Welcome, Kathy Krevat!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Kathy Krevat, to the blog.

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

Hi! I’m Kathy Krevat, author of the Gourmet Cat Mystery series by Lyrical/Kensington. In the third book of the series, THE TROUBLE WITH TALENT, gourmet cat food chef Colbie Summers stumbles over the body of an abusive oboe teacher who is part of an underground network of people helping to get rich kids in top universities.

As Kim Davis, Blogger at Cinnamon, Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder, said, “Long before the scandals hit recent headlines, Ms. Krevat managed to portend a social issue involving wealthy families using their riches to gain access to top schools for unworthy students. THE TROUBLE WITH TALENT weaves an entertaining, tightly plotted tale of murder in a timely and relevant story involving a college fixer.” 

When I’m not writing, I’m volunteering. I just finished five years on the board of Playwrights Project, (http://playwrightsproject.org/) an organization that teaches literacy and other life skills through playwriting. It works with over 10,000 people a year — students in K-12 schools, foster care and juvenile court system schools, seniors, the incarcerated and more.

I’m also on the board for Partners in Crime – the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I’m involved in local politics. And I help coordinate the CCA Writers’ Conference in San Diego – the only free writing conference for high school students in the US. (https://ccawritersconference2019.weebly.com/)

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

Trouble is an orange tabby cat who was the inspiration behind Colbie starting Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food Company. She’s full of personality and is the official taste-tester of Colbie’s products.

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

I had quite a few childhood pets, including dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, gerbils, and a rabbit. Once I even brought home a little of kittens and the mother from band camp. (Yes, I called to ask first.)

Who is your favorite author and why?

J.K. Rowling for her imagination and mastery of plotting, setting, characterization, and more, and for inspiring a love of reading in millions of people young and old.

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

Trouble is definitely a character is her own right, meowing comments that Colbie interprets, and sometimes finding clues.

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

I’m sure I have others, but the one that comes to mind is about my Shih Tzu, Fluffy, who I had in my twenties. I adopted her from a family who couldn’t keep her any longer and their daughter had named her. I took her to a lot of places in an oversized bag, including a trip to my sister’s wedding. I tried leaving her in the hotel room, and she barked so much that I came back to get her. She was so mad that she refused to look at me. Another time, a friend was visiting, and instead of going to the park like we usually did on weekends, I dropped Fluffy off at home, and we went to the local diner. When we got back, my friend discovered that Fluffy had climbed on top of her unzipped luggage and peed inside!

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

The most fun was learning how to make chocolate truffles for my Chocolate Covered Mystery series. A local chocolatier supplied all of the recipes, but I had to test them all. Such a hardship!

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

There are so many more than two things! I wish I’d known that in order to get published, your voice matters more than you imagine, so write what sounds like you. I also wish I’d joined writing organizations like Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America earlier. Taking advantage of all they have to offer helped me and so many others become published.

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

I have “my spot” on one end of a very comfy couch with reclining leg rests where I read and write. I also have a recliner in my home office that I use as well. My writing process is a bit unusual. I hand write my ideas onto neon pink paper and then flesh them out a lot more as I type them into the computer. Once I have a decent draft, I print the whole thing out, which allows me to see problems better. I wish my process didn’t use so much paper, but maybe it’s offset by my driving an electric car.

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

The best advice I know of is to keep learning and keep writing. No one thinks they can become a sculptor overnight, but for some reason almost everyone thinks they should automatically be able to write a book. When it’s not perfect to begin with, they stop, not realizing that you have to practice, practice, practice. Keep writing!

I’d also recommend giving back to their local writing community. I didn’t start volunteering to make business contacts, but looking back, I can see that it helped. And there’s something special about being with people who love the same things you do!

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

It might be a little depressing, but there’s a large element of luck in getting published, and lots of great books don’t get chosen by the big publishers. Indie publishing offers great opportunities for the authors of these books.

What’s next for you with your writing projects?

While I wait to hear if Lyrical/Kensington wants a fourth book in the Gourmet Cat Mystery series, I’m working on a young adult suspense book.

Single mom Colbie Summers has a lot to be grateful for in the run up to Thanksgiving. Relocating back to her California hometown has brought her irascible dad and adolescent son closer.  Her gourmet cat food line—vetted by her trusty taste-tester, Trouble—is about to get a big re-order. And she’s made wonderful new friends and colleagues. Too bad one them has just been accused of murder . . .

Sunnyside’s most gifted students have been at the mercy of a shadowy network of college fixers—including an abusive oboe teacher whose recommendation is necessary to get into Julliard and a school secretary who alters grades for cash. When they turn up dead, Colbie has to untangle a cat’s cradle of suspects and motivations—from livid parents and students whose dreams have been crushed to an entire secret Facebook group of spurned lovers.

Suddenly, holiday preparations just got a lot hairier. With the big re-order now on hold and the real killer still at large, Colbie discovers that someone has been grading on a very dangerous curve—and it will take all her newfound sleuthing talent to land safely on her feet.

About Kathy:

Kathy Krevat is the author of the Gourmet Cat Mystery series by Kensington/Lyrical and the Chocolate Covered Mystery series under the name Kathy Aarons by Berkley Prime Crime. Find her at www.kathykrevat.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Steinlen: Another Cat-Lovin’ Man

Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859- 923), was a French painter and printmaker, famous for his Art Nouveau style. And his cats.

The artist loved cats, and was known for feeding dozens of them in the Montmartre section of Paris. At the time, cats symbolized the unconventional lifestyle of bohemian culture (we know how independent and non-conformist our cats can be!). Cats often appeared in Steinlen’s paintings and advertising posters, which also featured his daughter, Colette. However, even in his leisure moments, Steinlen turned out many drawings and prints of cats. The man loved cats! Many do (see my post on Cat-Lovin’ Men).

In 2018 I attended the Steinlen: Cats exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (dubbed “The Museum” by locals). The exhibit is over, but you can read about it here in abbreviated form.

I’ve used this Steinlen mousepad and tracking ball mouse for many years, and I love both. Never seen a mouse quite like this one? Well,  now you can say you have.

Read more on Steinlen.

More images of Steinlen’s cats.

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. Her short stories appear in Deadly Southern Charm, Virginia is for Mysteries (Vols. 1&2), and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

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

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authormaggieking

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

 

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Welcome, Mabry Hall!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mabry Hall to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I grew up in central Mississippi and live in Louisiana now, with a sidestep to Texas for college and grad school. My favorite childhood times were spent at my grandparents’ farm, where I awoke every morning to the sound of cows at the back fence. My cousin and I roamed free with two very smart working dogs, Lassie— she’d have to be a collie with name like that, and Shep, a golden retriever. My 18 Karat Cold mystery series is set on a farm in northwest Louisiana, but my main character, Annalee Wyatt, buys and sells antique jewelry. Since I’m writing the story, I can have her pastures leased to a neighboring farmer. Annalee needs time for jewelry and sleuthing.

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

Our Maine Coon cat is named Lucy, because she’s a redhead. Her personality is reflected in the orange tabby, Montrose, that lives with Annalee. Until a few years ago, we had a wonderful Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Henry, before Corgis became so cool. I’ve immortalized Henry in the books, but he belongs to Annalee’s handsome next door neighbor. He loves to hang out on Annalee’s front porch, flat on his back with his paws in the air. Anyone who’s spent time around a Corgi will have no trouble visualizing the position.

