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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Welcome, Debra Goldstein

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome mystery author, Debra Goldstein to the blog this week.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, transplanted Yankee and civic volunteer are all words used to describe me. My writings are equally diverse. Although my novels are traditional mysteries with cozy elements, my short stories tend to be darker with unexpected twists. My non-fiction essays reflect emotional slices of life.

I am very excited about One Taste Too Many, the first of my new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series being published by Kensington. In One Taste, culinary challenged Sarah knows starting over after her divorce will be messy. Things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin sister’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with her cat, RahRah, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and her sister wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death – being in the kitchen!

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

Presently, I don’t have any pets (unless you count my husband), but in the past, I’ve had dogs. Traits from our toy poodle and bichon frise find their way into book two, Two Bites Too Many, but my limited knowledge of animals beyond dogs was a definite problem when I decided I wanted a cat to play a major role in the Sarah Blair mystery series. I remedied my lack of familiarity with cats by contacting a friend who has a very special Siamese cat, Suri. Suri’s behavior, tricks, and even appearance became the model for my absolute favorite cat, RahRah.

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

One of the main characters in the Sarah Blair mystery series is RahRah the cat. Sarah married at eighteen, divorced by twenty-eight and in doing so swapped a luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a job as a law firm receptionist. The only thing she can show for the past decade is her feisty Siamese cat, who previously belonged to her ex’s mother. Knowing RahRah already probably spent one of his nine lives when he was rescued, as a kitten from a hurricane’s floodwaters, Sarah is very protective of RahRah – when she isn’t wishing she could have the resilience and confidence he has. Basically, RahRah owns the world.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

One Taste Too Many is the first of at least three Sarah Blair mysteries. I’m doing final edits on the second book, Two Bites Too Many, and am writing the third book, Three Treats Too Many. In my spare time, I’ve been writing short stories. Several of them will be published in 2019 including The Dinner Gift, which won an award in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable competition, Harvey and the Red HeadThe Eyes of Texas anthology, and Nova, Capers, and a Schmear of Cream CheeseFishy Business, an anthology compiled by the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

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

The earliest pet I remember having was a goldfish won at a school carnival. Sadly, it barely survived the transfer from its plastic bag to a small bowl. After a proper mourning period, my parents bought me three miniature turtles. I named them Turk, Dirk, and Lurk – perhaps a sign of the mystery bent my writing career would take. Later, we added a grey miniature poodle, Lord Silver Mist (Misty) to the family menagerie.

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

I believe animals have true personalities and impact the lives of everyone in a household. Consequently, when I use an animal in my writing, as I do with RahRah in the Sarah Blair mystery series, the animal must be a fully developed character. I want the reader to enjoy the animal’s behavior and interaction with the human characters, not simply be a reference to a cat or dog because the book or story has cozy elements. For me, the interaction between animals and humans can provide the impetus to move the story forward, be an instance of comic relief, or simply serve to illustrate another character’s personality. RahRah does all of these things at different points in One Taste Too Many.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in my writing because they allow me show, rather than tell, the reader about different aspects of the other characters’ personalities. For example, if a fussy animal rubs against the leg of a seemingly tough character, but the character unconsciously bends and pets the animal, we realize the tough guy has a soft side. My animals also create or dissipate tension through dramatic or comedic moments. Finally, I use animals because I like them.

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

My favorite book with an animal as a prominent character is One Taste Too Many because after living with it for the past year, I’m partial to it. Bambi is the movie with a central animal character that had a lasting impact on me because of its plot twists, but those twists are what keeps me from using the word “favorite” with it.

 Bambi was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I was three years old and the movie was a treat my father took me to because my parents had recently brought home this thing they called my sister. I’m not sure if they wanted me to have one on one time with a parent or simply thought it a good idea to get me out of the house because every time they asked me to help by handing them something for the baby, I threw it at her – don’t worry, we are very close now. Although I still smile when I think of Bambi and Thumper, the animals, the scenes when Bambi’s mother was killed and where the fire spread through the forest were so powerful they made a lasting impression on me. I watched the movie again as an adult and was again disturbed by those scenes, but now I understood them from a writer’s perspective. Each was a major plot point change where tension and conflict occurred. For a writer, Bambi is an excellent lesson in how to effectively manipulate the emotions of a viewer or reader.

