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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Welcome, Skye Taylor

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Skye Taylor to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

The saying, Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming … WOW! What a ride!” is my mantra. Life is an adventure and I’m still working my way through an exciting bucket list. I’m a mom and grandmother. I’ve jumped out of perfectly good airplanes and love sailing, skiing, swimming, hiking and riding horses. I joined the Peace Corps in my 50s and had the most amazing experience in a tiny island nation in the South Pacific. And while I haven’t yet seen all the states, I’ve spent time in 28 of them and lived in eight. I’ve traveled on four continents, visited 15 countries and lived in two. I started out as a stay-at-home mom but have since been employed in several different fields and am thoroughly enjoying my latest career as a published author. I’ve hiked over glaciers, gone up in a helicopter, gone swimming with whales, crawled through lava tubes and dove into underwater caves. And just think of all the things I haven’t tried yet! One of the best things about writing novels is that I get to create characters who get to do some of the things I’ve done and some of those I haven’t had the time for yet.

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

My first dog was an English Bulldog named Salty who decided  after my dad posed me with him for a photo when I was about 6 months old that he needed to be in every picture of me thereafter. We rescued an abandoned baby squirrel when I was a kid and we’ve had gerbils, hamsters, parakeets, cats and fish too. Some of them are definitely models in my novels. My current pet, a mutt named MacDuff (picture attached) is my writing companion and my social director. I live on the beach and everyone in my neighborhood goes past my house to get to the sand. Duff has decided not only does he need to monitor this activity, but I need to come out to say hello to everyone who greets him on their way by. Which gets me out of my chair on a regular basis. It’s good for writers to be reminded to chat with real people now and then.

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

In my Camerons of Tide’s Way series there are pets in every book. But a couple of them are special. In Loving Meg, there is a police K-9 named Kip who is still grieving for his lost partner, and he intuitively takes on the task of helping my heroine, who is a Marine lieutenant just returned from a war zone with a ton of guilt and PTSD. Together they help to heal each other. While researching this book, I discovered a non-profit group, K-9s for Warriors in Northeast Florida that rescues dogs from shelters and trains them as service dogs for returned warriors who are suffering from PTSD. As of June 2018, this group has rescued 880 dogs and 445 soldiers. All my royalties from Loving Meg are donated to this cause. Kip has also appeared in other books in the series as has the kennel Ben Cameron runs and the program he initiated to train service dogs.

In my new series I have given my protagonist two pets: a cat with a lot of attitude named Seamus and a young lab named Murphy, for obvious reasons.

What are you reading now?

I just finished listening to Seeing Red by Sandra Brown and the newest Tom Clancy novel. On my phone I just finished the first book in a new series by J.H.Webber – a cozy mystery with an amateur sleuth who is a real estate agent. The book’s title is A House to Die For. I’m also reading Death at Nuremberg by W.E.B.Griffin, and Sailing Away from the Moon by Ann Henry. I’m also reading a book I picked up at a conference titled, Bullies, Bastards and Bitches – How to write Bad Guys in Fiction, by Jessica Morrell. An awesome book considering my newest project.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

With Keeping His Promise, the fifth book in my contemporary romance series completed and released, I have turned my energy and enthusiasm to a totally new project, a mystery (I hope will become a series) with a female deputy sheriff detective as the protagonist. She’s lived the life her mother ordained for her right up until her husband cheated on her with a woman only a few years older than his own daughter. Now it was her turn to live the life she always wanted – to be a cop like her dad. And it turns out she’s good at it. To complicate her life, she has a disapproving mother, a son who barely speaks to his father and a daughter who thinks her dad’s new lady friend is far more interesting than her mom. Jesse’s partner, her mentor and the man who would like to be more than a friend round out the nucleus of this new cast of characters. Set in Northeast Florida, in a town named Coquina Beach, the series starts with a woman murdered in her own home. Her husband is the obvious suspect, but Jesse is convinced he didn’t do it, so who did?

