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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Seven Things About Author Judy Alter

by Judy Alter

Seven things you may not know about me, Judy Alter, except if you’re my Facebook friend you probably know all about me. My children tell me whatever goes through my brain comes out my mouth.

1. I’m well known as a dog lover, because I post lost, found, and endangered dogs, but did you know I also used to raise and train show dogs? I was never very good at it but I did have a champion Cairn Terrier and a champion Irish Wolfhound (sort of the same look, way different in disposition and size). Once when I tried to show a Cairn, a friend said, “Judy, the judge is interested in the dogs’ legs, not yours.” I gave it up but have had and loved many breeds of dogs over the years, currently have a Bordoodle named Sophie.

2. I hold a Ph.D. in English with a special interest in the history and literature of the American West; that’s why for many years I wrote fiction about women of the American West.

3. I spend every weekday afternoon supervising a seven-year-old as he does his homework. Just ask me about the way they teach arithmetic these days. And don’t get me started on the difference between a cone and a cylinder.

4. I drive a VW Bug convertible because I didn’t want to be a fuddy-duddy grandmother and drive what my kids call an “old lady’s car.” Besides, I’ve always loved Bugs, driven several over the years—even a camper.

5. Cooking is my hobby, and in another life I’d like to come back as a chef. I love preparing food as much as eating it, and a Saturday in the kitchen is a relaxing day for me. Most recent creations: a lemon potato salad, an overnight green salad with avocado, romaine, garlic, olive oil, lemon and Parmesan, and pickled radishes for my son-in-law who loves them. I also love to entertain and show off my cooking.

6. I have a lifelong anxiety disorder that makes me uncomfortable in a variety of situations—highway driving, self-service elevators by myself, wide open spaces, traveling alone (which is why I miss all those good mystery cons, though I did once go to Bouchercon). In spite of that endless list, I live a full, happy life with plenty of social activity. I’ve been to the Caribbean three times, Scotland once, Seattle, California, New York—so I do travel, even if I don’t love it. I’ve learned to cope over the years—and plan ahead—and I rarely have panic attacks.

7. Although I’ve lived in Texas fifty years this July, I’m a northerner, born and raised in Chicago, which still makes me, as some Texans see it, an outsider. I wouldn’t go back to Chicago, and I love most aspects of life in Texas, especially the colorful history. There are a few contemporary things I’d change.

About Murder at Tremont House
When free-lance journalist Sara Jo Cavanaugh comes to Wheeler to do an in-depth study of Kate’s town for a feature on small-town America, Kate senses she will be trouble. Sara Jo stays at the B&B, Tremont House, run by Kate’s sister, Donna, and unwittingly drives a further wedge into Donna’s marriage to Wheeler’s mayor Tom Bryson. And soon she’s spending way too much time interviewing high school students, one young athlete in particular. Police chief Rick Samuels ignores Kate’s instinct, but lawyer David Clinkscales, her former boss from Dallas, takes it more seriously.
Sara Jo arouses animosity in Wheeler with the personal, intrusive questions she asks, and when she is found murdered, the list of suspects is long. But Kate heads the list, and she must clear her name, with the help of David and Rick. A second murder confirms that someone is desperate, and now Rick is convinced Kate is in danger.
There’s a love triangle, a cooking school, a kidnapping, a broken marriage, and a lot of adventure before the threads of this mystery are untangled, and Wheeler can go back to being a peaceful small town. If it ever does.Recipes included.

Murder at Tremont House is the second Blue Plate Mystery from award-winning novelist Judy Alter, following the successful Murder at the Blue Plate CafĂ©. Judy is also the author of four books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and Danger Comes Home. With the Blue Plate Murder series, she moves from inner city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites.

Before turning her attention to mystery, Judy wrote fiction and nonfiction, mostly about women of the American West, for adults and young-adult readers. Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame at the Fort Worth Public Library.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Five Facts about Sherlock Holmes, and a few about my cat by Sandra de Helen

by Sandra de Helen

My cat Stanton, a Maine Coon known as the gentle giant of the feline world, is my muse. I've lived with him since his birth nearly eight years ago, and in that time he has encouraged and supported me by sharing his fur, alerting me to spiders and bugs he wants me to put outdoors, always welcoming me home from my travels, and sleeping on my lap once I put the computer away.

