Welcome, David Ryan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome David Ryan to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I came to the author game late in life. I didn’t start writing my first novel until I was 45, which was both surprising and disappointing to me, because I’ve had as a goal since college to write a novel. I ended up in another writing direction first. I spent more than 30 years working as a journalist, writing, editing, and managing at newspapers before leaving for a marketing job. My career as a novelist started one night when I was traveling as a reporter and couldn’t sleep one night. So I started. And I got up the next morning and added to what I’d written. And added more that night. By the time I took the time to do any plotting, I had five or six chapters. I realized I needed to map out the story somewhere other than my head and create some characters with backstories, personalities, and descriptions. I write mysteries and thrillers because that’s what I’ve always enjoyed reading. And they’re fun to write.

Why crime writing?

I was an avid reader as a kid, and one of the series that captured me early on was the Alfred Hitchcock Investigators series. This was a variation of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I was hooked. When I’d watch TV on Sunday nights, we tuned into shows like Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife. Sometimes you knew the criminal right away because they told you But what they showed was how the detective solved the crime. Toward the end of my journalism career, when I’d already started writing Dead Odds, I managed a breaking news team, which was basically the crime team. That pretty much sealed the deal.

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

I didn’t know until college. I was fortunate to have two people give me a kick-start. My youth-league basketball coach was a journalist, and he helped me land a gig working Friday and Saturday nights on the sports agate desk at one of the local papers. Those were the two busiest nights in the department, and if you could survive those, you could make it in the newspaper business. After a while, one of the editors let me cover games. Once he learned I could make deadline, I was in. The second person was a manager at a restaurant where I worked, and her brother was the editor of a local sports magazine. She learned I was writing and introduced me to her brother. He gave me some writing assignments, and I was in heaven. I eventually joined the college newspaper staff. Even though I was writing and getting paid for it, I didn’t find my writing voice for many years. I think that came when I finally relaxed and started telling as many stories as I could in the way that I wanted to tell them. At some point, the editors stopped editing so hard and started letting my ways get into the paper.

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

Our two pooches are with me constantly – in my heart. During the writing of Dead Odds, we had to face the hard choice that most pet owners confront at some point. Both our Miniature Schnauzers crossed the Rainbow Bridge in recent years. Baron was older, stocky and muscle-bound with a smooth, silver coat and a feisty, all-guard-dog disposition. He was sweet, but he disliked kids. And he ran the house – until Xena joined us. That first night, we gave Xena a toy to play with. She wrestled with it until Baron stole it from her and took it to play with underneath the coffee table. When Xena, at 12 weeks old, barked at him and tried to retrieve it, Baron growled and chased her away. The next night, the same scene played out. We gave her the toy, he took it, and she went after it. This time, though, when Baron growled, she pounced. With sharp puppy teeth, she bit him on the ear and walked off with her toy. It was Baron’s last day running the household. Baron used to lay in a chair next to my work desk at home, snoring away as I rewrote scenes from Dead Odds. Xena, as her name suggests, was a fierce pup but what a sweetheart. But she was not a literary companion. She didn’t tolerate others not paying attention to her, and in many ways she was more cat than dog. She preferred to sit in my lap when I wrote. But she refused to stay still, and often she opted to be in another room where she could lay in the sunlight or watch lizards outside.

How do you fill the pet void? Do you see yourselves having more pets?

My wife and I get asked that all the time. We don’t have a final answer. We want to do some traveling, but at some point I think we’ll get another dog or two. Right now, we’re the resident dog-sitters of our neighborhood. Two young couples around us occasionally need help when they travel or have conflicts, so now we’re a second home for Buster and Bonnie. Buster is a black mutt who has some Dachshund in him. He’s excitable. I can’t get any writing done with him around. He wants to play too much. Bonnie is a young Miniature Schnauzer who reminds us so much of Baron and Xena. She’s silver and has a beautiful coat and a wonderful temperament. She likes to bark, but she’s a doll. My wife likes that neither Buster nor Bonnie like to lick people in the face.

Did you have childhood pets?

I didn’t. I am allergic to long-haired dogs and all cats. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m still allergic, but at some point I was around a dog that didn’t shed, and my sinuses didn’t go haywire. When my wife and I got married and I was traveling a lot, we thought a dog made sense for us. (We have no kids.) And it worked.

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

There are no pets in Dead Odds. Well, wait. The protagonist, Conrad Keane, reveals that he had a pet dog as a teen but had to leave the dog at home when he left for college. In the second book in the Keane series, tentatively titled Dead Sleep, Keane gets reunited with a Miniature Schnauzer. At least, that’s the case in my current draft.

What are you reading now?

I just finished November Road by Lou Berney. Up next are two novels by fellow Floridians, Four Years Gone by Dallas Gorham, Beached by Micki Browning, and Yard Goat by Ray Flynt. At some point soon, I’ll get to Holy Ghost, John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers novel, and Bob Woodward’s Fear.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Well, this blog post. I have another guest blog post teed up for the International Thriller Writers website. The work on Dead Sleep is always there, and I am working on a short story about an ex-mobster who is living quietly in northern Florida. Although my days as a journalist are behind me, I write a number of blog posts, emails and internal office missives in my role at a digital marketing and technology company.

Who is your favorite author and why?

There are three authors I will read anytime, anywhere: John Sandford, Lee Child and Pat Conroy. I enjoy Sandford and Child because they drive stories as if they’re running a race and they don’t dare slow down. Conroy, who died in 2016, captured me shortly after college with Prince of Tides. I grew up in the South, and Conroy’s11 language and sense of the South grabbed my heart and dragged me around for years. But one of the things I’ve discovered in this author journey is that there are so many great books out there written by people you’ve never heard of before.

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

First is “show, don’t tell.” This is a much more nuanced approach to writing than I was aware of. Telling is saying someone was angry. Showing is having the person throw a cellphone across the room after learning something bad has happened. The second thing is how important beats and tags are to telling a story the right way. As a journalist, I could finish every paragraph with the same attribution: he said or she said. You can’t do that as a novelist.