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

When I first started writing, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I thought getting the story in my head on paper was all I had to do. I wish I had known more about the business side – agents, publishers, distribution, marketing, social media usage, and personal platforms. It has been a steep learning curve. The other thing I wish I knew when I started writing is how wonderful and supportive other writers would prove to be.

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

My favorite place to read or write is in an oversized club chair that my mother had made for my father for their first anniversary. My father wasn’t a big person, but he had long legs. She ordered the chair built with an extra two inches of length in the seat and plenty of back support. For years, my father used that chair to read the paper and watch television. When he wasn’t home, my sister and I used the arms of that chair as our imaginary horses and by covering it with a blanket, we often made it our tent or covered wagon.

When my father died, the chair, for the next decade, became the one my mother curled up in when she wanted to read or visit with any of her kids or grandchildren. If I was visiting, I’d wait for her to go to bed and then sneak into the chair to read or write. It just felt right. When my mother died, other than some art work, there was only one piece of furniture I insisted on shipping from California to Alabama. Today, the chair sits in my bedroom. I use it to read and write and our grandchildren have discovered how wonderful its arms are for make believe.

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

Do it! Passion should never be ignored.

About Debra

One Taste Too Many is the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series by Agatha and Anthony nominated Judge Debra H. Goldstein. Her prior books include Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Debra’s short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. She is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppies, serves on Sinc’s national board, and is vice-president of SEMWA.

 

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Find out more about her writings at www.DebraHGoldstein.com , on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/ , or on Twitter @DebraHGoldstein.

One Taste Too Many is available in print and e-book from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Many-Sarah-Blair-Mystery/dp/1496719476 ), Barnes & Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-taste-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1128297322?ean=9781496719478#/ ) and your local indie bookstores.

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Welcome, Author and Blogger, Julie Ryan!

Happy New Year! Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author and book blogger, Julie Ryan to the blog as our first guest of the new year.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I was born in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. Not venturing too far from home, I studied French Language and Literature at Hull University, where I also trained as a teacher. Then the wanderlust kicked in and I lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. I am a bookaholic with a one-click addiction much to my husband’s dismay as we are running out of space. I will probably need to live to be 197 in order to read all the books on my shelves. When not writing or reading, I love amateur dramatics and this year I get to play the Soothsayer in Robin Hood.

My Greek Island Mystery series includes Jenna’s Journey, Sophia’s Secret and Pandora’s Prophecy. Each can be read as a standalone. My latest book is Finding Rose, a story of three sisters, three time periods and three secrets.

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

At the moment we just have one cat, Smudgie, having lost our grumpy old man, Gizzie, over a year ago. Smudgie was a stray that my husband brought home from work. He was in a sorrowful state, covered in oil from the garage with an abscess on his neck. Now he is the most affectionate cat ever. His friendliness knows no bounds and one morning I woke up and looked out of the window to find him inside the pub opposite. He’d obviously stayed for a lock-in. There are always pets in my books, but none based on my own pets so far.

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

It wasn’t intentional, but I think there is a cat in most of the books I’ve written. All my books are standalones, so the pets aren’t recurring characters. In Jenna’s Journey there is a cat with catitude ironically called Mr. Tickles, in Sophia’s Secret there is a female cat called Elektra who is a bit of a diva, in Pandora’s Prophecy there is a puppy for a change called Pickles, and in Callie’s Christmas Countdown, Cleo the cat makes an appearance. My latest book, Finding Rose features a black furball called Blackie as well as a pet pig called Lady.

What are you reading now?

After reading a lot of Christmas books, I’m just about to get started on The Palace of Dreams by Charlotte Betts.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m trying to write a new trilogy set in Greece, but I seem to be working on two books at the same time. My head is also buzzing with a possible sequel to Finding Rose.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have far too many to choose just one ‘favourite,’ but I love everything written by Victoria Hislop.

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

We got our first cat, Lucky, when I was about ten. I adored that black and white scamp and my lifelong love of cats stems from that time. We also had a budgie but unfortunately, he came to a sad end.

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

I was always a sensitive child and remember watching Lassie films where I would inevitably end up blubbling. I just can’t bear cruelty to animals, so I seem to remember being distraught when Lassie was kidnapped by some baddies.

