Welcome, Rosemary Shomaker


Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Rosemary Shomaker to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, I’m Rosie Shomaker. I’ve always liked writing stories, but I spent my professional life analyzing data and writing non-fiction policy reports and summaries. Now I’m free to write what I want to write. I’m as yet fairly undisciplined, though, but once I commit to a project, I focus my energy.

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

Mary and Carmen are the main dog characters in “This is Not a Dog Park,” one of the To Fetch a Thief novellas. Mary is a sheprador and Carmen is a fluffy white dog. In a subsequent story I’ll have to define Carmen’s breed. She’s owned by a stuffy rich lady in the story, so that dog has great mystery possibilities. Carmen and her owner live in a well-to-do neighborhood near a park that is central to the story. Mary the sheprador helps her owner Adam leave behind a life of disquietude.

What are you reading now?

I am reading several Nevada Barr novels. She had varied jobs and did summer work as in the national parks. Her main character, Anna Pidgeon, is a national park ranger. The Rope and Destroyer Angel were riveting. Barr comes off as a bit of a misandrist in her stories, in my opinion, and notwithstanding my feminist tendencies, her treatment of male characters can be harsh . . . although I admit the plot and character development rings sound. The adventure in these stories is great! When I need less adrenaline and more historical escape, I default to Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear mystery books.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

It seems so natural to include pets in a setting. So many readers live with pets. Pets can be used as a good character sounding board in stories; human-pet interaction and dialogue are straight lines to the human character’s psyche. Animals also can be used to move the plot along, change pace, and provide humor. I haven’t worked much yet with using animals to ratchet up tension. I’ll have to explore that.

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

This is a real possibility for my next story. Aren’t all pets service animals in a way—since they are usually emotional support animals for most of us? I was intrigued when I read Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper and met Campbell Alexander’s dog Judge. Judge helps warn Alexander of approaching epileptic seizures. Wow. Also, a local writer has shared her experiences with her own family dog that could indicate her daughter’s diabetic crises. The working nature of a dog can give real service to humans. I’ve also been introduced to police dogs and search and rescue dogs, and I admire the training and work of those canines. So much tension and conflict could be shown in stories featuring that type of dog in a criminal situation. I like the idea of a service dog, maybe a hearing dog that is specially trained to help people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Hearing dogs can alert their humans to sounds around the home and in public. I can see working that type of service dog into a story, too.

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

One day I’ll read a college thesis written about Charlotte of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. What a story! Even as a child I regarded Charlotte as a complex character. Cool to think that college theses have been written about her. As I child I was more of a Wilbur-type character who could not appreciate all there was to Charlotte, especially in their early relationship. I think I knew some Charlottes in my time. Now that I am older, I guess I am a Charlotte.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pup spends his time a room away from me when I write. He comes in occasionally to remind me to stop, drink some water, eat, and go outside. Well, he wants to do those things, and he provides the example that gets me out of my obsessive writing state. If not for my pup, I’d disregard most everything once I was on a roll and fixated on writing. Sometimes I’ll put him off and try to ignore him but he won’t ignore me, and soon his sad eyes are right at my hip level and hard to overlook.

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

I found a very old copy of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Prairie, circa 1900. I love Cooper. I feel right in the forest with his characters! The Prairie takes place not in New England forests but in the Midwest during America’s westward expansion. I’ve an idea for a novel set in the great plains, and I’m hoping Cooper’s book fills in some of the dramatic sentiment I need to spur me on to write more of my story. I have TBR piles in several rooms of my house. Some are piles of magazines or local newspapers. Others are piles of books that have come my way that I am not really set on reading. I let the piles accumulate, and when I have not made a move to read anything in a pile in a few weeks, I clear out the items to the recycle bin or the giveaway box.

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

My son found a very large beetle (two and one half inches long) when he was about five years old—my son’s age—not the beetle’s. They kinda bonded in a strange way. The beetle seemed happy to have a caretaker. My son made him a home in his room: a tray with water, grass and leaves for habitat, and who knows what for food? We most likely looked up what beetles ate. Mr. Beetle lived as a pet with us for four days. He’d sit on my son’s shoulder and even on his cheek when my son lay down. Mr. Beetle didn’t move much or very fast, and my husband and I hypothesized he was an old beetle, hopefully not a sick beetle. My son left on a short trip, maybe a cub scout trip, with my husband, and Mr. Beetle did not live to see my son again. A month or two later, my son found another beetle while playing in a friend’s yard. This new beetle wasn’t so nice. He stung my son! That ended my son’s interactions with beetles. My son’s entomology career, down the tubes.

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

My favorite place to read is outside on my deck, or even outside in a park. I like to have my legs raised while seated to read. The fresh air and natural light enlivens my soul. If I cannot be outside, I like to read sitting longways on the couch by our big front window. Inside I like to have a big cup of coffee at hand while I read. Outside, my drink of choice is water.

About Rosemary

Rosemary Shomaker was born in Maine and grew up with family—and heartstring—ties to New England. She currently lives in Virginia, and after a state government career now writes fiction. You can find a few of her short stories in anthologies such as Virginia is for Mysteries – Volumes I and II, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and several of the Shaker of Margaritas anthologies. Her “This is Not a Dog Park” novella is included in the Mutt Mysteries collection To Fetch a Thief.

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Welcome, David Ryan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome David Ryan to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I came to the author game late in life. I didn’t start writing my first novel until I was 45, which was both surprising and disappointing to me, because I’ve had as a goal since college to write a novel. I ended up in another writing direction first. I spent more than 30 years working as a journalist, writing, editing, and managing at newspapers before leaving for a marketing job. My career as a novelist started one night when I was traveling as a reporter and couldn’t sleep one night. So I started. And I got up the next morning and added to what I’d written. And added more that night. By the time I took the time to do any plotting, I had five or six chapters. I realized I needed to map out the story somewhere other than my head and create some characters with backstories, personalities, and descriptions. I write mysteries and thrillers because that’s what I’ve always enjoyed reading. And they’re fun to write.

Why crime writing?