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have so many it’s hard to name them all, but for a start: Elizabeth Ogilvie, Georgette Heyer, W.E.B. Griffin, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Lee Child, A. E. Howe, Diana Gabaldon and Johanna Spryi. All of them because they write a great story with people I can really care about. Some of them write stories that keep me on the edge of my seat, others I can curl up with to enjoy on a cold rainy day or take to the beach.

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

In some of my stories, like Kip in Loving Meg, are an important character in their own right, in others they are there because it’s a way of life for me and there seems to be something missing when there isn’t a pet wagging in greeting at the door or winding their way through your legs as you try to put dinner on the table.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals in stories play a number of roles. Sometimes they are just comedic relief. Other times they give the author a great vehicle to show a human character’s good or bad side. How a man treats an animal says a lot about what kind of person he is.

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

See the answer to the question above. Kip started out his career as a Police K-9, but later becomes a service animal for Meg. In later books, he shows up as a therapy dog when Meg visits the hospital at Camp Lejeune to help injured Marines find a positive attitude in dealing with injuries, both physical and emotional.

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

The book, Until Tuesday, by Luis Carlos Montalvan is the true story of how a beautiful golden retriever named Tuesday rescued this seriously injured, both physically and mentally, soldier and gave him back his life. The beautiful, trusting relationship that grew for these two was heartwarming and gave such promise for other wounded veterans. There are several other books out about Tuesday and Montalvan telling how he used his success to motivate others.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

For this question, I’m just going to give you the link to my blog post about the time my dog took off in the middle of a thunderstorm to swim ashore (like that was safer than the solid wooden cottage he was in at the time)

https://www.askyetaylor.com/blogging_by_the_sea/view/237

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

Which pile?  The one beside my bed? The one on my desk? Or perhaps the one on the ottoman in front of my comfy reading chair? Then there’s the audible books on my phone and the e-books on my Kindle. And there’s Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader beside the toilet. Beside my bed is my Bible, two romances and a children’s book. On my desk are books on formatting, character development and police procedure. On the ottoman the pile changes constantly and includes magazines, newspapers and any other print book I’ve got going. Currently the aforementioned Bullies, Bastards and Bitches, and Jeff Shaara’s newest book, The Frozen Hours. On my phone in audio book are a half a dozen titles and at least 30 I haven’t read yet on my Kindle. I think I need to live to about 300 to get all of them read!

About Skye

Skye Taylor, mother, grandmother and returned Peace Corps volunteer lives St Augustine Florida, soaking up the history, taking daily walks along one of the prettiest beaches and writing novels. She posts a weekly blog and a monthly newsletter, volunteers with the USO and is currently working on a new murder mystery series. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Florida Writers Association, and Sisters in Crime. Her list of published novels include: The Candidate, Falling for Zoe, Loving Meg, Trusting Will, Healing a Hero, Keeping His Promise and Iain’s Plaid. Visit her at www.Skye-writer.com

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Welcome, Carol Hedges

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Carol Hedges to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 I write historical crime fiction, set in the Victorian period. My books feature the newly formed Detective Division of the Metropolitan police. The main characters are Detective Inspector Leo Stride, and Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. In some of the later books, they are joined by Inspector Lachlan Grieg, who has come to London from Scotland, to remake his life after a broken heart. The books have been compared to Charles Dickens, in their tone and style, a compliment that I find overwhelming!   I have chosen to set my books in the 1860s ~  at the time Dickens and his famous contemporary Wilkie Collins were writing. This is a deliberate choice: there are an awful lot of Victorian novels, past and present, set in the 1880s. I didn’t want to add to their number.

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

 I am a cat person. I have been owned by a succession of lovely cats. The present boss is a tortoiseshell/Siamese female called Halley (Kitteny, the grandchildren call her). All my lovely cats have been rescue animals ~ I would NEVER buy a pet when there are so many who have been abandoned and need a forever home. Halley is a wonderful mix of Tortie obstinacy and Siamese volume! She has far more character than a cat should have! I love her dearly, even though she isn’t a lap-sitter and cuddler, more a sitter-next-to. I am also aware, given my age and health, that she might be my last cat, so despite being a ‘cat that sits by herself’, she is cherished and very special to me.

