Welcome, Cherie O’Boyle

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Cherie O’Boyle to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

There are currently five full-length mysteries and a short story available in my Estela Nogales Mystery series. This fall I’m hoping to release a more ambitious stand-alone kidnapping/K9 search & rescue/forest fire suspense.

When I started the mystery series, I first created the setting, Arroyo Loco, a small village in the coastal hills of central California. I added a variety of diverse characters, including dogs, cats, vultures, and a few wild boar. And then I introduced one unusual occurrence—finding a neighbor dead—for example. I plopped my writerly self into the middle and let the action carry me away. One of the aspects of being slightly older than average that I enjoy is how many quirky characters I have known and loved in my life, making for a rich mix in my fiction.

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

My pet family currently includes two border collies, Shiner, because he has one big black eye, and Sky, or Dog Who Fell From the Clear Blue Sky (she’s a rescue), and one perpetually irritated cat who is called Patience, but not because she’s got any. Shiner is the model for one of the border collies in the mystery series. Both the real dog and the fictional one are sheepherding dogs, and both are titled in the sport of herding, among other dog sports.

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

So far, all of them are recurring. And so far, they all behave about the way you would predict dogs and cats to behave. Itches, the beagle, regularly escapes her yard and runs off to chase rabbits on the hills. Zero, the basenji, is happier if strangers stay out of his yard. Helen’s cats hate dogs, and Estela’s border collies are forever trying to round her up. The wild boar who occasionally roam Arroyo Loco are not exactly pets, although they do offer opportunities for the neighbors to get to know one another better.

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

Some of my characters, both human and non-human, play only passing roles, and others linger longer. Interacting with the animals in their lives provides insights into the personalities of the human characters. The animals help solve the mysteries, but only by doing what animals would normally do. For example, in one mystery, a strategically placed pile of poop gets stepped in and tracked all the way back to the villain’s front porch, providing important evidence.

In other places, the animals help the neighbors understand one another. Here is a scene where Estela recruits Helen to capture a cat after her mistress suffers an unexpected expiration:

I picked up the phone to call Helen and tell her about her impending good fortune.

“Oh, dear! Well, of course, I’ll be right down,” Helen agreed. “Just let me gather my supplies.”

“Your supplies? What on earth do you mean?” I wondered out loud.

“Well, the carrier, of course.”

Of course. Silly me.

“And some kibble in a crinkly bag.”

“Hmm.” Yes, of course that too.

“And some yarn and other toys.” I could hear her rummaging around while she spoke. “And rub some catnip around here and there … and a huge bath towel in case she gets obstreperous, and my leather gardening gloves. Okay, that should about do me.”

“Good. So I’ll leave you to it then.”

“Wait, Stel, what’s the cat’s name?”

“Her name? How do I know?”

“Well, how do you expect me to persuade her to come to me if I don’t know her name?”

“I don’t know Helen. Does a cat’s name really matter?”

To that I got a stony silence.

“I mean, don’t they all come to ‘here kitty, kitty’?”

“You mean you think cats are dumber than dogs, and don’t know their own names?”

“I guess I never thought about it. Dogs come when you call their names. Cats come when they feel like it. Isn’t that how it works?”

“Honestly, Estela….”

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Aside from the fact that animals are in our lives, I include them in my stories as part of an on-going campaign to encourage respect for non-human animals, what they contribute to our lives whether as food, as clothing, or as companions. My goal is not to anthropomorphize, but to show how we are all animals. We all seek safety, care for our young, and experience life.

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

Both in my stories and my life, most of my animals are working animals. For example, my character Estela’s border collies herd sheep on a working sheep ranch. Working with her dogs often gives Estela insights about the mysteries she is working to solve. Her older dog also accompanies her to the counseling center on campus where she works as a therapist. Here’s an example of the adventures of a service dog:

We were just getting (an injured student) settled when another student started caterwauling about a dog in the health center. Seriously, what do people think is so superior, or even different, about humans? We’re all just mammals. It may be true that I bathe more often than my dogs, but then they don’t sweat either.

One of the over-wrought nurses confronted me. “Get that filthy dog out of here,” she said, pointing toward the door. I gave her the shrugged shoulders, outward palms and raised eyebrows look. “Fleas?” she said, as though that was a foregone conclusion.

“Therapy dogs don’t have fleas!” I said, indignant. I gestured around us. “Lice? Scabies? Yeast infections? Venereal disease?”

“Well, this is a health clinic, Estela! Of course we have sick people here.”

“That’s true. C’mon Scout, let’s get out of here before we catch something.”

What are you reading now?

