Dogs and cats

Using Animals To Promote Plot and Theme

DJ Adamson.

My guest is D.J. Adamson, an award-winning author who has recently released her noir mystery novel Admit to Mayhem.  Her family roots grow deep in the Midwest where she sets much of her work. She juggles her time between her own desk and teaching others writing at two Los Angeles Colleges. Today she’s going to talk about how to use animals in your stories to reveal character and theme.

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I remember Stephen King once saying that if you were writing horror, you need to put a dog or child into the plot because the vulnerability of someone innocent creates horror without a need for a lot of words or description. In his novella Secret Window, the protagonist finds his dog on his doorstep, killed. Horrible! Immediately the reader feels the protagonist is threatened by someone evil. And the reader is waiting for the next horrible act. Blake Synder’s book Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need picks up on another animal use. Synder states that if the character does something nice, like saving a cat, then the character is immediately endeared to the reader. By the way, I think the Cohen Brother’s offered a giggle to Synder’s book by having their character in Inside Llewyn Davis literally save a cat and carry it around most of the movie. A joke the audience may not have gotten, but those of us who write immediately understood.

I use a cat in my novel Admit to Mayhem, a Lillian Dove Mystery series to do both what King and Synder suggest. I want the use of Bacardi to say something about my protagonist:

Cat Bacardi’s my cat, named for his brown and yellow coloring and my first drinking preference of rum and Coke. At the age of twelve, if you add enough cola, you forget all about the sweet tang of rum. Plus, Bacardi’s hair frizzed out from his body as if he’d stuck his claw in a light socket. When my hair was shorter, I’d woken up many a morning with that same look.

My protagonist Lillian Dove is a recovered alcoholic with a 5 year sobriety; however, sobriety is not a dominate theme in the book. This is not another novel about a protagonist that cannot keep sober (be it alcohol or drugs). Instead, Lillian’s objective in the novel and series is to take on life anew, with all its emotional, behavioral, and mystery challenges. With the description and affinity to her pet, I wanted the reader to get a feel for Lillian’s troubling past without doing a lot of backstory.

The overall plot of the novel begins when Lillian discovers a house fire and she becomes the only eyewitness to criminal arson. She is in jeopardy from someone who wants to stop her from identifying them. The plot is paced with events to create Lillian’s angst, but again, I wanted to offer my reader the vicarious ability to feel her anxiety and fear. So, I put Bacardi in jeopardy:

        It came to me then what was missing.

       “Where’s Bacardi? Bacardi’s missing.”

        “Who?”

        “My cat.” I got down on my hands and knees and looked under the couch. Dust bunnies but no Bacardi. “Bacardi, where are you?” …I got in my car and drove one block after another, up one street and then the next, calling his name out into the night… “Bacardi?” I followed behind them, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.”

        When I did get back to the condo, I couldn’t stay still. I searched each and every cranny I could think where he might possibly have crawled. Then I went back outside.

        I went without the Mustang this time. I walked and walked and walked the night away, calling.

        Several cats answered my calls. They patted quietly up to me purring as they rubbed against my legs. Others merely meowed back a hello. None were Bacardi. I know Bacardi’s yowl. It wasn’t until I came dragging back to the condo, exhausted, with a voice hoarse and feelings of failure that I allowed myself to truly take in the idea, “What if he never comes back? What if something bad happened to him?”

        Pike?

Pike is the major antagonist, and while Lillian may be threatened by Pike, and her mother may be threatened, having him possibly taken Bacardi is almost more than she can emotionally handle.

My novel is an amateur-sleuth novel which I classify as a soft-edged Midwest Noir. But no matter whether a writer is developing a conventional mystery, cozy, thriller or horror novel, the use of animals can help offer themes and provide movement of plot.

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Mayhem

 

With a contrary attitude to life and an addiction for independence, Lillian Dove admits she has not been a success in life. In fact, she considers failing as one of her addictions. Yet, when she comes across a suspicious house fire with a history of arson and murder, she instinctively attempts to help someone trapped. Lillian becomes the only possible eyewitness to criminal arson, and her life begins to spiral out of control.

 

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You can get Admit To Mayhem at:

http://www.amazon.com/Admit-Mayhem-Lillian-Dove-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00N1L0RVC/

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To learn more DJ and her books, go to:

Website:  http://djadamson.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/D-J-Adamson/154012774648993?ref=hl

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/@adamson_dj

Categories: animals, Cats, Mystery, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Fat Cats and Dead Bodies

Janet Cantrell

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Ready for some dessert bars combined with mystery? My guest today is Kaye George, AKA Janet Cantrell, Agatha nominated mystery novelist and short story writer. Her cozy Fat Cat mystery series debuted yesterday! with FAT CAT AT LARGE, featuring Quincy, a pudgy, adorable feline. An accomplished escape artist, especially when he’s on a diet and hungry, Quincy leads his human, Chase, co-owner of a Minneapolis dessert bar shop, into serious trouble.

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What prompted you to write Fat Cat?

The basis of this plot was the idea of my editor at Berkley Prime Crime, Danielle Stockley. I took to it right away, since I’ve had many beloved cats, some of them on the chubby side. Also, the series was to take place in Minneapolis, a place where I loved living.

Do you like to bake as much as your heroine does?

I won’t say I bake like Charity Oliver does. Chase bakes a lot! She co-owns a dessert bar shop, after all, so it’s her livelihood. But I do love baking. I’m not adventurous and usually follow recipes, but writing this series has encouraged me to try things I otherwise wouldn’t, since each book includes a dessert bar recipe. (Also a healthy cat treat recipe.) I will say that I prefer baking to cooking. Unfortunately, I like to eat what I bake, and definitely don’t need to eat a lot of dessert bars!

How do you develop your stories?

I’ve settled on my own method for my last several books, based on a combination of several classes I’ve taken from Kris Neri, Mary Buckham, and Margie Lawson. These aid in developing the main characters and the story of the crime. When I start writing, I use a spreadsheet I’ve developed that works for me. I keep track of my characters, hair and eye color, what car they drive, mannerisms, etc. on one sheet. I put the timeline with major plot events on another, then fill in details as I’m writing them. I like to color code themes and suspects. I can tell at a glance which subplots or characters I’m leaving out for too long—or dwelling on for too long.

If you were a color, which one would you be?

I hate to say blue, because that sounds sad. But I think blue is very nice, the color of the sky and water. Because my eyes are blue-ish, I like to wear blue to make them look more so. Otherwise they just look muddy gray. But blue is soothing and smooth and I’d like to be smooth and calm all the time!

What’s your next project?

