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Guest Blogger Tracy Weber: A Perfect Place for Murder

January 18, 2016 11 comments
Weber-Green Lake

Green Lake Park – A Perfect Setting for Murder

A Perfect Place for Murder by Tracy Weber

Seattle’s beloved Green Lake Park is my dog Tasha’s and my favorite walking and squirrel-prowling destination. So it was a natural setting for several pivotal scenes in Karma’s a Killer, my third Downward Dog Mystery.
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Tasha, the real-life Bella watching the activities on Green Lake’s inner path

The three-hundred acre park contains grassy fields, a lake suitable for boating, a local community center, and a 2.8-mile walking path.
Like Bella, the 100-pound German shepherd in my series, Tasha enjoys exploring the diverse scents, diving after squirrels, and lying in the grass watching the other walkers go by.

I enjoy getting fresh air and exercise while scanning for wildlife, including turtles, squirrels, geese, raccoons, and blue herons.

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One of Green Lake’s Blue Herons – can you spot his turtle friend?

In the summer, the area near the lake’s shore is smothered with lily pads; its surface, dotted by boats. The path around its circumference is crowded with thousands of locals who flock to it each day. What better place to plot murder!

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Green Lake’s Ocean of Lily Pads

When yoga teacher/sleuth Kate Davidson agrees to teach a Doga (yoga for dogs) class at Greenlake, she has no idea that the area will soon be the site of a murder. In the excerpt below, Kate witnesses an argument between two women hidden behind a stack of paddleboats.

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Scene of the Excerpt

Excerpt from Karma’s a Killer

Raven held up her hands. “Back off, Dharma. I don’t need your help, but I won’t stand for your insolence. I’m taking this place down with or without you. Trust me; these hypocrites at DogMa are going to burn.” Her voice turned low and threatening. “And if you get in my way, I might have to fry you, too.”
Dharma flinched and glanced warily over her shoulder. “Watch what you say, Raven. Someone might take you seriously.”
Raven snorted. “Yeah, well, maybe they should.”
Dharma’s mouth opened, but she didn’t respond, at least not at first. After several long, tense moments, she shook her head, almost sadly. “I’m sorry, Raven, but this has gone far enough. Eduardo talked me into coming on this ill-conceived road trip, but we never agreed to violence. I’m out.” She turned and started walking away. “We both are.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about Eduardo.”
Dharma froze. Her entire body stiffened. When she slowly turned around, her expression was tight, as if her thinned lips and hardened eyes had been carved out of stone.
Raven’s lips lifted in a cruel-looking grin. She crossed her arms and leaned back against the paddleboats. “Sweetheart, you can leave any time. The sooner the better. I never wanted you here to begin with. But trust me, Eduardo’s not going anywhere. By the time I get done with him, he’ll be finished with you, too.”
The older woman exploded.
She howled and shoved Raven into the boats, using significantly more force than I would have expected from someone ideologically opposed to violence. Raven’s face hit the edge and she fell, splitting open her lower lip. Picket signs scattered in every direction.
Dharma scooped up a sign, snapped its wooden handle in two, and waved the jagged edges at her friend.
“I’m warning you, leave Eduardo alone, or you’ll be the one who burns.” She jabbed the wooden stake at Raven’s chest for emphasis. “In Hell.”
Raven’s response seemed more amused than frightened. She licked the blood from her lower lip, stood, and slowly clapped.
“Well done, Dharma. Well done. We’ll make an anarchist out of you yet.”
Dharma gaped at her hands, as if surprised to see them grasping a weapon. A strangled cry escaped from her throat. She took two large steps back, threw the broken sign to the ground, and stumbled away, sobbing.
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About Karma’s a Killer:
Yoga instructor Kate Davidson is about to discover that when it comes to murder, there’s no place like om. When she agrees to teach doga—yoga for dogs—at a fundraiser for Dogma, a local animal rescue, Kate believes the only real damage will be to her reputation. But when an animal rights protest at the event leads to a suspicious fire and a drowning, a few downward-facing dogs will be the least of Kate’s problems…
The police arrest Dharma, a woman claiming to be Kate’s estranged mother, and charge her with murder. To prove Dharma’s innocence, Kate, her boyfriend Michael, and her German shepherd sidekick Bella dive deeply into the worlds of animal activism, organizational politics, and the dangerous obsessions that drive them.
And if solving a murder weren’t complicated enough, Kate will also have to decide whether or not to reconcile with the estranged mother who abandoned her over thirty years ago. Not to mention having to contend with an almost-bankrupt animal rescue, a cantankerous crow, an unwanted pigeon houseguest, and a rabbit in a doga class. What could possibly go wrong?
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Tracy Weber – Author

Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series. The first book in the series, Murder Strikes a Pose, won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel.

Tracy and her husband Marc live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd, Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house.
Karma’s a Killer is her third novel. For more information on Tracy and the Downward Dog Mysteries, visit her author website: http://TracyWeberAuthor.com/

Guest Blogger T.C. Lotempio – Can a Cat be Inspirational? Oh yes, especially if his name is ROCCO…..

February 16, 2015 1 comment

Fred_ProfileCan a Cat be Inspirational? Oh yes, especially if his name is ROCCO….
By T. C. Lotempio

I have always been an animal lover, especially of cats. When my calico died a few years ago, I went to the Clifton Animal Shelter and adopted a handsome tuxedo cat named ROCCO. It soon became apparent that he is the “boss” of my family, which includes three other cats! But never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever expect him to be the driving force behind our blog, http://www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com, or end up as the star of his own mystery series!

Well – to clarify – the series isn’t named after ROCCO. He was just the inspiration for one of the main characters, a feisty tuxedo cat named Nick. Nick’s a cool cat, one with a sharp mind who likes to play SCRABBLE, and spell out clues so his human, Nora, can solve mysteries! Volume One in the Nick and Nora mystery series, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, came out December 2, and if you enjoy cozy mysteries featuring a cat that was inspired by a cat, maybe you’d like to give it a try.

Here’s a brief synopsis, taken from the cover back:Untitled-13

Nora Charles doesn’t believe in fate, even if she is a crime reporter who shares a name with a character from The Thin Man. In fact, she’s moving back to Cruz, California, to have a quieter life. But after finding an online magazine eager for material, and a stray cat named Nick with a talent for detection, Nora’s not just reporting crimes again. She’s uncovering them…

Back in her hometown, Nora reconnects with old friends and makes some new ones, like Nick, the charming feline who seems determined to be her cat. But not everything about Cruz is friendly. Writing for a local online magazine, Nora investigates the curious death of socialite Lola Grainger. Though it was deemed an accident, Nora suspects foul play. And it seems that her cat does too.

Apparently, Nick used to belong to a P.I. who disappeared while investigating Lola Grainger’s death. The coincidence is spooky, but not as spooky as the clues Nick spells out for her with Scrabble letters—clues that lead her down an increasingly dangerous path. Whether fate put her on this case or not, solving it will take all of Nora’s wits, and maybe a few of Nick’s nine lives.

Granted, ROCCO wasn’t the only inspiration for the series – but he was and is a large part of it! And he reminds me, every day, in his own catly way…I mean, you would think HE wrote the book! Although….in many ways, I think he did. But let’s keep that OUR secret. 

What are some things your pets do that inspire you to do different things? Leave a comment with your email address. I’ll pick two of the most interesting comments and send the commenters an autographed copy of “MEOW IF ITS MURDER” and a MEOW bookmark! And you can visit ROCCO (and me too) at our blog, http://www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com, where we interview authors and have giveaways every month!

