Welcome, Alice Castle!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Alice Castle to the blog!

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

I have two cats, Pushkin and Blackjack. Pushkin is a tortoiseshell and very highly strung (where does she get that from?) while Blackjack is midnight dark, apart from a tiny bowtie of white hairs on his chest, and very laid back, except when on the scent of a mouse. Pushkin, who is now twelve years old, is the model for the cat in my book, Magpie. Magpie lives with my amateur sleuth heroine, young widow Beth Haldane. I would say ‘belongs to’ Beth, but that, of course, would be ridiculous. Magpie just graces Beth with her presence and Beth is suitably thankful. Magpie is very aloof but every now and then something about her behavior will give Beth a crucial nudge in her investigations. She pops up in every story. Sometimes she just has a stroll-on part, sometimes she plays a more pivotal role.

What are you reading now?

At the moment I’m reading a book called The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes. She is the niece of Julian Fellowes, who wrote the script for Downton Abbey. It’s a historical whodunit, involving the real-life Mitford sisters, who were the daughters of an eccentric peer, woven into a fictitious murder in 1919. It’s deftly done and very interesting. Nancy Mitford is 16 in the story. She grew up to be a wonderfully witty novelist.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing the fifth in my London Murder Mystery series, Revenge on the Rye. The plot revolves around the many people who walk their dogs on Peckham Rye, a famous park in south east London where you find everyone from famous artists to tramps, all loving their dogs but potentially harboring guilty and murderous secrets. It’s great fun to write and is going to be my sleuth, Beth’s most complicated and fascinating case to date, involving sinister goings-on in the art world and corruption in surprising places.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I hope it’s not cheating to say I have lots of favorite authors – the policeman who helps (or hinders) my amateur sleuth Beth in my stories is a huge fan of Golden Age crime fiction and so am I. I love Agatha Christie, D L Sayers, Margery Allingham and of course Raymond Chandler, who wrote about America but actually went to school in south east London, where my books are set. As far as modern day authors go, I really enjoy Janet Evanovich (I was very thrilled when one reviewer compared my books to hers) and MC Beaton (ditto). I was a huge fan of the late Sue Grafton. I also really enjoy Peter James’s books, as well as Peter Robinson’s. Claire Macintosh is a great writer too.

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

We had a huge Airedale terrier. He was the grandson of a Crufts dog show champion and had a very fancy name, but we called him Chippy. Unfortunately, he had an unquenchable wanderlust and was always running away – he was very strong and once pulled me right over in park. He wasn’t interested in girl dogs but had a thing about boy Collies. He also really liked those hairy moon boots people wore in the 1970s – woe betide you if you had those on.

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

I love my cats so much that I was really keen to have one in my books, as company for my single mum sleuth, who is often lonely (she is a widow) and sometimes needs a sounding board for her ideas that is sympathetic most of the time and won’t answer her back! In my latest novel, Revenge on the Rye, I’m writing about dogs, too and I’ve found that they immediately become proper three-dimensional characters, with bags of personality. They definitely pull on the lead while I’m writing and show me which way they want to go, which has been really fun.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

We all love our pets, don’t we? I think life would be much emptier without them and I think they add an extra dimension to a story as well. My cats are very much a part of my life and it seemed natural to include a cat in the life of my main character, too. Animals are interesting to write about on their own merits, but sometimes you can also use them to help out with the plot or characterization as well. A pet can point up something about another character, revealing a likeable or unlikeable person – or uncovering a vital clue at the right moment!

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

I’ve always loved the story Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. It’s a very sad tale about a horse and its owners. When I was young, there was a marvelous TV version that was a little less tragic in tone and it also had the best theme tune ever – check it out on YouTube. Whenever I hear it I’m plunged back into watching the show on our little black and white TV, lying on my stomach on our sitting room carpet.

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

I knew I was a writer when I was about four or five at infants’ school and a teacher asked me how I’d come up with a little bit of writing I did for a school project on leaves. I wasn’t sure how to answer so I said I’d read the words in a book. She said, ‘no, I think you made them up out of your own head, didn’t you?’ and I somewhat fearfully admitted I had. She said what I had written was really good and I suddenly realized this was something I could do. I do thank God for that teacher, and all teachers who take the time and trouble to encourage shy children.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My cats love to be involved in the writing process. Blackjack is particularly keen to get in on the act and unless I light a scented candle to keep him away (I know, I’m heartless) he’d lie on my keyboard all day and stop me writing a word. On the other hand, Pushkin will often sit on the kitchen table where I work and stare at me crossly if I try and move away from the laptop – she keeps me to a strict schedule. Maybe she knows I’ve based my fictional cat Magpie on her and wants me to get on with it.

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

I have TBR piles all over the house, and a virtual one on my Kindle, too. I still haven’t read Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I loved The Secret History but couldn’t get on with Tartt’s second novel and, despite all the amazing reviews for The Goldfinch, I haven’t had the courage to start it yet. I’ve also got Orhan Pamuk’s Snow in the pile, as well as The Miniaturist, which I accidentally watched on TV… There’s also The Standing Chandelier by Lionel Shriver that I have to read for my book group… I could go on and on! The ones I always get through first are the great murder mysteries, of course.

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

Keep going! It’s not the easiest path – but if you actually are a writer, you won’t have any choice anyway.

