Dog Parks: the Good, the Bad, and the “Must Know”

Tompkins Square Big Dog Run (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Dog parks, like this one in New York City’s Tompkins Square, can be a great place for a well-mannered dog and its owner.  (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Book #2 in the Waterside Kennels mystery series (due out later this year) introduces a dog park to the region. When carefully designed and managed well, dog parks can be a wonderful addition to any community. If you’re interested in creating a dog park where you live, check out this AKC pamphlet or explore the AKC’s website. (Great stuff there!)

In the “real world” setting of my series, the lovely village of Eureka Springs, Arkansas is constructing its first dog park. The Eureka Springs Bark Park is set to open soon. Like many parks, the Bark Park has a designated area for small dogs (30 lbs. and under) and a larger space for bigger breeds. Since this photo (below) was taken, the fencing is nearly complete and we’ll soon see dogs at play here.  You can follow the park’s progress here.

Groundbreaking ceremony at Eureka Springs' Bark Park

Groundbreaking ceremony at Eureka Springs’ Bark Park (Photo courtesy of Bark Park Facebook page)

Although I had a dog park planned for my series long before I’d heard of the Bark Park, I’m delighted to see my fictional world is nicely in tune with the region.  As the series progresses, I expect we’ll see some conflict and drama at the (fictional) dog park, just as we’ve already seen at Waterside Kennels in Deadly Ties. I’d like to think all my characters (and their dogs) are smart enough to know how to play well with others, but since I write a mystery series it’s likely somebody (human, canine, or possibly both) will cause trouble at some point.

Whether you’re new to the world of dog parks or a long-time fan, it’s always good to review the basic etiquette for dogs and their owners.  A quick search of the Internet will turn up dozens of sites with all sorts of tips and ideas to ensure your visit is a happy one. In addition to the AKC’s site, has very useful tips to help you learn to recognize the difference between “good play” and “bully” behaviors. The bottom line: know your dog, be aware of your surroundings, and never leave your dog unattended.

“My dog wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Ever heard that comment from a dog owner? My colleague C. A. Newsome (who writes “cozy mysteries with bite!”) certainly has. She and her dogs spend a lot of time at her local dog park and she’s the author of the Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries.

In the interest of keeping beahvior problems out of our dog parks, I’m sharing an article from her blog with her generous permission. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read this important message.

Click on the “Dogs dogs dogs” tab near the top of the page and get the facts you and your dog need to stay safe.

Let’s Get to Know Lois Winston

My guest this week is an award-winning craft and needlework designer and author from the world of traditional publishing who’s now an “indie” author. Lois writes women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name as well as under her pen name, Emma Carlyle.

Lois Winston, Author

Lois Winston, Author

Her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series is a clever combination of humor, mystery, and crafts, with material for characters and plots drawn from her personal experience in the crafts industry. (Who knew crafts could be deadly?) The series features a magazine crafts editor who’s also a reluctant amateur sleuth.

The first in the series, Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist (quite an achievement!). Kirkus Reviews called the series “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”

Here’s Lois, talking about her series:

 Although I’m not Anastasia, we share many of the same experiences. I’ve spent much of my adult life working in the crafts industry as both a designer and an editor. My work experience, coupled with setting my books in Manhattan and actual New Jersey towns, make it possible for me to infuse my books with rich, factual details.

Like Anastasia, I’m the mother of two sons. However, my husband is not a closet gambler (really, he’s not!), and thankfully, he’s still very much alive. I also don’t make a habit of stumbling over dead bodies, but I did have a very mean-spirited communist mother-in-law who lived with me for six (although it felt like sixty) years. My revenge has been to turn her into the character readers love to hate.

Unfortunately, due to allergies, I don’t have a single pet, let alone Anastasia’s unlikely menagerie, living under my roof. Ralph, the Shakespeare-quoting parrot, the white Persian cat known as Catherine the Great, and Manifesto, the communist French bulldog, are all figments of my very fertile (and often warped) imagination.

True to the tradition of cozy mysteries, there’s no sex and no explicit violence. A few characters use foul language on occasion. (Hey, Mafia loan sharks aren’t going to say “gosh darn it!”  Teenagers in the series will probably slip now and then, although they’re quick to apologize when reprimanded by Mom.) My books are most likely to appeal to adult readers of humorous amateur sleuth mysteries.

The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries

When Anastasia’s husband permanently cashes in his chips at a roulette table in Las Vegas, her comfortable middle-class life craps out. She’s left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and her hateful Communist mother-in-law as a permanent houseguest—not to mention stunned disbelief over her late husband’s secret gambling addiction and the loan shark demanding fifty thousand dollars. And that’s before she becomes the prime suspect in the murder of the magazine’s fashion editor.

Each book in the series finds Anastasia moonlighting at various jobs to pay down her debt. Unfortunately, she keeps stumbling over dead bodies and coming up against killers.

