Welcome, Eric Woods!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Eric Woods to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.
Beginning in third grade, my teachers would assign short stories for the class to write. While most of the class took the assignments with little significance, I became enamored with the art of storytelling. I began writing outside of class simply for fun and made it my mission to someday write a novel. My genre of choice was horror. I had become a fan of the 80s slasher film series such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, to name a few. The idea of good vs. evil has always been exciting to write about. Coming up with strong protagonists and evil antagonists drove me to come up with creative stories.

During my undergraduate years at the University of Illinois Springfield, I took a class on playwriting. This was a new genre in creative writing, and I took to it immediately. My final project, the three-act play Uncle, was voted to be performed in Reader’s Theatre for the university. My second play, the murder-mystery Macabre, was performed by the UIS Repertory Theatre in 1998. A year later, after I had graduated with an English degree, the same theatre performed my dark comedy The Living End. In total I have written 10 full length stage plays with two others still in process.

My creative writing took a hiatus for many years. Although I have been a freelance writer since 2005, it wasn’t until November 2015 when I finally discovered a method for novel writing that worked for me. I had begun half a dozen ideas that didn’t make it past 2,000 words over the years. But this time was different. I had an idea, and instead of haphazardly jumping in with little direction, I thought about the story, the characters, the settings, and everything else it would take to get through to the end. I wrote character sketches (revising as needed), put together an outline, and set a modest 500 word per day goal. By mid-July of 2016, I had finished the first draft of PUMMELED, a novel roughly 120,000 words in length. The editing and revising process was intense, but by June 2018, I was finally satisfied and decided to self-publish the novel.

Although I have always been a fan of horror, this novel belongs in the action-drama category. My second novel, however, is indeed of the horror variety. I began Dragon’s Blood during the editing process of my first novel and finished the first draft this past August. My first edit bumped the word count up to approximately 93,500 words. My hope is to have it ready for publication by October, 2019 in time for Halloween.

Now that I have figured out the method of writing that works for me, the ideas have poured in. I am already outlining my third novel which should be a unique style that I do not believe has been done before in the world of creative writing (at least I hope not).

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?
I currently have two dogs (Thor and Hilda) and one cat (Zazu). Last November we lost our dog Maddux to a sudden illness, and we were fortunate to find and adopt our two current pooches a few weeks later. They are a wonderful addition to the family. Thor is a Chihuahua mixed with something bigger, and Hilda is a senior long-haired Chihuahua/pug mix. I have yet to model them in my writing, but in a future novel, I intend to use the names of each dog I have ever had as my feature characters’ names.

What are you reading now?
Right now I am re-reading Stephen King’s IT in preparation for the theatrical release of IT Chapter 2 later in the year. I am also working on The Butcher Bride by Vince Churchill. I need to circle back to my Stephen King list and revisit Duma Key before starting his newer novels. The Outsider looks extremely thrilling.

What writing projects are you currently working on?
I am currently in the editing process of Dragon’s Blood, my second novel. It is a horror/sci-fi offering that I hope is well received by lovers of the genre. The idea was sparked by a friend of mine who created a unique piece of jewelry. As I studied it, the ideas began to flow, and next thing I knew, I had outlined an entire novel. Also, my third novel is currently in the outlining stage, but I have yet to officially begin writing the text.

Who is your favorite author and why?
I have been a Stephen King fanatic since I first read The Shining in grade school. As a horror movie buff and avid reader, it was only natural that I journeyed into the word of King and his novels. They have given me the most inspiration in my writings, and I always look to his novels when I want to see how it’s done.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.
I had one dog as a child. She was a black pick-a-poo mix named Missy. She was kind of a mutt, but we loved her. While in college (after Missy passed away), we adopted Chelsea, a white West Highland Terrier, and she was one of the sweetest pups I ever had the honor of being around. I used to think she escaped from the circus, as she could dance on her back hind legs when prompted.

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

So far, all “real” animals have only been mentioned in passing. In Dragon’s Blood, the major antagonist is not human, although it is more of a fictitious being than an actual animal. In my idea for the (hopefully) sequel to my first novel, Pummeled, I already took note that Bree (the main character) will be rescuing a dog from a bad situation in the book’s opening chapter. He will likely become a central character of his own.

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

When writing short stories in grade school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. The idea of coming up with creative stories came natural to me, and by doing it outside of school in my free time, it made me want to keep going.

What do your pets do when you are writing?
My pets love being close by whenever I am home. I have my own office where I write, and whenever I am there, they will lie next to the chair behind me. Thor sometimes likes to jump onto my lap as I am writing, just to see what I am doing.

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?
Although I have never had a pet I would consider unusual, the chief plot of Dragon’s Blood centers around the bizarre pet one of my main characters discovered as a child back in 1930. The remainder of the novel surrounds what has happened to the being nearly 90 years later.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
Outlining is imperative! For years I wanted to learn the secret to being able to write a novel. Some would say ‘just write’ while others told me not to even waste my time. I began a number of would-be novels, and never made it beyond 3,000 words. Then, on a whim, I caught an article about character sketching and outlining prior to any official storytelling. When the idea for PUMMELED came to me, I followed what I had learned, sketching a rough outline along with the main characters I already knew I wanted in the book. As I put more time and effort into the project, the outline blossomed, the characters came to life, and soon I was writing what would be my first full length novel.

