It’s been an adventure sharing a home with this cat, who wandered into our lives as a two-pound, 10-week-old kitten. In the years since he’s proven to be an easy-going companion, but every now and then he gets a bit wild, reminding me that all domestic cats likely share a common ancestor: Felis silvestris lybica (the North African/Southwest Asian wildcat).
His wild streak appeared when he suffered serious liver problems recently and was confronted with pills that had to be swallowed whole and could not be cut, crushed, or even hidden in food (what idiot thought that would work with cats?). It’s taken a near-Herculean effort to get the meds into him and convince him that the veterinarian is not the enemy, but I think our combined efforts are finally showing positive results. He’s regaining (albeit slowly) some of the weight he’s lost, and his energy level is approaching normal. I’m happy to say he’s on the mend and ready for new adventures with his best friend Sasha.
What can you do when you’re fifty-six, unemployed, broke, and lonely?
That’s just one of the questions tormenting Harvey Hudson, former professor, academic author, and self-described “speculative historian” who’s spent decades pondering the “What-Ifs and Whys” of life. With no job prospects in academia, desperation drives Harvey to ego-crushing gigs like delivering balloon and candy bouquets while wearing bunny ears and a spongy red nose. Pizza deliveries came next; the tips helped him secretly support his mother, and soggy leftover pizza was better than Skittles and Snickers liberated from overloaded baskets. These career lows help explain why he accepts a job as a technical writer for which he has neither the skills nor the interest. That’s his first mistake on the job. His second mistake is outsourcing his work to India.
That decision lands him in a world of trouble when his actions capture the attention of international intelligence agencies, and he’s swept up in a covert operation to prevent a Russian cyberattack on the U.S. petroleum industry. The situation is further complicated by Harvey falling in love with the woman who’s doing the work he’s being paid to do, and who just might be a Russian agent as well.
The elements of cybercrime are set within competing realms of family, politics, and national security; the result is a rich, fast-paced plot that will keep you engaged from start to finish. Unexpected twists and turns in the action create a framework for well-developed characters whose unique personalities add shape and meaning to Harvey’s world.
Harvey’s obsession with the unanswerable what-ifs and whys of life creates an atmosphere that’s laden with moments of deep-rooted guilt, cynical introspection, suppressed desire, and comic desperation. The result is an entertaining and thought-provoking novel in which nothing is what it first appears. You’ll find yourself rooting for our accidental spy even while shaking your head over his behavior. And when the situation turns deadly serious, Harvey must find a way to save himself and those he loves from the consequences of his decisions.
The Accidental Spy Trailer:
Harvey Hudson is an emotionally scarred, fifty-six-year-old history professor who has lost his job, his wife and his self-respect. In desperation, Harvey takes a high-tech job for which he is totally unqualified. So he outsources it to India. Then Harvey discovers that a Russian intelligence agency owns the outsourcing company and are using him to launch a cyberattack on the U.S. petroleum industry. Harvey now finds himself in a world of trouble with the Russians and the FBI, and he has fallen in love with the woman from New Delhi who’s doing the job he’s outsourced—who might be a Russian agent.