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

I don’t think you suddenly become a writer. In my case I have always loved writing. I used to scribble short stories and even wrote a play for my best friend and me to act out for our parents when we were kids. However, I never thought of myself as a writer. Even now, with five novels under my belt, it still feels strange to call myself a writer, but I guess if you write, then you’re a writer. I don’t think you have to have a mega publishing contract; you just need to have the confidence to believe in yourself. Incidentally, I only started writing novels in my fifties so there is hope for everyone.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

When I’m typing Smudgie likes to ‘help’ by lying across the keyboard. If I try to write in bed, he nudges my hand until I stroke him. I’m sure that without his help, my book would have been finished months ago!

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

Reading is my number one passion apart from writing and I’m also a blogger. I’m in the     lovely position of writers and publishers sending me books to review. I manage to review about 100 books a year, but even I was shocked to discover I have nearly 2000 books on my Kindle aside from the physical books. It’s getting to the stage that I no longer have a TBR pile so much as a TBR room. It’s an addiction really as I can’t resist books no matter where I am. I do buy books too and at the top of my TBR list is Heroes by Stephen Fry – I’m really looking forward to that one.

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

Develop a thick skin and resilience. Unless you are incredibly talented and amazingly lucky, you will be rejected at some point. There are also trolls who will do their best to bring you down. Believe in yourself and be persistent. Don’t forget to enjoy the process though when you can, as to see your book in print is a feeling like no other.

About Julie:

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances; thrillers set in the Greek Isles.

A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and rescue cat. She manages to write a book a year although without their help, she would probably write more quickly. She is a book addict and will soon need either a bigger house for her collection or a new husband!

When not writing or reading or eating chocolate, she can be found treading the boards in the local amateur dramatic society – Oh yes, she can!

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Cat-Lovin’ Men

The perfect stocking stuffer! That’s what I thought when I spotted Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen at the intimate and atmospheric Fountain Bookstore, tucked in the heart of Richmond, Virginia’s historic Shockoe Slip district. I had the perfect person in mind for this charming volume: my cat-lovin’ husband.

In Of Cats and Men, author Sam Kalda entertains with amusing profiles and quotes from history’s most famous “cat men.” King Hywel the Good, Sultan Baibars, Sir Isaac Newton, Samuel Johnson, Edward Lear, Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, Sir Winston Churchill, T.S. Eliot, Paul Klee, Raymond Chandler, George Balanchine, Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway, Balthus, Romare Bearden, William S. Burroughs, Saul Steinberg, Charles Bukowski, Marlon Brando, Edward Gorey, Andy Warhol, Haruki Muraakami, and Al Weiwei are just a few Mr. Kalda has included.

Now I knew that Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Raymond Chandler loved their cats. But Nikola Tesla, Marlon Brando, and Charles Bukowski? I had no idea. And, at the risk of revealing my cultural ignorance, I wasn’t familiar with many of the names profiled.

Nikola Tesla and cat
Marlon Brando and cat
Charles Bukowski writing a love letter to his cat.

Sam Kalda features feline-inspired quotes:

“I have my favorite cat, who is also my paperweight, on my desk while I am writing.” – Ray Bradbury

“What greater love than the love of a cat?” – Charles Dickens

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” – Ernest Hemingway.

∞∞∞

Edgar Allan Poe and his beloved tortoiseshell cat, Catterina, are not included in this volume. Neither are the Viennese painter, Gustav Klimt and his cat, Katze. In Klimt and His Cat (Berenice Capatti, author and Octavia Monaco, Illustrator)Katze narrates, giving readers a glimpse into the painter’s world.

Edgar Allan Poe with Catterina. From Poe Museum collection
Gustave Klimt with Katze. theonlinephotographer.typepad.com

I’m late with Christmas gift ideas, but gift giving is a year-round pleasure. Give your favorite cat-lovin’ man a copy of Of Cats and Men. He’ll appreciate the great company he’s in!

Note: women will love Of Cats and Men as well.

Here’s Glen, my cat-lovin’ man, with Olive and Morris:

Glen and Olive
Morris and Glen go online

Support your local bookstore. Or, Richmond’s Fountain Bookstore will ship your copy:

Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen

Klimt and His Cat

∞∞∞

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

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.

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Welcome, Morgan Summer!