A second thing I wish I knew years ago was to write down every idea, even if I could not dive right into a new story. The worst thing you can do is say “I’ll write it down later.” Because chances are, you will forget the idea later, and you will kick yourself.

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

There a couple things writers need to know as they prepare to write anything. First of all, do not let anyone tell you that writing is a waste of time. Even if you do not see it as a full time occupation, you should never let someone else squelch your creativity. Writing can be such a release, especially when you are in the zone and on a roll with your story.

It is also imperative to know that there is a lot of competition out there. Just look at Instagram, and you will come across hundreds of aspiring writers looking for people to read their creations. Especially now that self-publishing is a much easier process (thanks, technology), there are more people than ever seeing their dreams of writing books come to fruition.

About Eric Woods

Eric Woods resides in Springfield, Illinois. He is married to Lisa and has two children (Hunter and Peyton) and two stepchildren (Jake and Sam). He has been writing since grade school and is the author of 10 full length stage plays. His first novel, PUMMELED, was published in June of 2018, and he is in the process of finishing his second novel, the horror story DRAGON’S BLOOD which is scheduled for release in October 2019. Eric has been a local freelance writer since 2005, writing for such outlets as Springfield Business Journal Illinois and SO Magazine. He serves as a tour guide for the Lincoln Ghost Walk in Springfield and was a collegiate speech and debate coach for seven years.

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Welcome, Morgan Summer!

Happy Holidays! Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Morgan Summer to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. Currently, I am a 2nd year High School Biology teacher, married for almost 15 years with an 8 year old little girl. I write crime/detective novels as well as recently started writing an unnamed young adult mystery series. My first book Jean Stone Crime Series Volume 1: Stranger Among Us will be released early 2019.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? I have two shelter rescues, Sheldon just turned 6 and is an 18 pound orange tabby cat and Chief is our 3 ½ year old Catahoula Mix. They are definitely apart of my book series.

What writing projects are you currently working on? Currently finishing up edits on Jean Stone Volume 2, writing Book 3 of Jean Stone, and Book 2 of my young adult mystery series.

Who is your favorite author and why? Edgar Allan Poe, his short stories were my first introduction to mystery and suspense, that day I fell in love with his writing and the genre. The Tell-Tale Heart is still my favorite of his numerous stories.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. Too numerous to name. My dad was a veterinarian so we always had every type of pet imaginable brought home, cats, dogs, birds, lizards, turtles, etc. They still have a chinchilla named Jasmine who is about 18 or 19 years old.

Why do you include animals in your writing? My writing is about my life and my animals are just an extension of our human family members. There hasn’t been a time where I didn’t have a dog or a cat as a companion in my life. I will always include them in my stories.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I was always a reader, but as I got older I enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper. That turned into song lyrics since I wanted to be a county singer during my teenager years. College helped refine my writing skills, it was around that time I realized that I truly had a gift for writing. Then the day came that a fellow teacher jokingly told me that I should write a crime novel. Six weeks later, Jean Stone was born.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? Visit Italy. Reading is my favorite past time which transported me to different places all around the world through the pages. After reading numerous novels set there, I decided one day I would go see for myself all the beautiful sights and sounds Italy has to offer.

What do your pets do when you are writing? Lay at my feet and snore or annoy me depending on their mood.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? “FDR Letters” and “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America”, sadly I have so my TBR I can barely keep up!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? Outdoors in the country away from the world with no technology. There are no distractions, just me, my pencil and paper, and my imagination.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Do not write for anyone else, write for yourself. Be a limited edition.

Author Bio:

Reading was always a love of Morgan’s, devouring crime novels by the dozens. A random conversation with a fellow mentor and coworker, would inspire her to write the book series in the genre she loved. This was how Jean Stone was born.

 She has worn many hats from being a Navy Wife for 13 years to currently teaching High School Biology. Currently living back in her home state of Texas, if she isn’t teaching, she is either writing, crocheting, or spending time with her husband and daughter.

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Welcome Canadian Author Barbara Fradkin

 

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Barbara Fradkin to the blog. Barbara gets a special place in my heart (me being Kristina Stanley). She generously provided the first endorsement I ever received for my first novel Descent. That’s a kindness I’ll never forget. Canada is proud to claim Barbara as one of our own.

Tell about yourself and what you write.

I’m a retired child psychologist who discovered that plotting murder was the perfect way to vent the frustrations of my job. Mysteries give me license to probe moral and social issues while exploring the dark side of ordinary people. I’m fascinated by what people do when they’re desperate and what drives them to that ultimate choice. My books blend mystery and suspense in a gritty, realistic, and psychological style.

I have three distinct series so far, including ten books in an award-winning police procedural series set in Ottawa and three easy-read books with a country handyman as reluctant sleuth. Most recently I have been working on a mystery-thriller series featuring passionate, adventurous former aid worker Amanda Doucette, who can’t turn her back on people in trouble. Each book is set in a different iconic location across Canada, the most recent being PRISONERS OF HOPE, set in the spectacular islands of Georgian Bay. I’m currently hard at work on the fourth, entitled THE ANCIENT DEAD, set in the Alberta badlands.

How do your pets impact your writing?

I have two Nova Scotia Duck Tollers, because one of these live wires is never enough. Besides being part of my stories, as I describe below, they help set the mood for my day. They can lift my spirits or calm me down. They can make me laugh or drive me to distraction. 