I was an avid reader as a kid, and one of the series that captured me early on was the Alfred Hitchcock Investigators series. This was a variation of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I was hooked. When I’d watch TV on Sunday nights, we tuned into shows like Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife. Sometimes you knew the criminal right away because they told you But what they showed was how the detective solved the crime. Toward the end of my journalism career, when I’d already started writing Dead Odds, I managed a breaking news team, which was basically the crime team. That pretty much sealed the deal.

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

I didn’t know until college. I was fortunate to have two people give me a kick-start. My youth-league basketball coach was a journalist, and he helped me land a gig working Friday and Saturday nights on the sports agate desk at one of the local papers. Those were the two busiest nights in the department, and if you could survive those, you could make it in the newspaper business. After a while, one of the editors let me cover games. Once he learned I could make deadline, I was in. The second person was a manager at a restaurant where I worked, and her brother was the editor of a local sports magazine. She learned I was writing and introduced me to her brother. He gave me some writing assignments, and I was in heaven. I eventually joined the college newspaper staff. Even though I was writing and getting paid for it, I didn’t find my writing voice for many years. I think that came when I finally relaxed and started telling as many stories as I could in the way that I wanted to tell them. At some point, the editors stopped editing so hard and started letting my ways get into the paper.

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

Our two pooches are with me constantly – in my heart. During the writing of Dead Odds, we had to face the hard choice that most pet owners confront at some point. Both our Miniature Schnauzers crossed the Rainbow Bridge in recent years. Baron was older, stocky and muscle-bound with a smooth, silver coat and a feisty, all-guard-dog disposition. He was sweet, but he disliked kids. And he ran the house – until Xena joined us. That first night, we gave Xena a toy to play with. She wrestled with it until Baron stole it from her and took it to play with underneath the coffee table. When Xena, at 12 weeks old, barked at him and tried to retrieve it, Baron growled and chased her away. The next night, the same scene played out. We gave her the toy, he took it, and she went after it. This time, though, when Baron growled, she pounced. With sharp puppy teeth, she bit him on the ear and walked off with her toy. It was Baron’s last day running the household. Baron used to lay in a chair next to my work desk at home, snoring away as I rewrote scenes from Dead Odds. Xena, as her name suggests, was a fierce pup but what a sweetheart. But she was not a literary companion. She didn’t tolerate others not paying attention to her, and in many ways she was more cat than dog. She preferred to sit in my lap when I wrote. But she refused to stay still, and often she opted to be in another room where she could lay in the sunlight or watch lizards outside.

How do you fill the pet void? Do you see yourselves having more pets?

My wife and I get asked that all the time. We don’t have a final answer. We want to do some traveling, but at some point I think we’ll get another dog or two. Right now, we’re the resident dog-sitters of our neighborhood. Two young couples around us occasionally need help when they travel or have conflicts, so now we’re a second home for Buster and Bonnie. Buster is a black mutt who has some Dachshund in him. He’s excitable. I can’t get any writing done with him around. He wants to play too much. Bonnie is a young Miniature Schnauzer who reminds us so much of Baron and Xena. She’s silver and has a beautiful coat and a wonderful temperament. She likes to bark, but she’s a doll. My wife likes that neither Buster nor Bonnie like to lick people in the face.

Did you have childhood pets?

I didn’t. I am allergic to long-haired dogs and all cats. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m still allergic, but at some point I was around a dog that didn’t shed, and my sinuses didn’t go haywire. When my wife and I got married and I was traveling a lot, we thought a dog made sense for us. (We have no kids.) And it worked.

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

There are no pets in Dead Odds. Well, wait. The protagonist, Conrad Keane, reveals that he had a pet dog as a teen but had to leave the dog at home when he left for college. In the second book in the Keane series, tentatively titled Dead Sleep, Keane gets reunited with a Miniature Schnauzer. At least, that’s the case in my current draft.

What are you reading now?

I just finished November Road by Lou Berney. Up next are two novels by fellow Floridians, Four Years Gone by Dallas Gorham, Beached by Micki Browning, and Yard Goat by Ray Flynt. At some point soon, I’ll get to Holy Ghost, John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers novel, and Bob Woodward’s Fear.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Well, this blog post. I have another guest blog post teed up for the International Thriller Writers website. The work on Dead Sleep is always there, and I am working on a short story about an ex-mobster who is living quietly in northern Florida. Although my days as a journalist are behind me, I write a number of blog posts, emails and internal office missives in my role at a digital marketing and technology company.

Who is your favorite author and why?

There are three authors I will read anytime, anywhere: John Sandford, Lee Child and Pat Conroy. I enjoy Sandford and Child because they drive stories as if they’re running a race and they don’t dare slow down. Conroy, who died in 2016, captured me shortly after college with Prince of Tides. I grew up in the South, and Conroy’s11 language and sense of the South grabbed my heart and dragged me around for years. But one of the things I’ve discovered in this author journey is that there are so many great books out there written by people you’ve never heard of before.

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

First is “show, don’t tell.” This is a much more nuanced approach to writing than I was aware of. Telling is saying someone was angry. Showing is having the person throw a cellphone across the room after learning something bad has happened. The second thing is how important beats and tags are to telling a story the right way. As a journalist, I could finish every paragraph with the same attribution: he said or she said. You can’t do that as a novelist.

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

I give the advice that was given to me: read. Read a lot. There are those who say to study the language, the word construction and the engineering of whatever it is that you like to read. For me, those things didn’t stick until much, much later in my writing career. I just loved to read entertaining stories. But if you read a lot, you will by necessity read a variety of authors and styles. You’ll find a genre and an author (or two or three) who speaks to you.

 

About David:

David Ryan is a former award-winning journalist turned mystery and thriller author. After more than 25 years as a sports writer, assigning editor, digital editor and people manager, Ryan opted out of daily journalism for a second career that includes crafting crime fiction stories. His first book, Dead Odds, is available in eBook on Amazon. The paperback version will be available next month. He lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife.

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Welcome, Mary Adler!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mary Adler to the blog.

