Welcome, Mary Adler!

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

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

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

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

What are you reading now?

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

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

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

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

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

About Mary

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

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

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

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

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Furry Friends and Other Characters by Amy M. Reade

Furry Friends and Other Characters

By Amy M. Reade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Amy

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

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

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Website: www.amymreade.com

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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade

Buy Links

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Welcome, C. J. Shane!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, C. J. Shane to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I wear two hats because I’m both a visual artist and a writer. This all got started because my first grade teacher told my class to write a poem and then illustrate it. So I had the idea from an early age that words and pictures were equally important and often go together. In the arts, I work in oils, pastels, relief prints, and also I create artist’s books. As a writer, my first job was as a newspaper reporter. I’ve written for newspapers and magazines and published eight nonfiction books. My first novel, Desert Jade: A Letty Valdez Mystery, was published in 2017, and the second Letty mystery, Dragon’s Revenge, comes out in mid-November 2018.

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

I had cats as a child and then was lucky to be introduced to dogs by a boyfriend when I was a young adult. So there’s been a cat or a dog or both in my life from an early age. Currently our family dog is a model for Millie in the Letty Valdez Mysteries. Her name is Sunday and she’s a rescue from the Tucson Humane Society shelter. I also fairly recently lost a wonderful dog named Yuma (a border collie-greyhound mix) who was a rescue from Yuma, Arizona. He grew old, and he couldn’t walk anymore. Just before he went over the Rainbow Bridge, I gave him a big spoonful of peanut butter – his favorite treat in the world. I miss him.

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

 In Desert Jade Letty found Millie abandoned and dying in the desert. Millie is short for “Milagro” which means “miracle” in Spanish. Here is an excerpt from Desert Jade where Letty finds Millie who had been stolen from her family and used as a bait dog in a dog-fighting ring.

           Millie looked up at Letty with adoring eyes as Letty stroked the dog’s back. Millie had big patches of bare skin on her tan and white short-haired body. Her ears were chewed up, and there were scars all over her neck and chest. Her front left leg hung limp and almost useless from too much nerve, tendon, and ligament damage. The dog used the leg mainly for balance. Millie was small for a pit bull, maybe only 45 to 50 pounds. She had obviously been used as bait in dog fights. When the scumbags were done with her, they just dumped her out in the desert on the edge of town. They hadn’t even bothered to kill her, but just left her to die a slow, miserable death in the hot summer sun.

                No telling how long the dog had been out there before Letty found her. That was entirely accidental, too. Letty remembered suddenly that she had forgotten to return a call. She pulled over to the side of the road when some movement in the hot sand caught her attention. Letty got out of her car to take a look. She spotted the dog right away. It was emaciated and had several open wounds. The dog hadn’t had any water for who knows how long. It was on its side, panting short, shallow breaths, eyes sunken and glazed. The dog shifted its amber-colored eyes to focus on Letty. Then the dog’s tail began to wag feebly.

                “Damn,” Letty muttered to herself, but she didn’t hesitate. Who could resist a dog on death’s door that would wag its tail when it saw you coming.

I’m very interested in rescue dogs and in seeing that they find a good home. Millie performs a heroic deed in Desert Jade. In the next Letty book, Dragon’s Revenge, Millie gets a friend. His name is Theodore Roosevelt, but they call him Teddy. He’s a black lab sniffer dog who flunked out of sniffer school! Teddy performs admirably as a sniffer dog in Dragon’s Revenge even if he didn’t earn his certificate from the sniffer school.

What are you reading now?

Letty Valdez is a veteran of the Iraq War. She was a medic and saw of lot of difficult things. I’m reading a nonfiction book about the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars titled The Fighters, by C.J. Chivers so I can know more about what Letty experienced. I’m concerned about our veterans and I want them to have good support.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh dear! Only one?  Well, one that comes to mind at the moment is the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman. I had a reader tell me once that I should stick to the plot, focus on action, and forget any “exposition.” I don’t really agree. I really like how Laura Lippman includes “exposition.” She tells us about Tess, her family, her friends, her life both as an investigator and her life away from investigation. I want to tell Letty’s story in the same way.  Letty is a child of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, a Chicana/Native American who takes care of her young siblings, who fights the bad guys and who loves her doggie pals.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

You know what they say, “If you want a friend, get a dog (or a cat).”  People are sometimes really cruel. I want to get across the idea that being kind to animals and rescuing a homeless animal is the best thing we can do for ourselves because it makes us more human and humane. A dog or cat will always be important in the Letty Valdez Mysteries.

