Welcome, Cherie O’Boyle

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Cherie O’Boyle to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

There are currently five full-length mysteries and a short story available in my Estela Nogales Mystery series. This fall I’m hoping to release a more ambitious stand-alone kidnapping/K9 search & rescue/forest fire suspense.

When I started the mystery series, I first created the setting, Arroyo Loco, a small village in the coastal hills of central California. I added a variety of diverse characters, including dogs, cats, vultures, and a few wild boar. And then I introduced one unusual occurrence—finding a neighbor dead—for example. I plopped my writerly self into the middle and let the action carry me away. One of the aspects of being slightly older than average that I enjoy is how many quirky characters I have known and loved in my life, making for a rich mix in my fiction.

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

My pet family currently includes two border collies, Shiner, because he has one big black eye, and Sky, or Dog Who Fell From the Clear Blue Sky (she’s a rescue), and one perpetually irritated cat who is called Patience, but not because she’s got any. Shiner is the model for one of the border collies in the mystery series. Both the real dog and the fictional one are sheepherding dogs, and both are titled in the sport of herding, among other dog sports.

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

So far, all of them are recurring. And so far, they all behave about the way you would predict dogs and cats to behave. Itches, the beagle, regularly escapes her yard and runs off to chase rabbits on the hills. Zero, the basenji, is happier if strangers stay out of his yard. Helen’s cats hate dogs, and Estela’s border collies are forever trying to round her up. The wild boar who occasionally roam Arroyo Loco are not exactly pets, although they do offer opportunities for the neighbors to get to know one another better.

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

Some of my characters, both human and non-human, play only passing roles, and others linger longer. Interacting with the animals in their lives provides insights into the personalities of the human characters. The animals help solve the mysteries, but only by doing what animals would normally do. For example, in one mystery, a strategically placed pile of poop gets stepped in and tracked all the way back to the villain’s front porch, providing important evidence.

In other places, the animals help the neighbors understand one another. Here is a scene where Estela recruits Helen to capture a cat after her mistress suffers an unexpected expiration:

I picked up the phone to call Helen and tell her about her impending good fortune.

“Oh, dear! Well, of course, I’ll be right down,” Helen agreed. “Just let me gather my supplies.”

“Your supplies? What on earth do you mean?” I wondered out loud.

“Well, the carrier, of course.”

Of course. Silly me.

“And some kibble in a crinkly bag.”

“Hmm.” Yes, of course that too.

“And some yarn and other toys.” I could hear her rummaging around while she spoke. “And rub some catnip around here and there … and a huge bath towel in case she gets obstreperous, and my leather gardening gloves. Okay, that should about do me.”

“Good. So I’ll leave you to it then.”

“Wait, Stel, what’s the cat’s name?”

“Her name? How do I know?”

“Well, how do you expect me to persuade her to come to me if I don’t know her name?”

“I don’t know Helen. Does a cat’s name really matter?”

To that I got a stony silence.

“I mean, don’t they all come to ‘here kitty, kitty’?”

“You mean you think cats are dumber than dogs, and don’t know their own names?”

“I guess I never thought about it. Dogs come when you call their names. Cats come when they feel like it. Isn’t that how it works?”

“Honestly, Estela….”

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Aside from the fact that animals are in our lives, I include them in my stories as part of an on-going campaign to encourage respect for non-human animals, what they contribute to our lives whether as food, as clothing, or as companions. My goal is not to anthropomorphize, but to show how we are all animals. We all seek safety, care for our young, and experience life.

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

Both in my stories and my life, most of my animals are working animals. For example, my character Estela’s border collies herd sheep on a working sheep ranch. Working with her dogs often gives Estela insights about the mysteries she is working to solve. Her older dog also accompanies her to the counseling center on campus where she works as a therapist. Here’s an example of the adventures of a service dog:

We were just getting (an injured student) settled when another student started caterwauling about a dog in the health center. Seriously, what do people think is so superior, or even different, about humans? We’re all just mammals. It may be true that I bathe more often than my dogs, but then they don’t sweat either.

One of the over-wrought nurses confronted me. “Get that filthy dog out of here,” she said, pointing toward the door. I gave her the shrugged shoulders, outward palms and raised eyebrows look. “Fleas?” she said, as though that was a foregone conclusion.

“Therapy dogs don’t have fleas!” I said, indignant. I gestured around us. “Lice? Scabies? Yeast infections? Venereal disease?”

“Well, this is a health clinic, Estela! Of course we have sick people here.”

“That’s true. C’mon Scout, let’s get out of here before we catch something.”

What are you reading now?

I am currently reading a wonderful non-fiction, Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson. I chose this as source material for my K9 search and rescue suspense Work in Progress (WIP), and have fallen in love with the story.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

My current WIP is On Scent, the story of a kidnapping gone wrong in which the search dogs must ultimately find and rescue everyone. I’m happy to let you know when that is released if you subscribe to my semi-annual news page on my website.

About Cherie

Cherie is Professor Emerita of Psychology at California State University, San Marcos. Prior to adopting her current career as a writer of mysteries, and before earning her PhD in Psychology, Cherie owned and operated a general building contracting firm and worked as a framing and roofing carpenter. She was raised in the San Francisco east bay area and still lives today in Northern California.

 Cherie happily squeezes in as much time with her fictional Arroyo Loco friends as she can, in between adventures with friends, family, and her real life border collies, Shiner and Sky. Shiner is titled in flyball and sheepherding and loves to swim and fetch balls. Sky enjoys lure-coursing and walks nicely on a leash. Both dogs are hoping to title in nosework this fall.

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Welcome, Shea Butler!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Shea Butler!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind.  Be led by the dreams in your heart.” 
― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart

 Our dreams and our aspirations make us unique.  I love reaching for the stars, experiencing all that we can and being creative.  I was that little girl who huddled beneath her sheets after “lights out” with a flashlight reading when I was supposed to be sleeping.  I loved being transported to new worlds, experiencing new adventures through the characters and being taken on marvelous journeys.  I hope to do the same for others with my storytelling.  Through my characters and my stories, I hope to illuminate and explore this amazing world we live in, both past, present and future.  I was born in Cairo, Egypt to American parents living abroad and had the great good fortune to be an airline brat.  My father was a 747 Captain for TWA which enabled me to travel the world, experience and see this amazing world we live in.  I am a horsewoman.  I grew up Fox Hunting and in my early thirties I played polo, being on a team that won a National 5 Goal Indoor Polo Championship.  I love reading, gardening and fishing.  I am also a certified scuba diver.  Some of the places I’ve dived include Mexico, Hawaii, California and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  I work in the television and film business.  I am an award winning writer, producer and director.  While most of my focus has been on television and film, I am now venturing back into novel and short story writing.  I write action and adventure but am planning on expanding into sci-fi.  I believe one should live life to the fullest, experience all one can and share with others.  I love being adventuresome, love exploring new places and things.  I believe it inspires and enriches my storytelling. 

