Welcome, J. L. Canfield!

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes J. L. Canfield.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello, I am originally from Jacksonville, Florida, was raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, have lived in upstate New York, (Clifton Park, a suburb north of Albany), Portsmouth, VA, Charlotte, NC, and now reside in the Richmond, VA area.

I am an award-winning writer of mysteries and women’s fiction.

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

I have two dogs, a Cavachon (female)and a Cavapoo (male). They are my only family and my muses. I did use them in a children’s story I wrote for a kid lit class I took. But they have not made an appearance yet in any work. Spoiler alert: That changes in book three of my mystery series. In the women’s fiction which will be released in May, a golden retriever named Tucker does play a role in a decision the female lead makes regarding the next step in her life.

What are you reading now?

I have been working my way through Bernhard Cornwell’s The Saxon Tales series, but I needed a break from that, so I am now reading Jacqueline Winspear’s In This Grave Hour.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am finishing up book two in the detective mystery series starring Philip Samyn and have sketched out ideas for his next story. I am in the research and plotting phase of another women’s fiction which I will begin writing this summer, if not before.

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

Animals are a physical extension of humans and feelings. For me, my dogs got me through my divorce. My ex-husband and I fought over them. He wanted, in our settlement papers, to have the first right to them when I realized I wouldn’t be able to afford to keep them. I counter with a demand for puppy support in exchange for visitation twice a month. He dropped the issue. In the upcoming Icy Roads story, the young woman who is the central character is dealing with ever-changing problems in her marriage. She really wishes she had a dog both in her happy state and more so when her marriage falls apart.

In the third book of the Samyn mystery series, he too will be changing things in his life, and I have plans for an animal, not sure what species yet to appear in his world.

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

My father shielded me from many childhood stories and books with animals. Usually, it was the ones where the animal dies (think Bambi, Sounder). I was a very tender-hearted child. I wouldn’t eat pork (he had a farm with pigs) or deer meat ( I often saw deers up close), and I would cry when their meat was in the house. So my favorite movie is Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I wanted to see it since Bob Hoskins was in it and I admired his acting. Also, it intrigued me this concept of live action sharing screen time with animation. I think it’s funny, well written, with gifted actors pulling this together.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My father bought my mother for their anniversary precisely what she wanted, a white German Shepherd. It was a beautiful puppy which she named Rascal Von Stuckey. However, the dog really didn’t like her, and it really disliked my half-brothers. It bonded with me though. Maybe because I was the smallest in the house and its instinct to protect me when my father was away. I don’t know. What I do know is the dog stayed by me whenever I was home which was great since my brothers loved making me cry. When I was five or six, I contracted mumps on both sides of my face. Rascal stayed in my room. He would not go out unless I stood on the porch so he could see me. We also found out he would not take food from anyone except me. My father was a huge man who most people found intimidating. He stood over 6’ had a shaved head, and weighed around 250 or so. Since my mother’s teenage sons were afraid to feed him, my mother had managed to do so once when she got him on the porch and threw food out the window to him. My father was home and said he would take over my chore until I was well. My father’s hand spread from pinkie to thumb was about 12 inches. He opened Rascals food, leaned over to place it in his bowl and Rascal took my father’s hand and his food in his mouth. When my father managed to pull his hand out of the dog’s mouth, he came into my room and told me it didn’t matter that I was sick, I would have to feed the dog. Someone would get the food in the bowl, but I would have to put it down for Rascal.

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

I wrote my first play when I was six and in second grade. I was a ferocious reader, and the idea of creating stories fascinated me. I wanted to do it. Every year in elementary school I wrote a class play. In middle school, I worked on the school newspaper because I then wanted to be an investigative reporter thanks to the movie All The President’s Men. High School, I took creative writing and theatre classes. During college, I took writing classes but was told by my mother (who wasn’t paying for my education) not to major in writing because I would never make money at it. One of the BAs I received was in Broadcast Journalism. I considered it a compromise. It wasn’t until my divorce that I rediscovered my passion for writing. It helped me get through a four-year war with my ex. It gave me outlets for my emotions. It wasn’t until I received the PenCraft award that I could say the word author. It took a lifetime for me to think I could write and people would like it. All I ever knew was after I did a good day of writing, I walked away with the best high in the world.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My Cavachon, Baroness Sassafrass Von Brong, and Cavapoo Sir Remington J. Wigglesby lay on their bed under my desk or on the daybed I have in my writing room. They are always near me ready to listen when I need to read a passage out loud.

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

Think hard about it. Writing is not for those who dream of big dollar signs and fame. Most writers do not earn enough to live on, and that’s according to statistics. If you are a person who cannot take rejection or critical commentary of your work, then avoid being a writer. If you have difficulty in thinking up story ideas along with plots and twists, then think twice about writing.

Writing is painting pictures in readers heads with words. Like other artists, writers struggle for an audience, for being satisfied with their creations, with self-doubt, with acceptance, with selling their work, but those who know the only way they can achieve a personal sense of a euphoria that comes from crafting something from nothing are ones who were gifted with the skills needed to be a writer. If that describes you, then dive in. Just make sure you’re doing this for the right reasons, working to become something you love, not to live out a fantasy you have. Writing is tough, it’s harder than reading a book. But it is to me the best job in the world.

About Julie:

J.L.Canfield was born in Florida, raised in North Carolina, lived for a short time in upstate New York and now resides in the Richmond, VA area with her two dogs, Sassie and Remy. When not planted behind her laptop harvest words from her brain, she’s outside with a camera trying to capture the beauty she finds in nature. When possible she’s busy sleeping in the sun while baking on a beach.

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Amazon Book Link: What Hides Beneath

https://amzn.to/2GtBHIM 

http://www.blackrosewriting.com/literary/whathidesbeneath.

Icy Roads Preorder link:

http://www.blackrosewriting.com/literary/icyroads.

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Welcome, Ajesh Sharma!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Ajesh Sharma to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I was born in the Indian capital of New Delhi and finished school in Kolkata. I started my career in that city as a techie, designing software systems. I founded and ran a software products company for a decade before moving to Canada in 1997.

I started writing about 8 or 9 years ago and realized I didn’t know what to write and had no idea what my style or voice was. I then developed my blog, currently www.sloword.com, as a means to learn how to write, starting out writing poetry as well as stories from my life. I created multiple characters and tried different styles.

In 2014 I wrote a short story, which I showed a friend. She encouraged me to develop it and it grew into my biggest work so far, “A Couple of Choices”. This is a 3-Act play, self-published on Amazon Kindle in December 2017. I have also had a couple of short stories published in a couple of online magazines.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

One Bluish Egg – is my autobiography, up to the point I landed in Canada. It stands at around 72k words, but needs editing and some additional chapters. It focuses mostly on my career and the interesting people I have met and strange situations I have been in.

Angler on the Credit and Other Stories – A collection of short stories.

