Teresa Inge and Her Writing

Today, Pens, Paws, and Claws author, Teresa Inge, tells us about her writing.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I love to write mysteries, go to car shows with my husband, visit the Outerbanks to write and read good books, and play with my dogs.

What is the first mystery book you remember reading? The Secret of the Old Clock. I remember the fascinating tale of Nancy Drew discovering a missing will in an old clock of a deceased family friend. When she helped the family regain their fortune from thieves, I fell in love with Nancy Drew.

What made you decide to write? I began writing professional articles many years ago and loved reading mysteries. So, I combined my love of both and began writing mysteries.

Do you have a special place you like to write? In my bedroom. I have a writing area with a beautiful country view.

Where do the ideas for your books come from? Everywhere! Conversations, news, songs, and sometimes plots come to me while I am driving to and from work.

Is there anything about writing that you find most challenging? Editing is a challenge but it is necessary to develop well crafted stories.

What do you think makes a good story? Relatable characters, an interesting location, great plot, and wrapping up all loose ends.

Tell us about your current work? I just finished writing “To Fetch a Thief,” four fun tails of theft and murder in the Mutt Mysteries series. In this howling good read, canine companions help their owners solve crimes and right wrongs. This was a lot of fun to write since I included Cagney and Lacey, two Yorkshire Terriers to solve the theft and murder.

What makes your books different form others in this genre? My characters and book titles. I love creating relatable characters and fun titles.

What’s next on the horizon for you? Book two in the Mutt Mysteries series.

About Teresa:

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.

Website: www.teresainge.com
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Welcome, J. P. Dalton

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

About J. P. Dalton:

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

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Sheri Levy and Her Life with Service Dogs

Growing up in Southern California, allowed me to go to the beach, and snow ski on the local mountains.

After I married and had two young children, we moved to South Carolina. We have lived longer in the South than in California. I guess that makes me a southerner, without an accent!

Working Career

I received my Special Education teaching credentials in California, one for Mentally Handicapped and the other for Educationally Handicapped.
As soon as we arrived in Greenville, S.C, I was offered a job with a Multi- Handicapped class in the same school my children attended. But I needed one more credential for Learning Disabilities. Once again, I attended evening classes twice a week and taught school during the day.

After sixteen years with Special Needs children, I taught an adult GED program for nine more years. My adults needed skills in reading and writing, and this spurred my interest in writing. As a young student, I always spent time writing, but had I never thought about writing novels.

As I taught my students, the desire to write began to fester. After I retired, I took online classes and joined SCBWI- (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.)

Adopting the First Dog

My husband and I adopted a neighbor’s German shepherd. She was our first dog, and the reason we had more dogs.

When Charlie died, we raised an eight-week-old White shepherd, and then our first Australian shepherd, Sydney.

When Sydney was six months old, a Black lab blew into our yard during a snow storm. He had been injured, and after paying the medical bills, he became ours. Sydney and Jake enjoyed many adventures together.

When both passed on, we continued with the Aussie breed. We now have Aussie number three and four; Mulligan, rescued at seven months old, and Slater, chosen at eight-weeks-old.

I trained each dog, but Mulligan required the most attention because of his stressful puppyhood.

Service dogs

My interest in special needs prompted me to research service dogs.

One afternoon, I met a young boy walking his dog who wore a cape in the grocery store. Because I had researched service dogs, I assumed he was a puppy raiser. I asked his mother for permission to speak with him, and I found out the dog was his own Diabetic Alert service dog.

I interviewed him and wrote my first article for Clubhouse Magazine and entered this story in the Dog Writers Association Contest in 2010. To my surprise, the story won in their Special Interest Category. This category was sponsored by the Planet Dog Foundation Sit. Speak. Act. Canine Service organization. This award gave me the confidence to continue writing.

 Plot-line for Seven Days Through Research

My craving to write blossomed. I had taught children with autism, and found a reputable service dog organization, PAALS, close to my home.

