Pens, Paws, and Claws Welcomes Kathleen Kaska and Kristina Stanley

Kathleen Kaska

Kristina Stanley

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Kathleen Kaska and Kristina Stanley as permanent bloggers. Watch for their posts about writing and pets in the upcoming rotation.

Check out Our Authors page to read more about them and our Let’s Be Social page for links to their social media sites.

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Welcome, Andrew Welsh-Huggins!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. By day I’m a reporter for The Associated Press in Columbus where I cover criminal justice issues, including the death penalty, the opioid epidemic and terrorism prosecutions. By earlier in the day I write the Andy Hayes private series published by Swallow Press (http://www.ohioswallow.com/author/Andrew+Welsh+Huggins), about a disgraced ex-Ohio State quarterback turned investigator in Columbus. The fifth installment, The Third Brother, comes out April 13. I also write short crime fiction.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? As my website says in tongue-in-cheek fashion, I’m the ‘owner of too many pets.’ We have a mixed breed dog, Mikey, two black cats, and two parakeets.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? My private eye has a Golden Lab, “Hopalong,” named for Howard “Hopalong” Cassaday, an Ohio State running back who won the Heisman Trophy in 1955. Hopalong has appeared in all five books.

What are you reading now?

I just read, in order, The Late Show by Michael Connelly, The Dry by Jane Harper and All Day And A Night by Alafair Burke.

 What writing projects are you currently working on? My sixth Andy Hayes mystery, Fatal Judgment, coming in April 2019 (once again featuring Hopalong), and various short stories.

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

We always had cats when I was growing up, starting with “Charley,” a gray and white domestic shorthair when I was about five. Our most famous family cat, “Melrose,” once faced down a buck with a full set of antlers in our back yard in western New York State–and won.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

My character, Andy Hayes, is a dog person. I like having Hopalong in his life as something that makes him seem more real. More than one reader has said they appreciate the fact he actually has to remember to come home and let the dog out. Also, although I’ve never owned a lab, I have a good friend who does, and I enjoy researching Hopalong’s activities by seeing what my friend and his dog are up to.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

In August 1989, my wife and I were moving from Providence, Rhode Island, to Bloomington, Indiana, with all our belongings, including our cat, Ezra. Someone recommended we put butter on his paws to calm him while we drove. Instead, we ended up a wigged-out cat and butter all over the moving van’s windows as Ezra didn’t take kindly to the idea. Later that day, we stuck him in a duffel bag and tiptoed to our room past a hotel lobby clerk–those were the days before hotels were as pet friendly as they are today. We thought we were very sneaky. Ezra wasn’t amused.

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

I’ve wanted to be a writer more or less when I started reading around age six or so. I knew because I immediately started writing books on whatever paper was around the house.

What do your pets do when you are writing? I work on my fiction from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. each morning. As soon as I sit down, my 14-year-old cat, Frankie, emerges from wherever she’s hanging out in my home office, jumps on the reading chair beside me and demands to sit on my lap. She stays there, snuggled under my bathrobe, the entire time. Mikey the dog and Theo, the other cat, are usually sacked out–separately–upstairs.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? Bedside, I have Going Long, an anthology of journalism about track and field; They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, a popular culture essay collection by Hanif Abdurraqib; and How To Read A Novelist by John Freeman. In my downstairs pile are Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne, and The Metal Shredders by Nancy Zafris (plus many mystery short story anthologies and magazines, including Best American Mystery Stories 2015, the collected Sue Grafton Kinsey Millhone short stories, and copies of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine). My third TBR “pile” consists of podcasts, audio short stories and various audio novellas on my phone for the car–most recently including Anne Perry’s annual Christmas novellas.

Author Biography:

Andrew grew up in a small town near the Finger Lakes in western New York State, where one of his favorite Christmas presents as a child was “Thurber on Crime,” thus launching him on a path involving both a love of detective fiction and his future home in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Kenyon College where he majored in Classics and more importantly, met his future wife, Pam, at your standard early 1980s dating hotspot: a Medieval banquet.

Andrew started his writing career as a newspaper reporter in Providence, R.I. and worked later for papers in Bloomington, Indiana, and Youngstown, Ohio. He moved to Columbus in 1998 to work for the Associated Press, covering the death penalty, crime and courts, the Statehouse and long-lived zoo animals.

Andrew is the author of five Andy Hayes mysteries published by Ohio University Press, featuring a disgraced ex-Ohio State quarterback turned private eye, including the upcoming The Third Brother. Andrew has also written two nonfiction books, also published by OU Press: No Winners Here Tonight, a history of Ohio’s death penalty, and Hatred at Home, about one of the country’s first domestic terrorism cases.

Andrew’s short mystery fiction includes “The Murderous Type,” which won the 2017 Al Blanchard prize for best New England short crime fiction, and appears in Snowbound: The Best New England Crime Stories 2017.

When he’s not writing or reporting, Andrew enjoys running, reading, spending time with family and trying to remember why having a dog, two cats and two parakeets seemed like a good idea at the time.

Let’s Be Social:

Website

Twitter

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Welcome, James Dorr!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome James Dorr to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 Hi.  I’m James Dorr. I’m a writer. 

I write short fiction and poetry, mostly dark fantasy and horror, but also some science fiction and mystery.  I do see a difference between horror and dark fantasy as dark fantasy, to me, incorporates elements of the supernatural while horror is more a description of the readers’ reaction, evoking feelings of fright or unease.  So there can be psychological horror as well as such things as dark mystery, dark science fiction, even dark humor. But then I write cross-genre work as well, one example being my most recent book, Tombs (more on which in a bit), which is listed by Amazon as both “horror” and “dystopian science fiction,” while I, on my blog, will often keyword it as “dark fantasy,” “science fantasy,” and even “dark romance.”

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

 My mostly black “Goth” cat Triana came to me from the local animal shelter just about a year ago, replacing Wednesday (named for Wednesday Addams of the 1960s TV series The Addams Family) who had recently passed on.  As it happens, I had written an as yet unpublished short story that Wednesday inspired, “Pelushe,” about a very fluffy cat (which Wednesday was) in a steampunk setting.  As a rule, however, I don’t usually use my pets in my writing. 

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

 The above does not mean I never use pets, as animals with a special and usually positive relation to humans, but possibly in less usual ways than one might expect.  There is one story titled “Pets,” for instance, in my collection The Tears of Isis which refers to people in isolated conditions, such as soldiers in a remote outpost during a war, who might make pets of creatures normally thought of as vermin — in this case cockroaches.  And another, also reprinted in The Tears of Isis, is “The Christmas Rat” about a lonely elderly woman who adopts a rat as a companion.  I must warn, however, as a horror writer, that neither of these necessarily ends well.     

