Welcome, Helena Fairfax!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Helena Fairfax to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I live in the north of England near the Yorkshire moors and the home of the Brontë sisters. The moors were the setting for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Living near such a wild, romantic landscape, it’s little surprise that I was inspired to start writing romance! My first novel, The Silk Romance, was published in 2013, and since then I’ve had several novels and short stories published. My works have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize and the Global Ebook Awards. I also work as a freelance editor, and I’ve found I get as much enjoyment from helping others get the best out of their manuscripts as I do with my own writing. Telling stories is my passion.

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

I have a rescue dog called Lexi, who is a Staffie cross. Lexi was abandoned as a puppy. When we first took her home she was very wary around strangers and highly reactive towards other dogs. Once she gets to know people, she is the most affectionate and loving dog imaginable. She’s playful and intelligent, she loves to walk the moors with us where it’s nice and peaceful, and every day we go out is like a brand new, exciting day for her. We wouldn’t be without her now for the world.

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

Although I love my dog to bits, strangely I’ve only ever had one dog in one of my books. I have a short story called Come Date Me in Paris. [link http://mybook.to/DateMeParis ] The story features a little French poodle called Sweetie who is totally cute – and most unlike my own dog! Alice, the heroine of the story, appears on a reality TV dating show – and Sweetie proceeds to steal the show in a disastrous way. The story was really good fun to write!

What are you reading now?

I’m reading a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett called The Making of a Marchioness. A Little Princess was one of my favourite books as a child. I’d never heard of this novel until I was given it as a present. It’s really charming and I’m absolutely loving it!

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a non-fiction history of the women of Halifax – a former mill town in Yorkshire near where I live. Next year is the centenary of the first women in the UK getting the vote, and the book is planned for release around the centenary.

I’m also working on an anthology of stories with a group of authors from the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Our stories will each be based on the same shop in a town local to us. Miss Moonshine’s Shop of Magical Things is the working title. I’m really excited about putting it together!

Who is your favorite author and why?

That is such a difficult question! I think perhaps in romance it would probably be Georgette Heyer. I can read her novels time and time again, and never get bored. Her heroes and heroines are always different, even though she’s written so many books. Her heroines are spirited and charming, each in their own way, and her heroes are always men to fall madly in love with.

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

I was one of seven children, so my poor mum had no time for pets as well…! I’d have loved to have had a dog as a child, so I’m making up for it now.

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

Probably my favourite movie with an animal is The Wizard of Oz. I love Judy Garland in anything. She has an amazing voice and such an ability to convey emotion. Toto is such a sweet dog and the perfect animal to accompany her on her adventure.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When my mum was a child they had a little mongrel dog they’d found abandoned. The dog really took to my granddad. My granddad used to take the dog on the bus with him, and give it a pie from the butcher’s. After a while the dog learned the route, and he used to hop on the bus all by himself, sit at the front with the driver, and make his own way to the butcher’s. After being given a pie, he’d go to the bus stop and get the bus home!

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

Lexi is getting old now, which is quite sad for us after seeing her bounding about the moors as a young dog. Nowadays we don’t walk as far as we did, and when I’m writing she’s quite happy to cuddle up next to me and sleep. Sometimes her snores disturb my concentration, but it’s lovely to have her to talk to about my characters. She’s a great listener!

A Year of Light and Shadows covers a year of mystery, suspense and romance in the life of Scottish actress Lizzie Smith and her bodyguard, Léon, culminating on New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh.

When Lizzie is offered the chance to play the role of a Mediterranean Princess, her decision to accept thrusts her into a world of intrigue and danger. Alone in the Palace, Lizzie relies on her quiet bodyguard, Léon, to guide her. But who is Léon really protecting? Lizzie…or the Royal Princess?

Back home in Scotland Lizzie begins rehearsals for Macbeth and finds danger stalking her through the streets of Edinburgh. Lizzie turns to her former bodyguard, Léon, for help…and discovers a secret he’d do anything not to reveal.

Buy link: http://mybook.to/lightandshadows

About Helena Fairfax

Helena Fairfax is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
Helena’s novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize, the Global Ebook Awards, the I Heart Indie Awards, and the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme Award.