A young girl, who worked as a puppy raiser with PAALS, allowed me to interview her. Her information helped create my story character and plot.

The setting takes place on my favorite beach, Edisto Beach, S.C., and I included Sydney. “Seven Days to Goodbye,” was born.

I support PAALS, and they promote my novels. It took three years from the start of writing of, “Seven Days to Goodbye,” to getting it published and entered in the DWAA contest. The novel won in their Special Interest Category in 2014.

Learning how to market the novels and promote myself. 

Writing is the fun part. Marketing is very time consuming. I have been very fortunate to have support from friends and readers.

Having wonderful reviews has built my confidence. It does take a while after the first book is birthed to see success trickle out over time. All of the wonderful feedback has been very positive and encouraging.

One of my biggest thrills was to be asked to do a motivational Skype program with three high schools in Nigeria. Weeks later, I began teaching writing to different age classes. It is special to know I may be helping others.

To this day, I am thrilled to be able to share my series, ‘Seven Days to Goodbye,’ ‘Starting Over,’ and very soon to introduce, ‘For Keeps.’

 You can stay in touch with Sheri Levy at: 

Twitter: @SheriSLevy

Facebook: www.sherislevyauthor

Website: www.sherislevy.com

Email: eightpawswriting@yahoo.com

Seven Days to goodbye‘ and ‘Starting Over‘ by Sheri S. Levy are available on Amazon in paperback, hardback, and Kindle Editions.

 

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Welcome, Jayne Ormerod

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Jayne Ormerod to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. My name is Jayne Ormerod and I am a write-aholic. I had an idyllic childhood, spending every free moment playing outside (a foreign concept to kids today!) A river ran through our property, surrounded by lots of woods to explore. There was always an adventure afoot, or a neighborhood baseball game to be played, or skateboarding to be done (down a HUGE hill, without a helmet! Lots of scrapped knees and elbows!) When not doing that, I was curled up reading, usually Nancy Drew adventure stories! I went to college (B.S. in Accountancy) and then spent 30 years as a military spouse, moving many times (19 for anyone counting). That afforded me the opportunity to meet many interesting people and live in many fun places. Except for one tour in Memphis, TN, we have always lived within a flip-flops throw of an ocean. A dream come true for a small-town Ohio girl. As a result, the majority of my cozy mysteries are set along the shore.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? We have two rescue puppies. One was an emergency rehome situation, and we were told he would be 20 to 30 pounds.  Well, he’s 47 now, and still growing! He has a lot of Great Dane in him (everyone says so but I am in denial). Our other puppy is a Pot Dog (that’s what they call free-roaming island puppies who sustain themselves on scrapings from the bottoms of peoples’ pots, mostly rice and beans) from Puerto Rico. He’s still growing, too, but seems to lean more towards Chihuahuas characteristics. But he’s a cutie! Tiller and Scout make our lives complete.

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 most recent release, “It’s a Dog Gone Shame!” in To Fetch a Thief, the star of the show is a tawny terrier named Cannoli. We didn’t have any pets at the time so he is purely a figment of my imagination. But since then we have acquired two pound puppies whose antics will certainly find their way into my blog posts and future stories.

What writing projects are you currently working on? I am assembling some shorter-length cozy mysteries I’ve written in the past and throwing them together into one book. Title is Goin’ Coastal. It should be out in early December. Next project will be the third Blonds at the Beach mystery, working title Blond Justice. I wrote the first four chapters a while ago, just need to finish it. Only 27 chapters to go!

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. My parents were cat people. We lived on a very busy road. We learned quite young not to get too attached to any of them. Sad, I know. But then someone who worked with my mom needed to get rid of a Siamese cat (seal point) who had been declawed. We got her and kept her inside. She lasted much longer! Her name was Punchy. She was a good mouser. We lived in an old farmhouse so there were plenty. It was quite common for my dad to wake up in the morning to find a dead mouse on his chest. I’m glad she never brought me any!

