Welcome, Kathy Aarons/Kathy Krevat!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Kathy Aarons/Kathy Krevat to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write the Gourmet Cat Mystery series and the Chocolate Covered Mystery series under the pen name Kathy Aarons. I’m excited to be working with Lyrical, an imprint of Kensington Books. The Trouble With Murder, starring Trouble the cat, came out in December 2017, and The Trouble With Truth will be out on August 28.

I started writing when my youngest daughter was in preschool five mornings a week, mostly to avoid doing housework. (I can’t do the dishes – I’m writing!) Before being a stay-at-home mom, I was a marketing director for a software company and assumed that because I knew how to write ad copy, that I knew how to write a novel. I was so wrong! Luckily, I joined Romance Writers of America San Diego where I first began to realize how much I didn’t know about writing fiction. (Insert snarky comment about marketing being a lot like fiction…)

I attended conferences and workshops and bought practically every writing craft book known to man. Sometimes I even read them. I wrote and re-wrote my first book – PTA Meetings Are Murder – at least one hundred times. It hasn’t been published yet, but my agent liked it so much, she signed me.

My first book – Death is Like a Box of Chocolates – was published by Berkley two weeks after my youngest daughter went off to college! Looking back, I probably would have been published earlier but I was also Queen of Volunteering – the list of my volunteer job is just too long, but includes PTA president and assistant puppet maker.

I’m still stuck on volunteering. I’m president of the board for Partners in Crime – San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime and Playwrights Project, a literacy organization. I also help to organize the CCA Writers’ Conference, the only free writing conference for high school students in the US.

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

Growing up, I had tons of pets – cats, dogs, guinea pigs, horses, gerbils, and a rabbit. My husband is allergic to dogs and cats, so our children grew up with birds, guinea pigs, mice and a bearded dragon. We no longer have pets, but my daughter has a rescue – a one-eyed Shih Tzu named Atlas – so I get to play with him when I need a pet fix.

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

Trouble is an orange tabby cat and was the inspiration of Colbie Summer’s business, Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food. Colbie found Trouble abandoned in an empty apartment of a building she was managing. She figured out that Trouble had digestive issues, so she started cooking for her. When friends began asking to buy her food for their own digestive-challenged cats, her company was born.

In the Chocolate Covered Mystery series, Coco the stray cat visits all the shops on Main Street, including Chocolates & Chapters, a combination book and chocolate shop. She has starring role in all three books of the series.

What are you reading now?

I’m on deadline, which severely cuts back on my reading time. Right now, I’m reading Carleen O’Neil’s HAIR OF THE DOG, the third book in her Cypress Cove series. I’m going on a trip soon and have downloaded a bunch of cozies including Terrie Moran’s READ TO DEATH and Nell Hampton’s LORD OF THE PIES.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing THE TROUBLE WITH TALENT, third in the series. I’m also working on a young adult mystery proposal.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have two: J.K. Rowling, because she created a magical world that my family and I fell in love with, and Janet Evanovich, because reading her hilarious Stephanie Plum mysteries inspired me to write. I got the chance to meet her at a book signing and told her!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When I was at band camp in high school, a cat had a litter of kittens on someone’s bed in my cabin. On the last day, I called my mom on a pay phone (a LONG time ago) and convinced her that they would starve and/or freeze if I didn’t bring them home. She wanted to know why I was the only one in the camp who was willing to do it, but I was pretty sure she’d say yes. We managed to find them all homes, but kept the mom. That was when we hit the maximum number of pets in the house – 18!

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

I loved writing in high school but didn’t think it could lead to a career. I took a lot of writing classes in college and went into marketing and public relations when I graduated.

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

That’s hard. My number one unrealistic item is meeting J.K. Rowling. My number one “do-able” item is spending a month in Ireland.

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

My daughter had a bearded dragon lizard when she was in elementary school. I had no idea they grew so big!

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

One, that the only way to get better is to keep writing! I’ve heard that it takes writing over one millions words to get to the level needed to become published. Second, that publishing is a very different ball game than writing. It takes a lot more time to do the business side than I could ever imagine.

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

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep writing!

The Trouble With Truth

By Kathy Krevat

Available August 28, 2018

Things are looking up for single mom Colbie Summers. After relocating back to her California hometown with her adolescent son and taste-testing feline, Trouble, she’s ready to take her gourmet cat food company to the next level. Until helping a teenager gets Colbie mixed up in a fresh case of murder… 

Trying to balance her hectic family life with her growing business—including a coveted contract with the local organic food store—leaves Colbie scrambling to keep all her balls in the air. But when a Sunnyside resident is found dead in his garage, she takes on a new role: harboring a suspected killer.

The eighteen-year-old murder suspect, a former foster kid and Colbie’s part-time chef, had a powerful motive to snuff out the high-profile businessman. The real question is, who didn’t? Sifting through the victim’s sordid history unearths a cat’s cradle of crimes, including money laundering and abuse. Now, to clear an innocent girl’s name, Colbie must sniff out the truth before a killer who smells trouble goes on the attack again.

About Kathy:

Kathy Krevat is the author of the GOURMET CAT MYSTERY series featuring cat food chef Colbie Summers and her demanding cat Trouble, the culinary muse behind her recipes. She also writes the bestselling CHOCOLATE COVERED MYSTERY series under the pen name, Kathy Aarons.

