Friday, September 26, 2014

Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and Meows: Solving the Mystery of Cat Agility by Sheila Webst...

Melissa's Mochas, Mysteries and Meows: Solving the Mystery of Cat Agility by Sheila Webst...:
"Already one of my favorite cozy series on the shelves, [CATWALK] the third book in Sheila Webster Boneham's Animal in Focus series is the BEST ONE YET. Janet finds herself knee-deep in trouble once again trying to solve the murder of a local big shot, a real scumbag who deserved his fate more than just about any other fictional character I've come across."

Pop in for a post from Sheila, review from Melissa, fun videos, and a chance to win a free book!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Writers & Other Animals: The Australian Shepherd: All-around Dog & Mystery ...

Check out the breed that stars in the Animals in Focus mystery series.

Writers & Other Animals: The Australian Shepherd: All-around Dog & Mystery ...: by Sheila Webster Boneham Jay (UCD Perennial See You At The Top, ASCA CD, AKC CD, RN, CGC, Pet Partner The main dog in my Animals i...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Memoir & More - New Class in Wilmington!


I love teaching (almost) as much as writing (sometimes more!), so I'm happy to announce my next class, just in time to get summer rolling. 

Memoir and More: Writing Literary Nonfiction


Pomegranate Books, 4418 Park Ave, Wilmington, NC
(910) 452-1107

4 Saturdays - June 7, 14, 21, 28 ~~ 1-3 p.m.
(Limit 8 students) Class fee -- $75.


This class will focus on nonfiction writing: memoir, biography, personal essay, lyric essay. The names don't matter - this is nonfiction that tells a story or reflects on experience through language. This very broad genre includes writing about travel, nature, environment, cultures, people, and much more. Life!

We will spend some time each week looking at a selected piece of nonfiction writing with an eye to surveying the wide range of styles, subjects, and techniques available to us. Students who care to will have the opportunity to share work and receive feedback. (No one is required to share.) We will also spend some time on deep revision, which is where the real work - and fun! - of writing unfolds.

This four-week class offers a safe environment in which generate ideas, to write, to receive feedback from your peers and the instructor, and to read and respond to your classmates’ work. 

There is no required reading, but I will make suggestions, because writers read.  
If you are interested, please call or visit Pomegranate Books to register; seats are limited, and payment in full is required to hold your place. Feel free to tell others who may be interested.
Have a creative May!

Questions? Click here to Email Sheila


Monday, April 14, 2014

Some Thoughts on Spring, Change, and Creativity

The past three years have been a time of change for me, and I haven't finished yet. Truth be told, I hope I never finish, because it seems to me that when we stop being open to new experience, in some sense we stop living.

But let's back up a bit.... As you may know, I taught writing, literature, and folklore for almost two decades at universities in the U.S. and in Tunisia and Kuwait (before many Americans had ever heard of either country). I had a sparkly new Ph.D. degree in folklore and cultural anthropology, but there were very few teaching jobs in my field. Luckily, I stumbled into a job teaching professional writing at the University of Maryland. That led to similar positions at American University and Indiana University. I also worked in various positions as an editor, working on everything from scientific monographs to school books for kids to magazine articles. And I started publishing in both scholarly journals and commercial magazines. I can't even begin to list what I learned about writing from teaching and editing. 

Then, with the support of my husband, Roger, I left teaching in the 1990's to write, to garden, to play with animals. The result? I wrote twenty-one nonfiction books about dogs, cats, and animal rescue; four of them never saw the presses because the series were cancelled by the publisher, so my publication list shows seventeen, plus oodles of articles in major and minor periodicals. My books won critical respect, and six "best book" awards from the professional organizations for dog and cat writers (meaning people who write about dogs and cats). 


Sometime in the early part of the new millennium, I wrote a mystery. I didn't think I could write fiction, didn't think I could make up a story. But I was in a writing group with three mystery writers, and one day as I drove home from a dog show, an opening line popped into my head, and I started writing, and I discovered that I could make up a story. Even better, I loved the process. That venture turned into the Animals in Focus mystery series, published by Midnight Ink. Drop Dead on Recall (2012) won the 2013 Maxwell Award for Fiction and was an NBCPetside Dog Book of the Year in 2012. The second book, The Money Bird, hit the shelves in fall 2013, and Catwalk will be out this coming fall. 

But here's the thing.... my literary true love is narrative/lyric nonfiction. Think Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, Barbara Hurd, Loren Eiseley.... I could go on and on. So in 2011, again with Roger's support, I entered the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine, intending to focus on creative nonfiction. I did write CNF, but I also wrote fiction, a stage play, and poems. Some of the work I started at Stonecoast has been published; some is still cooking; some inspired my "to write" list. 

I also found that I missed teaching more and more. I do teach occasional workshops and classes, but I would love to go back to the university setting part-time, and to teaching more frequently at workshops and conferences. I'm mobile, so if you hear of something, drop me a note!

