Meet Josh Pachter

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Josh Pachter to the blog this week!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Not long after my ninth-grade English teacher, Mary Ryan, gave me a copy of the June 1966 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, I decided to try my hand at writing a crime story myself. The result, “E.Q. Griffen Earns His Name,” appeared in EQMM’s “Department of First Stories” in December 1968, and in December 2018 I’ll be celebrating my fiftieth year as a published writer. Along the way, I’ve contributed almost a hundred short stories to various magazines and anthologies, written a zombie cop novel collaboratively with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge (Styx, Simon & Schuster, 2015), seen all ten of my Mahboob Chaudri stories collected as The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, also 2015), edited half a dozen anthologies, and translated dozens of short stories and novels from Dutch to English. In my day job, I’m the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus. My wife Laurie is an editor for a government agency in DC, and our daughter Becca is a county prosecutor in Phoenix.

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

If you don’t count fish and a hermit crab, the only pet I’ve ever had is our dog Tessa, who is a loving and lovely collie/terrier mix. Laurie rescued her from the pound about sixteen years ago, when she (Tessa, not Laurie) was just a few months old. Laurie and I met ten years ago — we “met cute,” and you can read about that here — so Tessa’s been a part of my life for the last decade. I haven’t put her into my fiction yet, but that might well happen at some point in the future!

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

In case you didn’t click on the link above, I’ll tell you that I have been horribly allergic to fur and feathers and wool, my whole life long — making my ability to be around Tessa something of a miracle. Because I grew up unable to be around animals, I never developed an appreciation for them … and have never much written about them. In the 1980s, I collaborated with the wonderful Edward Wellen on a story about a migratory stork that smuggles uncut diamonds from the mines in South Africa to the jewelry industry in Amsterdam; it was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and we called it (ahem) “Stork Trek.” But, until Tessa came into my life, that nameless stork was really the only animal character I ever created. Now, though, I’m a lot more open to writing about furry and feathery characters. In fact, I have a story called “The Supreme Art of War” in the upcoming Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter anthology Fur, Feathers and Felonies that includes a female cat named Mister.

What are you reading now?

A couple of years ago, I was asked how much I would charge to translate one of the 300+ Belgian graphic novels about a pair of teenagers named Suske and Wiske into English. More kidding than serious, I said I’d do it for — instead of money — a complete set of the books. To my amazement, the publisher agreed. So I did the translation, a giant box of books flew across the Atlantic Ocean to my front door, and I’m now up to number 185. (In English, Suske and Wiske are called Luke and Lucy, and you can read Auntie Biotica, the adventure I translated, for free here.)

What writing projects are you currently working on?

As I answer these questions, I’m focused more on editing than writing. I’m working on three different collections, which will be published by three different publishers in 2018. Amsterdam Noir, which I’m co-editing with René Appel, is an anthology of dark stories set in the Dutch capital, and it’ll come out as a part of Akashic Books’ City Noir series. Dale Andrews and I are putting together The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, a collection of pastiches and parodies, for Wildside Press. And I’m editing The Man Who Read Mr. Strang: The Short Fiction of William Brittain on my own for Crippen & Landru. But I’ve just begun a new short story I’m calling “Killer Kyle,” which starts out pretty nicely, I think. I can’t wait to see how it ends!

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh, gosh, that’s like asking me to name my favorite movie or song. I don’t have one favorite author. There are so many authors I’ve loved reading, and my “favorite” would depend on when you asked me and how I was feeling at the moment. I can tell you that, along the way, my favorite authors have included John Updike and Ray Bradbury (who showed me that prose can be poetry), Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse (who made me laugh), Carlos Castaneda and Jane Roberts (who made me think outside the box), Ellery Queen, Ed McBain, and Lawrence Block (who taught me whatever small amount I know about crime writing), and a host of friends whose books I read because they were written by people I know and respect and admire (including but far from limited to Les Roberts, Loren D. Estleman, Bill Pronzini, and, in Dutch, Hilde Vandermeeren, Bavo Dhooge, René Appel).

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I’m not sure how funny this is, but can I go back to that hermit crab? When my daughter Becca was tiny and we were living in the upstairs half of what’s called a “Lakewood double” just outside Cleveland, Ohio, she really wanted a pet … but I had those allergies I’ve mentioned. So we bought Hermie the Hermit Crab, and we kept him in a little plastic terrarium and fed him and petted him and played with him. One day, though, Hermie mysteriously vanished from his terrarium. I never found out for sure how that happened, but I suppose Becca must have taken him out to play with him and forgotten to put him back, and he just wandered off. Days later, I came home from work to find a plastic bucket sitting outside our door and a note taped to the door: “We found this in our bedroom. Is it yours?” And, sure enough, Hermie was in the bucket. How he got down a flight of stairs and into the neighbor’s apartment, I’ll never understand. (Hermie, by the way, went to Hermit Heaven many years ago, but I still have his shell, which I keep on my desk and use as a paperweight.)

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

I sometimes talk to middle-school groups about writing, and I always start by asking, “How many of you want to be a writer someday?” Generally, three-quarters of the hands go up, and that allows me to tell them that they already are writers, and have in fact been writers ever since they learned how to write. A writer isn’t something you should “want to be,” I tell them. A writer is something you already are. What you can want to be is a professional writer, a paid writer, a famous writer, even just a better writer. So, when did I know I was a writer? I guess when I learned how to write. But I think I had the idea of becoming a professional writer in my head from a pretty early age. In grade school, I wrote a “book” about Japan — a country which to this day I have never visited — and “published” a weekly handwritten newspaper for a couple of months. In junior high, I co-wrote a column for my school paper. And I sold my first short story to EQMM at the age of sixteen. When I went off to college at the University of Michigan, my intention was to study journalism. It turned out that the U of M’s undergraduate j program at that time was pretty sucky, but I really liked Ann Arbor, so I scouted around for an alternate major and finally settled on communication studies.

