Welcome, Katie Baldwin!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Katie Baldwin to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write romances. Some have a mystery in the plot, some have paranormal storylines, but they all are romances. I grew up watching 1940s & 1950 musicals and that is where my love of romance began. Then I began to read Barbara Michaels gothic romances and I was hooked.

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

I have one dog. Her name is Marley. I adopted her from my local SPCA in 2015. She was 8 ½ years old and scared out of her mind. She couldn’t even be in the regular shelter. She was upstairs in the offices. Do you know that song? “Just one look” by Doris Troy? I took one look at the sweet min-pin/chihuahua mix with the nervous eyes and I was in love. I said to her “I’m going to spoil you so much.” She then consented to the adoption. After a year, Marley developed diabetes and went blind. I now give her shots of insulin twice a day. She takes it like a champ. This past year she developed glaucoma. So now we have three drops that go in her eyes twice a day. She is the bravest dog. I’m in awe of her tenacity. Marley is the basis for two of my stories – but neither are published at this time. But soon.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? Pierre the chihuahua (I created this character before I met my dog.) will be in every single Spirod book. The first is “A Ghost of a Chance”. Pierre lets his people know when ghosts are around by peeing. It never goes over well. But that’s his special psychic gift. The next one will be set in New Orleans about some nasty Satanist trying to cause trouble called “Old Devil Moon” and the third one is about coven of inexperienced witches who and accidentally open a portal to hell. That one is tentatively titled “Bewitched, Bothered and Irritated as Hell.”

What are you reading now? I’m reading The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx of the band Mötley Crüe. Why you might ask? Especially since I despise Mötley Crüe? Because I’m also writing a series titled “Metalsome Hearts” and it will be a five-part series about a heavy metal band. Two of the members are recovering heroin addicts – thus – the reason I’m dipping into the nasty world of Nikki Sixx.

What writing projects are you currently working on? I’m finishing the first book in my metal series – “Metalsome Hearts” and then in October, I’ll be back with the Spirod team, Pierre and the Satanists in “Old Devil Moon.”

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. My childhood pet was a German Shepard named Elsa. She was the most amazing dog. She passed away in the late 80s and I still miss her. She was such a big dog that when we ate dinner she could put her chin on the dining table. My dad would tell her sternly “down!” and then she would turn her back on us and give a very human harrumph.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing? I love books who put animals in their stories, so it was a no brainer when I started writing. As to if they are characters in the book. Depends on the book. Pierre is a character. Dolly – in Love My Way – is a metaphor for unconditional love.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story? My sister rescued a Pitbull (Lulu) and another smaller dog (Piper) from the Los Angeles area SPCA. They were both the apple of the entire family’s eyes. Including me. And then I adopted Marley. When I introduced my dog to my fur-nieces, the look in their eyes. Betrayal, disappointment, anger. Marley padded over to say hello and Lulu growled at her. So, I had to discipline Lulu. I said “Lulu! No!” She gave me this look – like – seriously? And walked out of the room in a huff. Diva. God, I love that dog. I attached a photo of Lulu and Marley on a sofa together. You can see Lulu is displeased.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I’ve been making up stories since I was a kid. I loved to see the look on people’s faces when they are into my stories. For the most part, I told stories orally. Like they did back in the day. And my sister heard a lot of my stories. When I started to do well in English and writing classes, my storytelling naturally shifted to writing.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? I want to go to Ireland. The problem is that I don’t want to leave Marley so traveling has stopped since she was adopted. When I go away for conferences for work, my neighbor stays with her in my home. Since she is blind, I don’t like her staying somewhere else. She already bumps her sweet nose all the time and she knows her house really well. I’m a helicopter parent for a dog. And I’m fine with that

What do your pets do when you are writing? Marley sits under the desk and looks at me with sad eyes. She is so manipulative, and I love it! When I first got her, she was so desperate to be a good girl, she barely showed any personality. But now, my girl gives me grief all the time. So happy that she is comfortable and safe. She knows she can be a pain in the butt and I’ll still love her.

About Katie:

Katie Baldwin has a secret life. During the day she is a mild-mannered researcher at a prestigious University. By night she writes fantastical tales of romance and mystery. When she is not pacing her home working out dialogue in her mind, she is baking scones and plotting her next chapter. Aside from writing, she has a ferocious passion for Rock & Roll – especially 1980s and 1990s rock, the Green Bay Packers, and her MinPin/Chihuahua mix dog-baby, Marley. She can be found on twitter waxing eloquently about all of her passions.

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Email: Katie@authorkatiebaldwin.com
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Welcome, June Whatley!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome June Whatley to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write under the names of June Breland Whatley or June B. Whatley. I’ve been married for 48 years to my husband Jim. We have one son who is grown, married and has four children. My husband and I are both retired and live in Tennessee with our two fur babies Bear and Millie.

My first book, published in 1996, was for homeschoolers on the topic of socialization. We homeschooled our son junior high through high school and he went on to college and then got his Masters’ Degree.