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

I give the advice that was given to me: read. Read a lot. There are those who say to study the language, the word construction and the engineering of whatever it is that you like to read. For me, those things didn’t stick until much, much later in my writing career. I just loved to read entertaining stories. But if you read a lot, you will by necessity read a variety of authors and styles. You’ll find a genre and an author (or two or three) who speaks to you.

 

About David:

David Ryan is a former award-winning journalist turned mystery and thriller author. After more than 25 years as a sports writer, assigning editor, digital editor and people manager, Ryan opted out of daily journalism for a second career that includes crafting crime fiction stories. His first book, Dead Odds, is available in eBook on Amazon. The paperback version will be available next month. He lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife.

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Welcome, Jodi Rath!

Please welcome author, Jodi Rath, to the Pens, Paws, and Claws blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello, I’m Jodi Rath, and I’m so thrilled to be here! My husband and I are both animal lovers, rescuers (although I believe they rescue me), and animal advocates, so finding this blog was a wonderful things for me! I’m married to the man of my dreams and we’ve been together for 16 years. Currently, we have seven cats. We’ve had 13 cats over the last 16 years and we love them all dearly, and even though we’ve lost some of them as they crossed the rainbow bridge, they will forever be a part of our family and in our hearts. All of our cats will be featured in my new series, The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Five of the seven show up in book 1, Pineapple Upside Down Murder, which comes out 11/23/18 and is available for preorder now and they will all be on the covers of the books at one time or another.

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

Definitely! In book 1, the protagonist, Jolie Tucker, has four of our cats: Lenny Lee, Sammy Jr., Bobbi Jo, and D.J. Lynn. One of her two love interests ends up adopting another of our cats, Stewart at the end of book 1 and there is a hilarious scene that describes how my husband actually met Steward and decided to adopt him. LOL. All of our cats have middle names too, LOL!

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on two flash fiction stories that will be freebies and come out two weeks before the release date of Pineapple Upside Down Murder (so early November this year). They are prequels to lead into book 1, although, people can still read book 1 without reading these, but they are a really fun look at the protagonist as kids in the first and teens in the second and the kitties will show up there too! I’m also working on book 2 which is called Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Murder where Stewart Michael will be on the cover!

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

Hmmm . . . our cats are not MAIN characters in my books, but they are a central part of the book and over time will become more integrated into the later books in the series. There are currently 14 books in this series and I already have each title and book planned out with an overarching theme to tie it all together and the cats are definitely a part of that theme!

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Why wouldn’t I is my question! LOL  I LOVE animals SO much! Our cats are our lives. They are our kids. Just like I can’t imagine living without them, I can’t imagine writing without them or having them in the writing!

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

I do not have any in book 1, but there will be some in later books in the series!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Oh boy, well, one of them is that scene about my husband, Mike, and Stewart which you can read about in Pineapple Upside Down Murder. The other one, hmmm, I’m not sure it’s clean enough for the blog. LOL.  My husband is a snorer. A loud snorer. So, he is lying on his back snoring loudly one night, and Stewart sits on his mouth and he chokes and gets up yelling in fear. It frightened me when he told me what happened, and I’ve never laughed so hard in all my life. Stewart was looking for a way to shut him up! LOL

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

At age five, I used my stuffed animals and dolls as my staff of my “pretend” magazine business. I used my mom’s old magazines and would cut them up and paste things together and use a red pen to mark on them. At age seven, I signed up to win a set of encyclopedias and won! I used to randomly pick out an encyclopedia then open up to any page, read an article and summarize it pretending to be a journalist. When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer as a job, but I think I knew back at age five.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pets all lay around me while I write. I can have anywhere between three to five cats around me at one time while I’m writing.

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

I think I have about 700 books in my Nook. I think I have about one thousand or more physical books. I was an English Literature major in my undergrad work. I LOVE books—all books! I also use the library like an insane person. LOL I have two local libraries near me and I am constantly taking books out for research too. There are books all around me as I read. I’d have to take up a thousand pages to list them all.  Some of the books I am planning to read are anything by Sara Paretsky and her V.I. Warshawski series. I’m all caught up and anxiously awaiting the new one to come out soon! I love Heather Blake, Amanda Flower, Victoria Laurie, and Elaine Viets to name a few more.

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

I love to read in bed at night. My little bobtail kitty, Bobbi Jo, likes to snuggle right up by my belly while I lay on my side to read, and I love it!

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

I have been an educator for close to twenty years.  I’ve had so many teenagers who want to do something in a creative field, like: write, art, act, sing, play in a band, etc.  I think that is wonderful! I think a lot of people think because something is creative that it is all fun. To me, what I do now is more fun than anything I’ve ever done…so that is true. At the same time, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked a lot of jobs that were difficult and time-consuming, but I’ve never put in more time and effort than I have as a writer. Everyone wants a creative, fun job. There is a lot of competition. So, to do it well one has to be willing to put all their time and effort into it if you want it to be a career.

About Jodi:

Moving into her second decade working in education, Jodi Rath has decided to begin a life of crime in her The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Her passion for both mysteries and education led her to combine the two to create her business MYS ED, where she splits her time between working as an adjunct for Ohio teachers and creating mischief in her fictional writing. She currently resides in a small, cozy village in Ohio with her husband and her seven cats.

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The Dogs Have Their Day

by Maggie King

When I posted about cats in mysteries earlier this year, I promised a companion post about canine mysteries.

And now, at last: the dogs have their day!

I took a democratic approach and pooled my dog-loving social media followers with this question: “What are your favorite mysteries with a dog as a significant character?”

Read on for their responses.

In the Books by the Bay mysteries, Olivia Limoges returns to her home town in North Carolina with Captain Haviland, a black standard poodle. Created by Ellery Adams.

In Bethany Blake’s Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries, you can enjoy the company of both dogs and cats. Krista Davis also pairs dogs and cats in her Paws and Claws Mysteries.