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

In addition to the ones listed above, in the first book Annalee acquires an African Gray parrot named Lafitte. He spent his formative years in a bar in Baton Rouge next to the LSU campus, and he flirts with women and sings old rock-n-roll and zydeco tunes. Annalee’s Basset Hound, Pudge, belonged to her aunt, whose farm she inherited. In my imagination, Pudge spends most of his time with his nose to the ground, snuffling out the critters that live in the country in Louisiana. While they aren’t pets, the farm next door has begun raising dairy goats that have the mischievous personalities of the goats I’ve met.

My third book, A Rumor of Riches, features a redbone coonhound, Delores, and a Catahoula leopard dog named Isobel. Their tracking skills play a major part in the book. My problem is that writing about all of these animals makes me want to get one of each.

While the series isn’t particularly paranormal, Annalee’s Goat Hill Farm is haunted by a goat who lived there in 1885. Repentance comes and goes on his own schedule, and Annalee has been able to see him since she was a child. And the name? Repentance was my fifth great-grandfather. I wish I knew why his parents called him that.

What are you reading now?

Let me share what I’m listening to now, as I always have at least one book in progress on my phone. I’m currently listening to Circe, by Madeline Miller. It’s a retelling of the myth of Circe of the Odyssey, from her point of view. The story is strong, and the reader is perfect. I recently finished Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik, which is a riff on the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale told from the woman’s view. For fun and giggles, you can’t go wrong with The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang. I never get a book without listening to the sample, because the reader can make or break the experience for me.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m writing the fourth novel in the 18 Karat Cold series. Since Annalee buys and sells antique jewelry, each book revolves around a specific piece. The first, An Engaging End, features an antique mine-cut diamond engagement ring. The second, A Regrettable Reunion, has a demantoid garnet brooch in the shape of a salamander. The third has gold coins and a squash-blossom turquoise necklace, and this as yet unnamed book has diamond chandelier earrings that are literally

Who is your favorite author and why?

While I don’t claim to have a favorite author, I love anything by Kate Atkinson and Hilary Mantel, and who can resist Jane Austen? PD James, Louise Penney, Elly Griffiths, and Ben Aaronovitch all captivate my attention with the first page. I usually have four or five books going at one time and read many of my fellow Sisters in Crime cozy writers. Then there’s nonfiction history and Alison Weir, and, oh, lately I’m plowing through the Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker, although they make me very hungry. My next trip to France may have to include Bordeaux.

My favorite book is The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. He brought those animals to life for me. I’ve reread it many times, and each time brings a new understanding.

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

My first dog was a fox terrier, delivered by Santa with a red bow as big as he was. I have a vivid memory of finding him under the tree. He was followed by a cocker spaniel, and then we switched to dachshunds. I had four of them through the years, and we once bottle-fed a litter of eight, which involved starting with all of them in one laundry basket. We knew we were through when they were all moved to the other one. I loved cats, but my mother didn’t, so I vowed to myself that I’d have one some day. We are currently on our fourth, the aforementioned Maine Coon, and she is the first that wasn’t a rescue kitty.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals have always been a part of my life, and it seems a natural progression to have them as part of my characters’ lives. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they interact with something smaller and weaker; something that might be at their mercy or dependent on them.

I also think animals have such interesting personalities, if that isn’t anthropomorphizing them too much. My son and his wife have a cat who seemed to have almost no redeeming qualities. Clarence wasn’t friendly; he shed like a three-month-old Christmas tree, and had major litter box issues. I grudgingly tolerated him. Since my granddaughter was born, he’s a whole new cat. He will let that little girl do anything to him. He’s patient and calm, which is not so easy when there’s a two-year-old bouncing an alphabet block on your head. I’m surprised anew each time I visit.

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

My first book had been out for a couple of months and was not setting the world on fire. Friends and relatives loved it, but they didn’t really count. Then one of those friends invited me to Dallas to speak to her book club. Fourteen women RSVP’d, but over twenty attended. They loved the book. I didn’t know them; they didn’t owe me special consideration; they weren’t there to be nice. They honestly liked it, and just as important, they were ready to read the next one! It was a game-changer.

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

I don’t think hamsters qualify as unusual, but Captain Cook was quite the adventurer. He lived up to his name. He routinely escaped from his fortified cage, and once he disappeared for several days. He had made his way from his upstairs room to the downstairs dining room, and taken up residence behind our enormous sideboard. He was a rodent with a plan. We think he made several trips up and down the stairs, cheeks stuffed with food, and set up housekeeping.

Captain Cook lived much longer than a hamster should, and toward the end of his life, my eight-year-old son came to me several times, sobbing because he was dead. Each time I’d take him and tuck him under my shirt to get him warm. Sure enough, he’d perk up in ten minutes or so and be ready to roam again. He finally died when we were out of town, and my house-sitting friend went to every pet store searching for one that looked like him, thinking she could fool David, but the Captain was irreplaceable.

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

When I was a kid, I read in the crook of a big mulberry tree. Now I require something a bit more forgiving. If it’s too hot or too cold to be outside, I curl up in one of the chairs in the den. If the weather cooperates, I love to read on my screened back porch under the ceiling fan. The swing I sit in came from my grandmother’s house, and my father was swung to sleep in it when he was a baby, about ninety years ago.

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

Finish your book. Begin another one. Finish that one and start on the third. Know that it’s a long haul, and the chance of life-altering financial success is slim. Join a group like Sisters in Crime, where you’ll receive encouragement and advice from many generous people. Be open to helpful criticism. And finally, don’t do it if it isn’t fun.

About Mabry:
I was born and raised in the South, and have lived in Mississippi, Texas, and now Louisiana. After an operating room fall curtailed my career as a nurse anesthetist, I turned my energy to writing. My boys are grown and live on the East Coast (egads!) I really do collect antique jewelry, and have amazing Pinterest boards that showcase the types I write about, so pour yourself a glass of tea or wine and prepare to be dazzled.

I write what I know, except for the murder part. Though I’ve traveled the globe, I always come back to the friendly and quirky people who populate northwest Louisiana.

Let’s Be Social:

You can reach me through my website or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. My books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

http://www.mabryhall.com

https://www.facebook.com/18KaratCold/

https://www.pinterest.com/mabryhall/

https://www.instagram.com/18karatcold/

https://amzn.to/2XGrjWO

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Welcome, Michele Peters

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Michele Peters to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.
I grew up in a large Midwest town (St. Louis), have lived in Arizona for the past nine years with my husband and two rescue dogs, Sophie and Rocky. I have two children, my son lives in Arizona and my daughter in NY.

How we came to Arizona is a story onto itself filled with happenstance, circumstance and crazy timing, an out-of- the-blue job offer that ended up with my having three weeks to move from a lifetime in the Midwest. The task of packing, moving, selling and closing up a house we lived in for over 27 years fell squarely to my husband. On January 2nd I left with two suitcases and enough clothes to get me through until the rest of my things could be shipped. And that is a whole other story.

