Guest:Author Sheila Webster Boneham

For my ‘free’ week I have brought in a special guest,


My guest, author Sheila Webster Boneham

My guest, author Sheila Webster Boneham

Sheila Webster Boneham’s experience and expertise with dogs and cats has found her publishing around two dozen books including “idiot” guides on choosing and caring for a dog or cat, on multiple cat or dog families for Animal Planet, books on specific breeds, rescue animal…the list goes on and on.

She also has a series of cozy “Animals in Focus” mysteries, which I have only just started. She calls upon her work in rescuing, breeding, training, and showing dogs in Drop Dead and Recall,the first of the series.

What impresses me the most about Sheila’s stories is not only the well thought-out characters and plots, plus the flow of the story, but Sheila imparts just enough knowledge of the complexities of both the nuances and rules of showing dogs and the process of responsible breeding (there are intricacies I never imagined) without losing the reader in technicalities. And she does so without any forced lines or dialogue; it is truly a joy to read for anyone interested in dogs or for the rest of us who find themselves simply reading a good cozy mystery!

Let’s learn more about Sheila.

Welcome! We’ll get right into writing. How did you find yourself writing ‘how-to’ books?

Good question! I had been publishing in magazines and academic journals for a number of years before I wrote my first book, Breed Rescue: How to Start and Run a Successful Program, published by Alpine Publications. In the early 1990’s, I started the first Labrador Retriever rescue program in Indiana and helped start another program for Australian Shepherds, and information was much harder to find than it is now. The Internet was new, and animal rescue programs as an alternative to shelters were also pretty new. I decided to write the book I needed when I was feeling my way along, and was fortunate that Betty McKinney at Alpine believed in the book. Breed Rescue won the 1998 Maxwell Award for General Interest Books from the Dog Writers Association of America. After that I wrote articles for Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy, and a lot of other magazines, and of course more books, including Rescue Matters: How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009/13), which updated and expanded Breed Rescue to include other domestic animals.rescuemattersBoneham

I am fascinated that you wrote of Animal Planet; how did that come about?

The Animal Planet books are actually published by T.F.H. Publications, a publisher specializing in pet books. I had written several books for them, and was lucky enough to become one of the Animal Planet authors.

Did you write before you published the non-fiction books?
I did! I have a PhD in folklore from Indiana University, and I published a number of academic articles in the 1980’s and 90’s. Then I moved to magazine feature articles that drew on my background in folklore and cultural anthropology. One of those, a piece about the legend of Gelert, Welsh King Llewellyn’s gallant hound, was re-published in a slightly different form in Dog Fancy, which gave me my entrée into dog and cat magazines.

What made you start your mystery series?

Four impulses, I think. First, I’ve always loved mysteries and thrillers—anything that keeps me reading way too late into the night! But as a recovering academic and a nonfiction writer, I didn’t think I could make up a story, so I went for years without trying. Then I was in a critique group with three women who were working on mysteries. I would come in with my nonfiction passages (good stuff, but not exactly read-til-three- a.m. material!), and they would come in with murder and mayhem. I slowly began to think that maybe I could give it a try. Meanwhile, I was reading Susan Conant’s wonderful Dog Lovers Mystery series—the beginning of a genre!—and that started me thinking about dog- and cat-related plots. Finally, I was driving home from a dog show and obedience trial one weekend and the title Drop Dead on Recall popped into my head. As I drove, an opening scene formed in my mind, and a vague notion of a story. I started writing the next day. It was a long and steep learning curve, and the book experienced many stops and restarts as I left it to write nonfiction, but I finally had a book. A year or so later my agent, Josh Getzler, agreed to represent me, and here we are now with Animals in Focus #4 scheduled to launch in October.

Have you any other non-fiction books planned?

I’ve moved to a different type of nonfiction now, and I do have two potential books in progress. One is part memoir, part lyrical narrative, about (surprise!) dogs (and a lot more). They other is based on riding long-distance trains in the U.S. and elsewhere. They’re both in early stages, though, so we’ll see!

Do you have any other fiction planned, any other series? Since the title of the series is“ANIMALS in Focus”, as opposed to “DOGS”, will we be seeing any other pets, besides protagonist Janet MacPhail’s cat, Leo?