I am currently reading a wonderful non-fiction, Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson. I chose this as source material for my K9 search and rescue suspense Work in Progress (WIP), and have fallen in love with the story.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

My current WIP is On Scent, the story of a kidnapping gone wrong in which the search dogs must ultimately find and rescue everyone. I’m happy to let you know when that is released if you subscribe to my semi-annual news page on my website.

About Cherie

Cherie is Professor Emerita of Psychology at California State University, San Marcos. Prior to adopting her current career as a writer of mysteries, and before earning her PhD in Psychology, Cherie owned and operated a general building contracting firm and worked as a framing and roofing carpenter. She was raised in the San Francisco east bay area and still lives today in Northern California.

 Cherie happily squeezes in as much time with her fictional Arroyo Loco friends as she can, in between adventures with friends, family, and her real life border collies, Shiner and Sky. Shiner is titled in flyball and sheepherding and loves to swim and fetch balls. Sky enjoys lure-coursing and walks nicely on a leash. Both dogs are hoping to title in nosework this fall.

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Welcome Author Darlene Foster

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Darlene Foster to the blog!

Tell our readers about yourself and what you write.

As a child wandering around the prairies on my father’s ranch in southern Alberta, Canada, I would dream of travelling the world and meeting interesting people, often creating stories in my mind. My grade three teacher encouraged me to write my stories down. But it wasn’t until much later that I actually wrote for publication.

Since then I have won awards for some of my short stories. I have also authored the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky 12-year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places where she always has an adventure. My books include: Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube – The Sounds of Music andAmanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind.Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another.

When not travelling myself and collecting ideas for stories, I divide my time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain with my husband and entertaining dog, Dot. Encouraged by my parents to follow my dreams, I believe everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.

How do you pets impact your writing?

Spending time with my dog relaxes me and inspires ideas. When I get stuck, I take her for a walk and often return with fresh new ideas. She also gets me off my butt and away from the computer. When she thinks I have been there too long, she comes into my office with her ball and drops it in front of me, looking at me with those big puppy dog eyes. I just can’t say no. Before moving to Spain and getting our dog we had cats. They would sleep on my lap or on my feet while I wrote. A writer needs pets. They are great to discuss ideas with.

Do you include animals in your stories?

Living on a farm/ranch there were always animals around so I love animals of all sorts and so does Amanda. There is an animal in most of the Amanda stories. In Amanda in Arabia, an adorable camel named, Ali Baba is featured. My readers love him. In Amanda in Spain there is a dancing pony, named Pedro and in Amanda in England, a Maine Coon cat, Rupert, plays a large role. I have puppets or stuffies of each of the animals and take them along to readings and school visits. They are always a hit.

What is your funniest pet story?

When we were children my brothers and I had a pet antelope named Bambi. She was found in a ditch beside her mother who had died giving birth so we gave her a home. We loved her so much. One day she broke her front leg and we were devastated. Our dad dropped what he was doing and took her to the veterinarian in the city. The doctor set the leg and put it in a cast, attaching a metal frame around it. I’ll never forget how funny she looked running around the farm yard, hobbling on her built in crutch. I wrote a short story about Bambi which has been published in an anthology.

Of course our Dot makes us laugh every day. She is such a character. When we put food in her bowl, like stew, she separates the meat from the vegetables into little piles, eats the meat first and then the peas and the carrots last as they are her least favourite. We can’t have the veges touching the meat can we? I’ve seen kids do this but never a dog!

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Darlene Foster is an employment counsellor working with youth at risk, an ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, shoes, cooking, reading, sewing, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Her grandson calls her “super-mega-as-woman-supreme”.

She was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She lives on the West coast of BC with her husband and their black cat, Monkey.

Here is Darlene’s latest book and where you can find her. She’d love to hear from you.

Amanda Ross is on a school trip to Taos, New Mexico with several of her fellow creative students. Join Amanda, Cleo and their funny friend, Caleb, as they visit an ancient and beautiful landscape where a traditional hacienda, an ancient pueblo, and a haunted and spooky hotel all hold secrets to a wild and violent past. Does Cleo really see ghosts? Can Amanda escape the eerie wind that follows her everywhere? Perhaps the Day of the Dead will reveal the mysteries of Taos in this latest adventure of Amanda’s travels.
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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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Welcome, L. C. Hayden

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, L. C. Hayden to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is L. C. Hayden and I’m known for my adventures and for my travels. Readers are always curious as to why this is so. To answer this, let’s take a glance at my books. Aimee Brent, my character in the Aimee Brent Mystery Series, learned how to scuba dive. Do you really think I’m going to let her have more fun than me? No way! She had to learn how to scuba dive, so I learned how to scuba dive—and I’m loving it!