 Over the years I’ve held a variety of positions in corporate, university and non-profit, basically in marketing, advertising and development. Previous writing experience includes feature articles on everything from fashion to NASCAR races and a local reporter. The best writing gig I landed, even to this day, was an assignment to write a three page feature article on a small cruise ship vacation experience to the British Isles. This is where I fell in love with Ireland and Scotland and will most likely set a few of my stories in these fascinating locales.

In December 2018, I left the position Managing Director of a classical theatre company to concentrate full time and pursue my life-long dream of writing fiction. Always an avid reader from an early age (I was that “bookworm” kids teased); a BA in communications from Lindenwood University reinforced this passion but added a new appreciation for the beauty and power of language. During this time I also read early Russian literature (Pushkin, Leskov, Gogol) which created a new dimension for me in character description and development.

When we had to write our thesis (capstone), while other students complained about having to write 90 pages, I was trying to figure out how to keep it to only 90 pages.

I discovered cozies quite by accident last summer while visiting a friend, have been studying this genre and working on the first of a series ever since.

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

My husband and I, over the years have had numerous pet dogs, all rescues and always two or three. All were fairly large, mixed breed rescues. We adopted an abused Irish setter who I nursed back to health. My vet laughed when I told him I put Shayna in our guest bed and fed her home-made chicken soup; she lived to 14 years old; he originally said she wouldn’t live the year (she was about two years old at the time). We’ve had Bootsie and Pepper; Matty and Abby; Crackers and Shayna. And then Clancy, a 125lb Irish setter who thought he was a lap dog. Since we are older, we not only downsized our house but our pets. Sophie and Rocky are two small Chihuahua mixes, who I am quite certain, believe we are just funny forms of them.

Clancy will be featured in my cozy mystery as well as on the cover. In his own crazy way, he helps the protagonist uncover and dig up clues needed to solve murders.

What are you reading now?
Like so many of us, I have more than one book started. Reading Ellen Byron’s Body on the Bayou; a collection of stories by Daphne duMauier, Echoes from the Macabre and Dianne Freeman’s A Ladies Guide to Gossip and Murder. Just finished Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians and constantly adding to my collection of her works.

What writing projects are you currently working on?
The first in a series of cozy mysteries and a WWII mystery. Doing research on a historical fiction manuscript. In between, every so often I am asked to write marketing copy for a few freelance clients I have retained.

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

Growing up we had beautiful white and tan collie mix named Fluffy; she was more our third sister. We painted her toenails, she let us dress her up, she slept with me and I read books to her. I’m certain at some point she will be featured in one of my books. She had such a sweet, loving nature…a truly gentle soul.

My love of animals, especially dogs, is simply a part of who I am for as long as I can remember. One of my “causes” is pet rescues and shelters. I still support the ASPCA in St. Louis and the Humane Society in Arizona. All donations are given in honor of my pets.

One of my treasured pieces of jewelry is a bracelet. On the outside is inscribed “Wait for me at the Rainbow Bridge” and on the inside are the names of all my dogs who are waiting for me at that bridge. I wear this almost every day.

 

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Clancy was probably the funniest pet we’ve had. He quickly learned how to open doors and drawers. He also decided fences, screen doors, screened windows were simply objects to move out of his way. After being away for almost an entire day, we came home to discover he opened the sliding doors to our hall closet, pulled everyone’s coat down from the hangers and piled them up in the middle of our living room. He created a nest of sorts from our coats and was perched on top of the pile of coats as happy as could be. Gotta love a pet that will do that.

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

I always loved to read but began to embellish or rewrite the stories I was reading as early as grade school. I can easily trace back my certainty to become a writer to a 7th grade writing assignment where we had to create a Greek myth. My teacher told me… “You need to be a writer.” It has taken me ¾ of a lifetime, but I am following my heart and her advice.


Apparently some of my friends knew I was destined to become a writer. My closest high school friend gave me a Roget’s Thesaurus as a graduation present. Inside she wrote, “For your writing career.” I still have that thesaurus.

All will be confirmed the day I sign a publishing contract.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?
That is funny – and how did you know I have more than one TBR pile?

I have three TBR piles since I am working in two different genres and one I call ‘just for fun’. My mystery pile has several books by Agatha Christie, my historical fiction has Judith Starkston’s Priestess of Ishana and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy at the top, and my for fun has Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon and The Power by Naomi Alderman at the top. I would use up all the space we have here to list all of the books in my TBR piles.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
a) Writing novels, no matter what genre, is very different from writing marketing copy, press releases, feature articles or reporting. This is truly a craft that needs to be learned, honed and practiced.

b)To start reading books and attending conferences focused on the “art or craft” of good writing; to learn some of the well- known and lesser known necessities good stories must contain – the beat sheets, the 3-act formula, editing, pacing, character arcs and development, etc.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
Read, read and read. Once you’ve settled on a genre, read good writers. Read the classics – they have survived for a reason. Also begin to build your own library about the craft of writing; plot and structure, conflict, self-editing etc.

Realize you will write, edit, write, edit, rewrite, re-edit, rinse and repeat. It is all part of the process to achieve your best work.

Join one or two writers groups where you are comfortable. I tried 4 or 5 before I settled on the AZ Historical Novel Society and Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths (and the Guppies Group). Attend conferences if possible. Some of the most valuable advice and hints I learned were at conferences. Writing is a solitary profession – you need others who understand what we go through to finish a book. Build your own community.

Right now I am learning that I just have to be tenacious and keep writing – until I can write those glorious words…The End.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?
If you self-publish or go with a house, you will be expected to be your own marketing dept. Learn social media, learn who your target audience is and what they are reading. In addition to writing time, you will need to set aside time devoted only to marketing.

About Michele
Now able to concentrate on her second career and life-long passion for writing, Michele Peters is working on the first in a series of cozy mysteries set in a fictional New England town, doing research for an upcoming WW II mystery while a story and characters set in medieval England keep her up at night. Writing has always been a part of her life in some form or another; writing marketing copy, feature articles, press releases or reporting, writing is always there. Michele now lives in Scottsdale, AZ with her husband and two rescue dogs, Sophie and Rocky. Her son and daughter are on auto-pilot, the dogs have settled in and Michele is now able to focus on writing. She retains a few free-lance writing clients but happily pursues her long-awaited dream.

 

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Welcome, Dianne Ascroft!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Dianne Ascroft to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello everyone. I’m Dianne Ascroft. I grew up in Toronto, Canada and moved to Britain almost three decades ago. I’ve been gradually downsizing from city to town to countryside until I’m now settled on a farm in rural Northern Ireland with my husband and an assortment of strong willed animals. I enjoy the outdoors so when the household chores are completed (my least favourite part of life) and I’m not writing, I go for long walks and also spend time with our pets. For many years, we had a pair of goats as companions until the last one died four years ago. Now our closest companions are a pair of tortoiseshell (calico) cats. There’s not much difference really: the stubbornness and determination is just in a smaller package.

I began my writing career writing historical fiction, often with an Irish connection. After several years I veered off into writing cozy mysteries though I do still write historical fiction too. The Century Cottage Cozy Mystery series is set in Canada, my homeland. Writing a series set in Canada is a nostalgic journey for me and I enjoy every minute of it.

 Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries feature heartwarming stories set in a fictional small town in rural Canada. The main character, middle-aged widow Lois Stone, has moved from the big city and is trying to adjust to life on her own in an historic “century cottage” with her two calico cats. As she settles into her new life, her tranquility is often rocked by adventures and mysteries that she can’t ignore. Out of Options is a prequel novella to the series that gives readers a glimpse into Lois’s life in Toronto before she moved to Fenwater, the fictional small town where the rest of the series is set.

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

My main character, Lois Stone, has two tortoiseshell or calico cats, Ribbons and Raggs, who share her home. They are loyal companions and, although they don’t talk or communicate directly with Lois or the reader, we have the sense that they are more perceptive than the average cat. Raggs likes her comforts and prefers sleeping and eating to most other activities but Ribbons is especially protective towards Lois and helps her any way she can to solve mysteries. The cats are only mentioned in Out of Options and make their first actual appearance in the first novel in the series, A Timeless Celebration. They will appear regularly in the rest of the books in the series.

The two cats are based on my own two tortoiseshell cats, Snooks and Rocky. And the images of the cats on the covers of the books in the series are actually images of my own two cats. The ‘real’ cats live with us on our farm and keep a close eye on me, especially at meal times.

What are you reading now?

I just finished A Twist in the Tale, the first book in Leighann Dobb’s latest cozy mystery series, Oyster Cove Guesthouse Mysteries. I also love her Mystic Notch series. In both series, the cats know much more than their owners could ever imagine and the mysteries could not be solved without them.

I’ve also just read No Stone Unturned by Pam Lecky, an historical mystery set in nineteenth century London. It’s the first novel in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery series and I found it a gripping story from beginning to end. This is another series that I will continue to read as new novels become available.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

The Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series is my focus for the foreseeable future. Since I’m convinced that the real place my fictional town, Fenwater, is based on is the perfect place to set a cozy mystery, I want to write more stories set in my fictional version of it. So that’s my plan for the immediate future: to complete the second book in the Century Cottage Mysteries series and then write the next one and the next one…Book 2 should be ready to release this autumn. It’s a tale that revolves around the theft of a very important town heirloom from the fall fair just before the item is to be raffled for charity.

 

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

As I mentioned earlier, Lois Stone’s two calico cats are recurring characters in the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series. The books are set in a small town in Canada and as Lois explores her new life there she frequently encounters new adventures and mysteries to solve. Lois thinks she is doing the investigating but she would miss half the clues without the help of her cats– especially Ribbons. Raggs can be rather lazy at times and prefers napping to sleuthing. But when Ribbons meows there’s always a good reason. She makes her wants known as well as helping Lois when she misses clues. But she draws the line at talking. If Lois and her friends can’t learn her language, she doesn’t intend to speak theirs.

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

I’ve always loved the original Lassie Come Home children’s novel by Eric Knight. The television series, Lassie, was set in the United States but the original book was set in England. I first read it as a child and fell in love with the story. It’s set in a Yorkshire mining village and honestly portrays the hardships of life for families in the area and the bond between the boy and his dog. I love heartwarming stories that are uplifting, and also those that portray close bonds between people and animals, and I try to create a similar atmosphere in my own books.

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

I’m an only child and my mother and grandfather were voracious readers so I learned to love reading early. I think it was a natural progression from reading to writing my own stories. I was also a prolific pen pal and, during my teen years, I regaled my pen friends with long accounts of my life in Toronto. The longest letter I ever penned was 64 pages long, written to a friend during the couple of days when I was recuperating after having my wisdom teeth removed. So I’ve communicated through writing most of my life.

In my early 30s I moved to Belfast and worked in the university bookshop for several years. Meeting local authors regularly, I began to wonder whether I could also write fiction. So when a short story I submitted to a writing contest on Belfast’s Downtown Radio was selected for broadcast, I was thrilled and this small success encouraged me to pursue my interest in writing. In hindsight, I know that the story needed polishing but it was my first ‘publication’ and that made me a writer. Although I never let anyone listen to it, there is a cassette copy of the broadcast still buried somewhere in the bottom of a drawer at home. The story was about a piper experiencing stage fright. Since I wrote that first story I’ve always wanted to bring the pipe band world into my writing again. I did that in a small way in A Timeless Celebration as Lois, the main character, is a piper and is introduced to Fenwater’s pipe band in the novel.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Anything they please…They tend to go about their regular routines and ignore me when I’m writing. They either sleep or go out for a wander around our farm. When it’s getting near lunch time they come into the room where I’m working and meow until I stop writing and get them a snack. They refuse to wait until I take a break to make lunch to ask for their snack. They come and demand it when they think it’s time to eat.

Snooks will sometimes lie on my knee in the evening as I work at the computer but most of the time she ignores me when I’m writing. Rocky doesn’t like to sit on my knee at the computer but she will lie on the floor beside my chair as close as she can get when she wants company. Then it’s easy for me to lean over and pat her while I work.

Where is your favorite place to write? Why?

Where I write isn’t actually the place that would be my first choice – it’s just the spot in our house where I can sit and work most conveniently. I sit at the dining room table, often with a cup of tea on the table beside me, and Snooks possibly draped across my knee (or sitting beside me tapping my leg with her paw). My husband is next door in the living room so, if he misses me, he can pop his head through the doorway to reassure himself that I’m still there. There’s a small window on the wall opposite and a patio door beside me so the room is bright and cheery. But, since the windows look out onto the side lawn and the farmyard respectively, the view doesn’t distract me – unless, of course, a hare hops through the farmyard and stops to glance around, or a cow escapes from a field and comes wandering over for a nosy at me through the patio door, or a pine martin scurries through the yard and inspects the walls of the buildings before he climbs onto the shed roof and disappears into the farmyard behind (all of these things have really happened).

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

Learn the basics of the writing craft and keep learning throughout your career.
Don’t be afraid to put words down on paper or screen – you will edit and improve them later.

Know that a second pair of eyes is a necessity – always have your work edited by someone who has the skills to do so.

About Dianne

Dianne Ascroft is a Canadian who has settled in rural Northern Ireland. She and her husband live on a small farm with an assortment of strong-willed animals.

She is currently writing the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series. Out of Options is a prequel to the series.

Her previous fiction works include The Yankee Years series of novels and short reads, set in Northern Ireland during the Second World War; An Unbidden Visitor (a tale inspired by Fermanagh’s famous Coonian ghost); Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves: A Collection of Short Stories (contemporary tales), and an historical novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, which explores Operation Shamrock, a little known Irish Red Cross humanitarian endeavour.

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Welcome, Connie Berry!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Connie Berry to the blog!

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

First of all, thank you for inviting me to your blog! I write the Kate Hamilton Mystery series set in the UK, featuring antiques dealer Kate Hamilton. I grew up in the high-end antiques trades, so that’s a world I know. With parents who always bought more than they could sell, the house I was raised in looked something like a crowded museum. This seemed perfectly normal to me, of course, but my friends now admit they were afraid of the life-size marble state of Marie Antoinette in our living room. In addition to writing, I love to read mysteries set in the UK—or rather listen to them. I’m addicted to Audible. My other job is working trade shows for my husband’s marketing business. With northern European roots, I hate hot weather, so when things heat up in Ohio, my husband and I head for our cottage on a lake in the Wisconsin Northwoods (where I am now). That’s my writing time. And my knitting time. My other passion is travel. We usually fly somewhere out of the country twice a year. England will always be my favorite destination. Now I can call it research.