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

Well, I know the whole “bucket list” thing is still pretty popular, but I don’t really have one. I taught overseas for fifteen years — in Holland, Germany, England, Spain, Greece, Italy, Bahrain, Kuwait — and still do a lot of international traveling. I have a happy marriage. I have raised a brilliant and talented daughter. I like my job and make a decent living. Although my writing, editing and translating haven’t made me rich and famous, neither of those things is particularly important to me. I suppose it would be nice to win some sort of an award. A story I translated was nominated for an Edgar in 1986 and another was nominated for a Derringer in 2016. The Tree of Life was nominated for a Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville. But it would be fun to actually win something. As I mentioned before, next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of my first publication and, since I started young, I’m “only” sixty-six years old. I figure if I can just keep on breathing for a while longer, sooner or later somebody’ll have to give me a lifetime achievement award!

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

One pile contains another hundred or so Suske and Wiskes, and another pile has about twenty Dutch-language novels which have been given to me by various Dutch and Belgian authors I’ve translated. I’ve also got a bunch of English-language novels and short-story collections piled up on my iPhone; I recently joined Wildside Press’ Black Cat Mystery Magazine club, which gets me seven e-books a week for a year, so I’ve definitely got my e-reading cut out for me!

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

Actually, most of what I know now I’m glad I didn’t know when I started, because it probably would have scared me off. Even with all the amazing new possibilities contemporary technology has given us — the Internet, POD publishing, Babelcube, the list goes on and on — it’s still the case that most of the people who’d love to be able to make a healthy living as a writer of fiction won’t. For me, though, writing has always been (and remains) a hobby … and, as a hobby, it’s given me an enormous amount of pleasure for the last half century, and I expect it’ll continue to do so for whatever amount of time I’ve got left!

On September 25, two days after I responded to Heather’s interview questions, our sweet Tessa Marie came to the end of her journey. My wife Laurie was out of state on a business trip, but I called her on my cell from the vet’s office, and she talked lovingly to Tessa until the vet came in with the needles. Then we hung up, and I held the old girl tightly, my head close beside hers, as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I stayed with her until she was gone, and for a long while after, and then went home to a very empty house. 

Because of my allergies, we can’t risk another dog. A month after Tessa left us, we bought a 29-gallon aquarium to make the house less empty and have populated it with two dozen fish: danios, platies, cory cats, weather loaches, rasboras, a whole community. We’ve named them all, and we enjoy looking at them as they swim around and eat. But we can’t walk them or pet them, and they don’t answer when we talk to them, as Tessa did. We like them, but we don’t love them. Not yet, anyway. Maybe that’ll come. I doubt it. They’re nice, but they’re not Tessa.

 Regards,

Josh

 

Josh’s Biography:

JOSH PACHTER is a writer, editor and translator. Since his first appearance in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1968, almost a hundred of his short crime stories have appeared in EQMM, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, New Black Mask, Espionage, and many other periodicals, anthologies, and year’s-best collections.  The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, 2015) collected all ten of his Mahboob Chaudri stories and he collaborated with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge on Styx (Simon & Schuster, 2015). In his day job, he is the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus.

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Meet Laurel Peterson

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Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Laurel Peterson to the blog!

Before I answer any questions, I just want to thank you, Heather, for having me on your blog. I’m really honored to be here and I enjoyed answering your questions.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I am a poet and a novelist, as well as a community college professor—which allows me to eat and pay the mortgage! I’ve got three books of poetry out, and have always thought of myself as more of a poet than a fiction writer. However, I love mystery novels, starting with Nancy Drew, and decided about a decade ago that I wanted to try the form. It’s been great fun testing and honing my storytelling skills, as well as thinking about ways I can use the genre to communicate messages about human experience. My first mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was released in 2016.

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

The main character in my Clara Montague mystery series is too fastidious to be a dog person, but her police chief lover definitely needs a dog. I love Labrador retrievers, which is the dog I had as a child—all my father’s brothers and their children ended up with Labs—because they are so friendly and patient and sweet. My dog wants nothing more than to hang out with us and to chase things we throw. His favorite game is to chase a Frisbee, which he then refuses to give back until he’s good and ready.

What are you reading now?

There is always a huge pile of TBR books on the floor.  At present, I am enjoying Tomas Transtromer’s the great enigma, and William Kent Krueger’s Sulfur Springs.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a book of poems about flying and the stars. My father was an airline pilot and a conspiracy theory lover. Somehow those two themes cross in this book, and I’m having fun playing with the various directions they are taking me. I’ve also had fun with sources: NASA posts pictures from the international space station; FermiLab puts out newsletters on particle physics research (toned down for people like me who don’t understand the half of it), and of course, looking at old photos of my father in various flying garb.

I also woke up this morning thinking about the next book in my Clara Montague series. In this one, she works with an underwater archeologist. At least that’s the version this week.

Who is your favorite author and why?

