Celebrating Birthdays and Books

Sasha is officially four years old today! When we applied to the AKC via their Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program, we opted to rely on the veterinarian’s estimate of Sasha’s age because we don’t know much about her life before she came to us. We chose July 4th for her “official” birthday in celebration of her new life. She’s now formally recognized as Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha.

For those new to the blog, here’s a quick recap of the story behind her name:

We chose Ozark for our locale and Highlands for her heritage; we’re actually in the Ozark Highlands, so it’s a bit of a double play on that last word. We included Summer because she has a warm sunny spirit. And I wanted her call name included because she came to us with that, so including Sasha gave us a bridge between her past and present.

***

We have bestselling author Susan Conant to thank for guiding us through the PAL application process. Susan has a Sheltie of her own, and I’m grateful for her generosity in sharing her expertise. Many of you will recognize her as the author of the Dog Lover’s Mystery Series. (Want to catch up? I’ve previously featured Susan here on this site with a follow-up post here.)

Susan, who is a seven-time winner of the Dog Writers Association of America’s prestigious Maxwell Medallion for excellence, is also the co-author of The Gourmet Girl Mysteries which has earned high praise. Here’s a sampling:

“The authors serve up another delectable dish of detection.” —Publishers Weekly

“Packed with delicious recipes . . . the Gourmet Girl Mysteries have quickly become one of my favorite culinary mystery series.”  —Roundtable Reviews

“Famous writer of mysteries involving cats and dogs, Susan Conant teams up with her daughter to write a refreshingly charming chick-lit mystery. . . . There’s no doubt about it—this is the start of a great new series.” —Midwest Book Review

 

This new-to-me series is a perfect fit for today, as Sasha loves to snooze after a good meal while I’m reading. We’ll round out the day’s celebration with backyard frolics and be safely indoors long before fireworks boom across the county again.

Happy birthday, sweet dog!

 

An Unexpected Gift

Seventeen years have passed since I lost my beloved spaniel Alix, who lives on in my heart and in my series as the inspiration for Sweet Pea. For seventeen years I didn’t believe I had enough heart left to offer another dog.  Until now.

First came this photo, taken at the time she was surrendered to a rural county sheriff’s office:

Sasha Shelty

I looked at that sweet face and felt a little tingle. And I wondered…

I put everything on hold to make the trek over the hills and across the prairie plains region, where I took one look into those eyes and lost my heart all over again.  I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Sasha here at dogmysteries.com:

She’s a young Sheltie, likely less than two years old. She charmed everyone at the vet clinic and didn’t fuss at all about the exam, the blood tests, or even the inevitable medications needed to combat various minor maladies. She was a bit less sanguine about PetSmart, where I quickly realized she doesn’t like noise, probably hasn’t been socialized to men, and apparently didn’t want the bed I chose—although that might be revenge since I won’t allow her on my own bed, which is the domain of Buddy the Cat. Her coat is too thin in places and she’s in serious need of a groomer far more professional than I could ever be, but overall she’s in reasonably good health.

So far I’ve figured out that she knows sit, shake hands, speak, and has a passing familiarity with down, although that tends to have her springing straight up a few seconds later.  She can manage stay for almost a minute. Plus, she can sneeze on command.  (Really.)

She’s vocal (and then some!) when she sees another dog, which makes neighborhood walks a noisy adventure. She’s also clueless about walking on a leash,  but in our two days together she’s already realized that heel is not an invitation to gallop! This gives me hope she’ll make quick progress in obedience class, which is a “must have” for us before we can even think about the Canine Good Citizen test.

Never having had a Sheltie before, and being the total research geek that I am, I’ve ordered the breed guide and training book Shetland Sheepdog by award-winning author Sheila Webster Boneham and have turned to Sheltie owners, dog experts, and fellow dog writers for advice. I already owe special thanks to Susan Conant and Susan J. Kroupa (both award-winner authors and dog lovers) for their wonderful support and guidance.

After 17 years I feel like a novice again, and am grateful for all comments, suggestions, and recommendations.  (To share in the comments, you can either click on the word “comments” at the bottom of this post, or click on the post title and scroll down.) You’ll be seeing more of Sasha in future posts as I document our merry adventures in training. And count on seeing a Sheltie in a Waterside Kennels mystery sometime soon!

Celebrating Success!

DWAA 2015

Here’s a happy way to start the 2016 blog year: celebrating the success of my colleagues in the Dog Writers Association of America whose works earned a place in the DWAA Annual Writing Competition. There are quite a few categories; go to https://dogwriters.org/ to see them all.  I’m going to share the list of nominees for in the Online category (blogs, websites, newsletters, articles, etc.) and encourage you to browse the list. Perhaps you’ll find new authors to follow–I’m confident you’ll find a lot of terrific information and ideas!