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

At the moment, we are blessed with only two dogs — Lily, our Rottweiler who had been abandoned in a garage after having birthed a litter of puppies, and Charley, our little terriorist mix, whose joy is contagious. Lily is older now, and her arthritis has put her in her purple chariot for longer walks which she loves.

At one point, our family included four Rottweilers, a pitty mix, and a few cats who came on their own to live with us despite all that canine presence.  Cyril, a beautiful long-haired cat once told the animal communicator (I live in California, after all) that he would like me to get him a hamster. Apparently, he had known one once and they used to have long philosophical discussions which he missed. (I did not fulfill his request.)

Other dogs have come and gone. We live in rural Sonoma county. Unfortunately, people think it is okay to abandon an unwanted animal “in the country”. We have picked dogs up from our dangerous roads and several dogs have found their way to our house. After we’ve made sure no one was looking for them, we’ve kept them until we found them good homes.  My heart goes out to people who are no longer able to care for a dog or cat and have to give them up to a shelter. I think they do not have the resources to find one of the many rescue organizations that will take dogs and find them new homes without the dog being subjected to the stress of the shelter, hopefully a no-kill shelter. I have rather strong feelings about people who dump an animal and leave it to fend for itself in a hostile environment where it is emotionally bewildered and in danger of starvation and injury. On our driver’s test they ask what the penalty is for abandoning an animal by a road. It is only a $1,000 fine. I wanted to write in a much harsher penalty.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 I’ll tell you about two of my most engaging and unusual dogs. I have been blessed with amazing animals, but AndyPandy and Harley stand out.

I met AndyPandy while volunteering at a rescue event. The bald creature — my friend said he looked like an alien — was not a great candidate for adoption, so I decided to take him home, feed him good food, train him to be somewhat more manageable, and let his fur grow out. He was very high energy — substitute wild — not my kind of dog, so I believed I could foster him without getting attached to him.

It turned out AndyPandy was a thief. Not the usual steak-dragged-off-the-counter kind of thief, but a go-for-the-money kind. I discovered this when he joyfully brought me a wallet, sat in front of me, and waited for a reward. He had snagged it from a guest’s purse. I didn’t think much of it until it happened again. And then one day, I watched Andy quietly pull a wallet from a friend’s trouser pocket without our friend’s noticing. Andy was a pickpocket. I believe he had been part of a gang in the east bay and they had taught him to steal from peoples’ purses and shopping bags. He was so engaging and disarming his marks wouldn’t have suspected a thing. (I imagined Andy’s face on WANTED posters.) I gradually extinguished his stealing behavior by not rewarding him for it. He was exceptionally intelligent. Happily, he and I found the sport of Canine Scentwork where we channeled his considerable talents into just having fun. Oh, did I mention this little “foster” stole our hearts, too, and lived with us for fourteen years? And once his hair started to grow, it didn’t stop, allowing him to be a pitty mix disguised as an Australian Shepherd. I will miss him forever.

Harley was a very large, very sweet Rottweiler with a head like a bear. He liked to take people by the hand to show them things — often the basket where his treats were kept.  One day, he led me into the garden and showed me a nest of baby bunnies hidden in the perennials. He seemed quite paternal toward them. I had seen him playing “chase” with a rabbit. When she stopped, he stopped, keeping a safe distance between them, and then they were off again. They were friends, and she felt completely safe making her nest in his territory. And the beautiful soul that he was, he wanted to share it with me.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve always wanted to write a mystery and had been researching the book that became In the Shadow of Lies for a very long time. Much too long.  Finally, I gave myself a deadline — a significant birthday (I won’t specify which one) — and resolved to have a draft of the book by then or give up the idea that I could write a mystery.

I had written many essays, legal briefs, articles, speeches, and even poetry, but never fiction and was worried that I didn’t have the imagination to make up stories. I set the book in a place I love — Pt. Richmond, Ca — and a time I love — World War II. As I researched the time period and place, story ideas emerged from the social issues people were actually dealing with then: Restrictions on Italians who were thought of as the “enemy.” Racial tensions because of the large influx of black workers who migrated from the south to the east bay defense industry. A segregated military. The war. Italian Prisoners of War in San Francisco.

I also wanted to enjoy the company of a community of characters who were funny and kind and smart. My Italian family is gone now, so I created a fictional one in the book. (I must confess that Mrs. Forgione bears a strong resemblance to my grandmother.) When I sit down to write, it is as if I am going home.

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

I can’t imagine writing a book without animals who take part in the story, just as I can’t imagine my life without them. Harley, a German shepherd, saves Oliver’s life on Guam and often steals the show. He represents the Marine K9 Corps who fought in the Pacific. During the war, many families volunteered their dogs to the Marines. Always Faithful by Captain William Putney is a wonderful book that tells about the bravery of the Corps and the devotion between the men and their dogs. As he said, “They gave their lives, so we might live.” Emma is a golden dog who looks like my Andy and travels the hills with Harmonica Man. The animals are definitely characters in their own right.

I suppose one of the lovely things about writing is that I can tell true stories about animals from my own life. For example, in the first book, a mother tells a true story of pinioned geese to explain isolation to her son, and Mrs. Forgione tells a story about swallows that reveals the character of a man.

For Shadowed by Death, I needed to understand the history of the war in Poland. I had grown up hearing derogatory stories about how foolish the Polish cavalry had been to try to fight invading German tanks on horseback.  In fact, the Polish cavalry’s brave maneuvers against the tanks confused the Germans and allowed many Polish soldiers to escape. There is also a wonderful new dog in the book who holds the clue to the mystery.

 Why do you include animals in your writing?

I can’t imagine a world without them and I believe the way people interact with animals reveals character. In part, I write about them to honor them, and in part, because they bring both joy and comfort to the human characters. For example, in In the Shadow of Lies, Oliver is on his way home from training at Camp  Le Jeune because of a death in the family.

“Harley inched closer and closer to me along the belly of the plane until he lay across my thighs and pinned me to the floor. When my hand found his ruff and tightened into a fist, he closed his eyes and pressed even harder against me, as if he wanted to absorb my pain.”