In the mystery genre, my favorite author is Sara Paretsky. She’s just so smart, and I love smart people. I learn so much from them, and Paretsky is no exception. She has a PhD in history and an MBA from the University of Chicago, and you can see that attention to detail and accuracy in her novels. In addition, I love that she takes on issues in her work—faulty body armor or race relations. The mystery is about more than a murder; it’s about the fault-lines running through our communities and our nation. Attica Locke is another writer who is taking on issues. Black Water Rising and Bluebird, Bluebird both deal with race issues in America, as well as presenting an interesting whodunit.

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

H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald, is a fascinating memoir of her time training a goshawk to hunt, as a way of mourning her father’s death. Mabel, the goshawk, becomes a character in her own right, and the development of their relationship is funny and sharp and dark all at once.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

It’s not so much a one-time event as a pet habit. When my cat was still alive, we fed him in the basement, which he accessed through a cat door. This kept the dog from scarfing all his food. In the evenings, after the cat had eaten, he would come up the stairs and sit behind the pet door, waiting. The dog, smelling him there, would stand on the other side, staring. This stand-off usually lasted several minutes, with one of them poking at the door with a nose or paw to try to tempt the other into engagement. Finally, the dog would relent a little, the cat would burst through the door and speed past him in to the living room, and there would ensue a wild, but short-lived scramble before the cat popped onto the ottoman and whapped the dog on the nose with his paw. Every single time.

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

I think this is a really hard question to answer. I can point to a moment in my childhood when writing became important to me—after I was bullied on the school bus and wrote a story to get my private revenge—but I don’t think I identified as a writer until after I left college and discovered that all other jobs were to support my writing time. By the time I went to grad school in my late twenties, I was sure writing was where my heart lived, but calling myself a writer probably didn’t come until after I’d started publishing on a regular basis in my early thirties. It’s a good thing we have a lifetime to figure ourselves out!!

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

The number one item on my bucket list is to visit Greece. I have wanted to go there since I was in fourth grade and Mrs. Marshall taught us all about the Greek myths. (Coolest, scariest teacher ever. That’s what I aim to be.) Since my father was an airline pilot, we did a fair amount of traveling when I was younger, but we never made it there. I want to see Athens, the Greek islands, and those fascinating monasteries built up high on the cliffs in Meteora. Of course these things are all in different directions.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

I lost a cat last February and he’s been very hard to replace. He used to come and sit on my desk next to me when I wrote. He was a big black and white cat, with a rumbly purr and tendency to rub my cheek with his. I miss him and his sweetness and playfulness intensely. The dog sleeps until it’s late afternoon, and then starts bugging me for a walk and dinner. For the dog, it’s all about him.

 

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

I have one very large TBR pile. It has books of poetry, books about immigrant life in the U.S., a book by a French food writer (mmm, getting hungry), Irving Stone’s Depths of Glory, a book by a poet I have to introduce at an event in a month, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, John Cheever’s journals, and a DVD on yoga and relaxation which is, frankly, where I should start.

About Laurel:

Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College and her poetry has been published in many literary journals. She has two chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds (Finishing Line Press) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press). Her full length collection, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer? (Futurecycle Press) was released in January 2017. She has also written a mystery novel, Shadow Notes, which is available through Barking Rain Press. She currently serves as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate.

You can find her at www.laurelpeterson.com, on Twitter: @laurelwriter49, or on Facebook. You can purchase her mystery novel here: Buy and her poetry here: Buy.

SHADOW NOTES by Laurel S. Peterson

Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.

Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.

Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder.

Clara Montague has been gone from home for fifteen years, but when she dreams her mother is in danger, she comes home. A few days later, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?

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Meet Mary Reed

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mary Reed to the blog this week!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 As Eric is wont to say, we began writing together after we married because he had no choice! We’ve been fortunate in having a number of short mystery stories set in different eras and locations published in a number of historical mystery anthologies as well as in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. We also co-author two series: the John, Lord Chamberlain mysteries set in and around the sixth century Constantinople court of Emperor Justinian I and our newest venture, the Grace Baxter series taking place in wartime Britain.

 What are you reading now?

 Le Queux’s The Mysterious Mr. Miller, which gets off to a cracking good start. Mr Massari, an Italian and obviously a gentleman, takes a room at the London boarding house at which narrator Godfrey Leaf is staying.

Massari, newly arrived from the Continent, is taken ill that night and Leaf, who speaks his native tongue, sits up with him. During the night Massari speaks of keeping a woman’s secret and later gives Godfrey a sealed packet of papers he says are of considerable value to certain of his relatives in Italy, asking him to give it intact to the Italian ambassador three years after his death, which rapidly follows….

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

 We’re busy writing the next entry in the Lord Chamberlain series. John is able to get into Rome, then encircled by the Goth army, in connection with a particularly convoluted investigation involving a close friend.

The situation is complicated by the fact John has been exiled to Greece and it is highly likely he will be executed if Justinian learns he has left that country without permission.

 Who is your favorite author and why?

 As a fan of Golden Age authors it’s difficult to pick just one, so today I shall mention Ethel Lina White.  My favourite novels of hers are Wax, which involves a run-down waxworks, minor crimes whose explanation is surprising, and a darkly ironic ending, The Spiral Staircase aka Some Must Watch, a tense book set in an isolated not fully electrified old house with a murderer loose in the immediate area, and Fear Stalks The Village, in which poison pen letters bring death to an idyllic village, including two suicides for an unusual but convincing reason.