I write to the rhythm of their day. Right now, they are curled up on the sofa beside me on this cold winter day, providing a warm, comforting backdrop. At other times they remind me, by grumbling at the door or dropping a ball on my computer, that it’s time for a break. And best of all, I can work out story problems, think up new plot twists, and argue loudly with my characters during the long, relaxed dog walks. 

Do you include animals in your stories?

In all three of my series, the hero has a dog. A pet spotlights the emotional side of a character. Inspector Green is an accidental dog owner who’d never owned a pet but “inherited” a traumatized mutt during one of his murder investigations. As he tried to build trust between himself and the dog, I got to explore a softer, more uncertain side of Green. Cedric O’Toole, the handyman in my easy-read series, lives alone on a farm and is far more comfortable with his dog than with people.

But it’s in the Amanda Doucette series that animals truly take centre stage. Amanda experienced a trauma during an overseas posting and, back home in Canada to recover, she got a Duck Toller named Kaylee, which is Celtic for kitchen party. Modelled on my own dogs, Kaylee is bouncy, playful, and always up for adventure. They’re way better than Prozac; you can’t help but smile when you meet a Duck Toller. Kaylee becomes Amanda’s unofficial therapy dog who accompanies her everywhere. As a bonus her other skills, mainly her acute nose, ears, and tracking ability, help out Amanda in her sleuthing efforts. It’s no coincidence that in real life dogs are the ones to discover bodies hidden in the bush.   

What is your funniest pet story?

Almost every day my dogs do something that makes me smile. But one time stands out. I have a modest cottage on a lake in Eastern Ontario and one of our summer challenges is to swim across the lake and back. For safety’s sake, someone has to forego the swim and go alongside in the canoe. We usually swap places for the swim back. My dogs love to go in the canoe – actually they just want to go along on whatever adventure is on offer – so when I got in the canoe, one of them hopped in for the ride. On the way back, everyone wanted to swim, including me, so we left a very startled Kaylee alone and we all took turns towing her back. It was a funny sight! 

Barbara Fradkin is a retired child psychologist with a fascination for why we turn bad. She has been writing since she was a child, but didn’t get serious until she discovered crime. In the past two decades or so, she has published at least thirty short stories and thirteen novels, along with three Rapid Reads short novels. Many of her works have been shortlisted or won Arthur Ellis Awards from Crime Writers of Canada.

Until recently she has been best known for her gritty, psychological Inspector Green series, which has received two Arthur Ellis Best Novel Awards. However, her newest mystery suspense series features foreign aid worker Amanda Doucette, who battles her own traumatic past to help people in trouble. PRISONERS OF HOPE, the third in the series, was released in October 2018, and she is currently writing the fourth, entitled THE ANCIENT DEAD. 

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You can find her books here! Everyone one is fantastic – I know because I’ve read them all. Thanks for reading today – Kristina

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Welcome, Monica Olsen!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Monica Olsen to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve always loved writing. I was probably the only student in my classes in high school and college to look forward to writing the term’s research paper. For instance, in my Abnormal Psych class in college, I wrote a fifty-five page research paper on eating disorders. I even found two patients and included Q & A interviews as an exhibit to the paper. I’ve always loved to read so writing stories, I believed, would have come naturally to me. Turns out it didn’t. I started trying to write a novel in my late teens. Everything I wrote sounded hokey and contrived. Then I wrote a short children’s story and sent it in to Highlights magazine. A few months later I received a rejection letter with a list of twenty-seven suggestions for improving the story. Dejected, I shelved the book writing, finished college and now work as a claim examiner for a small third party administrator in Pennsylvania where, until recently, I was limited to report writing.

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

I currently have four pets: two dogs and two cats. Thunder is a shi tzu mix and Romeo is a Maltese mix. We adopted them three years ago from the animal shelter on the same day. Both were older dogs at the time and have been such a blessing to our home. We also have two American shorthair cats, Miley and Bailey. All four of them could easily serve as the basis of more than a few stories. Our dog Thunder was the inspiration for my second book, Hair O the Dog.


Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories.

Thunder is the sweetest dog we have ever met. He is very laid back and sleeps a lot, compared to Romeo, who is very feisty, likes to wrestle. and is often up for anything. But where Romeo came to us trained and understanding simple commands, this was not the case with Thunder. We could take him out for a thirty-minute walk and he’d come inside and do his business right on the spot. Yelling at him and even crating him didn’t seem to work. I was torn between relinquishing him back to the shelter, where he’d almost certainly be euthanized (we found out shortly after we adopted him that he was closer to ten years old than six or seven the shelter told us he was), and giving him away. One day, I was shopping at Walmart and saw that the store carried ‘doggy diapers’. Sold! I had found a solution that was a win-win. They were very pricey and didn’t always fit properly, so I eventually switched to real life baby diapers, which fit the bill remarkably well.Thunder and my daughter have been inseparable since the day we brought him home. When she’s not home, we usually find him in her room, curled up and sound asleep on a sweatshirt or pair of sneakers she has left on the floor. It’s really quite endearing. My parents had abruptly given away our first dog when I was five years old and I did not want my daughter to experience the same. No kid should have to experience that heartbreak.

Hair O the Dog is geared towards the eight to eleven year old reader. It is about a young boy, Graham Cupps, who moves from Canada back to the US and has trouble making friends. His parents get him a dog, which seems to ease his loneliness. Although their hearts were in the right place, when the dog, who is also incidentally named Thunder, proves to hard to potty train, they look to find him another home. It is up to Graham to save his best friend. I hope that the readers feel Graham’s worry and despair and that these feelings inspire the readers to look for alternatives to relinquishing animals to shelters or worse, abandoning them to the streets or unsuitable homes.