I’ve finished up book two, Fat Cat Spreads Out, and am awaiting the edits on it while I start in on book three, as yet untitled. I’m also polishing Requiem for Red, which is the sequel to the Cressa Carraway book, Eine Kleine Murder. On the short story front, I’ll have stories in Murder on Wheels (being published by Wildside Press) and Memphis Noir (pubbed by Akashic Noir) in 2015. Choke, my first Imogene Duckworthy book, is now being offered as part of a boxed set of humorous mysteries, so that’s not a new project, but a new packaging. The audio recordings of the next two, Smoke and Broke, will be done by the end of the year.

Coffee or tea? Beer or wine? Sweet or tart?

Tea and wine (although Scotch would be better). And definitely sweet!

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FAT CAT AT LARGE coverWhen she’s not dreaming up irresistible dessert bars for her Minneapolis treatery, Bar None, Charity “Chase” Oliver is running after her cat, Quincy—a tubby tabby with a gift for sniffing out edibles. But what happens when this cat burglar leads Chase to the scene of a real crime?

The jig is up for Chase’s adorable plus-size cat, Quincy. His new vet says “diet”—that means no more cherry cheesecake bars. From now on he gets low-calorie kibble only. But one taste of the stuff is all it takes to drive him in search of better things. Quincy’s escape is the last thing Chase needs after the nasty run-in she has with underhanded business rival Gabe Naughtly.

Chase tracks Quincy down in a neighbor’s kitchen, where he’s devouring a meatloaf, unaware of the much more serious crime he’s stumbled upon. Gabe’s corpse is lying on the kitchen floor, and when Chase is discovered at the murder scene, she becomes suspect number one. Now, with a little help from her friends—both human and feline—she’ll have to catch the real killer or wind up behind bars that aren’t so sweet.

INCLUDES RECIPES FOR PEOPLE AND CATS!

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The wooden floor planks creaked as she tiptoed across the living room. Chase flinched with each footfall, her nape hairs prickling. No one appeared at the top of the stairs to her right, yelling at her to get out, so she kept going. She hoped Quincy was in the kitchen, where the food was. If not, she would have to think about exploring further. Quincy could be crouched inside an empty room, scared. For all his fierce bravado, he was a small animal, and vulnerable in so many ways. What if this household owned a pit bull? Or a mastiff? She almost whimpered aloud thinking about it.

Chase braced herself with a deep breath, inhaling another whiff of the delicious aroma, and peeked around the corner into the kitchen. Sure enough, Quincy sat on the counter, devouring the meatloaf. But what caught Chase’s attention was the man, lying on his side on the floor beside some scraps of paper, his back to her. She knew him.

She breathed his name. “Gabe? Gabe?”

Quincy turned his head toward her and blinked his gorgeous amber eyes, then returned to his task. Gabe must be injured, she thought. She knelt and shook his stiff shoulder. No response. She rolled him onto his back. Gasped. A steak knife was stuck in his chest. That couldn’t be good! She reached toward the handle to pull out the knife, touched it, then hesitated, and started to draw her hand back.

A soft voice from the doorway said, “What have you done?”

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You can find FAT CAT AT LARGE at:

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fat-cat-at-large-janet-cantrell/1118663280?ean=9780425267424
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Cat-At-Large-Mystery/dp/0425267423/

Learn more about Kaye/Janet by joining her:

website: http://janetcantrell01.wix.com/fat-cat-mysteries
blog: http://janetcantrell.blogspot.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janet.cantrell.167
goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7855179.Janet_Cantrell

 

Categories: animals, anthologies, Books, Cats, cozy mysteries, Mystery, Short story, writing | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Cathy Perkins

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Cathy Perkins.

My guest this week is the award-winning author Cathy Perkins. Using her background in the financial industry, she writes predominately financial-based mysteries, while also exploring her characters’ relationships. Her most recent book, CYPHER, released this month and is currently on sale for .99 on Amazon.

When not writing, Cathy can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. A native of South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

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So Cathy, if you were an animal, what kind would you be?

Oh, I’d definitely want to be one of our dogs.  We aren’t sure if our dogs are part of the family or if we’re part of their pack, but the result is the same—one big happy unit. The Lab and the Puppy hang out in my office during the day, snoozing on giant beds, gnawing on marrow-packed bones, and placing their heads on my thigh to claim pats and back scratches. (If ignored because I’m paying too much attention to that small box, aka the computer, they’ll lift my hand off the keyboard with their nose.) On weekends, we’re all in the mountains at our place on the river, which our kids and their friends—along with all the family animals—have dubbed Best Dog Park Ever.

Can I join your pack. Sounds wonderful.

What’s your favorite dessert?

Ice cream is my weakness, with Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie way up there in the deliciousness register. I will venture out of the strictly chocolate category for Cherry Garcia.

I knew we were kindred spirits. Cherry Garcia is my downfall too.

What’s your favorite room in your house?

My favorite room is actually the main room of our small weekend place in the mountains. The cabin has wonderful views of the river and surrounding mountains. It’s cozy with a fireplace for the winter and windows all around to let in delightful breezes and the sound of the river and songbirds the rest of the year. Heavenly! It’s compact, but filled with carefully chosen furnishings. We really hate leaving on Monday mornings.

Sounds delightful. Can I visit?

How do you develop your stories?

Most of my stories start with a “what if?” Without giving away the plot and all the twists, my most recent release, CYPHER, starts with, What if a hitman killed the wrong person?

The “whys” line up from there—why was the killer sent to murder the heroine? Why wasn’t she home? Why was her friend there and mistaken for her? The characters grow and become three-dimensional as I think through the implications and how that character will react to events unfolding around him or her. In CYPHER, both Cara and David have to fight for what they really want, and each has to trust the other, something that doesn’t come easily for them.

Because I love tightly plotted stories that twist and turn, I generally outline the major story lines. I’m always surprised when I finish the first draft and find small setups and details that my subconscious added. During edits, I weave these bits into the story to build out a suspect or enhance a theme.

Can’t wait to read it.

What’s your next project?

I’m working on a lighter story right now, set in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state instead of South Carolina (where my other stories are set). The starting point for my WIP occurred while cutting up with a friend. We riffed off the opening—there’s a body in the beaver pond. Oh, dam(n).

Oh my, watch out for those beaver ponds!

What types of books do you like to read?

I’m a voracious reader. Mysteries, thrillers and suspense are my ‘go-to’ stories, but I also enjoy literary, fantasy… I’ve been on a women’s fiction binge lately. So many of those stories delve deeply into relationships.

My stories are predominately mystery/suspense, but I tend to make them more character-driven than strictly action-oriented. I enjoy the way the characters’ internal conflicts play into the external plot, raising the tension and the stakes when it’s personal.

