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

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Winter Production

Let’s face it, it’s cold everywhere, even down here in the South!

Then what do you do—moan and groan? Do you cuddling up in blankets and wear thick socks to warm your feet? Or you do something about it?shutterstock_400520170
I’ll be honest, for the first day I was one of the moaners. I hate the cold and that’s why I moved to South Florida; to get away from it. Yet, how can I possibly complain about two or three days of wintry weather when you see what the rest of the country is going through? Throwing on a thicker sweater, I pick myself up by my bootstraps (make that my flip-flops) and decide to be productive.


Just because it was too cold to be outside, doesn’t mean that I couldn’t catch up on my reading. There were a couple of new authors I was dying to read, and this was the perfect opportunity. Even more importantly, this was a terrific opportunity to flush out some characters, write up outlines and continue working on my work in progress.

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So I sat down at my desk, a fake fire roaring on the TV, with my space heater blowing warm air on me and a cat (no make that two cats) hogging the heat. I look over my shoulder and there they are, enjoying the heat blowing directly on them. Wouldn’t you think with all that fur they’d be warm?


I’ve concluded; when it’s cold, your mind stays sharp. At least there is no dozing off, or daydreaming. I try to keep moving, even if it’s only mentally, to keep the juices flowing and keep warm. I’m happy to say I’ve accomplished some work. Trying a new program called StoryShop, I flushed out one or two awesome characters. I even got to know a few of my existing characters little better. A good outline for a whole new series is now ready to go. And I continued working on my newest Storm Voices book.


For all of you who put up with this weather on a day-to-day basis, month after month; my heart goes out to you. I can’t forget the years growing up in upstate New York. I know perfectly well what you’re going through. So, stay warm my friends; read a book, or even write one.

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Let this winter be for the creative minds to explore.

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www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

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Habits-Good or Bad?

Each and every one of us has habits, little mannerisms set us apart from everybody else.
Sometimes they are clear and obvious things that others recognize from a distance and can say; “Yep that’s her, I can tell just by the way she’s doing (fill in the blank).”

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Your habits can be as innocent as twirling your hair, tapping your fingers, pacing, humming, or tapping your feet. There so many, the list goes on. Sometimes habits irritate another person. My personal irritation is watching somebody bite their fingernails. Look, nothing grosses me out more, but I know that my finger tapping irritates my husband. So, it’s a give-and-take with us; he bites his nails and I tap my nails.

Mannerisms and habits can describe you in many ways. They can reveal that you’re nervous person or perhaps easily bored. Your “tells” may never be seen until you’re in a stressful situation and then act almost as a self-defense mechanism; we let our stress out with these little idiosyncrasies.
Take a look around you, do little bit of people watching and see what you find.

But, you know, it’s funny – people aren’t the only creatures that have mannerisms and habits. Have you ever stopped and noticed your animals actions?

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For instance I have three cats and each one of them has her own particular habit that they do. My little gray likes to find a furry blanket to curl up and then she start sucking on the fur. My long hair black-and-white one loves to sit in the middle of the doorway, not in & not out. No, she is right smack across the threshold, as if she can’t make a decision where she wants to go. And my oldest cat, who happens to be almost 18, refuses to drink water, unless it’s out of a running tap.

Even the animals out in the wild have their own particular habits. Some birds migrate to the same exact location every year without fail, without deviation. As a child, my parents would take us while the snow was still on the ground, to see the Canadian Geese that came by the hundreds to the lakes during their yearly migration. So you see, habits are not restricted to humans. Some are natural; cause from your heredity and others – who knows why we start with habits.

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As a writer I think it’s really important to bring your characters to life by giving them habits. They can be irritating, endearing, or unconscious but they need to be there. These mannerisms give your character more depth and help reader get to know them better. For instance Megan, in my Citrus Beach Mystery series is a pacer. When she gets nervous she paces and often irritates those around her by doing this. It’s these little things that let you begin to understand the character more.

So, as you sit there on a bench and people watch, try figure out what habits strangers show without realizing. Can some of those habits that you’re watching from other people be worked into your story?

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Give your character some life, give them some interest, and give them some habits.

Cool Cats!

Just what is it about the cold-weather that brings out the crazy in the cat? Any pet owner, be it dog or cat, will attest to the fact that when the weather turns chilly, cats and dogs get just a little bit frisky!

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This morning was a perfect example. We had our first cold spell of the season; we broke a couple of records, it was that chilly. But instead of our cats cuddling up next to us in a nice warm bed, they woke up acting crazy. They run from one end of the house together, knocking over anything in their way. Jumping on and over each other going just 50 miles an hour running in circles, they are overflowing with energy. I looked over at my husband, and we wonder; what next?

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Where did my cuddly little kittens go that like to curl up under a warm blanket? Instead, I have these little Tasmanian Devils that keep running from one end to the house to the next, looking for trouble. They’re getting into things that have been there for months that they’ve never even noticed. They’re pulling blankets down, knocking bowls of water over as they race by in a whirl. They’re terrorizing our older cat, who’s looking at them with a smug smile on her face. But, I noticed that the older cat has a little spring in her step as well.

And I know  when we had our dog it was the same thing; he would jump up in the air, run around in the yard rolling over and over in the leaves, happy as could be.

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But as the day wears on, and the sun comes out and warms the air, I notice that all is quiet in the house. I search for my little trouble-makers, and find them in the sunniest spot of the porch. There, my feline friends are curled up together, sucking up the warmth of the sun.

They’ve worn themselves out and are enjoying their afternoon nap.