People often ask me what I'm working on. Good question! Just as I always have several books open on my night stand (and, to Roger's horror, on the floor, the end tables in the livingroom, the bathroom floor...), I always have several writing projects underway. I'm never short of ideas, and my challenge is to decide which project has priority. I've been working on that over the past few months, and I think I'm there, more or less. Maybe if I put my top three out there for you, dear readers, I'll be less likely to wander. It's worth a shot. So here are my top three projects-of-the-moment. 

  • Riding the Zephyr on the Fourth of July is a collection of lyric essays about traveling on long-distance trains. Two of the essays have been published, if you'd like a taste: "The 'I' States," in The Museum of Americana: A Literary Review, and "Nocturne: Nebraska" in The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literarture. I'm planning to hop back on some trains this spring and summer as I write and revise more essays. 
  • familiaris: A Memoir is a lyric exploration of my years breeding, showing, rescuing, training, observing, and loving dogs, liberally laced with reflections from the biological and social sciences, history, and the arts. 
  • Rattlesnake Mountain is a literary eco-thriller set in the high desert of northern Nevada, where we used to live. 
So there you have it, more than you ever wanted to know. All three books are well underway, and I work on each at intervals. I also have a few short stories, essays, and poems in various stages. The process sounds scattered to many people, I'm sure, but it works for me. And yes, there may be more Animals in Focus mysteries in my future, too. And poems. And....well, it's spring. I'll just have to see what pops up, all green and mysterious!



***


Check out my Writers & Other Animals blog - 
"...for readers who love animals, and animal-lovers who read."

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Writing Process

One question that comes up pretty often whenever writers speak to groups is some variant of "What is your process?" Today I've been tagged in a series of blogs that raise that question and others - thank you to author Victoria Dougherty for including me in this. (You can find Victoria at www.victoriadougherty.wordpress.com)

And now to my answers....


What am I working on?

As usual, I'm working on several projects. One is an environmental novel set in the high desert of Nevada. It's about half finished. I have also begun the fourth book in my Animals in Focus mystery series as I prepare to launch the third book, Catwalk, in October. As if those aren't enough to keep me hopping, I have several essays, short stories, and poems in various states of completion. Never a dull moment!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Good question, and the answer depends on which of my works we mean. For now, I'll stick to my mysteries. The Animals in Focus series has (surprise!) animals who are vital characters in the stories. They are not, however, "humanized." They don't solve crimes or answer phones, and I don't presume to speak for them other than through their own behavions. In other words, in contrast to a lot of fictional animals, I strive to make mine as realistic as possible. 

The main human characters in my books are in their fifties and sixties and very active, and that's a little strange in genre fiction, it seems. 

Why do I write what I do?

That is an interesting and, I think, unanswerable question. In creative work, I'm not sure that we entirely choose our subjects or our genres. A psychologist might get to the bottom of some of my reasons for writing what I do, and occasionally I have some deep and startling insight as I'm writing or walking (or dreaming). But all in all, it's all a bit mysterious.
How does your writing process work?

I'm never entirely sure what people mean when they ask this. What I think of as my process, though, is this: I write every morning, and I have done so for years. Now, when I say "every morning," I mean almost, because there are days in which something else intervenes. But for the most part, I do begin my days by writing. I tend to fiddle for the first half hour or so, figuring out what I want or need to work on. Then I get down to it, and if I'm really lucky, I enter the deep, enveloping "flow," a creative place not unlike runner's high. Then I'm no longer in control, and all I can do is set the words down on the screen or, more rarely these days, on paper. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Next week, my brilliant author friend Christy English will pick up this thread. "Christy English, romance and historical fiction writer, embracing life one book at a time...." You can find her at  




Thursday, February 20, 2014

On Memories, Writing, and Trains

[Updated April 17]

I'm a Midwestern girl. I was born in Oak Park, Illinois, spent my first six months in Chicago and the next six years in Elmhurst, a suburb of the Windy City. I have fond memories of getting dressed up and walking hand-in-hand with my mom to the "El" station a couple of blocks from home, and riding from there into the city for shopping forays. 

What we remember is always fascinating to me. Here's what I remember of those trips....

I remember shoving a nickle into the slot of the peanut dispenser, then twisting the handle (unless it was too stiff and my mother had to do it) and cupping my hands beneath the metal chute to catch the nuts. One or two always got away, but not for long. The pigeons were ready, and they bobbed and cooed and snatched the runaway nuts, and the ones I threw them on purpose. 

I remember riding the escalator to the second floor of Carson Pirie Scott, where Miss Lovelace (I adored her name) fit my new shoes. 

I remember eating hotdogs served in cardboard sleeves and slathered with pickle relish at the counter in the basement restaurant of...well, I've forgotten that. But oh! what fun to spin around on the seat until the hot dogs arrived. 

