Tales with Tails … (and some without!)

by Barb Goffman

Jingle doing time! (This is my dog the day I adopted him from a shelter.)

It started with an idea: Everyone loves animals. They’re cute. They’re furry. They’re begging to be written about.

Next came a call for stories for the eighth volume of the Chesapeake Crimes short-story series. It said in part:

“We want animals. More than six out of every ten homes in the United States has a pet. Be they dogs, cats, birds, pigs, or lions or tigers or bears—or even snakes­—people love animals. They love playing with them and caring for them and, we’re happy to say, reading about them.

“That’s where you come in. We want crime/mystery short stories involving animals. The animal could be the sleuth or the sleuth’s sidekick or merely a part of the plot. We could hear the animal talk or think or do neither. Any kind of crime/mystery story you can come up with that involves an animal, be it furry or feathered, warm- or cold-blooded, is good with us. So bring on your animal stories!”

The authors of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime did not disappoint.  To paraphrase McGruff, our authors took a bite out of crime! And now, finally, the book has been published. Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies offers mystery readers who love animals a bevy of options.

Like dogs? Then this book is for you. We have several stories involving dogs and crime. But we don’t stop with dogs. Oh no. We have stories with crows, cows, crickets, and cats; rabbits, ferrets, an octopus, and rats. And fish. Mustn’t forget the fish.

Like police procedurals? We have three of them. How about historicals? We have a trio of those too. One story will take you back to nineteenth-century England, another to 1930s Hollywood, and the third to 1950s Pennsylvania. If you like amateur sleuths, you’re in luck. We’ve got some of those. Like dark stories? We’ve got ’em. Stories from the animals point of view? We’ve got those too. Funny stories? Check. Paranormal? Check. Stories where animals save the day? Check. Check. Check.

Basically, if you’re a regular reader of this blog and you enjoy mystery short stories, then this book is made for you. We hope you’ll check it out. You can buy it in trade paperback or in e-book format.

The authors with stories in the book are: Karen Cantwell, Carla Coupe, Barb Goffman (yes, that’s me!), Eleanor Cawood Jones, Linda Lombardi, Alan Orloff, Josh Pachter, Shari Randall, KM Rockwood, Joanna Campbell Slan, Marianne Wilski Strong, Robin Templeton, and Cathy Wiley. The book was edited by Donna Andrews, Marcia Talley, and me. The stories were chosen by Brendan DuBois, Mary Jane Maffini, and Leigh Perry (Toni L.P. Kelner). And the book was published by Wildside Press.

If you’ll be attending the Malice Domestic convention next weekend, stop by the Wildside Press table in the book room at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Nearly all the authors with stories in the book will be there for a mass signing. And if you’re in the Washington, DC, area on Sunday, May 20th, we hope you’ll come to our official launch party at the Central Library in Arlington from 2-4 p.m.

In the meanwhile, happy reading. We hope you enjoy our tales with tails!

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Welcome, Jane Finnis

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Jane Finnis to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello, pet-lovers! I’m joining you from Yorkshire, northern England. I live near the coast here with my husband Richard and our cocker spaniel Rosie. I write a series of mysteries, novels and short stories, that are set in Roman Britain. I’ve been fascinated by history all my life, and love the research I need to do to get the historical background right. My main sleuth (you can’t really say “detective” for those times) is Aurelia Marcella, a Roman settler who runs the Oak Tree Inn on the road to York. She and her sister and twin brother get drawn into solving crimes that lead to trouble and often danger. There’s plenty of both, because Britannia in Aurelia’s day was a raw frontier province, quite recently conquered, and simmering with barely suppressed violence. It’s a wonderful backdrop for stories of murder and mayhem.

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

We share our home with Rosie, a black cocker spaniel aged 11. She’s lively, clever, and loving, and of course she’s got us well trained to provide walks, food, and attention. She’s our fourth cocker spaniel, and when a spaniel turns those appealing eyes on you, you can’t refuse anything! My husband keeps fish too, the brightly coloured sorts like koi and golden orf. Interesting pets though not exactly cuddly, and their pond make a lovely addition to our garden.