What’s on Your Bucket List?

I’ve traveled a lot on four continents. I went as far as ZhouZhi in western China and Mildura on the Murray River in interior Australia. But I’ve never been to New York City. The Big Apple is on my bucket list. I also hope to write several more Letty Valdez Mysteries, and I have a plan for a new group of mystery-suspense-romance novels.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Siesta time!

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

I’m going to say only one thing which has turned out to be very important to me. Having come from a background in journalism and nonfiction writing, I thought of writing as a logical, orderly process. Do research, make an outline, do more research, start writing a draft. Edit and proofread.

Fiction turned out to be quite different. I had to learn how to get out of the way of my characters and let them speak for themselves. Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, said that she was a “medium” for her characters. She had that right!

Two examples. A character showed up one day. I didn’t create him. He was just there! He told me everything about himself, even the tattoo on his chest. He made it clear that he would accept a small role in Dragon’s Revenge but in future Letty Valdez Mysteries, he will be a very important person. Another example is Dante the Big Orange Tom Cat who will appear in the next book. Dante showed up one day and made it clear that he is El Jefe (The Boss). He will not accept any disrespectful behavior from those two totally useless dogs who try to steal his kitty kibble, Millie and Teddy. So there!

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

a) read a lot; b) take walks or bike rides, enjoy the natural world, and let your mind become serene and quiet so your characters can talk to you.

About C. J.

C.J. Shane is a native Texan transformed into an Arizona desert rat after many years in Tucson. She is both a writer and visual artist. She is a former newspaper journalist and academic reference librarian who has lived and worked in Mexico and China. She is the author of eight non-fiction books, among them Voices of New China. Dragon’s Revenge (2018) is her second Letty Valdez Mystery following Desert Jade (2017).

Here are some reviewers’ comments on Desert Jade, the first Letty Valdez Mystery:

~~I was pulled in immediately by well-crafted characters and fine descriptions of the southwest and local culture. …. An international mystery embroiled with the border between Mexico and Arizona and the Chinese underworld.

 ~~Reading Desert Jade, I couldn’t help thinking that Tucson has an author to fill the void left by recently deceased best-selling Sue Grafton, who wrote the Alphabet Murder series.

 ~~This has a strong southwestern flavor, a reminder of the Tony Hillerman books about the Navajos and the Hopis…The diversity of the characters may surprise you as the author pulls in a Chinese connection that is unexpected. It will be interesting to see if this develops into a series. I think it has great potential for that.

Book Links:

my website: https://www.cjshane.com/letty-valdez-mysteries.html

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/0999387413/

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/756970

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/desert-jade

Social Media:

Website: www.CJShane.com

Newsletter: https://www.cjshane.com/contactnewsletter.html

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/29448.C_J_Shane

LinkedIn:   https://www.linkedin.com/in/c-j-shane-638a1413

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Meet the Authors and Pooches of TO FETCH A THIEF

I’m really excited to have “Diggin’ up Dirt” in the Mystery Mutt’s first collection, To Fetch a Thief. I’d like to introduce you to the authors and their stories. This is a fun collection of dog-themed, cozy mysteries. Check it out.

“Hounding the Pavement” by Teresa Inge

Catt Ramsey has three things on her mind: grow her dog walking service in Virginia Beach, solve the theft of a client’s vintage necklace, and hire her sister Emma as a dog walker.  But when Catt finds her model client dead after walking her precious dogs Bella and Beau, she and her own dogs Cagney and Lacey are hot on the trail to clear her name after being accused of murder. 

Teresa Inge grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today, she doesn’t carry a rod like her idol, but she hotrods. She is president of Sister’s in Crime Mystery by the Sea Chapter and author of short mysteries in Virginia is for Mysteries and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

 “Diggin’ up Dirt” by Heather Weidner

Amy Reynolds and her Jack Russell Terrier Darby find some strange things in her new house. Normally, she would have trashed the forgotten junk, but Amy’s imagination kicks into high gear when her nosy neighbors dish the dirt about the previous owners who disappeared, letting the house fall into foreclosure. Convinced that something nefarious happened, Amy and her canine sidekick uncover more abandoned clues in their search for the previous owners.

Heather Weidner, a member of SinC – Central Virginia and Guppies, is the author of the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries, Secret Lives and Private Eyes and The Tulip Shirt Murders. Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. Heather lives in Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers, Disney and Riley. She’s been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. Some of her life experience comes from being a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, IT manager, and cop’s kid.

