Welcome, Mary Adler!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mary Adler to the blog.

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

At the moment, we are blessed with only two dogs — Lily, our Rottweiler who had been abandoned in a garage after having birthed a litter of puppies, and Charley, our little terriorist mix, whose joy is contagious. Lily is older now, and her arthritis has put her in her purple chariot for longer walks which she loves.

At one point, our family included four Rottweilers, a pitty mix, and a few cats who came on their own to live with us despite all that canine presence.  Cyril, a beautiful long-haired cat once told the animal communicator (I live in California, after all) that he would like me to get him a hamster. Apparently, he had known one once and they used to have long philosophical discussions which he missed. (I did not fulfill his request.)

Other dogs have come and gone. We live in rural Sonoma county. Unfortunately, people think it is okay to abandon an unwanted animal “in the country”. We have picked dogs up from our dangerous roads and several dogs have found their way to our house. After we’ve made sure no one was looking for them, we’ve kept them until we found them good homes.  My heart goes out to people who are no longer able to care for a dog or cat and have to give them up to a shelter. I think they do not have the resources to find one of the many rescue organizations that will take dogs and find them new homes without the dog being subjected to the stress of the shelter, hopefully a no-kill shelter. I have rather strong feelings about people who dump an animal and leave it to fend for itself in a hostile environment where it is emotionally bewildered and in danger of starvation and injury. On our driver’s test they ask what the penalty is for abandoning an animal by a road. It is only a $1,000 fine. I wanted to write in a much harsher penalty.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 I’ll tell you about two of my most engaging and unusual dogs. I have been blessed with amazing animals, but AndyPandy and Harley stand out.

I met AndyPandy while volunteering at a rescue event. The bald creature — my friend said he looked like an alien — was not a great candidate for adoption, so I decided to take him home, feed him good food, train him to be somewhat more manageable, and let his fur grow out. He was very high energy — substitute wild — not my kind of dog, so I believed I could foster him without getting attached to him.

It turned out AndyPandy was a thief. Not the usual steak-dragged-off-the-counter kind of thief, but a go-for-the-money kind. I discovered this when he joyfully brought me a wallet, sat in front of me, and waited for a reward. He had snagged it from a guest’s purse. I didn’t think much of it until it happened again. And then one day, I watched Andy quietly pull a wallet from a friend’s trouser pocket without our friend’s noticing. Andy was a pickpocket. I believe he had been part of a gang in the east bay and they had taught him to steal from peoples’ purses and shopping bags. He was so engaging and disarming his marks wouldn’t have suspected a thing. (I imagined Andy’s face on WANTED posters.) I gradually extinguished his stealing behavior by not rewarding him for it. He was exceptionally intelligent. Happily, he and I found the sport of Canine Scentwork where we channeled his considerable talents into just having fun. Oh, did I mention this little “foster” stole our hearts, too, and lived with us for fourteen years? And once his hair started to grow, it didn’t stop, allowing him to be a pitty mix disguised as an Australian Shepherd. I will miss him forever.

Harley was a very large, very sweet Rottweiler with a head like a bear. He liked to take people by the hand to show them things — often the basket where his treats were kept.  One day, he led me into the garden and showed me a nest of baby bunnies hidden in the perennials. He seemed quite paternal toward them. I had seen him playing “chase” with a rabbit. When she stopped, he stopped, keeping a safe distance between them, and then they were off again. They were friends, and she felt completely safe making her nest in his territory. And the beautiful soul that he was, he wanted to share it with me.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve always wanted to write a mystery and had been researching the book that became In the Shadow of Lies for a very long time. Much too long.  Finally, I gave myself a deadline — a significant birthday (I won’t specify which one) — and resolved to have a draft of the book by then or give up the idea that I could write a mystery.

I had written many essays, legal briefs, articles, speeches, and even poetry, but never fiction and was worried that I didn’t have the imagination to make up stories. I set the book in a place I love — Pt. Richmond, Ca — and a time I love — World War II. As I researched the time period and place, story ideas emerged from the social issues people were actually dealing with then: Restrictions on Italians who were thought of as the “enemy.” Racial tensions because of the large influx of black workers who migrated from the south to the east bay defense industry. A segregated military. The war. Italian Prisoners of War in San Francisco.

I also wanted to enjoy the company of a community of characters who were funny and kind and smart. My Italian family is gone now, so I created a fictional one in the book. (I must confess that Mrs. Forgione bears a strong resemblance to my grandmother.) When I sit down to write, it is as if I am going home.

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

I can’t imagine writing a book without animals who take part in the story, just as I can’t imagine my life without them. Harley, a German shepherd, saves Oliver’s life on Guam and often steals the show. He represents the Marine K9 Corps who fought in the Pacific. During the war, many families volunteered their dogs to the Marines. Always Faithful by Captain William Putney is a wonderful book that tells about the bravery of the Corps and the devotion between the men and their dogs. As he said, “They gave their lives, so we might live.” Emma is a golden dog who looks like my Andy and travels the hills with Harmonica Man. The animals are definitely characters in their own right.

I suppose one of the lovely things about writing is that I can tell true stories about animals from my own life. For example, in the first book, a mother tells a true story of pinioned geese to explain isolation to her son, and Mrs. Forgione tells a story about swallows that reveals the character of a man.

