Welcome back, Debra H. Goldstein!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Debra H. Goldstein back to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your new book.

When the publishers of my first two books each went out of business, leaving me orphaned, I still wanted to write cozy mysteries, but I had a major problem. Traditionally, cozies take place in a closed environment, don’t have blood or sex on the page, and feature a character who demonstrates an expertise at crafts, cooking or baking. I’m not good at crafts and anything to do with the kitchen frightens me. As I thought about my dilemma of not being able to write what I know, I realized there had to be readers who weren’t handy with crafts or dreaded being in the kitchen. Consequently, I created Sarah Blair who finds cooking from scratch worse than dealing with murder.

 Two Bites Too Many is the second book in the Sarah Blair series. In this book, things are finally looking up for Sarah and her Siamese cat, RahRah. Sarah has somehow managed to hang on to her law firm receptionist job and – if befriending flea-bitten strays at the local animal shelter counts – lead a thriving social life. For once, she almost has it together more than her enterprising twin, Emily, a professional chef whose efforts to open a gourmet restaurant have hit a real dead end.

 When the president of the town bank is murdered after icing Emily’s business plans, all eyes are on the one person who left the scene with blood on her hands – the twins’ sharp-tongued mother, Maybelle. Determined to get her mom off the hook ASAP, Sarah must collect the ingredients of a deadly crime to bring the true culprit to justice.

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

 RahRah, the Siamese cat who lives with Sarah, is introduced in the first book, One Taste Too Many, as a primary series character. He, rather than Sarah, runs the show. In Two Bites Too Many, Fluffy, a dog, also becomes part of the ongoing story. Although Fluffy is a recurring character, she knows her role is secondary to RahRah’s.

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

My first pets were three small turtles – Turk, Durk, and Lurk. When my family moved to a new state, I had to give them to the boy next door. After we moved, we got a toy poodle who was part of our family for the next twenty years. When Lord Silver Mist passed away, a bichon frise took over running my life.

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

I use animals in my writing to create a sense of reality for readers and as a means of bringing different personality traits out in my human characters. In the Sarah Blair series, I try to make RahRah and Fluffy pets like those readers might have. That way, they can identify with each animal’s behavior and characteristics. I also want the animals in my books to help readers understand my human characters. As they see the characters interact with the animals in kind, mean, loving or indifferent ways, I hope subliminal clues are sent that generate reactions to the respective characters.

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

 My favorite animal used as a central character wasn’t in a book or a movie, but rather in a television show. As a child, watching reruns of Fury, I was impressed with the magnificence of the beautiful stallion, but what really captured me was the way the stories were written. There was always a good vs. bad plot line that would never have been resolved in the same way if Fury hadn’t been a central character. I think watching how different characters reacted to Fury and how Fury interacted with them taught me the ways an animal can be used to move a story along in a believable manner.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now?

See the picture below — and this doesn’t include what’s on my e-reader.

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

My favorite place to read and write is in an oversized club chair. As her first anniversary gift, my mother had the chair made two inches deeper than normal to accommodate my father’s long legs. The arms of the chair are between four and five inches wide. It was the perfect place for him to read the newspaper, write letters, or draw and for my sister and me to stretch our imaginations.

When my sister and I were children, we used the chair to pretend to ride horses and as the base for covered wagons, stagecoaches and tents. The chair was wide enough for both of us to hide in it or pretend one of us was a passenger while the other was a driver or riding shotgun.

When my father died, my mother took comfort curling up in the chair. When she passed away, other than some artwork, the chair was the only thing I wanted from her home. I had it shipped from California to Alabama. Today, it is where I sit with my laptop. Someday, I hope one of my children will continue the tradition of reading and writing in the chair.

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

 I would tell an aspiring writer to read extensively and think about the feelings each book or story generates. At this point, the reader should read with only the hope of enjoying the work in mind. There is no further agenda other than exposure to the works of an array of writers. Slowly, the would-be writer, now reader, will recognize what is moving, perplexing, exciting or boring. Once a wide gambit has been read, then, and only then, should the would-be writer dissect the stories and books to better understand their internal structure, plots, settings, and characterization. After doing all this, the individual should write the book or story that person wants to write.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

The one lesson I learned is to write what I want to write. Although I read and studied the masters, other books in the genre I thought might want to write in, and what seemed hot on the publishing lists, the lesson I learned was to write the best book or story I could using techniques I’d gleaned from other works, but realizing my tale had to come from me. Trends go out of style; formulas can be broken, but an honest work will stand on its own merit and hopefully find an audience to resonate with.

What’s next for you with your writing projects?

October was a busy month for me. Kensington released the second Sarah Blair mystery, Two Bites Too Many, so I will be busy with launch events and PR. An anthology edited by Michael Bracken, The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods, which contains my first private eye story, Harvey and the Redhead was published by Down & Out Books, Inc. I’ve already turned in the third Sarah Blair mystery, which will be published in September 2020, so besides the PR related to the two October publications, I plan to take two classes to advance my skills, write a few short stories in response to prompts, and begin the fourth book of the Sarah Blair series (yes, they recently bought two beyond the original three).

Show us a picture of your writing space or one of your bookcases. What does it say about your style?

It demonstrates that I don’t have any style because I’m so far behind on things, I don’t have time to establish one.

 About Debra:

Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (One Taste Too Many, Two Bites Too Many). She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra serves on the national boards of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and is president of the Southeast Chapter of MWA and past president of SinC’s Guppy Chapter. Find out more about Debra at www.DebraHGoldstein.com .

https://www.amazon.com/Bites-Many-Sarah-Blair-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07MB4779P

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/two-bites-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1130055243?

Let’s Be Social:

Website – www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/

Twitter – @DebraHGoldstein

Instagram – debra.h.goldstein

Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-h-goldstein

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Liz Boeger!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Liz Boeger to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

In the spirit of this blog, I’ll respond with animals in mind. I grew up near Old Tampa Bay in an area of South Tampa that had originally been named Rattlesnake. Eventually, the rattlesnake meat cannery that had become an early tourist attraction in the area closed. Its owner/operator had succumbed to the hazard of his trade. Consequently, there were far fewer rattlesnakes hidden among the palmetto scrubs when my parents arrived years later, from Illinois to raise their growing family.

Many writers will tell you they penned their first stories in elementary or middle school. Not me, I was too busy wrangling multiple litters of kittens and exploring the local beaches. Later, I applied my cat-herding skills to teaching in elementary schools, math and science, primarily. During this time, I got married, and we now have a grown son. Eventually, I became an assistant principal. Beyond humans, I worked with many other fine creatures, including a goldfish, Guinea pigs, a wayward copperhead, occasional migrating alligators, and a Florida Panther who was, thankfully, secured behind the wire mesh inches from my head, in a cargo van.

I must admit, being an administrator had its high points, but it became less about leading schools and more about juggling state testing programs. To relieve job stress, I took to reading traditional and cozy mysteries. Somewhere along the way, all the crazy stories from my youth and my career converged in a dream that introduced a character and a problem. Luckily, I recalled enough details when I awoke to jot down the beginnings of what would become my cozy mystery series: Moccasin Cove Mysteries. My silly spin aside, I love teaching, and left the administrative suite to return to the classroom several years ago, which freed up some time for writing.

The main character in my series, Principal Ana Callahan, is an accomplished school turnaround specialist who rescues failing schools. In the first book, ChainLinked! She has come home to Moccasin Cove to save the failing K-5 of her childhood. Fallout from a local murder threatens her school flip, so she is forced to investigate. Then she’s paired with Mac, the handsome, single, retired Air Force colonel who is the school district’s new Chief of Security. Romantic sparks fly, but before Ana and Mac can pursue a life together, they must untangle their own broken hearts and of course, solve a murder.

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

We currently have two cats in our household. Both are rescues. Neither are in my books, but they do pose for me occasionally if I have feline behavior to describe in the story. Samantha (Sammy) – I call her a calico, but I think there is a more specific name…a tortoise something. She was a rejected adoptee my husband rescued at a pet warehouse store adoption.

