Welcome, Christopher Tubbs!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Chris Tubbs to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I was born in Dorset in England. My ancestors going back before the 1500’s were all clay miners. My day job is to represent an American Software company in Europe and to promote their products. That means I get to speak at loads of conferences and exhibitions as an industry veteran. But my secret love had always been military history. I am a firm believer that all the major advances in technology have been fueled by conflict. Add to that a healthy interest in reading sci fi and sci fantasy and you see that I am leaning towards historical fiction with a twist. My favorite period is the late 18th century moving into the 19th as that was when the basis of our lives now was laid down.  I write on average an hour a day on planes, in airports (I travel a lot)  or at home. My pets (I have two dogs and two cats) are a central part of my life so its only natural that one or two sneak into my writing.

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

I have two Dutch Shepherds; Zeeva a nine year old female and Blaez a one year old male  and two cats;  Vaskr a male Norwegian Forest Cat, and Caja a female British Longhair.  We try to choose names that reflect the personalities of the animals or something in their history so Zeeva is Hebrew for She-Wolf and Blaez  is old Breton for Wolf as they are basically as close to a wolf as you can get in a domestic dog. Vaskr is old Norse for Gallant as he is a bit of a hero and Caja is Spanish for cash as she cost a fortune.

Blaez gets into the Dorset Boy series as pet of our hero Marty. He follows him through his  adventures in the Navy and as an agent for British Intelligence.  He saves our hero’s life a number of times. Maybe I will find a place for the others in later books but it will have to make sense in the plot line.

What are you reading now?

Maybe surprisingly for some I am reading fantasy. I think that reading traditional Naval Historical fiction novels right now would constrain my thinking but reading fantasy actually frees me up to explore plot lines and situations that you wouldn’t expect.  I don’t want my stories to follow Hornblower or Aubery but to do their own thing. I am reading Linsey Hall and M.D. Massey at the moment, their books have good pace and don’t skimp on the violence.  I have read all the big Naval History authors in the past but for now they are on hold.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am working on book three of the Dorset Boy Series. The first, A Talent for Trouble, covers our hero leaving the Dorset Clay mines, to joining the Navy as a cabin boy then making a name for himself at the Siege of Toulon where he rescues a beautiful Contessa and her family earning him the interest to become a Midshipman.  The second, The Special Operations Flotilla, sees him being sucked into the world of British Intelligence and becoming a founder member of the SOF.  He discovers Blaez on a mission to save the Dutch crown jewels from the French.

Now I’m on book three, Agent Provocateur, and we are following our hero into an undercover mission to Paris where they have to try and disrupt the smooth running of the French revolutionary government not realizing he is walking right into the center of a coup d’Etat by Napoleon to take over France himself.

Who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a tough one. I really like the way Dewey Lambdin writes and I find myself re reading David Eddings’ fantasy books.  I also like Adam Hardy as he tries to be different and his hero is darker. But I am in awe of anyone who is successful and attracts a following.

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

My first dog was a Jack Russel terrier called Spot who was bred as a ratter.  He had homicidal tendencies and was lethal to rats which was good as we lived in the middle of nowhere. My second dog was a black Labrador who’s pedigree name was Lord Fred of Salisbury but, as my little sister couldn’t say Salisbury, he ended up being called Saucy.  My father had a pub by then and Sauce would greet the lady customers by sticking his nose up their skirts. So Saucy by name saucy by nature.

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

Blaez is a full character and he is part of the team as much as any other of Marty’s followers.  In fact he is featured more than some of the others.  He is bodyguard, scout and companion to Marty. He also lets him know who he can trust as dog’s instincts for that are far better than ours.  Dutchies are loyal, defensive, loving, all the things you expect from Shepherds.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I have had pets around me all my life and I can’t imagine a world, even on a ship without any. The other thing is it brings colour to a scene when a dog is in it and it can change the dynamic from what people expect as you can be as illogical as a dog.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Our First Dutch Shepherd was Gus-Troy van Stavast  (Troy) and he was Blaez’s grandfather.  He was in the breeding program and he had already sired two litters. Then he was chosen by another breeder for their bitch Claire.  As it turned out Claire came into season about 2 days before we went on holiday and although she was ‘presented’ to Troy he knew it wasn’t the right time and wasn’t interested.  So we talked to the people who ran the kennel that all the animals were going into while we were away.  For some reason they got all excited by the prospect of having a conception in their kennels and agreed to let the breeder bring Claire to Troy there.  Well they set up a ’love nest’ and the deed was done in front of quite an audience cameras and all, but that didn’t stop my boy as he fathered 11 pups in that litter. He always was a show off

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

I always had a couple of stories going around in my head and I always told myself a story to get myself to sleep.  I was always quite active and didn’t sit still long enough to write but then a few years ago I suddenly developed arthritis and that slowed me down quit a bit.  Then one day I just fired up word on my laptop and wrote “You’re early again” said Miss Kate, the teacher at the school in Stoborough. It was a long walk for a twelve year old from Furzebrook to Stoborough through the heath, which was yellow with gorse flowers at the end of June.”  And that was it. I now write every day for at least an hour, my day job permitting.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

They try and climb on my lap as soon as I pick up my laptop but once we get over that Blaez lies at my feet and Zeeva is never far away.