What are you reading now?

The Black and The Blue, by Matthew Horace. It is essentially about policing in the US.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just finished editing my latest middle grade fiction novel, The Piper Boy. I have also started another middle grade chapter book which I would love to adapt to a screenplay at some point. But first thing’s first. I have to actually finish the manuscript. I am about eight chapters in.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I can’t say I really have any ‘favorite’ authors. I am drawn to a few different genres: romance, historical romance, mysteries, period pieces. If I really like an author, I tend to binge on everything they’ve written. Some of my favorites have been Anita Shreve, Jodi Piccoult, Syndey Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Mary Higgins Clark and Tatiana DeRosnay. I also love Gillian Flynn, but boy is she dark!

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

I did. My first dog was Cindy, a small black and white spaniel. She was very sweet but very energetic. One day just before Christmas she pulled the Christmas tree down and made quite a mess. I came home shortly thereafter and learned that my parents had given her away. Several years later, when I was a teenager, we adopted a tiny Corgi puppy from the animal shelter named Stormy. She loved to smile and swim. And when we’d had her for a few years we adopted another black and white pointer with the sharpest hearing and vision I’ve ever seen.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I like to include pets in my stories because, to me, it makes my characters more human.

There is a dog which I introduce at the end of my first book, I Am Lily, Hear Me Roar. It probably wasn’t necessary to do so but it brought the character such joy. It was like I rewarded her for being such a good friend to Lily.

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

Not yet, but I hope to in the future. I have a co-worker with a severely disabled son. She has previously complained that there are so few children’s books featuring disabled kids as main characters or geared towards disabled kids. So I’d like to write a book or two to help fill that gap.

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

I would have to say that one of my favorites early on was Disney’s Fox and the Hound. I just loved the relationship between Todd and Copper. I think I was ten when I saw it. I remember it really touched something deep inside me, even at that age. Free Willy and A Dolphins Tale are amongst some of my favorites too. I love the sea and its exotic animals. Who doesn’t? I think animals help us better identify ‘teachable moments’ to kids, such as identifying and making sense of the senseless, protecting the earth’s resources and wildlife, etc.

Whats your real-life funniest pet story?

Thunder is a constant source of amusement for us. Not only have we noticed that he cannot hear, but he has pretty bad cataracts which cause him to not be able to see, especially at night or when navigating the steps. Unless, that is, he hears his food bag opening. Then, no matter where he is that boy can hear the bag open and can make it down to the kitchen in record time.

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

I always remember wanting to be a writer. When I was six, I wrote a play in our basement and made my sisters act it out. (They have no recollection of this.) I didn’t actually publish a book until recently. After receiving the rejection letter years ago, I never seriously tried again to write with the intent on becoming a published writer. I would write little stories here and there, most of the time never finishing them. One day last year I was at lunch with a group of colleagues and I mentioned that I have always wanted to write a book. One of my colleagues convinced me to try again and now I am two books in with two more on the way. It is such an exciting time for me!

Whats the number one item on your bucket list and why?

Writing a book was number one on my bucket list. During the process I learned that my aunt, who is now deceased, wrote a play in her late teens or early twenties that was produced. Infuriatingly frustrating, my father is unable to recall any details as to when it was produced, where, by whom or the title! Whatever this drive is, it appears to be in the genes.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I often find a little corner in a cafe and do my writing there. My pets are at home during this time.

Whats in your To Be Read (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

As soon as I started writing seriously, I went online and found a few really good Facebook groups dedicated to authors and publishers. I’ve come across some really interesting finds, such as the book I’m reading now, The Black and The Blue by Matthew Horace.

Some others I intend to pick up are:

The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber

Proof of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Lies that Bind by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Hazel House by Oby Aligwekwe

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana DeRosnay

These are just a few. Sadly, my free time is limited, and I haven’t been doing much reading while I have been writing. I hope to get back to it soon.

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

First, just write.

Second, it’s a process. I once read an interview with novelist Danielle Steel, whom I idolized in my teens. First, I wanted to be Judy Blume. Then I wanted to be Danielle Steel. In the interview it mentioned that she once locked herself in her bedroom and wrote a book in twenty-three hours (or something like that). Myself, I find I can write for two hours max. Many times, I’ve sat in front of my computer and have written five words. I don’t ever feel like I am wasting time. Because writing is a process.

Third, don’t lose those great ideas. I have close to an hour drive to and from work, which is when I tend to get my best ideas. I obviously can’t write them down at that point, so I dictate them into the Notes app of my cellphone. Always have something to record your thoughts. I often go back to the notes if I can’t retain the words or story line when I have time to sit and write later.

And fourth, never give up. If writing is what you want to do, then just do it. I have read many books over the years. Some I liked and some I didn’t. My friends and I sometimes disagreed on whether a book was good or not. Sometimes what I find really good another might not, and vice versa. Your readers are out there. You’ll find them.

Monicas Biography:

Monica Olsen is the author of two middle grade fiction books: Hair O the Dog (2018, Amazon) and I Am Lily, Hear Me Roar (2018, Covenant Books). She earned a BA in Law/Justice from Rowan University and an Associate in Arts from Gloucester County Community College. She lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her family and four pets.