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Cypher

Cara Wainwright thinks life can’t get tougher when her mother’s cancer becomes terminal—until she returns home from the hospital and finds a courtyard full of police officers and her houseguests dead.

Greenville, SC Detective David Morris, is unsure if Cara is the suspect or the intended murder victim. Searching for insight into her family, their mounting secrets, and the conflicting evidence from multiple crimes, his attraction to Cara complicates his investigation. Is the lure need, manipulation—or real?

While David pursues forensic evidence, Cara pushes for answers about her father’s possible involvement, for at the center of the mystery stands Cypher—the company her father built and will take any measures to defend.

When the assassin strikes at the heart of the family, Cara and David have to trust each other and work together to stop the killer before he eliminates the entire Wainwright dynasty.

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“This took place in your home. Is someone trying to hurt you?”

She met his eyes. “I don’t know.”

He waited for more.

Her hands rose and fell in a frustrated gesture. “Don’t you think I’ve asked myself that a thousand times? Ever since it happened, I’ve asked why? Was it random? Were they after me? One of them?” A flush climbed her cheeks, but her eyes didn’t waver. “Natalie looks a lot like me. She was in my bed.”

She stopped, her lips pressed tightly together. He was intently aware of her—how she held her head, her hands. The way she stood and sat. He didn’t want to be aware of her on that level, knew it couldn’t go anywhere. He also recognized the sensation wasn’t going to go away.

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Your can get CYPHER at the following sites:

Amazon               http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MMLX1ZQ
B&N                    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cypher-cathy-perkins/1120110911
Kobo                    http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/cypher-1

You can contact Cathy at:

Facebook            https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCathyPerkins
Twitter                 @cperkinswrites
website              http://cperkinswrites.com
Goodreads         http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5367341.Cathy_Perkins
G+                     https://plus.google.com/u/0/+CathyPerkins/

Categories: adventure, animals, Books, dogs, Mystery, nature, outdoors, romance, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Judy Alter

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Judy AMy guest this week is Judy Alter, author of the Kelly O’Connell mysteries and the Blue Plate Cafe mysteries. She has authored over sixty! books for adults and children, many of them about women in the American West. Today she answers questions and tells a little about her life and writing.

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If you were an animal, what kind would you be?

If I was an animal, I’d like to be a dog—well cared for, of course, not homeless or in the fight pit. Dogs embody so many qualities that humans sometimes need more of—loyalty, unconditional love, protectiveness. I’ve had dogs—sometimes three or four at a time—all my life, and I don’t think I could live without one. It surprises me that they don’t play a major role in my fiction.

Who are the important people in your life? Have they influenced your writing?

The important people in my life are my four grown children, their spouses, and my seven grandchildren. Over the years they have been my cheer team, leading me always to try to do better. Also, their antics have supplied me with material. My oldest daughter said of one of my books, “It’s highly autobiographical.” And of course they’re a big part of my cookbook/memoir: Cooking My Way Through life With Kids and Books.

What’s your favorite room in your house?

My favorite room in my house is my office. I hate to admit to being a computer addict, but I am—it’s the first place I go in the morning and the last place at night. If I’m doing chores around the house, after an hour or so I think I better check my computer. When I eat alone (and I often do), I eat at my computer. My dog has her favorite (filthy) chair in there and keeps me company.

What is your writing process?

My writing process is haphazard at best. When I finish a novel, I go through a brief period of agony wondering what to do next. Then an idea begins to rattle around in my head, and after a week or so I make rough notes. It may be another week or two before I type those first words—they have to come to me as inspiration—but then I’m off and writing, with a goal of 1,000 words a day. My notes are rough enough that you’d definitely call me a pantser. I also don’t have a regular writing time but mornings mostly go to errands and busy work—at my desk or around the house—and I do my best writing after supper. During the school year I keep one of my grandsons after school, and we do homework.

What’s your next project?

My next project is to continue working on my marketing plan for The Perfect Coed, which launches mid October as my first indie published work. I’ve made a good start on advance buzz but have to keep it up. Ideas for the sequel are at the rattling around in my head stage.

What prompted you to write your books?

The reason I write cozy mysteries is because I enjoy reading them. They make up the bulk of my pleasure reading, though, often when a review is assigned, I read women’s fiction and memoir and historical fiction and nonfiction.

 

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Deception in Strange Places

DECEPTION-JALTER-mdA Kelly O’Connell Mystery, Book 5

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A woman desperately seeking her biological mother, a televangelist determined to thwart that search, a hired hit man, and in the midst of it all, a reclusive diva who wears Chinese silk gowns and collects antique Chinese porcelain. No one is telling the whole truth, and Kelly doesn’t know who to trust. She has gotten herself involved in a dangerous emotional tangle, and Mike doesn’t tell her to back off this time, even when events take them from Fort Worth to San Antonio.

 

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“Someone’s trying to kill Ms. Lorna,” Keisha said calmly, never lifting her eyes from the keyboard.

It was not yet nine o’clock on an early September morning, and I had just delivered my two daughters to school—Maggie is now in middle school, but Em is still at the local elementary school. I was not in the mood to talk about killing and possible murders. The idea that someone was trying to kill our neighborhood diva/recluse seemed impossible, and I didn’t want to think about it. I wanted coffee. “Did you say the coffee’s ready?”

“Kelly O’Connell! You know darn good and well what I said. Someone’s trying to kill Ms. Lorna.” Now she had raised her eyes and was staring at me, a bit defiantly.

I sighed. “And you know this how? Your sixth sense?” Keisha really does have the sixth sense—it’s saved my life a couple of times. But I get a bit weary of her parading that sixth sense for everything. I like to tell myself I’m grounded in reality. My husband, Mike, would scoff at that but I don’t tell him.

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Find Judy’s books at:

http://www.amazon.com/Deception-Strange-Places-OConnell-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00M74AV6A

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Alter/e/B001H6NMU6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1377217817&sr=1-2-ent

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/462168

Turquoise Morning Press: http://www.turquoisemorningpressbookstore.com/search?q=Judy+Alter

 

Learn more about Judy at:

Web page: http://www.judyalter.com
Blogs: http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com; http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857
Twitter: @judyalter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5446.Judy_Alter

 

Categories: Books, cozy mysteries, dogs, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments

Living With Animals

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Jennifer Skully author photoMy guest today is the wonderful Jasmine Haynes, AKA Jennifer Skully. She does such a great job introducing herself, I’m just going to let her take it away.

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Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Kate! It’s a pleasure!