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

The story is in you. Don’t be frightened of putting it on paper and giving it to someone else to read.  It is like exposing your soul but the satisfaction of having anyone read your story and enjoying it is unbelievable.

About Christopher

Christopher C. Tubbs is a descendent of a long line of Dorset clay miners and has chased his family tree back to the 16th century in the Isle of Purbeck. He has been a public speaker at conferences for most of his career in the Aerospace and Automotive industries and was one of the founders of a successful games company back in the 1990’s. Now in his fifties he finally got around to writing the story he had been dreaming about for years. Thanks to Inspiration from the great sea authors like Alexander Kent, Dewey Lambdin, Patrick O’Brian and Dudley Pope he was finally able to put digit to keyboard.

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Welcome, Debra Goldstein

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome mystery author, Debra Goldstein to the blog this week.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, transplanted Yankee and civic volunteer are all words used to describe me. My writings are equally diverse. Although my novels are traditional mysteries with cozy elements, my short stories tend to be darker with unexpected twists. My non-fiction essays reflect emotional slices of life.

I am very excited about One Taste Too Many, the first of my new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series being published by Kensington. In One Taste, culinary challenged Sarah knows starting over after her divorce will be messy. Things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin sister’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with her cat, RahRah, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and her sister wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death – being in the kitchen!

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

Presently, I don’t have any pets (unless you count my husband), but in the past, I’ve had dogs. Traits from our toy poodle and bichon frise find their way into book two, Two Bites Too Many, but my limited knowledge of animals beyond dogs was a definite problem when I decided I wanted a cat to play a major role in the Sarah Blair mystery series. I remedied my lack of familiarity with cats by contacting a friend who has a very special Siamese cat, Suri. Suri’s behavior, tricks, and even appearance became the model for my absolute favorite cat, RahRah.

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

One of the main characters in the Sarah Blair mystery series is RahRah the cat. Sarah married at eighteen, divorced by twenty-eight and in doing so swapped a luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a job as a law firm receptionist. The only thing she can show for the past decade is her feisty Siamese cat, who previously belonged to her ex’s mother. Knowing RahRah already probably spent one of his nine lives when he was rescued, as a kitten from a hurricane’s floodwaters, Sarah is very protective of RahRah – when she isn’t wishing she could have the resilience and confidence he has. Basically, RahRah owns the world.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

One Taste Too Many is the first of at least three Sarah Blair mysteries. I’m doing final edits on the second book, Two Bites Too Many, and am writing the third book, Three Treats Too Many. In my spare time, I’ve been writing short stories. Several of them will be published in 2019 including The Dinner Gift, which won an award in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable competition, Harvey and the Red HeadThe Eyes of Texas anthology, and Nova, Capers, and a Schmear of Cream CheeseFishy Business, an anthology compiled by the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

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

The earliest pet I remember having was a goldfish won at a school carnival. Sadly, it barely survived the transfer from its plastic bag to a small bowl. After a proper mourning period, my parents bought me three miniature turtles. I named them Turk, Dirk, and Lurk – perhaps a sign of the mystery bent my writing career would take. Later, we added a grey miniature poodle, Lord Silver Mist (Misty) to the family menagerie.

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

I believe animals have true personalities and impact the lives of everyone in a household. Consequently, when I use an animal in my writing, as I do with RahRah in the Sarah Blair mystery series, the animal must be a fully developed character. I want the reader to enjoy the animal’s behavior and interaction with the human characters, not simply be a reference to a cat or dog because the book or story has cozy elements. For me, the interaction between animals and humans can provide the impetus to move the story forward, be an instance of comic relief, or simply serve to illustrate another character’s personality. RahRah does all of these things at different points in One Taste Too Many.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in my writing because they allow me show, rather than tell, the reader about different aspects of the other characters’ personalities. For example, if a fussy animal rubs against the leg of a seemingly tough character, but the character unconsciously bends and pets the animal, we realize the tough guy has a soft side. My animals also create or dissipate tension through dramatic or comedic moments. Finally, I use animals because I like them.

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

My favorite book with an animal as a prominent character is One Taste Too Many because after living with it for the past year, I’m partial to it. Bambi is the movie with a central animal character that had a lasting impact on me because of its plot twists, but those twists are what keeps me from using the word “favorite” with it.

