It’s my great pleasure to host FOUR authors today from the Mutt Mysteries series: Teresa Inge, Jayne Ormerod, Rosemary Shomaker, and Heather Weidner. They’re here to discuss their newly-released To Fetch a Scoundrel, a “fetching” collection of novellas from the authors who brought you To Fetch a Thief.
To begin, a message from the Mutt Mystery authors:
Thank you, Maggie King, for inviting the Mutt Mysteries authors to your blog. Whereas readers may be anxious about the COVID-19 virus, reading fiction is a useful diversion. Fiction serves to divert us as well as to unite us, as readers bathe in the familiar and recognize commonalities. In this blog, you’ll find yourself in the company of animal lovers and of mystery lovers. Enjoy getting to know the Mutt Mysteries authors as they share their backgrounds and story origins. When you pick up a copy of To Fetch a Scoundrel, your conscious may wistfully note pre-COVID-19 actions in the stories, as you realize we cannot attend car races like in “The Fast and the Furriest,” or gather in the private dog park for cocktails as characters do in “Pawsitively Scandalous,” or even visit a funeral home as in “Ruff Goodbye.” Perhaps your mind will work overtime assessing the changes Catt Ramsey in “A Doggone Scandal” must make to her Woof-Pack Dog Walkers business in this COVID-19 era. In all those cases, the Mutt Mysteries stories have taken your mind off your worries and hopefully provided a little entertainment.
How did the theme for the Mutt Mysteries series come about?Teresa: When we began discussing our next collaboration, we met at the Williamsburg Winery in Williamsburg, Virginia to have lunch, a glass of wine, and brainstorm our future series together. We are also friends and have collaborated on several anthologies over the years, but decided this series would be titled the Mutt Mysteries Series and each book would be about “Four Fun Tails” of mysteries.
Jayne: To Fetch a Thief (our first book) came first, and we wrote stories based on the premise of “Four Fun ‘Tails’ of Theft and Murder.” The catch phrase Mutt Mysteries came about at a brainstorming session of the authors at the Williamsburg Winery. Amazing what a nice bottle of Cabernet can do to spark creativity.
Rosie: The four of us worked together on other mystery fiction writing projects, so we respected and trusted one another. We discovered that a love for our dogs also connected us, and voilà! Mutt Mysteries was born!
Heather: Teresa Inge came up with the original book title. It combines her love of dogs and classic movies. Jayne Ormerod came up with the title for our series.
Tell us about your story in To Fetch a Scoundrel.
Teresa: “A Doggone Scandal” features Catt Ramsey, owner of the Woof-Pack Dog Walkers, who is back on the case when she receives a mysterious note in her pet supply order. Convinced the sender’s motive is scandalous, Catt packs up her SUV and heads to the Outer Banks with her sister Em, family friend Jonathan Ray, and pups Cagney and Lacey to solve the mystery.
Jayne: “Pawsitively Scandalous” is a cozy mystery, primarily set in and around the Grant’s Garden Dog Park. Yappy Hour occurs on Friday afternoons while dogs romp and owners gossip . . . and, it turns out, solve mysteries.
Rosie: I had an idea, a setting, and a main character. I wanted to write about a sinister happening in a funeral home and how we each have scoundrels in our lives, with different degrees of scoundrel-ness. In “Ruff Goodbye,” the reader considers whether wrongdoing is related to ego, mental illness, purposeful inattention, or something else. After debating with whom to align my canine character, I injected one dog into the story, and another dog appeared in my mind. Both dogs are pivotal in “Ruff Goodbye.”
Heather: Cassidy Green just wants to keep her racetrack business from crashing. When an altercation breaks out between two race teams at the driver meeting, it adds one more problem to her already full plate. Cassidy gets more than she bargains for when Oliver, her Rottweiler, finds one of the star drivers dead in her garage. She hopes her fuzzy director of security will help uncover clues to reveal the killer before the bad publicity drives business into the wall.
Does the dog in your story solve the crime? Or is she/he happy to cheer on your human sleuth?
Teresa: Cagney and Lacey are hot on the trail with their owner Catt Ramsey to find out who sent the mysterious note. By barking, biting, growling and alerting Catt to dangerous situations, they help solve the murder, mystery, and scandal.
Jayne: I don’t want to give too much away. Suffice it to say Natti, the black Lab mix, plays a critical role.
Rosie: Dogs signal problems and identify bad buys in “Ruff Goodbye,” so their role is protective. They also serve to give the characters an audience for their processing of what’s happening in the story—quiet but attentive sidekicks!
Heather: Yes, Oliver (the Rottweiler) is director of security at the racetrack. In the story, he helps to uncover some clues that lead to the villain.
Tell us about your human sleuth in To Fetch a Scoundrel.
Teresa: When Catt Ramsey was laid off her corporate event planning job and discovered her husband was cheating on her, she moved into the room above her sister Em’s garage and started the Woof-Pack Dog Walking service.