About Alice Castle:

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019.  Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

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

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

Links to buy books: http://www.MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery

http://www.myBook.to/1DeathinDulwich

http://www.myBook.to/HotChocolate

She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

 

 

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Welcome, Cherie O’Boyle

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Cherie O’Boyle to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

There are currently five full-length mysteries and a short story available in my Estela Nogales Mystery series. This fall I’m hoping to release a more ambitious stand-alone kidnapping/K9 search & rescue/forest fire suspense.

When I started the mystery series, I first created the setting, Arroyo Loco, a small village in the coastal hills of central California. I added a variety of diverse characters, including dogs, cats, vultures, and a few wild boar. And then I introduced one unusual occurrence—finding a neighbor dead—for example. I plopped my writerly self into the middle and let the action carry me away. One of the aspects of being slightly older than average that I enjoy is how many quirky characters I have known and loved in my life, making for a rich mix in my fiction.

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

My pet family currently includes two border collies, Shiner, because he has one big black eye, and Sky, or Dog Who Fell From the Clear Blue Sky (she’s a rescue), and one perpetually irritated cat who is called Patience, but not because she’s got any. Shiner is the model for one of the border collies in the mystery series. Both the real dog and the fictional one are sheepherding dogs, and both are titled in the sport of herding, among other dog sports.

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, all of them are recurring. And so far, they all behave about the way you would predict dogs and cats to behave. Itches, the beagle, regularly escapes her yard and runs off to chase rabbits on the hills. Zero, the basenji, is happier if strangers stay out of his yard. Helen’s cats hate dogs, and Estela’s border collies are forever trying to round her up. The wild boar who occasionally roam Arroyo Loco are not exactly pets, although they do offer opportunities for the neighbors to get to know one another better.

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

Some of my characters, both human and non-human, play only passing roles, and others linger longer. Interacting with the animals in their lives provides insights into the personalities of the human characters. The animals help solve the mysteries, but only by doing what animals would normally do. For example, in one mystery, a strategically placed pile of poop gets stepped in and tracked all the way back to the villain’s front porch, providing important evidence.

In other places, the animals help the neighbors understand one another. Here is a scene where Estela recruits Helen to capture a cat after her mistress suffers an unexpected expiration:

I picked up the phone to call Helen and tell her about her impending good fortune.

“Oh, dear! Well, of course, I’ll be right down,” Helen agreed. “Just let me gather my supplies.”

“Your supplies? What on earth do you mean?” I wondered out loud.

“Well, the carrier, of course.”

Of course. Silly me.

“And some kibble in a crinkly bag.”

“Hmm.” Yes, of course that too.

“And some yarn and other toys.” I could hear her rummaging around while she spoke. “And rub some catnip around here and there … and a huge bath towel in case she gets obstreperous, and my leather gardening gloves. Okay, that should about do me.”

“Good. So I’ll leave you to it then.”

“Wait, Stel, what’s the cat’s name?”

“Her name? How do I know?”

“Well, how do you expect me to persuade her to come to me if I don’t know her name?”

“I don’t know Helen. Does a cat’s name really matter?”

To that I got a stony silence.

“I mean, don’t they all come to ‘here kitty, kitty’?”

“You mean you think cats are dumber than dogs, and don’t know their own names?”

“I guess I never thought about it. Dogs come when you call their names. Cats come when they feel like it. Isn’t that how it works?”

“Honestly, Estela….”

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Aside from the fact that animals are in our lives, I include them in my stories as part of an on-going campaign to encourage respect for non-human animals, what they contribute to our lives whether as food, as clothing, or as companions. My goal is not to anthropomorphize, but to show how we are all animals. We all seek safety, care for our young, and experience life.

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

Both in my stories and my life, most of my animals are working animals. For example, my character Estela’s border collies herd sheep on a working sheep ranch. Working with her dogs often gives Estela insights about the mysteries she is working to solve. Her older dog also accompanies her to the counseling center on campus where she works as a therapist. Here’s an example of the adventures of a service dog:

We were just getting (an injured student) settled when another student started caterwauling about a dog in the health center. Seriously, what do people think is so superior, or even different, about humans? We’re all just mammals. It may be true that I bathe more often than my dogs, but then they don’t sweat either.

One of the over-wrought nurses confronted me. “Get that filthy dog out of here,” she said, pointing toward the door. I gave her the shrugged shoulders, outward palms and raised eyebrows look. “Fleas?” she said, as though that was a foregone conclusion.

“Therapy dogs don’t have fleas!” I said, indignant. I gestured around us. “Lice? Scabies? Yeast infections? Venereal disease?”

“Well, this is a health clinic, Estela! Of course we have sick people here.”

“That’s true. C’mon Scout, let’s get out of here before we catch something.”

What are you reading now?

I am currently reading a wonderful non-fiction, Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson. I chose this as source material for my K9 search and rescue suspense Work in Progress (WIP), and have fallen in love with the story.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

My current WIP is On Scent, the story of a kidnapping gone wrong in which the search dogs must ultimately find and rescue everyone. I’m happy to let you know when that is released if you subscribe to my semi-annual news page on my website.

About Cherie

Cherie is Professor Emerita of Psychology at California State University, San Marcos. Prior to adopting her current career as a writer of mysteries, and before earning her PhD in Psychology, Cherie owned and operated a general building contracting firm and worked as a framing and roofing carpenter. She was raised in the San Francisco east bay area and still lives today in Northern California.

