Welcome, Alice Castle!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Alice Castle to the blog!

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

I have two cats, Pushkin and Blackjack. Pushkin is a tortoiseshell and very highly strung (where does she get that from?) while Blackjack is midnight dark, apart from a tiny bowtie of white hairs on his chest, and very laid back, except when on the scent of a mouse. Pushkin, who is now twelve years old, is the model for the cat in my book, Magpie. Magpie lives with my amateur sleuth heroine, young widow Beth Haldane. I would say ‘belongs to’ Beth, but that, of course, would be ridiculous. Magpie just graces Beth with her presence and Beth is suitably thankful. Magpie is very aloof but every now and then something about her behavior will give Beth a crucial nudge in her investigations. She pops up in every story. Sometimes she just has a stroll-on part, sometimes she plays a more pivotal role.

What are you reading now?

At the moment I’m reading a book called The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes. She is the niece of Julian Fellowes, who wrote the script for Downton Abbey. It’s a historical whodunit, involving the real-life Mitford sisters, who were the daughters of an eccentric peer, woven into a fictitious murder in 1919. It’s deftly done and very interesting. Nancy Mitford is 16 in the story. She grew up to be a wonderfully witty novelist.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing the fifth in my London Murder Mystery series, Revenge on the Rye. The plot revolves around the many people who walk their dogs on Peckham Rye, a famous park in south east London where you find everyone from famous artists to tramps, all loving their dogs but potentially harboring guilty and murderous secrets. It’s great fun to write and is going to be my sleuth, Beth’s most complicated and fascinating case to date, involving sinister goings-on in the art world and corruption in surprising places.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I hope it’s not cheating to say I have lots of favorite authors – the policeman who helps (or hinders) my amateur sleuth Beth in my stories is a huge fan of Golden Age crime fiction and so am I. I love Agatha Christie, D L Sayers, Margery Allingham and of course Raymond Chandler, who wrote about America but actually went to school in south east London, where my books are set. As far as modern day authors go, I really enjoy Janet Evanovich (I was very thrilled when one reviewer compared my books to hers) and MC Beaton (ditto). I was a huge fan of the late Sue Grafton. I also really enjoy Peter James’s books, as well as Peter Robinson’s. Claire Macintosh is a great writer too.

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

We had a huge Airedale terrier. He was the grandson of a Crufts dog show champion and had a very fancy name, but we called him Chippy. Unfortunately, he had an unquenchable wanderlust and was always running away – he was very strong and once pulled me right over in park. He wasn’t interested in girl dogs but had a thing about boy Collies. He also really liked those hairy moon boots people wore in the 1970s – woe betide you if you had those on.

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

I love my cats so much that I was really keen to have one in my books, as company for my single mum sleuth, who is often lonely (she is a widow) and sometimes needs a sounding board for her ideas that is sympathetic most of the time and won’t answer her back! In my latest novel, Revenge on the Rye, I’m writing about dogs, too and I’ve found that they immediately become proper three-dimensional characters, with bags of personality. They definitely pull on the lead while I’m writing and show me which way they want to go, which has been really fun.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

We all love our pets, don’t we? I think life would be much emptier without them and I think they add an extra dimension to a story as well. My cats are very much a part of my life and it seemed natural to include a cat in the life of my main character, too. Animals are interesting to write about on their own merits, but sometimes you can also use them to help out with the plot or characterization as well. A pet can point up something about another character, revealing a likeable or unlikeable person – or uncovering a vital clue at the right moment!

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

I’ve always loved the story Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. It’s a very sad tale about a horse and its owners. When I was young, there was a marvelous TV version that was a little less tragic in tone and it also had the best theme tune ever – check it out on YouTube. Whenever I hear it I’m plunged back into watching the show on our little black and white TV, lying on my stomach on our sitting room carpet.

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

I knew I was a writer when I was about four or five at infants’ school and a teacher asked me how I’d come up with a little bit of writing I did for a school project on leaves. I wasn’t sure how to answer so I said I’d read the words in a book. She said, ‘no, I think you made them up out of your own head, didn’t you?’ and I somewhat fearfully admitted I had. She said what I had written was really good and I suddenly realized this was something I could do. I do thank God for that teacher, and all teachers who take the time and trouble to encourage shy children.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My cats love to be involved in the writing process. Blackjack is particularly keen to get in on the act and unless I light a scented candle to keep him away (I know, I’m heartless) he’d lie on my keyboard all day and stop me writing a word. On the other hand, Pushkin will often sit on the kitchen table where I work and stare at me crossly if I try and move away from the laptop – she keeps me to a strict schedule. Maybe she knows I’ve based my fictional cat Magpie on her and wants me to get on with it.

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

I have TBR piles all over the house, and a virtual one on my Kindle, too. I still haven’t read Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I loved The Secret History but couldn’t get on with Tartt’s second novel and, despite all the amazing reviews for The Goldfinch, I haven’t had the courage to start it yet. I’ve also got Orhan Pamuk’s Snow in the pile, as well as The Miniaturist, which I accidentally watched on TV… There’s also The Standing Chandelier by Lionel Shriver that I have to read for my book group… I could go on and on! The ones I always get through first are the great murder mysteries, of course.

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

Keep going! It’s not the easiest path – but if you actually are a writer, you won’t have any choice anyway.

About Alice Castle:

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019.  Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary?lang=en

Links to buy books: http://www.MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery

http://www.myBook.to/1DeathinDulwich

http://www.myBook.to/HotChocolate

She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

 

 

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Welcome, Cherie O’Boyle

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Cherie O’Boyle to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

There are currently five full-length mysteries and a short story available in my Estela Nogales Mystery series. This fall I’m hoping to release a more ambitious stand-alone kidnapping/K9 search & rescue/forest fire suspense.

When I started the mystery series, I first created the setting, Arroyo Loco, a small village in the coastal hills of central California. I added a variety of diverse characters, including dogs, cats, vultures, and a few wild boar. And then I introduced one unusual occurrence—finding a neighbor dead—for example. I plopped my writerly self into the middle and let the action carry me away. One of the aspects of being slightly older than average that I enjoy is how many quirky characters I have known and loved in my life, making for a rich mix in my fiction.

