Welcome, Laura Vorreyer!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Laura Vorreyer and Dexter to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello. Thanks so much for stopping by and getting to know a little about me.

My book, The Pet Sitter’s Tale, is my first book; it’s based on my 15 years as a professional pet sitter and dog walker in Hollywood, California. I was inspired to write  the book by my many friends and acquaintances that heard my wild and unbelievable pet sitting stories and said to me, “I can’t believe it, you should write a book.” And so, I did.

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

My dog, Dexter, is featured prominently in my book. Dexter is my canine-soul mate. I  recued him when he was just a puppy. He had been thrown out of an apartment window  and run over by a car. I adopted him sight unseen and never regretted it for a minute.  Dexter has been with me through thick and thin, for better and for worse and takes up  residence in the office with me when I’m writing. He often sits under my desk and is a great sounding board for ideas and yes, for snacking inspiration.

My book is collection of stories and in my story entitled, “I Confess” I talk about loving  Dexter more than the person I was in a relationship with at the time. Many women have told me that they can relate to this story.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

A script. My desire is that my book will be made into a major motion picture. (Isn’t it everybody’s?) Even so, currently I am working on a script for the screen adaptation of  The Pet Sitter’s Tale and a children’s book, which is a new concept, altogether. A black Labrador named Leo inspires the children’s book. I used to regularly walk Leo for a client. The client lived in a wonderful neighborhood full of lush greenery and beautifully landscaped gardens. Walking Leo inspired me to write a children’s book about a dog-named Leo that becomes a protector of the Earth and a role model for children.

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

Ginger was my first dog. I write about her extensively in the beginning of my book. She was my first love and best friend. Coincidentally, Ginger was also a black Labrador. I’ve always felt that people gravitate towards the types of pets they had as children and I’m no different. Even though Dexter is a Chi-weenie, I would love to have a Black Labrador. My second dog growing up was a black Lab; too, his name was King. King also made it into my book. I believe it was when I was a child that my love of dogs was developed. I was quite isolated growing up and created an entire world where just my dog and me existed.

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

Animals are mentioned in every single story in my book. Sometimes they are the main character of the story and other times they are not. Having been a pet sitter for so long, I often think of the animals as the main characters, each with their own voice and personality.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I got some great advice once and that was, write what you know. Well, I know animals, after fifteen years a s a professional pet sitter I’ve become a pet expert.

I been fortunate to observe the role of the pet in a family’s life and seen first hand how a pet can become so much more than just an animal living in the house. Amongst its humans. I include animals in my writing because without them, I’d have nothing to write about.

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

I find that many movies, which feature animals, are too sad to watch because the animal   usually dies at the end of the movie. (I hate when that happens!) I love, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective I especially love the scene when Ace is hiding all the pets in his apartment and the landlord comes over, I have definitely been there. I love that movie. The one book that stands out in my mind as having an animal as the central character is, The Art of Racing in the Rain. By Garth Stein. In this book, the narrator was Enzo the dog. What a great book. I think this is the first time I read a book and thought that the perspective of the animal was captured really well and also the dog was so completely loveable in his innocence and loyalty. What a treasure!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

It’s in my book; you’ll have to read it. Begins on page 102

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

When I was a little girl. I loved to write. I would send long letters, keep journals and enter writing contest (especially poetry) every chance I’d get. As I got older, writing became too much of a time commitment and I stopped writing for the pure joy of it. Instead I became an avid reader and devoured tons of books. About ten years ago I started writing again and haven’t stopped.

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

To vacation in Italy. Not just for a few days but for a few weeks or maybe even more. I would love to spend time in Venice, Italy. This has been a dream destination of mine forever, as long as I can remember. My relatives on my Father’s side are from Sicily so I would love to spend some time in Sicily, too. Put me down for a few months in Italy and I’m good.

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

First, don’t compare yourself to other writers. You can be inspired by them, motivated by them and encouraged by them but don’t try and be like them. Copying someone else’s writing style will not guarantee success. Remember, their good writing does not take away from your good writing. Remain true to your own voice. Write the best you can for you. There is a big enough reading audience out there for everyone to have a fan base.

It’s all right to be jealous of someone else’s success, just don’t act on it.

Secondly, have compassion for yourself and for others. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t wake up every morning and pound out 2,500 words before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee. It’s okay. Do the best that you can and enjoy the journey!

About Laura

Laura Vorreyer is an entrepreneur, who pioneered the dog walking industry in Hollywood over 15 years ago, and is the author of the new book, “The Pet Sitter’s Tale.” She is the owner of the pet care company Your Dog’s Best Friend, a premier dog walking and pet-sitting business in Los Angeles. Laura has taught pet-sitting and dog walking classes in Los Angeles and is also a passionate advocate for animal rights. She remains dedicated to pet rescue.