Genre: Humorous Thriller with Literary Pretensions
Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC Publication Date: November 2, 2022 Number of Pages: 274 ISBN: 9781645994206
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both.” Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”
Spy: “A person employed by a governmental agency to obtain secret information on a hostile country.” The Philips Dictionary of Espionage
Accidental Spy: “Some poor jerk dragged into a world of trouble.” Harvey Hudson
Chapter 1: Bunny Ears
Harvey Hudson released the steering wheel and swatted at the blue balloon (“Congrats! You Did It!”) that was banging against the back of his head. What was the ‘It’ for? Someone earned a law degree? Pulled off a bank heist? Successfully underwent potty training? All three? One day before turning fifty-six, and here he was, delivering balloons. How had he let this happen to him? He chewed on the last of the Skittles he’d swiped from a bulky candy basket attached to a red balloon shaped like a birthday cake. Too many sweets for some spoiled kid. He was doing the pudgy brat a favor. The Snickers bar was tempting. Maybe later. Harvey reached across the front seat, grabbed a handful of candy bars from the Skittle-less basket ($149), and dropped them into its modest neighbor ($39). He often shifted candy from larger baskets to lesser ones. He thought of himself as the Robin Hood of balloon-delivery individuals. He’d had just $87 in the bank a few weeks ago when he’d shambled past a help-wanted sign in the front window of the Rapid Rabbit Balloon Service. He paused and reread the sign. “Part-time Delivery Person Needed. Become a Rapid Rabbit!” Yeah, what the hell. He hurried inside before he came to his senses. He would have taken any gig—balloon-delivery specialist, male stripper, or get-away driver for a grizzled bank robber. With his part-time job delivering balloons and his full-time work as a beginning technical writer, Harvey could just stay afloat. His ex-wife had cleaned him out. He double-parked on a smart street of brick-front homes on Boston’s Beacon Hill. Hesitating, he clamped the hated bunny ears over his head and attached the spongy red nose. Sighing, he grabbed the $149 basket and, head down, ambled up the walkway and rang the bell. The balloon bobbed overhead, taunting him. The woman who opened the door was a slim and pretty brunette in her fifties. She had a narrow face and large, dark eyes. She was his boss at his day job. Also his high school sweetheart. Harvey wanted to disappear into the ground. Margo took a step back. “Oh.” Harvey pulled off the bulbous red nose and stuffed it into his shirt pocket. “Uh…this is where you live?” Margo shook her head. “I’m here with my daughter for a birthday party.” Harvey shifted from one foot to the other. “I’m…um…delivering balloons just for tonight to help out a buddy who had two wisdom teeth pulled this morning, a professor who lost his job the same time I did.” Margo blinked twice. “A sociologist,” Harvey added. Margo gripped the edge of the door. “Named Fred,” Harvey said. Margo nodded. “The guy took the job in desperation because he’s broke, recently divorced, and down on his luck,” Harvey said and realized he was describing himself. He handed the basket to Margo. Did she believe him? Probably not. Did the company have a rule against moonlighting? He’d soon find out. Margo poked around inside the basket. “There’s too much candy in here.” “At least there aren’t any Skittles.” Margo selected a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. “I’ve moved tomorrow’s team meeting up to 10:00 A.M. Did you get my email?” Harvey nodded. Was that her way of telling him that moonlighters don’t get fired? He hoped so. He was pathetically unqualified as a technical writer, and his job was in jeopardy. Harvey hated meetings. Sometimes he thought the software engineers asked him questions he couldn’t answer just to see him squirm. Many were kids in their twenties, making double his salary. And he hated lying to Margo. At least he could be honest about one small thing. “Actually, this is my night gig. I’ve had it for a few weeks.” Margo unwrapped the Reese’s, nipped off a corner, chewed and said, “Is that why I caught you asleep at your desk yesterday?” No, it’s because the job is so goddamn boring. He shook his head. “I wasn’t sleeping. I have the habit of relaxing and closing my eyes whenever I’m searching for the perfect way to convey a particularly difficult concept to our worthy customers.” “And snoring?” Margo was smiling now. That same cute smile from high school. He remembered it from the time they’d sneaked a first kiss in the back row of calculus class. The girl he’d loved and lost. She set the basket down and pulled a twenty from the side pocket of her slacks. “Um…would you…uh…accept a tip?” “No.” She shoved the bill into his shirt pocket. “Yes, you will.” Harvey shifted his weight to his left foot. A liar doesn’t deserve a $20 tip. At most, a few dimes and nickels, couch-cushion change. Margo finished the peanut butter cup in silence. He didn’t quite know what to say now. Yes, he did know. He should tell her the truth. He’d outsourced his job to India. Was that illegal? Probably not. But highly unethical. Would she protect him after he’d confessed? Unlikely, which meant he would lose his job. But living a lie was exhausting and just plain wrong. She’d hired him and trusted him. She deserved better. He cleared his throat, once, twice, a third time. “Margo, there’s something I have to tell you. It seems I—“ “Is that the balloon guy?” a young woman called from inside the house. “That’s my daughter,” Margo said and picked up the basket. A blue balloon bobbed on