 Cherie happily squeezes in as much time with her fictional Arroyo Loco friends as she can, in between adventures with friends, family, and her real life border collies, Shiner and Sky. Shiner is titled in flyball and sheepherding and loves to swim and fetch balls. Sky enjoys lure-coursing and walks nicely on a leash. Both dogs are hoping to title in nosework this fall.

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Welcome, Shea Butler!

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Shea:

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

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

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Welcome, KB Inglee!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, KB Inglee and her menagerie to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is KB Inglee. My parents started calling me KB as an infant to differentiate me from all the other Katharines in our family. When I attended my first writing conference in the 1990s, I was surprised how many other women were using their initials instead of their full name.

I write historical mystery short
stories, and work as an interpreter at a local living history museum. The
picture I have included shows me in 18h century farm wife attire trying to keep
a sheep from running out the open gate behind me. I am not reaching down to pat her.

I write three protagonists, Emily Lawrence, lady detective in the late 1800s, Faith Ivey in early colonial New England, and Iccarus Norton, in the early republic. Only Iccarus has an animal, his horse, Medusa. I think I came up with the pair because I had no animal in my other work.

Emily has her own book, The Case Book of Emily Lawrence. The others appear in short story anthologies.

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

We have five turtles, two budgies (Blueberry and Pi), four cats, and one dog.  None appear in my writing. Though after much urging by my dog Wendy, I have started a series of short stories about a service dog.

What are you reading now?

Aria to Death by Nupur Tustin.  I love fiction about real
people, and this is a well researched series. No pets. No farm animals.  I
think she mentions a cart horse now and then.

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

When I realized I had no animals,I did two things. I went back and gave Emily a kitchen cat and I named one of the carriage horses Benjamin.  Last Christmas, for my holiday story, I started a series about a service dog and the college professor who relies on him to get around. It is fun to write. Anonymous Dog has yet to find his way into print.

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

I’ve started a series of short stories about a Portuguese Water Dog/Irish Wolfhound that is a support dog for a college professor with a degenerative bone disease. The human is based on my daughter who is just beginning her search for the right dog. The story is from the point of view of the dog, so I don’t have to be specific about the ailment, or much of anything else. How much do dogs actually know? Like all dogs he is red green color blind but he has great senses of smell and hearing.

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

I love the Will James books about life in the west. They are illustrated by the author with action packed line drawings. They are about horses but when I read them I felt like I was reading an adult book.

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

I think it was fourth grade. I wrote a story about a girl and her horse. When my daughter was young, I wrote a series of kids’ stories that she could have read to her when I was away. I didn’t start writing adult stuff until I was in my 50s and ready to retire from my day job as a psych social worker.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Wendy (the dog) finds writing boring, so she sleeps through it. The birds yell. Do you think they are sending me plots? The cats are in the other room, and the turtles don’t care about anything except food.

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

My bedroom floor is my TBR. It divides into fiction and non-fiction. I read probably one non-fiction for each two fiction. Lots of the nonfiction is research either for my writing or my job. I just finished a book on the difference between how native people and European settlers behaved toward animals. Fiction pile consists mostly of mysteries.

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

We had an iguana that came from an iguana rescue. Something was wrong with how her front legs worked, but she got around well anyway. Oh, yes and a rooster who lived in my dining room. The museum got a shipment of chicks to work in the garden, lay eggs for us and on occasion, provide a meal. We chose dominiques since they would have been common in the 1750s. One bonus chick was included, a Hamburg rooster. The Dominique hens beat the s**t out of him, so I took him home to heal, but I was never able to introduce him back into the flock.

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

Start early and persist until you learn the craft. Find a community to support and teach you.’

Visit KB at her website.

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Welcome, L. C. Hayden

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, L. C. Hayden to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is L. C. Hayden and I’m known for my adventures and for my travels. Readers are always curious as to why this is so. To answer this, let’s take a glance at my books. Aimee Brent, my character in the Aimee Brent Mystery Series, learned how to scuba dive. Do you really think I’m going to let her have more fun than me? No way! She had to learn how to scuba dive, so I learned how to scuba dive—and I’m loving it!

On the Bronson Thriller Series, my character Bronson has a motor home and travels all over. Well, guess what? I have a motor home and I travel all over. No way Bronson is going to travel all over and not me!

I suppose I can call myself lucky as I feel I have been touched many times by miracles and angels. Those experiences led me to write a series based on mine and others’ angel and miracle experiences. Thank God, these books are very well received, both nationally and internationally.

One of my greatest joy is being a grandmother, which is the reason I wrote the children’s picture books. Naturally, they feature various animals.

Being an adventurous soul, I have also authored other books in various genres, but my love still remains with mysteries/thrillers and the angels series.

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

At one time, I had 10 dogs. That was quite a circus. My mom used to joke that she would never have grandkids, only granddogs. Now, mainly because of all the traveling I do, I only have one dog who to me is my child with four legs. She is slowly working her way into my Bronson series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently writing the fourth book in the angels/miracle series. But as I write this one, my mind is actively with Bronson and his next adventure which will introduce Honey, the Basenji dog. Yay!

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

Since I haven’t yet written the book, I’m not sure how it’s going to go. But I foresee introducing Honey to this series and as the series progresses, Honey will have a larger and larger active part in the stories.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

The question should be why do you not include animals in your writing? They are a natural. No matter what breed or type of animal they are, they are a very big part of us humans. In one of my children’s books, Puppy Dog and His Bone, I use dogs, monkeys, birds, fish and a host of other animals to show children the importance of team work.