Guest Blogger: Judy Hogan – From Experience to Mystery

October 7, 2013 3 comments

FROM EXPERIENCE TO MYSTERY by Judy HoganJudy_holding_chicken--Mark--7-29-13

Being seventy-six has so many advantages for a mystery novelist. I have all those experiences behind me, and in my case they were quite diverse. I’ve never earned a living writing, so besides being a teacher of creative writing, my second vocation writing is my first.  I’ve earned money being postmaster relief, a newspaper carrier ( I’m not very good at throwing). a secretary, a temporary typist, a baker of bread, a babysitter and maid, a library assistant, and a small farmer.  I’ve also been a stay-at-home mom. I’ve written book reviews, organized distribution and promotion schemes, including one of being in charge of an old semi, a library bookmobile. I briefly lived a middle-class life, but mainly I’ve lived on as little as possible in order to free writing time.

I’ve lived in Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, California, Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. I’ve moved forty-two times house to house. I’ve traveled to England, Scotland, Wales, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and Belgium.

I have good friends in many states and some foreign countries. I’ve been through two marriages, both ending in divorce. Where I live now and have for nearly fifteen years is the first house and land I’ve ever owned. I’ve lived within the black community and published new African American authors when I edited a small press, 1976-91.

The real richness for me as a writer, however, is the people I’ve known and loved and sometimes hated. I’ve learned to live with myself and other people, often staying in the homes of others. Then I’ve learned so many lessons the hard way. I was very naive when I emerged into adulthood as I had led a protected life as a minister’s daughter. Once out of the manse, I was eager to learn more about people and the world. I did. I was manipulated and learned how to get free. I was treated badly and learned I needed to pick up weapons. I learned that, when I picked up weapons, so did my adversaries.

One of the first questions I ask myself when I’m planning to write a new mystery is: who shall I kill off, and who shall be the murderer. I start thinking of people I learned to hate or to distrust and avoid. I haven’t run out of villains yet!

The situations/settings are taken from places I’ve lived or visited. The first novel, The Sands of Gower, was set in my favorite place to get away and write in a bed and breakfast house on the Gower peninsula of Wales. The characters are based loosely on people I’d met there, where I’d been four times before I wrote it in 1991. The landlady was based on my real landlady, and I showed it to her to be sure she was okay with it.  She was.

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In later novels (there are now twelve, though only numbers five and six are published), I’ve also used real people as a starting point, both my good guys and my villains, sometimes blending two people into one character, as Proust did. Then my imagination takes over. I’ve used my experience living in a suburban rooming house; working at an historically black college, selling at a farmers market, working in a bakery, and living on a small farm.

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I’ve also been a community activist so my novels take up contemporary issues that concern me: air pollution, safe nuclear storage, racism, problems with education, local politics, the treatment of Hispanic workers, fracking.

I also have modeled my sleuth on myself. That’s risky, too, but I like challenges and have been an emotional and financial risk-taker all my life. So Penny Weaver is my age, also an activist, but her love life has been more successful than mine as she found her soulmate at age fifty-four, and she and Kenneth Morgan, a Welsh policeman, married and live part of the year in Wales. Penny uses my recipes in The PMZ Poor Woman’s Cookbook (self-published in 2000) to make healthy food, using fresh vegetables and whole grain and soy flour in baking. She’s part of an interracial activist group, as am I, but her group accomplishes even more than the ones I’ve been in. She’s more at ease with lots of people dropping in unannounced, and though I have a social side, I like a lot of time alone. As happens to me, too, people talk to her, and this is often how she solves the murder. We both trust our intuition.

I use Penny’s point of view throughout the books. Hers is the way of looking at the world that I know best. Elizabeth George in Write Away says the point of view character’s voice should not be the author’s voice, and I realize, though I’m using the way I see the world and other people, there is a skeptical tone, a humorous twist to hers that surprises me. Penny might be expressing thoughts I have but don’t own up-front, snide remarks I never say out loud and scarcely realize I think, but maybe especially in this way she separates herself from me most clearly.