For Shadowed by Death, I needed to understand the history of the war in Poland. I had grown up hearing derogatory stories about how foolish the Polish cavalry had been to try to fight invading German tanks on horseback.  In fact, the Polish cavalry’s brave maneuvers against the tanks confused the Germans and allowed many Polish soldiers to escape. There is also a wonderful new dog in the book who holds the clue to the mystery.

 Why do you include animals in your writing?

I can’t imagine a world without them and I believe the way people interact with animals reveals character. In part, I write about them to honor them, and in part, because they bring both joy and comfort to the human characters. For example, in In the Shadow of Lies, Oliver is on his way home from training at Camp  Le Jeune because of a death in the family.

“Harley inched closer and closer to me along the belly of the plane until he lay across my thighs and pinned me to the floor. When my hand found his ruff and tightened into a fist, he closed his eyes and pressed even harder against me, as if he wanted to absorb my pain.”

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am writing the third Oliver Wright mystery which is set in Benicia and Point Richmond.

What are you reading now?

I am rereading the Martha Grimes Richard Jury series of mysteries. It is like visiting with old friends. Also, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.  My TBR pile includes the latest books from Anne Cleeves, David Rosenfelt, Julie Mulhern’s Country Club Murders Book 8, and DisasterInk, by Caimh McDonnell. I just finished what I am afraid is the last book by Peter Grainger in the DC Smith Investigation series. There are so many wonderful mystery series I can’t begin to list them all.

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

I wish I had known sooner that I could actually write a mystery. And how much fun it would be.

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

If you are a writer, the act of writing itself will give your life purpose whether you are published or not. Reach out to other writers and writing groups in person and online. You will be gratified by the support we give one another. While writing may be a solitary endeavor, you do not have to do it alone.

About Mary

Mary Adler escaped the university politics of “the ivory tower” for the much gentler world of World War 2 and the adventures of homicide detective Oliver Wright and his German shepherd, Harley. She lives with her family in Sebastopol, California, where she has created a garden habitat for birds and bees and butterflies—and other less desirable critters. Unintended consequences at work again.

She does canine scent work with her brilliant dogs—the brains of the team—and loves all things Italian, especially Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano and cannoli, not necessarily in that order.

Among the books she would be proud to have written are the Fred Vargas’s Commissioner Adamsberg mysteries, set in Paris; Maurizio de Giovanni’s Commissario Ricciardi mysteries, set in Naples; and Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander mysteries, set in Ystad. 

She reminds herself daily of the question poet Mary Oliver asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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Furry Friends and Other Characters by Amy M. Reade

Furry Friends and Other Characters

By Amy M. Reade

          We mystery writers have a thing for pets. There’s Mutt, the half-wolf, half-husky in Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak mysteries; there’s Baxter, the dachshund in Rita Mae Brown’s mysteries starring Mags Rogers; and there are Hodge and Boswell, the cats belonging to Agatha Raisin in the mysteries by M.C. Beaton. There’s Leslie O’Kane and her main character, Allida Babcock, a dog therapist in Colorado; there’s Linda O. Johnston’s main character, Lauren Vancouver, head of a no-kill animal shelter; and there’s Kitty Karlyle, a gourmet chef for pets in the books by Marie Celine.

When I sit down to write, my dog Orly is never far away. She either plants herself on the floor to my right (occasionally, though far less often, to my left) or directly on my feet in front of me. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to write. The only thing that will distract her from her job of keeping me company is when she hears a squirrel at the back window—we have one of those bird feeders that attaches directly to the window and the squirrels claw their way right over the screens to get to the feeder. When the squirrels come calling, all bets are off.

I also have two cats, named Porthos and Athos (after characters in Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers). If your cats are anything like mine, when they deign to notice me at all they will find their way to my keyboard and stand on it until I pay attention to them (usually happens pretty quickly). Or they’ll try to shed sit on my legs howling until I pet them with both hands, thus rendering useless my attempts to write. When they see they’ve annoyed me sufficiently, they leave. Incidentally, they also like to sit on whatever I happen to be reading.

          I suppose, then, it was only natural that I would write mysteries that include animals as characters. I don’t even put pets in my stories intentionally—they just show up. I’ve written seven books and there have been animals as pets in four of them. One dog (The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor), one cat (House of the Hanging Jade), a stable of horses (Murder in Thistlecross), and two dogs (The Worst Noel). The animals play important roles in each story, each in his or her own way.

Pets have long been considered practically essential in cozy mysteries, but they can add interest and depth to other mysteries, too. In The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, a Gothic mystery set in South Carolina, the dog is not just a pet; she’s a stray that ends up being part of the family. She plays a protective role and readers have found that she’s a loveable and crucial character. In House of the Hanging Jade, another Gothic-style set in Hawaii, the cat, Meli, takes center stage in one scene where the main character is being stalked by an old boyfriend. Even early in the story, the cat seems to have a better grasp of the boyfriend’s personality than the main character does.

In Murder in Thistlecross, a more contemporary mystery set in Wales, two of the horses in the stable at Thistlecross Castle have a role in helping two of the characters fall in love. And one of the more shady characters wants to use the horses for his personal gain.

Finally, in The Worst Noel, (my first cozy!) there’s Barney, the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. I chose that particular breed of dog because it reminds me of Asta, the dog made famous in The Thin Man book (by Dashiell Hammett) and subsequent movies (starring William Powell and Myrna Loy). There’s nothing better than a crime-fighter with a canine sidekick. And while Barney doesn’t accompany his human when she’s searching for clues and bad guys, he’s always around to provide comfort and unconditional love when she needs him.

