Thursday, April 19, 2007

Writing and Pets

I’ve been enjoying my fellow bloggers’ posts about writing. I just got home from a Sisters in Crime mystery panel at the Glendale Public Library in the L.A. area, and we all had a great time talking about where our ideas came from, among other things.

Taking a twist on real life was one popular theme. I’m a lawyer, and I write about another lawyer--albeit one who looks at life a lot differently than I do. I’ve never been a litigator, like Kendra Ballantyne is, nor have I--fortunately--become a murder magnet, as she is. I did, however, do a little pet-sitting in my way-younger days, but it happily didn’t lead to solving murder mysteries.

Another panelist, also a lawyer, writes legal thrillers loosely based on her own background of employment law. A former P.I. writes about a former P.I. A former government agent can’t talk much about what she used to do, but her protagonist doesn’t always solve mysteries but instead takes justice into her own hands. And then there was the sole guy on our panel who also moderated--and was the only one who perhaps didn’t write about stuff he might have experienced, even vicariously.

Where do my ideas come from? Everywhere! I save newspaper clippings but often forget to refer to them. I travel as often as possible and get inspired by locations that I attempt to incorporate into my stories. I study people--don’t all writers?--and take characteristics from one sort and stick them into someone else who’s entirely different.

I’ve digressed from what I originally intended to write about today--pets. Of course. So now I’ll go there, too.

Am I obsessed about pets? Nah. Although I did attend a Pet Expo in Orange County last weekend. The only Cavalier King Charles Spaniels I saw there were in uniform--companion dogs. Not surprising. Cavaliers can cheer up anyone!

Lots of other breeds were represented at the Expo, including Akitas like Odin, the dog owned by Jeff Hubbard, Kendra’s first pet-sitting client, a P.I. and a hunk. Other breeds, both mentioned in my series and not, were in attendance, as were pet food manufacturers. Some of the latter included those whose products were subject to the recall, but they were promoting more of their dry foods than the moist ones that were the main source of the contamination. Also, there was the manufacturer of the brand of canned food that I’m now using in reduced quantities but I’ve read the label carefully multiple times--no wheat, or any other, gluten, nor salt, nor other stuff I’d rather not feed my pups. Nor rice protein (Is there protein in rice?) which is apparently the subject of yet another recall I heard on the news as I was writing this.

Cats, too, were represented at the Pet Expo, not in the same number as their canine pet counterparts, although there was a cat show going on in one of the large fairground buildings. Cat products, too, were being promoted. I didn’t zero in on which manufacturers had representatives, but hopefully no food carrying the awful contaminants were around.

In the building where less common pets were featured, I ran into people I’d met previously, in and around the time NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FERRETS first came out, who championed ferrets’ rights here in California, where they’re outlawed. Also members of the West Valley Bird Association, who helped in my research for FINE-FEATHERED DEATH had a booth filled with people and beautiful birds. I saw an iguana in the arms of a man demonstrating their looks to a rapt audience--which I watched for a while myself. After all, THE FRIGHT OF THE IGUANA will be published this October. And I enjoyed looking at lots of additional animals such as rabbits and lizards and other types who might yet show up in a Kendra book.

The day after attending the Pet Expo, I took off for Phoenix where I participated in a meeting of the Mystery Writers of America’s Southern California chapter at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, where its owner and the publisher of Poisoned Pen Press, Barbara Peters, spoke about the current trends in mysteries and publishing in general. (Note how neatly I segued back into writing?) My husband Fred came along, too, and we brought our Cavaliers, Lexie and Sparquie, and I got to introduce Lexie, whose counterpart is owned by my protagonist Kendra Ballantyne, to Barbara and other authors.

We’re back home now, and this weekend I’ll participate on yet another panel, this one at Literary Orange, for the Orange County Public Library system. Which means I’d better get to bed at last, since this week’s still got a ways to go!


1 comment:

Monica Ferris said...

It's interesting how all of us are interested in improving our writing skills. We attend conventions or other gatherings of writers, serve on panels and talk, talk, talk about how to do it slicker, smoother, sneakier, more brilliantly, or in some other way meant to please more readers. I wonder if ever there was a writer satisfied with his/her writing.