Spotlight: Beanie and Cruiser Mysteries

I’ve heard it said there are close-knit groups of owners and handlers in obedience, agility, conformation, and (I imagine) just about every other dog-related activity. That seems to apply to the world of dog-related fiction, too. Our conversations and emails and social media accounts tend to be chock-full of All Things Dog.  We commiserate through the rough times while we’re slogging through drafts, edits, rejections, and rewrites. We encourage and support one another through publication and beyond, and we celebrate when success comes knocking for any one of us. Today, we’re celebrating the latest award earned by author and fellow dog lover Sue Owens Wright.

The Maxwell Medallion is the Dog Writers Association of America’s prestigious award for excellence. For many, it’s considered the most celebrated award recognizing outstanding writing across myriad media–from newsletters to magazines to blogs to books (and a whole lot more). You can see the entire list of nominees and category winners here. To learn more about DWAA, visit their website.

If you’re already familiar with this series, enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at the experiences and inspirations for the books. If Sue is a new-to-you author, I’m glad to have this opportunity to introduce her. If you enjoy mysteries with a regional flair (this one’s set around Lake Tahoe) and love Basset Hounds, here’s an author you’ll want to meet!

Sue Owens Wright

Q&A With Sue

You’ve won three Maxwell Awards from the Dog Writers Association of America. What were they awarded for?

Since 2001, I’ve been nominated 12 times for the Maxwell Award and have won this prestigious award twice before for the best writing on the subject of dogs: Best Magazine Feature in 2003 and Best Newspaper Column in 2005.  In 2004, I received special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for a magazine feature I wrote about stray dogs in Greece. Four of the five books in the Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series have been nominated for a Maxwell, but this is my first win for a novel, a dream come true. Third time’s a charm.

Why do you write about dogs?

Dusty and me

My relationship with dogs goes back a long way. I had a dog when I was still in the womb. I have an old black and white photo of my mom when she was pregnant with me. In the photo with her is a tan mutt named Dusty. When I was born, there was Dusty, who would be my constant and best companion throughout childhood. I’ve never been without a dog since, and my bond with canines is unbreakable. I’ve lived with dogs, slept with dogs, traveled with dogs, and been sick as a dog with dogs, furry empaths who have been a great source of comfort. I’ve rescued dogs, and they rescued me right back. It stands to reason that I would spend my life writing about woman’s best friend. If there is such a thing as destiny, then for me it came with a friendly bark and a wagging tail.

What else have you written?

Poetry was actually the first writing of mine ever to be published when I was in college. Besides the Beanie and Cruiser mysteries, I have written some nonfiction books, including “150 Activities for Bored Dogs,” “What’s Your Dog’s IQ?” and “People’s Guide to Dog Care.” I also wrote a historical thriller, “The Secret of Bramble Hill.” For a decade, I wrote an award-winning pet care column for Inside, a Sacramento publication. I’ve written essays that were published in newspapers, magazines, literary reviews and anthologies, most notably “Fightin’ Words—25 Years of Provocative Poetry and Prose from the Blue-collar PEN,” along with Norman Mailer and other literary luminaries. I was a columnist and senior writer for Comstock’s Magazine. I have written science articles for a technology magazine and also wrote film scripts for an educational firm.

In what ways are your fictional dogs, Cruiser and Calamity, like your real dogs?

I’ve had eight basset hounds over the years, all but one of them adopted, and they have provided me with plenty of material for my fictional canines. My two rescued male bassets, Bubba Gump and Beau (he graces the book cover of “Ears for Murder” along with my now 16-year-old female, Peaches), inspired the Cruiser character, also a rescue. True to his breed, Cruiser is devoted, easy going, tenacious and stubborn. These low-slung hounds tend to make great speed bumps around the house for their people to trip over—and I have. Calamity, the troublesome basset hound introduced in my fourth book, “Braced for Murder,” is a composite of my two most challenging rescue dogs, “Crazy” Daisy and my fearful little Peaches. Daisy was the worst of the two; I sometimes refer to “Crazy Calamity” in the book. Like Calamity, both Daisy and Peaches were the unfortunate victims of puppy mills and backyard breeders who failed to properly socialize them as puppies. Daisy was an inbred anomaly that no amount of socialization could have helped. She was a strange canine case of Jekyll and Hyde. With her, I learned it is wise never to answer ads placed by someone rehoming an adult dog. There’s usually a good reason they don’t want you to know about. I found that out the hard way with Daisy, but I loved her and didn’t give up on her. Beanie doesn’t give up on Calamity, either.