 Bambi was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I was three years old and the movie was a treat my father took me to because my parents had recently brought home this thing they called my sister. I’m not sure if they wanted me to have one on one time with a parent or simply thought it a good idea to get me out of the house because every time they asked me to help by handing them something for the baby, I threw it at her – don’t worry, we are very close now. Although I still smile when I think of Bambi and Thumper, the animals, the scenes when Bambi’s mother was killed and where the fire spread through the forest were so powerful they made a lasting impression on me. I watched the movie again as an adult and was again disturbed by those scenes, but now I understood them from a writer’s perspective. Each was a major plot point change where tension and conflict occurred. For a writer, Bambi is an excellent lesson in how to effectively manipulate the emotions of a viewer or reader.

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

When I first started writing, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I thought getting the story in my head on paper was all I had to do. I wish I had known more about the business side – agents, publishers, distribution, marketing, social media usage, and personal platforms. It has been a steep learning curve. The other thing I wish I knew when I started writing is how wonderful and supportive other writers would prove to be.

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

My favorite place to read or write is in an oversized club chair that my mother had made for my father for their first anniversary. My father wasn’t a big person, but he had long legs. She ordered the chair built with an extra two inches of length in the seat and plenty of back support. For years, my father used that chair to read the paper and watch television. When he wasn’t home, my sister and I used the arms of that chair as our imaginary horses and by covering it with a blanket, we often made it our tent or covered wagon.

When my father died, the chair, for the next decade, became the one my mother curled up in when she wanted to read or visit with any of her kids or grandchildren. If I was visiting, I’d wait for her to go to bed and then sneak into the chair to read or write. It just felt right. When my mother died, other than some art work, there was only one piece of furniture I insisted on shipping from California to Alabama. Today, the chair sits in my bedroom. I use it to read and write and our grandchildren have discovered how wonderful its arms are for make believe.

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

Do it! Passion should never be ignored.

About Debra

One Taste Too Many is the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series by Agatha and Anthony nominated Judge Debra H. Goldstein. Her prior books include Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Debra’s short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. She is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppies, serves on Sinc’s national board, and is vice-president of SEMWA.

 

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Find out more about her writings at www.DebraHGoldstein.com , on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/ , or on Twitter @DebraHGoldstein.

One Taste Too Many is available in print and e-book from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Many-Sarah-Blair-Mystery/dp/1496719476 ), Barnes & Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-taste-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1128297322?ean=9781496719478#/ ) and your local indie bookstores.

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3 Things to Do Before Bringing Home Your First Pet by Jessica Brody

Please welcome Jessica Brody to Pens, Paws, and Claws. She’s our guest blogger this weekend about bringing home your first pet.

Becoming a pet owner is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Dogs and cats are especially lovely creatures, providing endless companionship and unconditional love. Of course, caring for another life comes with its fair share of hefty responsibilities — there are several things that need to be done before you even bring them home! Check out these preparation tips so you can ensure the successful adoption and a happy life with your new friend.

 Research Pet Types Carefully

 Try not to fall for the first adorable pet that catches your eye. It’s important that your lifestyle meets the needs of the particular animal or breed you choose, so do your research before making a decision. To start, you’ll want to consider a few important questions.

        How much space do you have in your home and yard?

       Can you handle pet hair, unpleasant messes, and possible damage to your belongings?

       Do you have any allergies?

       How much time do you have to spend playing with and training a pet?

       What activities do you intend to do with them?

       Do you have the financial stability to support veterinary bills?

 Some dog breeds, like Shih Tzus, are better suited for apartment living and owners who work long hours. Others, like Dalmatians, love to exercise and are great companions for avid runners or hikers. In general, cats require less attention than dogs and tend to fit into various living situations, though they will still need space to roam around. If you just don’t have much room at all, aim for something in a cage or tank, like a fish.

 Get Your Home Ready

 Pets aren’t all fun and games — they’re a lot of work, too! Prepare your home ahead of time so you can keep up with the cleaning and avoid accidents. If you’re getting a cat, remember that litter boxes need to be cleaned on a daily basis. Consider investing in a self-cleaning litter box to make this task a little easier. Find the best options by checking out reviews on Cat Life Today.

 If you’re getting a puppy, look into comfortable crates and puppy pads to cut down on messy accidents during house training. No matter how careful you are, your pup is bound to have a few accidents inside. So, be prepared with cleaning products that prevent odors and stains from setting into your carpets or upholstery. You’ll also want to stock up on toys to keep your pet from unleashing their playful energy on your belongings. Dogster recommends pet-proofing your home with baby gates to keep your curious animals from exploring dangerous areas.

 Prepare a Gentle Welcome

Animals are very sensitive to change and can be uneasy in a new home for a few days. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to make your pet more comfortable. Cats are territorial and will benefit from a personal area, such as a laundry room or bathroom, where they can be alone now and again. Petfinder suggests creating a small enclosure in this area where your cat can hide away. You can purchase a covered cat bed for this or make your own hideaway by cutting a doorway out of a cardboard box.

