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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Do Our Pets Reflect Who We Are?

by Kathleen Kaska

Welcome to day six of Kathleen Kaska’s blog tour. She’s celebrating the upcoming release of her fourth Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Driskill (Austin, Texas) by writing about famous, infamous, and legendary locales in Texas’ state capital whose promo campaign is “Keep Austin Weird.” But today, she is digressing and attempting to analyze Sydney’s personality. At the end of the tour, she’ll give away a signed copy of the book. To be eligible, leave a comment on each blog.

I like to think of Sydney Lockhart, my protagonist in my 1950s mystery series, as a contradiction, not in her mind (How many of us see ourselves the way others see us?), but in the mind of her readers. Sydney likes to act the tough gal. She’s a wisecracking, gutsy, outspoken private investigator. For comfort, and often for disguise, she dresses in slacks, shirt, oxfords or cowboy boots, and a fedora. But, there’s a girly girl side to Sydney: one who likes to dress up in tart shoes and pencil skirts; one who melts when her PI boyfriend, Ralph Dixon, gives her “that look.”

Sydney comes with two pets: a white standard poodle named Monroe, as in Marilyn, and a tougher-than-nails cat named Mealworm, as in the larva stage of a darkling beetle. The dog represents glamour and the cat a sense of hardheartedness. I doubt Sydney selected these pets and named them to reflect her split personality. But in my latest mystery, Murder at the Driskill, twelve-year-old Lydia LaBeau picks up on Mealworm’s discontent. Lydia, whose middle name should be intuitive, bonds with Mealworm and believes her orneriness comes from what she represents. Whereas Monroe, the poodle, who never sheds, gets to visit her groomer and have her nails done, Mealworm’s orange fur seems to fly from her body like an unwanted houseguest and has to reply on her raspy tongue to clean herself.
Sydney merely scoffs at Lydia’s observations, until Lydia points out that Mealworm misbehaves only with Sydney; with everyone else, the cat is cuddly and sweet. Sydney believes changing her cat’s emotional state is an impossible feat. Lydia comes up with a solution:

Rename the cat Eva Gardener.

Visit these blog links for the entire blog tour:
11/24/ Condo Douglas kicked off my blog tour 11/25 Next you’ll find me at Lois Winston’s blog11/26 Look for me at Cyndi Pauwel’s blog, CP at Large11/28 Visit me at Helena Fairfax’s blog 11/29 Visit me at Lynn Cahoon’s place 12/01 Tomorrow I’ll be at Jenny Milchman’s blog, Made it Moment  

Now here’s a taste of Murder at the Driskill.

You’d think that newspaper reporter Sydney Lockhart, comfortable at home in Austin, Texas, could stay away from hotels and murders therein. But when she and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon, hang out a shingle for their new detective agency, they immediately land a high-profile case, which sends them to the swanky Driskill Hotel. Businessman Stringer Maynard has invited them to a party to meet his partner/brother-in-law, Leland Tatum, who’s about to announce his candidacy for governor. Maynard needs their help because Tatum is hanging out with the wrong crowd and jeopardizing his chances for winning the election. Before Sydney can finish her first martini, a gunshot sounds and Leland Tatum is found murdered in a suite down the hall.

Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Her first two books Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Her Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida) was published in 2012.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Interview with Author M.P. Barker

