Dogs and Cats and Murder, Oh My!
By Sheila Webster Boneham
Novelists are often asked whether the characters in our books are “real.” My answer is an unequivocal, uh, well, sort of. What I mean is that, at least in my case, I do not portray any one real person in any one character, but the only source of inspiration I have is my experience with real people. Or animals. Yes! The animals! The animals in my Animals in Focus mysteries are also based on real dogs, cats, and other critters. Some of them—like Jay, the protagdog of the series, are pretty close to the real Jay in my life. Others…well, let me tell you about the animals in my new release, The Money Bird. We’ll start with the furry characters who share accidental sleuth Janet MacPhail’s home and heart—Jay and Leo.
Jay is, as I said, based largely on my own Australian Shepherd, Jay. My Jay was born into my hands in October 1998, and left us for the Rainbow Bridge a little shy of 14. He came from an accomplished family. His parents were champions and his mama also had obedience titles and was a certified therapy dog, as was her son. Jay’s sister Zoe and brother Clark were champions and accomplished agility dogs, and Zoe also competed in obedience. Jay’s story is a little complicated, but the short version is that when he was 4 years old, the people who took him home at 9 weeks decided they didn’t want him. We took him back, grossly overweight, under socialized and untrained. A year later, Jay was the high scoring obedience dog in my dog club, a feat he repeated the following year. He was a lovely guy, smart as can be (great sleuth material!), and gentle enough to work with kids as a library reading dog and to be trusted with tiny baby kittens. Fictional Jay has a few behaviors borrowed from some of my other Aussies, but his basic personality is our sweet Jay, and everything he does in the books really happened with one of my own dogs or an Aussie I know.
Leo, orange tabby extraordinaire, is Janet’s feline companion. I have had two handsome orange tabbies, Malcolm and Leo, in my own life, as well as a host of other cats—George, Teddy, Fred, Simon, Snoopy, Annie, Jean-Luc, Kitty, Mary, a feral we called Gypsy and her son Bob (because he was Born Out Back), and the many cats I played with as a shelter volunteer. Janet’s Leo is mostly Malcolm and Leo, I guess, with a huge helping of George, who was a big, handsome tuxedo cat we had when I was a kid. Like Malcolm, George, and Leo, Janet’s Leo loves dogs, especially his Jay and the newcomer, Drake.
Drake came into the scene with Tom Saunders, and Janet considers them both to be pretty handsome catches. Tom’s an anthropologist and Drake is a Labrador Retriever, both interesting breeds. Jay and Leo approve of them both, so Janet figures they’re good guys. Drake is based on my own Labs, especially Raja. He was my first Lab, a big chocolate field-bred Lab. There are traces, too, of my two yellow girls, Annie and Lily. I’ve never had a black Lab myself, but Drake is black, and since Janet is a professional photographer, she loves the challenge of getting good photos of the big black dog. In The Money Bird, we find Drake (and his retriever friends—and the intrepid, versatile Jay!) practicing for retriever titles. And then he finds something….
But back to the retrievers. Because the club includes all kinds of retrievers, the training sessions where things start to happen include not only Labrador Retrievers, but Golden, Chesapeake, Curly-coated, Flat-coated, and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers as well. The more’s the merrier with retrievers, and as the saying goes, there’s nothing friendlier than a wet dog!
Two of the other retrievers in the book are based on real dogs who aren’t my own. When I was working on The Money Bird, I pitched an idea to two organizations whose causes I strongly support: let’s team up to raffle off guest parts for two dogs—one for each group’s winner—in my second Animals in Focus Mystery.
The first group to hold its raffle was LABMED, an Internet-based non-profit organization created to distribute financial aid to injured or ill rescued Labrador Retrievers around the country, giving them a second chance at adoption and love from a permanent family. Since The Money Bird spotlights retriever training, and since character Tom Saunders is sidekick to black Lab Drake, LABMED was a natural choice. (Besides, I’ve had Labs in my life since 1988, founded Labrador Retriever Rescue of Indiana, Inc., in 1993, and wrote the award-winning Simple Guide to Labrador Retrievers, so how could I not support Labby dabbies?)
LABMED made $200 on the raffle, which went to help with medical expenses for a rescued Lab. The winner of the LABMED raffle, seen here with his owner Diana Holman, was Lennen, a ten-year-old rescued boy who was turned in by his owners. They had kept him out in the backyard all his life. Aside from having landed in heaven with Diana, her six other Labs, and a comfy indoor couch to sleep on, Lennen also landed an important part in The Money Bird. Sadly, Lennen went to the Rainbow Bridge a few months ago, but he lives on in his fictional role—a heroic one, at that!—and I’m sure he is smiling at us from the Bridge.