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. All of her dogs find a role in her books.

More than one responder suggested Susan Conant’s Dog Lover’s Mysteries series, featuring magazine writer Holly Winter and a cast of dogs.

Robert Crais wrote a standalone crime story with LAPD cop Scott James and his partner, Maggie, a German Shepherd. Man and dog suffer from PTSD as a result of horrendous experiences. Note: I’m convinced that the #1 pet names are Maggie and Fred!

Waverly Curtis created the Seattle-based Barking Detective series of humorous mystery novels starring Pepe, a talking Chihuahua.

Of course, there’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring the inimitable Sherlock Holmes. The legend of a terrifying, satanic hound of supernatural origin instigates an attempted murder.

Alex Kava’s series features former marine Ryder Creed and his K9 dogs.

Bailey, a very sarcastic canine, saves his companions in Be Careful What You Wish For by Solomon Knight.

Ketch is a key character in J.R. Lindermth’s The Limping Dog, about a dog rescued from a wrecked sailing ship.

One follower suggested White Fang by Jack London. She wasn’t sure if it qualified as a mystery, but we’ll just say it does.

Mystery/thriller author Paul D. Marks highlights racism and immigration in his crime novels. His canine characters are Baron in White Heat and Molly in Broken Windows.

In Louise Penny’s books set in the village of Three Pines, Quebec, Henri is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’s German Shepherd.

Spencer Quinn’s Chet & Bernie series got a few votes. Chet the dog is the faithful companion of Arizona private investigator Bernie Little.

In David Rosenfelt’s bibliography you’ll find a long list of dog-themed mysteries featuring Andy Carpenter, an irreverent defense attorney in Paterson, New Jersey.

Amy Shojai created a “pet-centric” thriller series with September Day, an animal behaviorist/trainer, and her German Shepherd service dog named Shadow.

In Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mysteries, Kate Davidson is a yoga instructor in Seattle with her German Shepherd sidekick Bella.

Seems like German Shepherds reign as top dog in mysteries. Inspector Rex reigns, appropriately enough, on TV. An Austrian police procedural comedy-drama television series, Inspector Rex follows the German Shepherd police dog Rex, his partners, and the rest of the team at the Vienna Kriminalpolizei homicide unit, as they work together to solve crimes. Since 2008, the show has been set in Rome.

There are many, many more mysteries with dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, birds, goldfish, you name it. Look for my upcoming posts. And let me know your favorite mysteries with animals. Our furry friends enrich not only our lives, but our reading as well.

Twinkle was my childhood dog. Truth be told, he was my mother’s dog and loved her best. Twinkle, a Toy Fox Terrier, had a brown and charcoal patch over one eye, and a mere stub of a tail. Below, he poses with my mother and grandmother on “the farm” in upstate New York.

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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Welcome, A. R. Kennedy!

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes A. R. Kennedy!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is A R Kennedy. I’ve been writing novels for seven years, but the stories have been in my head for as long as I can remember. I have a self-published mystery series, The Nathan Miccoli mystery series. I’ve also written a legal thriller and a cozy mystery (which I plan to expand into a series).

Saving Ferris, a legal thriller featuring a golden retriever, is available for pre-order now. Cover reveal coming soon!

Additionally, I love writing short stories and have won the Writers’ Police Academy’s Golden Donut story in 2016 and 2017.

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

I currently share my home with a seven pound dog, h, of unknown breed but is full of spunk. Although a cuddler and a love in our home, he’s a spitfire on walks. My neighbors call him ‘killer’ because all he does is bark at them.

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

Laude, a secondary character in the Nathan Miccoli series, is a beautiful black miniature schnauzer. She is a combination of two schnauzers I’ve had. (Sadly, both have passed). Laude has the beauty and attitude of L while also possessing the lovability and friendliness of H. Laude appears in all the novels.

In Saving Ferris, a legal thriller, Ferris is a golden retriever who has failed out of service training. After Cecilia’s husband dies, she’s forced to become Ferris’s caregiver, something she does not immediately warm to. But when his life is threatened by an intruder, she shoots the intruder to save Ferris. The prosecutor feels that Cecilia has committed murder, not self defense. In the eyes of the law, one can use lethal force to protect themselves and others, but not property. Pets are considered property. Cecilia endures a murder trial where her defense attorney forces everyone to ask themselves, Is the your pet property or family?

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on upcoming novels in the Nathan Miccoli mystery series and in the Traveling Detective series, a cozy mystery series I’m currently seeking representation for.

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

My parents had a mini schnauzer, Kelly, when I was born. A few years after she passed, after years of begging for a puppy, I picked out C, a miniature-toy poodle. After college, at my first professional job, a co-worker told me her dog was pregnant and I needed a dog. I hesitated but the hesitation flew away when she told me the mom and dad were miniature schnauzers! I met L soon after she was born and we bonded instantly. (She also peed on me!)

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

I’ve written an entire novel, Saving Ferris, inspired by the love so many of us feel for our pets. There’s no doubt my dogs are members of the family and I know so many people feel the same. But the law does not.

In the Nathan Miccoli mystery series, although I consider Laude a major character, most would consider her a minor character. If we’re reading Lily’s point of view, Laude is probably right there with her.

In the Traveling Detective series, after book one, there will also be a pet. But because Naomi’s adventures occur while on vacation, we probably won’t get to see her cat, Cher, too much.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I love animals. For my day job, I visit people in their homes. I always make it a point to say hello to each of the animals, including the birds! People are often surprised how their animals, cats and dogs, take to me right away. On our last visit, I always tell people I’m terrible with names and may not remember them if they call me with updates but just mention their pet and I’ll remember everything about them.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When L was a puppy, my roommate had a cat. L and the cat (it’s been too long I can’t remember her name!) would chase each other all day. After taking L on her midday walk, a neighbor asked for the package I was holding for her. She followed me to my apartment. When I opened the door, L saw the cat and took off after her. Surprised by the quick and strong pull on the leash, and distracted by the neighbor, I was pulled to the floor, landing flat on my face. The neighbor, who I did not know well, just stared at me as I got up. I handed her the package, assuring her I was alright. (Nothing was injured but my pride). The neighbor never passed me again without laughing.