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Teresa Inge and Her Writing

Today, Pens, Paws, and Claws author, Teresa Inge, tells us about her writing.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I love to write mysteries, go to car shows with my husband, visit the Outerbanks to write and read good books, and play with my dogs.

What is the first mystery book you remember reading? The Secret of the Old Clock. I remember the fascinating tale of Nancy Drew discovering a missing will in an old clock of a deceased family friend. When she helped the family regain their fortune from thieves, I fell in love with Nancy Drew.

What made you decide to write? I began writing professional articles many years ago and loved reading mysteries. So, I combined my love of both and began writing mysteries.

Do you have a special place you like to write? In my bedroom. I have a writing area with a beautiful country view.

Where do the ideas for your books come from? Everywhere! Conversations, news, songs, and sometimes plots come to me while I am driving to and from work.

Is there anything about writing that you find most challenging? Editing is a challenge but it is necessary to develop well crafted stories.

What do you think makes a good story? Relatable characters, an interesting location, great plot, and wrapping up all loose ends.

Tell us about your current work? I just finished writing “To Fetch a Thief,” four fun tails of theft and murder in the Mutt Mysteries series. In this howling good read, canine companions help their owners solve crimes and right wrongs. This was a lot of fun to write since I included Cagney and Lacey, two Yorkshire Terriers to solve the theft and murder.

What makes your books different form others in this genre? My characters and book titles. I love creating relatable characters and fun titles.

What’s next on the horizon for you? Book two in the Mutt Mysteries series.

About Teresa:

Teresa Inge grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today, she doesn’t carry a rod like her idol, but she hotrods. She is president of Sister’s in Crime Mystery by the Sea Chapter and author of short mysteries in Virginia is for Mysteries and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

Website: www.teresainge.com
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Welcome, J. P. Dalton

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, J. P. Dalton to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve been writing professionally since I was 16. I was hired as an agate clerk at the local newspapers and eventually worked my way into some high school sports assignments. I’ve been writing ever since, though fiction has been a new and interesting adventure.

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

My pets didn’t appear in my book but they were regular characters in my blog, from my cat Griffith, who used to shadow me around the house and pull on my hand when I wrote, to my several dogs who perpetually are lying at – and on – my feet as I work.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading “Louis XIV and His Loves.” I’ve also been binge-reading the Cotton Malone series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m bouncing between three future novels – a paranormal thriller, a romance and a possible sequel to my debut novel, “Where the Campaign Ends.”

Who is your favorite author and why?

I’ve also been a sucker for Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler. They have an ability to throw reality to the wind and create their own world which I always have envied. George R.R. Martin also would make the list, if he’d just finish the sixth book already. Are you reading, George?

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

I had a few dogs growing up but the best was Max. Max simply was the greatest dog on earth. He was an Airedale-shepherd mix who weighed in at a mere 102 pounds. He helped me through wrestling modules in junior high school and high school, though his teeth were sharper than my classmates’ teeth were.

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

Can I go all the way back to childhood and Ribsy? I LOVED Beverly Cleary and was a huge fan of Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Ramona and even Runaway Ralph. If I go current, it’s the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne and Oberon. Absolutely brilliant how Oberon and Atticus play off of each other.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

We had a beagle, Tobey, who had to be the smartest, most determined dog ever. He had this thing for going through the trash. One night we put the trash can on the counter and, when we came home, he had rolled a chair directly underneath the trash can as if it were a ladder. He also started laying down on the kitchen table for no apparent reason. We started calling him the roast beast from Dr. Seuss.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

They mostly lay down on top of my feet and sigh loudly while waiting for me to either pet them or give them a treat.

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

There are way too many books and too many piles for me to narrow this down. I’m thinking I’ll be picking up some paranormal or fantasy series in the near future.

On the beach in Del Mar, which was the main reason the city became a character in its own right in my novel. Why? Um, the ocean. The breeze. The sound. All of it.

About J. P. Dalton:

J.P. Dalton was born in Southern California but has made the Phoenix area his home for the past 41 years. He started writing at age 16 for a local newspaper and has been writing either full-time or free-lance ever since. He and his wife Kathie love road trips, which have turned into scouting missions for book scenes. His debut novel, “Where the Campaign Ends” currently is available on Amazon.com.

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Sheri Levy and Her Life with Service Dogs

Growing up in Southern California, allowed me to go to the beach, and snow ski on the local mountains.

After I married and had two young children, we moved to South Carolina. We have lived longer in the South than in California. I guess that makes me a southerner, without an accent!

Working Career

I received my Special Education teaching credentials in California, one for Mentally Handicapped and the other for Educationally Handicapped.
As soon as we arrived in Greenville, S.C, I was offered a job with a Multi- Handicapped class in the same school my children attended. But I needed one more credential for Learning Disabilities. Once again, I attended evening classes twice a week and taught school during the day.

After sixteen years with Special Needs children, I taught an adult GED program for nine more years. My adults needed skills in reading and writing, and this spurred my interest in writing. As a young student, I always spent time writing, but had I never thought about writing novels.

As I taught my students, the desire to write began to fester. After I retired, I took online classes and joined SCBWI- (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.)

Adopting the First Dog

My husband and I adopted a neighbor’s German shepherd. She was our first dog, and the reason we had more dogs.

When Charlie died, we raised an eight-week-old White shepherd, and then our first Australian shepherd, Sydney.

