Posts Tagged With: mystery

Happy Holidays!


Christmas tree

For my last post of this year I’d like to wish everyone a joyous holiday season.

Happy Holidays to all!




If you’re looking for a fun read during the holidays, take a look at my two books. I featured Wyoming Escape last week. This time I’m spotlighting FOREWARNING.


Forewarning Cover 2



 When Kasey Edwards finds a badly injured man, she knows she has to take an action that terrifies her—to use her abandoned energetic healing skills to save his life. Following her husband’s suicide, she had closed her healing practice and retreated to her ranch. Now she is thrust back into the world she rejected and into unexpected danger. Her old friend Jim Bradley, who has long been in love with her, pushes her to return to her work. When criminals looking for her patient invade the serenity of her world, she must use her skills to save all three of their lives.


Here’s an excerpt from when she is waiting at the hospital:


With each step down the deserted hall to the waiting room, the band around Kasey’s chest drew tighter. The frantic desire to scurry back to her ranch, to run from what she had done, almost made her turn around. She suppressed the urge. She needed to find out if the man would be okay, to find out if she had helped—or hurt—him.


She stopped in the ladies room to wash the blood off her hands and clean up a bit. Her mother’s brown eyes and heart-shaped face stared back at her from the mirror as she dried her hands. But the auburn hair she smoothed and gathered into a low ponytail again was her father’s legacy, as was her empathic sensitivity. He possessed an uncanny ability to understand animals and deal with their problems and had been known as a “horse whisperer” long before the term became popular.


His ability to feel emotions extended to people as well as animals, for which Kasey was grateful. Her breath caught as she thought of his gentle love and support. He’d helped her understand and deal with her sensitivity, showing her it was a gift rather than a curse. How often during this past year she’d wished she could turn to him for help, as she had as a child. That wasn’t possible. He had his own pain to deal with, and she couldn’t burden him with hers.


Leaving the restroom, she continued down to the waiting area. Tonight was the first time she’d been to the hospital since Brian’s death, and the small, chair-filled lounge stirred up painful memories. Memories of the man who had been her life. To her relief, the room was empty, and she chose a seat in a corner where she wouldn’t be easily seen.


Exhaustion dropped her into the chair with unexpected force. She tried to focus on the television in the corner; instead the night’s events kept playing over and over in her mind. The blood on the man’s too-pale face. The raw, charred skin of his palm. Her hands focusing healing energy. Her hands focusing healing energy.


Her legs began a restless dance, so she jumped up to walk off some of the tension. What she really needed was to go for a run. Since that wasn’t possible, she returned to her chair and started a deep breathing exercise—in for four counts, hold two, out for seven counts and hold for two. Eventually the rhythmic pattern took effect. Her eyelids closed, and her head flopped to the side in a restless doze.


Jim Bradley paused at the door of the waiting room and gazed at the sleeping woman. Damn, she’s lovely. Not that Kasey would agree right now, of course, given her mud-stained jeans, green rubber boots and ratty sweatshirt. To him, she looked wonderful. He let the desire he always suppressed when around her thrum freely through his body. For this moment, he didn’t have to be on guard. For this moment, he could just enjoy looking at her and contemplate a time when he could let her know his heart. Soon, he hoped. Soon.


Kasey shifted in her chair and Jim quickly brought his feelings under control, directing his thoughts to the surgery he had just completed. Now was not the time to reveal his yearning. She had enough to deal with tonight. He pulled his shoulders back and headed into the room.


“You’re going to a get a heck of a stiff neck if you stay kinked like that much longer.”


I hope you enjoyed this excerpt and want to read more. FOREWARNING is available on

                   Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords





photo credit: <a href=””>PKMousie</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: energetic healing, Forewarning, healing, Horses, Mystery, Paranormal, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Free For Christmas!



Christmas is coming and WYOMING ESCAPE, my tale of danger and romance set on a Wyoming dude ranch, is free on kindleunlimited.



Wyoming Cover - 5.3x8.

Mikela Richard’s morning run turns horrific when she stumbles upon a dead body and then is chased through the woods. The next day is even worse when she discovers a second body in her office and realizes a dirty cop is responsible. With a past experience that makes her distrust the police, she goes on the run until she can unravel the mystery of the strange computer thumb drive she found in her car.


She ends up working as a cook at a Wyoming dude ranch where she meets Shawn Saunders, a Marine home on medical leave. Shawn recognizes the type of fear in Mikela’s eyes—it’s one of the things he’s come home to forget. Even though he knows it’s a bad idea, he can’t stop himself from trying to help her, while she’s even more afraid to let him. 


Here’s a short excerpt from when Mikela visits a new foal one evening:
A few minutes later, the old wooden floorboards creaked beside her. “That’s the loosest I’ve seen you since you got here,” a soft, male voice spoke from the shadows.


To her surprise, Mikela wasn’t startled. Somehow she had known he was there. Not raising her head, she shifted, resting her cheek on her arms.


“Babies have a way of doing that,” she responded. “They sleep so sweetly, all your cares seem to melt away when you watch them.”