(My ten-pound L pulling down the seven foot Christmas tree is also a good story.)

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

Most of my bucket list items involves travel and animals. I’ve been fortunate enough to view the Big Five while on safari in South Africa (which inspired a cozy mystery novel and birth of my series, The Traveling Detective), to swim with penguins, a shark and seals in the Galapagos, and to observe kangaroos and koalas in the wild and feed them and a plethora of other native animals at a sanctuary in Australia.

A gorilla trek in Uganda remains unchecked on my bucket list.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

h lies on my lap as I write. He often scratches my arm for belly rubs while I’m trying to work. He’s lying next to my leg right now!

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

I love to read and write on my couch, with h next to me.

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Welcome, KB Inglee!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, KB Inglee and her menagerie to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is KB Inglee. My parents started calling me KB as an infant to differentiate me from all the other Katharines in our family. When I attended my first writing conference in the 1990s, I was surprised how many other women were using their initials instead of their full name.

I write historical mystery short
stories, and work as an interpreter at a local living history museum. The
picture I have included shows me in 18h century farm wife attire trying to keep
a sheep from running out the open gate behind me. I am not reaching down to pat her.

I write three protagonists, Emily Lawrence, lady detective in the late 1800s, Faith Ivey in early colonial New England, and Iccarus Norton, in the early republic. Only Iccarus has an animal, his horse, Medusa. I think I came up with the pair because I had no animal in my other work.

Emily has her own book, The Case Book of Emily Lawrence. The others appear in short story anthologies.

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

We have five turtles, two budgies (Blueberry and Pi), four cats, and one dog.  None appear in my writing. Though after much urging by my dog Wendy, I have started a series of short stories about a service dog.

What are you reading now?

Aria to Death by Nupur Tustin.  I love fiction about real
people, and this is a well researched series. No pets. No farm animals.  I
think she mentions a cart horse now and then.

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

When I realized I had no animals,I did two things. I went back and gave Emily a kitchen cat and I named one of the carriage horses Benjamin.  Last Christmas, for my holiday story, I started a series about a service dog and the college professor who relies on him to get around. It is fun to write. Anonymous Dog has yet to find his way into print.

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

I’ve started a series of short stories about a Portuguese Water Dog/Irish Wolfhound that is a support dog for a college professor with a degenerative bone disease. The human is based on my daughter who is just beginning her search for the right dog. The story is from the point of view of the dog, so I don’t have to be specific about the ailment, or much of anything else. How much do dogs actually know? Like all dogs he is red green color blind but he has great senses of smell and hearing.

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

I love the Will James books about life in the west. They are illustrated by the author with action packed line drawings. They are about horses but when I read them I felt like I was reading an adult book.

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

I think it was fourth grade. I wrote a story about a girl and her horse. When my daughter was young, I wrote a series of kids’ stories that she could have read to her when I was away. I didn’t start writing adult stuff until I was in my 50s and ready to retire from my day job as a psych social worker.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Wendy (the dog) finds writing boring, so she sleeps through it. The birds yell. Do you think they are sending me plots? The cats are in the other room, and the turtles don’t care about anything except food.

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

My bedroom floor is my TBR. It divides into fiction and non-fiction. I read probably one non-fiction for each two fiction. Lots of the nonfiction is research either for my writing or my job. I just finished a book on the difference between how native people and European settlers behaved toward animals. Fiction pile consists mostly of mysteries.

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

We had an iguana that came from an iguana rescue. Something was wrong with how her front legs worked, but she got around well anyway. Oh, yes and a rooster who lived in my dining room. The museum got a shipment of chicks to work in the garden, lay eggs for us and on occasion, provide a meal. We chose dominiques since they would have been common in the 1750s. One bonus chick was included, a Hamburg rooster. The Dominique hens beat the s**t out of him, so I took him home to heal, but I was never able to introduce him back into the flock.

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

Start early and persist until you learn the craft. Find a community to support and teach you.’

Visit KB at her website.

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Welcome, Kathy Aarons/Kathy Krevat!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Kathy Aarons/Kathy Krevat to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write the Gourmet Cat Mystery series and the Chocolate Covered Mystery series under the pen name Kathy Aarons. I’m excited to be working with Lyrical, an imprint of Kensington Books. The Trouble With Murder, starring Trouble the cat, came out in December 2017, and The Trouble With Truth will be out on August 28.

I started writing when my youngest daughter was in preschool five mornings a week, mostly to avoid doing housework. (I can’t do the dishes – I’m writing!) Before being a stay-at-home mom, I was a marketing director for a software company and assumed that because I knew how to write ad copy, that I knew how to write a novel. I was so wrong! Luckily, I joined Romance Writers of America San Diego where I first began to realize how much I didn’t know about writing fiction. (Insert snarky comment about marketing being a lot like fiction…)

I attended conferences and workshops and bought practically every writing craft book known to man. Sometimes I even read them. I wrote and re-wrote my first book – PTA Meetings Are Murder – at least one hundred times. It hasn’t been published yet, but my agent liked it so much, she signed me.

My first book – Death is Like a Box of Chocolates – was published by Berkley two weeks after my youngest daughter went off to college! Looking back, I probably would have been published earlier but I was also Queen of Volunteering – the list of my volunteer job is just too long, but includes PTA president and assistant puppet maker.

I’m still stuck on volunteering. I’m president of the board for Partners in Crime – San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime and Playwrights Project, a literacy organization. I also help to organize the CCA Writers’ Conference, the only free writing conference for high school students in the US.

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

Growing up, I had tons of pets – cats, dogs, guinea pigs, horses, gerbils, and a rabbit. My husband is allergic to dogs and cats, so our children grew up with birds, guinea pigs, mice and a bearded dragon. We no longer have pets, but my daughter has a rescue – a one-eyed Shih Tzu named Atlas – so I get to play with him when I need a pet fix.