 Rescue pets coming from the shelter may be even more nervous or scared in a new home. Give them space to explore your house and try to reduce the number of new people they meet during the first week or so. You’ll also want to stay close by to encourage your pet to bond with you and help them feel safe for their first days. Schedule your adoption on the weekend so you can spend two to three days with them. Additionally, start your obedience training from day one to establish mutual respect and dependability between you and your pet as soon as possible.

 Owning a pet for the first time may be a bit scary, but you’ll quickly see why the majority of people consider their pets members of the family. Although they require a lot of time and money, they pay us back by increasing our happiness, encouraging us to exercise, reducing our stress, and providing endless support throughout our lives.

About Jessica Brody

I am a dog lover and creator of OurBestFriends.pet. I created the site to offer a place for animal lovers to share their favorite pet photos and stories about their furry pals. I believe dogs are the best creatures on earth. I enjoy writing about and sharing photos of dogs (and other pets!) on my website.

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Welcome, Eric Woods!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Eric Woods to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.
Beginning in third grade, my teachers would assign short stories for the class to write. While most of the class took the assignments with little significance, I became enamored with the art of storytelling. I began writing outside of class simply for fun and made it my mission to someday write a novel. My genre of choice was horror. I had become a fan of the 80s slasher film series such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, to name a few. The idea of good vs. evil has always been exciting to write about. Coming up with strong protagonists and evil antagonists drove me to come up with creative stories.

During my undergraduate years at the University of Illinois Springfield, I took a class on playwriting. This was a new genre in creative writing, and I took to it immediately. My final project, the three-act play Uncle, was voted to be performed in Reader’s Theatre for the university. My second play, the murder-mystery Macabre, was performed by the UIS Repertory Theatre in 1998. A year later, after I had graduated with an English degree, the same theatre performed my dark comedy The Living End. In total I have written 10 full length stage plays with two others still in process.

My creative writing took a hiatus for many years. Although I have been a freelance writer since 2005, it wasn’t until November 2015 when I finally discovered a method for novel writing that worked for me. I had begun half a dozen ideas that didn’t make it past 2,000 words over the years. But this time was different. I had an idea, and instead of haphazardly jumping in with little direction, I thought about the story, the characters, the settings, and everything else it would take to get through to the end. I wrote character sketches (revising as needed), put together an outline, and set a modest 500 word per day goal. By mid-July of 2016, I had finished the first draft of PUMMELED, a novel roughly 120,000 words in length. The editing and revising process was intense, but by June 2018, I was finally satisfied and decided to self-publish the novel.

Although I have always been a fan of horror, this novel belongs in the action-drama category. My second novel, however, is indeed of the horror variety. I began Dragon’s Blood during the editing process of my first novel and finished the first draft this past August. My first edit bumped the word count up to approximately 93,500 words. My hope is to have it ready for publication by October, 2019 in time for Halloween.

Now that I have figured out the method of writing that works for me, the ideas have poured in. I am already outlining my third novel which should be a unique style that I do not believe has been done before in the world of creative writing (at least I hope not).

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?
I currently have two dogs (Thor and Hilda) and one cat (Zazu). Last November we lost our dog Maddux to a sudden illness, and we were fortunate to find and adopt our two current pooches a few weeks later. They are a wonderful addition to the family. Thor is a Chihuahua mixed with something bigger, and Hilda is a senior long-haired Chihuahua/pug mix. I have yet to model them in my writing, but in a future novel, I intend to use the names of each dog I have ever had as my feature characters’ names.

What are you reading now?
Right now I am re-reading Stephen King’s IT in preparation for the theatrical release of IT Chapter 2 later in the year. I am also working on The Butcher Bride by Vince Churchill. I need to circle back to my Stephen King list and revisit Duma Key before starting his newer novels. The Outsider looks extremely thrilling.

What writing projects are you currently working on?
I am currently in the editing process of Dragon’s Blood, my second novel. It is a horror/sci-fi offering that I hope is well received by lovers of the genre. The idea was sparked by a friend of mine who created a unique piece of jewelry. As I studied it, the ideas began to flow, and next thing I knew, I had outlined an entire novel. Also, my third novel is currently in the outlining stage, but I have yet to officially begin writing the text.

Who is your favorite author and why?
I have been a Stephen King fanatic since I first read The Shining in grade school. As a horror movie buff and avid reader, it was only natural that I journeyed into the word of King and his novels. They have given me the most inspiration in my writings, and I always look to his novels when I want to see how it’s done.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.
I had one dog as a child. She was a black pick-a-poo mix named Missy. She was kind of a mutt, but we loved her. While in college (after Missy passed away), we adopted Chelsea, a white West Highland Terrier, and she was one of the sweetest pups I ever had the honor of being around. I used to think she escaped from the circus, as she could dance on her back hind legs when prompted.

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

So far, all “real” animals have only been mentioned in passing. In Dragon’s Blood, the major antagonist is not human, although it is more of a fictitious being than an actual animal. In my idea for the (hopefully) sequel to my first novel, Pummeled, I already took note that Bree (the main character) will be rescuing a dog from a bad situation in the book’s opening chapter. He will likely become a central character of his own.

