A Special Interview!

THE COVER SELLS THE BOOK!!

I am thrilled to share with you an interview I did with my cover artist. And she is an artist. I found Karen Kalbacher on Fiverr, as FuzzyM, back in 2013 when I wrote my first book, Now Arriving…Sister Station 1. She has become more than an illustrator, I’m proud to consider her a friend as well. I thought it might be interesting for you to discover what goes on during the creation of a book cover. I hope you will enjoy the interview. I’ve included some samples of her work. I’m sure you’ll agree this woman is loaded with talent!

 

 

 

1. I see you are also a children’s writer and ghostwriter (so many talents!). Which do you enjoy more, the writing or the illustrations?
At heart, I’m a writer. I love seeing a plot come together and creating new and interesting characters and worlds. It comes a bit easier for me, so that helps. That doesn’t mean I don’t love being an artist and creating illustrations, I do. The fun is in the challenge. I like taking another person’s idea or world and bringing it to life for them. It also involves a lot of communication with the client and feels more collaborative. I’ve always had a hard time choosing between them and took several English courses before choosing to major in art. Who knows if I made the right choice?
2. For a new client, what services do you offer when creating a book cover, and how much input do you like from the client?
I create covers based on the client’s needs. I can do photo editing, add titles to an existing image, or I can create an entire design from scratch. I normally design in Illustrator to create vector-based graphics. This has the distinct advantage of being easy to resize while maintaining quality and being editable.
When a client is new, I like a lot of communication. We are both feeling one another out. I can’t see inside the client’s head, so I ask a lot of questions about style, colors, feel, and often ask for images of covers in a similar vein to what they want. I want the author to love their cover. It’s important to me that we both love it at the end of the project. It’s a lot easier for us to get into a grove if the client has ideas. Blank canvases are intimidating. I can work a lot faster if the client hands me something. It can be as simple as a list of wants and a color they hate/adore.
3. What is your favorite genre to create covers for and why?
Wow, I specialize in Cozy Mysteries at the moment. I love them because the settings are always new and intriguing. There are often a lot of elements that have to be balanced like red herrings, Easter eggs, and pets. It makes it like a jigsaw puzzle to assemble and balance. That appeals to my artsy side. My second favorite is children’s books. I love bright colors, the characters are kids or animals and they are deceptively simple. I’d love to break out into more fantasy covers. I don’t get to draw unicorns nearly enough for my taste.

 


4. Give us a glimpse into the process of creating a book cover.
I like to talk to a potential client before we get a gig going. It’s a chance for us to feel each other out and see if we’re a match. So, generally, I will have a short conversation with you about the size of your cover and what your needs are. After that, we set the price based on the amount of work involved. The client will then send me all the pertinent details.
I’ll look at everything sent to me. If there’s a mood board, I will consider what elements are similar in the images the client likes. This could be as simple as colors, shapes, or composition. If there’s no mood board, I will sketch out a thumbnail with the elements the client has requested. This is mainly to see how to balance them on the page and for me to get a feel for the image. Then I’ll sleep on it and let my subconscious work on it. I might also send it to the client if I think it will help them visualize what I’m doing.
After marinating, I’ll take the sketch into Illustrator. I’ll hunt for reference photos to help me create the detailed versions of what I’ve sketched. I tend to start with the backdrop. It’s usually complete so I can move the elements around on it like a stage. I add the main element (body, sleuth, kid, dragon,) and move them around until I like it. Then I detail it. I add bagels to the sleuth’s breakfast plate. I add toys around the dog. I find the light source and shadow everything. I might also add highlights. Finally, I drop the titles on top.
I will send an almost done version to the client to get their input. The client and I normally go back and forth a bit to shape it into their vision. I’m done when the client is happy.