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

Trouble is an orange tabby cat and was the inspiration of Colbie Summer’s business, Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food. Colbie found Trouble abandoned in an empty apartment of a building she was managing. She figured out that Trouble had digestive issues, so she started cooking for her. When friends began asking to buy her food for their own digestive-challenged cats, her company was born.

In the Chocolate Covered Mystery series, Coco the stray cat visits all the shops on Main Street, including Chocolates & Chapters, a combination book and chocolate shop. She has starring role in all three books of the series.

What are you reading now?

I’m on deadline, which severely cuts back on my reading time. Right now, I’m reading Carleen O’Neil’s HAIR OF THE DOG, the third book in her Cypress Cove series. I’m going on a trip soon and have downloaded a bunch of cozies including Terrie Moran’s READ TO DEATH and Nell Hampton’s LORD OF THE PIES.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing THE TROUBLE WITH TALENT, third in the series. I’m also working on a young adult mystery proposal.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have two: J.K. Rowling, because she created a magical world that my family and I fell in love with, and Janet Evanovich, because reading her hilarious Stephanie Plum mysteries inspired me to write. I got the chance to meet her at a book signing and told her!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When I was at band camp in high school, a cat had a litter of kittens on someone’s bed in my cabin. On the last day, I called my mom on a pay phone (a LONG time ago) and convinced her that they would starve and/or freeze if I didn’t bring them home. She wanted to know why I was the only one in the camp who was willing to do it, but I was pretty sure she’d say yes. We managed to find them all homes, but kept the mom. That was when we hit the maximum number of pets in the house – 18!

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

I loved writing in high school but didn’t think it could lead to a career. I took a lot of writing classes in college and went into marketing and public relations when I graduated.

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

That’s hard. My number one unrealistic item is meeting J.K. Rowling. My number one “do-able” item is spending a month in Ireland.

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

My daughter had a bearded dragon lizard when she was in elementary school. I had no idea they grew so big!

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

One, that the only way to get better is to keep writing! I’ve heard that it takes writing over one millions words to get to the level needed to become published. Second, that publishing is a very different ball game than writing. It takes a lot more time to do the business side than I could ever imagine.

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

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep writing!

The Trouble With Truth

By Kathy Krevat

Available August 28, 2018

Things are looking up for single mom Colbie Summers. After relocating back to her California hometown with her adolescent son and taste-testing feline, Trouble, she’s ready to take her gourmet cat food company to the next level. Until helping a teenager gets Colbie mixed up in a fresh case of murder… 

Trying to balance her hectic family life with her growing business—including a coveted contract with the local organic food store—leaves Colbie scrambling to keep all her balls in the air. But when a Sunnyside resident is found dead in his garage, she takes on a new role: harboring a suspected killer.

The eighteen-year-old murder suspect, a former foster kid and Colbie’s part-time chef, had a powerful motive to snuff out the high-profile businessman. The real question is, who didn’t? Sifting through the victim’s sordid history unearths a cat’s cradle of crimes, including money laundering and abuse. Now, to clear an innocent girl’s name, Colbie must sniff out the truth before a killer who smells trouble goes on the attack again.

About Kathy:

Kathy Krevat is the author of the GOURMET CAT MYSTERY series featuring cat food chef Colbie Summers and her demanding cat Trouble, the culinary muse behind her recipes. She also writes the bestselling CHOCOLATE COVERED MYSTERY series under the pen name, Kathy Aarons.

Kathy lives in San Diego with her husband of twenty-six years in the perfect location – close to Philz Coffee and the beach, and within visiting distance of her two grown daughters. When she’s not writing, she’s an advocate for youth arts education and president of Partners in Crime, the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

You can follow Kathy on Facebook or Twitter or visit her at: www.kathykrevat.com.

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WonTon the Bookstore Cat

By Maggie King

Cats and bookstores … two of my favorite things in life.

Just why are cats such big hits in bookstores?

Picture this: a customer comes across a snoozing cat while browsing the shelves of a bookstore. She unconsciously associates the relaxed feline with books.

What happens next? Why, she buys out the store!

For this customer and many like her, nothing beats getting lost in a page turner. And cats have no problem lazing away the hours, dreaming of mice and butterflies. I’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon with my cat curled up on my lap and my book propped up on him.

Ward Tefft, owner of Chop Suey Books in Richmond, Virginia’s Carytown, tells an unusual story of how WonTon became his bookstore feline:

Aside from WonTon being our spirit animal, I don’t know if there are any short stories that sum him up. He did come to us in an interesting way: when we were at our old shop, we would leave a window open in the back, and one Spring a black and white cat started jumping through it into the store in the morning and hanging out with us all day. He was kind of aloof, but seemed to really enjoy just being around us. When evening rolled around, he would disappear out the back window, and wouldn’t be seen until the following morning.

After about 3 weeks of this, we decided that he had picked us as his home, and, not wanting someone to think he was a stray at night, we named him and put a collar and ID on him. As per his usual schedule, he left that night and came back through in the morning. Almost as soon as he jumped through our rear window, a girl who lived down the street from us came through the front door. “Can I post a lost cat flyer in your window,” she asked, then looked down at WonTon. “Oh, Lloyd! I found you. This is my missing cat!!!” Dumbfounded and heartbroken, the person working the counter let her leave the store with WonTon struggling in her arms.

When I heard about this, I was curious. It seems that the girl only had one poster in her hand, not a stack as would be expected. It felt like she was targeting us in particular as a place that would help her find this missing cat. We pretty quickly put it together: WonTon was hanging with us during the days, and with her (as “Lloyd”) at night. When he had shown up the night before with a tag claiming him as ours, she decided she needed to put a claim of her own on him, and came up with the “lost cat” routine.

The store felt empty for a day, then, true to form, WonTon returned through the back window the next day, then the following day, then the day after that. I tracked down the girl with the “lost cat” posters and made a plea: WonTon/Lloyd appears to have chosen us during the day, and you at night. Can we share?