 Laura’s road to pet-sitting began when she packed up her belongings and moved from Chicago to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a make-up artist for big-time movie stars. Rather than dabbing powder on the pert noses of up-and-coming starlets, she found herself without a union card (something she didn’t know she needed for a career as a make-up artist) and, therefore, couldn’t find work. Moreover, it seemed as if everybody she met was a make-up artist. “There were more make-up artists than actresses in Los Angeles!” she quipped.

 Before she knew it, in order to just get her foot in that coveted door, she was heading to the set of a seedy adult film to apply make-up in ways she never – ever – expected. It was at this point she started to question her choice in career paths. A chance meeting on the set of a legitimate film led to a life-changing conversation. A well-known comedienne happened to need a dog walker and since Laura loves dogs, her career showering pets with love and care was born.

 Never dull, sometimes hilarious and occasionally terribly sad, Laura found that her career of looking after the rich and famous’ furry family members was captivating enough for a book. Recognizing this, she got a good chunk of her anecdotes down on paper and produced what is a combination of the books “The Nanny Diaries” and “The Devil Wears Prada” with the can-do spirit of the film “Legally Blonde.” “The Pet Sitter’s Tale” is funny, inspiring and relatable to anyone who has ever loved an animal. About her path to her career, Laura explains, “I have been many other things, but none as satisfying or rewarding as a caretaker for other living creatures.” Anybody who has loved a four-legged furry family member can relate and will laugh and cry along with Laura’s compilation of stories of her 15 years in the pet care business.

 

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Welcome, Debra Sennefelder!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Debra Sennefelder to the blog. Congratulations on your new release!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Born and raised in New York City, I now live in Connecticut with my family which includes two slightly spoiled Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy. They are my writing companions, though they sleep a lot on the job. When I’m not writing I love to bake, hang with the pups, read or exercise. Over the years I’ve worked in pre-hospital care, retail and publishing. Currently I’m writing full-time. I write two mystery series, The Food Blogger Mystery series and the Kelly Quinn Mystery series.

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

Susie and Billy are the only pets we have now. Susie is 14 years old and Billy is 13 years old. Susie is full of life. She loves to walk and meet people. She gets miffed when someone doesn’t pay attention to her. She’s so funny. She loves a good game of tug of war and she loves to roll around on the grass. Billy has lost his sight due to genetic condition so he’s not as playful these days, but he enjoys walking outdoors and he’s never too far from me.  He’s a little trooper. Over the years we’ve had pet ducks, 9 in total. We got them as ducklings and raised them and at one point 2 of them needed to recuperate (one had a broken leg and the other had an infection) so they had to live in our house. That was an interesting period of time. The cat, we had Howard for 14 years, was not amused by the ducks. We’ve also had two Prairie Dogs, awesome pets by the way, and a hedgehog we rescued. Her name was Tiggy. Sadly, she’d been sick and died eleven months after we took her in. Right now the only pet that is a model in my writing is Howard. He appears in the Kelly Quinn books. He was a friendly, orange cat that liked to cuddle. It’s been 14 years since he’s passed so I’m able to write about him. I’ve chosen not to include Susie and Billy in any books at this time, perhaps 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 The Uninvited Corpse there are two dogs. Bigelow is on the cover of the book and he’s a charmer with bad manners. Bigelow is a Beagle so he’s very friendly and playful and a handful. Buddy is a Golden Retriever who lives down the street from Hope Early and visits during his long walks with his owner. Howard is an orange cat that will be in the Kelly Quinn books.

 What are you reading now?

I’m always working my way through my massive TBR list. I’m reading I Know What You Bid Last Summer, a Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery, by Sherry Harris.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

 ’m working on the third book in the Food Blogger Mystery series. The second book, The Hidden Corpse, will be available in early 2019. I’ve also just submitted the first book in The Kelly Quinn mystery series to my editor. The title of that book hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a difficult question to answer. I have so many favorite authors. I have a bunch of authors who are an automatic buy, when they have a new book I’m preordering it. Those authors include Sherry Harris, V.M. Burns, Katherine Hall Page, Bethany Blake, Krista Davis, Jenn McKinlay, Ellie Ashe.

