(Note: Our Bag of Books contest winners are listed below!)
We’ve been planning this group post for a while, to celebrate that May is National Pet Month. But with the pandemic and lockdown, the fun and companionship our pets bring us have taken on a new level of importance. They are helping to keep us sane.
Being a writer is a lonely occupation. We spend most days at our computers by ourselves (if you don’t count the people in our heads), so our pets are pretty crucial to our well-being. And they also sometimes make their way into our stories. Here’s how our pets, real and imaginary, affect us and our characters…
Isn’t it remarkable how animals appear to know exactly what we need? During the current stay-at-home order, my grand-kitten, Jane Eyre, has been a God-send! Usually, she’s full of orneriness, but she seems to sense that we need more snuggles and fewer shenanigans than usual. There have been fewer episodes of showing off during Zoom meetings and laying on my keyboard, and more dragging of toys to us for playtime.
Never before a lap cat, Jane has now taken to jumping up on the bed at night and sharing my pillow. Gratitude is a powerful way to stay grounded during these uncertain times, and this little ball of fur is always at the top of my list.
I’m also grateful for the character cats who have shown up in my imagination. Tommy and Tuppence are more than just the names of Agatha Christie’s dynamic duo. They also happen to be the names of my protagonist Jade Blackwell’s cats. Although they haven’t helped her solve a crime yet, they are splendid sounding-boards and cuddle-bugs when Jade needs them. They have a rough time when Jade’s former colleague, Gwendolyn Hexby, visits with her demonic Siamese in Murder Over Medium. Talk about fur flying—and that doesn’t even count the murder that ensues!
In Book 1 of my new upcoming series, Shadows of Doubt, the protagonist, Willow Hibbens, is adopted by a kitten who becomes her familiar and constant companion. The cats in my books are modeled after my own. Willow’s cat, Mystic, was inspired by Jane Eyre—both are Mackerel Tabbies, prone to extreme curiosity and kittenish ways even in adulthood.
Tommy and Tuppence were created in the image of Tabatha and Serenity as a way to pay homage to all the joy they brought me.
Cats have always been my preferred pet. I have a dog phobia, and I’ve never understood the appeal of having a pet bird (Jade agrees with me on this after having an obnoxious parrot dumped on her in Libel to Kill). But cats…they are the superior pet, just ask them.
I’ve always loved dogs and can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a dog. Wait, yes I can. There was the time when I was seven and I had an invisible dog that I walked and fed to show my parents how responsible I’d be.
(After that we always had a dog, so I guess it worked!)
When I decided to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery, I knew it should be about dogs somehow. I’d always wanted a mastiff, so Karma the mastiff and the Pet Psychic Mysteries were born.
In real life, I now have two mastiffs. One is our old gal, Abbey, who’s ten and probably has some boxer or pittie in her. The other one is Enzo, our five-month-old, 90-pound ball of smooshie love.
Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without them during these strange shelter-at-home times.
I probably talk to them more than my busy family. They lay on my feet as I write, bring laughter in the house with their wrestling antics and force me to take walks even when I’m feeling down.
Nothing like dog kisses to keep you grounded and remind you what’s important in life.
Meet Lola—the smartest, most expressive cat that ever lived—fished from a flea-market free box by my former husband.
Lola kept me company through two marriages, three houses, and nineteen years of my teaching career. She was a great mouser, a lover of chips and cantaloupe, and so smart she learned how to open the cupboard door where her food was stored. If she’d only been able to figure out how to pour it!
She was my favorite pet of all time, and it broke my heart to put her down after her long struggle with kidney failure. She was blind and weighed six pounds by then, but still purred on my lap.
This wonderful, entertaining creature lives on in my Carol Sabala mystery series. Every thing in the series is invented, except Lola.
She’s the real deal.
Pets are an important element within the cozy mystery genre, though I confess I was surprised when my agent told me I had to give a cat in one of my books a character arc. Animals definitely have characters, but character arcs?
Anyway, I went all out in my Tea and Tarot mysteries, with a haughty cat AND a duck as pets. (After some initial suspicion, they get along famously.)
Lenore in my Witches of Doyle cozy mysteries has a ghost cat. Her sister Jayce’s real cat, Picatrix, is not happy about this.
Their neighbor, Susan, from my Wits’ End cozy mysteries has a beagle.
Bailey occasionally gets involved in solving crimes, but mostly he just begs for breakfast food from his owner, a B&B proprietress.
Riga Hayworth, my metaphysical detective, thinks she’s too busy managing her gargoyle, Brigitte, for a pet. But dogs keep finding their way to her.
It was inevitable that she ended up adopting one…
Consider, if you will, the female mystery author at work, plotting murder and mayhem. Perhaps she’d be typing away in her home office (for me, the dining room), a cup of tea at her elbow, a sleeping cat (or cats) on a nearby window sill.
Here at Casa Owen, it’s not always quite so peaceful. My kitty muse, Tora, likes to get close as I write–lap, shoulder, tabletop, keyboard, doesn’t matter.
I find myself blowing fur off my laptop a couple of times a day. And that cup of tea?–well, she likes to stick her face in the mug.
I talk to her, bounce off ideas, muse aloud. She doesn’t give much feedback (unless it’s meal time). But she’s great company, especially in what can be a very solitary profession.
My protagonist, a late 19th century female college professor, is not allowed to have pets in her role as chaperone of a house full of unruly young lady students. She doesn’t acquire any animals until her marriage in Book 5 of the Concordia Wells series, when she inherits several (plus a corpse) along with the old farmhouse she and her new husband purchase.
Likewise, I didn’t start my author journey with a cat—we adopted Tora in late 2014—but I’m sure glad she’s sharing it with me now!
I’ve always been a dog person. Don’t get me wrong, I like cats well enough, but they aren’t essential to my life.
I have to have a dog! (My husband has tried to challenge this reality a few times. I advised him not to make me choose. 😉 )
My current tan and white pooch is Dr. Watson (to my Sherlock, get it?). He sits behind my desk chair most of the day, oh so helpfully positioning himself so that I can’t help but trip over him when I get up. He also makes me laugh at his antics on a regular basis.
Watson hasn’t made it into my stories yet, but a couple of my previous dogs have.
Buddy, the Black Labrador-Rotweiler mix who is the co-star of my Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy series, is modeled after our dog, Pepper, of the same genetic heritage. She was an incredibly smart dog. I trained her to follow voice commands so she could go trail-riding with me in the local park. (You can’t exactly use a leash from the back of a horse. That would get messy fast.)
Lacy in Book 2 of the series is modeled after our next dog, Amelia, the sweetest one I have ever owned. She was an Alaskan Husky-German Shepherd mix (with maybe a little Chow thrown in) and she was also gorgeous. She’s in the collage above.
Like I said, I can’t imagine not having a dog in my life, and Watson has definitely grounded me and helped keep me sane during these recent trying weeks.
How about you? What pets do you have and how do they improve your mental health?
Happy National Pet Month!!
And our contest winners are (We’ve been in touch with all of them re: how to claim their prizes):
Grand Prize: Betty R.
ebook winners: Stephanie, Jennifer R., Crystal S. and Vicki J.
We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.
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