To my surprise, she made this counter offer: “Oh, I didn’t know you wanted him! He lives with his sister Voodoo now, and they don’t get along at all.If you want to keep him, please do!”

The rest is history. WonTon started happily spending the night with us, and a year later moved with us to Carytown. Every now and then, there are tales of a young woman coming into the shop to give love to “Lloyd”!

For more on Chop Suey Books.

13 Bookstore Cats. Great photos.

Like cats in your mysteries? How about a feline sleuth? Here’s a reading list.

***

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: authormaggieking

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2Bj4uIL

 

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Welcome, Lesley Diehl

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Lesley Diehl to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write cozy mystery series. Two of the series are set in rural Florida and two in Upstate New York. I also write short stories, the most notable of which have appeared in several anthologies such as The Killer Wore Cranberry and Happy Homicides: Fall into Crime. My short stories are often based upon events in my childhood.

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

I grew up on a farm in Northern Illinois, so I was always surrounded by animals and had several cats growing up. Now I have two cats, both rescues from Key Largo, Florida where we used to spend the winter and were part of a cat rescue group there. The cats are now 17 (Squeak, female) and 14 (Marley, male) years old. I have never adopted feral cats before, and I find these cats different from my other cats. I think there is much in a feral cat from a restricted group that is hard-wired in the cat’s behavior. They are lovable animals, funny, smart, but a bit shy around strangers and suspicious of anything unusual. That’s true of any cat, but the wariness is more pronounced in these. We got the male cat when he was tiny, tiny, and he almost seems to be imprinted on me. He does not like me out of his sight. He’s affectionate but can get angry at me if he feels he’s not getting enough attention. I’ve not yet written any of my cats in a story, but it could happen soon!

I’ve also had several dogs. One I inherited from the man I bought my house from. He simply left his cat and dog when he moved out! I vowed to keep the dog outside or in the garage, but when I saw her sitting outside my window when it rained, it broke my heart. She became my best friend, sleeping on the floor by my bed and traveling with me when I went cross-country to visit family. I used her sweet, playful personality for the dog (Samantha) in my Laura Murphy mysteries.

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 stand-alone cozy mystery Angel Sleuth, a pot-bellied pig named Desdemona is one of the characters. She has been adopted by Jeremy, a young boy in the story. While the protagonist is not certain she wants a pig as one of her house guests, she comes to love Dessie. I found Dessie such a compelling character that I made her a sleuth in a short story (“Dessie’s Jaded Past”) published by Untreed Reads in one of their detective anthologies. I liked the idea of having a pot-bellied pig as a sleuth so much that I wrote another story featuring yet another pot-belly, this one named Willa Mae. The story entitled “When Pigs Fly” will be one of Kings River Life’s podcasts later this year.

What are you reading now?

Since I am a lover of British mysteries, I am now reading the third of the Royal books by Rhys Bowen. I just finished several of Puleston’s Inspector Drake mysteries, the last two Lee Child’s Reacher books and am halfway through Tim Dorsey’s Cadillac Beach. I just downloaded Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley and Havers mystery.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Book 7 of the Eve Apple mysteries is due to my publisher June 1, so I’m working on that now. I will also release the third book in the Big Lake Murder mysteries, Scream Muddy Murder.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have two favorites: Elizabeth George and Robert Parker. I like them for different reasons. George writes deep character psychology and uses class issues to make her characters as important as the mystery. Parker is a genius at terse dialogue and packing more in a short sentence than most writers put in a paragraph.

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

I never use them just in passing. All the animals in my books have unique, sometimes helpful personalities, personalities that sometimes reflect aspects of a human character’s such as my pot-bellied pigs who are amateur sleuths themselves. Even the dog I mentioned in my Laura Murphy mysteries (her name is Samantha) is like her owner, fun-loving, playful, loyal to those she sees as friends, and as nosey as her owner. I think she will help solve a murder in a book to come.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals have always been an important part of my life and, since my protagonists hold values similar to my own, why wouldn’t they have pets in their lives? While the Eve Apple series doesn’t feature a pet in Eve’s family, the series does include wildlife in the rural Florida area.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My dog Princess loved food, any food, all food. She would wander out of the yard around dinnertime in the summers, and I’d know she went down the road to one of the neighbor’s to see if she could beg when they were cooking on the grill. She was chubbier than she should have been, so I asked the neighbors not to feed her, but she did her “cute” act, and they gave in with apologies to me.

She really loved chocolate, which I never gave her, but one Easter a friend brought me a foil-wrapped chocolate bunny, which I left on my coffee table, untouched, and went to bed. The next morning the foil wrapping was still on the coffee table, but the bunny inside was gone. Princess had chocolate on her breath. She didn’t get sick, but I still can’t figure out how she managed to eat the inside without eating the foil.

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

When I won the MWA Florida Chapter’s short story contest in 2009, I began to feel like a writer, but when my first book came out the following year, I was a believer. Isn’t it funny how I had to have external confirmation to make it so? Now I understand being a writer is simply all about writing.

 Wat do your pets do when you are writing?

The two cats I have now have become less and less interested in my time at the keyboard. Several years ago, the female sat in my desk chair, reached up and typed 5589, then yawned and got down, acting as if she had written her singular most important work and was done with it. The other cat sits on the printer next to my computer and waits quietly until I close the laptop. He then jumps into my chair and is ready for “twirly,” where I spin the chair around with him on the seat. I spin one way, then reverse the spin. He loves it! Like a carnival ride for cats. And this from a cat who gets car sick.

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

Two? Let me give you a list.

No, I won’t be able to afford that house on the Bay in Key Largo.

Everyone expects a free book.

Writing is fun; promotion is work.

Your publisher will not pay for a book tour.

Getting your book published is only the beginning: you have to sell it.

Your publisher expects you to do most of the promotion and publicity.

Sometimes no one shows up for the book event you spent hours preparing for.

