by Cynthia Chow
Up this week in KRL a review & giveaway of the latest Downward Dog mystery by Tracy Weber, Karma’s a Killer, along with a fun interview with Tracy. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Karma’s a Killer: A Downward Dog Mystery By Tracy Weber
Review by Cynthia Chow
Yoga instructor Kate Davidson may still be a work in progress when it comes to managing her temper, but she also follows the edict that those who can’t do…teach. This helps to explain why she finds herself leading a “doga” (yoga for dogs) class for dogs and their owners at Seattle’s Paws Around Green Lake 5K charity fun walk. The experience is far from relaxing, though, as they barely begin before a rogue bunny rabbit disrupts the class. An even greater catastrophe occurs when animal activists, calling themselves Humans for Ethical Animal Treatment, begin “liberating” leashed pets. The HEAT vegans may have good intentions, but they only leave chaos in their wake, including the body of their leader, Raven.
Why a Sacramento activist group would even be protesting in Seattle is as much of a mystery as the person arrested for the crime. Dharma, also known as Daisy Davidson Carmichael, is the mother who disappeared from Kate’s life over thirty years ago. Kate’s new live-in boyfriend Michael is troubled and hurt that she had never shared this part of her life before, and combined with their decision to remodel a home together, it ensures a rocky road ahead. Kate will need to decide whether she is willing to risk the vulnerability that comes in loving others and allowing them into her life.
What I love about this third book in the Downward Dog series is how the author expands on Kate’s character, explaining why she often displays a quick temper and eccentric phobias. It is impossible not to sympathize with Kate’s fears about relationships and change. That she continues to care for her 100-pound German shepherd Bella – whose pancreatic autoimmune disease requires constant monitoring and a restrictive diet – is a true sign of Kate’s strong set of values and empathy. Despite the complex issues facing animal shelters and rescues, the novel never becomes too dark due to the wit and humor of the dialogue. The strongest attribute of this very engaging and smartly-plotted mystery series, though, is how the author successfully balances animal rights with dynamic human relationships.
Interview with Tracy Weber:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Tracy: I started my yoga blog in 2011, but I began writing seriously in late 2012 when I drafted the first book in the Downward Dog Mystery series, Murder Strikes a Pose. The idea came to me after I read a particularly funny passage in Black Ribbon by Susan Conant. I began to wonder: What would happen if a yoga teacher with a crazy dog like mine got mixed up in murder? Kate Davidson and Bella popped into my head a few days later. The rest is history.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Tracy: My first Downward Dog Mystery, Murder Strikes a Pose, was published in January of 2014. It won the Maxwell Award for fiction and was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The description below is from my author website.
Seattle yoga instructor Kate Davidson has unusually tight hamstrings encased in Miss Piggy-like thighs, and she often acts more like a champion fighting rooster than the Dalai Lama. When she’s not teaching yoga, she spends her time hiding from her creepy landlord and dodging her best friend’s relentless matchmaking attempts. Even though her father was a cop, Kate has zero crime fighting aspirations. She has enough trouble keeping her struggling yoga business afloat while trying to live up to yoga’s Zen-like expectations.
Then she stumbles over a body in the studio’s parking lot. The police dismiss the murder as drug-related street crime, but Kate knows that George ? a homeless alcoholic she had befriended ? was no drug dealer. If the police won’t take his murder seriously, she’ll just have to solve the crime herself. After all,”Drunk Dies in Drug Deal Gone Bad at Yoga Studio” isn’t exactly the free publicity she’s been hoping for.
Kate stretches herself and takes on two new challenges. First, solve George’s murder. Second, find someone ? anyone ? willing to adopt his intimidating, horse-sized German shepherd, Bella, before Animal Control sends her to the big dog park in the sky. But with Bella’s time almost up and the murderer hot on her trail, Kate will have to work fast, or the next time she practices Corpse Pose, it may be for real.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries? If not what else have you written?
Tracy: I’m a cozy mystery girl through and through. I like writing cozies because even though they involve violent crime, the murder generally isn’t shown on the page. Swearing is minimized. Sex, as in real life, is usually behind closed doors. When I write, I become deeply involved in my characters, their lives, and the situations in which they find themselves. Why would I want to immerse myself in violent gore? As for sex and swearing? I’ll leave that to cable TV.
I also write my weekly yoga blog and I’m working on a meditation book. Now if I could just find the time to finish it…!
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Tracy: I write about what I love. Although my works are completely fiction, the Downward Dog Mysteries take place against the backdrop of my real life.