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

 It’s possible I may be the only mystery writer whose first childhood pet was a budgie with a Geordie (Tyneside) accent. These birds can be taught to mimic human speech, but the only word he ever learned to say was his name Peter, or as he would squawk Pe’er because he learnt it from a voice whose accent features glottal stops, or as I’d say it glo’al stops. One day I came home from school to find poor Pe’er dead. So he was buried in the back yard in an old sink where I attempted to grow nastursiums, which local stray cats liked to grub up during their bathroom visits. Can’t complain really, given there was very little open ground in our urban area so streets and roads were covered in concrete or tarmac except for graveyards, an occasional small park, and the odd demolition site. So poor Pe’er in his domino box did not rest in his graveyard for very long. It has occurred to me a budgie’s accent being that of a place a person of interest in a crime claims never to have been would make a good clue in plain sight, although of course such a person might well claim he or she purchased the bird from someone from the relevant area.

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

 Both. In One For Sorrow, the first Lord Chamberlain novel, there was an unfortunate bear who had been subjected to bear baiting. We made sure his trainer met his doom at the paws of the bear when it escaped its cage. The same bear also broke the nose of an intoxicated man who poked him with a big stick, and serve him right too.  In a later novel Empress Theodora orders the bear taken from its current home, the imperial menagerie, to be freed on a country estate. There the bear has further adventures, some of a humorous nature.

 Also in One For Sorrow a starving feral cat saves the Lord Chamberlain’s life by accident. This cat was modeled on Rachel, who came into the family when he showed up in a bad state one winter night. He was a tom cat named by children too young to know the difference and had obviously been someone’s pet at some point because he arrived neutered and declawed and therefore was not able to defend himself or fight for food when out in the world. We could never be sure if he had just run off as cats will occasionally do or if someone had abandoned him.

 In our fiction Rachel is usually seen in the company of a smaller cat based on Sabrina, his long time real life friend. She was born in a garage down the street to a feral mother and while all the kittens in the litter were found homes, the house owner could not persuade the mother to stay. Generally speaking the two cats are to be found in our fiction doing something in the background and are included as a little nod to their memories.

 Why do you include animals in your writing?

 They are generally there to to provide local colour although occasinally they interact with a given character. A few examples would be a man carrying a wicker cage stuffed with squawking chickens fleeing his village, which he believes is doomed due to certain omens (Three For A

Letter) or the old crone selling partridges in Constantinople, all of whose birds are purchased and set free by one of the more prominent characters (One For Sorrow).

 Then there’s a noirishly comic scene involving a donkey, whose skittishness interferes with the attempts of a major character to dispose of a body at night, leading to increasing frustration on his part although he eventually manages to solve the problem. (Ten For Dying). The same novel included a scene or two involving frogs in unusual circumstances.

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

 The most unusual working animals we have created so far appeared in Three For A Letter. This is a herd of fortune-telling goats living on an island along the coast from Constantinople. The seeker after knowledge must write their question on a piece of parchment and then burn it before sunrise in a bowl on a pedestal under an open-sided shelter opposite the island. A local woman provides the answer to the question by interpreting the positions individual goats are seen to have taken when the sun has risen. The same novel also involves a mechanical whale whose workings we based upon the writings of Hero of Alexander concerning the construction of  automatons. Although mechanical, he’s a working mammal as he is integral to the play based upon the story of Jonah and the Whale which kicks off the plot.

 Then there’s an oracular snake with a human head in Six For Gold. As is the case of what must at first glance seem bizarre and unlikely trimmings in our novels, he also is based on an historical account, being inspired by just such a snake utilised by the charlatan Alexander the Paphlagonian.

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

 Stephen King’s Cujo. It’s a frightening book demonstrating how easily ordinary lives can be affected by outside forces in terrible and unexpected ways, in this case when a beloved pet falls ill. But can we blame the dog? After all, it wasn’t poor Cujo’s fault he became rabid, but the results are heartbreaking for his family, for others, and ultimately for Cujo himself.

 What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 Now and then Sabrina attempted to take over Rachel’s role as boss cat by tussling with him. In some way she knew he had  injured one of his legs.

It stuck out at a strange angle when he was sitting, the result of who knows what adventure in the wild before he was taken in and so she would try to get under his guard to nip at it. Seeing her advance, Rachel would raise a threatening paw but she generally took no notice and still went for that leg. On one occasion however he made a surprise move. A big cat, he turned a complete somersault and she ran off in terror. How I wished I had had a camera to hand on that occasion but alas….

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

 Rachel and Sabrina are both gone now, but Sabrina could always be found velcroed to Eric’s knees when he was writing. She was a one person cat and although the memory remains terribly sad, she died on the knees of that one person. Whereas Rachel tended to distribute his affection around more and was very friendly, really more dog-like than most cats though we never could get him to fetch a stick <smile>.  When one of us was writing he could often be found lying down or sleeping at our feet.

Biography:

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer’s most recent Lord Chamberlain novel is Murder In Megara (2016) and, as by Eric Reed, Ruined Stones (2017), set in wartime England, both from Poisoned Pen Press. Their most recent short story, “Time’s Revenge”, appeared earlier this year in the anthology Bound By Mystery.

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The Dogs In My Life: Part II Einstein by Judy Penz Sheluk

In my first post, I wrote about Sandy, a golden-something mix from my childhood. It would be many years before I would get another dog, but I finally managed to talk my husband, Mike, into getting a purebred Golden Retriever. We named him Einstein, after the dog in Dean Koontz’s novel, Watchers

When it came to Einstein, Mike and I did most things wrong, starting with where we bought him. Not from a reputable breeder, but from an ad in the newspaper. Our first clue should have been where we picked Einstein up (a condo apartment). Our second clue should have been the fact that his mother wasn’t anywhere to be found. But we were young and excited about getting a dog. Who had time to do research?

