Welcome, Alice Castle!

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

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

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

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

About Alice Castle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.myBook.to/HotChocolate

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

 

 

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On the Inside Looking Out: A Tale of a Hunter

On the “inside looking out”—that was Olive. The week Glen and I brought this big-pawed, Norwegian Forest cat home from the Richmond Animal League she tore through a porch screen. Another time I came downstairs in the morning and found coffee all over the kitchen and the window screen lying across the sink. Another escape. A few months later, another porch screen had to be replaced.

She picked fights with her brother (not technically), Morris. She secured items—toy, slipper, flip flop, feather duster, you name it—in her mouth and carried them around the house, meowing as she went.

We had a huntress on our hands.

After six months of this torture, we let Olive go out. She has been a happy cat ever since. She never forgets here she lives. She clashed with a few neighbor cats, like Opa. Opa weighed in at twenty pounds and her owners said that Olive would come over, beat up Opa, and steal her food. Another neighbor didn’t like Olive relaxing on the hood of her car. We almost got one of those solar-powered cat repellents, but the neighbor wound up moving away.

I’ll never forget the day Olive came home so drenched as to be almost unrecognizable. We never found the culprit.

But things calmed down in the ‘hood and Olive is accepted and admired. The neighbors appreciate her capturing field mice, voles, and other small rodents that she stashes under a rhododendron bush in the back yard. We don’t look too kindly on her nabbing birds. As she gets older, she becomes more of a homebody. And she gets along with Morris but still picks fights with him—or maybe they’re just playing.

She’s a sweet girl and we’re glad she’s happy in the great outdoors.

Olive Guarding my car (not the neighbor’s!)
Morris

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: authormaggieking

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2Bj4uIL

 

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Welcome, KB Inglee!

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit KB at her website.

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A Virtual Zoo — All in One Book

by Barb Goffman

It’s July, the perfect time for a beach read. You know, a book that’s fun and not too dark. Something you can read on the sand in between naps. And what could be better for the beach than a book of mystery short stories? Especially one filled with animals–perfect for the fun factor.

I’ve talked briefly before about Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies, which was published this spring by Wildside Press. But you haven’t had a chance to meet the stars of this book. So without further ado, I present both the fur and the feathers. In this book you’ll find stories with all of these animals. I hope you’ll check it out:

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Welcome, Carol Hedges

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

What are you reading now? 

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

A real life funniest pet story

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

When did you first know you were a writer?

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

 What does you pet do when you are writing?

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

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

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

About Carol:

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

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

The five books in the series are:

 Diamonds & Dust

Honour & Obey

Death & Dominion

Rack & Ruin

Wonders & Wickedness

Let’s Be Social: 

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

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

 Connect with Carol Hedges via Twitter: @carolJhedges

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

 

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Welcome, Katie Andraski

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals are a major part of my life.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katie’s Biography:

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

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Welcome, Kathy Aarons/Kathy Krevat!

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep writing!

The Trouble With Truth

By Kathy Krevat

Available August 28, 2018

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

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

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

About Kathy:

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

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

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

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Welcome, Mollie Hunt!

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

Mollie Hunt & Tinkerbelle, Registered Pet Partners

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What are you reading now?

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

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

 Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Mollie Hunt

Mollie’s Biography:

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

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

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Welcome, Lesley Diehl

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Lesley Diehl to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write cozy mystery series. Two of the series are set in rural Florida and two in Upstate New York. I also write short stories, the most notable of which have appeared in several anthologies such as The Killer Wore Cranberry and Happy Homicides: Fall into Crime. My short stories are often based upon events in my childhood.

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

I grew up on a farm in Northern Illinois, so I was always surrounded by animals and had several cats growing up. Now I have two cats, both rescues from Key Largo, Florida where we used to spend the winter and were part of a cat rescue group there. The cats are now 17 (Squeak, female) and 14 (Marley, male) years old. I have never adopted feral cats before, and I find these cats different from my other cats. I think there is much in a feral cat from a restricted group that is hard-wired in the cat’s behavior. They are lovable animals, funny, smart, but a bit shy around strangers and suspicious of anything unusual. That’s true of any cat, but the wariness is more pronounced in these. We got the male cat when he was tiny, tiny, and he almost seems to be imprinted on me. He does not like me out of his sight. He’s affectionate but can get angry at me if he feels he’s not getting enough attention. I’ve not yet written any of my cats in a story, but it could happen soon!

I’ve also had several dogs. One I inherited from the man I bought my house from. He simply left his cat and dog when he moved out! I vowed to keep the dog outside or in the garage, but when I saw her sitting outside my window when it rained, it broke my heart. She became my best friend, sleeping on the floor by my bed and traveling with me when I went cross-country to visit family. I used her sweet, playful personality for the dog (Samantha) in my Laura Murphy mysteries.