My second book was published in 2016 and is available on Amazon. The title is #LifeChange: A Treasure Hunt for More. It is based on a dream from the Lord that shows how and why people fear having a relationship with Christ and shows why, even after coming to Christ, people are attacked by the enemy. The book leads the reader through steps of accepting Christ, learning how to pray, and how to protect themselves from the enemy after their salvation experience. It ends with a biblical explanation that shows the Kingdom of God is real.

My writing is driven by a need to introduce people to or draw people closer to the Lord. My belief is that the Return of Christ is coming soon. Time is short and people need to have a personal relationship with Jesus in order to be saved.

My current work, follows a similar pattern, but engages the younger reader in a story to aid in expressing these principles.

Tell us about your pets.

Bear is my ‘rescue’ dog. It took three trips to the shelter before I found him, then he ‘rescued me.’ J I was a cancer survivor and had undergone chemo, surgery and radiation. I was cancer-free, but my strength and lung capacity were not back to normal. I had little energy and was gloomy most of the time. Bear got me up, out and moving. He was a 9 lb ball of fur and energy, just what I needed to perk up my spirit and encourage me to be more active. Six and a half years later, he is now about 100 lbs and I’m still cancer-free and in much better health. Shortly after getting Bear, we moved to Tennessee.

In Tennessee, I had seen the large, furry Great Pyrenees dogs and wanted one. I met a man who was giving away puppies. The first owner had neglected them terribly, so Stan purchased them from him, and worked to get them healthy, then he was giving them away. I drove to his house and Millie greeted me at my car. She waddled her three-month-old, 37 lb body up to my car. I called Stan to be sure he still wanted to give her up and he did, so I put her in a travel cage in my car and headed for the veterinarian’s. She was checked over, given a bath and declared in good health so I took her home.

By this time, Bear was so spoiled, people questioned how he would get along with another dog, but I wasn’t worried. When I opened the door, and set her down on the floor. Bear, now about 39 lbs. and Millie looked at each other, their eyes lit up and they started chasing each other around, inside the condo. It was adorable. They’ve been best buds ever since.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading, The Emotional Craft of Fiction, by Donald Maass. It is by far the best book I have read on the subject of writing or crafting a story or novel. The book that I have in progress, is ‘finished,’ but now I am going through Mr. Maass’ book and literally addressing every area that he discusses. I thought my book was good before, but now I see what was missing. Hopefully this book will reach many young people and show them the love of Christ and God.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a book for ages 8-12+ readers called, Beware the Fallen. It is the story of three siblings from a Christian home. The middle child, Ashton age eleven, feels left out and unloved, but neither is true. It takes a life-changing event (being kidnapped by a dragon and nearly losing his life) to bring him to a true relationship with the King and His Son.

This also brings love and understanding into his relationship with his older brother, Mican (thirteen) and younger sister, Shayla age ten. The story follows them for the next year and their many visits to talk with the King. The sequel follows Mican, Ashton and Shayla on their travels through time portals where they witness Biblical scenes, as they happen.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I love Jane Austen. Her characters and scenery are so vivid. I also love Agatha Christie. Her mysteries are intricate, without being gory. And a more recent author, Andrew Peterson is a new favorite. Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga is amazing. It is great for young people, but held my attention to the end.

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

When I was a kid, we had three acres. That’s not vast, but allowed us to have dogs and cats. I still remember all the names of my dogs: Peanut, Snowball, Pharaoh, Blue, and Foots. When we found Foots, he was a puppy, but had enormous feet, that’s where the name came from. He turned out to be mostly Great Dane and was huge.

My favorite cat and there were many, was Persia, a smoky gray Persian.

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

In my new book, the animals are not pets, they are characters in their own right. Some of the animals are in the service of the King. For example: Warrior, a noble horse; Patrice the leader of the butterflies; Ozwan the swan; Omuth the dragonfly; and of course a dove (the Holy Spirit).

Why do you include animals in your writing?

For this book, Beware the Fallen, it was a logical progression to use animals.

Since the new book takes place partly in a fallen, Garden of Eden-type setting, the dragon (Satan) has his followers. These animals are villains who inhabit the mysterious garden and create havoc for the three main characters.

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

The animals that I mentioned by name in question #7, who are in the Kings’ service are not ‘service animals’ as we use the term, but they do the King’s bidding, such as guiding the children to safety in various instances. They also talk and teach the children lessons during their journey.

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

As a fifth grader, I needed to do a book report and I found Black Beauty. I was a very slow reader, but I’ve always loved horses, so the horse in the book got me through. I now understand that there is a ‘lag-time’ between when my eye sees a word and when my brain registers it. “Way back then,” they didn’t understand problems like mine. I had a large vocabulary, but I always struggled to read. I never let it stop me. I went on to get a Master of Arts Degree from Regent University.

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

Take time to learn your craft. There is much more to writing than grammar and punctuation. Read contemporary best sellers in the area in which you want to write.

Contemporary, because although Jane Austen is amazing, most young people won’t sit still long enough to get through all of the details in the way she wrote. It is a different time that we live in.

