For the love of a cat

Like Deadly Ties, the first in the Waterside Kennels mystery series, there are multiple scenes in Dangerous Deeds (book 2) that were inspired by real events. One of those, previously described in the post There Came Along A Kitty, is the scene in which Maggie Porter’s dog Sweet Pea rescues an injured stray kitten she finds beneath the dock. Although Maggie’s initial assessment is “not much more than bones and fur” the kitten turns out to have a tiger-sized attitude and, after a brief stay at the vet, claims the kennel—and Sweet Pea—as his own. There’s another scene in which Sweet Pea briefly regrets the new addition, and it’s inspired by my own cat’s early morning shenanigans.

Buddy The Wonder Cat starts every morning at oh dark early by tapping me gently on the shoulder. If I don’t immediately get up, off he goes to do whatever cats do in the pre-dawn hours, and he’s back in 15 minutes to tap me again.  Ignoring him might buy me a few more minutes of quiet time, but then he knocks whatever he can off the headboard shelf and runs laps around the room. And if none of that gets me up and moving in the direction of his food dish, he leaps straight down onto the still-sleeping dog. That’s a move guaranteed to get everybody up and moving, whether they wanted to or not. He can go from sweetly solicitous to saber-toothed snarly in no time at all. Fortunately Sasha, like Sweet Pea, is quick to forgive her feline housemate, and life goes on.

More soon! And in the meantime, here’s a slideshow of my own Buddy The Wonder Cat and Sasha, who both keep us laughing every day of our lives.

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Move Over Miss Marple

Move Over Miss Marple WordleI’m delighted to announce that in April I’ll be leading a course for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Fayetteville, Arkansas. More commonly known as OLLI, the institute is a division of the University of Arkansas. I’m glad to have this chance to return to a place that holds such happy memories; I earned my master’s degree at the university and taught undergraduates there for four years before moving on in pursuit of my doctorate.

During the OLLI course, we’ll be exploring the role of female sleuths in mystery fiction since the days of Miss Marple. The course is structured to run in two-hour sessions meeting once weekly, which allows participants to research authors and writing practices as well as giving everyone time to read excerpts in between sessions. I’m already collecting material to share and looking for more—see details at end of this post.

First, here’s the description for “Move Over, Miss Marple” from the OLLI spring catalog:

This course will explore the role of female sleuths in American and British mystery fiction. The first session will introduce types of female characters—both amateur and professional—in crime solving fictional roles. We’ll explore the differences in character roles and responsibilities within the context of the genre.

In the second session, we’ll discuss how the characters’ dialog and action help bring a region to life in a mystery series. We’ll investigate the way writers create a sense of place, blend fact with fiction, and address social issues and controversies as part of plotting the sleuth’s role.

Our final session will focus on the increasingly popular sub-genre of crime fiction known as the ‘cozy’ mystery. We’ll analyze key structural elements and characteristics defining a cozy mystery. Using the information developed in the first two sessions, we’ll study the variety of types and sleuths within the sub-genre.

The course is appropriate for both writers and readers looking for a deeper understanding and appreciation of women in the mystery genre.

I’ll be sending advance packets via email to registered participants and plan to include “Recommended Reading” lists and (hopefully) excerpts of books that relate to our session topics. And while the main focus is on American and British mystery fiction, I can easily extend that to Canada or the Caribbean. That’s where you all come in!

READERS: who are your favorite female sleuths? Share details in the comments (author, book/series title) and a brief explanation why you’d recommend these to others. I’ll add your name to a drawing for a free copy of Deadly Ties (Kindle or Audiobook edition, your choice). Keep for yourself or pass along as a gift!

Have a favorite website that features cozy mysteries and/or female sleuths? Share that, too! This could be a great way to drive more traffic to sites you enjoy and want to support.

WRITERS: if you have a female sleuth, I’d love to consider promoting you and your work—to include excerpts or sample chapters—as part of this course. Email dogmysteries [at] gmail dot com for details.

You’re also welcome to post in the comments of this post for additional publicity. And if you’ll suggest other authors’ work for inclusion , I’ll add your name to the drawing, too.