But wait…I mentioned two dogs in The Worst Noel. What about the other one? Well, the other one is a surprise. You’ll have to read the book if you want to know more about him.

About Amy

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

She’s also a writer. She is the author of The Worst Noel, The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross), and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

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A Fish, A Cat, and Kittens, Oh My!

An odd series of events led me to my present status as caregiver to a fish, a cat, and two kittens. There were always cats and dogs in my childhood home because my parents were animal lovers. When I got married, I lived in a small apartment so could only have one cat. I adopted a kitten that I called Floppy. I had him for fifteen years during which time we moved into a house and also took in another cat. After both cats passed away, while my daughter was still young, we adopted Stripey, a male tabby, whom we still have. He is now ten years old. When he was five, we also added Oliver, the Siamese that belonged to my mother for twelve years before she became too ill to care for him. It took a while and, although the two cats never became buddies, they worked out their differences and had no problem spending time together.

My Siamese Oliver, and Tabby cat Stripey playing together.

When Oliver passed away last year, Stripey became an only cat again. My fourteen-year-old daughter had become very close to Oliver and wanted another cat to replace him. She said she’d love to have a black cat. It took a year, but my husband finally agreed for us to have two cats again. We’d visited a cat café that had just opened in our area, and she had fallen in love with an orange and white kitten named Ringo. Unfortunately, someone else had already completed an adoption application for Ringo. We promised Holly that we would find another cat for her.

Meanwhile, she brought home a goldfish that she’d won at a homecoming event. We’d had fish in that period after Floppy died and we hadn’t yet gotten Stripey. None of the fish had survived very long except one that she’d called Rocket after a character in the Little Einsteins, her favorite show at the time. Although we’d never had much luck with fish, I helped her set up our old tank. Unfortunately, the fish she’d named Kirishima met the same fate a week later. We buried it at sea, and I thought we were done with fish, but she wanted to replace it. I talked to some aquarium enthusiasts and did some research. I discovered that the easiest and hardiest fish was the Betta, or Fighting Fish. We were preparing to shop for one when fate found one for us. I was at a craft and vendor fair with my books when I saw a woman across from my table selling pretty vases. It turned out that the vases contained betta fish. Talk about a coincidence. How could I not get one? I still have that fish who I call Betta Blue for his color. I’ve been in contact with the woman who sold him to us and have followed her instructions for his care.

Betta Blue in his home

Fate stepped in again when I brought my daughter back a month later to The Shabby Tabby Café a few days before her birthday because there was a fall fair in town. She spotted a black kitten immediately. When we asked if he was already claimed, we found out he wasn’t. However, he couldn’t be separated from his sister. When I saw his sister, I couldn’t believe that she was a calico — just like the kitten I’d recently written about in Love on the Rocks, the 4th book of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series, and also the type of cat I always wanted. Although I knew my husband wouldn’t be thrilled about having three cats in the house, it seemed like it was meant to be. Because I had a few days off from work later the next week, we arranged to pick the kittens up the night before my time off.  It just happened to be my daughter’s birthday, and I think it was the best gift she received.

Harry and Hermione

We’ve had Harry and Hermione for two weeks now, and they are absolute joys. It’s so much fun watching them play and seeing how smart and sweet they both are. They have different personalities. Hermione is very affectionate and curious. Harry is quieter and calmer. Stripey doesn’t yet know what to make of them, but we’re hoping to get them together soon. We’ll definitely keep Betta Blue out of their way, though.

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Welcome, Jodi Rath!

Please welcome author, Jodi Rath, to the Pens, Paws, and Claws blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello, I’m Jodi Rath, and I’m so thrilled to be here! My husband and I are both animal lovers, rescuers (although I believe they rescue me), and animal advocates, so finding this blog was a wonderful things for me! I’m married to the man of my dreams and we’ve been together for 16 years. Currently, we have seven cats. We’ve had 13 cats over the last 16 years and we love them all dearly, and even though we’ve lost some of them as they crossed the rainbow bridge, they will forever be a part of our family and in our hearts. All of our cats will be featured in my new series, The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Five of the seven show up in book 1, Pineapple Upside Down Murder, which comes out 11/23/18 and is available for preorder now and they will all be on the covers of the books at one time or another.

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

Definitely! In book 1, the protagonist, Jolie Tucker, has four of our cats: Lenny Lee, Sammy Jr., Bobbi Jo, and D.J. Lynn. One of her two love interests ends up adopting another of our cats, Stewart at the end of book 1 and there is a hilarious scene that describes how my husband actually met Steward and decided to adopt him. LOL. All of our cats have middle names too, LOL!

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on two flash fiction stories that will be freebies and come out two weeks before the release date of Pineapple Upside Down Murder (so early November this year). They are prequels to lead into book 1, although, people can still read book 1 without reading these, but they are a really fun look at the protagonist as kids in the first and teens in the second and the kitties will show up there too! I’m also working on book 2 which is called Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Murder where Stewart Michael will be on the cover!

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

Hmmm . . . our cats are not MAIN characters in my books, but they are a central part of the book and over time will become more integrated into the later books in the series. There are currently 14 books in this series and I already have each title and book planned out with an overarching theme to tie it all together and the cats are definitely a part of that theme!