The second raffle was sponsored by Canine Health Events, a diverse gathering of dog lovers from across the country who are dedicated to improving the lives and health of dogs. Using normal dog events, they raise money for canine health research both through entry fees and additional fund-raisers, such as raffles, auctions, and sponsorships. They held the main part of the raffle online, with additional sales and their drawing at their big agility trial on June 8, 2012. I’m delighted to say that CHE raised $2,000 with this raffle, all of which went to support research on canine health issues.
The winner of the CHE raffle was Pilot, whose official name is MACH3 V-NATCH Gaylans Gallopin’Jet Pilot CDX JH FTC WC VCX ADHF CCA CGC PS1. According to owner and competition partner Stephanie Schmitter, Pilot “is a very athletic and versatile golden retriever.” That should be obvious from his titles! (For the unitiated, he is a Master Agility Champion three times over and has additional titles in agility, obedience and field, with a lifetime ranking of #66 for Golden Retrievers in AKC agility). Stephanie says, “He loves field work and will retrieve on land or in water until you make him stop,” all of which made him perfect for The Money Bird.
Stephanie writes, “Pilot will retrieve just about anything and is very helpful in picking things up around the house, including any shoes left around as well as his food bowl when he is finished eating. But the thing he loves most in life is a tennis ball. Although he is 8 years old, he acts like a puppy when he sees a tennis ball. And he loves to carry 2 balls at a time!” Ah, gotta love a Golden!
Have you ever seen a better smile than the one on Pilot’s mug? You can read more about Pilot and see some shots of him in action here.
I’d like to thank EVERYONE who entered these raffles, because in my book—the big book of life—you’re all winners for supporting such worthwhile causes and having faith in my new mysteries, too. And Lori, thank you for having me here today—and for all that your do for authors and writers.
The Money Bird is now available from all the usual suspects, or you can order your personally autographed copy from Pomegranate_Books .
About Sheila Webster Boneham
Sheila Webster Boneham is the author of 17 nonfiction books, six of which have won major awards from the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association. She is also the author of Drop Dead on Recall, the first in the Animals in Focus Mystery series. For the past two decades Boneham has been showing her Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers in various canine sports. She has also bred top-winning Aussies, and founded rescue groups for Aussies and Labs. Boneham holds a doctorate in folklore and MFA in creative writing, and resides in Wilmington, N.C., with her husband Roger, Lily, their yellow Lab, and Sunny, their Golden Retriever.
Website & Blog: http://www.sheilaboneham.com
The Money Bird
(An Animals in Focus Mystery)
2nd in Series
Midnight Ink (September 8, 2013)
An Imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.
Paperback: 336 pages
Janet MacPhail, is a photographer that sees much more through the lens than just her subjects. Trouble just seems to follow her. On a simple trip to Twisted Lake to take some pictures of Labrador Retriever Drake she is very surprised when he fetches a blood-soaked bag holding an exotic feather and a torn one-hundred-dollar bill instead of his usual decoy. Then one of her photography students is found dead after calling Janet about seeing a strange bird at the lake. Add to this a mysterious retreat center near the lake and Janet sure all these things are connected. She and her Australian Shepherd Jay along with Tom and his Labrador Retriever Drake are on the case. Hopefully they can figure everything out before the criminal flies the coop.
Sheila Webster Boneham is quite a storyteller. She plots a wonderful mystery, fills it with fantastic characters – both 2 legged and 4 legged – adds a bunch of humor, a touch of romance and she teaches us too! In this story we learned about tropical birds and the lengths people with go to smuggle them into this country. We also learn how well our dogs can be trained and how they will do anything for the human family members.
I really like Janet. She is talented and uses her photography to get close to the suspects. It also puts her in some precarious places. Her assignment at a local veterinary clinic ends up costing her dearly. It also had me laughing out loud. She also has a lot going on in her life besides the current mystery. Her mother is in a nursing home suffering with Alzheimer’s and Janet seems to lose a bit more of the most important woman in her life everyday. Her neighbor is dealing with health issues too but is keeping everything a secret from Janet. Tom may want more out of their relationship than she is ready for but maybe it is time to move forward. The author keeps all the characters believable and real.
This is a very engaging story especially for animal lovers. It can be read as a stand alone but I suggest reading Drop Dead on Recall first. Both stories will leave you barking for more!!
Check out the rest of the stops!
September 2 – Shelley’s Book Case Review & Interview
September 3 – rantin’ ravin’ and reading Review & Guest Post
September 4 –A Blue Million Books Interview
September 5 – Omnimystery Interview
September 6 – Mochas, Mysteries and More Review & Guest Post
September 9 – Kaisy Daisy’s Corner Review
September 10 – Melina’s Book Blog Review & Guest Post
September 11 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews Review & Guest Post
September 12 – readalot Review
September 15 – Brooke Blogs Review
September 17 – THE SELF-TAUGHT COOK Review
September 18 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book Review & Guest Post
September 19 – Musings and Ramblings Guest Post
September 20 – A Chick Who Reads Review
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”