a string attached to the handle. “I’ll be right back.” Harvey stood at the open door, trying to think of some way to soften his upcoming confession. Or maybe just blurt it out and get it over with? “Happy birthday, Dad!” The daughter’s voice again from inside. “Candy and a kid’s balloon again this year! Are you trying to tell me something?” The daughter laughed. Harvey recognized the man’s voice. Tucker Aldrich was the CEO of the company where Harvey worked. He was also Margo’s ex-husband and a first-class dickhead. So, it meant the balloon and candy basket were for Tucker and not some child. Harvey was sorry he’d passed on the Snickers bar. The hell with telling the truth. Margo came back out, holding a glass of white wine. She leaned against the door frame. “What were you going to say earlier?” “Uh…that you’re an over-tipper.” “Only when the delivery person is a cute, curly-haired guy with a spongy red nose,” she said and sipped her wine. “Did I mention that the meeting’s moved to 10:00?” “Yes.” Silence, then Margo said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She closed the door behind her. Harvey stared at the bronze horsehead knocker. He wanted to rip it off. The door too. He in fact wanted to tear the whole damn building down on Tucker’s head. Margo hadn’t forgotten that she’d told him about the meeting. Margo was incapable of forgetting. She was warning him to show up. Team meetings were a nightmare. The scruffy programmers spoke computerese, argued over stuff Harvey didn’t understand, and gleefully pointed out errors in his documentation. But way off in New Delhi, lovely Amaya understood, and with luck she might save his job. Tomorrow’s meeting would make or break him. Harvey shuffled down the walkway, his head lowered, his bunny ears slipping down his forehead. He’d been so shocked to see Margo that he’d forgotten to take them off. One of life’s bad moments. Still, she had called him cute. Yeah, sure. He was just hours from turning fifty-six, had found addional gray hairs while shaving that morning, and was thickening around the waist from too many Skittles and Snickers. Harvey climbed into his car and slumped in the driver’s seat. He was angry with Tucker for stealing Margo and angry at Margo for not offering him a glass of wine. But most of all, Harvey was angry with himself for letting her see him in bunny ears. When he’d first started making deliveries a few weeks earlier, he’d refused to wear them, then thought, what the hell? Doesn’t everyone at some time want to play the fool? There was no pressure to succeed, to show off, to one-up a colleague. What if everyone from a prisoner sitting out a life term to the President of the United States had to set aside one day a year and play the fool, to go out in public wearing a spongy red nose and bunny ears? What-Ifs and Whys had obsessed Harvey as a child, who from morning to night had trailed behind his father and mother and pestered them with questions. (What if there was a ladder to the Moon? What if everyone had four arms? Why is cousin Alice getting those bumps on her chest?) Later, he would turn his pestering curiosity into a profession. He thought of himself as a ‘speculative historian.’ (What if the Allies had lost the Second World War? What if Caesar hadn’t crossed the Rubicon? What if no one had invented the computer?) Harvey started the engine, reached over to tap the next address into the GPS, then leaned back. Why humiliate himself like this? His ex-wife had always insisted he was punishing himself in guilt over his younger brother. Harvey denied this, but he knew she was right. Enough. He had reached his lifetime quota of humiliation. Here’s another What-If: What if he quit this goddamn job? Harvey shut off the engine, climbed out of the car, went around back, and popped the trunk. A dozen balloons bobbed on basket handles, aching to go free. Harvey tied the spongy red nose to a balloon that read “Get Well Soon!” He cut it loose. Next, he liberated a black balloon picturing a racecar (“Turning Ten!”). Finally, he tied his rabbit ears to a cluster of white orbs trailing a banner that read, “Congrats, New Parents!” and set the bunch free. He watched until the last of the balloons caught the breeze and disappeared into the night sky. He slammed the trunk closed, climbed into his car, and right away started to fret. What if a balloon floated to the harbor for some sea creature to swallow (Headline: “Reckless Ex-Professor Kills Orca!”). Just one more reason to be angry with himself. *** Excerpt from The Accidental Spy by David Gardner. Copyright 2022 by David Gardner. Reproduced with permission from David Gardner. All rights reserved.
David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry. He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: “The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller,” “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian,” and “The Accidental Spy” (all with Encircle Publications, LLC). He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.
Fans of historical mystery novels are often attracted to stories which feature amateur sleuths, prominent settings, majestic homes, and set in a specific time and place in history. Award-winning author R. J. Koreto takes these elements and skillfully adds a contemporary twist to craft a mystery that’s sure to please any reader interested in stories that link past and present. The Greenleaf Murders includes all the classic elements of historical fiction and more. The story is set in contemporary New York City and centers on a high-society family still holding firm to their grand mansion built in the Gilded Age, and whose secrets might well lead to danger for people involved.