What are you reading now? 

 Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is a retelling of familiar fairy tales, but in a way that brings in myth, psychology, feminism, and a compelling sensuality in a language sometimes approaching poetry.  It’s a deep experience, and one that I’m dipping into in an on-and-off manner, reading one tale, then giving myself time to let it be absorbed before coming back to another.  It’s also a book that I found out about only recently, but several years after seeing and being highly impressed by a movie made (with, I understand, the author’s sharing in its production) of  its next to last story, “The Company of Wolves.” 

What writing projects are you currently working on?

My latest book, Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, came out from Elder Signs Press less than a year ago, so a fair bit of what I’ve been doing lately has still been trying to spread the word around (and for which, thank you; every interview, every reader who gives a review, every blogger just mentioning a book is helping its author immensely).  Tombs is a mosaic novel, or novel-in-stories, concerning life, love, and death on a far-future dying planet as pieced together by a surviving ghoul-poet – an eater of corpses not normally given to abstract thoughts – in hopes of discovering the particular spark that made humans human.  As such, it’s a romance to some extent, composed of a series of “snapshots,” of stand-alone stories for us to piece together for ourselves, but a very dark one with elements of science fiction, philosophy, and horror, and is loosely inspired by a pair of quotations from Edgar Allan Poe: the first of the most poetic topic being the death of a beautiful woman, and the second of the boundaries between life and death being “at best shadowy and vague.”  If these concepts be true, and in an already dying world, can love be a power to even transcend death?   

Who is your favorite author and why? 

 I’d like to mention two, really, the first Edgar Allan Poe as noted above and joined by Ray Bradbury for poetry and beauty even in their darker works; Poe especially for a juxtaposition of beauty and horror – a nexus of Eros and Thanatos in Freudian terms, of sex and death in both his tales and poems.  Then if I might be allowed two more, at least in terms of influencing some of my own work, Allen Ginsberg in poetry combining the beatific with the sometimes tragically ugly, and Bertolt Brecht for his ideas of “epic theatre,” allowing the notion of artistic distance, yet combined with emotional intimacy in such works as Mother Courage.

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

 In this case I’m assuming animals not considered pets as such, in terms of relationships to humans, but as more than just a part of a story’s background.  While I don’t think I use animals very often, three stories do come to mind which may give an idea of the ways I might use animals.  The first is a story called “When Cats Are Away,” a light fantasy which includes the Egyptian cat goddess Bast who, in one scene, presents the central character with a kitten in return for a stolen jewel (so, okay, maybe that’s a pet too, but that’s not the point of the story); the second, called “The Christmas Vulture,” is an allegory warning against excessive celebration before driving; and the third, “Bitter Perfume,” is about a woman who’s also a were fox.   As for the “why,” it’s really a case of the nature of the story requiring that it have an animal in it – a fourth example, for instance, comes to mind now, “The Bala Worm” (also reprinted in The Tears of Isis) about a hunt for a dragon in Wales, where you can’t very well have a dragon story without at least mentioning a dragon.   

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

Harking back to question 4, I’d have to say one of my favorite movies is The Company of Wolves.  It’s based on “Little Red Riding Hood,” but approaches its subject from multiple directions, exploring the natures of people and wolves, and even societies from varying aspects, presenting a sort of mosaic effect as opposed to just a straightforward story – and making it work!  In fact I think it may have provided some inspiration for my own Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, in creating something like the effect I was looking for too.  Then for another, this one where I’d read the book first many years ago, I recently re-watched Watership Down, impressed that even in animation the rabbits actually do seem like rabbits, not just people in animal clothing.      

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

 It was probably a more gradual thing than the question implies.  As a college undergraduate, I was art editor on the humor magazine, for instance, that ended up with my filling in as a writer for last minute articles from time to time.  Then shifting to graduate school in Indiana, I became editor on an arts magazine, this time on the writing side though with occasional last minute illustrating.  This led to a stint as a technical writer and editor for the university’s computing center and, later, freelancing on business and consumer topics, but it wasn’t until about that time that I also started working seriously on artistic writing as well. 

 So finding an exact moment might not be so easy.  My first sale was a semi-pro one for which I received a one dollar bill in the mail, which seemed like I still had a way to go.  When I was accepted as an Active Member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and, subsequently, the Horror Writers Association, on the other hand, it was certainly a validation.  But maybe this could stand for an actual single moment:  I’d had a story published called “The Dripping Nose that Wouldn’t Wipe” (a sort of absurdist zombie tale) and, in a review, it was commented that once one got past “that title,” it wasn’t a bad story at all.  It seems to me that when you can do that, there’s an amount of professionalism involved.  

What do your pets do when you are writing?

 Playing with the cat, petting the cat, what a wonderful way to wind down from a long writing session!  And while she was in the bedroom most of the time I was writing this (naptime on the bed takes a certain precedence), Triana usually finds a spot in the room I’m in.  On a practical level, she’s learned that there’s a space to the left of the keyboard of one computer I use that it’s okay for her to be in (but beware, if a paw gets on the keyboard she may get yelled at) so sometimes she’ll lie there, getting an occasional petting or scratch on the head during brief pauses while I’m working.  (On the other hand, at my writer’s group meeting a few months ago I pointed out, in a critique of one member’s work, a string of five or six incoherent letters as “the cat’s comment.”  A paw apparently had gotten on the keyboard when I’d gotten up for something, and I hadn’t noticed until after I’d printed it out.)  Or with a different computer, an off-line one I do most of my original composition on, Triana will often be fast asleep on a work table just behind me. 

 James Dorr Bio:

James Dorr’s latest book is a novel-in-stories published in June 2017 by Elder Signs Press, Tombs:  A Chronicle of  Latter-Day Times of Earth.  Born in Florida, raised in the New York City area, in college in Boston, and currently living in the Midwest, Dorr is a short story writer and poet specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction.  His The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses:  Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves:  Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all poetry Vamps (A Retrospective).  He has also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full time non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician, and currently harbors a cat named Triana.

 Social Media:

Blog: http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/james.dorr.9

 Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/James-Dorr/e/B004XWCVUS/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1380306038&sr=1-2-ent

 Buy Links:

Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth:

https://www.amazon.com/Tombs-Chronicle-Latter-Day-Times-Earth/dp/1934501743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480618250&sr=1-1&keywords=tombs+a+chronicle+of+latter-day

 The Tears of Isis:

https://www.amazon.com/Tears-Isis-James-Dorr/dp/0988748843/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480617834&sr=1-2&keywords=the+tears+of+isis

 

 

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Welcome, Helena Fairfax!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Helena Fairfax to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I live in the north of England near the Yorkshire moors and the home of the Brontë sisters. The moors were the setting for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Living near such a wild, romantic landscape, it’s little surprise that I was inspired to start writing romance! My first novel, The Silk Romance, was published in 2013, and since then I’ve had several novels and short stories published. My works have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize and the Global Ebook Awards. I also work as a freelance editor, and I’ve found I get as much enjoyment from helping others get the best out of their manuscripts as I do with my own writing. Telling stories is my passion.