But first: I’m delighted to share the news that Susan Conant has been nominated for her book Sire and Damn. Susan was an honored guest here last year to talk about that book and the writing craft. (Missed those? Find them here.)  If anyone wonders about the quality of indie publishing, I’d say you have the proof right here–Susan’s work is exceptional. Here’s another look at the cover of that book:

Sire and Damn

 

And now, here’s that list I promised, with links included wherever possible. Enjoy!

Online

14. Blogsite Or Website

American Kennel Club www.akc.org

Mutt About Town Blog http://muttabouttown.com/blog Maureen Ann Backman

Fidose Of Reality http://fidoseofreality.com Carol Bryant

The Daily Junior Dog Blog http://thedailyjuniorblog.com Jill Schilp

15. Magazine Or Newsletter

AKC Canine Partners News, Penny Leigh & Joanne Tribble, editors

AKC Gazette, Erika Mansourian, editorial director

Havanese Breed Magazine, Thomas Wettlaufer, editor

Speaking of Dogs Monthly Newsletter, Lorraine Houston, Nancy Foran & Cathy Vandergeest, editors

G. Online Articles or Blog Entries

16. Article Or Blog – Health or General Care

 Nancy Beach, “Canine Osteosarcoma Parts 1 and 2” (Celebrating Greyhounds Magazine)

 Deb M. Eldredge, DVM, “Messing With Meds” (Best In Show Daily)

 Deb M. Eldredge, DVM, “Dog Bones & Safety Petcha.com

 Ranny Green, “How a Special Service Dog Enables 23-Year Army Veteran” SeattleKennelClub.org

 Jane Messineo Lindquist (Killion) and Mark Lindquist, “Ovulation Timing And Preventing Fading Puppies: A Surprising Nexus” www.puppyculture.com

17. Article Or Blog – Behavior or Training

 Mara Bovsun, “Why Old Dogs Must Learn New Tricks” www.WOOFipedia.com

 Denise Fenzi, “It’s a Puppy, Not a Problem!” www.denisefenzipetdogs.com

 Liz Palika, “7 Suggestions for Training Multiple Dogs” www.thehonestkitchen.com

 Nancy Tanner, “Shutting a Dog Down” www.pawsandpeople.com

 Bev Thompson, “Why Tone of Voice Matters” www.anythingpawsable.com

18. Article or Blog – Rescue

 AKC Canine Health Foundation, “The Joys of Adopting Senior Dogs”

 Kim Campbell Thornton, “Old Dogs Rule” (Universal Press Syndicate Pet Connection)

 Kim Campbell Thornton, “Beagle Mania” (Universal Press Syndicate Pet Connection)

 Meredith Wargo, “The Plight of Greyhounds Abroad” www.rescueproud.com

19. Article or Blog – Any Other Topic

 Laura Coffey, “9/11 Ground Zero Search Dog Still Lends a Helping Paw” TODAY.com

 Sally Deneen and Edie Lau, “Facial-recognition Apps Scout Lost Pets” (VIN News Service)

 Liz Donovan, “Man Gives Everything to Care for 12 Military Dogs After Their Return From War” akc.org

 Ranny Green, “For This 911 Call Taker, Anja and Loki are Her Relief ValvesAfter a Trying Day at Work SeattleKennelClub.org

 William Kearney, “On Losing a Dog” Petcentric.com

 Emma Kesler, “Want to Learn More About a Unique Dog Breed?”milesandemma.com

 Jen Reeder, “Let’s Discuss Pets During Domestic Violence Awareness Month” (Huffington Post)

Have a favorite on the list? I’d love to hear about it!

We Have a Winner!

congratulations

It’s been a busy week here at dogmysteries.com! Thanks go to our fabulous guest Susan Conant for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at her Dog Lover’s Mystery Series and her life as a writer.

As promised, everyone who posted a comment either here or on Facebook was entered into the drawing for a gift copy of Susan’s new book, Sire and Damn, the 20th in her series.  I used www.random.org to generate a list and Susan picked a number (without knowing who’s where on the list) to make this as random as possible.  And the winner is….Ramla Zareen Ahmad. Congratulations, Ramla! Please send a message to me [dogmysteries at gmail] and I’ll have your gift copy delivered right away!

I want to thank everyone who joined us for this week’s conversation with Susan. For those just discovering her series, you can see the complete list and purchase copies at Amazon. To keep up with the latest news about the series, follow Susan on Facebook.

Happy reading!

