Meet Mary Reed

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

 What are you reading now?

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

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

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

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

 Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

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

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

Biography:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Einstein Sheluk

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

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

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

 

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


 

 

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Meet Madeline McEwen

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

Tell us about your pets.

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

What are you reading now?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

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

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

 

Madeline’s Biography:

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

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

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Meet Amy Reade and Orly

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

How much time do you have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Reade

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

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

Let’s Be Social

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

Blog: www.amreade.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/AmyMReadesGothicFictionFans

Twitter: www.twitter.com/readeandwrite

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/amreade

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

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

 

Pet Cloning — Yea or Neigh?

by Barb Goffman

Cloning is one of those things people joke about. Or maybe just I do. On busy days, I wish I had a clone to order around. Clone, do the laundry. Clone, edit that book. Clone, cook something. Anything!

Alas, the reality is there is no human cloning. And even if there were, an actual clone would not be like a robot you could order around to do chores. A clone is, essentially, an identical twin, simply born at a later date. The twins should look the same, but they’d have separate minds and thus separate personalities.

But even knowing all this, the idea of cloning appeals–especially when facing loss in the face.

Before my prior dog, Scout, got old, I made him promise he’d live forever. Of course he couldn’t live up to that promise. But he’s lived on in my heart and memories during the past four years.  And if I’d had the money to spare, I could have had him live on–sort of–in my house through … you guessed it … cloning. Yep, dog and cat cloning is here.

Scout

It appears there are several companies that offer this service. I recently read about one in Texas, Viagen Pets, that will clone your dog for $50,000 and your cat for $25,000. How does it work? According to Viagen Pets’s website, before (or very soon after) your dog or cat dies, you send a skin tissue sample to them so they can freeze/preserve the animal’s DNA. When you’re ready for your new pet, they take a donor egg, remove its genetic material, and replace it with that of your beloved pet’s. After that, an embryo is produced and then implanted in a surrogate animal. And you wait for your pet’s identical twin to be born.

According to their website, Viagen Pets has cloned thousands of animals. They say that each cloned puppy or kitten will share many attributes with its twin, often including intelligence, temperament, and appearance. It’s interesting that appearance is on the “often including” list because I would think a cloned puppy or kitten would always look exactly like the original (as a puppy or kitten) because they are supposed to be identical twins. But I’m not a scientist, so perhaps I’m missing something.

It’s interesting, too, that the company says the clones are often similar in intelligence and temperament.  I would think these attributes would vary from dog to dog. I would be interested in seeing study results on cloned animals to see how often the clones really are similar, as well as how similar, to the originals. I’d expect a clone of Scout would look like him as a puppy, but since the clone would be his own dog, with his own experiences and own mind, there’s no reason to think he’d act like Scout as he grew. But it’s nice to dream that he would.

And that is what is likely behind the growth of this market. The desire to  essentially keep the essence of the pet you love–his/her personality–alive. I understand Viagen Pets has a waiting list of people who probably have similar dreams.

Of course, any discussion of cloning pets should address the potential inherent problems. Any owners who’d expect an exact duplicate of their beloved pets would bound to be disappointed, which wouldn’t be fair to the clone. And is it right for someone to bring another animal into the world when you can find one of the same breed, likely looking nearly the same as your own beloved pet, through your local shelter or a breed rescue? An animal that’s already alive and needs a home? (Of course, that question would apply to any animal purchased through a breeder.)

Eggs (not the type involved in cloning)

And then there are the logistics of the process to consider. The cloning company says they get a donor egg. How? Does this involve surgery on a female dog?  How hard on the dog is such a surgery? If it’s quite invasive (and I don’t know if it is), is it right to use a dog in that manner? It’s not like the dog is an adult human who can consent. And once the embryo is created, it’s implanted in a surrogate dog. How invasive a procedure does the dog have to undergo to become impregnated? (All these questions also apply to the donor cat and surrogate cat, who may or may not be the same cat.)

For those of you thinking it, I realize that all these questions could be asked of any owner who chooses to breed his or her pet. The dog or cat doesn’t ask to become a parent, to be used for breeding purposes. I’m not saying it’s wrong (or right) to do these things, ranging from breeding your dog to having your dog used as an egg donor or as a surrogate mother. I’m just thinking on the page. As moral questions, there aren’t any hard right or wrong answers. But the questions are worth considering.

So, what say you, dear reader? Would you clone your pet if you could afford it? And what do you think of the issues involved with cloning (and breeding)?

Meet Jennifer Leeper

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Jennifer Leeper to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I started writing fiction in high school and it was bad – very bad. I published a lot in my 20s and early 30s, but not fiction. As a Journalism graduate, I got used to seeing my byline above newspaper stories and even in some local magazines, but accomplishment in fiction writing was really where my aspirations reached, and it wasn’t until my mid-30s that I published my first fiction work, a short story called Murder Brokers, in an anthology put out by Hen House Press.