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

There are dogs aplenty, because the Romans valued them, not just as pets but for farm work and guarding. It’s no surprise that one of the best-known mosaics unearthed in Pompeii has the warning “Beware of the dog”, but whether the residents really had a fierce guardian or just didn’t like visitors much, who knows? My innkeeper Aurelia keeps pet dogs, different ones as the series progresses through the years. Our first dog, going back forty years or so now, was a smart black labrador cross called Lucky, and she makes a cameo appearance in Aurelia’s first adventure, SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT, when she discovers the body of a horse in the woods. There are also, as you’d expect at a country inn, several household cats, sort of pets but mainly kept for pest control duties.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m in the middle of another Aurelia Marcella novel, LABYRINTH OF LIES, which takes Aurelia away from her inn and down to London (but not away from mysteries!) That’s still a work in progress so there’s no publication date yet. Right now I’m just finishing an anthology of short stories set in Roman times, and several include Aurelia and her family. The collection is due out in May, and is called SIX ROMAN MYSTERIES, unless I can think of a more original title.

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

Yes. I specially remember a red cocker spaniel called Wendy who produced four pups, very exciting; and we had two tabby cats called Tinker and Tailor. I kept rabbits too, one at once because you know what rabbits are, and used to take them with me to and from boarding school.

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

Animals are as important in my stories as they were to the people I’m writing about, which means very important indeed. I don’t use them actually to do the detecting, but they and their actions, such as leaving or following telltale tracks or appearing unexpectedly, can be crucial for unravelling the twists and turns of a mystery plot.

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

Yes, heaps of them. As I’m writing about the long-ago past, pre-steam and pre-petrol, transport animals abound. From glossy horses to dusty mules and donkeys and lumbering oxen, they bring customers and their problems to Aurelia’s door. Then there are farm animals, army mounts, and I can’t resist mentioning hunting dogs occasionally, as British dogs were highly prized. by hunters even in Rome itself. According to the ancient writer Oppian, the native Britons raised a breed they called Agassian, “…endowed with feet armed with powerful claws and a mouth sharp with close-set venomous tearing teeth…For tracking it is the best there is.”

Aurelia doesn’t hunt but she does enjoy riding when she can, This is in character… and needless to say it comes in dead useful for plot purposes sometimes!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Richard and I and our first dog Lucky went touring on holiday once in a caravan. One beautiful evening we parked in a field by the sea, and went for a walk on the sands; Lucky always loved water. As we headed back for supper Richard realised the one and only caravan key had somehow slipped from his pocket and got lost. We searched far and wide with no luck; dusk was falling and panic set in. Then we spotted Lucky sitting calmly in the middle of the sands, refusing to budge even when we called her. Lo and behold, she was sitting on the missing key! You can bet she got extra treats with her supper that night.

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

I moved my TBR pile onto a shelf after it began to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There are 40+ titles there, all sorts of mysteries, also biographies and science fiction and even some poetry. Now I just need one more volume…an instruction book on how to bend the physical laws of space/time so I can double the number of hours in my day.

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

First, there are many useful lists of “rules” by eminent people telling you how to write novels, and it doesn’t hurt to read them. Second, having read them, it doesn’t hurt to disregard them if you like. Tell a good story in an interesting way, that’s the only rule you really need.

About Jane Finnis

FYI my married name is Jane Copsey, but I always write and blog as Jane Finnis.

For more information visit my website,  www.janefinnis.com,  or find me on Twitter where my handle is Jane_Finnis.

Brief biog: I was born in Yorkshire, but went to University in London and  then worked in the civil service, in computers, and then for BBC Radio. When I married, Richard and I came back to Yorkshire and ran a craft shop. Now we’re retired and I have time to write fiction.

My novels are available in  print and as e-books. They are published in the USA by Poisoned Pen Press, Arizona, and in the UK and Commonwealth by Head of Zeus, London.

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Location, Location, Location

Ahhhhh, spring!

Don’t you just love when Mother Nature ushers in warm air, lush greenery, sunshine, and twittering birds after a blisteringly ugly-cold winter?  Only she hasn’t quite let it all happen yet this year.

