...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Interview with "Crazy Bitch" Author Peggy Tibbetts

Tell us a bit about your latest book.

Crazy Bitch: Living with Canine Compulsive Disorder is the true story of my dog Venus’s struggle with mental illness and how her canine companion Zeus and our family coped. In other words, it’s a love story.

Which is harder and which is more fun, fiction or nonfiction?

“Crazy Bitch” is my first nonfiction book and my first dogoir. Learning how to write in a new genre is challenging. It’s not enough to write about the facts as they happened. The writer’s job is to make those facts into a story and make it interesting. At the same time I am writing about something very personal – my own life. This experience has given me the opportunity to expand as a writer in ways I never thought possible. In that respect I think nonfiction is harder to write than fiction because there is a certain type of confinement in facts. There are fewer boundaries with fiction.

What was it about the subject that inspired you to write?

Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD) was identified as an illness in 2000, by Andrew Luescher, director of the Purdue University Animal Behavior Clinic. However most people are unaware the illness exists and there is very little information available about it. CCD is one of main reasons some dogs are returned to shelters because they have difficulty adjusting to new situations. But dogs with CCD can be treated with medication and live a happy, normal life. By sharing our experiences, I hope to help other dog lovers understand what can be a challenging and complicated condition.

Tell us about your pets, or other animals that inspire you.

Well I hope I don’t bore you to tears. I love talking about my pets. We have five gorgeous cats. Three of them – Yoda, Echo and Polly – are senior Himalayans which I raised from birth. They are the sweetest, healthiest cats I have ever shared my life with. Fiona and Nani Baby are beautiful shelter cats rescued from the streets of my town, Silt Colorado. I know nothing about their backgrounds so I often imagine stories about how they ended up living on the streets. The stories are based on their personalities. For example, Fiona does not like to play or be teased. She overreacts and bites. I imagine a man who teased her mercilessly and one day she defended herself and bit him hard enough to draw blood so he booted her out the door.

We also have two wonderful little clown dogs, Pepé and Lupe Lu. In two short years we went from sharing our lives with two giant dogs to Lupe Lu, the Chihuahua, and Pepé, the Chi-weinie (Chihuahua/mini-dachshund mix). How that happened and our reasons for the change are explained in “Crazy Bitch.”

Pepé and Lupe Lu are rescue dogs. As with the cats I glean so much about their previous lives from their personalities. Lupe Lu has a lot of anxiety and was nearly impossible to house train. It’s obvious in her first home she was ruled by a very impatient woman who yelled at her all the time.  

Pepé is a different story. I know a little bit about his background and how he came to live on the streets as a puppy. He was one of litter of six three-month old puppies that were abandoned on the streets of Silt one cold March day. It took a year and a half to round up all the dogs and find them homes. But Pepé and his brother didn’t wait to be captured. After two months of eating garbage and bugs, and sleeping under abandoned buildings, they struck out on their own and found homes. On Memorial Day, Pepé was overcome by the smell of chicken cooking on the grill at my daughter’s house. He pranced up to her front door and barked to be let in. Now he lives with me. I plan to write his story one day.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

My current work-in-progress is titled “Confessions of an Amazon Vine Reviewer.” In my spare time I am a book reviewer. Since 2008, I have been an Amazon Vine Reviewer. Never before in the history of book publishing have so many new authors sought reviews for their books. I have plenty of advice for them, much of which arises from my ten years as a book reviewer. I could probably title it “Book Review Etiquette” but that sounds boring. And I definitely dish on Amazon -- a little bit.

I love blogging, which is actually why I started writing nonfiction. My blog Advicefrom a Caterpillar includes book reviews, markets, contests, and a few author interviews. My blog From the Styx features environmental news and topics related to life in rural western Colorado.

You can also find me on social media:

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

We are in the midst of a publishing renaissance. It’s not enough to write a good story anymore. You must edit and revise. The process of revision brings your story to life. Find a good editor. Read your manuscript aloud. Learn to listen to your own voice.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and Meows: Solving the Mystery of Cat Agility by Sheila Webst...

Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and Meows: Solving the Mystery of Cat Agility by Sheila Webst...:
"Already one of my favorite cozy series on the shelves, [CATWALK] the third book in Sheila Webster Boneham's Animal in Focus series is the BEST ONE YET. Janet finds herself knee-deep in trouble once again trying to solve the murder of a local big shot, a real scumbag who deserved his fate more than just about any other fictional character I've come across."

Pop in for a post from Sheila, review from Melissa, fun videos, and a chance to win a free book!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Excerpt: UNRAVELED VISIONS by Nina Milton

The day after shamanic counselor Sabbie Dare receives a disturbing palm reading at a street carnival, she learns that a police detective has been killed and the gypsy fortuneteller has gone missing. Sabbie's newest client—a scared woman with an angry husband—has also disappeared. Despite warnings from Detective Inspector Rey Buckley to stay away from the investigations, Sabbie can't ignore the messages of danger she’s received through her shamanic journeys. But as close as she comes to the answers, Sabbie discovers there are people who want to keep the truth buried forever.