Kathy lives in San Diego with her husband of twenty-six years in the perfect location – close to Philz Coffee and the beach, and within visiting distance of her two grown daughters. When she’s not writing, she’s an advocate for youth arts education and president of Partners in Crime, the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

You can follow Kathy on Facebook or Twitter or visit her at: www.kathykrevat.com.

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Welcome, Mollie Hunt!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mollie Hunt to the blog!

Mollie Hunt & Tinkerbelle, Registered Pet Partners

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m Mollie Hunt, a native Oregonian, and I write cat fiction including the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series and some speculative cat fantasy sci-fi. I’m a member of the Cat Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, Willamette Writers, and the Oregon Writers Colony.

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

With me, it’s all about cats. Little, my 12-year-old black female has been with me since she was 2, and Tyler, my 15-year old tabby who acts like a kitten was adopted last year. Both came from the Oregon Humane Society where I volunteer.

Little is one of the Crazy Cat Lady series clowder. Tyler hasn’t been with me long enough to have a role, but I’m sure he will soon.

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

Lynley Cannon, the not-quite-crazy cat lady hero of my series, has a varying number of cats in her care, but the number is usually around 8. In the latest book, “Cat Café” (out this fall) they are Little, Tinkerbelle, Dirty Harry, Solo, Violet, Big Red, Emilio, and Mab. Sometimes there are guests such as Cary Grant and Clark Gable, a pair of identical red Maine coons who worked as actor cats for a television pilot in “Cat Call”.

 What are you reading now?

“Waypoint Kangaroo” sci-fi by Curtis Chen; “Tea with Milk and Murder” cozy mystery by H.Y. Hanna; “Murder and Mendelssohn” cozy mystery by Kerry Greenwood.

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

I tend to work on several projects at once. Currently I’m in the final revisions for “Cat Café”; writing the first draft of a Crazy Cat Lady Christmas Novella called “Cat Noel”; and in the process of putting together a chapbook of cat poetry. I also have a cat fantasy sci-fi called “Cat Summer” out to an agent. (Wish me luck)

 Who is your favorite author and why?

How can anyone choose one from the millions of authors, current and past? I love Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series because her stories paint a colorful picture in my mind and her words are often poetry. This, along with a good mystery story, makes her books irresistible. Ditto Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey cat mystery series. Joe and his cohorts are magical cats with a backstory that stems from deep Celtic fantasy. The book I’ve reread the most throughout my life is “Titus Groan” by Mervyn Peake. It’s another case of painting a vivid picture in my mind, except this one is of a weird gothic castle in an alternate world.

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

Though the cats in my stories don’t talk, they are endowed with those feline telepathic skills any cat person will instantly recognize, so they have been known to help solve the crime and save the day. Besides being sweet and funny, I employ them to educate people about cats. Through them, I can introduce all sorts of subjects from health to behavior to animal rights.

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

Thank you for that question. I love that you recognize the important roles working animals play in our society.

Tinkerbelle is a ten-year-old shelter stray who Lynley has trained as a registered therapy cat. Together they visit assisted living facilities and hospice patients as an ongoing thread in the series. Tinkerbelle is based on a real cat, though she is now retired.

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

I came from a family that read a lot, and I wrote my first cat story in Mrs. Wilson’s fourth grade class. When I took up mystery writing several decades later, I knew it was my passion because when I write, time goes away and I’m lost in a world I love. Not to say writing isn’t work– it is, but where others would find it tedious, I leap from word to word with unspoiled wonder.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

They mostly sleep, with a few sojourns across the keyboard just to keep me on my toes.

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

I have basically 3 TBR piles: Audio books that I listen to in my car; eBooks I read on my phone; real books. (There are more than one pile of real books.)

A few on the list are: “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore; “Lil Tom and the Pussy Foot Detective Agency” by Angela Crider Neary; “River City” by Doc Macomber; “Dressed to Kill” by Vicki Vass; Long Walks, Last Flights” by Ken Scholes.

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

The first million words are practice, and even the best writer needs a good editor.

 Thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed your choice of questions and hope your readers will like the answers.

 Mollie Hunt

Mollie’s Biography:

Native Oregonian Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. Mollie is the author of the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series, including Cats’ Eyes, Copy Cats, Cat’s Paw, Cat Call, and Cat Café (coming 2018). The series features Portland native Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip. Mollie also published a non-cat mystery, Placid River Runs Deep, which delves into murder, obsession, and the challenge of chronic illness in bucolic southwest Washington. Two of her short cat stories have been published in anthologies.

 Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, Willamette Writers, and the Cat Writers’ Association. She won a CWA Muse Medallion for her blogpost series, “Life Stages”, and has received several CWA Certificates of Excellence for other cat-centric work. Mollie lives in Portland’s eclectic Hawthorne district with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like Lynley, she is a grateful shelter volunteer.

 Let’s Be Social: 

Mollie’s Website

Mollie’s Amazon Page

Mollie’s Facebook Author Page

Mollie’s Newsletter

 

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Cuteness: A Survival Tactic

This is Kathleen Kaska’s final post with Pens, Paws, and Claws. We’ll miss her in our regular rotation of bloggers, and we’ll hope she’ll stop by from time to time for a visit.

Do you ever wonder why most people go gaga over babies—human and otherwise?