Sometimes lots of folks turn up at the book event, but no one buys a book. (this happened with an audience of 125 people who were supposed to be book lovers.)

Often few people show for a book event, so you just chat with them and have fun.

Discoverability: no one knows how to do it, but everyone has ideas, so try some out.

Writing is fun, but so is talking to people about writing, so don’t limit yourself to an internet presence only.

Most important. Don’t write in a vacuum; there are writers’ organizations and writing conferences where you can learn your craft and improve on it.

Let’s Be Social:

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

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

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Tales with Tails … (and some without!)

by Barb Goffman

Jingle doing time! (This is my dog the day I adopted him from a shelter.)

It started with an idea: Everyone loves animals. They’re cute. They’re furry. They’re begging to be written about.

Next came a call for stories for the eighth volume of the Chesapeake Crimes short-story series. It said in part:

“We want animals. More than six out of every ten homes in the United States has a pet. Be they dogs, cats, birds, pigs, or lions or tigers or bears—or even snakes­—people love animals. They love playing with them and caring for them and, we’re happy to say, reading about them.

“That’s where you come in. We want crime/mystery short stories involving animals. The animal could be the sleuth or the sleuth’s sidekick or merely a part of the plot. We could hear the animal talk or think or do neither. Any kind of crime/mystery story you can come up with that involves an animal, be it furry or feathered, warm- or cold-blooded, is good with us. So bring on your animal stories!”

The authors of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime did not disappoint.  To paraphrase McGruff, our authors took a bite out of crime! And now, finally, the book has been published. Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies offers mystery readers who love animals a bevy of options.

Like dogs? Then this book is for you. We have several stories involving dogs and crime. But we don’t stop with dogs. Oh no. We have stories with crows, cows, crickets, and cats; rabbits, ferrets, an octopus, and rats. And fish. Mustn’t forget the fish.

Like police procedurals? We have three of them. How about historicals? We have a trio of those too. One story will take you back to nineteenth-century England, another to 1930s Hollywood, and the third to 1950s Pennsylvania. If you like amateur sleuths, you’re in luck. We’ve got some of those. Like dark stories? We’ve got ’em. Stories from the animals point of view? We’ve got those too. Funny stories? Check. Paranormal? Check. Stories where animals save the day? Check. Check. Check.

Basically, if you’re a regular reader of this blog and you enjoy mystery short stories, then this book is made for you. We hope you’ll check it out. You can buy it in trade paperback or in e-book format.

The authors with stories in the book are: Karen Cantwell, Carla Coupe, Barb Goffman (yes, that’s me!), Eleanor Cawood Jones, Linda Lombardi, Alan Orloff, Josh Pachter, Shari Randall, KM Rockwood, Joanna Campbell Slan, Marianne Wilski Strong, Robin Templeton, and Cathy Wiley. The book was edited by Donna Andrews, Marcia Talley, and me. The stories were chosen by Brendan DuBois, Mary Jane Maffini, and Leigh Perry (Toni L.P. Kelner). And the book was published by Wildside Press.

If you’ll be attending the Malice Domestic convention next weekend, stop by the Wildside Press table in the book room at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Nearly all the authors with stories in the book will be there for a mass signing. And if you’re in the Washington, DC, area on Sunday, May 20th, we hope you’ll come to our official launch party at the Central Library in Arlington from 2-4 p.m.

In the meanwhile, happy reading. We hope you enjoy our tales with tails!

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Welcome, Val Muller

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes Val Muller to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

By day, I’m an English teacher. By night, I’m a corgi-tamer, toddler-chaser, and writer. I’ve written a range of work from the middle-grade mystery series Corgi Capers to The Scarred Letter, a young adult reboot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous work.

As an English teacher, I get to talk about writing all day. When watching movies with family, I have a habit of analyzing storylines and writing techniques and, as my husband notes, I have the uncanny ability to tell whether a movie is “good” during the first few minutes.

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

My two corgis, Leia and Yoda, are the inspiration behind the Corgi Capers mystery series. The series follows a fifth grader named Adam and his seventh grade sister. The two corgis in the novel, the fictional Zeph and Sapphie, are modeled after my corgis.

Yoda is afraid of almost anything. Thunder and chirping smoke detectors, strange people, aluminum foil shaken too loudly, a ceramic duck… but he has a heart of gold. He’s protective and concerned: if his sister is up to her usual antics, he’ll run up to me and howl—his “tattle tale.” He’ll even tattle tale on the toddler, which is sometimes a big help.

Leia is almost the opposite. She’s rambunctious and nearly fearless (for some reason, she is terrified of the chirping smoke detector, too. It might be because when we moved into our current house, the detector was chirping). She frequently rolls in and eats dirt, mud, sand, grass, and various other unmentionables. She is the most vocal and the definite inspiration behind my favorite Corgi Capers character, Sapphie, who is always getting everyone into trouble with her playful attitude and lack of judgment.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Funny story. I have the outline done for Corgi Capers book 4. Actually, I had it finished over two years ago, right before my daughter was born. On the release date for Corgi Capers 3, a fire alarm went off at my work, and the fire company showed up. I thought it was a coincidence because book 3, Curtain Calls and Fire Halls, features a fire station and an accidental near-fire.

Fast forward to book 4. It takes place during the winter, and there’s a disabling blizzard. My daughter’s due date was February 7, and I was afraid that if I wrote the book beforehand, she might be born during the storm, which is something that happens to a family member in the novel. Turns out I should have written the book. My daughter was born during the historic blizzard (I blogged about it here: http://www.valmuller.com/2016/02/11/stormborn-by-val-muller/). Now, every time I sit down to finish the novel, I struggle to find the happy magic of snow and am afraid it will become too dark for a chapter book.

In other writing endeavors, I have a novel half written and on the backburner. It’s about some of the issue that arise in the public school setting. I see it as a mix between The Chocolate Wars and a more modern young adult work, with some of The Grapes of Wrath mixed in for good measure. This has been the most difficult book for me to write because it has the potential to be the most serious and hits close to home.