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

When writing short stories in grade school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. The idea of coming up with creative stories came natural to me, and by doing it outside of school in my free time, it made me want to keep going.

What do your pets do when you are writing?
My pets love being close by whenever I am home. I have my own office where I write, and whenever I am there, they will lie next to the chair behind me. Thor sometimes likes to jump onto my lap as I am writing, just to see what I am doing.

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?
Although I have never had a pet I would consider unusual, the chief plot of Dragon’s Blood centers around the bizarre pet one of my main characters discovered as a child back in 1930. The remainder of the novel surrounds what has happened to the being nearly 90 years later.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
Outlining is imperative! For years I wanted to learn the secret to being able to write a novel. Some would say ‘just write’ while others told me not to even waste my time. I began a number of would-be novels, and never made it beyond 3,000 words. Then, on a whim, I caught an article about character sketching and outlining prior to any official storytelling. When the idea for PUMMELED came to me, I followed what I had learned, sketching a rough outline along with the main characters I already knew I wanted in the book. As I put more time and effort into the project, the outline blossomed, the characters came to life, and soon I was writing what would be my first full length novel.

A second thing I wish I knew years ago was to write down every idea, even if I could not dive right into a new story. The worst thing you can do is say “I’ll write it down later.” Because chances are, you will forget the idea later, and you will kick yourself.

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

There a couple things writers need to know as they prepare to write anything. First of all, do not let anyone tell you that writing is a waste of time. Even if you do not see it as a full time occupation, you should never let someone else squelch your creativity. Writing can be such a release, especially when you are in the zone and on a roll with your story.

It is also imperative to know that there is a lot of competition out there. Just look at Instagram, and you will come across hundreds of aspiring writers looking for people to read their creations. Especially now that self-publishing is a much easier process (thanks, technology), there are more people than ever seeing their dreams of writing books come to fruition.

About Eric Woods

Eric Woods resides in Springfield, Illinois. He is married to Lisa and has two children (Hunter and Peyton) and two stepchildren (Jake and Sam). He has been writing since grade school and is the author of 10 full length stage plays. His first novel, PUMMELED, was published in June of 2018, and he is in the process of finishing his second novel, the horror story DRAGON’S BLOOD which is scheduled for release in October 2019. Eric has been a local freelance writer since 2005, writing for such outlets as Springfield Business Journal Illinois and SO Magazine. He serves as a tour guide for the Lincoln Ghost Walk in Springfield and was a collegiate speech and debate coach for seven years.

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Hello from Ed and Lonnie of Tracy Weber’s Murder Likes It Hot!

Note from Tracy: Hi all!  I’m totally swamped preparing for Tuesday’s launch of my sixth Downward Dog Mystery, Murder Likes it Hot, so instead of writing a blog article, I decided to share an excerpt starring two new characters, Ed and Lonnie. This scene introduces Lonnie the first time yoga teacher/sleuth Kate Davidson meets him. His cage mate, Ed, shows up soon.

Meet Lonnie!
And his partner in mischief, Ed!

CHAPTER 5

Something small, brown, and furry with a hairless tail scurried past my right ankle.

“Aack! it’s a mouse!” I shrieked.

Gabriel’s demeanor changed in a heartbeat. From easygoing to frustrated, with a dollop of fear thrown in for good measure. “It’s not a mouse, it’s a rat! Catch him!”

He had to be joking. I was frozen. Stuck between irreconcilable impulses to run for the street and leap on the desk. I had no time to chase after scaly tailed vermin.

Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. All animals.

Except rats.

Gabriel pushed past me, and I stumbled into the hallway.

“God dammit, Lonnie!” He yelled. “Get back here.” He chased the nine-inch-long rodent toward the kitchen.

The young men at the pool table doubled up with laughter. Gabriel paused long enough to chastise them. “Don’t just stand there. Check on Ed!” A brunette tween leaped from the couch and ran into Gabriel’s office.

Ed? Did that mean there was a second one?

My eyes whipped back and forth across the carpet. My feet danced. I hopped from left foot to right foot and back again, terrified that a second rodent was about to crawl up my pant leg.

The way I saw it, I had two choices: stay here and hope that Rat Boy’s twin didn’t chomp on my ankle or run after Gabriel to the kitchen, where hopefully one of the vermin would soon be corralled.

I chose option two.

To learn more about “the boys,” and the trouble they’re about to cause, Check out Murder Likes it Hot this coming Tuesday.  Enjoy!

Tracy Weber

 Murder  Likes It Hot is available on Amazon and other major booksellers!

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Welcome, Morgan Summer!