When I was studying physical anthropology at the University of Texas, one of my professors caught slack after he said that baby animals were cute so that their mothers would take care of them. Anthropomorphism in the world of science was a big no-no back then, and still is in certain academic situations. However, recent brain research seems to support my professor’s claim.

There is a recent article in The Telegraph by Sophie Jamieson about an Oxford University study concluding babies and puppies have evolved cute characteristics as a way to survive. It goes beyond visual attributes like big eyes, chubby cheeks, and infantile giggles. Sounds and smells also stimulate the nervous system to give care to the cute. Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry Professor Morten Kringelbach led the research and said, “Infants attract us through all our senses, which helps make cuteness one of the most basic and powerful forces shaping our behaviour.” That also might be why we more often choose young animals for pets rather than older ones.

Beyond stimulating our need to nurture, owning a pet, regardless of the animal’s age, can make us healthier. It’s no secret that pets relax us when we’re stressed, but did you know there’s a scientific reason for that? Cuddling a pet releases the chemical oxytocin sometimes called “the cuddle chemical.” Oxytocin calms and soothes both the owner and the pet, which leads to a strong bond between both. That bond between dog and human is the strongest. Dogs are the only animal that consistently run to meet their owner when frightened or happy to see them. They are the only ones to make eye contact with people when they need attention, food, or protection.

Other studies show that owning a pet improves our cardio-vascular system, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduces the risk of asthma. Cuddling or petting a pet reduces the stress hormone cortisol in those who suffer from clinical depression. Dogs are also being trained to detect, usually by smell, certain diseases or malfunctions of the human body. For example, trained dogs can detect minute changes in the function of the adrenal glands of people suffering from Addison’s disease. Some can use their sense of smell to detect the development of cancer or diabetes, and others learn to detect early signs of epileptic seizures and to warn their owner.

I used to teach middle-school science before I retired. Although I loved my job, I usually left the classroom stressed. A half-hour commute home through heavy traffic added a tight knot between my shoulders. Only when I turned down my street did I begin to relax. When I looked at my front window and saw my little brown, mixed-breed hound Jenny watching for me, the tension washed away completely.

Links:

https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/

http://www.kathleenkaska.com

http://www.blackopalbooks.com

https://twitter.com/KKaskaAuthor

http://www.facebook.com/kathleenkaska

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WonTon the Bookstore Cat

By Maggie King

Cats and bookstores … two of my favorite things in life.

Just why are cats such big hits in bookstores?

Picture this: a customer comes across a snoozing cat while browsing the shelves of a bookstore. She unconsciously associates the relaxed feline with books.

What happens next? Why, she buys out the store!

For this customer and many like her, nothing beats getting lost in a page turner. And cats have no problem lazing away the hours, dreaming of mice and butterflies. I’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon with my cat curled up on my lap and my book propped up on him.

Ward Tefft, owner of Chop Suey Books in Richmond, Virginia’s Carytown, tells an unusual story of how WonTon became his bookstore feline:

Aside from WonTon being our spirit animal, I don’t know if there are any short stories that sum him up. He did come to us in an interesting way: when we were at our old shop, we would leave a window open in the back, and one Spring a black and white cat started jumping through it into the store in the morning and hanging out with us all day. He was kind of aloof, but seemed to really enjoy just being around us. When evening rolled around, he would disappear out the back window, and wouldn’t be seen until the following morning.

After about 3 weeks of this, we decided that he had picked us as his home, and, not wanting someone to think he was a stray at night, we named him and put a collar and ID on him. As per his usual schedule, he left that night and came back through in the morning. Almost as soon as he jumped through our rear window, a girl who lived down the street from us came through the front door. “Can I post a lost cat flyer in your window,” she asked, then looked down at WonTon. “Oh, Lloyd! I found you. This is my missing cat!!!” Dumbfounded and heartbroken, the person working the counter let her leave the store with WonTon struggling in her arms.

When I heard about this, I was curious. It seems that the girl only had one poster in her hand, not a stack as would be expected. It felt like she was targeting us in particular as a place that would help her find this missing cat. We pretty quickly put it together: WonTon was hanging with us during the days, and with her (as “Lloyd”) at night. When he had shown up the night before with a tag claiming him as ours, she decided she needed to put a claim of her own on him, and came up with the “lost cat” routine.

The store felt empty for a day, then, true to form, WonTon returned through the back window the next day, then the following day, then the day after that. I tracked down the girl with the “lost cat” posters and made a plea: WonTon/Lloyd appears to have chosen us during the day, and you at night. Can we share?

To my surprise, she made this counter offer: “Oh, I didn’t know you wanted him! He lives with his sister Voodoo now, and they don’t get along at all.If you want to keep him, please do!”

The rest is history. WonTon started happily spending the night with us, and a year later moved with us to Carytown. Every now and then, there are tales of a young woman coming into the shop to give love to “Lloyd”!

For more on Chop Suey Books.

13 Bookstore Cats. Great photos.

Like cats in your mysteries? How about a feline sleuth? Here’s a reading list.

***

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.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: authormaggieking

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

 

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Welcome, Lesley Diehl

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Lesley Diehl to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write cozy mystery series. Two of the series are set in rural Florida and two in Upstate New York. I also write short stories, the most notable of which have appeared in several anthologies such as The Killer Wore Cranberry and Happy Homicides: Fall into Crime. My short stories are often based upon events in my childhood.