We were to learn, too late, and much later, that Einstein was a puppy mill dog, but we loved him all the same, even after he failed obedience school. Twice. I can still remember the horrified look on one owner’s face when we were instructed to “switch dogs” with another owner. As I handed her Einstein’s leash, I overheard the hushed tone of her husband whispering, “Oh my god, you’ve got Einstein.”

Einstein settled down a lot when he was 15 months. Too much, in hindsight, though we were just so happy when he did that we didn’t think to question it. We just figured he was growing up to be a good dog. And he was… he never barked, growled, jumped up on people, or any of that. Not even when he was at his craziest. He just wanted to be loved and petted, to be part of our family. Einstein had grown up to be the perfect puppy.

Mike was out of town (as he often was during his working life) when one evening, as I was walking Einstein,  I noticed a van following us. I started walking faster until the guy rolled down his window and said that he was trying to find a certain house number. The driveways in our neighborhood were long (ours was 85′ long) and it was dusk. I bought the story but hustled my way, dog in tow, to our house.

I was inside the house about five minutes when the doorbell rang. It was the guy from the van. I opened the door, but kept the screen door closed. Einstein was sitting next to me, growling softly.

“I’m here from the gas company,” the man said, holding a clipboard. I remember thinking how clean his nails were, how smooth his hands. My dad had been in the trades. He could never keep his nails looking like they’d just been manicured, or his hands not roughened by weather, no matter how hard he tried. Why was the van white, without a gas company logo? And why was Einstein growling?

“I have a report here to inspect your furnace,” the man said, at which point he attempted to open the screen door. Einstein was having none of it. My calm, quiet dog went crazy, barking, baring his teeth, and literally scaring the guy into stepping backwards. I slammed the door, shaking, and then called the gas company.

Einstein Sheluk

You can probably guess what comes next. The gas company hadn’t sent a guy to look at my furnace. I called the police, who came promptly. There was a man, the officer told me, fitting my guy’s description. He’d been getting unsuspecting women into their basements and then beating and raping them. Without Einstein’s intervention, I would have been his next victim.

Einstein was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer two weeks later. He died at eighteen months, a puppy mill pup who never really had a chance. But to this day, I believe he was put on this earth to save me from getting raped, or worse.

RIP Einstein. Your spirit has lived on in every dog I’ve owned since. It lives on, inside me. #ForeverGrateful

 

A Holiday Giveaway: Win one an Audible audiobook copy of either The Hanged Man’s Noose OR Skeletons in the Attic (winners choice) by signing up for my newsletter before December 15th. The winner will be notified by email before December 18th. Here’s the link.


 

 

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Meet Madeline McEwen

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Madeline McEwen to the blog for #WriterWednesday!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m an ex-pat from the UK, bi-focaled and technically challenged. Positivity and disabilities fill my daily life. I am passionate about humor and its therapeutic benefits.

Tell us about your pets.

A rescued gray, female, tabby who is minute and mute, but otherwise perfect. A ginger and white tabby who is bad tempered, extremely affectionate, and could win a yodeling contest. A male, 120 lb. Labradoodle masquerading as an Irish Wolfhound which possibly explains why the breeder lost their license. A female, rescue mutt [mother Poodle / father Labrador] who looks like a Labradoodle. Go figure.

What are you reading now?

The Seagull by Anne Cleeves which I’ll review on NetGalley soon.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I can only pick one? M. C. Beaton, Sue Townsend, Colin Cotterill, Erma Bombeck, and Terry Pratchett for their humor, Dorothy L. Sayers for her plots, P. D. James, and Elizabeth George for their psychological torture.

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

Cats, rabbits, and goldfish–they consumed each other, no doubt contributing to my bloodlust in later life.

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

They often accompany taciturn characters and provide insight for the discerning and intelligent reader.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like to agree with the commonly held belief that people and their pets are similar in temperament and disposition. We humans often betray our true nature by how we interact during any random encounter with an animal.

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

Watership Down, by Richard Adams, a heart-breaking and poignant epic. Lassie, Come Home, the TV series, watching in black in white in England. I loved them because they were adventurous and tender, which my mother dubbed “syrupy, sentimental American drivel.” Perhaps that’s when I decided to emigrate.

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

I do not have a bucket list. I’ve had more luck in life than most.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Assuming I have already walked the dogs, they lie on the floor within licking distance of my un-manicured toenails. [California = barefoot]

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

I have three physical stacks of TBR books: bedroom, floor of car, and a kitchen corner, and one virtual stack on Goodreads. I like the latter best because it doesn’t need dusting.

 

Madeline’s Biography:

Madeline McEwen and her Significant Other manage their four offspring, one major and three minors, two autistic, two neurotypical, plus a time-share with Alzheimer’s. In her free time, she walks the canines and chases the felines with her nose in a book and her fingers on a keyboard.

 Her new novelette TIED UP WITH STRINGS is now available on Amazon for pre-orders:

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Meet Amy Reade and Orly

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Amy Reade to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write mysteries. The first three mysteries I wrote were standalones, then I wrote three mysteries for my Malice series, set in the United Kingdom. And I just finished my first cozy mystery, The Worst Noel,* which is the first novel in my Juniper Junction mystery series. When I’m not writing, my favorite things are reading, cooking, and traveling. I used to practice law, but I didn’t love it—I love writing.