In my latest thriller, What Lies Beyond the Fence, I use the majesty of a white wolf to add danger but also to show the intelligence of this breed.

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

As a child, I was never much of a reader. Then one day, for some unknown reason, I picked up a book and started reading. It was called Tan, the Wild Dog. I fell in love with that dog and with reading. Ever since then I have become a voracious reader, thanks to that particular book. The sad part is that I don’t even remember what the book is about. I guess I should try to find that book and re-read it. So thank you, Tan, the Wild Dog and its author, for opening a whole new world for me.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My husband Rich decided to nap. He’d been asleep no more than ten minutes when Honey, our Basenji dog, walked up to him so that her face is close to Rich’s. Then she let out a loud yelp. I rushed over to her so that she wouldn’t wake Rich up, but Honey was insistent. She let out another big yelp and another . . .

Naturally, Rich woke up and looked at the dog who continued to yelp. “What are you trying to tell me? You want to go outside? Is that it?” He got up, and as soon as he did, Honey jumped up on the bed and laid down where Rich was.

She got what she wanted. What a dog. Sigh.

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

Ever since I was a little girl, I always enjoyed story telling—and just telling other’s stories, both those I made up. As I grew, I started writing them. Mostly, they were romances or stories that featured a pet. As I became an adult, that passion grew and now I have over 25 books published. I will never stop writing. It’ll be a “’till death do us apart” type of thing.

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

I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights. I have attempted to do so four different times, but they have fizzled out—too cloudy, just didn’t show up, too far away. Sigh. One time in Yellowknife (upper Canada) I did get to see them but only for about two to three minutes. That small view only wet my appetite for seeing the “real” thing.

Is it hard to travel with your pet?

That’s a question I often get asked. The answer is no, but you do have to plan ahead. If traveling by car, you need to know which motels accept dogs and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make reservations. Of course, if you’re traveling in a motor home as I often do, then there are no problems. It also helps if your dog is quiet, such as Basenjis. This is a breed of barkless dogs. But they are not silent. They yodel and yelp, but if your dog is like mine, not 100% Basenji, she can still bark when she wants to, but it seldom happens.

What makes you think your pet is intelligent?

I know my dog is super intelligent because she has shown us over and over again who rules this nest. During this one particular time, we had all three grandkids over and each wanted to give the dog a treat. We let them. Then I fed Honey. Normally, after she eats, we give her 2 treats. Since she already had 3 treats, I told my husband, Rich, to give her only one treat. Honey didn’t like that. After she ate her first treat, she barked and barked until we gave her the second one. Geesh!

About L. C. Hayden

Award winning author L. C. Hayden is the creator of the popular Harry Bronson and Aimee Brent mystery series and the standalone, Secrets of the Tunnels. Hayden is known in the mystery field for her edge of the seat suspense and her surprise endings. Her mysteries have hit the Kindle, the B&N, and the Pennsylvania Top Seller Lists. The books have been finalist for the Agatha and the LCC Awards and others.

Her nonfiction angel/miracle series consists of spiritually uplifting books that leave the reader wanting more. They have often hit various Kindle Top Seller Lists.

Besides being an accomplished author, Hayden is a popular speaker who is often in demand. She has done workshop and school presentations, has spoken to clubs and organizations, and was hired by several major cruise lines to speak while cruising all over the world. From October 2006 to October 2007, Hayden hosted Mystery Writers of America’s only talk show, Murder Must Air.

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Welcome, D. A. Spruzen!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome D. A. Spruzen to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I grew up near London, England and came to the U.S.A. in 1966.  In the 80’s I became Manager of Information Systems in the high-tech industry, then Manager of Publications for a defense contractor.  I had wanted to write fiction for many years and technical writing didn’t quiet the itch.  I’d abandoned my artistic background, which included a degree in dance education, leading to a stint on the faculty of a London theater school.  Finally I resigned, taught ballet again and ran my own art business, but still craved the music of the written word and the vivid images I could create with stories rather than paint.  When I turned 60, I woke up.  If not now, when?  I took workshops before working with a mentor, who urged me to apply to graduate school.  I earned my MFA in creative writing with a concentration in fiction.  Now I do what I love: not only write poetry and fiction, but also teach other adults with a dream and watch them progress.

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

At the height of our menagerie, we had five cats and three dogs, not to mention hermit crabs, birds and fish! I only have one dog now, a cavalier King Charles spaniel, Samson. Sam is a sweet cuddlebug and perfect company. We have a house on the Chesapeake Bay and it’s easy to pack a dog in the car and go. Not so easy with a cat—they don’t appreciate change.

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

Samson appears in my novel in progress, Sleuthing with Mortals. I’m quite sure he will show up again. I’ve had him for a couple of years, adopted from a friend when he was two. My late Jack Russel terrier Henry appeared in Not One of Us, and my late top cat Jaspar appears in a short story.

What are you reading now?

I just finished the latest Bruno, Chief of Police (Martin Walker) mystery, to my sorrow. It’s always hard to leave the south of France. I’m about to embark on the new Matthew Pearl novel The Dante Chamber.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I should be working on two sequels; one is the third in a mystery trilogy about a female serial killer, and the other historical fiction—a sequel to The Blitz Business. However, after a number of personal losses, I found myself in a slump and realized I had to break free and do something entirely different. I’ve always loved Scandinavia and Norse mythology, so I decided on urban fantasy. Thus, Sleuthing with Mortals was born, in which a Norse goddess living in a Northern Virginia suburb decides to become a private detective. Lots of opportunity for sequels!