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

I have tons of destinations on my bucket list—return trips to Europe and Scandinavia, Japan, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand. I have relatives in Melbourne. My Scottish grandmother’s older brother emigrated to Australia around the time she emigrated to the US. He sent me two things I treasure—a koala “teddy” when I was six and, years later, an antique copper teakettle he and his wife used daily for fifty years. I’d love to meet his grandchildren and great grandchildren one day. Number one on my bucket list, however, is staying overnight in one of the Scandinavian ice hotels. Unfortunately, this is NOT on my husband’s bucket list. Strategy may be called for.

  1. Did you have childhood pets?

I’ve always been an animal lover. As a child, I collected all sorts of pets—cats, birds, frogs, turtles, chameleons, white mice—even a baby owl that fell out of a nest near my elementary school. When one of our cats fell pregnant every nine weeks, my parents insisted she would be happier living with friends who owned a farm. To make up for the loss, they brought home a Pekingese puppy named Sunny. I fell instantly in love. Since then I’ve always had a small non-shedder to cuddle. My current fur baby is an adorable Shih Tzu named Millie.

  1. What does your pet do when you’re writing?

Usually Millie sleeps under my desk chair. Sometimes, though, she wants to be held. Have you ever tried to type with a fifteen-pound dog on your lap? Not that I’m complaining.

  1. What’s your funniest or most unusual real-life pet story?

My most unusual pet story involves the baby owl. I brought him home from school one day, bedraggled from the rain and looking adorably vulnerable with his round golden eyes. My saintly parents housed him in an old parakeet cage and called the vet who said to feed him meaty dog food with tweezers. He loved it. As he recovered from his ordeal and began to grow, he got testy and tried to take chunks out of our fingers. Then he started hooting at night. You can imagine how well that went over with my parents. The vet also told us we would need to begin offering him roughage, like tiny bones and fur (eek!). That was the last straw for my parents. We took him to those same long-suffering farmer friends and let him loose in their barn. I hope he learned how to hunt for himself. But then he wouldn’t have survived at all if I hadn’t rescued him.

  1. Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters?

Back home in Ohio, my protagonist, Kate, has a Scottish Fold kitty named Fiona, but since the books take place in the UK, we only hear about her. In the second book, A Legacy of Murder (out October 8th), one of the main characters, Miss Bunn, has an elderly, obese pug named Fergus. Fergus is terribly spoiled and doesn’t take easily to strangers, but Kate wins his confidence when she saves him from drowning. Fergus is very wise and possesses an uncanny ability to express his thoughts by grunting or winking or averting his eyes at appropriate moments. I’m currently writing the third in the series, A Pattern of Betrayal, where Fergus will once again play a leading role.

  1. What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading A Place of Execution by Val McDermid. First published in 1999, the book has won tons of awards. The multilayered story focuses on the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in the north of England. Even though I don’t write police procedurals, I adore them, and McDermid is a master of the genre.

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?

Now this is hard. I have lots of favorites: Susan Hill, Val McDermid, Elly Griffiths, Louise Penny, Charles Todd, Tana French, Sujata Massey, Anthony Horowitz, Jodi Taylor, Kate Morton. You can see a theme, can’t you? I love reading and writing stories set in the UK (well, Louise Penny’s are set in Canada, but I love that too). As for the classics, my all-time favorites author are Jane Austen and P. G. Wodehouse.

  1. What writing projects are you currently working on?

As I mentioned, I’m currently working on the third in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, tentatively entitled A Pattern of Betrayal. Kate is back in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, running a friend’s antiquities shop while he recuperates from bilateral hip surgery. When a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese hunping jar and promises to let the shop handle her late husband’s entire art collection, Kate is thrilled. But when the jar goes missing and a body is found in the shop’s back room, Kate finds herself on the trail of a missing daughter, a ruthless killer, and a centuries-old pattern of betrayal.

  1. When did you know you were a writer? How did you know?

My answer would have to be when I signed my two-book contract with Crooked Lane Books. My writing career was no longer a dream but a reality with things like deadlines and obligations to fulfill. Truthfully, though, I still struggle with the idea that I’m a writer. With each new book, I wonder if I can pull it off again.

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

First, that typing “The End” is only the beginning. As someone has said (can’t remember who), writing is rewriting. I had so much to learn—I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And second, that having a master’s degree in English literature and having read hundreds of great mysteries didn’t mean I could write one. I had no clue about story structure and the conventions of fiction writing. If I’d taken the time to learn my craft first, I might have saved years of fruitless effort.

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

Take time to learn the craft. Join a writers’ group like Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America. Take classes. Get feedback from published writers and take their comments to heart. And then persevere! Don’t give up. If writing is your dream, go for it.

About Connie:

After lecturing on theology for 25 years, Connie Berry turned to writing traditional mysteries, combining a layered sense of history with a modern take on the amateur sleuth. Connie loves history, cute animals, foreign travel, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable dog, Millie.

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www.connieberry.com

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Off to Lake Superior

Gibbs Sheluk reporting in for duty. Judy (you know her as Judy Penz Sheluk) has assigned me with writing this post because, as she likes to put it, “she’s chilling out by the lake.” That lake is Lake Superior, and our camp (that’s what folks call waterfront homes and cottages up there, even though it’s not a camp with tents and stuff) is close to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The U.S. side is called the Upper Peninsula.

Even though there are bears, which, frankly, both Judy and I could both live without, we love it there. Judy reads and writes a lot, and I love to swim and go for hikes with her.

Here are five fun facts about Lake Superior you might not know (okay, Judy helped me with this part):

  1. Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes, shared by Ontario to the north, Minnesota to the west, and Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the south.
  2. The Ojibwe name for the lake is kitchi-gummi or gichi gami, meaning great sea or great water. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the name as “Gitche Gumee” in The Song of Hiawatha, as did Gordon Lightfoot in his song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
  3. The average depth of Superior is about 500 feet. The deepest point in Lake Superior (about 40 miles north of Munising, Michigan) is 1,300 feet (400 meters) below the surface.
  4. The surface area of Lake Superior (31,700 square miles or 82,170 square kilometers) is greater than the combined areas of Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
  5. In the summer, the sun sets more than 35 minutes later on the western shore of Lake Superior than at its southeastern edge. And might I add that the sunsets are SPECTACULAR!

 

 

 

And now, I’m signing off to go swimming, but first, please check out Judy’s newest book, a multi-author anthology called The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense. It’s the first anthology published under her imprint, Superior Shores Press and it’s getting rave reviews. Find it on Kindle and in trade paperback at your favorite bookstore or ask your local library to order it in.

Love, Gibbs

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Congratulations to Jodi Rath on Her Latest Mystery!