Social Links

Newsletter (all new subscribers receive a romantic novella): http://eepurl.com/bRQtsT

Website and blog: www.helenafairfax.com

Besides the above, I also post photos of the moors and other places I’ve visited on social media.

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

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The Care and Feeding of the Small Evil One

Pens, Paws, & Claws is happy to welcome Donna Andrews, author of the multiple award-winning Meg Langslow mystery series. She’s sharing about a fictional dog you may recognize.

The Care and Feeding of the Small Evil One

by Donna Andrews

Somewhere in my files I probably still have a set of instructions with that title. It dates from one of the times when I was taking care of the real-life Spike, who served as model for the feisty canine in my Meg Langslow series. One of these days I should try to find it, so I can prove that I’m not maligning the original Spike—just giving him the title his doting owners bestowed on him.

Spike was a stray when my friends Tracey and Bill adopted him. He wasn’t fond of men other than Bill, and his pathological hatred of umbrellas and brooms and rakes clued us in to the fact that he had probably been abused. We never knew exactly what mix of breeds he was—our best guess: part chihuahua, part something else not a lot bigger.

When I started writing Murder with Peacocks, I based a character on him. I changed his name, and replaced his sleek honey-colored coat with long hair. Tracey and Bill still recognized him. So when he died—at what was, as far as they knew, a fairly ripe old age—shortly before I turned my book in, I offered to change the name of my fictional dog to Spike. Heck, it was a better name anyway.

They gave copies of that book to everyone he ever bit—which meant most of their friends and relatives. Had Spike lived another year or two, I could have been a New York Times bestseller solely on the strength of the many books I inscribed to his former victims.

I took a poll once to see which of my characters—other than my heroine—were my readers’ favorites. I wasn’t surprised to find that Spike placed high up in the list—right behind Meg’s dad, if my memory serves, and slightly ahead of her grandfather.

I’m grateful that readers rarely ask that awkward question: isn’t Spike getting a little long in the tooth by now? If I were writing stark realism, I’d say yes. He was middle aged and cranky when it began, and the series has now been running for nearly twenty years. If I’d known it would run this long, I’d have made him a puppy to start with.

But it’s my fictional world. Meg’s children have grown from babies to preteens, and Meg and Michael might eventually develop a few gray hairs. But sorry, fans of extreme realism. I’m never going to inflict an Old Yeller scene on my readers. Spike may grow old and crankier—if that’s possible—but I’m not killing him off.

I’m open to knocking off a few humans, though. Any suggestions?

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Welcome, Vicki Batman!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Vicki Batman to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. I’m Vicki Batman and for about thirteen years, I’ve been writing romantic comedy mysteries and short stories. A friend pushed me into writing, and I’ve worked hard to get published. I belong to several chapters within RWA, and Guppies.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? I had two kitties, a gray prima donna named Romper who loved Handsome, and her sister, a velvety beige and brown tabby who loved me, named Scooter. Mostly, we called them Scoo and Roo. Eight years ago, we adopted two adora-poos, smokey-colored Jones (like in Indiana Jones), and a white alpha male, little Champ. It’s too much fun to include my buds in my stories.

What writing projects are you currently working on? Currently, I’m working on Temporarily Out of Luck, book 3 in the Hattie Cooks mystery series. (*eyes rolling* cause it is driving me crazy!), Romeo and Julietta, a Christmas Story featuring characters named after the doomed Shakespeare duo, and Pixie Trixie, a contemporary romance with paranormal elements.

Who is your favorite author and why? I can’t name just one!! I cut my teeth on reading mysteries like the Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Belden. In fact, I would have traded my sisters for Trixie’s brothers in a New York second.  I swooned over Dick Francis. Toss in these goodies: Mary Stewart, P. D. James, Elizabeth George, Julia Spencer Fleming, Janet E., Sophie Kinsella, M. M. Kaye. When I discovered books that incorporated a lot of humor, I fell for them, too. Because life is funny.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. My first was a huge gray tabby, Smokey, because gray is the color of smoke. Then I had a brown tabby named Mischief. My sister had a golden hamster named Honey. We got a kick out of the cats watching the hamster run on its wheel.