And my best advice to any writer would be, ‘don’t be in a hurry.’ When I started writing I believed that God had a ‘mission’ for me and that I needed to hurry and get it done. Now I realize that even with a calling, waiting and timing are important.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

Hire an editor to do deep edits, not just to put commas in the right place. It is pricey, but it is very necessary. Sometime you are so close to the story, you mentally read in what should be there. Your readers don’t have that luxury and an editor needs to check continuity and other issues. Use an editor that is in the business, not just a free-lancer. You can also learn a lot about the business side of publishing from an editor.

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Teresa Inge’s Interview with Alison Fechino

Alison, tell us a little about yourself and how did you get involved with animal welfare? 
Thank you so much for having me! I have always loved being involved in animal welfare. I started volunteering in a shelter at age 13 and continued to do so through college. I studied Animal and Poultry Sciences, which gave me a broader understanding of what “welfare” means with regard to more than just companion animals. I adore chickens and even became president of the Virginia Tech Poultry Club. I got my first job in animal sheltering at the Virginia Beach SPCA in 2013, and I never looked back.

How many animals do you have and what are their names and ages? 

I have two dogs – more than that and my landlord would kick me out! My first dog, Addie, has been with me since high school. She’s a Chow Chow mix who is about 12 years old. Addie is a complete priss who thinks she’s better than everyone else. My other dog, Colin, is 5 years old. He’s a Shetland Sheepdog/Whippet mix which means that he has a long snout with giant eyes. People tell me he looks like an anteater. Colin loves eating and will do anything for a snack.

What is a typical or non typical day like for you while working at the Chesapeake Humane Society? 
A lot of folks think working in animal welfare is sad. While its true that there are sad and trying moments in this field, there are even more moments to celebrate. Every day, I see volunteers give their time and energy to improve the care our animals receive. The staff work tirelessly to attend to our clinic patients and educate their caregivers. Donors stop by to drop off donations of food, cleaning supplies, or funds without even being asked. Adoptable pets find loving homes, and families celebrate all the unique ways their dog or cat makes them happy. All my days, typical or not, show me how much people really do care about the animals in our community.

Anything else you wound like to share with our readers about yourself, the Chesapeake Humane Society, upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, or supporting the Chesapeake Humane Society? 
Chesapeake Humane Society recently went through an exciting expansion! We hired a second veterinarian and have added additional veterinary services, such as mass removals and other soft tissue surgeries, in order to better serve pets whose owners could not otherwise afford such lifesaving care. We are thrilled to be able to offer this option to our community in addition to spay/neuter surgeries, dental procedures, and vaccinations. The programs we offer are supported by annual fundraisers, like our 5K and 1-Mile Doggy Dash coming up on May 4th, and contributions from individuals and businesses. Those interested in learning more about our services, volunteer opportunities, or ways to give can visit www.chesapeakehumane.org for more information!

Teresa Inge grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today, she doesn’t carry a rod like her idol, but she hot rods. She assists two busy executives and is president of the Sisters in Crime Mysteries by the Sea chapter. Teresa is the author of “Corked for Murder” in Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II, “Shopping for Murder,” and “Guide to Murder” in Virginia is for Mysteries, “Fishing for Murder” in the FishNets anthology and has coordinated several anthologies.

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Welcome Back, Susan Schwartz!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Susan Schwartz and her kitties back to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing:

I began writing in 2006 with freelance articles. I wrote on all sorts of topics and researched these pieces thoroughly. I made some money, but I was more interested in fiction writing. I joined the Virginia Writers Club and started learning how to write with style. I found good mentors and people who wanted to help me succeed. I took over leadership of the club for two years giving back to the writing community and helping to mentor a few new writers.

I have been an Operating Room Nurse for 19 years. As you can imagine, I see many interesting and gory things while working. I channel many of those sights and sounds into my stories. I love blood and guts, and I tend to write stories where people are getting killed or maimed in some fashion. I also try to write them with a twist making you wonder what hit you at the end. I have enjoyed this genre immensely because of its ability to lead the reader into something they were not expecting.

I have three short stories published at present in the Nightmares & Echoes series. They are “The Sparkling Floor,” “I Thought You Did,” and “Blurred Line.  “Blurred Line” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in Long Fiction by the Horror Writers Association in 2016. My non-fiction piece in the Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology is titled “Using my Karate Chops in Nursing.” Paranormal Encounters just came out in March 2019. I also have a non-fiction book coming in May 2019 titled Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties. In addition, another haunted book is being published October 2019.

Please check out my website to see future happenings and new books coming out soon. https://www.susanschwartzauthor.com.

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

I have had up to 14 feral cats in the past. I also took care of a baby squirrel for several days and a silverback bat. We just lost the last one, Mr. Imp, in 2015. At present, we have two kitties, Speck & Manchego. We have multiple fish tanks, and we also love on one leopard gecko named Zoey.

I do not use them in my writing, but Zoey likes to help me write sometimes. She loves to write about cricket murder mysteries.

Here are some of our fishies:

Our eel, Houdini:

My three blood parrots (Sebastian, Scar, and Pierre) and pleco (Zeke), I sent this out as a Christmas picture one year because they apparently were singing along with the carols:

What are you reading now?