READERS AND WRITERS: I’d be very grateful if you’d help me get the word out via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. Reblogging in part or whole is welcome with a link back to my website. My goal is to introduce course participants to as many authors, books, and websites as possible.

In addition to sharing the “Recommended Reads” with registered participants, I’ll happily post the collection here by the end of April so we can learn about “new to us” authors and celebrate books together!

Reflections of Life in Fiction

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I write mystery fiction. I write from experience, from observation, from research. The characters living in the world I create are good, bad, and sometimes both. They have virtues and vices. Some of my characters will share your view of the world and some won’t. In short, they’re the sort of people you already know or might expect to meet. And, like many people you know, some of these characters aren’t shy about voicing their opinions and fighting for what they think is right. And when opposing viewpoints collide, therein lies the conflict at the heart of the story.

My job as a writer, then, is to present those opinions and messages as part of the plot development. It’s far easier, frankly, to write a character whose values and beliefs match some of my own than it is to write a character at the other end of the spectrum. Both kinds of characters, however, are essential to the plot, so it’s my job as storyteller to present each as authentically as possible.

In Dangerous Deeds (forthcoming), you’ll find multiple characters with the common bond of military service but with differing opinions and interests. Writing these characters proved easy because I’m third-generation military. My paternal grandfather served in the Canadian Infantry in World War I, my father served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, and I served in the U.S. Air Force. I enlisted a year after the fall of Saigon and served through the Cold War of the 1970s and 1980s right through the first Gulf War before retiring from active duty in the mid-1990s. I was fortunate to serve alongside honorable and courageous men and women; the bonds we forged still hold and inform my writing.

While veterans of all ages share a common bond of service, our experiences vary and every generation has stories unique to their time. That’s where observation and research come into the writing process and allow me to create an assortment of characters of varying complexity. Take my protagonist’s neighbor Zak Henderson, for example, who was introduced in Deadly Ties. His time in uniform included three deployments to Afghanistan. If you were to say “Thank you for your service” to Zak, he’d likely nod and tell you that he was just upholding the family tradition of serving others.  Since leaving the military, he’s done his best to settle into civilian life as a single parent. When trouble comes to Eagle Cove, Zak’s ready to stand in defense of what’s right.

Just like any other segment of the population, the military ranks include some who crave conflict and seek power over others. As much as we might like to believe everyone in uniform holds firm to the highest ethical standards, the reality is that some do not. In Dangerous Deeds, you’ll meet the character Karl Shackleford, former second-in-command to Sheriff Johnson’s corrupt predecessor. Karl opted for the Army rather than fall in line with the new law-and-order regime, and only came home after falling afoul of Army conduct regulations. Now he’s back on the job thanks to Veterans’ Reemployment Rights and eager to see his old boss reinstated as sheriff and resume his own position of power. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, legal or otherwise.

Some veterans return with physical or psychological wounds, and more than a few find themselves without a place to call home. Some estimates suggest that nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Another 1.5 million veterans are at risk of homelessness because of poverty, insufficient support networks, and housing issues. That’s true for some of my characters, too.  In Dangerous Deeds you’ll meet Martin Grimes, homeless after the family’s hilltop farm was auctioned off while Martin served overseas. Now he’s getting by one day at a time, doing odd jobs that come along, spending nights rough camping in the woods not far from Waterside Kennels and wondering just what he’d been fighting for. When trouble comes to Eagle Cove, he’ll have to decide, once again, where his sense of loyalty and honor will lead him.

Three men, all veterans, each with his own story to tell. Although fictional, each reflects some element of reality for military veterans today.

This week, the United States will recognize Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day in recognition of the ceasefire on the 11th hour of November 11, 1918 which ended World War I. If you’d like to learn ways to support military veterans in need, visit the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans or learn about the Lifeline for Vets.

Veterans Day 2015

 

Mystery Lovers Unite!

Sisters in Crime

It’s always fun to watch the reaction when I tell folks I’m a member of Sisters in Crime. Some chuckle, some look confused, and a few seem downright nervous until I explain the organization celebrates the mystery genre and supports women (men, too!) who write mystery, suspense, and thriller fiction.