What are you reading now? 

Right now, apart from researching for the seventh novel, I am reading Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd. For someone who is Jewish, and lost family in the Holocaust, this may seem an odd choice, but I am trying to understand what is happening in my country (the UK) and in the US and wider afield. The book shows how ordinary people gradually began to accept the terrible philosophies and actions of Hitler and the Nazis; how what started out as horror became the everyday. It is terrifying to see, in my opinion, history repeating itself. I am very active in the ‘Stop Brexit’ movement in the UK: I have marched, lobbied my MP, waved flags outside Parliament. I have even managed to get my German citizenship ‘restored’ so that should the UK follow down the same route as the US, I and my family will have options. I’d recommend the book to anybody who wants to understand how one powerful and evil person can completely and effectively impose their will upon an entire nation. It is salutory reading.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

 I have just finished the sixth book in the Victorian Detectives series. It is called ‘Fear and Phantoms‘. It is on its way to my second editor, and will, I hope, be ready for you to read in September. In theory, I am supposed to be writing the seventh one. I have written three thousand words, including the ending (I write like that), but a lot of other stuff has intervened, so I am not beating myself up, and will wait until some time emerges. I had major cancer surgery in December, followed by a month of radiotherapy in January, so I guess I am still in recovery mode.

Who is your favorite author and why?

 It is VERY VERY hard to pick just one writer, as I read different authors for different reasons. Of course I love Charles Dickens, for the whirling plots, the characters, and the political anger behind so many of his books. OK, can I narrow this down? A writer whose books I always buy as soon as they are published is Robert Harris. He writes thrillers, frequently set in the near past (Archangel, Enigma). His style is impeccable, and, unlike many writers, he seems to be able to maintain the same standard and quality in each book. His last book was Conclave; I actually bought it in hardback. That’s how much I enjoy reading his work.

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

I had hamsters when I was growing up. The good thing about hamsters is that they are low maintenance, and you learn a lot from keeping them. The two main things you learn about are responsibility ( because you have to feed them and clean them out daily) and death (because hamsters don’t live much beyond two years). I always wanted a cat, and pleaded for one, but my mother refused to let me have one. Thus, as soon as I had moved out, the first thing I did was get a cat!

A real life funniest pet story

 When we first got Halley, as a small feisty kitten, I was working away at my laptop, when I heard the most FEROCIOUS yelling and growling coming from the garden. Thinking she might have been attacked by a fox or some other animal, I rushed out to see what was happening. There was this tiny kitten, fluffed to twice its size, incandescent with rage, patrolling round and round a tree while making a noise that could be heard throughout the whole neighbourhood. Up the tree, and looking bug-eyed with fear, was the local HUGE black bully-cat. He was staring down, terrified. She’d got him treed and trapped! Guess who got extra tuna for her tea?

When did you first know you were a writer?

 I have always written stories, ever since I could write. I remember making teeny-tiny books for my soft toys to read (bit like the Brontes ~ though I’m not comparing myself with their geniuses). I used to tell stories to my younger brother when we went on long car journeys. We had a set of running characters (I can’t remember them now) and I’d relate their latest adventures, which stopped the endless ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ that drove my parents mad. I think the first inkling that I might become a writer for REAL was at secondary school. I was fortunate to have a teacher who valued creative writing and used to set us intriguing titles each week. I loved producing a story, or a piece of descriptive prose. I loved that feeling when the ideas just arrived out of the blue.  I always came in the top three, and my efforts would be read out. The thrill of seeing my book on top of the pile, and hearing my words read out made me think I’d like to do this when I grew up. Of course it took a lot longer, and there were a great many rejections before I saw my first actual novel in print (I was forty). But that excitement has never left me.