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

I cannot imagine life without a fur baby of some sort.  I grew up with a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats, horses, sheep, cattle, chickens, a racoon, hamsters, fish, and even a baby alligator.  I love dogs and horses and miss having both but was fortunate to grow up with them.  Each one holds a special place in my heart and I know I’ll see them all on the other side of the rainbow bridge.  Recently, my heart broke when I had to put down my big, grey Thoroughbred, Silver Matt.  I know I will get another horse and another dog but right now, the only pet I have is Lucy, a long-haired tri-color cat.  She was a stray that showed up on my doorstep as a tiny kitten.  I came home from work late at night and there she was.  Imagine, after giving her a bowl of milk and some treats she never left!  Several characters in my stories have stray cats that just showed up and stayed.  Art imitating life.

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

While not a pet, I just finished a children’s book, “Finding Home: The Adventures of Abo, the Wild African Puppy,” about a Wild African Puppy who is lost in the Okavango Delta of Botswana.  I wrote the book as a prop for the short film, “Finding Home,” which I wrote and directed (currently in post production.)  The film is about a mother reading her son’s favorite book to him while he’s in a coma in the hopes that the story and her voice will help bring him out of his coma and back home to her.  I intercut between the hospital room, the children’s book and African footage I shot while on a horseback riding safari in Botswana.  After writing the script for the film, I realized that I would also have to write the children’s book.  That was quite the adventure in and of itself as I had never written a children’s book before.  It was so much fun to tell the story of Abo and his interaction with all the wild animals in his search for his pack in the book through my still photos from my trip.  The Wild African Dogs, or Painted Dogs as they are also known, are an endangered species and hopefully I’ll find a publisher for the book so proceeds from sales can go to the conservation of these beautiful animals.

 In my short story, “Giving Up The Ghost,” my main character, a private investigator, has a beat up, stray alley cat named Tazer who just showed up on the fire escape outside her office.  I hope to expand the short story into a novel and Tazer will definitely be a character in the story.  Like many cats, he’s demanding, indignant and entitled even though he’s a stray.

 I have also co-written a comic book:  Undercover Cockroach: The C.I.A.’s Smallest Undercover Roach.  Cockroaches aren’t exactly pets but I love the little critter.  You can find the comic on Amazon.

What are you reading now?

 I have a stack of books by my bed.  I’m an avid and very fast reader.  I love “beach” reading – romance, mysteries, westerns, crime and science fiction.  Right now, I have “The Wolves of Winter” by Tyrell Johnson, “Shattered Mirror” by Iris Johansen, “Hold Back The Dark” by Kay Hooper and “The Walls” by my friend Holly Overton.  I am in the process of re-reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” and “Directors Tell The Story” by Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just finished the first draft of a coming of age screenplay that I hope to direct next spring.  In terms of novel writing, I am adapting my film noir, bounty hunter screenplay into a novel that will become an on-going book series.  I am also writing a new short story about a murder that takes place during a baking competition.  After that, I hope to tackle expanding “Giving Up The Ghost” into a full length novel.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Dick Francis is one of my all time favorite authors.  All his novels are set in the world of English horseracing.  As an ex-jockey for the Queen of England, he knew that world well.  As an avid equestrian, I love being immersed in the world of horses.  I am also a big Patricia Briggs and Stephen King fan and love the Eve Dallas books by J.D. Robb.

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

Animals were a staple of my life growing up.  I have pictures of my father holding me as an infant on one of his polo ponies and pictures of our German Shepard puppy in Egypt where I was born.  Of course, there were always horses.  My sister and I also had a donkey named Tequila, TeeKee for short, a border collie named Lady, a racoon, a baby alligator (see below for that story) as well as numerous cats. 

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals are amazing and enrich our lives.  They are part of the world we live in so interacting with animals and pets is a daily part of people’s lives.  So, it makes sense that they would be part of the daily lives of the characters I create.  Pets are always happy to see you and no matter how horrendous your day was, they will give you unabashed love and devotion if you give it to them in return.

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

“The Black Stallion” is a favorite, both the book and the movie.  High seas, a mysterious stallion, and a ship wreck – as a child I was transported into this fictional world.

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

I was always a voracious reader.  My mother read to me as a toddler and I couldn’t get enough of books as a child.  I loved books even more than watching television or going to the movies.  So, it was only natural that I started scribbling little stories in a notebook growing up.  My first real story was about a girl and a young foal she rescues when its mother died.  Hmmm… horses again.  I do see a recurring theme.  I moved a lot as a child and during one of those moves, the handwritten tale got lost.  I do wish I still had a copy of it but I’m sure I’d cringe if I read it today.  But completing that story fired my imagination to create more stories and I knew from that time that I would always write and tell my stories, whether published or not.

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

While I will always write regardless of being published or not, I would love to see one of my books published in hardback and up on library shelves.  That is one of the top five on my bucket list.  Other items on my bucket list include travels to Scotland and Norway (I have ancestral ties to those countries), directing a full length feature film and enjoying life day by day. 

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Lucy, my tri-color kitty, is rather bored by the process.  I am usually curled up on my bed or in a big armchair with my laptop when I write and totally focused.  She will occasionally insist on being the center of attention by getting between me and my laptop and demanding that I pet her.  If she doesn’t get her way, she has been known to pounce.  She has very sharp teeth and lets me know that she’s not happy I’m paying more attention to my fictional characters than I am to her.  After all, life for a cat is all about them!  But for the most part she’ll stroll outside and nap in the sunshine in my garden.