 Who is your favorite author and why?

British author John Lawton is a favorite. He is a former investigative reporter who writes a mystery series set in London just before, during and after World War II (my favorite historical period). His protagonist is the son of a naturalized Russian aristocrat, a wealthy publisher. He has to overcome the disdain of his colleagues, who find it hard to believe a young man from an aristocratic family, educated in the finest schools, could possibly prove himself a competent and courageous detective. Lawton writes beautifully and with historical accuracy. His diverse characters are made of whole cloth.

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

Rover was a Welsh Border Collie, who used to try to herd the family on walks. He lived to be sixteen.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like to immortalize my pets in my work. I’ve used four: Sam, Henry, Jaspar, and a Siamese cat named Sascha. I tend to use them as creatures that help heal their people of whatever troubles them.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I won’t go into the entire series of events. We were living in Saudi Arabia at the time and had an irascible Sudanese servant named Abdul, who disliked our cat, whom our children had imaginatively named Mr. Cat. In one misunderstanding of many, I thought Abdul was complaining about a backache. I gave him some Tiger Balm (like Ben Gay) and told him to rub it in. When my husband came home he emerged from his room and talked quietly with him, before going back into his room and slamming the door on Mr. Cat, who sat outside making strange noises. My husband came inside and asked, “Whatever did you give Abdul Karim for his hemorrhoids?” I could have sworn that cat was laughing.

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

I love Oman and its people. The Royal Botanical gardens is still under construction. It will hold each plant that grows in Oman (some only grow in Oman), maintain a store of seeds and conduct research. It promises to be an impressive accomplishment. When it is open to the public, I want to visit. Also, the Royal Opera House in Muscat is an incredible state of the art venue. When I go back I will also attend a performance there. Then off to a resort in the south! The father of the current Sultan was quite reactionary and kept Oman back. In just forty years, the Sultan has achieved first rate systems for education, health, transportation, and infrastructure. While it is a traditional society to a point, Omanis are easy going and hospitable. Foreigners are welcome and made to feel comfortable.

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

I have no idea how many books I have in my queue! Kindle is a problem that way. I see a good review in the Washington Post or a friend makes a recommendation and, clickety click!

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

I have my own study that has a window looking out on the front yard. But my favorite place when I am alone is what we call the Garden Room, which looks out on the back yard with a birdfeeder strategically placed so I can look up from time to time to see who has come to call. I like to paint there, too.

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

Learn your craft! Attend classes and workshops, be part of a community of writers. Work at it. Understand that writing the first draft is the easy part. The real work comes in the revision process.

About D. A.

Dorothy Hassan, who writes as D. A. Spruzen has lived in Northern Virginia since 1971, except for a two-year hiatus in the Middle East. She grew up near London, U.K., where she graduated from the London College of Dance and Drama Education before joining the faculty of  London Theater School. Many years later, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and teaches writing for the McLean Community Center when she’s not seeking her own muse.  She also runs private critique workshops in her home and is a past president of the Northern Virginia Writers Club. In another life she was Manager of Publications for a defense contractor.

 Dorothy’s short stories and poems have appeared in many publications, most recently in three anthologies, Joys of the Table (poetry, Richer Resources Publications), the Creatures, Crimes and Creativity conference anthology, and Crossing Lines (Main Street Rag). Her novel The Blitz Business, set in WWII England, was published by Koehler Books in August 2016 and a poetry collection, Long in the Tooth, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Dorothy self-published the first two novels in her Flower Ladies Trilogy and Crossroads, two novellas. When she’s not writing, Dorothy likes to read, paint, and garden.

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Welcome, Carol Hedges

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

What are you reading now? 

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

A real life funniest pet story

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

When did you first know you were a writer?

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

 What does you pet do when you are writing?

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

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

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

About Carol:

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

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

The five books in the series are:

 Diamonds & Dust

Honour & Obey

Death & Dominion

Rack & Ruin

Wonders & Wickedness

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

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

 Connect with Carol Hedges via Twitter: @carolJhedges

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

 

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Welcome, Katie Andraski

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Katie Andraski to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My original “call” to be a writer happened in the big red barn where we stored our hay, during one winter rain. I’d been reading C.S. Lewis, and wanted to do for others what he did for me. I wanted to capture a vision of glory and offer it to my readers. I ached to do this so badly I wept and asked God if I could.

I followed this “call” to an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and followed it yet again as a publicist for Crossway books. I pretty much launched that company as far as publicity goes. I worked with Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Frank Schaeffer, Stephen Lawhead, and Larry Woiwode. I began work on my novel The River Caught Sunlight during this time.

When I found myself teaching composition at Northern Illinois University I began drafting other books—poetry, a collection of essays, very rough memoirs, and sequels to my novel. The only books that I have published are a poetry collection in 1988, When the Plow Cuts, and The River Caught Sunlight in 2014.

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

We have two Norwegian Fjord ponies, two Australian Shepherd dogs, two cats, and approximately seven chickens. (As of this writing, we’re not sure of the count.) I am currently shopping around a collection of poetry called Spiritual Warhorse, which is about the spiritual and psychological journey I’ve been on with my two horses. They have helped me practice new habits of thought and introduced me to a community of good people. I’ve written about the chickens and the cats in my blog and on Facebook.