 What does you pet do when you are writing?

Halley is such a clever little cat! She has developed this *thing* she does. Let me tell you: I usually write in the afternoons, as the morning tends to be taken up with chores or dickering about on the internet (it’s MEANT to be research, but as all writers know, it’s just an excuse NOT to be writing). So, I go upstairs to the back bedroom, where the little purple laptop that isn’t connected to the internet lives. Halley is usually asleep on the bed. I start writing. She sleeps on, unperturbed. BUT as soon as I leave the room, to make a cup of green tea, or answer the door, the cheeky cat leaps off the bed and curls up on my writing chair. And she is VERY difficult to dislodge, once she is ensconced in what she clearly considers to be *her* seat!

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

 Follow your dreams. But make sure you have a day job.

About Carol:

Carol Hedges is the successful UK writer of 17 books for Teenagers/Young Adults and Adults. Her writing has received much critical acclaim, and her novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal. Her ebook Jigsaw Pieces, which deals unflinchingly with many of the problems that beset today’s teens, is available on Amazon as is her Dystopic Fantasy The Last Virus.

 Carol is also the writer of ‘The Victorian Detectives’ ~ a series of novels set in 1860s London and featuring Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his side-kick Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. 

The five books in the series are:

 Diamonds & Dust

Honour & Obey

Death & Dominion

Rack & Ruin

Wonders & Wickedness

Let’s Be Social: 

Bits of her writing life can be viewed on her blog: http://carolhedges.blogspot.com

 Her Amazon page is at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Carol-Hedges/e/B0034PUES6

 Connect with Carol Hedges via Twitter: @carolJhedges

 Visit her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thecuriousVictorian/

 

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Making It All Work…Or…How Time Management Makes Me Nuts!

I like to plan.  I really like it.  I use markers and colored pens.  I allot my time judiciously.  I build in time-buffers to make sure I get my stuff done.

Then, life happens.

It’s been crazy busy around Chez Adams.  We’ve got a high school graduate for the first time.  Eldest Son (pictured on here with his bestie) graduated on June 1.  Before that, it was the baseball championships which they won for the fifth time in a row – WCAC Champs, baby!! – and then there were the after parties, proms, graduation parties, etc. etc. etc.

In the middle of all this, I’m on deadline.

I didn’t plan it this way.  Ohhhhh no.

I planned my spring schedule to the letter.  I took a HUGE trip – England and Scotland!  WOOT!  I planned that around baseball and graduation.  Books to write and get out.  Promotion to do, events to plan around.  Yeah….

With all that, I needed to have the novella that’s due, done by May 1 so I’d be able to relax before graduation – take my time, and have plenty of editing and cogitation time left over before turning it in!

Did that happen?  Of course not.

What the hell was I thinking?  I never have the time I THINK I’m going to have.  While I admit that I occasionally over estimate what I can do in the amount of time I have, it isn’t because I cannot DO the work.

It took me a while to realize why I wasn’t getting stuff done.  I can do what I need to do in the amount of time I allot.

I so totally could….

The problem is that I cannot plan for just MY time.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but sometimes kids and dogs and life really muck up a writing schedule!  This spring at my house would have mucked up ANY full time job, much less a creative one.

Somehow, even when I add in time for the unexpected, the unexpected manages to take up way more time than I thought it would!  Ha!

That said, even when I’m behind, and thinking, “where did I screw this up?” I still have to factor in time away from writing to just breathe.

If I try to cut out the important “extras” I put on the schedule, I get in trouble.

I have to read.  I have to walk the dogs – that way I don’t gain ten pounds for every book and novella I write! – and I have to smell the flowers.

Why?  If I don’t put in time for this – actually schedule it in with my colored markers – it doesn’t happen.  Then I stop being as creative as I need to be because I’m not “refilling the well” of my soul.

This spring, another issue came into play.