In Karma’s a Killer, I decided to write about animal rescue, both pet rescue and wildlife rehabilitation, and the people who dedicate their lives to it. Passion transforms us, and not always in a good way because sometimes it leads to obsession. I wanted to explore the fine line between passion and obsession with the characters in this book.
As for setting, Seattle has many fabulous neighborhoods. Green Lake Park is one of my favorite places in Seattle, so I chose that for some of the mystery’s pivotal scenes. My protagonist Kate also finds herself in a ritzy Queen Anne neighborhood, a sleazy pay-per-hour motel and three different animal rescues.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Tracy: My primary goal is always to entertain. I write a mystery series, so most of my stories revolve around solving a murder. Ultimately, my books are all about love, be it in the form of friendship, romance, family or the unconditional bonds between humans and animals.
The primary characters in my novels are all very flawed, but they have one thing in common: the mistakes they make, the risks they take, the regrets they mourn and even the idiosyncrasies they struggle to overcome ? all have their basis in love, with a little obsession thrown in for good measure.
My newest book, Karma’s a Killer, is also about reconciliation. How would you react if a woman who’d abandoned you thirty years ago showed up on your doorstep looking for help? What if you found out that much of who you are ? good and bad ? comes from her? What if you have villainized her your entire life? Would you still be willing to help? And if so, how would helping her change you?
Those were fun questions to explore in Karma’s a Killer.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Tracy: I write in fits and spurts, so I can’t possibly have a defined schedule. I’m more productive in the afternoon and evening, so when I write, I usually start after lunch and I often write until very late at night. Some weeks I don’t write at all, because I’m focused on running my yoga studio or developing my yoga teacher training programs. Other days I write twelve hours or more. Most days, I intend to start writing at about nine in the morning. In reality, I often finish Facebook, email and phone calls no earlier than eleven. Then it’s time to make food for the dog and me. Lo and behold I look at the clock, and it’s time to walk the dog! Eventually, it’s four thirty and I start to get real work done. Hubby comes home and distracts me at six. The chaos continues until ten, when I panic and stay up all night writing.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Tracy: I’m a late-night girl. I wish I could sleep until noon every day, and then I’d write from midnight to four. I’m oddly productive at that time. Plus, I feel more creative during the dark, quiet hours when the rest of the world is asleep. Maybe I’m hijacking everyone’s nightmares…
KRL: A girl after my own heart! Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Tracy: I was so, so, so, so lucky. There are thousands of writers more talented than I am who are still trying to find a publisher. I found an agent within a month of finishing my first book. She sold the series a few weeks later.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Tracy: I don’t work with writing partners, and my rejections were all pretty boilerplate. I do, however, read reviews. I’d like to say that I’m well-balanced enough to not care about reader reviews, but I’d be lying. My biggest head scratcher was one of the first reviews for Murder Strikes a Pose. (Note the word “murder” in the title!) The reviewer said the book was written with wit and wisdom, and she was sure that mystery fans would like it. The reviewer, however, wanted a romance, not a murder mystery. Her verdict? One star.
KRL:Crazy! Future writing g goals?
Tracy: Karma’s a Killer is the third book in my Downward Dog Mystery series. I recently signed a contract for three more. I’m also working on a proposal for a beginners’ meditation book, and I have three (!!!) more mystery series rattling around in my head.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Tracy: Susan Conant. Without her, I’d never have started writing. She is my dog-writing hero.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Tracy: I generally write what I know and love, so my books don’t require a ton of research. Inevitably there is some, however. Karma’s a Killer revolves around animal rescue and wildlife rehabilitation. I researched the legal aspects of wildlife rehabilitation in Washington State and spent an afternoon with a local wildlife rehabilitator.
An important character in the book, Blackie, is a crow that was raised as a fledgling and released back into the wild. I have been fascinated by crows since my own German shepherd, Tasha, befriended a crow in our neighborhood. Learning more about these intelligent, highly social and quirky animals was one of the biggest joys of writing the book. I now have an even greater appreciation for them. I also had to learn more about Doga (Yoga for Dogs). Yes, Doga actually exists, though I don’t think I’ll teach it any time in the near future.
KRL: What do you read?
Tracy: These days I spend most of my reading time gobbling up other cozy mysteries. I’ve also been known to pick up a Stephen King novel every now and again and I love courtroom dramas.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Tracy: I love Perry Mason, Grey’s Anatomy, Catastrophe, The 100, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and if that doesn’t convince you I’m a little weird, nothing will.