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

I have a dog, Orly, and two cats, Athos and Porthos. When Orly was a puppy we also had two rather elderly cats, Faust and Shadow, who were the most affectionate cats I’ve ever known. I suppose I had Orly in mind when I wrote a couple scenes in The Worst Noel, but not intentionally (or even consciously)!

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

There is a dog, Addie, in The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, but I wouldn’t say Addie was based on any animal I knew. She was a stray who wandered onto the page and ended up as an important character in the book. There were also two horses in the story, though they played a much more minor role.

In House of the Hanging Jade (my third standalone), the main character, Kailani, has a cat named Meli. Meli has an important part to play in that story, which is set on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In Murder in Thistlecross (the third book in my Malice series), horses play a role in the romance that buds between two of the characters and they also play a role in the ending of the story.

The Worst Noel features a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier named Barney, and he plays the same role in the story as Orly plays in my life—as a constant companion and loveable friend.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Fifty Shades of Cabernet, a mystery anthology I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of, and Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers. It’s the first in the Lord Peter Wimsey series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently gathering ideas for the second book in the Juniper Junction series, plus I have two other mysteries in the works: a contemporary mystery and one set in the 1600s.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It depends on the day, but I have several favorites. Each is a favorite for a different reason—I love Phyllis Whitney because I could read her gothic mysteries a thousand times and never get tired of them. I love Ernest Hemingway because he was a master at saying so much with so few words. I love Jane Austen because…who doesn’t love Jane Austen? And I love M.C. Beaton because she has a wickedly sharp sense of humor.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in some of my books because they add extra richness to a story. I tend to use animals more as characters than props, so they have an important role to play. I also think you can learn a lot about a character by watching the way they interact with animals. That helps the reader to get to know my characters a little better.

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

There are so many, and the answer to that question has changed through the years. For example, when my kids were little we loved the movies “Homeward Bound” and “The Incredible Journey.” I’ve also always loved anything by James Herriot; in fact, he’s the reason I began college with the intention of going to veterinary school (organic chemistry derailed that plan, but it didn’t change how I felt about Dr. Herriot). Then there’s Asta of “The Thin Man” movie fame.

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

There are two things that tie for first place on my bucket list: learning Greek and seeing an owl in my own neighborhood (preferably in my own yard). I want to learn Greek because I love learning about languages other than English. Greek seems appropriate because so many English words derive from Greek and because it’s fascinating to me how long people have been speaking Greek.

As for the owl, if you’ve ever read Owl Moon by Jane Yolen you know what a beautiful story it is and why it’s been one of my favorites since I first discovered it. I wanted to see an owl in my own yard from the very first time I picked up that book to read to my children.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Orly lies at my feet or next to me while I write. When I get up to stretch or move around, she follows me until I go back to my desk. As for the cats, Porthos ignores me. Athos will come around to stand on my keyboard when my concentration is at its fiercest. He seems to know when that is. Every. Single. Time.

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

How much time do you have?

I have two TBR piles: physical books and ebooks. The top three books in my physical TBR pile are The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence, Cape May County, New Jersey: The Making of an American Resort Community by Jeffery M. Dorwart, and The Ripper Gene by Michael Ransom.

The top three books in my ebook pile are The Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey, On the Chopping Block by Jenny Kales, and Eben Kruge: How ‘A Christmas Carol’ Came to be Written by Richard Barlow Adams.

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

First, I wish I had known how much time I would spend on marketing. I, like a lot of other authors, thought I would write and the publisher would promote, but that isn’t the way the industry works. Publishers help promote, but the huge bulk of the marketing falls to the author.

Second, I wish I had realized years earlier how much I would love fiction writing and how much I would love being part of the writing community. The authors I’ve had the honor of knowing are beyond generous with their time, their support, and their friendship. I would have started writing long before I did!

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today. Pens, Paws, and Claws is part of that generous and wonderful writing community I referred to in my last answer.

*The Worst Noel is one of twelve Christmas-themed cozy mysteries in a set called The 12 Slays of Christmas. The set comes out on December 5, 2017, and is only 99¢ right now. ALL proceeds from the sales of the set will go to no-kill animal shelters and charities. You can learn more about the set at www.12slaysofchristmas.com

Amy Reade

Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, community volunteer, and recovering attorney.

But she also writes (how could she not write with that last name?) and is the author of The Worst Noel (part of The 12 Slays of Christmas boxed set), The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross), and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

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Websites: www.amymreade.com and www.12slaysofchristmas.com

Blog: www.amreade.wordpress.com

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Twitter: www.twitter.com/readeandwrite

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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade

 

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Annnnnnticipation…..

First, let me wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Pens, Paws and Claws!

I hope you all had a wonderful turkey day.  Like many of you, I traveled for my feast.  My family gathers at my sister’s house for the big meal and then we watch football and, on Friday, go shopping and then bowling.  I cooked this year, and thankfully it turned out well.  It’s fun, it’s tradition, and we look forward to it every year.  That’s the first of two turkeys I cooked, and the sweet potato casserole waiting to go in!

The only thing we don’t look forward to is leaving our dogs at home.  My sister is allergic, so the dogs stay home with the dog sitter and we have to go four days without our dog fix.  When you live with pets, no matter how many or what kind, when you have to be without them, its just…odd.  No one to bump your elbow and ask for pets, no one to clean the floor if you drop something, no one to warm your lap when you sit down or lie across your computer and interfere with your work.