GRBRTY (ger-ber-tee) – Was also rescued at a pet store adoption event. This time at barely 8-weeks by my son. He is a pale orange tabby and a chubby tubby. His original name was Racecar, but that did not fit. One day he walked over my keyboard when I was writing and typed G-R-B-R-T-Y. The name stuck.

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

I have two pets in my series. Both are permanent characters.

Muffin is modelled after my dearly departed pup by the same name. In the books, she is a rescue, turned therapy dog. So far, she works with students who have PTSD but later in the series she may branch out to veterans and retirees. She is part King Charles Cavalier and Tibetan Spaniel, like my real girly.

The second pet character in the series is a champagne orange, feral tabby kitten rescued from the mangroves during a storm. He is named Gibson by the rescuer because she trades him for a Gibson guitar. Every cat she rescues is given to a worthy home and named for whatever he or she is traded for. Gibson is modeled after a rescue I adopted in my twenties named Huey, who helped me navigate into my early thirties relatively unscathed.

What are you reading now?  

I’ll list the WHO’s instead, since my TBR has multiple copies of some authors:

Hank Phillippi Ryan, Cheryl Hollon, Terrie Farley Moran, Heather Weidner, Micki Browning, Elizabeth Sims, Ellen Byron, and many more…

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently revising the first book in the series, which I described above. The second book in my proposed series, AppleJacked! is also written, but I’ve made some timeline changes, so it will require another round of revisions later. It tells the continuing story of Ana and her quest to keep her failing school on track and to help turn around the failing economic fortunes of her beloved hometown. In this second book, Ana is in competition for a high-stacks school grant when one of her teachers is murdered. She investigates to clear the name of a parent she believes is falsely accused, In the process, Ana uncovers secrets from her own childhood and a second murder that are all connected.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It is impossible for me to choose. My criteria: Any author of traditional/cozy mysteries who can make me laugh out loud, care about the characters and their story, and who writes intelligent and challenging mysteries that are believable. This is exactly what I am trying to achieve in my series.

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

We had one dog, a white and brown terrier mix who used to dig under the fence and chase cars. Not good. He was put down in his old age due to old age. His name was Goober. Then we had so many cats and kittens you’d think we lived on a farm and not in a suburb. I remember having three litters at once in the laundry room and a favorite cat, Aunt Margaret, who had successive litters in the closet in my room.

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

Muffin, the pup in my series is a Trained Therapy dog. She works with elementary-aged students with PTSD.

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

Larger Than Life, 1996. Funny, poignant, and shows a great character arc for both the main character, played by Bill Murray, and Vera, the circus elephant he inherits unexpectedly.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Mine are slightly dark humor—not suitable for Cozy readers I’ve posted one recently on my blog about class pets, but the hamster story will never see the light of day.

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

I never even thought about writing fiction—despite being a mystery fan. Then an idea literally presented itself as a scene while I was dreaming. That led to creating the series, Moccasin Cove Mysteries, which I will be actively marketing to agents this year.

I won a Royal Palm Literary Award for my unpublished mystery, AppleJacked! from the Florida Writers Association. I knew I had potential when reading the judges’ feedback from that contest and when Elizabeth Sims graciously read the book and wrote a review blurb.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

They usually ignore me, unless it is before dawn and Sammy wants her morning treat. GRBRTY usually pesters to go in/out of the screened porch.

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

I have two stacks-paper and plastic. I prefer holding a paper book in my hand over eBooks. Given today’s publishing world you must have both. Both stacks include mysteries, writing reference books, educational topics (for work) and some quilting magazines.

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

Any place that is quiet and low traffic works for me. I prefer to write at home rather than in the coffee shop like some. Color matters to my eye too, so I like to have teals, blues, greens, and greys in the space. Currently, I have a writing nook where our breakfast nook used to be, before I commandeered it this summer. Our coffee station is within arm’s reach—that’s a perk! I can look outside at the yard through the sliding glass doors and it is not a high traffic area. If the no-see-ums aren’t too nippy on the porch or in the yard, I’ll move out there some cooler mornings or evenings.

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

1-Learn your craft by reading mentor texts and by writing.

2-Join the writing community and contribute.

3-Use social media strategically.

4-Read your genre and others for craft lessons and pleasure.

5-If you get validation for your work, and you KNOW this is the right path, don’t stop.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

It takes a village to raise a writer but not to do the writer’s work. That is my job as a writer. I must continually learn and hone my craft—even with a fulltime job. In the early stage you must be selfish about getting your footing. Then AS SOON as possible, start giving back to the community. This may be in the form of book reviews and shout outs on social media, if you are not yet published. Then once you have some creds, offer to be a contest judge, critique the work of others, offer book review blurbs, and be an encourager. I continue to meet many excellent role models for this in the writing community.

About Liz:

Liz Boeger explored hidden beaches and rattlesnake infested natural preserves while growing up near Old Tampa Bay. A veteran school administrator and teacher, she still lives in Florida and still prefers genuine snakes to the human variety. Her Moccasin Cove Mystery series features an amateur sleuth with too much empathy and wit for her own good. She earned her B.S. at the University of Tampa and her M.Ed. from Saint Leo University. Member of Sisters in Crime and Guppies.

She blogs at Moccasin Cove Mysteries (http://www.LizBoeger.com)

Follow her on Twitter: @LizBoegerAuthor or @MrsBoeger

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Gabriel Valjan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Gabriel Valjan to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is Gabriel Valjan and I write crime with a love and respect for Italy (my Roma Series with Winter Goose Publishing) and an enjoyment of intrigue (my Company Files, again with Winter Goose, and my forthcoming Shane Cleary series with Level Best Books). In all my writing I try to create a group of characters that readers can enjoy and root for, while giving them slices of culture and lost history they may not have known.

The Roma Series is contemporary crime fiction with an American expat abroad. Readers should expect a story with some technology, politics, and Italian culture and food. The Company Files introduces readers to the early days of the intelligence community and the rivalry between the CIA and the FBI. The Shane Cleary series will take readers back to 70s New England, this time to South End Boston—not to be confused with Whitey Bulger’s South Boston. The first of five Shane books, Dirty Old Town, is slated for publication in January 2020.

I’ve been publishing since 2010. My short stories have appeared online, or in anthologies. I’ve been shortlisted for the Bridport and Fish Prizes, and I received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest.

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

I have one cat named Squeak aka Buttons, a rescue tuxedo cat. My followers on Twitter expect to find some missive from Squeak on Caturday (Saturday in the Twitterverse). Squeak has been my writing companion and the inspiration for one of two cats in Roma Series Book 5: Corporate Citizen. In Dirty Old Town, the first Shane Cleary novel for Level Best Books, readers will meet Delilah, my main character’s cat and voice of conscience.

Many writers have pets and I’ve found that readers both enjoy the distraction and interpret how the character treats his or her pet as indicative of their morality. I think it’s true to say that many people find unconditional love and a nonjudgmental attitude with their fur-companions. Buttons and my late cat Squawk aka Banzai have been a joy in my life.

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

Buttons is Bogie, the male in the couple of Bogie and Bacall in Corporate Citizen. Bianca, my main character, is rather prickly and standoffish but Bogie and Bacall elicit a warmer and caring side of her personality. The real treat for readers is how Silvio, a gifted translator of sorts, communicates with cats. Silvio had also adopted a cat orphaned when his owner was murdered.

Delilah or Dee in the Shane Cleary series takes Shane to task on some of his choices. Without giving away too much, she sits and stares at him (literally) when he comes home after doing something that he shouldn’t have. Shane knows it and he ‘talks’ to Delilah. She won’t have any of it and lets him know it in no uncertain terms.

What are you reading now?