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Why wouldn’t I is my question! LOL  I LOVE animals SO much! Our cats are our lives. They are our kids. Just like I can’t imagine living without them, I can’t imagine writing without them or having them in the writing!

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

I do not have any in book 1, but there will be some in later books in the series!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Oh boy, well, one of them is that scene about my husband, Mike, and Stewart which you can read about in Pineapple Upside Down Murder. The other one, hmmm, I’m not sure it’s clean enough for the blog. LOL.  My husband is a snorer. A loud snorer. So, he is lying on his back snoring loudly one night, and Stewart sits on his mouth and he chokes and gets up yelling in fear. It frightened me when he told me what happened, and I’ve never laughed so hard in all my life. Stewart was looking for a way to shut him up! LOL

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

At age five, I used my stuffed animals and dolls as my staff of my “pretend” magazine business. I used my mom’s old magazines and would cut them up and paste things together and use a red pen to mark on them. At age seven, I signed up to win a set of encyclopedias and won! I used to randomly pick out an encyclopedia then open up to any page, read an article and summarize it pretending to be a journalist. When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer as a job, but I think I knew back at age five.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pets all lay around me while I write. I can have anywhere between three to five cats around me at one time while I’m writing.

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

I think I have about 700 books in my Nook. I think I have about one thousand or more physical books. I was an English Literature major in my undergrad work. I LOVE books—all books! I also use the library like an insane person. LOL I have two local libraries near me and I am constantly taking books out for research too. There are books all around me as I read. I’d have to take up a thousand pages to list them all.  Some of the books I am planning to read are anything by Sara Paretsky and her V.I. Warshawski series. I’m all caught up and anxiously awaiting the new one to come out soon! I love Heather Blake, Amanda Flower, Victoria Laurie, and Elaine Viets to name a few more.

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

I love to read in bed at night. My little bobtail kitty, Bobbi Jo, likes to snuggle right up by my belly while I lay on my side to read, and I love it!

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

I have been an educator for close to twenty years.  I’ve had so many teenagers who want to do something in a creative field, like: write, art, act, sing, play in a band, etc.  I think that is wonderful! I think a lot of people think because something is creative that it is all fun. To me, what I do now is more fun than anything I’ve ever done…so that is true. At the same time, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked a lot of jobs that were difficult and time-consuming, but I’ve never put in more time and effort than I have as a writer. Everyone wants a creative, fun job. There is a lot of competition. So, to do it well one has to be willing to put all their time and effort into it if you want it to be a career.

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 seven cats.

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The Dogs Have Their Day

by Maggie King

When I posted about cats in mysteries earlier this year, I promised a companion post about canine mysteries.

And now, at last: the dogs have their day!

I took a democratic approach and pooled my dog-loving social media followers with this question: “What are your favorite mysteries with a dog as a significant character?”

Read on for their responses.

In the Books by the Bay mysteries, Olivia Limoges returns to her home town in North Carolina with Captain Haviland, a black standard poodle. Created by Ellery Adams.

In Bethany Blake’s Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries, you can enjoy the company of both dogs and cats. Krista Davis also pairs dogs and cats in her Paws and Claws Mysteries.

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. All of her dogs find a role in her books.

More than one responder suggested Susan Conant’s Dog Lover’s Mysteries series, featuring magazine writer Holly Winter and a cast of dogs.

Robert Crais wrote a standalone crime story with LAPD cop Scott James and his partner, Maggie, a German Shepherd. Man and dog suffer from PTSD as a result of horrendous experiences. Note: I’m convinced that the #1 pet names are Maggie and Fred!

Waverly Curtis created the Seattle-based Barking Detective series of humorous mystery novels starring Pepe, a talking Chihuahua.

Of course, there’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring the inimitable Sherlock Holmes. The legend of a terrifying, satanic hound of supernatural origin instigates an attempted murder.

Alex Kava’s series features former marine Ryder Creed and his K9 dogs.

Bailey, a very sarcastic canine, saves his companions in Be Careful What You Wish For by Solomon Knight.

Ketch is a key character in J.R. Lindermth’s The Limping Dog, about a dog rescued from a wrecked sailing ship.

One follower suggested White Fang by Jack London. She wasn’t sure if it qualified as a mystery, but we’ll just say it does.

Mystery/thriller author Paul D. Marks highlights racism and immigration in his crime novels. His canine characters are Baron in White Heat and Molly in Broken Windows.

In Louise Penny’s books set in the village of Three Pines, Quebec, Henri is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’s German Shepherd.

Spencer Quinn’s Chet & Bernie series got a few votes. Chet the dog is the faithful companion of Arizona private investigator Bernie Little.

In David Rosenfelt’s bibliography you’ll find a long list of dog-themed mysteries featuring Andy Carpenter, an irreverent defense attorney in Paterson, New Jersey.

Amy Shojai created a “pet-centric” thriller series with September Day, an animal behaviorist/trainer, and her German Shepherd service dog named Shadow.

In Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mysteries, Kate Davidson is a yoga instructor in Seattle with her German Shepherd sidekick Bella.

Seems like German Shepherds reign as top dog in mysteries. Inspector Rex reigns, appropriately enough, on TV. An Austrian police procedural comedy-drama television series, Inspector Rex follows the German Shepherd police dog Rex, his partners, and the rest of the team at the Vienna Kriminalpolizei homicide unit, as they work together to solve crimes. Since 2008, the show has been set in Rome.

