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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Welcome, Judith Lucci

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Judith Lucci to the blog.

Hi Heather, it’s such a pleasure to be invited to your Paws and Claws blog. I’m a fellow animal lover so anything I can do concerning animals becomes a priority for me.

I write medical thrillers, crime fiction and cozy mysteries. My medical thrillers, the Alexandra Destephano series, is set in New Orleans and in Virginia. Alex is a young nurse who gets a law degree from UVa and moves to the Big Easy to work for a large medical center. Many of my own experiences as a nurse are included in this thriller series. The sixth book, Run for Your Life, releases this fall.  The Michaela McPherson crime fiction novels, ‘Two Sleuths and a Dog’ are set in Richmond Virginia, the city where I was born. Main characters include Michaela, a RPD retired homicide detective, her former partner, K9 Angel, and Dottie, her 82 year old Italian Countess friend. The trio solves international crime. The fourth book, The Case of the Very Dead Lawyer, releases on October 23rd. My cozy series, Artsy Chicks is set at Massanutten, Virginia. The Artsy Chicks are group of quirky, zany artists who manage a gallery at the resort and the Artsy Chicks books feature stories about the customers they meet every day.

I think every author needs a pet, either a dog or cat, to keep them company while they write.  I currently have four shih tzus that are a focus in my life. None of them are featured in my books, but in my Two Sleuths and a Dog series I have Angel, a retired Richmond canine who is often the star of the series. Angel was Michaela’s partner on the police force. He took a bullet for her and saved her life. Angel was retired from the RPD with honors and Mic adopted him. Now they live together in Mic’s Fan District home and solves international crime, along with the Countess Dottie Borghase.

In late July, I released a set, Summer Snoops and Cozy Crimes, with 11 other cozy authors and raised money for non-kill shelters. I’m happy to announce that we’ve sold over 22,000 books and are delighted with the response. One hundred per cent of this money will be sent to designated to non-kill shelters. I’m also pleased to announce that Summer Snoops and Cozy Crimes is still a #1 Best seller on Amazon. The book also made the USA Today and the Wall Street Journal best seller lists which delighted all of us!.

This fall, along with 20 other incredible authors, I will release Love Under Fire, a 21 book romantic suspense boxed set with all new novels by 21 Wall Street Journal, USA today and Amazon best-selling authors. This set is incredible.  Here’s the blurb!

LOVE UNDER FIRE

“When Love Sparks Danger get ready for an explosion!”

Twenty-one Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and bestselling authors bring you a heart-pounding collection of stories all in one amazing romantic suspense boxed set.

On the road to love lurks mystery, betrayal and greed.

With every turn of the page, romance smolders and fiery suspense lights up the night. Feel love and pain as you fight alongside the tenacious heroes and heroines as they battle for their love and survival. They’ll put everything on the line to thwart the danger coming after them.

They want to trust in the power of love. But is it enough? Available EVERYWHERE.  Click and HELP US SUPPORT VETERANS AND SAVE THE LIVES OF ANIMALS.

 https://books2read.com/LoveUnderFire

We’ve designated Pets for Vets as the charity for this set and have formed an official relationship with them. I’d love it if you’d pick up a copy to help us help the men who keep us safe. I’m excited about this collection and delighted to work with romance authors for the first time in my life! The book will release on November 13, just in time for Veterans Day. My book in this outstanding series is my sixth medical thriller, titled Run for Your Life. If you buy it soon, there is a 19 free book incentive that we are offering. Please help us help Veterans and save Pets!  It’s a winning combination.

I love to read and for me reading is a reward after a hard day of writing. I’m currently reading a book by Liliana Hart, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I’ve read many of her books and enjoy Liliana’s writing style.  On my to be read list, I have quite a few books by Indy publisher Leslie Wolf. Leslie writes very much like I write, and I really enjoy her books. I also like Mary Burton’ work, another Richmond author. I don’t have one favorite author. I have dozens of favorite authors. I also love to read historical novels and one of my favorite authors is Indy writer Jana Petken, who lives in Spain.

I’m a true, dedicated animal lover – you can ask anyone. I can’t imagine sitting around my house without a dog in my lap or next to me. My dogs are with me when I write. They’re also with me when I paint. I can’t imagine life without them. I’ve had dogs and cats my entire life. I had a little mutt named Pepsi-Cola when I was about eight or nine years old. We sort of grew up together I also had a collie named Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring. I think animals make us better humans. I recommend one or two or even three for everyone!

I’ve told you about Angel, the canine in the Michaela McPherson series.  Angel is often the hero in the book. Alex also has a rescue military dog in books four thru six of my med thriller series. I have a another medical thriller planed that will feature medical dogs and education people about how dogs save lives. I do this so people understand that police and military dogs are critical in every single day. I don’t think enough people understand or appreciate their value.

The number one item on my bucket list is to spend six months on the Spanish coast. I love Spain and I taught there for a few years.  I want to go back! If I could figure out a truly safe way to get my animals to Spain, I’d be there. My dogs are older, as a matter-of-fact they’re almost senile, so I can’t travel and have anything happen to them. We’ve checked out airlines but have ruled out flying because my dogs are a short-nose breed. We’re also looking at taking a ship to Spain. If have any ideas, let me know!

I think I knew I was a writer when I first learned how to write, maybe in the second or third grade. I used to write little short stories with the picture above them. I encourage this with my grandchildren, hoping they’ll love to read and write, too.