Seriously Awful Poems – is a collection of poetry, some very serious and solemn with some humorous ones mixed in.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have many that absolutely did influence my days as a reader. James Herriot, the Yorkshire vet and his tales of the people and animals he met in his life was a well-loved and well-regarded author. Today, I would say that PG Wodehouse stands out as the ultimate in writing class. His wordplay, the classical references used to great effect to bring out the humor in the situation and his ability to construct a sentence are unparalleled.

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

When I was about 4 years old, I remember being taken to see a litter of guinea pig sized creatures. One of them came home with us. He grew fast. He loved milk and the sound of my mother pouring his milk out would see him racing away to the kitchen. He would then remember that he was not allowed into the kitchen itself, so he would come to a sliding stop just outside the door, panting with excitement. My oldest sister didn’t believe we needed a dog, so we gave him away, to a neighbor. We kids would walk to school and he was there in the morning, bounding up to the gate of his new house, barking greetings at us, growing up fast into the Alsatian he was.

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

Animal Farm. The old horse, Boxer, to my mind, symbolizes the people who lose the most, yet are the ones who go to their doom still proclaiming their faith. I find that the saddest yet truest human frailty.

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

Back in high school, in my final year, I competed for the school’s two-man debating team. I came third and thus didn’t make it. I was asked, however, to write an essay on the motion to help the team. I did and sent it in. I heard nothing more about it for a week. Then one day Hindi language teacher, looked at me, nodded and said “Oh, Sharma, I hear you write essays.. interesting.”

In my final year of school, I wrote a badly concocted extended skit for the annual teachers day celebration. It was a day when the students put up shows for the benefit of the teachers. This was banned by the Jesuit Rector on the ground that it may be offensive to some.

These two episodes stand out. Between 1978 and 2010, however, I wrote nothing except consulting reports. I read that and realize I never really knew I was a writer and still don’t!

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

I’d like to see one of my plays on stage. By far, that would be fantastic!

There are other things, like visiting Bethel, NY to see the site of the Woodstock which I did 43 years to the day late. Also, last year, I walked across the Abbey Road zebra crossing!

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I don’t have pets. I do have a grand-doggie, a pug, who comes visiting sometimes. Usually, she is content to sit right next to me and snore away.

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

The Collected Short Stories of Saki ( HH Munro )

Antrobus Collection by Lawrence Durrell

Collected works of James Thurber

I have only one TBR.

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

It takes more than writing ability. The friends you think you had won’t usually be there to help mobilize support. At least, in my case, that it true. People will say nice things about your writing and gush about how much they loved it, maybe on social media, however, this doesn’t translate to exposure / sales. You need one or two very influential people in your corner to publicize your work.

Being able to market your work without self-deprecation and spamming is hard! Balancing self-doubt with a brazen sales pitch isn’t easy.

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

I’m almost tempted to say “Don’t!”. But in all fairness, enjoy your writing first. You should be able to read what you wrote and like it. It should make you laugh, cry, drive some emotion. That means you’ve found your voice, usually.

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

Read. Read a lot of different types. Read blogs, interact with the writers there. Explore, assimilate by osmosis so that your unique style becomes a part of you, unforced, natural and unmistakably you.

About Ajesh:

Ajesh Sharma, is a Canadian author and playwright. His short stories have appeared in The Telegram Magazine and Unbound eMagazine. A Couple of Choices is his first play.

He uses his blog, www.sloword.com, to showcase his love for wordplay and humor, his intense dislike for cats and his fanatical adoration of okra.

When not wearing colorful socks or attempting to play guitar, he tries to read, write, learn photography and spend time with one wife, two grown up sons, one daughter-in-law and her dog on the outskirts of Toronto, Canada.

He can be found here:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17494625.Ajesh_Sharma

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ajesh-Sharma/e/B07JYJJ31F?ref=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sloman2608

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/ajesh-sharma

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AjeshBSharma/

 

 

 

 

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The Amazing Goliath and His Incredible Talents

I met Carolyn Troiano in Richmond, Virginia. She and her husband Bill have trained their Rottweiler, Goliath to do some amazing things. See the video links at the bottom of the interview. This is my interview with Bill Troiano about Goliath, his training, his amazing talents, and their new books… ~Heather

Tell our readers a little about yourself and Goliath and his special talents.
Well, I grew up in Maine near a game farm, and I’ve always felt a special bond with animals. I’ve always had pets, including rescued raccoons and squirrels, and I’ve trained many of them over the years to be obedient and perform some tricks.
I first met Goliath at a local dog park that I was visiting with my American Bulldog, Angel. A gentleman came over with his 6-month-old Rottweiler puppy, and we started a conversation. He told me that he was moving out of state, and would not be able to bring his dog with him. He was looking for a really good home for him, and when I looked at the puppy, I could tell right away that he was special. We had an immediate connection. I brought him home to see how he would get along with Angel and another rescued male American Bulldog, “Spike,” who had joined our household earlier that year. The new puppy fit right in, showing great affection for our family and his new “siblings.”

After talking with my wife and son, we agreed to provide a home and much love for our new addition, “Goliath.” He was a gently puppy, and over the years, he grew to be a gentle giant.

Goliath has brought us more joy, laughter and love than any of us could ever have imagined. He is truly part of the family, and he works really hard, both in learning new skills and in building relationships with all of us.

How long did it take to train him? Did you all use any special techniques?
Dogs love to go for a ride, so whenever I would shake the car keys, Goliath understood what that meant, and got very excited. I would toss the keys on the floor and ask him to bring them to me if he wanted to go for a ride, and, of course, he brought them to me every time.

I did the same thing with his leash. I would ask him if he wanted to go for a walk, and, again, he would get excited. I would tell him to get me his leash, and he would bring it right to me.

Goliath seemed to understand that everything has a name, and if I communicated with him in that way, he would eventually begin to understand the words associated with each item I presented to him. Of course, it requires a lot of repetition, but he seems to learn more quickly with each item I present to him.

Goliath is a really fast learner, more so than any other animal I’ve ever trained. When I teach him the name of an object, or a new trick, he learns very quickly. He knows and can retrieve over 700 everyday objects, including stuffed animals, tools, sporting equipment and other household items. I’ve been working with him on these since he has been with us, and he’s now 6 years old.

I’ve also taught Goliath a lot of tricks. He can speak, stay, roll over, beg, play dead, give me his left paw and then his right paw, and then when I ask for a hug, he wraps his front paws around my waist. Goliath loves a good belly rub, and when I ask him if he wants one, he rolls over and raises his belly to be stroked.
I taught him to catch a treat that I would toss to him, which is a very common skill for animals, especially dogs. Once Goliath mastered the catch, I had him sit and then placed a treat on his nose, making sure I used a flat one, so that it would stay in place more easily. I told Goliath to “stay,” and continued to hold his head steady while he balanced the treat on his nose. Once he learned to balance it without my hand in place, I removed the treat and gave him a different treat as a reward.