I tend to read three to four books at once. My list at present consists of:

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly. It is the 2nd book in his Late Show series, but this one places Ballard and Bosch together for some crazy good fun.

 Macrame Murder by my great friend, Mollie Cox Bryan. She is a very sweet lady and an awesome writer of cozy mysteries.

 Italian Iced by Kylie Logan. Loving Italian cuisine and goodies, this one just piqued my interest with the title.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am starting to research for another haunted book on another section of Virginia. I just had two stories come out in Paranormal Encounters in March. I have a paranormal romance novel that I have been working on for several years that I want to finish. I also have about six short stories in the works for a couple anthologies and just from pleasure writing.

Who is your favorite author and why?

For horror influences, I look to Stephen King and Bentley Little. The medical drama comes from Michael Palmer and Robin Cook. For general fiction, I like David Baldacci, Brad Parks, and Michael Connelly.

All of these produce a great story with plenty of red herrings to make you think something else is going to happen. Then they let slip that crucial detail that spends everything around and just leaves you so confused.

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

Milo and Otis was definitely a favorite with the dog and the cat. I also so loved Homeward Bound. The voiceovers in both movies were simply the best. It always makes me wonder now when my cats are looking at me what they are thinking.

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

I started writing back in 2003 doing fanfic for several TV shows I watched at the time. They weren’t really great stories, but mainly continuations of what I thought should have happened. I really enjoyed writing the different views on some of the characters. Once these got some comments, I started wondering if I could write longer and more in-depth pieces. I am happy to say I can and I do.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Manchego and Speck are normally chasing each other back and forth through the house. Manchego is around 18 months old, and we rescued her off the street on a cold winter’s night at the age of about two months. We found Speck at the Goochland Animal Shelter to help Manchego get over her separation anxiety. Speck is around nine months old, and he has been a welcome addition to the family. Although it did take about two weeks for Manchego to warm up to him.

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

I thought about this one. These weren’t really pets, but I took care of them for a length of time. We had a baby squirrel named Lucky that had fallen out of his nest, and his mother never came to find him. My father, knowing my love of animals, called me to come get him and take care of him. It was a fun experience for about four days until we found a Wildlife Rehabilitator that would take him. Fun Fact: Squirrels are lactose-intolerant.

The second unusual animal we loved on was a Silverback Bat. This guy had fallen on our front porch and didn’t move. We were worried he was dead. We got a plastic container, much like the ones we kept crickets in for our gecko, and scooped him up with it. Over time, he started to move by hopping, so we named him Scooter. We also took care of him for several days until we could find a Bat Rehabilitator in the area. We discovered that he had burned up one wing. If he couldn’t fly, he couldn’t hunt for food. Sadly, he passed away a couple days later. I still have fond memories of him though, and I love to walk at dusk to see the bats flying. Fun Fact: Bats look just like puppy dogs in the face. Check out some pictures.

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

The best advice given to me by many authors in different genres is to read that which you are trying to write. The greats in this genre, such as Stephen King, Bentley Little, and Richard Laymon, have shown me how to write and what people are looking for when they read this genre. Stephen King also wrote a book, On Writing, which has helped me a great deal as well.

Write what you know and love. Writing becomes much easier when you know where you want to go with a particular piece. I always know the ending. I leave my title for when I finish because you want to write a great story, and then finish it with a title that encompasses all that is inside.

Don’t stop because someone told you No. This just means you have to go another way instead of the path you are taking. Keep trying and don’t give up. You can do it!

About Susan

I have been an avid writer for around 13 years doing everything from writing freelance articles to editing manuscripts for other authors. I also love to write horror stories that have a twist at the end.

My alter ego is an Operating Room Nurse/Nurse Educator who loves creating tales from the interesting and weird things I have seen. I am a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Virginia Writers Club where I serve as President of the Richmond Chapter and 1st Vice-President of the state organization. I have two novels in the works, a paranormal romance and a medical thriller. My non-fiction book, Haunted Charlottesville, is being released in May 2019.

Please see my website for more info: www.susanschwartzauthor.com

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Welcome, Rosemary Shomaker


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

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

Why do you include animals in your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

What do your pets do when you are writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Rosemary

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

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Puppies and Panthers…

I LOVE FOOTBALL!!!

Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, but I really love Football.  I love High School football.  I love College football.  I love Professional football.  This time of year, I am one happy, happy woman because there’s not only baseball, but football too.  Today is college football day.  I’ve been doing chores and work all through the day today whilst watching college football. I’m also really excited about tomorrow’s Panthers vs. Cowboys game.  GO PANTHERS!!!

There’s a problem with this, however.

As many of you may remember, we adopted two fabulous Labrador retrievers in February of this year.  This was our second bonded pair (they have to be adopted together) from our fav rescue organization, Lab Rescue (part of the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac).

Our young Irish Water Spaniel, Tucker, whom we got as a puppy, is used to my reaction to football.  He grew up with it, and when I start hollering at the refs, the players or the drive, he just shrugs and keeps chewing on his bone.