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

My pet family currently includes two border collies, Shiner, because he has one big black eye, and Sky, or Dog Who Fell From the Clear Blue Sky (she’s a rescue), and one perpetually irritated cat who is called Patience, but not because she’s got any. Shiner is the model for one of the border collies in the mystery series. Both the real dog and the fictional one are sheepherding dogs, and both are titled in the sport of herding, among other dog sports.

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

So far, all of them are recurring. And so far, they all behave about the way you would predict dogs and cats to behave. Itches, the beagle, regularly escapes her yard and runs off to chase rabbits on the hills. Zero, the basenji, is happier if strangers stay out of his yard. Helen’s cats hate dogs, and Estela’s border collies are forever trying to round her up. The wild boar who occasionally roam Arroyo Loco are not exactly pets, although they do offer opportunities for the neighbors to get to know one another better.

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

Some of my characters, both human and non-human, play only passing roles, and others linger longer. Interacting with the animals in their lives provides insights into the personalities of the human characters. The animals help solve the mysteries, but only by doing what animals would normally do. For example, in one mystery, a strategically placed pile of poop gets stepped in and tracked all the way back to the villain’s front porch, providing important evidence.

In other places, the animals help the neighbors understand one another. Here is a scene where Estela recruits Helen to capture a cat after her mistress suffers an unexpected expiration:

I picked up the phone to call Helen and tell her about her impending good fortune.

“Oh, dear! Well, of course, I’ll be right down,” Helen agreed. “Just let me gather my supplies.”

“Your supplies? What on earth do you mean?” I wondered out loud.

“Well, the carrier, of course.”

Of course. Silly me.

“And some kibble in a crinkly bag.”

“Hmm.” Yes, of course that too.

“And some yarn and other toys.” I could hear her rummaging around while she spoke. “And rub some catnip around here and there … and a huge bath towel in case she gets obstreperous, and my leather gardening gloves. Okay, that should about do me.”

“Good. So I’ll leave you to it then.”

“Wait, Stel, what’s the cat’s name?”

“Her name? How do I know?”

“Well, how do you expect me to persuade her to come to me if I don’t know her name?”

“I don’t know Helen. Does a cat’s name really matter?”

To that I got a stony silence.

“I mean, don’t they all come to ‘here kitty, kitty’?”

“You mean you think cats are dumber than dogs, and don’t know their own names?”

“I guess I never thought about it. Dogs come when you call their names. Cats come when they feel like it. Isn’t that how it works?”

“Honestly, Estela….”

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Aside from the fact that animals are in our lives, I include them in my stories as part of an on-going campaign to encourage respect for non-human animals, what they contribute to our lives whether as food, as clothing, or as companions. My goal is not to anthropomorphize, but to show how we are all animals. We all seek safety, care for our young, and experience life.

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

Both in my stories and my life, most of my animals are working animals. For example, my character Estela’s border collies herd sheep on a working sheep ranch. Working with her dogs often gives Estela insights about the mysteries she is working to solve. Her older dog also accompanies her to the counseling center on campus where she works as a therapist. Here’s an example of the adventures of a service dog:

We were just getting (an injured student) settled when another student started caterwauling about a dog in the health center. Seriously, what do people think is so superior, or even different, about humans? We’re all just mammals. It may be true that I bathe more often than my dogs, but then they don’t sweat either.

One of the over-wrought nurses confronted me. “Get that filthy dog out of here,” she said, pointing toward the door. I gave her the shrugged shoulders, outward palms and raised eyebrows look. “Fleas?” she said, as though that was a foregone conclusion.

“Therapy dogs don’t have fleas!” I said, indignant. I gestured around us. “Lice? Scabies? Yeast infections? Venereal disease?”

“Well, this is a health clinic, Estela! Of course we have sick people here.”

“That’s true. C’mon Scout, let’s get out of here before we catch something.”

What are you reading now?

I am currently reading a wonderful non-fiction, Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson. I chose this as source material for my K9 search and rescue suspense Work in Progress (WIP), and have fallen in love with the story.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

My current WIP is On Scent, the story of a kidnapping gone wrong in which the search dogs must ultimately find and rescue everyone. I’m happy to let you know when that is released if you subscribe to my semi-annual news page on my website.

About Cherie

Cherie is Professor Emerita of Psychology at California State University, San Marcos. Prior to adopting her current career as a writer of mysteries, and before earning her PhD in Psychology, Cherie owned and operated a general building contracting firm and worked as a framing and roofing carpenter. She was raised in the San Francisco east bay area and still lives today in Northern California.

 Cherie happily squeezes in as much time with her fictional Arroyo Loco friends as she can, in between adventures with friends, family, and her real life border collies, Shiner and Sky. Shiner is titled in flyball and sheepherding and loves to swim and fetch balls. Sky enjoys lure-coursing and walks nicely on a leash. Both dogs are hoping to title in nosework this fall.

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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, L. C. Hayden

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, L. C. Hayden to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is L. C. Hayden and I’m known for my adventures and for my travels. Readers are always curious as to why this is so. To answer this, let’s take a glance at my books. Aimee Brent, my character in the Aimee Brent Mystery Series, learned how to scuba dive. Do you really think I’m going to let her have more fun than me? No way! She had to learn how to scuba dive, so I learned how to scuba dive—and I’m loving it!

On the Bronson Thriller Series, my character Bronson has a motor home and travels all over. Well, guess what? I have a motor home and I travel all over. No way Bronson is going to travel all over and not me!

I suppose I can call myself lucky as I feel I have been touched many times by miracles and angels. Those experiences led me to write a series based on mine and others’ angel and miracle experiences. Thank God, these books are very well received, both nationally and internationally.

One of my greatest joy is being a grandmother, which is the reason I wrote the children’s picture books. Naturally, they feature various animals.

Being an adventurous soul, I have also authored other books in various genres, but my love still remains with mysteries/thrillers and the angels series.

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

At one time, I had 10 dogs. That was quite a circus. My mom used to joke that she would never have grandkids, only granddogs. Now, mainly because of all the traveling I do, I only have one dog who to me is my child with four legs. She is slowly working her way into my Bronson series.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently writing the fourth book in the angels/miracle series. But as I write this one, my mind is actively with Bronson and his next adventure which will introduce Honey, the Basenji dog. Yay!

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

Since I haven’t yet written the book, I’m not sure how it’s going to go. But I foresee introducing Honey to this series and as the series progresses, Honey will have a larger and larger active part in the stories.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

The question should be why do you not include animals in your writing? They are a natural. No matter what breed or type of animal they are, they are a very big part of us humans. In one of my children’s books, Puppy Dog and His Bone, I use dogs, monkeys, birds, fish and a host of other animals to show children the importance of team work.