Next, I taught him to flip it in the air and catch it in his mouth, building on what he had already learned. While holding a treat in my hand, Goliath learned that his job was to focus on the treat while remaining still. I then guided my hand closer to his mouth and said “catch,” with my hand close enough that he wouldn’t jump or move. The first time I did this, I guided the treat all the way to his mouth. I continued practicing the steps of catching and balancing with him for a couple of weeks before teaching him to flip the treat off of his nose and catch it in his mouth. At first, he ended up tossing the treat off of his nose, but after some repetition, and remaining positive, he eventually caught the treat.

Another important point to note is that your body language is critical to success. You have to remain calm and very positive, and never show any frustration if your dog is not catching on as quickly as you would like. Patience and repetition are key aspects to continuing progress.

I can also put a piece of steak under his paw and tell him to leave it, and he learned not to touch it or even look at it until I give him the “okay” command.
Rewarding his progress is absolutely critical. When I first started teaching him, I would give him a small piece of meat each time he retrieved an object. As the list of objects began to grow, I slowed that down and would reward him after retrieving seven items. You have to know how to balance the reward and tie it directly to his ability to focus.

When I use the phrase “bad guy,” he responds aggressively, barking very loudly. If I say “good guy,” he jumps up and gives me a hug. Every morning, I ask him to remove the covers on my bed, and he pulls them down, and then brings me my socks. If I’m wearing a hoodie, I’ll bend over and ask him to pull it off, and he’ll do that.

Goliath also loves to swim, and can retrieve a 50-pound log and bring it back to the shoreline. He’s an extremely agile dog, and loves to exercise. His breed is built for hard work, and the more you challenge them, the more they love it.

How did you know Goliath had a special aptitude or talent?
You just have to look into Goliath’s eyes and see that human quality about him, it’s just amazing. It’s as if he can read your thoughts. He seems to understand things at a much deeper level than any animal I’ve come across in my life. I think our connection has really been at the heart of his desire and willingness to learn. He always wants to please me and he works really hard. In fact, he thrives on it, as many of his breed do, as they’re in the working dog group.

Goliath has an unusual ability to memorize the names of objects. It all started with a couple of stuffed animals. I noticed how incredibly fast he learned the names of them. My wife gave Goliath a Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animal that talks and vibrates when you press its belly. Goliath loved this, and the next day, I asked him where Winnie-the-Pooh was, and he immediately ran downstairs and retrieved it. The other amazing thing is that he never forgets what he learns. I can put away an item he knows for several months, and, sure enough, when I take it out again and ask him to retrieve it he does so perfectly and without hesitation.

Most dogs will identify a few favorite toys, but as I said earlier, Goliath has learned the names of over 700 items. I’m always at garage and yard sales looking for unusual objects to bring into the mix. In fact, this week I taught him to retrieve a man’s roller skate. He loves this one, in particular, because I send it rolling across the floor, and he chases it and brings it back to me. With toys, I usually let him play with each one for a while before teaching him to retrieve it by name. He always gets excited when I bring home something new.
I also continue to challenge Goliath and test his skills. He knows I believe in him and he trusts me implicitly. Just as with people, dogs have talents that will remain hidden unless you unleash them (pardon the pun).

One big fallacy is that dogs can’t see colors. Goliath has proven that he can distinguish objects by color. I have six golf balls in different colors, and if I ask him to get the green one, or the yellow one, and so forth, he gets it right every time. The same is true with some other items, such as combs in different colors, but which are otherwise identical.

Then I started testing him on colors using objects he had never seen before. I have an orange cone that I use for teaching tennis, and he knows that it’s a cone. So I brought in cones in several other colors and asked him to get the yellow cone, the green cone, the blue cone and the red cone. He retrieved every one of them correctly, just based on knowing colors.

Goliath has two toothbrushes, a yellow one and a purple one, and he can pick them out by color. He also has a bunch of different footballs, and knows the red one, yellow one and black one. He knows the football that’s half blue and half orange. Goliath also knows two different NFL team footballs with the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers colors and logos. He knows them all by name and never misses.

I have a number of stuffed animals and other objects that are identical in every way except for size, and Goliath can retrieve the big one and the little one of each character correctly every time. I have three stuffed reindeer that all look very much alike, but he knows the difference because one I call “Rudolph,” a second one is “Talking Rudolph” and the third is “Coach,” which is the character who plays the reindeer coach in the old “Rudolph the Reindeer” TV movie.

Tell us about some of Goliath’s adventures. Where has he visited?

Goliath spends most of his time locally, in parks, on trails, and in ponds, enjoying the outdoors with his “siblings” and other dog friends. He has traveled to many locations in the region where he performs at Pet Expos and SPCA events. Goliath has a lot of trophies, and also comes home with a lot of “SWAG” from these shows. I often laugh that he brings in enough snacks and other items to support the rest of our pets.

How long has Goliath lived with you?
We’ve been blessed with Goliath for the last 5 ½ years.

Do you have any other pets?
Yes. We have three more Rottweilers, all rescues, along with Angel, our American Bulldog, a one-year-old cat, and two very large parrots. One is a Military Macaw and the other is a Double Yellow-Headed Amazon, and they both speak. They all get along and are respectful of each other. We’ve had as many as twenty-one pets at one time, mainly rescues, covering seven different species: dogs, cats, rabbits, parrots, ferrets, raccoons and squirrels. They were introduced to each other at a very young age, and forged relationships that would defy conventional thought. They always had fun and it was incredible to watch them devise games to play with each other. They learned from each other in ways that confounded us, and as “siblings,” they often teased each other. I often think that we, as humans, can learn so much about how to relate to other people just by observing animals and the relationships they build and nurture.

What’s your funniest Goliath story?
Goliath learned to close the door after coming in from outside. If someone leaves the refrigerator door open for too long, he’ll come by and close it. He even opened up the front door for my wife when she locked herself out. She stood by the latch, asking him to give her a hug, and the neighbors, who were out on their front porch, kept asking if she wanted help, assuming the dog would never open the door. Lo and behold, within a couple of minutes, Goliath flipped the bolt open to everyone’s amazement, but my wife knew he could do it, and I’m sure Goliath sensed that she had complete faith in him. He truly can sense that you’re rooting for him and I think that’s just an amazing quality that differentiates Goliath from other dogs.

What is your favorite place to visit with your dogs?
There are a couple of ponds that we take Goliath to swim in, and we meet up with friends and their dogs for a play date. Goliath loves to see his dog friends, and he absolutely loves the water. I think the water exercise is a really important thing for animals to keep them healthy and even psychologically happy.

Years ago, we had a female Rottweiler, “Venus,” who lived to be 15 years old, and I attribute that to the fact that we lived on Lake Anna at the time, and swimming was part of her daily regimen. In fact, one morning I let the dogs out and forgot the gate to the dock was open. Venus leaped off the dock and right into a bass fishing boat. One of the guys in the boat jumped overboard out of fear, while Venus jumped in the other guy’s lap and started licking him. When his friend surfaced, the guy in the boat was laughing his head off. I’m sure he’ll be telling that story for years to come.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?
“Marley and Me,” by John Grogan, is a book about the lovable Labrador Retriever and his time spent with his family. It was filled with joy and sadness. We’ve had many dogs, and reading the book, I could only think of all the laughter and passion we felt for these animals as they enriched our lives. There is no greater love than that which an animal confers on his master, and no greater gift than the loyalty and love they return so selflessly and so eagerly. All of my dogs exhibited the same characteristics and I could really feel that sense of loyalty and unconditional love that Marley gave to his family. We’ve truly been blessed by the animals that have come into our lives, depending on us for their existence and trusting us to treat them with respect. It’s a bond you can’t explain in ordinary terms.