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

The most unusual pet I ever had was a baby alligator.  Years ago, and before it was illegal, a friend of my father’s shipped him a baby alligator.  It was the size of a salamander and my older sister and I begged to keep it.  My parents were exceedingly open to allowing my sister and I to experience and explore the world and everything in it, so they said yes.  Off we went to the store to get a large aquarium and a mesh top for it.  We kept the baby alligator until it got to be about a foot long feeding it raw chicken.  By then, it was getting too much to handle, even with gloves, and the aquarium was too small.  At that point, we donated it to a zoo and we’d go and visit it there.

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

I have always loved to read curled up in bed.  I think it goes back to when I was a child with that flashlight.  But honestly, I can read anywhere.  On a train, a plane, in a car, at the beach and certainly sitting in my garden.  I will lose all track of time and totally become immersed in the world of the story and the real world will disappear.  In regard to my writing, I prefer to write curled up on the couch or in a big armchair with my laptop.  I do have a desk but it seems too business-like and sterile.  I love to have the windows and doors open to hear the birds, the rustle of the wind and smell the flowers.  Many times, I will suddenly look up from writing (or reading) and realize it is the middle of the night and hours have passed.

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

Writing is hard work, time consuming and there’s a lot of rejection.  So, love the telling of stories and the creation of unknown worlds in and of itself.  While being published is fabulous and we all love to be recognized for our hard work, it may be years before you are.  Love the process.  If you do, persevere because, bottom line, you aren’t a writer unless you write.  So, butt in the chair, hands on the keys and… ready, set, go!

About Shea:

Shea is an award-winning filmmaker for her short films “The Trial of Ben Barry,” “The Waystation,” and the 2017 web series, “Trouble Creek.” Currently, she’s in post-production on a short film, “Finding Home,” and writing the feature film, “Dare,” to direct in 2019. Shea’s an alumni of Ryan Murphy’s Half Foundation Directing Fellowship and the Warner Bros. Television Director’s Workshop. She’s been a development executive, a segment producer for reality TV and a script supervisor for television and film with an MA in TV & Film. She’s a member of the Writers Guild, IATSE 871, Alliance of Women Directors and the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, Sisters In Crime and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

 She is a certified scuba diver and avid horsewoman and was on a polo team that won a U.S. National 5 Goal Polo Championship. Born in Cairo, Egypt to American parents living abroad, Shea has traveled extensively throughout the world, her most recent trip being a horseback riding safari through the Okavango Delta in Botswana. 

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Welcome, KB Inglee!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, KB Inglee and her menagerie to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is KB Inglee. My parents started calling me KB as an infant to differentiate me from all the other Katharines in our family. When I attended my first writing conference in the 1990s, I was surprised how many other women were using their initials instead of their full name.

I write historical mystery short
stories, and work as an interpreter at a local living history museum. The
picture I have included shows me in 18h century farm wife attire trying to keep
a sheep from running out the open gate behind me. I am not reaching down to pat her.

I write three protagonists, Emily Lawrence, lady detective in the late 1800s, Faith Ivey in early colonial New England, and Iccarus Norton, in the early republic. Only Iccarus has an animal, his horse, Medusa. I think I came up with the pair because I had no animal in my other work.

Emily has her own book, The Case Book of Emily Lawrence. The others appear in short story anthologies.

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

We have five turtles, two budgies (Blueberry and Pi), four cats, and one dog.  None appear in my writing. Though after much urging by my dog Wendy, I have started a series of short stories about a service dog.

What are you reading now?

Aria to Death by Nupur Tustin.  I love fiction about real
people, and this is a well researched series. No pets. No farm animals.  I
think she mentions a cart horse now and then.

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

When I realized I had no animals,I did two things. I went back and gave Emily a kitchen cat and I named one of the carriage horses Benjamin.  Last Christmas, for my holiday story, I started a series about a service dog and the college professor who relies on him to get around. It is fun to write. Anonymous Dog has yet to find his way into print.

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

I’ve started a series of short stories about a Portuguese Water Dog/Irish Wolfhound that is a support dog for a college professor with a degenerative bone disease. The human is based on my daughter who is just beginning her search for the right dog. The story is from the point of view of the dog, so I don’t have to be specific about the ailment, or much of anything else. How much do dogs actually know? Like all dogs he is red green color blind but he has great senses of smell and hearing.

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

I love the Will James books about life in the west. They are illustrated by the author with action packed line drawings. They are about horses but when I read them I felt like I was reading an adult book.

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

I think it was fourth grade. I wrote a story about a girl and her horse. When my daughter was young, I wrote a series of kids’ stories that she could have read to her when I was away. I didn’t start writing adult stuff until I was in my 50s and ready to retire from my day job as a psych social worker.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Wendy (the dog) finds writing boring, so she sleeps through it. The birds yell. Do you think they are sending me plots? The cats are in the other room, and the turtles don’t care about anything except food.

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

My bedroom floor is my TBR. It divides into fiction and non-fiction. I read probably one non-fiction for each two fiction. Lots of the nonfiction is research either for my writing or my job. I just finished a book on the difference between how native people and European settlers behaved toward animals. Fiction pile consists mostly of mysteries.

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

We had an iguana that came from an iguana rescue. Something was wrong with how her front legs worked, but she got around well anyway. Oh, yes and a rooster who lived in my dining room. The museum got a shipment of chicks to work in the garden, lay eggs for us and on occasion, provide a meal. We chose dominiques since they would have been common in the 1750s. One bonus chick was included, a Hamburg rooster. The Dominique hens beat the s**t out of him, so I took him home to heal, but I was never able to introduce him back into the flock.

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

Start early and persist until you learn the craft. Find a community to support and teach you.’

Visit KB at her website.

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Welcome, L. C. Hayden

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, L. C. Hayden to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is L. C. Hayden and I’m known for my adventures and for my travels. Readers are always curious as to why this is so. To answer this, let’s take a glance at my books. Aimee Brent, my character in the Aimee Brent Mystery Series, learned how to scuba dive. Do you really think I’m going to let her have more fun than me? No way! She had to learn how to scuba dive, so I learned how to scuba dive—and I’m loving it!

On the Bronson Thriller Series, my character Bronson has a motor home and travels all over. Well, guess what? I have a motor home and I travel all over. No way Bronson is going to travel all over and not me!

I suppose I can call myself lucky as I feel I have been touched many times by miracles and angels. Those experiences led me to write a series based on mine and others’ angel and miracle experiences. Thank God, these books are very well received, both nationally and internationally.