Happy Holidays! Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Morgan Summer to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. Currently, I am a 2nd year High School Biology teacher, married for almost 15 years with an 8 year old little girl. I write crime/detective novels as well as recently started writing an unnamed young adult mystery series. My first book Jean Stone Crime Series Volume 1: Stranger Among Us will be released early 2019.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? I have two shelter rescues, Sheldon just turned 6 and is an 18 pound orange tabby cat and Chief is our 3 ½ year old Catahoula Mix. They are definitely apart of my book series.

What writing projects are you currently working on? Currently finishing up edits on Jean Stone Volume 2, writing Book 3 of Jean Stone, and Book 2 of my young adult mystery series.

Who is your favorite author and why? Edgar Allan Poe, his short stories were my first introduction to mystery and suspense, that day I fell in love with his writing and the genre. The Tell-Tale Heart is still my favorite of his numerous stories.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. Too numerous to name. My dad was a veterinarian so we always had every type of pet imaginable brought home, cats, dogs, birds, lizards, turtles, etc. They still have a chinchilla named Jasmine who is about 18 or 19 years old.

Why do you include animals in your writing? My writing is about my life and my animals are just an extension of our human family members. There hasn’t been a time where I didn’t have a dog or a cat as a companion in my life. I will always include them in my stories.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I was always a reader, but as I got older I enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper. That turned into song lyrics since I wanted to be a county singer during my teenager years. College helped refine my writing skills, it was around that time I realized that I truly had a gift for writing. Then the day came that a fellow teacher jokingly told me that I should write a crime novel. Six weeks later, Jean Stone was born.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? Visit Italy. Reading is my favorite past time which transported me to different places all around the world through the pages. After reading numerous novels set there, I decided one day I would go see for myself all the beautiful sights and sounds Italy has to offer.

What do your pets do when you are writing? Lay at my feet and snore or annoy me depending on their mood.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? “FDR Letters” and “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America”, sadly I have so my TBR I can barely keep up!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? Outdoors in the country away from the world with no technology. There are no distractions, just me, my pencil and paper, and my imagination.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Do not write for anyone else, write for yourself. Be a limited edition.

Author Bio:

Reading was always a love of Morgan’s, devouring crime novels by the dozens. A random conversation with a fellow mentor and coworker, would inspire her to write the book series in the genre she loved. This was how Jean Stone was born.

 She has worn many hats from being a Navy Wife for 13 years to currently teaching High School Biology. Currently living back in her home state of Texas, if she isn’t teaching, she is either writing, crocheting, or spending time with her husband and daughter.

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Welcome Canadian Author Barbara Fradkin

 

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Barbara Fradkin to the blog. Barbara gets a special place in my heart (me being Kristina Stanley). She generously provided the first endorsement I ever received for my first novel Descent. That’s a kindness I’ll never forget. Canada is proud to claim Barbara as one of our own.

Tell about yourself and what you write.

I’m a retired child psychologist who discovered that plotting murder was the perfect way to vent the frustrations of my job. Mysteries give me license to probe moral and social issues while exploring the dark side of ordinary people. I’m fascinated by what people do when they’re desperate and what drives them to that ultimate choice. My books blend mystery and suspense in a gritty, realistic, and psychological style.

I have three distinct series so far, including ten books in an award-winning police procedural series set in Ottawa and three easy-read books with a country handyman as reluctant sleuth. Most recently I have been working on a mystery-thriller series featuring passionate, adventurous former aid worker Amanda Doucette, who can’t turn her back on people in trouble. Each book is set in a different iconic location across Canada, the most recent being PRISONERS OF HOPE, set in the spectacular islands of Georgian Bay. I’m currently hard at work on the fourth, entitled THE ANCIENT DEAD, set in the Alberta badlands.

How do your pets impact your writing?

I have two Nova Scotia Duck Tollers, because one of these live wires is never enough. Besides being part of my stories, as I describe below, they help set the mood for my day. They can lift my spirits or calm me down. They can make me laugh or drive me to distraction. 

I write to the rhythm of their day. Right now, they are curled up on the sofa beside me on this cold winter day, providing a warm, comforting backdrop. At other times they remind me, by grumbling at the door or dropping a ball on my computer, that it’s time for a break. And best of all, I can work out story problems, think up new plot twists, and argue loudly with my characters during the long, relaxed dog walks. 

Do you include animals in your stories?

In all three of my series, the hero has a dog. A pet spotlights the emotional side of a character. Inspector Green is an accidental dog owner who’d never owned a pet but “inherited” a traumatized mutt during one of his murder investigations. As he tried to build trust between himself and the dog, I got to explore a softer, more uncertain side of Green. Cedric O’Toole, the handyman in my easy-read series, lives alone on a farm and is far more comfortable with his dog than with people.

But it’s in the Amanda Doucette series that animals truly take centre stage. Amanda experienced a trauma during an overseas posting and, back home in Canada to recover, she got a Duck Toller named Kaylee, which is Celtic for kitchen party. Modelled on my own dogs, Kaylee is bouncy, playful, and always up for adventure. They’re way better than Prozac; you can’t help but smile when you meet a Duck Toller. Kaylee becomes Amanda’s unofficial therapy dog who accompanies her everywhere. As a bonus her other skills, mainly her acute nose, ears, and tracking ability, help out Amanda in her sleuthing efforts. It’s no coincidence that in real life dogs are the ones to discover bodies hidden in the bush.   