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why? I loved the Cat Who . . . Mysteries. Maybe because the main feline characters were Siamese cats like Punchy. But they were also great cozy mysteries with lots of interesting settings. I would love to live in a converted apple barn!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story? My military husband deployed for 6 months. I was left home with a baby and 2 BIG dogs (combined weight 175 pounds!) My dad came to help out and offered to take the dogs for a walk. He didn’t know the area, and the neighborhood had lots of winding roads. He was gone a really long time. I got really worried. So I strapped baby onto my bicycle and we went looking. Found dad and the dogs about two blocks from home. We rode alongside to make sure he got there. A cat streaked across our path. I said, “Oh, there’s a cat.” He said, “What does that mean?” I said, “Hold on tight!” Next thing I knew my dad was on his belly, being dragged across a neighbor’s front yard. His arms were stretched over his head as he rocked back and forth (he had a big belly) as he was being pulled. I have never laughed so hard in my life. Don’t worry, only thing hurt on my dad was his pride. Oh, and he never offered to walk the dogs again!

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had? I have limited myself to the customary cats and dogs, but my son once had a pot-bellied pig, making Jesus (so named since they got him on a Sunday) my grand-pig. I never got to meet him because the city where son lived said he couldn’t keep a farm animal. But he was very photogenic. Lots of stories there, too, none of which are fit to print on this family-friendly blog. (Did I mention son  was living in a fraternity house at the time?)

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing? First, how challenging it is to sell books. Writing was the easy part! Hitting the bestseller list, not so much. The other thing is I didn’t think it would take so long to write one book. I mean, I can read a book in a week. I truly thought writing would go at the same pace, sit down and type the story. There is so much more to it than that. But will I ever stop writing because of these challenges? No way!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? I have an upstairs porch that has comfy rocking chairs and if the wind is blowing just right I can feel the bay breezes and/or hear the surf crashing against the shore. Love to read there! Writing is anywhere my laptop can plug in (my battery no longer works…)

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Just do it! Yes, the blank page can be daunting, but there is no better feeling in the world than typing THE END!

About Jayne:

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.

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Website: www.JayneOrmerod.com

Blog: www.jayneormerod.blogspot.com

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Amazon Author: http://amazon.com/author/jayneormerod  

 

 

 

 

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The Dogs in My Life: Part V —Gibbs

We’ve finally reached the part of this series where I tell you about the current dog in my life, and let me tell you, he’s been anxious to tell his story. So this time, I’m going to let Gibbs do the talking:

Gibbs reporting in. That’s my little joke because I was named after Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the TV show, NCIS. He’s a U.S. Marine (get it…reporting in…) and Judy and Mike love that show. Plus the Marine’s motto is Semper Fi, which means “Always Faithful,” and that is also my motto!

I have another name, too. It’s my Canadian Kennel Club name, Maplelane’s The Power of Love. I know, it’s embarrassing, but let me explain. You see, I was born on October 15, 2015 on Back to the Future Day, and all the Maplelane puppies in my litter had to have a name that referenced the movie. The Power of Love is the movie’s theme song.

I came to live with Judy and Mike on December 6, 2015. I’ll admit that I was a somewhat challenging puppy (though you must admit I was very cute). There was that time I chewed a hunk out of the wall while Judy was brushing her teeth. And the time I stole her bathmat and dragged it into the living room while she was in the shower. And then there was the time I shredded her Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine before she had a chance to read it. But hey, nobody’s perfect, right?

My favorite things to do are: Go for a walk, play fetch with my purple ball, sleeping under Judy’s desk when she writes, watching the sunset at our camp on Lake Superior, and swimming. I LOVE swimming. And my favorite person? Judy, of course. But don’t tell Mike. Some things are better kept a secret. 

Love, Gibbs

PS: Be sure to check out my WEDNESDAY WAGGLES posts on Judy’s Facebook page!