Tell us a little about your background.
I like to tell people I’m a time traveler. No, I’m not delusional (well, okay, maybe a little), but I spent eight years as a historical interpreter at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum that portrays 19th-century rural New England. That means I dressed in costume and basically lived in the 1830s for 40 hours a week. If you came to the Village in the 1980s or 1990s and saw someone covered in manure, sour milk, and dirt, that was probably me. I mucked out barns, milked cows, weeded gardens, made butter and cheese, and dyed wool, to list just a few of my chores. The great thing about the job was that it gave me the perfect background to write two historical novels, A Difficult Boy (Holiday House, 2008) and Mending Horses (Holiday House, 2014), which are set in New England in 1839. When one of my characters has to sit down and milk a cow, I can honestly say I know just how he or she feels—the character, not the cow, that is.
Tell us a bit about your latest book.
Mending Horses is about three misfits—a peddler, a young runaway, and an Irish horse whisperer—who mend each other’s broken lives as they heal a traveling circus’s mistreated ponies. My agent calls it a “family-friendly Water for Elephants.” The story takes place when the American circus was just beginning to evolve into its present form, so the research was lots of fun. In addition to traveling circuses, the storyline explores the challenges faced by Irish immigrants who came to New England to build factories and railroads. There’s also a little romance, a feisty female character, and lots and lots of horses.
The story focuses on Daniel, a sixteen-year-old Irish boy who’s newly freed from indentured servitude. Seeking guidance and companionship, Daniel joins Jonathan Stocking, a peddler and roving jack-of-all-trades who invites Daniel to join him and his assistant, eleven-year-old Billy Fogarty, a reformed pickpocket with a hauntingly beautiful singing voice, who is fleeing an abusive father. The trio joins a circus run by Fred Chamberlain, an old friend of Mr. Stocking’s. When an incompetent trainer abandons the show’s six “dancing ponies,” Daniel discovers his own talents as a horse whisperer, not “breaking” the animals, but mending the damage their previous trainer had done to them. Meanwhile, Fred transforms Billy into “Billy McBride, the boy with the voice of an angel,” the company’s star vocalist. With Mr. Stocking guiding Daniel’s training efforts and coaching Billy’s singing, the three grow from traveling companions into a peculiar sort of family. But past secrets catch up with them, bringing danger and heartbreak.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I’m definitely a “pantser.” I usually start out with a character and a situation, and just keep playing around with it until the characters start to take on their own voices, and it begins to feel as though they’re dictating the story to me. But for the longest time, I have no idea where the story is going. Once I’ve gotten the story about halfway written and have an idea of the ending, then I make an outline so I can see where I need to fill in holes and make connections.
Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character, definitely. I’d rather read a book with a mediocre plot and great characters than one with lame characters and an exciting plot. I believe that plot often comes from character—after all, it’s the characters’ personalities that govern what they do, which is what creates the plot. As a writer, I always start with a character, then try sticking the character into different situations to see what will happen and how his or her personality will develop.
Tell us about your pets, or other animals that inspire you.
Midnight and Barker.
I’ve been lucky to have three wonderful dogs in my life—all of them second-hand. Our first was a Beagle mix, the second a Golden Retriever, and our current dog is a black Lab/Shepherd mix named Midnight. He’s not a great fan of my writing, though, and tends to heave major sighs when I’m working away for hours at “the box” (that’s what he calls my computer). He loves to rest his chin on my hand while I’m typing and say, “Look, there’s a beautiful dog here who’s being ignored.”

Where can we learn more about you and your books?
You can find out more by checking out my website – www.mpbarker.net

M.P. Barker is the award-winning author of two historical novels set in 19th-century New England—A Difficult Boy (Holiday House, 2008) and Mending Horses (Holiday House, 2014). A Difficult Boy received awards from PEN New England and the International Reading Association, and Mending Horses is a Kirkus Prize nominee. Her background includes work at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum, where she experienced 19th-century New England life firsthand. You can find out more at her website – www.mpbarker.net

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Excerpt: In the Moors by Nina Minton

In the Moors by Nina Minton: The rain-drenched moors near shamanistic counselor Sabbie Dare s home have become the scene of a chilling crime. When Detective Sergeant Reynard Buckley shows up suggesting her new client, Cliff Houghton a wounded, broken man has something to do with the body of a young boy found buried in the moors, Sabbie believes Cliff is being set up. Continuing the therapy she d begun with Cliff, Sabbie uncovers repressed memories hearkening back to a decades-old string of abductions and murders. But after another boy is abducted, only Sabbie can prove Cliff s innocence . . . and find the real culprit before any more lives are shattered.