There are many, many more mysteries with dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, birds, goldfish, you name it. Look for my upcoming posts. And let me know your favorite mysteries with animals. Our furry friends enrich not only our lives, but our reading as well.

Twinkle was my childhood dog. Truth be told, he was my mother’s dog and loved her best. Twinkle, a Toy Fox Terrier, had a brown and charcoal patch over one eye, and a mere stub of a tail. Below, he poses with my mother and grandmother on “the farm” in upstate New York.

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, Marilyn Levinson!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write mysteries, novels for kids, and the occasional romantic suspense. My first published book was a YA called AND DON’T BRING JEREMY, which came out in 1985 or 86. About fifteen years ago I started writing mostly mysteries. My most recent series is the Haunted Library mysteries, which I write as Allison Brook. DEATH OVERDUE (Oct, 2017) and READ AND GONE,(Oct 2018) the first two books in the series, have been receiving a good deal of attention and acclaim. DEATH OVERDUE was an Agatha nominee.

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

 I live with my red tom Sammy, who is thirteen years old. Sammy is very smart and very affectionate. He also bites occasionally, which has earned him a pretty bad reputation among my friends, some of whom wish I’d gotten rid of him a long time ago. But I would never do anything like that! Sammy isn’t a model for any of the cats that appear in my books. Like the cats in my life, the cats in my books have their own distinct personalities.

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

Smoky Joe is an important character in the Haunted Library series. The half-grown grey cat with the bushy tail appears one morning outside Carrie Singleton’s cottage in DEATH OVERDUE, the first book in the series. He jumps into Carrie’s car and since she’s late for work, she brings him to the library. She’s pleasantly surprised when Smoky Joe—as she names him—proves to be people-friendly and a big favorite of the patrons. Sally, her boss, finds herself having to agree that Smoky Joe is now the Clover Ridge Library cat. Of course Carrie brings him home with her at night. He plays an important role in READ AND GONE, the second book in the series.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading a Val McDermid mystery. She’s one of my favorite authors.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished writing the third book in the series. My working title is REFERENCED TO DEATH because the unpleasant reference librarian is murdered. With such an unpopular character that blackmails colleagues and neighbors, you can be sure there are many suspects. Smoky Joe proves to be a loyal companion to Carrie, my sleuth.

Who is your favorite author and why?

There are so many authors I adore and too many to name. I had to reread many Agatha Christie novels when I wrote my mystery MURDER A LA CHRISTIE because my characters, who are in a book club, discuss several Christie books. I discovered I still enjoyed her books and that they held up for me. I also reread Josephine Tey’s mysteries when I wrote MURDER THE TEY WAY. Again, the books were still wonderful to me.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I love to include animals in my books because I’ve had a furry companion most of my life. To me, the animals in my books are characters just like the people. In some of my books the animals play a role in helping to solve the mystery or they help their owners when their lives are in danger..

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

I loved the book and the movie “Lassie Come-Home.” Such a touching story about a devoted collie that wants to live with the boy he loves. I also loved the movie Seabiscuit, though I’ve never ridden a horse.

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

When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a writer or a ballerina. I started writing short stories in the second or third grade. After a while I stopped because I didn’t know how to write anything longer than a few pages. I needed to learn how to plot a story. I came back to writing in my early thirties when I was a young mother. I haven’t stopped writing since.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My Sammy lies close to me on my office carpet as I write. Usually he’s fast asleep. sometimes lying on his back.

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

I have piles and piles of print mysteries waiting to be read. I also have hundreds on my Kindle. I play to read the “Best Mystery Short Stories of 2017” soon and another Val McDermid.

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

I write at my desk iMac, which has a big screen, something I require. I often read in bed or in the recliner in my office. Both places are very comfortable.

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

Keep at it. Read. Join a critique group. Join Sisters in Crime and the Guppies if you’re a mystery writer. Keep on writing.

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50 Fabulous Pet People That You Should Follow on Twitter

Sheri Levy is under the weather. We hope she’s feeling better soon. Heather’s filling in for her this week…

I love Twitter for keeping up with interesting people and cool ideas. And there are so many pet lovers out on Twitter. I started compiling a list and decided to share it. Here are 50 fabulous tweeters (in no particular order) that you should follow.

  1. Jeanne Adams
  2. Judy Penz Sheluk
  3. Sheri Levy
  4. Teresa Inge
  5. Maggie King
  6. Tracy Weber
  7. Debbie DeLouise
  8. Kristina Stanley
  9. Samantha McGraw
  10. Ernie and Bertie
  11. Krista Davis
  12. Ellery Adams
  13. Sparkle Abbey
  14. Bill Blume
  15. Humorous Animals
  16. Jayne Ormerod
  17. Cuties Overload
  18. Kristin Kisska
  19. Nuzzies
  20. Rosemary Stevens
  21. Barb Goffman
  22. Rosemary Shomaker
  23. Mary Burton
  24. Sherry Harris
  25. Edith Maxwell
  26. Kathleen Kaska
  27. Mollie Cox Bryan
  28. Donna Andrews
  29. Daryl Wood Gerber
  30. Spencer Quinn
  31. Dogs and Coffee
  32. Amy Reade
  33. Bethany Blake
  34. Libby Klein
  35. Leann Sweeney
  36. Mary Feliz
  37. Ellen Byron
  38. Maggie Toussaint
  39. Leslie Budewitz
  40. Janet Evanovich
  41. Kathi Daley
  42. Cats and Coffee
  43. Shari Randall
  44. Judith Lucci
  45. Standard Pups
  46. Fiona Quinn
  47. Annette Dashofy
  48. Victoria Hamilton
  49. Pens, Paws, and Claws
  50. And me, Heather Weidner

Who else would you add to the list?