The retrieval was unceremonious and without dignity. The woman’s body was winched from Dunball Wharf at 17.13, dripping with sluice-slime. The hip bones shone white against the sun and there were fish swimming in her belly.
It had been the hottest day that summer. The mountainous heaps of sand at the Dunball Wharf Aggregate Works had dried out so completely that a choking dust rose from them. The waters below had heated until their reek oozed into the nostrils. No one wanted to move fast, and sounds were muffled, as if the late afternoon sun had thickened the air.
The two detectives had arrived as the body was trundling on a gurney over to the white tent where the pathologist waited like an adjudicator at some macabre contest. The woman was found stripped of any clothing and the technician had thrown a green sheet over her poor mutilated and rotting body for that short journey, but the gurney jerked as its wheels stuck to the walkway, which was so burning hot it was melting the policemen’s thick soles, and the woman’s head slid to the edge, her heavy locks falling free, as if she’d just unpinned them. Despite the river weed and silt, her hair was still glorious; as black as a nighttime lake, not tampered by bleach or dye.
Detective Sergeant Gary Abbott had stepped forward, his hand outstretched, and touched the woman’s hair, crying out like a distressed relative. “Take care with her, for God’s sake!”
I know this, because Detective Inspector Reynard Buckley told me so, months later, in hisses and whispers directed at the black winter sky, his big, knuckled hands hiding most of his face. It hadn’t been the drip of sloughing skin that distressed him. It had been his sergeant’s reaction.
On the way to the wharf, Gary Abbott had been his usual cocky self. He’d put on the flashers and put down his foot, taking every obstruction as a personal challenge. “Body got trapped in the Dunball Clyce,” he’d joked. “Ve-ery nasty, that Dunball Clyce…whatever the fuck it is.” Of course Abbott knew it was the sluice at the Dunball Wharf, where the King’s Sedgemoor Drain fed into the River Parrett; every Bridgwatarian did. It was the sort of quip he’d make, trying to distance himself from any emotion on the job, which is why Rey had been puzzled by his reaction at the site.
And then, apparently, on first examination at the scene, the pathologist had stated that because the body had undergone prolonged scavenger predation, bacterial action and abrasion, it was impossible to estimate the date or the time of death, or even say if she had been dead before entering the water, which was the one thing the detectives really wanted to know. But she had said – and this was why I was able to recall every word Rey whispered – that freshwater specimens sometimes displayed abdominal protrusions; sections of gut that had burst through the skin, speeding aquatic decomposition. It reminded me of how unwanted spirit energy can intrude into a person’s ethereal body, demonstrating its existence as strange, projecting emanations, which a skilled shaman can sometimes observe.
Rey hadn’t quizzed Abbott until the body had left the site.
“What was all that about?”
“C’mon, Gary. Were you IDing her?”
“Really, no. She just reminded me…was all.”
Gary moved away. They had been planning to interview the boy who’d found her, a seventeen year-old lad that worked on the dredgers. He’d spotted bits of white tissue in among the silt sucked from the river bed. At first, apparently, he had thought it was a large, dead fish, but then an entire piece of intestine arrived and he had fallen to his knees on the deck and vomited. Abbott had strode off to get his story, but Rey told me that he’d never believed Abbott had meant “nothing”. He had meant, “wait until I’ve checked it out”.
Rey Buckley understood that line of thinking. Sometimes, he’d let a hunch brew for a while, in the same way. I understood too; you have to stay patient, but alert, until something drops down into the fermentation. Then suddenly, it all makes perfect sense. If Abbott needed time to brew his thoughts, that was fine.
Trouble was, Abbott never did let on. Not in his lifetime.


Nina Milton lives in west Wales with her husband and their hens (about whom she has blogged for WOA!), but she sets her Shaman Series, out from Midnight Ink, in the mystical county of Somerset in the UK. The First in the series, In the Moors is available now and the second book in the series, Unraveled Visions is due for release soon.I also write for children; Sweet’n’Sour, (HarperCollins) and Tough Luck, (Thornberry Publishing), and love writing short stories which regularly appear in British anthologies. Visit Nina’s page on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Nina-Milton/e/B00E748CT6   or join her on her vibrant blogsite,  http://www.kitchentablewriters.blogspot.com.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why Editors Reject Submissions by Terri Bischoff

I'm delighted to have Terri Bischoff, acquisitions editor at Midnight Ink, as my guest today. These points don't apply only to "major submissions," but also to anything we send out that represents us as writers, including blog posts. Thanks, Terri, for letting me repost this - the original ran in August at Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room.  ~ Sheila Boneham

What makes me reject a submission?