Just to let all you of you know who I am, I write humorous romantic mysteries as Jennifer Skully and classy, sexy romances as Jasmine Haynes. I love to include animals in my stories. My latest book, Can’t Forget You (by Jennifer Skully), features a lovable dog named Samson. He grew on me to the point that I had to give him his own voice in the story! In Somebody’s Ex (by Jasmine Haynes), Randi Andersen has a Norwegian Elkhound just like my very own dog, Star. And in another of my Jennifer Skully books, It Must Be Magic, my heroine talks to animals, with a special affinity for cats.

I could go on and on, but I really wanted to talk to you about living with animals, the great joy as well as the trials and tribulations. I have always lived with animals, from dogs and cats, hamsters, gerbils, birds, rabbits, fish, and a husband. Oh wait! He doesn’t count as a pet, does he! For the last 18 years, we’ve lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains, so we’ve had lots of feral cats adopt us, too.

For the most part, we’ve had cats. Over the years we’ve been home to many (not all at the same time, of course!): Buddy, Gort (so named because my husband and I love the old movie The Day the Earth Stood Still and Gort was the robot), Louis (she was named for Louis Leakey because she liked to sleep in what we called the Olduvai Gorge between my husband and I at night), Boneyard (because she was starved and all skin and bones when she came to us), Eddie (who was named for Eddie Munster because he truly terrorized his sisters Louis and Boneyard), CT (short for Crooked Tail because she had a big bend in her tail), and Whitey (because he’s black and we had to differentiate him from CT who was also black). And of course, there was wonderful Star, our Norwegian Elkhound.CT Sun Cat 1

I love my animals to sleep with me and stay in my office beside me while I do my work. And when I’m outside on the deck or in the atrium writing on my word processor, I love to have them out there with me, too. There’s just something so calming about a furry friend right near you. Of course, they can be a nuisance, too. Eddie Munster was such a cool cat to human beings, but he terrorized Louis and Boneyard. We have very high ceilings with rafters, and Boneyard sat up on a rafter so that Eddie couldn’t get her. Or she’d climb up my clothes in the closet and sit on the highest shelf. Louis couldn’t take it unfortunately and she ran away. Eddie and Star tolerated each other, except the time Star was sleeping with me on the couch, and Eddie walked right over her as if she were part of the sofa. That didn’t go over well, let me tell you. But no matter the nuisance they are, they always give you so much love. Star was such a sweet dog. She loved to walk with me in the redwood park, and she was always with me wherever I was in the house. And of course she slept on the bed along with the cats. Sometimes, I’d have a cat at my back, one at my knees, and Star in the middle between my husband and I (she liked the Olduvai Gorge, too).

The unfortunate thing about living in the mountains is that we have a lot of predators. We tried to keep them inside, but the cats wanted to be outside during the day, sleeping on the deck in the sunshine, even visiting the neighbors. My neighbor built a pass-through in the fence so the cats could sleep on her deck, too. Of course we always brought them in at night. But eventually we lost Buddy and Gort to the wild creatures. Louis came to live with us, but Eddie drove her out. I wonder if there’s a moral there, maybe 3 cats are too many. Or maybe you shouldn’t mix male and female. Boneyard wouldn’t come in one night when I called her, and we lost her, too. Eddie died 3 years later of stomach cancer. On a cold winter’s night shortly after Eddie passed on, CT moved inside. She was a smart little thing and knew how to steer clear of predators. She was a stray, but not feral, and was always very friendly to us. We have a flat roof and she slept up there so the coyotes couldn’t find her. Once she moved inside, she and Star were very companionable, sleeping on the bed together. She was a dream cat. I didn’t even need a cat box because she was like a dog and I let her out to go to the bathroom.

Jan 09 download 053Then tragedy struck and our Star died very suddenly. She had a brain tumor which literally took her in 4 days. We had no clue. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her. Although later the vet said that she’d been walking on her toes, which was a symptom. But it was a terrible shock. I don’t think I would have gotten through it if CT hadn’t been living with us and given us all her love and healing powers. She gave us another wonderful year and a half after that, but then she succumbed to intestinal cancer. My husband and I gave her subcutaneous fluids and put her on steroids, but alas, there was nothing we could do to save her.

After losing CT a year and a half ago, my husband and I decided we could no longer have animals. It’s too painful to lose them. Six cats and a dog was too much for us to take. We decided we’d have our little feral cat Whitey and that was it. Whitey loves our food and our deck, but he doesn’t love us. He won’t get within more than about 10 feet. And that’s after 5 years of coming 2 to 3 times a day for food. A year and a half with no loving animals in the house! Oh wait, we babysit my sister’s dog Elvis. He’s the cutest poodle. But still, he wasn’t ours. Still, we kept saying we just couldn’t stand the heartbreak again.

WrigleySo who do you think caved first? My husband! He’s such a softie. He dragged me to the SPCA. And there we found Wrigley (so named because she likes to wriggle around on the carpet, rolling all over and begging us to scratch her tummy). She was 7 months old when we got her, and 5 months later, she’s the darling of our lives. She sleeps with us, she lays on my desk while I’m working, and sits under my chair in the atrium. I do wish we could teach her to go outside to use the bathroom like CT, but so far, we’re keeping the cat box. The atrium is an enclosed area where no predators can get to her, but she still gets the sun. Gort used to be able to climb out of the atrium, but I’m hoping Wrigley won’t figure that out. Besides, to her, the atrium is huge after having lived in a tiny box for the first 7 months of her life. She’s adorable.

So the message of this long story is that despite the inevitable loss of our beloved pets, they bring so much joy and love into our lives. Despite the fact that I’ll have to go through the pain again, it’s still worth everything to have them here with us right now, bringing the sunshine into our lives. In fact, my husband has a summer cold, and Wrigley’s right next to him on the bed giving him comfort.

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And here’s a look at Jennifer Skully’s latest, Can’t Forget You.

cantforgetyou_300There’s something very special about the house Maggie grew up in. It’s sort of…alive. With a mind of its own.

And it has plans for the people living there now.

All Maggie Halliday has left after the divorce is the family dog and the home her grandmother left to her when she passed away two months ago. Maggie’s got no other choice but to run back to her hometown of Cottonmouth, California, only to discover her high school sweetheart, Cooper Trubek, is living in the house, along with four other boarders for whom Maggie is now responsible. And according to Nana’s will, Maggie can’t kick any of them out.

Unless one of them commits murder.

Still grieving for her grandmother and trying fix up the house that seems to be falling down around her, Maggie’s got more trouble than she can handle. Then things go from bad to worse when Samson the dog starts digging in the basement…

 

Jasmine Haynes’s erotic romance Take Your Pleasure is free until the end of July on Kindle and most other retailers.

http://amzn.to/1kZ9es1

 

 

Categories: animals, Books, Cats, dogs, Dogs and cats, humorous mystery, Mystery, romance, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Snakes and Alligators and Frogs, Oh My!