Jodi Rath

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Jodi Rath, back to the blog. Congratulations on your new book!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. I LOVE to read, write, research, and do art projects. I’m a weirdo because I am happy to be home 24/7 working—my work feels like play to me! I love my home, my hubby, my nine cats, and my business which is split between teaching online courses to OH teachers, writing monthly for educational affiliations, and writing my culinary cozy mystery series. I also do individual marketing consultant work with authors on an hourly basis. I work all the time—all hours of the day—seven days a week. BUT, it feels like I’m a kid playing, not like work.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? My hubby and I have nine cats now. In the seventeen years we’ve been together, we’ve had sixteen cats total (never at once). Like so many pet lovers, we’ve lost many along the way but always find room in our hearts for me. Recently, we adopted three five-week-old kitten sisters Lily Rose Rath, Luna Belle Rath, and Lulu Bean Rath (all of our cats have middle names! LOL)

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? Every book cover for The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series will have a picture of one of our cats on it. Book on, Pineapple Upside Down Murder, had a picture of my 19-year-old D.J. Book two, Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Murder, had a picture of our one-eyed cat, Stewart, on it. My protagonist, Jolie Tucker, has four cats (all of which I have in our home). Her on again—off again beau, Mick Meiser, has adopted Stewart recently. The story of how Meiser and Stewart met is true to how my hubby met our Stewart.

What are you reading now? I’m reading Leslie Budewitz book Death Al Dente! I love Leslie! She has been a mentor to me, and I love her Food Village series!

What writing projects are you currently working on? Right now, I’m writing book 2.5 which is a Thanksgiving holiday book coming out 11/15/19 called Turkey Basted to Death. This is my first time writing a holiday themed book. It is SO much fun to write, but it’s really weird to be writing it in June of 2019. It’s making me crave turkey sandwiches a lot!

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing? I think as a new writer, in book one, my cats were mentioned somewhat in passing. They had scenes and were comic relief at times. I noticed in book two that my cats took on more of characters and helped take the villain down! I’m hoping to continue to develop more animals in each novel I write.

Why do you include animals in your writing? I have always been an animal lover and advocate. I pay into ASPCA monthly and I’ve helped our local vet with many rescues. Also, my local vet, Dr. Libby, is a character in the series too!

Do you have any working or service animals in your stories? Tell us about them. In book two, Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Murder, I have a new character, Mirabelle, who is a lady with Down Syndrome who has sight issues. Mirabelle is the hostess with the mostess, as Aunt Fern says, at Cast Iron Creations restaurant. She has a seeing-eyed dog named Spy. The two are a dynamic duo! I’m thrilled to have them in the series!

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? I just had this conversation with my hubby the other day. I told him that in my life I wanted to be in a solid, happy, strong relationship with someone that is my best friend. Also, I wanted to raise a family of happy and loved pets. Lastly, I wanted a career I loved. I have all of that. So, whenever it’s my time to go, no one has to feel sad for me. I’ve been blessed to live this life for the last seventeen years—and I will continue to cherish it daily!

What do your pets do when you are writing? LOL, I shared a picture of the three new kittens. That is them getting ready to nap while I write. That’s on a good day! Somedays they are crawling on the keyboard or climbing on me for attention.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing? I wish I knew how wonderful the readers would be. I was afraid of having people not like me, or people being mean for the sake of being mean. I’ve found that my readers are so kind and wonderful in cheering me on. Also, I ask that all my readers either leave a honest review or email, text, or FB message me to let me know what they like and didn’t like about my books. I take notes on what my readers say to me to improve as I continue to grow as a writer. I am also a teacher and I will never stop learning. I have the best readers and I’m so thankful for all of them!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? I will read anywhere, anytime. I have my Nook on my phone, tablet, and both laptops. I love reading in bed before sleep though.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Be you, take the jump, study marketing!

About Jodi

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

About Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Murder

 Welcome to Leavensport, Ohio where DEATH takes a delicious turn!

Financial fraud of elderly villagers in Leavensport, an urban sprawl threat to the community, disastrous dates, cross-sell marketing gone wrong, and another murder? Jolie Tucker is ready to try dating again. Well, she has no choice—since her family auctioned her off to the highest bidder. Her best friend, Ava, has agreed to a double date, but both friends find out hidden secrets about their partners as well as deception by one of the village’s own, who will soon be found dead. This plot is sure to be spicy!

Release Date: 06/21/19

Cover: Attached

Links to purchase book:

Amazon: http://authl.it/B07Q1K4DN3

All other e-platforms: https://books2read.com/u/bOAYyK

Newsletter link to A Mystery A Month—sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive a free Mystery a Month and a chance to win prizes for those who guess the right answers! http://eepurl.com/dIfXdb

Website: www.jodirath.com

FB Author page: @authorjodirath

Twitter: @jodirath

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jodi-rath

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard

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Welcome, Merrilee Robson!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Merrilee Robson to the blog.

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve loved to make up stories for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first novel in pencil when I was eleven. I found it a few years ago in a closet at my parents’ house and a few elements made their way into a short story, The Flamingo Diamond, that is being published later this year in a magazine in the UK.

Six of my mystery short stories have been published or are scheduled to be published this year. I have a few more in the works.

My first published novel, Murder is Uncooperative, is set in a non-profit housing co-op in Vancouver.

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

I have two male cats, Oswin and Jordan. They are 14 and 12 years old and were both adopted from a shelter. Oswin was around two when we adopted him and Jordan came a while later as a six-month-old kitten with a broken leg. I was supposed to be fostering him but his stay inevitably became permanent. My cats aren’t models for any pets in my books but I have always had cats in my home, so they seem natural to include in fiction.

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

In Murder is Uncooperative, the protagonist, Rebecca, is a single mom desperately looking for a home in Vancouver’s expensive housing market. She needs an affordable apartment that is wheelchair-accessible for her disabled father. A lot of rental apartments won’t allow pets, so her search is complicated because her family also includes her young son Ben’s kitten, Maui.

Rebecca is delighted when she finds an apartment in Waterview housing co-op, which she thinks is going to be perfect. But then she finds a body in the co-op’s office.

  1. What are you reading now?

I’ve just finished reading Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). I love the characters in this series and this was my favorite one. Now I’m on to Murder in Midtown, the second in a new series by Liz Freeland.

  1. What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a sequel to Murder is Uncooperative and I’ve just completed a historical mystery set at the start of the first World War. I’m pleased that the manuscript for that is a finalist for the 2019 Killer Nashville Claymore award.

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?

I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. When I first read her books as a teenager, I was much more focused on the romances. But now that I’m older I appreciate her social commentary more. I’m terribly impressed that her books get funnier the more often you read them.

In mysteries, I’m a fan of Canadian authors Gail Bowen and Louise Penny. Both have an admirable knack of writing a complete mystery in each book but continuing the arc of the characters’ lives and relationships throughout the series.

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

The cat I had growing up was named Minou. She was the runt of a litter of feral kittens found in a crawl space under a house across the street. She was so small, I fed her with milk in a doll bottle for the first few weeks. She was a wonderful cat, who seemed to regard us kids as her kittens.

  1. What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When I first got one of our cats, Jordan, he had had surgery on his broken leg and then got an infection, so he was on antibiotics and pain meds. I was allowed to cuddle him for comfort but most of the time he was supposed to stay quietly in a kennel and rest. But nobody told him that. So he’d try to walk around and the meds upset his stomach. One day I came back to find everything in his kennel in complete disarray, his food kicked out of his dish, his bed rumpled, his litter scattered over everything, and absolutely everything, including him, covered in cat poo. So I had the challenge of trying to keep him calm and still, while trying to clean him and every single thing in his kennel.