 “Dog Gone it All” by Jayne Ormerod

Meg Gordon and her tawny terrier Cannoli are hot on the trail of a thief, a heartless one who steals rocks commemorating neighborhood dogs who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. But sniffing out clues leads them to something even more merciless…a dead body! There’s danger afoot as the two become entangled in the criminality infesting their small bayside community. And, dog gone it all, Meg is determined to get to the bottom of things.  

Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town then went on to a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her degree in accountancy, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.) She married a naval officer and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, have settled into a cozy cottage by the sea. Jayne is the author of the Blonds at the Beach Mysteries, The Blond Leading the Blond, and Blond Luck. She has contributed seven short mysteries to various anthologies to include joining with the other To Fetch a Thief authors in Virginia is for Mysteries, Volumes I and II, and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

 “This is Not a Dog Park” by Rosemary Shomaker

“Coyotes and burglaries? That’s an odd pairing of troubles.” Such are Adam Moreland’s reactions to a subdivision’s meeting announcement. He has no idea. Trouble comes his way in spades, featuring a coyote . . . burglaries . . . and a dead body! A dog, death investigation, and new female acquaintance kick start Adam’s listless life frozen by a failed relationship, an unfulfilling job, and a judgmental mother. Events shift Adam’s perspective and push him to act.

Rosemary Shomaker writes about the unexpected in everyday life. She’s the woman you don’t notice in the grocery store or at church but whom you do notice at estate sales and wandering vacant lots. In all these places she’s collecting story ideas. Rosemary writes women’s fiction, paranormal, and mystery short stories, and she’s taking her first steps toward longer fiction, so stay tuned. She’s an urban planner by education, a government policy analyst by trade, and a fiction writer at heart. Rosemary credits Sisters in Crime with developing her craft and applauds the organization’s mission of promoting the ongoing advancement, recognition, and professional development of women crime writers.

To Fetch a Thief

To Fetch a Thief, the first Mutt Mysteries collection, features four novellas that have gone to the dogs. In this howlingly good read, canine companions help their owners solve crimes and right wrongs. These sleuths may be furry and low to the ground, but their keen senses are on high alert when it comes to sniffing out clues and digging up the truth. Make no bones about it, these pup heroes will steal your heart as they conquer ruff villains.

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True Loves Fact and Fiction

By Tracy Weber

Fourteen years ago, I met one of the greatest loves of my life.  Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’m not talking about him. This love was a five-week-old, completely imperfect German shepherd named Tasha.  Who could resist falling in love with this cutie?

Tracy and Tasha when Tasha was 5 weeks old

Not coincidentally, my protagonist also fell in love (even if she didn’t realize it at first) with a hundred pound, also completely imperfect German shepherd named Bella.

Readers often ask me if Bella is my dog. I give the same answer I do when they ask if Kate is me.

No.

And yes.

Some of the funniest dog scenes in my writing come straight from Tasha’s and my life together. Some of the hardest scenes are based on stories I’ve heard from others. For the record, here’s my comparison of these two Amazing canines.  One is fictional, the other has passed on.  But both are amazing creatures that I’m lucky to have known.

Bella and Tasha: Similarities

  • Appearance: Physically, Tasha and Bella are twins. They are both gorgeous, primarily black, over one-hundred-pound female German shepherds. If they weren’t so busy taking care of their humans, they could be doggie supermodels. Don’t you agree?

  • Health: Tasha and Bella both suffer from an autoimmune disease called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). Bella is diagnosed early in Murder Strikes a Pose. Tasha lived with the disease most of her twelve-year life. EPI is a lifelong condition and fatal if not treated, but with daily medication, dogs with EPI can live long, normal, happy, healthy lives.
  • Personality: Both Bella and Tasha are what dog trainers call reactive, meaning that they are easily frightened, and when frightened, they try to scare the alarming thing away. This works great when they’re convincing a would-be burglar to avoid your house, not so great when they’re lunging at your neighbor’s toddler. In both cases, with positive training, love, and management, they can learn to overcome their fears.
  • Loyalty: Tasha’s trainers and veterinarians all told me that Tasha would be willing to die for me. In fact, whenever she saw something scary, she placed her body between me and the perceived menace. I’ve never known any creature, human or animal, more committed to my well-being. Bella is equally loyal to Kate.