Why do you include animals in your writing? People have pets. It’s a fact and without them, my characters would be one dimensional.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I felt validated as a writer when I sold my first short story. Then I sold thirteen in a row to the True magazines. That’s when Handsome said, “I guess you are a writer.” LOL. I wanted to strangle him.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? To go to Machu Pichu. Because it was lost, then found. A challenge to get to and I like challenges like that. But truly, doing anything with Handsome is fun.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? I have several shelves of TBR, some of which are romantic suspense, mysteries, contemporary and historical romance. I also have a drawer by my bed with books to read. I love to read and having a book is having a best friend.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing? 1/ You have to do it your own way. 2/ Persistence. Persistence. Persistence

Vicky’s Biography: Award-winning and Amazon best-selling author, Vicki Batman, has sold many romantic comedy works to magazines, several publishers, and most recently, two romantic comedy mysteries to The Wild Rose Press. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and several writing groups. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Choc-a-holic. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome Hubby. Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking “What if??”

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Website: http://vickibatman.blogspot.com/p/more-about-me.html/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vicki-Batman-sassy-writer-of-sexy-and-funny-fiction-133506590074451/  

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LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=116288777&trk=hb_tab_pro_top/  

Email: vlmbatman@hotmail.com

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The Pets in My House and in My Stories

Pets are family, and they play a huge part in our lives. My husband and I share our home with two crazy Jack Russell Terriers, Disney (the brunette) and her brother Riley. They are two little bundles of energy. They love playing tug with their sock monkeys, chasing squirrels, and long walks. Riley takes great pride in saving us from delivery drivers, joggers, and dog walkers in the neighborhood. Riley can also hear a cheese wrapper or the fridge open from 100 yards away. Their favs are cheese, bacon, and popcorn.

Disney and Riley hang out in the office when I write. They also listen when I plot story lines or read dialog aloud. So it’s quite natural that animals would be a part of my novels and stories. 

In my novels, Margaret the Bulldog is the sidekick to my sleuth’s partner, Duncan Reynolds. She has a starring role in Secret Lives and Private Eyes and The Tulip Shirt Murders. Margaret is a brown and white log with legs. She’s not much security around the office, but she’s good company. She’s also the slobber queen, and her two favs are snacking and napping. Margaret is Duncan’s constant shadow, and she likes riding shotgun in his Tweety-bird yellow Camaro. (Secret Lives and Private Eyes also features a pair of Alpacas, Joe and Myrtle.)

I’m working on a novella called, Moving on. It should be out later this year. This cozy features a little Jack Russell named Darby who uncovers a murder. She’s based on my JRT Disney. Darby is a bundle of energy who likes walks, games of rope tug, snuggles, and lots of treats. I have another novel in progress, and it has a JRT named Bijou. Disney was also the model for her. Riley’s feeling a little slighted, so I’ll have to base the next dog on him.
Here’s Disney on one of the many dog beds in our house. This is also her “helping” me wrap Christmas presents.

My short stories also have dogs and cats. In “Washed up” in Virginia is for Mysteries, there are dogs that romp on Chic’s Beach in Virginia Beach. My story, “Spring Cleaning” in Virginia is for Mysteries II has cats who rule the roost of the story’s victim in Roanoke, Virginia.

 

Why types of pets do you have?

Heather Weidner’s Biography: 

Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, and James River Writers. The Tulip Shirt Murders is her second novel in her Delanie Fitzgerald series.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.

 

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Meet Patricia Dusenbury

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I used to be an economist who read a lot of mystery stories and dabbled in writing fiction.  When I retired from economics, I began writing fulltime. My mysteries are more puzzle than thriller and more cozy than hard-boiled, but they are not books where someone dies but no one gets hurt. I want to my readers to feel the characters’ emotions. Whether the victim is a homeless man on the margins of society, a nasty old woman, or an aspiring young actress, someone cares that they are gone. I hope the reader cares, too, and cheers when the killer is brought to justice.

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

My husband and I both grew up with dogs, and when our children were young, we had a menagerie of dogs, cats, and guinea pigs, some of which I have used in my writing. I’m down to just one pet these days, a 13-year-old Alaskan malamute named Babe. Every morning, Babe and I walk up a steep hill to a park overlooking San Francisco. If we’re early enough, we catch the sunrise on the bay. It’s good exercise and a good way to begin the day. I have not written about her yet, but I will.