I remember kneeling on the scuffed seat of the train to watch the world outside. I was a watcher even then, fascinated by sheets flapping as if they might raise the tenements into the air, by platforms where people scurried into and out of the train, and always by the people themselves. 


I'm still watching, and I'm still riding trains. In fact, I'm working on a series of long essays about train travel. 

One the essays -- "The 'I' States" -- appears in the Winter 2014 Issue of The Museum of Americana: A Literary Review. I'm especially honored to be included because this issue is focused on the Midwest. I began my life in the Chicago area, was reared mostly in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was schooled at Indiana University in Bloomington. Although I have lived many other places, I remain a Midwesterner in many ways. This essay -- and this issue -- may begin to tell you what that means.

"Nocturne: Nebraska" appears in the Spring 2014 issue of The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature. Again, I feel honored to be included in such a gorgeous magazine -- beautiful writing, beautifully presented. This lyric essay is a meditation on what cannot be seen beyond the windows while crossing Nebraska at night. 

Right now, I'm planning a long train ride around the U.S. in May or June -- North Carolina to Washington, DC, to Chicago to New Orleans to Los Angeles to Seattle and then....We'll see how my saved-up travel points hold out! I have a new travel backpack, itchy feet, and a loose and flexible plan for the journey, and for the writing. I hope you'll join me on my travels!





Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Blog, Renewed Blog

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know that my writing and my reading are pretty eclectic. For those of you who don't know that, here's the scoop - I write (and read) across genres and resist the current "need" to be "branded." I write literary nonfiction, commercial nonfiction, literary fiction, commercial fiction, poetry. Occasionally I venture into academic writing (although it's been a while).    

All this variety makes life more interesting for me, but I suspect that it has also made this blog a bit too eclectic for some readers. Not that having multiple interests is all that unusual. It's just that my particular constellation of interests isn't likely to coincide with anyone else's constellation. 

So I am making some adjustments. This blog will continue to focus on writing - the things we write, the act of writing, the writing life. And although I do not judge a work by its genre or place in the big-box bookstores, I will lean here toward forms we tend to think of as "literary." (I do include some "genre" writers in that category, by the way.)

My new blog, "Writers & Other Animals," is where you will now find posts about books and other writing in which animals are important, if not central. If you like fiction and nonfiction featuring animals, I hope you will check it out. 

So there you have it. Both blogs will get rolling in earnest in March, with occasional "warm-up" posts in the meantime. 

Comments welcome! 

Sheila



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Sheila Boneham's Animals in Focus Mysteries

It's been a busy couple of weeks here in Animals in Focus Mystery Land. This morning I learned that Drop Dead on Recall, the first book in the series, has won this year's Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Association of America. The Money Bird, book #2, came out last September and has garnered excellent reviews, and book #3, Catwalk, is scheduled to  be released September 2014. And book #4, tentatively titled Shepherd's Crook, is underway. 

With all this going on, it occurs to me that it might be fun to share a few tidbits about the books. (Don't worry if you haven't read them -- no spoilers here!). I ran this post a few months ago in a different context, so if it looks familiar, you haven't lost your mind. But you could pass it on to your friends! 

So here we go....

  1. The people in the books are not real people. Yes, yes, you're sure that person belongs to your dog-training or cat-fanciers' club, but s/he doesn't. Really. (Do be nice to me, though....)
  2. The animals in the books are as real as can be! Now, this is fiction, so no one dog or cat or bird in the book is exactly like any one real-life dog or cat or bird. But Jay, the "protagdog," and Leo, the "leading cat," and all the others never do anything that I haven't seen or heard of an animal doing.
  3. Janet MacPhail, who tells the tales, never intended to be an amateur sleuth. She was perfectly happy photographing animals, landscapes, and occasionally people, and wrestling with the challenges of being 50-something. But then people started dying....
  4. Janet's dog Jay is an Australian Shepherd. Yes, Aussies really are that energetic and smart. Really. 
    My muses -- Australian Shepherd Jay (1997-2012) and
    Labrador Retriever Lily (lying on my feet as I type)

  5. There are lots of retrievers in The Money Bird (2013). Retrievers come in many flavors, as you can see in the book -- Labrador, Golden, Chesapeake Bay, Flat-coated, Curly-coated, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling. Besides the "official" retrievers, there are other breeds designed to collect game birds from water and land. 
  6. Winning in obedience competition really can come down to half points, as it does in Drop Dead on Recall (2012), and some people are very serious about training and winning. But I've never heard of anyone actually committing murder at an obedience trial. Still....
  7. Dogs do not have a corner on exciting sports like agility. Wait 'til you see what Leo, Janet's cat, is up to in Catwalk! (But you do have to wait until September 2014. Sorry.)                                   
    My handsome Leo, one of the inspirations for Leo
    in the series (along with George, Malcolm, Kitty, Mary,
    Jean-Luc,Snoopy, Annie, Fred, & Simon).
    >^..^<
  8. You younger readers - listen up! People in their 50s, 60s, 70s + really do have lives, complete with hopes and dreams, and physical, mental, and emotional activities of all kinds. So pay attention to Janet and her friends and lovers. (Woops! Just one of the latter at the moment!) You might learn something. 
  9. I made up the endangered parrot species in The Money Bird, but a lot of real-life birds and animals are at risk from trafficking, habitat destruction, and other factors. My hope is that the limited information in the book will encourage people to learn more, and behave accordingly. Fiction is more than entertainment.                                                           