As soon as the front door clicked shut behind me, I knew there was something wrong in the house. There was an aura of suspicion about the place and a smell of mistrust. Oh yes, and the telly – which I have to say was my strongest clue – was blaring out some gormless afternoon programme. I hadn’t left it on.
I let my backpack slide to the floor and eased the door kitchen open. I had to scan the room twice before I saw Ivan, resting in comfort on my sofa, his left ankle balanced on his right knee.
“Where have you been?” he demanded.
The accusation threw me. I’d been about to say, what’re you doing here? The words faded before they could reach my lips.
“I said where have you been, Sabbie?” He shifted position putting both feet on the ground and leaning forward, one hand punched into the palm of the other. “I’ve been waiting for you all fucking night. All fucking night and all of this morning.”
“You’ve been here since yesterday?”
“Too right I have.”
“How did you get into my house?” I heard my voice falter.
“That’s not the issue here. The issue is you, Sabbie.”
“How did you get in?”
He raised his fisted hand. My spare set of keys dangled from the fingers. I rushed forward and snatched them from him. There was a heat behind my eyes. “I told you. I don’t want to see you again. Ever. I said no, Ivan, and you didn’t listen.”
He grinned at me. “Women always say no and mean yes.”
“For your information, this girl means no. You tried to rape me. I could’ve had you carted off to a police cell. And I can promise you that is one place you would not like.”
He didn’t reply. Without taking his gaze from my face, he stretched a hand over the side of the sofa. I could see his laptop case lying against it, but he wasn’t reaching for that. I was looking at a gun. A rifle as long as my arm. Its butt was of glossy yellow wood and along its length was a complicated sight of polished steel.
I took a breath to steady myself. “Did you get that from your loft?”
Ivan smiled. His eyes lit up. He lifted the gun onto his lap as if it were made of crystal glass. “I’d forgotten what it was like to use it. I took it out for a practice run and I’m still pretty good.”
That smell I’d detected in the hall was much stronger now I stood in front of its source. It was the overwhelming odour of control, of the power that certain things give certain men; money, authority, or in this case, the clout of a loaded weapon.
“The fox has gone.” I managed. “There’s no need for a gun.”
His eyes were sharp as slivers of glass. “Isn’t there?”
My whole body became ice cold. “You haven’t been shooting at my hens, for old Mab’s sake!”
He chuckled. “Don’t be daft, woman. Why would I want to do that?”
I shook my head, unable to respond. I leaned against the kitchen worktop. My legs felt gelatinous, unable to support me. “I want you to take that thing out of my house. Now. Take it away. Please.”
His face hardened. I could feel my words bounce off it, as if his skin had toughened into steel.
“The gun isn’t the issue, Sabbie.”
“What?” My heart stopped its racing and stood still. If he raised the gun now, how badly could he hurt me with it?
“You need to tell me this instant,” he said. “You need to be honest. Have you been with another man?”
I closed my eyes. Perhaps I hoped he might disappear, but when I opened them again, he was waiting and I hadn’t answered. The only answer I could think of was…are you crazy? but that didn’t seem like the right one, just then.
“There isn’t any man in my life at the moment,” I said at last. “And that includes you, Ivan.”
“Of course I’m in your life. I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Without an invite. With a gun.”
“Sabbie, Babe. All I’m asking is where you’ve been. That’s the only issue. Where you have been…all night.”
It was like he was on rails, his head caught up in a single obsession. I knew I couldn’t reason with him. I knew I shouldn’t anger him. I gave him a big, artificial grin. “If you must know, I’ve been locked in a police cell.”
 I picked up the kettle and took it to the sink. Every particle of me was on high alert. I could feel the roots of my hair prickling. But I filled the kettle and put it back in its base as calmly as I could. I pulled off my damp outer clothes and shoes and dropped them by the back door. “It’s been a long and stressful night.”
His forehead furrowed. “You’re in trouble with the police?”
“I think I am the trouble. I’m the sort of person who has to poke their finger into all the holes marked, ‘do not insert’.”
I saw his eyes shift their gaze around the room, as if he didn’t know what was going on. As if he had to check in the dark corners to make sure he was in control.
“I’ve got to have a hot drink,” I said, reaching for a mug as the kettle clicked off.
“Great. Got any decaf?”
With a gun across his legs, I was kind of expecting Ivan to draw a hip flask from his pocket. The sudden normality in the midst of all the insanity made a stupid chuckle well up from my queasy stomach.
“What’s so funny? I don’t see proof that you’ve been locked up for the night.” He grimaced. “Might have been knocked up, not locked up.”
“Don’t you remember the bodies I found under some floorboards?”
“They were real?” squeaked Ivan, destroying his hard-man image. “You never said.”
“You were the one that told me to go to the police. Which I did. Now they’ve discovered that two people were buried in this derelict cottage.”
“What?” Clearly, it wasn’t the direction Ivan’s mind had been taking. “They think you murdered someone?”
“Not exactly,” I tried to shrug my shoulders. “I’m sort of helping them with their enquiries. In fact, I’ll have to go out again, in a moment.”
Ivan smiled. He was swallowing the story. I’d half forgotten that I was telling the complete truth. He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket and lit one. Ivan knew that I won’t have people smoke in my house – we had that conversation the very first night he was here. The gesture was telling me he was now in charge.
I didn’t say a word. I turned to the worktop, poured water onto coffee and turned round again to hand the mug to him. He was standing, his expression alert, and his gun was in his hands.
“You’re not going anywhere, sweetie,” he said. Smoke filtered down his nose. I thought of Garth’s dragons. “Not without me. And I’m not going anywhere. I think it’s time for bed, don’t you?”
Stupidly, I lost it. I screamed at him, flinging the cup of coffee across the room.
“Get out of my house!”
The coffee sloshed across the floor, so luckily the mug was pretty empty when it hit his chest. I watched his mouth form a round “O’, as slowly as a dream.
I couldn’t move. I just stood there, the coffee pooling on the floor between us, ready for the gunshot and the pain.
The pain came, like an explosion in the head, centred across my left eye. I waltzed across the room until the worktop stopped me.
He’d hit me with the butt of the rifle. I put my hand to my face. The blood on my hand blurred as my vision faltered.
“You do as I say.” The words sounded garbled and echoing. “I am sick of watching you play ice bitch. That is not how it should be with us.”