Happy Holidays! Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Morgan Summer to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. Currently, I am a 2nd year High School Biology teacher, married for almost 15 years with an 8 year old little girl. I write crime/detective novels as well as recently started writing an unnamed young adult mystery series. My first book Jean Stone Crime Series Volume 1: Stranger Among Us will be released early 2019.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? I have two shelter rescues, Sheldon just turned 6 and is an 18 pound orange tabby cat and Chief is our 3 ½ year old Catahoula Mix. They are definitely apart of my book series.

What writing projects are you currently working on? Currently finishing up edits on Jean Stone Volume 2, writing Book 3 of Jean Stone, and Book 2 of my young adult mystery series.

Who is your favorite author and why? Edgar Allan Poe, his short stories were my first introduction to mystery and suspense, that day I fell in love with his writing and the genre. The Tell-Tale Heart is still my favorite of his numerous stories.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. Too numerous to name. My dad was a veterinarian so we always had every type of pet imaginable brought home, cats, dogs, birds, lizards, turtles, etc. They still have a chinchilla named Jasmine who is about 18 or 19 years old.

Why do you include animals in your writing? My writing is about my life and my animals are just an extension of our human family members. There hasn’t been a time where I didn’t have a dog or a cat as a companion in my life. I will always include them in my stories.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I was always a reader, but as I got older I enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper. That turned into song lyrics since I wanted to be a county singer during my teenager years. College helped refine my writing skills, it was around that time I realized that I truly had a gift for writing. Then the day came that a fellow teacher jokingly told me that I should write a crime novel. Six weeks later, Jean Stone was born.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? Visit Italy. Reading is my favorite past time which transported me to different places all around the world through the pages. After reading numerous novels set there, I decided one day I would go see for myself all the beautiful sights and sounds Italy has to offer.

What do your pets do when you are writing? Lay at my feet and snore or annoy me depending on their mood.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? “FDR Letters” and “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America”, sadly I have so my TBR I can barely keep up!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? Outdoors in the country away from the world with no technology. There are no distractions, just me, my pencil and paper, and my imagination.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Do not write for anyone else, write for yourself. Be a limited edition.

Author Bio:

Reading was always a love of Morgan’s, devouring crime novels by the dozens. A random conversation with a fellow mentor and coworker, would inspire her to write the book series in the genre she loved. This was how Jean Stone was born.

 She has worn many hats from being a Navy Wife for 13 years to currently teaching High School Biology. Currently living back in her home state of Texas, if she isn’t teaching, she is either writing, crocheting, or spending time with her husband and daughter.

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Welcome, Monica Olsen!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Monica Olsen to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve always loved writing. I was probably the only student in my classes in high school and college to look forward to writing the term’s research paper. For instance, in my Abnormal Psych class in college, I wrote a fifty-five page research paper on eating disorders. I even found two patients and included Q & A interviews as an exhibit to the paper. I’ve always loved to read so writing stories, I believed, would have come naturally to me. Turns out it didn’t. I started trying to write a novel in my late teens. Everything I wrote sounded hokey and contrived. Then I wrote a short children’s story and sent it in to Highlights magazine. A few months later I received a rejection letter with a list of twenty-seven suggestions for improving the story. Dejected, I shelved the book writing, finished college and now work as a claim examiner for a small third party administrator in Pennsylvania where, until recently, I was limited to report writing.

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

I currently have four pets: two dogs and two cats. Thunder is a shi tzu mix and Romeo is a Maltese mix. We adopted them three years ago from the animal shelter on the same day. Both were older dogs at the time and have been such a blessing to our home. We also have two American shorthair cats, Miley and Bailey. All four of them could easily serve as the basis of more than a few stories. Our dog Thunder was the inspiration for my second book, Hair O the Dog.


Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories.

Thunder is the sweetest dog we have ever met. He is very laid back and sleeps a lot, compared to Romeo, who is very feisty, likes to wrestle. and is often up for anything. But where Romeo came to us trained and understanding simple commands, this was not the case with Thunder. We could take him out for a thirty-minute walk and he’d come inside and do his business right on the spot. Yelling at him and even crating him didn’t seem to work. I was torn between relinquishing him back to the shelter, where he’d almost certainly be euthanized (we found out shortly after we adopted him that he was closer to ten years old than six or seven the shelter told us he was), and giving him away. One day, I was shopping at Walmart and saw that the store carried ‘doggy diapers’. Sold! I had found a solution that was a win-win. They were very pricey and didn’t always fit properly, so I eventually switched to real life baby diapers, which fit the bill remarkably well.Thunder and my daughter have been inseparable since the day we brought him home. When she’s not home, we usually find him in her room, curled up and sound asleep on a sweatshirt or pair of sneakers she has left on the floor. It’s really quite endearing. My parents had abruptly given away our first dog when I was five years old and I did not want my daughter to experience the same. No kid should have to experience that heartbreak.