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am writing the third Oliver Wright mystery which is set in Benicia and Point Richmond.

What are you reading now?

I am rereading the Martha Grimes Richard Jury series of mysteries. It is like visiting with old friends. Also, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.  My TBR pile includes the latest books from Anne Cleeves, David Rosenfelt, Julie Mulhern’s Country Club Murders Book 8, and DisasterInk, by Caimh McDonnell. I just finished what I am afraid is the last book by Peter Grainger in the DC Smith Investigation series. There are so many wonderful mystery series I can’t begin to list them all.

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

I wish I had known sooner that I could actually write a mystery. And how much fun it would be.

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

If you are a writer, the act of writing itself will give your life purpose whether you are published or not. Reach out to other writers and writing groups in person and online. You will be gratified by the support we give one another. While writing may be a solitary endeavor, you do not have to do it alone.

About Mary

Mary Adler escaped the university politics of “the ivory tower” for the much gentler world of World War 2 and the adventures of homicide detective Oliver Wright and his German shepherd, Harley. She lives with her family in Sebastopol, California, where she has created a garden habitat for birds and bees and butterflies—and other less desirable critters. Unintended consequences at work again.

She does canine scent work with her brilliant dogs—the brains of the team—and loves all things Italian, especially Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano and cannoli, not necessarily in that order.

Among the books she would be proud to have written are the Fred Vargas’s Commissioner Adamsberg mysteries, set in Paris; Maurizio de Giovanni’s Commissario Ricciardi mysteries, set in Naples; and Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander mysteries, set in Ystad. 

She reminds herself daily of the question poet Mary Oliver asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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Welcome, C. J. Shane!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, C. J. Shane to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I wear two hats because I’m both a visual artist and a writer. This all got started because my first grade teacher told my class to write a poem and then illustrate it. So I had the idea from an early age that words and pictures were equally important and often go together. In the arts, I work in oils, pastels, relief prints, and also I create artist’s books. As a writer, my first job was as a newspaper reporter. I’ve written for newspapers and magazines and published eight nonfiction books. My first novel, Desert Jade: A Letty Valdez Mystery, was published in 2017, and the second Letty mystery, Dragon’s Revenge, comes out in mid-November 2018.

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

I had cats as a child and then was lucky to be introduced to dogs by a boyfriend when I was a young adult. So there’s been a cat or a dog or both in my life from an early age. Currently our family dog is a model for Millie in the Letty Valdez Mysteries. Her name is Sunday and she’s a rescue from the Tucson Humane Society shelter. I also fairly recently lost a wonderful dog named Yuma (a border collie-greyhound mix) who was a rescue from Yuma, Arizona. He grew old, and he couldn’t walk anymore. Just before he went over the Rainbow Bridge, I gave him a big spoonful of peanut butter – his favorite treat in the world. I miss him.

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

 In Desert Jade Letty found Millie abandoned and dying in the desert. Millie is short for “Milagro” which means “miracle” in Spanish. Here is an excerpt from Desert Jade where Letty finds Millie who had been stolen from her family and used as a bait dog in a dog-fighting ring.

           Millie looked up at Letty with adoring eyes as Letty stroked the dog’s back. Millie had big patches of bare skin on her tan and white short-haired body. Her ears were chewed up, and there were scars all over her neck and chest. Her front left leg hung limp and almost useless from too much nerve, tendon, and ligament damage. The dog used the leg mainly for balance. Millie was small for a pit bull, maybe only 45 to 50 pounds. She had obviously been used as bait in dog fights. When the scumbags were done with her, they just dumped her out in the desert on the edge of town. They hadn’t even bothered to kill her, but just left her to die a slow, miserable death in the hot summer sun.

                No telling how long the dog had been out there before Letty found her. That was entirely accidental, too. Letty remembered suddenly that she had forgotten to return a call. She pulled over to the side of the road when some movement in the hot sand caught her attention. Letty got out of her car to take a look. She spotted the dog right away. It was emaciated and had several open wounds. The dog hadn’t had any water for who knows how long. It was on its side, panting short, shallow breaths, eyes sunken and glazed. The dog shifted its amber-colored eyes to focus on Letty. Then the dog’s tail began to wag feebly.

                “Damn,” Letty muttered to herself, but she didn’t hesitate. Who could resist a dog on death’s door that would wag its tail when it saw you coming.

I’m very interested in rescue dogs and in seeing that they find a good home. Millie performs a heroic deed in Desert Jade. In the next Letty book, Dragon’s Revenge, Millie gets a friend. His name is Theodore Roosevelt, but they call him Teddy. He’s a black lab sniffer dog who flunked out of sniffer school! Teddy performs admirably as a sniffer dog in Dragon’s Revenge even if he didn’t earn his certificate from the sniffer school.

What are you reading now?

Letty Valdez is a veteran of the Iraq War. She was a medic and saw of lot of difficult things. I’m reading a nonfiction book about the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars titled The Fighters, by C.J. Chivers so I can know more about what Letty experienced. I’m concerned about our veterans and I want them to have good support.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh dear! Only one?  Well, one that comes to mind at the moment is the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman. I had a reader tell me once that I should stick to the plot, focus on action, and forget any “exposition.” I don’t really agree. I really like how Laura Lippman includes “exposition.” She tells us about Tess, her family, her friends, her life both as an investigator and her life away from investigation. I want to tell Letty’s story in the same way.  Letty is a child of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, a Chicana/Native American who takes care of her young siblings, who fights the bad guys and who loves her doggie pals.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

You know what they say, “If you want a friend, get a dog (or a cat).”  People are sometimes really cruel. I want to get across the idea that being kind to animals and rescuing a homeless animal is the best thing we can do for ourselves because it makes us more human and humane. A dog or cat will always be important in the Letty Valdez Mysteries.

What’s on Your Bucket List?