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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Excerpt from Crazy Bitch: Living with Canine Compulsive Disorder

by Peggy Tibbetts

From Chapter 1-- Dogland

When Tod and I adopted Venus, she wasn’t leash trained. Her previous owners lived in an unincorporated village with no animal control officer. Venus had been allowed to roam the streets. When she returned she was the lady of the house and slept on the couch. In
dogdom, she was a free spirit. In human terms, she was a tramp.

As a result, whenever we let her off-leash she bolted and we had to track her down. Before we could teach her to follow commands off-leash we had to train her on the leash. For the first couple months Venus went everywhere on a leash, including Dogland. Early on in our training, Carol and Richard confronted Tod and me at the park.

“Why do you keep her on leash?” Richard demanded.

“Because we’re training her,” Tod said.

“Seems kind of cruel when all the other dogs get to run around off-leash,” Carol said.

“I realize she’s big but she’s not quite a year old. Still a pup. She was never leash trained. We had to start somewhere,” I said.

“Why don’t you just let her go and see what happens?” Richard suggested.

“We tried that on the BLM land,” Tod said. “She ran away.”

“We found her a half hour later herding a sheep,” I said.

Carol laughed. “One sheep?”

“Yeah. Then it took us another half hour to find the rest of the herd,” Tod said.

“Just trust us, you guys,” I said. “We know what we’re doing. This will work. You’ll see.”

Within two months Venus walked off-leash at Dogland with the rest of the dogs.

When Richard saw her he said, “I gotta hand it to you. The leash training worked. She’s doing great.”

“Thanks.” I tossed a hefty stick in the river. Venus leaped in the air and splashed into the water after it.

“She doesn’t always bring it back,” Tod said. “But we figured out if we keep her busy chasing sticks, she doesn’t run away.”

“I should probably explain why we’re so fixated on Venus,” Carol said. “Just so you don’t think we’re rude—or crazy.” She told us about Gabriel. “She looks so much like him it’s spooky.”

“He lived in a cabin with me up in the mountains above Aspen for a year,” Richard said. “When we moved back to civilization he couldn’t handle it. He turned aggressive.”

“He killed our friend’s cat. He fought with other dogs, growled at kids,” Carol said. “He was no angel, let me tell you.”

“He never adjusted to town life,” Richard said. “But that’s a big problem with Akbash dogs.  They have a wild streak.”

I was almost afraid to ask the question. “What happened to him?”

“He died from bloat when he was six,” Carol said.

I shook my head. “How sad.”

Venus had lost her stick so Tod found another and aimed close to the river’s edge. She raced over and pawed at it like a grizzly catching salmon. She picked it up in her teeth, tossed it, and splashed in after it again.

“Gabriel had a lot of anxiety,” Richard said. “We always said if you bred a Lab with an Akbash you’d have the perfect dog.”

“Except the woman we got her from said she’s part Great Pyrenees and part Lab,” I explained.
Venus dropped the stick at our feet. Throw it.

Richard stroked her wet head. “When I look at Venus I see Akbash. I see Gabriel.”

“I need to show you a photo of him,” Carol said. “In the meantime, Google Akbash dogs.”

But I didn’t want any part of the trouble they described. So I dismissed their wacky theory.

On the short drive home, Tod said, “You know, I have noticed how much Venus looks like those dogs that live with the sheep up on the ranch. I just didn’t know what they were called.”

I ignored him. “I think Gabriel was one of those dogs that’s hard to get over. And I think they’re transferring a lot of that onto Venus. But she’s not Gabriel.”

Related posts: 

Tibbetts with Venus and Zeus.

Peggy Tibbetts is the author of the nonfiction dogoir, CrazyBitch: Living with Canine Compulsive Disorder. The Kindle Award for Excellence in nonfiction was awarded to Crazy Bitch in July 2014.