I have been asked at conferences how many rejections I make per each book acquired. I have never actually done the math, but I would guess it’s probably somewhere around 200 rejections to one acquisition. Insane, right? As a writer, what can you do to make your manuscript stand out? What makes an automatic rejection? What makes me stop reading?

Let’s tackle the automatic rejection first. I only accept submissions electronically. When I open up the Word document, I am expecting proper formatting.

  • The entire book is saved all as 1 file – a Word document is preferred.
  • Font in Times New Roman or something similar, 12 pt font.
  • All text is double spaced.
  • Please eliminate extra line breaks, spaces, or returns. For example, only 1 space required after a period.
  • Please denote intentional white space with a # symbol.
  • Do not use the space bar to create the tab that begins each paragraph. Allow Word to do that for you.
  • Page numbers are required; please include them in the footer or header.

I have received manuscripts in funky fonts, in 14pt font, single spaced, etc. If I have to do work to make your manuscript readable, well, I’m not going to read it. Also, I am sure you have noticed those green and red squiggly lines under words. Fix those. With the exception of dialect, if a manuscript is full of squiggly lines, it’s an automatic reject. I don’t have time to fix your manuscript, no matter how good it may be. Remember, at all times, this is a business and you need present a professional, polished manuscript.

What makes me stop reading?

This is a little bit harder to put my finger on because there are so many reasons. As a writer, you need to draw the reader in immediately. When I start reading a submission, I want to be compelled to find out what is going on. I read as long as it takes for me to get to no. It might half a page, it might be 250 pages, or it might be the whole manuscript. I need to hear your unique voice. I need you to show me what is happening and where the book takes place. Don’t tell me your protagonist is freaking out and driving fast. Show me how she nearly clips a pedestrian and that she takes the turns with squealing tires. Or show me her quirky, colorful personality. Or immerse me into the scenery so much so that I feel like I am in the oppressive heat of Minnesota when it is 100 degrees outside with 90% humidity and you start to sweat the minute you step out of your office building. You have exactly one page to engage your reader. I am absolutely sure that I have rejected some great books because I haven’t read long enough. If your story really takes off on page 35, you need to cut off those first 34 pages.

No passive voices! And make sure each of your characters has their own voice. By doing so, you not only solidify the character, but you can (and should) drop dialogue tags. Create a character bible, so you know all your characters inside and out. That will keep you from having them do something that is totally against their nature. Develop your antagonist. Why is your bad guy the bad guy? Does he have any redeeming qualities? People are a mix of good and bad so your characters should reflect that. It will help the reader identify with the characters. And at the end of the day, that is what you are looking for. You need the reader to have an emotional response to the characters and the situations they are in. I know I am reading a good manuscript when my heart beats a little faster and I bite my nails to the quick.

Another hint – know your audience and what type of book you are writing. If you are looking to hit the cozy market, you can’t graphically describe the murder scene. If you are writing suspense or a thriller, you need a fast pace and danger around every curve. The tone and the action need to match.

If you can do these things, you are on your way to an excellent submission. That does not guarantee that it will sell though. Every editor has his or her own style. I like my characters to be a little quirky. I want them flawed and interesting. A different editor may be looking for something else entirely. Write your best book. Join a critique group and revise. Polish that manuscript. Knowing you only have one shot at an editor, make sure it is as perfect as you can. Then take a deep breath and send your baby out into the world!

Terri Bischoff joined Midnight Ink as an Acquiring Editor in October 2009.   She leads all editorial directions and creates the seasonal lists.  She has dramatically increased the number of titles per season, publishing 30-36 titles per year, as well as expanded the type of crime fiction MI has published.   Terri has a wealth of experience and knowledge in both mysteries and in bookselling, having been involved for 17 years in all areas of bookstore operations, particularly as book buyer and reviewer.  She has worked at Kramer Books in Washington, DC, and more recently, Terri owned and operated Booked For Murder Mystery Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Australian Shepherd: All-around Dog & Mystery Sleuth

by Sheila Webster Boneham

(UCD Perennial See You At The Top,
Pet Partner
The main dog in my Animals in Focus mystery series is an Australian Shepherd named Jay. I love all dogs, and have owned other breeds and mixes, but the Australian Shepherd holds a very special place in my heart.  The character of Jay in the books is based largely on my real-life Jay, with a few behaviors and traits borrowed from some of the other Aussies who have graced my life with their presence. As anyone who has lived with or been around Aussies can tell you, they’re nothing if not characters!
The Aussie is a dog with plenty of appeal. First, they’re a good size for many people, with bitches ideally standing 18-21 inches at the top of the shoulder, and dogs (males) 20-13 inches. They’re scary smart, easily trained, athletic, and beautiful. For the right person or family and the right environment, the Aussie is a wonderful companion and partner.

Story, owned by Stephanie Mackey,
bred by Sheila Boneham.
Perennial Once Upon a Thyme
Before you run out to get an Aussie, though, beware – the Australian Shepherd is not for everyone! As with any breed, the traits that make the Aussie perfect for one home make him unsuited to another. How can that be, you may wonder. We get a taste of that in the Animals in Focus mysteries when Jay shows his “mechanical ability,” his independent thinking, and protective nature when things get tight.