What are you reading right now?
Actually, I’m reading an old book about a raccoon. It’s called Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era, written by Sterling North about his childhood in Wisconsin. He writes about spending a year of his childhood raising a baby raccoon, during WWI, and the story also chronicles the changes in his family and the area around him during that time. It speaks to transcending loss, and finding humor in the small things in life. It reminds us the importance of taking care of those around us who need that special care until they can take care of themselves, and the lessons of life that we can learn from each other.

There was a raccoon that used to come to my window when I was younger, and I named him “Bandit.” In the 1990s, my wife and I raised three orphaned baby raccoon brothers, “Huey,” “Dewey” and “Louie,” in the 1990s, as part of an animal rescue program. Watching them grow for two years, before introducing them to the creek behind our house, was an adventure. It was sad to let them go, but life has its cycles and everything must be done in its time. We loved having them with us for that time, but they were ready to migrate up the creek and join the rest of the raccoons. They were ready to mate.

What advice would you give to new dog owners or folks interesting in adopting a new, four-legged family member?
Ask yourself why you are contemplating bringing a pet into your life, and remember, it’s not just coming into your home, but into your life. A pet is a living member of your household, not an accessory to your home. With dogs, the breed is also crucial to your decision. Make sure you understand what kind of dog you’re thinking about bringing home and how they would fit in.
Are you home a lot, or do you travel? Do you have someone who can look after your dog if you do have to travel or be away from home? Do you like to be outside in the yard or take walks in the park? Are you willing to spend the time and patience to train your pet to obey?

You also need to think about potential allergies when selecting a pet. How much work are you willing to put into cleaning up after them? Some dogs shed a lot during certain times every year. You also need to think about unforeseen veterinary bills, as you never know what it will take to keep your pet healthy throughout its life.

What advice would you give folks about dog training?
You must be patient. As with any living creature, they all have a certain level of ability and you have to set your expectations accordingly. Know your dog’s breed and what their typical strengths and weaknesses, but don’t automatically box them into those categories. Just be aware of them. As with children, you have to encourage them and guide them, and praise all of their work. Don’t set unrealistic expectations or get frustrated if they don’t deliver according to your needs or desires. It’s not about you. It’s about giving your love to a creature of the earth, and not expecting anything but love in return. Animals are individuals, and you have to find out what makes them special and makes them thrive, and focus on those talents.

Does Goliath have any upcoming events?

Well, a story about Goliath will be in The Total Rottweiler Magazinewhich is published in 134 countries.

He has done a number of shows at local and regional SPCA events and Pet Expos, most recently at The World of Pets Expoat Hampton Coliseum, in Hampton, VA, on February 18, 2019.  Goliath won the talent contest.

That was Goliath’s 6th birthday, and he celebrated in style with his “sibling” Rottweilers.  You can see some of the video and pictures on Goliath’s Facebook page, showing the gang in their party hats, waiting to dig into the birthday feast.

Goliath’s next appearance will be at the Dog Gone Dog Show,” sponsored by the Animal Welfare League of the Northern Neck, in Kilmarnock, VA, on April 20, 2019.

Goliath is also a YouTube sensation, with many videos showing his ability to retrieve items by memory, and to do tricks.  Most recently, I was contacted by someone who would like to do a documentary on Goliath, so that will be very exciting!

Goliath is usually very busy with shows through year-end, and he is especially fond of the “Southside SPCA” events in Farmville, VA, doing a charity show for them every year in December.  We definitely like to do the shows that will benefit other animals and promote the idea of providing homes for those animals in need.

Tell us about your books.

We’re putting together a series of children’s books called ­“Goliath Loves to Learn.”  Each book is based on a particular theme for learning.  Children will love to learn about colors, shapes, sizes, and other themed topics, alongside Goliath, who is always eager to learn about new things.  I think kids will really appreciate these books, as they’re based on a real dog and his capabilities.  If Goliath can learn, then hopefully they’ll realize that they can learn too.  I think it will be very encouraging for them, and show them that anything is possible, if you just give it your best.  Goliath loves new challenges, and we hope he can convey that “can do” attitude to children.

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Welcome, Gail Z. Martin!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Gail Z. Martin to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write epic fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and comedic horror as Gail Z. Martin. As Morgan Brice, I write urban fantasy MM paranormal romance. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 14, and my first book was published when I was 45. We work with big publishers, small press and we also publish some of our books indie. My husband, Larry N. Martin, and I write full time, and several of our series are co-written. Behind the scenes, we both work on everything together.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing—We have a Maltese named Kipp and a Golden Retriever named Flynn. Kipp was definitely the inspiration for Baxter in my Deadly Curiosities stories, and Chase, our past Golden Retriever, was the inspiration for Bo in that series.

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

Baxter in Deadly Curiosities shows up a lot. Did you know that vampire glamor works on a dog and makes him stop yipping at the door? There’s a running joke about that in the Deadly Curiosities books. Bo is the ghost of the main character’s golden retriever and he’s her spirit protector. She can summon his ghost with a shake of his old dog collar/tags and he is a very good ally in a fight.

What writing projects are you currently working on?—I have lots in the works! My goal is to have sequels for all our current series this year as well as launch a couple of new series. That’s very ambitious, and we might not get everything done, but I’m going to try! right now, I’m finishing up The Rising, which is a Morgan Brice romance and is the sequel to Badlands. It’s a psychic and a cop in Myrtle Beach working together to solve supernatural murders, and this one involves pirates and lost treasure! After that, I’ll be working on the fourth Deadly Curiosities novel, the next installment in the Spells Salt and Steel universe with Larry, and a sequel in my new Night Vigil urban fantasy series.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.—Growing up, I had a gray tabby cat named Misty and a miniature schnauzer named Heather. Since Larry and I have been married, we had two black/black and tan cocker spaniels and then a golden retriever, two Himalayan cats, and now our current golden and Maltese.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?—So far, they aren’t the point of view characters or a central part of the story, but they are very important to the characters. That may change, since I have a shifter romance series in mind!

Why do you include animals in your writing?—I love my pets, and pets have always been very important to me. They don’t work for every character—some travel too much or aren’t in a situation where they could provide a good pet home. But I think that showing characters connected to other people and animals helps to flesh out their story and make them more real and relatable.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? —I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was 14 and I figured out that it was a something you could choose to do. I had never really thought about who the people were who wrote the books before that. Once I made up my mind, I chose my college major, my graduate school major, and my career to support that someday goal!

What do your pets do when you are writing?—They ‘commute’ back and forth between my desk and my husband’s desk, keeping us both company!