In my latest thriller, What Lies Beyond the Fence, I use the majesty of a white wolf to add danger but also to show the intelligence of this breed.

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

As a child, I was never much of a reader. Then one day, for some unknown reason, I picked up a book and started reading. It was called Tan, the Wild Dog. I fell in love with that dog and with reading. Ever since then I have become a voracious reader, thanks to that particular book. The sad part is that I don’t even remember what the book is about. I guess I should try to find that book and re-read it. So thank you, Tan, the Wild Dog and its author, for opening a whole new world for me.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

My husband Rich decided to nap. He’d been asleep no more than ten minutes when Honey, our Basenji dog, walked up to him so that her face is close to Rich’s. Then she let out a loud yelp. I rushed over to her so that she wouldn’t wake Rich up, but Honey was insistent. She let out another big yelp and another . . .

Naturally, Rich woke up and looked at the dog who continued to yelp. “What are you trying to tell me? You want to go outside? Is that it?” He got up, and as soon as he did, Honey jumped up on the bed and laid down where Rich was.

She got what she wanted. What a dog. Sigh.

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

Ever since I was a little girl, I always enjoyed story telling—and just telling other’s stories, both those I made up. As I grew, I started writing them. Mostly, they were romances or stories that featured a pet. As I became an adult, that passion grew and now I have over 25 books published. I will never stop writing. It’ll be a “’till death do us apart” type of thing.

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

I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights. I have attempted to do so four different times, but they have fizzled out—too cloudy, just didn’t show up, too far away. Sigh. One time in Yellowknife (upper Canada) I did get to see them but only for about two to three minutes. That small view only wet my appetite for seeing the “real” thing.

Is it hard to travel with your pet?

That’s a question I often get asked. The answer is no, but you do have to plan ahead. If traveling by car, you need to know which motels accept dogs and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make reservations. Of course, if you’re traveling in a motor home as I often do, then there are no problems. It also helps if your dog is quiet, such as Basenjis. This is a breed of barkless dogs. But they are not silent. They yodel and yelp, but if your dog is like mine, not 100% Basenji, she can still bark when she wants to, but it seldom happens.

What makes you think your pet is intelligent?

I know my dog is super intelligent because she has shown us over and over again who rules this nest. During this one particular time, we had all three grandkids over and each wanted to give the dog a treat. We let them. Then I fed Honey. Normally, after she eats, we give her 2 treats. Since she already had 3 treats, I told my husband, Rich, to give her only one treat. Honey didn’t like that. After she ate her first treat, she barked and barked until we gave her the second one. Geesh!

About L. C. Hayden

Award winning author L. C. Hayden is the creator of the popular Harry Bronson and Aimee Brent mystery series and the standalone, Secrets of the Tunnels. Hayden is known in the mystery field for her edge of the seat suspense and her surprise endings. Her mysteries have hit the Kindle, the B&N, and the Pennsylvania Top Seller Lists. The books have been finalist for the Agatha and the LCC Awards and others.

Her nonfiction angel/miracle series consists of spiritually uplifting books that leave the reader wanting more. They have often hit various Kindle Top Seller Lists.

Besides being an accomplished author, Hayden is a popular speaker who is often in demand. She has done workshop and school presentations, has spoken to clubs and organizations, and was hired by several major cruise lines to speak while cruising all over the world. From October 2006 to October 2007, Hayden hosted Mystery Writers of America’s only talk show, Murder Must Air.

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Welcome, Carol Hedges

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Carol Hedges to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 I write historical crime fiction, set in the Victorian period. My books feature the newly formed Detective Division of the Metropolitan police. The main characters are Detective Inspector Leo Stride, and Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. In some of the later books, they are joined by Inspector Lachlan Grieg, who has come to London from Scotland, to remake his life after a broken heart. The books have been compared to Charles Dickens, in their tone and style, a compliment that I find overwhelming!   I have chosen to set my books in the 1860s ~  at the time Dickens and his famous contemporary Wilkie Collins were writing. This is a deliberate choice: there are an awful lot of Victorian novels, past and present, set in the 1880s. I didn’t want to add to their number.

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

 I am a cat person. I have been owned by a succession of lovely cats. The present boss is a tortoiseshell/Siamese female called Halley (Kitteny, the grandchildren call her). All my lovely cats have been rescue animals ~ I would NEVER buy a pet when there are so many who have been abandoned and need a forever home. Halley is a wonderful mix of Tortie obstinacy and Siamese volume! She has far more character than a cat should have! I love her dearly, even though she isn’t a lap-sitter and cuddler, more a sitter-next-to. I am also aware, given my age and health, that she might be my last cat, so despite being a ‘cat that sits by herself’, she is cherished and very special to me.

What are you reading now? 

Right now, apart from researching for the seventh novel, I am reading Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd. For someone who is Jewish, and lost family in the Holocaust, this may seem an odd choice, but I am trying to understand what is happening in my country (the UK) and in the US and wider afield. The book shows how ordinary people gradually began to accept the terrible philosophies and actions of Hitler and the Nazis; how what started out as horror became the everyday. It is terrifying to see, in my opinion, history repeating itself. I am very active in the ‘Stop Brexit’ movement in the UK: I have marched, lobbied my MP, waved flags outside Parliament. I have even managed to get my German citizenship ‘restored’ so that should the UK follow down the same route as the US, I and my family will have options. I’d recommend the book to anybody who wants to understand how one powerful and evil person can completely and effectively impose their will upon an entire nation. It is salutory reading.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

 I have just finished the sixth book in the Victorian Detectives series. It is called ‘Fear and Phantoms‘. It is on its way to my second editor, and will, I hope, be ready for you to read in September. In theory, I am supposed to be writing the seventh one. I have written three thousand words, including the ending (I write like that), but a lot of other stuff has intervened, so I am not beating myself up, and will wait until some time emerges. I had major cancer surgery in December, followed by a month of radiotherapy in January, so I guess I am still in recovery mode.

Who is your favorite author and why?