I just finished Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Murder List and Edwin Hill’s The Missing Ones, and am anxious to get my mitts on Louise Penny’s The Better Man. In the interim, I’m reading a brief short story collection by Italo Calvino, Under the Jaguar Sun. I read between books I’m writing to avoid undue influence. I find short fiction a welcome palate cleanser.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

At the moment, I am editing Dirty Old Town for Level Best Books. In revisiting the writing, I want to make sure everything ‘adds up’ and that I’ve seeded the book with questions that will get answered as the series progresses. I have written five books and had a long-arc view of conflicts and resolutions.

Who is your favorite author and why?

This is a hard question to answer because I enjoy many authors for different reasons. As an only child, I found solace and company in reading books. I was also fortunate to have teachers who thrusted books into my hands. My seventh-grade teacher gave me a copy of Agatha Christie and I proceeded to read all of her work in the next two years. As a child of the Seventies, I had a fondness for historical sagas that were all the rage, so Clavell, Hailey, Jakes, Levin, Peters, and Wouk are nostalgic touchstones for me. As for contemporary historical fiction, I’ve enjoyed Robert Harris’s trilogy on Cicero.

As a writer, you feel ‘on’ most of the time and oftentimes your inner critic interferes with your enjoyment. When I sit down with a writer I enjoy, I like to think I’m spending time with an old friend or making a new one. Good writing like good food is sustenance; it can offer escape and yet fortify you against the troubles in Life. In terms of style, I’ve come to appreciate the clean and elegant sentences of Margaret Millar, her husband Ross Macdonald, and Rex Stout. I began writing with poetry and moved to short stories. Short fiction is a difficult art form and I think most readers avoid it because they’ve been traumatized by high school English classes. Stefan Zweig was a master of the form, and I admire the stories we get from Bonnie Jo Campbell, EJ Levy, and Art Taylor.

I read broadly, but yet I’ve tried to seek out writers who are different from either how I’ve experienced the world, or how I would write a story. Writers I have enjoyed: RG Belsky, Andrea Camilleri, Bruce Coffin, LA Chandlar, J. California Cooper, Dick Cass, Colleen Gleason, Maurizio de Giovanni, Peter Hamill, Cheryl Head, Reginald Hill, Jim L’Etoile, Laurie King, Dannie Martin, Gabriel García Marquez, Eryk Pruitt, Stephen Mack Jones, Sara Paretsky, William Martin, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Walter Mosley, James Ziskin, and many more.

However, my absolute favorite, my desert island author is Shakespeare.

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

I did. My mother had a miniature poodle named Lulu, who was a terror and spiteful force of nature. To give you one example, she hated baths so she would run outside and roll in the dirt the minute she escaped the tub. She got on with my mother and nobody else. My grandparents had a German Shepherd named Nero, who was the most chill and calming living thing I’ve ever encountered. Protective, intuitive, and a gentle being.

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

I try to stay true to how animals function in our lives. They are our friends and family; they understand us in ways our biological relations do not, and they do so without judgment. Buttons helped me get through aggressive radiation treatment. He’d wait at the door when I came home and snuggle up to me until I fell asleep. That was selfless and compassionate. Then he would eat. If you know him, you know he likes his food, but when I was sick, I came first and I’m grateful to him for that. There’s an understanding there I think people don’t understand.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in my writing for the same reason people infuse humor into their stories. Pets add dimensionality, reveal our humanity, our shortcomings, and I think we are quick to defend animals because they are innocent and unconditional. Think of Tony Soprano, a killer, who became upset and distraught when the horse Pie-O-My and the dog Cosette died. Even he, despite his sociopathy, understood pets deserved to be protected.

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

Not until after I was 40. I’ll be honest: as a reader all my life, I never gave thought to writing a novel or anything. When I turned 40, I set myself a goal of writing a short story a week for one year. My earliest artistic impulses were in drawing and painting. When started writing, I accepted the fact that most of it would be terrible. I had slapped together a novel, just to get certain things out of my system. A year later, I had a handful of stories that I thought were decent (I’m very critical of my own work), so I submitted two stories to magazines, and both were published. One of them was shortlisted for the Fish Prize in 2010. I wrote most of the Roma Series while dealing with the aftermath of radiation; there’s a reason why food is a thread throughout the novels. My later novels were born of my own curiosity and explorations in history.

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

Respect your reader’s intelligence and their time. Give them a story and an experience, and not your ego for 300 pages where you demonstrate your wit and vocabulary. People thirst for intimacy and a hardscrabble few will pick up a book instead of the TV remote. Write authentic. I can’t define what that means for you, and perhaps that is why I waited until I was 40 years old.

You are the sum of a lifetime of reading and your relationship with language. What you do with language is unique to you, so find it and cultivate it…in workshop babble, it’s called Voice, and it can’t be taught in any MFA program. The rest of it…humor, how you turn a phrase comes from your own peculiar way of observing the world around you.

Don’t make excuses. Set aside distractions. Trust me, you’ll make the time for what is important to you. Set aside distinctions such as genre and literary and create a where you want to spend time in and swim in. There’s a good chance others will enjoy it. If you enjoy a particular writer, break it down for yourself what it is you enjoy about them, and think about how they did it, and then do it your way. Learn craft, the ways of creating character, pacing and rhythm, and dialogue. Yes, you can learn it from a book or from a teacher, but I think it’s best to teach yourself, on your own terms because you’ll never forget the lessons or tools you created for yourself. Last but not least, it’s easy to be a critic, so be selective about what you allow into your sphere. Keep writing and strive to improve your skills.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

There are no guarantees. Be careful of how you define success. There are a lot of ‘successful’ books that are nothing more than soapboxes for ego, that lack structure, or are formulaic stories. I’ve learned that books that I thought were successful because of awards and vigorous marketing were poor in sales. Publishing is a business and money is what matters. Right time. Right place. There are too many variables, so write what you are proud of and can speak for you when you’re not in the room.

About Gabriel

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series and the Company Files with Winter Goose Publishing. The first of five Shane Cleary novels with Level Best Books is scheduled to appear in January 2020. Gabriel is a member of Sisters in Crime, and attends Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and New England Crime Bake. He lives in Boston.

 Let’s Be Social

 Facebook: Gabriel Valjan

Twitter: @GValjan

Web: www.gabrielvaljan.com

Blog: https://gabrielswharf.wordpress.com

Exclusive Excerpt of The Naming Game: https://wp.me/p1Ykp4-rX

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Kathy Krevat!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Kathy Krevat, to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your new book.

Hi! I’m Kathy Krevat, author of the Gourmet Cat Mystery series by Lyrical/Kensington. In the third book of the series, THE TROUBLE WITH TALENT, gourmet cat food chef Colbie Summers stumbles over the body of an abusive oboe teacher who is part of an underground network of people helping to get rich kids in top universities.

As Kim Davis, Blogger at Cinnamon, Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder, said, “Long before the scandals hit recent headlines, Ms. Krevat managed to portend a social issue involving wealthy families using their riches to gain access to top schools for unworthy students. THE TROUBLE WITH TALENT weaves an entertaining, tightly plotted tale of murder in a timely and relevant story involving a college fixer.” 

When I’m not writing, I’m volunteering. I just finished five years on the board of Playwrights Project, (http://playwrightsproject.org/) an organization that teaches literacy and other life skills through playwriting. It works with over 10,000 people a year — students in K-12 schools, foster care and juvenile court system schools, seniors, the incarcerated and more.

I’m also on the board for Partners in Crime – the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I’m involved in local politics. And I help coordinate the CCA Writers’ Conference in San Diego – the only free writing conference for high school students in the US. (https://ccawritersconference2019.weebly.com/)

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

Trouble is an orange tabby cat who was the inspiration behind Colbie starting Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food Company. She’s full of personality and is the official taste-tester of Colbie’s products.

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

I had quite a few childhood pets, including dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, gerbils, and a rabbit. Once I even brought home a little of kittens and the mother from band camp. (Yes, I called to ask first.)

Who is your favorite author and why?

J.K. Rowling for her imagination and mastery of plotting, setting, characterization, and more, and for inspiring a love of reading in millions of people young and old.