 

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Welcome, Susan Schwartz

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Susan Schwartz to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing:

I began writing in 2006 with freelance articles. I wrote on all sorts of topics and researched these pieces thoroughly. I made a little money, but I was more interested in fiction writing. I joined the Virginia Writers Club and started learning how to write with style. I found good mentors and people who wanted to help me succeed. I took over leadership of the club for two years giving back to the writing community and helping to mentor a few new writers.

I have been an Operating Room Nurse for 18 years. As you can imagine, I see many interesting and gory things while working. I channel many of those sights and sounds into my stories. I love blood and guts, and I tend to write stories where people are getting killed or maimed in some fashion. I try to write them with a twist making you wonder what hit you at the end. I have enjoyed this genre immensely because of its ability to lead the reader into something they are not expecting.

I have three short stories published at present in the Nightmares & Echoes series. They are “The Sparkling Floor,” “I Thought You Did,” and “Blurred Line.  “Blurred Line” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in Long Fiction by the Horror Writers Association in 2016. My non-fiction piece in the Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology is titled “Using my Karate Chops in Nursing.” I also have a non-fiction book coming in the Spring of 2019 titled Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties. I am quite excited about my stories and especially, my Haunted book.

Please check out my website to see future happenings and new books coming out soon. https://www.susanschwartzauthor.com.

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

I have had up to 14 feral cats in the past. We just lost the last one, Mr. Imp, in 2015. At present, we have two kittens, Manchego and Speck. We have multiple fish tanks, and we also love on one leopard gecko named Zoey.

I do not use them in my writing, but Zoey likes to help me write sometimes. She inevitably always goes off on a tangent about finding lost crickets.

What are you reading now?

I tend to read three to four books at once. My list at present consists of:

The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis. I love most everything Patterson has his name attached to these days.

You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. This one just sounded like an awesome book.

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Everyone has catastrophes to deal with, this was suggested to me by a neurosurgeon.

Dinosaurs in the Cornfield by William Hardison. I have known Mr. Hardison for almost 35 years, and this book is an amazing recollection of memories and life lessons.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am starting to research for another haunted book, possibly in the eastern region of Virginia. I haven’t quite decided yet. I have a paranormal romance novel that I have been working on for several years that I want to finish. I also have about six short stories in the works for a couple anthologies and just from pleasure writing.

Who is your favorite author and why?

For horror influences, I look to Stephen King and Bentley Little. The medical drama comes from Michael Palmer and Robin Cook. For general fiction, I like David Baldacci and Michael Connelly.

All of these produce a great story with plenty of red herrings to make you think something else is going to happen. Then BOOM! The carpet is pulled out from under you. I love that.

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

Milo and Otis was definitely a favorite with the dog and the cat. I also so loved Homeward Bound. The voiceovers in both movies were simply the best. It always makes me wonder now when my cats are looking at me what they are thinking.

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

I started writing back in 2003 doing fanfic for several TV shows I watched at the time. They weren’t really great stories, but mainly continuations of what I thought should have happened. I really enjoyed writing the different views on some of the characters. Once these got some comments, I started wondering if I could write longer and more in-depth pieces. I am happy to say I can and I do.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Manchego and Speck are normally chasing each other back and forth through the house. Manchego is around nine months old, and we rescued her off the street on a cold winter’s night at the age of about two months. Speck is also a kitten that we found at the Goochland Animal Shelter in July to help Manchego get over her separation anxiety. He has been a welcome addition to the family, although it took about two weeks for Manchego to warm up to him.

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

I thought about this one. These weren’t really pets, but I took care of them for a length of time. We had a baby squirrel named Lucky that had fallen out of his nest, and his mother never came to find him. My father, knowing my love of animals, called me to come get him and take care of him. It was a fun experience for about four days until we found a Wildlife Rehabilitator that would take him. Fun Fact: Squirrels are lactose-intolerant.

The second unusual animal we loved on was a Silverback Bat. This guy had fallen on our front porch and didn’t move. We were worried he was dead. We got a plastic container, much like the ones we kept crickets in for our gecko, and scooped him up with it. Over time, he started to move by hopping, so we named him Scooter. We also took care of him for several days until we could find a Bat Rehabilitator in the area. We discovered that he had burned up one wing. If he couldn’t fly, he couldn’t hunt for food. Sadly, he passed away a couple days later. I still have fond memories of him though, and I love to walk at dusk to see the bats flying. Fun Fact: Bats look just like puppy dogs in the face. Check out some pictures.

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

The best advice given to me by many authors in different genres is to read that which you are trying to write. The greats in this genre, such as Stephen King, Bentley Little, and Richard Laymon, have shown me how to write and what people are looking for when they read this genre. Stephen King also wrote a book, On Writing, which has helped me a great deal as well.