Seriously, how is even possible to live without pets?

So, as much as I love being with my family, I am looking forward to getting home to my dogs.  We also have another fun thing to anticipate on the way home.  We’re stopping by to see more family on our way home and they have….wait for it….a new puppy!

WOOT!  We’ll get a puppy fix before we get home, then, we’ll get home to slurpy kisses from our own beloved pets.

Ahhhhh.  After nine hours driving it will be: Home, sweet pet-filled home.

The only good news about 9 hours of driving is that I can write for most of that.  I’ve got a holiday novella to finish (another mystery-in-space with my co-conspiriitor, Nancy Northcott.) I’m going to finish and publish another paranormal romantic suspense as well, before the end of December.  That one, A Spirited Life, is in final edits, so I may be doing that during the drive!

So, then we’ll be on to the winter holidays!  Hannukah, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years.  I’ll start decorating the house next week.

What about you?  

Do you take your pets with you for the holidays, or  do you host and let your family bring their pets to your house?

Did you have a great Thanksgiving?  Did you have pumpkin pie or pecan?

What’s your December Holiday?  Are you ready to decorate the day after Thanksgiving, or do you wait till December 1?

What day do you put up your tree?  Is it up? If so, post a picture!

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Meet Nancy Northcott

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

As my bio says, I’ve always loved stories of adventure, romance, and mystery, and I fell in love with history at an early age. I also read comic books growing up, much to the vexation of my mother.  But I loved the superheroes and science fiction they offered.

I write mages (like wizards, but if you mention wizards, people tend to think of Harry Potter, and this is not that) because they’re kind of like superheroes but also incorporate elements of fantasy.  The mages battle ghouls and demons hoping to take over our world—more fantasy elements there, as well as action and adventure.

I’ve also written, but not published, historical romance and have published historical fantasy. The Herald of Day is the first part of the Boar King’s Honor trilogy.  I loved doing the research to build those historical worlds.

I just launched a romantic spy adventure series that lets me incorporate adventure, suspense, and action with hot romance.  Finally, I’m writing a space opera series with Jeanne Adams.

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

We just adopted a new dog, a black lab mix.  Whatever she’s mixed with is a smaller breed because she’s much smaller than the lab we had for a few years.  She’s still settling into our family.

We also had a very large, male golden retriever named Hudson at one point, and he’s the only one who is a story model to date.  At least for stories I share with the world.  I used to make up stories featuring him and Maggie, the golden/Irish setter mix we had at the time. He was kind of like an Edwardian gentleman, very proper, while she was just zany.  They offered a lot of character contrast. I told those stories to entertain our son when we were waiting in a restaurant or elsewhere, but I never wrote them down.

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

So far, my only recurring animal character is a very large golden retriever named Magnus in my Light Mage Wars series.  He’s the one modeled on Hudson. Magnus is the constant companion of Miss Hettie Telfair, a retired lawyer and recurring character in my imaginary town of Wayfarer, Georgia.  I’d like to think he has a personality even though he doesn’t play a big role in any scene.

I had a mare named Calypso in The Deathbrew Affair, and we’ll see her again down the road.  The hero of the series is a horseman from North Yorkshire, so horses will figure in some of the books going forward.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m juggling three at the moment, the next Light Mages book, a Christmas novella for the space opera series, and a Christmas short story for the Light Mages.

 Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s hard to pick a favorite author among the many whose books I love. My all-time ever favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird because I like and sympathize with the characters and admire the way it addresses a crucial social issue.

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

I grew up with dogs that were treated as part of our family.  Over the years, we had a fox terrier/Chihuahua mix and a couple of English bulldogs. The bulldogs were very sweet but prone to breathing and skin problems, unfortunately.  The fox terrier/Chihuahua was also very sweet and generally pretty calm.  She liked to sleep on the foot of my bed in the winter, and I liked that.

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

Magnus is a character in his own right, though a minor one. The hero and his best friend in The Herald of Day, which is set in 17th-century England, each have a horse, Zeus and Neptune, but they figure primarily in the opening part of the books.  They’re not exactly characters but are more than mentioned in passing.

The Deathbrew Affair includes a mare named Calypso, whom we meet briefly before events pull the hero and heroine away from the riding ring.  We’ll see Calypso again, though.  Because the hero is an equestrian with an estate in the horse-breeding area of North Yorkshire, he’ll have a horse in a future book and the heroine will learn to ride.  The penultimate book in the series is currently planned to center on a horse.

The animals in the space opera series so far are not pets but creatures on the planet we created.  None of them actually qualifies as a character, nor are they likely to.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like animals, and I like to have them in a story when there’s a reason.  I also think the way a character relates to an animal reveals that character. Magnus helps show us Hettie’s nature and has been a bridge between her and other characters.

Horses are a soft spot for controlled, plan-oriented Jack, the hero of The Deathbrew Affair and its siblings, but they were essential in The Herald of Day.  During the era when the book is set, they were the transportation for those who could afford them. The hero and his best friend have horses, and at one point we see the hero’s carriage horses.

When dealing with an alien culture, as in the space opera series, creating animals is part of building that world.

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

I enjoyed Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.  I generally avoid movies and books centering on animals because so many of them end tragically, but our son wanted to see that movie when he was small. I enjoyed the characterizations by the actors, and I loved that it had a happy ending.