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

I have a rescue dog called Lexi, who is a Staffie cross. Lexi was abandoned as a puppy. When we first took her home she was very wary around strangers and highly reactive towards other dogs. Once she gets to know people, she is the most affectionate and loving dog imaginable. She’s playful and intelligent, she loves to walk the moors with us where it’s nice and peaceful, and every day we go out is like a brand new, exciting day for her. We wouldn’t be without her now for the world.

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

Although I love my dog to bits, strangely I’ve only ever had one dog in one of my books. I have a short story called Come Date Me in Paris. [link http://mybook.to/DateMeParis ] The story features a little French poodle called Sweetie who is totally cute – and most unlike my own dog! Alice, the heroine of the story, appears on a reality TV dating show – and Sweetie proceeds to steal the show in a disastrous way. The story was really good fun to write!

What are you reading now?

I’m reading a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett called The Making of a Marchioness. A Little Princess was one of my favourite books as a child. I’d never heard of this novel until I was given it as a present. It’s really charming and I’m absolutely loving it!

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a non-fiction history of the women of Halifax – a former mill town in Yorkshire near where I live. Next year is the centenary of the first women in the UK getting the vote, and the book is planned for release around the centenary.

I’m also working on an anthology of stories with a group of authors from the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Our stories will each be based on the same shop in a town local to us. Miss Moonshine’s Shop of Magical Things is the working title. I’m really excited about putting it together!

Who is your favorite author and why?

That is such a difficult question! I think perhaps in romance it would probably be Georgette Heyer. I can read her novels time and time again, and never get bored. Her heroes and heroines are always different, even though she’s written so many books. Her heroines are spirited and charming, each in their own way, and her heroes are always men to fall madly in love with.

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

I was one of seven children, so my poor mum had no time for pets as well…! I’d have loved to have had a dog as a child, so I’m making up for it now.

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

Probably my favourite movie with an animal is The Wizard of Oz. I love Judy Garland in anything. She has an amazing voice and such an ability to convey emotion. Toto is such a sweet dog and the perfect animal to accompany her on her adventure.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When my mum was a child they had a little mongrel dog they’d found abandoned. The dog really took to my granddad. My granddad used to take the dog on the bus with him, and give it a pie from the butcher’s. After a while the dog learned the route, and he used to hop on the bus all by himself, sit at the front with the driver, and make his own way to the butcher’s. After being given a pie, he’d go to the bus stop and get the bus home!

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

Lexi is getting old now, which is quite sad for us after seeing her bounding about the moors as a young dog. Nowadays we don’t walk as far as we did, and when I’m writing she’s quite happy to cuddle up next to me and sleep. Sometimes her snores disturb my concentration, but it’s lovely to have her to talk to about my characters. She’s a great listener!

A Year of Light and Shadows covers a year of mystery, suspense and romance in the life of Scottish actress Lizzie Smith and her bodyguard, Léon, culminating on New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh.

When Lizzie is offered the chance to play the role of a Mediterranean Princess, her decision to accept thrusts her into a world of intrigue and danger. Alone in the Palace, Lizzie relies on her quiet bodyguard, Léon, to guide her. But who is Léon really protecting? Lizzie…or the Royal Princess?

Back home in Scotland Lizzie begins rehearsals for Macbeth and finds danger stalking her through the streets of Edinburgh. Lizzie turns to her former bodyguard, Léon, for help…and discovers a secret he’d do anything not to reveal.

Buy link: http://mybook.to/lightandshadows

About Helena Fairfax

Helena Fairfax is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
Helena’s novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize, the Global Ebook Awards, the I Heart Indie Awards, and the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme Award.

Social Links

Newsletter (all new subscribers receive a romantic novella): http://eepurl.com/bRQtsT

Website and blog: www.helenafairfax.com

Besides the above, I also post photos of the moors and other places I’ve visited on social media.

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

Twitter https://twitter.com/HelenaFairfax

Pinterest https://uk.pinterest.com/helenafairfax/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/helenafairfax/

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Welcome, Barbara Schlichting

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes Barbara Schlichting to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 I enjoy teasing and having fun with my grandchildren. My granddaughter and I are planning to take a short trip to Iowa next summer so I can drop by a few bookstores.  Her blue eyes and smile sells my books. I write mysteries and children’s picture books plus poetry. I’ve also been known to wear red shoes and eat too much ice cream.

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

I’m not sure if you can consider deer, squirrels, birds and chipmunks as pets, but I lived in the woods with the Mississippi River out my back door for seventeen years.

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 poetry, I have a number of poems about wildlife.  In my picture book, Red Shoes, I feature Maggie, a three-legged kitty who lost her shoes. Peter the puppy and Bonnie the bunny help her find them.

What are you reading now?

I just finished two Rex Stout books, Fer-De-Lance and the League of Frightened Men.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just published my first historical mystery. Body on the Tracks is set in 1943 and begins with a body in the Chicago railyard and finishes in Denver. There’s a Nazi onboard who causes all sorts of murder and mayhem.

 Who is your favorite author and why?

Agatha Christie. She’s so good at hiding her clues. I love reading her.

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

We had a dog when I was in high school. When I married, we had a dog for many years for our boys to play with, Clumsy was her name.

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

In the picture book, Red Shoes, the animals are definitely the characters.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals are sweet and loveable.

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

Actually, I should write a mystery with a service dog. My brother had been a police officer and used a service dog to detect drugs so I have an easy reference. Thanks for the idea!

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

 I knew I was a writer from the beginning of time. In seventh grade I got an English penpal, and we’ve been writing ever since. That’s approximately fifty-five years!

 Biography:

I graduated from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, MN. After marriage, we moved to Bemidji where we raised our two boys. I graduated from Bemidji State University with an undergraduate degree in  elementary education and went on to earn a masters degree in special education. I taught in the school district as a substitute for many years.

Let’s Be Social:

http://www.barbaraschlichting.com

https://barbaraschlichting.wordpress.com

https://barbaraschlichting.blogspot.com

https://www.goodreads.com/BarbSchlichting

 

 

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Welcome, Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson to the blog for Writer Wednesday!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m a seventh generation Texan and a third generation wordsmith. I sold my first novel to a NY publisher in 1979 and have since published around 35 novels – I really don’t remember exactly how many. I was one of the founders of Romance Writers of America and currently serve as the Texas representative on the Southwest Regional Board of Mystery Writers of America. Now I am mainly self-publishing under my Sefkhat-Awbi Books imprint. In addition, I’ve been Editor in Chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups, an actress/singer, Supervisor of Accessioning in a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, a travel writer, a jewelry designer, a talent agent, a document checker in a travel agency… plus more stuff. Yes, I bore very easily!