 It is VERY VERY hard to pick just one writer, as I read different authors for different reasons. Of course I love Charles Dickens, for the whirling plots, the characters, and the political anger behind so many of his books. OK, can I narrow this down? A writer whose books I always buy as soon as they are published is Robert Harris. He writes thrillers, frequently set in the near past (Archangel, Enigma). His style is impeccable, and, unlike many writers, he seems to be able to maintain the same standard and quality in each book. His last book was Conclave; I actually bought it in hardback. That’s how much I enjoy reading his work.

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

I had hamsters when I was growing up. The good thing about hamsters is that they are low maintenance, and you learn a lot from keeping them. The two main things you learn about are responsibility ( because you have to feed them and clean them out daily) and death (because hamsters don’t live much beyond two years). I always wanted a cat, and pleaded for one, but my mother refused to let me have one. Thus, as soon as I had moved out, the first thing I did was get a cat!

A real life funniest pet story

 When we first got Halley, as a small feisty kitten, I was working away at my laptop, when I heard the most FEROCIOUS yelling and growling coming from the garden. Thinking she might have been attacked by a fox or some other animal, I rushed out to see what was happening. There was this tiny kitten, fluffed to twice its size, incandescent with rage, patrolling round and round a tree while making a noise that could be heard throughout the whole neighbourhood. Up the tree, and looking bug-eyed with fear, was the local HUGE black bully-cat. He was staring down, terrified. She’d got him treed and trapped! Guess who got extra tuna for her tea?

When did you first know you were a writer?

 I have always written stories, ever since I could write. I remember making teeny-tiny books for my soft toys to read (bit like the Brontes ~ though I’m not comparing myself with their geniuses). I used to tell stories to my younger brother when we went on long car journeys. We had a set of running characters (I can’t remember them now) and I’d relate their latest adventures, which stopped the endless ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ that drove my parents mad. I think the first inkling that I might become a writer for REAL was at secondary school. I was fortunate to have a teacher who valued creative writing and used to set us intriguing titles each week. I loved producing a story, or a piece of descriptive prose. I loved that feeling when the ideas just arrived out of the blue.  I always came in the top three, and my efforts would be read out. The thrill of seeing my book on top of the pile, and hearing my words read out made me think I’d like to do this when I grew up. Of course it took a lot longer, and there were a great many rejections before I saw my first actual novel in print (I was forty). But that excitement has never left me.

 What does you pet do when you are writing?

Halley is such a clever little cat! She has developed this *thing* she does. Let me tell you: I usually write in the afternoons, as the morning tends to be taken up with chores or dickering about on the internet (it’s MEANT to be research, but as all writers know, it’s just an excuse NOT to be writing). So, I go upstairs to the back bedroom, where the little purple laptop that isn’t connected to the internet lives. Halley is usually asleep on the bed. I start writing. She sleeps on, unperturbed. BUT as soon as I leave the room, to make a cup of green tea, or answer the door, the cheeky cat leaps off the bed and curls up on my writing chair. And she is VERY difficult to dislodge, once she is ensconced in what she clearly considers to be *her* seat!

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

 Follow your dreams. But make sure you have a day job.

About Carol:

Carol Hedges is the successful UK writer of 17 books for Teenagers/Young Adults and Adults. Her writing has received much critical acclaim, and her novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal. Her ebook Jigsaw Pieces, which deals unflinchingly with many of the problems that beset today’s teens, is available on Amazon as is her Dystopic Fantasy The Last Virus.

 Carol is also the writer of ‘The Victorian Detectives’ ~ a series of novels set in 1860s London and featuring Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his side-kick Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. 

The five books in the series are:

 Diamonds & Dust

Honour & Obey

Death & Dominion

Rack & Ruin

Wonders & Wickedness

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Bits of her writing life can be viewed on her blog: http://carolhedges.blogspot.com

 Her Amazon page is at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Carol-Hedges/e/B0034PUES6

 Connect with Carol Hedges via Twitter: @carolJhedges

 Visit her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thecuriousVictorian/

 

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Welcome, Mollie Hunt!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Mollie Hunt to the blog!

Mollie Hunt & Tinkerbelle, Registered Pet Partners

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m Mollie Hunt, a native Oregonian, and I write cat fiction including the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series and some speculative cat fantasy sci-fi. I’m a member of the Cat Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, Willamette Writers, and the Oregon Writers Colony.

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

With me, it’s all about cats. Little, my 12-year-old black female has been with me since she was 2, and Tyler, my 15-year old tabby who acts like a kitten was adopted last year. Both came from the Oregon Humane Society where I volunteer.

Little is one of the Crazy Cat Lady series clowder. Tyler hasn’t been with me long enough to have a role, but I’m sure he will soon.

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

Lynley Cannon, the not-quite-crazy cat lady hero of my series, has a varying number of cats in her care, but the number is usually around 8. In the latest book, “Cat Café” (out this fall) they are Little, Tinkerbelle, Dirty Harry, Solo, Violet, Big Red, Emilio, and Mab. Sometimes there are guests such as Cary Grant and Clark Gable, a pair of identical red Maine coons who worked as actor cats for a television pilot in “Cat Call”.

 What are you reading now?

“Waypoint Kangaroo” sci-fi by Curtis Chen; “Tea with Milk and Murder” cozy mystery by H.Y. Hanna; “Murder and Mendelssohn” cozy mystery by Kerry Greenwood.

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

I tend to work on several projects at once. Currently I’m in the final revisions for “Cat Café”; writing the first draft of a Crazy Cat Lady Christmas Novella called “Cat Noel”; and in the process of putting together a chapbook of cat poetry. I also have a cat fantasy sci-fi called “Cat Summer” out to an agent. (Wish me luck)

 Who is your favorite author and why?

How can anyone choose one from the millions of authors, current and past? I love Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series because her stories paint a colorful picture in my mind and her words are often poetry. This, along with a good mystery story, makes her books irresistible. Ditto Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey cat mystery series. Joe and his cohorts are magical cats with a backstory that stems from deep Celtic fantasy. The book I’ve reread the most throughout my life is “Titus Groan” by Mervyn Peake. It’s another case of painting a vivid picture in my mind, except this one is of a weird gothic castle in an alternate world.

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

Though the cats in my stories don’t talk, they are endowed with those feline telepathic skills any cat person will instantly recognize, so they have been known to help solve the crime and save the day. Besides being sweet and funny, I employ them to educate people about cats. Through them, I can introduce all sorts of subjects from health to behavior to animal rights.