 


5. What has been your most challenging cover/client to do and why?
Every cover is challenging, that’s why I enjoy doing them. Sometimes you and the client can’t see eye to eye and that’s frustrating for both. I used to ghostwrite for a client. When she asked me to also create the cover, I was excited. But it just didn’t work. We couldn’t get on the same page. I would send what I thought she wanted. She wouldn’t like it. She would try to describe it better. I would try again. We just ended up aggravated. She wasn’t a bad client. She was a good person. She had just chosen the wrong artist for her vision. We weren’t a match. We went on to ghostwrite together for a while after that. I think an artist is like a psychiatrist, you need to shop around for the one that really gets you.
6. Describe for us the perfect client.
Most clients are perfect clients for me. It’s not hard. They need to have a vision even if it is stick figures on a piece of paper. Anything to work with is better than nothing. They need to communicate with me. I’m friendly, I promise! Most importantly, they need to respect me. I will make a zillion changes for a good client. A rude client gets whatever is stated in the deal. They should be enjoying the process. We should have fun together.
7. Life can’t be all about books; what other interest do you have. Did I read something about knitting doll?
Hobbies? Who has time for hobbies? I’m kidding! I love walking. I’m lucky in that I live near a little park and within easy driving distance of a dozen more. I am a knitter! A corner of my living room had a laundry basket overflowing with yarn. I have created doll patterns from scratch and I do a lot of fingerless gloves, scarves, hats, and the occasional baby blanket. I have a podcast called Eh, it’s Something to Do that I record on Wednesdays with Rick Connor. I’m also an avid reader. My apartment is brimming with books and art supplies. It’s a bit chaotic.
8. What is on the horizon for your business?
Right now, I am looking to expand my client base. I would like to expand into pet portraits, do a few more children’s books and possibly start publishing my own line of books. I would like to do more writing gigs for individuals or businesses. I would like to branch out and so a horror story cover or fantasy. On the practical front, I am constantly learning new Illustrator tricks to improve the quality of my work.
9. Give us a few samples of your work.

 


10. How can you be reached? Share your links below.
Find me on Twitter: @1fuzzymonster
Find me on Instagram: @1fuzzymonster_Karen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/1FuzzyMonster/
Blog: https://karenkalbacher.com/
Direct link to my portfolio: https://1fuzzymonster.wordpress.com/portfolio/
11. Any final words for us?
Choosing someone to flesh out your vision is an important decision. A good artist/writer will take the time to get to know you. They’ll be enthusiastic about your project. I love my clients. I consider them friends. I look forward to working with them on multiple projects. It’s very rewarding.

Be sure to check out the above sites and see for yourself just how talented Karen is! I know my readers love her covers.

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A few of my favorite tools

 

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There’s a term out in our society right now called shiny object syndrome. I prefer to call it the law of the new toys to me this means you’re jumping from one new product to the next before you really tried them out with the hopes of finding gold and key to success.
I’m guilty of this as well I have tried so many different things. But I have to be honest nothing works without hard work and hard work is the easiest with systems that work for you, not whoever’s promoting it but for you. And for each person that is going to be different.
When I look at my computer, I find apps and programs that I hadn’t used in a long time because I always tend to fall back on the tried-and-true that I know to work for me. There’s nothing wrong with the apps that I downloaded and paid for. some of them were very good, but they just didn’t fit my mode of writing.
I’m staring at the computer screen thinking, “I really need to clean this up and get rid of some of the stuff I don’t use.” Instead, I will share the programs that work the best for me. The ones that I use day in and day out and have made my life as a writer so much easier there are half a dozen or so that I use and I’ll start them off in order of appointment importance for me.