He also helps out by writing his own blog (though only when the spirit moves him, he's a muse, not an author). It's called Stanton Advises Writers, and boy does he. He can be a bit snarky when it comes to correcting mistakes and laying out his pet peeves. I think it helps him to de-stress. As a side benefit for me, his writing makes me laugh.

As my published books are descended from A. Conan Doyle's works about Sherlock Holmes, my muse suggested I write something about Sherlock today. Not everyone who reads my books is a huge fan of the great man, although many are, and can probably skip ahead to the pictures and links at the bottom of the page. Or, stick around to see how many mistakes I make, and then tell me about them in comments. I do hope you'll comment, one way or the other!


The character of Sherlock Holmes was based on a former professor of Doyle's. In fact Doyle dedicated The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Joseph Bell, who then wrote to Doyle "...you are yourself Sherlock Holmes, and well you know it."

Sherlock Holmes's greatest nemesis was Professor Moriarty. Moriarty didn't appear in the oeuvre until The Final Problem in which both Holmes and Moriarty die.

Doyle's fans would not let him rest. They wanted more Holmes! So Doyle brought Holmes back to life, explaining his death as a neat trick. Moriarty didn't return from the dead, but he makes another appearance in The Valley of Fear which is written as a prequel to the other story.

Sherlock Holmes was the original CSI. Because of his methods, real methods began to appear: keeping the crime scene clear during investigation, stopping so many bad habits (eating, drinking, tromping around), analyzing blood, foot prints, and so on. Remember, Doyle wrote these stories beginning in 1891.

The phrase "Elementary, dear Watson" was never used in the printed works.


Shirley first got the idea to be a detective because of being teased by her schoolmates about her name. They called her Sherlock, and she developed his methods for investigation at an early. She didn't become a private investigator until much later, but it was always in the back of her mind. When she and Dr. Mary Watson met at a self-help forum, her fate was sealed.

Shirley doesn't have pets. She conducts experiments in her home laboratory, and wouldn't want any pets hurt. She shows her feelings for one animal in particular in The Hounding when she "rescues" a baby chimp from the Portland Zoo.

Dr. Mary Watson, however, is a cat lover. She has only one, Martha Kitty. Mary takes excellent care of Martha, and spends a lot of time with her.

The other animals in The Hounding are trained attack dogs and another dog owned by one of the suspects. No animals are injured or killed in my books. The attack dogs are used to frighten, and they come to no harm.

Although the friendship between Shirley and Mary will continue to grow and change, each of the books stands alone. You do not need to read The Hounding prior to The Illustrious Client.

Both books have free excerpts on Goodreads and Amazon. Both are available in paperback and ebook. The Hounding is also available as an audiobook, and the audiobook is in progress for The Illustrious Client.

Sandra de Helen lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. de Helen is a member of the Golden Crown Literary Society, Sisters in Crime, and Dramatists Guild. 
Follow her on Twitter @dehelen 
The Hounding: http://amzn.to/1jFW42X
The Illustrious Client: http://amzn.to/1hKb6AH

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saving an Endangered Species with Guest Author Kathleen Kaska

I am thrilled today to offer an excerpt from Kathleen Kaska's marvelous book about Robert Porter Allen, one of our environmental heroes. Kathleen has offered to give away one copy of her book - she will choose the winner randomly from those who leave comments. Check out Kathleen's links, too - especially her blog. I've been reading it since it began. Good stuff! ~ Sheila

Excerpt from

The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: 

