by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of another fun pet related mystery written by Bethany Blake. We also have a fun interview with Bethany. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Midwinter’s Tail, a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
A Midwinter’s Tail: A Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery by Bethany Blake
Review by Sandra Murphy
Daphne Templeton is a professional pet sitter and baker of tasty treats for pets in Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania. It’s almost time for the annual Bark the Halls Ball where people and pets mingle, snack, and dance. The news of the day is the return of a classmate, Celeste (CeeCee) French who has made it big with her company, French’s Poodles and More, a chain of pet care facilities, with a line of food and doggie clothing.
Each year, the movie theater shows It’s a Wonderful Life and charges only a food donation. CeeCee takes the opportunity to drop the unwelcome bombshell that she will open a French’s Poodles superstore in Sylvan Creek. This could be devastating to existing businesses like Daphne’s or her friend Moxie’s salon for people and pets.
Of course, CeeCee was one of the Mean Girls in high school, determined to get her way, no matter who it hurt in the long run. It’s one thing to use and abuse someone, but CeeCee also liked to smirk about it after and let as many people know what happened as possible—unless keeping a secret could lead to future blackmail.
Sylvan Creek has a town Christmas tree for all to enjoy. When Daphne and the ever-so-hot Detective Jonathan Black walk by, a pug pops out from beneath the tree, revealing a woman’s shoe—with the woman still in it. It’s CeeCee, and she’s not just dead, she was murdered.
Suspicion falls on business owners who would suffer if her company came to town, past grievances from high school days, and current resentments. Daphne is in the clear since she was with the detective when the murder occurred. Now if she can just figure out who did it to prove Moxie’s innocence.
I love Blake’s books for the mystery of course but also the characters. Daphne’s sister is relaxing her rigid stance now that she has a boyfriend of her own. Their mom is still a challenge. The spark of a possible romance between Daphne and Jonathan plus her friendship with the local reporter Gabriel, adds a bit of tension. Most of all, readers will love the way Daphne thinks of animals—Socrates, a Basset who thinks deep thoughts, Tink, a cat who has attitude, Snowdrop, CeeCee’s fashionista Poodle, and Tiny Tim, the Pug who is a canine Houdini. It’s not that she puts their thoughts and feelings in human terms; it’s just that she understands them.
This will certainly make my list of Best Books for 2018.
Interview with Bethany Blake:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Bethany: I’ve been a professional writer since I graduated from college in 1988. It’s all I’ve ever done in different capacities, including as a journalist and political speech writer.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called, and can you tell us a little about it?
Bethany: My first novel, written as Beth Fantaskey, was published in 2009. The title is Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. It’s a young adult novel about a teenage girl who discovers she’s betrothed to a vampire prince on the eve of her 18th birthday. It’s considered sort of a cult classic, and it’s been translated into a bunch of different languages, from Russian to Portuguese.
KRL: What all have you written other than mystery?
Bethany: Jessica’s Guide was a paranormal romance. I’ve written three other teen romances – Jessica Rules the Dark Side, Jekel Loves Hyde and Buzz Kill – along with a middle grade mystery called Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter. Most of my books do have some element of mystery to them.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell me a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book, and can you share a bit about the character of Sebastian the pet rat?
Bethany: Like all of my Lucky Paws Pet-sitting mysteries, my latest book, A Midwinter’s Tail, is set in Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania, which is modeled on my hometown of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. My town is really adorable, especially around the holidays. We have a town tree lighting and carol sing-along, late night shopping, a big parade… it was easy to use my community as a cozy mystery setting! The characters are all quirky, close-knit people I’d like to hang out with, including the pets.
The main character, Daphne Templeton, is klutzy and prone to sticking her foot in her mouth, but she has a huge heart, especially when it comes to animals who need homes. That said, she does get uneasy when her best friend, Moxie Bloom, first adopts a white rat named Sebastian- Daphne has an irrational phobia about his little tail- but Sebastian is so clever and sweet that he quickly wins over Daphne, and even her surly cat, Tinkleston. He’s quite a charmer!
KRL: We love pet rats at KRL! Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Bethany: I mainly write to entertain, but there’s an underlying message about the importance of kindness, especially toward animals, in my Lucky Paws books.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Bethany: I recently took a full-time job writing for a university, so I write whenever I can, at this point. Usually evenings and weekends. It’s challenging, but it’s also rewarding and fun, so I don’t mind too much.
KRL: Do you outline? 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?
Bethany: I never outline, I just write and see what happens. Sometimes I’m even surprised by the twists that develop. To me, the magic is in creating the characters and letting them loose on the page to have adventures. I keep track of things by reviewing now and then, and just living the stories in my mind. I love to daydream about my characters!
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Bethany: In a perfect world, I’d write fiction in the morning, but lately that’s not usually possible. I like to settle in with some coffee and fresh ideas and get down to work.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Bethany: I was really lucky to have a mentor who helped me when I decided to transition from non-fiction to fiction, and my path was actually pretty smooth. I think I wrote two manuscripts that went nowhere before my first book took off. I don’t think that’s considered too bad.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Bethany: I have to say that my agent didn’t want me to write cozy mysteries. She thought I should stick with writing for my original audience of young readers. I had this dream of creating a cozy world full of fun characters, so I went ahead and wrote my first Lucky Paws book. I dreaded my agent’s reaction – but she loved it and sold it to Kensington almost immediately. I’m so grateful that she and Kensington gave the series a chance!
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Bethany: Oh my gosh, people don’t believe this, but I once did a book signing in a venue that was half book store, half cat shelter. It’s called Cupboard Maker Books, and it’s a big warehouse, crisscrossed with beams for the cats. You can see current cats up for adoption here. The funny part was, when I arrived, there was a huge cat in my seat, and I was told that I would just have to wait until he decided to leave, because he didn’t like to be moved. My kids LOVED that venue.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Bethany: I’m just wrapping up a stand-alone mystery called A Brushstroke with Death, about an artist who can see visions in people’s paintings, with the help of an old spell book she inherited from her grandmother. I think it would be fun if that took off as a series.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Bethany: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Martha Grimes.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Bethany: I rely a lot on the internet, of course, but I also call upon my brother-in-law, who is an NCIS investigator. He knows all about times of death, police protocols… he’s a great resource!
KRL: What do you read?
Bethany: I read a lot of mystery novels, but my secret indulgence is magazines. I like to spend Friday nights with a whole stack, looking at decorating ideas, fashion and recipes. That’s my favorite escape!
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Bethany: Right now, I am loving The Goldbergs and the Great British Baking Show. Nothing too serious!
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Bethany: Be persistent. My mentor once told me that, of two hundred people who submit a novel to an agent or editor, probably half will quit after their first rejection. More will quit after their second, and so one and so forth. The writers who get published are the ones who never give up.
KRL: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Bethany: I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who reads and has supported my books, including Kings River Life!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Bethany: Like my main character, Daphne, I have a doctorate I’ve never used. Instead, I started a pet sitting business. I guess I just go where my heart leads.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of A Midwinter’s Tail, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “midwinter,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 29, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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. Our latest episode is set at Christmas time.
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