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

I have three TBR piles–one in a plastic bin, one on the shelves in my study, and one on my tablet. The piles mix various genres of romance (primarily historical, paranormal, and romantic suspense), science fiction and fantasy, and mystery/thriller books.

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

First, that there’s no one “right” way, that every author has to do what works for her. For example, I don’t write every day, in the sense of sitting in front of the computer.  I do think about the various projects daily, but many people don’t consider that writing.  It works for me, though.

Second, that the marketing department plays a huge role in purchasing decisions at traditional publishing houses. A book that veers too far off the center field line, unless the marketing people think it’s lightning in a bottle, will have a hard time finding a home.

Thank you to everyone at Pens, Paws, and Claws for having me today. I’d love to chat about people’s first pets.

About Nancy…

Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman.  Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance. A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the romance and high stakes (and sometimes the magic) she loves in the books she writes.

She’s the author of the Light Mage Wars/Protectors paranormal romances, the Lethal Webs and Arachnid Files romantic suspense series, and the historical fantasy trilogy, The Boar King’s Honor. With author Jeanne Adams, she co-writes the Outcast Station space opera series.

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Meeting Olive and Morris

Ever since that lucky day in 2012 when Morris and Olive came home with us from the Richmond Animal League, our lives haven’t been the same.

Morris is a handsome orange and white Manx (partly) while Olive is a glam and big-pawed Norwegian Forest cat with a hunting prowess that would have made the goddess Diana proud.

At the RAL, it didn’t take Glen and me long to pick Olive—or did she pick us? We first noticed her on the screened porch of the RAL, long brown hair shimmering in the sun.

I’d long wanted a black cat so we looked at the three or four the RAL had rescued. Then I spotted the orange and white Manx. Glen picked him up, proclaimed him heavy, and put him back in his cage.

The RAL needed to check our references, so we left, promising to return in two days. The next morning I woke up at a very early hour, thinking of nothing but that orange and white cat. No question, we had to bring him home.

Once we got them in the house and out of their carriers, Olive immediately toured the house, inch by inch. Morris dived under the sofa and stayed there for four hours. When he emerged, he jumped in my lap and curled up for a while before starting his own exploring.

Before we met Olive, we had planned to name her Lulu, but she seemed too refined for such a “party girl” name. At the RAL she was Olivia, so Olive was close (Glen thinks pet names shouldn’t exceed two syllables). Morris’s papers had him as “Kyrian”—not exactly to our taste. We picked the name Morris from a database of names for orange cats.

The two are social media stars. They often make Saturday (#Caturday) appearances on Instagram with their own hashtags: #OliveAnnKing and #Morristhecat.  They’re also characters in my Hazel Rose Book Group series, starting with Murder at the Moonshine Inn.

Thank you, Olive and Morris, for the joy you’ve given us on a daily basis for almost six years. And a big thanks to the Richmond Animal League for rescuing dogs and cats and finding forever homes for them.

PS Olive turned out to be the Lulus of all Lulus!

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. Her short stories, “A Not So Genteel Murder” and “Reunion in Shockoe Slip” appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies. “Wine, Women, and Wrong” is included in 50 Shade of Cabernet: A Mysterious Anthology.

Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She belongs to James River Writers, the American Association of University Women, and is a founding member of the Sisters in Crime Central Virginia chapter. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, customer service supervisor, web designer, and non-profit administrator. Maggie has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband Glen and cats Morris and Olive. All her jobs, schools, residences, and pets have gifted her with story ideas for years to come.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: maggie8208

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2lLITpN

Richmond Animal League: http://www.ral.org

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Teresa Inge Interviews Southern Cozy Writer, Tonya Kappes

Today, we are interviewing USA Today Bestselling Author of southern cozy mysteries and animal mom, Tonya Kappes.

TONYA, TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?
Oh gosh, that’s a loaded question. I’m a mother of four young men who are all in college. My husband and I live in Kentucky. I’ve got 45 published novels. They are southern, charming, and funny. I write full time and love it!

HOW MANY ANIMALS DO YOU HAVE?
I have two Schnauzers. Charlie is thirteen and he’s my hero. He has Congestive Heart Failure, ATP autoimmune disease, a slushy gallbladder, an amputated back leg and toe. He takes nineteen pills a day. Lovingly, we refer to him as our college fund. We also have Scooter who is twelve and full of life. He’s always ready for a good time whether it’s playing with his “grunt grunt” or a fun walk.

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU WHEN WRITING & TENDING TO ANIMALS?
I get up around six a.m., but the dogs sleep until eight and then they eat. Scooter usually finds a warm quilt since I have several lying around. Charlie is my shadow. I can’t go from my deck to my kitchen to get a coffee refill without him following me. This entire time I’m writing. It I get up every hour for some exercise. I walk and the dogs follow me. Then it’s back to the office to write. Around noon, we walk around the neighborhood. I write all day and everyday. So this is a typical day. In the afternoon, I might move to the family room and sit on the couch with my laptop. Both dogs join me, I’m rarely without them.

Yes, I had a new release in my Kenni Lowry Mystery series. AX TO GRIND. There is a blood hound name Duke in the series. Kenni is a sheriff in a small town and Duke is her Deputy dog. He’s even gotten an award in bravery in earlier books. I write a dog in all my books. So fun! This is the third book in a ten book contract so I’m excited about all the things that Deputy Duke will be doing.
Thank you, Tonya for joining us today.

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