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

Thank you for that question. I love that you recognize the important roles working animals play in our society.

Tinkerbelle is a ten-year-old shelter stray who Lynley has trained as a registered therapy cat. Together they visit assisted living facilities and hospice patients as an ongoing thread in the series. Tinkerbelle is based on a real cat, though she is now retired.

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

I came from a family that read a lot, and I wrote my first cat story in Mrs. Wilson’s fourth grade class. When I took up mystery writing several decades later, I knew it was my passion because when I write, time goes away and I’m lost in a world I love. Not to say writing isn’t work– it is, but where others would find it tedious, I leap from word to word with unspoiled wonder.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

They mostly sleep, with a few sojourns across the keyboard just to keep me on my toes.

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

I have basically 3 TBR piles: Audio books that I listen to in my car; eBooks I read on my phone; real books. (There are more than one pile of real books.)

A few on the list are: “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore; “Lil Tom and the Pussy Foot Detective Agency” by Angela Crider Neary; “River City” by Doc Macomber; “Dressed to Kill” by Vicki Vass; Long Walks, Last Flights” by Ken Scholes.

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

The first million words are practice, and even the best writer needs a good editor.

 Thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed your choice of questions and hope your readers will like the answers.

 Mollie Hunt

Mollie’s Biography:

Native Oregonian Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. Mollie is the author of the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series, including Cats’ Eyes, Copy Cats, Cat’s Paw, Cat Call, and Cat Café (coming 2018). The series features Portland native Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip. Mollie also published a non-cat mystery, Placid River Runs Deep, which delves into murder, obsession, and the challenge of chronic illness in bucolic southwest Washington. Two of her short cat stories have been published in anthologies.

 Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, Willamette Writers, and the Cat Writers’ Association. She won a CWA Muse Medallion for her blogpost series, “Life Stages”, and has received several CWA Certificates of Excellence for other cat-centric work. Mollie lives in Portland’s eclectic Hawthorne district with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like Lynley, she is a grateful shelter volunteer.

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Mollie’s Amazon Page

Mollie’s Facebook Author Page

Mollie’s Newsletter

 

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Welcome, Maureen Bonatch

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Maureen Bonatch to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello! I’m Maureen Bonatch from small-town Pennsylvania. I write humorous paranormal romance and fantasy. My stories are meant to allow you to escape from the ordinary world for a little bit to visit the underlying extraordinary.

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

Currently Scuff, our Shih Tzu, is our only pet. I often use my pets in my writing, but usually change their name. Scruff is in a WIP. My featured book today, EVIL SPEAKS SOFTLY, stars Mozart. He is a Lhasa Apso and modeled after our beloved 14-year-old Lhasa Apso, Bummy who died 5 years ago. Before you ask, we kept the name he had when we got him. He was dubbed “Bummy” because he was a “bum pup” or “the runt” of the litter and we loved him dearly. He was my baby long before I had babies.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Where do I start? I’m always working on something. Right now, I’m waiting for my editor to finish Book #2 for The Enchantlings Series entitled NOT A CHANCE. I also have multiple works in progress in varying draft states.

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

The first pet that was an indoor pet was Mimi. She was a toy poodle. I call her my pet, but in reality, she was closest to my Mom. We always had cats, a few rabbits and my dad always had ‘hunting dogs’ (even though I don’t know how often he actually went hunting with them, lol), but they lived outside.

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

The animals in my writing always end up being a secondary character. I have so much fun writing them. They are often a pet, or some type of guardian. One of my WIP has a shifter in it and when she shifts she can talk to other animals.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I believe that most people love animals and feel as if they’re part of their family. I like to write the animals in my stories the same way. Plus, they allow me to show my hero or heroine’s vulnerabilities and compassion.

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

I don’t know why, but Boo, from Dean Koontz’s book ODD THOMAS comes to mind. I love those stories.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

I consider Scruff my writing assistant. He usually comes up to my office and either pesters me for a treat, or lays right behind my chair so I’m forced to keep on writing. He also will decide when I need a break and fuss until I get up and toss a toy around, or just give him a little attention.

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

My twin girls are both big animal lovers. They’re 16 now, but when they were growing up, we had a range of critters that they considered pets, whether they really were or not. Starting from worms (each ‘Wormy’ rarely survived the night), frogs and toads, tadpoles, fish, hermit crabs, a hamster and lastly two guinea pigs. Our last guinea pig died about six months ago.

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

 I wish I would’ve realized how much easier it would be to finish each series before starting another one. The story is always there and will wait. Allowing myself to become distracted by other shiny new ideas has resulted in having multiple series, and standalone stories, in progress. It becomes challenging to move from each story without a lot of rereading.

I wish I would’ve realized from the start how each book can be promoted and marketed for a lifetime. Initially I felt as if once a book was out for six months or so, that I should focus on promoting the next, or newest story, when a book is always new to someone.

Author Biography:

Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

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Welcome, Andrew Welsh-Huggins!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. By day I’m a reporter for The Associated Press in Columbus where I cover criminal justice issues, including the death penalty, the opioid epidemic and terrorism prosecutions. By earlier in the day I write the Andy Hayes private series published by Swallow Press (http://www.ohioswallow.com/author/Andrew+Welsh+Huggins), about a disgraced ex-Ohio State quarterback turned investigator in Columbus. The fifth installment, The Third Brother, comes out April 13. I also write short crime fiction.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? As my website says in tongue-in-cheek fashion, I’m the ‘owner of too many pets.’ We have a mixed breed dog, Mikey, two black cats, and two parakeets.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? My private eye has a Golden Lab, “Hopalong,” named for Howard “Hopalong” Cassaday, an Ohio State running back who won the Heisman Trophy in 1955. Hopalong has appeared in all five books.

What are you reading now?

I just read, in order, The Late Show by Michael Connelly, The Dry by Jane Harper and All Day And A Night by Alafair Burke.

 What writing projects are you currently working on? My sixth Andy Hayes mystery, Fatal Judgment, coming in April 2019 (once again featuring Hopalong), and various short stories.