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

I’m fascinated by history. I have always wanted to go to Egypt to see the pyramids and temples, and go on a cruise down the Nile, hopefully without the Death on the Nile aspects, although I do love the Agatha Christie archeology adventures.

  1. What do your pets do when you are writing?

My cats like that I sit still for so long. They would prefer to sit on my lap and I sometimes have to balance my laptop in the air and try to type with one hand. But mostly I write while sitting on the couch and they sit on the back of the couch, within petting distance.

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

Don’t give up. Keep writing. Writers are so often plagued with self-doubt but it is so much easier to edit a bad draft than a blank page. And even if you only write a page a day, eventually you will have written a book.

About Merrilee:

Merrilee Robson’s first novel, Murder is Uncooperative, is a mystery set in a non-profit housing cooperative in Vancouver. Her latest manuscript, a historical mystery set in the month before the first World War is a finalist for the 2019 Killer Nashville Claymore award and an earlier version was shortlist for the Freddie Award for Writing Excellence, presented by the Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter at Sleuthfest.

Her most recent short stories have been published in this year in Mystery Weekly, Mysteryrat’s Maze podcast, and The Desperate and the Damned, a new anthology from Toe Six Press. Other stories are upcoming in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and the People’s Friend.

She has just completed two years on the board of Crime Writers of Canada as the regional rep for BC/Yukon/NWT. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime – Canada West, the Historical Novel Society, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

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The DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM Authors Talk Writing, Mysteries, and Pets

My pals from the Deadly Southern Charm mystery anthology are my guests today.  Please welcome, Lynn Cahoon, Frances Aylor, Kristin Kisska, J.A. Chalkley, and Stacie Giles. They’re here to talk about writing, books, their pets, and our new anthology.

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

 Heather: We have two crazy Jack Russell Terriers, Disney and Riley. They’re from the same litter, and they keep us on our toes.

Lynn: Right now, our house is a little quiet. We lost our long-time companions, Homer (14) and Demon (19) in January of this year. They were Pomeranians. Homer was attacked by neighbor dogs in HIS yard and Demon decided it was his time a few weeks later. So it’s just Thor right now. He’s my way too tall cat. But next week, we’re getting two new puppies –Keeshonds. Dexter and Quinn.

Frances: Over the years I’ve owned a cocker spaniel, a labrador retriever, five cats, several goldfish and a hamster. The lab was a frisky, high-spirited dog that I took to obedience school so I could learn to manage him. While there I saw two beautiful, well-trained German shepherds. The German shepherd puppy in my thriller Money Grab combines the beauty of those dogs with the friskiness of my lab.

Kristin: I’m sorry to report that I don’t have any pets at present—not for want of loving them! That said, I drew on my experience horseback riding English saddle, both as a teen and an adult, to write my short story, “Unbridled.”

J.A.: I don’t have any pets at the moment. My last pet was a border collie mix named Woody. He was a rescue, and I later found out he had a brother named Cowboy.

Stacie: I grew up with a “guard” chihuahua named Taffie who used to boss all the neighborhood dogs and cats, including our other pets. Taffie and I were so close that my parents kept her death during my freshman year of college from me for weeks, thinking it would make living away from home too hard for me! I still miss the first dog I had as an adult, D’Artagnan–we called him D’Art–who was loving and lively, and would play fetch for hours. Now I enjoy an aging Staffordshire Terrier named Tinkerbell who patiently follows me everywhere, and endures the teasing of our cat who simply cannot leave poor Tinkerbell alone.

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

 Heather: Most of my short stories and novels have animals. In my Delanie Fitzgerald series, Margaret, the English bulldog is a fixture in the private eye’s office. She’s a brown and white log with legs. I partnered with three other dogs on a novella project, To Fetch a Thief. My story is “Diggin’ up Dirt,” and it features a JRT named Darby who was based on my dog, Disney.

Lynn: Of course! Emma is Jill’s Golden Retriever in the Tourist Trap series. She even found a missing boy in an early book. Cat Latimer just got a barn cat and four kittens in book four of the series. And Angie from the Farm to Fork series has Dom – a St Bernard, Precious – a goat, and Mabel – the last remaining hen from Nona’s flock.

Frances: Webster is a German Shepherd puppy in my thriller Money Grab. He’s purchased by one of the characters as a guard dog, but his care and maintenance fall to the wife, who’s not a pet person. My main character Robbie later adopts the dog and considers him a faithful companion. He will be a recurring character in future novels.

 Kristin: I’ve only ever featured animals in one of my stories, “Unbridled.” The three show horses—Bay, D’artagnan, and Spade—all board at the same equestrian center in South Carolina’s Low Country. As readers soon find out, they are as commanding as their rider/owners.

J.A.: I’ve been working on a detective novel where the lead character owns two tabby cats, named Lenny and Squiggy. I’m telling my age with that reference.

Stacie: As I develop my main character, I plan for her to have a Siamese cat named Loopy who is almost preternaturally attuned to Vera’s recurrent migraines.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

 Heather: I am working on a cozy mystery novel, and it features a Jack Russell Terrier named Bijou. I am also working on a dog mystery for the second Mutt Mysteries series. It features a Rottweiler named Oscar, and the story’s called “The Fast and the Furriest.”

Lynn: As I write this, I’m working on book 4 of the Farm to Fork mystery series. The working title is DEATH ON A STICK. It’s set in my home state of Idaho and I love writing a late summer weather scene while the snow outside my window keeps getting deeper. After that, I’m doing my first Farm to Fork Novella which will have snow, but maybe I won’t be so sick of it by then.

Frances: I’m finishing up the second book in the Robbie Bradford mystery series. In this one, Robbie goes to Switzerland with a client, to help her manage some issues with family money. The third book will be set in either Egypt or Jordan, both of which I recently visited. I’m also working on financial presentations for various groups, to give people guidance on how to manage their money.

Kristin: I’m polishing my second suspense novel, which is a quest for a missing Faberge Egg throughout Prague and other Central European cities. I’m also in the process of drafting my third novel, a domestic suspense, which features Lulu the tabby cat.

J.A.: I’m working on a short story for a sci fi/fantasy magazine submission

Stacie: Actually, I am currently working on a nonfiction project, a college-level online resource on the United States Intelligence Community, drawing on my background as a CIA analyst. I’m also trying to hone my fiction writing skills and develop a series of short stories set in Memphis, Tennessee from 1920 through the 1960s in which Vera and her policeman cousin Burnell navigate the turbulent social changes of the time while solving crimes in a way that is both merciful and just.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 Heather: My Jack Russell Terrier Riley has a thing for paper. One day, I set my open purse on the floor next to my desk while I was working. When I got up, I noticed the ATM receipt for $40 was wet and on the floor. Curious, I rummaged through my purse. Riley had pulled it out along with a twenty. He ate one of my twenty-dollar bills.

Lynn: Thor (the cat) liked to hide behind the television when the dogs went out first thing in the morning. Then he’d pop out and stand on his hide legs and pretend to be an attacking bear. One morning, Homer wasn’t having it. He bulldozed the cat into the television stand, then went to stand by the door waiting for us to let him out. Thor stopped playing that game after that.