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?—That the whole process can take a while to get off the ground, so don’t get discouraged!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?—I really love days when I can write on my screened-in porch, because it’s so pretty out there. The dogs like it, too, and come hang out with me. I can watch birds and squirrels and lizards!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?—Never give up!

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Welcome back, Nupur Tustin!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Nupur Tustin back to the blog. Congratulations on your new book!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

First of all, let me say that it’s wonderful to be back! Last time I was here, I told your readers that I misuse a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate murder in Joseph Haydn’s Austria.

I have to confess, I’m still at it. Prussian Counterpoint, the third Joseph Haydn Mystery, came out just about thirteen days ago.

When I visited last year, I was in the throes of writing the novel, and although I plot all my novels, this one was written a little more intuitively than others. If your readers have watched The Man Who Invented Christmas, they’ll know what I mean. That the experiences we encounter and engage in can influence the shape our novel takes—more so when we have a strict deadline to follow.

I talk about this quite a bit in Rehearsal Notes, the free companion novel I was offering readers who preordered the book. I’m happy to extend that offer to any of your readers who buy the book by the end of this month.

So, then did blogging for Pens, Paws, and Claws influence the third novel at all?

Funny you should ask, because, yes, it absolutely did. I remember being a bit apprehensive about being interviewed.

“But my novels don’t really include pets,” I protested. “Eighteenth-century individuals don’t appear to have viewed their horses and dogs as pets.” You allayed my fears.

And so I focused last time on explaining to readers why historical mysteries typically don’t involve pets, but I did mention a couple of odd characters who were very fond of their dogs: Marie Antoinette and Frederick the Great.

You wondered at the time whether Frederick’s dogs would be given a key role in the novel. Now I hadn’t really intended to do so, but your question gave me pause. And the more I considered the matter, the more of an excellent idea it seemed. And so Frederick’s Italian greyhounds do get a small but significant role in the plot. They also provide Haydn with an important clue.

We’d love to read an excerpt.

Yes, of course. Now this is the first time that Haydn and the reader encounter Frederick’s spoiled Italian greyhounds. The servants had to address them using the formal “Vous,” instead of the more usual third person. The hounds were served special food in special bowls and were warmly welcomed in their royal master’s bed.

In this scene, they’re in the opera house and Haydn, as you’ll see, is rather uncomfortable about this situation:

“What think you of our opera, my dear Haydn?” The King, who had insisted the Kapellmeister be seated next to him, tapped him on the knee. The Italian greyhound at his feet shifted, flopping itself onto Haydn’s feet.

The Kapellmeister stiffened. He had nothing against dogs. On the hunting fields, no animal could be more useful. But what kind of man brought a dog into an opera house? God forbid, the creature should do its business on his shoes!

On the stage, Medea complained of having lost the love of Jason. A most unsuitable subject for the occasion, Haydn privately thought. This opera about a woman who forced her unfaithful husband to devour his children. But it was not the sort of remark one made to a King.

“It is a most intriguing subject, Your Majesty,” was all he could think of saying.

“Indeed.” A pair of piercing blue eyes fastened themselves upon Haydn’s features. “And why is that?”

Haydn took a deep breath and took the plunge. “One wonders how a man would react under the circumstances, Your Majesty.”

“A man would simply cut his losses and move on, Haydn. But women rather than accepting their fate try to interfere, thus spoiling everything.”

Haydn’s eyes flickered involuntarily to the Empress. Was that the King’s assessment of Her Majesty, then?

“My remarks appear to have hit the mark.” The King’s softly uttered words pulled Haydn’s gaze back. His Majesty’s well formed lips were curving into an amused smile. “You have the misfortune of being acquainted with such a woman, I suppose, Haydn.”

The Kapellmeister felt his cheeks burn at the insinuation. His nostrils flared. “Your Majesty is mistaken,” he said as calmly as he could manage. The sound of teeth clicking against metal reached his ears.

The infernal greyhound was chewing on the buckles of his shoes.

“Pepi!” The King called sharply, giving Haydn a start. But it was only the dog that His Majesty was addressing. So, the hound was christened Joseph, too! God be thanked, the King had not seen fit to nickname the creature Sepperl.

Explain Haydn’s reaction to the dog’s name.

The name Joseph, Haydn’s name, that is to say, had two diminutives. One was Sepperl. This is what Haydn’s parents called him. The other was Pepi. So naturally, Haydn gets a start when the King calls out this particular nickname. Can you imagine how insulted an eighteenth-century individual would feel about having a hound named after himself?

I like to think Haydn would’ve taken it in good spirit. He was never inclined to take himself seriously.

Do Pepi and his greyhound friends get any other scenes in the novel?

Yes, as a matter of fact, they do. They’re not particularly good guard dogs, too lazy to bark at anyone or even to take any notice of anyone who walks past them. This time, it’s the Prussian King’s principal court secretary, Anton Eichel, who encounters the dogs:

Eichel stepped out of the picture gallery to the sounds of an ever-growing commotion. It appeared to be coming from the cluster of rooms beyond the chamber he occupied as principal secretary.

The noise was loud enough to arrest his motion, but Eichel noticed that the King’s Italian greyhounds—sprawling lazily on their embroidered cushions—dozed on undisturbed. His own footsteps on the stone floor had merely caused one of the three dogs to open a single eyelid and glance reproachfully his way over a long, pointy snout.

Do make that infernal noise stop, Eichel, the creature seemed to be saying. We are trying to nap! In the principal court secretary’s head, the greyhounds sounded just like their master, with a voice just as high-pitched and mannered as the King’s.

What are you reading now?

I’ve been devouring Aaron Elkins’ art mystery series. He writes the Alix London series with his wife Charlotte Elkins and he’s also written a few standalones. I’ve just finished A Long Time Coming. A stupendous novel!

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new series with a new character. Haydn has several more cases to solve, but he’s informed me that he wants to focus on his music for a bit before I confront him with his next dead body. I think the poor man must be heartily sick of stumbling upon corpses.

He’ll do his duty and stumble upon more at my request, but I can understand his need to focus on something a little more pleasant for just a little while longer.

Who is your favorite author and why?

This changes all the time. At the moment, it’s Aaron & Charlotte Elkins. I love the cozy-thrillers they write. The books are fast-paced with a strong sense of danger, but you still get still get that sense of place and the sort of local flavor that’s only possible in a cozy. And their characters are wonderfully drawn as well with such fascinating backstories!

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

I usually don’t—not in my historical series, at any rate—for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. Prussian Counterpoint was an exception, and I enjoyed writing the dogs into the plot. For the most part, though, if the plot calls for animals, I’ll use them. That may not always happen, and that’s fine.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

This isn’t a funny story, but it’s one I fondly remember. About seven years ago, when my eldest was just a tiny baby, Chicken, our younger pit bull, trotted into the kitchen and nudged me back toward the bedroom. Rena had just woken up from a nap and was crying. Washing dishes in the kitchen, I hadn’t heard her. If it weren’t for Chickie, she’d still have been crying.