  10. When you buy my books from Pomegranate Books, I will gleefully autograph your copies of Drop Dead on Recall and The Money Bird, or my in-print nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009) for the reader of your choice. Click here to order now!

So there you have it. What else would you like to know? 



Drop Dead on Recall has won the Maxwell Award for Best Fiction Book in the 2012 Dog Writers of America Writing Competition, and was named one of the Ten Best Pet Books of 2012 by NBCPetside blog!
Sheila's books are are available in the usual places and forms -- paperback, ebooks, large print, and Audible. If your local bookseller doesn't have them in stock, they can order them, or you can find them online or HERE.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shiny New Maxwell Award for Drop Dead on Recall!


I'm wagging and bouncing all over the place this morning! Why? Because Drop Dead on Recall has won the Maxwell Award for fiction!

Winners in the annual Dog Writers Association of America's writing competition were announced last evening at the awards banquet in NYC. You can find all the winners and finalists listed here. Congratulations to everyone! 

It is always an honor to win a Maxwell (three of my nonfiction books have won in their categories, and three others have been finalists). The competition is always formidable, and the judges are themselves knowledgeable dog people and writers, and they volunteer their time to support quality writing about dogs. 

Drop Dead on Recall (2012) is the first book in the Animals in Focus Mystery Series published by Midnight Ink. The sequel, The Money Bird, came out in 2013, and the next installment, Catwalk, will be out in September 2014. You can learn more about the series by clicking the Mysteries tab above.  

The real-life Jay
 (UCD Perennial See You At The Top,
ASCA CD, AKC CD, RN, CGC,
Delta Pet Partner. 1998-2012)
Animals are key characters in my books, always real and realistic. The "protagdog" is Jay, an Australian Shepherd modeled on my own Jay and other Aussies I have had the privilege of sharing my life with over the years. The top cat is Leo, and he turned out to be a hero in Drop Dead on Recall (and wait 'til you see what he's up to in Catwalk!).
"The intricate plot [of Drop Dead on Recallhas plenty of surprises, red herrings, and interesting details about animals. Fans of Laurien Berenson or Susan Conant will especially enjoy this pet-centered mystery." — Amy Alessio for Booklist.
Autographed copies of my books are available  from Pomegranate Books - click here to order. They are also available in paperback, ebook, Audible, and large print formats from the following vendors:

Your local bookseller - please support Independent Booksellers!
And 





Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Sea View Inn, Pawleys Island, SC

Retreat for Women Writers
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
March 9 - 13, 2014 



Have you started your memoir, or a novel, or some other book-length work, or thought about starting one? Or perhaps you are working on short stories or essays or other prose? Do you long for supportive feedback and time to focus on your writing?

Whether you think you want to write but don't know how to begin, or you have a manuscript well underway, Sheila's Retreat for Women Writers will get you (re)started and inspire you to keep writing when you get home. Click Here to learn more. 

We have extended the deadline and still have a couple of spots open, 
so register today and come jump-start your writerly self!





Monday, January 6, 2014

One Week In -- New Year's Goals Revisited

Here we are again - six days into another new year. I have a cheerful new date book in my computer bag (even though I mostly keep track electronically these days) and a brand new calendar on the fridge. I just finished Catwalk, the third book in my Animals in Focus Mystery series, so I'm poised to start a brand new piece of writing. It's not unlike the brand new spiral-bound notebook on the first day of class - a clean start full of possibilities, and I don't want to mess it up. But here's the thing: to live creatively, whether through writing or painting or travel or volunteerism or, well, any pursuit, we have to make a mess. We have to make false starts. We have to fall on our butts.

We have to recognize that the path to our goals is paved with failures, set-backs, disappointments. I won't throw a bunch of platitutes at you -- you've heard them all. And I agree: failures suck. Rejections suck. If you can get your breath back  and stick it out, though, you can use all that crappy feedback to make your work, your play, and yourself stronger. Granted, you'll have a few scars, and some of the buises won't completely disappear. Hey, I'm still smarting from a comment my seventh-grade English teacher made about an image in a poem I wrote. (He was right, but did he have to laugh so hard?)

