Tag Archives: wildlife

Guest!!! Introducing the wonderful Sheila Boneham, writer and animal lover, on writing!

Sheila is an accomplished writer and animal lover. Sample her mysteries, sample her non-fiction books on animal care and other topics, share her insights into writing on her blog–and today, here on my blog! You can find Sheila blogging at http://sheilaboneham.blogspot.com/, at her website at http://www.sheilaboneham.com, or on Facebook at http:://www.facebook.com/sheilawrites.  PS–She has great photos too!

Thanks, Shelia

Tough Calls – Handling Gritty Issues in Cozy Fiction
by Sheila Webster Boneham
If you have read Drop Dead on Recall, my first Animals in  Focus mystery, you know that dogs and cats and other critters are vital  characters. After all, the series isn’t called Animals in Focus for nothing. In  fact, each book in the series spotlights a different “animal activity” and each  mystery hinges on an animal-related issue. Just as they do in real life, serious  issues can create major problems for writers.
In the first  book, Drop Dead on Recall, we meet animal  photographer Janet MacPhail and her Australian Shepherd Jay at an obedience  trial, where a top-level competitior keels over. Soon Janet, Jay, and their very  important feline family member Leo find themselves embroiled in a series of  murders that seem to be linked to breeder ethics (or lack thereof) and  cut-throat competitiveness. That infant puppy is my real-life Jay at one week  old.
In The Money Bird, coming in September,  Janet has her lens focused on retrievers training for AKC retrieving tests,  especially the handsome Drake and his almost-as-handsome person, Tom Saunders.  Drake, too, is inspired by the Labs I’ve owned and rescued over the years,  especially my first Lab, Raja, a big chocolate field-bred goofball. Here he is  with my beautiful Malcolm, who was one of the real-life models for Leo.
A number of  challenges presented themselves as soon as I began writing. First, this series  falls under the “cozy” umbrella, meaning that readers expect a few things.
  1. Murder and sex are  fine; graphic details are not.
  2. Adult humans may be  killed; children and animals may be threatened, but shouldn’t be harmed.
  3. Serious issues may  be presented, but soap-boxes should be kept mostly tucked under the writer’s  desk, not plunked down on the page.


Knowing these “rules” is helpful in some ways,  restrictive in others. After all, I’m writing about creatures and issues that  stir intense feelings in me as well as in my readers, and it isn’t always easy  to stifle myself. Many authors face this problem in fiction, where characters  and story (plot, if you prefer) are the real focus. So how do we strike a  balance? Not all of us do – I’m sure we’ve all read books in which the author’s  passion for some cause overshadowed everything else. If you’re like me, you may  have quit reading. I don’t like to be bludgeoned when I’m reading mostly to be  entertained.
On the other hand, I  do like to learn new things, and I have often read fiction that teased me into  looking for more information about something.
I hope I’m striking  that balance in my own fiction. In The Money Bird, wildlife trafficking  is the larger issue woven into the plot. It’s an ugly business, and I’ve tried  to present it in a way that will encourage people to learn more without  overdoing it. While I wait to find out whether readers think I’ve succeeded, I’m  working on the next book in the series. Activity and issue, you ask? For now,  they will remain a mystery.
The Money Bird is available now for  pre-order. Autographed copies of Drop Dead on Recall, Rescue  Matters, and The Money Bird are  available from Pomegranate Books. You can find Sheila blogging at http://sheilaboneham.blogspot.com/, at her website at http://www.sheilaboneham.com, or on Facebook at http:://www.facebook.com/sheilawrites.