 

Dolly (left) and Patience, on Kiva Beach at Lake Tahoe

Why did you decide to set your Beanie and Cruiser Mysteries at Lake Tahoe?

I’ve been traveling to Lake Tahoe since childhood. I was born in a valley, but my heart is in the high country. I have always enjoyed skiing, hiking and bicycling at Lake Tahoe. I once pedaled my bike all the way around the lake, a challenge even for the best cyclists. I discovered why Incline Village is so named.

I have long been inspired by this scenic alpine lake and its surrounding history and folklore, which is why I chose to set my series at Lake Tahoe. It has inspired other writers, too. How could it not? As Mark Twain wrote when he first glimpsed Tahoe’s serene and pristine beauty, the lake is the “fairest picture the whole world affords.” I couldn’t agree more. I often visit Lake Tahoe and wish I could live there. Instead, I live vicariously through my character, Elsie MacBean, who shares a cozy cabin in the woods with her basset hounds, Cruiser and Calamity. The idea for “Howling Bloody Murder,” the first book in my mystery series, came to me while I was sitting on the back deck of my family’s cabin with my own beloved bassets. Peering out into the deep, dark woods, I wondered what might be lurking out there waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting hiker. My imagination carried me away, and that is how the Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series came about.

***

Read an excerpt:

I quickly discovered that I had made a mistake in allowing Calamity off her leash for our morning walk. Before I could say Fleabiscuit, she scurried off, creating a cyclone of dust in her wake.

“Calamity, come back here!” I shouted, but she showed no sign of slowing her pace. Soon, all I saw was a dirt devil instead of the dog as she vanished from my sight. What had I done? I shouldn’t have trusted that dog off her lead for one instant. Nona would never forgive me if I lost her dog while she was away, just as I’d never have forgiven her if she lost Cruiser.

By the time I caught up with Calamity, I felt like I had sucked up half the mountain into my lungs. I sputtered and coughed, trying to catch my breath from running after her and inhaling all that dust. Why I’m not as svelte as my runway model daughter is anyone’s guess. It seems like I spend most of my time chasing after wayward canines. Cruiser had passed me somewhere along the trail and was busy helping Calamity investigate something. I approached to see what they’d found that was so doggone interesting that they made me run half-way up the mountain to see it. A couple of coyotes spotted us and vanished in a cloud of dust. That could have been the howling I’d heard and what attracted my dogs here. When the dust settled, I discovered something else besides my two hound dogs marking a surviving tree. They had led me straight to a man’s bloody corpse.

***

Excerpt from Ears for Murder by Sue Owens Wright. Copyright © 2017 by Sue Owens Wright. Reproduced with permission from author. All rights reserved.

 

Connect with Sue

You can follow Sue on her website at http://www.sueowenswright.com/.

Read her Dog Blog at http://dogearedbooks.blogspot.com/

Her publisher is the small press www.blackopalbooks.com

She’s a featured client with www.breakthroughpromotions.net

 

How to Spot Fake Authors

In my last post I mentioned that author Courtney Milan offers excellent suggestions to help writers whose work has been stolen. For readers, the question remains: how can you spot fake authors? You can’t rely on price alone, since many real authors and reputable publishers may hold short-term sales and post promotional offers. And some writers are truly prolific and turn multiple books out in a year. (Not me. In fact, I might be in the running for Slowest Writer on the Planet.)

For insight, I turned to acclaimed author Lynne Connolly who writes historical, contemporary, and paranormal romance through Kensington Publishing Corporation and Tule Publishing. She’s a dedicated writer who cares about the art and craft of writing, and about the readers who deserve the best we can offer.

I came across Lynne’s “how to spot a fake” in the comments section of Nora Roberts’ blog post and am sharing excerpts here with her written permission. I’ll note she’s writing this from the perspective of her genre. Clever readers (you!) can easily tailor the list for just about any genre.

While there’s no one guaranteed way to spot a fake, Lynne suggests readers dig a little deeper if they see three or more of the following traits:

1. An alliterative name (Lord knows why, but a lot of them do that).

2. Only on Amazon, and enrolled in KU.

3. Romance writer (because I haven’t looked at other genres).

4. Single woman on cover, taken from a stock site. For historical romance they use a woman in a wedding dress and then colour it. Very often with garish colours to attract the attention.

5. The book is permanently 99 cents.

6. No photo of the author, or one taken from a stock photo site.

7. Hundreds of 5 star reviews, with a bunch of 1 and 2 stars which say the book is badly edited, inconsistent, poor grammar etc. When a poor review is put up, they usually buy some more to keep it off the top.