Enough of that. The real question when we open this lovely new notebook is this: what now? Where do I want to go, and how will I know when I'm getting close? Goal setting and tracking work for me (and, according to many studies, for a lot of people). I'm actually a bit of a "goal addict." I have  lists of goals for all sorts of things, but I will stick to writing goals for now.

Every year for the past mumble mumble years, I have written down my goals for the year, for the next few years. When I start a new project, I create daily and weekly goals that will get me to the end. Trust me, I'm obsessive about this. Having my goals where I can open a file and look at them gives structure to what can become open-ended work. (Okay, sure, it also serves as one of those rituals of procrastination that we creative types find so comforting.)

Do I reach all my goals? Bahahaha. No. Do I revise my goals along the way? You betcha. Do I re-evaluate the importance of some of my goals as I go? Of course. Occasionally I ditch a goal. But the bones, as they say, are still there, and they support the body of my work, both the act of working and the result. Does goal-setting work? Since 1998, I have written 22 books of non-fiction; 19 of them are published (three were in series that were cancelled by the publisher). I've also written three and a half novels (one published, one in production, one coming along), several short-stories, several essays, a few poems. Goals work for me.

Why have I waited until the second week of the new year to write about goals? I mean, that's all so last week, no? Two reasons...First, I was finishing Catwalk, the third Animals in Focus mystery. (First goal of 2014!) But the other reason may be even more important and here it is: during the first few days of the new year, I like to reflect on what I accomplished in the previous year. A lot of people do this at the end of the year, but that feels too much like an ending to me. A review of accomplishments strikes me as more of a launching pad. Besides, December is already too jam packed to accommodate yet another thing to do.