One of my greatest joy is being a grandmother, which is the reason I wrote the children’s picture books. Naturally, they feature various animals.

Being an adventurous soul, I have also authored other books in various genres, but my love still remains with mysteries/thrillers and the angels series.

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

At one time, I had 10 dogs. That was quite a circus. My mom used to joke that she would never have grandkids, only granddogs. Now, mainly because of all the traveling I do, I only have one dog who to me is my child with four legs. She is slowly working her way into my Bronson series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently writing the fourth book in the angels/miracle series. But as I write this one, my mind is actively with Bronson and his next adventure which will introduce Honey, the Basenji dog. Yay!

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

Since I haven’t yet written the book, I’m not sure how it’s going to go. But I foresee introducing Honey to this series and as the series progresses, Honey will have a larger and larger active part in the stories.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

The question should be why do you not include animals in your writing? They are a natural. No matter what breed or type of animal they are, they are a very big part of us humans. In one of my children’s books, Puppy Dog and His Bone, I use dogs, monkeys, birds, fish and a host of other animals to show children the importance of team work.

In my latest thriller, What Lies Beyond the Fence, I use the majesty of a white wolf to add danger but also to show the intelligence of this breed.

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

As a child, I was never much of a reader. Then one day, for some unknown reason, I picked up a book and started reading. It was called Tan, the Wild Dog. I fell in love with that dog and with reading. Ever since then I have become a voracious reader, thanks to that particular book. The sad part is that I don’t even remember what the book is about. I guess I should try to find that book and re-read it. So thank you, Tan, the Wild Dog and its author, for opening a whole new world for me.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My husband Rich decided to nap. He’d been asleep no more than ten minutes when Honey, our Basenji dog, walked up to him so that her face is close to Rich’s. Then she let out a loud yelp. I rushed over to her so that she wouldn’t wake Rich up, but Honey was insistent. She let out another big yelp and another . . .

Naturally, Rich woke up and looked at the dog who continued to yelp. “What are you trying to tell me? You want to go outside? Is that it?” He got up, and as soon as he did, Honey jumped up on the bed and laid down where Rich was.

She got what she wanted. What a dog. Sigh.

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

Ever since I was a little girl, I always enjoyed story telling—and just telling other’s stories, both those I made up. As I grew, I started writing them. Mostly, they were romances or stories that featured a pet. As I became an adult, that passion grew and now I have over 25 books published. I will never stop writing. It’ll be a “’till death do us apart” type of thing.

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

I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights. I have attempted to do so four different times, but they have fizzled out—too cloudy, just didn’t show up, too far away. Sigh. One time in Yellowknife (upper Canada) I did get to see them but only for about two to three minutes. That small view only wet my appetite for seeing the “real” thing.

Is it hard to travel with your pet?

That’s a question I often get asked. The answer is no, but you do have to plan ahead. If traveling by car, you need to know which motels accept dogs and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make reservations. Of course, if you’re traveling in a motor home as I often do, then there are no problems. It also helps if your dog is quiet, such as Basenjis. This is a breed of barkless dogs. But they are not silent. They yodel and yelp, but if your dog is like mine, not 100% Basenji, she can still bark when she wants to, but it seldom happens.

What makes you think your pet is intelligent?

I know my dog is super intelligent because she has shown us over and over again who rules this nest. During this one particular time, we had all three grandkids over and each wanted to give the dog a treat. We let them. Then I fed Honey. Normally, after she eats, we give her 2 treats. Since she already had 3 treats, I told my husband, Rich, to give her only one treat. Honey didn’t like that. After she ate her first treat, she barked and barked until we gave her the second one. Geesh!

About L. C. Hayden

Award winning author L. C. Hayden is the creator of the popular Harry Bronson and Aimee Brent mystery series and the standalone, Secrets of the Tunnels. Hayden is known in the mystery field for her edge of the seat suspense and her surprise endings. Her mysteries have hit the Kindle, the B&N, and the Pennsylvania Top Seller Lists. The books have been finalist for the Agatha and the LCC Awards and others.

Her nonfiction angel/miracle series consists of spiritually uplifting books that leave the reader wanting more. They have often hit various Kindle Top Seller Lists.

Besides being an accomplished author, Hayden is a popular speaker who is often in demand. She has done workshop and school presentations, has spoken to clubs and organizations, and was hired by several major cruise lines to speak while cruising all over the world. From October 2006 to October 2007, Hayden hosted Mystery Writers of America’s only talk show, Murder Must Air.

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Welcome, D. A. Spruzen!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome D. A. Spruzen to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I grew up near London, England and came to the U.S.A. in 1966.  In the 80’s I became Manager of Information Systems in the high-tech industry, then Manager of Publications for a defense contractor.  I had wanted to write fiction for many years and technical writing didn’t quiet the itch.  I’d abandoned my artistic background, which included a degree in dance education, leading to a stint on the faculty of a London theater school.  Finally I resigned, taught ballet again and ran my own art business, but still craved the music of the written word and the vivid images I could create with stories rather than paint.  When I turned 60, I woke up.  If not now, when?  I took workshops before working with a mentor, who urged me to apply to graduate school.  I earned my MFA in creative writing with a concentration in fiction.  Now I do what I love: not only write poetry and fiction, but also teach other adults with a dream and watch them progress.

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

At the height of our menagerie, we had five cats and three dogs, not to mention hermit crabs, birds and fish! I only have one dog now, a cavalier King Charles spaniel, Samson. Sam is a sweet cuddlebug and perfect company. We have a house on the Chesapeake Bay and it’s easy to pack a dog in the car and go. Not so easy with a cat—they don’t appreciate change.

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

Samson appears in my novel in progress, Sleuthing with Mortals. I’m quite sure he will show up again. I’ve had him for a couple of years, adopted from a friend when he was two. My late Jack Russel terrier Henry appeared in Not One of Us, and my late top cat Jaspar appears in a short story.

What are you reading now?

