Welcome Author Christine Verstraete

Looking for something scary to read? Today, Author Christine Verstraete is here to chat about her writing, her dog, and maybe a little bit about Zombies. Tell about yourself and what you write. Happy Halloween! I’ve been writing since I can remember – and even before that, I think. Ha! I’m a longtime newspaper writer, but I also love writing fiction, especially things with a bit of a spooky or scary twist! I like writing short fiction, but also enjoy writing longer. My books include, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunterand Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall. I also have a companion novella, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. I’ve got info up on my https://www.cverstraete.comor stop by my blog, https://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com How do your pets impact your writing? I’m an animal lover and have always had a dog, so it’s not surprising that somehow they manage to crawl their way into many of my stories. Like real life, right? I always say there’s an invisible string attaching me and my dog as she’s always only a few feet away. (If that!) In my writing, I think an animal makes characters more interesting, and sometimes even more relatable, don’t they? Do you include animals in your stories? I try to. I usually can’t help including them and sometimes they’re even the focus. A story I wrote, Thirteen Horses, (in Descent Into Darkness), is a creepy, ghostly story that I wrote after reading a news story about some horses that were starved to death. It was my way of giving them their revenge. Here’s a Did You Know? Lizzie Borden was a dog lover. She owned several Boston Bull Terriers, which by the way, also were “the” dog to have in Victorian times. So, of course, her dog makes an appearance in my first book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. What is your funniest pet story? My most memorable, I think, happened some years ago with my first German Shepherd, Doc. I was reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, at night, just me and the dog. I’m engrossed and suddenly, the dog moves and scratches the floor. Needless to say, I nearly jumped out of my skin! Haa! Never forgot that moment, but it didn’t scare me off reading more of King’s books!

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Christine Verstraete loves writing both short and long fiction with a touch of the macabre. Her short fiction has appeared in various anthologies and publications including Descent Into Darkness, Baby Shoes: 100 Stories by 100 AuthorsandSirens CallMagazine. She also is the author of Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter2: The Axe Will Fall, and The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. Learn more at her website, http://cverstraete.comor stop by her blog, http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter – C.A. Verstraete Kindle or Print: http://getbook.at/LizzieBordenZombies1 Every family has its secrets… One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become… zombies?

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Past & Present

Judy Penz Sheluk

In my previous posts on Pens, Paws and Claws, I’ve shared the stories of dogs from my past: Sandy, Einstein, Ranger and Copper. It should follow that in this post, then, that I write about Gibbs, the dog in my life at the present time. But here’s the thing: yesterday, the second book in my Marketville Mystery Series was released on Kindle and trade paperback. And it just so happens to be called Past & Present.

Now, I’ve checked with Gibbs, who spent a good many hours lying under my desk while I wrote the book, and he’s every bit as excited as I am. In fact, he insisted on me taking this time to tell you about it. (Of course, I had to give him an extra cookie. I also promised to share his story in my next post…with plenty of photos. That dog drives a hard bargain.)

Here’s the blurb:

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.

Past & Present is available in trade paperback at all the usual suspects (ask your bookstore or library to order it in if they don’t have it), and on Kindle, where it is on for the introductory price of $2.99 (regular $5.99) until the end of the month. 

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Welcome, B. Lynn Goodwin

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

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

No but that’s a great idea!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet B. Lynn Goodwin

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

I LOVE FOOTBALL!!!

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

There’s a problem with this, however.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you?  Are you a sports fan? 

Or are you a sports widow/widower?

What’s your sport?

What’s your team?

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

Did I mention….GO PANTHERS!!!?

 

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Welcome, Joan Hicks Boone!

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Tell us about your pets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Joan:

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

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

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

Synopsis of The Best Girl

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

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

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Meet Charles Wendt: K-9 Trainer, Search and Rescue Team Member, Writer

I had the pleasure of interviewing dog trainer, search and rescue team member, and author, Charles Wendt, about his adventures with Jasta.

Heather: Tell our readers a little about yourself and K-9 Jasta.