That wasn’t the first time, Chickie alerted me to Rena’s crying. While she slept, he and Fatty would sit on either side of her nap-nanny on our bed and watch over her. It’s memories like these that I’ll always cherish.

We’ve lost both our pit bulls, unfortunately. Some day when the kids are a bit older, we’ll get a couple more dogs. For now, we’ll have to make do with our memories. Both Fatty and Chicken were great dogs—and very patient with their three rambunctious human siblings!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
I think the most important advice anyone can give someone just starting out on this path is that you have to believe in yourself in order to stay the course. It’s easy to let other people and setbacks discourage you. But when you do that, the only person you’ve disappointed is yourself.

When I first conceived of the Haydn Mysteries in 2012, I never thought I’d get one novel written, let alone publish three! I’m glad I persisted. And I hope to keep writing until I draw my last breath.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Readers interested in getting a Complimentary Taste of Murder are invited to visit http://bit.ly/Haydn_Taste_of_Murder where I’m offering Three Free Mysteries.

About Nupur:

Bio: A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her musical works.

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Free Taste of Murder: http://bit.ly/Haydn_Taste_of_Murder

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To Buy Prussian Counterpoint or the two previous Haydn Mysteries, visit:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/HaydnMystery3

Kobo: http://bit.ly/PrussianKobo

B&N Nook: http://bit.ly/PrussianNook

Apple iTunes: https://apple.co/2Sbja9i

 

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Welcome, Cheryl Russell

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Cheryl Russell to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

For many years, I was bedbound with severe ME, unable to do anything for myself. In 2013 God healed me and since then I’ve been building up my strength.

I’ve self-published 8 books which are a mix of genres. My first was historical fiction. Most of them are thrillers and one murder mystery. I wrote a nonfiction book about my life with ME and my healing.

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

I have 2 adorable gerbils called Tom and Jerry. I had gerbils through the early        years of ME but then had many years without them as I didn’t have anyone to        look after them. They are such beautiful animals. Very funny and cute. When they get themselves into trouble, they only have to stand up, and I’ll forgive them anything.

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 written a few short stories about gerbils. I used to attend a writing class and they soon realised my love of gerbils as I read our stories I’d written about them. I have also written about them in an email to a friend. She loves hearing about them. They make her smile and entertain her.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m editing a couple of historical fiction set around the second world war era. I’ve just begun writing another murder mystery, featuring the same female sleuths as in my last one. Its current title is Partners in Crime. Blood has been found in the bath but no body anywhere.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I thought my gerbil Hattie had escaped or something had happened. I hadn’t seen her. I decided to put my hand in the cage as that would usually elicit a response. Nothing. Worried I rustled my hand in the bedding. Hettie emerged but no sign of Hattie. I continued but no Hattie. I suddenly saw the cardboard egg box move that I’d put there for them to play with. It seemed to move on its own, earning the nickname the haunted egg box. A little head peered out from under it looking so innocent, no idea of the trouble she’d been causing. Hattie had been sleeping under the box all the time.

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

I’ve always wanted to be a writer from a very young age. During those awful years when I was bedbound I’d lay there imagining lots of different stories. I pretty much had the entire plot of Lily of the Valley, my first book, in my head. As soon as I was able, I wrote all the notes I had and then the book made its way on to my laptop and then to Amazon. It was my baby and sending it out into the world was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Sometimes they will sleep like they are today and other times they’ll be busy playing kicking bedding everywhere or destroying cardboard, chewing it into little pieces. They are very distracting when they are playing as I just want to watch them and enjoy the entertainment. Gerbilvision is better than television any day.

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

A mixture of books. Plenty of thrillers, Christian books, anything that looks good. I have no idea how many books I have. Two piles of physical books and loads more on my Kindle.

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

Keep going, don’t give up. Do writing courses, go to a local writing class. Practise at every opportunity.

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

The writing is the easy part. If you go down the traditional publishing route its easier but still challenging. I chose to self-publish. It’s the marketing afterwards that’s difficult. Don’t give up.

About Cheryl:

Cheryl is a multi-genre author. She has written one historical fiction and is working on two others currently. She has written several thrillers and one murder mystery. A collection of short stories is also included in her list of published writing. In total, 8 books now.

Cheryl was bedbound for many years with the chronic illness ME. During those awful years when she could do nothing for herself she enjoyed spending time in her imagination writing books. Her debut novel was comprehensively plotted in her head, she just had to wait until she was able to put pen to paper and write it. She was miraculously healed by God in 2013 and has since been building up her muscles to get her strength back. This continues to be ongoing in 2019. It is a slow process, but she is doing well.

She was recently a runner up in the Student of the Year Award with the Writers Bureau. Last year she also achieved finalist in the Book Talk Radio Club Awards mystery category. Cheryl is very proud of these achievements as it shows just how far she has come from those awful days, and also it validates her writing ability.

When not writing she enjoys reading, going to an aqua fit class once a week. She is crazy about gerbils and currently has two called Tom and Jerry.

Cheryl is also autistic so has to work hard on dialogue. After finishing her debut novel, a friend looked through the first chapter and noticed the dialogue wasn’t natural. Telling her how it should be has really helped Cheryl improve that novel and improve her writing since then. Dialogue, although still difficult, has become easier to write and become more natural. She still has to check it carefully in the editing stages and correct it.

Cheryl has had to overcome so many challenges to reach the stage she is at now. Her lifelong dream of being an author has been realised.

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Welcome, Elizabeth Moldovan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Elizabeth Moldovan to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, my name is Elizabeth, and I recently published my life story only to help other people who struggle with drug use. I have 5 children, and the youngest is 15. I love gardening, drawing and painting, cooking and minding my granddaughter 2 days a week.

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

During the years it took for me to write my book, we adopted a dog that had been abused prior to her coming to live in our home. Shortly after we found out that she was going to have puppies and she gave birth to 7, in the corner of our kitchen. We called her “Tiny” and everyone loved her. She brought much joy to us all and we had over 40 different people visit us and her puppies. They went to good homes and after 3 years, Tiny went to live on a farm with a good home. At that time, we cried to let her go, because a young mum 18, from the community, who reached out for help with her newborn baby, came to live with us for the next 2 years.

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

My children always had pets growing up, and I wrote about them all in the book. (guinea pigs, fish, rabbits, rats/mice). We bought them a puppy for Christmas and called him Binky. I write about Binky in the book because we all loved him, and he grew up with my children. After I fell pregnant with my 5th child, we had to move home so my niece adopted Binky and cared for him into his old age.

 What are you reading now?

“The Invisible Girl” by Samantha Houghton

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I have been accepted to be part of a new book that will be released in April in the UK along with 13 other authors. I have to write 5,000 words about my life story, and the book has a working title “Courage: Dark to Light” and proceeds will go to Samaritans, who help people who have lost hope.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Anne Frank, because as a child I identified with her suffering and her courage touched and inspired me.