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

I’ve had pets most of my life. First there was Lady (a golden Cocker Spaniel) and her daughter T-Square. I had a parakeet. I had a white rat named Junder for whom I made a halter and leash out of pink grosgrain ribbon. We stopped traffic when we went for walks, especially in winter when I wore my full length fur. For a while I babysat a 6-7 foot long anaconda when my cousin (a world-class herpetologist) was ill. That was a fascinating experience, though I never could get service in that apartment again for all the years I lived there… When I moved out of my parents’ home, I had cats, as I worked long hours and they weren’t as labor intensive as dogs.

For years I had a recessive gene semi-feral Siamese named Sekhmet who was solid black with bright green eyes. She was also the most intelligent animal I’ve ever known, who could open any door in the house except the two outside doors, which I kept deadbolted, and used to turn the lights off and on just to amuse herself. Sekhmet hated people and would simply vaporize when anyone came over. There were those who – when I told them stories about Sekhmet – would swear that I didn’t have a cat, that I would go out and pluck tufts of cat hair from the bushes and rub them into the carpet just to pretend I had a cat. Yes, I have strange friends. Sekhmet also liked to answer the telephone, which drove the telemarketers wild. (Good girl!) She lived to be 21, and I miss her to this day.

After Sekhmet I got a ginger cat named Marmelade. She was very obviously mentally deficient, probably because she had been taken too early from her mother. She was grown when I got her, but didn’t know anything about being a cat. She would get into the litter box, vigorously dig a hole in the litter to the bottom, put her front feet into it and then poop over the side. I had to teach her how to use a litter box properly. It was no fun at all, and is not a fit topic for conversation. She never was very well and died less than a year after I got her.

I didn’t have any animals when I started dating the man who would become my husband, which was a lucky thing. He hated cats and told me years later that he would never have dated anyone who had a cat! It took some guile on my part, but I did get a cat after we had been married about two years – just in time to keep me company during his first overseas deployment. Shadow was a stray who crawled into our yard, too emaciated and weak to walk and tattered from attacks by other animals. An old cat, he had been declawed and could neither escape or protect himself. Of course I took him to the vet immediately and did everything I could to take care of him. We had him for several years. We got a little tuxedo cat to keep him company. When she came to us she had been declawed in all four feet – first time I ever saw that – and was very skittish. All our animals are rescue animals, by the way, and usually from horrific situations. Her name was Boots, but I used to know a woman named Boots, and I didn’t like the name. Usually we don’t change our animals’ names – they’ve been through enough trauma without adding another name change – but ‘Boots’ had to go. She had a tiny little voice so I started calling her Squeaky Boots, hoping to transition easily to Squeaky, but she had to have orthodontic surgery. Her teeth were so bad and so abscessed that her jaw bones were rotting, and so her official vet records were done as Squeaky Boots, so it was as Squeaky Boots she ended her days.

About this time I saw at our local pet orphanage a tiny little white poodle named Harriette. She was 14, had had surgery to remove a tumor from her leg (common in tiny poodles) so most of her backside was shaved, and the rest of her was unimaginably scruffy. It was love at first sight. As soon as The Husband came home from work I grabbed him even before giving him dinner and off we went to the pet orphanage. We came home with a dog. We had Harriette for nearly a year – it turned out she also had a rare cancer and despite two surgeries we just could not keep her alive. She died just before The Husband left for yet another Iraqi deployment. While he was gone I adopted another cat, a pathetic older cat named Chloe who had been seized from a home where she had been tortured for years. She’s the biggest cat I’ve ever seen, and very beautiful, but constantly terrified. It took her years to become easy with The Husband and me. It’s sad, because although her mental faculties are still sharp, she is losing control of her bowels and bladder. She is 17, after all. We’ve had to create her a room within in a room that is lined with plastic where she can roam. Her bed and litter box and feeding tray are in there. We clean her enclosure and change her bedding at least once a day, and take her into the den with us several times a day, but it hurts that we cannot give her the freedom of the house. Before you ask, we’ve had her looked at by the vet several times, tried a variety of medicines, but nothing helps. She will live as comfortably as we can make it until she dies.

When The Husband returned we decided to get another dog. He will only consider a little dog, so we went to the pet orphanage – only to find that the only little dog they had was promised to a woman from out of town who was coming to get her at the end of the week. The staff – many of whom are friends – knew that The Husband was just back from a year in a war zone, so when I asked if we could just play with her for a little while they were happy to let us. We were in an exam room and when Mindy came in we knew she was Our Dog. She’s a small dog, half terrier mix and (I swear) half diva. She was scruffy (she’s always scruffy – it’s the way her hair grows) and wearing the ugliest little dress I’ve ever seen. We lost our hearts.

After about half an hour the director of the orphanage – whom we didn’t know – came in to pick Mindy up. We told her we wanted the dog. She told us that was impossible, that they had been talking to this woman from out of town and she was coming to pick up the dog in a few days. I said, “When she calls to tell you she doesn’t want the dog, call us because we do.”

The woman said it was ridiculous, that they had been talking to this woman for over two weeks and she was coming to get the dog. We went through this dialogue with increasing intensity several times before she finally agreed to take my phone number, probably more to shut me up than anything else.

The pet orphanage is 4.4 miles from our house. We had not made it home before my phone rang and this tremulous little voice said, “Mrs. Patterson? We just heard from (the woman) and she doesn’t want the dog.” We picked Mindy up the next morning and she has brightened our home ever since. For as long as she worked there, though, the orphanage director was very obviously careful never to be alone with me. I do wish, however, that I knew what I had done! It could be a very useful skill.

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

This question gave me pause. As involved as I am with animals, it was a shock to me to find that I don’t put animals in any position of prominence in my stories. My stories are so intense, and so involved, and usually set in odd places, that animals just don’t fit. I’m going to see about changing that. One thing I’ll never do is have animals that talk or solve crimes on their own.

I did put a cat in a book called LURE OF THE MUMMY – sort of. It’s a story of a cursed cat mummy and was the very first pure horror novel ever published by Carina or its parent company Harlequin.

What are you reading now?