Oh, yes, lots of other animals. Animals in Focus #3, Catwalk, brings in a clowder of other cats, as well as a cat sport (feline agility – really!) and issues related to feral cat trap- neuter-release programs. The dogs are still there, of course. I’ve never bought into the “cat person” versus “dog person” fiction as I’ve always loved and lived with both species, plus a few others at various times in my life. The Money Bird, Animals in Focus #2, has one of the main dog characters training for his retriever titles, and the mystery involves exotic birds kept as pets. We have some sheep in the forthcoming Shepherd’s Crook, as my amateur detective, Janet MacPhail, enters her Australian Shepherd, Jay, in a herding test. I have the next two series books planned. One of them involves a sanctuary for large exotic animals—lions and tigers and bear, oh my! Of course, dogs and cats are central in all of the books, because Janet and her friends live with them. But as I like to say regarding my Animals in Focus Facebook page, all species are welcome!

You told me that there was more ‘romance’ in the subsequent Animals in Focus” series. Is that human or dog?

Well, the dogs and cats do love their people and their other housemates, but I was referring to human characters! In Drop Dead on Recall, Janet, who is in her 50s and long single, meets handsome Tom Saunders. That relationship may or may not develop throughout the series (no spoilers here!). A couple of other surprise romances spring up later in the series, but I don’t want to give too much away. Let’s just say that age, infirmity, and nerdiness are not necessarily obstacles to love!

Some of S.W. Boneham's  many works

Some of S.W. Boneham’s many works

Do you write in any other genre?

Yes, I write essays, poetry, and literary fiction, often focused on animals, nature, travel, and traditional culture. My essay “A Question of Corvids,” about encounters with crows, ravens, and other corvids, is coming out this fall in the 2015 Best American Science and Nature Writing anthology edited by Rebecca Skloot. I’m very excited about that! Some of my work is available in online magazines, such as my essay “Nocturne: Nebraska” in The Wayfarer. I’m also working on a literary novel and a thriller.

What do you like to read?

Wow – just about anything that is well-written. Obviously, I enjoy mysteries and thrillers. I also read a lot of poetry, essays, and longform nonfiction, as well as a range of fiction, both American and world-wide. I like travel narratives, nature writing, memoirs that place the personal in a larger context, and some science and history writing.

Any upcoming important events for you?

Shepherd’s Crook launches in October, so I will have a few readings related to that. I plan to be at Bouchercon, the ginormous World Mystery Convention, in Raleigh, NC, in October, and the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Los Angeles in the spring. Otherwise, I have a lot of writing, walking, and research to do, and some furry bellies to rub.

Anything you’d like to plug?

For readers who enjoy books with animals, my blog Writers & Other Animals blog may be of interest, as well as the companion Writers & Other Animals group on Facebook. Ialso have a Facebook page for my Animals in Focus Mysteries. I can be reached through any of those, as well as through my website, Twitter @sheilabwrites, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Autographed copies of my books are available through Pomegranate Books, my local Indie bookstore, and may be ordered here. I love to hear from readers!
Thank you so much for being my guest and for such a great interview, Sheila!

I hope that all our readers will check into all of  Sheila’s  work.I believe we are all animal lovers here.

Please take the time to leave a comment.

Posted in authors, blogging, book covers, Books, careers, characters, free week, Guest, Guest author, Local writing group, poetry, publishing, Tonette Joyce | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Just One Simple Little Favor

By Jeff Salter

Yeah, that was one of my original titles for the suspense novella, “One Simple Favor” released in mid-May by Dingbat Publishing. You know, that sense of dread you can have when someone acts like the favor they’re asking of you “won’t be any problem” at all, because “it’s on your way” or that “it won’t take a minute.”

Well, it’s never on the way, it always takes several minutes (at least), and there are usually problems. And that’s the kind of gloomy frustration I try to convey in Tricia’s frame of mind as she returns from a horrid weekend in Memphis that’s been cut short by an emergency in her office (which is exacerbated by her fluttering and hovering boss). Ever been there?

Anyhow, if you like a dose of grim humor mixed with suspense… and the chance of an off-kilter romance, this is your story. Only $1.99 in digital formats and most people say its 38,000 words zoom by in the blink of an eye!

A-One Simple Favor-med

One Simple Favor
A novella
By J. L. Salter


Sometimes one simple favor changes everything.


Tricia Pilgrim reluctantly agrees to pick up a sort-of cousin she’s never seen at a distant bus station and drive him back to Verdeville. She might as well. Everything’s already gone wrong with her mini-vacation weekend, there’s an emergency at her job, and things can’t get any worse. Right?