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

We were very poor growing up, but I remember before Dad fell ill with lung cancer, we had a cat. I was only 5 at the time, but I remember he crawled under the washing machine and Mum had to clean the grease off him.

Whats your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

It would have to be “Lassie.” I have very lovely memories of how beautiful and intelligent a dog could be.

What is your real life, funniest pet story?

There are so many, the stand out would be when “Tiny” was giving birth to her puppies and because she was so small, we all thought she would have about 3. After the 6th and then 7th were born, we were all laughing at the wonder and joy of life.

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

I have always loved reading and writing but never in a million years thought I would ever write my autobiography.

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

Mainly educational and biographies are on my Goodreads list. I know that I will never have time to read them all but the next book is “One nation under Therapy” by Christina Hoff Summers.

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

Market and build an interested base around your book about a year before it is published. Connect with people who read your genre, and like-minded authors.

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

My dining room table, perhaps because I feel comfortable in my kitchen and also because it was my mum’s table for 30 years.

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

Read the fine print. Be brave and never give up.

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

I learned that there is nothing to fear and that people love inspiring stories.

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Welcome, R. L. Seago!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, R. L. Seago to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. My name is R.L. Seago, and I have 6 self- published mystery/suspense novels under my belt. I live I northern California with my wife of almost 28 years, and served in the US Navy for nearly 5 years as a Hospital Corpsman

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? My wife Anna and I have 2 Pembroke Welsh Corgi sisters, Bella Rose and Sophie Marie. They are 7 ½ and sisters from the same litter

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? In Voices of the Passed I introduce Solomon, a bull terrier and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Chauncy. In Tears of the Innocent you will meet Joker, a German shepherd and his owner Ryder Raynes. They own and operate a private detective agency in Santa Barbara. In #5, There Are None So Bind, you will meet Baxter, a sight dog for a young bind woman named Cassidy. There is also Oscar the beagle cross and Angus, a black Scottish Terrier.

 What are you reading now? Currently rereading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 

What writing projects are you currently working on? Lucky #7 is in the creative process right now and will be a deviation in genre from my previous works.

Who is your favorite author and why? Steinbeck, Bradbury, Koontz and of course James Patterson. Oh, and a relatively new writer named Stephen King…lol

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing? I use dogs in most of my projects, and believe in giving them their own personalities, character traits and purpose in the story. I firmly believe that dogs can make a great story even better. My primary rule with digs in my writing is simple- people can die, bad things happen, but THE DOG never dies

Why do you include animals in your writing? They give us so much unconditional love and enjoyment, to not use them in our writing is almost cruel

Do you have any working or service animals in your stories? Tell us about them. In None So Blind, Baxter a golden retriever is a sight dog for Cassidy Delgado, a former US Marine who was blinded in Afghanistan

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why? Probably Rascal by Sterling North. I read that in 5th or 6th grade, and too this day it has a place on my bookshelf

 When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? High school on my newspaper

What do your pets do when you are writing? Sleep on our sofas, giving me their own form of support..lol

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing? How difficult it is to get a publisher to take you seriously

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? In my office or at the beach

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Do it for the love of the craft, not for the money or “fame”

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

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Snow Books, Snow Dogs and Recharging the Batteries!

Sometimes, when it snows, you need to stop shoveling, stop worrying and just curl up with a hot cup of cocoa/tea/coffee and a damn good book. Right? It’s one of the best ways ever of totally recharging your life, your writing batteries, and your whole soul.

Earlier in the month we had a good snow here in DC. It was supposed to only be six inches, not that much,  considering it came early in the day.  The plows would be able to take care of that, I thought. Not a problem.  There would be school for the kids the next day, of course, because hey…not that much snow, right?

Wrong!

We did get 6″…then it stopped snowing and the plows came through. I kept my usual schedule because, as I said, there would be school and work and everything because this was a small snow.  Very pretty, but not a problem.

Then it started to flurry again.  Then to actively snow.  There were points when it was almost blizzard-y in the sheer volume of snow coming down.  We got just over a foot of snow, when it was all said and done.

So much for all that shoveling I’d already done!

It was still relatively early in the day as this second half of the storm hit. Only about 6 pm when I realized that we were going to get a LOT more snow than they’d predicted.  I also realized there would not be school the next day.  Probably not much getting out and about, either.  Not till at least mid-afternoon from our neighborhood anyway.

My sons were ecstatic. No school.  With just as much glee, I realized I could take a “me-day” – a reading, sleeping, catching up, fun day.  Sure, I’d have to help shovel at some point (we have some older neighbors we do for, plus our own stuff) BUT…

I could take a whole morning. Just. To. Read. 

Ahhhhhhh!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I read all the time.  As a writer you HAVE to read.  You just have to.  You lose your creative edge if you don’t “fill the well” with great stories.  At one point in my writing career, life got complicated and I didn’t read much.  It sucked.  It got harder and harder to write.  The less I read, the more I felt like I  couldn’t tell good stories.  I didn’t feel the spark of story-ness in my soul and it was like slogging through cold molasses to get words on the page.

I will never do that again.  It was torture!

So, now I read a lot. Sometimes it’s research stuff, sometimes it’s Science Fiction, Fantasy, YA, or books I’m judging for contests. (I’m about to start my RITA Award reads – SO Excited!) Sometimes its revisiting old favorites in every genre. A good read never fails to stimulate my mind, engage my senses, and take me on a journey to the most fascinating places.

On this lovely snowy day, I managed to visit some amazing places! From 1820’s London (A friend’s manuscript draft) to the modern-day UK, including York and London (Nancy Northcott’s The Deathbrew Affair), I stole away for about five hours.  Soooo wonderful!

The DH, our boys, and I got out and played in the snow – a moral imperative! – made snow cream, and then got down to the business of shoveling out a little before total dark set in.  Since we’d already cleared after the first dollop of snow, it was pretty easy!  As darkness fell, we went back to playing with the dogs.  For those of you who have them, do yours chase snowballs?  Ours do! Then they look super surprised when the “ball” disappears into the snow on the ground! Where’d it go? It’s hilarious.

We all finally tromped back in, had soup and grilled cheese – YUM! – and settled in for the night.  The DH opted for a movie in the living room. The boys headed to the basement man-cave for some video gaming. Me? I headed to the big cozy chair by the fireplace with a massive mug of Constant Comment tea, a plate of apple slices, cheese and crackers, and a re-read of Nora Roberts’ Shelter In Place.

The next day, I snuggled in bed with yet another fabulous read, Sue Coletta’s Wings of Mayhem – SO GOOD! I’ve gotten to know Sue via her fabulously informative writers blog, and on social media. Such a fab writer and a generous social media presence as well! That can also be said about the author of my late afternoon reading choice, Jordan Dane.  Got her The Last Victim, the first in her Ryker Townsend series. Also riveting.

SUCH a great reading day, snow day, and dog fun day.  After playing for hours in the snow, the dogs were worn out enough to curl up with me in the reading chair and on the ottoman.  I was pretty much cocooned with dog fur. They snored and I read.  Same thing the next day. We played and shoveled, then they snored and I read.