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

We always had cats when I was growing up, starting with “Charley,” a gray and white domestic shorthair when I was about five. Our most famous family cat, “Melrose,” once faced down a buck with a full set of antlers in our back yard in western New York State–and won.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

My character, Andy Hayes, is a dog person. I like having Hopalong in his life as something that makes him seem more real. More than one reader has said they appreciate the fact he actually has to remember to come home and let the dog out. Also, although I’ve never owned a lab, I have a good friend who does, and I enjoy researching Hopalong’s activities by seeing what my friend and his dog are up to.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

In August 1989, my wife and I were moving from Providence, Rhode Island, to Bloomington, Indiana, with all our belongings, including our cat, Ezra. Someone recommended we put butter on his paws to calm him while we drove. Instead, we ended up a wigged-out cat and butter all over the moving van’s windows as Ezra didn’t take kindly to the idea. Later that day, we stuck him in a duffel bag and tiptoed to our room past a hotel lobby clerk–those were the days before hotels were as pet friendly as they are today. We thought we were very sneaky. Ezra wasn’t amused.

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

I’ve wanted to be a writer more or less when I started reading around age six or so. I knew because I immediately started writing books on whatever paper was around the house.

What do your pets do when you are writing? I work on my fiction from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. each morning. As soon as I sit down, my 14-year-old cat, Frankie, emerges from wherever she’s hanging out in my home office, jumps on the reading chair beside me and demands to sit on my lap. She stays there, snuggled under my bathrobe, the entire time. Mikey the dog and Theo, the other cat, are usually sacked out–separately–upstairs.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? Bedside, I have Going Long, an anthology of journalism about track and field; They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, a popular culture essay collection by Hanif Abdurraqib; and How To Read A Novelist by John Freeman. In my downstairs pile are Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne, and The Metal Shredders by Nancy Zafris (plus many mystery short story anthologies and magazines, including Best American Mystery Stories 2015, the collected Sue Grafton Kinsey Millhone short stories, and copies of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine). My third TBR “pile” consists of podcasts, audio short stories and various audio novellas on my phone for the car–most recently including Anne Perry’s annual Christmas novellas.

Author Biography:

Andrew grew up in a small town near the Finger Lakes in western New York State, where one of his favorite Christmas presents as a child was “Thurber on Crime,” thus launching him on a path involving both a love of detective fiction and his future home in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Kenyon College where he majored in Classics and more importantly, met his future wife, Pam, at your standard early 1980s dating hotspot: a Medieval banquet.

Andrew started his writing career as a newspaper reporter in Providence, R.I. and worked later for papers in Bloomington, Indiana, and Youngstown, Ohio. He moved to Columbus in 1998 to work for the Associated Press, covering the death penalty, crime and courts, the Statehouse and long-lived zoo animals.

Andrew is the author of five Andy Hayes mysteries published by Ohio University Press, featuring a disgraced ex-Ohio State quarterback turned private eye, including the upcoming The Third Brother. Andrew has also written two nonfiction books, also published by OU Press: No Winners Here Tonight, a history of Ohio’s death penalty, and Hatred at Home, about one of the country’s first domestic terrorism cases.

Andrew’s short mystery fiction includes “The Murderous Type,” which won the 2017 Al Blanchard prize for best New England short crime fiction, and appears in Snowbound: The Best New England Crime Stories 2017.

When he’s not writing or reporting, Andrew enjoys running, reading, spending time with family and trying to remember why having a dog, two cats and two parakeets seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Welcome, Barbara Schlichting

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes Barbara Schlichting to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

 I enjoy teasing and having fun with my grandchildren. My granddaughter and I are planning to take a short trip to Iowa next summer so I can drop by a few bookstores.  Her blue eyes and smile sells my books. I write mysteries and children’s picture books plus poetry. I’ve also been known to wear red shoes and eat too much ice cream.

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

I’m not sure if you can consider deer, squirrels, birds and chipmunks as pets, but I lived in the woods with the Mississippi River out my back door for seventeen years.

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 poetry, I have a number of poems about wildlife.  In my picture book, Red Shoes, I feature Maggie, a three-legged kitty who lost her shoes. Peter the puppy and Bonnie the bunny help her find them.

What are you reading now?

I just finished two Rex Stout books, Fer-De-Lance and the League of Frightened Men.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just published my first historical mystery. Body on the Tracks is set in 1943 and begins with a body in the Chicago railyard and finishes in Denver. There’s a Nazi onboard who causes all sorts of murder and mayhem.

 Who is your favorite author and why?

Agatha Christie. She’s so good at hiding her clues. I love reading her.

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

We had a dog when I was in high school. When I married, we had a dog for many years for our boys to play with, Clumsy was her name.

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

In the picture book, Red Shoes, the animals are definitely the characters.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals are sweet and loveable.

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

Actually, I should write a mystery with a service dog. My brother had been a police officer and used a service dog to detect drugs so I have an easy reference. Thanks for the idea!

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

 I knew I was a writer from the beginning of time. In seventh grade I got an English penpal, and we’ve been writing ever since. That’s approximately fifty-five years!

 Biography:

I graduated from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, MN. After marriage, we moved to Bemidji where we raised our two boys. I graduated from Bemidji State University with an undergraduate degree in  elementary education and went on to earn a masters degree in special education. I taught in the school district as a substitute for many years.

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https://barbaraschlichting.wordpress.com

https://barbaraschlichting.blogspot.com

https://www.goodreads.com/BarbSchlichting

 

 

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Welcome, Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson to the blog for Writer Wednesday!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m a seventh generation Texan and a third generation wordsmith. I sold my first novel to a NY publisher in 1979 and have since published around 35 novels – I really don’t remember exactly how many. I was one of the founders of Romance Writers of America and currently serve as the Texas representative on the Southwest Regional Board of Mystery Writers of America. Now I am mainly self-publishing under my Sefkhat-Awbi Books imprint. In addition, I’ve been Editor in Chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups, an actress/singer, Supervisor of Accessioning in a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, a travel writer, a jewelry designer, a talent agent, a document checker in a travel agency… plus more stuff. Yes, I bore very easily!

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

I’ve had pets most of my life. First there was Lady (a golden Cocker Spaniel) and her daughter T-Square. I had a parakeet. I had a white rat named Junder for whom I made a halter and leash out of pink grosgrain ribbon. We stopped traffic when we went for walks, especially in winter when I wore my full length fur. For a while I babysat a 6-7 foot long anaconda when my cousin (a world-class herpetologist) was ill. That was a fascinating experience, though I never could get service in that apartment again for all the years I lived there… When I moved out of my parents’ home, I had cats, as I worked long hours and they weren’t as labor intensive as dogs.