Instead of hunkering down for the fourth nor’easter to rock the East Coast last month, I escaped to paradise.  While I don’t want to make you too jealous, here was my *writer’s cave* in Exuma, Bahamas for a nice long weekend getaway. Not too shabby, eh?

For me, the sparkle on this idyllic gem of an island was meeting a few of the local feline residents of the resort.  Though they weren’t as fond of cameras as they were of petting, I was able to snap a photo of one of several cats on the Bahamas Welcoming Committee. As you can imagine, this self-proclaimed Catless Cat Lady had found nirvana.

Just as our trip was about to end, I discovered the Kitty Condo the staff had built to accommodate their smallest four-pawed friends. At all times, the water and food bowls were topped off and fresh. Isn’t this the most adorable pet-sized real estate ever?

Now, if only Mother Nature would let the seasons catch up before it’s time for my next winter escape.

Wishing all y’all spring warmth, good books, and kitty condos!

 

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Website ~ KristinKisska.com

 

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Welcome, Terri M. Collica

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Terri M. Collica to the blog this week.

Thank you, Heather, for having me on your blog. I’m really honored to be interviewed.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I grew up in a small idyllic town in Northwestern Kentucky just minutes away from the Ohio River. I remember spending many Sunday afternoons fishing with my parents. I’d watch the bobber on my wooden fishing pole hoping to catch a big one. I still love rivers.

When I was five, my mother took me to visit my aunt in West Palm Beach, Florida. I can still remember being lifted skyward by the two women right as the incoming wave reached me. What a thrill! I knew then that I would someday live near the ocean. Soon after graduating college, I moved to Palm Beach County – home to Mar-a-Lago, hanging chads and lots of mystery fodder.

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

There are four cats who allow my husband and me to live in their house. They have somehow convinced us to eagerly attend to their every need. Torti, is the head honcho and has been since she convinced us to adopt her and her kitten, Slippers, after someone abandoned them off the Florida Turnpike. The two longhairs, Autumn Leaves and Curly Whiskers abide by the shorthairs’ rules. Somehow, I’ve managed to schedule my life, so I can write and still cater to the felines’ whims. Curly Whiskers has even agreed to appear in one of my upcoming mysteries, but only if she gets to approve the final manuscript.

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

Service dogs abound in the Sunny McBain Mystery series. Dickens is Sunny’s guide dog, and he plays a major part in both Fuzzy Visions and Family Visions. He’s a beautiful golden retriever, and I’ve shed a few tears writing some scenes involving him and Sunny.

Sunny’s oldest friend is a good-looking deaf boy who travels with his hearing-ear dog, Chaucer. The two dogs provide some comic relief when it is most needed in the mysteries.

What are you reading now?

I just finished a fabulous young adult mystery by Karen M. McManus titled One of Us Is Lying. Wow! The plotting, characterization and pacing was remarkable. I’d like to be able to clone her writing technique for my next novel.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on two projects. Christmas Visions will be the third book in the Sunny McBain Mystery series. It is due to be released in July as a Christmas-in-July event. Two new service dogs will be arriving in the novel. Mugsie, a yellow lab, and Gabriel, a black lab.

I’m also writing an adult cozy with a working title of Clancy’s Dilemma. My beautiful kitty, Curly Whiskers, will make her appearance in the novel.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh my, this is not an easy question to answer. As far as the classics, I love Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities is my all-time favorite book. For an entertaining cozy mystery with lots of lovable dogs, I read David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series. I also wait for new books from Heather Blake, Maggie Pill, Hank Phillipe Ryan and Charles Finch.

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

I always had a pet cat while growing up. A little black kitten named Inky was my first. Then there was Caesar, Elke, and well, you get the picture. There were family dogs too, but they were claimed by my brothers. However, I still insist they liked me better than my pesky little brothers.

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

The Sunny McBain Mystery series is about a remarkable blind girl who with the help of her guide dog solves mysteries. Although the stories are fiction, I try to make the interaction between Sunny and her service dog as authentic as possible. Researching the relationship between guide dogs and their handlers has given me the opportunity to learn about, and get to know, several real guide dogs and their blind handlers. I am thankful for every moment I can spend in their company. Seeing Eye dogs are the most loving and intelligent creatures on earth. They are truly the “neurosurgeons” of canines.