Write what you know and love. Writing becomes much easier when you know where you want to go with a particular piece. I always know the ending. I leave my title for when I finish because you want to write a great story, and then finish it with a title that encompasses all that is inside.

Don’t stop because someone told you No. This just means you have to go another way instead of the path you are taking. Keep trying and don’t give up. You can do it!

About Susan

Susan Schwartz RN, MSN, MSHA has been an avid writer for 10 years writing freelance articles, editing manuscripts, and proofing medical competencies. She has published three short stories in the anthologies of Nightmare & Echoes I, II, and III and a non-fiction piece in the Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology. Her alter ego is an Operating Room Nurse/Nurse Educator who loves creating tales from the interesting and weird things she has seen. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Virginia Writers Club where she is serving as President of the Richmond Chapter. She also has two novels in the works, a paranormal romance and a medical thriller. In her spare time, she loves to read, travel to foreign lands, and traipse through old graveyards and cemeteries. Please leave feedback at susanschwartzauthor.com.

 

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Sneaky the Library Cat’s Story in his Own Words

For my first post on Pens, Paws, and Claws, I thought I’d share the story of the library cat character in my cozy Cobble Cove cozy mystery series. However, Sneaky wanted to tell his story himself. Since Sneaky has his own blog where he interviews other pet characters and author’s pets, he has experience writing posts, so I let him try his paw at this one.

Purrs and head bonks to all you readers out there. My name is Sneaky, and I’m one of the most important characters in the Cobble Cove mystery series by Debbie De Louise. After reading the books, you’ll see what I mean. Although I don’t talk in the series except in cat language, I often help Debbie’s main lady, Alicia, solve clues to a mystery. In my upcoming book, the 4th of the series, Love on the Rocks, I actually help prevent a murder, but I won’t give that away because the book is only in the editing stages right now. Instead, I will tell you how I came to be the Cobble Cove library cat and then add some de-“tails” about the first 3 books in which I appear.

When Debbie wrote our first book, A Stone’s Throw, she didn’t envision it as a cozy book. She thought it fell under romantic suspense because of the love story that was featured. However, our readers knew better. They knew that the small town of Cobble Cove with its quirky characters and, of claws, me, would appeal to cozy mystery fans. Also, I and the other characters “purr”suaded Debbie to write a second book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. She found another publisher for this book, and they reprinted the first along with the third, Written in Stone, which is my favorite so far because I’m featured on the cover.

Oliver

Getting back to my story, Debbie had a cat named Oliver. He was older than me, and she lost him this past November to kidney disease. I’m glad I’m a character cat because I can live as long as Debbie keeps writing about me. Oliver was also a Siamese. As Siamese owners know, these cats are extremely handsome, smart, and loving. They’re also quite intuitive. In my first book, I lead Alicia to some letters in the attic of the library that shed light, and a little bit of fur, on secrets in her boyfriend’s father’s past that connect with her husband’s strange death.

Here’s my first scene from that book:

When she entered the storage room, she didn’t see Sneaky, although she thought he might’ve headed there to use his litter box. Cats can be quiet and liked to sleep in the strangest spots, so he could be there in some corner. Mac’s jacket was still draped across the chair by the desk. She laughed recalling the story about what Sneaky had once done to it out of spite, so typical of an angered cat. She sat in the chair and perused the stack of books on the desk. A few were from James Patterson’s “Private” series. She didn’t read too many series and had only read a few of Patterson’s standalone titles. As she was about to choose a book from the pile, she heard scratching in the corner. She jumped. Hopefully, that was Sneaky and not a mouse he hadn’t caught, for this place probably attracted them. She walked cautiously to the corner where she’d heard the noise. It wasn’t coming from the litter box under the window but from the opposite side.

Since the one bulb in the room was dim, she could hardly see in the dark recesses of the room. She wished she had a flashlight. As she approached the area where she heard the noise, she saw a bunch of boxes. She was relieved to see Sneaky scratching the side of one, cardboard pieces scattered at his feet. “Oh, Sneaky,” she said. “You scared me, but you’re only using a box for a scratching post.” The cat, caught in the act, stopped mid-scratch and scampered away through his cat flap. Alicia made a note to speak to John about helping her find a real scratching post for Sneaky, but before she left the room, she went over to the boxes. She figured they contained more books, but when she looked inside the one Sneaky had been scratching, she saw a few papers bundled together with rope. Newspapers? They weren’t that thick. She realized as she picked up the first bundle, they were a stack of letters. She felt uneasy snooping through them and was about to toss them next to the other two stacks in the box when she caught the name on the top envelope, Miss Carol Parsons. Her heart thudded in tempo with the rain. Were these the letters Mac wrote to Peter’s mother all those years ago? If so, how had Mac gotten them back?

I hope you enjoyed that. I’m rather proud of that scene. I think I did a purrfect acting job in it. I’d love to share more excerpts with you, but in consideration of space, I thought I’d just share the link to a booktrailer that contains info about all of Debbie’s mysteries including our books and her standalone thriller, Reason to Die. There’s even a preview of our upcoming 4th book. https://youtu.be/G1FmAW4U-jA

Now that you’ve had an introduction to Debbie’s books and how I got in them, I hope you’ll check out her bio and social media links including her blog and mine. Besides her mysteries, Debbie has also written short stories of different genres, a romance novella, and a paranormal romance. Every story features a cat (and sometimes a dog or other animal). I’m a bit jealous of that, but I understand. I appreciate her allowing me to write this blog and sharing it with all the great readers of Pens, Paws, and Claws.