Currently I am re-reading my friend Salima Ikram’s DIVINE CREATURES (about sacred animal mummies in Ancient Egypt) as research for a possible novel idea. For fun I’m reading an omnibus of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s short stories.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am one of those people who are not happy unless they have several projects going at once. At this exact moment I am working on the third Flora Melkiot mystery MURDER AT FIVE TO ONE, which is set in Las Vegas; Flora is a wealthy widow of a certain age who has been described as the ‘dark side of Miss Marple.’ I love her and kind of wish I could grow up to be her! I’m also working on a straight medical romance called FEVER HEAT about a medical team sent to the Mexican coast to help after a devastating hurricane. I’m about halfway through a straight romance called INDIAN SUMMER about two grandparents each of whom want sole custody of their orphaned grandson, so of course they fall in love. I’ve just finished the first book in my new Dr. Rachel Petrie, contract archaeologist series called A KILLING AT TARA TWO. It’s getting cold so I can start my editing process with a clear head before it goes to the real editor. I have just had a contemporary gothic romance called THE MASTER OF MORECOMBE HALL (about an American bride in England), a straight romance called ROMANCE AT SPANISH ROCK (about an LA photographer who inherits a ranch in Texas’ Palo Duro canyon) and a murder mystery called MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT (about murder and antiquities smuggling at a scholarly Egyptological conference) edited and am just waiting until I have time to format and self-publish them.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh, this is easy. Barbara Michaels, aka Elizabeth Peters, aka Dr. Barbara Mertz. She had such a way with words, and such a gift for storytelling. I still am in awe of her talent. She is one of the reasons I decided that I really might make writing novels my own career instead of just a life-long hobby. It was truly a blessing was that we met and became dear if sporadic friends. What was truly funny was that although by the time we met I had almost a dozen novels published what brought us together was our work in and passion for Egyptology – not our shared career of writing!

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

My mother didn’t really care for pets, but when I was a small child we had a tribe of cats that lived outside and which we fed. Very rarely was I allowed to bring one inside as a special treat. I remember there being lots of them, but the names of only two – Lampshadey (hey – I was only three!) and Favorite. I do remember that a wild cat moved into our area and was killing our cats. My father borrowed a .22 rifle from a friend and chased the wild cat (which may even have been rabid – again, I was no more than four) into the garage where we had stored some furniture that wouldn’t fit into our tiny house. He finally killed the cat – after shooting the piano bench. I still have that bench, complete with the .22 slug in the seat.

Years later my father, who had had dogs all his young life, decreed that we get a dog. In the same year that Lady and the Tramp was released we got a cute little golden cocker spaniel named (no surprise) Lady. Her real name was Lady Ginger Banner Marinus Underfoot May – each name has a special meaning, but they’re too long to go into here. She had several litters of puppies, all of whom we found homes except for one which I refused to let go of. She was solid black, parentage unknown, but had a perfectly formed T on her chest and a perfect square on her left back foot, both in pure white. As my parents had an advertising agency and in the graphic arts a T-square is a basic tool, of course the dog became T-Square. We had both of them for years, until they were poisoned. We never knew who or why. There were no more animals in my life until I moved out on my own and got Sekhmet.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Oh, this is going to get naughty. Years ago, many years before I even met The Husband, I had a date with a nice young man. After dinner and a movie he took me home and we ended up in a heavy petting session in my darkened living room. I hadn’t seen fit to tell him that I had a cat – first of all because at the moment I had other things on my mind besides the cat and second because I knew the cat wouldn’t come out if someone strange was in the house. Well, the room was dark except for the glow of a streetlamp coming through the single window and we were… well, you know, snuggling on the couch when all of a sudden this nice young man let out a shriek. I didn’t usually have that effect on men, so I looked around and saw two bright red eyes glowing in the dark. Immediately I knew it was the cat – remember, she was pure black – sitting on the arm of a chair, just in the right place where the light behind her could make her eyes glow without showing her silhouette. Before I could say a word the nice young man jumped up and dashed out of the apartment, screaming all the way. Later I tried to reach him, but he never would take my calls. I had his shirt, his jacket and his shoes for almost a year before giving them to charity.

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

Two of my grandmothers were teachers. One grandfather was the publisher of a small town newspaper when that was a position of real power. My mother was a teacher, a producer of plays, a magazine columnist and an advertising agent. My father began as a printers’ devil when he was nine, edited and published newspapers all over Texas, taught journalism at Texas A&M (where he separated the journalism department from the English department and made it a separate discipline), then with my mother began the family advertising agency which for 16 or the 17 years of its existence was one of the top 300 in the country. So, you see I didn’t have a snowball’s chance of becoming anything but some kind of a wordsmith.

My parents never knew when I learned to read, but I did read them a short story from the newly arrived Saturday Evening Post (which neither of them had even seen) when I was three. By the time I entered the first grade I had read most of Boswell, some Pearl Buck, some Ellery Queen and most of Shakespeare. One of the biggest disappointments of my life was that once I got to school they started teaching us the alphabet and reading Dick and Jane aloud to us instead of discussing the motivations in Troilus and Cressida! I hated school from that moment of disillusion.

When I was four I wrote my first book. It was a tale of some children playing in the park who capture an escaped lion and make it home in time for supper. I printed and illustrated each page by hand, after having begged some paper and sewing thread from my parents. Daddy had told me about the different kinds of binding, saying that signature sewn was the best. I sewed twelve copies of my little book together. I think there are one or two still extant stored with my late mother’s papers. I’ve been writing ever since – sometimes for publication, sometimes not, but always writing no matter what else I did.

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

This changes just about every day. Right now it’s vacillating between getting back to Egypt for a relaxing holiday, as we haven’t been there in 3 years, and taking a loooong European river cruise. We’ve never taken a cruise like that (they are expensive!) and I would absolutely love to. Or it could be to go spend a month in England, visiting friends and doing research. Or it could be to go visit my dear friend in Peru.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

Chloe the cat is either in her plastic lined room or sitting beside my desk in her carrier. With her incontinence problems we cannot let her run free around the house any longer, but at least in her carrier she can be wherever we are, feel as if she is still part of the family, and we do take her out and hold her in our arms often. Mindy the dog is either running around barking at leaves, postmen and marauding moths, begging for scraps from my lunch or sleeping stretched out on the back of the couch.

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

Piles? Mountains are more like it. I live in a house with three libraries, and The Husband and I are contemplating a fourth. Plus, I have over 3,000 unread books on my Kindle – which I never use, as I prefer to read on my phone during the few short times I actually get to read for pleasure. The Husband and I prefer to buy our good reference books in hardcopy – he is an expert on war history and firearms, I research crime and the English Regency, and we are both avid amateur Egyptologists. (We met through our Egyptological studies, and he even proposed to me in a moonlit garden across the street from the Pyramids. Yes, those Pyramids!) If it weren’t for electronic reading our house would be so full of books we would have to sleep in a tent in the back yard!