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

I love animals. Any novel featuring one as a major character in the story draws me in. That said, I can’t watch any movie or TV show where a beloved animal is hurt, suffers, and/or dies. Lassie was a real tearjerker for me, and my mother finally refused to let me view it. Once, I was trapped on an airplane during an overseas flight. They were showing the film, Marley & Me. Blubbering during most of the movie, I finally had to hide out in the plane’s restroom.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Soon after moving to Florida, I learned an important lesson about cats. They will defend their home against any intruder that’s no bigger than they are. Or at least my kitty, P.C., felt this way when a skunk got into my small, rundown rental. It was late one evening and the battle only lasted a few minutes before Mr. Skunk hightailed it out the same way he came in. P.C. had defended her home, but not before the enemy had sprayed his “beyond skunk” aroma throughout our small cabin.

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

There’s just one thing on my bucket list. I’m sure it will sound esoteric to some, and just plain stupid to others, but here it is. I’d like to live peacefully in every moment knowing it’s all good and exactly as it should be. (Oh, and by the way, I’m so far from that now, it’s just plain scary!)

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

I once had a Guinea pig who was the meanest, most ornery rodent I’d ever encountered. I had personally picked her out after seeing how loving and sweet my best friend’s Guinea pig was. I was sure she’d be the same. Although she was beautiful with every color known to her species, she was a holy terror. She refused to let anyone pick her up or pet her. Feeding her was a scary encounter as she’d bite the hands that were trying to fill her food bowls. Finally, I decided my little pet was just too nervous, hyper and scared to be tamed. I still cried when I returned her to the pet store.

About Terri Collica:

Terri graduated with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education before going on to her master’s degree in special education. She dedicated her career to teaching English to both mainstreamed and learning disabled students.

In addition to her mystery novels, Collica has self-published a locally distributed quarterly magazine dedicated to old-fashioned holiday celebrations, vintage decorations, and crafts. She has also had the opportunity to interview numerous famous musicians for local magazines.

To Buy Terri’s Books:

Fuzzy Visions

Family Visions

 

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Welcome, Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. I’m a fourth-generation Californian who has now lived in Massachusetts longer than I lived in California. I’m a gardener and world traveler, the mother of two fine adult sons, and a full-time novelist writing cozy and historical mysteries and short stories north of Boston.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? Yes! My tuxedo cat Birdy, who sadly died last summer, is the foundling kitty in the Country Store Mysteries. Always curious and desperate to get on the other side of any door, he was also a cuddler. Preston, our Norwegian Forest cat, is the farm cat in my Local Foods Mysteries. And Christabel is the kitchen cat in my historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries.

What are you reading now? I’m almost done with Aimee Hix’s debut mystery, What Doesn’t Kill You, and next up is Shari Randall’s Curses, Boiled Again, followed by Bruce Robert  Coffin’s second Detective Byron mystery and Kellye Garret’s Hollywood Homicide. There is never a shortage of books I want to read!

What writing projects are you currently working on? I’m polishing Strangled Eggs and Ham, my sixth Country Store Mystery (even though the fourth comes out only next week). Next up is my second Cozy Capers Book Group mystery, and then my fifth Quaker Midwife Mystery.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. We had only two cats, Punky and Blondy. Punky ran away and Blondy died of what my mother called cat fever. My dad found he was allergic to cats and we never had any more pets beyond fish. Loved those neon tetras, though.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing? They are characters important to my protagonists, but they don’t talk or solve crimes. Even though I don’t know dogs very well, I do have a sweet husky-mix who belongs to the detective in the Local Foods Mysteries

Why do you include animals in your writing? I have animals in my life who mean a lot to me, and many others also do. I include animals for the same reason I include romance in my stories – it’s part of life.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why? I love Charlotte’s Web. We had the book on cassette tape (yes, I am that old) read by E.B. White himself, and my sons and I listened to it on many a car trip to Quebec and back when they were young. I love the intelligent Charlotte, the wicked Templeton, and dear Wilbur, as well as the human characters. The story tells of love and death and all the emotions in between, but it also has moments of humor.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I wrote lots of stories as a child, and at about age nine, my mother told me I was a good writer. I took that to heart! I fell away from fiction for thirty or forty years, but I kept my wordsmith chops honed by doing journalism, academic writing, more journalism, and technical writing. Then I realized my true love was making people up, killing off one or two, and restoring justice to a fictional community.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? There are many, but the most likely to be realized first is a trip to Italy with my beau. Or maybe I should say seeing my firstborn get married – he and his sweetie are engaged and looking at wedding venues, so that’s definitely going to happen within a year or so!