Bella and Tasha: Differences

  • Health: I wish I could say that EPI was Tasha’s biggest health issue. The truth is, Tasha’s EPI was  comparatively easy to manage. She also had a second autoimmune disease, four bad legs, and a bad back. I would never curse an animal, real or imaginary, with all of the health issues Tasha faced. Yet no dog has ever been more loved. That has to count for something.
  • Personality: Like Kate and me, Bella and Tasha have different neuroses. For example, Bella isn’t fond of men with beards, but she’s thinks cats are just great. Tasha had no problem with beards, but she was convinced that cats were Satan’s squirrels.
  • Loyalty: Although Bella’s adult life will be charmed, she came from a puppyhood of abuse. Tasha lived with me from the day she turned eight weeks old until the day she passed in my arms. She never experience harsh treatment. Not once.

Above all else, the two canines were loved by humans who cared for them, adored them, and prioritized their dog’s well-being over their own. In the end, what more could any pup want?

Anyone who’s ever loved an imperfect dog will identify with Kate’s struggles with Bella. Any dog who’s owned an imperfect human will identify with Bella’s struggles with Kate. Of course, the series revolves around murder, so you can bet that Kate and Bella stumble across dead bodies along the way.

Yoga, dogs, and murder. What could be more fun?

My newest Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder is available now  in e-book and paper back copies everywhere! http://tracyweberauthor.com/buy_premeditated.html

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The Dogs Have Their Day

by Maggie King

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

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

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

Read on for their responses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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50 Fabulous Pet People That You Should Follow on Twitter

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

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

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

Who else would you add to the list?

 

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Welcome, B. Lynn Goodwin

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I own Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com. My memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62 was a National Indie Excellence Award Winner and a Human Relations Indie Book Award Winner. I’ve also written two other books, You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers and Talent, which was short-listed for a Literary Lightbox Award, won a bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was a finalist for a Sarton Women’s Book Award.

My shorter works have appeared in Voices of Caregivers, Hip Mama, Dramatics Magazine, Inspire Me Today, The Sun, Good Housekeeping.com, Purple Clover.com and many other places. She is a reviewer and teacher at Story Circle Network, and I am an editor, writer and manuscript coach at Writer Advice.

In addition, I got married for the first time six-and-a-half years ago at 62 and am the proud mommy of our aging toddler-in-a-fur-suit, Eddie McPuppers.

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

Eddie is part terrier, part pound puppy, and part human. He’s been a columnist for a PetFinder newsletter. I was his typist.

He likes food, walks, toys, sitting in the sun, and guarding Mommy. Also snacks and table scraps. And belly rubs. He keeps adding to this list.

Eddie and his honorary older brother, Mikko, are in Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62. https://www.amazon.com/Never-Too-Late-Wannabe-Wife/dp/1633936082

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

Spike, named by my husband, is the dog that belonged to Sandee’s brother, Bri. He stayed at home when Bri joined the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan. He hung around outside and sometimes in Sandee’s room while waiting for Bri to return.

What are you reading now?

Unfortunately, I cannot name the book because it’s an entry in Story Circle Network’s Sarton Women’s Book Award Contest. I’m a judge there. There’s a dog in that book, a stray that found a home with the protagonist.

There are lots of racing dogs in Jamey Bradbury’s The Wild Inside. They play an important role. My interview with the author will be up until the beginning of October at Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com. I just finished Peter Swanson’s All the Beautiful Lies, but I don’t remember a dog in that one.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Shhh! Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, various flash fiction pieces, and an amorphous piece involving… Shhh!

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

No but that’s a great idea!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Eddie and I were going through the Burger King drive-through window one day. I ordered chicken nuggets while he drowned me out. “Raahhh… Ruuffff…. MMMM!” Eddie said, trying to leap past the driver’s seat, out of the car, and into the open window where Burger King employees deliver food. “One big leap and I’ll be there, Mom. Wanna make a YouTube video?”

Burger King’s employees had seen pets before but never one quite so eager and articulate.

Now when my husband and I go through, he always gets a patty without a bun, explains to the voice in the box that it’s for the dog, and I break it into pieces so Eddie doesn’t swallow it whole.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Sometimes Eddie watches but often he lies in his personal space, underneath a chair in my office. The chair has a flounce around the bottom for easy doggie access and privacy. He loves his parents, but he’s not too sure about the titanium box with the black keys.