The Writer’s Craft

fountain penEarlier this week, Susan Conant (seven-time winner of the Dog Writers Association of America’s prestigious Maxwell Award) came by to discuss her Dog Lover’s Mystery Series. Today, she’s back to talk about the writing process and changes in the publishing industry–something that impacts writers and readers alike. I hope you’ll leave a comment for Susan so we can enter you into the drawing for a gift copy of her new book,  Sire and DamnWe’ll announce the winner here Saturday, so check back!

Writing a long-running series takes talent, vision, and persistence. Susan introduced us to dog writer and dog trainer Holly Winter and her Alaskan Malamutes back in 1990. To my way of thinking, staying true to the heart of the series while allowing your characters to grow and change and learn takes a special kind of writer. Susan is that kind of writer, as evidenced by the enthusiastic reception each book in the series earns. Here’s what one fan has to say about Sire and Damnthe 20th in the series:

Susan CSire and Damnonant’s Dog Lover’s Mysteries are always a doggy good read, and this one is no exception. While the plot is strong enough for general readers, Sire and Damn (like all in this series) is a particular treat for Dog People (you know who you are!). There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and it’s always such a relief to know someone truly *gets* what it’s like to be all dogs, all the time, even while solving murder mysteries.

Now here’s Susan, talking about the craft of writing:

What’s most important for you in telling a story?

My connection with my readers is everything. I want to lure in my readers so that they are lost in my story. In other words, what I’m after is hypnosis. Or seduction. I want to cast spells.

 There seems to be a trend to “push” the murder to the very front of the story. What’s your opinion of this expectation that we produce a body by chapter 3?  

Incredibly, there are still editors who will demand a rewrite unless the murder happens at the beginning of a book. Some editors, I suspect, assume that the writer is unfamiliar with a hackneyed formula that the writer is, in fact, eager to avoid. The formula: The murder occurs. As the saying goes, nobody cares about the corpse; the investigation is everything. The detective, amateur or professional, interviews suspects, collects evidence, and discovers that the murder was committed in some bizarre fashion, often by the least likely suspect. It’s a formula to be avoided unless your aim is to cure the reader’s insomnia.

The publishing industry has changed significantly since your first book. How have those changes impacted you and your series?

Hurrah! I am free! No more deadlines ever again! No more trying to be polite about cover art I hate! No more grinding my teeth about prices I think are too high!

I have just self-published my twentieth Dog Lover’s Mystery, Sire and Damn. I chose my own editor, Jim Thomsen, and my own proofreader, Christina Tinling. Jovana Shirley did the formatting. The gifted Terry Albert did the Kindle cover and the cover for the trade paperback. I love working with the people I chose, people who have become my friends.

Will the entire series be available in Kindle/ebook editions? 

Yes. But not immediately.

Some visitors to this site are aspiring mystery writers. Suggestions for them?

Many years ago when my daughter and I were on a panel together at a mystery convention, I blurted out advice to aspiring mystery writers. In saying exactly what I really thought, I managed to annoy and offend some established writers, one of whom took me to task in public. My daughter calls this little event the Foot in Mouth Episode. The experience has left me wary of offering advice to aspiring mystery writers. Advice is usually wasted, anyway; the people who need it seldom take it.

That being said:

Write the kind of book you like to read. Never mind whether anyone else will like it! What’s certain is that if you don’t like it, no one else will, either.

Edit your work. Delete anything that bores you; if you don’t want to read a sentence, a paragraph, or a whole chapter, no one else will, either. Ditch it.

Look up everything. Use Merriam-Webster. Subscribe to the online Chicago Manual of StyleCultivate pride of craft.

If you intend to self-publish, hire an experienced professional editor. Hire a professional proofreader. Have the book professionally formatted. Hire a professional to prepare the cover. A great many self-published books are amateur junk. They drag all of us down. Please help to lift us up!

Finally—Foot in Mouth, Part 2?—if you have struggled and struggled to write a mystery novel but can’t sense the living presence of the characters, can’t hear them speak, have no idea what happens next, and feel no driving compulsion to tell a story, stop! Consider the possibility that you weren’t born to write mysteries. Go back to reading mysteries. Write nonfiction. Run marathons. Study Mandarin. Grant yourself peace.

Thanks, Susan! 

Okay, readers and fans: it’s your turn! Leave a comment here, or drop by Susan’s Facebook page, or you can leave a comment on my own Facebook page. If you’ve read the series, let us know if you have a favorite. You’re welcome to ask questions, too! We’ll enter your name in a drawing for a Kindle edition of Sire and Damn to be sent to you (or the gift recipient of your choice). The winner’s name will be posted on Saturday, so be sure to check back.