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

I grew up on a farm in Northern Illinois, so I was always surrounded by animals and had several cats growing up. Now I have two cats, both rescues from Key Largo, Florida where we used to spend the winter and were part of a cat rescue group there. The cats are now 17 (Squeak, female) and 14 (Marley, male) years old. I have never adopted feral cats before, and I find these cats different from my other cats. I think there is much in a feral cat from a restricted group that is hard-wired in the cat’s behavior. They are lovable animals, funny, smart, but a bit shy around strangers and suspicious of anything unusual. That’s true of any cat, but the wariness is more pronounced in these. We got the male cat when he was tiny, tiny, and he almost seems to be imprinted on me. He does not like me out of his sight. He’s affectionate but can get angry at me if he feels he’s not getting enough attention. I’ve not yet written any of my cats in a story, but it could happen soon!

I’ve also had several dogs. One I inherited from the man I bought my house from. He simply left his cat and dog when he moved out! I vowed to keep the dog outside or in the garage, but when I saw her sitting outside my window when it rained, it broke my heart. She became my best friend, sleeping on the floor by my bed and traveling with me when I went cross-country to visit family. I used her sweet, playful personality for the dog (Samantha) in my Laura Murphy mysteries.

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

In my stand-alone cozy mystery Angel Sleuth, a pot-bellied pig named Desdemona is one of the characters. She has been adopted by Jeremy, a young boy in the story. While the protagonist is not certain she wants a pig as one of her house guests, she comes to love Dessie. I found Dessie such a compelling character that I made her a sleuth in a short story (“Dessie’s Jaded Past”) published by Untreed Reads in one of their detective anthologies. I liked the idea of having a pot-bellied pig as a sleuth so much that I wrote another story featuring yet another pot-belly, this one named Willa Mae. The story entitled “When Pigs Fly” will be one of Kings River Life’s podcasts later this year.

What are you reading now?

Since I am a lover of British mysteries, I am now reading the third of the Royal books by Rhys Bowen. I just finished several of Puleston’s Inspector Drake mysteries, the last two Lee Child’s Reacher books and am halfway through Tim Dorsey’s Cadillac Beach. I just downloaded Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley and Havers mystery.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Book 7 of the Eve Apple mysteries is due to my publisher June 1, so I’m working on that now. I will also release the third book in the Big Lake Murder mysteries, Scream Muddy Murder.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have two favorites: Elizabeth George and Robert Parker. I like them for different reasons. George writes deep character psychology and uses class issues to make her characters as important as the mystery. Parker is a genius at terse dialogue and packing more in a short sentence than most writers put in a paragraph.

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

I never use them just in passing. All the animals in my books have unique, sometimes helpful personalities, personalities that sometimes reflect aspects of a human character’s such as my pot-bellied pigs who are amateur sleuths themselves. Even the dog I mentioned in my Laura Murphy mysteries (her name is Samantha) is like her owner, fun-loving, playful, loyal to those she sees as friends, and as nosey as her owner. I think she will help solve a murder in a book to come.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals have always been an important part of my life and, since my protagonists hold values similar to my own, why wouldn’t they have pets in their lives? While the Eve Apple series doesn’t feature a pet in Eve’s family, the series does include wildlife in the rural Florida area.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My dog Princess loved food, any food, all food. She would wander out of the yard around dinnertime in the summers, and I’d know she went down the road to one of the neighbor’s to see if she could beg when they were cooking on the grill. She was chubbier than she should have been, so I asked the neighbors not to feed her, but she did her “cute” act, and they gave in with apologies to me.

She really loved chocolate, which I never gave her, but one Easter a friend brought me a foil-wrapped chocolate bunny, which I left on my coffee table, untouched, and went to bed. The next morning the foil wrapping was still on the coffee table, but the bunny inside was gone. Princess had chocolate on her breath. She didn’t get sick, but I still can’t figure out how she managed to eat the inside without eating the foil.

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

When I won the MWA Florida Chapter’s short story contest in 2009, I began to feel like a writer, but when my first book came out the following year, I was a believer. Isn’t it funny how I had to have external confirmation to make it so? Now I understand being a writer is simply all about writing.

 Wat do your pets do when you are writing?

The two cats I have now have become less and less interested in my time at the keyboard. Several years ago, the female sat in my desk chair, reached up and typed 5589, then yawned and got down, acting as if she had written her singular most important work and was done with it. The other cat sits on the printer next to my computer and waits quietly until I close the laptop. He then jumps into my chair and is ready for “twirly,” where I spin the chair around with him on the seat. I spin one way, then reverse the spin. He loves it! Like a carnival ride for cats. And this from a cat who gets car sick.

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

Two? Let me give you a list.

No, I won’t be able to afford that house on the Bay in Key Largo.

Everyone expects a free book.

Writing is fun; promotion is work.

Your publisher will not pay for a book tour.

Getting your book published is only the beginning: you have to sell it.

Your publisher expects you to do most of the promotion and publicity.

Sometimes no one shows up for the book event you spent hours preparing for.

Sometimes lots of folks turn up at the book event, but no one buys a book. (this happened with an audience of 125 people who were supposed to be book lovers.)

Often few people show for a book event, so you just chat with them and have fun.

Discoverability: no one knows how to do it, but everyone has ideas, so try some out.

Writing is fun, but so is talking to people about writing, so don’t limit yourself to an internet presence only.