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

In my stand-alone cozy mystery Angel Sleuth, a pot-bellied pig named Desdemona is one of the characters. She has been adopted by Jeremy, a young boy in the story. While the protagonist is not certain she wants a pig as one of her house guests, she comes to love Dessie. I found Dessie such a compelling character that I made her a sleuth in a short story (“Dessie’s Jaded Past”) published by Untreed Reads in one of their detective anthologies. I liked the idea of having a pot-bellied pig as a sleuth so much that I wrote another story featuring yet another pot-belly, this one named Willa Mae. The story entitled “When Pigs Fly” will be one of Kings River Life’s podcasts later this year.

What are you reading now?

Since I am a lover of British mysteries, I am now reading the third of the Royal books by Rhys Bowen. I just finished several of Puleston’s Inspector Drake mysteries, the last two Lee Child’s Reacher books and am halfway through Tim Dorsey’s Cadillac Beach. I just downloaded Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley and Havers mystery.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Book 7 of the Eve Apple mysteries is due to my publisher June 1, so I’m working on that now. I will also release the third book in the Big Lake Murder mysteries, Scream Muddy Murder.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have two favorites: Elizabeth George and Robert Parker. I like them for different reasons. George writes deep character psychology and uses class issues to make her characters as important as the mystery. Parker is a genius at terse dialogue and packing more in a short sentence than most writers put in a paragraph.

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

I never use them just in passing. All the animals in my books have unique, sometimes helpful personalities, personalities that sometimes reflect aspects of a human character’s such as my pot-bellied pigs who are amateur sleuths themselves. Even the dog I mentioned in my Laura Murphy mysteries (her name is Samantha) is like her owner, fun-loving, playful, loyal to those she sees as friends, and as nosey as her owner. I think she will help solve a murder in a book to come.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals have always been an important part of my life and, since my protagonists hold values similar to my own, why wouldn’t they have pets in their lives? While the Eve Apple series doesn’t feature a pet in Eve’s family, the series does include wildlife in the rural Florida area.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My dog Princess loved food, any food, all food. She would wander out of the yard around dinnertime in the summers, and I’d know she went down the road to one of the neighbor’s to see if she could beg when they were cooking on the grill. She was chubbier than she should have been, so I asked the neighbors not to feed her, but she did her “cute” act, and they gave in with apologies to me.

She really loved chocolate, which I never gave her, but one Easter a friend brought me a foil-wrapped chocolate bunny, which I left on my coffee table, untouched, and went to bed. The next morning the foil wrapping was still on the coffee table, but the bunny inside was gone. Princess had chocolate on her breath. She didn’t get sick, but I still can’t figure out how she managed to eat the inside without eating the foil.

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

When I won the MWA Florida Chapter’s short story contest in 2009, I began to feel like a writer, but when my first book came out the following year, I was a believer. Isn’t it funny how I had to have external confirmation to make it so? Now I understand being a writer is simply all about writing.

 Wat do your pets do when you are writing?

The two cats I have now have become less and less interested in my time at the keyboard. Several years ago, the female sat in my desk chair, reached up and typed 5589, then yawned and got down, acting as if she had written her singular most important work and was done with it. The other cat sits on the printer next to my computer and waits quietly until I close the laptop. He then jumps into my chair and is ready for “twirly,” where I spin the chair around with him on the seat. I spin one way, then reverse the spin. He loves it! Like a carnival ride for cats. And this from a cat who gets car sick.

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

Two? Let me give you a list.

No, I won’t be able to afford that house on the Bay in Key Largo.

Everyone expects a free book.

Writing is fun; promotion is work.

Your publisher will not pay for a book tour.

Getting your book published is only the beginning: you have to sell it.

Your publisher expects you to do most of the promotion and publicity.

Sometimes no one shows up for the book event you spent hours preparing for.

Sometimes lots of folks turn up at the book event, but no one buys a book. (this happened with an audience of 125 people who were supposed to be book lovers.)

Often few people show for a book event, so you just chat with them and have fun.

Discoverability: no one knows how to do it, but everyone has ideas, so try some out.

Writing is fun, but so is talking to people about writing, so don’t limit yourself to an internet presence only.

Most important. Don’t write in a vacuum; there are writers’ organizations and writing conferences where you can learn your craft and improve on it.

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Please visit me on my website and blog: www.lesleyadiehl.com and www.lesleyadiehl.com/blog for more information about me and my work

On facebook at lesley.diehl.1@facebook.com

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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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