until after I left college and discovered that all other jobs were to support my writing time. By the time I went to grad school in my late twenties, I was sure writing was where my heart lived, but calling myself a writer probably didn’t come until after I’d started publishing on a regular basis in my early thirties. It’s a good thing we have a lifetime to figure ourselves out!!

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

The number one item on my bucket list is to visit Greece. I have wanted to go there since I was in fourth grade and Mrs. Marshall taught us all about the Greek myths. (Coolest, scariest teacher ever. That’s what I aim to be.) Since my father was an airline pilot, we did a fair amount of traveling when I was younger, but we never made it there. I want to see Athens, the Greek islands, and those fascinating monasteries built up high on the cliffs in Meteora. Of course these things are all in different directions.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

I lost a cat last February and he’s been very hard to replace. He used to come and sit on my desk next to me when I wrote. He was a big black and white cat, with a rumbly purr and tendency to rub my cheek with his. I miss him and his sweetness and playfulness intensely. The dog sleeps until it’s late afternoon, and then starts bugging me for a walk and dinner. For the dog, it’s all about him.

 

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

I have one very large TBR pile. It has books of poetry, books about immigrant life in the U.S., a book by a French food writer (mmm, getting hungry), Irving Stone’s Depths of Glory, a book by a poet I have to introduce at an event in a month, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, John Cheever’s journals, and a DVD on yoga and relaxation which is, frankly, where I should start.

About Laurel:

Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College and her poetry has been published in many literary journals. She has two chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds (Finishing Line Press) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press). Her full length collection, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer? (Futurecycle Press) was released in January 2017. She has also written a mystery novel, Shadow Notes, which is available through Barking Rain Press. She currently serves as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate.

You can find her at www.laurelpeterson.com, on Twitter: @laurelwriter49, or on Facebook. You can purchase her mystery novel here: Buy and her poetry here: Buy.

SHADOW NOTES by Laurel S. Peterson

Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.

Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.

Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder.

Clara Montague has been gone from home for fifteen years, but when she dreams her mother is in danger, she comes home. A few days later, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?

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Meet Mary Reed

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mary Reed to the blog this week!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 As Eric is wont to say, we began writing together after we married because he had no choice! We’ve been fortunate in having a number of short mystery stories set in different eras and locations published in a number of historical mystery anthologies as well as in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. We also co-author two series: the John, Lord Chamberlain mysteries set in and around the sixth century Constantinople court of Emperor Justinian I and our newest venture, the Grace Baxter series taking place in wartime Britain.

 What are you reading now?

 Le Queux’s The Mysterious Mr. Miller, which gets off to a cracking good start. Mr Massari, an Italian and obviously a gentleman, takes a room at the London boarding house at which narrator Godfrey Leaf is staying.

Massari, newly arrived from the Continent, is taken ill that night and Leaf, who speaks his native tongue, sits up with him. During the night Massari speaks of keeping a woman’s secret and later gives Godfrey a sealed packet of papers he says are of considerable value to certain of his relatives in Italy, asking him to give it intact to the Italian ambassador three years after his death, which rapidly follows….

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

 We’re busy writing the next entry in the Lord Chamberlain series. John is able to get into Rome, then encircled by the Goth army, in connection with a particularly convoluted investigation involving a close friend.

The situation is complicated by the fact John has been exiled to Greece and it is highly likely he will be executed if Justinian learns he has left that country without permission.

 Who is your favorite author and why?

 As a fan of Golden Age authors it’s difficult to pick just one, so today I shall mention Ethel Lina White.  My favourite novels of hers are Wax, which involves a run-down waxworks, minor crimes whose explanation is surprising, and a darkly ironic ending, The Spiral Staircase aka Some Must Watch, a tense book set in an isolated not fully electrified old house with a murderer loose in the immediate area, and Fear Stalks The Village, in which poison pen letters bring death to an idyllic village, including two suicides for an unusual but convincing reason.