I just finished the latest Bruno, Chief of Police (Martin Walker) mystery, to my sorrow. It’s always hard to leave the south of France. I’m about to embark on the new Matthew Pearl novel The Dante Chamber.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I should be working on two sequels; one is the third in a mystery trilogy about a female serial killer, and the other historical fiction—a sequel to The Blitz Business. However, after a number of personal losses, I found myself in a slump and realized I had to break free and do something entirely different. I’ve always loved Scandinavia and Norse mythology, so I decided on urban fantasy. Thus, Sleuthing with Mortals was born, in which a Norse goddess living in a Northern Virginia suburb decides to become a private detective. Lots of opportunity for sequels!

 Who is your favorite author and why?

British author John Lawton is a favorite. He is a former investigative reporter who writes a mystery series set in London just before, during and after World War II (my favorite historical period). His protagonist is the son of a naturalized Russian aristocrat, a wealthy publisher. He has to overcome the disdain of his colleagues, who find it hard to believe a young man from an aristocratic family, educated in the finest schools, could possibly prove himself a competent and courageous detective. Lawton writes beautifully and with historical accuracy. His diverse characters are made of whole cloth.

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

Rover was a Welsh Border Collie, who used to try to herd the family on walks. He lived to be sixteen.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like to immortalize my pets in my work. I’ve used four: Sam, Henry, Jaspar, and a Siamese cat named Sascha. I tend to use them as creatures that help heal their people of whatever troubles them.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I won’t go into the entire series of events. We were living in Saudi Arabia at the time and had an irascible Sudanese servant named Abdul, who disliked our cat, whom our children had imaginatively named Mr. Cat. In one misunderstanding of many, I thought Abdul was complaining about a backache. I gave him some Tiger Balm (like Ben Gay) and told him to rub it in. When my husband came home he emerged from his room and talked quietly with him, before going back into his room and slamming the door on Mr. Cat, who sat outside making strange noises. My husband came inside and asked, “Whatever did you give Abdul Karim for his hemorrhoids?” I could have sworn that cat was laughing.

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

I love Oman and its people. The Royal Botanical gardens is still under construction. It will hold each plant that grows in Oman (some only grow in Oman), maintain a store of seeds and conduct research. It promises to be an impressive accomplishment. When it is open to the public, I want to visit. Also, the Royal Opera House in Muscat is an incredible state of the art venue. When I go back I will also attend a performance there. Then off to a resort in the south! The father of the current Sultan was quite reactionary and kept Oman back. In just forty years, the Sultan has achieved first rate systems for education, health, transportation, and infrastructure. While it is a traditional society to a point, Omanis are easy going and hospitable. Foreigners are welcome and made to feel comfortable.

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

I have no idea how many books I have in my queue! Kindle is a problem that way. I see a good review in the Washington Post or a friend makes a recommendation and, clickety click!

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

I have my own study that has a window looking out on the front yard. But my favorite place when I am alone is what we call the Garden Room, which looks out on the back yard with a birdfeeder strategically placed so I can look up from time to time to see who has come to call. I like to paint there, too.

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

Learn your craft! Attend classes and workshops, be part of a community of writers. Work at it. Understand that writing the first draft is the easy part. The real work comes in the revision process.

About D. A.

Dorothy Hassan, who writes as D. A. Spruzen has lived in Northern Virginia since 1971, except for a two-year hiatus in the Middle East. She grew up near London, U.K., where she graduated from the London College of Dance and Drama Education before joining the faculty of  London Theater School. Many years later, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and teaches writing for the McLean Community Center when she’s not seeking her own muse.  She also runs private critique workshops in her home and is a past president of the Northern Virginia Writers Club. In another life she was Manager of Publications for a defense contractor.

 Dorothy’s short stories and poems have appeared in many publications, most recently in three anthologies, Joys of the Table (poetry, Richer Resources Publications), the Creatures, Crimes and Creativity conference anthology, and Crossing Lines (Main Street Rag). Her novel The Blitz Business, set in WWII England, was published by Koehler Books in August 2016 and a poetry collection, Long in the Tooth, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Dorothy self-published the first two novels in her Flower Ladies Trilogy and Crossroads, two novellas. When she’s not writing, Dorothy likes to read, paint, and garden.

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Welcome, Skye Taylor

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Skye Taylor to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

The saying, Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming … WOW! What a ride!” is my mantra. Life is an adventure and I’m still working my way through an exciting bucket list. I’m a mom and grandmother. I’ve jumped out of perfectly good airplanes and love sailing, skiing, swimming, hiking and riding horses. I joined the Peace Corps in my 50s and had the most amazing experience in a tiny island nation in the South Pacific. And while I haven’t yet seen all the states, I’ve spent time in 28 of them and lived in eight. I’ve traveled on four continents, visited 15 countries and lived in two. I started out as a stay-at-home mom but have since been employed in several different fields and am thoroughly enjoying my latest career as a published author. I’ve hiked over glaciers, gone up in a helicopter, gone swimming with whales, crawled through lava tubes and dove into underwater caves. And just think of all the things I haven’t tried yet! One of the best things about writing novels is that I get to create characters who get to do some of the things I’ve done and some of those I haven’t had the time for yet.

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

My first dog was an English Bulldog named Salty who decided  after my dad posed me with him for a photo when I was about 6 months old that he needed to be in every picture of me thereafter. We rescued an abandoned baby squirrel when I was a kid and we’ve had gerbils, hamsters, parakeets, cats and fish too. Some of them are definitely models in my novels. My current pet, a mutt named MacDuff (picture attached) is my writing companion and my social director. I live on the beach and everyone in my neighborhood goes past my house to get to the sand. Duff has decided not only does he need to monitor this activity, but I need to come out to say hello to everyone who greets him on their way by. Which gets me out of my chair on a regular basis. It’s good for writers to be reminded to chat with real people now and then.

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 Camerons of Tide’s Way series there are pets in every book. But a couple of them are special. In Loving Meg, there is a police K-9 named Kip who is still grieving for his lost partner, and he intuitively takes on the task of helping my heroine, who is a Marine lieutenant just returned from a war zone with a ton of guilt and PTSD. Together they help to heal each other. While researching this book, I discovered a non-profit group, K-9s for Warriors in Northeast Florida that rescues dogs from shelters and trains them as service dogs for returned warriors who are suffering from PTSD. As of June 2018, this group has rescued 880 dogs and 445 soldiers. All my royalties from Loving Meg are donated to this cause. Kip has also appeared in other books in the series as has the kennel Ben Cameron runs and the program he initiated to train service dogs.