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

I’ve had several amazing pets over the years. At one time, we had two dogs and two cats, but sadly, we’re down to one cat named Karina. She’s a short-haired, gray girl who loves lap naps and is just the right balance of dependent/independent. I don’t model my writing on my pets, however, I find they are a great comfort to me while I’m writing.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey. I rarely read nonfiction, but I couldn’t resist this read because it spotlights one of my favorite, natural spots on the planet.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a crime/mystery/thriller set outside Vegas, with a female and a male protagonist, working together to solve a crime.

Who is your favorite author and why?

If you had asked me this question a few years back, I would have said Jack London or several years before that, Sinclair Lewis, but these days, it’s Tony Hillerman. I love how he elevates the regional and cultural settings of his books to main character status in his stories. His description of the southwestern U.S., particularly parts of New Mexico and more specifically, Navajo reservation culture, engages as much as Hillerman’s adept and authentic portrayal of crime-solving.

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

I tend to mention animals in passing, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t influential in the context of my storylines, and the animals I mention tend to be wild, not domesticated species. For example, I lean toward writing about desert locales, so lizards, wolves, rabbits, and coyotes tend to catch my fancy in my fiction, more so than cats and dogs.

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

That’s easy for me. Any of Jack London’s books where a dog is a central character is my favorite because he instilled humanity in these animals and that’s no so far-fetched to me.

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

I knew I was a writer when I was around 12 years old and my English teacher selected my poem to submit for display at the state capitol with other pieces of writing from youth statewide.

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

At the top of my bucket list is finishing and publishing a novel of 50,000+ words. Thus far, I’ve published many short stories, a novella, collection of stories, and a novel of around 40,000 words, but I really want to publish a longer work. A close tie is summiting a 14-er. A 14-er is a 14,000-feet mountain peak.

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

In my reading slush pile are the following: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

About Jennifer:

Ms. Leeper is an award-winning fiction author who’s publications credits include Independent Ink Magazine, Notes Magazine, The Stone Hobo, Poiesis, Every Day Fiction, Aphelion Webzine, Heater magazine, Cowboy Jamboree, The New Engagement, Alaska Quarterly Review and The Liguorian. She has had works published by J. Burrage Publications, Hen House Press, Inwood Indiana Press, Alternating Current Press, Barking Rain Press, Whispering Prairie Press, and Spider Road Press. In 2012, Ms. Leeper was awarded the Catoctin Mountain Artist-in-Residency, and in 2013, Ms. Leeper was a Tuscany Prize Novella Award finalist through Tuscany Press for her short novel, Tribe. Ms. Leeper’s short story Tatau was published in the journal, Poiesis, and was short listed as a finalist for the Luminaire Award in 2015, and nominated by Alternating Current for Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best of Small Fictions of 2016 Prize. In 2016, The Saturday Evening Post honored Ms. Leeper’s short story Book of the Dead with an honorable mention in its Great American Fiction Contest. Ms. Leeper’s short story The Bottle won second place in the Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize through Spider Road Press.

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Annnnnnticipation…..

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

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

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

Seriously, how is even possible to live without pets?

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

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

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

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

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

What about you?  

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

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

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

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

Meet Fiona Quinn and Little Bear

Pens, Paws, and Claws is pleased to welcome USA Today Bestselling Author, Fiona Quinn.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I am a USA Today Bestselling author, and I enjoy writing romantic suspense with a psychic twist.

In this article, however, I wanted to tell you about a “just for fun” mystery collection I’m writing with my dear friend, Tina Glasneck. We were at a brewery for a book signing together, sniffing beer fumes for hours, when we landed on an idea for a series called “The Badge Bunny Booze Mystery Collection” Each book begins with “If You See Kay…” and then a verb. So far, we’ve written “If You See Kay Run,” “If You See Kay Hide,” and coming out November 21, 2017, “If You See Kay Freeze.”

A badge bunny, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is someone who enjoys sharing their physical attentions with cops. There’s a lot of tongue in cheek, double entendre cavorting. But it’s not graphically sexual. It’s really just a chance to giggle-snort (that word comes to us via a fan in Australia – and we whole heartedly agree!)

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

We don’t have a pet, but we do have a service dog for my daughter who has Type 1 diabetes. Diagnosed at age six, she was having a terrible time with seizures. Little Bear was on a team that were the first trained diabetes alert dogs in the United States. He “got the scent” when he was five-months old and my daughter went from 2-3 seizures a week to zero from that time on. He has worked with us for almost ten years now. He is a life saver and our family’s great miracle.

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

In the Badge Bunny Booze Collection, BJ’s dog’s named Twinkles, and he is a recurring hero in the books.

From “If You See Kay Run”

Twinkles was my hundred-and-thirty pound, muscle bound, all-male Rottweiler. He got his name because he was a Christmas gift from my dad. I left him alone for two seconds. Two seconds! And he must have eaten a string of twinkling Christmas lights off my little table top tree, battery case and all. I figured this out the next day when he was moaning at the door. I put him on his leash and led him to the dog park, so he could do his business and meet some of the neighborhood dogs, maybe make a new friend or two. Everyone was super impressed when he finally made his poop, and it came out with flashing mini Christmas lights. At that point, he kind of got the name whether I liked it or not. So “Thor” went by the wayside, and Twinkles it was. It’s okay, he was comfortable in his manhood despite the ridiculous name.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just released In Too Deep with the Murder and Mayhem project. It went to the top of the charts, hitting several bestselling lists including Amazon, iBook, Nook, USA Today and others. Another novel in that series (Strike Force) called “Instigator” is going up for preorder.