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

A former race horse, Martha, and Johnny, her son, the result of an oops breeding, showed up in my novel The River Caught Sunlight. (They are fictional horses.) Janice finds out Marcel is going to marry her brother while the two women are riding. She doesn’t react well. I also wrote about a Bernese Mountain Dog, Joshua, who appears towards the end of the book. Janice is going to buy a young dog to keep her company and finds a place to live as well as the man she will marry in the process. At the time I owned and showed two Bernese and wanted to write a plot thread about showing these dogs for the sequel. The book took so long to write my Berners are long gone as are the first two Aussies that I owned. When you’re writing, time slides by.

What are you reading now?

I read way too much Facebook. I’m also reading a friend’s book, Because I Do Not want to Disappear, which is about his battle with leukemia and lymphoma. It’s philosophical and well written. I’m a few chapters into How Jesus Saves the World from Us by Morgan Guyton. He offers a fresh and challenging way to follow Jesus. I’m also reading Paul by N.T. Wright, a book that pulls together the apostle’s life as shown through his epistles and the book of Acts. Finally, I just started Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I try to write my blog as regularly as possible, which takes up much of my writing time. I also write short Perspectives for our local NPR station, WNIJ. Those appear every five weeks. I would like to re-publish my poetry collection, When The Plow Cuts this year. I would like to settle down and work on one of my novel sequels and maybe collect my blog posts into a memoir of sorts.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I admire Annie Dillard because of how precisely and spiritually she writes about nature. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek grabbed me when I was a young writer in the seventies. She helps me look closely at the world around me. I also admire Mark Helprin because of how lush and slow moving his books are. His sentences make me stop and ponder.

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

My first pet was a calico cat named Puffball. One summer my parents brought up two puppies, one right after the other, that both died. I was heartbroken with the double grief. But my brave parents, found another dog, this time he was six months old, and gave him to me for Christmas. He was a border collie from working lines. They took him to the vet right away and got him checked out before they brought him home. He bonded to me when I handed him a piece of turkey. A close family friend still remarks about how loyal he was to me.

I also got a pony, Trigger, who was quite the escape artist. When I out grew her, my brother rode her bareback and I rode a chesnut mare, who was probably gaited, that I called My Whisper. I showed her at local open shows. My brother and I rode in the back country between our home and our town. I sold Trigger to Mary who boarded her at my house and we continued our adventures riding all over the area.

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

The animals are characters in their own right. They thread through the two sequels I’ve written to The River Caught Sunlight that and play a major role in an unfinished young adult novel that is a prequel. The working title of the young adult novel is Two Girls Who Love the Same Horse.

 

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals are a major part of my life.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

My red Aussie, Little Dog, call name Doupy, lies at the foot of my chair while I’m writing. If I am lost in my work, she will bark at my husband when he walks in the room, to let me know he is there. The other Aussie, Night, lies somewhere nearby. Sometimes the cat will sit on the table that is near one of my writing chairs. Right now he’s moved from sleeping on the landing to sleeping next to me. My mare, Morgen, will stand at the fence and look for me if I take too long to come out. Some times she whinnies. The rooster will occasionally jump on the porch and crow.

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

I just picked up This Day by Wendell Berry, which is a collection of his Sabbath poems. I’d like to dig into Mary Oliver’s collected poems, Devotions. Also I’d like to read The Age of the Horse about horses in history. Barking to the Choir is also on my list.  Finally I’d also like to order Lee Martin’s The Mutual UFO Network, which is about how redemption is possible even in difficult situations. I have about six TBR piles, two of which are books already on shelves. I love to read but save it for bedtime, which means it takes forever to finish a book.

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

There’s a big, fat chair in the corner of our living room, with an ottoman for my feet. There’s a table where I can put my tea and just enough room for the dog to lie at my feet and the cat to sit on the table if he so chooses. The light coming through the blinds can be quite beautiful.

We moved my favorite writing chair into my office because we couldn’t bear to throw away our old loveseat even though we had bought a new one. I don’t sit there very often because my office is where I dump stuff and the light isn’t very good except in the morning. When I do, the chair seems to wrap me up in writing vibes. I heard once that sometimes a favorite chair or routine can be a cue for us to do our writing. That seems to be true for me.

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

Be open to people who have gone ahead of you as writers. Don’t limit yourself to the well published, fancy writers. Sometimes your first year English teacher, or the person who has been living a writing life for years, have wisdom for the road ahead. They might be able to save you missteps.

The biggest insight I can offer, is to try to stay alone with your story, essay, poem until you’ve imagined it end to end. If possible take it as far as you can take it before you show it to people. Years ago I was in a First Draft writers group that critiqued our chapters as we wrote them. Unfortunately I found the first chapters were highly polished but the book pushed out to the end. When I let go of this idea and stayed alone with my work, I was able to complete the draft. When others comment on your work, they are often inserting their imagination. They tell you what they would do, which is fine, but you might lose the very quiet voice of the story itself. That voice is pretty wise as far as knowing where your story is going.

The revision process can show you so much about your story. The first draft often merely scratches the surface, but as you work away at the story, it can unfold and become more itself as you learn to listen to what it’s telling you. When I cut things I put them in a separate file of Cut Stuff so that I didn’t feel like I was throwing it away. A good editor can help you dive deeper with the material. I have read several self-published books that read like polished first drafts, with undeveloped plot lines. So be sure to take the time to revise and proofread your work before you publish it.