“Winston…plays for plenty of laughs…while letting Anastasia shine as a risk-taking investigator who doesn’t always know when to quit.”

Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

Decoupage Can Be Deadly

In the most recent full-length mystery in the series, Anastasia and her fellow American Woman editors are steaming mad when minutes before the opening of a consumer show, they discover half their booth usurped by Bling!, their publisher’s newest magazine. CEO Alfred Gruenwald is sporting new arm candy—rapper-turned-entrepreneur and Bling! executive editor, the first-name-only Philomena.

During the consumer show, Gruenwald’s wife serves Philomena with an alienation of affection lawsuit, but Philomena doesn’t live long enough to make an appearance in court. She’s found dead days later, stuffed in the shipping case that held Anastasia’s decoupage crafts. When Gruenwald makes cash-strapped Anastasia an offer she can’t refuse, she wonders, does he really want to find Philomena’s killer or is he harboring a hidden agenda?


“Beware the Bling!”

Read an excerpt here:

Available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iBookstore!

Enjoy the whole series in trade paperback or e-book editions:

Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun

Death by Killer Mop Doll

Revenge of the Crafty Corpse

Decoupage Can Be Deadly

Mini-mysteries (ebook)

Crewel Intentions

Mosaic Mayhem

Patchwork Peril

NEW! Get all three mini-mysteries together in Crafty Crimes

Follow this author:

Visit Lois at her website and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. You can follow everyone on Twitter too!

A Gem of a Literary Festival

In Deadly Ties (first in the Waterside Kennels mystery series), part of the plot revolves around treasure legends.  While that makes for great fiction, let me tell you about a real treasure of the Ozarks—the Books in Bloom Literary Festival.   I was honored to be one of the featured authors at this year’s event, and it was a terrific experience!

Great to see readers of all ages!

Great to see readers of all ages!

Held in the gardens of the legendary Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Books in Bloom is the brainchild of the Carroll and Madison Public Library Foundation to promote the value of books and reading.  And boy, do they promote! In the six weeks leading up to the festival, there were multiple feature articles and news stories about the festival and the participating authors.

A special “thank you” must go to Jean Elderwind, co-chair of this year’s marvelous event. She was in steady contact in the months leading up to the festival, supplied all sorts of information, and was ready to answer any question. Jean coordinated media requests and introduced me to two great writers, who each published a feature article about me and my work.

Jennifer Jackson of the Lovely County Citizen published an article on April 10th titled “Elementary, My Dear Dachshund – Trip to Eureka Springs sets author on the write track.”   C.D. White of the Eureka Springs Independent ran an article on May 14th titled “Woof woof wonderful: Author Susan Holmes has marked her niche.”   Thanks to their superb publicity, readers and fans came out in droves to get their own signed copies of Deadly Ties.

The weather was perfect, the gardens beautiful, and the Foundation Board and volunteers treated the authors like royalty. From the lovely reception the evening before the Festival, to the lavish brunch the morning of the event, to lunch delivered right to us, we were exceptionally well cared for. Volunteers erected shade canopies and set up chairs and tables (complete with white tablecloths and beautiful flowers). We unloaded just steps from my booth, with more volunteers available to help with anything needed.

Organizers gave authors the option to bring and sell their own books or to have the bookseller bring books for them. I chose to bring plenty of my own (just in case!).  And I’m very glad I did, because the bookseller would probably have sold out long before I ran out of customers clamoring for a signed copy of their own!

And speaking of customers…one sweet lady informed me the library had a waiting list of patrons wanting to read my book. That made my heart sing! And then she completely made my day when she told me she wanted her very own copy so she wouldn’t have to wait to read the book. (How cool is that?)

I signed books all afternoon for readers across the age spectrum. One of my favorite conversations was with a young reader who told me she loved playing with her dogs and reading mysteries with her grandmother. My kind of fan!

Visiting with St. Paul librarian

Visiting with St. Paul librarian

I enjoyed the chance to meet librarians from the Carroll and Madison library system, and was thrilled to know the St. Paul (AR) Public Library’s book club will feature Deadly Ties this summer, and I’m invited as a speaker!

I was delighted to visit with fans and sign books throughout the afternoon. I’d thought the crowd would thin out by the time I was at the podium in the Reader’s Tent since I was the final speaker of the day. Instead, I was amazed to find every seat taken and a small crowd standing at the back!  The audience was a writer’s dream—terrific listeners and clearly eager to hear about the book and the series. I gave them a “sneak preview” of the next book in the series to thank them for staying until the end. I finished to a huge round of applause—a perfect ending to a perfect day!

So great to see old friends and meet new fans!

So great to see old friends and meet new fans!

Thanks to all the readers who turned out!

Thanks to all the readers who turned out!

You can follow the Books in Bloom Literary Festival on Facebook  and online.  And mark your calendars for the 2015 festival; it’s sure to be another winner!