On the Bronson Thriller Series, my character Bronson has a motor home and travels all over. Well, guess what? I have a motor home and I travel all over. No way Bronson is going to travel all over and not me!

I suppose I can call myself lucky as I feel I have been touched many times by miracles and angels. Those experiences led me to write a series based on mine and others’ angel and miracle experiences. Thank God, these books are very well received, both nationally and internationally.

One of my greatest joy is being a grandmother, which is the reason I wrote the children’s picture books. Naturally, they feature various animals.

Being an adventurous soul, I have also authored other books in various genres, but my love still remains with mysteries/thrillers and the angels series.

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

At one time, I had 10 dogs. That was quite a circus. My mom used to joke that she would never have grandkids, only granddogs. Now, mainly because of all the traveling I do, I only have one dog who to me is my child with four legs. She is slowly working her way into my Bronson series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently writing the fourth book in the angels/miracle series. But as I write this one, my mind is actively with Bronson and his next adventure which will introduce Honey, the Basenji dog. Yay!

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

Since I haven’t yet written the book, I’m not sure how it’s going to go. But I foresee introducing Honey to this series and as the series progresses, Honey will have a larger and larger active part in the stories.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

The question should be why do you not include animals in your writing? They are a natural. No matter what breed or type of animal they are, they are a very big part of us humans. In one of my children’s books, Puppy Dog and His Bone, I use dogs, monkeys, birds, fish and a host of other animals to show children the importance of team work.

In my latest thriller, What Lies Beyond the Fence, I use the majesty of a white wolf to add danger but also to show the intelligence of this breed.

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

As a child, I was never much of a reader. Then one day, for some unknown reason, I picked up a book and started reading. It was called Tan, the Wild Dog. I fell in love with that dog and with reading. Ever since then I have become a voracious reader, thanks to that particular book. The sad part is that I don’t even remember what the book is about. I guess I should try to find that book and re-read it. So thank you, Tan, the Wild Dog and its author, for opening a whole new world for me.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My husband Rich decided to nap. He’d been asleep no more than ten minutes when Honey, our Basenji dog, walked up to him so that her face is close to Rich’s. Then she let out a loud yelp. I rushed over to her so that she wouldn’t wake Rich up, but Honey was insistent. She let out another big yelp and another . . .

Naturally, Rich woke up and looked at the dog who continued to yelp. “What are you trying to tell me? You want to go outside? Is that it?” He got up, and as soon as he did, Honey jumped up on the bed and laid down where Rich was.

She got what she wanted. What a dog. Sigh.

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

Ever since I was a little girl, I always enjoyed story telling—and just telling other’s stories, both those I made up. As I grew, I started writing them. Mostly, they were romances or stories that featured a pet. As I became an adult, that passion grew and now I have over 25 books published. I will never stop writing. It’ll be a “’till death do us apart” type of thing.

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

I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights. I have attempted to do so four different times, but they have fizzled out—too cloudy, just didn’t show up, too far away. Sigh. One time in Yellowknife (upper Canada) I did get to see them but only for about two to three minutes. That small view only wet my appetite for seeing the “real” thing.

Is it hard to travel with your pet?

That’s a question I often get asked. The answer is no, but you do have to plan ahead. If traveling by car, you need to know which motels accept dogs and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make reservations. Of course, if you’re traveling in a motor home as I often do, then there are no problems. It also helps if your dog is quiet, such as Basenjis. This is a breed of barkless dogs. But they are not silent. They yodel and yelp, but if your dog is like mine, not 100% Basenji, she can still bark when she wants to, but it seldom happens.

What makes you think your pet is intelligent?

I know my dog is super intelligent because she has shown us over and over again who rules this nest. During this one particular time, we had all three grandkids over and each wanted to give the dog a treat. We let them. Then I fed Honey. Normally, after she eats, we give her 2 treats. Since she already had 3 treats, I told my husband, Rich, to give her only one treat. Honey didn’t like that. After she ate her first treat, she barked and barked until we gave her the second one. Geesh!

About L. C. Hayden

Award winning author L. C. Hayden is the creator of the popular Harry Bronson and Aimee Brent mystery series and the standalone, Secrets of the Tunnels. Hayden is known in the mystery field for her edge of the seat suspense and her surprise endings. Her mysteries have hit the Kindle, the B&N, and the Pennsylvania Top Seller Lists. The books have been finalist for the Agatha and the LCC Awards and others.