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

Dorian Gray is a large fluffy orange cat and the reincarnation of a large fluffy orange cat my daughter acquired when she was in high school.  Dorian is in all three Claire Marshall books. He is Claire’s companion and comfort. She can tell him anything. And he tries to warn her…   There are also horses in Secrets, Lies & Homicide, because I was one of those little girls obsessed with horses – as was Claire.

What are you reading now?

Zagreb Cowboy by Alen Mattich, a thriller set in Croatia in 1991 just as Yugoslavia is descending into civil war.  It was a Christmas present, given to me because I spent several years working in Croatia after the civil war ended. It’s a page-turner, and I’m enjoying revisiting once familiar places.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I have a “finished” novel and about a third of the sequel in the drawer while I figure out what happens next. Meanwhile, I’ve been writing short stories and have a couple in anthologies, most recently in Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017. I’m in an experimental mood, and short stories allow me to experiment without getting six months down the road and deciding it’s just not working.  One of the short stories I’m fooling around with is a “romance” between a cat lady and a con man.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s a long list because I love to read and there are so many good writers, but If I have to pick one, Elizabeth Strout.  My favorite mystery writer is Louise Penny, and I write the same type of character-driven, not quite cozy mystery that she does.

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

A boxer named Duchess, a hound mix named Chloe, and a German shepherd named Toby were part of my childhood.  My mother resisted rodents as pets, but one of my sisters did have a horned toad. My high-school tying teacher gave me a Siamese cat named Sam that I talked my parents into keeping. Sam has a role in The Cat Lady and The Con Man. For years, I desperately wanted a horse, but it was not to be.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals have been part of my life, and it just feels right to make them part of my main character’s life. I can imagine a world without animals but I wouldn’t want to spend time in it.

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

As a child I devoured Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series (as well as Nancy Drew), but I didn’t like the movies as much.  As an adult, Marley and Me is my favorite. The book and the movie were both wonderful.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Nothing I can repeat here, but trust me, it was funny.

What do your pets do when you are writing?  

Babe lies on the rug by the door to my office. I cannot go anywhere without stepping over her. I believe that’s the point.

Author Biography:

Patricia Dusenbury is a recovering economist trying to atone for all those dull reports by writing mysteries that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, won the 2015 Eppie, the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalitions award, for best mystery. The next two books in the trilogy were finalists for the Eppie: Secrets, Lies & Homicide in 2016 and A House of Her Own 2017. Each book is a stand-alone mystery story. Read in order they are also the story of a young woman’s journey from emotionally fragile widow to a daring new life.  

 Patricia lives on a very steep street in San Francisco and, when she is not writing, can be found hanging out with the grandkids or enjoying the fabulous city that is her home. She is a member of NorCal sisters in Crime.

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Meet Josh Pachter

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Josh Pachter to the blog this week!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Not long after my ninth-grade English teacher, Mary Ryan, gave me a copy of the June 1966 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, I decided to try my hand at writing a crime story myself. The result, “E.Q. Griffen Earns His Name,” appeared in EQMM’s “Department of First Stories” in December 1968, and in December 2018 I’ll be celebrating my fiftieth year as a published writer. Along the way, I’ve contributed almost a hundred short stories to various magazines and anthologies, written a zombie cop novel collaboratively with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge (Styx, Simon & Schuster, 2015), seen all ten of my Mahboob Chaudri stories collected as The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, also 2015), edited half a dozen anthologies, and translated dozens of short stories and novels from Dutch to English. In my day job, I’m the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus. My wife Laurie is an editor for a government agency in DC, and our daughter Becca is a county prosecutor in Phoenix.

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

If you don’t count fish and a hermit crab, the only pet I’ve ever had is our dog Tessa, who is a loving and lovely collie/terrier mix. Laurie rescued her from the pound about sixteen years ago, when she (Tessa, not Laurie) was just a few months old. Laurie and I met ten years ago — we “met cute,” and you can read about that here — so Tessa’s been a part of my life for the last decade. I haven’t put her into my fiction yet, but that might well happen at some point in the future!