Books in Bloom 2014

Books in Bloom 2014

This weekend, writers and readers from all over will gather at the legendary Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the Books in Bloom Literary Festival. Every year, this event draws mega-bestselling authors.  Catherine Coulter, James Grippando, Craig Johnson, Nevada Barr, and Dana Stabenow are just some of the famous authors who have been part of this terrific event.  This year we’ll have Elizabeth Berg, Terry Brooks, Kathy Reichs, and a dozen other authors–including me!

Books in Bloom PostcardThe festival is a free event, with free parking. There’s even a shuttle to take you from your car to the hotel (and if you’ve ever climbed the hilly streets of Eureka Springs, you’ll really appreciate that shuttle!) You can see the entire schedule here. In addition to the mega-stars presenting in the Conservatory, authors will read from their works all afternoon in the Reader’s Tent. When not presenting, authors will be available in the gardens to greet fans, answer questions, and autograph copies of their work.

But that’s not all! Writers, in addition to spending the afternoon with kindred spirits, there are two very special treats for you. First, the famous Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow will join the festivities. Come meet the Colony’s director, Linda Caldwell, and learn all about this fabulous writer’s retreat. Residencies and fellowships are available! (Can’t make the actual event? Visit their website to learn more about opportunities for writers.)

writers colony at dairy hollowVillage Writing SchoolAlso at the festival this year is Eureka Springs’ Village Writing School. They’ll run a FREE Story Clinic. Writers, grab your notes and head to the clinic, where you’ll hear advice specific to your story. Stop by their tent or visit their website to sign up for newsletters and other helpful information.


Let’s Get to Know Tim Baker

In the world of mystery writing, you’ll find all sorts of characters, settings, and story lines. This week’s featured author takes us into the world of thrillers and crime fiction.

Hanging at the bookstoreOriginally from Warwick, Rhode Island, Tim Baker is an avid dog lover who’s been a volunteer puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, raising and socializing potential guide dogs. His passion for dogs comes through in his writing, and in his very public support of dog rescue work. Like many of the authors you’ll meet here, Tim’s career path took quite a few turns before reaching the keyboard. After 25 years in architecture and engineering, his path led to short stints in the natural gas industry, construction, and even ice cream sales. He wrote his first novel, Living the Dream, in 2007 after inspiration came in the shape of “a bizarre dream” (his phrase, not mine). Ever since, Tim’s been writing fast-paced, off-beat crime stories set in Flagler Beach and St. Augustine. He makes his home in Palm Coast, Florida.

Here’s Tim, telling us about his work:

Typically my novels are fast-paced thrillers with “colorful” characters, snappy dialogue and a healthy dose of humor. People tell me quite frequently that once they start reading my books they just want to keep reading until they finish. I try (as my hero Elmore Leonard advised) to leave out the parts people tend to skip!!

My books are set in the small beach-side community of Flagler Beach, Florida, and the backdrop of a quaint tourist town is a perfect foil for my off-beat stories. I have a band of recurring characters in all of my books, which my readers have all come to know (to the point where I’ve gotten fan-fiction stories about them!). They may not always operate on the right side of the law, but they always make sure that the bad guys get what’s coming to them!

My work appeals to readers who love a good fast-paced, action-packed thriller/mystery. I’ve had great feedback from young adults to grandparents, male and female. Let me note: while there are a couple of passing references to sexual activity, there are no graphic or explicit descriptions. Acts of violence get the same treatment—enough description to set the scene and nothing more. Overall I would rate the book PG-13 (more so for the “colorful” language than anything else).

You want dogs? During the course of the case Steve finds himself trying to take down a dog-fighting ring.

One final thing that, I hope, will appeal to the dog lovers here: A close friend of mine in Rhode Island runs a dog-rescue operation called Golden Huggs Rescue – I have pledged to donate half of all profits from Backseat to Justice to her organization!

BTJ cover

“A unique twist on the typical murder mystery”

Private investigator Steve Salem has learned the hard way that sometimes the law has to take a Backseat to Justice.

Steve is hired by a woman to determine if her husband is being unfaithful. When the husband is executed before Steve’s eyes the widow hires Steve to solve the murder. Once he does, the adventure begins for real when Backseat to Justice takes one of the strangest and unsuspected turns imaginable in a mystery novel.  Read Chapter 1 here.

Read the reviews here.  Here’s what one reader had to say about Backseat to Justice:

“Greed, betrayal and murder with a bit of homespun revenge thrown into the mix. Add a down and out PI,a mystery female, a marriage built on lies, toss in a few wise guys drop them all down into Paradise and Tim Baker has one heck of a story.”

Follow this author!

To contact Tim or find out about upcoming works please visit his website at You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.  And speaking of Amazon, be sure to check out the special price discounts currently offered for several of his books!