I’ve traveled a lot on four continents. I went as far as ZhouZhi in western China and Mildura on the Murray River in interior Australia. But I’ve never been to New York City. The Big Apple is on my bucket list. I also hope to write several more Letty Valdez Mysteries, and I have a plan for a new group of mystery-suspense-romance novels.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Siesta time!

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

I’m going to say only one thing which has turned out to be very important to me. Having come from a background in journalism and nonfiction writing, I thought of writing as a logical, orderly process. Do research, make an outline, do more research, start writing a draft. Edit and proofread.

Fiction turned out to be quite different. I had to learn how to get out of the way of my characters and let them speak for themselves. Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, said that she was a “medium” for her characters. She had that right!

Two examples. A character showed up one day. I didn’t create him. He was just there! He told me everything about himself, even the tattoo on his chest. He made it clear that he would accept a small role in Dragon’s Revenge but in future Letty Valdez Mysteries, he will be a very important person. Another example is Dante the Big Orange Tom Cat who will appear in the next book. Dante showed up one day and made it clear that he is El Jefe (The Boss). He will not accept any disrespectful behavior from those two totally useless dogs who try to steal his kitty kibble, Millie and Teddy. So there!

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

a) read a lot; b) take walks or bike rides, enjoy the natural world, and let your mind become serene and quiet so your characters can talk to you.

About C. J.

C.J. Shane is a native Texan transformed into an Arizona desert rat after many years in Tucson. She is both a writer and visual artist. She is a former newspaper journalist and academic reference librarian who has lived and worked in Mexico and China. She is the author of eight non-fiction books, among them Voices of New China. Dragon’s Revenge (2018) is her second Letty Valdez Mystery following Desert Jade (2017).

Here are some reviewers’ comments on Desert Jade, the first Letty Valdez Mystery:

~~I was pulled in immediately by well-crafted characters and fine descriptions of the southwest and local culture. …. An international mystery embroiled with the border between Mexico and Arizona and the Chinese underworld.

 ~~Reading Desert Jade, I couldn’t help thinking that Tucson has an author to fill the void left by recently deceased best-selling Sue Grafton, who wrote the Alphabet Murder series.

 ~~This has a strong southwestern flavor, a reminder of the Tony Hillerman books about the Navajos and the Hopis…The diversity of the characters may surprise you as the author pulls in a Chinese connection that is unexpected. It will be interesting to see if this develops into a series. I think it has great potential for that.

Book Links:

my website: https://www.cjshane.com/letty-valdez-mysteries.html

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/0999387413/

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/756970

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/desert-jade

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Website: www.CJShane.com

Newsletter: https://www.cjshane.com/contactnewsletter.html

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/29448.C_J_Shane

LinkedIn:   https://www.linkedin.com/in/c-j-shane-638a1413

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/CJShaneinTucson/

Google +: https://plus.google.com/+CJShane

 

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Welcome, Jodi Rath!

Please welcome author, Jodi Rath, to the Pens, Paws, and Claws blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello, I’m Jodi Rath, and I’m so thrilled to be here! My husband and I are both animal lovers, rescuers (although I believe they rescue me), and animal advocates, so finding this blog was a wonderful things for me! I’m married to the man of my dreams and we’ve been together for 16 years. Currently, we have seven cats. We’ve had 13 cats over the last 16 years and we love them all dearly, and even though we’ve lost some of them as they crossed the rainbow bridge, they will forever be a part of our family and in our hearts. All of our cats will be featured in my new series, The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Five of the seven show up in book 1, Pineapple Upside Down Murder, which comes out 11/23/18 and is available for preorder now and they will all be on the covers of the books at one time or another.

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

Definitely! In book 1, the protagonist, Jolie Tucker, has four of our cats: Lenny Lee, Sammy Jr., Bobbi Jo, and D.J. Lynn. One of her two love interests ends up adopting another of our cats, Stewart at the end of book 1 and there is a hilarious scene that describes how my husband actually met Steward and decided to adopt him. LOL. All of our cats have middle names too, LOL!

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on two flash fiction stories that will be freebies and come out two weeks before the release date of Pineapple Upside Down Murder (so early November this year). They are prequels to lead into book 1, although, people can still read book 1 without reading these, but they are a really fun look at the protagonist as kids in the first and teens in the second and the kitties will show up there too! I’m also working on book 2 which is called Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Murder where Stewart Michael will be on the cover!

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

Hmmm . . . our cats are not MAIN characters in my books, but they are a central part of the book and over time will become more integrated into the later books in the series. There are currently 14 books in this series and I already have each title and book planned out with an overarching theme to tie it all together and the cats are definitely a part of that theme!

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Why wouldn’t I is my question! LOL  I LOVE animals SO much! Our cats are our lives. They are our kids. Just like I can’t imagine living without them, I can’t imagine writing without them or having them in the writing!

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

I do not have any in book 1, but there will be some in later books in the series!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Oh boy, well, one of them is that scene about my husband, Mike, and Stewart which you can read about in Pineapple Upside Down Murder. The other one, hmmm, I’m not sure it’s clean enough for the blog. LOL.  My husband is a snorer. A loud snorer. So, he is lying on his back snoring loudly one night, and Stewart sits on his mouth and he chokes and gets up yelling in fear. It frightened me when he told me what happened, and I’ve never laughed so hard in all my life. Stewart was looking for a way to shut him up! LOL

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

At age five, I used my stuffed animals and dolls as my staff of my “pretend” magazine business. I used my mom’s old magazines and would cut them up and paste things together and use a red pen to mark on them. At age seven, I signed up to win a set of encyclopedias and won! I used to randomly pick out an encyclopedia then open up to any page, read an article and summarize it pretending to be a journalist. When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer as a job, but I think I knew back at age five.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pets all lay around me while I write. I can have anywhere between three to five cats around me at one time while I’m writing.

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

I think I have about 700 books in my Nook. I think I have about one thousand or more physical books. I was an English Literature major in my undergrad work. I LOVE books—all books! I also use the library like an insane person. LOL I have two local libraries near me and I am constantly taking books out for research too. There are books all around me as I read. I’d have to take up a thousand pages to list them all.  Some of the books I am planning to read are anything by Sara Paretsky and her V.I. Warshawski series. I’m all caught up and anxiously awaiting the new one to come out soon! I love Heather Blake, Amanda Flower, Victoria Laurie, and Elaine Viets to name a few more.