What do your pets do when you are writing? Pretty much what they always do – lie around sleeping. Birdy loved to sneak into my office and sleep on my feet or on a corner of my desk, but the other two stay mostly downstairs.

Readers: What do your pets do when you’re trying to focus on a task? Do you stick to cats or dogs, or have both your home? I will give away a signed copy of the new book to one commenter, so be sure to include your email address!

Biscuits and Slashed Browns: For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration. Robbie drops her maple-curry biscuits to crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky and murderous trap.

Biography and Social Media Links:

Edith Maxwell is a 2017 Macavity and Agatha Award nominee and has also had several short stories nominated for an Agatha. She writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries set in Amesbury, and the Local Foods Mysteries. Under the pseudonym Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies, and she is honored to serve as President of Sisters in Crime New England and 2018 co-chair of New England Crime Bake.

A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens, and wastes time as a Facebook addict north of Boston with her beau and two cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors.

My web site, edithmaxwell.com, includes information about all my writing, including my historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries, my other contemporary series, and my award-winning short stories. Please stop by, and sign up for my newsletter, too. You can also find me at the following links:

Facebook: Maddie Day and Edith Maxwell

Twitter: @edithmaxwell and @MaddieDayAuthor

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Meet Martin Roy Hill

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

Martin’s Website

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A Calico named Shammy

April 23, 1991 was a very good day. It was the day that Glen and I adopted Shamrock Leah King, a gorgeous long-haired calico, affectionately known as “Shammy.”

We first saw Shammy the day before at the Holiday Humane Society in North Hollywood, California. The shelter required a waiting period of 24 hours before letting us take her home.  When she walked us to the door—no other cat did—we knew that we’d been picked!

At home, Shammy was sweet but timid, with self-esteem issues and a fear of men, including Glen. She came to adore him and became more comfortable with other men. But while her confidence grew, a touch of melancholy stayed with her.

When Glen and I moved from Los Angeles to Virginia in 1996, Shammy accompanied me on the plane. Thankfully it wasn’t full so she didn’t need to stay under the seat in the small carrier the airline required. She was not happy and the tranquilizer the vet had prescribed didn’t seem to take. But she endured the ordeal with her customary dignity. In fact, she fared better than I did!

Eventually Shammy fell prey to that common and dreaded feline condition: kidney disease. By the time she died at home one March morning in 2002, she had lived with us for eleven years. She had always preferred cuddling to lap sitting, but during her last months, she sought comfort in our laps.

We buried her in the backyard of our home in Earlysville, Virginia. I cried for days.

When the Albemarle County SCPA built a new facility, we purchased a brick and dedicated it to our special friend. When we visited the SPCA this past September, we looked for, and eventually spotted, the brick (there were lots of them).

Shammy also lives on in my Hazel Rose Book Group series. Hazel’s backstory reveals that her beautiful calico cat named Shammy accompanied her when she moved from Los Angeles to the east coast and settled in Richmond, Virginia.

Sound familiar?

 

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Meet Laurel Peterson

www.utechristinphotography.com

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Laurel Peterson to the blog!

Before I answer any questions, I just want to thank you, Heather, for having me on your blog. I’m really honored to be here and I enjoyed answering your questions.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I am a poet and a novelist, as well as a community college professor—which allows me to eat and pay the mortgage! I’ve got three books of poetry out, and have always thought of myself as more of a poet than a fiction writer. However, I love mystery novels, starting with Nancy Drew, and decided about a decade ago that I wanted to try the form. It’s been great fun testing and honing my storytelling skills, as well as thinking about ways I can use the genre to communicate messages about human experience. My first mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was released in 2016.