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

 It’s possible I may be the only mystery writer whose first childhood pet was a budgie with a Geordie (Tyneside) accent. These birds can be taught to mimic human speech, but the only word he ever learned to say was his name Peter, or as he would squawk Pe’er because he learnt it from a voice whose accent features glottal stops, or as I’d say it glo’al stops. One day I came home from school to find poor Pe’er dead. So he was buried in the back yard in an old sink where I attempted to grow nastursiums, which local stray cats liked to grub up during their bathroom visits. Can’t complain really, given there was very little open ground in our urban area so streets and roads were covered in concrete or tarmac except for graveyards, an occasional small park, and the odd demolition site. So poor Pe’er in his domino box did not rest in his graveyard for very long. It has occurred to me a budgie’s accent being that of a place a person of interest in a crime claims never to have been would make a good clue in plain sight, although of course such a person might well claim he or she purchased the bird from someone from the relevant area.

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

 Both. In One For Sorrow, the first Lord Chamberlain novel, there was an unfortunate bear who had been subjected to bear baiting. We made sure his trainer met his doom at the paws of the bear when it escaped its cage. The same bear also broke the nose of an intoxicated man who poked him with a big stick, and serve him right too.  In a later novel Empress Theodora orders the bear taken from its current home, the imperial menagerie, to be freed on a country estate. There the bear has further adventures, some of a humorous nature.

 Also in One For Sorrow a starving feral cat saves the Lord Chamberlain’s life by accident. This cat was modeled on Rachel, who came into the family when he showed up in a bad state one winter night. He was a tom cat named by children too young to know the difference and had obviously been someone’s pet at some point because he arrived neutered and declawed and therefore was not able to defend himself or fight for food when out in the world. We could never be sure if he had just run off as cats will occasionally do or if someone had abandoned him.

 In our fiction Rachel is usually seen in the company of a smaller cat based on Sabrina, his long time real life friend. She was born in a garage down the street to a feral mother and while all the kittens in the litter were found homes, the house owner could not persuade the mother to stay. Generally speaking the two cats are to be found in our fiction doing something in the background and are included as a little nod to their memories.

 Why do you include animals in your writing?

 They are generally there to to provide local colour although occasinally they interact with a given character. A few examples would be a man carrying a wicker cage stuffed with squawking chickens fleeing his village, which he believes is doomed due to certain omens (Three For A

Letter) or the old crone selling partridges in Constantinople, all of whose birds are purchased and set free by one of the more prominent characters (One For Sorrow).

 Then there’s a noirishly comic scene involving a donkey, whose skittishness interferes with the attempts of a major character to dispose of a body at night, leading to increasing frustration on his part although he eventually manages to solve the problem. (Ten For Dying). The same novel included a scene or two involving frogs in unusual circumstances.

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

 The most unusual working animals we have created so far appeared in Three For A Letter. This is a herd of fortune-telling goats living on an island along the coast from Constantinople. The seeker after knowledge must write their question on a piece of parchment and then burn it before sunrise in a bowl on a pedestal under an open-sided shelter opposite the island. A local woman provides the answer to the question by interpreting the positions individual goats are seen to have taken when the sun has risen. The same novel also involves a mechanical whale whose workings we based upon the writings of Hero of Alexander concerning the construction of  automatons. Although mechanical, he’s a working mammal as he is integral to the play based upon the story of Jonah and the Whale which kicks off the plot.

 Then there’s an oracular snake with a human head in Six For Gold. As is the case of what must at first glance seem bizarre and unlikely trimmings in our novels, he also is based on an historical account, being inspired by just such a snake utilised by the charlatan Alexander the Paphlagonian.

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

 Stephen King’s Cujo. It’s a frightening book demonstrating how easily ordinary lives can be affected by outside forces in terrible and unexpected ways, in this case when a beloved pet falls ill. But can we blame the dog? After all, it wasn’t poor Cujo’s fault he became rabid, but the results are heartbreaking for his family, for others, and ultimately for Cujo himself.