PPS: You can find her books at all the usual suspects, including Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble. She tells me books make great stocking stuffers. I personally think a bone is much better!

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Welcome, Rosemary Shomaker


Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Rosemary Shomaker to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, I’m Rosie Shomaker. I’ve always liked writing stories, but I spent my professional life analyzing data and writing non-fiction policy reports and summaries. Now I’m free to write what I want to write. I’m as yet fairly undisciplined, though, but once I commit to a project, I focus my energy.

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

Mary and Carmen are the main dog characters in “This is Not a Dog Park,” one of the To Fetch a Thief novellas. Mary is a sheprador and Carmen is a fluffy white dog. In a subsequent story I’ll have to define Carmen’s breed. She’s owned by a stuffy rich lady in the story, so that dog has great mystery possibilities. Carmen and her owner live in a well-to-do neighborhood near a park that is central to the story. Mary the sheprador helps her owner Adam leave behind a life of disquietude.

What are you reading now?

I am reading several Nevada Barr novels. She had varied jobs and did summer work as in the national parks. Her main character, Anna Pidgeon, is a national park ranger. The Rope and Destroyer Angel were riveting. Barr comes off as a bit of a misandrist in her stories, in my opinion, and notwithstanding my feminist tendencies, her treatment of male characters can be harsh . . . although I admit the plot and character development rings sound. The adventure in these stories is great! When I need less adrenaline and more historical escape, I default to Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear mystery books.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

It seems so natural to include pets in a setting. So many readers live with pets. Pets can be used as a good character sounding board in stories; human-pet interaction and dialogue are straight lines to the human character’s psyche. Animals also can be used to move the plot along, change pace, and provide humor. I haven’t worked much yet with using animals to ratchet up tension. I’ll have to explore that.

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

This is a real possibility for my next story. Aren’t all pets service animals in a way—since they are usually emotional support animals for most of us? I was intrigued when I read Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper and met Campbell Alexander’s dog Judge. Judge helps warn Alexander of approaching epileptic seizures. Wow. Also, a local writer has shared her experiences with her own family dog that could indicate her daughter’s diabetic crises. The working nature of a dog can give real service to humans. I’ve also been introduced to police dogs and search and rescue dogs, and I admire the training and work of those canines. So much tension and conflict could be shown in stories featuring that type of dog in a criminal situation. I like the idea of a service dog, maybe a hearing dog that is specially trained to help people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Hearing dogs can alert their humans to sounds around the home and in public. I can see working that type of service dog into a story, too.

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

One day I’ll read a college thesis written about Charlotte of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. What a story! Even as a child I regarded Charlotte as a complex character. Cool to think that college theses have been written about her. As I child I was more of a Wilbur-type character who could not appreciate all there was to Charlotte, especially in their early relationship. I think I knew some Charlottes in my time. Now that I am older, I guess I am a Charlotte.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pup spends his time a room away from me when I write. He comes in occasionally to remind me to stop, drink some water, eat, and go outside. Well, he wants to do those things, and he provides the example that gets me out of my obsessive writing state. If not for my pup, I’d disregard most everything once I was on a roll and fixated on writing. Sometimes I’ll put him off and try to ignore him but he won’t ignore me, and soon his sad eyes are right at my hip level and hard to overlook.

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

I found a very old copy of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Prairie, circa 1900. I love Cooper. I feel right in the forest with his characters! The Prairie takes place not in New England forests but in the Midwest during America’s westward expansion. I’ve an idea for a novel set in the great plains, and I’m hoping Cooper’s book fills in some of the dramatic sentiment I need to spur me on to write more of my story. I have TBR piles in several rooms of my house. Some are piles of magazines or local newspapers. Others are piles of books that have come my way that I am not really set on reading. I let the piles accumulate, and when I have not made a move to read anything in a pile in a few weeks, I clear out the items to the recycle bin or the giveaway box.