Jayne: Pilar Pruitt is a 45-year-old smart, sassy, hardworking woman who owns her own party planning business. There is an ex in her distant past, but no current romantic entanglements. Her strength is her ingenuity, especially when it comes to creating signature cocktails for her events. Her weakness is junk food, especially Cheez Doodles. She’s too much of a fraidy-cat to have ever considered a career in crime solving, and yet she is the driving force in cracking the case. Life is funny that way, isn’t it?
Rosie: Bar owner Len Hayes mourns one friend’s death as he witnesses the buildup to another friend’s death. When evidence incriminating his wife Joyce and his own animosity toward his frenemy become issues, Len tries to put the puzzle pieces together. Two dogs, Cloud and Clarion, fetch clues.
Heather: Cassidy Green was a marketing specialist until she inherited a small racetrack from her father. Now she spends her days trying to come up with ideas to keep the attraction viable.
Does your story feature your own dog, or dogs?
Teresa: “A Doggone Scandal” features Cagney and Lacey, two Yorkshire Terriers who belong to a friend of the authors.
Jayne: Natti is a compilation of the six dogs we’ve owned over the years and a few habits I’ve found endearing in friends’ dogs.
Rosie: Dogs I’ve known and loved figure in my stories only as background to animate the canine characters and to enrich characters’ interactions with the dogs.
Heather: No. I have two Jack Russell Terriers. Oliver is based on my Uncle’s Rottweiler.
Tell us about the pets you’ve loved throughout your life.
Teresa: I’ve mainly had German Shepherds since they are so beautiful, loyal, protecting and loving to my family. They’re our best friends.
Jayne: I lived on a very busy road, so we went through quite a few kitties. I learned not to get too attached. Finally, my parents wised up and kept the cat indoors. Punchy was a Siamese, and could be cuddly, but could also be mean as a wet hen. Once I married, we made the switch of our allegiance to dogs, always mutts, most from shelters, one picked out of a cardboard box at a flea market in Charleston, SC. He was so tiny! Grew to over 100 pounds! Lesson learned there!
Rosie: We just sent our family dog over the rainbow bridge. We got him as a puppy as one of my kids entered her teenage years as a way to outer-focus her attention and her energies. This dog continued to serve as an outer-focus and friend to my younger child and to me. He was a great dog. The dog we had when my kids were very young was an exceptionally calm and motherly dog whose life ended tragically. She was an exceptional dog whose contribution to my life deserves its own, longer story. I had a dog when I was a child, too. As I reflect these days, in my 20s, I learned a lot about my boyfriends by seeing them with their dogs.
Heather: There have been a lot. My favorite was probably my grandmother’s Boston terrier. I picked him out. He was a black and white bundle of energy with a black dot on the top of his head.
What do your pets do when you’re writing?
Teresa: Luke and Lena sit at my feet when I am writing. We named the dogs after my husband’s grandparents.
Jayne: Tiller and Scout are my current mutts. If I take my laptop to the sofa, they snuggle up with me, and sometimes “help” when their noses hit the touch screen and delete blocks of text (I have learned to back up frequently!). If I sit at the table, they sleep in a chair or look out a window or go out in the backyard and get into trouble. Someday they WILL make it all the way to China before I stop them!
Rosie: My dog napped nearby until he knew to drag me away from the computer. He’d rouse and march over to me with that look in his eyes that said, “Enough, boring lady! Let’s go outside!” He was always right, and we’d take walks or play in our fenced backyard.
Heather: My JRTs have beds in the office, so they usually play or nap while I’m writing. The couch in the library is next to a sunny window, so if I can’t find them in the office, that’s where they usually are.
Name your favorite stories, movies, and shows that feature dogs as a prominent character.
Teresa: Of course the classic Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and Benji still remain my favorite.
Jayne: The Pokey Little Puppy has had a tremendous influence on my life. I always make sure I travel with “the pack” and don’t dawdle. We also make frequent references to Ribsy by Beverly Clearly (One of our dogs was scarily thin!). When it comes to movies, I did find The Secret Life of Pets hilarious! Had to sneak into the theater to watch the animated film without the excuse of a child (I was the only one that day!) but laughed because the personalities were so true! TV show might be obvious, as I am a mystery writer: Scooby-Doo!
Rosie: I’m old enough to remember Lassie on TV, and I liked the rural setting. For years and years, I wanted a collie! I’m a sucker for Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows novel and older movies. Jack London’s Call of the Wild is a classic, and I look forward to seeing the Harrison Ford movie version. You gotta love the 1995 Balto movie starring Kevin Bacon. I can go on and on!
Heather: There are so many. My favorite dog is Snoopy. As a kid, I loved the “Benji” movies and books.
How did you decide on the novella form for the Mutt Mysteries series?