In my new series I have given my protagonist two pets: a cat with a lot of attitude named Seamus and a young lab named Murphy, for obvious reasons.

What are you reading now?

I just finished listening to Seeing Red by Sandra Brown and the newest Tom Clancy novel. On my phone I just finished the first book in a new series by J.H.Webber – a cozy mystery with an amateur sleuth who is a real estate agent. The book’s title is A House to Die For. I’m also reading Death at Nuremberg by W.E.B.Griffin, and Sailing Away from the Moon by Ann Henry. I’m also reading a book I picked up at a conference titled, Bullies, Bastards and Bitches – How to write Bad Guys in Fiction, by Jessica Morrell. An awesome book considering my newest project.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

With Keeping His Promise, the fifth book in my contemporary romance series completed and released, I have turned my energy and enthusiasm to a totally new project, a mystery (I hope will become a series) with a female deputy sheriff detective as the protagonist. She’s lived the life her mother ordained for her right up until her husband cheated on her with a woman only a few years older than his own daughter. Now it was her turn to live the life she always wanted – to be a cop like her dad. And it turns out she’s good at it. To complicate her life, she has a disapproving mother, a son who barely speaks to his father and a daughter who thinks her dad’s new lady friend is far more interesting than her mom. Jesse’s partner, her mentor and the man who would like to be more than a friend round out the nucleus of this new cast of characters. Set in Northeast Florida, in a town named Coquina Beach, the series starts with a woman murdered in her own home. Her husband is the obvious suspect, but Jesse is convinced he didn’t do it, so who did?

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have so many it’s hard to name them all, but for a start: Elizabeth Ogilvie, Georgette Heyer, W.E.B. Griffin, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Lee Child, A. E. Howe, Diana Gabaldon and Johanna Spryi. All of them because they write a great story with people I can really care about. Some of them write stories that keep me on the edge of my seat, others I can curl up with to enjoy on a cold rainy day or take to the beach.

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

In some of my stories, like Kip in Loving Meg, are an important character in their own right, in others they are there because it’s a way of life for me and there seems to be something missing when there isn’t a pet wagging in greeting at the door or winding their way through your legs as you try to put dinner on the table.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals in stories play a number of roles. Sometimes they are just comedic relief. Other times they give the author a great vehicle to show a human character’s good or bad side. How a man treats an animal says a lot about what kind of person he is.

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

See the answer to the question above. Kip started out his career as a Police K-9, but later becomes a service animal for Meg. In later books, he shows up as a therapy dog when Meg visits the hospital at Camp Lejeune to help injured Marines find a positive attitude in dealing with injuries, both physical and emotional.

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

The book, Until Tuesday, by Luis Carlos Montalvan is the true story of how a beautiful golden retriever named Tuesday rescued this seriously injured, both physically and mentally, soldier and gave him back his life. The beautiful, trusting relationship that grew for these two was heartwarming and gave such promise for other wounded veterans. There are several other books out about Tuesday and Montalvan telling how he used his success to motivate others.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

For this question, I’m just going to give you the link to my blog post about the time my dog took off in the middle of a thunderstorm to swim ashore (like that was safer than the solid wooden cottage he was in at the time)

https://www.askyetaylor.com/blogging_by_the_sea/view/237

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

Which pile?  The one beside my bed? The one on my desk? Or perhaps the one on the ottoman in front of my comfy reading chair? Then there’s the audible books on my phone and the e-books on my Kindle. And there’s Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader beside the toilet. Beside my bed is my Bible, two romances and a children’s book. On my desk are books on formatting, character development and police procedure. On the ottoman the pile changes constantly and includes magazines, newspapers and any other print book I’ve got going. Currently the aforementioned Bullies, Bastards and Bitches, and Jeff Shaara’s newest book, The Frozen Hours. On my phone in audio book are a half a dozen titles and at least 30 I haven’t read yet on my Kindle. I think I need to live to about 300 to get all of them read!

About Skye

Skye Taylor, mother, grandmother and returned Peace Corps volunteer lives St Augustine Florida, soaking up the history, taking daily walks along one of the prettiest beaches and writing novels. She posts a weekly blog and a monthly newsletter, volunteers with the USO and is currently working on a new murder mystery series. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Florida Writers Association, and Sisters in Crime. Her list of published novels include: The Candidate, Falling for Zoe, Loving Meg, Trusting Will, Healing a Hero, Keeping His Promise and Iain’s Plaid. Visit her at www.Skye-writer.com

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Welcome, Katie Andraski

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Katie Andraski to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My original “call” to be a writer happened in the big red barn where we stored our hay, during one winter rain. I’d been reading C.S. Lewis, and wanted to do for others what he did for me. I wanted to capture a vision of glory and offer it to my readers. I ached to do this so badly I wept and asked God if I could.

I followed this “call” to an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and followed it yet again as a publicist for Crossway books. I pretty much launched that company as far as publicity goes. I worked with Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Frank Schaeffer, Stephen Lawhead, and Larry Woiwode. I began work on my novel The River Caught Sunlight during this time.

When I found myself teaching composition at Northern Illinois University I began drafting other books—poetry, a collection of essays, very rough memoirs, and sequels to my novel. The only books that I have published are a poetry collection in 1988, When the Plow Cuts, and The River Caught Sunlight in 2014.

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

We have two Norwegian Fjord ponies, two Australian Shepherd dogs, two cats, and approximately seven chickens. (As of this writing, we’re not sure of the count.) I am currently shopping around a collection of poetry called Spiritual Warhorse, which is about the spiritual and psychological journey I’ve been on with my two horses. They have helped me practice new habits of thought and introduced me to a community of good people. I’ve written about the chickens and the cats in my blog and on Facebook.

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

A former race horse, Martha, and Johnny, her son, the result of an oops breeding, showed up in my novel The River Caught Sunlight. (They are fictional horses.) Janice finds out Marcel is going to marry her brother while the two women are riding. She doesn’t react well. I also wrote about a Bernese Mountain Dog, Joshua, who appears towards the end of the book. Janice is going to buy a young dog to keep her company and finds a place to live as well as the man she will marry in the process. At the time I owned and showed two Bernese and wanted to write a plot thread about showing these dogs for the sequel. The book took so long to write my Berners are long gone as are the first two Aussies that I owned. When you’re writing, time slides by.

What are you reading now?