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

My son found a very large beetle (two and one half inches long) when he was about five years old—my son’s age—not the beetle’s. They kinda bonded in a strange way. The beetle seemed happy to have a caretaker. My son made him a home in his room: a tray with water, grass and leaves for habitat, and who knows what for food? We most likely looked up what beetles ate. Mr. Beetle lived as a pet with us for four days. He’d sit on my son’s shoulder and even on his cheek when my son lay down. Mr. Beetle didn’t move much or very fast, and my husband and I hypothesized he was an old beetle, hopefully not a sick beetle. My son left on a short trip, maybe a cub scout trip, with my husband, and Mr. Beetle did not live to see my son again. A month or two later, my son found another beetle while playing in a friend’s yard. This new beetle wasn’t so nice. He stung my son! That ended my son’s interactions with beetles. My son’s entomology career, down the tubes.

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

My favorite place to read is outside on my deck, or even outside in a park. I like to have my legs raised while seated to read. The fresh air and natural light enlivens my soul. If I cannot be outside, I like to read sitting longways on the couch by our big front window. Inside I like to have a big cup of coffee at hand while I read. Outside, my drink of choice is water.

About Rosemary

Rosemary Shomaker was born in Maine and grew up with family—and heartstring—ties to New England. She currently lives in Virginia, and after a state government career now writes fiction. You can find a few of her short stories in anthologies such as Virginia is for Mysteries – Volumes I and II, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and several of the Shaker of Margaritas anthologies. Her “This is Not a Dog Park” novella is included in the Mutt Mysteries collection To Fetch a Thief.

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K. B. Inglee on Dog Walks and Newfoundlands

People often walk their dogs at the park where I work. We have eight miles of trails, streams and ponds and a raceway that provides water power to run the 18th century mill. Dogs and people love it.

Most of the dogs who visit the park are friendly, many are beautiful. They are usually happy to be petted by the staff and other visitors.

Dogs I have met.

I was not prepared for what I saw a couple of Sundays ago. It was nearly closing time, and I was checking the fishing ponds when I saw a young couple walking a bear by the blacksmith shop. There are no bears in the park, so this must be their private bear. By the time I got out the back door and halfway to the shop, I realized that it wasn’t a bear but a Newfoundland dog.

I find it difficult to ignore any dogs that come to the park and this one was particularly appealing. I just had to get my hands into that lovely black fur. And feel the giant tongue on my hands. Maybe even take him home if I could fit him in my car.

His people told me that there was a newfoundland gathering that afternoon at the park. By the time we closed the visitors center an hour later, a dozen a dozen or so of these huge dogs had assembled with their people. One family came all the way across the county to meet up with other wonders of these astonishing animals.

 Most of the dogs were black, some with white markings One small on was the size of a calf. There was a Jack Russell who looked out of place, and a mutt of some appealing heritage.

 Every year for the last 15 or so I have written a short story which I send out in place of Christmas cards. Last Christmas, I wrote a story about a Portuguese Water dog who worked as a service dog for a college professor with a bum hip.  Now I wish I had used a Nufie. Too late, I have half a dozen stories of Anonymous Dog’s crime fighting. While he hadn’t made it into print yet, he is well established in my mind.

 AD had already met a police dog and made friends. I thought about it for a week or so before I decided there was no reason that DC couldn’t have a second best friend. Maybe I could have a whole posse of crime fighting dogs.

 Most of all, I hope these big beautify digs keep coming to our park.

About K.B. Inglee:

I always wanted to write mystery stories but like most somehow life interfered. That is probably true for 90% of people who want to be writers.

There came a time in my life when I had some leisure to write, easy access to research materials, and a strong desire to fulfill my dream. I wrote my first novel after reading a biography of the James family, so I set it in Cambridge in the early 1890’s. I knew what was wrong with it. First of all, there was no murder. It was crammed full of back story and descriptions of a Victorian household. But I became fond of the characters: a lady detective and the people who lived in her boarding house.