Janis’ Biography:

Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson is a 7th-generation Texan and a 3rd-generation wordsmith who writes in mystery, romance, and horror. Once an actress and a singer Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. Janis’ husband even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.

Janis’ Website 

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Four is Fun…

You probably all know how hard it is to lose a dog, even if they’ve lived a long and happy life.  It’s wrenching.  Dogs (and cats) are part of the family, they become woven into the fabric of our lives, of our homes, of our hearts.  For five years now, we’ve had either two or three dogs.

Last summer, we lost Blonde Bella.  Bella was half of a bonded pair that we adopted from Lab Rescue of LRCP almost six years ago.  We still have the “other half” of the bonded pair, Midnight Mia.  She’s eleven now, but still going strong.  She doesn’t seem eleven.  She doesn’t have much white on her muzzle, bounces around with the other dogs in typical Lab fashion.  She likes to steal food out of the dog food bins – knocking off the lids, nudging them aside, bumping them till they fall over.  She’s quite a clever girl.

We also have, as many of you know, a two-year-old Irish Water Spaniel, Tucker.  IWS’s (not to be confused with ROUS’s) are rowdy, happy, clowny, non-stop fun.

And yet, the house seemed empty after Bella crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  I was used to walking three dogs in between writing binges.  I’d write a while, walk a dog, write some more, walk a dog, write for another stretch then – you guessed it – walk a dog.  Now, I was in danger of gaining weight because, hey, one less dog to walk!

Writing is solitary and many who do it are introverts.  They don’t mind spending hour upon hour alone.

Me? Not so much.  I’m an off-the-charts extrovert.

I have to go have Starbucks every morning so I can talk to the barristas and any neighbors I happen to run into there.  Walking the dogs lets me run into MORE neighbors (or strangers who like dogs) and have a chat.

That means I get to feed my extrovert side in between writing time where the only people I talk to are those in my head.  Too much solitude and I actually CAN’T write.  I’ve learned that the need for the real humans must be met in order to keep on putting the fictional ones on the page.

Right after the New Year, (which, for us, came in with a few too many nasty surprises, alas!), we decided we needed a Happy 2018 present.  We needed something to keep us positive.

We decided to go back to the fab folks at Lab Rescue and get another dog.  With Mia at 11 and Tucker at 2, we thought it would be great for Tuck to have a slightly younger companion to romp with and that, in turn, would give Mia a break from his insistent, and near-constant demand to PLAY!

We thought we were so smart…we went to an adoption event.  So lovely!  But by the time we got there, 90% of the dogs were adopted.  Yay, Lab Rescue!  But Curses, Foiled Again! for us!  So we went on the Lab Rescue site and started talking to both our initial rescue coordinator from 5 years ago (yep, still coordinating!) and a new coordinator as well because we’d asked – foolish humans! – about a bonded pair that seemed perfect for us.

We hadn’t planned to adopt two more dogs.  Nope.  Just one.  But those two seemed like they’d fit right in.  Too bad they’d been adopted already.  Sigh.

BUT…said the coordinator, there was a new pair coming in.

They’d come from West Virginia.

Their owner had died and they were bereft….

We were totally smitten with those faces, and heartbroken over their story.  On one of the coldest days in January, we loaded our dogs and our boys into two cars and drove nearly 2 hours away to see this pair.  Our dogs played with them, our boys played with them.  We played with them.  Everyone decided it was a good fit, and home everyone came to their forever home with us.

There were a few bumps in the road – chewed boots, disappearing socks

, shredded toys – but a month in, I’ve now got four walkies on my writing days rather than three, and a veritable wolfpack of fun to keep me laughing when I’m here in the writing cave.

So, Mia, Daisy (a 2 y/o blonde darling), Dakota (a 4 y/o, huge, black, gentle giant) and Tucker have forever homes here at Chez Adams, and I may actually meet my New Years Resolution of going down another pant size, thanks to all those walkies!

Have you ever adopted a dog from a rescue group?

What about a shelter?

If you’ve bought from a breeder, what breed did you get?

If you’re thinking about a pet, please, please, please do NOT buy from pet 

stores – a friend just had a heartbreaking, nightmare of a situation, which reinforced the stereotype of puppy-mill-puppies being sickly.  PLEASE!!!  Go through a reputable breeder, or a reputable rescue group like Lab Rescue and you’ll get your Happily-Ever-After Hound!

Oh….and Happy New Year to all the Pens Paws and Claws readers!

(As you can see, Tucker believes ALL the dog beds are his for 2018!)

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Meet Martin Roy Hill

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I am a native Californian. I grew up in Southern California and have lived there all my life, except for military service. I spent twenty-some years in journalism as a crime reporter and investigative reporter, and later as an editor, before switching careers and becoming a Navy analyst in combat casualty care.

The Navy job came about because of my military service as a medic of one kind or another in three branches of the service. In fact, I retired from the reserves in 2016 with 27 years of active and reserve service. I also spent several years as a medical specialist with the local sheriff’s wilderness search and rescue team, and with a federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team. That background inspires my mysteries and thrillers.

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

My wife, Winke, and I are great animal lovers, and our son, Brandon, grew up with the same love for creatures great and small. When we first met, Winke had two orange tabbies, Teddy and Franny. The cats and I fell in love immediately. I’ve always joked I married Winke for her cats, and she agreed to marry me only because the cats insisted.

Currently, we only have one cat, a 15-year-old orange tabby named Harry Potter Maximilian. Unfortunately, Harry’s twin brother, Alexander Theodore, passed a couple of years ago from a stroke. Harry and Alex’s mama cat died in childbirth, and the litter was being hand fed by the owners. But Harry and Alex didn’t respond well to hand feeding. They were near death when they were given to our vet, Dr. Bruce Lindsey. Bruce is a great healer and through a herculean effort saved their lives. About the same time, we lost our two previous cats, Max and Molly, so Bruce gave us Harry and Alex. Harry was the sickest of the two when they arrived at Bruce’s clinic, so we named him Harry Potter, the cat who lived.

We also had a cockatiel we got from my parents. Her name was Tweetie and she ruled the roost. She literally would take no guff off Harry and Alex, but they adored her. They would curl up next to her cage all the time. It’s incredible how much personality can be packed into such a little package.