Charles: After competing sport performance horses in dressage and eventing for a couple of decades, I was ready for a change of pace. My grandfather had trained dogs for the navy during World War II, and I loved shows like Rin Tin Tin K-9 Cop growing up, but other callings when I was a young professional had kept me from fully engaging with working dog activities. At first I thought I would go do dog sports like Schutzhund, but I had hundreds of horse show ribbons in plastic tubes collecting dust in the basement, and wanted to do something more meaningful than add dog show ribbons to them. When time was finally right about two years ago, I embarked on a path to be a Search and Rescue Dog Volunteer Handler for Live Wilderness Air Scent. Jasta came to me as an eight-week old Belgian Malinois, and we’ve spent the past year training to become operational for searches (only one more year to go!).

Heather: What is a “Live Wilderness Air Scent” dog?

Charles: Unlike a bloodhound which follows scent on the ground, an Air Scent dog finds the person by using the cone of scent emitting from a subject and moving with the air. This is a good discipline for finding someone lost in a 200-acre patch of woods and you don’t know where they walked to start on their trail. Of course the odor you are rewarding the dog for finding is “live human scent.” This works great in the state forest, but in a city park you would find a whole bunch of people who aren’t lost, making your K-9 team a better resource for “wilderness” search tasks.

Heather: What type of training goes into developing a search dog?

Charles: Our search team trains one day of each weekend as a group, mostly at State Parks or State Forests. There is a lecture topic at first light which goes for forty-five minutes or so, and then we do some group dog obedience. After that, we take turns working search problems until it gets dark. We practice in all weather conditions and temperatures, and once every couple of months we do a night training. During the week you need to practice at home to show improvement week to week.

Heather: Wow, with all that how do you find the time to write?

Charles: I think that is one of the most challenging aspects of being a writer these days. Life is busy with relationships and commitments, you really have to learn to juggle different tasks and shoe-horn them in when you can. On the search team, we all have to take turns being “lost” for the dogs to find, leaving you sitting against a tree for a few hours. I like to use that time to develop plots lines and flesh out characters. That way, when I get to be in front of the keyboard, the story seems to flow off the fingertips better.

Heather: How long have you been writing?

Charles: My first book was a self-illustrated story I did in fifth grade about a lion who didn’t have a kingdom even if he was supposed to be king of the jungle. Like most, I enjoyed writing short stories in high school and started attempting novels in college, and later while serving in the military. Especially during that year in Korea. Nothing worthy of pursuing publishing, however. I got married and transitioned to corporate life. Being settled allowed me to pursue seriously competing horses. I didn’t write for a couple of decades! Then, it was time for my last horse to retire, and I didn’t want another. My big-corporate job ended soon after, and I had some time to regroup life. The world had also changed with Amazon’s Kindle and the options to self-publish. New Year’s Day of 2016 found me banging on the computer keys surrounded by sleeping dogs, and it felt good.

Heather: Tell us a little about your current writing project?

Charles: My Kelton Jager series is about an Iraq War veteran who comes home with his ex-military working dog, Azrael, and has trouble finding a job. He walks his dog into a town, makes town a little better than he found it, and then walks his dog down the road to the next town. My vision was for real and gritty, with an imperfect hero, instead of being larger than life or cuddly. I’m preparing to launch the fifth in the series where Kelton feels duty bound to help a small beachside sheriff’s department solve a teen girl’s abduction but is worried law enforcement will discover arrest warrants from his past vigilante deeds before she is rescued. Kelton’s character grows by settling on a life’s path that is right for him and his dog, even if he knows his deceased mother would be disappointed.

Heather What type of relationship do you have with K-9 Jasta and how has it influenced your story writing? I mean, real Jasta and fictional Azrael are both Belgian Malinois?

Charles: While Search dogs and Military dogs aren’t the same thing by a longshot, I sure am learning a lot about the day to day management of working K-9’s from Jasta. My dog loves me, is bonded to me, but even though I love furry snuggles, I can forget it. He wants to fetch or play tug and can be quite assertive in expressing his wishes. We’ve an hour walk before work, and another when I get home, and all of it off leash on the farm so he can run around. Physical stimulation isn’t enough, though. We’re always working on a new obedience exercise or trick for the mental side of things. In short, while he is a wonderful working dog, he’s the absolute worst pet I’ve ever had. Having firsthand knowledge of this dynamic has let me portray the breed realistically in my stories. I want my readers to understand what it’s like to have such a dog for the majority of the time when the dog is not getting to be a hero.

Heather: What are some of the most outrageous things K-9 Jasta has done?