How much do you know about Aussies? Take this little quiz, and then check your answers.
  1. What country does the Australian Shepherd come from?
  2. Some breeds come in “varieties” –the Poodle, for instance, has three (Toy, Miniature, Standard). How many varieties are there of Australian Shepherd?
  3. True or false—all Aussies have at least one blue eye. 
  4. True or false--Aussies are very smart, which makes them easy to live with. 
  5. True or false—blue merle Aussies cost more because the color is rare.

Okay, let’s see how you did!
1.  What country does the Australian Shepherd come from?

Dustin, owned by Sheila Boneham,
bred by Susan Moorehead
ASCA & AKC Champion
Brookridge Dustin U, ASCA CD, AKC CD,
CGC, Pet Partner
Despite his name, the Australian Shepherd is the quintessential American, developed into his present form on the farms and ranches of North America. Breed histories don’t agree on all the details, but it is generally accepted that the Aussie is descended from sheep-herding dogs that accompanied Basque shepherds who came to North America from Spain at the turn of the last century. Large flocks of sheep were imported during the late 1800s and early 1900s from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Spain, and France, and the Basques arrived at the same time with shepherding expertise and “little blue dogs.”

American ranchers and farmers were impressed by the working abilities of these bob-tailed dogs and began to use them as all-around ranch hands. In such working environments, ability was far more important than pedigree, and dogs were selected for breeding based on how well they worked. Other herding breeds were crossed with the Basque-type dogs to add and enhance certain traits, and the modern Aussie is clearly related to a number of other breeds around the world, including the German Coolie (collie) in Australia, the Welsh Bob-tail, the Irish Collie, and the smooth-faced Pyrenean sheepdog.
2  Some breeds come in “varieties” –the Poodle, for instance, has three (Toy, Miniature, Standard). How many varieties are there of Australian Shepherd?
Australian Shepherds do not come in varieties. Although some people refer to “standard,” “mini,” and “toy” Aussies, the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) nor the United States Australian Shepherd Association (USASA), the breed’s parent club for American Kennel Club events, do not recognize size variants. The Miniature North American Shepherd (formerly called the Miniature Australian Shepherd) is a new breed developed by selecting for smaller Aussies, and some breeders are doing this slowly, carefully, and with attention to health and temperament. Beware, though—a lot of people sell “minis” that are bred purely for small size and big bucks.
3. True or false—all Aussies have at least one blue eye.
Nope. Although many Aussies do have two blue eyes, one blue and one brown, or, in some merle dogs, “marbled” multi-colored eyes, individual dogs can have any color eyes. Jay in the books has brown eyes, as did my lovely real-life Jay. Here are some great images and information about the many eye-color variations in the breed. 
4. True or false--Aussies are very smart, which makes them easy to live with.
Aussies need lots of exercise, especially when they're young!
True and false. Most Australian Shepherds are very, very smart. They are problem solvers, and inventors. They think their way through challenging situations. They are easily bored.
While “intelligent” may sound like an attractive trait—and it is if you give your dog things to do with those brains!—a smart, energetic dog with nothing to do can be a nightmare to live with. Unchanneled energy and smarts are probably the main reason so many Aussies end up in rescues and shelters.
5. True or false—blue merle Aussies cost more because the color is rare.
Mac, owned & shown by Sally Meyers.
Champion Perennial Ironman of Los Suenos, CD,
& bunches of agility titles. 
Sadly, I’ve seen breeders price blue merle puppies higher than black, red, and red merle puppies, and I’ve seen buyers pay the higher prices because they love the color and think it’s rare. It is actually the most common color in the breed. Blue merle coloring results when the puppy inherits a gene for black fur and a gene for merle pattern, a form of color dilution. Both black and merle are dominant genes, so given statistically random pairings of parents with the full range of color genes, fifty percent of puppies will be blue merle. Like all things genetic, it’s a bit more complicated, but the bottom line is that blue merle is not rare, and prices should be based on generations of careful selection by knowledgeable, responsible breeders, not on color or markings. Some non-standard colors also occur in the breed, but puppies should, again, not cost more for having an unrecognized color! For more information and lots of fascinating photos of the spectacular color variation in the breed, click here
For more information about the Australian Shepherd, please check out the information provided by the Australian Shepherd Club of America and the United States Australian ShepherdClub .
If you’re looking for an Aussie for a companion, please either adopt a rescued Aussie from a reputable rescue program such as ARPH (the Australian Shepherd Rescue and Placement Helpline) or buy a puppy or older dog from a responsible breeder. Learn what to look for in a breeder at the sites linked above.
And I hope you’ll join Jay in his newest adventure with Janet—he’ll be running agility and searching for lost kittens in Catwalk….