Most important. Don’t write in a vacuum; there are writers’ organizations and writing conferences where you can learn your craft and improve on it.

Let’s Be Social:

Please visit me on my website and blog: www.lesleyadiehl.com and www.lesleyadiehl.com/blog for more information about me and my work

On facebook at lesley.diehl.1@facebook.com

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Location, Location, Location

Ahhhhh, spring!

Don’t you just love when Mother Nature ushers in warm air, lush greenery, sunshine, and twittering birds after a blisteringly ugly-cold winter?  Only she hasn’t quite let it all happen yet this year.

Instead of hunkering down for the fourth nor’easter to rock the East Coast last month, I escaped to paradise.  While I don’t want to make you too jealous, here was my *writer’s cave* in Exuma, Bahamas for a nice long weekend getaway. Not too shabby, eh?

For me, the sparkle on this idyllic gem of an island was meeting a few of the local feline residents of the resort.  Though they weren’t as fond of cameras as they were of petting, I was able to snap a photo of one of several cats on the Bahamas Welcoming Committee. As you can imagine, this self-proclaimed Catless Cat Lady had found nirvana.

Just as our trip was about to end, I discovered the Kitty Condo the staff had built to accommodate their smallest four-pawed friends. At all times, the water and food bowls were topped off and fresh. Isn’t this the most adorable pet-sized real estate ever?

Now, if only Mother Nature would let the seasons catch up before it’s time for my next winter escape.

Wishing all y’all spring warmth, good books, and kitty condos!

 

Let’s connect:

Twitter ~ @KKMHOO

Facebook ~ KristinKisskaAuthor

Website ~ KristinKisska.com

 

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Welcome, Terri M. Collica

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Terri M. Collica to the blog this week.

Thank you, Heather, for having me on your blog. I’m really honored to be interviewed.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I grew up in a small idyllic town in Northwestern Kentucky just minutes away from the Ohio River. I remember spending many Sunday afternoons fishing with my parents. I’d watch the bobber on my wooden fishing pole hoping to catch a big one. I still love rivers.

When I was five, my mother took me to visit my aunt in West Palm Beach, Florida. I can still remember being lifted skyward by the two women right as the incoming wave reached me. What a thrill! I knew then that I would someday live near the ocean. Soon after graduating college, I moved to Palm Beach County – home to Mar-a-Lago, hanging chads and lots of mystery fodder.

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

There are four cats who allow my husband and me to live in their house. They have somehow convinced us to eagerly attend to their every need. Torti, is the head honcho and has been since she convinced us to adopt her and her kitten, Slippers, after someone abandoned them off the Florida Turnpike. The two longhairs, Autumn Leaves and Curly Whiskers abide by the shorthairs’ rules. Somehow, I’ve managed to schedule my life, so I can write and still cater to the felines’ whims. Curly Whiskers has even agreed to appear in one of my upcoming mysteries, but only if she gets to approve the final manuscript.

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

Service dogs abound in the Sunny McBain Mystery series. Dickens is Sunny’s guide dog, and he plays a major part in both Fuzzy Visions and Family Visions. He’s a beautiful golden retriever, and I’ve shed a few tears writing some scenes involving him and Sunny.

Sunny’s oldest friend is a good-looking deaf boy who travels with his hearing-ear dog, Chaucer. The two dogs provide some comic relief when it is most needed in the mysteries.

What are you reading now?

I just finished a fabulous young adult mystery by Karen M. McManus titled One of Us Is Lying. Wow! The plotting, characterization and pacing was remarkable. I’d like to be able to clone her writing technique for my next novel.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on two projects. Christmas Visions will be the third book in the Sunny McBain Mystery series. It is due to be released in July as a Christmas-in-July event. Two new service dogs will be arriving in the novel. Mugsie, a yellow lab, and Gabriel, a black lab.

I’m also writing an adult cozy with a working title of Clancy’s Dilemma. My beautiful kitty, Curly Whiskers, will make her appearance in the novel.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh my, this is not an easy question to answer. As far as the classics, I love Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities is my all-time favorite book. For an entertaining cozy mystery with lots of lovable dogs, I read David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series. I also wait for new books from Heather Blake, Maggie Pill, Hank Phillipe Ryan and Charles Finch.

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

I always had a pet cat while growing up. A little black kitten named Inky was my first. Then there was Caesar, Elke, and well, you get the picture. There were family dogs too, but they were claimed by my brothers. However, I still insist they liked me better than my pesky little brothers.

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

The Sunny McBain Mystery series is about a remarkable blind girl who with the help of her guide dog solves mysteries. Although the stories are fiction, I try to make the interaction between Sunny and her service dog as authentic as possible. Researching the relationship between guide dogs and their handlers has given me the opportunity to learn about, and get to know, several real guide dogs and their blind handlers. I am thankful for every moment I can spend in their company. Seeing Eye dogs are the most loving and intelligent creatures on earth. They are truly the “neurosurgeons” of canines.

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

I love animals. Any novel featuring one as a major character in the story draws me in. That said, I can’t watch any movie or TV show where a beloved animal is hurt, suffers, and/or dies. Lassie was a real tearjerker for me, and my mother finally refused to let me view it. Once, I was trapped on an airplane during an overseas flight. They were showing the film, Marley & Me. Blubbering during most of the movie, I finally had to hide out in the plane’s restroom.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Soon after moving to Florida, I learned an important lesson about cats. They will defend their home against any intruder that’s no bigger than they are. Or at least my kitty, P.C., felt this way when a skunk got into my small, rundown rental. It was late one evening and the battle only lasted a few minutes before Mr. Skunk hightailed it out the same way he came in. P.C. had defended her home, but not before the enemy had sprayed his “beyond skunk” aroma throughout our small cabin.