We also helped raise four or five generations of raccoons. One Christmas several years ago, I looked out our big bay window to find four little bandit faces looking at me over a fence. We immediately put out food and water, and they returned every night until they were grown. Later, the females would bring their babies. Two of the females had distinctive markings, unusual for raccoons, so we could identify them from the others. They always traveled together and would bring their latest babies. We called them Megs and Bines. They would come right up to the window or the sliding glass door and wait for us to put food out. Then they would play or curl up on our deck and sleep. Megs and Bines are gone now, but we still get mommy raccoons bringing their babies to us.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

My latest thriller, The Butcher’s Bill, was published this past June. It’s the second in my Linus Schag, NCIS, series, and is centered around the real-world theft of $9 billion in U.S. cash from Iraq—the biggest heist in history and it’s never been investigated. You can read more about this true-life crime here: https://www.slideshare.net/MartinRoyHill/historys-biggest-heist-and-why-no-one-ever-investigated-it

My current work-in-progress is called Polar Melt and involves a special U.S. Coast Guard team investigating the mysterious disappearance of a research ship’s crew in the nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean. It’s a military sci-fi adventure inspired by global climate change. I spent 13 years in the Coast Guard, active and reserve, and it’s always been my favorite branch.

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

I pretty much grew up with cats, though I also had a dog named Whiskers, a couple of hamsters and turtles, a parakeet, and fish. But cats were always there. When I was just a toddler, we had a cat named Peaches. One day my mother caught me trying to give Peaches a bath in a bucket of soapy water she was using to mop the kitchen floor. Fortunately, she caught me in time. But Peaches never protested or did anything to hurt me. She just put up with me. She was a sweet, gentle thing.

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

I haven’t written much about animals. I write thrillers and I hate the idea of putting an animal in jeopardy in a story. Once I read a James Rollins novel in which a dog was a character. All through that book I kept yelling, “If you kill the dog, I’ll never read your books again!” Fortunately, the dog lived.

I did write a short story once in which a young woman takes vengeance on the man who killed her cat. I wrote it in a fit of anger after reading a newspaper article about an animal abuser. I never sold the story. Probably just as well, because the fate of the abuser was not pretty.

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

I would have to say it was Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey with Sally Fields, Michael J. Fox, and Don Ameche as the voices of the cat and dogs. We watched it all the time when Brandon was little, and we still love it.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

All our cats have had strong personalities, but Franny had the most ferocious personality. We took her to an animal psychic once who said Franny was only the second animal she ever knew who saw no difference between animals and humans. We were all equals in Franny’s eyes.

Once we had to take her to the emergency animal clinic and the vet, a stranger to us, told us Franny was blind because she wouldn’t follow his finger when he moved it back and forth in front of her face. He wouldn’t believe us when we explained she was simply being stubborn because she was upset about being at the clinic. Finally, I said, “Franny, follow the doctor’s finger.” The vet tried again and, sure enough, Franny followed his finger. It blew the vet away. But that was our Franny.

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

In high school, I had an English teacher who enjoyed the compositions I wrote for the class and urged me to consider writing as a career. I got a position on the school paper and started writing short stories. I’ve been doing it ever since.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Due to my work schedule, I do most of my writing on the run sitting in coffee houses and such, using my Kindle Fire and a Bluetooth keyboard. When I do work at home, I sit on the couch with my laptop. When Alex was alive, the laptop was his favorite place to relax. So, whenever he jumped up on the couch and settled down on the keyboard, I knew my workday was over. Harry, on the other hand, likes to curl up on my chest. He drapes himself over my shoulder and chest, and I keep on working.

Harry and I also have a daily ritual. When I get home from work, we go out to our enclosed patio—also known as our “cat-tio.” Harry gets some fresh catnip and I get a Scotch. We call it our “cat-tail hour.”

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

I just finished reading Irwin Shaw’s The Young Lions. I have Ira Levin’s The Boys from Brazil waiting in my Kindle, along with a collection of H.G. Wells’ works, and another collection of Jules Verne’s works. In addition to those, I have several novels written by author friends that I’m planning to read.

Martin’s Website

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Meet Nupur Tustin

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Nupur Tustin to the blog for #WriterWednesday!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.
I’m a former journalist who misuses a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate mayhem in Haydn’s Austria. I also write music. My 1903 Weber Upright is responsible for that crime.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?
We used to have two adorable pit bulls. But Fatty, our oldest, passed on in 2014. Chickie, who really wasn’t all that old, went this last summer. So, unfortunately at this time, we have no pets at all. Once my three children—the oldest is five and the youngest two—are a little older, we might get a dog or two for the family.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?
It’s a strange thing about the eighteenth century, but we never hear about people lavishing attention on their animals. Dogs and horses served a purely utilitarian purpose, and anyone who enjoyed hunting would have owned both. Haydn did enjoy the hunt as did Dittersdorf, a fellow musician, and they were both rather good at it.

Marie Antoinette was thought a bit strange because shortly after she married the Dauphin at the age of fourteen, she asked for a little dog to play with in her chambers. This was as strange as her tendency to invite the children of her chamber maids over to her rooms so she could play with them. In the Viennese court where she grew up, her desire to play and have fun would have been accepted as a natural part of her youthful high spirits. In the Court of Versailles, where etiquette reigned supreme, it was unseemly for the Crown Princess to do anything at all other than to devote herself to her dress and toilette and to observe the proprieties.

Frederick the Great of Prussia was also regarded as eccentric for lavishing as much attention as he did on his Italian greyhounds. They slept on his bed, were served in the best bowls, and the servants were instructed to use the formal “Vous” when addressing them rather than the more usual third person. All of this would have been regarded as being in keeping with his personality: a man who seemed to care little for his fellow humans.

 What are you reading now?

I’m re-reading a biography of Maria Theresa as well reading one of her daughter, Marie Antoinette. A straightforward young girl given over to levity and high spirits, Marie Antoinette was ill-suited for the web of intrigue that was the Court of Versailles. Unlike Vienna, where except for state functions, the royals lived in privacy—indeed almost like country squires—at Versailles, every detail of their lives from sleeping to getting dressed was done in the public eye. Worse still, for seven long years her marriage remained unconsummated.

In giving herself over to pleasure, she was both compensating for this lack of physical intimacy as well as rebelling against the interminable etiquette of the court that constrained her freedom in every manner. But had she heeded her mother’s advice and that of her brother, Joseph II, the revolution might have been avoided. It was fairly easy to make her the scapegoat for everything that was wrong with France, although things had been going wrong for a long time. Louis XV was an extremely unpopular king and the people hoped things would change under Louis XVI.

It’s fascinating to read simultaneously about mother and daughter. Both were pleasure-loving young women. But the mother at twenty-three was tasked with saving the Empire she’d inherited. She had already had two children and was heavily pregnant with her successor, Joseph II. Maria Theresa was forced to take herself to task. But unfortunately, the twin challenges of motherhood and adversity that eventually compelled her to draw upon her inner resources came too late for Marie Antoinette.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on the third Haydn Mystery, Prussian Counterpoint. Haydn will be traveling to Potsdam, a small town in Prussia that Frederick II preferred to Berlin. He spent most of his time there. It might be fun to give Frederick’s Italian greyhounds a strong story role, although I haven’t decided what that will be. They were, apparently, as misogynistic as their master and howled at women!

Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s hard to pick a favorite because there are so many I enjoy. Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti Mysteries are absolutely fascinating. It’s her portrayal of Venice that I find so compelling. Stephanie Barron captures Jane Austen’s voice so perfectly in her mystery series that one almost feels one is words penned by Austen herself. Emily Brightwell’s Mrs. Jeffries Series, so reminiscent of Agatha Christie, have given me many hours of joy as have Kate Kingsbury’s Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries.

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

I’ve always enjoyed writing and since I was always having my essays and stories read out in class, I can’t really remember a time when I, or anyone else, thought I wasn’t one. We used to be given impromptu writing prompts, and I always did well on those. I never had a problem writing a coherent narrative, no matter what the topic.

But was I a storyteller? The confidence to call myself that came much later, once I’d written Minor Deception, the first Haydn Mystery, as well as published a few short stories.

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

I’d like to attend mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. It’s one of the oldest cathedrals in the city, and they still play music by Haydn, Mozart, and their contemporaries. I’m not a particularly religious person. I’m not even Catholic. But what a wondrous experience that would be.

What is the latest Haydn Mystery about?
Aria to Death, the second Haydn Mystery, is about music authentication. Haydn’s friend Kaspar asks him to examine a collection of scores reputed to be the lost operas of Monteverdi. Since seven of the ten operas this great master wrote are lost to us, Haydn is naturally intrigued. Until, of course, the Empress contacts him with a similar request. She, too, has managed to procure a couple of Monteverdi opera scores. Before Haydn can evaluate either set of scores, Kaspar is murdered—brutally beaten and left to die in front of a wine tavern.

The police are quick to dismiss the death as a robbery gone wrong. But Haydn is not so sure. Kaspar’s keys were stolen and his house broken into. Could his bequest be genuine after all? And can Haydn find the true operas—and the man willing to kill for them?

The answer is, of course, in the book!

Aria to Death: A Joseph Haydn Mystery

Genre: Historical Cozy Mystery

Preoccupied with preparations for the opera season at Eszterháza, Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn receives a curious request from a friend in Vienna. Kaspar, an impoverished violinist with an ailing wife, wishes Haydn to evaluate a collection of scores reputed to be the lost operas of Monteverdi.

Haydn is intrigued until Her Majesty, Empress Maria Theresa, summons him with a similar request. Skeptical of the value of Kaspar’s bequest, Haydn nevertheless offers to help. But before he can examine the works, Kaspar is murdered—beaten and left to die in front of a wine tavern.

The police are quick to dismiss the death as a robbery gone wrong. But Haydn is not so sure. Kaspar’s keys were stolen and his house broken into. Could his bequest be genuine after all? And can Haydn find the true operas—and the man willing to kill for them?

About Nupur:

A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem.  The Haydn mysteries are a result of her life-long passion for classical music and its history. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her original compositions, available on ntustin.musicaneo.com.

Her writing includes work for Reuters and CNBC, short stories and freelance articles, and research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. She lives in Southern California with her husband and  three rambunctious children.

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Meet Patricia Dusenbury

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I used to be an economist who read a lot of mystery stories and dabbled in writing fiction.  When I retired from economics, I began writing fulltime. My mysteries are more puzzle than thriller and more cozy than hard-boiled, but they are not books where someone dies but no one gets hurt. I want to my readers to feel the characters’ emotions. Whether the victim is a homeless man on the margins of society, a nasty old woman, or an aspiring young actress, someone cares that they are gone. I hope the reader cares, too, and cheers when the killer is brought to justice.

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

My husband and I both grew up with dogs, and when our children were young, we had a menagerie of dogs, cats, and guinea pigs, some of which I have used in my writing. I’m down to just one pet these days, a 13-year-old Alaskan malamute named Babe. Every morning, Babe and I walk up a steep hill to a park overlooking San Francisco. If we’re early enough, we catch the sunrise on the bay. It’s good exercise and a good way to begin the day. I have not written about her yet, but I will.

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

Dorian Gray is a large fluffy orange cat and the reincarnation of a large fluffy orange cat my daughter acquired when she was in high school.  Dorian is in all three Claire Marshall books. He is Claire’s companion and comfort. She can tell him anything. And he tries to warn her…   There are also horses in Secrets, Lies & Homicide, because I was one of those little girls obsessed with horses – as was Claire.

What are you reading now?

Zagreb Cowboy by Alen Mattich, a thriller set in Croatia in 1991 just as Yugoslavia is descending into civil war.  It was a Christmas present, given to me because I spent several years working in Croatia after the civil war ended. It’s a page-turner, and I’m enjoying revisiting once familiar places.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I have a “finished” novel and about a third of the sequel in the drawer while I figure out what happens next. Meanwhile, I’ve been writing short stories and have a couple in anthologies, most recently in Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017. I’m in an experimental mood, and short stories allow me to experiment without getting six months down the road and deciding it’s just not working.  One of the short stories I’m fooling around with is a “romance” between a cat lady and a con man.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s a long list because I love to read and there are so many good writers, but If I have to pick one, Elizabeth Strout.  My favorite mystery writer is Louise Penny, and I write the same type of character-driven, not quite cozy mystery that she does.

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

A boxer named Duchess, a hound mix named Chloe, and a German shepherd named Toby were part of my childhood.  My mother resisted rodents as pets, but one of my sisters did have a horned toad. My high-school tying teacher gave me a Siamese cat named Sam that I talked my parents into keeping. Sam has a role in The Cat Lady and The Con Man. For years, I desperately wanted a horse, but it was not to be.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals have been part of my life, and it just feels right to make them part of my main character’s life. I can imagine a world without animals but I wouldn’t want to spend time in it.

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

As a child I devoured Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series (as well as Nancy Drew), but I didn’t like the movies as much.  As an adult, Marley and Me is my favorite. The book and the movie were both wonderful.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Nothing I can repeat here, but trust me, it was funny.

What do your pets do when you are writing?  

Babe lies on the rug by the door to my office. I cannot go anywhere without stepping over her. I believe that’s the point.

Author Biography:

Patricia Dusenbury is a recovering economist trying to atone for all those dull reports by writing mysteries that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, won the 2015 Eppie, the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalitions award, for best mystery. The next two books in the trilogy were finalists for the Eppie: Secrets, Lies & Homicide in 2016 and A House of Her Own 2017. Each book is a stand-alone mystery story. Read in order they are also the story of a young woman’s journey from emotionally fragile widow to a daring new life.  

 Patricia lives on a very steep street in San Francisco and, when she is not writing, can be found hanging out with the grandkids or enjoying the fabulous city that is her home. She is a member of NorCal sisters in Crime.

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