I am so excited to welcome Sheila Webster Boneham back to Escape With Dollycas!!
When we originally set up this date the book was set to be released this month.
The new release date is October 8, 2014.
Writing Serious Issues in Fun(ny) Mysteries
In my mysteries, dogs and cats and other animals are vital characters. After all, the series isn’t called Animals in Focus for nothing. Each book in the series finds 50-something animal photographer Janet MacPhail participating in a different “animal activity”—a type of competitive event, or noncompetitive sport, or non-sporting activity such as pet-assisted therapy–and each mystery hinges on an issue that just might inspire murder and mayhem.
I’ve spent many years deep in the world of animals. Purebred, mixed breed, rescued, responsibly bred—I love them all. And honestly, I like the vast majority of people involved with dogs and cats in all those arenas. If I’ve learned anything, it is that no serious issue is simple, and that there are good, responsible people involved in all parts of the “animal world.” There are also some of the others.
Just as they do in real life, serious issues can create major problems for cozy writers in a genre that discourages “nittygrittyness.” So one of the challenges I face is balance: how do I balance some really tough realities with the conventions of the cozy?
In the first book, Drop Dead on Recall (2012) we meet Janet and her Australian Shepherd Jay at a canine obedience trial. When a nationally ranked l competitor keels over, Janet, Jay, and their very important feline family member Leo find themselves embroiled in a series of murders that seem to be linked to breeder ethics (or lack thereof) and cut-throat competitiveness.
In The Money Bird (2013) Janet has her lens focused on retrievers training for AKC retrieving tests, especially the handsome Drake and his almost-as-handsome person, Tom Saunders. When Drake retrieves something unexpected at a practice session, Janet quickly finds herself face-to-face with illegal trafficking in endangered tropical birds, a very nasty business that is all to common and lucrative in the real world.
Catwalk, available now for pre-order, takes Janet and Leo to their first competitive event—feline agility! Janet competes with her dog, Jay, in the canine version, and figures fair is fair. Besides, Leo loves “playing” agility, so why not? The book also drops Janet into the controversial and emotional politics of feral cat colonies and trap-neuter-release programs, and environmentally destructive land development.
So what are the challenges of writing “issues” into entertainment? First, readers of “cozies” have certain expectations:
1. Murder and allusions to sex are fine; graphic details are not.
2. Adult humans may be killed; children and animals may be threatened, but can’t be harmed. (And why would I want to?)
3. Serious issues may be presented and may underlie motives, but they shouldn’t be the main focus.
Knowing these “rules” is helpful in some ways, restrictive in others. After all, I’m writing about creatures and issues that stir intense emotions in me as well as in my readers, and it isn’t always easy to stifle myself. Many authors face this problem in fiction, where characters and story (plot, if you prefer) are the real focus. So how do we strike a balance? Not all of us do – I’m sure we’ve all read books in which the author’s passion for a cause overshadowed everything else. If you’re like me, you may have quit reading, especially when I pick up a book mostly for entertainment and escape. I do read serious books, but I go into them knowing what to expect. Most of us don’t like to be bludgeoned when we’re reading for fun.
On the other hand, I do like to learn new things and want to live consciously. More than one novel has teased me into digging deeper into an issue that I didn’t know much about. I hope I’m striking that balance in my own fiction.
I would love to hear what you think. In fact, if you leave a comment, I will put your name in the hopper to win one of my mysteries—winner’s choice.
Would you like a chance to name one of the new animals? Check out my Catwalk pre-order contest to name a kitten or puppy at http://writersandotheranimals.blogspot.com/2014/09/help-name-mystery-kitten-and-puppy.html
About This Author
Sheila Webster Boneham writes the Animals in Focus mystery series. Drop Dead on Recall, the first book in the series, won the 2013 Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Association of America and was an NBC Petside Best Ten Dog Book of 2012. Sheila is also 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.
For the past two decades Boneham has been showing her Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers in various canine sports. She has bred top-winning Aussies, and founded rescue groups for Aussies and Labs. Boneham holds a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University, an MFA Stonecoast/University of Southern Maine, and resides in Wilmington, N.C. Sheila writes literary nonfiction and poetry as well, and teaches writing. You can keep up with Sheila’s latest news at www.sheilaboneham.com and www.facebook.com/sheilawrites, learn more about animal-oriented writing—with some of your favorite authors!—at her Writers & Other Animals blog at www.writersandotheraniamls.blogspot.com.
(An Animals in Focus Mystery)
3rd in Series
Published by MIDNIGHT INK (October 8, 2014)
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
E-Book Link will be up soon!
Agility can be murder for cats, dogs, and people!
Animal photographer Janet MacPhail is training for her cat Leo’s first feline agility trial when she gets a frantic call about a “kidnapping.” When Janet and her Australian Shepherd Jay set out to track down the missing party, they quickly find themselves drawn into the volatile politics of feral cat colonies and endangered wetlands.
Janet is crazy busy trying to keep up with her mom’s nursing-home romance, her own relationship with Tom, and upcoming agility trials with Jay and Leo. But the discovery of a body on the canine competition course stops the participants dead in their tracks—and sets Janet on the trail of a killer.
Again Sheila Webster Boneham has crafted a wonderful story with a great whodunit. She also includes just the right amount of humor and romance. The mystery is so well plotted and will keep you guessing right up until the end.
This time kitties join the puppies in the adventure!! Leo is quite a cat. He is training just like the dogs do for agility trials and I am very impressed with his talents. Our cats were very agile when traveling as high as possible around the house but the only time they rushed anywhere was to the kitchen when they heard the can opener.
Jay is quite a dog as well with a very good sniffer. He comes in very handy when trying to find lost kittens or to track down a killer.
I like Janet MacPhail more with each story. I enjoy the pace that her relationship with Tom is progressing. They are an older couple who are used to being on their own and their lifestyles are starting to mesh together perfectly. Janet’s mother also plays a key role in this story and that really put a smile on my face. The realistic characters are what makes these stories really shine.
The other thing I look forward to in these stories is that we learn something too. This time is was about a capture, neuter, release program for feral cats. We also learned a bit about conservation and areas that need to be preserved for birds and wild animals to thrive and survive.
If you love animals, and who wouldn’t, you have to read this series. They can all be read as stand alones but treat yourself to all three captivating mysteries. You will be glad you did.
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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.”