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

There’s just one thing on my bucket list. I’m sure it will sound esoteric to some, and just plain stupid to others, but here it is. I’d like to live peacefully in every moment knowing it’s all good and exactly as it should be. (Oh, and by the way, I’m so far from that now, it’s just plain scary!)

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

I once had a Guinea pig who was the meanest, most ornery rodent I’d ever encountered. I had personally picked her out after seeing how loving and sweet my best friend’s Guinea pig was. I was sure she’d be the same. Although she was beautiful with every color known to her species, she was a holy terror. She refused to let anyone pick her up or pet her. Feeding her was a scary encounter as she’d bite the hands that were trying to fill her food bowls. Finally, I decided my little pet was just too nervous, hyper and scared to be tamed. I still cried when I returned her to the pet store.

About Terri Collica:

Terri graduated with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education before going on to her master’s degree in special education. She dedicated her career to teaching English to both mainstreamed and learning disabled students.

In addition to her mystery novels, Collica has self-published a locally distributed quarterly magazine dedicated to old-fashioned holiday celebrations, vintage decorations, and crafts. She has also had the opportunity to interview numerous famous musicians for local magazines.

To Buy Terri’s Books:

Fuzzy Visions

Family Visions

 

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Mysteries Need Cats

Want to make a good mystery even better? Add a cat.

Seriously.

Many mystery series feature feline companions. The most famous one is The Cat Who … series, created by the late Lilian Jackson Braun. The stories feature reporter Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Kao K’o-Kung (Koko for short) and Yum Yum. Koko has a “sixth sense” that gives him stellar powers of detection.

Shirley Rousseau Murphy also anthropomorphizes her feline detective, Joe Grey, P.I. I was on an Alaskan cruise a few years back and borrowed Cat Pay the Devil from the ship’s library. I had to return the book when the cruise ended but purchased a copy as soon as I got home. It’s a truly charming series.

Midnight Louie is Carole Nelson Douglas’s feline super sleuth. Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy even speaks!

But cats have their paws full with sleeping and begging for food, so some leave the detecting to their human companions. Lydia Adamson, Susan Wittig Albert, Linda Palmer, Gillian Roberts, and Rosemary Stevens are just a few of the authors who feature cats as “window dressing.” Often literally, as cats like to perch on window ledges, watching the world go by.

Just as my two, Morris and Olive, stole my heart, they also stole the heart of Hazel Rose, the title sleuth in my Hazel Rose Book Group series. Shammy and Daisy lived with me before crossing the rainbow bridge and live on in my series. Read about Shammy here. None of my cats detect (Olive hunts down mice and voles, but shies away from killers).

Upcoming posts: dogs in mysteries (I can’t forget our canine friends); and more on the cats in my Hazel Rose Book Group series.

What are your favorite cat mysteries?

Morris and Olive

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, Andrew Welsh-Huggins!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. By day I’m a reporter for The Associated Press in Columbus where I cover criminal justice issues, including the death penalty, the opioid epidemic and terrorism prosecutions. By earlier in the day I write the Andy Hayes private series published by Swallow Press (http://www.ohioswallow.com/author/Andrew+Welsh+Huggins), about a disgraced ex-Ohio State quarterback turned investigator in Columbus. The fifth installment, The Third Brother, comes out April 13. I also write short crime fiction.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? As my website says in tongue-in-cheek fashion, I’m the ‘owner of too many pets.’ We have a mixed breed dog, Mikey, two black cats, and two parakeets.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? My private eye has a Golden Lab, “Hopalong,” named for Howard “Hopalong” Cassaday, an Ohio State running back who won the Heisman Trophy in 1955. Hopalong has appeared in all five books.

What are you reading now?

I just read, in order, The Late Show by Michael Connelly, The Dry by Jane Harper and All Day And A Night by Alafair Burke.

 What writing projects are you currently working on? My sixth Andy Hayes mystery, Fatal Judgment, coming in April 2019 (once again featuring Hopalong), and various short stories.

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

We always had cats when I was growing up, starting with “Charley,” a gray and white domestic shorthair when I was about five. Our most famous family cat, “Melrose,” once faced down a buck with a full set of antlers in our back yard in western New York State–and won.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

My character, Andy Hayes, is a dog person. I like having Hopalong in his life as something that makes him seem more real. More than one reader has said they appreciate the fact he actually has to remember to come home and let the dog out. Also, although I’ve never owned a lab, I have a good friend who does, and I enjoy researching Hopalong’s activities by seeing what my friend and his dog are up to.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

In August 1989, my wife and I were moving from Providence, Rhode Island, to Bloomington, Indiana, with all our belongings, including our cat, Ezra. Someone recommended we put butter on his paws to calm him while we drove. Instead, we ended up a wigged-out cat and butter all over the moving van’s windows as Ezra didn’t take kindly to the idea. Later that day, we stuck him in a duffel bag and tiptoed to our room past a hotel lobby clerk–those were the days before hotels were as pet friendly as they are today. We thought we were very sneaky. Ezra wasn’t amused.