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Ever had an alligator for a pet? How about a boa constrictor? My guest Susan Muller has had both and today she’s going to relate some of her adventures with exotic animals. Where do frogs fit into the picture? You’ll just have to read on to find out.

 

Susan Miuller.

Susan C. Muller is a fourth generation Texan who started her first novel at age eleven, but life got in the way and it wasn’t until many years later that she returned to that first love, writing.  Her novel, The Secrets on Forest Bend, has won several awards. The Witch on Twisted Oak was released in August, 2013, Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte in January, 2014, and Circle of Redemption in May, 2014.

She enjoys speaking to book clubs and writer’s groups and serves as president of her local RWA chapter.

Take it away Susan.
 

 

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Sorry, Kate, I’ve never owned a horse. But being from Texas I have been around them from time to time. I’ve even ridden a few. Of course, I always wanted one, but the expense, not to mention the time and effort, prevented me.

I have owned pets, though. And I’m not just talking dogs or cats, although I’ve had plenty of those. I don’t know what it is about boys–my daughter only had hamsters, gerbils, and kitties—but my son had a turtle named Mr. Turtle Green and a gold fish called Chicken Leg. I only realized last year that the poor fish got that name because he resembled, you guessed it, a chicken leg. Don’t know why it took me forty years to figure that out.

Later, my son got a baby alligator. Of course, alligators only eat live food. During the summer, my son held the flashlight while I caught teeny, tiny frogs and Al, the alligator, snapped them up. As the weather got cooler, the frogs grew too big and I had to improvise. I took a small cube of ground meet, tied a string around it, and jiggled it up and down in front of Al. After he clamped down on it, I had to get scissors and snip off the string hanging from the side of his mouth.

Later, as my son got older and Al had gone into hibernation for the last time, he talked his grandfather into buying him a boa constrictor. We named the snake Hercules because he was so strong. Snakes also only eat live food; generally white mice

Not all pet stores carry white mice or, even if they do, don’t necessarily have them when needed. So we got a large aquarium, put a cover on it, and bought two or three mice at a time.

Do you know what happens when you put two or three mice together? You get six or seven mice, and then twelve or fifteen. Many more mice than Hercules could eat in a month.

Hercules may have been strong, but he wasn’t the smartest snake in the world. The first time he tried to catch a mouse, he missed, injuring the roof of his mouth. Have you ever tried to find a vet who treats snakes? For a week, we had to swab the inside of his mouth with some stinky concoction. This was a two person job. My son held Herc, as we called him, and I swabbed with a Q-tip.

There have been many other pets over the years: a Great Dane and a Shih Tzu who were best friends, an Irish Setter who stole golf clubs and brought them home, a Weimaraner who got on the counter and ate only my regular cookies, forgoing my husband’s sugar-free ones, and a cat who roamed the neighborhood on garbage day, knocking the lids off cans until we had to buy several neighbors new cans with locking lids.

As I think about it, I might have saved money with a horse.

But, of all animals, I love dogs the best. When I needed someone to discover a body in my novel, The Witch on Twisted Oak, I picked a Border Collie. I even put the opening scene in her point of view. I thought I had come up with a brilliant new idea. Later I read Robert Crais’s best seller, Suspect, and realized there’s nothing new in the world.

Molly was only supposed to be in the first scene, but I fell in love with her and she became a major character in the story. Here’s an excerpt from The Witch on Twisted Oak featuring Molly and a cat named Bob who may or may not be a witch’s familiar.

Do you have a dog, or a cat, or a horse, or any other fur baby you love?

***********

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WitchonTwistedOak_850 (1)A powerful psychic is brutally murdered.  Secrets are revealed.  An old enemy is out for revenge.

Detective Ruben Marquez is thrust back into his childhood memories when he investigates a gruesome murder that occurs only feet from his mother’s home.  Is the killer somehow connected to his own past?  Is the beautiful, mysterious daughter of the victim, someone he can trust?  Or is her revelation that she’s a witch a sign he should stay clear.  But how can he, when it appears she’s next on the murderer’s to-do list.

In the ultimate test of courage, he uses himself as bait to protect all he holds dear . . . his career, his family, and the Witch on Twisted Oak.

 

**********

Molly had spent fifteen minutes searching for Bob (a cat) and never figured out he was hiding behind a curtain. She had finally given up and made do with checking out the litter box. She watched Ruben with innocent eyes, but a pyramid of kitty litter sat on top of her nose.

Mamacita stuck her head out of the bedroom door. “I’m going to bed now. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Tessa stepped out of the bathroom, her face damp and shiny clean, the last traces of make-up removed. Although why she bothered to wear any with that skin he wasn’t sure.

“Could you wait a few minutes?” she asked Mamacita. “I’d like to feed Bob in there where he won’t be worried about the dog. And he won’t eat if there’s anyone around.”

Ruben almost cheered. He couldn’t have arranged things any better. It was almost worth having the cat around. Almost.

It took ten minutes and the efforts of both he and Tessa to convince Bob to stay in the bedroom and Molly to stay out of it. The dog lay with her litter covered nose pressed against the one inch gap at the bottom of the door, occasionally letting out a pathetic wine.

Mamacita scooted as far down the sofa, away from Tessa, as she could get. The only difference in her actions and the cat’s was that her claws hadn’t come out. He looked again. Well, maybe they had.

**********

Amazon:  The Witch on Twisted Oak:   http://tinyurl.com/pat8l65

Amazon author page:   http://tinyurl.com/khohbla

Website:  http://www.susancmuller.com/

Twitter:  @SusanCMuller

Facebook: Susan C. Muller, Author

 

 

 

 

Categories: alligators, animals, boa constrictors, Dogs and cats, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 21 Comments

My Dope-y Cat

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Janis WilsonThis week’s  guest is Janis Wilson, who is working on her first novel.  GOULSTON STREET is a story of a woman’s attempt to solve the Jack the Ripper murders. Janis has a great deal of experience with the Ripper. She taught a class at Temple University entitled, “Who Was Jack the Ripper?” and has lectured on the Ripper. Last November, she was one of the delegates to the Jack the Ripper conference in Whitechapel. Go Janis!

Today she’s going to be talking about a much less gruesome topic—her Maine Coon cat, Loki.

 

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I had always wanted a solid black Maine Coon, the fluffy cat with the regal bearing. They are called gentle giants because of their pacific nature and their impressive size. We wanted a black one because I have always had and loved black cats. They seem mysterious and glamorous.