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

In Badge Bunny Booze, Twinkles is one of the family. He is always around, getting into as much trouble as BJ and Kay do.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

 Our relationship with animals is indicative of character. There’s no better way to sew invisible seeds of doubt or acceptance than to have an animal react to that person. The animals react to the true nature of the person, not the veneer.

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

 In our newest novel If You See Kay Freeze, we have a new character, Justice Brown. Justice has a service rat.

“Justice reached up and tickled her pet rat under the chin. The rat was Justice’s service animal. It was sensitive to Justice’s well-being and would nibble on her earlobe before she had a seizure which gave her enough time to go lay down somewhere safe. Luckily, Justice’s seizures were pretty rare, but she knew my office had plenty of couch pillows to throw on the floor if need be. And even if she had to work the bar alone, Joe was in the back washing the dishes, and Nicodemus, her white rat, would protect her. I mean who would mess with someone with a protecto rat sitting on her chest?”

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Once when Little Bear was alerting, I had to stop and help my child. All was well, and I went on with my day. Then Bear jumped up on my bed and put this t-shirt in front of me.

 

He looked up expectantly. You see I forgot to reward him, and we always give him a treat for his good work.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

 Little Bear sleeps on the bed just outside of my office, then comes to get me for an alert if he thinks my daughter needs help.

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

I’m a homeschooling mother. When my kids reached twelve-years-old, I asked them to start a business. A real business, with all the paperwork, tax numbers and all. when it was my son’s turn, he chose to be a lizard breeder. He bred bearded dragons and sold them to local pet shops. He did very well, but at one point we had fifty lizards and their accompanying food bins of cockroaches and crickets. My mantra at the time: “I love him. He’s learning a lot.”

Meet Nancy Northcott

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

 Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Nancy…

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

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

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Meet Mary Burton and Buddy, Bella, and Tiki

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mary Burton and her three miniature dachshunds.

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

I have three miniature dachshunds, Buddy, Bella and Tiki.  None of the pups have shown up in a book but their names have several times.  In fact, “Buddy” Morgan ended up being a legendary homicide detective in my Nashville Suspense series.

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

For some reason the dogs in my books tend to be German Shepherds.  Don’t ask me why, but I’ve had several shepherds.  There was Lincoln in THE SEVENTH VICTIM, Tracker in BE AFRAID, Cooper in THE VIEW FROM PRINCE STREET and most recently Dolly in a women’s fiction tentatively titled WINTER COTTAGE.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I have a romantic suspense HER LAST WORD, which comes out in May 2018.  I also just finished up a women’s fiction that will be released by Montlake late Summer/early fall 2018 and I’m also working on a suspense that will be released by Montlake in late 2018.

Did you have childhood pets?

If so, tell us about them.  I grew with Carin Terriers, Shorty and Sissy.  These dogs were great and as terriers were very territorial and loved to bark.  I’ve always been used to loud, bossy small dogs which explains why I get along with the dachshunds so well.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

How a character reacts to animal says so much about them.   Do they rescue their animal, are they loyal to their canine, or is the dog the only ‘person’ they can talk to.  Frankly if a character in one of my books doesn’t like animals it is safe to say they are the bad guy.

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

Tracker in BE AFRAID was a retired police dog who’d been injured in the line of duty along with his handler Rick.  Both Rick and Tracker were trying to prove they still had the skills to do the job and both had their own storylines.  Needless to say, they both got their bad guy in the end.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Yesterday I took the pups to get a hamburger.  I know I can’t keep the food next to me in the front of the van or they’ll get into it, so I put the burgers in the way back of the van during the drive home. Buddy decided that that hamburger was going to be his and he found a way to jump all the seats.  I could hear him chowing down, but couldn’t get to him until I pulled into the driveway.  By the time we were home, there were no more hamburgers.

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

I didn’t start writing until my late twenties.  My kids were babies and I decided if I was going to try writing now was the time.  I would put them down for a nap each day and write.  This went on for several years.  When the baby was in kindergarten, I sold my first novel to Harlequin Historical and I’ve been working steady since.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

They sleep under my desk and when that gets old, they bug me.  Bella always knows when it’s 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m,–the times for the big walks.  She never, ever forgets.  She’s also very good at reminding me when it’s 5:00 p.m. a.k.a. dinner time.   That dog has an internal clock that never fails.

About Mary…

New York Times and USA Today bestselling suspense author Mary Burton is known for creating multiple stories connected by characters and settings. Her new book, The Last Move (9-19-17), is her first “standalone” novel in eleven years.

Her first book was published in 2000 and she’s now the author of twenty-nine novels of romance and suspense, five novellas, and four contemporary novels written as Mary Ellen Taylor.

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