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

Growing up we had a German Shepard named Lady and a cat named Tiger. Lady was sweet and she was very protective. Tiger only liked my mother. I remember a lot of hissing from her. When I was a teenager we got another dog, a Doberman Pinscher named Coffee, she was a rescue and incredibly lovable.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When Susie was a year old we decided to get another dog and we brought Billy home. They immediately took to each other and played for 3 days straight. It was like one long play date and then they started to settle down. But the playing continued. One day I found Susie barking at the carrier. She never liked the carrier, still doesn’t, but Billy liked it and would go in there to sleep. She was barking so loud for a couple of minutes I went to look in the carrier. I found Billy had stashed all of the toys Susie played with inside the carrier. I think he figured out Susie wouldn’t go in there. Then one afternoon Susie raced into the living room with Billy following after her, she had a toy Billy was playing with in her mouth, she stopped by the sofa and tossed it up there. Billy tried to get up on the sofa, but he was too small to jump up. Hmm…I think she knew that.

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

That’s easy. I want to go Costa Rica to visit the sloth sanctuary. I think they’re so adorable.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

They sleep while I’m writing. They each have a bed in the study and that’s where they spend most of their days. If the weather is nice and the windows are open, Susie is perched on the back of the sofa with her face practically pressed against the screen.

Debra’s Biography:

Debra Sennefelder is an avid reader who reads across a range of genres, but mystery fiction is her obsession. Her interest in people and relationships is channeled into her novels against a backdrop of crime and mystery. When she’s not reading, she enjoys cooking and baking and as a former food blogger, she is constantly taking photographs of her food. Yeah, she’s that person.

Born and raised in New York City, she now lives and Connecticut with her family. She’s worked in pre-hospital care, retail and publishing. Her writing companions are her adorable and slightly spoiled Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America. She can be reached at Debra@DebraSennefelder.com

 Let’s Be Social:

Links – Website – http://debrasennefelder.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraSennefelderAuthor/

 

 

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Teresa Inge Interviews Gwen Taylor about her Volunteer Work at For the Love of Poodles

This week, Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Gwen Taylor. Teresa Inge interviews her about her volunteer work with For the Love of Poodles.

Tell us about yourself.
My name is Gwen Taylor and I am a plastic surgery nurse and a huge dog lover. I grew up in Hanover County, Virginia. I had a Jack Russell Terrier for nearly 17 years. His name was Emmitt and he was the love of my life.

Are you involved with any animal organizations or do volunteer work?
I am a foster mom and volunteer for the small non-profit name organization, For The Love of Poodles. We are based out of Richmond, Virginia and rescue small dogs.

Ever foster or adopt any pets?
I have fostered 6 dogs.  Recently, I adopted Mickey a 5 year old shih tzu. The sixth adopted dog is Figaro.

What is your funniest pet story?
Just last night I stopped and got a box of KFC chicken after work. When I got home, I put my plate on the coffee table and went to the kitchen for my glass of tea. When I returned, Figaro my #6 foster dog, a 10 pound poodle/shih tzu mix had jumped on the table and had a chicken leg in his mouth. Which by the way looked like a dinosaur leg in his tiny mouth. Mickey was under the table waiting to share in on the delicious food.

Anything else you would like to share?
The loss of a lifetime companion truly broke my heart. But volunteering For The Love of Poodles and being a foster mom is very healing. Please remember, adopt don’t shop for a pet.

For the Love of Poodles – Facebook

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Welcome, Kristen Jackson!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I live in Pennsylvania with my husband, two grown sons, and three large-breed dogs. I love to read, write, and spend time with my family at our small cabin in the Pocono mountains. A creek runs right through the yard, and the dogs love going there on the weekends as much as the humans do. I find this setting the perfect place for writing. I leave my worries and responsibilities at home so my mind is clear for the story.

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

I have three large-breed dogs. Koda is a Bernese mountain dog, Sophie is a landseer Newfoundland, and Chewie is a Saint Bernese (Bernese mountain dog/Saint Bernard mix.) They’re the best! They are always models for dogs in my writing! Though my upcoming Februay 1st release does not have a dog in it because of the logistics of dimension travel, I’ve written several stories that do include dogs. The very first novel I ever wrote was a middle grade fiction book called SNOW DOG, though it is unpublished. In my current work in progress, I introduce two dog characters, and though they are different breeds than my three, I use the personalities of my dogs to base my canine characters after.

 

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

In SNOW DOG, I introduce a canine character named Bacon. He’s a large-breed mix. A rescue dog, he’s very introverted…until the main character wins him over with – you guessed it – bacon! My current work in progress, BENEATH THE WAVES, has two dogs in it. A very comical and stubborn senior bulldog named Rufus, and another rescue mix named Crash. Crash plays a central role in the story … but I don’t want to give anything away!

What are you reading now?

I am currently reading a young adult novel: ‘The Scorching’ by Libbi Duncan.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

An adult sci-fi/fantasy novel entitled BENEATH THE WAVES. The story takes place in Cape Cod, where strange shiny objects are washing up on the beaches. A school teacher finds one of the objects, and calls it a trinket. A gamer’s dog finds the same thing, and he wears it on his collar. A marine biologist finds the same type of object lodged in the mouth of a great white shark she is tracking, and a retired police officer has had one for years, and calls it his good luck charm. What will happen when these strangers find each other, and the secret power of these small discoveries is revealed?