Crazy Bitch is a great read. Not only is it an excellent look into the world of canine mental illness, but also in coping with bully behavior. Tibbetts writes in a style that draws you in, as if you’re a friend. Within a few pages, you’ll find yourself caring more than perhaps you’d like to about Venus and cheering on the author in her quest to provide her dog with the best life possible.” -- Sue Kottwitz, “Talking DogsBlog” 

Visit Peggy's website

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Writing Mysteries with Doxies

by C. Hope Clark

I don’t have to see the dog to recognize a dachshund bark. The breed is dear to me, their mannerisms, spunk and loyalty the perfect match to my life and personality. I’ve written four books under the watchful eyes of these little dogs, and I’m not sure I can write without them, even as underfoot as they tend to be.
My study was designed with my stories and my doxies in mind, a writer’s haven also equipped so that the pups want to escape as much as I do. As a full-time writer, I’m in this room eight to ten hours each and every day, but that means so are they – they being Roo and Winnie these days, and Dixie before them. Anyone who’s followed my website FundsforWriters.com and accompanying newsletter knows my dogs.
Frankly, these are the creatures that keep me healthy, sane, and emotionally well. They are my shadows, but they also keep me in check in the following ways:
  • They make me walk away from the computer. My mind would disappear for ten hours straight if I didn’t have to take the dogs outside. Suddenly I realize how stiff my joints have become with my mind so buried in story. Not that I’m old, but remaining rigid in a chair, in the same position for hours at a time, can’t help but inhibit flexibility. So we have a route we walk that takes us to the lake, and they never fail to remind me when that time is nigh. Or they accompany me to the garden, Winnie relishing the opportunity to dig a deep, deep hole in the soft, turned soil.
  • They make me focus on nature. I built a wonderful window seat in my study, with soft steps leading up to it that cost more than I care to admit. Doxies have those infamous long spines, so those special stairs enable them to walk up to their seat and look out the window without stress on their backs. A growl or whine from their perch tells me that geese, squirrel, ducks, turtles or deer parade across my back yard, and of course the pups are calling me to come see what they’re watching. It’s a relaxing moment and a breather my brain and body need. Yes, they often take that opportunity to yank me outside again, too.
  • They make me laugh. Winnie and Roo are fast friends; they wrestle, exchange toys, and talk to each other incessantly, with naps offering the only solace. I quit counting the times I grabbed a camera to take pictures or hunted my smartphone for a brief video of their shenanigans, or simply sat back and chuckled at their race around the sofa or a chase for the same pink tennis ball. Of course I enter into conversation with them, and all too often, get down in the floor and play. At this very moment, they are tussling with one of their beds, pulling out stuffing and entangling each other in their lap blanket.

These sound like trivial moments, and to a non-pet owner I might be wasting precious minutes that could be better spent writing stories. But my quality of life is immeasurably rich with these two ladies and their constant interruption. It’s as if they know what’s most important for me at any given moment. Sure, they take long naps and allow me time to write. They’ll even visit with my husband in the living room when I’m intense into edits. But they beat the heck out of a clock when it comes to moderating my day, dividing it into increments that improve both the quality of my writing and the substance of my life.
I have no idea how I’d write without them. They make my days and nights whole, sweet, and enjoyable . . . and they love me to pieces. How hollow would my writing be without all that?


C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series and the Edisto Island Mystery Series. When she’s not finagling fiction or receiving long-tongue doxie kisses, she’s also editing the award-winning FundsforWriters.com – a website and newsletter for writers. Her latest release is Murder on Edisto, scheduled for September 2014 from Bell Bridge Books. www.chopeclark.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Five Things You May Not Know about the Enchanting Tibetan Spaniel

by Susan Waller Miccio

We privileged few who live with Tibetan Spaniels become utterly captivated by them. For a writer, passion equates to books. “Tibbies” are featured in all four of mine—from The Tibetan Spaniel – A Gift from the Roof of the World to Dog Dreamzzz, the second Abby Swann Mystery. Here are five facts about the enchanting Tibetan Spaniel. 

The Tibbie is called the Prayer Dog.

Early twentieth-century articles about the Tibetan Spaniel published in England reported that the rare breed spun prayer wheels in the monasteries of its Buddhist homeland. When the mounted cylinders, filled with mantras written on a scroll, are rotated clockwise, Tibetan faithful believe that blessings and well-being are spread to all beings. Thus was born the “Legend of the Prayer Dog.” Dawa (“Moon” in Tibetan), one of two Tibbies featured in the Abby Swann Mysteries, evokes the legend when she sits on her haunches, places her forepaws together pad to pad, and circles them. Called “prayer paws,” some believe this is how Tibbies spun the wheels. Is the legend true? Or, was it a way to promote the breed by exploiting its exotic origin? We may never know, but a charming tradition keeps the legend alive. If a Tibbie person offers to have Tibbies “spin the wheels” for you, he or she isn’t proposing to burn rubber on your tires but expressing compassion in a time of trouble.

Tibbies love to climb.