Did I accomplish my goals in 2013? Yes and no. Some I reached, some I ditched, a few I've carried over and reset. What about you? What did you accomplish last year, and what are your top two goals for the coming year?
~~~~~~~~
Speaking of Goals....Get a Jump Start on Yours!

Sea View Inn, Pawleys Island, SC

Retreat for Women Writers
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
March 9 - 13, 2014 



Have you started your memoir, or a novel, or some other book-length work, or thought about starting one? Or perhaps you are working on short stories or essays or other prose? Do you long for supportive feedback and time to focus on your writing?

Whether you think you want to write but don't know how to begin, or you have a manuscript well underway, Sheila's Retreat for Women Writers will get you (re)started and inspire you to keep writing when you get home. Click Here to learn more. 







Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Seasons Greetings from Sheila Boneham

 

Wishing You a Sparkly Christmas!


(I hope Santa brings you lots of books, 

whatever holidays you celebrate!)

~  Sheila

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Sheila Boneham's Animals in Focus Mysteries

As I wrap up Catwalk, Animals in Focus Mystery #3 (to be released September 2014), it occurs to me that it might be fun to share a few tidbits about the books. (Don't worry if you haven't read them -- no spoilers here!). So here we go....


  1. The people in the books are not real people. Yes, yes, you're sure that person belongs to your dog-training or cat-fanciers' club, but s/he doesn't. Really. (Do be nice to me, though....)
  2. The animals in the books are as real as can be! Now, this is fiction, so no one dog or cat or bird in the book is exactly like any one real-life dog or cat or bird. But Jay, the "protagdog," and Leo, the "leading cat," and all the others never do anything that I haven't seen or heard of an animal doing.
  3. Janet MacPhail, who tells the tales, never intended to be an amateur sleuth. She was perfectly happy photographing animals, landscapes, and occasionally people, and wrestling with the challenges of being 50-something. But then people started dying....
  4. Janet's dog Jay is an Australian Shepherd. Yes, Aussies really are that energetic and smart. Really. 
    My muses -- Australian Shepherd Jay (1997-2012) and
    Labrador Retriever Lily (lying on my feet as I type)

  5. There are lots of retrievers in The Money Bird (2013). Retrievers come in many flavors, as you can see in the book -- Labrador, Golden, Chesapeake Bay, Flat-coated, Curly-coated, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling. Besides the "official" retrievers, there are other breeds designed to collect game birds from water and land. 
  6. Winning in obedience competition really can come down to half points, as it does in Drop Dead on Recall (2012), and some people are very serious about training and winning. But I've never heard of anyone actually committing murder at an obedience trial. Still....
  7. Dogs do not have a corner on exciting sports like agility. Wait 'til you see what Leo is up to in Catwalk! (But you do have to wait until September 2014. Sorry.)                                   
    Janet's cat, Leo, is an orange tabby like my own Leo and Malcolm.
    All the cats of my life have inspired fictional Leo's behaviors,
    including Kitty, shown here studying up.

    >^..^<
  8. You younger readers - listen up! People in their 50s, 60s, 70s + really do have lives, complete with hopes and dreams, and physical, mental, and emotional activities of all kinds. So pay attention to Janet and her friends and lovers. (Woops! Just one of the latter at the moment!) You might learn something. 
  9. I made up the endangered parrot species in The Money Bird, but a lot of real-life birds and animals are at risk from trafficking, habitat destruction, and other factors. My hope is that the limited information in the book will encourage people to learn more, and behave accordingly. Fiction is more than entertainment.                                                           
    Sunny at 12.5 (left) and Jay at almost 13.
  10. When you buy my books from Pomegranate Books, I will gleefully autograph your copies of Drop Dead on Recall and The Money Bird, or my in-print nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009) for the reader of your choice. Click here to order now!

So there you have it. What else would you like to know? 



Drop Dead on Recall is a finalist for Best Fiction Book in the 2012 Dog Writers of America Writing Competition, and was named one of the Ten Best Pet Books of 2012 by NBCPetside blog!
Sheila's books are are available in the usual places and forms -- paperback, ebooks, large print, and Audible. If your local bookseller doesn't have them in stock, they can order them, or you can find them online or HERE.



Thursday, November 28, 2013

From New Zealand to American Civil War with Guest Author Anne McGee

Happy Thanksgiving! Today we continue the November theme of time and place with Anne McGee's journey from New Zealand to novels about Civil War era Georgia, including an excerpt from Anni's Attic. Leave a comment - you might win a copy of Annie's Attic or The Mystery at Marlatt Manor. ~ Sheila



From New Zealand to American Civil War

by Anne McGee


My journey to another time and place came about in a most unexpected way. A number of years ago my best friend, Jean, and I were discussing the songs made popular during the Civil War, and how haunting and nostalgic we found them. My familiarity and longing for those musical pieces seemed especially odd as I was born and raised in New Zealand and had limited knowledge of American history. And yet, over the ensuing weeks as my friend and I continued discussing the Civil War, we began to remember and describe the same antebellum house, the same wide river that ran alongside it and the same secret attic, the contents of which we were able to describe down to the smallest detail. 

I was not clear at first why it seemed so important to keep a record of our conversations, but thankfully, I did. When I became a children’s author some years later, I decided to write the story we remembered––that of being two young cousins who lived in the 1860s on a cotton plantation near the Savannah River. In writing my YA historical novel, Anni’s Attic, I did extensive research––even flying to Georgia to attend plantation tours, visit old graveyards, and wander through historically preserved homes. I also attended Civil War reenactments and joined a Civil War Roundtable group so I could be sure that the life we recalled was historically correct in every detail. 


To my surprise, since the release of Anni’s Attic I have been besieged with requests to write a sequel to it. Although I hadn’t planned on it, I am now returning to that place and time in the 1860s to write the manuscript for Return to Savannah.


Excerpt from Anni's Attic


It is difficult to describe the depth of my despondency that late afternoon of October 1861 as the open-air carriage carried Poppa and me through the wrought-iron gates of White Magnolias and up the gravel drive toward the main house. The late setting sun had slipped toward the horizon leaving the Savannah River to glisten cold and gray in the distance and I could not have felt more empty inside had all life already passed from me.

It had been a long four-day journey from Grandmère and Grandpère’s mansion in New Orleans and the entire way I had prayed that Poppa would change his mind at the last moment and take me back home. He didn’t seem to understand I had no desire to live on a backward cotton plantation in Georgia, especially with an ill-mannered cousin who could not even speak French like a proper lady. But Poppa did not change his mind and now here we were, riding past the shadowed magnolia trees and wintered lawn toward my fate.



Anne Loader McGee is a Graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature and a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). She has studied writing at the American Film Institute and the University of California and Los Angeles (UCLA).

Anne has published articles for both children and adults and her stories have appeared in The Kids’ Reading Room of the Los Angeles Times. She is also the co-author of the Sing Out Loud series of singing books for children.

Her first novel, The Mystery at Marlatt Manor, became a finalist in the 2009 Bloom Awards and her latest publication, Anni’s Attic, won the Young People’s Division of the International Peace Award. 



~~~



 Skip Black Friday - Shop from Home & Support
Animals & Independent Business! 

Dogs, cats, birds, murder - and money for animals! From now through Dec. 20. my local Indie bookstore will donate 10% of sales of autographed copies of my mysteries, 
DROP DEAD ON RECALL and THE MONEY BIRD, 
and my nonfiction books, including RESCUE MATTERS. to support 

Australian Shepherd Rescue & Placement Helpline
(which I have supported for many years)
or
Golden Retriever Rescue Club of Charlotte
(where we adopted our lovely Sunny, shown above)

OR 

another group of your choice
(with a few limitations)




Please share. Woof! Meow! Squawk!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

~~ Sheila

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mysterious Time Travel with Guest Author Ellen Larson

My guests have been exploring time and space all month, and today Ellen Larson takes on the topic from a new angle, talking about her dystopian murder mystery involving forensic time travel. Cool! Ellen is offering a signed first edition hard cover of her book In Retrospect, and for a mysterious number of other winners, sets of seven postcards featuring art from the very cool trailer. You can check them out here. Leave a comment - you just might be a winner!  ~ Sheila


In Retrospect: Time Traveling Mystery

by Ellen Larson

Sheila’s blog is the first stop on a virtual book tour in celebration of the publication of In Retrospect, my dystopian murder mystery. It’s a deeply rewarding moment for me, and has me thinking about beginnings, and about where this book began.