Her nonfiction angel/miracle series consists of spiritually uplifting books that leave the reader wanting more. They have often hit various Kindle Top Seller Lists.

Besides being an accomplished author, Hayden is a popular speaker who is often in demand. She has done workshop and school presentations, has spoken to clubs and organizations, and was hired by several major cruise lines to speak while cruising all over the world. From October 2006 to October 2007, Hayden hosted Mystery Writers of America’s only talk show, Murder Must Air.

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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, 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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A Service Dog to the Rescue

A Service Dog to the Rescue

 By Sheri S. Levy

Kathy, sobbed on the phone. “Logan’s missing! My husband’s golfing and hasn’t returned my call.”

“I’m on my way.” I filled my pouch with treats and snapped his water bottle to my belt. “Let’s go, Syd.”

Kathy stood out front, waving her arms.

Sydney and I bolted from the car. I held her hand as she blubbered information. “Logan had a meltdown when his brothers left to play golf. With his autism, there’s no way Logan can sit in a golf cart all morning.”

I clasped my hands together, easing my tension. “I’ve only played hide and seek with Sydney. He’s a service dog in training, not a search and rescue dog. But Logan and Sydney have made such a strong connection on the beach, Syd may be able to find Logan. But you’ll need to stay here.”

Kathy’s eyes widened.

I touched her shoulder. “You have to be here in case he comes home or someone calls.”

She sobbed. “I’ll go crazy, waiting.”

A load of gravel hit the pit of my stomach, one stone at a time. “Will Logan get in the water?”

She shook her head. “Not without his life jacket. He may walk a long way and forget how to get home. He doesn’t know his phone number and can only say his first name.”

Relieved, I smiled. “That’s good, he won’t get in the water. Can you give me an item he wears? Sydney needs his scent.”

As I clicked-on Syd’s vest, his amber eyes brightened and his lips spread into a grin. He was on duty.

Kathy rushed over, carrying Logan’s ball cap and spoke in spurts. “I’m surprised he…ran off without… this.” She gasped. “He doesn’t like… the sun in his eyes.”

“That’s perfect.”

I held Logan’s ball cap up to Sydney’s nose. “Find, Logan.”

He inhaled the scent, backed up, jiggled his stub, and shoved his nose again into the cap. That was his signal, “I know what you want me to do.”

“Good boy, Syd. Find, Logan.”

I let him run, getting his bearings. He lunged into the bushes behind Logan’s house, and then circled the sea grass in the dunes. As he dashed toward the water, his nostrils opened and closed level with the sand, and then he made a U-turn. Racing on dry sand, he sniffed his way up the coast. After each inspection, Sydney woofed. Logan would recognize Syd’s bark and come running.

If he heard. Or if he could? Shivers ran up my neck.

High tide moved down, leaving no foot-prints, no trail of food, and no way to know which way Logan might have gone.

Before heading up a wooden path, I returned the cap to Syd’s nose. “Find, Logan.”

We repeated checking the dunes, and under each house, block after block.  After an hour and a half, I said, “Down,” in someone’s empty carport. Syd panted heavily and rested. Once his breathing slowed, we shared a bottle of water.

What if Logan knocked at someone’s door, and they took him in. My insides shuddered. What if we can’t find him? I wiped my damp face.

Kathy phoned. “My sons are going door to door. And my husband contacted the island police. They’re patrolling the streets.” She took a long breath. “This is the longest he’s ever been gone.”

My voice squeaked out. “So, he’s done this before?”

“Twice. He’s never gone very far, but each time it’s happened, he’s walked a little farther.”

“Did he have a special hiding spot?”

She whispered, “No.”

My chest tightened. “We’ll find him. He’s getting older. I bet he’s just found a better hiding place.”

“Okay, Syd. Find, Logan.” He turned in circles, excited to be back on the job. When we reached the pier, I said a prayer. Maybe he’s up there watching the seagulls, or looking for dolphins.

As I looked left, despair swallowed any relief. On the other side of the pier, strangers camped in tents or in trailers at the State Park.

We scoured every corner of the pier and restaurant. My stomach quivered with no sign of Logan.

Collapsing on the pier, I sat crossed-legged. My hands covered my face and I cried. Sydney put his nose under my arms, lifting my hands to lick the dripping tears.

I looked into his tired eyes. “You need a rest.” We walked down the stairs, and I undid his vest.

Sydney dashed at the small waves, popping the white bubbles in the foam. I didn’t care if he got wet. He was free to relax.

The sun blazed, making the sand too hot for bare feet. I worried about Sydney’s feet, and then Logan’s. Would he look for shade?