She straightened as Shawn came to stand beside her. “Watching over your family?”


“Something like that. Enjoying the quiet and getting back into the rhythm of things. It takes some time to adjust to normal life after I return. The horses help a lot.” He leaned down and rested his arms on the top of the stall door, a soft expression on his face as he watched the pair sleep.


“How long do you have?”


“Eleven more days.”


“Then back to Afghanistan?”


“Unfortunately, yes.” He shifted, still keeping his gaze on the sleeping foal. “Let’s talk about something else.”


“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to … remind you of unpleasant things.” She automatically put her hand on his arm in a comforting gesture.


He placed a big paw on top of hers. “No problem.”


They stood joined for a long moment. Then Mikela gently pulled away. His touch set her pulse racing, made her want what she shouldn’t. She couldn’t afford to give in to the attraction tugging at her. He was so different from the men she usually encountered. Certainly poles apart from the one she’d married. She shook her head. Let’s not go down that path tonight.


Mikela knew she should leave, but her feet didn’t want to cooperate. She remained beside him, absorbing the peace and calm of the horses and his quiet solidity. When she put her hand back on the stall door, he reached over and covered it again. This time she let it stay, accepted the connection. Suddenly she felt herself aching to be held, to be enveloped in strong arms, to feel protected. The horror of the last two weeks suddenly pushed its way to the surface. Tears welled and began to stream down her face.


At the sound of her sob, Shawn spun around and reached for her. “What’s wrong, Mike?”


The soft concern in his voice released the damned up flood. She shook her head and started to turn away, but the next thing she knew she was pressed against his warm, hard chest as he rocked and murmured to her.


“It’s okay. Whatever the problem, it’ll be all right.”


When she tried to pull away, he kept her close and ran his hand up and down her back, soothing and gentling her. The comfort he offered was too enticing. She collapsed against him and let herself go. Several minutes passed before her sobs quieted. She took a shaky breath and became aware of his musky scent and the dampness beneath her face. His shirt was wet from her bawling. Embarrassed, she stiffened and tried to step away. But he didn’t release her.


“Sure you’re done? Sounds like you burst a water main. Might be more coming.” He pressed her head to his chest. “You’re fine where you are. Get it all out.”


Mikela relaxed against him. She’d already made a fool of herself—staying in his arms a little longer couldn’t make it any worse. When her breathing had returned to normal and her face was dry, she raised her head and drew back. This time he let her go.


“All better now?” he asked. “Want to talk about it?”


“Better, yes. Talk, no.” She wasn’t up to coherent speech yet. She knew she’d have to give some explanation, but certainly not the real one. “Sorry.”


“What’s to be sorry about? We all need to let go once in a while. It clears the air. I’ve seen things I’d like to cry about too.”


She tilted her head to see him more clearly. “I thought it was okay for guys to cry now.”


“Civilians, maybe. Marines, no way. Not in public anyway.”



I hope you enjoyed this piece and want to read more. WYOMING ESCAPE is available for the Kindle on Amazon.
Categories: adventure, animals, Books, Christmas, Cowboys, Dude ranches, fear, Horses, Mystery, romance, suspense, Uncategorized, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Meet My Character – A Blog Tour



My friend and critique partner, the talented Heidi Noroozy, invited me to participate in a Meet My Character Blog Tour, where we talk about a character in one of our books. Today I’d like to introduce you to the heroine of my upcoming book FOREARMED.


1.) What is the name of your character?

Callie Burns

2.) When and where is the story set?

It’s set in southern Arizona, in the desert country outside Tucson, and is contemporary

3.) What should we know about him/her?

Callie is a child psychologist who uses horses to work with troubled kids. She was drawn to this work because her childhood was marred by her father’s PTSD episodes. She also has intuitive abilities which help her in her work.

4.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Callie finds a dying man while riding in the desert and becomes involved with finding who killed him. The police aren’t interested a dead illegal alien but her father fears the bad guys might come after her, so he insists on guarding her while investigating the murdered man. She’s drawn to the attractive Ranger who came to help, but has to keep her distance because he has very rigid views about people who try to sneak into his country. When one of her patients is threatened, she has to step outside the law and question her long-held beliefs.

5.) What is the personal goal of the character?

To live a quiet life helping children and find love with a safe, comfortable man. The last thing she wants is a repeat of her parent’s volatile relationship.

6.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title is FOREARMED

7.) When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

I expect to publish it as an e-book in December. FOREARMED should be available on Amazon and all the other book sites at that time.


The following authors are next up on the tour. They will introduce their characters next week. Be sure to stop by their blogs.

Susan Schreyer, author of the Thea Campbell mystery series, lives in Washington with her husband, two teenage children, a couple of playful kittens, and the ghosts of an untrustworthy rabbit and a demanding old cat. She spends her “free” time writing stories about people in the next town being murdered. As a diversion from the plotting of nefarious deeds Susan trains horses and teaches people how to ride them, and when the weather gets to her she works in a veterinarians’ office. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppies Chapter of SinC, and is co-president of the Puget Sound Chapter of SinC.