Every book starts out with the germ of an idea, one that is often invisible or wholly absent from the end result. A germ can be a situation, a character trait, a plot twist, or even a clever structure. With In Retrospect, it was a rather annoyed determination to create a character—a very negative character—who could in no way ever in a million years be confused with me.

Thus was born Merit Rafi, protagonist of In Retrospect, whom we meet at the rocky bottom of a long and painful fall from her former high status as an elite Forensic Retrospector, one of a handful of investigators who can travel through time. Merit has lost her family, her colleagues, and her country. But most of all, Merit has lost her self-respect. She has been broken by her enemies an become the thing she most detests—a traitor to her beliefs—and is now faced with the ultimate choice: whether or not to time travel for her enemies.

Curiously, as I developed Merit’s sharp-tongued personality and tested her character as she struggled to find a way out of her dilemma, I learned something about myself. Digging into Merit’s desperation, searching for the essence of what made her tick, I found a spark of hope that would not be extinguished. The truth was she had never really given up. Which led me to realize there was no point in trying to deny my own positive inner belief in the value fighting the good fight; it is what I write about and who I am.

In this way, though Merit is indeed very different from me, she is perhaps at her core more like me than any other character I have ever created. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A stately room. Black-lacquered cabinets flank a massive desk. Maps and oil paintings hang on pale green walls. Burgundy woodwork. Globe, grandfather clock, and fireplace with brass andirons cast in the shape of lions, teeth bared. A room steeped in the past. Except in the sunny east bay, where a closet-sized polyhedron floats a handsbreadth above the carpet. Three men in sage-green uniforms will stare at the Vessel. One, a sneering rat of a man, will peer through the open hatch and see the sole of a boot. “Is she dead?” he will ask, hopping closer to get a better look. “Back off, snitch!” The man with the sentry’s insignia on sleeve of his beefy arm will step in front of the hatch and shove him back. The snitch will stagger against the clock, but he has seen enough. He will grin as he straightens the curved blue half-shield that covers his forehead and eyes. “I knew she’d botch it. I told her—I warned her! Skank. Who’s a heap of dung now?”
See the trailer for In Retrospect here.  


Related links:



Ellen Larson’s first story appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1971. More recently, she has sold stories to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (Barry Award finalist) and Big Pulp. She is the author of the NJ Mysteries and a sci-fi novella, The Measure of the Universe (“Engaging read for language lovers” -Booklist). Her current book is In Retrospect, a dystopian mystery (“Carefully crafted whodunit” -Starred PW). Larson lived for seventeen years in Egypt, where she worked as a substantive editor in the field of economic development and developed a love of cultures not her own. These days she lives in an off-grid cabin in upstate New York, enjoying the solitude.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Are you shopping for gifts yet? 
Dogs, cats, birds, murder - and money for animals!
From now through Dec. 20. my local Indie bookstore will donate 
10% of sales of autographed copies of my mysteries, 
DROP DEAD ON RECALL and THE MONEY BIRD, 
and my nonfiction books, including RESCUE MATTERS. to support 

Australian Shepherd Rescue & Placement Helpline
(which I have supported for many years)
or
Golden Retriever Rescue Club of Charlotte
(where we adopted our lovely Sunny, shown above)

OR 

another group of your choice
(which a few limitations)


Please share. Woof! Meow! Squawk!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

~~ Sheila





Monday, November 18, 2013

Doing Research in Paris by Guest Author Yves Fey

Setting is a critical element of many books, and when settings are real places, accuracy of both fact and feel is vital. After all, many of our readers have been there, wherever "there" is. Today we continue the "place & time" theme" with author Yves Fey and her approach to research in The City of Lights. ~ Sheila


Doing Research in Paris

by Yves Fey


I’ve been to Paris to research my mystery, and I don’t believe I could have written it as vividly if I hadn’t walked the streets of the Ile St. Louis, the Left Bank, and climbed the Butte Montmartre.   I visited the cathedrals and the cemeteries.  Gathering a certain amount of courage, I also descended into the catacombs, now much cleaned up for tourists since the days when they wandered through by lamplight.  I feared being depressed more than frightened, and while it was a bit glum it was interesting as well.  I visited many homes of authors and artists that were still in their original buildings.  The Rodin museum is particularly impressive, the house and garden filled with his sculptures by Rodin, and many by Camille Claudel, who I hope will appear as a character in my series.  Specialty museums, like the Museé Montmartre and the Police Museum both informed me about my particular book and offered future inspiration.  Once I was lucky enough to discover a movie set in my era being filmed near where I was staying.