Who is your favorite author and why?

Nora Roberts. She’s my favorite because I can’t put her books down until I finish them! I always say she could write about dirt and make it interesting…

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

I had hamsters all my life, but I always knew I wanted a dog. Finally, after years of pestering, my parents gave in and got me a puppy for my birthday when I was in 6th grade. It’s especially memorable because I was sick with chicken pox, but I forgot all about that when I opened the box to the fuzzy little pup inside. His name was Beau, and he was my best friend. He was a beautiful German shepherd/old English sheepdog mix.

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

Oh, no, they are always central to the story, and play a role just as important as the human characters.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I can’t imagine a life without animals in it. They are more than pets to me. They’re a part of our family. It’s as simple as that. I makes me happy to include pets; especially dogs, in my stories. I often catch myself smiling as I’m writing these parts of the story.

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

Well, of course I have to say Beethoven is my favorite dog movie. It’s when I began my love-affair with large-breed dogs. Before the three dogs I have today, my very first Saint Bernard was Bear. I like to say he was my soul-dog. We were connected, and were very close, he and I. My favorite book is MARLEY AND ME. I absolutely loved that book, though I sobbed at the end and had to put the book down because I couldn’t see the words through my tears. Another favorite book is FREE DAYS WITH GEORGE. It’s such a heart-warming story! (And, or course, the breed is the same as my Sophie!)

 What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Do I have to pick just one? LOL!

Chewie, our Saint Bernese, is quite the hugger! He’ll jump up on the couch, sit between us, and bend himself in half to lay his head on top of ours. I read an article recently that stated that dogs don’t really like to hug. Ha! Obviously, they’ve never met Chewie!

Another story…We had a cat named Casper, who wedged himself between the kitchen floor and the basement ceiling under the duct. We heard him meowing and it took us forever to find where he was. We had to cut a hole in the kitchen floor to get him out! Totally worth it!

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

I’ve always said I wanted to be a writer. (I know, that’s everyone’s story, but it’s true!) I’m a teacher, and I started with children’s picture books. (By the way, I have a children’s picture book coming out later in 2018 called JOCELYN’S BOX OF SOCKS.) As I mentioned earlier, I had an idea for writing SNOW DOG, and it was just too long to fit into a 32-page children’s picture book, so I decided to write a novel and discovered my love for it! I haven’t stopped since.

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

I always joke and say that my dream is to be a stay-at-home dog-mom! Wouldn’t that be great? I could stay at home, take care of the dogs, and write. If I had a huge house with lots of land, I’d love to run a large-breed dog rescue.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I write on the couch with my laptop, and usually one of the dogs is snuggled up next to me while I’m writing.

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

My son, who lives with us, has two ferrets, Smokey and Bandit. We have a rescued cockatiel named Shady. In the past we’ve had lizards, frogs, a turtle, and a cat. Yes. I guess you could call us animal-lovers.

About Kristen

I’ve been a teacher for over twenty years, and I live in Reading, Pennsylvania with my husband, two grown sons, and three large-breed dogs. Books inspire me. From children’s picture books to adult literature in all genres, I have loved reading all my life. Becoming a published author is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to sharing my stories with you! Sign up on my website to follow  my blog.

I love writing, reading, and spending time with my family and dogs at our cabin in the Poconos…my favorite place to escape and write!

Kristen L. Jackson, Author of KEEPER OF THE WATCH released 2/1/18

 Available for Pre-order at:

Black Rose Writing

(https://www.blackrosewriting.com/childrens-booksya/keeperofthewatch)

Amazon

(https://www.amazon.com/Keeper-Watch-Dimension-Kristen-Jackson/dp/161296981X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511615010&sr=1-1&keywords=Keeper+of+the+Watch)

Barnes & Noble

(https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/keeper-of-the-watch-kristen-l-jackson/1127336385?ean=9781612969817)

Let’s Be Social…

Facebook: @kristenjacksonauthor (https://www.facebook.com/kristenjacksonauthor)

Twitter: @KLJacksonAuthor (https://www.twitter.com/KLJacksonAuthor)

Tumblr: https://kristenjacksonauthor.tumblr.com

Good Reads: Kristen L. Jackson (https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomkristenjackson)

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Yahoo: kristenjacksonauthor@yahoo.com

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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/

Twitter https://twitter.com/HelenaFairfax

Pinterest https://uk.pinterest.com/helenafairfax/

Instagram https://www.instagram.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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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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