It is my pleasure to welcome Sheila Webster Boneham back to Escape With Dollycas!
Her new book
Shepherd’s Crook, comes out October 6!
Life into Fiction
By Sheila Webster Boneham
My Animals in Focus Mysteries are, of course, fiction. I made up the stories, and I made up the characters. Still, many elements of the books are based on experience, my own and other people’s. Like most writers, I gather material constantly and just about anything I hear or learn or see is fodder for my imagination if it helps the story (although I do change the names unless I have permission!).
Sometimes I use my own life stories. In Shepherd’s Crook, for instance, Janet MacPhail has a run in with a “speaker-phone boor” at a coffee house. We’ve all had encounters with those guys, right? I certainly did a couple of year ago, and when I asked the guy in the booth behind me to turn off his speaker phone, he told me to “stick it.” I just wish I’d been as quick on the uptake as Janet is in the book!
Janet, is a fifty-something professional photographer whose career focuses (sorry, couldn’t help myself) mostly on animals. She is also an avid participant in sports and other activities with her dog, Jay, and—yes!—her cat, Leo. Many of their adventures are based on my own experience competing, volunteering, and hanging out with my dogs, and playing with my cats. (Maybe one of these days I’ll follow Janet’s lead and have an agility cat!)
The first book in the series, Drop Dead on Recall, opens with Janet and Jay at an obedience trial. I’ve competed in obedience with my own six Australian Shepherds and three Labrador Retrievers, and drew on my triumphs, goofs, disappointments, and overall enjoyment of sharing the sport with my dogs. Here’s the real-life Jay performing the “retrieve over high jump” in open obedience competition.
In The Money Bird, Janet and Jay spend a lot of time hanging out with friend Tom Saunders and his black Lab, Drake, at a retriever field-training sessions. Although I never competed in hunt tests or field trials with my Labs, I did a fair amount of training with Raja and Annie—and with my Aussie, Jay, who was a terrific retriever! That’s Annie going after a bumper (a cylindrical training device made of canvas, foam, or plastic).
The sport of agility, both canine and feline, is front and center in Catwalk, although (as in all of the books) Janet and Tom take the dogs to obedience, tracking, and field-training sessions as well. Most of the dog-sport enthusiasts I know train in at least two, and often four or five, different sports with their dogs, so Janet’s devotion to her hobby is not unusual. As I said, I haven’t yet trained a cat for feline agility, but one of these days….
In three of the books—Drop Dead on Recall, Catwalk, and now Shepherd’s Crook—Jay is called on to use his tracking skills to help find a lost soul of one species or another. Most people think of search-and-rescue or police and military dogs when they think of tracking, but tracking is also a sport in which dogs can earn titles from the American Kennel Club and other organizations. I’ve done some tracking with several of my dogs, including my current Lab, Lily, who started tracking at eight weeks of age and earned her Tracking Dog title at a year old. Here she is finding a “lost” glove at twelve weeks.
Not all of Janet’s—or my—activities with animals are competitive. In the books, Janet has had Jay and Leo certified as therapy animals, and they make volunteer visits to the library and other venues. I have also taken a number of my certified dogs to hospitals, schools, libraries, nursing homes, and shelters over the years, and I was at one time a tester and evaluator for one of the certifying organizations. Here’s the real Jay’s mother, Sage, during a visit with special needs children.
Other people who “play with animals” also have great stories, of course. I’ve been known to use anecdotes I’ve heard or read on the Internet—modifed of course—to build scenes. And sometimes, I ask my friends and fans to send me their funniest or most inspiring or most unusual stories. When I was working on Shepherd’s Crook, for instance, I needed some funny herding-trial tales. My friend Corey Norman, who I know
in real life from the many Michigan dog shows I’ve shown in, sent me a hilarious “killer sheep” story that I used in the book, with Janet standing (sort of!) for Corey. Another funny scene in the book involving a young Border Collie’s first encounter with sheep came from April Bruce. By the way, that’s another of April’s lovely BCs on the cover of Drop Dead on Recall. Here’s my first Aussie, Teddy, taking a breather after a herding lesson.
Not all the life-to-fiction scenes in my books involve animals, of course. Janet (and I) do some things without the critters in tow! In Shepherd’s Crook, there’s not only the “jerk in the coffee-house” scene, but the “shopping for a dress for the wedding” scene, which follows pretty closely my own experience as a forty-ish bride meeting a twenty-ish sales clerk. In fact, quite a few events in the books have to do with Janet’s age, which we boomers know is not an obstacle to an active! But that’s another story.
(An Animals in Focus Mystery)
4th in Series
Setting – Indiana
Midnight Ink (October 8, 2015)
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
E-Book ASIN: B015CZD176
Animal photographer Janet MacPhail has just arrived at a sheepherding competition with her Australian Shepherd, Jay, when she learns that two-dozen sheep have disappeared. Police think the animals have wandered off, but Janet is convinced they’ve been stolen.
Janet knows she should leave the snooping to the police while she attends to her own problems—new living arrangements, her mom’s wedding plans, puppy and kitten antics, and extremists bent on keeping people from having pets. But when a livestock handler turns up dead, the police and a pair of thugs pay Janet way more attention than she likes. Setting out to find answers, Janet puts herself in the killer’s crosshairs.
About The Author
Sheila Webster Boneham is the author of the Animals in Focus Mystery series. Drop Dead on Recall, the first in the series, won the Dog Writers Association of America Award in Fiction, Mystery, or Humor. She 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 also bred top-winning Aussies, and founded rescue groups for Aussies and Labs. Boneham holds a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University and resides in Wilmington, N.C. For more information, go to www.SheilaBoneham.com , www.facebook.com/sheilawrites, or writersandotheranimals.blogspot.com/
Sheila is giving away 1 copy of 1 of her books!
Winner’s Choice and Format
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