I didn’t realize that I would have to add in time for what I’ve come to call the “depression factor” of the daily news cycle.  (No political discussions or comments, please!)

However you feel about it, the world’s in flux and it’s challenging to stay creative while you’re living it.  That means I need MORE time refilling the well than usual.  More flowers.  More dog-time. More family time.  More baseball with the boys.

Staying positive is challenging. So I have to find coping mechanisms so I can do the work, and do it well.  Hence, the flowers, dogs, and baseball!

I also read, a LOT!  I read my fellow Pens, Paws and Claws authors.  I read my Romance Bandit pals – Kate Carlisle, Nancy Northcott, Anna Campbell, and others have new releases this spring to my great delight!  I find new authors.  I wait with bated breath for the next Nalini Singh and Ilona Andrews novels.  Grins.  Ellery Adams needs to put a new one out soon, as does Sophie Kelly!  Ha!

I dive into their worlds, escape into the lives of the characters they’ve created and live those lives and feel those feelings as a break from my own world.  It’s what we all love about reading, right?

Then, thankfully refreshed, I can go back to creating my own worlds and people and move their stories forward.

In amongst all that, I have to look forward to what I’m doing, promo wise.  I’m going to be at DragonCon in Atlanta over Labor Day.  Gotta prep for that!  And hey, Coastal Magic in February!  I hope y’all will come visit me there for the booksigning!

How can I be planning for 2019 already?  Yikes!

It’s crazy!  Wow!  Then again, while I want to control my time more, I also know that I won’t have my boys at home for long.  Got one going to college in the fall.  The other will head to high school in another year.

There will be lots of time at some point and I’ll miss them.

Until then, it’s a strategic puzzle as to how to make it all work!  Ha!

Are you crazy busy this year? 

What are your relief valves from all the insanity of jobs, and family, schedules and work, crises and news cycles?

Since you’re following and author blog, I presume you read (yay!), and maybe have a few fur-babies to help cut the stress, does walking the dog, or playing with the cat or horse or snake work for you?

Do you have some authors whose books you’re looking forward to?  Who’s on your auto-buy list?

What else do you do?  Crafts?  Golf?  Sports? Travel?

Give me some pointers, y’all!

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WonTon the Bookstore Cat

By Maggie King

Cats and bookstores … two of my favorite things in life.

Just why are cats such big hits in bookstores?

Picture this: a customer comes across a snoozing cat while browsing the shelves of a bookstore. She unconsciously associates the relaxed feline with books.

What happens next? Why, she buys out the store!

For this customer and many like her, nothing beats getting lost in a page turner. And cats have no problem lazing away the hours, dreaming of mice and butterflies. I’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon with my cat curled up on my lap and my book propped up on him.

Ward Tefft, owner of Chop Suey Books in Richmond, Virginia’s Carytown, tells an unusual story of how WonTon became his bookstore feline:

Aside from WonTon being our spirit animal, I don’t know if there are any short stories that sum him up. He did come to us in an interesting way: when we were at our old shop, we would leave a window open in the back, and one Spring a black and white cat started jumping through it into the store in the morning and hanging out with us all day. He was kind of aloof, but seemed to really enjoy just being around us. When evening rolled around, he would disappear out the back window, and wouldn’t be seen until the following morning.

After about 3 weeks of this, we decided that he had picked us as his home, and, not wanting someone to think he was a stray at night, we named him and put a collar and ID on him. As per his usual schedule, he left that night and came back through in the morning. Almost as soon as he jumped through our rear window, a girl who lived down the street from us came through the front door. “Can I post a lost cat flyer in your window,” she asked, then looked down at WonTon. “Oh, Lloyd! I found you. This is my missing cat!!!” Dumbfounded and heartbroken, the person working the counter let her leave the store with WonTon struggling in her arms.

