by Sparkle Abby
We write fiction. Cozy mysteries, no less. We make that point because sometimes we have to remind ourselves.
We feel strongly about certain things, such as pet rescue and that’s why we’ve chosen to write a mystery series that focuses on animals. The series features two cousins, one a pet therapist and the other, the owner of a pet boutique. So the animals are not simply sidekicks in our books, they are truly the heart of the stories.
However, even though we write fiction we do our very best due diligence to thoroughly research the information we intend to use. As a result of that research we learn fascinating and sometimes disturbing facts. That was the case with our most recent book, Fifty Shades of Greyhound.
The greyhound is one of the oldest breeds. The source of the name is somewhat uncertain, but regardless of its origin it has nothing to do with the greyhound’s color. Gray is actually not a common color for greyhounds.
Each racing greyhound puppy is registered with the National Greyhound Association (NGA) and tattooed with the pup’s birth date (month and year) in the right ear and their litter number in the left. The NGA keeps ownership records of all registered hounds and details about a racer’s bloodlines.
Racing greyhounds aren’t used to being alone because they’re housed with other racers during their career. They make excellent companions and are very loyal and affectionate dogs.
Before the 1980s most greyhounds were put down at the end of their racing career. (In recent years, thanks to the efforts of people in the industry and dedicated rescue groups, there has been a dramatic change. Tens of thousands are now adopted. However, more work remains to be done.)
Most Greyhounds are at the end of their racing careers at two to five years of age, but they still have a lot of life to live. The average lifespan is twelve to fourteen years.
Greyhounds are sometimes returned or surrendered because they have snapped or growled at a family member. They are not aggressive dogs by nature but in their former life they did not romp and play with humans. It may take some patience to help them adapt to their new life.
Most retired racers have never been to a park or inside a house. They often have to be taught how to navigate stairs.
The more we researched the breed and talked with people, the more strongly we felt there was a lot about greyhounds that most people (us included) didn’t know.
But we write fiction. Entertaining, lighthearted, fiction. Additionally with a mystery, it’s especially important not to slow down the pacing and to make sure you don’t throw the reader out of the story with large chunks of background. Writers often refer to that problem as “info dump.” The approach we took in order to avoid “info dump” in Fifty Shades of Greyhound was to slip in kibble-sized bits of what we’d learned.
At the opening gala, Caro (our pet therapist amateur sleuth) notes the posters around the room with greyhound factoids. As Caro visits the rescue group and some of the greyhound owners, we slip in a little more info. What we hope is that we’ve not overloaded our readers with facts, but rather that we’ve stirred their interest and then hopefully they’ll want to find out more.
It’s also important to know which facts to include and where in the storyline those tidbits work best. Often we fall in love with a piece of research, but it doesn’t move the story forward, or add to the understanding of the character, or feed the mystery. As much as we may want to include that information, it just doesn’t fit.
It’s a balancing act, but we think it’s working. We’ve had several emails from readers who’ve shared that they learned a lot about greyhounds from our book. And a couple of emails from readers who say their next rescue may be a greyhound.
What do you think? How much is too much info for you? Are there particular books that you feel do a great job with both educating and entertaining?
Please leave a comment. We’d love to send a copy of Fifty Shades of Greyhound to someone! (We’ll randomly select a winner after midnight.)
Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They write the popular pet mystery series which features whodunits set in the wacky world of pampered pets, precious pedigrees, and secrets. They chose to use Sparkle Abbey as the pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets - Sparkle (ML's cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). The first book in the series Desperate Housedogs, an Amazon Mystery Series bestseller and Barnes & Noble Nook #1 bestseller, was followed by Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and Yip/Tuck. Fifty Shades of Greyhound is the latest in the series and will be followed by The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo.