by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of Doggone Dead: A 2 Sisters Pet Valet Mystery by Dane McCaslin, along with an interesting interview with Dane. Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win either an ebook or audiobook copy of this book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon. Fun Note–Dane used to live in the Valley in Sanger.
Doggone Dead: A 2 Sisters Pet Valet Mystery By Dane McCaslin
Review by Cynthia Chow
After decades of teaching high school teenagers, Gwen Franklin is looking forward to spending her early retirement reading in bed with her collection of Agatha Christie novels. That’s not about to happen if her best friend from childhood has anything to say about it, and Nora Goldstein doesn’t waste a minute enlisting Gwen in one of Nora’s many business operations. After a lifetime of marrying up earned Nora considerable wealth, her latest venture as a luxury apartment dog-walker is one she sees perfect for Gwen’s free time. That Gwen is violently allergic to all pets doesn’t register as an obstacle for Nora; not when Benadryl and face masks are available. Before they can greet their first pet-sitting, though, they discover the body of fellow apartment resident Linda Fletcher, stabbed to death in Nora’s kitchen.
That Linda was the Nora’s lifelong nemesis certainly makes her a primary suspect in the murder, but their eerie resemblance to one another leads to alternative implications of mistaken identities. It’s not long before Nora’s assortment of many stepchildren land on her doorstep, eager to accept what they see as their rightful inheritances. Or to perhaps dance on her grave. Nora sees Gwen’s in-depth knowledge of fictional mysteries as a qualifier for them to become investigators, although it’s Gwen’s connections with her former students that really give them a head-start on the investigations and lead them down the path towards both Linda’s and Nora’s many enemies.
This debut 2 Sisters Pet Valet Mystery starts by quickly immersing the reader into the action, giving it the sense of a long established series. Sisters from another mister, Nora and Gwen have a lifetime bond that has them interacting like only squabbling siblings can. The stable force in their relationship, Gwen nevertheless finds herself drawn into the chaos even as she learns a new appreciation for four-legged companions. That her past students keep popping up to assist is a delight especially when it allows readers to see how Gwen must have been such an effective teacher. Humor, many furry and feathered companions, and banter between these ladies of a certain age are sure to entertain readers of this lively and fun new series.
Interview with Dane McCaslin:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Dane: I entered my first writing contest when I was eight – and I won! Of course, it was only at my local library and the prize was seeing my entry tacked on the main bulletin board, but it lit a fire. I’ve been writing ever since.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
Dane: My first novel was called Becklaw’s Murder Mystery Tour and it was published by a British publishing company in 2014, when I finally got the guts to submit it for consideration. The plot focused on a widow who’d always wanted to be an actress. That hadn’t worked out, so instead she became the owner of a traveling troupe. They would perform at “dinner and a mystery” venues.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not what else have you written?
Dane: Mystery has always been my first love. I fell hard for the genre very early on and will always give my mom credit for introducing me to the wonderful Dame Agatha Christie. Everything I’ve written, both published and hidden away in a box, is mystery.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Dane: One of our sons and his family moved to the Portland area several years ago, and every time we’ve visited there, I’ve loved it more and more. It’s so different from the Arizona desert where we live! The main character in Doggone Dead, Gwen Franklin, is a retired high school teacher, just like yours truly, so it wasn’t difficult to get into her head. Combining the two into a new series was inevitable.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Dane: I write to entertain. As a teacher, I longed for time to read for pleasure, and I keep that in mind as I write. I don’t see my books as platforms for preaching or pushing a particular point of view.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Dane: I have to have a schedule. Currently it’s 9-2, but if there’s an interesting trial streaming, it might change. (I’m a trial junkie and have been for years.)
KRL: Do you outline and if not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Dane: I do write a few ideas down to being with – I really do – but the characters have a way of taking hold of the plot and running it as they prefer! I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I’ll begin a book thinking I know the ending, but by the time I get there, it’s been turned on its head.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Dane: I’m an “early to bed, early to rise” gal, so the earlier, the better.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Dane: I did my research and realized that British publishers are more open to non-agented writers, which I was at the time. (I’ve since acquired an agent whose work on my behalf is fabulous.) I submitted to several and was contacted quite soon by Accent Press, which ultimately published three of my books.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Dane: I decided to approach Gemma Halliday, a NYT bestselling writer and owner of a boutique publishing company, with an idea I had for a series. To my amazement, she accepted the first book I submitted, and consequently published four others. She told me once that her grandfather “loved my vocabulary”, which was a great compliment. Gemma also gets the credit for introducing me to the woman who became my agent, Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. She in her turn secured a three-book contract with Kensington Books, and Doggone Dead is the first book of that series. It’s really a networking business and knowing how to navigate it is tantamount to success.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Dane: I’ve held book signings at a variety of venues, from independent bookstores and libraries to Barnes & Noble and – no kidding – an art gallery. The gallery was certainly the most colorful, and I had a very large ostrich peering over my shoulder as I signed books and talked to local readers! It was a statute, thank goodness, but since this was in an Arizonan town that hosts a yearly ostrich festival, it seemed appropriate.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Dane: I’d love to continue writing for a few more years. Most of my favorite writers continued producing books well into their later years, and I’d like a chance to do that as well. Gotta keep the ol’ mind working!
KRL: Writing heroes?
Dane: I am a lifelong fan of Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey, both “Golden Age” writers. I’m also crazy about Louise Penny, Anne Cleeves, Nicola Upson, and Elly Griffiths. All of these writers have amazing stories behind their writing careers, and I appreciate that they persevered with their craft.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Dane: I do a lot of online research, of course, and I also use one a tip I heard from Ann Cleeves: I seek out live feed cameras in the areas I’m writing about. There are cameras all over this world and seeing the places via a camera feed is so helpful…and you never know what you’ll see.
KRL: What do you read?
Dane: I read mysteries of all types, from thrillers to police procedurals to cozies. In fact, that’s the advice I give to aspiring mystery writers. Reading what you want to write is a great way to absorb the style.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Dane: I’m a BritBox fan. I love British mysteries such as Father Brown and Death in Paradise.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Dane: As I mentioned already, I always say that reading what you want to write is the best way to learn the craft. My second piece of advice is this: Don’t quit. Keep writing until that book is finished. Even if you never submit that particular book, it’s quite an accomplishment on its own to actually type “the end.” And no writing is ever wasted.
KRL: I understand you used to live in the Valley-can you share a little about when that was and when/why you left?
Dane: I lived in the San Joaquin Valley in the late 60s and early 70s. My father was a minister and pastor, so we did a little bit of moving around. I think that Sanger holds the best memories for me. We lived across the street from the library, which was perfect.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Dane: If I could encourage folks to do just one thing in their life, it would be to communicate clearly. Misunderstandings between people usually grow out of poor communication, either written or spoken.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Dane: I am a huge opera fan! My favorites are the Italian operas, particularly anything by Verdi.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win either an ebook or audiobook copy of Doggone Dead, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “doggone,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 19, 2020. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. BE SURE TO STATE IF YOU WANT AN EBOOK OR AUDIO BOOK COPY. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week.
You can use this link to purchase this book from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.