What is your funniest pet story?

Almost every day my dogs do something that makes me smile. But one time stands out. I have a modest cottage on a lake in Eastern Ontario and one of our summer challenges is to swim across the lake and back. For safety’s sake, someone has to forego the swim and go alongside in the canoe. We usually swap places for the swim back. My dogs love to go in the canoe – actually they just want to go along on whatever adventure is on offer – so when I got in the canoe, one of them hopped in for the ride. On the way back, everyone wanted to swim, including me, so we left a very startled Kaylee alone and we all took turns towing her back. It was a funny sight! 

Barbara Fradkin is a retired child psychologist with a fascination for why we turn bad. She has been writing since she was a child, but didn’t get serious until she discovered crime. In the past two decades or so, she has published at least thirty short stories and thirteen novels, along with three Rapid Reads short novels. Many of her works have been shortlisted or won Arthur Ellis Awards from Crime Writers of Canada.

Until recently she has been best known for her gritty, psychological Inspector Green series, which has received two Arthur Ellis Best Novel Awards. However, her newest mystery suspense series features foreign aid worker Amanda Doucette, who battles her own traumatic past to help people in trouble. PRISONERS OF HOPE, the third in the series, was released in October 2018, and she is currently writing the fourth, entitled THE ANCIENT DEAD. 

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You can find her books here! Everyone one is fantastic – I know because I’ve read them all. Thanks for reading today – Kristina

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Welcome, Monica Olsen!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Monica Olsen to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve always loved writing. I was probably the only student in my classes in high school and college to look forward to writing the term’s research paper. For instance, in my Abnormal Psych class in college, I wrote a fifty-five page research paper on eating disorders. I even found two patients and included Q & A interviews as an exhibit to the paper. I’ve always loved to read so writing stories, I believed, would have come naturally to me. Turns out it didn’t. I started trying to write a novel in my late teens. Everything I wrote sounded hokey and contrived. Then I wrote a short children’s story and sent it in to Highlights magazine. A few months later I received a rejection letter with a list of twenty-seven suggestions for improving the story. Dejected, I shelved the book writing, finished college and now work as a claim examiner for a small third party administrator in Pennsylvania where, until recently, I was limited to report writing.

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

I currently have four pets: two dogs and two cats. Thunder is a shi tzu mix and Romeo is a Maltese mix. We adopted them three years ago from the animal shelter on the same day. Both were older dogs at the time and have been such a blessing to our home. We also have two American shorthair cats, Miley and Bailey. All four of them could easily serve as the basis of more than a few stories. Our dog Thunder was the inspiration for my second book, Hair O the Dog.


Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories.

Thunder is the sweetest dog we have ever met. He is very laid back and sleeps a lot, compared to Romeo, who is very feisty, likes to wrestle. and is often up for anything. But where Romeo came to us trained and understanding simple commands, this was not the case with Thunder. We could take him out for a thirty-minute walk and he’d come inside and do his business right on the spot. Yelling at him and even crating him didn’t seem to work. I was torn between relinquishing him back to the shelter, where he’d almost certainly be euthanized (we found out shortly after we adopted him that he was closer to ten years old than six or seven the shelter told us he was), and giving him away. One day, I was shopping at Walmart and saw that the store carried ‘doggy diapers’. Sold! I had found a solution that was a win-win. They were very pricey and didn’t always fit properly, so I eventually switched to real life baby diapers, which fit the bill remarkably well.Thunder and my daughter have been inseparable since the day we brought him home. When she’s not home, we usually find him in her room, curled up and sound asleep on a sweatshirt or pair of sneakers she has left on the floor. It’s really quite endearing. My parents had abruptly given away our first dog when I was five years old and I did not want my daughter to experience the same. No kid should have to experience that heartbreak.

Hair O the Dog is geared towards the eight to eleven year old reader. It is about a young boy, Graham Cupps, who moves from Canada back to the US and has trouble making friends. His parents get him a dog, which seems to ease his loneliness. Although their hearts were in the right place, when the dog, who is also incidentally named Thunder, proves to hard to potty train, they look to find him another home. It is up to Graham to save his best friend. I hope that the readers feel Graham’s worry and despair and that these feelings inspire the readers to look for alternatives to relinquishing animals to shelters or worse, abandoning them to the streets or unsuitable homes.

What are you reading now?