When her friends are shocked by the leap that her Tibbie Senge (“Lion” in Tibetan) takes off a cliff in Dog Dreamzzz, Abby explains, “Yes, they’re climbersIt’s a breed trait. Tibbies always seek the highest point, and they have absolutely no fear of heights.” Known as the “roof of the world,” Tibet sits on the world’s highest plateau surrounded by the world’s highest mountains. Even the “lowlands” average 15,000 feet, and hundreds of Himalayan peaks on Tibet’s southern border top 23,000 feet. True to his high-altitude origin, the Tibbie, with long-toed paws designed for sure-footedness, is hard-wired to climb. Just as his ancestors watched from the high walls and rooftops of monasteries in ancient Tibet, today’s Tibbie climbs to survey his territory and alert us to trespassers. Tibbie people are never shocked to find their Tibbies atop the furniture. 

A group of Tibbies is an “attitude.”

In Dog Star, the debut Abby Swann Mystery, Abby observes, “Lions live in a pride, whales in a pod, geese in a gaggle, and Tibbies in an attitude.” This new definition of “attitude” appears in my writing because it’s a perfect fit for this breed. Their aloofness to strangers, independence, intelligence, talkativeness and sensitivity blend to form the enigmatic personality—called tibbitude—that is, at once, endearing and exasperating. Not everyone is cut out to live with tibbitude but, if you are, you cannot have only one Tibbie—you must have an attitude.

Tibbies are a very popular breed in some countries.

Although the AKC recognized the Tibetan Spaniel in 1983, registrations in 2013 ranked the breed at 106 out of 180 recognized breeds, a statistic that has changed little over the decades. On seeing a Tibbie, most Americans assume it is a Pekingese, a misconception dramatized in both Abby Swann Mysteries. By contrast, Tibbies are well-known and popular in Scandinavia. In Finland, for example, Tibbies are a common sight, and the breed ranks 13, with over 700 puppies registered in 2013. Of course, the Tibbie’s double coat and “snowshoes” are well-suited to cold winters in northern countries.

The Tibetan Spaniel is the ancestral breed of small Asian breeds.

“Far below, the file of yaks, their backs piled high with bundles, materialized from the shadow of high walls. They plodded along a path worn smooth by centuries of hooves, a path that traveled east to the land of the Han…. A small black head poked from between two white packs atop a yak. She barked…” The custom of sending gifts of Tibbies to China, as depicted in Dog Dreamzzz, is not disputed. However, Asian breed fanciers have long debated whether the Pekingese or the Tibetan Spaniel is older. Although it’s easy to differentiate a modern Peke side by side with a Tibbie, historic Pekes strongly resembled Tibbies. Even today, Pekes can throw Tibbie traits in their offspring. Whether you believe the Peke came from Tibet or the Tibbie from China may depend on which breed you favor. I love both, but my money is on the Tibbie.

Susan Waller Miccio is the internationally recognized author of nonfiction books about Tibetan Spaniels plus the two Abby Swann Mysteries. Her classic, The Tibetan Spaniel—A Gift from the Roof of the World, is still the go-to book for Tibbie owners worldwide. Susan and her “attitude” of Tibbies—Coco, Twyla and Suzy Q—live in rural Delaware where she is plotting her next mystery. Visit Susan on www.susanwallermiccio.com and Facebook.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Advertising Gone Native

by Susan Kroupa

Native advertising. Ever heard of the term? I hadn’t until recently when I clicked on a link about native advertising thinking it was going to be about Native Americans. I wasn’t even close. The term means a blending of news and advertising in a way that makes it difficult to distinguish one from the other. Click on any “news” site today, and you’ll be flooded with lists: ten foods you must eat to be healthy, seven foods to avoid at all cost, eight ways to look younger, etc.  It can be difficult to determine whether or not a list happens to be funded by one or more of the things it promotes, but the chances are high that it is. 
Between native advertising and social media’s racing from one cause to another—just click on your favorite site to see today’s candidates for admiration and for condemnation—we’re flooded with information. Careers are made; careers are destroyed and straining truth from the silt in the flood waters is pretty much a hopeless proposition. As Theodore Roszak famously wrote, “Data data everywhere but not a thought to think.”
Of course, Doodle, the labradoodle narrator of the Doodlebugged mysteries, doesn’t know and certainly doesn’t care much about social media.  Doodle works as a bed bug detection dog for the “boss”, Josh Hunter, but his independence, mirrored in the boss’s ten-year-old daughter, Molly, often gets the two of them in trouble. Being a dog, he takes things literally. Truth is to be found in scents, in body language, in tone of voice. But mostly in scents. If false news had an odor, Doodle would be all over it. For example, Bad-Mouthed, the fourth book in the series opens with Doodle onstage in a Christmas pageant, when his nose tells him something:
 “I smell a rat. That's a phrase that humans use to mean something isn't right, at least that's what I gather from the TV shows Molly watches, but I mean that I smell a rat, a live one, and he's not very far away.” Doodle never doubts his nose. But when he takes definitive action against the rat, he throws the boss and Molly into a spotlight, a place where the videos of a popular blogger might end up destroying the boss’s business. Native news rears its ugly head.
And then there’s all this Christmas stuff, something Doodle finds baffling. He understands gifts—they’re the human equivalent of dog treats—but why does everyone want a “white” Christmas?  Does the day come in colors? And how come dogs never get mentioned in any of the Christmas carols but sheep—such silly creatures--are talked about all the time?
Add in a lonely boy, who wishes to go live with his out-of-state father, a devastating fire, and some lost dogs, and Doodle has his work cut out for him. But it takes Molly’s computer sleuthing and courageous actions in addition to Doodle’s nose to distinguish fact from fiction and set things right.