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

In case you didn’t click on the link above, I’ll tell you that I have been horribly allergic to fur and feathers and wool, my whole life long — making my ability to be around Tessa something of a miracle. Because I grew up unable to be around animals, I never developed an appreciation for them … and have never much written about them. In the 1980s, I collaborated with the wonderful Edward Wellen on a story about a migratory stork that smuggles uncut diamonds from the mines in South Africa to the jewelry industry in Amsterdam; it was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and we called it (ahem) “Stork Trek.” But, until Tessa came into my life, that nameless stork was really the only animal character I ever created. Now, though, I’m a lot more open to writing about furry and feathery characters. In fact, I have a story called “The Supreme Art of War” in the upcoming Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter anthology Fur, Feathers and Felonies that includes a female cat named Mister.

What are you reading now?

A couple of years ago, I was asked how much I would charge to translate one of the 300+ Belgian graphic novels about a pair of teenagers named Suske and Wiske into English. More kidding than serious, I said I’d do it for — instead of money — a complete set of the books. To my amazement, the publisher agreed. So I did the translation, a giant box of books flew across the Atlantic Ocean to my front door, and I’m now up to number 185. (In English, Suske and Wiske are called Luke and Lucy, and you can read Auntie Biotica, the adventure I translated, for free here.)

What writing projects are you currently working on?

As I answer these questions, I’m focused more on editing than writing. I’m working on three different collections, which will be published by three different publishers in 2018. Amsterdam Noir, which I’m co-editing with René Appel, is an anthology of dark stories set in the Dutch capital, and it’ll come out as a part of Akashic Books’ City Noir series. Dale Andrews and I are putting together The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, a collection of pastiches and parodies, for Wildside Press. And I’m editing The Man Who Read Mr. Strang: The Short Fiction of William Brittain on my own for Crippen & Landru. But I’ve just begun a new short story I’m calling “Killer Kyle,” which starts out pretty nicely, I think. I can’t wait to see how it ends!

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh, gosh, that’s like asking me to name my favorite movie or song. I don’t have one favorite author. There are so many authors I’ve loved reading, and my “favorite” would depend on when you asked me and how I was feeling at the moment. I can tell you that, along the way, my favorite authors have included John Updike and Ray Bradbury (who showed me that prose can be poetry), Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse (who made me laugh), Carlos Castaneda and Jane Roberts (who made me think outside the box), Ellery Queen, Ed McBain, and Lawrence Block (who taught me whatever small amount I know about crime writing), and a host of friends whose books I read because they were written by people I know and respect and admire (including but far from limited to Les Roberts, Loren D. Estleman, Bill Pronzini, and, in Dutch, Hilde Vandermeeren, Bavo Dhooge, René Appel).

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I’m not sure how funny this is, but can I go back to that hermit crab? When my daughter Becca was tiny and we were living in the upstairs half of what’s called a “Lakewood double” just outside Cleveland, Ohio, she really wanted a pet … but I had those allergies I’ve mentioned. So we bought Hermie the Hermit Crab, and we kept him in a little plastic terrarium and fed him and petted him and played with him. One day, though, Hermie mysteriously vanished from his terrarium. I never found out for sure how that happened, but I suppose Becca must have taken him out to play with him and forgotten to put him back, and he just wandered off. Days later, I came home from work to find a plastic bucket sitting outside our door and a note taped to the door: “We found this in our bedroom. Is it yours?” And, sure enough, Hermie was in the bucket. How he got down a flight of stairs and into the neighbor’s apartment, I’ll never understand. (Hermie, by the way, went to Hermit Heaven many years ago, but I still have his shell, which I keep on my desk and use as a paperweight.)

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

I sometimes talk to middle-school groups about writing, and I always start by asking, “How many of you want to be a writer someday?” Generally, three-quarters of the hands go up, and that allows me to tell them that they already are writers, and have in fact been writers ever since they learned how to write. A writer isn’t something you should “want to be,” I tell them. A writer is something you already are. What you can want to be is a professional writer, a paid writer, a famous writer, even just a better writer. So, when did I know I was a writer? I guess when I learned how to write. But I think I had the idea of becoming a professional writer in my head from a pretty early age. In grade school, I wrote a “book” about Japan — a country which to this day I have never visited — and “published” a weekly handwritten newspaper for a couple of months. In junior high, I co-wrote a column for my school paper. And I sold my first short story to EQMM at the age of sixteen. When I went off to college at the University of Michigan, my intention was to study journalism. It turned out that the U of M’s undergraduate j program at that time was pretty sucky, but I really liked Ann Arbor, so I scouted around for an alternate major and finally settled on communication studies.