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

Trouble is definitely a character is her own right, meowing comments that Colbie interprets, and sometimes finding clues.

What’s your real-life, funniest pet story?

I’m sure I have others, but the one that comes to mind is about my Shih Tzu, Fluffy, who I had in my twenties. I adopted her from a family who couldn’t keep her any longer and their daughter had named her. I took her to a lot of places in an oversized bag, including a trip to my sister’s wedding. I tried leaving her in the hotel room, and she barked so much that I came back to get her. She was so mad that she refused to look at me. Another time, a friend was visiting, and instead of going to the park like we usually did on weekends, I dropped Fluffy off at home, and we went to the local diner. When we got back, my friend discovered that Fluffy had climbed on top of her unzipped luggage and peed inside!

What’s the most interesting/fun/dangerous thing you’ve done in the name of research for one of your books?

The most fun was learning how to make chocolate truffles for my Chocolate Covered Mystery series. A local chocolatier supplied all of the recipes, but I had to test them all. Such a hardship!

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

There are so many more than two things! I wish I’d known that in order to get published, your voice matters more than you imagine, so write what sounds like you. I also wish I’d joined writing organizations like Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America earlier. Taking advantage of all they have to offer helped me and so many others become published.

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

I have “my spot” on one end of a very comfy couch with reclining leg rests where I read and write. I also have a recliner in my home office that I use as well. My writing process is a bit unusual. I hand write my ideas onto neon pink paper and then flesh them out a lot more as I type them into the computer. Once I have a decent draft, I print the whole thing out, which allows me to see problems better. I wish my process didn’t use so much paper, but maybe it’s offset by my driving an electric car.

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

The best advice I know of is to keep learning and keep writing. No one thinks they can become a sculptor overnight, but for some reason almost everyone thinks they should automatically be able to write a book. When it’s not perfect to begin with, they stop, not realizing that you have to practice, practice, practice. Keep writing!

I’d also recommend giving back to their local writing community. I didn’t start volunteering to make business contacts, but looking back, I can see that it helped. And there’s something special about being with people who love the same things you do!

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

It might be a little depressing, but there’s a large element of luck in getting published, and lots of great books don’t get chosen by the big publishers. Indie publishing offers great opportunities for the authors of these books.

What’s next for you with your writing projects?

While I wait to hear if Lyrical/Kensington wants a fourth book in the Gourmet Cat Mystery series, I’m working on a young adult suspense book.

Single mom Colbie Summers has a lot to be grateful for in the run up to Thanksgiving. Relocating back to her California hometown has brought her irascible dad and adolescent son closer.  Her gourmet cat food line—vetted by her trusty taste-tester, Trouble—is about to get a big re-order. And she’s made wonderful new friends and colleagues. Too bad one them has just been accused of murder . . .

Sunnyside’s most gifted students have been at the mercy of a shadowy network of college fixers—including an abusive oboe teacher whose recommendation is necessary to get into Julliard and a school secretary who alters grades for cash. When they turn up dead, Colbie has to untangle a cat’s cradle of suspects and motivations—from livid parents and students whose dreams have been crushed to an entire secret Facebook group of spurned lovers.

Suddenly, holiday preparations just got a lot hairier. With the big re-order now on hold and the real killer still at large, Colbie discovers that someone has been grading on a very dangerous curve—and it will take all her newfound sleuthing talent to land safely on her feet.

About Kathy:

Kathy Krevat is the author of the Gourmet Cat Mystery series by Kensington/Lyrical and the Chocolate Covered Mystery series under the name Kathy Aarons by Berkley Prime Crime. Find her at www.kathykrevat.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

Please follow and like us:
error

Life Advice from My Fuzzy Muses

My two crazy Jack Russell Terriers (Terrors) are great companions and guard dogs. They protect us from countless squirrels, birds, and joggers. Now that we’re settled in the new house in the woods, they have a whole host of squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks to chase.

Each has a bed in my office, and they help me plot mysteries and listen while I talk through dialogue (if they’re not napping). My writing partners sleep on the job a lot.

They keep us on our toes. When it’s too quiet in the house, the pair of jacks are up to something (usually naughty). These two can hear a cheese or candy wrapper from three rooms away.

Here are some things I’ve learned from them about  life.

1.    Enjoy what you do. If not, find something else to spend your time on. There are way too many interesting things to see, eat, sniff, or bark at.

2.    Don’t waste a beautiful day inside. Go outside and have some fun.

3.    Wag and make friends. Relationships are important. This is Disney’s forte. We did a fair amount of remodeling to the new house, and we had a lot of workers in for long periods of time. Each morning, Disney greeted everyone and expected a pat or a hug.

4.    Don’t sit at your desk too long. Everybody needs a break.

5.    Just go for it. If you want something, grab it. They don’t waste time over-analyzing things.

6.    Bark if you really need to, but not too much. (Riley needs to practice what he preaches. He has the best time barking at squirrels, joggers, and anyone who steps on the front porch.)

7.    Make sure you nap when you need to. You need to recharge. My pair of jacks excel at this. They take napping to Olympic levels.

8.    Live in the moment. Don’t stress about what has happened or what might happen.

9.    Play hard. Life shouldn’t be all work. EVERYTHING is a game to a Jack Russell.

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Dianne Ascroft!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Dianne Ascroft to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello everyone. I’m Dianne Ascroft. I grew up in Toronto, Canada and moved to Britain almost three decades ago. I’ve been gradually downsizing from city to town to countryside until I’m now settled on a farm in rural Northern Ireland with my husband and an assortment of strong willed animals. I enjoy the outdoors so when the household chores are completed (my least favourite part of life) and I’m not writing, I go for long walks and also spend time with our pets. For many years, we had a pair of goats as companions until the last one died four years ago. Now our closest companions are a pair of tortoiseshell (calico) cats. There’s not much difference really: the stubbornness and determination is just in a smaller package.

I began my writing career writing historical fiction, often with an Irish connection. After several years I veered off into writing cozy mysteries though I do still write historical fiction too. The Century Cottage Cozy Mystery series is set in Canada, my homeland. Writing a series set in Canada is a nostalgic journey for me and I enjoy every minute of it.

 Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries feature heartwarming stories set in a fictional small town in rural Canada. The main character, middle-aged widow Lois Stone, has moved from the big city and is trying to adjust to life on her own in an historic “century cottage” with her two calico cats. As she settles into her new life, her tranquility is often rocked by adventures and mysteries that she can’t ignore. Out of Options is a prequel novella to the series that gives readers a glimpse into Lois’s life in Toronto before she moved to Fenwater, the fictional small town where the rest of the series is set.

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

My main character, Lois Stone, has two tortoiseshell or calico cats, Ribbons and Raggs, who share her home. They are loyal companions and, although they don’t talk or communicate directly with Lois or the reader, we have the sense that they are more perceptive than the average cat. Raggs likes her comforts and prefers sleeping and eating to most other activities but Ribbons is especially protective towards Lois and helps her any way she can to solve mysteries. The cats are only mentioned in Out of Options and make their first actual appearance in the first novel in the series, A Timeless Celebration. They will appear regularly in the rest of the books in the series.

The two cats are based on my own two tortoiseshell cats, Snooks and Rocky. And the images of the cats on the covers of the books in the series are actually images of my own two cats. The ‘real’ cats live with us on our farm and keep a close eye on me, especially at meal times.

What are you reading now?

I just finished A Twist in the Tale, the first book in Leighann Dobb’s latest cozy mystery series, Oyster Cove Guesthouse Mysteries. I also love her Mystic Notch series. In both series, the cats know much more than their owners could ever imagine and the mysteries could not be solved without them.

I’ve also just read No Stone Unturned by Pam Lecky, an historical mystery set in nineteenth century London. It’s the first novel in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery series and I found it a gripping story from beginning to end. This is another series that I will continue to read as new novels become available.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

The Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series is my focus for the foreseeable future. Since I’m convinced that the real place my fictional town, Fenwater, is based on is the perfect place to set a cozy mystery, I want to write more stories set in my fictional version of it. So that’s my plan for the immediate future: to complete the second book in the Century Cottage Mysteries series and then write the next one and the next one…Book 2 should be ready to release this autumn. It’s a tale that revolves around the theft of a very important town heirloom from the fall fair just before the item is to be raffled for charity.