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

Three-and-a-half. The half is for the books, sent for review, that are still in envelopes. Some non-contest books include Susan McBride’s Walk a Crooked Mile, Jill Hitchcock’s Rhino in the Room, Peng Shepherd’s The Book of M (which may be getting old for review), Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, Jonathan K. DeYoe’s Mindful Money, Tod Wodicka’s The Household Spirit (which may also be getting old for review), Rachel Jeffs’ Breaking Free, and more.

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

The publishing world will always be changing and there is more to writing than I thought when people first told me I wrote so well.

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

Write daily. Take classes that promise feedback. Learn from the writers you respect. Work with people who praise as well as critique. Write more. Write in new settings. Read what you’ve written. Don’t be afraid to add and delete.

Never stop learning, growing, and reaching. There are no mistakes—only new material. (Of course some material can be polished and reshaped to make it better and more accessible.)

Meet B. Lynn Goodwin

  • Managing Editor of www.writeradvice.com
  • Author of Talent and You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers
  • blynngoodwin.com
  • Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62 —2018 National Indie Excellence Award Winner, Human Relations Indie Book Awards Winner, and Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist 
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Puppies and Panthers…

I LOVE FOOTBALL!!!

Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, but I really love Football.  I love High School football.  I love College football.  I love Professional football.  This time of year, I am one happy, happy woman because there’s not only baseball, but football too.  Today is college football day.  I’ve been doing chores and work all through the day today whilst watching college football. I’m also really excited about tomorrow’s Panthers vs. Cowboys game.  GO PANTHERS!!!

There’s a problem with this, however.

As many of you may remember, we adopted two fabulous Labrador retrievers in February of this year.  This was our second bonded pair (they have to be adopted together) from our fav rescue organization, Lab Rescue (part of the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac).

Our young Irish Water Spaniel, Tucker, whom we got as a puppy, is used to my reaction to football.  He grew up with it, and when I start hollering at the refs, the players or the drive, he just shrugs and keeps chewing on his bone.

Daisy and Dakota, however, are not used to this.  It was post-season when they come to live with us.  They have NO experience with me being the whoop-and-holler fan.

After a few moments of startlement in pre-season, Daisy, like Tucker, decided to ignore it.  She’s an athlete in her own right – she reminds me of a trim tennis player, active and fit.   She remains unphased no matter what down it is, or how bad the sack on my quarterback.

Dakota, on the other hand just does NOT know what to make of my football-induced hollering.

You have to understand that, on non-football days, I’m pretty quiet.  We start the day with a walk, and say hello to the neighbors if they’re out.  After that, we settle in with coffee to work for a few hours, do some social media, and generally get the day done.  There may be some singing – I’m not totally silent! – but there isn’t random shouting, hollering, and complaining.  There is often tennis-ball-throwage in amongst the writing.

On football days?  Oh, my Lord, is there hollering.

See, like I said, I love football.  I’m passionate about it.  My guys got me a really nice TV in the kitchen so I could watch football while I cook dinner.  I use it often.  You’ll see that despite the fact that I didn’t go to Nebraska, I was watching this game.  Why?  Because it was on and it was good.  Grins.

BTW, I was also watching a game on my computer – the high school from which my Eldest just graduated is ranked #4 in the nation in some polls and was playing a great team…St Johns won 37-34…but it took them into the freakin’ FIFTH – yes you read that right FIFTH! – overtime to do it!  Yikes!!

So amidst the whooping at St John’s Cadet’s win, checking to see if the rain delay on the Cubs vs. Nationals game had lifted, and the Nebraska game, I was fully immersed in sports.  Love me some sports.

My husband thinks it’s hysterical that I love football even more than he does.  However, Dakota, our big, black rescue Lab (part Great Dane, we think) is NOT amused about this sport thing.

He fled the kitchen for the safety of the family room.  He refused to come into the kitchen while football was on.  The only thing he came in for was to eat.  Otherwise, he avoided me and my football like the plague – or like I was holding the nail clippers.  

Tucker joined him for part of this day-long sulk, but then Dakota decided to go hang out upstairs with my Youngest, who’s just as anti-(team)-sports as he is.  Dakota and the Youngest Son think I’m nuts.  Ha!

What about you?  Are you a sports fan? 

Or are you a sports widow/widower?

What’s your sport?

What’s your team?

Do you have team gear?  (Love my team gear!)

Did I mention….GO PANTHERS!!!?