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

I love to read in bed at night. My little bobtail kitty, Bobbi Jo, likes to snuggle right up by my belly while I lay on my side to read, and I love it!

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

I have been an educator for close to twenty years.  I’ve had so many teenagers who want to do something in a creative field, like: write, art, act, sing, play in a band, etc.  I think that is wonderful! I think a lot of people think because something is creative that it is all fun. To me, what I do now is more fun than anything I’ve ever done…so that is true. At the same time, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked a lot of jobs that were difficult and time-consuming, but I’ve never put in more time and effort than I have as a writer. Everyone wants a creative, fun job. There is a lot of competition. So, to do it well one has to be willing to put all their time and effort into it if you want it to be a career.

About Jodi:

Moving into her second decade working in education, Jodi Rath has decided to begin a life of crime in her The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Her passion for both mysteries and education led her to combine the two to create her business MYS ED, where she splits her time between working as an adjunct for Ohio teachers and creating mischief in her fictional writing. She currently resides in a small, cozy village in Ohio with her husband and her seven cats.

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Welcome, Marilyn Levinson!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write mysteries, novels for kids, and the occasional romantic suspense. My first published book was a YA called AND DON’T BRING JEREMY, which came out in 1985 or 86. About fifteen years ago I started writing mostly mysteries. My most recent series is the Haunted Library mysteries, which I write as Allison Brook. DEATH OVERDUE (Oct, 2017) and READ AND GONE,(Oct 2018) the first two books in the series, have been receiving a good deal of attention and acclaim. DEATH OVERDUE was an Agatha nominee.

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

 I live with my red tom Sammy, who is thirteen years old. Sammy is very smart and very affectionate. He also bites occasionally, which has earned him a pretty bad reputation among my friends, some of whom wish I’d gotten rid of him a long time ago. But I would never do anything like that! Sammy isn’t a model for any of the cats that appear in my books. Like the cats in my life, the cats in my books have their own distinct personalities.

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

Smoky Joe is an important character in the Haunted Library series. The half-grown grey cat with the bushy tail appears one morning outside Carrie Singleton’s cottage in DEATH OVERDUE, the first book in the series. He jumps into Carrie’s car and since she’s late for work, she brings him to the library. She’s pleasantly surprised when Smoky Joe—as she names him—proves to be people-friendly and a big favorite of the patrons. Sally, her boss, finds herself having to agree that Smoky Joe is now the Clover Ridge Library cat. Of course Carrie brings him home with her at night. He plays an important role in READ AND GONE, the second book in the series.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading a Val McDermid mystery. She’s one of my favorite authors.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished writing the third book in the series. My working title is REFERENCED TO DEATH because the unpleasant reference librarian is murdered. With such an unpopular character that blackmails colleagues and neighbors, you can be sure there are many suspects. Smoky Joe proves to be a loyal companion to Carrie, my sleuth.

Who is your favorite author and why?

There are so many authors I adore and too many to name. I had to reread many Agatha Christie novels when I wrote my mystery MURDER A LA CHRISTIE because my characters, who are in a book club, discuss several Christie books. I discovered I still enjoyed her books and that they held up for me. I also reread Josephine Tey’s mysteries when I wrote MURDER THE TEY WAY. Again, the books were still wonderful to me.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I love to include animals in my books because I’ve had a furry companion most of my life. To me, the animals in my books are characters just like the people. In some of my books the animals play a role in helping to solve the mystery or they help their owners when their lives are in danger..

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

I loved the book and the movie “Lassie Come-Home.” Such a touching story about a devoted collie that wants to live with the boy he loves. I also loved the movie Seabiscuit, though I’ve never ridden a horse.

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

When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a writer or a ballerina. I started writing short stories in the second or third grade. After a while I stopped because I didn’t know how to write anything longer than a few pages. I needed to learn how to plot a story. I came back to writing in my early thirties when I was a young mother. I haven’t stopped writing since.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My Sammy lies close to me on my office carpet as I write. Usually he’s fast asleep. sometimes lying on his back.

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

I have piles and piles of print mysteries waiting to be read. I also have hundreds on my Kindle. I play to read the “Best Mystery Short Stories of 2017” soon and another Val McDermid.

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

I write at my desk iMac, which has a big screen, something I require. I often read in bed or in the recliner in my office. Both places are very comfortable.

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

Keep at it. Read. Join a critique group. Join Sisters in Crime and the Guppies if you’re a mystery writer. Keep on writing.

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Welcome, Melissa Gole!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Melissa Gole to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is Melissa Gole. I’m a nurse, a mum, a bellydancer and an author. I wrote blue after losing a colleague to suicide I saw people looked angry and were saying take, a tablet, call a line. I wanted people to know it was more then that. I saw on my therapist’s website he trained PTSD dogs and he often makes dog analogies during our sessions so that’s where the inspiration for blue came from. I think people are kinder to dogs then they are humans. If we know a dog’s been through something we’re kind to it. If a human’s been through something we tell it to toughen up and we can be cruel to it.

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

We used to have a dog called Max who was a maltese x shitszu and would walk on his hind legs to beg. We had to give him away when we moved to Sydney. We are moving back to Port Stephens soon, so I am hoping to get a dog that I can train as a therapy dog. I’d love to do some volunteering.

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

Blue was a great name for my dog because he crosses across so many different themes like feeling blue and the thin blue line. I wanted to get the idea out that the blue doggo is the one we look after.

What are you reading now?

I’m having a break right now but I have been reading many police ptsd stories. There are some great ones by Simon Gillard, Shaun O’Gorman and Jeff Garland. I’d strongly recommend them to see what a real-life hero looks like and goes through. It’s amazing to put a human face behind what they do. Definitely where Blue gets his adventure from. All great advocators and examples of how you can get through hard things too.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently writing another book about looking after people with dementia. I’m looking forward to it as its very poetic, but I want to make it a bit more positive.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Maureen McCarthy. I get lost in her stories. She has a way of making them educational as well as fictional learning about different issues from different times and places.