 

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

As I mentioned earlier, Lois Stone’s two calico cats are recurring characters in the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series. The books are set in a small town in Canada and as Lois explores her new life there she frequently encounters new adventures and mysteries to solve. Lois thinks she is doing the investigating but she would miss half the clues without the help of her cats– especially Ribbons. Raggs can be rather lazy at times and prefers napping to sleuthing. But when Ribbons meows there’s always a good reason. She makes her wants known as well as helping Lois when she misses clues. But she draws the line at talking. If Lois and her friends can’t learn her language, she doesn’t intend to speak theirs.

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

I’ve always loved the original Lassie Come Home children’s novel by Eric Knight. The television series, Lassie, was set in the United States but the original book was set in England. I first read it as a child and fell in love with the story. It’s set in a Yorkshire mining village and honestly portrays the hardships of life for families in the area and the bond between the boy and his dog. I love heartwarming stories that are uplifting, and also those that portray close bonds between people and animals, and I try to create a similar atmosphere in my own books.

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

I’m an only child and my mother and grandfather were voracious readers so I learned to love reading early. I think it was a natural progression from reading to writing my own stories. I was also a prolific pen pal and, during my teen years, I regaled my pen friends with long accounts of my life in Toronto. The longest letter I ever penned was 64 pages long, written to a friend during the couple of days when I was recuperating after having my wisdom teeth removed. So I’ve communicated through writing most of my life.

In my early 30s I moved to Belfast and worked in the university bookshop for several years. Meeting local authors regularly, I began to wonder whether I could also write fiction. So when a short story I submitted to a writing contest on Belfast’s Downtown Radio was selected for broadcast, I was thrilled and this small success encouraged me to pursue my interest in writing. In hindsight, I know that the story needed polishing but it was my first ‘publication’ and that made me a writer. Although I never let anyone listen to it, there is a cassette copy of the broadcast still buried somewhere in the bottom of a drawer at home. The story was about a piper experiencing stage fright. Since I wrote that first story I’ve always wanted to bring the pipe band world into my writing again. I did that in a small way in A Timeless Celebration as Lois, the main character, is a piper and is introduced to Fenwater’s pipe band in the novel.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Anything they please…They tend to go about their regular routines and ignore me when I’m writing. They either sleep or go out for a wander around our farm. When it’s getting near lunch time they come into the room where I’m working and meow until I stop writing and get them a snack. They refuse to wait until I take a break to make lunch to ask for their snack. They come and demand it when they think it’s time to eat.

Snooks will sometimes lie on my knee in the evening as I work at the computer but most of the time she ignores me when I’m writing. Rocky doesn’t like to sit on my knee at the computer but she will lie on the floor beside my chair as close as she can get when she wants company. Then it’s easy for me to lean over and pat her while I work.

Where is your favorite place to write? Why?

Where I write isn’t actually the place that would be my first choice – it’s just the spot in our house where I can sit and work most conveniently. I sit at the dining room table, often with a cup of tea on the table beside me, and Snooks possibly draped across my knee (or sitting beside me tapping my leg with her paw). My husband is next door in the living room so, if he misses me, he can pop his head through the doorway to reassure himself that I’m still there. There’s a small window on the wall opposite and a patio door beside me so the room is bright and cheery. But, since the windows look out onto the side lawn and the farmyard respectively, the view doesn’t distract me – unless, of course, a hare hops through the farmyard and stops to glance around, or a cow escapes from a field and comes wandering over for a nosy at me through the patio door, or a pine martin scurries through the yard and inspects the walls of the buildings before he climbs onto the shed roof and disappears into the farmyard behind (all of these things have really happened).

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

Learn the basics of the writing craft and keep learning throughout your career.
Don’t be afraid to put words down on paper or screen – you will edit and improve them later.

Know that a second pair of eyes is a necessity – always have your work edited by someone who has the skills to do so.

About Dianne

Dianne Ascroft is a Canadian who has settled in rural Northern Ireland. She and her husband live on a small farm with an assortment of strong-willed animals.

She is currently writing the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series. Out of Options is a prequel to the series.

Her previous fiction works include The Yankee Years series of novels and short reads, set in Northern Ireland during the Second World War; An Unbidden Visitor (a tale inspired by Fermanagh’s famous Coonian ghost); Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves: A Collection of Short Stories (contemporary tales), and an historical novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, which explores Operation Shamrock, a little known Irish Red Cross humanitarian endeavour.

Let’s Be Social

Website: https://www.dianneascroft.com

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/DianneAscroftwriter

Twitter: @DianneAscroft

Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/y1k5c3

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Connie Berry!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Connie Berry to the blog!

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

First of all, thank you for inviting me to your blog! I write the Kate Hamilton Mystery series set in the UK, featuring antiques dealer Kate Hamilton. I grew up in the high-end antiques trades, so that’s a world I know. With parents who always bought more than they could sell, the house I was raised in looked something like a crowded museum. This seemed perfectly normal to me, of course, but my friends now admit they were afraid of the life-size marble state of Marie Antoinette in our living room. In addition to writing, I love to read mysteries set in the UK—or rather listen to them. I’m addicted to Audible. My other job is working trade shows for my husband’s marketing business. With northern European roots, I hate hot weather, so when things heat up in Ohio, my husband and I head for our cottage on a lake in the Wisconsin Northwoods (where I am now). That’s my writing time. And my knitting time. My other passion is travel. We usually fly somewhere out of the country twice a year. England will always be my favorite destination. Now I can call it research.

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

I have tons of destinations on my bucket list—return trips to Europe and Scandinavia, Japan, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand. I have relatives in Melbourne. My Scottish grandmother’s older brother emigrated to Australia around the time she emigrated to the US. He sent me two things I treasure—a koala “teddy” when I was six and, years later, an antique copper teakettle he and his wife used daily for fifty years. I’d love to meet his grandchildren and great grandchildren one day. Number one on my bucket list, however, is staying overnight in one of the Scandinavian ice hotels. Unfortunately, this is NOT on my husband’s bucket list. Strategy may be called for.

  1. Did you have childhood pets?

I’ve always been an animal lover. As a child, I collected all sorts of pets—cats, birds, frogs, turtles, chameleons, white mice—even a baby owl that fell out of a nest near my elementary school. When one of our cats fell pregnant every nine weeks, my parents insisted she would be happier living with friends who owned a farm. To make up for the loss, they brought home a Pekingese puppy named Sunny. I fell instantly in love. Since then I’ve always had a small non-shedder to cuddle. My current fur baby is an adorable Shih Tzu named Millie.

  1. What does your pet do when you’re writing?

Usually Millie sleeps under my desk chair. Sometimes, though, she wants to be held. Have you ever tried to type with a fifteen-pound dog on your lap? Not that I’m complaining.

  1. What’s your funniest or most unusual real-life pet story?

My most unusual pet story involves the baby owl. I brought him home from school one day, bedraggled from the rain and looking adorably vulnerable with his round golden eyes. My saintly parents housed him in an old parakeet cage and called the vet who said to feed him meaty dog food with tweezers. He loved it. As he recovered from his ordeal and began to grow, he got testy and tried to take chunks out of our fingers. Then he started hooting at night. You can imagine how well that went over with my parents. The vet also told us we would need to begin offering him roughage, like tiny bones and fur (eek!). That was the last straw for my parents. We took him to those same long-suffering farmer friends and let him loose in their barn. I hope he learned how to hunt for himself. But then he wouldn’t have survived at all if I hadn’t rescued him.

  1. Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters?