When I heard about this, I was curious. It seems that the girl only had one poster in her hand, not a stack as would be expected. It felt like she was targeting us in particular as a place that would help her find this missing cat. We pretty quickly put it together: WonTon was hanging with us during the days, and with her (as “Lloyd”) at night. When he had shown up the night before with a tag claiming him as ours, she decided she needed to put a claim of her own on him, and came up with the “lost cat” routine.

The store felt empty for a day, then, true to form, WonTon returned through the back window the next day, then the following day, then the day after that. I tracked down the girl with the “lost cat” posters and made a plea: WonTon/Lloyd appears to have chosen us during the day, and you at night. Can we share?

To my surprise, she made this counter offer: “Oh, I didn’t know you wanted him! He lives with his sister Voodoo now, and they don’t get along at all.If you want to keep him, please do!”

The rest is history. WonTon started happily spending the night with us, and a year later moved with us to Carytown. Every now and then, there are tales of a young woman coming into the shop to give love to “Lloyd”!

For more on Chop Suey Books.

13 Bookstore Cats. Great photos.

Like cats in your mysteries? How about a feline sleuth? Here’s a reading list.

***

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

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

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: authormaggieking

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2Bj4uIL

 

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Welcome Author and Pet Lover Roland Clarke

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Roland Clarke to the blog!

Tell us about yourself and what you write.

I am a former equestrian journalist and photographer who had to retire when diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I write mysteries, although I have written drafts of SF/fantasy stories. My debut novel was Spiral of Hooves, a mystery surrounding the death of a horse rider, set mainly in England and France. The sequel will be set in Idaho, USA, where we live.

My current WIP is Fates Maelstrom, the first book in a series about a female Goth detective in North Wales, who is attached to a burglary where the suspect is from a local Romani site.

How do your pets impact your writing?

We have two ‘designer’ dogs: a Cavachon– Cavalier x Bichon – called Quetzal; and a Chorkie– Chihuahua x Yorkie – called Treeky. Both bring me inspiration and give me a reason to keep living, especially Quetzal. Last year, when I was rushed to hospital, my wife was my first waking mainstay, but somehow, Quetzal was the one that came to me when I was about to give up in my sleep.

Also, Quetzal lies on my lap, in my wheelchair, at least once a day, encouraging me to rest or at least chill and not stress.

However, there are moments when the dogs want all my attention when I am trying to write. Sometimes, I interrupt myself and switch my focus – losing the plot. Other times, the distraction becomes a chance to relax before I get stressed out.

Do you include animals in your stories?

Animals have a habit of finding roles. My debut novel, Spiral of Hooveshad two horses as principal characters – not surprising for a mystery set in the sport horse world. However, a Flat-coated Retrieveralso plays a valuable role – a breed that I dreamt of owning – as does a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog.

Horses find their way into most of my stories. Fates Maelstromhas a Gypsy Vannerin a few scenes – a breed that has turned up in at least one short story. Dogs and cats are less common, but wild animals feature – wolves and eagles, although they tend to be animal totems.

The protagonist in my North Wales series, Sparkle Anwyl is adopted by a jackdaw that will feature in the series.

What is your funniest pet story?

This is my wife Juanita’s story and true. When she was thirteen, Juanita wanted to prove that a horse could fit inside the house. So, she led a big 16 hands horse inside through the kitchen, into the front room and then her mum’s bedroom. The horse behaved impeccably – no contributions for the rose-bed – and went out the same way.

Pretty neat. But her mum and dad didn’t understand and were not amused.

So, that’s me and the animals. Now to find time to watch Marley & Me– and go into an online game to tame a few wolves.

Let’s Be Social:

Please visit me on my website and blog: https://rolandclarke.com for more information about me and my work

On facebook at lesley.diehl.1@facebook.com

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Meet Teresa Inge, Luke and Lena

Pens, Paws, and Claws Blogger, Teresa Inge, tells us about her writing and her love for pets. 

 Tell our readers about yourself and your writing.

 I am a short mystery author of several anthologies.

 My stories have been included in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, a collection of short stories set in Virginia.