Daisy and Dakota, however, are not used to this.  It was post-season when they come to live with us.  They have NO experience with me being the whoop-and-holler fan.

After a few moments of startlement in pre-season, Daisy, like Tucker, decided to ignore it.  She’s an athlete in her own right – she reminds me of a trim tennis player, active and fit.   She remains unphased no matter what down it is, or how bad the sack on my quarterback.

Dakota, on the other hand just does NOT know what to make of my football-induced hollering.

You have to understand that, on non-football days, I’m pretty quiet.  We start the day with a walk, and say hello to the neighbors if they’re out.  After that, we settle in with coffee to work for a few hours, do some social media, and generally get the day done.  There may be some singing – I’m not totally silent! – but there isn’t random shouting, hollering, and complaining.  There is often tennis-ball-throwage in amongst the writing.

On football days?  Oh, my Lord, is there hollering.

See, like I said, I love football.  I’m passionate about it.  My guys got me a really nice TV in the kitchen so I could watch football while I cook dinner.  I use it often.  You’ll see that despite the fact that I didn’t go to Nebraska, I was watching this game.  Why?  Because it was on and it was good.  Grins.

BTW, I was also watching a game on my computer – the high school from which my Eldest just graduated is ranked #4 in the nation in some polls and was playing a great team…St Johns won 37-34…but it took them into the freakin’ FIFTH – yes you read that right FIFTH! – overtime to do it!  Yikes!!

So amidst the whooping at St John’s Cadet’s win, checking to see if the rain delay on the Cubs vs. Nationals game had lifted, and the Nebraska game, I was fully immersed in sports.  Love me some sports.

My husband thinks it’s hysterical that I love football even more than he does.  However, Dakota, our big, black rescue Lab (part Great Dane, we think) is NOT amused about this sport thing.

He fled the kitchen for the safety of the family room.  He refused to come into the kitchen while football was on.  The only thing he came in for was to eat.  Otherwise, he avoided me and my football like the plague – or like I was holding the nail clippers.  

Tucker joined him for part of this day-long sulk, but then Dakota decided to go hang out upstairs with my Youngest, who’s just as anti-(team)-sports as he is.  Dakota and the Youngest Son think I’m nuts.  Ha!

What about you?  Are you a sports fan? 

Or are you a sports widow/widower?

What’s your sport?

What’s your team?

Do you have team gear?  (Love my team gear!)

Did I mention….GO PANTHERS!!!?

 

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Welcome Author Darlene Foster

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Darlene Foster to the blog!

Tell our readers about yourself and what you write.

As a child wandering around the prairies on my father’s ranch in southern Alberta, Canada, I would dream of travelling the world and meeting interesting people, often creating stories in my mind. My grade three teacher encouraged me to write my stories down. But it wasn’t until much later that I actually wrote for publication.

Since then I have won awards for some of my short stories. I have also authored the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky 12-year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places where she always has an adventure. My books include: Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube – The Sounds of Music andAmanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind.Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another.

When not travelling myself and collecting ideas for stories, I divide my time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain with my husband and entertaining dog, Dot. Encouraged by my parents to follow my dreams, I believe everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.

How do you pets impact your writing?

Spending time with my dog relaxes me and inspires ideas. When I get stuck, I take her for a walk and often return with fresh new ideas. She also gets me off my butt and away from the computer. When she thinks I have been there too long, she comes into my office with her ball and drops it in front of me, looking at me with those big puppy dog eyes. I just can’t say no. Before moving to Spain and getting our dog we had cats. They would sleep on my lap or on my feet while I wrote. A writer needs pets. They are great to discuss ideas with.

Do you include animals in your stories?

Living on a farm/ranch there were always animals around so I love animals of all sorts and so does Amanda. There is an animal in most of the Amanda stories. In Amanda in Arabia, an adorable camel named, Ali Baba is featured. My readers love him. In Amanda in Spain there is a dancing pony, named Pedro and in Amanda in England, a Maine Coon cat, Rupert, plays a large role. I have puppets or stuffies of each of the animals and take them along to readings and school visits. They are always a hit.

What is your funniest pet story?

When we were children my brothers and I had a pet antelope named Bambi. She was found in a ditch beside her mother who had died giving birth so we gave her a home. We loved her so much. One day she broke her front leg and we were devastated. Our dad dropped what he was doing and took her to the veterinarian in the city. The doctor set the leg and put it in a cast, attaching a metal frame around it. I’ll never forget how funny she looked running around the farm yard, hobbling on her built in crutch. I wrote a short story about Bambi which has been published in an anthology.

Of course our Dot makes us laugh every day. She is such a character. When we put food in her bowl, like stew, she separates the meat from the vegetables into little piles, eats the meat first and then the peas and the carrots last as they are her least favourite. We can’t have the veges touching the meat can we? I’ve seen kids do this but never a dog!

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Darlene Foster is an employment counsellor working with youth at risk, an ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, shoes, cooking, reading, sewing, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Her grandson calls her “super-mega-as-woman-supreme”.

She was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She lives on the West coast of BC with her husband and their black cat, Monkey.