Back home in Ohio, my protagonist, Kate, has a Scottish Fold kitty named Fiona, but since the books take place in the UK, we only hear about her. In the second book, A Legacy of Murder (out October 8th), one of the main characters, Miss Bunn, has an elderly, obese pug named Fergus. Fergus is terribly spoiled and doesn’t take easily to strangers, but Kate wins his confidence when she saves him from drowning. Fergus is very wise and possesses an uncanny ability to express his thoughts by grunting or winking or averting his eyes at appropriate moments. I’m currently writing the third in the series, A Pattern of Betrayal, where Fergus will once again play a leading role.

  1. What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading A Place of Execution by Val McDermid. First published in 1999, the book has won tons of awards. The multilayered story focuses on the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in the north of England. Even though I don’t write police procedurals, I adore them, and McDermid is a master of the genre.

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?

Now this is hard. I have lots of favorites: Susan Hill, Val McDermid, Elly Griffiths, Louise Penny, Charles Todd, Tana French, Sujata Massey, Anthony Horowitz, Jodi Taylor, Kate Morton. You can see a theme, can’t you? I love reading and writing stories set in the UK (well, Louise Penny’s are set in Canada, but I love that too). As for the classics, my all-time favorites author are Jane Austen and P. G. Wodehouse.

  1. What writing projects are you currently working on?

As I mentioned, I’m currently working on the third in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, tentatively entitled A Pattern of Betrayal. Kate is back in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, running a friend’s antiquities shop while he recuperates from bilateral hip surgery. When a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese hunping jar and promises to let the shop handle her late husband’s entire art collection, Kate is thrilled. But when the jar goes missing and a body is found in the shop’s back room, Kate finds herself on the trail of a missing daughter, a ruthless killer, and a centuries-old pattern of betrayal.

  1. When did you know you were a writer? How did you know?

My answer would have to be when I signed my two-book contract with Crooked Lane Books. My writing career was no longer a dream but a reality with things like deadlines and obligations to fulfill. Truthfully, though, I still struggle with the idea that I’m a writer. With each new book, I wonder if I can pull it off again.

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

First, that typing “The End” is only the beginning. As someone has said (can’t remember who), writing is rewriting. I had so much to learn—I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And second, that having a master’s degree in English literature and having read hundreds of great mysteries didn’t mean I could write one. I had no clue about story structure and the conventions of fiction writing. If I’d taken the time to learn my craft first, I might have saved years of fruitless effort.

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

Take time to learn the craft. Join a writers’ group like Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America. Take classes. Get feedback from published writers and take their comments to heart. And then persevere! Don’t give up. If writing is your dream, go for it.

About Connie:

After lecturing on theology for 25 years, Connie Berry turned to writing traditional mysteries, combining a layered sense of history with a modern take on the amateur sleuth. Connie loves history, cute animals, foreign travel, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable dog, Millie.

Let’s Be Social:

www.connieberry.com

Facebook: Connie Berry, Author

Twitter @conniecberry

Instagram: conniecampbellberry

Pinterest: Connie Campbell Berry

Please follow and like us:
error

The DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM Authors Talk Writing, Mysteries, and Pets

My pals from the Deadly Southern Charm mystery anthology are my guests today.  Please welcome, Lynn Cahoon, Frances Aylor, Kristin Kisska, J.A. Chalkley, and Stacie Giles. They’re here to talk about writing, books, their pets, and our new anthology.

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

 Heather: We have two crazy Jack Russell Terriers, Disney and Riley. They’re from the same litter, and they keep us on our toes.

Lynn: Right now, our house is a little quiet. We lost our long-time companions, Homer (14) and Demon (19) in January of this year. They were Pomeranians. Homer was attacked by neighbor dogs in HIS yard and Demon decided it was his time a few weeks later. So it’s just Thor right now. He’s my way too tall cat. But next week, we’re getting two new puppies –Keeshonds. Dexter and Quinn.

Frances: Over the years I’ve owned a cocker spaniel, a labrador retriever, five cats, several goldfish and a hamster. The lab was a frisky, high-spirited dog that I took to obedience school so I could learn to manage him. While there I saw two beautiful, well-trained German shepherds. The German shepherd puppy in my thriller Money Grab combines the beauty of those dogs with the friskiness of my lab.

Kristin: I’m sorry to report that I don’t have any pets at present—not for want of loving them! That said, I drew on my experience horseback riding English saddle, both as a teen and an adult, to write my short story, “Unbridled.”

J.A.: I don’t have any pets at the moment. My last pet was a border collie mix named Woody. He was a rescue, and I later found out he had a brother named Cowboy.

Stacie: I grew up with a “guard” chihuahua named Taffie who used to boss all the neighborhood dogs and cats, including our other pets. Taffie and I were so close that my parents kept her death during my freshman year of college from me for weeks, thinking it would make living away from home too hard for me! I still miss the first dog I had as an adult, D’Artagnan–we called him D’Art–who was loving and lively, and would play fetch for hours. Now I enjoy an aging Staffordshire Terrier named Tinkerbell who patiently follows me everywhere, and endures the teasing of our cat who simply cannot leave poor Tinkerbell alone.

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

 Heather: Most of my short stories and novels have animals. In my Delanie Fitzgerald series, Margaret, the English bulldog is a fixture in the private eye’s office. She’s a brown and white log with legs. I partnered with three other dogs on a novella project, To Fetch a Thief. My story is “Diggin’ up Dirt,” and it features a JRT named Darby who was based on my dog, Disney.

Lynn: Of course! Emma is Jill’s Golden Retriever in the Tourist Trap series. She even found a missing boy in an early book. Cat Latimer just got a barn cat and four kittens in book four of the series. And Angie from the Farm to Fork series has Dom – a St Bernard, Precious – a goat, and Mabel – the last remaining hen from Nona’s flock.

Frances: Webster is a German Shepherd puppy in my thriller Money Grab. He’s purchased by one of the characters as a guard dog, but his care and maintenance fall to the wife, who’s not a pet person. My main character Robbie later adopts the dog and considers him a faithful companion. He will be a recurring character in future novels.

 Kristin: I’ve only ever featured animals in one of my stories, “Unbridled.” The three show horses—Bay, D’artagnan, and Spade—all board at the same equestrian center in South Carolina’s Low Country. As readers soon find out, they are as commanding as their rider/owners.

J.A.: I’ve been working on a detective novel where the lead character owns two tabby cats, named Lenny and Squiggy. I’m telling my age with that reference.

Stacie: As I develop my main character, I plan for her to have a Siamese cat named Loopy who is almost preternaturally attuned to Vera’s recurrent migraines.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

 Heather: I am working on a cozy mystery novel, and it features a Jack Russell Terrier named Bijou. I am also working on a dog mystery for the second Mutt Mysteries series. It features a Rottweiler named Oscar, and the story’s called “The Fast and the Furriest.”

Lynn: As I write this, I’m working on book 4 of the Farm to Fork mystery series. The working title is DEATH ON A STICK. It’s set in my home state of Idaho and I love writing a late summer weather scene while the snow outside my window keeps getting deeper. After that, I’m doing my first Farm to Fork Novella which will have snow, but maybe I won’t be so sick of it by then.

Frances: I’m finishing up the second book in the Robbie Bradford mystery series. In this one, Robbie goes to Switzerland with a client, to help her manage some issues with family money. The third book will be set in either Egypt or Jordan, both of which I recently visited. I’m also working on financial presentations for various groups, to give people guidance on how to manage their money.

Kristin: I’m polishing my second suspense novel, which is a quest for a missing Faberge Egg throughout Prague and other Central European cities. I’m also in the process of drafting my third novel, a domestic suspense, which features Lulu the tabby cat.