Finally, here is a short piece I wrote for WNIJ that talks about how not all our dreams come true, not even the publishing dreams. But how our life unfolds might be better. http://northernpublicradio.org/post/working-dream

Katie’s Biography:

Katie Andraski recently retired from twenty years of teaching developmental composition at Northern Illinois University. She published her first novel The River Caught Sunlight in 2014 with Koehler books and published her collection of poetry When the Plow Cuts in 1988 with Thorntree Press. She blogs regularly at https://katieandraski.com and writes Perspectives for the local NPR station,WNIJ. She lives on a tiny farm with her husband and two Norwegian Fjord horses, two dogs, two cats and seven chickens.

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Welcome, Kathy Aarons/Kathy Krevat!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Kathy Aarons/Kathy Krevat to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write the Gourmet Cat Mystery series and the Chocolate Covered Mystery series under the pen name Kathy Aarons. I’m excited to be working with Lyrical, an imprint of Kensington Books. The Trouble With Murder, starring Trouble the cat, came out in December 2017, and The Trouble With Truth will be out on August 28.

I started writing when my youngest daughter was in preschool five mornings a week, mostly to avoid doing housework. (I can’t do the dishes – I’m writing!) Before being a stay-at-home mom, I was a marketing director for a software company and assumed that because I knew how to write ad copy, that I knew how to write a novel. I was so wrong! Luckily, I joined Romance Writers of America San Diego where I first began to realize how much I didn’t know about writing fiction. (Insert snarky comment about marketing being a lot like fiction…)

I attended conferences and workshops and bought practically every writing craft book known to man. Sometimes I even read them. I wrote and re-wrote my first book – PTA Meetings Are Murder – at least one hundred times. It hasn’t been published yet, but my agent liked it so much, she signed me.

My first book – Death is Like a Box of Chocolates – was published by Berkley two weeks after my youngest daughter went off to college! Looking back, I probably would have been published earlier but I was also Queen of Volunteering – the list of my volunteer job is just too long, but includes PTA president and assistant puppet maker.

I’m still stuck on volunteering. I’m president of the board for Partners in Crime – San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime and Playwrights Project, a literacy organization. I also help to organize the CCA Writers’ Conference, the only free writing conference for high school students in the US.

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

Growing up, I had tons of pets – cats, dogs, guinea pigs, horses, gerbils, and a rabbit. My husband is allergic to dogs and cats, so our children grew up with birds, guinea pigs, mice and a bearded dragon. We no longer have pets, but my daughter has a rescue – a one-eyed Shih Tzu named Atlas – so I get to play with him when I need a pet fix.

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

Trouble is an orange tabby cat and was the inspiration of Colbie Summer’s business, Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food. Colbie found Trouble abandoned in an empty apartment of a building she was managing. She figured out that Trouble had digestive issues, so she started cooking for her. When friends began asking to buy her food for their own digestive-challenged cats, her company was born.

In the Chocolate Covered Mystery series, Coco the stray cat visits all the shops on Main Street, including Chocolates & Chapters, a combination book and chocolate shop. She has starring role in all three books of the series.

What are you reading now?

I’m on deadline, which severely cuts back on my reading time. Right now, I’m reading Carleen O’Neil’s HAIR OF THE DOG, the third book in her Cypress Cove series. I’m going on a trip soon and have downloaded a bunch of cozies including Terrie Moran’s READ TO DEATH and Nell Hampton’s LORD OF THE PIES.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing THE TROUBLE WITH TALENT, third in the series. I’m also working on a young adult mystery proposal.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have two: J.K. Rowling, because she created a magical world that my family and I fell in love with, and Janet Evanovich, because reading her hilarious Stephanie Plum mysteries inspired me to write. I got the chance to meet her at a book signing and told her!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When I was at band camp in high school, a cat had a litter of kittens on someone’s bed in my cabin. On the last day, I called my mom on a pay phone (a LONG time ago) and convinced her that they would starve and/or freeze if I didn’t bring them home. She wanted to know why I was the only one in the camp who was willing to do it, but I was pretty sure she’d say yes. We managed to find them all homes, but kept the mom. That was when we hit the maximum number of pets in the house – 18!

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

I loved writing in high school but didn’t think it could lead to a career. I took a lot of writing classes in college and went into marketing and public relations when I graduated.

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

That’s hard. My number one unrealistic item is meeting J.K. Rowling. My number one “do-able” item is spending a month in Ireland.

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

My daughter had a bearded dragon lizard when she was in elementary school. I had no idea they grew so big!

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

One, that the only way to get better is to keep writing! I’ve heard that it takes writing over one millions words to get to the level needed to become published. Second, that publishing is a very different ball game than writing. It takes a lot more time to do the business side than I could ever imagine.

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

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep writing!

The Trouble With Truth

By Kathy Krevat

Available August 28, 2018

Things are looking up for single mom Colbie Summers. After relocating back to her California hometown with her adolescent son and taste-testing feline, Trouble, she’s ready to take her gourmet cat food company to the next level. Until helping a teenager gets Colbie mixed up in a fresh case of murder… 

Trying to balance her hectic family life with her growing business—including a coveted contract with the local organic food store—leaves Colbie scrambling to keep all her balls in the air. But when a Sunnyside resident is found dead in his garage, she takes on a new role: harboring a suspected killer.

The eighteen-year-old murder suspect, a former foster kid and Colbie’s part-time chef, had a powerful motive to snuff out the high-profile businessman. The real question is, who didn’t? Sifting through the victim’s sordid history unearths a cat’s cradle of crimes, including money laundering and abuse. Now, to clear an innocent girl’s name, Colbie must sniff out the truth before a killer who smells trouble goes on the attack again.