The contemporary challenges of renovating a historic home are exacerbated by the presence of an elderly family member who steadfastly refuses to move out, forcing the renovation crew to take place around her. Adding to the challenge is the unexpected reticence of the legal owner who is evasive about his vision for the home’s future with Wren Fontaine, the young architect hired for the massive task of restoring the mansion to its early glory.
What begins as an incredible opportunity to restore a once-magnificent Gilded Age mansion soon turns into something sinister upon the discovery of skeletal remains in the attic and a present-day murder that’s soon followed by another. When Wren—an introvert who prefers houses to living people—discovers the police are only interested in the present-day murder, she launches her own investigation and quickly learns the gun that killed the person hidden in the attic is the same weapon used to kill the person who was recently murdered.
The author weaves history and architectural details throughout the story; by doing so, the mansion itself takes on the role of character and delivers tantalizing insights and clues about the people who called Greenleaf House home for generations. The historical, social, and cultural norms of the Gilded Age come to life through Wren’s exploration of the mansion and her research into the past.
Every character lends a unique perspective to the story, contributing essential information that moves the plot forward. Relationships, alliances, and emotional ties are complex; the dialogue reveals some characters have shared knowledge and experiences while other relationships are formed as the story progresses.
Unlike some other mysteries, the suspense is subtle and builds slowly as bodies are discovered and the murders appear to be linked to the mansion and the Greenleaf family. When a third murder occurs, Wren realizes she must rely on her wits, knowledge, and deduction skills to solve a mystery spanning a century. Our sleuth must navigate the many twists and turns as she searches for the truth about the long-dead victim in the attic but for the current Greenleaf generation as well.
Young architect Wren Fontaine lands her dream job: restoring Greenleaf House, New York’s finest Gilded-Age mansion, to its glory days. But old homes have old secrets: Stephen Greenleaf—heir to what’s left of his family’s legacy—refuses to reveal what his plans are once the renovation is completed. And still living in a corner of the home is Stephen’s 90-year-old Aunt Agnes who’s lost in the past, brooding over a long-forgotten scandal while watching Wren with mistrust. Wren’s job becomes more complex when a shady developer who was trying to acquire Greenleaf House is found murdered. And after breaking into a sealed attic, Wren finds a skeleton stuffed in a trunk. She soon realizes the two deaths, a century apart, are strangely related. Meanwhile, a distraction of a different kind appears in the form of her client’s niece, the beautiful and seductive Hadley Vanderwerf. As Wren gingerly approaches a romance, she finds that Hadley has her own secrets. Then a third murder occurs, and the introverted architect is forced to think about people, and about how ill-fated love affairs and obsessions continue to haunt the Greenleafs. In the end, Wren risks her own life to uncover a pair of murderers, separated by a century but connected by motive. She reveals an odd twist in the family tree that forever changes the lives of the Greenleafs, the people who served them, the mansion they all called home—and even Wren herself.
Praise for The Greenleaf Murders:
“A delightful who-done-it in which the house is as engaging as the wonderful heroine. Readers will want to get lost in these rooms and these pages.”
Cate Holahan, USA Today bestselling author of Her Three Lives
“If you love houses and puzzles – which I do – you will be captivated by THE GREENLEAF MURDERS, the first in Richard Koreto’s new series. Equally sure-footed in the gilded age of the mansion’s heyday and the contemporary world of its decline, Koreto has woven a pretzel of a plot, introduced a charming new heroine, and whetted appetites for more grave deeds and grandeur.”
Catriona McPherson, multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series
“The Greenleaf Murders mixes a modern suspense mystery with the love of old-world mansions and iconic High Society. Buried secrets threaten a family clinging to their former glory as two murders surface, a century apart. Koreto weaves a story that creates the perfect tension between the beauty of the golden era and the fear of a killer in plain sight.”
L.A. Chandlar, national best selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series
“One would think that a murder mystery featuring old homes, architecture, and rich blue bloods would be a dull read, but that’s not the case with R.J. Koreto’s finely-written “The Greenleaf Murders.” Filled with twists and turns and sharply-drawn characters, this well-done novel is very much recommended.”