Hair O the Dog is geared towards the eight to eleven year old reader. It is about a young boy, Graham Cupps, who moves from Canada back to the US and has trouble making friends. His parents get him a dog, which seems to ease his loneliness. Although their hearts were in the right place, when the dog, who is also incidentally named Thunder, proves to hard to potty train, they look to find him another home. It is up to Graham to save his best friend. I hope that the readers feel Graham’s worry and despair and that these feelings inspire the readers to look for alternatives to relinquishing animals to shelters or worse, abandoning them to the streets or unsuitable homes.

What are you reading now?

The Black and The Blue, by Matthew Horace. It is essentially about policing in the US.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just finished editing my latest middle grade fiction novel, The Piper Boy. I have also started another middle grade chapter book which I would love to adapt to a screenplay at some point. But first thing’s first. I have to actually finish the manuscript. I am about eight chapters in.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I can’t say I really have any ‘favorite’ authors. I am drawn to a few different genres: romance, historical romance, mysteries, period pieces. If I really like an author, I tend to binge on everything they’ve written. Some of my favorites have been Anita Shreve, Jodi Piccoult, Syndey Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Mary Higgins Clark and Tatiana DeRosnay. I also love Gillian Flynn, but boy is she dark!

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

I did. My first dog was Cindy, a small black and white spaniel. She was very sweet but very energetic. One day just before Christmas she pulled the Christmas tree down and made quite a mess. I came home shortly thereafter and learned that my parents had given her away. Several years later, when I was a teenager, we adopted a tiny Corgi puppy from the animal shelter named Stormy. She loved to smile and swim. And when we’d had her for a few years we adopted another black and white pointer with the sharpest hearing and vision I’ve ever seen.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like to include pets in my stories because, to me, it makes my characters more human.

There is a dog which I introduce at the end of my first book, I Am Lily, Hear Me Roar. It probably wasn’t necessary to do so but it brought the character such joy. It was like I rewarded her for being such a good friend to Lily.

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

Not yet, but I hope to in the future. I have a co-worker with a severely disabled son. She has previously complained that there are so few children’s books featuring disabled kids as main characters or geared towards disabled kids. So I’d like to write a book or two to help fill that gap.

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

I would have to say that one of my favorites early on was Disney’s Fox and the Hound. I just loved the relationship between Todd and Copper. I think I was ten when I saw it. I remember it really touched something deep inside me, even at that age. Free Willy and A Dolphins Tale are amongst some of my favorites too. I love the sea and its exotic animals. Who doesn’t? I think animals help us better identify ‘teachable moments’ to kids, such as identifying and making sense of the senseless, protecting the earth’s resources and wildlife, etc.

Whats your real-life funniest pet story?

Thunder is a constant source of amusement for us. Not only have we noticed that he cannot hear, but he has pretty bad cataracts which cause him to not be able to see, especially at night or when navigating the steps. Unless, that is, he hears his food bag opening. Then, no matter where he is that boy can hear the bag open and can make it down to the kitchen in record time.

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

I always remember wanting to be a writer. When I was six, I wrote a play in our basement and made my sisters act it out. (They have no recollection of this.) I didn’t actually publish a book until recently. After receiving the rejection letter years ago, I never seriously tried again to write with the intent on becoming a published writer. I would write little stories here and there, most of the time never finishing them. One day last year I was at lunch with a group of colleagues and I mentioned that I have always wanted to write a book. One of my colleagues convinced me to try again and now I am two books in with two more on the way. It is such an exciting time for me!

Whats the number one item on your bucket list and why?

Writing a book was number one on my bucket list. During the process I learned that my aunt, who is now deceased, wrote a play in her late teens or early twenties that was produced. Infuriatingly frustrating, my father is unable to recall any details as to when it was produced, where, by whom or the title! Whatever this drive is, it appears to be in the genes.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I often find a little corner in a cafe and do my writing there. My pets are at home during this time.

Whats in your To Be Read (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

As soon as I started writing seriously, I went online and found a few really good Facebook groups dedicated to authors and publishers. I’ve come across some really interesting finds, such as the book I’m reading now, The Black and The Blue by Matthew Horace.

Some others I intend to pick up are:

The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber

Proof of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Lies that Bind by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Hazel House by Oby Aligwekwe

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana DeRosnay

These are just a few. Sadly, my free time is limited, and I haven’t been doing much reading while I have been writing. I hope to get back to it soon.

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

First, just write.

Second, it’s a process. I once read an interview with novelist Danielle Steel, whom I idolized in my teens. First, I wanted to be Judy Blume. Then I wanted to be Danielle Steel. In the interview it mentioned that she once locked herself in her bedroom and wrote a book in twenty-three hours (or something like that). Myself, I find I can write for two hours max. Many times, I’ve sat in front of my computer and have written five words. I don’t ever feel like I am wasting time. Because writing is a process.

Third, don’t lose those great ideas. I have close to an hour drive to and from work, which is when I tend to get my best ideas. I obviously can’t write them down at that point, so I dictate them into the Notes app of my cellphone. Always have something to record your thoughts. I often go back to the notes if I can’t retain the words or story line when I have time to sit and write later.

And fourth, never give up. If writing is what you want to do, then just do it. I have read many books over the years. Some I liked and some I didn’t. My friends and I sometimes disagreed on whether a book was good or not. Sometimes what I find really good another might not, and vice versa. Your readers are out there. You’ll find them.

Monicas Biography:

Monica Olsen is the author of two middle grade fiction books: Hair O the Dog (2018, Amazon) and I Am Lily, Hear Me Roar (2018, Covenant Books). She earned a BA in Law/Justice from Rowan University and an Associate in Arts from Gloucester County Community College. She lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her family and four pets.

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Welcome, J. P. Dalton

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, J. P. Dalton to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve been writing professionally since I was 16. I was hired as an agate clerk at the local newspapers and eventually worked my way into some high school sports assignments. I’ve been writing ever since, though fiction has been a new and interesting adventure.

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

My pets didn’t appear in my book but they were regular characters in my blog, from my cat Griffith, who used to shadow me around the house and pull on my hand when I wrote, to my several dogs who perpetually are lying at – and on – my feet as I work.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading “Louis XIV and His Loves.” I’ve also been binge-reading the Cotton Malone series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m bouncing between three future novels – a paranormal thriller, a romance and a possible sequel to my debut novel, “Where the Campaign Ends.”

Who is your favorite author and why?

I’ve also been a sucker for Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler. They have an ability to throw reality to the wind and create their own world which I always have envied. George R.R. Martin also would make the list, if he’d just finish the sixth book already. Are you reading, George?

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

I had a few dogs growing up but the best was Max. Max simply was the greatest dog on earth. He was an Airedale-shepherd mix who weighed in at a mere 102 pounds. He helped me through wrestling modules in junior high school and high school, though his teeth were sharper than my classmates’ teeth were.

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

Can I go all the way back to childhood and Ribsy? I LOVED Beverly Cleary and was a huge fan of Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Ramona and even Runaway Ralph. If I go current, it’s the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne and Oberon. Absolutely brilliant how Oberon and Atticus play off of each other.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

We had a beagle, Tobey, who had to be the smartest, most determined dog ever. He had this thing for going through the trash. One night we put the trash can on the counter and, when we came home, he had rolled a chair directly underneath the trash can as if it were a ladder. He also started laying down on the kitchen table for no apparent reason. We started calling him the roast beast from Dr. Seuss.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

They mostly lay down on top of my feet and sigh loudly while waiting for me to either pet them or give them a treat.

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

There are way too many books and too many piles for me to narrow this down. I’m thinking I’ll be picking up some paranormal or fantasy series in the near future.

On the beach in Del Mar, which was the main reason the city became a character in its own right in my novel. Why? Um, the ocean. The breeze. The sound. All of it.

About J. P. Dalton:

J.P. Dalton was born in Southern California but has made the Phoenix area his home for the past 41 years. He started writing at age 16 for a local newspaper and has been writing either full-time or free-lance ever since. He and his wife Kathie love road trips, which have turned into scouting missions for book scenes. His debut novel, “Where the Campaign Ends” currently is available on Amazon.com.

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