Bad-Mouthed will be available in paperback and ebook formats in early December from most retailers. Visit me on my webpage, or sign up for my newsletter (no spam or address sharing ever, I promise) and be the first to know when it comes out.  Meanwhile, Laurel Fork Press is currently running a promotion of Bed-Bugged, the first Doodlebugged mystery. For a limited time, you can get a copy for free on almost any site—(here’s the Amazon one) and learn just how Doodle got himself into the bed bug detection business, and, more importantly, how he met the boss and Molly.
Is this native advertising? Nah, it’s straight promotion.  But keep an eye out for the next MSN news article, Six Books About Labradoodles That Will Help You Lose Weight and Find Romance. Bad-Mouthed just might be mentioned! J

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Excerpt from Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber

In this excerpt, Kate is at home late at night after finding her homeless friend George’s body. She has taken Bella, the victim’s dog, home to stay with her until the police locate his family. Kate feels guilty over a fight she had with George earlier that day.  

I looked at the clock and almost cried. It was one-thirty, and my early morning class started at six. I’d never felt so bone-weary in my life. My head still throbbed, and my stomach ached from hunger. But all I could think about was sleep—deep, dreamless sleep. “Come on, Bella. It’s bedtime.” I showed her the bedroom. She hopped on the bed and flopped down, lying squarely on my pillow.
“Sorry, pooch. This is where I draw the line. I sleep on the bed. You sleep on the floor.”
I grabbed a blanket from the closet, laid it on the floor and pointed to it. “For you.” It took some convincing, but Bella finally relented. I collapsed on the bed and closed my eyes.
Huge mistake.
Images of George’s body, sounds of sirens, the smell of blood, and the full knowledge of the evening’s horror invaded every crevice of my being.
Bella paced the room, panting and whining. I tried to coax myself to sleep with “Kate’s Sleeping Pill,” my favorite breath practice for insomnia. No good. The horrible memories refused to leave. But at least now the room was quiet. At least that infernal whining had stopped.
My mind froze. My eyes flew open. Why had the whining stopped?
I rolled over and locked eyes with Bella. Her accusing glare scolded me. We stared each other down for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, I realized what was bothering her. Bella was used to sleeping on the ground, but not alone. She and George had lain next to each other every night for as long as she could remember. Changing that now seemed cruel.
“OK, you win. Come on up, but only for tonight.” I slapped the bed beside me.
Bella hopped up, turned a quick circle, and sank down next to me with a heavy sigh. Her brow furrowed, her ears drooped, and her head hung low. I could tell she knew something had changed. She didn’t know what or why, but she knew it was bad. Frighteningly bad. Life-changingly bad.
I suspected Bella couldn’t understand me, but she deserved an explanation nonetheless. So I told her that George was gone, but that he had loved her more than anything. I also promised her that, although I couldn’t keep her, I would make sure she was safe until I found someone who could.
I owed that to George.
You see, I firmly believed that George’s death was at least partially my fault. That if I had listened more and judged less, I might have prevented this awful night. I deeply regretted my stubbornness in not apologizing. I regretted suggesting he euthanize Bella. I even regretted not buying that damned paper. No one else would have blamed me for what happened, but I definitely blamed myself.
As I finished the story, Bella rested her chin on my belly, closed her eyes, and fell asleep. The warmth of her body on mine felt oddly comforting, and I finally relaxed enough to do what I’d needed to do for hours. I broke down sobbing as I held Bella and allowed her rhythmic breathing to rock us both to sleep.
Murder Strikes a Pose introduces Kate Davidson, a feisty Seattle yoga instructor who’s more interested in savasana than solving crimes, until she stumbles over a body in the studio’s parking lot. The police dismiss the murder as drug-related street crime, but Kate knows that George—a homeless alcoholic she had befriended—was no drug dealer.