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

The main character in my Clara Montague mystery series is too fastidious to be a dog person, but her police chief lover definitely needs a dog. I love Labrador retrievers, which is the dog I had as a child—all my father’s brothers and their children ended up with Labs—because they are so friendly and patient and sweet. My dog wants nothing more than to hang out with us and to chase things we throw. His favorite game is to chase a Frisbee, which he then refuses to give back until he’s good and ready.

What are you reading now?

There is always a huge pile of TBR books on the floor.  At present, I am enjoying Tomas Transtromer’s the great enigma, and William Kent Krueger’s Sulfur Springs.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a book of poems about flying and the stars. My father was an airline pilot and a conspiracy theory lover. Somehow those two themes cross in this book, and I’m having fun playing with the various directions they are taking me. I’ve also had fun with sources: NASA posts pictures from the international space station; FermiLab puts out newsletters on particle physics research (toned down for people like me who don’t understand the half of it), and of course, looking at old photos of my father in various flying garb.

I also woke up this morning thinking about the next book in my Clara Montague series. In this one, she works with an underwater archeologist. At least that’s the version this week.

Who is your favorite author and why?

In the mystery genre, my favorite author is Sara Paretsky. She’s just so smart, and I love smart people. I learn so much from them, and Paretsky is no exception. She has a PhD in history and an MBA from the University of Chicago, and you can see that attention to detail and accuracy in her novels. In addition, I love that she takes on issues in her work—faulty body armor or race relations. The mystery is about more than a murder; it’s about the fault-lines running through our communities and our nation. Attica Locke is another writer who is taking on issues. Black Water Rising and Bluebird, Bluebird both deal with race issues in America, as well as presenting an interesting whodunit.

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

H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald, is a fascinating memoir of her time training a goshawk to hunt, as a way of mourning her father’s death. Mabel, the goshawk, becomes a character in her own right, and the development of their relationship is funny and sharp and dark all at once.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

It’s not so much a one-time event as a pet habit. When my cat was still alive, we fed him in the basement, which he accessed through a cat door. This kept the dog from scarfing all his food. In the evenings, after the cat had eaten, he would come up the stairs and sit behind the pet door, waiting. The dog, smelling him there, would stand on the other side, staring. This stand-off usually lasted several minutes, with one of them poking at the door with a nose or paw to try to tempt the other into engagement. Finally, the dog would relent a little, the cat would burst through the door and speed past him in to the living room, and there would ensue a wild, but short-lived scramble before the cat popped onto the ottoman and whapped the dog on the nose with his paw. Every single time.

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

I think this is a really hard question to answer. I can point to a moment in my childhood when writing became important to me—after I was bullied on the school bus and wrote a story to get my private revenge—but I don’t think I identified as a writer until after I left college and discovered that all other jobs were to support my writing time. By the time I went to grad school in my late twenties, I was sure writing was where my heart lived, but calling myself a writer probably didn’t come until after I’d started publishing on a regular basis in my early thirties. It’s a good thing we have a lifetime to figure ourselves out!!

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

The number one item on my bucket list is to visit Greece. I have wanted to go there since I was in fourth grade and Mrs. Marshall taught us all about the Greek myths. (Coolest, scariest teacher ever. That’s what I aim to be.) Since my father was an airline pilot, we did a fair amount of traveling when I was younger, but we never made it there. I want to see Athens, the Greek islands, and those fascinating monasteries built up high on the cliffs in Meteora. Of course these things are all in different directions.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

I lost a cat last February and he’s been very hard to replace. He used to come and sit on my desk next to me when I wrote. He was a big black and white cat, with a rumbly purr and tendency to rub my cheek with his. I miss him and his sweetness and playfulness intensely. The dog sleeps until it’s late afternoon, and then starts bugging me for a walk and dinner. For the dog, it’s all about him.

 

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

I have one very large TBR pile. It has books of poetry, books about immigrant life in the U.S., a book by a French food writer (mmm, getting hungry), Irving Stone’s Depths of Glory, a book by a poet I have to introduce at an event in a month, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, John Cheever’s journals, and a DVD on yoga and relaxation which is, frankly, where I should start.