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

I’ve wanted to be a writer more or less when I started reading around age six or so. I knew because I immediately started writing books on whatever paper was around the house.

What do your pets do when you are writing? I work on my fiction from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. each morning. As soon as I sit down, my 14-year-old cat, Frankie, emerges from wherever she’s hanging out in my home office, jumps on the reading chair beside me and demands to sit on my lap. She stays there, snuggled under my bathrobe, the entire time. Mikey the dog and Theo, the other cat, are usually sacked out–separately–upstairs.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? Bedside, I have Going Long, an anthology of journalism about track and field; They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, a popular culture essay collection by Hanif Abdurraqib; and How To Read A Novelist by John Freeman. In my downstairs pile are Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne, and The Metal Shredders by Nancy Zafris (plus many mystery short story anthologies and magazines, including Best American Mystery Stories 2015, the collected Sue Grafton Kinsey Millhone short stories, and copies of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine). My third TBR “pile” consists of podcasts, audio short stories and various audio novellas on my phone for the car–most recently including Anne Perry’s annual Christmas novellas.

Author Biography:

Andrew grew up in a small town near the Finger Lakes in western New York State, where one of his favorite Christmas presents as a child was “Thurber on Crime,” thus launching him on a path involving both a love of detective fiction and his future home in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Kenyon College where he majored in Classics and more importantly, met his future wife, Pam, at your standard early 1980s dating hotspot: a Medieval banquet.

Andrew started his writing career as a newspaper reporter in Providence, R.I. and worked later for papers in Bloomington, Indiana, and Youngstown, Ohio. He moved to Columbus in 1998 to work for the Associated Press, covering the death penalty, crime and courts, the Statehouse and long-lived zoo animals.

Andrew is the author of five Andy Hayes mysteries published by Ohio University Press, featuring a disgraced ex-Ohio State quarterback turned private eye, including the upcoming The Third Brother. Andrew has also written two nonfiction books, also published by OU Press: No Winners Here Tonight, a history of Ohio’s death penalty, and Hatred at Home, about one of the country’s first domestic terrorism cases.

Andrew’s short mystery fiction includes “The Murderous Type,” which won the 2017 Al Blanchard prize for best New England short crime fiction, and appears in Snowbound: The Best New England Crime Stories 2017.

When he’s not writing or reporting, Andrew enjoys running, reading, spending time with family and trying to remember why having a dog, two cats and two parakeets seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Welcome, James Dorr!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome James Dorr to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 Hi.  I’m James Dorr. I’m a writer. 

I write short fiction and poetry, mostly dark fantasy and horror, but also some science fiction and mystery.  I do see a difference between horror and dark fantasy as dark fantasy, to me, incorporates elements of the supernatural while horror is more a description of the readers’ reaction, evoking feelings of fright or unease.  So there can be psychological horror as well as such things as dark mystery, dark science fiction, even dark humor. But then I write cross-genre work as well, one example being my most recent book, Tombs (more on which in a bit), which is listed by Amazon as both “horror” and “dystopian science fiction,” while I, on my blog, will often keyword it as “dark fantasy,” “science fantasy,” and even “dark romance.”

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

 My mostly black “Goth” cat Triana came to me from the local animal shelter just about a year ago, replacing Wednesday (named for Wednesday Addams of the 1960s TV series The Addams Family) who had recently passed on.  As it happens, I had written an as yet unpublished short story that Wednesday inspired, “Pelushe,” about a very fluffy cat (which Wednesday was) in a steampunk setting.  As a rule, however, I don’t usually use my pets in my writing. 

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

 The above does not mean I never use pets, as animals with a special and usually positive relation to humans, but possibly in less usual ways than one might expect.  There is one story titled “Pets,” for instance, in my collection The Tears of Isis which refers to people in isolated conditions, such as soldiers in a remote outpost during a war, who might make pets of creatures normally thought of as vermin — in this case cockroaches.  And another, also reprinted in The Tears of Isis, is “The Christmas Rat” about a lonely elderly woman who adopts a rat as a companion.  I must warn, however, as a horror writer, that neither of these necessarily ends well.     

What are you reading now? 

 Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is a retelling of familiar fairy tales, but in a way that brings in myth, psychology, feminism, and a compelling sensuality in a language sometimes approaching poetry.  It’s a deep experience, and one that I’m dipping into in an on-and-off manner, reading one tale, then giving myself time to let it be absorbed before coming back to another.  It’s also a book that I found out about only recently, but several years after seeing and being highly impressed by a movie made (with, I understand, the author’s sharing in its production) of  its next to last story, “The Company of Wolves.” 

What writing projects are you currently working on?

My latest book, Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, came out from Elder Signs Press less than a year ago, so a fair bit of what I’ve been doing lately has still been trying to spread the word around (and for which, thank you; every interview, every reader who gives a review, every blogger just mentioning a book is helping its author immensely).  Tombs is a mosaic novel, or novel-in-stories, concerning life, love, and death on a far-future dying planet as pieced together by a surviving ghoul-poet – an eater of corpses not normally given to abstract thoughts – in hopes of discovering the particular spark that made humans human.  As such, it’s a romance to some extent, composed of a series of “snapshots,” of stand-alone stories for us to piece together for ourselves, but a very dark one with elements of science fiction, philosophy, and horror, and is loosely inspired by a pair of quotations from Edgar Allan Poe: the first of the most poetic topic being the death of a beautiful woman, and the second of the boundaries between life and death being “at best shadowy and vague.”  If these concepts be true, and in an already dying world, can love be a power to even transcend death?   