Here is Darlene’s latest book and where you can find her. She’d love to hear from you.

Amanda Ross is on a school trip to Taos, New Mexico with several of her fellow creative students. Join Amanda, Cleo and their funny friend, Caleb, as they visit an ancient and beautiful landscape where a traditional hacienda, an ancient pueblo, and a haunted and spooky hotel all hold secrets to a wild and violent past. Does Cleo really see ghosts? Can Amanda escape the eerie wind that follows her everywhere? Perhaps the Day of the Dead will reveal the mysteries of Taos in this latest adventure of Amanda’s travels.
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Meet Josh Pachter

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Josh Pachter to the blog this week!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Not long after my ninth-grade English teacher, Mary Ryan, gave me a copy of the June 1966 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, I decided to try my hand at writing a crime story myself. The result, “E.Q. Griffen Earns His Name,” appeared in EQMM’s “Department of First Stories” in December 1968, and in December 2018 I’ll be celebrating my fiftieth year as a published writer. Along the way, I’ve contributed almost a hundred short stories to various magazines and anthologies, written a zombie cop novel collaboratively with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge (Styx, Simon & Schuster, 2015), seen all ten of my Mahboob Chaudri stories collected as The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, also 2015), edited half a dozen anthologies, and translated dozens of short stories and novels from Dutch to English. In my day job, I’m the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus. My wife Laurie is an editor for a government agency in DC, and our daughter Becca is a county prosecutor in Phoenix.

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

If you don’t count fish and a hermit crab, the only pet I’ve ever had is our dog Tessa, who is a loving and lovely collie/terrier mix. Laurie rescued her from the pound about sixteen years ago, when she (Tessa, not Laurie) was just a few months old. Laurie and I met ten years ago — we “met cute,” and you can read about that here — so Tessa’s been a part of my life for the last decade. I haven’t put her into my fiction yet, but that might well happen at some point in the future!

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

In case you didn’t click on the link above, I’ll tell you that I have been horribly allergic to fur and feathers and wool, my whole life long — making my ability to be around Tessa something of a miracle. Because I grew up unable to be around animals, I never developed an appreciation for them … and have never much written about them. In the 1980s, I collaborated with the wonderful Edward Wellen on a story about a migratory stork that smuggles uncut diamonds from the mines in South Africa to the jewelry industry in Amsterdam; it was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and we called it (ahem) “Stork Trek.” But, until Tessa came into my life, that nameless stork was really the only animal character I ever created. Now, though, I’m a lot more open to writing about furry and feathery characters. In fact, I have a story called “The Supreme Art of War” in the upcoming Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter anthology Fur, Feathers and Felonies that includes a female cat named Mister.

What are you reading now?

A couple of years ago, I was asked how much I would charge to translate one of the 300+ Belgian graphic novels about a pair of teenagers named Suske and Wiske into English. More kidding than serious, I said I’d do it for — instead of money — a complete set of the books. To my amazement, the publisher agreed. So I did the translation, a giant box of books flew across the Atlantic Ocean to my front door, and I’m now up to number 185. (In English, Suske and Wiske are called Luke and Lucy, and you can read Auntie Biotica, the adventure I translated, for free here.)

What writing projects are you currently working on?

As I answer these questions, I’m focused more on editing than writing. I’m working on three different collections, which will be published by three different publishers in 2018. Amsterdam Noir, which I’m co-editing with René Appel, is an anthology of dark stories set in the Dutch capital, and it’ll come out as a part of Akashic Books’ City Noir series. Dale Andrews and I are putting together The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, a collection of pastiches and parodies, for Wildside Press. And I’m editing The Man Who Read Mr. Strang: The Short Fiction of William Brittain on my own for Crippen & Landru. But I’ve just begun a new short story I’m calling “Killer Kyle,” which starts out pretty nicely, I think. I can’t wait to see how it ends!

Who is your favorite author and why?

Oh, gosh, that’s like asking me to name my favorite movie or song. I don’t have one favorite author. There are so many authors I’ve loved reading, and my “favorite” would depend on when you asked me and how I was feeling at the moment. I can tell you that, along the way, my favorite authors have included John Updike and Ray Bradbury (who showed me that prose can be poetry), Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse (who made me laugh), Carlos Castaneda and Jane Roberts (who made me think outside the box), Ellery Queen, Ed McBain, and Lawrence Block (who taught me whatever small amount I know about crime writing), and a host of friends whose books I read because they were written by people I know and respect and admire (including but far from limited to Les Roberts, Loren D. Estleman, Bill Pronzini, and, in Dutch, Hilde Vandermeeren, Bavo Dhooge, René Appel).

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I’m not sure how funny this is, but can I go back to that hermit crab? When my daughter Becca was tiny and we were living in the upstairs half of what’s called a “Lakewood double” just outside Cleveland, Ohio, she really wanted a pet … but I had those allergies I’ve mentioned. So we bought Hermie the Hermit Crab, and we kept him in a little plastic terrarium and fed him and petted him and played with him. One day, though, Hermie mysteriously vanished from his terrarium. I never found out for sure how that happened, but I suppose Becca must have taken him out to play with him and forgotten to put him back, and he just wandered off. Days later, I came home from work to find a plastic bucket sitting outside our door and a note taped to the door: “We found this in our bedroom. Is it yours?” And, sure enough, Hermie was in the bucket. How he got down a flight of stairs and into the neighbor’s apartment, I’ll never understand. (Hermie, by the way, went to Hermit Heaven many years ago, but I still have his shell, which I keep on my desk and use as a paperweight.)