Brendan DuBois, award-wining and New York Times bestselling author
Last night, Wren had dreamt she went to Manderley again. When she was fifteen, her mother had given her a copy of Rebecca, saying it was one of her favorites. A voracious reader, Wren finished it in a few days, but her reaction was not what her mother had hoped for. “Rebecca was horrible, but Maxim was no prize either. And the second Mrs. De Winter—kind of wimpy.” “You didn’t like anyone in that book?” asked her exasperated mother. “I liked Mrs. Danvers. I know she was insane, but she really appreciated the house. If people had been nicer to her, maybe she wouldn’t have burned it down. The best part of the book was Manderley. I’d have liked to live there, in splendid isolation, and Mrs. Danvers would take care of things. She was the only one in the book who knew how to do something.” Her mother just stared. What teenaged girl talked about living by herself in an ivy-covered British mansion? She kissed her daughter on her forehead. “Wren, you really are an old soul.” But although Manderley was her first love, Wren proved fickle, and also fell in love with Holyrood House, Blenheim Palace, and Versailles. A succession of guidance counselors worried about Wren, although she gradually learned to make friends, and even go on dates. However, nothing could replace her love for houses, and it was a foregone conclusion by college that she would become an architect like her father and spend as much time as possible working with houses and not people. And not just any houses, but the kind no one had lived in for a long time. As Wren approached 30, her father made her a junior partner and told her if he could close the deal with Stephen Greenleaf, he’d let her take full responsibility for Greenleaf House. Once the proposal they had worked on so hard had been completed, Wren couldn’t think about anything beyond spending her days in that Gilded Age gem, one of the largest private residences ever built in New York City. Over the years, like the second Mrs. De Winter, she dreamed of Manderley, never more than when she was hoping for the Greenleaf job. She came home late one evening after visiting a job site and found her father in the study of the home they still shared. Living at home had become a temporary convenience while she was at graduate school, which turned into a habit, as they liked each other’s company. Not that either would admit it. She watched him sketch. Although the firm had an office in midtown Manhattan, her father preferred to work in the study of their Brooklyn townhouse. For normal work, she knew it was safe to interrupt him, but not while he did the sketches—his avocation, his passion, just him and his pencils, creating columns and cornices, chair railings, and gargoyles. The only light poured from the desk lamp, illuminating the fine paper and her father’s high-domed forehead. She wanted to know if he had heard anything—but had to wait patiently. Eventually, the scratching stopped, and he put his pencil down. “If you haven’t eaten yet, Ada left her spaghetti and meat sauce in the refrigerator. She’s a fine housekeeper, but that particular dish is a little common.” “Only you would describe a dish of pasta as ‘common.’” “You know what I mean. And if you don’t understand the context, you shouldn’t be an architect.” “Fine. But I think it’s delicious.” “Yes,” he said, with a touch of impatience. “I didn’t say it wasn’t delicious. I said it was common.” He swiveled in his chair and smiled. “But you’re really here to ask if I’ve heard from Greenleaf? I told him today that we couldn’t put aside our other projects indefinitely. And that Bobby Fiore was the only contractor we could trust, and we couldn’t ask him to postpone other jobs, so with a few arguments about the price, he agreed.” Wren laughed, did a little dance, and punched the air. Then she ran and hugged her father, which he tolerated. “I knew you’d convince him. You are the most wonderful father.” “Wren. Take a seat.” He said it in his even, measured tone, the one he used for serious discussions. Wren wiped the smile from her face, pulled up a chair, and tucked a rebellious lock of hair behind her ear. In the half-dark room, he took her hands in his. “I have no doubt that you have the technical skills for this job. My concern is the personal skills. These are the Greenleafs. They were a force in this city when it was still New Amsterdam. We see their house merely as an architectural jewel. The family sees it as a symbol of how tightly they are tied to the history of this city. They are different from other people.” “People are people,” she said. “First of all, no. People are different. And even if you were right, people are not your strong suit.” “I’ve worked well with our clients,” she said defensively. “You referred to one of our clients as ‘a pompous bourgeois vulgarian.’” Wren rolled her eyes. “Let’s not go there again. I didn’t say it to his face, just to you.” “Do you think you hid your feelings?” “You’ve said worse,” she countered. Then realized she had lost the argument when his eyes went up to the framed certificate on the wall—the Pritzker Prize, often called the Nobel Prize of architecture. I’ve earned