LokiSo it was a pleasant surprise when my husband and I, motoring from Virginia to Canada on vacation, happened to spot a classified ad for just such an animal at a price that people who vacation in their automobiles could afford.

The ad appeared in the Washington Post and, as we were not immediately shopping for a cat, it was just black cat luck that we happened to spot it. We phoned the owner just before we left Washington but did not connect.

In New York, we were able to get through and explained why we could not immediately come and purchase the kitten. We agreed to stay in touch with the owner and to meet up on our return trip.

And so, having seen plays on Broadway and at the Stratford (Toronto) Festival, we turned the car southward and started making calls. The kitty lived in Maryland and we made arrangements to meet the owner in a shopping center near the interstate.

The advertiser described the van she would be driving and we pulled into a spot beside it. I climbed into the van to meet the prospective new member of our family. We wanted a cat that would get along with our other two kitties. The kitten permitted me to pet him. To my astonishment, he sat in my lap as if we were old friends. I knew we had a winner. I climbed down and gave a full report to my husband. He entered the van and also was taken with the sweetness of the little black cat.

As we had not been on the hunt for a cat, we had no supplies. I walked into a discount store and purchased a carrier to ensure the kitten’s safe passage to Virginia. Meanwhile, my husband hit the ATM to get cash for the transaction.

I returned to the van with a fist full of cash and departed with a crate full of cat. It struck me that, with my out-of-state vehicle, and my repeated ingress and egress into a windowless van with a couple of hundred dollars in cash, an onlooker might think a big drug deal was in progress.

In fact, it may have been. For the kitten, whom we named Loki, gave us so much pleasure in the ensuing years, that he acted as a mild sedative.

********

Here’s an excerpt from Janis’s Work-In-Progress, GOULSTON STREET.

 

jacktheripper“Lord, she was drunk. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody as drunk as she was, sliding down the wall and all. Drunk as she was, she still agreed to come along and have another gin with me and to do whatever I could pay her to do. I didn’t give her the chance to do her filthy business. I made her do the paying – with her worthless life.

I put on my cloth cap and walked to the news agent’s to purchase the Daily News. I smiled as I read the headline that said “More Murders.” The article went on to say two women had been killed in one night. The first one was on Berner Street, but this was a surprise to me. Now they think I’m even quicker than I really am.

They should know the first one wasn’t done by me. I wouldn’t have left her guts inside her. They should know my work by now. I get a whore and cut her throat and pull out her insides and walk off with the other parts. No whore deserves to keep her guts, so I take ’em out. No, sir, I did not kill the Berner Street woman, but I am glad they think I did. I worked on the one found over by the Imperial Club. Wonder what her name was? Doesn’t matter. I got to kill another whore and get my arms into the bloody mess of her belly. I was inside her up to my elbows. Nothing is more thrilling than cutting out the womb. It was lovely and warm when I put it in my sack. I had to take it home. It was too dark out for me to admire it properly. Besides, someone came out of the club and I had to run like a maniac to get away safe.

Why do these whores keep coming out? Because they know they deserve to die and that I am here to help them do it. Whores don’t have the courage they need to throw themselves in the Thames, so I help them to stop being a scourge on the community. Help them with my knife. I help the whole city with my knife.

Wouldn’t my boss be surprised if he knew I am the one they call “Jack the Ripper.” Shows they think I am English, naming me Jack. Like the Union Jack. But if I were English I would have been better treated. No tolerance for foreigners in this country. Probably some newspaperman made up that name, but it is all right. Now I have a title and people will remember me better. They will never find me for I am quick and nimble. They should call me “Jack be nimble”, for I can pull bellies apart in the blink of an eye and get my work done quicker than they can say “Jack Robinson.”

With Scotland Yard thinking I fixed two in one night, the peelers will be everywhere. I will have to lie low until people’s blood cools down. I’ll wait until no one expects me anymore. The papers say somebody who goes by the name “Leather Apron” has done my deeds. That was good for a laugh. Let them arrest him and I’ll go to the hanging. I will keep an eye on the newspaper to see if they get any better ideas about who I am.

*************

Website: JanisWilson.com

Death Knell V

Catch Janis’s short story The Devil’s Triangle in the Death Knell V anthology put out by the Delaware Valley Mystery Authors.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Ripper Newspaper photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/bradford_timeline/6349438279/”>Bradford Timeline</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: anthologies, Cats, fear, history, Jack the Ripper, Maine Coon cats, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

My Therapist Barks

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GenieGabrielPhoto600Today my guest is Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel. Genie is an optimist whose rose-colored glasses have bent frames and cracked lenses. She writes about people who find courage and integrity in the darkest times of their lives, who rescue stray dogs and kittens, who find a person they would willingly give their lives for, and who make their little corners of the world a better place.

FREE BOOKS!
Genene is offering a free PDF copy of her most recent book, St. Batsy and the Time Machine, to 5 commenters!

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Raz150x174Love unconditionally. Dream big. Play with great seriousness. Bark at strangers and skateboards.

These are some of the lessons my dogs have come to teach me. I’m working on the first three, but think I’ll leave the barking to my herd of doggies.

Fur against my face and the soft smell of a dog curled protectively around me existed before my first memories of this life. My mom used to tell stories of me as a toddler, sleeping with my head pillowed on our Collie’s belly.

I grew up on a farm, and we always had a dog. I wanted a horse too, but was in high school before my dad gave in to my begging to have one. Do you think you can become addicted to the smell of a horse? To this day, even the memory of that sweet aroma totally relaxes me.

However, after graduation, I moved to the city to claim a job and my own life. A back yard isn’t the best place for a horse, but I could indulge my love for dogs. A small, mixed breed Lady became the first beloved companion in my adult life. She tried to teach me to choose my relationships wisely. Ah, if only I had listened to her. An ill-fitting marriage ending in divorce turned my focus back to dogs as companions.

Batman150x194I was almost forty years old when I discovered the joy of shelter dogs and living with more than one canine. The more time I spent with dogs, the more I learned.

When I began writing, dogs naturally turned up in my stories. My first novel, published as The Rock Star, featured a dog who turns on the coffee maker for his mistress and has an attitude similar to my first shelter dog, a Border Collie mix.

Two of my romantic comedy novellas also feature dogs inspired by canines who have shared my life. My latest book to be released in print, St. Batzy & the Time Machine, features a terrier with a penchant for misadventures. His attitude is quite similar to my own terrier, who views fences as something to try to dig under, jump over, or wiggle through.

Dogs will definitely continue to be strong characters in my writing. In fact, I will soon be publishing a book about my journey with dogs and how they have guided me through traumas and brought me face to face with sometimes uncomfortable truths. However, underlying all their actions is pure, unconditional love and the support to make our most precious dreams a reality.