Frances: When I was a child, we visited a family friend whose dog had recently had puppies. When my parents got ready to leave, they found me sitting on the floor in the utility room, with all five puppies lying on my outstretched legs, determined that I was going to take them home with me. My dad convinced me that the pups were too young to leave their mother, but promised I could come back later and pick out one for myself. That cocker spaniel puppy and I grew up together.

 J.A.: We adopted Woody for my son, who was seven at the time. They grew up together. Woody would listen to everyone, but my son. Woody wasn’t allowed on the bed, yeah that rule didn’t last long. When he heard our bedroom door close at night, he would jump on my son’s bed. Anytime he heard the door open he’d jump down and play innocent.

Stacie: My children were young when hyperactive D’Art joined our family. The kids would put on roller skates to take him on “walks” which were really mad careening around the neighborhood! They could only stop by collapsing on the lawn or, occasionally, running into a tree!

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Heather: There are two dog beds on either side of my desk in the office. They nap mostly while I’m writing or editing. Sometimes, they help with plotting.

Lynn: Thor sleeps on my desk. I’m hoping the new puppies will hang out under my desk. (As long as they don’t chew on the cords.)

Frances: My lab was an outdoor dog who enjoyed exploring the woods behind our house.

 Kristin: Oh, I wish I had a cat. If it were like my previous fur babies, it would ignore me actively until I tried to pet it, then shun me. Is there anything more divine than purring???

Stacie: Tinkerbell lies on the floor just outside the open door of my office. She seems to feel she is guarding me. The cat Azzie has to climb on my lap or, if I’m standing up using my sit/stand desk, he’ll reach up and claw my legs until I pick him up and let him investigate what I’m doing. Once satisfied, he’ll curl up in a comfy chair near me and snooze.

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

 Heather: I grew up in a suburban house. We had a couple of gold fish over the years. My dad, a 46-year veteran of the Virginia Beach Police force, had a police dog once. I didn’t have dogs until I moved out.

Lynn: I had a grey cheek parakeet once. She was part of a breeding pair. She didn’t like men. So she’d bite me every time my husband or my son would come close. But she did like drinking Coke out of the lip of my Coke can.

Frances: We once had an aquarium filled with exotic fish. I especially liked the neon tetras, the angelfish, and the whiskery catfish.

Kristin: My family had lots of pets while I grew up, from dogs and cats, to fish, birds, and gerbils. The most unique pet, though, was our ferret, Bartles.

J.A.: I didn’t grow up on a farm, but somehow we always seemed to have farm animals. Over the years there were chickens, calves that needed to be bottle feed till they were big enough to release into pasture, and goats. My mother loved goats. We had at least one for years. There were dogs, cats, hamsters and for a brief period rabbits.

Stacie: We had some geckos when we lived in Hawaii. They were amusing to watch climb the walls and ceilings! But it wasn’t amusing when my husband brought home flying cockroaches from work to feed them! Of course, the cockroaches got away. Sigh.

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

Heather: Writing is a business. You need to treat it like that. It includes a lot of record-keeping and marketing. You also need to guard your writing time. There are so many distractions and obligations. You really do need a writing schedule.

Lynn: It’s okay to stand up for what you want and how you want your book to look. You can’t wait for the muse to hit to write. Set a word count and meet it. Otherwise, the book won’t rise to the top of your to do pile. I write first because I’m better in the morning and I don’t write well late at night. Your mileage may vary.

Frances: Writing a novel takes so much longer than I thought it would. I have to schedule a time to write each day; otherwise, other projects intrude on my time. Marketing a book is even more time consuming. Mastering social media is a continuing challenge.

Kristin: I wish I’d known that once I type The End, an author is really only a third the way through the publishing process. The next third is revising and editing, and the last third is publishing/marketing the work (of course, while working through the next project). Also, many words can be written before sunrise. Use your time wisely!

J.A.: Writing is hard work. Not just the writing, but the business side of it.

Stacie: Well, I truly am just starting in fiction writing now. One thing I already know from my nonfiction work, however, is that writing takes rewriting, and rewriting, and double checking, and rewriting some more!

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

Heather: I love to write at the beach when we’re visiting. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and I miss the ocean. When at home, I love to write on my deck on sunny days.

Lynn: I love writing at my desk because I have a desktop with a 32-inch screen. But I can and do write anywhere. Reading, I need good light. My favorite place to get story now is during my commute in my car.

Frances: Most of the time I write on my laptop at my office desk. In warm weather, I take the laptop out to the gazebo. Most of my reading is done in bed at night, just before I go to sleep.

Kristin: I get my best writing done in my silent, quiet writers cave at home. Even better, when everyone in my family is either asleep or away. Reading, however, I can do absolutely anywhere, but my favorite place is in a bookstore café.

J.A.: I have an office space set up in my she cave at home. It’s quiet and comfort.

Stacie: I am happy as a clam to read wherever I am! But for writing, I prefer my office, where I’m surrounded by all the things I need – all kinds of materials and, most importantly, a comfy chair and a lovely view out the window when I need to clear my head!

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

Heather: Be persistent. Don’t give up. Writing and publishing are hard. You need to keep at it.

Lynn: Make sure it’s really what you want to do. You spend way too much time working and alone for it to be just a whim.

Frances: Know why you want to write. This is a very competitive business. If you’re writing to be rich and famous, perhaps you should pick another line of work. If you’re writing because you have stories you want to share with others, then stick with it.

 Kristin: The only requirement for being a writer is to actually write. All other rules you hear are merely suggestions and guidelines. It also helps if you read a lot, too. Good luck!

J.A.: Read a lot. Find authors who’s style you like and study it. Figure out why you like it. In the beginning you may find yourself imitating other writers, but with time you’ll find your own style.

Stacie: Remember that writing is fundamentally a solitary endeavor. You can and should make lots of connections with other writers and readers, but most of your time must be devoted to writing, something no one else can do with you. You’re on your own! Make sure you’re happy with the solitude.

Heather Weidner
Lynn Cahoon
Frances Aylor
Kristin Kisska
J. A. Chalkley
Stacie Giles

About Us

Frances Aylor, CFA combines her investing experience and love of travel in her financial thrillers. MONEY GRAB is the first in the series. www.francesaylor.com

Lynn Cahoon is the NYT and USA Today author of the best-selling Tourist Trap, Cat Latimer and Farm-to-Fork mystery series. www.lynncahoon.com

 J. A. Chalkley is a native Virginian. She is a writer, retired public safety communications officer, and a member of Sisters in Crime.

Stacie Giles, after a career as a political scientist, linguist, and CIA analyst, is now writing historical cozies with a twist.  Her first short story is in honor of her grandfather who was a policeman in Memphis in the 1920s.

Kristin Kisska is a member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime, and programs chair of the Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia chapter. www.kristinkisska.com

Heather Weidner is the author of the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries. She has short stories in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 SHADES OF CABERNET and TO FETCH A THIEF. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and Jack Russell terriers. www.heatherweidner.com

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Book Links

Wildside: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-paperback/

Wildside eBook: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-epub-kindle-pdf/?ctk=92a212b3-7ff7-473d-a5dd-78ab99163c27

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Southern-Charm-Mystery-Anthology/dp/1479448397

 

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