The Robert Porter Allen Story

 by Kathleen Kaska

Whooping cranes who currently live
on the Aransas National  Wildlife Refuge
in Texas. Photo courtesy of Mike Sloat.
It was April 17, 1948 in the early hours of a muggy Texas morning on the Gulf Coast. The sun at last burned away the thick fog that had settled over Blackjack Peninsula. The world’s last flock of wild whooping cranes had spent the winter feeding on blue crab and killifish in the vast salt flats they called home. During the night, all three members of the Slough Family had moved to feed on higher ground about two miles away from their usual haunt. The cool, crisp winter was giving way to a warm balmy spring, the days were growing longer, and territorial boundaries were no longer defended. Restlessness had spread throughout the flock.
As Robert Porter Allen drove along East Shore Road near Carlos Field in his government issued beat-to-hell pickup, he spotted the four cranes now spiraling a thousand feet above the marsh. He pulled his truck over to the roadside and watched, hoping to witness, for the first time, a migration takeoff. One adult crane pulled away from the family and flew northward, whooping as it rose on an air current. When the others lagged behind, the crane returned, the family regrouped, circled a few times and landed in the cordgrass in the shallows of San Antonio Bay. It was Allen’s second year at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. He had learned to read the nuances of his subjects almost as well as they read the changing of the seasons.
In the days preceding, twenty-four cranes left for their summer home somewhere in Western Canada, possibly as far north as the Arctic Circle. This annual event, which had been occurring for at least 10,000 years, might be one of the last unless Allen could accomplish what no one else had.

Read about what prompted Kaska to write the book at On Writing About Robert Porter Allen and Whooping Cranes

Kathleen Kaska, writer of fiction, nonfiction, stage plays, and travel articles has just completed her most challenging endeavor. The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane, a true story set in the 1940s and 50s, is about Audubon ornithologist Robert Porter Allen whose mission was to journey into the Canadian wilderness to save the last flock of whooping cranes before development wiped out their nesting site, sending them into extinction. Published by University Press of Florida and released in 2012, the book has been nominated for the George Perkins Marsh Award for environmental history. Kaska also writes the award-wining Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series.

My Links:

Want to learn more about the whooping crane, check out the following websites?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Flash Your Stuff - A Quick-as-a Bunny Writing Prompt

Just for fun -- a flash-writing prompt, in keeping with the season: give us up to 200 words (fiction, poem, interview, whatever!). Short - much shorter - is fine, too. Here's the premise....

The missing eggs look
a lot like this.

The eggs are missing! She worked past midnight to get the colors just right,  and then hopped all over the neighborhood in the wee hours to hide them, but when she came back after her nap, they were gone!
Tell us what happened next, from the Easter Bunny's point of view. Or make it a Passover story, or draw on another tradition, or ...well, you're the writer! Have some fun!
P.S. Kids' stories welcome, too, if you have an aspiring writer in the house. 

Post your flash story, poem, interview,song lyrics, whatever, as a comment if you like. If you're inspired to write more than 200 words, feel free to post a link to your creation on your own site. 

Now hop to it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kathleen Kaska on Writing About Robert Porter Allen and Whooping Cranes

Allen in his office.
Learning of Robert Porter Allen’s story, and seeing the whooping cranes myself on numerous occasions at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, inspired me to bring attention to Allen’s work preserving these magnificent birds. In 1984, I had the opportunity while studying marine biology at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, to observe dozens of shorebird species along the Texas coast. I returned one December to take my first whooping crane tour at the Aransas Refuge. Learning of the cranes’ endangerment, I immediately knew I wanted to make a difference in the species’ survival. As a middle-school science teacher, I included a bird unit in my environmental curriculum. I was determined to instill in my students a passion for any environmental cause.
Years later when I began freelance writing, I realized I had another outlet for spreading the word. In researching an article about whooping cranes for Texas Highways magazine, I learned that few people had ever heard of Robert Porter Allen or the work he did to save the species. This was when I decided to continue my research and turn the project into a book. Robert Porter Allen’s story needed to be told.

Check back next April 23 for an excerpt from the book. Better yet, sign up at the top right to be notified of new posts. See you then!

Kathleen Kaska, writer of fiction, nonfiction, stage plays, and travel articles has just completed her most challenging endeavor. The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane, a true story set in the 1940s and 50s, is about Audubon ornithologist Robert Porter Allen whose mission was to journey into the Canadian wilderness to save the last flock of whooping cranes before development wiped out their nesting site, sending them into extinction. Published by University Press of Florida and released in 2012, the book has been nominated for the George Perkins Marsh Award for environmental history. Kaska also writes the award-wining Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series.