Animals in Focus Mystery #3

Now available for pre-order ~ 
Personally autographed books from Pomegranate Books, or order from your local bookseller or online, including amazon

Animal photographer Janet MacPhail is training for her cat Leo’s first feline agility trial when she gets a frantic call about a “cat-napping.” When Janet and her Australian Shepherd Jay set out to track down the missing kitty, they quickly find themselves drawn into the volatile politics of feral cat colonies, endangered wetlands, and a belligerent big-shot land developer. Janet is crazy busy trying to keep up with her mom’s nursing-home romance, her own relationship with Tom and his Labrador Retriever Drake, and upcoming agility trials with Jay and Leo. But when a body is discovered on the canine competition course, it stops the participants dead in their tracks—and sets Janet on the trail of a killer.

"Animal photographer Janet MacPhail's latest adventure will delight dog lovers, cat lovers, and mystery lovers. Janet is excellent company, and although Leo the cat plays a starring role, I'm happy to report that Leo does not eclipse Jay the Aussie, who has become one of my favorite fictional dogs. Indeed, if Jay ever needs to move out of the pages of Sheila Boneham's mysteries and into a nonfiction house, he'll be more than welcome in mine. Five stars for CATWALK!" ~ Susan Conant, Author of BRUTE STRENGTH and other novels in the Holly Winter series of Dog Lover's Mysteries

Author’s Note: My husband Roger and I used to breed Aussies under the kennel name Perennial, and our puppies excelled in a variety of activities (earning championships and other titles in obedience, agility, conformation, rally, herding, tracking, and flyball, and certifications in therapy). We had puppies in wonderful homes from Alaska to Florida,the Northeast to the Southwest, and in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

I also helped found an Aussie rescue program in Indiana in the early 1990’s, and I have helped rescuers with identification, owner and adopter consultations, fostering, and transportation over the years. And I’ve written about Aussies. My book The Owner’s Guide to the Australian Shepherd from T.F.H. Publications (now out of print) offered advice for new owners, and my articles in magazines including Dog Fancy and several breed-focused magazines zeroed in on such topics as training your Aussie puppy, the continuum from “show” to “working” Aussies, Ausses as Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs, and more. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Overweight Cats and What to Do About Them

by Kaye George

More Information
As Janet Cantrell, I’m writing a cozy series about an overweight cat, the pudgy, but adorable Quincy. He’s meant to be amusingly plump, but he’s fiction! Even in the books, his owner and his vet are striving to slim him down. His owner, Chase Oliver, even invents healthy cat treat recipes to entice him away from the crumbs of the dessert bars produced in her Minneapolis bakery shop, Bar None.

If your own cat is overweight, what can you do about it? First of all, how did she get that way? In my cat ownership experience, indoor-outdoor cats can get slightly tubby, but won’t be grossly overweight, since they’re chasing their natural prey when they’re outside. Indoor cats, on the other hand…well, it’s very hard for them to get enough exercise, even when their diligent owners tempt them with toys and playtime.

Here are some playtime ideas, in case you’re stumped: laser pointer; wand toys; catnips toys (you can even make these); provide places for Tubby to jump up onto; put her food and water in different places; empty boxes and bags are fun toys. 

Exercise and diet, right? That’s what we humans are told to pay attention to when we want to control our weight. Assuming you’re trying your hardest to get Tubby moving, the next thing to concentrate on is food. A pudgy cat IS cute, but too much weight can contribute to diabetes, arthritis, and urinary tract infections. Overfeeding is, obviously, a contributing factor. 

Another consideration is wet food versus dry food. The dry food is oh so convenient, and smells a lot better. But wet food can be healthier because it gets more liquid into Tubby, who doesn’t always drink as much water as she needs. This is because her natural food, the stuff she would catch if she were wild, has a high liquid content, so your cat is not used to seeking out as much water as she needs. On the other hand, dry food helps prevent dental problems. More fat and protein and less carbohydrates are something to look for.

A third consideration is making cat food yourself. Be very careful! If you don’t have the balance of nutrition, vitamins, and minerals that a cat requires, your pet can get very sick. Storage is also a factor. Raw or cooked? There are dangers in using raw food, so again, be very careful if you decide to go this route. I highly recommend you consult the 4th link below before embarking on this course.

It’s worth taking the trouble to slim Tubby down. A healthy cat is a happy cat!