Most deliciously, there are many wonderful restaurants that keep their Belle Époque exteriors.  Some have the original décor and furnishings to suggest the period.  Maxim’s is not all that welcoming to the camera toting tourist, so I’ll have to pay for a meal or content myself with scenes from Gigi or Midnight in Paris.  They do now have an adjacent museum, an apartment displaying the furnishing of a famous courtesan. One of my favorites places for a meal or a snack is Ladurée.  It’s open most of the day and can be visited for a (very pricey) cup of tea and macaron, or pudding-thick pot of hot chocolate.  The prices are worth the perfect atmosphere, for Paris’ first tea shop still has the ceiling designed by Jules Chéret, who did many of the night club posters in a more sprightly mode than Toulouse-Lautrec’s bold new wave of advertising. There are even more dramatic fin de siècle cafés and restaurants to visit.  The exquisite tile work of La Fermette Marbouf was hidden under renovations for decades before it was rediscovered and restored.

The sequel to Floats the Dark Shadow is mostly set in January of 1898.  I’ve been pining to return, telling myself that I can’t truly capture a snow covered Paris without having seen it.  Part of me truly believes this, since I can only imagine the softening silence of snow on the city, and part just wants the excuse to fly away and freeze my toes there.    Since my vision of winter Paris will probably have to be funded by my imagination rather than my pocketbook, I remind myself that my first visit was in May, which was terribly cold and rainy, mimicking a Northern California February.  I have a scene set in the Bois de Boulogne, and I never managed to get there, so I know that my research books and my online image finds will be enough of an overlay on my knowledge of the city to bring it to life. I have seen Les Parc des Buttes Chaumont, which will be the scene of a murder in my next book.  With the help of old photos, the leafy greenness I saw will transform to bare trees and icy pathways. I like to take my photographs or public domain works and fiddle them in Paintshop Pro to give them a more impressionist feel.  Day can become night, fall can become winter.

I do read many, many books, because even basic histories often have different tidbits.  Different authors have different takes on the events and the people involved.  Googling has been invaluable.  I’ve found more information on books I might want to purchase, online copies of the text of old books, articles, and even copies of original sources.  In the middle of a dramatic scene in the first mystery, bodies were being brought to the empty Palais de l’Industrie and I realized that the walls should have been covered floor to ceiling with paintings from the yearly Salon.  Searching my books confirmed that the paintings should be there.  Fruitless searching finally led me ten pages into Google, where I miraculously found a letter from a visiting American lady writing back home to say that the Salon would be held a month earlier that year, in anticipation of dismantling the building that year.

Luckily, there are numerous photographs, paintings, and prints of my era, as well as illustrated books and newspapers.  Even for decades after my series is set, much of Paris remained unchanged.  The city had already been through its most extreme renovations in the mid-nineteenth century, when Napoleon III commissioned Baron Haussman to tear apart the crowded medieval streets and turn Paris the showplace of Europe, with the broad boulevards like the Champs Élysées.  When I visited England while writing an earlier historical romance, everywhere I went were signs around ruined shells stating that the building had stood until the reign of Henry VIII.  If I hadn’t loathed him already, that historical carnage would have been enough.  Some writers and artists of the day felt that the renovation of Paris was just such carnage, those most welcomed the change from the dark and unsanitary street.  The demolished buildings were all replaced by buildings charming to modern eyes too often tormented by strip malls.

If you have the chance to visit your setting but haven’t finished your novel, list every actual place that you need to see, in order of importance.  Research the museums because there are likely to be little gems tucked away.  I found the Police Museum mentioned on line by a visitor.  If you are thinking of sequels, consider what other buildings, museums, areas you might want to visit. If you have time, compare your city with a town or vice versa.  The big cities have amazing museums, but even smaller towns often favored by tourists now have some sort of little museum to lure them—their most famous artist, their local crafts, or a collection of nasty torture implements.  Give yourself time to wander and just absorb the atmosphere as your characters would, so you can feel what it was like to actually live there.  Many writers like the comfort and control of writing about the familiar present, but those of us who pen historicals are overjoyed at the blissful necessity of research.



Floats the Dark Shadow is Yves Fey's first historical mystery, set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris.  Yves has an MFA in Creative Writing from Eugene Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. She has read, written, and created art from childhood. A chocolate connoisseur, she's won prizes for her desserts. Her current fascination is creating perfumes. She's traveled to many countries in Europe and lived for two years in Indonesia. She currently lives in the San Francisco area with      her husband and three cats.

Yves Fey
Floats the Dark Shadow
Paris is a mystery…