My Links:

Want to learn more about the whooping crane, check out the following websites?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Author Interview: Doranna Durgin & Friends

Tell us a little about your background

Oh, it’s complicated.  Start with one animal lover, determined to become a vet.  Life happens.  End up in Environmental Education, and then in a stunningly remote area of the Appalachian mountains.  Hand-built log cabin, a hundred acres...dogs, wood stove, and endless tromps in the woods together.  Enough people to generate lost and dumped dogs, not enough to have a shelter, so UPS would drop dogs off at our place for rescue.  And with the vet hours away, I found myself dealing with mange, broken bones, snakebite, varmint damage...even gunshot.

It’s also where I developed my love for hounds.  

I eventually shifted to Southwest mountains and turned my trail riding into Lipizzan dressage and the dog activities to competition sports, but really those early days are the core of what informs my writing.  Mountains, wilderness, dogs, horses, and a  side of smarty-pants.

The writing...that started when I was twelve and never stopped.  By the time I sold Dun Lady’s Jess, I’d been writing a book or two a year for quite a while.  By hand.  (I love my laptop!)

Tell us a bit about your latest book

The Dale & Sully mysteries are like most of my books--they color a bit outside the genre lines, and they’re as much about Dale and Sully and Laura as they are about the mystery.  The series started out as one of those Dreaded Publishing Stories--Big Name Publisher gave Editor the Stamp of Approval to develop the series, and then forgot about it.   Which in a way is fine, because it meant I could go ahead and color outside those lines.

Anyway, Scent of Danger is a recent release, and I’m really excited about it!  “A hunky veterinarian, his irrepressible beagle pal, and a quiet Navajo colleague who keeps him guessing about her heart...what could be more fun?”

Are any of the characters based on real animals or people?

I don’t tend to do that, except... when I do.   Which is to say that like for most writers, certain people or animals might serve as the inspiration for a character, but once the character is conceived, all bets are off.  In fantasy  A Feral Darkness, Druid was an amalgam of two of my Cardigan Corgis--one sweet boy who was functionally autistic due to brain injury at birth, and one who had a panic syndrome.  What, I thought, if there was a mystical reason behind those behaviors?  But I would still never say that Druid was based on these dogs...only inspired by them.

The irony about the Dale Kinsall & Sully Beagle mysteries is that I conceived the books before I ever had a Beagle.  Now I have three...

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

I generally have a lot of irons in the fire.  I’m working on a Nocturne paranormal proposal  with my own brand of werewolf, as well as the third book in the Reckoners trilogy (paranormal).  I’m plotting out book three for Dale & Sully.  And I’m getting ready to start first draft on the next Nocturne under contract (shapeshifters!).

Actually, since I had to do a big red tape paperwork job this week, I’m also desperately trying to get my web site and blog details up to date.  I’m pretty good with it--all the big pieces are where they should be--but there are always little housekeeping tasks that creep up.  And I’m trying to get a running rafflecopter giveaway in play at the  blog, since those seem pretty fun. There should be one there now, I hope.

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


My guys do more than inspire me; they keep me grounded.  Along with training the dogs I also bike with them, and at his age Duncan is more about easy trail rides mixed with foundation dressage than hard training. 

Connery is my oldest Beagle and is the second most titled breed champion Beagle in the States, as well as the first to reach both MACH3 with a VCD1 (titles in obedience, tracking, and agility).  Dart is in the most exciting part of his various trialing journeys--on his way toward advanced titles in agility, rally, obedience and tracking.  Rena Beagle is fostering and has earned some titles along the way while I unravel her health tangles. I blog about them all constantly!

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

Short and sweet:  It used to be “persistence.”  Now it’s “Know what you REALLY want and make the choices that will reach that goal.  Don’t make assumptions, and don’t sneer at those who make different choices (unless they’ve made assumptions as a big part of doing so.  Then be my guest).”

Doranna Durgin's quirky spirit has led to an eclectic and extensive publishing journey across genres.  Beyond that, she hangs around outside her Southwest mountain home with horse and dogs. She doesn't believe in mastering the beast within, but in channeling its power. For good or bad has yet to be decided...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Finding a Narrator's Voice from Susan J. Kroupa

by Susan J. Kroupa

“My, Doodle has quite a vocabulary,” one of my editors said when she was critiquing Dog-Nabbed, the latest Doodlebugged Mystery. Oops. She didn’t mean that as a compliment. Doodle, the narrator of the Doodlebugged books, is a dog. More specifically, an obedience-impaired labradoodle who routinely gets in trouble in his job as a bed-bug detecting canine. 