my right to arrogance. You have a long way to go. “Just remember that these people pay our bills. I know we often work to protect them from their own worse instincts, but let’s try to be a little more politic. Your mother used to say you lived in your own special world. But you have to join the rest of humanity every now and then. And that brings me back to Greenleaf House. This is the very important symbol of what was once one of the most important families in this city. Keep that in mind when dealing with Stephen Greenleaf.” “We’ve already had several meetings, don’t forget. He didn’t seem that unusual to me—runs his own asset management firm. I’ve dealt with Wall Street types before. It won’t be a problem.” “Wren.” Again, heavy on her name—all her life, this had been the sign of a serious conversation. “The Greenleafs made their money before there was a Wall Street. People like this are unusually touchy about their families and histories. Now that you’re actually starting, his behavior may change. There could be some emotional repercussions. To make this a success, you will have to watch out for those feelings and manage them.” “And you’re about to say—again—that I understand houses but not people.” “Let’s just say it’s more of an effort for you. You can work with people. You just don’t like to. But I made you a partner. So you can’t just do the fun parts of your job. You have to do it all.” “Yes, father,” she said. He was serious, so there could be no more pushback from her. No verbal fencing. He wanted her to live up to his expectations. “It isn’t your father who’s asking you, Wren. It’s the senior partner of this firm, Ms. Fontaine.” She nodded. “I understand, Ezra.” And then he lightened his face with a smile. “But before we move on to the particulars, there is one more piece of advice, this time from your father. It may be hard to remember in any residence we work on, but especially in one with more than 70 rooms, it is not just a house. It’s someone’s home. It was Mr. Greenleaf’s childhood home, in fact, and his aunt has lived there her entire life. You’re not very sentimental Wren—and that’s fine. Neither am I. But please remember that—it’s not just a building. It’s a home.” *** Excerpt from The Greenleaf Murders by R.J. Koreto. Copyright 2022 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. All rights reserved.
R.J. Koreto is the author of the Historic Home mystery series, set in modern New York City; the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England; and the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, set in turn-of-the-century New York. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, as well as various anthologies. In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College. With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
As I move closer to retirement, I’m slowly disengaging myself from some of my academic obligations and making time for more personal interests and activities. One of those is genealogical research. Exploring family origins is a grand adventure!
According to my DNA results, nearly half of my ethnic roots can be traced to the Scottish Highlands and Islands, an area of northern Scotland that stretches west and northward to the Shetland Islands. Another third comes from Scandinavia, which many researchers and dog fanciers consider the origins of the modern-day Sheltie. Given that my home includes a Sheltie, I love the thought of having a shared history of place!
My Sheltie, by the way, is officially recognized by the AKC as Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha. We chose Ozark for our locale and Highlands for her heritage; we’re actually in the Ozark Highlands, so it’s a double play on that word. We included Summer because she has a warm, sunny spirit. And because she came to us with the call name Sasha, we included that as a bridge between her past and present. The word Highlands in her name has taken on even greater significance now that I’ve confirmed I have a close, personal connection to that region.
It has been long supposed that the beginnings of this breed could be traced to influence by a Northern Spitz type dog brought from Scandinavia by the early inhabitants, a King Charles Spaniel, the original Pomeranian and other dogs indigenous to the islands as well as the Scotch Collie. The actual mix of what went into developing this breed is shrouded in mystery and still debated.
Becky Casal, who runs the popular website Sheltie Planet, suggests “all modern Shelties, whether the American or English type, descend from common bloodlines first developed on the Shetland Islands in the 1700s.” She goes on to say the imported dogs “were crossbred extensively with mainland working dogs” and in particular with the “Rough Collie and Border Collie.”
The Emerging Breed
Whatever their origins, records suggest the breed may have become a source of income for some farmers, as visitors to the Scottish Isles found the dog’s small stature appealing as companion dogs. As the breed became more widely known southward through Scotland into England, an interest in the breed and the increasing demand for small dogs may have contributed to the continued crossbreeding.