I read way too much Facebook. I’m also reading a friend’s book, Because I Do Not want to Disappear, which is about his battle with leukemia and lymphoma. It’s philosophical and well written. I’m a few chapters into How Jesus Saves the World from Us by Morgan Guyton. He offers a fresh and challenging way to follow Jesus. I’m also reading Paul by N.T. Wright, a book that pulls together the apostle’s life as shown through his epistles and the book of Acts. Finally, I just started Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I try to write my blog as regularly as possible, which takes up much of my writing time. I also write short Perspectives for our local NPR station, WNIJ. Those appear every five weeks. I would like to re-publish my poetry collection, When The Plow Cuts this year. I would like to settle down and work on one of my novel sequels and maybe collect my blog posts into a memoir of sorts.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I admire Annie Dillard because of how precisely and spiritually she writes about nature. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek grabbed me when I was a young writer in the seventies. She helps me look closely at the world around me. I also admire Mark Helprin because of how lush and slow moving his books are. His sentences make me stop and ponder.

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

My first pet was a calico cat named Puffball. One summer my parents brought up two puppies, one right after the other, that both died. I was heartbroken with the double grief. But my brave parents, found another dog, this time he was six months old, and gave him to me for Christmas. He was a border collie from working lines. They took him to the vet right away and got him checked out before they brought him home. He bonded to me when I handed him a piece of turkey. A close family friend still remarks about how loyal he was to me.

I also got a pony, Trigger, who was quite the escape artist. When I out grew her, my brother rode her bareback and I rode a chesnut mare, who was probably gaited, that I called My Whisper. I showed her at local open shows. My brother and I rode in the back country between our home and our town. I sold Trigger to Mary who boarded her at my house and we continued our adventures riding all over the area.

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

The animals are characters in their own right. They thread through the two sequels I’ve written to The River Caught Sunlight that and play a major role in an unfinished young adult novel that is a prequel. The working title of the young adult novel is Two Girls Who Love the Same Horse.

 

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals are a major part of my life.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

My red Aussie, Little Dog, call name Doupy, lies at the foot of my chair while I’m writing. If I am lost in my work, she will bark at my husband when he walks in the room, to let me know he is there. The other Aussie, Night, lies somewhere nearby. Sometimes the cat will sit on the table that is near one of my writing chairs. Right now he’s moved from sleeping on the landing to sleeping next to me. My mare, Morgen, will stand at the fence and look for me if I take too long to come out. Some times she whinnies. The rooster will occasionally jump on the porch and crow.

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

I just picked up This Day by Wendell Berry, which is a collection of his Sabbath poems. I’d like to dig into Mary Oliver’s collected poems, Devotions. Also I’d like to read The Age of the Horse about horses in history. Barking to the Choir is also on my list.  Finally I’d also like to order Lee Martin’s The Mutual UFO Network, which is about how redemption is possible even in difficult situations. I have about six TBR piles, two of which are books already on shelves. I love to read but save it for bedtime, which means it takes forever to finish a book.

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

There’s a big, fat chair in the corner of our living room, with an ottoman for my feet. There’s a table where I can put my tea and just enough room for the dog to lie at my feet and the cat to sit on the table if he so chooses. The light coming through the blinds can be quite beautiful.

We moved my favorite writing chair into my office because we couldn’t bear to throw away our old loveseat even though we had bought a new one. I don’t sit there very often because my office is where I dump stuff and the light isn’t very good except in the morning. When I do, the chair seems to wrap me up in writing vibes. I heard once that sometimes a favorite chair or routine can be a cue for us to do our writing. That seems to be true for me.

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

Be open to people who have gone ahead of you as writers. Don’t limit yourself to the well published, fancy writers. Sometimes your first year English teacher, or the person who has been living a writing life for years, have wisdom for the road ahead. They might be able to save you missteps.

The biggest insight I can offer, is to try to stay alone with your story, essay, poem until you’ve imagined it end to end. If possible take it as far as you can take it before you show it to people. Years ago I was in a First Draft writers group that critiqued our chapters as we wrote them. Unfortunately I found the first chapters were highly polished but the book pushed out to the end. When I let go of this idea and stayed alone with my work, I was able to complete the draft. When others comment on your work, they are often inserting their imagination. They tell you what they would do, which is fine, but you might lose the very quiet voice of the story itself. That voice is pretty wise as far as knowing where your story is going.

The revision process can show you so much about your story. The first draft often merely scratches the surface, but as you work away at the story, it can unfold and become more itself as you learn to listen to what it’s telling you. When I cut things I put them in a separate file of Cut Stuff so that I didn’t feel like I was throwing it away. A good editor can help you dive deeper with the material. I have read several self-published books that read like polished first drafts, with undeveloped plot lines. So be sure to take the time to revise and proofread your work before you publish it.

Finally, here is a short piece I wrote for WNIJ that talks about how not all our dreams come true, not even the publishing dreams. But how our life unfolds might be better. http://northernpublicradio.org/post/working-dream

Katie’s Biography:

Katie Andraski recently retired from twenty years of teaching developmental composition at Northern Illinois University. She published her first novel The River Caught Sunlight in 2014 with Koehler books and published her collection of poetry When the Plow Cuts in 1988 with Thorntree Press. She blogs regularly at https://katieandraski.com and writes Perspectives for the local NPR station,WNIJ. She lives on a tiny farm with her husband and two Norwegian Fjord horses, two dogs, two cats and seven chickens.

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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:

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Meet Teresa Inge, Luke and Lena

Pens, Paws, and Claws Blogger, Teresa Inge, tells us about her writing and her love for pets. 

 Tell our readers about yourself and your writing.

 I am a short mystery author of several anthologies.

 My stories have been included in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, a collection of short stories set in Virginia.

 My latest publication is in 50 Shades of Cabernet, “Love the Wine You’re With.” The story features Jules Riley who has three things on her mind. Plan the Virginia Beach Wine Fest, rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, a hot local musician, and keep her sister Em sober. But when Em serves up a deadly appetizer that Jules made, she is accused of murder.

 Tell us about your pets?

 I have two dogs Luke and Lena who were named after my husband’s grandparents. Luke is a country boy, part shepherd, part lab. Lena is a city girl, part shepherd and Husky mix.

 Tell us what you are currently writing?