Marsha R. West, who will be blogging next Tuesday, writes romantic suspense where experience is required. Her heroes and heroines, struggling with life and loss, are surprised to discover second chances at love. Marsha, who loves to travel, lives in Texas with her supportive lawyer husband. They’ve raised two daughters who’ve presented them with three delightful grandchildren. Her first published book, VERMONT ESCAPE, was e-released by MuseItUp in the summer of 2013 and her second TRUTH BE TOLD in 2014. Her third book, SECOND CHANCES releases from MIU in January  2015


Desert photo:courtesy of Creative Commons

Categories: animals, blog hops, Books, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, healing, Horses, Mystery, riding, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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.



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.”


        “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 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.




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.



You can get Admit To Mayhem at:


To learn more DJ and her books, go to:




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

Fat Cats and Dead Bodies

Janet Cantrell


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.


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!



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.



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?”


You can find FAT CAT AT LARGE at:


Learn more about Kaye/Janet by joining her:



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

Judy Alter


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.



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.




Deception in Strange Places

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


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.




“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.


Find Judy’s books at:



Turquoise Morning Press:


Learn more about Judy at:

Web page:
Twitter: @judyalter


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

Living With Animals


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.


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.


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.



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!


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.



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?



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:

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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


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.



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.



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.

Ripper Newspaper photo credit: <a href=””>Bradford Timeline</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: anthologies, Cats, fear, history, Jack the Ripper, Maine Coon cats, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Wildlife in Suburbia




Please welcome Kelly Cochran, author of Buying Time: An Aspen Moore Novel, the first in her humorous mystery series. Buying Time was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award and is currently, a quarter-finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Kelly is a lover of all animals and has even been known to have her husband capture and release spiders to the outdoors.


My entire life I’ve lived in the suburbs. I’ve never had to wake up in the morning to feed the chickens, slop the hogs, or clean out the horse stalls, and therefore, I’ve never lived on acres of land that are a natural habitat for wildlife.  Animals, in the suburbs, include the neighbor’s dog, the robin on the perfectly manicured front lawn, or the relentless squirrel frantically digging to find the nut he was sure he’d buried under the mulch.

The only similarity between me, the suburban dweller, and those who live in rural settings with acres of land, is the wish to keep development to a minimum. So, when my suburban home, located only eight miles from the St. Louis city line, became a condominium complex for groundhogs, we protested and took action to stop the over-development of our community.

Gregory-1A call to a critter control company that relocates animals ended with traps being set in the front and back of our home. In the end, one raccoon, and two groundhogs were caught. One of those groundhogs was Gregory, who’d been a part of our lives for several years, even making it into our Christmas letter twice. I was sad to see him go, but the man said he would take all of them to a 300 acre property far from our home and release them. What animal wouldn’t love acres and acres to roam? The next time I saw the man he informed me that Gregory was now in a better place. Well, I’m not sure about you, but in my youth, when a person told you that someone was in a better place, they didn’t mean a 300 acre piece of land. I could only hope that Gregory was indeed living out the rest of his life on those 300 acres.

Two years later, I noticed leaves left over from the fall had been disturbed at the corner of our porch. My husband said it was just the wind. I didn’t give it another thought until the next day as I headed out the front door to the get the mail and I came across Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe, and Bob.

babies-1Although I thought the groundhog babies were adorable, my husband said they had to go. We kept an eye out for momma, but she never showed. Luckily the man we use to trim our trees said he’d take them to his house and keep them in one of his rabbit hutches until they were old enough to release in another location. Over a period of a week, we enticed them with cantaloupe and were able to trap a few. The others we ended up grabbing with our hands (gloved of course). By that time, the crew had grown to include a brother named Charley and two other unnamed siblings. Total count: Eight!


The truth is, even though I didn’t want our suburban lifestyle overrun with wild animals, I missed those little babies in our front yard….until I looked out at the pool in our back yard!





Aspen Moore has a new life in a new city, complete with a new career. As a personal concierge, she sells her time to those who don’t have enough. One of the perks of her business is focusing on other people’s lives so she doesn’t have to face the demons in her own.

When Aspen’s most loyal customer dies and his suicide looks eerily like murder, she anonymously tips off the police so she won’t expose a secret she desperately needs to keep. But, murder and mayhem are a bothersome duo and she soon finds herself caught in a web of chaos.

A string of crimes, long enough to make a real detective sweat, threaten her livelihood and ultimately her life. Aspen’s only hope to untangle the mess before they cause permanent damage is to track down who’s responsible. Pursuing the truth means solving the mystery of a decade-old land deal, while juggling a quirky DJ and his dog, an eccentric paraplegic, a curious set of twins, and a flirtatious neighbor with spy gadgets.


Buying Time is a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.  Read the excerpt, see the fine reviewers’ comments that helped Buying Time advance in the contest, and leave your own review of the excerpt! 



Buying Time available at Amazon
Twitter: @KellyLCochran
The Series:


Categories: animals, critter control, ducks, groundhogs, humorous mystery, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized, Wildlife in suburbia, woodchucks | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

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