Kate stretches herself and takes on two new challenges. First, solve George’s murder. Second, find someone—anyone—willing to adopt his intimidating, horse-sized German shepherd, Bella, before Animal Control sends her to the big dog park in the sky. But with Bella’s time almost up and the murderer hot on her trail, Kate will have to work fast, or the next time she practices corpse pose, it may be for real

MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Strikes-Pose-Downward-Mystery/dp/0738739685/ and wherever books are sold.

Tracy Weber is a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, where she currently lives with her husband and German shepherd. Weber is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Dog Writers Association of America, and Sisters in Crime. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. Murder Strikes a Pose is Weber’s debut. For more information, visit her online at http://TracyWeberAuthor.com  or friend her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tracywe

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Excerpt: Fifty Shades of Greyhound by Sparkle Abbey

In the following excerpt from Fifty Shades of Greyhound, Pampered Pets mystery #5 from Bell Bridge Books (2014) pet therapist Caro Lamont has recommended her friend and part-time receptionist, Verdi, as a house-sitter for her neighbor who is out of town. But now with all that’s gone on in the past week, Caro finds herself worrying about whether it was a good idea…

Chapter 17

            Sunset is Laguna Beach’s best feature.

            Not that the coastal village isn’t beautiful on a perfect weather day like today had been. But sunset in Laguna is nothing short of phenomenal – almost every time.

            I turned into my driveway and hit the button for the garage door opener. I hesitated as I did. There was a light on next door. Maybe Verdi was spending the night.

            April Mae had told her she was welcome to stay at the house, but Verdi had her apartment and most nights stayed there. She took great care of April May’s cats, Tobey and Minou, which was the most important thing.

            I hadn’t noticed her car so she could have accidently left a light on when she’d left. Not a bid deal and, if that was the case, I could run next door and turn it off after dinner.

            I parked my car in the garage and pushed the button to close the door.

            Dogbert was thrilled to see me. Thelma and Louise barely acknowledged me. They lifted their furry heads as if to say, “Oh, it’s you. Let us know when dinner is ready.”

            I took Dogbert for a quick walk and then back home changed into my most comfy clothes. Remember those yoga clothes I wore to the self-defense class? Yeah, those were the ones.

            Note to self: must shop for something nicer before next week’s class.

            I fed my fur kids and started dinner for myself. As I threw together the spinach salad and tossed some toasted almonds on top, I considered the day. Pretty productive. My regular client load was under control. A few more Greyhound clients to go.

            Maybe I’d have some news on Grandma Tillie’s brooch tomorrow. That FBI agent still had not called me back.

Bloody berk. I used Ollie’s term in my head. I still didn’t know the meaning, but his tone had conveyed the gist.

            I took my salad and a glass of Chardonnay out to my patio.

            The light was still on next door at April Mae’s house and it bugged me. I couldn’t tell for sure which light was on. It didn’t appear to be the veranda. There was an enclosed veranda at the back of the house that had been set up as an area for Toby and Minou, April Mae’s cats.

            They’d become April Mae’s cats in my mind. My next door neighbor, Kitty, had named them, but when she was killed (another murder, I’m afraid) and her sister inherited the cats and the home, the two Bengal cats had immediately bonded with April Mae.  I hoped she was faring well in getting things sorted out in her home state of Missouri. I missed her flamboyant presence.

            I’d run next door as soon as I’d finished eating. If Verdi were there, I’d update her on the status of the investigation as I knew it. If she wasn’t, I’d turn off the light in the house. Better than worrying about it all night.

            I carried my dishes back inside, rinsed them, and set them aside. I grabbed my sweatshirt, cell phone, and my key to the house next door just in case Verdi wasn’t there. I stepped outside. There was no little green car in the drive, but I rang the doorbell anyway.

            I unlocked the door and stepped in. The light I’d seen from my house was in the kitchen. Halfway down the hallway I heard something. Maybe Verdi was there after all.

            I could see a shadow moving in the kitchen.

            “Verdi?” I called.

            The shadow froze.

            Okay, not Verdi.

            I backed up, my eyes glued to the doorway, ready to turn and run if necessary.

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They are friends as well as neighbors so you’ll often find them writing at ML’s dining room table or at their local Starbucks. They live in the Midwest, but if they could write anywhere, you would find them on the beach with their laptops and depending on the time of day either an iced tea or a margarita. They love to hear from animal lovers and readers and can be contacted via their website at: www.SparkleAbbey.com

Fifty Shades of Greyhound is the fifth book in their national bestselling Pampered Pets mystery series which features Caro and Mel, two feuding cousins who solve whodunits set in the wacky world of pampered pets, precious pedigrees, and secrets. The first book in the series Desperate Housedogs, an Amazon and Barnes & Noble Nook #1 bestseller, was followed by Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and Yip/Tuck.  The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo is up next.