Wrong. Her twice-removed third cousin-in-law turns out to be a hunk with moves like a special forces ninja. And one of them is a magnet for trouble… of the wrong kind. The sort of trouble that has her running through the woods at midnight, terrified and confused. The sort with bad guys and guns.

It’s the wrong way to feel about a cousin, even one by marriage. But she feels safe with Mike. And if they both make it through this long, troubled night, she’ll take a really close look at Aunt Mary’s family tree.


Already 19 Amazon reviews in the first six weeks — and most have FIVE stars!
Only $1.99 in digital formats. Paperback is $7.95.

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Never too early to start

Recently, I watched a show called Master Chef Junior with my children. My youngest loves to cook. On this show are kids between the ages of eight and twelve competing for the title of Master Chef. My littlest looked at me. “I’m going to have a restaurant when I grow up.” Then he went on to tell me some of the dishes he would serve.

I have always told my kids they could be anything they want to be. Quinlan, my twelve year old has always wanted to be an artist. I asked him what kind and his answer was, “A famous one so I can buy you a house.” He told me in detail about the place he plans to have someday. A three story storefront, each floor had a specific use. I want him to reach his goal.

Last year I wrote a story for my youngest child, not planning to do anything with it. I wrote it because I didn’t want him to forget what Christmas was really about. With all the gift giving, treats, and parties it can be difficult for a child (or adult) to lose sight of why we are celebrating. I did not send it out to anyone. My little artist said he would draw the pictures for me just so my kids would have them to look at when they read it. Well, why not send it out to someone and see what they think of the story and the first few sketches? About two hours after I queried it I got a response. I was ecstatic that the publisher liked Quinlan’s rough sketches. The next day I signed the contract for Christmas at the Zoo.

Quinlan is doing the illustrations. He’s been working diligently (as much as any twelve year old boy can be expected to during summer vacation) on the illustrations. At the time that I am writing this he has 12 sketches done where all he needs to do it outline and color them. He has 2 or 3 more planned. The goal is to have them done by the end of July so everything can be turned into the publisher.

I’ve been getting to watch my twelve year old work hard on his art. I’ve heard so many people comment on how talented he is. There is a light in his eyes that was not there just a few days ago. He loves art, he loves sharing that with others. He has big dreams for this little book and someone we know has already asked him to do illustrations for her books. That would be another three stories for him to illustrate after this one.

Yesterday Quinlan looked up from his sketchbook and said, “You need to write an Easter story with these guys.” He pointed picture he just created.

“Why?” I asked.

“I think we need more stories for them.” Then he turned back to his work.

It is never too early to start working toward your dream/goal. It is never too late either. Is there something you have always wanted to do?

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Hmm… We have another Free Week

But for the Grace of God

I really don’t have anything to talk about this week.  Nothing to promote.  The box for my 3 book CONNECTIONS Series isn’t ready, yet, and I’m still polishing my Halloween romance.  Oh!  I have joined a Meetups critique group.  I meet with them twice a month and they’re critiquing it for me.  :)

I hadn’t had anyone to look at my ms for me, which made the polishing a challenge, but not anymore.  They’ve been so helpful and after only two meetings with them so far, I’ve already learned a lot.  So I guess I did have something to write about this week.  (You’re lucky.  I had planned on blogging about how I’ve seen the Grace of God in my life.)

My church recently asked me if I’d speak for 7 minutes in front of the congregation on that subject, and you were going to get to be my guinea pigs.  LOL!  If you’re a believer – how have you seen God’s Grace in your life?

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A Little Slice of Japan


A hilltop vantage point allowed me to take some great photos!

It’s free week once again at Four Foxes, One Hound! This time I thought I’d take you along on a picture tour of a wonderful new place in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids is fortunate to have several generous benefactors. Among them is Fredrick Meijer, son of Hendrik Meijer, founder of the chain of grocery/department stores found throughout the Midwest. The Meijer family’s contributions to the city include a state-of-the art heart center downtown and a lovely botanical gardens located just east of the city. The gardens include several iconic sculptures, and hosts a concert series each summer. This month a brand new feature opened: The Japanese Garden. My mother and I were fortunate to be included in a tour of those gardens last week. And since two of my books feature people of my Japanese ancestry (hopefully more, soon!) I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took.


Volunteer docents are on hand to make sure things run smoothly at the gardens.