As a narrator, he has a certain “voice” which means he uses a certain vocabulary. Note that I didn’t say “as a dog” he has a certain voice. Dogs, cats, dolphins, trees (yes, I once read a section of a book narrated by an old oak tree) can vary in their voices as much as their human counterparts.

Any narrator can have a compelling voice, the kind that draws you in like a magnet and holds you through the story. The kind that feels as if a real character—not some author behind a keyboard–is telling the story. Lots of things go into a good voice—word choice, vocabulary and education level, the expectations that the narrator has from past experience and from hopes for the future, and what the narrator happens to notice or not notice. A strong voice, along with its twin, point of view, separates average fiction from the kind of book you can’t put down.
So. Early on, when writing the first Doodlebugged book, I had to make decisions. Would Doodle’s voice be slangy and fun? Or smart and self-educated like the dog narrator in Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain?  Would he have a regional accent like Gabriel, the Appalachian black and tan hound in my story “Gabriel & Mr. Death”?

I went for slangy, a little sarcastic, but a bit metaphor-impaired. Doodle’s smart, but as a dog he tends to take things literally and doesn’t always understand the phrases he uses. For example, in Bed-Bugged, Doodle says, “When it rains, it pours. This is what the boss says. He means we now have a lot of work, though I have no idea what that has to do with rain.” 

That’s why my editor questioned my word choice when I wrote in Doodle’s voice, “I don’t think it’s my fault exactly that the leash has become inextricably bound to some particularly grasping blackberry vines” and “[the dogs] allay their boredom with constant, high-pitched barking.” And she was right. My personal voice had slipped into Doodle’s.  I changed “inextricably” to “tangled around” and “allay” to “ward off”.

Word choice matters.  Nothing throws me out of a story more quickly than a character, especially a point of view character, using a word that is, well, out of character. If your highly educated narrator suddenly says “That ain’t so,” it will jar. If your prehistoric character uses the word “steeled” when steel has not yet been invented, I’m gone.  Or, at least I will be if it happens too many times in the same book.

Consider Gabriel, the black and tan hound I mentioned earlier. His narration begins “We heard the truck before we seen it, a dull ugly rumble that grew louder by the second. And we seen its dust rising over the trees and laurels. I raised my head and blinked, but like the other hounds, thought it weren’t nothing worth getting off the porch for.” If Gabriel suddenly started using perfect grammar and a college level vocabulary, the illusion that this particular hound in this particular place is telling the story would be shattered.

So think about voice and word choice when you write.  And if you feel perhaps that the voice of your narrator is a little too generic to be compelling, study the fiction by your favorite authors to see how they make the narration and characters stick in your mind.  Make sure that not only your narrator, but all of your characters have distinct voices, distinct word choices and patterns based on their unique experiences. Your readers will thank you.

Susan J. Kroupa is a dog lover currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons and who happens to be the inspiration for her Doodlebugged books. She’s also an award-winning author whose fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and in a variety of professional anthologies, including Bruce Coville's Shapeshifters. Her non-fiction publications include features about environmental issues and Hopi Indian culture for The Arizona Republic, High Country News, and American Forests.

Susan now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can find her books and read her blog at http://www.susankroupa.com and visit her Amazon Author page at http://amazon.com/author/susankroupa.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Working With Co-Authors: Third Time’s The Charm

by Darlene Arden
I had sworn I’d never have another co-author.  I had also sworn that I would never write a wfh (Work for Hire) book.  For those not familiar with wfh, it means that you are hired to write the book (or article, or whatever) for a flat fee. In the case of books, there are no royalties involved.  The publisher makes all of the money. Publishers usually make all of the money because when it comes to royalties the bookkeeping can be, uh, er, interesting.
Aimee Arden, Darlene's adviser, hard at work.
My first co-author was a veterinarian. We worked together on an article and then we worked on a book proposal. I was teaching him the ins and outs of writing for the layperson and publication. I’d worked hard. I interviewed another specialist for the article. We would send it back and forth. Almost the first thing he did was delete the quotes form the expert. I restored them, added a bit to the article and sent it back. He returned it with the expert’s quotes eliminated. This went back and forth until I finally told him that he wasn’t the only expert and having another expert quoted would only enhance the article.  