KRL: I love Buffy! Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Tracy: Don’t give up! Writing is a TOUGH business. No one gets published without facing rejection. When I was trying to land an agent, I allowed myself 24 hours to feel bad about every rejection, then I forced myself to do something proactive. Send out another letter, connect with another author, write another page. You can’t please everyone, and yet when you write, you so desperately want to. (At least I do.) Just keep writing what you love and know that your work isn’t defined by what any one person thinks of it. Above all else, have fun!If you have fun on your writing journey, you will be successful, even if you never make it to The New York Times Bestseller list.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Tracy: I love hearing from fans! If you like my work, please friend me on Facebook or e-mail me at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga[dot]com. I’d love to hear from you!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Tracy: Dogs are my love and a dog is the center of my books, but I started out as a cat person. I’ve owned cats most of my adult life, but I didn’t get my first dog (as an adult) until the age of 40. She was well worth the wait.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Tracy: I have all three!
Please join me! Like I said above, I love connecting with readers!
KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Tracy: Any way I can! Seriously. I do blog tours, book signings, conventions, Facebook events, e-mail lists, Goodreads, etc., etc., etc. People will never fall in love with my series unless they know it exists. I try to communicate about my books however I can. If anyone knows the magic formula to finding readers, please let me know.
Book specific questions from Cynthia Chow-
KRL: Yoga for dogs. How did you decide to make this the theme for your novels? Have you tried it on your pets?
Tracy: I wanted to write about animal rescue, and I imagined some of the pivotal scenes taking place at a huge fundraiser. The question was how to have Kate (and her yoga profession) be involved? Doga seemed like the perfect solution.
I don’t really think of Doga as Yoga for Dogs, though. I would call it Yoga for Humans with their Dogs! Meaning humans practice yoga in the presence of their dogs. They occasionally use the dogs as props and do a few human-assisted dog stretches for good measure. My German shepherd, Tasha, doesn’t get along well with other dogs, so we can’t take Doga classes. She also has hip dysplasia and a lot of arthritis, so I’m afraid to overstretch her already-inflamed joints. She does, however, receive lots of doggie massage. If you want to check Doga out, Amazon has some interesting-looking books on Doga.
KRL: Bella is a special needs dog. Have you ever cared for an animal whose needs far outreached your own?
Tracy: Absolutely!The love of my life is my German shepherd, Tasha. She is the inspiration for the Downward Dog Mysteries. Like Bella, the German shepherd in my series, Tasha suffers from Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, and she is reactive to other dogs and some people. Unlike Bella, she also has a neurological disorder, an autoimmune skin disease, hip dysplasia and a host of other health issues.
Tasha has a whole health care team dedicated to her wellbeing. (I call them Team Tasha.) She gets weekly massages, twice-weekly physical therapy and laser treatments, as well as acupuncture treatments twice a month, and a cabinet’s-worth of supplements daily. I haven’t had a massage in…well, let’s not even go there!
Living with Tasha has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. And by far she has been my greatest joy. Unfortunately, Tasha probably won’t be with me much longer, but she’s almost twelve years old in a breed with a ten to twelve year lifespan, and she’s had an incredible life. Most vets and trainers said she wouldn’t live past the age of two. Ten years later, those same people say she is happy, well cared-for, and an amazing dog. We should all be so lucky.
KRL: Kate has anger management issues and more than one phobia. Do you share any of her personality quirks?
Tracy: Not really. I love animals like Kate does, and I’ve made my living teaching yoga, but I rarely lose my temper and the only phobia I have is of loud noises. I hide behind the bed with Tasha on the Fourth of July. My mother had relatively severe anger management issues, so that part of Kate’s personality is based on her. But, like my mom, Kate also has an incredible heart and a giving spirit. Who among us is perfect?
KRL: Your background is in science and technology. How did you make the jump to writing mystery fiction?
Tracy: Writing is just one of many career transitions I’ve made in my life. I’ve been a chemical engineer, an organizational development consultant, a senior manager at Microsoft, a career counselor, a yoga teacher, a small business owner and now I’m an author. My husband calls me ADD-woman, meaning nothing holds my attention for very long.
I started writing because a story popped into my head and wouldn’t go away until I wrote it down. The rest is history. But I’m having an AWESOME time!
KRL: How have animals made a difference in your life?
Tracy: The more relevant question is, how haven’t animals made a difference in my life? I’ve loved animals since I was a toddler. As an only child living on a farm out in the country, animals were my closest friends. My very first career aspiration was to be a horse rancher. By the time I was six, I’d decided to be a veterinarian.
The truth is, I love animals more than almost anything else in life. I hope to someday move back to the country with a collection of dogs, cats, goats, pigs, and chickens. My husband is welcome to join us if he’d like? someone needs to clean up after all those pets, after all! 😉
To enter to win a copy of Karma’s A Killer, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “karma,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 30, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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