Our tour met in the lobby of the main building in this 158-acre park. Mom and I were part of a tour sponsored by the World Affairs Council of West Michigan. First, we met with a pair of docent volunteers, and we observed a lot of Japanese artifacts sent from Grand Rapids’ sister city of Omihachiman, in the Shiga prefecture (on the main island of Honshu). After that we were directed outdoors, where signs directed us to the Japanese Garden. It was a bit of a walk, but there’s plenty to see – we passed the Children’s Gardens, part of the sculpture park,   the amphitheater, and arrived at the gates to the new section.


The zen garden.

From the time we entered the rather unimposing gate, we were immersed in a canopy of peace and tranquility. Even though two interstate highways intersect only a mile away, here there was nothing but green plants, running water, and a winding path. We came to a bonsai garden, and then to a zen garden (slightly reminiscent of the zen gardens I saw in Kyoto, but this one is made of small pebbles rather than sand). Continuing along the path, we went down to the man-made pond, where a small tea house is set up to host traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. The path continues around the pond, each twist and turn revealed another picture perfect setting. There were lots of benches for people to sit, rest, and reflect.


The yatsuhashi, or zig-zag bridge.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago when the topic was gardening, I am hopeless when it comes to keeping plants alive. But I certainly enjoy walking through them. It calms me, especially if there’s water nearby. And this excursion definitely calmed me. A zig-zag bridge, or yatsuhashi, goes over the north end of the pond, and a smaller arched bridge takes you to a gazebo on a small island in the middle. Waterfalls trickle down from a rocky hillside into the pond. I think the soothing atmosphere lifted the spirits of all the people in the group. Even though it was a forty-minute walk, my eighty-one year old mother was still smiling as we left.


Mom and I stand in front of the plaque listing donors. Thanks to the Wyoming Historical Society, my parents and grandparents are included!

The opening of the Japanese Garden has had a ripple effect on local interest in our culture. Since my father’s parents were the first Japanese in the area, we’ve been contacted by the genealogical society as well as the historical society requesting information for articles they plan to put in their publications in the near future. Mom and I are quick to comply—I’m learning more and more about the grandfather I never met! The gardens are only a half hour drive from my home, so I’m hoping to visit again soon. Thanks go to Mr. Ron Strauss for his tireless work in getting recognition for my family, and for arranging the tour!

Oh, and since it’s free week, I get to mention my own books! Here are the two that reflect my Japanese heritage. Click on the book covers to learn more about them:

IMG_2468The Legacy_RELIEF_500 x 750_2_3

Posted in free week, Patricia Kiyono | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Unseen Characters

This week the Four Foxes and the Hound are discussing their secondary characters….that leaves me a little sort this time.

Most of my published work has been non-fiction and poetry. My only real award came for song lyrics. However, I have a few of works done and a number are perking, so I do have a few things to say.

One of my works is a short story where you only hear about secondary characters. In another, my biggest finished piece of fiction, is a play that I am turning into readable form and you also never ‘see’ any secondary characters. It could be done as a three-person play or short film.

In my others, including my children’s stories, you may not see the secondary characters much, but I see them in my mind and try to give them all the attention that they are due. In one children’s story, they added so much more than I anticipated, they enlarged the story. Sometimes, secondary characters are simply in and out of the story, but their presence in necessary to the story, often  to add something to convey it along.

My biggest unfinished undertaking is a romance novel that I have really neglected. It probably has too many secondary characters, but I like them. I have them fully developed in my head I and try to let the reader understand as much about them as I can, while keeping the description of them down to a minimum. Backstories sometimes come out a bit, but in some cases more information is opened up as the story unfolds. And one unseen character plays an important role in that story, too.

I know there will be a lot of editing at the end. In fact, one set of four characters refused to co-operate to let me make their story into a subplot. Perhaps their story will be part of another work, but I don’t know. Another set of characters took a great deal more of time than I anticipated and one set actually invited themselves to lunch with my main characters and took off with the husband for an afternoon of sigh-seeing. Little did I know that they were giving me a perfect opening to one of the situations that I needed for my story to work.

I think the number of secondary characters depend on the story and their placement within the work; there is no set answer as to how many are too many and/or if they are needed at all. Making them as human as possible and fleshing them out with as few words as you can will certainly enhance a story. And sometimes, secondary characters run off with the work.

If you write, do you have ‘off-stage’ characters in your stories? Do your characters cooperate all the time with your plans for them?