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

Bugsy the bunny was my favourite. She looked like she had a big fur collar and like she had sass.

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

All of my dogs were there own characters. They made their own world.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Because it would have been no where near as funny or engaging if it was a human.

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

He could be. He works hard. Our police dogs serve as well and can be an essential part of the force. It’s sad hearing when people attack them.

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

Dogs and Cat we’ve seen far too many times but it’s a great adventure.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

They’ve all had their moments of getting in and chewing things.

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

It really was just an idea that came to me. My Dad used to always tell me stories so its kind of funny that its evolved like this now. I love that I’ve been able to integrate health information into a story.

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

I’ve always wanted to go to Paris as that’s where my ancestors are from.

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

How much work it would be and how much it would cost but it’s an important cause. I’m not making any money from it and it’s nice just to say that someone cares.

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

I’m between houses right now, so I’m becoming one o those people who hangs out in coffee shops to write mostly to get wifi, but I feel like I’m becoming pretty cliché.

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

Just follow your heart but think about planning and making a format for what I will evolve into.

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Welcome, Phil Hilliker

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Phil Hilliker to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I have been a freelance illustrator and graphic designer for the past 17 years, with the majority of my work focused on role-playing games and children’s books. After spending many years making pictures for other people’s words, I decided it was time to start focusing on my own. Right now I have a middle grade (aimed at eight to twelve-year olds) sci-fi novel on submission with my awesome agent, Erica Bauman at Aevitas Creative Management. I’m also revising a middle grade fantasy novel and several picture book projects. It’s pretty much all monsters or robots with me.

I have a short story and provided all the story header illustrations in River City Secrets: Stories from Richmond, edited by Lana Krumwiede and published by Chops Suey Books Books.

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

My family has three pets—a betta fish named Sonic Blue, and two guinea pigs, David Bowie and Ringo Starr. We can’t take credit for those amazing names, though. They were already named when we adopted them. We wish we were cool enough to come up with those names.

All three are fairly new additions to the family! Sonic Blue has been with us about three months. We adopted David Bowie and Ringo Star about two months ago. So they haven’t made their way into my writing yet, but I’m sure they will at some point. They have such fun little personalities. David Bowie is always in the middle of the action while Ringo Starr hangs out in the background and avoids attention.

What are you reading now?
I read a lot of middle grade, because that’s what I write, and it’s important to know what’s happening in the particular category in which we write. I recently finished The Mothman’s Curse by Christina Hayes, which captured a wonderful family dynamic. It was easy to root for the characters. Currently, I’m also listening to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey—an adult fantasy novel that’s basically Jane Austin with magic. It captures the Edwardian vibe really well, and I’m enjoying the way she’s describing how the characters use magic.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.
I didn’t really. We had a cat for a short period of time that we believe was cat-napped. I still wonder what happened to her sometimes. But that was it. I have a deep love of cats, but I’ve developed a sever allergy to them as I’ve grown older, keeping my family from getting one now.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?
I don’t have any animals of note in the manuscript I currently have on submission. However, in the novel that’s currently being revised, there are several main characters who are animals. It’s a portal fantasy, where two boys travel to fairy, and in keeping with the tropes of the portal fantasy, they have a few animal sidekicks who talk and help them navigate the world.

I’m also working on a picture book that has a loveable chicken as the main character.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, even as a kid. But, visual art was naturally easier for me, so I went to art school and chased my natural talent with the idea that I would get around to writing when I had the time. That always seems to be the way, doesn’t it? But when I was well into my thirties without finding the time, I realized I’d better make it, or it would never happen.

So I wrote without telling anyone for a few years, figuring that pretty much everyone wanted to write a book and it wasn’t worth mentioning. Getting involved with James River Writers gave me the confidence to actually admit it aloud to folks.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?
I have physical TBR piles all over the house, not to mention the digital one on my Kindle and the holds I’m still waiting to come through at the library! I’m excited to read Gwen Cole’s sci-fi western Ride On and the second book in N.K. Jemison’s Broken Earth Trilogy. The first one, The Fifth Season, stunned and impressed me in ways no other book has in years.

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?
A child. I know that doesn’t really count, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying that, but taking care of a kid—really from infancy through toddlerhood—is a lot like having a pet. You’re constantly cleaning up after it, chasing it down, and trying to keep it safe. But those moments of connection and appreciation, that feeling that all is right with the world because this creature you’ve been caring for is showing their full appreciation, makes it all worth it.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
1) The literary world is one of contradictions without a lot of concrete answers. For every piece of advice out there, there’s either counter advice or someone being successful doing the opposite. It can be hard to know which advice to go with, so I’ll give you this piece of advice (knowing that someone out there is doing the opposite)—just do whatever you can to be easy to work with and don’t make other people’s lives harder. I think that’s the biggest secret to success. If an agent asks for certain materials in submissions, follow them, because you don’t want to be known as the writer who can’t follow directions. But if someone tries to give you the formula for producing a successful book, they’re probably full of it.

2) How long things would take, and to have patience. I started the novel that’s currently on submission eight years ago, never having written a novel, and totally not knowing how to write one. I completely rewrote it several times. I put it through a critique group and beta readers. I signed with my agent about a year ago and revised it four more times with her! My novel has had a long road. Now, just as I wrote in number 1 above, this industry is full of contradictions. Your book might happen very quickly. But, if you’re publishing traditionally, don’t enter into any project without some flexibility to how you think it should go.

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

Find a critique group! It’s not always easy to find a functioning critique group. They are a relationship that has to be built on trust and respect, which can be difficult to find. So even if you find your first critique group doesn’t work out, find another one. That’s what I did. My first critique group fell apart through a combination of factors, and I was sad when it happened. But, I’m in a solid group now that’s been chugging along for four years, and I would do anything for my critique partners. They’re amazing. Critique groups don’t always work. But when they do, they can improve your writing at an astounding rate while being a positive accountability factor to keep you going.