Some information was obtained from:

photos from photobucket

Sheila's Note: One of the biggest contributors to excess weight in pets is availability of too much food. Many people leave food out for cats to free feed, but I do NOT recommend free feeding, for many reasons. The only way to control portions, and to know if your pet stops eating (often the first indication of illness), is to feed on a schedule. Cats can learn to eat on schedule! For more information about feline nutrition, please see this excerpt from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Cat by Sheila Webster Boneham, PhD, winner of the MUSE Award for Best Health and Care Book and an Award of Excellence from the Cat Writers' Association. 
For more information on feline nutrition and other health topics, please consult your veterinarian, and use reliable sources, such as the Cornell University Veterinary School - Cornell Feline Health Center 

Kaye George, Agatha-nominated mystery writer, writes several series:
Imogene Duckworthy, Cressa Carraway (Barking Rain Press), People of
the Wind (Untreed Reads), and, as Janet Cantrell, Fat Cat debuting in
September (Berkley Prime Crime). Her short stories appear in
anthologies and magazines as well as her own collection, A Patchwork
of Stories. Her reviews run in Suspense Magazine. She lives in
Knoxville, TN.  http://kayegeorge.com/

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Author Interview with Waverly Curtis

Tell us a little about your background:
We’re actually a writing team: Curt Colbert, author of three hard-boiled private eye novels set in Seattle in the 1940s (Rat City, Sayonaraville and Queer Street) and Waverly Fitzgerald, author of four historical romances published by Doubleday in the 1980’s under the name Nancy Fitzgerald. We’ve known each other for over 20 years. Waverly coached Curt through the writing of his first three books. When she began writing mysteries herself, we began meeting weekly to share our latest writing. When Curt showed up with a first chapter that featured a talking Chihuahua, Waverly offered to collaborate (since she was actually living with the Chihuahua that inspired the book) and we’ve written four books and one short story together since then.
Tell us a bit about your latest book:
We just finished the third book in our series of Barking Detective series for Kensington. It’s called The Big Chihuahua. In this book, Pepe and his owner, Geri Sullivan, a PI in training, go undercover in a cult that worships an ancient warrior dog known as Dogawanda.
Are any of the other characters based on real animals or people?
Yes, Waverly’s daughter, Shaw, has a little white Chihuahua named Pepe who inspired the character in the novels. Like his namesake character, Pepe hates being dressed up and thinks he is much bigger than he is. Unlike his namesake, he has a sweet disposition and doesn’t talk much.
How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
While Waverly has been known to create elaborate biographies and Excel spreadsheets charting the significant life events of the characters, Curt is more inclined to put characters into interesting situations and see what they do.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
We have a vague idea when we start a book about where it will end but we don’t outline. We try to experience the plot the way a reader would, which means we don’t usually know who the killer is until about two-thirds of the way through. Since we take turns writing chapters, we also get to be surprised by what the other person has written.
Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
In a mystery, plot is key since readers expect certain elements: a dead body, for instance, multiple suspects, and a confrontation with the killer where the protagonist is in some actual danger. That said, the characters are very real to us, even the really silly ones, and we miss them when the book is done.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Rejection is difficult. We’ve both experienced moments when we were told our books were not marketable and we’ve both had promising opportunities (a big name New York agent, publication by a remarkable small press) that have not panned out. But neither of us can imagine not writing and both of us have many more novels we want to write.
What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
We’re currently writing the fifth book in the Barking Detective series, tentatively called The Silence of the Chihuahua. In this book, Pepe, the talking Chihuahua, suddenly stops talking which is very distressing to Geri Sullivan who’s counting on him to help her figure out what happened to her best friend who’s implicated in a murder.
What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
We aim for about a chapter a week, however long that takes. My guess would be about 10 hours a week, which isn’t that much. Waverly usually edits while Curt is writing. Not sure what Curt does while Waverly is writing.
Tell us about your pets, or other animals that inspire you.
Curt and his wife are in thrall to their cat Esmeralda. But the cat in the Barking Detective novels, Albert, is a tribute to their previous cat, Albert, who looked like and acted like a bobcat. Waverly lives with her daughter and her daughter’s Chihuahua, Pepe. Their previous dog, Chester, was affectionately nicknamed The Demon Dog from Hell.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
What would you say to anyone considering collaborating? Our collaboration works well because we have known each other as writers for so long. It helps that Curt will let Waverly edit his words, while she is a bit more possessive about hers. We do have a written collaboration agreement (very important) and a commitment to have a united front when communicating with agents and editors (lessons Waverly learned in a previous collaboration that went south). We love it that we have someone to brainstorm with and to share the work. The downside is that we have double the expenses and only half the income of a solo author.
Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Our books are available from Kensington (our publisher), Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books and Million and Indie Bound, as well as your favorite local independent book store. For more information on our books and events, visit our website.

Read more from Waverly Fitzgerald (Curtis) ~ 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pet Detectives, Part 3

by Toni LoTempio

While I admit I’m partial to feline detectives, I have a soft spot in my heart for canine ones as well!  Here are a few excellent cozies featuring some Sherlock-like pooches!

The Barking Detective Series – Waverly Curtis

Since I also have a soft spot for animals that talk (long story)  one of my favorites is The Barking Detective series featuring Pepe, the talking Chihuahua!  Pepe may have soft white fur, big brown eyes, and mucho attitude--but he's no furry fashion fad. Pepe can talk--even if his new owner, Geri Sullivan, seems to be the only person who can understand him.