Debbie De Louise is an award-winning author and a reference librarian at a public library on Long Island. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Sisters-in-Crime, the Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writer’s Association. She has a BA in English and an MLS in Library Science from Long Island University. Her novels include the three books of the Cobble Cove cozy mystery series published by Solstice Publishing: A Stone’s Throw, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and Written in Stone. Debbie has also published a romantic comedy novella featuring a jewel heist caper, When Jack Trumps Ace, a standalone mystery, Reason to Die, and has written articles and short stories for several anthologies of various genres. Her latest release, Cloudy Rainbow, is a paranormal romance featuring a virtual world, a clairvoyant, and a cat. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Anthony; daughter Holly; and Cat, Stripey.

Social Media Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debbie.delouise.author/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Deblibrarian

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2750133.Debbie_De_Louise

Amazon Author Page: Author.to/DebbieDeLouise

Website/Blog/Newsletter Sign-Up: https://debbiedelouise.wordpress.com

Sneaky the Library Cat’s blog: https://sneakylibrarycat.wordpress.com

 

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Welcome, A. R. Kennedy!

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes A. R. Kennedy!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is A R Kennedy. I’ve been writing novels for seven years, but the stories have been in my head for as long as I can remember. I have a self-published mystery series, The Nathan Miccoli mystery series. I’ve also written a legal thriller and a cozy mystery (which I plan to expand into a series).

Saving Ferris, a legal thriller featuring a golden retriever, is available for pre-order now. Cover reveal coming soon!

Additionally, I love writing short stories and have won the Writers’ Police Academy’s Golden Donut story in 2016 and 2017.

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

I currently share my home with a seven pound dog, h, of unknown breed but is full of spunk. Although a cuddler and a love in our home, he’s a spitfire on walks. My neighbors call him ‘killer’ because all he does is bark at them.

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

Laude, a secondary character in the Nathan Miccoli series, is a beautiful black miniature schnauzer. She is a combination of two schnauzers I’ve had. (Sadly, both have passed). Laude has the beauty and attitude of L while also possessing the lovability and friendliness of H. Laude appears in all the novels.

In Saving Ferris, a legal thriller, Ferris is a golden retriever who has failed out of service training. After Cecilia’s husband dies, she’s forced to become Ferris’s caregiver, something she does not immediately warm to. But when his life is threatened by an intruder, she shoots the intruder to save Ferris. The prosecutor feels that Cecilia has committed murder, not self defense. In the eyes of the law, one can use lethal force to protect themselves and others, but not property. Pets are considered property. Cecilia endures a murder trial where her defense attorney forces everyone to ask themselves, Is the your pet property or family?

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on upcoming novels in the Nathan Miccoli mystery series and in the Traveling Detective series, a cozy mystery series I’m currently seeking representation for.

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

My parents had a mini schnauzer, Kelly, when I was born. A few years after she passed, after years of begging for a puppy, I picked out C, a miniature-toy poodle. After college, at my first professional job, a co-worker told me her dog was pregnant and I needed a dog. I hesitated but the hesitation flew away when she told me the mom and dad were miniature schnauzers! I met L soon after she was born and we bonded instantly. (She also peed on me!)

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

I’ve written an entire novel, Saving Ferris, inspired by the love so many of us feel for our pets. There’s no doubt my dogs are members of the family and I know so many people feel the same. But the law does not.

In the Nathan Miccoli mystery series, although I consider Laude a major character, most would consider her a minor character. If we’re reading Lily’s point of view, Laude is probably right there with her.

In the Traveling Detective series, after book one, there will also be a pet. But because Naomi’s adventures occur while on vacation, we probably won’t get to see her cat, Cher, too much.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I love animals. For my day job, I visit people in their homes. I always make it a point to say hello to each of the animals, including the birds! People are often surprised how their animals, cats and dogs, take to me right away. On our last visit, I always tell people I’m terrible with names and may not remember them if they call me with updates but just mention their pet and I’ll remember everything about them.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When L was a puppy, my roommate had a cat. L and the cat (it’s been too long I can’t remember her name!) would chase each other all day. After taking L on her midday walk, a neighbor asked for the package I was holding for her. She followed me to my apartment. When I opened the door, L saw the cat and took off after her. Surprised by the quick and strong pull on the leash, and distracted by the neighbor, I was pulled to the floor, landing flat on my face. The neighbor, who I did not know well, just stared at me as I got up. I handed her the package, assuring her I was alright. (Nothing was injured but my pride). The neighbor never passed me again without laughing.

(My ten-pound L pulling down the seven foot Christmas tree is also a good story.)

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

Most of my bucket list items involves travel and animals. I’ve been fortunate enough to view the Big Five while on safari in South Africa (which inspired a cozy mystery novel and birth of my series, The Traveling Detective), to swim with penguins, a shark and seals in the Galapagos, and to observe kangaroos and koalas in the wild and feed them and a plethora of other native animals at a sanctuary in Australia.

A gorilla trek in Uganda remains unchecked on my bucket list.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

h lies on my lap as I write. He often scratches my arm for belly rubs while I’m trying to work. He’s lying next to my leg right now!

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

I love to read and write on my couch, with h next to me.

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