I wrote a collection, maybe several collections, of short stories for my main character, Emily Lothorp Lawrence. Writing is way more fun than selling so it was a long time before any of the short stories appeared in print.

When I began the novel, I exchanged manuscripts with a friend who was a Civil War re-enactor. He said that if I was going to write history I had better do it, so I stitched up a simple outfit and attended several local Civil War battles.

Then one day I crossed a bridge into the New Republic (1790-1830). That crossing changed my life. I began interpreting that period, for which I needed a whole new set of clothes. I showed off the Oliver Evans mill, one of the first automated mills in the country. In time I was trusted with the care of a flock of heritage sheep.

Since I crossed that bridge, I have driven oxen, plowed a field with a team of horses, cooked in a wood fired oven, and spent a weekend in Maine in a 1870s household without running water or electricity. I have sheared a sheep, cleaned and spun the wool, knit and woven, and finally made a garment with the wool.

And I kept writing short stories.

“Weaver’s Trade” was my Christmas story in 2012, and it won second place in the Bethlehem Writers Round Table.

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Welcome, David Ryan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome David Ryan to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I came to the author game late in life. I didn’t start writing my first novel until I was 45, which was both surprising and disappointing to me, because I’ve had as a goal since college to write a novel. I ended up in another writing direction first. I spent more than 30 years working as a journalist, writing, editing, and managing at newspapers before leaving for a marketing job. My career as a novelist started one night when I was traveling as a reporter and couldn’t sleep one night. So I started. And I got up the next morning and added to what I’d written. And added more that night. By the time I took the time to do any plotting, I had five or six chapters. I realized I needed to map out the story somewhere other than my head and create some characters with backstories, personalities, and descriptions. I write mysteries and thrillers because that’s what I’ve always enjoyed reading. And they’re fun to write.

Why crime writing?

I was an avid reader as a kid, and one of the series that captured me early on was the Alfred Hitchcock Investigators series. This was a variation of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I was hooked. When I’d watch TV on Sunday nights, we tuned into shows like Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife. Sometimes you knew the criminal right away because they told you But what they showed was how the detective solved the crime. Toward the end of my journalism career, when I’d already started writing Dead Odds, I managed a breaking news team, which was basically the crime team. That pretty much sealed the deal.

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

I didn’t know until college. I was fortunate to have two people give me a kick-start. My youth-league basketball coach was a journalist, and he helped me land a gig working Friday and Saturday nights on the sports agate desk at one of the local papers. Those were the two busiest nights in the department, and if you could survive those, you could make it in the newspaper business. After a while, one of the editors let me cover games. Once he learned I could make deadline, I was in. The second person was a manager at a restaurant where I worked, and her brother was the editor of a local sports magazine. She learned I was writing and introduced me to her brother. He gave me some writing assignments, and I was in heaven. I eventually joined the college newspaper staff. Even though I was writing and getting paid for it, I didn’t find my writing voice for many years. I think that came when I finally relaxed and started telling as many stories as I could in the way that I wanted to tell them. At some point, the editors stopped editing so hard and started letting my ways get into the paper.

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

Our two pooches are with me constantly – in my heart. During the writing of Dead Odds, we had to face the hard choice that most pet owners confront at some point. Both our Miniature Schnauzers crossed the Rainbow Bridge in recent years. Baron was older, stocky and muscle-bound with a smooth, silver coat and a feisty, all-guard-dog disposition. He was sweet, but he disliked kids. And he ran the house – until Xena joined us. That first night, we gave Xena a toy to play with. She wrestled with it until Baron stole it from her and took it to play with underneath the coffee table. When Xena, at 12 weeks old, barked at him and tried to retrieve it, Baron growled and chased her away. The next night, the same scene played out. We gave her the toy, he took it, and she went after it. This time, though, when Baron growled, she pounced. With sharp puppy teeth, she bit him on the ear and walked off with her toy. It was Baron’s last day running the household. Baron used to lay in a chair next to my work desk at home, snoring away as I rewrote scenes from Dead Odds. Xena, as her name suggests, was a fierce pup but what a sweetheart. But she was not a literary companion. She didn’t tolerate others not paying attention to her, and in many ways she was more cat than dog. She preferred to sit in my lap when I wrote. But she refused to stay still, and often she opted to be in another room where she could lay in the sunlight or watch lizards outside.