J.A.: I’m working on a short story for a sci fi/fantasy magazine submission

Stacie: Actually, I am currently working on a nonfiction project, a college-level online resource on the United States Intelligence Community, drawing on my background as a CIA analyst. I’m also trying to hone my fiction writing skills and develop a series of short stories set in Memphis, Tennessee from 1920 through the 1960s in which Vera and her policeman cousin Burnell navigate the turbulent social changes of the time while solving crimes in a way that is both merciful and just.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 Heather: My Jack Russell Terrier Riley has a thing for paper. One day, I set my open purse on the floor next to my desk while I was working. When I got up, I noticed the ATM receipt for $40 was wet and on the floor. Curious, I rummaged through my purse. Riley had pulled it out along with a twenty. He ate one of my twenty-dollar bills.

Lynn: Thor (the cat) liked to hide behind the television when the dogs went out first thing in the morning. Then he’d pop out and stand on his hide legs and pretend to be an attacking bear. One morning, Homer wasn’t having it. He bulldozed the cat into the television stand, then went to stand by the door waiting for us to let him out. Thor stopped playing that game after that.

Frances: When I was a child, we visited a family friend whose dog had recently had puppies. When my parents got ready to leave, they found me sitting on the floor in the utility room, with all five puppies lying on my outstretched legs, determined that I was going to take them home with me. My dad convinced me that the pups were too young to leave their mother, but promised I could come back later and pick out one for myself. That cocker spaniel puppy and I grew up together.

 J.A.: We adopted Woody for my son, who was seven at the time. They grew up together. Woody would listen to everyone, but my son. Woody wasn’t allowed on the bed, yeah that rule didn’t last long. When he heard our bedroom door close at night, he would jump on my son’s bed. Anytime he heard the door open he’d jump down and play innocent.

Stacie: My children were young when hyperactive D’Art joined our family. The kids would put on roller skates to take him on “walks” which were really mad careening around the neighborhood! They could only stop by collapsing on the lawn or, occasionally, running into a tree!

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Heather: There are two dog beds on either side of my desk in the office. They nap mostly while I’m writing or editing. Sometimes, they help with plotting.

Lynn: Thor sleeps on my desk. I’m hoping the new puppies will hang out under my desk. (As long as they don’t chew on the cords.)

Frances: My lab was an outdoor dog who enjoyed exploring the woods behind our house.

 Kristin: Oh, I wish I had a cat. If it were like my previous fur babies, it would ignore me actively until I tried to pet it, then shun me. Is there anything more divine than purring???

Stacie: Tinkerbell lies on the floor just outside the open door of my office. She seems to feel she is guarding me. The cat Azzie has to climb on my lap or, if I’m standing up using my sit/stand desk, he’ll reach up and claw my legs until I pick him up and let him investigate what I’m doing. Once satisfied, he’ll curl up in a comfy chair near me and snooze.

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

 Heather: I grew up in a suburban house. We had a couple of gold fish over the years. My dad, a 46-year veteran of the Virginia Beach Police force, had a police dog once. I didn’t have dogs until I moved out.

Lynn: I had a grey cheek parakeet once. She was part of a breeding pair. She didn’t like men. So she’d bite me every time my husband or my son would come close. But she did like drinking Coke out of the lip of my Coke can.

Frances: We once had an aquarium filled with exotic fish. I especially liked the neon tetras, the angelfish, and the whiskery catfish.

Kristin: My family had lots of pets while I grew up, from dogs and cats, to fish, birds, and gerbils. The most unique pet, though, was our ferret, Bartles.

J.A.: I didn’t grow up on a farm, but somehow we always seemed to have farm animals. Over the years there were chickens, calves that needed to be bottle feed till they were big enough to release into pasture, and goats. My mother loved goats. We had at least one for years. There were dogs, cats, hamsters and for a brief period rabbits.

Stacie: We had some geckos when we lived in Hawaii. They were amusing to watch climb the walls and ceilings! But it wasn’t amusing when my husband brought home flying cockroaches from work to feed them! Of course, the cockroaches got away. Sigh.

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

Heather: Writing is a business. You need to treat it like that. It includes a lot of record-keeping and marketing. You also need to guard your writing time. There are so many distractions and obligations. You really do need a writing schedule.

Lynn: It’s okay to stand up for what you want and how you want your book to look. You can’t wait for the muse to hit to write. Set a word count and meet it. Otherwise, the book won’t rise to the top of your to do pile. I write first because I’m better in the morning and I don’t write well late at night. Your mileage may vary.

Frances: Writing a novel takes so much longer than I thought it would. I have to schedule a time to write each day; otherwise, other projects intrude on my time. Marketing a book is even more time consuming. Mastering social media is a continuing challenge.

Kristin: I wish I’d known that once I type The End, an author is really only a third the way through the publishing process. The next third is revising and editing, and the last third is publishing/marketing the work (of course, while working through the next project). Also, many words can be written before sunrise. Use your time wisely!

J.A.: Writing is hard work. Not just the writing, but the business side of it.

Stacie: Well, I truly am just starting in fiction writing now. One thing I already know from my nonfiction work, however, is that writing takes rewriting, and rewriting, and double checking, and rewriting some more!

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

Heather: I love to write at the beach when we’re visiting. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and I miss the ocean. When at home, I love to write on my deck on sunny days.

Lynn: I love writing at my desk because I have a desktop with a 32-inch screen. But I can and do write anywhere. Reading, I need good light. My favorite place to get story now is during my commute in my car.

Frances: Most of the time I write on my laptop at my office desk. In warm weather, I take the laptop out to the gazebo. Most of my reading is done in bed at night, just before I go to sleep.

Kristin: I get my best writing done in my silent, quiet writers cave at home. Even better, when everyone in my family is either asleep or away. Reading, however, I can do absolutely anywhere, but my favorite place is in a bookstore café.

J.A.: I have an office space set up in my she cave at home. It’s quiet and comfort.

Stacie: I am happy as a clam to read wherever I am! But for writing, I prefer my office, where I’m surrounded by all the things I need – all kinds of materials and, most importantly, a comfy chair and a lovely view out the window when I need to clear my head!

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

Heather: Be persistent. Don’t give up. Writing and publishing are hard. You need to keep at it.

Lynn: Make sure it’s really what you want to do. You spend way too much time working and alone for it to be just a whim.

Frances: Know why you want to write. This is a very competitive business. If you’re writing to be rich and famous, perhaps you should pick another line of work. If you’re writing because you have stories you want to share with others, then stick with it.

 Kristin: The only requirement for being a writer is to actually write. All other rules you hear are merely suggestions and guidelines. It also helps if you read a lot, too. Good luck!

J.A.: Read a lot. Find authors who’s style you like and study it. Figure out why you like it. In the beginning you may find yourself imitating other writers, but with time you’ll find your own style.

Stacie: Remember that writing is fundamentally a solitary endeavor. You can and should make lots of connections with other writers and readers, but most of your time must be devoted to writing, something no one else can do with you. You’re on your own! Make sure you’re happy with the solitude.

Heather Weidner
Lynn Cahoon
Frances Aylor
Kristin Kisska
J. A. Chalkley
Stacie Giles

About Us

Frances Aylor, CFA combines her investing experience and love of travel in her financial thrillers. MONEY GRAB is the first in the series. www.francesaylor.com

Lynn Cahoon is the NYT and USA Today author of the best-selling Tourist Trap, Cat Latimer and Farm-to-Fork mystery series. www.lynncahoon.com

 J. A. Chalkley is a native Virginian. She is a writer, retired public safety communications officer, and a member of Sisters in Crime.

Stacie Giles, after a career as a political scientist, linguist, and CIA analyst, is now writing historical cozies with a twist.  Her first short story is in honor of her grandfather who was a policeman in Memphis in the 1920s.

Kristin Kisska is a member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime, and programs chair of the Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia chapter. www.kristinkisska.com

Heather Weidner is the author of the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries. She has short stories in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 SHADES OF CABERNET and TO FETCH A THIEF. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and Jack Russell terriers. www.heatherweidner.com

Let’s Be Social

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LethalLadiesCVA?lang=en

Website: https://www.sistersincrimecentralvirginia.com/anthologies

Book Links

Wildside: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-paperback/

Wildside eBook: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-epub-kindle-pdf/?ctk=92a212b3-7ff7-473d-a5dd-78ab99163c27

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Southern-Charm-Mystery-Anthology/dp/1479448397

 

Please follow and like us:
error

Travels with Shammy

By Maggie King

Have you ever traveled with a cat? I don’t mean those horrendous drives to the vet with a shrieking animal in the back seat. I’m talking about soaring above the clouds, “flying the friendly skies,” with your favorite feline tucked under the seat in front of you. While you relax and sip your Cabernet, you feed tidbits to little [insert cat’s name here]. All is well.