About Laurel:

Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College and her poetry has been published in many literary journals. She has two chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds (Finishing Line Press) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press). Her full length collection, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer? (Futurecycle Press) was released in January 2017. She has also written a mystery novel, Shadow Notes, which is available through Barking Rain Press. She currently serves as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate.

You can find her at www.laurelpeterson.com, on Twitter: @laurelwriter49, or on Facebook. You can purchase her mystery novel here: Buy and her poetry here: Buy.

SHADOW NOTES by Laurel S. Peterson

Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.

Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.

Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder.

Clara Montague has been gone from home for fifteen years, but when she dreams her mother is in danger, she comes home. A few days later, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?

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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)?

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Poe, Chris Semtner, Edgar, and Pluto…

I am so pleased to be able to interview Chris Semtner, the Curator of the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, about the museum, his work, and Edgar and Pluto, the museum cats. The Poe Museum is one of my favorite spots in Richmond. If you’re visiting the area, this is a must for your list of stops.

Please tell our readers about your role at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia.

I find new ways to share Poe’s works and life with a variety of audiences through performance, film, visual art, and exhibits. If people leave the museum with their own collection of Poe’s short stories or poems from the gift shop, I know I have done my job.

 Tell us about Edgar and Pluto and their roles. How long have they been ambassadors for the museum?

Edgar and Pluto are the museum’s greeters and tour guides. Having grown up here for the past five years, they love nothing more than welcoming the museum’s many guests.

 How did they get their names?

Pluto was named after the title character from Poe’s tale “The Black Cat,” and Edgar was named after Eliza Poe’s baby boy.

 Do they live full-time at the museum? And are they good at keeping the squirrels/birds/chipmunks at bay?

The Poe Museum Cats were born in the garden and live here full-time. At night and in bad weather they stay inside one of the buildings, but during the day you can find them in the gift shop, in the garden, or on somebody’s desk. They are convinced they are excellent hunters, but the bells on their collars usually frighten the birds and squirrels in plenty of time for an escape.

 Did Poe have any animals in his life?

Poe grew up with animals, including a dog named Tib and a parrot who could speak French. As an adult, Poe had songbirds and at least two cats. Caterina was a tortoiseshell cat who liked to sit on his shoulder while he wrote. Poe published an essay about his black cat, who impressed him by being intelligent enough to turn a door latch in order to open a door.

 How do guests react to the Poe Museum kitties?

Most of the people who visit the Poe Museum seem to be cat people. Guests’ eyes light up when they see Pluto run up to them with a warm greeting. Young children especially enjoy spending time with the cats while their parents tour the exhibits. The best reaction, however, was from a group of sixth-graders who visited the museum after reading “The Black Cat.” As soon as they stepped into the garden Pluto bounded over the ivy to meet them, and one of the kids screamed.

 Did Poe write about any other animals besides the raven and the culprit in “The Murders on the Rue Morgue”?

Some of Poe’s stories feature dogs with Tiger from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym being the most notable. In the comedy “The Business Man,” the con artist bootblack trains his dog to get mud all over people’s new shoes as they approach the shoeshine stand. Poe also wrote about insects in “The Gold-Bug” and “The Sphinx.” Then he wrote an entire book about mollusks with The Conchologist’s First Book. Thanks to “Four Beasts in One,” Poe has the distinction of being the first to write about a Homocameleopard.

 Tell us about your research and latest publications.

I started by researching the Poe Museum’s most important Poe relics and what they have to tell us about Edgar Allan Poe’s life and writing process. Along the way, the project grew into an investigation of the turn-of-the-century Poe collectors who competed for each new Poe discovery, like the papers found hidden in his writing desk or the contents of his trunk. I had to know what motivated these collectors—who included an obsessed historian, the founder of an insane asylum, and a Spiritualist who believed Poe had been clairvoyant—to invest all their time and money into amassing hordes of Poeana, some of which was kept hidden until after their deaths. I told the story in The Poe Shrine: Building the World’s Finest Edgar Allan Poe Collection, which will be released on December 11. 