How do you fill the pet void? Do you see yourselves having more pets?

My wife and I get asked that all the time. We don’t have a final answer. We want to do some traveling, but at some point I think we’ll get another dog or two. Right now, we’re the resident dog-sitters of our neighborhood. Two young couples around us occasionally need help when they travel or have conflicts, so now we’re a second home for Buster and Bonnie. Buster is a black mutt who has some Dachshund in him. He’s excitable. I can’t get any writing done with him around. He wants to play too much. Bonnie is a young Miniature Schnauzer who reminds us so much of Baron and Xena. She’s silver and has a beautiful coat and a wonderful temperament. She likes to bark, but she’s a doll. My wife likes that neither Buster nor Bonnie like to lick people in the face.

Did you have childhood pets?

I didn’t. I am allergic to long-haired dogs and all cats. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m still allergic, but at some point I was around a dog that didn’t shed, and my sinuses didn’t go haywire. When my wife and I got married and I was traveling a lot, we thought a dog made sense for us. (We have no kids.) And it worked.

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

There are no pets in Dead Odds. Well, wait. The protagonist, Conrad Keane, reveals that he had a pet dog as a teen but had to leave the dog at home when he left for college. In the second book in the Keane series, tentatively titled Dead Sleep, Keane gets reunited with a Miniature Schnauzer. At least, that’s the case in my current draft.

What are you reading now?

I just finished November Road by Lou Berney. Up next are two novels by fellow Floridians, Four Years Gone by Dallas Gorham, Beached by Micki Browning, and Yard Goat by Ray Flynt. At some point soon, I’ll get to Holy Ghost, John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers novel, and Bob Woodward’s Fear.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Well, this blog post. I have another guest blog post teed up for the International Thriller Writers website. The work on Dead Sleep is always there, and I am working on a short story about an ex-mobster who is living quietly in northern Florida. Although my days as a journalist are behind me, I write a number of blog posts, emails and internal office missives in my role at a digital marketing and technology company.

Who is your favorite author and why?

There are three authors I will read anytime, anywhere: John Sandford, Lee Child and Pat Conroy. I enjoy Sandford and Child because they drive stories as if they’re running a race and they don’t dare slow down. Conroy, who died in 2016, captured me shortly after college with Prince of Tides. I grew up in the South, and Conroy’s11 language and sense of the South grabbed my heart and dragged me around for years. But one of the things I’ve discovered in this author journey is that there are so many great books out there written by people you’ve never heard of before.

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

First is “show, don’t tell.” This is a much more nuanced approach to writing than I was aware of. Telling is saying someone was angry. Showing is having the person throw a cellphone across the room after learning something bad has happened. The second thing is how important beats and tags are to telling a story the right way. As a journalist, I could finish every paragraph with the same attribution: he said or she said. You can’t do that as a novelist.

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

I give the advice that was given to me: read. Read a lot. There are those who say to study the language, the word construction and the engineering of whatever it is that you like to read. For me, those things didn’t stick until much, much later in my writing career. I just loved to read entertaining stories. But if you read a lot, you will by necessity read a variety of authors and styles. You’ll find a genre and an author (or two or three) who speaks to you.

 

About David:

David Ryan is a former award-winning journalist turned mystery and thriller author. After more than 25 years as a sports writer, assigning editor, digital editor and people manager, Ryan opted out of daily journalism for a second career that includes crafting crime fiction stories. His first book, Dead Odds, is available in eBook on Amazon. The paperback version will be available next month. He lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife.

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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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