FTC Disclosure: I received an advanced readers e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
It is my pleasure to welcome Sheila Webster Boneham, author of the Animal’s in Focus Mystery Series, to the blog today.
Pet Hair and Mysteries
by Sheila Webster Boneham
A few days ago I popped into a local department store to look for a sweater. I found what I wanted, and headed for the check out. When I handed my credit card to the cashier, a rather prim older woman, I noticed the pained look on her face. Then she said, “There’s hair all over your shirt. What is that?” Granted, I was wearing a black pull-over and had cuddled my yellow Lab, Lily, earlier, but from the woman’s tone, you’d have thought I was spattered with blood!
I have killed people, but only in my books. Blood is not always involved. Hair (or technically fur in some cases), on the other hand, usually is, since they are Animals in Focus mysteries. My protagonist, Janet MacPhail, is a professional animal photographer, amateur dog-sport enthusiast, and cat lover. And in the newest book, Catwalk, Janet and her tabby Leo compete in feline agility! Yes, it’s a real sport, and yes, most cats love it.
Janet and I have a lot more in common than hair. I’ve been active for more than two decades in canine activities, competitive and not – sort of a down-sizing of my younger days showing horses (hunters, jumpers, equitation). For me, as for Janet, animal activities are a hobby, but animals are also part of our professional lives. Janet takes pictures, and I write books (seventeen non-fiction books about dogs and cats and rescue), focused on animals.
At first glance it may seem that showing animals and writing are completely different sorts of pursuits, but they have more in common than you might think. Assuming that I’m a reasonably consistent human being (potentially a topic for another time), I figure that dog sports and writing must have elements in common to keep me so passionate about them for so many years.
The first element that comes to mind is aesthetic appeal. Beauty, yes – a well-turned phrase, a gorgeous head. But there’s more to aesthetic appeal than beauty. There’s rhythm, function, timing, and all the other things that come together to make us respond emotionally and intellectually. A dog may be beautiful in itself, or in its performance, or – ideally – in both, just as a piece of writing may be beautiful for its language and rhythm, or the way it moves us, or – ideally – both.
Then there’s the challenge of doing well in either arena. Training an animal to compete successfully is a lot of hard work for trainer and trainee alike. Learning to write well is also a lot of hard work. This is, of course, true of anything we want to do well. To the casual observer of the finished product – the book, the competitive performance – it may look easy, but trust me, it isn’t. In fact, novices in both fields are often amazed to discover that they have to work, and work hard, to make what they do look effortless.
Of course, no matter how good you are, you don’t win every time. Editors say no thanks. Someone else wins the class. Reviewers write bad reviews. Dogs and people trip and fall and make dopey mistakes. Rejection is part of both games, and rejection sucks. But here’s the thing…. the people who win a lot – with book contracts and in canine competitions – have also lost a lot. You just keep playing, and learning to play better, and eventually you win more often.
Janet MacPhail experiences similar joys and disappointments in the Animals in Focus mysteries, with a bit of murder and mayhem mixed in. And that’s not all we have in common. Janet’s Australian Shepherd Jay and her orange tabby Leo are nothing if not furry, and I suspect that Janet has horrified a cashier here and there, too, with her fur-spattered clothing.
Sheila Webster Boneham is the author of the Animals in Focus Mystery series. Drop Dead on Recall, the first in the series, won the 2013 Dog Writers Association of America Award in Fiction, Mystery, or Humor. Sheila has also published 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. For more information, please visit Sheila online at:
Sheila’s website and writing blog – www.sheilaboneham.com
Sheila’s Writers & Other Animals blog for readers & writers who love animals, and animal lovers who read – www. writersandotheranimals.blogspot.com
Autographed copies of Sheila’s books are available from Pomegranate Books – ordering information at http://www.sheilaboneham.blogspot.com/p/autographed-books.html
Also available in paperback, ebook, Audible, and large print formats from your local bookseller and online.
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.
Thanks Sheila! I loved getting to know you a little and I absolutely loved Catwalk.
My thoughts: I have to be honest. I almost passed on the opportunity to review this book and participate in the blog tour. I’m a dog person and I gave up reading “cat” books when Lillian Jackson Braun stopped writing The Cat Who Mysteries. It was the fact that Janet is a photographer that caught my interest. Photography is one of my hobbies and I’ve been looking for a mystery series centered around a photographer. I’m glad I found this one. I really enjoyed this book. I usually have a hard time when the first book in a series I read is not actually the first book in the series, but not this time. Readers new to this series can easily follow along without have read the previous books. However, I suggest they join me and go snag a copy.
I’m not sure who I like more, Janet or her wonderful animals. Janet is a very realistic character, easy to identify with. Boneham’s writing style is very smooth. The story just flows, keeping the reader engaged until the very end. Most importantly, she has created characters that the reader will want to get to know better. I look forward to reading more about them.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys mysteries and animals. And if you would like to win a copy for yourself hop on over to the Escape With Dollycas for a chance to win.