In volume 1, Dial C for Chihuahua, Geri takes on her first assignment for a quirky investigator named Jimmy G and stumbles over a Seattle millionaire's corpse, Pepe proves to be worth his weight in liver treats. Suspicion falls on the not-so-grieving widow, who wants to finance a reality TV show, Dancing With Dogs, and Geri, who found the bodyShe and Pepe go undercover to ferret out the real killer and clear Geri’s name.

In Book 3, The Big Chihuahua, P.I. Geri and Pepe take on a case  involving a hapless husband trying to win back his wayward wife. This entails  sneaking into a cult of dog-worshippers, whose charismatic leader pegs Pepe as the next incarnation of the spirit Dogawanda. But the discovery of a body, murdered between mantras, suggests there's more chicanery than channeling going on in this suspicious sect.

All in all a very entertaining series worth a look.

The Dog Walker Detective Series by Judi McCoy

This fun series features  Ellie Engleman, psychic dog-walker!  Elle discovers that she can hear what her canine clientele is thinking, a talent that comes in handy in the first volume, Hounding the Pavement, when a dog’s owner turns up dead. 

In the latest entry, Fashion Faux Paw, It's Fashion Week in New York and Ellie's in charge of the dogs' modeling outfits that match their mommy-mdoels for a fashion competition. But before the first round closes, one of the designers drops dead of anaphylactic shock, her Epipen useless because someone's emptied it.

The victim's peanut allergy was well-known, so Ellie and her dog Rudy must comb through the brash designer's rivals, colleagues, and many enemies to discover who was so desperate that she committed the ultimate crime of fashion.

Last but definitely not least….

The Animals in Focus Mystery Series – Sheila Webster Boneham

Not only has the very talented Sheila Webster Boneham written countless non-fiction books on dogs and cats, she has a series from Midnight Ink that features an Australian Shepherd!  Drop Dead on Recall features 50-something animal photographer Janet MacPhail, her Aussie Jay, and her tabby cat Leo!  (You knew a cat would get in here somehow, didn’t you????)  When a talented handler is murdered at an obedience trial, Janet becomes a “Person of Interest.”  Janet and her canine and feline friends all band together to sniff out the killer. 

In the second volume, The Money Bird, a photo session at Twisted Lake takes a peculiar turn as Drake, her friend Tom’s Labrador, fetches a blood-soaked bag holding an exotic feather and a torn one-hundred-dollar bill.

When one of her photography students turns up dead at the lake, Janet investigates a secretive retreat center with help from Australian Shepherd Jay and her quirky neighbor Goldie. Between dog-training classes, photo assignments, and romantic interludes with Tom, Janet is determined to get to the bottom of things before another victim’s wings are clipped for good.

Book 3 – Catwalk – gives equal time to both cats and dogs!  (‘cause that’s the kind of person Sheila is!) When Janet  gets a frantic call from champion dog owner Alberta Shofelter about a "cat-napping," she and her Australian Shepherd Jay jump in to assist. Fur flies when the search turns into a nasty run-in with local big shot Charles Rasmussen, a bully who enjoys throwing his weight around.

As Rasmussen makes good on his promise to cause trouble, Janet tries to keep up with her mom's romantic travails, figure out her own relationship with Tom, and train her animals for the upcoming agility trials. But when a body is discovered at the Dog Dayz event, it stops the participants dead in their tracks—and sets Janet on the trail of a killer. Catwalk is available now for pre-order.

Hope this has given you a few good canine mysteries to sink your teeth into! Next time…ROCCO and I chat about the Nick and Nora mystery series and how he became the inspiration!

While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic.  Toni is also passionate about her love for animals, as demonstrated with her four cats: Trixie, Princess, Maxx and, of course, ROCCO, who not only provided the inspiration for the character of Nick the cat in the Nick and Nora mystery series, but who also writes his own blog and does charity work for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read!   Toni’s also devoted to miniseries like The Thorn Birds, Dancing with the Stars, reruns of Murder She Wrote and Castle (of course!).   She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – the first volume, Meow if Its Murder, debuts Dec. 2, 2014.  She, Rocco and company make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York.  Follow ROCCO’s blog for author interviews and contests at www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Help Name a Mystery Kitten and Puppy!

by Sheila Webster Boneham

My third Animals in Focus mystery, Catwalk, will be out from Midnight Ink in October. Yay! 

And here's the thing. There are a couple of these...

and one of these....

and by the time they show up again in the next book, they will need names. 

Help me! Help me find the perfect names for a black boy kitten, a gray tabby girl kitten, and a yellow Labrador Retriever puppy girl!

Here's how....

  1. Pre-order your copy of Catwalk between now and October 9. (Its official release date is October 8). 
  2. Click Here to fill out the form!
  3. Tell your friends! 
Pre-order information: 
  • Personally autographed copies of all of Sheila's books are available from Pomegranate Books - ORDER HERE!  Your Pomegranate orders can also help support animal-oriented charities - check it out
  • Otherwise, please order through your favorite local bookseller or from any of the usual online sources. 
The book will be out in early October. Yay!