KillerFrost-cover-2-15-12For example, at the beginning of Killer Frost, Penny notes of a new student at the historically black college where she is hired to teach remedial English: “He wore jeans that had slipped to ride around his hips, revealing his red and white striped boxer shorts. Was he showing off the St. Francis colors?”

Or on page 9 of Farm Fresh and Fatal: as she and her friend are driving up to the new farmers market, “Through her window, cracked enough to let in air but keep rain out, she could hear the drum roll of the rain as it beat on the new red tin roof of their shelter. Was it beating out a welcome or a warning? Now where had that thought come from? The posts that separated the individual stalls were varnished a bright red and should have been cheery. They would have reflected the sun had there been any.”

Thoughts like those come easily to me in Penny’s persona but are rare in my own conscious mind. One reason I love to write fiction is that experiences I’ve had, for instance, with my African American neighbors, have been hard to articulate in poetry or non-fiction, but in fiction, when I throw my characters into a scene, my deeper mind knows how they’ll behave, what they’ll say. I hear their voices and know more about their interior thoughts than I had realized I did. That mystery, for me, is the best part of being a mystery novelist.

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Judy Hogan’s first mystery novel, Killer Frost, was published by Mainly Murder Press on September 1, 2012 in both trade paperback and e-book formats. Her second novel in the Penny Weaver series went on sale on October 1, 2013.  Beaver Soul, a poem written about her early experiences in Russia, recently was published by Finishing Line Press.   Judy founded Carolina Wren Press (1976-91) and was co-editor of Hyperion Poetry Journal, 1970-81). She has also published five other volumes of poetry and two prose works with small presses. She has taught all forms of creative writing since 1974. She joined Sisters in Crime in 2007 and has focused on writing and publishing traditional mystery novels. In 2011 she was a finalist in the St. Martin’s Malice Domestic Mystery contest for Killer Frost. The twists and turns of her life’s path over the years have given her plenty to write about. She is also a small farmer and lives in Moncure, N.C., in Chatham County near Jordan Lake.

Guest Blog: Sheila Webster Boneham – Dog Hair and Mysteries

November 12, 2012 Leave a comment

DOG HAIR and MYSTERIES

by Sheila Webster Boneham

A few days ago I popped into a local department store to look for a sweater. I found what I wanted, and headed for the check out. When I handed my credit card to the cashier, a rather prim older woman, I noticed the pained look on her face. Then she said, “There’s hair all over your shirt. What is that?” Granted, I was wearing a black pull-over and had cuddled my yellow Lab, Lily, earlier, but from the woman’s tone, you’d have thought I was spattered with blood!

I have killed people, but only in my books. Blood is not always involved. Hair (or technically in some cases) has always been a big part of my life, though, and it’s a big part of Drop Dead on Recall, my newly released Animals in Focus mystery. Not my hair, you understand (I’m barely interested in it anymore), but animal hair. Dog hair, cat hair, horse hair. My protagonist, Janet MacPhail, is a professional animal photographer, amateur dog-sport enthusiast and cat lover. She isn’t me, but we do have a lot in common. I’ve been active for more than two decades in canine activities, competitive and not – sort of a down-sizing of my younger days showing horses (hunters, jumpers, equitation). For me, as for Janet, animal activities are a hobby, although my professional life is also critter-centric. Janet takes pictures, and I write books (seventeen non-fiction books about dogs and cats and rescue), focused on animals.

At first glance it may seem that showing animals and writing are completely different sorts of pursuits, but they have more in common than you might think. I’ve considered the similarities in my passions before, but a few months ago I entertained myself as I languished in an airport after judging a dog show by jotting down a few parallels. Assuming that I’m a reasonably consistent human being (potentially a topic for another time), I figure that dog sports and writing must have elements in common to keep me so passionate about them for so many years.