Oh yes, and to play–no barking needed on my part!

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StBatzyCoverFront200An eccentric inventor is determined to reclaim his wayward time machine and save his beloved wife from her latest misadventure. If only they can travel safely past the black hole…
 

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When they were seated, he told Dorinda the story of how he and Maddie had met. How he loved her from the first moment, and never thought a woman as bold and brave would ever love him in return. “My Maddie still goes on grand adventures to change the world. I worry about her, but I’m so proud of her.”

Dorinda remained quiet for a few moments after Horace stopped talking, then said softly. “I would like to live in a world where there is plenty of food and women are allowed to follow their passions.”

In the next breath, she pushed out a sigh and stood. “’It is not productive to grumble about what cannot be. I will leave you to rest, and I have much to think about. Thank you for a look into the future. You have given me hope.”

“Let me accompany you back to the village.” Horace also rose.

However, Dorinda shook her head. “As an elfenchaun, I’ll be quite safe with the creatures of the forest.”

Still, Horace watched Dorinda from the entryway of the time machine until the trail of shimmering green faded into the night. Elfenchaun or not, he worried about the delicate creature who had shown him such kindness. Would she truly be forced to give up the life of relative freedom she had known and marry a man who would control her every move? He would not want to smother his Maddie’s bold spirit, even if it cost him days of worry when she was gone.

All the next day, Horace toiled under the watchful eye of Dorinda’s grandfather. As the light of day faded into twilight, the man shook Horace’s hand and presented him with a curved piece of metal to repair the time machine.

Though exhaustion threatened, the desire to return to the year 2011 and rescue his Maddie gave Horace the energy to drag the metal back through the forest and replace the damaged panel of the time machine.

As Horace gathered his tools and placed them back inside the time machine, he looked forward to seeing Maddie again. He walked the short distance to a small stream and splashed cool water over his face, any tiredness dripping away with the water that ran down his skin. Soon he would see his Maddie!

The short distance back to the time machine took only a few moments, yet Horace knew something was not as he left it. His steps slowed and he looked cautiously around, listening carefully for any clue to what might have happened in the moments he had been gone.

A moan near his feet was all that prevented him from stepping on a tiny crumpled body on the ground. “Dorinda?”

He bent over the little elfenchaun, stunned by the pallor of her face and the broken remnants of her iridescent wings. “What happened?”

“Over here! I saw her fly this way.” Strident shouts tore the peace of the night to tatters as lanterns bobbed closer and closer.

Adrenaline surged through Horace. As carefully as possible, he lifted Dorinda and carried her into the time machine. Laying her on a pad next to Batzy, Horace locked the door panel and started the sequence for the reactor. “Clement, can you give us a boost to get us out of here?”

“Thank the heavens!” Maddie appeared on the monitor beside Horace’s cousin.

Clement’s fingers flew over the computer keyboard. “What took you so long to make repairs?”

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Print version of St. Batzy plus Genie’s other books on:  http://tinyurl.com/mozwtzd

ebook version of St. Batzy also available at Rogue Phoenix Press:  http://tinyurl.com/mwzuj4v

Categories: animals, dogs, healing, Horses, Paranormal, Relationships, romance, Romantic suspense, suspense, Time travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

Hunting—with Horses—not Guns

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small_210455752Man has used horses for many tasks throughout history—pulling plows, wagons and chariots, carrying loads on their backs, traveling long distances, and even hunting other animals. In fact hunting was probably one of the first uses of our equine companions. Their speed increased the chances of catching the faster prey and allowed the hunters to cover more ground. Almost everyone has seen the exciting buffalo hunt in the movie Dances With Wolves that vividly illustrated their importance to the American Plains Indians.

Riding in a hunt was dangerous and exciting. Who knew what might happen. A rider could get knocked off, a horse could trip and fall, or a prey such as a wild boar or bear could turn the tables and attack. It was a great way for warriors to hone their skills and horsemanship. As a result, hunting became a favorite pastime of the noble and wealthy.

Of course the basic purpose was to supply meat for the table or to get rid of unwanted intruders that threasmall__6465633813tened crops and livestock. One such pest was the wily fox, which found farmyard poultry easy pickings. While farmers could use dogs to track, the foxes were smart enough to backtrack and confuse their trails and lose their pursuers with relative ease. At that point a human was needed to redirect the hounds, and only someone on horseback could keep up with the chase. (Foxes can run up to thirty miles an hour.) As forests were cut down to create arable land, the number of deer decreased, causing enthusiastic hunters to switch to chasing foxes instead, particularly in Great Britain.

A whole culture developed around fox hunting in England, dictating what to wear, who could be part of a hunt, where you rode in the group and many other niceties. The most important member is the Master of the Hunt, who runs the whole show. He’s responsible for the care of the hounds, organizing the hunt and supervising all hired personnel. Often he also serves as the Huntsman, the one who controls the hounds during the chase. His assistants are the Whippers-In and they help make sure the hounds don’t go off chasismall_3137633691ng some other animal rather than the fox. Traditionally, male members of the hunt could wear red coats (often known as “pinks” for some unknown reason), while women wore black or navy coats with colored collars. Only members who have been “honored” by the Master are allowed to wear these colors. Everyone else wears black or navy.

While the original idea of fox hunting was a way to help eradicate a notorious pest, that rational is less valid today. In England, hunting and killing a real fox has now been outlawed. In the US, the emphasis has always been on the chase and foxes were rarely killed. Nowadays instead of pursuing real animals, most often the hounds and riders follow a scent trail laid down by someone dragging a bag smelling of fox. The “first field” of riders follows the trail exactly, going over all the obstacles. The “second field,” sometimes called Hilltoppers, takes an easier route, going through rather than over gates, and going around other obstacles, and sometimes stopping to watch the other riders from atop a hill.

Running full bore across uneven terrain, jumping ditches, hedges, streams, fences and other obstructions is a thrill that’s hard to beat. While the original rational for fox hunting may be long gone, the appeal of the chase will never fade.

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Buffalo photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/l67cwka
Old print photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/mxc2fpx
Fox hunt photo credit:  http://tinyurl.com/m8mrjkm
Categories: dogs, fox hunting, Horses, hounds, hunting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Christmas Fling

Beth-Barany_360by270-cropped.

My guest today is Beth Barany, author of a brand new Christmas novella, A Christmas Fling. Based in Oakland, California, Beth writes magical tales of romance and adventure.  She’s also a writing coach, helping other writers realize their dreams.

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Kate, Thanks for having me on your blog to share about my new romance, A Christmas Fling, a sweet paranormal romance novella. It’s the tale of a Santa’s Elf, a hard-working financial analyst, and a Bernese Mountain Dog named Sally.