Then I discovered that he was showing it to everyone who walked through the door.  I explained that it was unpublished material that was to be copyrighted and he couldn’t do that. This was not a peer-reviewed article. It was frustrating. The culmination was at a writer’s conference where he got drunk. One of my alleged colleagues barged over, pretended to be drunk, interrupted our conversation and proceeded to try to have him work with her instead of me.  That was charming.  Not.  Particularly after I had worked so hard teaching him the ropes. And this is just the Cliff Notes version. I finally decided he wasn’t worth any more of my time and effort. It left me with a bad taste in my mouth for co-authors.
The next one was not a writer but wanted to write a book. She had already been through one co-author.  She was given my phone number by one of my colleagues whom she had tracked down and cold called. It sounded like an interesting project so I agreed. I interviewed her and someone she asked me to interview for the book. I worked hard on the proposal, which, of course had to include sample chapters. I tried every publisher. One was close, but wanted me but not the other person because they knew me but not her. I refused because it was her idea. It would be unethical to take her idea and leave her in the dust. Ultimately, I told her to keep the proposal. I was not paid for that work, my time, or all of the mailing and printing costs to get the proposal to acquisitions editors. Ultimately, the book was published. Perhaps the co-author used the connections she never wanted to use. It was a bad deal for me. What started as a decent working relationship turned into frustration.
And then came the double-header. It was several years after the last co-author experience. The business had changed with so many self-published books and online sites. There were few magazines and fewer book contracts from publishers. People were self-publishing. I needed money to feed my Chartreux (I share her penchant for eating), keep a roof over our heads, gas in the car, etc. An editor in the U.K. had asked me to do a wfh dog book after I was recommended by a colleague. I turned it down. By the time he came back to me with the cat version of the Coffee Table Book, I needed the pitifully small paycheck.
I didn’t think there would be a problem. The book would have a U.K. slant although it would be available in the U.S. and other countries. I assumed that there would be just as much information about cat breeds and cat shows in the U.K. online as there is in the U.S.  Well, you know what they say about the word “assume.” 
Most of the book was easily researched with permission from two major cat registries. Permission was obtained from the U.K.’s major registry as well but unlike their counterparts in the U.S. there was no detailed information on the cat breeds. That was fine until I came to the breeds with which I’m totally unfamiliar but are shown in the U.K.  Then I couldn’t find the information about how the shows were run there.
A book that should have been so easy to write was now becoming a problem and I had a deadline looming. The editor, however, was wonderful.  I asked him if I could bring in a U.K. colleague to write the parts for which I had no resources. He agreed.  I quickly e-mailed Nick Mays and explained the situation and asked if he wanted to come on board. Nick is very busy writing, editing and judging shows but he agreed. I heaved a sigh of relief. This time, I was the one who was seeking the co-author. Nick could not have been better. He adapted to my writing style, worked quickly and well and could not have been nicer. In case you’re wondering, his payment came out of my payment. I will never see another penny from the book. There was enough money to pay part of one bill and it’s long gone.  But it was here when I needed it.
Beautiful Cats goes on sale at the end of March, 2014. The writing is secondary to the photographs, which was proven by the first pre-publication review; the authors were never mentioned.

Darlene's Five Tips for Working with a Co-Author

  • Be sure you can get along and that the other person is open to changes.
  • Get everything in writing up front.
  • Either you each have an agent or agree to one agent who will work on the contract, especially if you’re doing a 50/50 split of payment & royalties.
  • If both can’t agree, decide up front who will have the final say.
  • Decide up front if one or both will pay for the proposal copies, folders and mailing.