 What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 Now and then Sabrina attempted to take over Rachel’s role as boss cat by tussling with him. In some way she knew he had  injured one of his legs.

It stuck out at a strange angle when he was sitting, the result of who knows what adventure in the wild before he was taken in and so she would try to get under his guard to nip at it. Seeing her advance, Rachel would raise a threatening paw but she generally took no notice and still went for that leg. On one occasion however he made a surprise move. A big cat, he turned a complete somersault and she ran off in terror. How I wished I had had a camera to hand on that occasion but alas….

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

 Rachel and Sabrina are both gone now, but Sabrina could always be found velcroed to Eric’s knees when he was writing. She was a one person cat and although the memory remains terribly sad, she died on the knees of that one person. Whereas Rachel tended to distribute his affection around more and was very friendly, really more dog-like than most cats though we never could get him to fetch a stick <smile>.  When one of us was writing he could often be found lying down or sleeping at our feet.

Biography:

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer’s most recent Lord Chamberlain novel is Murder In Megara (2016) and, as by Eric Reed, Ruined Stones (2017), set in wartime England, both from Poisoned Pen Press. Their most recent short story, “Time’s Revenge”, appeared earlier this year in the anthology Bound By Mystery.

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Meet Madeline McEwen

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Madeline McEwen to the blog for #WriterWednesday!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m an ex-pat from the UK, bi-focaled and technically challenged. Positivity and disabilities fill my daily life. I am passionate about humor and its therapeutic benefits.

Tell us about your pets.

A rescued gray, female, tabby who is minute and mute, but otherwise perfect. A ginger and white tabby who is bad tempered, extremely affectionate, and could win a yodeling contest. A male, 120 lb. Labradoodle masquerading as an Irish Wolfhound which possibly explains why the breeder lost their license. A female, rescue mutt [mother Poodle / father Labrador] who looks like a Labradoodle. Go figure.

What are you reading now?

The Seagull by Anne Cleeves which I’ll review on NetGalley soon.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I can only pick one? M. C. Beaton, Sue Townsend, Colin Cotterill, Erma Bombeck, and Terry Pratchett for their humor, Dorothy L. Sayers for her plots, P. D. James, and Elizabeth George for their psychological torture.

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

Cats, rabbits, and goldfish–they consumed each other, no doubt contributing to my bloodlust in later life.

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

They often accompany taciturn characters and provide insight for the discerning and intelligent reader.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like to agree with the commonly held belief that people and their pets are similar in temperament and disposition. We humans often betray our true nature by how we interact during any random encounter with an animal.

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

Watership Down, by Richard Adams, a heart-breaking and poignant epic. Lassie, Come Home, the TV series, watching in black in white in England. I loved them because they were adventurous and tender, which my mother dubbed “syrupy, sentimental American drivel.” Perhaps that’s when I decided to emigrate.

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

I do not have a bucket list. I’ve had more luck in life than most.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Assuming I have already walked the dogs, they lie on the floor within licking distance of my un-manicured toenails. [California = barefoot]

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

I have three physical stacks of TBR books: bedroom, floor of car, and a kitchen corner, and one virtual stack on Goodreads. I like the latter best because it doesn’t need dusting.

 

Madeline’s Biography:

Madeline McEwen and her Significant Other manage their four offspring, one major and three minors, two autistic, two neurotypical, plus a time-share with Alzheimer’s. In her free time, she walks the canines and chases the felines with her nose in a book and her fingers on a keyboard.

 Her new novelette TIED UP WITH STRINGS is now available on Amazon for pre-orders:

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Meet Amy Reade and Orly

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Amy Reade to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write mysteries. The first three mysteries I wrote were standalones, then I wrote three mysteries for my Malice series, set in the United Kingdom. And I just finished my first cozy mystery, The Worst Noel,* which is the first novel in my Juniper Junction mystery series. When I’m not writing, my favorite things are reading, cooking, and traveling. I used to practice law, but I didn’t love it—I love writing.