Posted in authors, Books, characters, poetry, publishing, romance, Secondary Characters, Tonette Joyce, writing | 10 Comments

It Takes a Village

Support System — Secondary Characters

By Jeff Salter

We’re discussing supporting characters and/or subplots this week. Not sure why I was surprised that Patricia Kiyono’s Monday post would explain an approach so close to my own, in many respects. As I’ve done at least once before, I found Patricia’s presentation so complete and organized that I’m borrowing some of her insight and referring to her text. For anyone truly interested in this topic, please go back and read all the posts for this week.


As Patricia said, our featured players don’t work alone — their supporting casts are important to the plot. Patricia’s are broken down in to Helpers, Mentors, and Devil’s Advocates. I have some of all of those, but I group them a bit differently.


In my own stories, the secondary characters are also there for several specific reasons, of course. Sometimes all I need is what I call a “walk-on” player to come in, deliver a line the reader needs to see (or the hero/heroine needs to hear), and then exit. On a few occasions, these walk-on players impressed me so much that I agreed when they begged to be included in additional scenes. One example is Jason’s mother in my series, “Amanda Moore or Less”. Mrs. Stewart ended up playing a significant role in “Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold”. [So in this instance, my walk-on character served as the kind of mentor Patty described.] Another walk-on player who impressed me enough to get more scenes was Kristen’s brother Eric Prima, in “Rescued By That New Guy in Town.” I only needed Eric for a few lines and a bit of humor, but he stuck around to play an important role in helping Kris understand what Ryan Hazzard was probably thinking.

I liked Eric so well, that I featured him (and his girlfriend) as the most significant character – other than the heroine and hero – in my recently published novella, “One Simple Favor”.

Best Friend

In nearly every one of my stories, the hero / heroine has a best friend. [This character often functions as – in Patricia’s blog – the helper, but sometimes as the mentor and occasionally as the devil’s advocate.] My primary use of the BF is to: (1) relay to the reader additional info/insight about the hero/heroine, (2) give the hero/heroine a sounding board… so they’re not just sitting there with paragraphs of internal thoughts, (3) to prod the hero/heroine to action, when that’s needed, (4) to caution the hero/heroine to slow down or reconsider, or (5) to verbalize the reader’s own skepticism or warning.

That last one – (5) – is particularly important in my screwball comedies, because the characters often find themselves in unbelievable situations and the reader needs someone to agree with him/her that these screwball circumstances are totally bizarre. Once that’s out of the bag, hopefully the reader can relax and enjoy the rest of that screwball ride.

Aunt or Uncle

In several of my stories, the hero/heroine has an aunt or uncle who plays (in part) the role of mentor, as described by Patricia. Sometimes I use this aunt/uncle only to give the h/h a local base or provide some childhood background (for the reader’s benefit). Occasionally the aunt/uncle provides information about the situation (or its history) which the reader needs… instead of me having a disruptive info dump. Sometimes the aunt/uncle serves as the advisor or comforter… but occasionally this aunt/uncle serves a unique role in helping the hero understand the heroine (or vice versa).

At other times, this aunt/uncle is used in one of the five roles I listed above for the best friend. For example, in cases where the h/h’s best friend is too flighty to give good advice or not terribly effective at providing comfort, the aunt/uncle might be needed to provide those services. Just as the best friend sometimes serves in my stories as the devil’s advocate… likewise it is occasionally the aunt/uncle who fills that role. My decision depends partly on the length of the story, the complexity of the plot, the duration of the plot’s timeline, how many characters are involved, etc. In a short novella, for example, I may have one supporting character providing several functions that might require multiple characters in a longer work.

I guess the only category Patricia uses which I don’t reflect much in my own stories is that of children. Of my completed stories so far – 11 novels and 4 novellas – the only young person (I can remember) is a 16 year old granddaughter of one of the primary supporting characters in Called to Arms Again. Initially I needed this girl only to deliver one important emotional line near the end, but after I placed her there, I realized I had to go back and give her at least a couple of foundational scenes earlier in the text. And, as I’ve found with other walk-ons, this girl became involved with several touching scenes and was the main character who understood technology enough to provide a useful service to the plot at one point.


As a reader, what do you look for in a support cast? If you’re also a writer, how do you approach your supporting characters?

Read the other posts this week

I really do hope you check out all the blogs this week. This is a very important topic and we have some very creative folks here at 4F1H.
Here’s the link to Patricia’s post:

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