Five minutes later, I strapped-on Syd’s vest and lifted Logan’s cap to his nose.

“Find, Logan.”

He turned in circles, wiggled his rear end, and darted to the dunes. Then he put his nose close to the sand, sniffing like a hound dog. Chills traveled up my body. He was onto something. It better not be a fish.

Sydney tramped up to a tree in someone’s backyard, turned around and circled me like he was saying, “Hurry up.”

“What do you smell, Syd.”

He barked and showed me foot prints. They were small, bare feet.

“Okay. Show me.”

Sydney sniffed the ground. I followed. He circled the dune once more and followed footprints from the ocean to the trees. He wouldn’t move forward.

“What is it Syd?”

I glanced between the dune and the trees. Steps to someone’s house, painted sky-blue, had disguised a three-sided outdoor shower under the wooden steps. An ocean-blue plastic shower curtain decorated with colored fish closed the opening. Syd crept towards the shower stall.

I pressed my lips together. Could Logan be inside? Was he hurt?

Sydney stood at attention. “Good boy.”

Syd’s body squirmed, making an indention in the sand with his bottom.

I slid the curtain back, an inch at a time. There was a small bench on the back wall and shaded by the tree. Sleeping with one arm under his head and one arm hanging off the ledge, Logan breathed, peacefully. He had no idea of the ordeal he had begun.

My eyes teared. Face to face with Sydney, I whispered, “Good Boy. You have the honor of waking him.”

Sydney’s eyes sparkled. He slinked in, put his nose under Logan’s limp arm and licked his cheek.

Logan’s eyes opened. He squealed, “Syd-ney. Syd-ney. Want see.” Logan sat, lifting his beaming face, showing two missing teeth on the top and on the bottom.

I snatched Logan’s hand and said, “Sydney, home.”

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Welcome, Maureen Bonatch

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Maureen Bonatch to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello! I’m Maureen Bonatch from small-town Pennsylvania. I write humorous paranormal romance and fantasy. My stories are meant to allow you to escape from the ordinary world for a little bit to visit the underlying extraordinary.

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

Currently Scuff, our Shih Tzu, is our only pet. I often use my pets in my writing, but usually change their name. Scruff is in a WIP. My featured book today, EVIL SPEAKS SOFTLY, stars Mozart. He is a Lhasa Apso and modeled after our beloved 14-year-old Lhasa Apso, Bummy who died 5 years ago. Before you ask, we kept the name he had when we got him. He was dubbed “Bummy” because he was a “bum pup” or “the runt” of the litter and we loved him dearly. He was my baby long before I had babies.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Where do I start? I’m always working on something. Right now, I’m waiting for my editor to finish Book #2 for The Enchantlings Series entitled NOT A CHANCE. I also have multiple works in progress in varying draft states.

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

The first pet that was an indoor pet was Mimi. She was a toy poodle. I call her my pet, but in reality, she was closest to my Mom. We always had cats, a few rabbits and my dad always had ‘hunting dogs’ (even though I don’t know how often he actually went hunting with them, lol), but they lived outside.

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

The animals in my writing always end up being a secondary character. I have so much fun writing them. They are often a pet, or some type of guardian. One of my WIP has a shifter in it and when she shifts she can talk to other animals.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I believe that most people love animals and feel as if they’re part of their family. I like to write the animals in my stories the same way. Plus, they allow me to show my hero or heroine’s vulnerabilities and compassion.

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

I don’t know why, but Boo, from Dean Koontz’s book ODD THOMAS comes to mind. I love those stories.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I consider Scruff my writing assistant. He usually comes up to my office and either pesters me for a treat, or lays right behind my chair so I’m forced to keep on writing. He also will decide when I need a break and fuss until I get up and toss a toy around, or just give him a little attention.

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

My twin girls are both big animal lovers. They’re 16 now, but when they were growing up, we had a range of critters that they considered pets, whether they really were or not. Starting from worms (each ‘Wormy’ rarely survived the night), frogs and toads, tadpoles, fish, hermit crabs, a hamster and lastly two guinea pigs. Our last guinea pig died about six months ago.

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

 I wish I would’ve realized how much easier it would be to finish each series before starting another one. The story is always there and will wait. Allowing myself to become distracted by other shiny new ideas has resulted in having multiple series, and standalone stories, in progress. It becomes challenging to move from each story without a lot of rereading.

I wish I would’ve realized from the start how each book can be promoted and marketed for a lifetime. Initially I felt as if once a book was out for six months or so, that I should focus on promoting the next, or newest story, when a book is always new to someone.

Author Biography:

Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

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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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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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