I’ve been very fortunate to have the support and encouragement of so many in this group this past year as I launched my third book and debut novel, Deadly TiesThat support continues as I celebrate the release of the audio edition of the book, and I’m truly grateful.  Today, I want to turn the spotlight on three “Sisters” and fellow authors who write compelling mystery fiction: Cathy Perkins, Mark Troy, and Marilyn Larew. Read on for details and links!

Cathy-Perkins-author-photoCathy Perkins is an award-winning author who works in the financial industry where she’s observed  the hide-in-plain-sight skills her villains put into practice. Whether writing darker fiction or lighter works, she delivers stories with strong characters who must overcome serious obstacles in pursuit of justice. If you like psychological thrillers or edgy mysteries with a romantic twist, give this author a try!

Here’s a glimpse of her latest novel, CYPHER, as described on her website:

When a hit-man kills the wrong person, a Greenville, SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family, while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim—a woman who should be dead, but instead is hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family.

Unwilling to stand by while her family and world are destroyed, she rips apart the secrets surrounding Cypher, the company her father built—and will take any measures to defend.

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Cathy’s books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. You can keep up with Cathy and all her news via her blog. (That’s where I discovered that Cathy, when asked what kind of animal she’d like to be, answered that she’d love to be a dog. I knew then she should be included here.)

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When you hear the name Sisters in Crime, you might think it’s all about women. Not true, as Mark Troy can tell you. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Mark has traveled quite a bit, to include Thailand, Hawaii, and most recently Texas.

Mark Troy authorMark Troy is the author of Pilikia Is My Business, a private eye novel published in 2001 and republished in 2010. Pilikia was nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America for Best 1st P.I. Novel. Game Face, a collection of short stories featuring P.I. Val Lyon, was published in 2011. The Rules, the first story in the Ava Rome series, was published as an ebook and audiobook in 2013. Mark’s latest release, The Splintered Paddle, is a dark thriller featuring a private investigator. Here’s a snippet from his website:

Private eye Ava Rome’s calling is to protect the defenseless. She takes on the cases of Jenny Mordan, a working girl who is being harassed by a police detective, and Cassie Sands, a teenager who is mixed up with a marijuana grower.
Norman Traxler did ten years in San Quentin nurturing his hatred of Ava Rome, the young MP who took him down for assaulting a prostitute.
When Traxler, the detective and the grower join forces against her, Ava’s calling — protecting the defenseless — becomes a fight for her life.
This dark thriller takes you on a tour of paradise tourists never see.
Waikiki, Hawaii. Dark clouds of revenge. Twisted motives. A bloody finale.

the splintered paddle cover mark troy

You can read an excerpt of The Splintered Paddle on Mark’s website, and find his books for sale on Amazon. If you’re a fan of intense, dark thrillers, this author might be just right for you!

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The third author in the spotlight today is another world traveler.  Ask Marilynn Larew about her work and she’ll tell you “I write thrillers right out of today’s news.” With a Ph.D. in History, this college professor turned novelist has a strong background in teaching and writing. Here’s Marilynn, in her own words:

Marilyn_Larew

Although I live just over the Mason-Dixon Line in southern Pennsylvania, I love to travel – Hanoi, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Cairo, and, of course, Paris and London. On a bad day, I’ll even go to Philadelphia.

In my books I want to take you to places like that and show you international crime and terrorism. My books deal with drug runners selling dreams and death, merchants of death selling weapons to all comers, and human traffickers selling women and children into modern day slavery. These businesses produce mountains of money that has to be washed so the profits can be used. Some of this money goes to terrorist groups determined to destroy us.

Lee Carruthers, black money specialist for the CIA, follows the path of this illegal money to put these people out of business.

A review posted by Chanticleer Book Reviews called The Spider Catchers “a white-knuckled spy thriller about human trafficking and dirty money funding terrorism.”  CIA analyst Lee Carruthers is ordered to Fez, Morocco, to find a missing colleague and winds up in a terrorist camp in the Algerian desert.

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You can read an excerpt from the first in the Lee Carruthers series on Marilynn’s website, and keep up with all her news on her blog. Her work is currently available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon. You can order a signed copy direct from the author; visit her website for details.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this sampler of thrillers!