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

Well, I know the whole “bucket list” thing is still pretty popular, but I don’t really have one. I taught overseas for fifteen years — in Holland, Germany, England, Spain, Greece, Italy, Bahrain, Kuwait — and still do a lot of international traveling. I have a happy marriage. I have raised a brilliant and talented daughter. I like my job and make a decent living. Although my writing, editing and translating haven’t made me rich and famous, neither of those things is particularly important to me. I suppose it would be nice to win some sort of an award. A story I translated was nominated for an Edgar in 1986 and another was nominated for a Derringer in 2016. The Tree of Life was nominated for a Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville. But it would be fun to actually win something. As I mentioned before, next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of my first publication and, since I started young, I’m “only” sixty-six years old. I figure if I can just keep on breathing for a while longer, sooner or later somebody’ll have to give me a lifetime achievement award!

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

One pile contains another hundred or so Suske and Wiskes, and another pile has about twenty Dutch-language novels which have been given to me by various Dutch and Belgian authors I’ve translated. I’ve also got a bunch of English-language novels and short-story collections piled up on my iPhone; I recently joined Wildside Press’ Black Cat Mystery Magazine club, which gets me seven e-books a week for a year, so I’ve definitely got my e-reading cut out for me!

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

Actually, most of what I know now I’m glad I didn’t know when I started, because it probably would have scared me off. Even with all the amazing new possibilities contemporary technology has given us — the Internet, POD publishing, Babelcube, the list goes on and on — it’s still the case that most of the people who’d love to be able to make a healthy living as a writer of fiction won’t. For me, though, writing has always been (and remains) a hobby … and, as a hobby, it’s given me an enormous amount of pleasure for the last half century, and I expect it’ll continue to do so for whatever amount of time I’ve got left!

On September 25, two days after I responded to Heather’s interview questions, our sweet Tessa Marie came to the end of her journey. My wife Laurie was out of state on a business trip, but I called her on my cell from the vet’s office, and she talked lovingly to Tessa until the vet came in with the needles. Then we hung up, and I held the old girl tightly, my head close beside hers, as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I stayed with her until she was gone, and for a long while after, and then went home to a very empty house. 

Because of my allergies, we can’t risk another dog. A month after Tessa left us, we bought a 29-gallon aquarium to make the house less empty and have populated it with two dozen fish: danios, platies, cory cats, weather loaches, rasboras, a whole community. We’ve named them all, and we enjoy looking at them as they swim around and eat. But we can’t walk them or pet them, and they don’t answer when we talk to them, as Tessa did. We like them, but we don’t love them. Not yet, anyway. Maybe that’ll come. I doubt it. They’re nice, but they’re not Tessa.

 Regards,

Josh

 

Josh’s Biography:

JOSH PACHTER is a writer, editor and translator. Since his first appearance in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1968, almost a hundred of his short crime stories have appeared in EQMM, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, New Black Mask, Espionage, and many other periodicals, anthologies, and year’s-best collections.  The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, 2015) collected all ten of his Mahboob Chaudri stories and he collaborated with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge on Styx (Simon & Schuster, 2015). In his day job, he is the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus.

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Meet Laurel Peterson

www.utechristinphotography.com

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

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

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

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

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

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

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

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

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

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

 

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

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

About Laurel:

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

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

SHADOW NOTES by Laurel S. Peterson

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

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

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

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

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Meet Amy Reade and Orly

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

Who is your favorite author and why?

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

How much time do you have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Reade

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

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

Let’s Be Social

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

Blog: www.amreade.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/AmyMReadesGothicFictionFans

Twitter: www.twitter.com/readeandwrite

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/amreade

Instagram: www.instagram.com/amymreade

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

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

 

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Pet Cloning — Yea or Neigh?

by Barb Goffman

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

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

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

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

Scout

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

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

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

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

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

Eggs (not the type involved in cloning)

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

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

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

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Meet Fiona Quinn and Little Bear

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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From “If You See Kay Run”

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

What writing projects are you currently working on?

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

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

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

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

 

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

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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