Through my research I discovered the breed had been registered as the Shetland Collie with the English Kennel Club, which might explain why some visitors to refer to the breed as Lilliputian Collies or Miniature Collies. From the ASSA’s Pat Ferrel I learned that other names included Toonie Dog, Peerie Dog, and Fairy Dog. (Who knew?) I also learned that the Shetland Collie name created controversy among established Collie fanciers; consequently, the breed name was changed from Shetland Collie to Shetland Sheepdog in 1909.
Sasha’s ready for a winter’s day adventure!
Today, the Shetland Sheepdog is recognized by the AKC as a member of the Herding Group (and the Pastoral Group in the UK). Still appreciated as a working breed, today’s Sheltie excels in agility, rally, and herding, as well as conformation and obedience. The Sheltie also thrives in performing therapy work and providing emotional support to those in need. No matter their role, a Sheltie is a loyal companion and a treasured member of the family.
For a more in-depth study of the breed, visit Charlotte McGowan’s article on the ASSA website.
To learn more about today’s Sheltie, check out Jan Reisen’s article on the AKC website highlighting seven important things to know about a Sheltie.
And to learn how to groom a Sheltie (an adventure in itself!) check out this excellent step-by-step guide at the Sheltie Planet website.
Shifting and Shenanigans Virtual Book Tour October 10-21, 2022
Fiction—and mystery fiction in particular—opens the door to fascinating places where everyday life takes a backseat to adventure in a journey through the unknown. And when that journey includes talking cats, eccentric characters, and paranormal elements, the result is a spiced-up cozy mystery that delivers a storyline full of twists and turns before building to an unexpected conclusion. If this sounds like something you’d find entertaining, then the Magical Mystery Book Club might just be for you!
In Shifting and Shenanigans, the first of the three-book series, the internationally bestselling author Elizabeth Pantley introduces us to just-divorced Paige and her free-spirited Aunt Gloria. Together, the intrepid duo discover Paige’s great-grandmother Gee-Gee has bequeathed to them the Snapdragon Inn, a long-time favorite vacation spot in Cascade Valley, Colorado. And while inherited properties, family adventures, and book clubs are often found in cozy mysteries, this author takes a unique approach to these plot elements. The first big twist comes when Paige and Gloria venture down into the two-story library built beneath the inn—space that’s been locked and off-limits all their lives. Access to the library is limited to the eight book club characters, including Zell, a feisty octogenarian and a talking cat named Frank, who were part of Gee-Gee’s adventures in the past and who guide Paige and Gloria as they find others to join their club. Readers familiar with cozy mysteries will recognize some common themes, including the tradition of sharing food and drinks before settling into a discussion of the book the club has been reading. Those similarities carry over to this story, with each character contributing skills and supplies in addition to gathering meals in local restaurants. A shared passion for good food is just one of the multiple bonds developing between club members.
Similarities soon give way to the quirky and unexpected when the group explores the library, which is exclusively devoted to cozy mysteries. The discovery that each title is presented in a packaged set of eight books leads Zell and Frank to explain the more esoteric features of the book club—an explanation that is cut short when Paige impulsively grabs a copy and reads the first page aloud. In a flash, the phrase “let’s get into the book” turns to reality as the group—and the Snapdragon Inn—are magically drawn into the book and become characters in the story. Together, this eccentric group must find a way to work together and uncover the community’s secrets that led to murder before they can get out of the book and find their way home again. The suspense builds to an unexpected and totally satisfying ending, leaving the reader eager for more.
The author—who has written other paranormal books as well as popular non-fiction—combines the classic elements of a cozy mystery and paranormal fiction to create a unique series that’s an enjoyable read. I look forward to seeing how both characters and storylines develop in the second and third book of the series, which are now available for purchase.