When Sydney was six months old, a Black lab blew into our yard during a snow storm. He had been injured, and after paying the medical bills, he became ours. Sydney and Jake enjoyed many adventures together.

When both passed on, we continued with the Aussie breed. We now have Aussie number three and four; Mulligan, rescued at seven months old, and Slater, chosen at eight-weeks-old.

I trained each dog, but Mulligan required the most attention because of his stressful puppyhood.

Service dogs

My interest in special needs prompted me to research service dogs.

One afternoon, I met a young boy walking his dog who wore a cape in the grocery store. Because I had researched service dogs, I assumed he was a puppy raiser. I asked his mother for permission to speak with him, and I found out the dog was his own Diabetic Alert service dog.

I interviewed him and wrote my first article for Clubhouse Magazine and entered this story in the Dog Writers Association Contest in 2010. To my surprise, the story won in their Special Interest Category. This category was sponsored by the Planet Dog Foundation Sit. Speak. Act. Canine Service organization. This award gave me the confidence to continue writing.

 Plot-line for Seven Days Through Research

My craving to write blossomed. I had taught children with autism, and found a reputable service dog organization, PAALS, close to my home.

A young girl, who worked as a puppy raiser with PAALS, allowed me to interview her. Her information helped create my story character and plot.

The setting takes place on my favorite beach, Edisto Beach, S.C., and I included Sydney. “Seven Days to Goodbye,” was born.

I support PAALS, and they promote my novels. It took three years from the start of writing of, “Seven Days to Goodbye,” to getting it published and entered in the DWAA contest. The novel won in their Special Interest Category in 2014.

Learning how to market the novels and promote myself. 

Writing is the fun part. Marketing is very time consuming. I have been very fortunate to have support from friends and readers.

Having wonderful reviews has built my confidence. It does take a while after the first book is birthed to see success trickle out over time. All of the wonderful feedback has been very positive and encouraging.

One of my biggest thrills was to be asked to do a motivational Skype program with three high schools in Nigeria. Weeks later, I began teaching writing to different age classes. It is special to know I may be helping others.

To this day, I am thrilled to be able to share my series, ‘Seven Days to Goodbye,’ ‘Starting Over,’ and very soon to introduce, ‘For Keeps.’

 You can stay in touch with Sheri Levy at: 

Twitter: @SheriSLevy

Facebook: www.sherislevyauthor

Website: www.sherislevy.com

Email: eightpawswriting@yahoo.com

Seven Days to goodbye‘ and ‘Starting Over‘ by Sheri S. Levy are available on Amazon in paperback, hardback, and Kindle Editions.

 

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Welcome, Jayne Ormerod

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Jayne Ormerod to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. My name is Jayne Ormerod and I am a write-aholic. I had an idyllic childhood, spending every free moment playing outside (a foreign concept to kids today!) A river ran through our property, surrounded by lots of woods to explore. There was always an adventure afoot, or a neighborhood baseball game to be played, or skateboarding to be done (down a HUGE hill, without a helmet! Lots of scrapped knees and elbows!) When not doing that, I was curled up reading, usually Nancy Drew adventure stories! I went to college (B.S. in Accountancy) and then spent 30 years as a military spouse, moving many times (19 for anyone counting). That afforded me the opportunity to meet many interesting people and live in many fun places. Except for one tour in Memphis, TN, we have always lived within a flip-flops throw of an ocean. A dream come true for a small-town Ohio girl. As a result, the majority of my cozy mysteries are set along the shore.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? We have two rescue puppies. One was an emergency rehome situation, and we were told he would be 20 to 30 pounds.  Well, he’s 47 now, and still growing! He has a lot of Great Dane in him (everyone says so but I am in denial). Our other puppy is a Pot Dog (that’s what they call free-roaming island puppies who sustain themselves on scrapings from the bottoms of peoples’ pots, mostly rice and beans) from Puerto Rico. He’s still growing, too, but seems to lean more towards Chihuahuas characteristics. But he’s a cutie! Tiller and Scout make our lives complete.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? In my most recent release, “It’s a Dog Gone Shame!” in To Fetch a Thief, the star of the show is a tawny terrier named Cannoli. We didn’t have any pets at the time so he is purely a figment of my imagination. But since then we have acquired two pound puppies whose antics will certainly find their way into my blog posts and future stories.

What writing projects are you currently working on? I am assembling some shorter-length cozy mysteries I’ve written in the past and throwing them together into one book. Title is Goin’ Coastal. It should be out in early December. Next project will be the third Blonds at the Beach mystery, working title Blond Justice. I wrote the first four chapters a while ago, just need to finish it. Only 27 chapters to go!

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. My parents were cat people. We lived on a very busy road. We learned quite young not to get too attached to any of them. Sad, I know. But then someone who worked with my mom needed to get rid of a Siamese cat (seal point) who had been declawed. We got her and kept her inside. She lasted much longer! Her name was Punchy. She was a good mouser. We lived in an old farmhouse so there were plenty. It was quite common for my dad to wake up in the morning to find a dead mouse on his chest. I’m glad she never brought me any!