When the next day dawned, with school for the kids and the DH off to work, it was back to the regular routine for the most part.  However, I came to the day relaxed and refreshed because I’d been on a book vacation.  While there was heart-pounding tension, it wasn’t work related, it was story related.  What a joy.

So I know that a lot of people dislike snow, but I find that I’m longing for another snow day, another day to just dream, read, and sip tea by the fire.

What about you?

Do you like snow?

What’s your drink of choice while reading?  I love hot tea, but it frequently goes cold when I get so involved in the book and forget to drink it!

Have you had a good snow-day-reading-day yet this winter?

Fill me in!

(The lovely teacup/book graphic is from Pinterest but was unsigned. No copyright infringement intended and the work is that of the artist, not mine.  All other photos are mine.)

The Labs – Daisy and Dakota – are mine, as is the imminently silly Irish Water Spaniel, Tucker. The dachshund, Coco, belongs to my dear friend Sophia Nash. If you haven’t read her Whispering In French, you are missing a treat. (It got a coveted starred review in Publisher’s Weekly!)

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Welcome, Christopher Tubbs!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Chris Tubbs to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I was born in Dorset in England. My ancestors going back before the 1500’s were all clay miners. My day job is to represent an American Software company in Europe and to promote their products. That means I get to speak at loads of conferences and exhibitions as an industry veteran. But my secret love had always been military history. I am a firm believer that all the major advances in technology have been fueled by conflict. Add to that a healthy interest in reading sci fi and sci fantasy and you see that I am leaning towards historical fiction with a twist. My favorite period is the late 18th century moving into the 19th as that was when the basis of our lives now was laid down.  I write on average an hour a day on planes, in airports (I travel a lot)  or at home. My pets (I have two dogs and two cats) are a central part of my life so its only natural that one or two sneak into my writing.

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

I have two Dutch Shepherds; Zeeva a nine year old female and Blaez a one year old male  and two cats;  Vaskr a male Norwegian Forest Cat, and Caja a female British Longhair.  We try to choose names that reflect the personalities of the animals or something in their history so Zeeva is Hebrew for She-Wolf and Blaez  is old Breton for Wolf as they are basically as close to a wolf as you can get in a domestic dog. Vaskr is old Norse for Gallant as he is a bit of a hero and Caja is Spanish for cash as she cost a fortune.

Blaez gets into the Dorset Boy series as pet of our hero Marty. He follows him through his  adventures in the Navy and as an agent for British Intelligence.  He saves our hero’s life a number of times. Maybe I will find a place for the others in later books but it will have to make sense in the plot line.

What are you reading now?

Maybe surprisingly for some I am reading fantasy. I think that reading traditional Naval Historical fiction novels right now would constrain my thinking but reading fantasy actually frees me up to explore plot lines and situations that you wouldn’t expect.  I don’t want my stories to follow Hornblower or Aubery but to do their own thing. I am reading Linsey Hall and M.D. Massey at the moment, their books have good pace and don’t skimp on the violence.  I have read all the big Naval History authors in the past but for now they are on hold.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am working on book three of the Dorset Boy Series. The first, A Talent for Trouble, covers our hero leaving the Dorset Clay mines, to joining the Navy as a cabin boy then making a name for himself at the Siege of Toulon where he rescues a beautiful Contessa and her family earning him the interest to become a Midshipman.  The second, The Special Operations Flotilla, sees him being sucked into the world of British Intelligence and becoming a founder member of the SOF.  He discovers Blaez on a mission to save the Dutch crown jewels from the French.

Now I’m on book three, Agent Provocateur, and we are following our hero into an undercover mission to Paris where they have to try and disrupt the smooth running of the French revolutionary government not realizing he is walking right into the center of a coup d’Etat by Napoleon to take over France himself.

Who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a tough one. I really like the way Dewey Lambdin writes and I find myself re reading David Eddings’ fantasy books.  I also like Adam Hardy as he tries to be different and his hero is darker. But I am in awe of anyone who is successful and attracts a following.

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

My first dog was a Jack Russel terrier called Spot who was bred as a ratter.  He had homicidal tendencies and was lethal to rats which was good as we lived in the middle of nowhere. My second dog was a black Labrador who’s pedigree name was Lord Fred of Salisbury but, as my little sister couldn’t say Salisbury, he ended up being called Saucy.  My father had a pub by then and Sauce would greet the lady customers by sticking his nose up their skirts. So Saucy by name saucy by nature.

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

Blaez is a full character and he is part of the team as much as any other of Marty’s followers.  In fact he is featured more than some of the others.  He is bodyguard, scout and companion to Marty. He also lets him know who he can trust as dog’s instincts for that are far better than ours.  Dutchies are loyal, defensive, loving, all the things you expect from Shepherds.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I have had pets around me all my life and I can’t imagine a world, even on a ship without any. The other thing is it brings colour to a scene when a dog is in it and it can change the dynamic from what people expect as you can be as illogical as a dog.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Our First Dutch Shepherd was Gus-Troy van Stavast  (Troy) and he was Blaez’s grandfather.  He was in the breeding program and he had already sired two litters. Then he was chosen by another breeder for their bitch Claire.  As it turned out Claire came into season about 2 days before we went on holiday and although she was ‘presented’ to Troy he knew it wasn’t the right time and wasn’t interested.  So we talked to the people who ran the kennel that all the animals were going into while we were away.  For some reason they got all excited by the prospect of having a conception in their kennels and agreed to let the breeder bring Claire to Troy there.  Well they set up a ’love nest’ and the deed was done in front of quite an audience cameras and all, but that didn’t stop my boy as he fathered 11 pups in that litter. He always was a show off

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

I always had a couple of stories going around in my head and I always told myself a story to get myself to sleep.  I was always quite active and didn’t sit still long enough to write but then a few years ago I suddenly developed arthritis and that slowed me down quit a bit.  Then one day I just fired up word on my laptop and wrote “You’re early again” said Miss Kate, the teacher at the school in Stoborough. It was a long walk for a twelve year old from Furzebrook to Stoborough through the heath, which was yellow with gorse flowers at the end of June.”  And that was it. I now write every day for at least an hour, my day job permitting.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

They try and climb on my lap as soon as I pick up my laptop but once we get over that Blaez lies at my feet and Zeeva is never far away.

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

The story is in you. Don’t be frightened of putting it on paper and giving it to someone else to read.  It is like exposing your soul but the satisfaction of having anyone read your story and enjoying it is unbelievable.

About Christopher

Christopher C. Tubbs is a descendent of a long line of Dorset clay miners and has chased his family tree back to the 16th century in the Isle of Purbeck. He has been a public speaker at conferences for most of his career in the Aerospace and Automotive industries and was one of the founders of a successful games company back in the 1990’s. Now in his fifties he finally got around to writing the story he had been dreaming about for years. Thanks to Inspiration from the great sea authors like Alexander Kent, Dewey Lambdin, Patrick O’Brian and Dudley Pope he was finally able to put digit to keyboard.

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