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1. Scrivener. I don’t know how I ever wrote before I found the Scrivener program. And every time I open it up, I seem to find another little tidbit that helps me be a better writer I’m not going into all the pros and cons of it I’m just going to say I love it and I’d be lost without it.
2. Scapple. This is a great mind mapping app. And it can be used alongside of Scrivener. I use this to remind myself how the characters connect to each other, major plot points and descriptions of locations and characters (I “cast” my characters by adding a picture of what I think they’ll resemble and do the same with settings.)
3. Dropbox. Dropbox is my insurance for keeping my files from being lost. I have a few other ones that I use like Carbonite and Google Docs, but I rely on Dropbox, and I use it to organize all of my files according to books, work, and play.
4. Dragon/ Dragon Anywhere The next to are primarily because I love to dictate with my work schedule it is easier to dictate on my lunch hours when I can just stop and polish off five or 600 words or that having an exceptional day couple thousand. The first one is Dragon Anywhere. If you’ve ever used the Dragon app on your computer, you’ll love this. It works with your cell phone, and even though most cell phones do have the ability to take dictation, it still doesn’t compare to Dragon.
5. Evernote. The second app that I use along with Dragon is Evernote. From Dragon, I can drop my dictation directly into Evernote organizes and files according to books and be assured that I have a backup. Then I take my file from Evernote cleaned it up a little bit and drop it into Scrivener. It may sound like a lot of extra steps, but I’m paranoid, and with each of these steps, I create a backup. I don’t ever want to have to lose an entire book because I didn’t back up or save things as I went along.
6. Word / Google Docs. And how can we fund forget Microsoft Word or Google Docs whichever one you use because these are essential yes you can write your entire manuscript in Scrivener and you can even format it, but there’s something comfortable about Microsoft Word, at least for me there is. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to it I been using it forever.
7. ProWriting Aid / Grammarly. These two I used together. ProWriting Aid is an intensive grammar program, and sometimes it’s intimidating, at least for me. But I start with a run-through in Grammarly and ProWriting Aid. And then just before I send my work off to the editor, I run it through a second program called grammar only. I figure what one doesn’t catch the other one might.
8. Natural Reader. And finally, after everything is ready and just before I send it off to the editor, I use an app called Natural Reader, which reads my book back to me. You’d be surprised how many errors I didn’t see, but I can hear. Besides, it’s kind of fun listening to your words being spoken back to you, proving you really are a writer.

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There are other apps that I use; different thesauruses and word documents, search engines, and Google for research. My husband bought me an Alexa, and I’m using that for research too. It’s also perfect for entertaining the cats because it’ll play videos designed for cats and that will keep them away from my writing. I bet Amazon didn’t think about one!
So, these are just a few of the things I use when I’m writing. They’re tools, and that’s all they are; only tools. You have to come up with the words, and you have to come up with the ideas and most of all you have to put in the work.

What do you use to aid your writing process?

Please note this is how I do my writing and the programs I use. You may find something else works better for you. There is no right or wrong answer. I have not been asked or reimbursed by any of these companies to promote them.

Have a safe and Happy 4th of July Holiday!

Victoria LK Williams

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The Perfect Spot

Summer has officially arrived!! 

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And now we’re settling into those hot, lazy days. But for me, summer is my writing time. All winter I work in playing with the gardens, creating areas my customers can enjoy. Florida is different; our seasons are opposite everybody else, especially down here in South Florida. During the winter we hustle like crazy keep the tourist happy and the snowbirds content. But once they all leave, our quiet little towns become slow-paced. It’s time for the residents to enjoy all the amenities our towns and local areas have to offer. And it’s during the summer time that I do my writing.

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One of my favorite writing spots is on the inter-coastal waterways. There little areas that you could pull off and sit to enjoy the river. It’s not at all uncommon to see the dolphins swimming, or paddle boarders enjoying the smooth waters. If you can find a beautiful shady spot, it’s easy to sit and enjoy a comfortable breeze coming off the ocean or river that are cooling, even in 90° weather. As long as you can stay out of that blazing sun, you can enjoy your time.
With it being quiet, I have the opportunity to concentrate on my writing during downtime, often working in sprints dictating to get the next chapter written. This time you year, the phone doesn’t ring as often and spend my lunchtime getting some words down, while I sit by the water.
Each writer has their own particular spot where they like to write. Whether it’s your office, the park, the local coffee shop, or a quiet spot at home, you know where you can get the best work done. This will be where you’re at your most productive and creative. Once you find the spot covet it like it’s a golden jewel because it is it your sweet spot.

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Victoria LK Williams

Killer Focus ( A Mrs. Avery’s Adventure, #1)

The first book in my new series will be available on 6/27/19!

Mrs. Avery’s Adventures
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A pink slip, a birthday card, new neighbors…Piper Avery thought her week was bad-then she found the body on the beach!

Preorder your copy and save!

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Below is a review from the blog the Owl’s Book Nest

via Killer Focus ( A Mrs. Avery’s Adventure, #1)

It is also available in both Print and Large Print

Victoria LK Williams

Watch out for the Riptides!

If you live anywhere along the coast, you know riptides can be a dangerous problem for the unexpected swimmer. Lifeguards will post warnings, and there are signs along all the beaches that show what to do if you get caught in a riptide.