My next project is a paper about Edgar Allan Poe’s unintentional influence on the Spiritualist movement for the International Poe/Hawthorne Conference next summer in Kyoto, Japan. I’m also doing some illustration work and some paintings for an upcoming exhibit.

 What’s the funniest thing that Edgar or Pluto has done?

During one tour, I joked with a group that Edgar Poe’s ghost might come down the stairs at any moment. When somebody called out Edgar’s name in jest, Edgar the cat trotted down the steps, right on cue, to meet his startled audience.

 Could you tell us about the “Unhappy Hours” and the Enchanted Garden?

The monthly Unhappy Hour, which takes place on the fourth Thursday of each month from April through October, is an excuse for people to relax in the Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden while listening to good music, sampling locally produced food and drink, and catching up with friends. Because it’s at the Poe Museum, we bring out some Poe-themed fun and games as well as the occasional performance or film.

 The Enchanted Garden is Richmond’s first memorial to Edgar Allan Poe. Back in 1906, the city could not muster up enough enthusiasm to support a Poe statue, and a decade later, they stood by while his office and home were demolished. The Poe Memorial Association had to the good sense to save the bricks and granite and to use them to turn an old junkyard into a Poe memorial garden based on Poe’s poem “To One in Paradise.” The founders wanted to recreate Poe’s poem in three dimensions and to fill it with the flowers and shrubs from Poe’s stories and poems. This became the Enchanted Garden, a living memorial where people can come to get inspired. In its early days, the garden attracted such visitors as Gertrude Stein, H.P. Lovecraft, and Salvador Dali. Later, Vincent Price, Ray Bradbury, and several other cultural figures made their own Poe pilgrimages here.

 What is the coolest item you have in the Poe collection?

I am always impressed by Poe’s waistcoat, walking stick, and penknife. These are the kinds of personal possessions that really give our guests the feeling of meeting Poe face-to-face. History comes to life when you realize that Poe was once a working writer walking the same streets we are and facing a lot of the same struggles creative people encounter today.

 Are there any existing buildings in Richmond today where Poe lived or worked?

The Richmond buildings in which Poe lived and worked are all gone, lost for the sake a progress. We do, however, have a few places in which he spent time. The Elmira Shelton House on Church Hill was where Poe courted his last fiancée, and it would have been the Edgar Allan Poe House if he had lived ten more days and married her. On West Grace Street, Talavera is the place Poe gave his last private reading, and the owners through the years have preserved the mantel in the room where that performance took place. Near the Capitol, Monumental Church is where Poe attended Sunday services with his foster parents. Their pew is still marked with the plaque installed there when his foster mother died.

 We follow you all on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to keep up with antics of museum kitties. Do they appear in any of the marketing for the museum?

Edgar and Pluto are not in any of the marketing, but like having their pictures taken for social media.

 What upcoming programs do you all have planned in the near future?

The museum’s annual Poe Birthday Bash will take place on January 20, 2018 from noon until midnight. The day promises the opening of a new exhibit as well as a different performance, tour, or activity every hour until the midnight toast in the Poe Shrine.

 What’s one thing Edgar and Pluto want folks to know about the Poe Museum?

Edgar and Pluto want you to visit them at the Poe Museum any Tuesday through Saturday from ten until five or on Sundays from eleven until five. 

About Chris Semtner:

The Curator of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Chris Semtner has written several books on topics including Edgar Allan Poe, visual art, and cryptography in addition to contributing articles to Biography.com, Resources for American Literary Studies, Crime Writers’ Chronicle, and The Edgar Allan Poe Review. Semtner has been interviewed on the BBC, PBS, Travel Channel, Military History, NPR, CNN, and other networks. He has spoken about a variety of unusual, obscure, and macabre subjects to groups around the country and next year will lecture in Japan. An internationally exhibited fine artist, Semtner’s paintings have entered numerous public collections including the Virginia Historical Society and the University of Maryland. He has exhibited paintings at Viktor Wynd Fine Art, London; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond. His next book, The Poe Shrine: Building the World’s Finest Edgar Allan Poe Collection, will be released on December 11 by Fonthill Media. You can see Semtner’s art and learn more about his books at chrissemtner.com.

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