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

I sometimes talk to middle-school groups about writing, and I always start by asking, “How many of you want to be a writer someday?” Generally, three-quarters of the hands go up, and that allows me to tell them that they already are writers, and have in fact been writers ever since they learned how to write. A writer isn’t something you should “want to be,” I tell them. A writer is something you already are. What you can want to be is a professional writer, a paid writer, a famous writer, even just a better writer. So, when did I know I was a writer? I guess when I learned how to write. But I think I had the idea of becoming a professional writer in my head from a pretty early age. In grade school, I wrote a “book” about Japan — a country which to this day I have never visited — and “published” a weekly handwritten newspaper for a couple of months. In junior high, I co-wrote a column for my school paper. And I sold my first short story to EQMM at the age of sixteen. When I went off to college at the University of Michigan, my intention was to study journalism. It turned out that the U of M’s undergraduate j program at that time was pretty sucky, but I really liked Ann Arbor, so I scouted around for an alternate major and finally settled on communication studies.

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

Well, I know the whole “bucket list” thing is still pretty popular, but I don’t really have one. I taught overseas for fifteen years — in Holland, Germany, England, Spain, Greece, Italy, Bahrain, Kuwait — and still do a lot of international traveling. I have a happy marriage. I have raised a brilliant and talented daughter. I like my job and make a decent living. Although my writing, editing and translating haven’t made me rich and famous, neither of those things is particularly important to me. I suppose it would be nice to win some sort of an award. A story I translated was nominated for an Edgar in 1986 and another was nominated for a Derringer in 2016. The Tree of Life was nominated for a Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville. But it would be fun to actually win something. As I mentioned before, next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of my first publication and, since I started young, I’m “only” sixty-six years old. I figure if I can just keep on breathing for a while longer, sooner or later somebody’ll have to give me a lifetime achievement award!

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

One pile contains another hundred or so Suske and Wiskes, and another pile has about twenty Dutch-language novels which have been given to me by various Dutch and Belgian authors I’ve translated. I’ve also got a bunch of English-language novels and short-story collections piled up on my iPhone; I recently joined Wildside Press’ Black Cat Mystery Magazine club, which gets me seven e-books a week for a year, so I’ve definitely got my e-reading cut out for me!

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

Actually, most of what I know now I’m glad I didn’t know when I started, because it probably would have scared me off. Even with all the amazing new possibilities contemporary technology has given us — the Internet, POD publishing, Babelcube, the list goes on and on — it’s still the case that most of the people who’d love to be able to make a healthy living as a writer of fiction won’t. For me, though, writing has always been (and remains) a hobby … and, as a hobby, it’s given me an enormous amount of pleasure for the last half century, and I expect it’ll continue to do so for whatever amount of time I’ve got left!

On September 25, two days after I responded to Heather’s interview questions, our sweet Tessa Marie came to the end of her journey. My wife Laurie was out of state on a business trip, but I called her on my cell from the vet’s office, and she talked lovingly to Tessa until the vet came in with the needles. Then we hung up, and I held the old girl tightly, my head close beside hers, as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I stayed with her until she was gone, and for a long while after, and then went home to a very empty house. 

Because of my allergies, we can’t risk another dog. A month after Tessa left us, we bought a 29-gallon aquarium to make the house less empty and have populated it with two dozen fish: danios, platies, cory cats, weather loaches, rasboras, a whole community. We’ve named them all, and we enjoy looking at them as they swim around and eat. But we can’t walk them or pet them, and they don’t answer when we talk to them, as Tessa did. We like them, but we don’t love them. Not yet, anyway. Maybe that’ll come. I doubt it. They’re nice, but they’re not Tessa.

 Regards,

Josh

 

Josh’s Biography:

JOSH PACHTER is a writer, editor and translator. Since his first appearance in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1968, almost a hundred of his short crime stories have appeared in EQMM, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, New Black Mask, Espionage, and many other periodicals, anthologies, and year’s-best collections.  The Tree of Life (Wildside Press, 2015) collected all ten of his Mahboob Chaudri stories and he collaborated with Belgian author Bavo Dhooge on Styx (Simon & Schuster, 2015). In his day job, he is the Assistant Dean for Communication Studies and Theater at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus.

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Meet Jennifer Leeper

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Jennifer Leeper to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I started writing fiction in high school and it was bad – very bad. I published a lot in my 20s and early 30s, but not fiction. As a Journalism graduate, I got used to seeing my byline above newspaper stories and even in some local magazines, but accomplishment in fiction writing was really where my aspirations reached, and it wasn’t until my mid-30s that I published my first fiction work, a short story called Murder Brokers, in an anthology put out by Hen House Press.