The Black and The Blue, by Matthew Horace. It is essentially about policing in the US.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just finished editing my latest middle grade fiction novel, The Piper Boy. I have also started another middle grade chapter book which I would love to adapt to a screenplay at some point. But first thing’s first. I have to actually finish the manuscript. I am about eight chapters in.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I can’t say I really have any ‘favorite’ authors. I am drawn to a few different genres: romance, historical romance, mysteries, period pieces. If I really like an author, I tend to binge on everything they’ve written. Some of my favorites have been Anita Shreve, Jodi Piccoult, Syndey Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Mary Higgins Clark and Tatiana DeRosnay. I also love Gillian Flynn, but boy is she dark!

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

I did. My first dog was Cindy, a small black and white spaniel. She was very sweet but very energetic. One day just before Christmas she pulled the Christmas tree down and made quite a mess. I came home shortly thereafter and learned that my parents had given her away. Several years later, when I was a teenager, we adopted a tiny Corgi puppy from the animal shelter named Stormy. She loved to smile and swim. And when we’d had her for a few years we adopted another black and white pointer with the sharpest hearing and vision I’ve ever seen.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like to include pets in my stories because, to me, it makes my characters more human.

There is a dog which I introduce at the end of my first book, I Am Lily, Hear Me Roar. It probably wasn’t necessary to do so but it brought the character such joy. It was like I rewarded her for being such a good friend to Lily.

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

Not yet, but I hope to in the future. I have a co-worker with a severely disabled son. She has previously complained that there are so few children’s books featuring disabled kids as main characters or geared towards disabled kids. So I’d like to write a book or two to help fill that gap.

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

I would have to say that one of my favorites early on was Disney’s Fox and the Hound. I just loved the relationship between Todd and Copper. I think I was ten when I saw it. I remember it really touched something deep inside me, even at that age. Free Willy and A Dolphins Tale are amongst some of my favorites too. I love the sea and its exotic animals. Who doesn’t? I think animals help us better identify ‘teachable moments’ to kids, such as identifying and making sense of the senseless, protecting the earth’s resources and wildlife, etc.

Whats your real-life funniest pet story?

Thunder is a constant source of amusement for us. Not only have we noticed that he cannot hear, but he has pretty bad cataracts which cause him to not be able to see, especially at night or when navigating the steps. Unless, that is, he hears his food bag opening. Then, no matter where he is that boy can hear the bag open and can make it down to the kitchen in record time.

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

I always remember wanting to be a writer. When I was six, I wrote a play in our basement and made my sisters act it out. (They have no recollection of this.) I didn’t actually publish a book until recently. After receiving the rejection letter years ago, I never seriously tried again to write with the intent on becoming a published writer. I would write little stories here and there, most of the time never finishing them. One day last year I was at lunch with a group of colleagues and I mentioned that I have always wanted to write a book. One of my colleagues convinced me to try again and now I am two books in with two more on the way. It is such an exciting time for me!

Whats the number one item on your bucket list and why?

Writing a book was number one on my bucket list. During the process I learned that my aunt, who is now deceased, wrote a play in her late teens or early twenties that was produced. Infuriatingly frustrating, my father is unable to recall any details as to when it was produced, where, by whom or the title! Whatever this drive is, it appears to be in the genes.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I often find a little corner in a cafe and do my writing there. My pets are at home during this time.

Whats in your To Be Read (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

As soon as I started writing seriously, I went online and found a few really good Facebook groups dedicated to authors and publishers. I’ve come across some really interesting finds, such as the book I’m reading now, The Black and The Blue by Matthew Horace.

Some others I intend to pick up are:

The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber

Proof of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Lies that Bind by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Hazel House by Oby Aligwekwe

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana DeRosnay

These are just a few. Sadly, my free time is limited, and I haven’t been doing much reading while I have been writing. I hope to get back to it soon.

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

First, just write.

Second, it’s a process. I once read an interview with novelist Danielle Steel, whom I idolized in my teens. First, I wanted to be Judy Blume. Then I wanted to be Danielle Steel. In the interview it mentioned that she once locked herself in her bedroom and wrote a book in twenty-three hours (or something like that). Myself, I find I can write for two hours max. Many times, I’ve sat in front of my computer and have written five words. I don’t ever feel like I am wasting time. Because writing is a process.

Third, don’t lose those great ideas. I have close to an hour drive to and from work, which is when I tend to get my best ideas. I obviously can’t write them down at that point, so I dictate them into the Notes app of my cellphone. Always have something to record your thoughts. I often go back to the notes if I can’t retain the words or story line when I have time to sit and write later.

And fourth, never give up. If writing is what you want to do, then just do it. I have read many books over the years. Some I liked and some I didn’t. My friends and I sometimes disagreed on whether a book was good or not. Sometimes what I find really good another might not, and vice versa. Your readers are out there. You’ll find them.

Monicas Biography:

Monica Olsen is the author of two middle grade fiction books: Hair O the Dog (2018, Amazon) and I Am Lily, Hear Me Roar (2018, Covenant Books). She earned a BA in Law/Justice from Rowan University and an Associate in Arts from Gloucester County Community College. She lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her family and four pets.

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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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