As a college professor, my writing was limited to research studies and scholarly articles. I co-authored several med-surgical textbooks and other texts during my professional life. I’ve written numerous research articles and concept papers. I can assure you that making up stuff and writing down is a lot more fun. I love fiction intermingled with my life-long experiences as a nurse.

I’ve been writing for about six years and I think a bit of wisdom to pass on is the importance of good editor and proofreader. In truth,  none of us can edit ourselves. I can’t always see the corrections after they’ve been made so, in my opinion a content editor and a copy editor are essential to have as consultants. I also wish I had completely understood Amazon and their algorithms. In truth, they change them all the time, but I think a thorough understanding of how to do your landing page and social marketing would’ve been helpful. I’ve been told that it’s hard to make money as a writer until you have multiple books, so I would encourage you not to get discouraged but to keep on keeping on.

I want to thank Heather for inviting me to be a part of Pets, Paws and Claws. It’s been great. I always like to hear from people so feel free to check out my website@JudithLucci.com or email me at Judith Lucci writes@Gmail.com.

Many thanks for your attention and please purchase Love Under Fire so we can help veterans get pets! It’s a win-win. Oh, and if you go to my website and follow me, you’ll get a free book!

Judith Lucci, PhD., RN

WSJ Best Selling Author

USA Today Best Selling Author

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

 

Website: www.judithlucci.com

Email: judithlucciwrites@gmail.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/judith.lucci

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JudithLucci

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judith-lucci

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Judith-Lucci/e/B00AUVN0GK/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

 

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Welcome, A. R. Kennedy!

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes A. R. Kennedy!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is A R Kennedy. I’ve been writing novels for seven years, but the stories have been in my head for as long as I can remember. I have a self-published mystery series, The Nathan Miccoli mystery series. I’ve also written a legal thriller and a cozy mystery (which I plan to expand into a series).

Saving Ferris, a legal thriller featuring a golden retriever, is available for pre-order now. Cover reveal coming soon!

Additionally, I love writing short stories and have won the Writers’ Police Academy’s Golden Donut story in 2016 and 2017.

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

I currently share my home with a seven pound dog, h, of unknown breed but is full of spunk. Although a cuddler and a love in our home, he’s a spitfire on walks. My neighbors call him ‘killer’ because all he does is bark at them.

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

Laude, a secondary character in the Nathan Miccoli series, is a beautiful black miniature schnauzer. She is a combination of two schnauzers I’ve had. (Sadly, both have passed). Laude has the beauty and attitude of L while also possessing the lovability and friendliness of H. Laude appears in all the novels.

In Saving Ferris, a legal thriller, Ferris is a golden retriever who has failed out of service training. After Cecilia’s husband dies, she’s forced to become Ferris’s caregiver, something she does not immediately warm to. But when his life is threatened by an intruder, she shoots the intruder to save Ferris. The prosecutor feels that Cecilia has committed murder, not self defense. In the eyes of the law, one can use lethal force to protect themselves and others, but not property. Pets are considered property. Cecilia endures a murder trial where her defense attorney forces everyone to ask themselves, Is the your pet property or family?

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on upcoming novels in the Nathan Miccoli mystery series and in the Traveling Detective series, a cozy mystery series I’m currently seeking representation for.

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

My parents had a mini schnauzer, Kelly, when I was born. A few years after she passed, after years of begging for a puppy, I picked out C, a miniature-toy poodle. After college, at my first professional job, a co-worker told me her dog was pregnant and I needed a dog. I hesitated but the hesitation flew away when she told me the mom and dad were miniature schnauzers! I met L soon after she was born and we bonded instantly. (She also peed on me!)

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

I’ve written an entire novel, Saving Ferris, inspired by the love so many of us feel for our pets. There’s no doubt my dogs are members of the family and I know so many people feel the same. But the law does not.

In the Nathan Miccoli mystery series, although I consider Laude a major character, most would consider her a minor character. If we’re reading Lily’s point of view, Laude is probably right there with her.

In the Traveling Detective series, after book one, there will also be a pet. But because Naomi’s adventures occur while on vacation, we probably won’t get to see her cat, Cher, too much.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I love animals. For my day job, I visit people in their homes. I always make it a point to say hello to each of the animals, including the birds! People are often surprised how their animals, cats and dogs, take to me right away. On our last visit, I always tell people I’m terrible with names and may not remember them if they call me with updates but just mention their pet and I’ll remember everything about them.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When L was a puppy, my roommate had a cat. L and the cat (it’s been too long I can’t remember her name!) would chase each other all day. After taking L on her midday walk, a neighbor asked for the package I was holding for her. She followed me to my apartment. When I opened the door, L saw the cat and took off after her. Surprised by the quick and strong pull on the leash, and distracted by the neighbor, I was pulled to the floor, landing flat on my face. The neighbor, who I did not know well, just stared at me as I got up. I handed her the package, assuring her I was alright. (Nothing was injured but my pride). The neighbor never passed me again without laughing.

(My ten-pound L pulling down the seven foot Christmas tree is also a good story.)

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

Most of my bucket list items involves travel and animals. I’ve been fortunate enough to view the Big Five while on safari in South Africa (which inspired a cozy mystery novel and birth of my series, The Traveling Detective), to swim with penguins, a shark and seals in the Galapagos, and to observe kangaroos and koalas in the wild and feed them and a plethora of other native animals at a sanctuary in Australia.

A gorilla trek in Uganda remains unchecked on my bucket list.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

h lies on my lap as I write. He often scratches my arm for belly rubs while I’m trying to work. He’s lying next to my leg right now!

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

I love to read and write on my couch, with h next to me.

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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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