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

I have a dog, Orly, and two cats, Athos and Porthos. When Orly was a puppy we also had two rather elderly cats, Faust and Shadow, who were the most affectionate cats I’ve ever known. I suppose I had Orly in mind when I wrote a couple scenes in The Worst Noel, but not intentionally (or even consciously)!

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

There is a dog, Addie, in The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, but I wouldn’t say Addie was based on any animal I knew. She was a stray who wandered onto the page and ended up as an important character in the book. There were also two horses in the story, though they played a much more minor role.

In House of the Hanging Jade (my third standalone), the main character, Kailani, has a cat named Meli. Meli has an important part to play in that story, which is set on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In Murder in Thistlecross (the third book in my Malice series), horses play a role in the romance that buds between two of the characters and they also play a role in the ending of the story.

The Worst Noel features a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier named Barney, and he plays the same role in the story as Orly plays in my life—as a constant companion and loveable friend.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Fifty Shades of Cabernet, a mystery anthology I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of, and Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers. It’s the first in the Lord Peter Wimsey series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently gathering ideas for the second book in the Juniper Junction series, plus I have two other mysteries in the works: a contemporary mystery and one set in the 1600s.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It depends on the day, but I have several favorites. Each is a favorite for a different reason—I love Phyllis Whitney because I could read her gothic mysteries a thousand times and never get tired of them. I love Ernest Hemingway because he was a master at saying so much with so few words. I love Jane Austen because…who doesn’t love Jane Austen? And I love M.C. Beaton because she has a wickedly sharp sense of humor.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in some of my books because they add extra richness to a story. I tend to use animals more as characters than props, so they have an important role to play. I also think you can learn a lot about a character by watching the way they interact with animals. That helps the reader to get to know my characters a little better.

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

There are so many, and the answer to that question has changed through the years. For example, when my kids were little we loved the movies “Homeward Bound” and “The Incredible Journey.” I’ve also always loved anything by James Herriot; in fact, he’s the reason I began college with the intention of going to veterinary school (organic chemistry derailed that plan, but it didn’t change how I felt about Dr. Herriot). Then there’s Asta of “The Thin Man” movie fame.

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

There are two things that tie for first place on my bucket list: learning Greek and seeing an owl in my own neighborhood (preferably in my own yard). I want to learn Greek because I love learning about languages other than English. Greek seems appropriate because so many English words derive from Greek and because it’s fascinating to me how long people have been speaking Greek.

As for the owl, if you’ve ever read Owl Moon by Jane Yolen you know what a beautiful story it is and why it’s been one of my favorites since I first discovered it. I wanted to see an owl in my own yard from the very first time I picked up that book to read to my children.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Orly lies at my feet or next to me while I write. When I get up to stretch or move around, she follows me until I go back to my desk. As for the cats, Porthos ignores me. Athos will come around to stand on my keyboard when my concentration is at its fiercest. He seems to know when that is. Every. Single. Time.

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

How much time do you have?

I have two TBR piles: physical books and ebooks. The top three books in my physical TBR pile are The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence, Cape May County, New Jersey: The Making of an American Resort Community by Jeffery M. Dorwart, and The Ripper Gene by Michael Ransom.

The top three books in my ebook pile are The Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey, On the Chopping Block by Jenny Kales, and Eben Kruge: How ‘A Christmas Carol’ Came to be Written by Richard Barlow Adams.

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

First, I wish I had known how much time I would spend on marketing. I, like a lot of other authors, thought I would write and the publisher would promote, but that isn’t the way the industry works. Publishers help promote, but the huge bulk of the marketing falls to the author.

Second, I wish I had realized years earlier how much I would love fiction writing and how much I would love being part of the writing community. The authors I’ve had the honor of knowing are beyond generous with their time, their support, and their friendship. I would have started writing long before I did!

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today. Pens, Paws, and Claws is part of that generous and wonderful writing community I referred to in my last answer.