Who is your favorite author and why? 

 I’d like to mention two, really, the first Edgar Allan Poe as noted above and joined by Ray Bradbury for poetry and beauty even in their darker works; Poe especially for a juxtaposition of beauty and horror – a nexus of Eros and Thanatos in Freudian terms, of sex and death in both his tales and poems.  Then if I might be allowed two more, at least in terms of influencing some of my own work, Allen Ginsberg in poetry combining the beatific with the sometimes tragically ugly, and Bertolt Brecht for his ideas of “epic theatre,” allowing the notion of artistic distance, yet combined with emotional intimacy in such works as Mother Courage.

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

 In this case I’m assuming animals not considered pets as such, in terms of relationships to humans, but as more than just a part of a story’s background.  While I don’t think I use animals very often, three stories do come to mind which may give an idea of the ways I might use animals.  The first is a story called “When Cats Are Away,” a light fantasy which includes the Egyptian cat goddess Bast who, in one scene, presents the central character with a kitten in return for a stolen jewel (so, okay, maybe that’s a pet too, but that’s not the point of the story); the second, called “The Christmas Vulture,” is an allegory warning against excessive celebration before driving; and the third, “Bitter Perfume,” is about a woman who’s also a were fox.   As for the “why,” it’s really a case of the nature of the story requiring that it have an animal in it – a fourth example, for instance, comes to mind now, “The Bala Worm” (also reprinted in The Tears of Isis) about a hunt for a dragon in Wales, where you can’t very well have a dragon story without at least mentioning a dragon.   

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

Harking back to question 4, I’d have to say one of my favorite movies is The Company of Wolves.  It’s based on “Little Red Riding Hood,” but approaches its subject from multiple directions, exploring the natures of people and wolves, and even societies from varying aspects, presenting a sort of mosaic effect as opposed to just a straightforward story – and making it work!  In fact I think it may have provided some inspiration for my own Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, in creating something like the effect I was looking for too.  Then for another, this one where I’d read the book first many years ago, I recently re-watched Watership Down, impressed that even in animation the rabbits actually do seem like rabbits, not just people in animal clothing.      

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

 It was probably a more gradual thing than the question implies.  As a college undergraduate, I was art editor on the humor magazine, for instance, that ended up with my filling in as a writer for last minute articles from time to time.  Then shifting to graduate school in Indiana, I became editor on an arts magazine, this time on the writing side though with occasional last minute illustrating.  This led to a stint as a technical writer and editor for the university’s computing center and, later, freelancing on business and consumer topics, but it wasn’t until about that time that I also started working seriously on artistic writing as well. 

 So finding an exact moment might not be so easy.  My first sale was a semi-pro one for which I received a one dollar bill in the mail, which seemed like I still had a way to go.  When I was accepted as an Active Member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and, subsequently, the Horror Writers Association, on the other hand, it was certainly a validation.  But maybe this could stand for an actual single moment:  I’d had a story published called “The Dripping Nose that Wouldn’t Wipe” (a sort of absurdist zombie tale) and, in a review, it was commented that once one got past “that title,” it wasn’t a bad story at all.  It seems to me that when you can do that, there’s an amount of professionalism involved.  

What do your pets do when you are writing?

 Playing with the cat, petting the cat, what a wonderful way to wind down from a long writing session!  And while she was in the bedroom most of the time I was writing this (naptime on the bed takes a certain precedence), Triana usually finds a spot in the room I’m in.  On a practical level, she’s learned that there’s a space to the left of the keyboard of one computer I use that it’s okay for her to be in (but beware, if a paw gets on the keyboard she may get yelled at) so sometimes she’ll lie there, getting an occasional petting or scratch on the head during brief pauses while I’m working.  (On the other hand, at my writer’s group meeting a few months ago I pointed out, in a critique of one member’s work, a string of five or six incoherent letters as “the cat’s comment.”  A paw apparently had gotten on the keyboard when I’d gotten up for something, and I hadn’t noticed until after I’d printed it out.)  Or with a different computer, an off-line one I do most of my original composition on, Triana will often be fast asleep on a work table just behind me. 

 James Dorr Bio:

James Dorr’s latest book is a novel-in-stories published in June 2017 by Elder Signs Press, Tombs:  A Chronicle of  Latter-Day Times of Earth.  Born in Florida, raised in the New York City area, in college in Boston, and currently living in the Midwest, Dorr is a short story writer and poet specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction.  His The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses:  Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves:  Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all poetry Vamps (A Retrospective).  He has also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full time non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician, and currently harbors a cat named Triana.

 Social Media:

Blog: http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/james.dorr.9

 Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/James-Dorr/e/B004XWCVUS/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1380306038&sr=1-2-ent

 Buy Links:

Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth:

https://www.amazon.com/Tombs-Chronicle-Latter-Day-Times-Earth/dp/1934501743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480618250&sr=1-1&keywords=tombs+a+chronicle+of+latter-day

 The Tears of Isis:

https://www.amazon.com/Tears-Isis-James-Dorr/dp/0988748843/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480617834&sr=1-2&keywords=the+tears+of+isis

 

 

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