Charles: I could swear in court that he doesn’t have paws in front, but rather hands. He’s turned on the water on the side of the house numerous times. I need to teach him to turn it off when he’s done. He can work doorknobs, and even pull doors open to get through. Our home has several exterior doors, and I will be seeing my fuzzy buddy very shortly after throwing him outside if they aren’t all locked. He will go and check every one of them. High energy problem solvers like him will keep you on your toes.

Heather: Have you always liked books or movies with an animal as a central character?

Charles: My most favorite novel of all time is Richard Adam’s Watership Down, about a warren of rabbits needing to relocate because of a housing development. I experienced the animated film when in the sixth grade and read the novel three times before getting through high school and college. It’s not just about the incredible adventure, but also the drama in the relationships between the characters. I was most saddened to learn of the author’s passing just after I published my first book, K-9 Outlaw, and I note his influence on me. For example, even though my genre is driven by realism instead of fantasy, I always do a scene from the dog’s point of view because animals are characters with goals and motivations like everyone else.

Heather: What are you reading right now?

Charles: I’ve just finished Nelson DeMille’s The Gold Coast, and I enjoyed it so much I went on to its sequel, The Gate House. Its main character is a successful man, about my age, who is nonetheless a little bored. The difference being I pursued joining a K-9 Search and Rescue team, while the tax lawyer character in DeMille’s book takes on a mafia boss as a client even though he has no background in criminal law. Both of us have a wild ride after.

Heather: What advice would you give to new dog owners or folks interested in adopting a new four-legged family member?

Charles: For the love of God, don’t get a Belgian Malinois! No, I’m not kidding. Other than that, I’m a big proponent of forever homes and until death do we part. When people announce they need to rehome their dog because of a new apartment or new job, I’m like, then why did you make such a choice to move? One must understand it’s a long commitment and your moral obligation to follow through on that promise. That being said, hardly any home is perfect but most certainly better than being at the shelter. Make a difference in this fuzzy baby’s life, and I guarantee it will make a positive difference in yours.

Heather: What advice would you give folks for traveling with their dogs?

Charles: I’ve wrestled with that both from driving all over the state for training, as well as the two-day journey to visit my parents. First is the planning aspect of the trip. I don’t just look for a dog friendly motel, but rather such a motel that is near a state park. After driving all day, an hour walk is just as good for me as it is my dog. The scenery is always beautiful, and fees are just a few dollars. Second, I love my Trans-K9 kennel for the “it’s super-hot and I can’t leave the dog in the car, but I have to go inside and use the facilities” conundrum. You tell the company the year, make and model of your vehicle and they provide a dog crate that fits your vehicle’s cargo area which has locks on it. That way you can lock the car with the hatchback open (and sunroof). No one can take your dog or get inside your vehicle, but he’s no warmer than just being outside. The battery powered fans make it even better.

You can find out more about Charles and Jasta at his social media sites:

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Welcome, A. R. Kennedy!

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes A. R. Kennedy!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is A R Kennedy. I’ve been writing novels for seven years, but the stories have been in my head for as long as I can remember. I have a self-published mystery series, The Nathan Miccoli mystery series. I’ve also written a legal thriller and a cozy mystery (which I plan to expand into a series).

Saving Ferris, a legal thriller featuring a golden retriever, is available for pre-order now. Cover reveal coming soon!

Additionally, I love writing short stories and have won the Writers’ Police Academy’s Golden Donut story in 2016 and 2017.

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

I currently share my home with a seven pound dog, h, of unknown breed but is full of spunk. Although a cuddler and a love in our home, he’s a spitfire on walks. My neighbors call him ‘killer’ because all he does is bark at them.

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

Laude, a secondary character in the Nathan Miccoli series, is a beautiful black miniature schnauzer. She is a combination of two schnauzers I’ve had. (Sadly, both have passed). Laude has the beauty and attitude of L while also possessing the lovability and friendliness of H. Laude appears in all the novels.

In Saving Ferris, a legal thriller, Ferris is a golden retriever who has failed out of service training. After Cecilia’s husband dies, she’s forced to become Ferris’s caregiver, something she does not immediately warm to. But when his life is threatened by an intruder, she shoots the intruder to save Ferris. The prosecutor feels that Cecilia has committed murder, not self defense. In the eyes of the law, one can use lethal force to protect themselves and others, but not property. Pets are considered property. Cecilia endures a murder trial where her defense attorney forces everyone to ask themselves, Is the your pet property or family?

