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. 


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 Author and Pet Lover Roland Clarke

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Roland Clarke to the blog!

Tell us about yourself and what you write.

I am a former equestrian journalist and photographer who had to retire when diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I write mysteries, although I have written drafts of SF/fantasy stories. My debut novel was Spiral of Hooves, a mystery surrounding the death of a horse rider, set mainly in England and France. The sequel will be set in Idaho, USA, where we live.

My current WIP is Fates Maelstrom, the first book in a series about a female Goth detective in North Wales, who is attached to a burglary where the suspect is from a local Romani site.

How do your pets impact your writing?

We have two ‘designer’ dogs: a Cavachon– Cavalier x Bichon – called Quetzal; and a Chorkie– Chihuahua x Yorkie – called Treeky. Both bring me inspiration and give me a reason to keep living, especially Quetzal. Last year, when I was rushed to hospital, my wife was my first waking mainstay, but somehow, Quetzal was the one that came to me when I was about to give up in my sleep.

Also, Quetzal lies on my lap, in my wheelchair, at least once a day, encouraging me to rest or at least chill and not stress.

However, there are moments when the dogs want all my attention when I am trying to write. Sometimes, I interrupt myself and switch my focus – losing the plot. Other times, the distraction becomes a chance to relax before I get stressed out.

Do you include animals in your stories?

Animals have a habit of finding roles. My debut novel, Spiral of Hooveshad two horses as principal characters – not surprising for a mystery set in the sport horse world. However, a Flat-coated Retrieveralso plays a valuable role – a breed that I dreamt of owning – as does a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog.

Horses find their way into most of my stories. Fates Maelstromhas a Gypsy Vannerin a few scenes – a breed that has turned up in at least one short story. Dogs and cats are less common, but wild animals feature – wolves and eagles, although they tend to be animal totems.

The protagonist in my North Wales series, Sparkle Anwyl is adopted by a jackdaw that will feature in the series.

What is your funniest pet story?

This is my wife Juanita’s story and true. When she was thirteen, Juanita wanted to prove that a horse could fit inside the house. So, she led a big 16 hands horse inside through the kitchen, into the front room and then her mum’s bedroom. The horse behaved impeccably – no contributions for the rose-bed – and went out the same way.

Pretty neat. But her mum and dad didn’t understand and were not amused.

So, that’s me and the animals. Now to find time to watch Marley & Me– and go into an online game to tame a few wolves.

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

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

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Pens, Paws, and Claws Welcomes Kathleen Kaska and Kristina Stanley

Kathleen Kaska

Kristina Stanley

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Kathleen Kaska and Kristina Stanley as permanent bloggers. Watch for their posts about writing and pets in the upcoming rotation.

Check out Our Authors page to read more about them and our Let’s Be Social page for links to their social media sites.

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Meet Kristina Stanley

This week, Kristina Stanley is our guest author for #WriterWednesday. Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 Thank you for having me on Pens, Paws, and Claws. It’s exciting for me to post about writing and dogs. My two passions in life. I’m the CEO of Fictionary. I co-founded Fictionary after I had 4 books published and had developed a process for performing my own structural edit.

My mysteries are very setting dependent. They take place British Columbian mountains, the Bahamas, and Loughborough Lake in Kingston Ontario.

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

Farley Mowat is a 9-year-old Wheaten Terrier. My previous dog, Chica, was a yellow Labrador. Not only are my pets models for writing, I use many other dogs in my novels. In Look The Other Way, there is a dog named Piddles. I met her in the Bahamas and decided she needed a role.

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

My Yellow Lab, Chica, died when she was four. It broke my heart. At the time I was writing Descent, the first in the Stone Mountain Series, so I gave her a role. It was a way for me to keep her with me.

Farley has a large role in Blaze, a cameo in Look The Other Way, and is a character (under the name of Mowat) in my work in progress, Evolution.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’ve finished the first draft of Evolution. Jaz Cooper’s husband dies under mysterious circumstances. Weeks later, Jaz rescues a dog from drowning and is wounded by the dog. The two incidents are linked, and Jaz tries to discover what really happened to her husband.

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

I’ve always had dogs, and I don’t seem to have a preference for a breed. In order of appearance in my life I had Frosty a Samoyed. Toby a Samoyed. Polo a Newfoundland. Mia a  Newfoundland. Arf a British Bull Terrier. Emmett a Dalmatian. And Zack a Standard Poodle.

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

They are characters in their own right. I’m very interested in how animals affect the lives of humans and how much a human gains from a relationship with an animal. I love to explore this topic.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I believe in writing about what you love. An author spends an awful lot of time with a novel, so for me, the topic needs to be a passion.

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

In my work in progress, Evolution, the main character is a dog trainer. And yes a service dog appears. Jaz, the protagonist, doesn’t realize she needs a therapy dog until she meets a yellow Labrador named Rose. When I’m writing, I imagine my yellow Labrador, Chica.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 When I was a director at Panorama Mountain Village, I changed the policy to allow dogs at work. There was a selfish motive. I brought my dog, Chica, to work with me. She was under 6 months old, and I thought, fully housetrained, so I let her run free in the office.

Unbeknownst to me, a meeting was happening in the conference room.

“Okay, someone admit it. Who did that?” says one of the resort managers. “I can’t take the smell anymore.”

Giggles around the table, but no one admits to the gaseous emissions.

Then, a knock at my office door. “Has Chica been in the conference room?”

“Sure,” I say.

“You’d better come with me.”

So I follow the manager down the hallway. A group of people is moving from one conference room to another.

The manager points to the rug below the table. And there it sits. One big pile of steaming…

Let’s just say everyone had a fun time laughing at me while I cleaned up.

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

Late one night in Unteruhldingen, Germany I was reading MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU by Mary Higgins Clark. The opening—a woman trapped in a grave. Darkness and silence surround her, and she doesn’t know where she is. I can still see her fingers clawing at the edges of the coffin.

Tucked in my bed, I knew a driver would arrive at 4 a.m. to carry me to the Zurich airport for a flight to London, England. The sensible thing to do was sleep. But I couldn’t. I turned pages until the car arrived. I was exhausted, bleary eyed, and excited. At that moment I knew I wanted to write something that forced a person to read and to forget about life for a while.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Farley is always with me when I’m writing. He sleeps at my feet. When he’s decided I’ve ignored him for long enough, he jumps up beside me. When he truly can’t control himself, he puts his head on my keyboard. Then I know it’s time for a walk.

About Kristina Stanley

Kristina Stanley is the CEO of Fictionary.co. Fictionary is an online tool that helps fiction writers turn a first draft into a great story.

 She is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series, LOOK THE OTHER WAY, and THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES. She’s published by Imajin Books and Luzifer-Verlag.

 Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology.

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