8. Somebody you’ve never heard of, or met, but is, or claims to be, a USA Today best seller. She never goes to conventions, she isn’t a member of a professional organisation like the RWA, RNA or Ninc.

9. Recently they’ve started doing very basic websites, usually on Wix (presumably because it’s free and fast). But they do have the same pattern. The individuals who buy their books will take a bit more care, but the groups will not.

Oh yes, and you look at the excerpt, then at the 5 star reviews and wonder if they were reading the same book!

***

You can find Lynne Connolly online at lynneconnolly.com or on her blog at lynneconnolly.blogspot.co.uk. She’s also on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter @lynneconnolly.

***

In my experience, real authors–from the Big League to the stumbling newbie–care about the craft and their readers. We have trackable digital footprints. Read our blogs. Follow us on social media. Subscribe to our newsletters. Check us out in libraries and bookstores. Send us email or invite us to your online discussion groups–we love to talk to readers almost as much as we love to write!

And speaking of real authors, come back next week to meet Sue Owens Wright and enjoy a blurb from her award-winning book Ears for Murder. If you love dogs, you’re going to love her Beanie & Cruiser series!

Sizzling Hot Reads!

We’re celebrating the dog days of summer by offering the Kindle edition of Deadly Ties at a special sale price of just $2.99 for a limited time. This is the first in the Waterside Kennels series; if you want to see how the story began, here’s your chance!Lab Silhouette

Book #2 in the series is due for release this fall, with book #3 on track for publication next year. While you’re waiting, here’s more dog-related mystery fiction to enjoy. Read on for a sample of some of my favorite authors who have been so generous to writers and readers alike. We all share the common bond of dogs in our books, but you’ll find considerable diversity in the way we write our traditional mysteries. I hope you enjoy browsing this list. Perhaps you’ll discover a “new to you” series!

Laurien Berenson

Gone with the Woof Laurien BerensonPoodle lovers, rejoice! Laurien Berenson‘s Melanie Travis mystery series continues, and it just keeps getting better. I’ve been a fan for years, and have been delighted to see new additions to this long-running series. (Want to read from the beginning? Start with A Pedigree to Die For.) Here’s the description for Gone with the Woof, #16 in the series:

Despite a toddler and a house full of Standard Poodles, Melanie Travis can’t pass up an opportunity to help legendary dog breeder Edward March pen his life story. But her enthusiasm flags when the breeder’s angry son Andrew demands she stop working on the book. Why becomes imperative once Andrew is killed by a seemingly intentional hit-and-run and Melanie becomes Suspect #1. To get herself out of the dog house, Melanie sniffs out every possible clue, only to run into dead ends as fast as she’s running out of time. And the longer the killer stays unleashed, the sooner she may end up in the dog house for good.

Susan Conant

Brute Strength Susan Conant

Brute Strength continues Susan Conant’s wonderful Dog Lover’s Mystery Series. (You can see the entire list of titles here, as well as other books written by this very talented author.)  Publishers Weekly said that “…series fans should enjoy spending time with familiar characters, the warm humor, and the dog lore.” Here’s the description from the Amazon book page:

When Dog’s Life columnist Holly Winter rejects applicants who want to adopt homeless dogs, she makes a lot of enemies. In dogs Holly trusts, and the dogs she trusts most are her beloved malamutes, Rowdy, Kimi and Sammy. But right now she could use a human friend. Lately, it seems wherever she turns, things go wrong: an anonymous call turns vicious, her husband is keeping secrets, and acquaintances die under mysterious circumstances. Then Holly’s own life is threatened. Can the brute strength of Rowdy, Kimi, and Sammy protect her?

Susan J. Kroupa

Dog-Nabbed cover

Dog-nabbed is the third book in the Doodlebug Mystery Series. This author is one of my favorites!  Susan J. Kroupa writes a terrific, laugh-out-loud series featuring a dog as narrator. You can read them in any order, too. Here’s the description from the Amazon sales page:

What’s not to love about a trip the Blue Ridge Mountains? Doodle has a blast—biggest yard ever, plus wild turkeys to chase–while Molly visits her grandparents. But then Molly’s good friend, Lizzie, begs for help. Lizzie’s father, under the influence of a self-proclaimed prophet named Zeke, forbids Lizzie to see anyone not approved by Zeke–not even Lizzie’s desperately ill grandmother. Defying Zeke, Molly and Lizzie meet secretly in the woods where a discovery makes Molly think Zeke’s hiding something. But how can she prove it?