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But there are other types of riptide’s it affects our lives. And being an indie author, we seem to be swallowed up and rip tides constantly.
When I first started writing, I was dumbfounded when another writer said that writing the rough draft is the easiest part of the process. Little did I know she was probably right.
For me, writing that first draft is pure joy. It’s all about letting my imagination go and letting my words take hold of the page. But once it’s done, the riptide begins to appear; the riptide of all the other things that get in the way of writing the next book.
Just a few of the things that will pull you wonder if you’re not aware and prepared are the editing, publication, and promotion. The hardest parts of being an indie writer. Here are just a few things that can “suck” you under.

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The cover; it helps sell your book. It takes time and work to find the right illustrator. Then you need to convey your thoughts so that she or he can create the cover that will sell your book.
Once you open the book, it’s critical that you’ve taken the time to make the inside just as enticing as that cover. This is where that rough draft becomes a polished piece. Multiple editing drafts might be necessary to get your work to a salable point. Then once the words are right, you need to get it formatted for your readers to enjoy.
Now you’ve got the book ready to go. The next step is to get it out there where the readers can find it. You must determine how you’re going to publish your book. Are you going directly with Amazon or any of the other large distributors or are you going to use an aggregate publisher who will distribute for you?
Okay, step two is done. You’ve written the book, polished it, and published where readers can get it.
But now how do they find your book in among the thousands published every month? The promotional process can sometimes be as aggravating as the writing process itself.
Everything changes so fast, what you did yesterday may not work today. There’s no sitting back on your laurels waiting for the things to happen. You need to stand top of the industry and figure out what the next steps are going to be. You need to learn how to anticipate market trends so that you don’t find yourself falling behind.
Is it easy? No.
Is it necessary? Yes.
I’ve been doing this for almost 6 years, with 15 books published 3 more in that dreaded editing stage. Do I have it all figured out? Course not. Because it’s always changing.
When I first started, it was easy to put a book up on Amazon and help hundreds of downloads and thousands of pages read with very little advertising. But that’s not the way it works anymore. Now, you must be creative, you must find the right advertisers, and most of all you must have faith in yourself that your book will be read.
You need to stay on top of the industry, but more importantly, you need to be working on that next book; because nothing sells a new book than the book before it.

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So, prepare yourself as you walk along the shores of a writer and don’t get caught in the riptides.

Victoria LK Williams

Move the furniture!

Have you ever noticed how some things in your life are so every day that you don’t even think about it? Until something changes.
And I can prove it. Do you remember the opening to the old Dick VanDyke show? Without telling anyone, the characters moved a footstool, and the results are seen again and again in each show opening.

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Now you try it, move that piece of furniture and watch what happens. Some people are going to trip over it, others will walk into it while other people may automatically walk around it without registering what they’re doing. Until they look around trying to figure out what’s different.
I’m a little bit sneaky. I used to wait until my husband was out of town, or late at night when he wouldn’t notice, and that’s when I would rearrange the furniture. The hubby is pretty observant, and within five or six minutes he always seems to catch on to what was happening. But once in a while, I can catch him. Want to really find out what happens? Wait until your kids go away to college and rearrange the room. Then watch their expression when they come home and go to throw their backpack on the bed- and it’s on the other side of the room.
Yes, we form habits in our daily life; the way we walk around furniture, the way you move around your house, and for us writers the way we write. But don’t you want to shake things up once in a while and move a piece of furniture? Or for writers- change things up in the way you write.
Make your characters a little crazy, instead of straightlaced and deadpan. Murder a likable character instead of the villain, give your protagonist unusual traits that you wouldn’t expect. These are a few ways to shake up your writing. It might feel uncomfortable to you as a writer, but the readers will love it. And if you’re honest, you know there are times when you need to shake things up. Who wants to keep reading the same mundane book over and over again. Some tropes are becoming worn out, and that’s why when a writer changes things up just a little bit it catches the reader’s attention. This will help sales and gives you the incentive to write the next book.
So go ahead and move that piece of furniture. Put it right in the way where someone’s going to trip over it and grab their attention. Of course, I’m talking about the metaphoric furniture in your book; we don’t want to do any physical harm to our friends and family.
As a reader, has something caught your attention that a writer has included in the book that you were expecting?