 My latest publication is in 50 Shades of Cabernet, “Love the Wine You’re With.” The story features Jules Riley who has three things on her mind. Plan the Virginia Beach Wine Fest, rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, a hot local musician, and keep her sister Em sober. But when Em serves up a deadly appetizer that Jules made, she is accused of murder.

 Tell us about your pets?

 I have two dogs Luke and Lena who were named after my husband’s grandparents. Luke is a country boy, part shepherd, part lab. Lena is a city girl, part shepherd and Husky mix.

 Tell us what you are currently writing?

 I am completing a novella dog walking mystery that includes myself and three other authors. My story, “Hounding the Pavement,” features dogs Cagney and Lacey who help solve a crime and theft.

 Anything else you want to share?

 I am a Sisters in Crime member and president of the Mysteries by the Sea chapter in Chesapeake, Virginia. Our chapter is currently coordinating the Mysteries by the Sea anthology.

 I am also a board of director with the Chesapeake Humane Society and love helping animals.

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Welcome, Maureen Bonatch

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Maureen Bonatch to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello! I’m Maureen Bonatch from small-town Pennsylvania. I write humorous paranormal romance and fantasy. My stories are meant to allow you to escape from the ordinary world for a little bit to visit the underlying extraordinary.

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

Currently Scuff, our Shih Tzu, is our only pet. I often use my pets in my writing, but usually change their name. Scruff is in a WIP. My featured book today, EVIL SPEAKS SOFTLY, stars Mozart. He is a Lhasa Apso and modeled after our beloved 14-year-old Lhasa Apso, Bummy who died 5 years ago. Before you ask, we kept the name he had when we got him. He was dubbed “Bummy” because he was a “bum pup” or “the runt” of the litter and we loved him dearly. He was my baby long before I had babies.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Where do I start? I’m always working on something. Right now, I’m waiting for my editor to finish Book #2 for The Enchantlings Series entitled NOT A CHANCE. I also have multiple works in progress in varying draft states.

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

The first pet that was an indoor pet was Mimi. She was a toy poodle. I call her my pet, but in reality, she was closest to my Mom. We always had cats, a few rabbits and my dad always had ‘hunting dogs’ (even though I don’t know how often he actually went hunting with them, lol), but they lived outside.

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

The animals in my writing always end up being a secondary character. I have so much fun writing them. They are often a pet, or some type of guardian. One of my WIP has a shifter in it and when she shifts she can talk to other animals.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I believe that most people love animals and feel as if they’re part of their family. I like to write the animals in my stories the same way. Plus, they allow me to show my hero or heroine’s vulnerabilities and compassion.

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

I don’t know why, but Boo, from Dean Koontz’s book ODD THOMAS comes to mind. I love those stories.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I consider Scruff my writing assistant. He usually comes up to my office and either pesters me for a treat, or lays right behind my chair so I’m forced to keep on writing. He also will decide when I need a break and fuss until I get up and toss a toy around, or just give him a little attention.

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

My twin girls are both big animal lovers. They’re 16 now, but when they were growing up, we had a range of critters that they considered pets, whether they really were or not. Starting from worms (each ‘Wormy’ rarely survived the night), frogs and toads, tadpoles, fish, hermit crabs, a hamster and lastly two guinea pigs. Our last guinea pig died about six months ago.

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

 I wish I would’ve realized how much easier it would be to finish each series before starting another one. The story is always there and will wait. Allowing myself to become distracted by other shiny new ideas has resulted in having multiple series, and standalone stories, in progress. It becomes challenging to move from each story without a lot of rereading.

I wish I would’ve realized from the start how each book can be promoted and marketed for a lifetime. Initially I felt as if once a book was out for six months or so, that I should focus on promoting the next, or newest story, when a book is always new to someone.

Author Biography:

Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

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Amazon Author Pagehttp://www.amazon.com/Maureen-L.-Bonatch/e/B00KHY1KK8/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/mbonatch

Websitehttp://www.maureenbonatch.com

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