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

Growing up, my pal was Chip, a bichon fries. He was probably the most spoiled dog I’ve ever known in terms of being the recipient of constant attention. He had his choice of which bed he wanted to snooze in, he was walked multiple times a day by each of us, he was given custom toys made by my dad (who had previously sworn he had no interest in dogs)… the list goes on.

I made him Halloween costumes (my favorite was when he dressed as a hippie), brought him up to my treehouse, fed him scraps under the table. He had my parents trained to mix gravy or ranch dressing in his food to make him eat it. He really brought us together as a family and solidified in my mind the importance of pets in fostering love, empathy, and community.

I blogged about the little guy here: https://corgicapers.com/2016/03/02/woof-out-wednesday-chip/

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

In Corgi Capers, the corgis threaten to steal the show! In my other works, animals are more of a passing thought.

In Corgi Capers, the chapters alternate. Some are told in the perspective of one of the humans (usually Adam or his sister Courtney). The other chapters are told in the perspective of Zeph or Sapphie, the corgis. In each mystery, the corgis’ observations are integral in helping to solve the mystery or help the humans gets to where they need to be in order to do so. But the problem is, the humans cannot understand what the corgis are saying, so it sounds like barking to them. The corgis could literally be barking out the answer, and the humans would have no idea. Sapphie and Zeph have to find more clever ways of solving problems.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

My idea to write Corgi Capers started when I lived in a large section of townhomes. I would walk my dogs there daily, and they (being the cute corgis they are) would often attract the attention of neighborhood kids. Each time we stopped for petting time, the kids asked me what my dogs did when I wasn’t home. I shrugged at first, admitting they probably napped. The kids insisted I was wrong: they told me my dogs went on secret adventures. Their names (Leia and Yoda) meant they had special bone-shaped light sabers they used to escape the bounds of my house and defend against enemies. I decided to play along, making up stories about random things my dogs did while I was way. The idea stuck, and it turned into a novel. And another. And another.

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

As an English teacher, I love teaching (and re-reading) The Life of Pi. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t read it, especially since the story can be read metaphorically. But there is a huge Bengal tiger featured in the story, and animals of all types play an integral role.

This goes back to what I wrote about Chip. Whether or not you believe animals have human-like traits and emotions, it’s fairly clear that animals help us bring out our human-like traits and emotions. The same goes for the main character Pi in The Life of Pi. His family ridicules him for assigning human emotions and motives to animals. Whether or not he is correct in doing so, his understanding of animals helps him understand the truth of the universe and the nature of man more effectively than any book or religion.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I mentioned my childhood dog, Chip. Because of all the attention he got (he was never truly treated like a dog), he developed several quirks. The weirdest one he learned from my sister. I’m not sure how it got started, but we had a bunch of sewers in our neighborhood. They were the kind that contained a grate right on the street, so you could look down and see the little waterways below. Somehow, we got in the habit of dropping pebbles down into the sewers and listening for a “plop.”

Chip got in the habit as well. He learned the command as “look,” and when we told him to “look,” he would run to the nearest sewer and push a pebble in with his nose. It was an impressive trick—until he got to the point that he wouldn’t walk fast (it was possible to actually gain calories on a walk with him—that’s how slowly he went!) unless you continually told him to “look.” In that way, we got him to prance from one sewer to the next, pushing pebbles in each one.

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

As soon as I could write, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. In fact, before I knew how to write, I dictated stories (very bad, long-winded stories about aliens and bicycles and flowers and such) onto cassette tapes. In first grade, I wrote a poem, and my first grade teacher had me read it in front of the fifth grade class. In second grade, my teacher wrote in my “yearbook” that she would look for my work in books and magazines one day. It continued on to the point that two college professors questioned whether I had actually penned some of the assignments in the time allotted (I had, as I explained to them; I’d had so much practice writing that I could crank out “A” work very quickly).

Of course, being a full-time writer is a risky business, so I went into teaching to make sure I had some security. I blogged about the time I made the transition to serious writer: http://www.valmuller.com/2012/02/10/the-mentor-giveaway/

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

I don’t make lists like that. I follow that cliché about the best-laid plans. I had it in my mind to meet my favorite author, Ray Bradbury, but he passed away before I could figure out how to make that work. My birthing plan was very simple—there were literally only 2 things on it, and yet a blizzard caused everything to go awry. From these experiences, I learned to be flexible and simply look for enjoyment in each day.

I also think that as a writer, my mind is a much more vivid place than much of the world. When I used to run track, I followed a strict diet, and I could often convince myself not to eat something delicious (like ice cream) simply by imagining the experience. It’s the same these days: I can use my imagination to transport me to places and times I’d like to experience.

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

First, think of the reader. I’d heard so much mixed advice about this, including that a writer should simply write for herself. But I’ve read too many books that don’t seem to keep the reader in mind or respect the reader’s time, background knowledge (or lack thereof), etc. I try now to picture a specific reader for each story and write for them.

Second, read a wide variety of works. As a younger reader, I stuck with what resonated with me. But as I read more and more, I realize that reading things beyond my comfort zone help me understand myself as a writer. Sometimes, it’s even helpful to read something I don’t particularly like: this shows me what kind of a reader I am and helps me think more metacognitively as a writer. I recently gave this advice to a teenage writer I often work with, and he started reading War and Peace (despite my warnings). He actually likes it and is learning about the craft of writing—including what he doesn’t prefer as a writing style.

About Val

www.CorgiCapers.com

www.ValMuller.com

www.facebook.com/author.val.muller

https://twitter.com/mercuryval

The Corgi Capers Series:

https://www.amazon.com/Corgi-Capers-Deceit-Dorset-Drive-ebook/dp/B01CIJWVBG

https://www.amazon.com/Corgi-Capers-Sorceress-Stoney-Brook-ebook/dp/B01CILY7AC

https://www.amazon.com/Corgi-Capers-Curtain-Calls-Halls-ebook/dp/B01CIOC4CW

 

 

 

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