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As a writer, what can you do to change things up, keeping your writing fresh and your readers interested?
If you’ve had experience as a writer or a reader when a store has caught you by surprise, feel free to share!
Happy Writing!

Victoria LK Williams

The Writing Lull

Yup, that’s where I am. The lull before the storm.
The writing storm that is.
I don’t know if other writers go through this or not, but when I finish a book, I always seem to be hesitant to start the next one.
It’s not for lack of ideas or enthusiasm.

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No, it’s that blank page syndrome.
I spent a week getting the outline done, figuring out just to my characters are and developing great settings to continue the series. Technically everything is in place, I’m ready to go, but I just can’t put the words down on the paper. Maybe it’s because I know once I start there’s no stopping, I’ll want to be consumed by the story.
So in the meantime, we have a clean house, I made some cookies, cleaned my office, organized my desk, caught up on all my emails and arranged the folders on my computer. I spent some time on Facebook, got some reading done and explored some research ideas.
In other words, I mastered the art procrastination once again.

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Maybe part of it is because it’s so busy at work with spring, approaching. And the weather has been absolutely perfect down here in Florida, making it hard to stay inside.
So my dilemma is, do I hold off in writing this book and use it as my Camp NaNo challenge? I have the outlines for a couple of novellas done too, so that might be another option.
But I think the realization is that regardless of what I write, I need to be writing. When you take the long gaps away from your desk and that creative juice begins to dry up becomes harder and harder to sit down in front of the computer and commit to your story. Because let’s be honest, there’s always something else could be done, and if you’re not in the right mindset, you’re going to be easily distracted.

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What about you? Do you jump right in and start the next story? Or do you take a break? Maybe you jump right into the editing phase or start promoting your work.
Each writer is different and there is no right answer–except to always keep plotting and writing at your own pace.

VictoriaLKWilliams

Want to connect on FB with other readers & writers who love cozy mysteries?

Dance and Sing for Books!

Well, I hope you all had a chance to revisit your childhood over the holidays. I’m talking about the release of the new movie Mary Poppins Returns. Now I don’t usually post my thoughts about movies on my blog, but this one deserves some attention
I have to admit I was skeptical there was no way they could outdo the first. There is no way that someone else would play the role of the ultimate nanny and carry it off the way Julie Andrews did.original_1099048853
But boy was I wrong! I’m in love with the new movie it was everything I hoped for and more. The return of old characters, new characters, song, dance and Disney the way it used to be!
It felt like the movie was made just for me; the writer, the reader, the adventurer.

Big, big, big spoiler alert here!! If you haven’t seen, the movie, you may not want to read the rest of my blog. Or you can go ahead and read, I promise not to give too much away.
The original Mary Poppins had this beautiful scene where Bert and Mary took the kids on an adventure through pictures. They jumped into the paintings on the sidewalk, and the fun begins. Everything that you remember from that scene in the original Mary Poppins– keep that in the back of your head. Because in Mary Poppins Returns they took the same concept, but instead of jumping into pictures they made the emphasis on books.

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Books, books, books! There is a fantastic song, & dance number called ‘The Cover Is Not the Book’ and the song stuck in my head for most of the movie. You can even play it on iTunes.
I think for me as a reader and a writer it felt like the movie was calling out because of the accent on books. It is all about judging a book by its cover, and the lessons that it taught the Banks children through song and dance are excellent.
Now as a writer we know you can and should judge a book by its cover– because the cover is what sells your book. So don’t lose heart to that concept.
The movie was taking an old saying and giving it a new song and a fun visual concept. One that I hope will resonate with every child. Teaching our children to remember that each person is an individual and has their own redeeming qualities. Qualities that you can’t see by looking at a person until you get to know them.
So, thank you to the Disney Company, and the creators and writers of Mary Poppins Returns. You touched my heart and my soul, especially with that song and dance routine.

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PS  I have the soundtrack playing as I’m writing this, and I can’t stop grinning!

Victoria LK Williams

Go ahead-kill ’em!

Kill your darlings.