As for Doodle, he loves all these hikes through the woods. Until he and Molly, hot on Zeke’s trail, end up lost—seriously, not his fault—and Doodle discovers that while it’s no fun being lost, it can be even worse to be found—by the wrong person.

Marja McGraw

Final Awkward Moments

If you’ve visited my site before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of cozy mysteries that aren’t your typical “formula” novel. I enjoy light humor, minimal violence, and an intriguing story line. You get all three in the Bogey Man Mystery Series authored by Marja McGraw. Here’s the description of Awkward Moments, Book #4 in the series:

What might happen if you tried to bury the body of a small bird, only to find a body already buried in the hole you’ve dug. And what might happen if another body ended up in the same hole?

Join Chris, Pamela and Mikey Cross while they try to figure out why someone would be murdered during their vacation, on private property, during the middle of the night. Watch for Chris’s cranky brother to show up unexpectedly, searching for lost gold and running people off of his property.

The Cross family is at it again, just like the amateur sleuths they swear they never meant to be.

C.A. Newsome

A shot in the BarkIf you’re a fan of rescue dogs and enjoy mysteries that have a bit more suspense and a little more romance than your typical cozy, then you definitely want to check out the Lia Anderson Mystery Series. Author C. A. Newsome has rescue dogs of her own, and brings that experience to the table when writing the series. The first in the series is A Shot in the Bark and a great addition to the world of dog-related fiction. Here’s the description you’ll find on her website:

Would you recognize a serial killer if you met one? Talked to one every day?

Artist Lia Anderson doesn’t, and neither does anyone else who frequents the Mount Airy Dog Park. But a violent death brings Detective Peter Dourson into the close-knit group, and he is convinced someone is not who they seem. As the investigation uncovers secrets, Lia struggles to cope with warring emotions and a killer watches.

Sue Owens Wright

Braced for Murder

“Welcome to the Bark Side of Mystery!” That’s the greeting you’ll find on the website of Sue Owen Wright, a gifted author who’s earned the prestigious Maxwell Medallion by the Dog Writers Association of America. I absolutely love this series. (After all, who couldn’t love a Basset Hound?)

Here’s the description of Braced for Murder, courtesy of Sue’s website:

When Beanie volunteers to foster a homeless basset hound from Lakeside Animal Shelter, she’s headed for calamity one way or another. Beanie and Cruiser are on the crime trail once again after a reviled shelter manager is discovered euthanized. Tahoe Animal Impoundment Liberation Society (TAILS), is a prime suspect in her murder, but there are plenty of other suspects among South Lake Tahoe’s irate dog lovers, including the grieving owner of Gilda, an ill-fated basset rumored to haunt the shelter.

If Beanie doesn’t have enough trouble unleashed on her with another murder to solve and daughter Nona’s health scare, foster dog Calamity is living up to her name, creating havoc at the MacBean house. With all her behavioral issues, this crazy hound could make a dog whisperer scream. Beanie is eager to find an adopter for Calamity at the upcoming Basset Waddle fundraiser for a new no-kill animal shelter, but Calamity has other ideas.

 

There are many more great writers out there, just waiting for you to discover them! You can find these authors and other great books at the touch of your keyboard. Find us on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. Try searching for “dog mysteries” at your favorite retailer. You can find us in digital and print editions online and in stores, to include independent bookstores (look for us on IndieBound as well as the major retailers). And more than one of us have audio editions of our books (or will have this fall), so be sure to browse Audible too. Now’s the perfect time to start your shopping list for upcoming holidays and special events–because books make the best gifts, of course!

Have another author and/or mystery series you’d like to suggest?

Leave a comment and recommend your own favorites! 

Much to Celebrate…

The Dog Writers Association of America’s annual awards banquet is fast approaching. One of the nominees is Sue Owens Wright, who’s garnered her 11th nomination for a Maxwell Award for her book Braced for Murder.  Congratulations, Sue!

Braced for Murder

Braced for Murder is the latest in the Beanie and Cruiser mystery series. If you enjoy mysteries with a regional flair (this one’s set around Lake Tahoe) and love Basset Hounds, this is a great book for you!  You can read an excerpt of the book and learn more about the series here.

And speaking of the Dog Writers Association of America, I’m honored to announce I’m now a member of that wonderful organization. Many thanks to my writing colleagues and friends who sponsored me, including Tracy Weber and Amy Shojai. Sue, Tracy, and Amy are all terrific writers who are passionate about dogs, so be sure to check out their websites!