 I am completing a novella dog walking mystery that includes myself and three other authors. My story, “Hounding the Pavement,” features dogs Cagney and Lacey who help solve a crime and theft.

 Anything else you want to share?

 I am a Sisters in Crime member and president of the Mysteries by the Sea chapter in Chesapeake, Virginia. Our chapter is currently coordinating the Mysteries by the Sea anthology.

 I am also a board of director with the Chesapeake Humane Society and love helping animals.

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A Service Dog to the Rescue

A Service Dog to the Rescue

 By Sheri S. Levy

Kathy, sobbed on the phone. “Logan’s missing! My husband’s golfing and hasn’t returned my call.”

“I’m on my way.” I filled my pouch with treats and snapped his water bottle to my belt. “Let’s go, Syd.”

Kathy stood out front, waving her arms.

Sydney and I bolted from the car. I held her hand as she blubbered information. “Logan had a meltdown when his brothers left to play golf. With his autism, there’s no way Logan can sit in a golf cart all morning.”

I clasped my hands together, easing my tension. “I’ve only played hide and seek with Sydney. He’s a service dog in training, not a search and rescue dog. But Logan and Sydney have made such a strong connection on the beach, Syd may be able to find Logan. But you’ll need to stay here.”

Kathy’s eyes widened.

I touched her shoulder. “You have to be here in case he comes home or someone calls.”

She sobbed. “I’ll go crazy, waiting.”

A load of gravel hit the pit of my stomach, one stone at a time. “Will Logan get in the water?”

She shook her head. “Not without his life jacket. He may walk a long way and forget how to get home. He doesn’t know his phone number and can only say his first name.”

Relieved, I smiled. “That’s good, he won’t get in the water. Can you give me an item he wears? Sydney needs his scent.”

As I clicked-on Syd’s vest, his amber eyes brightened and his lips spread into a grin. He was on duty.

Kathy rushed over, carrying Logan’s ball cap and spoke in spurts. “I’m surprised he…ran off without… this.” She gasped. “He doesn’t like… the sun in his eyes.”

“That’s perfect.”

I held Logan’s ball cap up to Sydney’s nose. “Find, Logan.”

He inhaled the scent, backed up, jiggled his stub, and shoved his nose again into the cap. That was his signal, “I know what you want me to do.”

“Good boy, Syd. Find, Logan.”

I let him run, getting his bearings. He lunged into the bushes behind Logan’s house, and then circled the sea grass in the dunes. As he dashed toward the water, his nostrils opened and closed level with the sand, and then he made a U-turn. Racing on dry sand, he sniffed his way up the coast. After each inspection, Sydney woofed. Logan would recognize Syd’s bark and come running.

If he heard. Or if he could? Shivers ran up my neck.

High tide moved down, leaving no foot-prints, no trail of food, and no way to know which way Logan might have gone.

Before heading up a wooden path, I returned the cap to Syd’s nose. “Find, Logan.”

We repeated checking the dunes, and under each house, block after block.  After an hour and a half, I said, “Down,” in someone’s empty carport. Syd panted heavily and rested. Once his breathing slowed, we shared a bottle of water.

What if Logan knocked at someone’s door, and they took him in. My insides shuddered. What if we can’t find him? I wiped my damp face.

Kathy phoned. “My sons are going door to door. And my husband contacted the island police. They’re patrolling the streets.” She took a long breath. “This is the longest he’s ever been gone.”

My voice squeaked out. “So, he’s done this before?”

“Twice. He’s never gone very far, but each time it’s happened, he’s walked a little farther.”

“Did he have a special hiding spot?”

She whispered, “No.”

My chest tightened. “We’ll find him. He’s getting older. I bet he’s just found a better hiding place.”

“Okay, Syd. Find, Logan.” He turned in circles, excited to be back on the job. When we reached the pier, I said a prayer. Maybe he’s up there watching the seagulls, or looking for dolphins.

As I looked left, despair swallowed any relief. On the other side of the pier, strangers camped in tents or in trailers at the State Park.

We scoured every corner of the pier and restaurant. My stomach quivered with no sign of Logan.

Collapsing on the pier, I sat crossed-legged. My hands covered my face and I cried. Sydney put his nose under my arms, lifting my hands to lick the dripping tears.

I looked into his tired eyes. “You need a rest.” We walked down the stairs, and I undid his vest.

Sydney dashed at the small waves, popping the white bubbles in the foam. I didn’t care if he got wet. He was free to relax.

The sun blazed, making the sand too hot for bare feet. I worried about Sydney’s feet, and then Logan’s. Would he look for shade?

Five minutes later, I strapped-on Syd’s vest and lifted Logan’s cap to his nose.

“Find, Logan.”

He turned in circles, wiggled his rear end, and darted to the dunes. Then he put his nose close to the sand, sniffing like a hound dog. Chills traveled up my body. He was onto something. It better not be a fish.

Sydney tramped up to a tree in someone’s backyard, turned around and circled me like he was saying, “Hurry up.”

“What do you smell, Syd.”

He barked and showed me foot prints. They were small, bare feet.

“Okay. Show me.”

Sydney sniffed the ground. I followed. He circled the dune once more and followed footprints from the ocean to the trees. He wouldn’t move forward.

“What is it Syd?”

I glanced between the dune and the trees. Steps to someone’s house, painted sky-blue, had disguised a three-sided outdoor shower under the wooden steps. An ocean-blue plastic shower curtain decorated with colored fish closed the opening. Syd crept towards the shower stall.

I pressed my lips together. Could Logan be inside? Was he hurt?

Sydney stood at attention. “Good boy.”

Syd’s body squirmed, making an indention in the sand with his bottom.

I slid the curtain back, an inch at a time. There was a small bench on the back wall and shaded by the tree. Sleeping with one arm under his head and one arm hanging off the ledge, Logan breathed, peacefully. He had no idea of the ordeal he had begun.

My eyes teared. Face to face with Sydney, I whispered, “Good Boy. You have the honor of waking him.”

Sydney’s eyes sparkled. He slinked in, put his nose under Logan’s limp arm and licked his cheek.

Logan’s eyes opened. He squealed, “Syd-ney. Syd-ney. Want see.” Logan sat, lifting his beaming face, showing two missing teeth on the top and on the bottom.

I snatched Logan’s hand and said, “Sydney, home.”

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