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on upcoming novels in the Nathan Miccoli mystery series and in the Traveling Detective series, a cozy mystery series I’m currently seeking representation for.

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

My parents had a mini schnauzer, Kelly, when I was born. A few years after she passed, after years of begging for a puppy, I picked out C, a miniature-toy poodle. After college, at my first professional job, a co-worker told me her dog was pregnant and I needed a dog. I hesitated but the hesitation flew away when she told me the mom and dad were miniature schnauzers! I met L soon after she was born and we bonded instantly. (She also peed on me!)

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

I’ve written an entire novel, Saving Ferris, inspired by the love so many of us feel for our pets. There’s no doubt my dogs are members of the family and I know so many people feel the same. But the law does not.

In the Nathan Miccoli mystery series, although I consider Laude a major character, most would consider her a minor character. If we’re reading Lily’s point of view, Laude is probably right there with her.

In the Traveling Detective series, after book one, there will also be a pet. But because Naomi’s adventures occur while on vacation, we probably won’t get to see her cat, Cher, too much.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I love animals. For my day job, I visit people in their homes. I always make it a point to say hello to each of the animals, including the birds! People are often surprised how their animals, cats and dogs, take to me right away. On our last visit, I always tell people I’m terrible with names and may not remember them if they call me with updates but just mention their pet and I’ll remember everything about them.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When L was a puppy, my roommate had a cat. L and the cat (it’s been too long I can’t remember her name!) would chase each other all day. After taking L on her midday walk, a neighbor asked for the package I was holding for her. She followed me to my apartment. When I opened the door, L saw the cat and took off after her. Surprised by the quick and strong pull on the leash, and distracted by the neighbor, I was pulled to the floor, landing flat on my face. The neighbor, who I did not know well, just stared at me as I got up. I handed her the package, assuring her I was alright. (Nothing was injured but my pride). The neighbor never passed me again without laughing.

(My ten-pound L pulling down the seven foot Christmas tree is also a good story.)

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

Most of my bucket list items involves travel and animals. I’ve been fortunate enough to view the Big Five while on safari in South Africa (which inspired a cozy mystery novel and birth of my series, The Traveling Detective), to swim with penguins, a shark and seals in the Galapagos, and to observe kangaroos and koalas in the wild and feed them and a plethora of other native animals at a sanctuary in Australia.

A gorilla trek in Uganda remains unchecked on my bucket list.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

h lies on my lap as I write. He often scratches my arm for belly rubs while I’m trying to work. He’s lying next to my leg right now!

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

I love to read and write on my couch, with h next to me.

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Mystery and Mayhem—Animal Style!

By Tracy Weber

I’m excited and honored to be joining the wonderful writers at Pens, Paws and Claws. For those of you who don’t know me yet, I have adored animals for as long as I can remember.  From my first German shepherd, a lovely animal named Duchess, to my Holstein cow Beauty, to my first kitty, Smokey. Then there was my childhood horse, Becky, and the other assorted, dogs, cats, turtles, fish, parakeets, gerbils, canaries—even a pigeon named Lollipop—that followed.  Each has commanded a special place in my heart.

Tracy and her cow Beauty.

When I was a child, cats followed me wherever I went like children chasing after the Pied Piper, not unlike the cats in this photo.

Tracy and the cats on “Cat Island” in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

As I got older, I made plans to be a veterinarian and practiced my skills by nursing injured butterflies back to health. One day, I tearfully convinced my fourth grade teacher to let me release the winged grasshoppers she’d asked me to gather for the science class’s dissection.  I’m pretty sure the grasshoppers were happier about my success than the school’s groundskeeper.  😉

Not much has changed since then. When I see a drowning earthworm, I relocate it. I move caterpillars off walking trails so they don’t get smashed. I save snails and slugs from almost-certain deaths near snail traps.  (Don’t tell my neighbors!) If it weren’t for my husband, I’d surely be locked away in whatever prison they use to hold well-meaning hoarders.

It’s not surprising that animals play prominent roles in my mysteries. How could they not?  After all, I write what I love, and I love nothing more than animals.  My mysteries give me the perfect opportunity to weave in some unusual animal characters.  Karma’s a Killer, for example, revolves around an animal rescue group, a wildlife rehabilitator, and a group of animal activists who clash with deadly results.