A small group of volunteers will pick their five favorite names for each baby, and I will make the final decisions. Then I will write them into Shepherd's Crook (that's a working title, but I hope it sticks), coming in fall 2015. 

Here's a bit more about Catwalk....

Agility can be murder for cats, dogs, and people!

Animal photographer Janet MacPhail is training for her cat Leo’s first feline agility trial when she gets a frantic call about a “kidnapping.” When Janet and her Australian Shepherd Jay set out to track down the missing party, they quickly find themselves drawn into the volatile politics of feral cat colonies and endangered wetlands.

Janet is crazy busy trying to keep up with her mom’s nursing-home romance, her own relationship with Tom, and upcoming agility trials with Jay and Leo. But the discovery of a body on the canine competition course stops the participants dead in their tracks—and sets Janet on the trail of a killer.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ten Things you May not Know About Libby Speaks

by John Sheirer

Writer and photographer John Sheirer has coauthored a book with his dog Libby called Libby Speaks: The Wit and Wisdom of the World's Wisest Dog. Here are ten fun facts about the book.

1. Libby is a Border Terrier. The breed originated on the border between England and Scotland, hence the name.

2. A portion of the proceeds from Libby Speaks goes directly to the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, a fantastic animal shelter near Libby's home in Western Massachusetts. John and his wife Betsy got Libby from a terrific local Border Terrier breeder, but they have always been big supporters of the work Dakin does for the community. Libby recognizes how fortunate she is to have a happy forever home, and she wants to help other pets who are less fortunate than she is. For more information on Dakin, visit http://www.dpvhs.org.

3. Libby's best friend is named Bella, a Golden Doodle who appears with Libby in many of the book's photos. Bella is a year older than Libby and sort of Libby's niece. Bella lives with Danielle and Mike, John and Betsy's wonderful daughter and son-in-law. Bella is the first dog that Libby met outside of her immediate family. Their first meeting wasn't what we might call "good." Bella took one look at the new four-pound puppy and barked right in her face! Fortunately, the two happy dogs got past their initial meeting and became fast and permanent friends.

4. Libby likes to make appearances when John does photo shows and public events for the book. As you might imagine, Libby is very well behaved and far more popular than her photographer/coauthor.

5. Libby was preceded in her home by another Border Terrier named Daisy. Daisy was featured in one of John's earlier books, Loop Year: 365 Days on the Trail. That book recounts John's experiences hiking the exact same two-mile trail every day for a year. Daisy accompanied John's on many of his daily hikes and is featured prominently in the book. She lived happily to the age of 16 and passed away about a year before Libby came along. After having such a wonderful experience with Daisy, John and Betsy didn't even consider another breed. Daisy is also featured on the back cover of John's book of short stories, One Bite. The photo shows her reading a book, much like the photo of Libby on the front cover of Libby Speaks.

Daisy, reading

6. Nearly all of the photographs in Libby Speaks were taken with a simple point-and-shoot Canon Powershot. Libby is a great subject, and John is a self-taught photographer who had to make only a few minor lighting and color adjustment in photoshop to bring out Libby's beautiful features.

7. Libby admits that she isn't really the "world's wisest dog." As she says in the book's introduction, "The truth is that everybody is wise in one way or another. You are, and I am too, your parents, the twins who live down the street, your cousin Baxter from Nebraska, your teachers, the runny babbits with their bouncy white tails--even cats and squirrels when they let me get close enough to have a conversation."

8. One of Libby's favorite toys is an old, discarded rubber mini-football that she found in the woods near her home. She knows that it's an "outside" toy, so she usually leaves it somewhere near the door and picks it up the next time she goes out. She sometimes leaves it way down the street, but she always remembers where it is and goes straight toward it on her next walk. Hmmm … maybe she is the world's wisest dog after all!

9. Four new books featuring wonderful photos of Libby are in the works:
  • a book about Libby's deep love for her favorite natural toy that grows on trees called I Like Sticks, set for publication this fall
  • a children's book called Libby's ABCs
  • a collection of poems that feature SAT-level vocabulary words called Little Dog, Big Words
  • and, of course, the sequel to her first book, Libby Speaks, Volume 2: More Wit and Wisdom from the World's Wisest Dog

10. Did Libby really write Libby Speaks? You'll have to read it to find out!


John Sheirer is the coauthor and photographer of the book, Libby Speaks: The Wit and Wisdom of the World's Wisest Dog, as well as several previous books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. He lives with his wonderful wife Betsy in Northampton, Massachusetts and is a full-time faculty member teaching English and Communication at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut. Libby and John welcome everyone to visit Libby's Facebook page for news about their lives and writing careers. John can also be found at his homepage.