For years I had a recessive gene semi-feral Siamese named Sekhmet who was solid black with bright green eyes. She was also the most intelligent animal I’ve ever known, who could open any door in the house except the two outside doors, which I kept deadbolted, and used to turn the lights off and on just to amuse herself. Sekhmet hated people and would simply vaporize when anyone came over. There were those who – when I told them stories about Sekhmet – would swear that I didn’t have a cat, that I would go out and pluck tufts of cat hair from the bushes and rub them into the carpet just to pretend I had a cat. Yes, I have strange friends. Sekhmet also liked to answer the telephone, which drove the telemarketers wild. (Good girl!) She lived to be 21, and I miss her to this day.

After Sekhmet I got a ginger cat named Marmelade. She was very obviously mentally deficient, probably because she had been taken too early from her mother. She was grown when I got her, but didn’t know anything about being a cat. She would get into the litter box, vigorously dig a hole in the litter to the bottom, put her front feet into it and then poop over the side. I had to teach her how to use a litter box properly. It was no fun at all, and is not a fit topic for conversation. She never was very well and died less than a year after I got her.

I didn’t have any animals when I started dating the man who would become my husband, which was a lucky thing. He hated cats and told me years later that he would never have dated anyone who had a cat! It took some guile on my part, but I did get a cat after we had been married about two years – just in time to keep me company during his first overseas deployment. Shadow was a stray who crawled into our yard, too emaciated and weak to walk and tattered from attacks by other animals. An old cat, he had been declawed and could neither escape or protect himself. Of course I took him to the vet immediately and did everything I could to take care of him. We had him for several years. We got a little tuxedo cat to keep him company. When she came to us she had been declawed in all four feet – first time I ever saw that – and was very skittish. All our animals are rescue animals, by the way, and usually from horrific situations. Her name was Boots, but I used to know a woman named Boots, and I didn’t like the name. Usually we don’t change our animals’ names – they’ve been through enough trauma without adding another name change – but ‘Boots’ had to go. She had a tiny little voice so I started calling her Squeaky Boots, hoping to transition easily to Squeaky, but she had to have orthodontic surgery. Her teeth were so bad and so abscessed that her jaw bones were rotting, and so her official vet records were done as Squeaky Boots, so it was as Squeaky Boots she ended her days.

About this time I saw at our local pet orphanage a tiny little white poodle named Harriette. She was 14, had had surgery to remove a tumor from her leg (common in tiny poodles) so most of her backside was shaved, and the rest of her was unimaginably scruffy. It was love at first sight. As soon as The Husband came home from work I grabbed him even before giving him dinner and off we went to the pet orphanage. We came home with a dog. We had Harriette for nearly a year – it turned out she also had a rare cancer and despite two surgeries we just could not keep her alive. She died just before The Husband left for yet another Iraqi deployment. While he was gone I adopted another cat, a pathetic older cat named Chloe who had been seized from a home where she had been tortured for years. She’s the biggest cat I’ve ever seen, and very beautiful, but constantly terrified. It took her years to become easy with The Husband and me. It’s sad, because although her mental faculties are still sharp, she is losing control of her bowels and bladder. She is 17, after all. We’ve had to create her a room within in a room that is lined with plastic where she can roam. Her bed and litter box and feeding tray are in there. We clean her enclosure and change her bedding at least once a day, and take her into the den with us several times a day, but it hurts that we cannot give her the freedom of the house. Before you ask, we’ve had her looked at by the vet several times, tried a variety of medicines, but nothing helps. She will live as comfortably as we can make it until she dies.

When The Husband returned we decided to get another dog. He will only consider a little dog, so we went to the pet orphanage – only to find that the only little dog they had was promised to a woman from out of town who was coming to get her at the end of the week. The staff – many of whom are friends – knew that The Husband was just back from a year in a war zone, so when I asked if we could just play with her for a little while they were happy to let us. We were in an exam room and when Mindy came in we knew she was Our Dog. She’s a small dog, half terrier mix and (I swear) half diva. She was scruffy (she’s always scruffy – it’s the way her hair grows) and wearing the ugliest little dress I’ve ever seen. We lost our hearts.

After about half an hour the director of the orphanage – whom we didn’t know – came in to pick Mindy up. We told her we wanted the dog. She told us that was impossible, that they had been talking to this woman from out of town and she was coming to pick up the dog in a few days. I said, “When she calls to tell you she doesn’t want the dog, call us because we do.”

The woman said it was ridiculous, that they had been talking to this woman for over two weeks and she was coming to get the dog. We went through this dialogue with increasing intensity several times before she finally agreed to take my phone number, probably more to shut me up than anything else.

The pet orphanage is 4.4 miles from our house. We had not made it home before my phone rang and this tremulous little voice said, “Mrs. Patterson? We just heard from (the woman) and she doesn’t want the dog.” We picked Mindy up the next morning and she has brightened our home ever since. For as long as she worked there, though, the orphanage director was very obviously careful never to be alone with me. I do wish, however, that I knew what I had done! It could be a very useful skill.

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

This question gave me pause. As involved as I am with animals, it was a shock to me to find that I don’t put animals in any position of prominence in my stories. My stories are so intense, and so involved, and usually set in odd places, that animals just don’t fit. I’m going to see about changing that. One thing I’ll never do is have animals that talk or solve crimes on their own.

I did put a cat in a book called LURE OF THE MUMMY – sort of. It’s a story of a cursed cat mummy and was the very first pure horror novel ever published by Carina or its parent company Harlequin.

What are you reading now?