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why? I loved the Cat Who . . . Mysteries. Maybe because the main feline characters were Siamese cats like Punchy. But they were also great cozy mysteries with lots of interesting settings. I would love to live in a converted apple barn!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story? My military husband deployed for 6 months. I was left home with a baby and 2 BIG dogs (combined weight 175 pounds!) My dad came to help out and offered to take the dogs for a walk. He didn’t know the area, and the neighborhood had lots of winding roads. He was gone a really long time. I got really worried. So I strapped baby onto my bicycle and we went looking. Found dad and the dogs about two blocks from home. We rode alongside to make sure he got there. A cat streaked across our path. I said, “Oh, there’s a cat.” He said, “What does that mean?” I said, “Hold on tight!” Next thing I knew my dad was on his belly, being dragged across a neighbor’s front yard. His arms were stretched over his head as he rocked back and forth (he had a big belly) as he was being pulled. I have never laughed so hard in my life. Don’t worry, only thing hurt on my dad was his pride. Oh, and he never offered to walk the dogs again!

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had? I have limited myself to the customary cats and dogs, but my son once had a pot-bellied pig, making Jesus (so named since they got him on a Sunday) my grand-pig. I never got to meet him because the city where son lived said he couldn’t keep a farm animal. But he was very photogenic. Lots of stories there, too, none of which are fit to print on this family-friendly blog. (Did I mention son  was living in a fraternity house at the time?)

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing? First, how challenging it is to sell books. Writing was the easy part! Hitting the bestseller list, not so much. The other thing is I didn’t think it would take so long to write one book. I mean, I can read a book in a week. I truly thought writing would go at the same pace, sit down and type the story. There is so much more to it than that. But will I ever stop writing because of these challenges? No way!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? I have an upstairs porch that has comfy rocking chairs and if the wind is blowing just right I can feel the bay breezes and/or hear the surf crashing against the shore. Love to read there! Writing is anywhere my laptop can plug in (my battery no longer works…)

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Just do it! Yes, the blank page can be daunting, but there is no better feeling in the world than typing THE END!

About Jayne:

Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town then went on to a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her degree in accountancy, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.) She married a naval officer and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, have settled into a cozy cottage by the sea. Jayne is the author of the Blonds at the Beach Mysteries, The Blond Leading the Blond, and Blond Luck. She has contributed seven short mysteries to various anthologies to include joining with the other To Fetch a Thief authors in Virginia is for Mysteries, Volumes I and II, and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

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Welcome, Rosemary Shomaker


Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Rosemary Shomaker to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, I’m Rosie Shomaker. I’ve always liked writing stories, but I spent my professional life analyzing data and writing non-fiction policy reports and summaries. Now I’m free to write what I want to write. I’m as yet fairly undisciplined, though, but once I commit to a project, I focus my energy.

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

Mary and Carmen are the main dog characters in “This is Not a Dog Park,” one of the To Fetch a Thief novellas. Mary is a sheprador and Carmen is a fluffy white dog. In a subsequent story I’ll have to define Carmen’s breed. She’s owned by a stuffy rich lady in the story, so that dog has great mystery possibilities. Carmen and her owner live in a well-to-do neighborhood near a park that is central to the story. Mary the sheprador helps her owner Adam leave behind a life of disquietude.

What are you reading now?

I am reading several Nevada Barr novels. She had varied jobs and did summer work as in the national parks. Her main character, Anna Pidgeon, is a national park ranger. The Rope and Destroyer Angel were riveting. Barr comes off as a bit of a misandrist in her stories, in my opinion, and notwithstanding my feminist tendencies, her treatment of male characters can be harsh . . . although I admit the plot and character development rings sound. The adventure in these stories is great! When I need less adrenaline and more historical escape, I default to Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear mystery books.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

It seems so natural to include pets in a setting. So many readers live with pets. Pets can be used as a good character sounding board in stories; human-pet interaction and dialogue are straight lines to the human character’s psyche. Animals also can be used to move the plot along, change pace, and provide humor. I haven’t worked much yet with using animals to ratchet up tension. I’ll have to explore that.

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

This is a real possibility for my next story. Aren’t all pets service animals in a way—since they are usually emotional support animals for most of us? I was intrigued when I read Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper and met Campbell Alexander’s dog Judge. Judge helps warn Alexander of approaching epileptic seizures. Wow. Also, a local writer has shared her experiences with her own family dog that could indicate her daughter’s diabetic crises. The working nature of a dog can give real service to humans. I’ve also been introduced to police dogs and search and rescue dogs, and I admire the training and work of those canines. So much tension and conflict could be shown in stories featuring that type of dog in a criminal situation. I like the idea of a service dog, maybe a hearing dog that is specially trained to help people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Hearing dogs can alert their humans to sounds around the home and in public. I can see working that type of service dog into a story, too.

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

One day I’ll read a college thesis written about Charlotte of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. What a story! Even as a child I regarded Charlotte as a complex character. Cool to think that college theses have been written about her. As I child I was more of a Wilbur-type character who could not appreciate all there was to Charlotte, especially in their early relationship. I think I knew some Charlottes in my time. Now that I am older, I guess I am a Charlotte.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pup spends his time a room away from me when I write. He comes in occasionally to remind me to stop, drink some water, eat, and go outside. Well, he wants to do those things, and he provides the example that gets me out of my obsessive writing state. If not for my pup, I’d disregard most everything once I was on a roll and fixated on writing. Sometimes I’ll put him off and try to ignore him but he won’t ignore me, and soon his sad eyes are right at my hip level and hard to overlook.