Shammy was a sweet and glam calico cat who liked traveling. In the car, I’d let her out of her carrier and she’d gaze out the window, enjoying the passing scenery through the Antelope Valley of Southern California. Sometimes she’d crawl under the seats and get under my feet as I drove—not a good thing.

When Glen and I moved from California to Virginia in 1996, we had many things to consider (where to live, were to work, etc.). But the most pressing concern: how to get Shammy cross country. Sure, she enjoyed being a car passenger—but would she like it for three days in a car loaded up with our possessions? And the overnight stops at strange motels?

We came up with the purr-fect solution: Glen would drive the packed car and sleep in the strange motels. I would ship my car, leaving Shammy and me to travel in style, by air.

I learned that I didn’t have to put Shammy in cargo; she could accompany me in the cabin. I purchased a special carrier that would fit under the seat. The vet dispensed tranquilizers. We were all set.

At security, the TSA agent demanded that I take Shammy out of the carrier. If I’d anticipated this (this was pre-911 times) I would have brought a leash. I maintained the tightest of grips on Shammy until we made it through security and I could return her to the carrier.

On board, I braced myself for loud complaints from allergy-ridden passengers. Thankfully, the plane wasn’t full, and Shammy and I had three seats to ourselves. No one complained, in fact everyone was kind and asked how she was doing.

How was Shammy doing?

Anxious, bewildered, awake—those adjectives suffice to describe her state. I expected the tranquilizer to make her drowsy, but she remained hyper alert for the duration. She couldn’t stand up in the carrier that had to meet size regulations for under seat storage. Thankfully, she was quiet, and endured it all with her customary dignity.

And how was I doing?

I suspect that Shammy fared better than I did. I found the whole ordeal nerve-wracking to say the least. Mostly because of my concern for Shammy and not knowing what to expect from one minute to the next. Sure, we soared above the clouds, “flying the friendly skies.” But relaxing it wasn’t. As for tempting Shammy with tidbits . . . let’s just say she resisted temptation.

Minutes before boarding after a stopover in Baltimore, the heavens opened. Problematic, as we had to walk outside to board the puddle jumper that would take us to Charlottesville. A kind young man in an airport shop gave me two large plastic bags. I covered Shammy’s carrier with one, and draped the other over my head and shoulders. We dashed to the plane and boarded, Shammy completely dry, me only slightly damp.

Once in Charlottesville, we took a cab to pick up my car and headed for the motel where I had a reservation. The next day I got the keys to the apartment where we were to live for three months while we looked for a permanent home. Glen arrived four days later.

Shammy didn’t eat or use the litter box for a couple of days. After that, she loved the place. Squirrels, chipmunks, and birds came right up to the patio door where she parked herself 24/7. Occasionally she and a cat had a hissing contest.

That wraps up “Travels with Shammy.” Shammy crossed the rainbow bridge in 2002. When the Albemarle County (Charlottesville) SPCA built a new facility, Glen and I purchased a brick and dedicated it to our special friend: “Shammy King, in our hearts.”

In my Hazel Rose Book Group series, Hazel’s backstory reveals that her beautiful calico cat named Shammy accompanied her when she moved from Los Angeles to the east coast and settled in Richmond, Virginia.

Shammy lives on, in our hearts … and on the page.

Shammy has appeared in Pens, Paws, and Claws before. Read it here.

 

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. Her short stories appear in Deadly Southern Charm, Virginia is for Mysteries (Vols. 1&2), and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

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

Website: www.maggieking.com

Facebook: MaggieKingAuthor

Twitter: MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: authormaggieking

Amazon: Maggie’s Amazon Author Page

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error

Welcome, Linda O. Johnston

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Linda O. Johnston to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m Linda O. Johnston. I used to be a transactional real estate lawyer but I’m now a full-time writer. I write both mysteries and romantic suspense, and I’ve also written paranormal and time-travel romance. I have written four mystery series: the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery Series and the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink, and the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries and Pet Rescue Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. I’m also currently writing for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. And nearly all my recent stories include dogs!

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

I’m addicted to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Right now, my Cavaliers are Mystie, a Blenheim (red and white color) and Cari, a tricolor. They’re my babies!

My first mystery series was the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries. Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her tricolor Cavalier, Lexie. At the time, I was also a practicing lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills, and Lexie was our tricolor Cavalier. Unfortunately, our Lexie is no longer with us.

So far, none of my other stories have included Cavaliers, but that could always change!

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

The protagonists in my mysteries always are owned by dogs. In my current mystery series, the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, the protagonist Carrie, a veterinary technician who also owns a barkery where she sells the healthy treats she’s developed, as well as a human bakery, has a dog named Biscuit, a golden toy poodle-terrier mix who hangs out a lot in the barkery and accompanies Carrie most other places she goes.

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

When I was a child I had a brindle Boston Terrier named Frisky. Frisky was frisky! I really loved her, and she inspired me to want to become a veterinarian, though that didn’t happen for many reasons. But she did help to increase my addiction to dogs.

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

The animals, primarily dogs, in my writing are characters in their own right, though I don’t get into their points of view. But they’re there for their owners, who are the major characters in my stories, providing emotional support, humor and love.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Because I love animals, especially dogs! They add so much to people’s lives, whether they’re pets or just there inspiring us to help them and to be better people.

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

K-9s and service dogs show up sometimes in my stories, In Second Chance Solder, my first K-9 Ranch Rescue story for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, the story takes place at–what else?–a ranch where dogs are trained to be possible police K-9s. The hero Evan Colluro is a former military K-9 trainer and moves to the ranch with his former military K-9 Bear to help train the pups there. The sequel to this story is Trained To Protect, which also takes place at the K-9 ranch. There will also be a spin-off series soon about rescues, but I’m not sure how many K-9s will be involved there.

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

I suppose I’ve always known I was a writer. I started my first book, which remains unfinished, in high school, and I always enjoyed assignments where we had to write an essay or anything else.

The professions I’ve had also involve writing: advertising, public relations, and transactional lawyering–yes, contracts are a form of creative writing! I started getting short stories, then novels, published when I was a practicing attorney, and got up an hour earlier than anyone else in my household so I could write before getting the kids ready for school.

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

Well, my husband and I have been talking about the possibility of taking an African safari–which, these days, is fortunately to see and photograph animals, not harm them in any way. Why? Because I love animals, and this could be an amazing experience!

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Mystie and Cari hang out with me, or with my husband, or stand on our front porch looking out the locked gate and telling me when other dogs walk by–or when one of our wonderful neighbors arrives with treats for them. When they want something, such as to go outside or for me to open the front door or anything else, one or the other of them will come into my office, sit down beside my chair, and just stare at me. Or sometimes Mystie will bark at my shoes in the kitchen to let me know she wants to go out.

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

I can’t count the number of TBR piles in my house, or the number of books in them, but you can be sure that most of them involve dogs!

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

Just do it! Write! It’ll come to you even if you think you don’t know how. The other thing I’d suggest is to join one or more of the many writing organizations, particularly those specializing in the genre you want to write in, and attend as many chapter meetings as you can. Writers are very supportive of each other.

About Linda:

Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, writes the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery Series for Midnight Ink.  Her fifth and final book in the series, For a Good Paws, is a May 2019 release.  She has also written Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink, and the Pet Rescue Mystery Series and Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  Linda also writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and nearly all her current stories involve dogs.u!

Let’s Be Social:

Linda’s Website

Linda’s Facebook Page

 

Please follow and like us:
error