Dahlia, a Santa’s Elf, has 21 days left before Christmas to create the best toy in the world without using magic or revealing her true identity. Stuck on how to complete the prototype, and working as a temp in San Francisco’s Financial district with no time for love, will her innocent Christmas fling get her unstuck, or will she turn her back on her beloved career for her heart?

 Liam, an up-and-coming financial analyst, swore off women after getting dumped by the love of his life. He just found out his ex is going to the company Christmas party with his rival Michael Hendricks. Up for promotion against Hendricks, Liam has to win the favor of his boss. His best bet is to invite the vivacious secretary Dahlia to the party. Will Dahlia be a welcome distraction, or will she turn his life upside down?

Bernese Mountain Dog by Lori Branham--CreativeCommonsLicense2.0When I was creating my story, I knew I wanted to include a dog and specifically a Bernese Mountain dog. I see these dogs all the time in my Oakland neighborhood. They look so friendly and huggable I thought one would be perfect in my story of workaholic man learning how to have love in his life.

Liam has to take care of Sally for his roommate Josh, who is away at a conference. When Dahlia pets Sally, Liam is surprised to realize he wants Dahlia’s affection, even though he’s sworn off love.

Kitty-black_Leo-Tabby-cropCurrently I don’t own a dog. I just have two lovely and rambunctious cats. I did grow up with dogs and cats and a pet rat, and I even had a Hermit crab for a short time. I think pets bring joy and love into our lives. I’ve seen pets diffuse a difficult situation and also bring laughter where there wasn’t any. When I was going through a rough patch in my life, we brought Kitty into our lives. She gave me something to care about other than myself. A few years later, we adopted a rescue cat, Leo, as a companion for Kitty. It’s so much fun to watch them play together and learn from each other.

Readers, Enjoy A Christmas Fling. Here’s an excerpt! Thanks for stopping by!

*****

EXCERPT

December 1, Oakland, CA

 A CHRISTMAS FLING by Beth Barany-400x600Dahlia strolled through the small neighborhood park. It was great fun to think about how the children would enjoy her toy once she was done with it, but she had to complete it first. She only had twenty-two days to fix whatever was wrong with it before returning home. She’d gone over her designs and schematics and taken it apart and put it back together a dozen times, but it still wouldn’t work.

Dahlia left the park and headed down the street toward the detached studio she rented on Miles Avenue.

A dog bark had her look up just in time to almost but not quite avoid getting tangled up in a long leash. A man with the warmest brown eyes she’d ever seen gazed down at her, a half smile on his face.

She smiled back startled out of her daydreaming, but not before she noticed his endearing dimple on one side of his mouth.

She said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you. Thank goodness for your dog. Oh, she looks like a Husky.”

Dahlia shifted her bag to one hip, so she could bend down and pet the dog.

The dog wagged her tail.

Dahlia said, “You must feed her really well. Her coat is so soft and luscious.”

“She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog. Sally. My roommate’s.”

His voice was deep. She had to look up to smile into his deep brown eyes. He was a whole head taller than she was. Almost two meters. She translated into American measurements. Six foot three or something.

“My uncle, well one of my uncles has one—that he uses for work. But I hardly see him because he lives—” She paused. “I’m prattling, aren’t I?”

“Yes, you are, but I like listening to your accent. Scottish?”

“Yes, wow, you guessed correctly. Most people here can’t do that. Yeah, we’re from Scotland, but it’s been a few generations.” She couldn’t very well tell him how Santa’s elves lived a very long time. It had only been her grandparents that had immigrated with Uncle, known as Santa to most, and some neighbors to set up the North Pole.

“So, you’re in school here?” He waved off toward what she knew was the art college a few blocks away.

“No. I’m here on an independent research project for a few more weeks.”

“So you’re from—”

“Alaska. Well, near Alaska, anyway. I—I best be going,” she interrupted and gestured to her bag of goodies. She shifted from foot to foot on the corner of Miles and Clifton Streets, still tangled up in the Bernese’s leash. “Gifts to wrap. For the kids. Big project.” She gulped and held out her hand. “I’m Dahlia, by the way. Dahlia MacMillian.”

With a half-smile, he shook her offered hand. His grip was firm and strong. “Liam. Nice to meet you, Dahlia MacMillian.” He led the dog around her, slowly untangling the leash.

How he moved with grace and power, even in his simple gestures. He was tall, lean and muscular, broad shoulders identifiable even in his sweatshirt with the UC Berkeley name and logo on it.

“There we go, Sally,” Liam said, his voice a rumbling, soothing cascade.

Sally licked Dahlia’s hand, bringing her out of her staring. She gulped and felt the heat of a blush creep up her neck and onto her cheeks. Dahlia stroked the soft fur to cover her embarrassment. It had been a long time since she’d felt attracted to anyone. Everyone she’d dated at the Pole was so familiar to her, and mostly related. She didn’t have time for a distraction.

She looked up when she heard Liam chuckling. He was shaking his head.

“What?” She couldn’t help but ask.

He shrugged. “I guess I should run into girls more often with my roommate’s dog. I didn’t realize it could be such a pleasant experience.”

“You must not walk her very often then.” Oh my, she was flirting. The Elf boys back home never brought that out of her. She felt her pale skin flush. Och, yes, this was a man, she thought. “Thank you, then. For the pleasant experience. And the untangling.”

“You’re welcome.” Liam said to her, smiling, that one dimple showing again. Then he spoke to the dog. “Come on Sally. Let’s finish your walk, so we can go watch the game.”

Dahlia waved good-bye and turned to go down the street and head for her apartment. But first she had to watch Liam walk away. He fit nicely into his jeans. For a moment, a pang of wistfulness washed through her. She shook her. She had other things to focus on, like completing her toy on time so she could get her Master Elf badge, and even win the Grand Prize.

She was sure she’d be able to make progress on her toy tonight. Maybe it was something about meeting a happy dog and tall brown-eyed man that made her feel hopeful. Yes, she would get her toy done in time.

******

About Beth Barany

In her off hours, Beth enjoys capoeira (a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music), traveling, and watching movies with her husband, bestselling author Ezra Barany, and playing with their two cats, Kitty and Leo.

Where to Find A Christmas Fling

A Christmas Fling on Amazon:http://amzn.to/18ELyiY

A Christmas Fling on Goodreads:http://bit.ly/1bytk64

Photo: A Bernese Mountain Dog by Lori Branham – Creative Commons License
Categories: Bernese Mountain dog, Books, Cats, Christmas, dogs, Dogs and cats, fantasy, Love, Paranormal, romance, Santa's elf, Santa's workshop, toys, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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