Teresa: We met and brainstormed “Four Fun Tails” of mysteries and decided each author would contribute a novella.
Jayne: With four authors involved, and a desired 60,000-word novel, we asked each author to write a 15,000-word story, and voilà.
Rosie: Having met through an anthology collection of fifteen plus stories from different authors, and contributed to other multi-author anthologies, we wanted to simplify and explore a new direction. Ha! There is nothing simple about collaborating on a book. The 15,000 to 20,000 word novella format allowed Teresa and me to stretch from writing short stories into producing a longer work and allowed the two novel writers, Heather and Jayne, to schedule in this mid-length format with their other work.
Heather: This group had done short story anthologies together for many years. We all love animals, and during a planning lunch one day, we decided to make the mysteries a little longer. What’s better than dogs and mysteries?
Tell us about yourself personally. Where are you from, what jobs have you held in the past, and what do you love most about writing?
Teresa: I live in Southeastern Virginia with my husband and two dogs, Luke and Lena. Our daughters are grown but live close by and stop by often. I have worked in the financial industry for nearly 30 years as an administrative assistant. I love to write cozy mysteries and create strong, female protagonists who own their own business and can solve murder and crimes on the side.
Jayne: I’m originally from a small town in Ohio. After graduating with a BS in Accountancy, I married a naval officer. Best thing about that is we have always (except for one tour in Memphis, TN) lived near the ocean. As often as we moved, it was hard to build an accounting career. So, my work-history is long and varied. I’m no spring chicken, and there are too many jobs to list here. Perhaps the most interesting one was my stint as a Wal-Mart Stripper. No, I did not stand by the shopping carts and rip my clothes off; I stripped the covers off unsold paperback books to send back to the publisher for credit. The books themselves were tossed in the trash. (Yes, it hurt my writerly-heart terribly to do that!) My current side-hustle is Realtor. (I love looking at houses! And so many interesting people to incorporate into my stories!) The things I love about writing are that I can “work” in my pajamas, and that I can use my wild imagination, and thus maintain my sanity.
Rosie: I grew up in the Metro DC area and benefited from its political and international environments and from strong public schools. I stayed in Virginia for college and graduate school and now live in Central Virginia. Long, long ago, I was a police dispatcher for a bit. I was also an aide to a Virginia General Assembly delegate, and I worked much of my professional life as a data and policy analyst for state government. I love fiction writing because I don’t have to limit myself to facts and data as I did in my jobs. Although, I must admit that a creative, broad perspective was useful when analyzing state government policy!
Heather: I’m originally from Virginia Beach, and I’ve lived in Central Virginia for most of my adult life. I’ve had a variety of jobs through the years. I’ve been a CK (cop’s kid), receptionist, technical writer, Director of Special Projects, college professor, marketing specialist, technical writer (did this one twice), software tester, and IT governance manager. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I love that I get to share ideas and stories with others.
Tell us about your other writing.
Teresa: My story “Riverboat Revenge” will be in the Coastal Crimes: Mysteries by the Sea anthology to be published by Wildside Press in April 2020.
Jayne: I’m a true-blue cozy mystery writer with more than a dozen titles to my credit, most set along a body of water. Many involve a little tipple. All invoke humor where possible. My stand-alone novels are The Blond Leading the Blond and Blond Luck. Look for a full list of my novellas and short stories on my website.
Rosie: Several of my women’s fiction and mystery short stories can be found in the Mozark Press A Shaker of Margaritas series and the Koehler Books Virginia is for Mysteries series. “Heads or Tails” is a fun story of mine in Wittier Than Thou: Tales of Whimsy and Mirth inspired by the life and works of John Greenleaf Whittier. All proceeds from Wittier benefit the Whittier Birthplace museum in Haverhill, Massachusetts. A portion of proceeds from the Mutt Mysteries books is donated to animal welfare charities.
Heather: All of my stories are set in Virginia. I write where I know. My private investigator series (that has three novels) is set in and around Richmond. I’ve written three novellas for the Mutt Mysteries series (The third comes out next year.), and I’ve written short stories for several mystery anthology collections. All of my stories are humorous mysteries with strong female sleuths (and sometimes canine sidekicks).
What’s next for the Mutt Mysteries series?
Jayne: We’re working on To Fetch a Villain: Four Fun “Tails” of Miscreants and Murder. Should be out in 2021.
Anything you wish I’d asked? Anything you’d like to add?
Teresa: Thanks for letting me join!
Jayne: The other contributing authors (Teresa, Rosemary, and Heather) are the best! We have had a lot of fun working together. Road trips for vittles or vino, it’s always great to meet for planning and plotting sessions.
Rosie: Support local authors. Read a mystery. Comment on social media about what you liked about a story, book, or author event. Post short reviews on bookseller websites about local authors’ books.
Stay tuned to the @MuttMysteries Facebook page for upcoming online and in-person events!