 

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Welcome, Joan Hicks Boone!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Joan Hicks Boone to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is Joan Hicks Boone and I am an author from Burnsville, Minnesota. My first book, The Best Girl, published by Koehler Books in may 2018, is a memoir about growing up in a home where Domestic Violence dominated. Prior to becoming a published author, I was served as a registered nurse for thirty-two years in a variety of settings in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

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

I first found the poser of writing in a creative writing class I had in ninth grade. Mr. Hoffman was my teacher and he taught us how writing can be used in both a very personal, and public, way. Once I finished college and started my career and family, I didn’t have much time to write but I took it up again in my late forties and have been writing daily since then.

What are you reading now?

I tend to read about four books at once. Currently, I am reading Dopesick by Beth Macy, The Third Hotel by Laura Van Den Berg, and The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on The Choicemaker, which is the sequel to The Best Girl and I Understand, which will be a collection of essays from my nursing career.

Tell us about your pets.

As a child, I had two dogs. My first dog was Midnight, a beautiful black lab mix. Midnight dies by getting hit by a car in our neighborhood and I was devastated. My next dog was a Cocker Spaniel named TNT who was originally bred to be a show dog. He wasn’t able to compete due to crooked teeth, so he became our dog. He died after having him for about a year. I write about both of them in The Best Girl, as I was very close to them and missed them terribly once they were gone.

Currently, my husband and I have two black labs – Tehya (9 years old) and Tesla (18 months old). They keep us very busy and are very spoiled.

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

Midnight and TNT are characters in their own right in my books. I grew up in a susubur bo St. Paul and I was out with them constantly. Everyone in our neighborhood knew Joanie and her dogs.

I have also written an essay, Golden that was a finalist in a writing contest. Golden is about my grand dog, Olive, who is extremely self-aware of her golden retriever beauty. The essay showcases her drama as I walk her in the Seattle neighborhood she lives in. The neighborhood has a fair amount of homeless people whom Olive provides joyful, beautiful “golden moments” to. My father died as a homeless person, so I tie his love for dogs into the essay. For those who are interested, the essay is posted on my blog page.

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

Too many piles to keep track of! But at the top right now are My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsberg and I’ve Been Thinking by Maria Shriver.

I am also in the start-up phase of an online book club that will feature books about health care and am cultivating a list for that. This will coincide with the writing of the book, I Understand, a collection of essays from my nursing career.

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

Keep at it, don’t give up. Life is busy and throws a lot of curve balls in trying to find the time to write – don’t stress out if you aren’t able to write very single day – rejoice in the time you DO have to write and make the most of it.

Start a website and FB page or other social media as soon as you think you may be on to something that will be published. The better following you have going in, the more sales you will have once published.

Obtain Beta-writers as soon as you feel you have something worthy of publishing. I chose three people from different areas of my life – I met with them individually while I wrote The Best Girl and their feedback was overwhelmingly helpful.

About Joan:

Joan Hicks Boone is an author and speaker from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Joan is a former registered nurse who practiced in a variety of settings in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for over 32 years.

In her memoir, The Best Girl, Joan Hicks Boone takes readers through the experience of growing up in a family struggling with alcoholism, domestic violence, neglect, and other dysfunctions. Throughout the book, readers will see and feel what Joan saw and felt as a toddler, young child and adolescent – and how, throughout all that happens, she holds out hope that by being The Best Girl, her father will be healed, and her mother will smile.

Joan is currently working on her second book, The Choicemaker, a sequel to The Best Girl. For more information about Joan, visit her website at www.joanhicksboone.com.

Synopsis of The Best Girl

Joan’s neighborhood is filled with kids of all ages – a select few are considered her friends, but even they don’t know how violent Joan’s dad is. As she navigates the troubled waters of her home life, Joan becomes adept at reading her dad’s mood, and trying to prevent him from inflicting harm upon her mom. But, time and again, her dad succeeds in his mission. As the violence escalates, Joan is plagued with the constant fear that her mother may die. Repeatedly she asks the same questions: why is her dad so violent and why can’t he be stopped? Throughout the course of her childhood, several heroes enter Joan’s life – readers will cheer for each as they offer Joan gifts of validation, acceptance and hope.

Joan is an exceptional, yet frank, storyteller who brings the reader directly into her home, providing unembellished awareness of the multiple issues that encompass domestic violence. The Best Girl is a story of resilience and survival and, as the book concludes, readers are left with feelings of possibility and hope: it appears that sixteen-year old Joan is going to make it.

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