About Kathy:

Kathy Krevat is the author of the GOURMET CAT MYSTERY series featuring cat food chef Colbie Summers and her demanding cat Trouble, the culinary muse behind her recipes. She also writes the bestselling CHOCOLATE COVERED MYSTERY series under the pen name, Kathy Aarons.

Kathy lives in San Diego with her husband of twenty-six years in the perfect location – close to Philz Coffee and the beach, and within visiting distance of her two grown daughters. When she’s not writing, she’s an advocate for youth arts education and president of Partners in Crime, the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

You can follow Kathy on Facebook or Twitter or visit her at: www.kathykrevat.com.

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Welcome, Mollie Hunt!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mollie Hunt to the blog!

Mollie Hunt & Tinkerbelle, Registered Pet Partners

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m Mollie Hunt, a native Oregonian, and I write cat fiction including the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series and some speculative cat fantasy sci-fi. I’m a member of the Cat Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, Willamette Writers, and the Oregon Writers Colony.

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

With me, it’s all about cats. Little, my 12-year-old black female has been with me since she was 2, and Tyler, my 15-year old tabby who acts like a kitten was adopted last year. Both came from the Oregon Humane Society where I volunteer.

Little is one of the Crazy Cat Lady series clowder. Tyler hasn’t been with me long enough to have a role, but I’m sure he will soon.

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

Lynley Cannon, the not-quite-crazy cat lady hero of my series, has a varying number of cats in her care, but the number is usually around 8. In the latest book, “Cat Café” (out this fall) they are Little, Tinkerbelle, Dirty Harry, Solo, Violet, Big Red, Emilio, and Mab. Sometimes there are guests such as Cary Grant and Clark Gable, a pair of identical red Maine coons who worked as actor cats for a television pilot in “Cat Call”.

 What are you reading now?

“Waypoint Kangaroo” sci-fi by Curtis Chen; “Tea with Milk and Murder” cozy mystery by H.Y. Hanna; “Murder and Mendelssohn” cozy mystery by Kerry Greenwood.

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

I tend to work on several projects at once. Currently I’m in the final revisions for “Cat Café”; writing the first draft of a Crazy Cat Lady Christmas Novella called “Cat Noel”; and in the process of putting together a chapbook of cat poetry. I also have a cat fantasy sci-fi called “Cat Summer” out to an agent. (Wish me luck)

 Who is your favorite author and why?

How can anyone choose one from the millions of authors, current and past? I love Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series because her stories paint a colorful picture in my mind and her words are often poetry. This, along with a good mystery story, makes her books irresistible. Ditto Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey cat mystery series. Joe and his cohorts are magical cats with a backstory that stems from deep Celtic fantasy. The book I’ve reread the most throughout my life is “Titus Groan” by Mervyn Peake. It’s another case of painting a vivid picture in my mind, except this one is of a weird gothic castle in an alternate world.

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

Though the cats in my stories don’t talk, they are endowed with those feline telepathic skills any cat person will instantly recognize, so they have been known to help solve the crime and save the day. Besides being sweet and funny, I employ them to educate people about cats. Through them, I can introduce all sorts of subjects from health to behavior to animal rights.

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

Thank you for that question. I love that you recognize the important roles working animals play in our society.

Tinkerbelle is a ten-year-old shelter stray who Lynley has trained as a registered therapy cat. Together they visit assisted living facilities and hospice patients as an ongoing thread in the series. Tinkerbelle is based on a real cat, though she is now retired.

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

I came from a family that read a lot, and I wrote my first cat story in Mrs. Wilson’s fourth grade class. When I took up mystery writing several decades later, I knew it was my passion because when I write, time goes away and I’m lost in a world I love. Not to say writing isn’t work– it is, but where others would find it tedious, I leap from word to word with unspoiled wonder.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

They mostly sleep, with a few sojourns across the keyboard just to keep me on my toes.

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

I have basically 3 TBR piles: Audio books that I listen to in my car; eBooks I read on my phone; real books. (There are more than one pile of real books.)

A few on the list are: “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore; “Lil Tom and the Pussy Foot Detective Agency” by Angela Crider Neary; “River City” by Doc Macomber; “Dressed to Kill” by Vicki Vass; Long Walks, Last Flights” by Ken Scholes.

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

The first million words are practice, and even the best writer needs a good editor.

 Thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed your choice of questions and hope your readers will like the answers.

 Mollie Hunt

Mollie’s Biography:

Native Oregonian Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. Mollie is the author of the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series, including Cats’ Eyes, Copy Cats, Cat’s Paw, Cat Call, and Cat Café (coming 2018). The series features Portland native Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip. Mollie also published a non-cat mystery, Placid River Runs Deep, which delves into murder, obsession, and the challenge of chronic illness in bucolic southwest Washington. Two of her short cat stories have been published in anthologies.

 Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, Willamette Writers, and the Cat Writers’ Association. She won a CWA Muse Medallion for her blogpost series, “Life Stages”, and has received several CWA Certificates of Excellence for other cat-centric work. Mollie lives in Portland’s eclectic Hawthorne district with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like Lynley, she is a grateful shelter volunteer.

 Let’s Be Social: 

Mollie’s Website

Mollie’s Amazon Page

Mollie’s Facebook Author Page

Mollie’s Newsletter

 

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