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

I’ve had several amazing pets over the years. At one time, we had two dogs and two cats, but sadly, we’re down to one cat named Karina. She’s a short-haired, gray girl who loves lap naps and is just the right balance of dependent/independent. I don’t model my writing on my pets, however, I find they are a great comfort to me while I’m writing.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey. I rarely read nonfiction, but I couldn’t resist this read because it spotlights one of my favorite, natural spots on the planet.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a crime/mystery/thriller set outside Vegas, with a female and a male protagonist, working together to solve a crime.

Who is your favorite author and why?

If you had asked me this question a few years back, I would have said Jack London or several years before that, Sinclair Lewis, but these days, it’s Tony Hillerman. I love how he elevates the regional and cultural settings of his books to main character status in his stories. His description of the southwestern U.S., particularly parts of New Mexico and more specifically, Navajo reservation culture, engages as much as Hillerman’s adept and authentic portrayal of crime-solving.

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

I tend to mention animals in passing, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t influential in the context of my storylines, and the animals I mention tend to be wild, not domesticated species. For example, I lean toward writing about desert locales, so lizards, wolves, rabbits, and coyotes tend to catch my fancy in my fiction, more so than cats and dogs.

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

That’s easy for me. Any of Jack London’s books where a dog is a central character is my favorite because he instilled humanity in these animals and that’s no so far-fetched to me.

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

I knew I was a writer when I was around 12 years old and my English teacher selected my poem to submit for display at the state capitol with other pieces of writing from youth statewide.

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

At the top of my bucket list is finishing and publishing a novel of 50,000+ words. Thus far, I’ve published many short stories, a novella, collection of stories, and a novel of around 40,000 words, but I really want to publish a longer work. A close tie is summiting a 14-er. A 14-er is a 14,000-feet mountain peak.

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

In my reading slush pile are the following: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

About Jennifer:

Ms. Leeper is an award-winning fiction author who’s publications credits include Independent Ink Magazine, Notes Magazine, The Stone Hobo, Poiesis, Every Day Fiction, Aphelion Webzine, Heater magazine, Cowboy Jamboree, The New Engagement, Alaska Quarterly Review and The Liguorian. She has had works published by J. Burrage Publications, Hen House Press, Inwood Indiana Press, Alternating Current Press, Barking Rain Press, Whispering Prairie Press, and Spider Road Press. In 2012, Ms. Leeper was awarded the Catoctin Mountain Artist-in-Residency, and in 2013, Ms. Leeper was a Tuscany Prize Novella Award finalist through Tuscany Press for her short novel, Tribe. Ms. Leeper’s short story Tatau was published in the journal, Poiesis, and was short listed as a finalist for the Luminaire Award in 2015, and nominated by Alternating Current for Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best of Small Fictions of 2016 Prize. In 2016, The Saturday Evening Post honored Ms. Leeper’s short story Book of the Dead with an honorable mention in its Great American Fiction Contest. Ms. Leeper’s short story The Bottle won second place in the Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize through Spider Road Press.

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Annnnnnticipation…..

First, let me wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Pens, Paws and Claws!

I hope you all had a wonderful turkey day.  Like many of you, I traveled for my feast.  My family gathers at my sister’s house for the big meal and then we watch football and, on Friday, go shopping and then bowling.  I cooked this year, and thankfully it turned out well.  It’s fun, it’s tradition, and we look forward to it every year.  That’s the first of two turkeys I cooked, and the sweet potato casserole waiting to go in!

The only thing we don’t look forward to is leaving our dogs at home.  My sister is allergic, so the dogs stay home with the dog sitter and we have to go four days without our dog fix.  When you live with pets, no matter how many or what kind, when you have to be without them, its just…odd.  No one to bump your elbow and ask for pets, no one to clean the floor if you drop something, no one to warm your lap when you sit down or lie across your computer and interfere with your work.

Seriously, how is even possible to live without pets?

So, as much as I love being with my family, I am looking forward to getting home to my dogs.  We also have another fun thing to anticipate on the way home.  We’re stopping by to see more family on our way home and they have….wait for it….a new puppy!

WOOT!  We’ll get a puppy fix before we get home, then, we’ll get home to slurpy kisses from our own beloved pets.

Ahhhhh.  After nine hours driving it will be: Home, sweet pet-filled home.

The only good news about 9 hours of driving is that I can write for most of that.  I’ve got a holiday novella to finish (another mystery-in-space with my co-conspiriitor, Nancy Northcott.) I’m going to finish and publish another paranormal romantic suspense as well, before the end of December.  That one, A Spirited Life, is in final edits, so I may be doing that during the drive!

So, then we’ll be on to the winter holidays!  Hannukah, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years.  I’ll start decorating the house next week.

What about you?  

Do you take your pets with you for the holidays, or  do you host and let your family bring their pets to your house?

Did you have a great Thanksgiving?  Did you have pumpkin pie or pecan?

What’s your December Holiday?  Are you ready to decorate the day after Thanksgiving, or do you wait till December 1?

What day do you put up your tree?  Is it up? If so, post a picture!

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