My writing is fiction, but it’s informed by my life. Many of the animals in my books are based on real-life creatures.  Bella, the German shepherd in the series, is strongly based on one of my two heart dogs, a special-needs German shepherd named Tasha, who passed away almost two years ago. Blackie—a rehabilitated crow who plays a prominent role in my third book, Karma’s a Killer—is modeled after a wild crow (and his friends) that befriended Tasha. Their friendship lasted Tasha’s entire twelve-year life.

Tracy and Tasha, the inspiration for Tracy’s Downward Dog Mystery Series.

Raising goats is still a pipe dream, but I’m chiseling away at my husband’s resolve a little more every day.  If I have my way, pigs and a few chicken-girls will soon join our menagerie.  😉

Tracy and her new German shepherd pup, Ana. Ana doesn’t have her own series yet, but it’s only a matter of time!

How about you?  What animals are important in your life?  Tell me about your favorite furred, feathered, and scaled creatures in the comments.  Who knows?  Maybe they’ll end up in my next mystery!

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

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Welcome Author Darlene Foster

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Darlene Foster to the blog!

Tell our readers about yourself and what you write.

As a child wandering around the prairies on my father’s ranch in southern Alberta, Canada, I would dream of travelling the world and meeting interesting people, often creating stories in my mind. My grade three teacher encouraged me to write my stories down. But it wasn’t until much later that I actually wrote for publication.

Since then I have won awards for some of my short stories. I have also authored the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky 12-year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places where she always has an adventure. My books include: Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube – The Sounds of Music andAmanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind.Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another.

When not travelling myself and collecting ideas for stories, I divide my time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain with my husband and entertaining dog, Dot. Encouraged by my parents to follow my dreams, I believe everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.

How do you pets impact your writing?

Spending time with my dog relaxes me and inspires ideas. When I get stuck, I take her for a walk and often return with fresh new ideas. She also gets me off my butt and away from the computer. When she thinks I have been there too long, she comes into my office with her ball and drops it in front of me, looking at me with those big puppy dog eyes. I just can’t say no. Before moving to Spain and getting our dog we had cats. They would sleep on my lap or on my feet while I wrote. A writer needs pets. They are great to discuss ideas with.

Do you include animals in your stories?

Living on a farm/ranch there were always animals around so I love animals of all sorts and so does Amanda. There is an animal in most of the Amanda stories. In Amanda in Arabia, an adorable camel named, Ali Baba is featured. My readers love him. In Amanda in Spain there is a dancing pony, named Pedro and in Amanda in England, a Maine Coon cat, Rupert, plays a large role. I have puppets or stuffies of each of the animals and take them along to readings and school visits. They are always a hit.

What is your funniest pet story?

When we were children my brothers and I had a pet antelope named Bambi. She was found in a ditch beside her mother who had died giving birth so we gave her a home. We loved her so much. One day she broke her front leg and we were devastated. Our dad dropped what he was doing and took her to the veterinarian in the city. The doctor set the leg and put it in a cast, attaching a metal frame around it. I’ll never forget how funny she looked running around the farm yard, hobbling on her built in crutch. I wrote a short story about Bambi which has been published in an anthology.

Of course our Dot makes us laugh every day. She is such a character. When we put food in her bowl, like stew, she separates the meat from the vegetables into little piles, eats the meat first and then the peas and the carrots last as they are her least favourite. We can’t have the veges touching the meat can we? I’ve seen kids do this but never a dog!

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Darlene Foster is an employment counsellor working with youth at risk, an ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, shoes, cooking, reading, sewing, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Her grandson calls her “super-mega-as-woman-supreme”.

She was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She lives on the West coast of BC with her husband and their black cat, Monkey.

Here is Darlene’s latest book and where you can find her. She’d love to hear from you.

Amanda Ross is on a school trip to Taos, New Mexico with several of her fellow creative students. Join Amanda, Cleo and their funny friend, Caleb, as they visit an ancient and beautiful landscape where a traditional hacienda, an ancient pueblo, and a haunted and spooky hotel all hold secrets to a wild and violent past. Does Cleo really see ghosts? Can Amanda escape the eerie wind that follows her everywhere? Perhaps the Day of the Dead will reveal the mysteries of Taos in this latest adventure of Amanda’s travels.
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Welcome, Shea Butler!

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Shea:

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

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

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Comic Book on Amazon: Undercover Cockroach: The C.I.A.’s Smallest Undercover Roach

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