The first time I heard that phrase I thought it was awful. What kind of a sadistic person would deliberately kill a character you created that wasn’t an evil villain?
Your characters are like your friends. You know them inside and out. You’ve created them with distinct personality traits and flaws. Hopefully, you’ve got your readers to connect with those characters.But now some writing Guru has told you to kill them.

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I have to be honest, it took me a while to fully understand why you would do this. But now that I know, I’m not afraid to do it.
Having a murder in your mystery is pretty much a no-brainer. The reader usually doesn’t have a chance to get to know the victim, so you don’t feel any guilt having killed the character. But there’s more at stake when the characters have had a chance to become known to your reader.
Why would you put your characters in mortal danger? There are a number of reasons, but probably the most common is to build tension, or change the direction of the story. In a cozy mystery, it’s rare that a killing is random, there must be a meaning behind it. Keep this in mind and don’t go killing characters just for the sake of excitement. And a word of warning: you can kill the granny next door, but don’t kill her pet! For some reason, readers (myself included) get upset at the death of a animal. The animal can accidentally cause a death, but Fido or FeeFee must walk away unscathed.

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In the book I’m working on now, I was stumped. I had all the clues in place, the red herrings were planted everything was going smoothly. Yet, I was bored. And if I was bored, I knew my reader would be too. But there was this one annoying character…
Yes, I’ll admit, I killed her. This added urgency to the story. And it also explains some plot points.
Do I feel guilty about killing off my darling? Maybe a little. I think I had honestly hoped to redeem her and make her a little bit more likable at the end of the book. But not everybody can be redeemed, and not everybody can be liked.
No, I’m not saying go and start killing off your characters merely to build tension in your story. There are other ways that you can create the same tension without being murderous.
Something unexpected or harmful can happen to a character. Thrown for a loop, your characters will act differently than the reader is expecting. Use those unexpected events to build more tension or even to set up an explaination that must be answered by the end of the book.

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There, now I put some evil thoughts into your head as a writer.
Take a good hard look at your characters and decide whether you kill them off or just throw an unexpected twist their way.

Victoria LK Williams

For the Love of Pets

The modern cozy mystery has something that the old traditional ones doesn’t seem to have… 

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Pets!
Now, by all means, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t seem to remember any of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot characters having cat or dog as the main character, but today’s cozy mysteries sure do. Mine included.
Maybe it’s because in the day of Agatha Christie pets did not play as significant a role in our lives as they do now. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that people didn’t love their pets in Dame Agatha’s day. But did they catered to them? Did they dress Fido up in Halloween costumes? Were their pet served gourmet pet food? And I bet they sure as heck didn’t have pet, insurance!
But today’s pets are part of our lives, treated as good (or sometimes slightly better) as our children, and pampered like royalty.
So, it only seems reasonable, if pets are that important in our everyday life that they would also be important in our characters daily life?
Personally, I love adding pets to my stories. They can give comic relief and help the reader relate to the main character. A pet can sniff out clues the main character may not have seen, and they have a sense of awareness that humans don’t.

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For instance, in my Citrus Beach Mysteries, my main character has a beagle named Barney and Barney is excellent at sniffing out clues. In book number two, Scent of a Mystery, Barney is the one that finds the first clue, setting the book in motion.
In Storm Voices, Mac is given a little gray kitten. This kitten seems to have mystic abilities, and she definitely knows that there’s something unusual living in the garden of Mac’s home.
If you look at the covers of many cozy mysteries, you’ll find a cat or dog on it; after all was a witch without a cat. Two of my favorite series are Lauren Carr’s Mac Faraday Mystery books and The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun.
Having a cat, dog, or some other animal in your mystery draws in the animal lover as well as the mystery lover. And let’s face it, an animal can get away with so much more than a human. Nobody is going to yell at the dog or point a gun at him for snooping in the den. And if the cat happens to knock over a valuable clue, it will only seem like her curiosity is coming into play. But if your main character is doing either of those things while searching for clues, then the chances are if they get caught, they will be held at gunpoint by the villain or arrested by the cops.

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Go ahead and include an animal in your story.
Use Fido or FeeFee to your advantage. Let them be the ones to ferret out the clues and warm the cockles of your reader’s hearts.
But be careful-they can easily take over your story, because everyone loves a pet.

Victoria LK Williams