Also, join a professional group like James River Writers. Having a sense of community is key, and being in a community makes it easier to find a critique group!

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Welcome, B. Lynn Goodwin

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

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

No but that’s a great idea!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet B. Lynn Goodwin

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

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Susan Schwartz to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing:

I began writing in 2006 with freelance articles. I wrote on all sorts of topics and researched these pieces thoroughly. I made a little money, but I was more interested in fiction writing. I joined the Virginia Writers Club and started learning how to write with style. I found good mentors and people who wanted to help me succeed. I took over leadership of the club for two years giving back to the writing community and helping to mentor a few new writers.

I have been an Operating Room Nurse for 18 years. As you can imagine, I see many interesting and gory things while working. I channel many of those sights and sounds into my stories. I love blood and guts, and I tend to write stories where people are getting killed or maimed in some fashion. I try to write them with a twist making you wonder what hit you at the end. I have enjoyed this genre immensely because of its ability to lead the reader into something they are not expecting.

I have three short stories published at present in the Nightmares & Echoes series. They are “The Sparkling Floor,” “I Thought You Did,” and “Blurred Line.  “Blurred Line” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in Long Fiction by the Horror Writers Association in 2016. My non-fiction piece in the Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology is titled “Using my Karate Chops in Nursing.” I also have a non-fiction book coming in the Spring of 2019 titled Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties. I am quite excited about my stories and especially, my Haunted book.

Please check out my website to see future happenings and new books coming out soon. https://www.susanschwartzauthor.com.

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

I have had up to 14 feral cats in the past. We just lost the last one, Mr. Imp, in 2015. At present, we have two kittens, Manchego and Speck. We have multiple fish tanks, and we also love on one leopard gecko named Zoey.

I do not use them in my writing, but Zoey likes to help me write sometimes. She inevitably always goes off on a tangent about finding lost crickets.

What are you reading now?

I tend to read three to four books at once. My list at present consists of:

The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis. I love most everything Patterson has his name attached to these days.

You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. This one just sounded like an awesome book.

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Everyone has catastrophes to deal with, this was suggested to me by a neurosurgeon.

Dinosaurs in the Cornfield by William Hardison. I have known Mr. Hardison for almost 35 years, and this book is an amazing recollection of memories and life lessons.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am starting to research for another haunted book, possibly in the eastern region of Virginia. I haven’t quite decided yet. I have a paranormal romance novel that I have been working on for several years that I want to finish. I also have about six short stories in the works for a couple anthologies and just from pleasure writing.

Who is your favorite author and why?

For horror influences, I look to Stephen King and Bentley Little. The medical drama comes from Michael Palmer and Robin Cook. For general fiction, I like David Baldacci and Michael Connelly.

All of these produce a great story with plenty of red herrings to make you think something else is going to happen. Then BOOM! The carpet is pulled out from under you. I love that.

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

Milo and Otis was definitely a favorite with the dog and the cat. I also so loved Homeward Bound. The voiceovers in both movies were simply the best. It always makes me wonder now when my cats are looking at me what they are thinking.

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

I started writing back in 2003 doing fanfic for several TV shows I watched at the time. They weren’t really great stories, but mainly continuations of what I thought should have happened. I really enjoyed writing the different views on some of the characters. Once these got some comments, I started wondering if I could write longer and more in-depth pieces. I am happy to say I can and I do.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Manchego and Speck are normally chasing each other back and forth through the house. Manchego is around nine months old, and we rescued her off the street on a cold winter’s night at the age of about two months. Speck is also a kitten that we found at the Goochland Animal Shelter in July to help Manchego get over her separation anxiety. He has been a welcome addition to the family, although it took about two weeks for Manchego to warm up to him.

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

I thought about this one. These weren’t really pets, but I took care of them for a length of time. We had a baby squirrel named Lucky that had fallen out of his nest, and his mother never came to find him. My father, knowing my love of animals, called me to come get him and take care of him. It was a fun experience for about four days until we found a Wildlife Rehabilitator that would take him. Fun Fact: Squirrels are lactose-intolerant.

The second unusual animal we loved on was a Silverback Bat. This guy had fallen on our front porch and didn’t move. We were worried he was dead. We got a plastic container, much like the ones we kept crickets in for our gecko, and scooped him up with it. Over time, he started to move by hopping, so we named him Scooter. We also took care of him for several days until we could find a Bat Rehabilitator in the area. We discovered that he had burned up one wing. If he couldn’t fly, he couldn’t hunt for food. Sadly, he passed away a couple days later. I still have fond memories of him though, and I love to walk at dusk to see the bats flying. Fun Fact: Bats look just like puppy dogs in the face. Check out some pictures.

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

The best advice given to me by many authors in different genres is to read that which you are trying to write. The greats in this genre, such as Stephen King, Bentley Little, and Richard Laymon, have shown me how to write and what people are looking for when they read this genre. Stephen King also wrote a book, On Writing, which has helped me a great deal as well.

Write what you know and love. Writing becomes much easier when you know where you want to go with a particular piece. I always know the ending. I leave my title for when I finish because you want to write a great story, and then finish it with a title that encompasses all that is inside.

Don’t stop because someone told you No. This just means you have to go another way instead of the path you are taking. Keep trying and don’t give up. You can do it!

About Susan

Susan Schwartz RN, MSN, MSHA has been an avid writer for 10 years writing freelance articles, editing manuscripts, and proofing medical competencies. She has published three short stories in the anthologies of Nightmare & Echoes I, II, and III and a non-fiction piece in the Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology. Her alter ego is an Operating Room Nurse/Nurse Educator who loves creating tales from the interesting and weird things she has seen. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Virginia Writers Club where she is serving as President of the Richmond Chapter. She also has two novels in the works, a paranormal romance and a medical thriller. In her spare time, she loves to read, travel to foreign lands, and traipse through old graveyards and cemeteries. Please leave feedback at susanschwartzauthor.com.

 

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