Darlene Arden is an award-winning writer and author. Arden, a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, lectures widely on wellness for pets including, behavior, training, and nutrition She is also an experienced television producer/host, and a lively guest expert on various radio and television programs and a popular and much acclaimed speaker. Her book, the award-winning, “The Complete Cat’s Meow,” is being followed by her first coffee table book, “Beautiful Cats.” Her dog books include, “Small Dogs, Big Hearts,” and her behavior book, “Rover, Get Off Her Leg!”

A member of The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a former director of the Cat Writers’ Association, former member and board member of Dog Writers’ Association of America, Inc., one of the few layperson members of The American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians, and a member of Boston Authors, among her numerous awards are the CWA Muse Medallion, and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals/American Humane Education Society’s Media Award for veterinary writing and animal welfare. 

You can find Darlene Arden online at her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Novel Settings - Beyond Geography

by Sheila Webster Boneham

Setting is an essential part of many mysteries, as well as other types of fiction. Some settings are important enough to be regarded as "characters" of a sort – Tony Hillerman’s Southwest, John Connolly’s Maine, J.A. Jance’s Arizona and Seattle, Carl Hiassen’s Florida – well, I could go on for pages!

My own mystery Animals in Focus mystery series featuring 50-something animal photographer Janet MacPhail, her Australian Shepherd Jay, and her orange tabby Leo, occupies a number of settings, if you will. Some of these might be unnecessary in a stand-alone novel, but because this a series with an “accidental” amateur sleuth, several series sub-plots weave through the stories, and each has what I call a “sub-setting.”

Downtown Fort Wayne at night.
The major setting is, of course, geographical: Janet lives in Fort Wayne and gets around to other parts of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. I chose the area partly because I grew up there and know it well, and partly because it is a beautiful part of the country that often gets short shrift from outsiders who think all of Indiana is the fairly flat stretch of farmland from just west of Toledo to just east of Chicago. To dispel the "nothing but corn, beans, and steel mills" stereotype, I send my protagonist, Janet MacPhail, to the lakes, rivers, forests, and ravines of the state as well as the cities, small towns, and occasional quirky attractions. (Seriously, have you ever been to a pickle festival?) She also gets around her hometown a lot, and spends her time and money in local small businesses like The Firefly Coffee House and The Cookie Cottage (real places and worth a visit!).

The sit-stay in an obedience trial.
The series is also set in the world of canine and feline competitions, training, and other activities. Drop Dead on Recall (2012), the first book, opens when a competitor keels over during the “drop on recall” exercise in an obedience trial, and much of the action takes place in “doggy” settings. I have been involved in that world for more than two decades as a competitor, breeder, rescuer, instructor, judge, and writer, so it’s a setting I know well. Even better, it’s populated with all manner of characters, with and without fur.

My Lab, Annie (1993-2006), doing what retrievers do!

Book two, The Money Bird (2013), finds Janet and Jay at retriever training sessions with Janet's friend Tom and his Labrador Retriever, Drake. Catwalk (forthcoming fall 2014) takes us to canine and feline agility rings and a cat show. Janet's cat, Leo, finally gets his due!

Please note – although I don’t mind an occasional talking critter (Carole Nelson Douglas’ Midnight Louie is one of my favorites!), the animals in my books are as realistic as I can make them. They don’t talk, and we don’t get into their heads except through their behaviors (although personally I would give a lot for five minutes inside a dog’s, cat’s, or horse’s mind!). I just happen to think animals are far more interesting as animals than as “fur people.”

Finally, Janet’s mother is wrestling with dementia, and Janet has to meet that challenge with a lot of help from her new friend Tom Saunders and a little less help from her brother, Bill. So the third setting in which Janet spends some time is the Shadetree Retirement Home, complete with therapy cat  and dog, and a garden therapy program. 

Each setting is a little world of its own, but they overlap and provide a textured background in which the series can play out. 

For more information about the Animals in Focus mysteries, and the series, please visit my website Mysteries Page, and for immediate news join me on Facebook or Twitter.

Autographed copies of Drop Dead on Recall, The Money Bird, and my nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters, from Pomegranate Books. 

Also available from your favorite bookseller (think Indie!) and online: Paperback and Kindle editions HERE
Audible editions HERE

Sheila Webster Boneham writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She started this blog as a way to bring readers and authors together over all sorts of writing that involves animals in some way. Learn more at Sheila's Website