Paige and her adventurous Aunt Glo inherit a country inn from eccentric GeeGee. They pack up and hit the road, arriving at the charming place they both loved since childhood. Finally! They can get into the secret room in the basement that GeeGee kept locked! They discover it’s a wonderful library filled to the brim with mystery books. But more than the room was a secret – it’s a magical place that houses enchanted books. Paige and Glo find themselves smack-dab in the middle of a murder mystery, along with a motley group of book club friends. The club will need to work together to solve the case in order to get out of the book and back to their home.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said the locksmith. He took a step back and scratched his head. He’d been at it for twenty minutes and still hadn’t opened the door. “It doesn’t make sense. This takes a skeleton key. It should be a simple task. People can do it with a couple of Allen wrenches. I’ve even done it with a pair of paperclips.” “So, what do we do now?” Glo asked. “Best thing is to contact a carpenter. Since the hinges are inside, he’ll have to drill the lock. It’ll destroy the lock and damage your door, though.” “We don’t have much choice. We want to get into the room, so we’ll have to do it,” I said. After the locksmith left, we looked up a couple of local contractors, but any openings were days away. We texted Theo but hadn’t heard back from him yet. We decided to start the day by sorting out the kitchen. There were plenty of dishes and dry goods, but the organization was an absolute mess. “How in the world did she work in this disaster?” Glo mumbled. “You’d spend half your time searching for things!” She was emptying out a cabinet. She pulled out an odd assortment of dishes, pots, cleaning supplies, and canned goods. She started to laugh and held up a hundred-piece puzzle in one hand and a shoeshine kit in the other. “Now this makes perfect sense.” She was snorting. “Make dinner, clean up, shine your shoes and do a puzzle.” I held up a few treasures from the cabinet I was working on. “And here you go. In case you need a spare pair of socks, a stack of plastic containers – no lids – and printer ink.” “It’s like a treasure hunt! It’s good for us to sort through all this anyhow.” “True,” I agreed. “Then we’ll know what we’ve got. Let me find some paper and a pen and we’ll start a list of things we need.” I began to sort through the typical drawers most people would use for things like pens and scratch paper, then groaned. “You know what’s in her junk drawers? Talcum powder, coffee creamer, clothespins, and aha! The soup bowls!” “Where’s the very last place you’d look for a pen and paper? Try that first,” snickered Glo. “Probably the bathroom,” I joked. “I’ll just make a list on my phone.” I opened another cabinet and groaned at the stack of boxes and plastic containers jammed into every inch. They were filled with random stuff. I took them to the table and dumped them out. “Holy Toledo! Glo, look at this!” I stood up and did a little dance around the kitchen. I shimmied over to her, then held up a very old-looking skeleton key. ~ ~ ~ “I feel like we should have a drum roll or a trumpet fanfare—” “—or fireworks!” laughed Glo. “At least a countdown. Five … four … three … two … one! Blastoff!” I turned the key and heard the click as it unlocked. “Houston, we have liftoff.” I twisted the knob and pushed the door open. There was a set of stairs to the basement. At the bottom of the stairs was another door. We opened it. Impossibly, there was another set of stairs. At the bottom of those stairs was yet another door. It required a skeleton key to open. I stared at the key in my hand. “You better work,” I told the key. The key worked smoothly, and I opened the door. Our jaws dropped and neither of us spoke. You could have heard a cotton ball drop. Finally, Glo broke the silence. “Holy macaroni! This is insane!” “How could she have kept this secret our whole lives?” I wondered. “WHY did she keep this secret?” Glo added. “This room is the size of the entire house! It’s enormous. Ginormous!” I whistled. “This secret space is underneath the inn! How is it two stories high? Is that even structurally sound? This is bizarre.” The room was indeed two levels high, connected by a brass spiral staircase. In the front area, where we were glued to the spot, was a large seating area with eight cozy floral patterned armchairs. A beautiful wooden coffee table sat in the middle. There was an antique globe on a brass stand, and a stone fireplace like the one upstairs. This one had an intricately carved wood mantle and a stone hearth. A large statue of a woman holding a book was centered on the mantle. “Look at all these books!” exclaimed Glo, spinning in a circle. “This is the library GeeGee referred to in her will! Remember? She said she’s putting us in charge. That it’s priceless!” “I am beyond confused, Paige. How is this even possible? GeeGee was just a sweet little innkeeper. She was the lady who baked us cookies and homemade stew. And she was hiding all this right under our feet?!” *** Excerpt from Shifting and Shenanigans by Elizabeth Pantley. Copyright 2022 by Elizabeth Pantley. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Pantley. All rights reserved.
Elizabeth Pantley says that writing her Mystery and Magic book series is the most fun she’s ever had at work. Fans of the series say her joy is evident through the engaging stories she tells. Elizabeth is also the international bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful inspiration for her enchanted worlds.