*The Worst Noel is one of twelve Christmas-themed cozy mysteries in a set called The 12 Slays of Christmas. The set comes out on December 5, 2017, and is only 99¢ right now. ALL proceeds from the sales of the set will go to no-kill animal shelters and charities. You can learn more about the set at www.12slaysofchristmas.com

Amy Reade

Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, community volunteer, and recovering attorney.

But she also writes (how could she not write with that last name?) and is the author of The Worst Noel (part of The 12 Slays of Christmas boxed set), The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross), and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

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Websites: www.amymreade.com and www.12slaysofchristmas.com

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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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Meet Jennifer Leeper

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Jennifer Leeper to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I started writing fiction in high school and it was bad – very bad. I published a lot in my 20s and early 30s, but not fiction. As a Journalism graduate, I got used to seeing my byline above newspaper stories and even in some local magazines, but accomplishment in fiction writing was really where my aspirations reached, and it wasn’t until my mid-30s that I published my first fiction work, a short story called Murder Brokers, in an anthology put out by Hen House Press.

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

I’ve had several amazing pets over the years. At one time, we had two dogs and two cats, but sadly, we’re down to one cat named Karina. She’s a short-haired, gray girl who loves lap naps and is just the right balance of dependent/independent. I don’t model my writing on my pets, however, I find they are a great comfort to me while I’m writing.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey. I rarely read nonfiction, but I couldn’t resist this read because it spotlights one of my favorite, natural spots on the planet.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a crime/mystery/thriller set outside Vegas, with a female and a male protagonist, working together to solve a crime.

Who is your favorite author and why?

If you had asked me this question a few years back, I would have said Jack London or several years before that, Sinclair Lewis, but these days, it’s Tony Hillerman. I love how he elevates the regional and cultural settings of his books to main character status in his stories. His description of the southwestern U.S., particularly parts of New Mexico and more specifically, Navajo reservation culture, engages as much as Hillerman’s adept and authentic portrayal of crime-solving.

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

I tend to mention animals in passing, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t influential in the context of my storylines, and the animals I mention tend to be wild, not domesticated species. For example, I lean toward writing about desert locales, so lizards, wolves, rabbits, and coyotes tend to catch my fancy in my fiction, more so than cats and dogs.

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

That’s easy for me. Any of Jack London’s books where a dog is a central character is my favorite because he instilled humanity in these animals and that’s no so far-fetched to me.

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

I knew I was a writer when I was around 12 years old and my English teacher selected my poem to submit for display at the state capitol with other pieces of writing from youth statewide.

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

At the top of my bucket list is finishing and publishing a novel of 50,000+ words. Thus far, I’ve published many short stories, a novella, collection of stories, and a novel of around 40,000 words, but I really want to publish a longer work. A close tie is summiting a 14-er. A 14-er is a 14,000-feet mountain peak.

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

In my reading slush pile are the following: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

About Jennifer:

Ms. Leeper is an award-winning fiction author who’s publications credits include Independent Ink Magazine, Notes Magazine, The Stone Hobo, Poiesis, Every Day Fiction, Aphelion Webzine, Heater magazine, Cowboy Jamboree, The New Engagement, Alaska Quarterly Review and The Liguorian. She has had works published by J. Burrage Publications, Hen House Press, Inwood Indiana Press, Alternating Current Press, Barking Rain Press, Whispering Prairie Press, and Spider Road Press. In 2012, Ms. Leeper was awarded the Catoctin Mountain Artist-in-Residency, and in 2013, Ms. Leeper was a Tuscany Prize Novella Award finalist through Tuscany Press for her short novel, Tribe. Ms. Leeper’s short story Tatau was published in the journal, Poiesis, and was short listed as a finalist for the Luminaire Award in 2015, and nominated by Alternating Current for Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best of Small Fictions of 2016 Prize. In 2016, The Saturday Evening Post honored Ms. Leeper’s short story Book of the Dead with an honorable mention in its Great American Fiction Contest. Ms. Leeper’s short story The Bottle won second place in the Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize through Spider Road Press.

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