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

I found a very old copy of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Prairie, circa 1900. I love Cooper. I feel right in the forest with his characters! The Prairie takes place not in New England forests but in the Midwest during America’s westward expansion. I’ve an idea for a novel set in the great plains, and I’m hoping Cooper’s book fills in some of the dramatic sentiment I need to spur me on to write more of my story. I have TBR piles in several rooms of my house. Some are piles of magazines or local newspapers. Others are piles of books that have come my way that I am not really set on reading. I let the piles accumulate, and when I have not made a move to read anything in a pile in a few weeks, I clear out the items to the recycle bin or the giveaway box.

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

My son found a very large beetle (two and one half inches long) when he was about five years old—my son’s age—not the beetle’s. They kinda bonded in a strange way. The beetle seemed happy to have a caretaker. My son made him a home in his room: a tray with water, grass and leaves for habitat, and who knows what for food? We most likely looked up what beetles ate. Mr. Beetle lived as a pet with us for four days. He’d sit on my son’s shoulder and even on his cheek when my son lay down. Mr. Beetle didn’t move much or very fast, and my husband and I hypothesized he was an old beetle, hopefully not a sick beetle. My son left on a short trip, maybe a cub scout trip, with my husband, and Mr. Beetle did not live to see my son again. A month or two later, my son found another beetle while playing in a friend’s yard. This new beetle wasn’t so nice. He stung my son! That ended my son’s interactions with beetles. My son’s entomology career, down the tubes.

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

My favorite place to read is outside on my deck, or even outside in a park. I like to have my legs raised while seated to read. The fresh air and natural light enlivens my soul. If I cannot be outside, I like to read sitting longways on the couch by our big front window. Inside I like to have a big cup of coffee at hand while I read. Outside, my drink of choice is water.

About Rosemary

Rosemary Shomaker was born in Maine and grew up with family—and heartstring—ties to New England. She currently lives in Virginia, and after a state government career now writes fiction. You can find a few of her short stories in anthologies such as Virginia is for Mysteries – Volumes I and II, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and several of the Shaker of Margaritas anthologies. Her “This is Not a Dog Park” novella is included in the Mutt Mysteries collection To Fetch a Thief.

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K. B. Inglee on Dog Walks and Newfoundlands

People often walk their dogs at the park where I work. We have eight miles of trails, streams and ponds and a raceway that provides water power to run the 18th century mill. Dogs and people love it.

Most of the dogs who visit the park are friendly, many are beautiful. They are usually happy to be petted by the staff and other visitors.

Dogs I have met.

I was not prepared for what I saw a couple of Sundays ago. It was nearly closing time, and I was checking the fishing ponds when I saw a young couple walking a bear by the blacksmith shop. There are no bears in the park, so this must be their private bear. By the time I got out the back door and halfway to the shop, I realized that it wasn’t a bear but a Newfoundland dog.

I find it difficult to ignore any dogs that come to the park and this one was particularly appealing. I just had to get my hands into that lovely black fur. And feel the giant tongue on my hands. Maybe even take him home if I could fit him in my car.

His people told me that there was a newfoundland gathering that afternoon at the park. By the time we closed the visitors center an hour later, a dozen a dozen or so of these huge dogs had assembled with their people. One family came all the way across the county to meet up with other wonders of these astonishing animals.

 Most of the dogs were black, some with white markings One small on was the size of a calf. There was a Jack Russell who looked out of place, and a mutt of some appealing heritage.

 Every year for the last 15 or so I have written a short story which I send out in place of Christmas cards. Last Christmas, I wrote a story about a Portuguese Water dog who worked as a service dog for a college professor with a bum hip.  Now I wish I had used a Nufie. Too late, I have half a dozen stories of Anonymous Dog’s crime fighting. While he hadn’t made it into print yet, he is well established in my mind.

 AD had already met a police dog and made friends. I thought about it for a week or so before I decided there was no reason that DC couldn’t have a second best friend. Maybe I could have a whole posse of crime fighting dogs.

 Most of all, I hope these big beautify digs keep coming to our park.

About K.B. Inglee:

I always wanted to write mystery stories but like most somehow life interfered. That is probably true for 90% of people who want to be writers.

There came a time in my life when I had some leisure to write, easy access to research materials, and a strong desire to fulfill my dream. I wrote my first novel after reading a biography of the James family, so I set it in Cambridge in the early 1890’s. I knew what was wrong with it. First of all, there was no murder. It was crammed full of back story and descriptions of a Victorian household. But I became fond of the characters: a lady detective and the people who lived in her boarding house.

I wrote a collection, maybe several collections, of short stories for my main character, Emily Lothorp Lawrence. Writing is way more fun than selling so it was a long time before any of the short stories appeared in print.

When I began the novel, I exchanged manuscripts with a friend who was a Civil War re-enactor. He said that if I was going to write history I had better do it, so I stitched up a simple outfit and attended several local Civil War battles.

Then one day I crossed a bridge into the New Republic (1790-1830). That crossing changed my life. I began interpreting that period, for which I needed a whole new set of clothes. I showed off the Oliver Evans mill, one of the first automated mills in the country. In time I was trusted with the care of a flock of heritage sheep.

Since I crossed that bridge, I have driven oxen, plowed a field with a team of horses, cooked in a wood fired oven, and spent a weekend in Maine in a 1870s household without running water or electricity. I have sheared a sheep, cleaned and spun the wool, knit and woven, and finally made a garment with the wool.

And I kept writing short stories.

“Weaver’s Trade” was my Christmas story in 2012, and it won second place in the Bethlehem Writers Round Table.

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