The first element that comes to mind is aesthetic appeal. Beauty, yes – a well-turned phrase, a gorgeous head. But there’s more to aesthetic appeal than beauty. There’s rhythm, function, timing, and all the other things that come together to stir us to respond emotionally and intellectually to the thing before us. A dog may be beautiful in itself, or in its performance, or – ideally – in both, just as a piece of writing may be beautiful for its language and rhythm, or the way it moves us, or – ideally – both. That’s me, by the way, with my beautiful Reno at a show several years ago.

Then there’s the challenge of doing well in either arena. Training a dog to compete successfully is a lot of hard work for trainer and dog alike. Learning to write well is also a lot of hard work. This is, of course, true of anything we want to do well. To the casual observer of the finished product – the book, the competitive performance – it may appear to be no big deal. Trust me, it is. In fact, novices in both fields are often amazed to discover that they have to work, and work hard, if they want to make what they do look effortless.

Of course, no matter how good you are, you don’t win every time. Editors say no thanks. Judges put you and your dog at the end of the line. Reviewers write bad reviews. Dogs and people trip and fall and make dopey mistakes. Rejection is part of both games, and rejection sucks. But here’s the thing…. the people who win a lot – with book contracts and in canine competitions – have also lost a lot. You just keep playing, and learning to play better, and eventually you win more often.

I thought of a few other parallels before we started boarding the plane, but the one that stood out – that has stood out for me for many years – is that I write and I show dogs because they’re both so darn much fun. In fact, despite the hard work and disappointments and frustrations that come with the territory, I’ve found some of my best friends through both writing and through my dogs. I’ve laughed until I cried, and cried without laughing, and I’ve experienced profound and moving and really silly moments. Janet MacPhail, the protagonist of Drop Dead on Recall, experiences similar joys and disappointments, albeit through photography rather than writing. And that’s not all we have in common. Janet’s Australian Shepherd Jay and her orange tabby Leo are nothing if not furry, and I suspect that Janet has horrified a cashier here and there, too, with her fur-spattered clothing.

Drop Dead on Recall is available in print and ebook formats through the usual sources. If you would like an autographed copy, please consider my Drop Dead for Healthy Dogs benefit event. Your purchase of a personally inscribed book will support canine health research and small business. Visit http://www.sheilaboneham.com/dropdeadforhealthydogs.html for information.

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DROP DEAD ON RECALL        

When a top-ranked competitor keels over at a dog obedience trial, photographer Janet MacPhail is swept up in a maelstrom of suspicion, jealousy, cut-throat competition, death threats, pet-napping, and murder. She becomes a “person of interest” to the police, and apparently to major hunk Tom Saunders as well. As if murder and the threat of impending romance aren’t enough to drive her bonkers, Janet has to move her mother into a nursing home, and the old lady isn’t going quietly. Janet finds solace in her Australian Shepherd, Jay, her tabby cat, Leo, and her eccentric neighbor, Goldie Sunshine. Then two other “persons of interest” die, Jay’s life is threatened, Leo disappears, and Janet’s search for the truth threatens to leave her own life underdeveloped – for good.

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Sheila Webster Boneham is the award-winning author of Drop Dead on Recall, the first book in the Animals in Focus mystery series, and seventeen nonfiction books about animals, including the highly regarded Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals. Sheila earned her doctorate in folklore from Indiana University and has taught writing at universities in the U.S. and abroad. Knowing there’s always more to learn, she is currently completing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine.

Sheila has been deeply involved with animals most of her life and is a strong advocate for both responsible rescue and responsible breeding. In the past two decades, she has trained and competed with her own dogs in several sports; bred highly successful Australian Shepherds under the kennel name “Perennial”; organized rescue organizations and fostered dogs; trained, handled, and assessed therapy dogs; judged dog shows. She has also given millions of belly rubs and flicked countless dog and cat hairs off her clothes!

Sheila would love to hear from you. You can follow her news and events or contact her at the following places: Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sheilawrites Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/sheilaboneham or @sheilaboneham Website at http://www.sheilaboneham.com Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/author/sheilaboneham