Currently I am re-reading my friend Salima Ikram’s DIVINE CREATURES (about sacred animal mummies in Ancient Egypt) as research for a possible novel idea. For fun I’m reading an omnibus of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s short stories.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am one of those people who are not happy unless they have several projects going at once. At this exact moment I am working on the third Flora Melkiot mystery MURDER AT FIVE TO ONE, which is set in Las Vegas; Flora is a wealthy widow of a certain age who has been described as the ‘dark side of Miss Marple.’ I love her and kind of wish I could grow up to be her! I’m also working on a straight medical romance called FEVER HEAT about a medical team sent to the Mexican coast to help after a devastating hurricane. I’m about halfway through a straight romance called INDIAN SUMMER about two grandparents each of whom want sole custody of their orphaned grandson, so of course they fall in love. I’ve just finished the first book in my new Dr. Rachel Petrie, contract archaeologist series called A KILLING AT TARA TWO. It’s getting cold so I can start my editing process with a clear head before it goes to the real editor. I have just had a contemporary gothic romance called THE MASTER OF MORECOMBE HALL (about an American bride in England), a straight romance called ROMANCE AT SPANISH ROCK (about an LA photographer who inherits a ranch in Texas’ Palo Duro canyon) and a murder mystery called MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT (about murder and antiquities smuggling at a scholarly Egyptological conference) edited and am just waiting until I have time to format and self-publish them.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh, this is easy. Barbara Michaels, aka Elizabeth Peters, aka Dr. Barbara Mertz. She had such a way with words, and such a gift for storytelling. I still am in awe of her talent. She is one of the reasons I decided that I really might make writing novels my own career instead of just a life-long hobby. It was truly a blessing was that we met and became dear if sporadic friends. What was truly funny was that although by the time we met I had almost a dozen novels published what brought us together was our work in and passion for Egyptology – not our shared career of writing!

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

My mother didn’t really care for pets, but when I was a small child we had a tribe of cats that lived outside and which we fed. Very rarely was I allowed to bring one inside as a special treat. I remember there being lots of them, but the names of only two – Lampshadey (hey – I was only three!) and Favorite. I do remember that a wild cat moved into our area and was killing our cats. My father borrowed a .22 rifle from a friend and chased the wild cat (which may even have been rabid – again, I was no more than four) into the garage where we had stored some furniture that wouldn’t fit into our tiny house. He finally killed the cat – after shooting the piano bench. I still have that bench, complete with the .22 slug in the seat.

Years later my father, who had had dogs all his young life, decreed that we get a dog. In the same year that Lady and the Tramp was released we got a cute little golden cocker spaniel named (no surprise) Lady. Her real name was Lady Ginger Banner Marinus Underfoot May – each name has a special meaning, but they’re too long to go into here. She had several litters of puppies, all of whom we found homes except for one which I refused to let go of. She was solid black, parentage unknown, but had a perfectly formed T on her chest and a perfect square on her left back foot, both in pure white. As my parents had an advertising agency and in the graphic arts a T-square is a basic tool, of course the dog became T-Square. We had both of them for years, until they were poisoned. We never knew who or why. There were no more animals in my life until I moved out on my own and got Sekhmet.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Oh, this is going to get naughty. Years ago, many years before I even met The Husband, I had a date with a nice young man. After dinner and a movie he took me home and we ended up in a heavy petting session in my darkened living room. I hadn’t seen fit to tell him that I had a cat – first of all because at the moment I had other things on my mind besides the cat and second because I knew the cat wouldn’t come out if someone strange was in the house. Well, the room was dark except for the glow of a streetlamp coming through the single window and we were… well, you know, snuggling on the couch when all of a sudden this nice young man let out a shriek. I didn’t usually have that effect on men, so I looked around and saw two bright red eyes glowing in the dark. Immediately I knew it was the cat – remember, she was pure black – sitting on the arm of a chair, just in the right place where the light behind her could make her eyes glow without showing her silhouette. Before I could say a word the nice young man jumped up and dashed out of the apartment, screaming all the way. Later I tried to reach him, but he never would take my calls. I had his shirt, his jacket and his shoes for almost a year before giving them to charity.

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

Two of my grandmothers were teachers. One grandfather was the publisher of a small town newspaper when that was a position of real power. My mother was a teacher, a producer of plays, a magazine columnist and an advertising agent. My father began as a printers’ devil when he was nine, edited and published newspapers all over Texas, taught journalism at Texas A&M (where he separated the journalism department from the English department and made it a separate discipline), then with my mother began the family advertising agency which for 16 or the 17 years of its existence was one of the top 300 in the country. So, you see I didn’t have a snowball’s chance of becoming anything but some kind of a wordsmith.

My parents never knew when I learned to read, but I did read them a short story from the newly arrived Saturday Evening Post (which neither of them had even seen) when I was three. By the time I entered the first grade I had read most of Boswell, some Pearl Buck, some Ellery Queen and most of Shakespeare. One of the biggest disappointments of my life was that once I got to school they started teaching us the alphabet and reading Dick and Jane aloud to us instead of discussing the motivations in Troilus and Cressida! I hated school from that moment of disillusion.

When I was four I wrote my first book. It was a tale of some children playing in the park who capture an escaped lion and make it home in time for supper. I printed and illustrated each page by hand, after having begged some paper and sewing thread from my parents. Daddy had told me about the different kinds of binding, saying that signature sewn was the best. I sewed twelve copies of my little book together. I think there are one or two still extant stored with my late mother’s papers. I’ve been writing ever since – sometimes for publication, sometimes not, but always writing no matter what else I did.

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

This changes just about every day. Right now it’s vacillating between getting back to Egypt for a relaxing holiday, as we haven’t been there in 3 years, and taking a loooong European river cruise. We’ve never taken a cruise like that (they are expensive!) and I would absolutely love to. Or it could be to go spend a month in England, visiting friends and doing research. Or it could be to go visit my dear friend in Peru.

 What do your pets do when you are writing?

Chloe the cat is either in her plastic lined room or sitting beside my desk in her carrier. With her incontinence problems we cannot let her run free around the house any longer, but at least in her carrier she can be wherever we are, feel as if she is still part of the family, and we do take her out and hold her in our arms often. Mindy the dog is either running around barking at leaves, postmen and marauding moths, begging for scraps from my lunch or sleeping stretched out on the back of the couch.

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

Piles? Mountains are more like it. I live in a house with three libraries, and The Husband and I are contemplating a fourth. Plus, I have over 3,000 unread books on my Kindle – which I never use, as I prefer to read on my phone during the few short times I actually get to read for pleasure. The Husband and I prefer to buy our good reference books in hardcopy – he is an expert on war history and firearms, I research crime and the English Regency, and we are both avid amateur Egyptologists. (We met through our Egyptological studies, and he even proposed to me in a moonlit garden across the street from the Pyramids. Yes, those Pyramids!) If it weren’t for electronic reading our house would be so full of books we would have to sleep in a tent in the back yard!

Janis’ Biography:

Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson is a 7th-generation Texan and a 3rd-generation wordsmith who writes in mystery, romance, and horror. Once an actress and a singer Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. Janis’ husband even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.

Janis’ Website 

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