To Fetch a Thief is cozy mystery anthology put together by four authors: Teresa Inge, Heather Weidner, Jayne Ormerod, and Rosemary Shomaker. Each of these authors has published individually, but they decided to band together to write humorous dog-themed mysteries. To Fetch a Thief is the first in the Mutt Mysteries collection.
Does your story address an issue?
Heather: Not everything is always as it seems. My novella is “Diggin’ up Dirt” in To Fetch a Thief. My character Amy and her Jack Russell Terrier, Darby, find some strange things that were left in the house. After she talks to the nosy neighbors next door, she wonders if something happened to the previous occupants. The house and the family looked normal on the outside, but there is more under the surface that someone wants to keep hidden.
Jayne: My issue is simple, to show that there is goodness in the world, and justice will prevail in catching murderers and thieves. I try to achieve this in a lighthearted way.
Rosemary: Critical in the “This is Not a Dog Park” novella is the conduct of dog owners who defy leash laws. The on-leash/off-leash issue is the apparent conflict between Adam and Judith in the story, but Adam’s resentment of his own mother is a subtext. The position of leash advocates is mocked in the story, but personally, I don’t embrace a total leash-free environment in public parks.
I love dogs, but I’ve come to respect that others may not and may feel danger or be irritated by unrestrained dogs that may approach and jump on them or otherwise dirty or damage human clothing or property. Some people complain about the damage dogs, with their tearing, chewing, or otherwise sullying of vegetation, signs, bins, etc., inflict on park property. As one who has stepped in dog droppings in public parks, I can relate.
I remember a neighbor who challenged a local ordinance. He had voice control of his dog and asserted that his oral commands constituted proper oversight of his dog. He lost his appeal. I think of him whenever I read a leash ordinance. Some allow voice control; some require sight and voice control or leashing. Some specify the dog must be “directly connected to its owner by a physical restraint.”
Another person I know dealt with her county’s restrictive regulations after an unfortunate event when her leashed large dog caused injury to a leashed small dog. Have you heard of these harsh “one bite” laws and owner liability for negligence? She stuck by her dog and in good faith abided seemingly tyrannical restrictions in order to keep her dog. For years she and her dog were persecuted because of the dog’s recorded “dangerous propensities.” Of course, this is just one side of the coin. Surely, we want people, property, and other pets protected from dangerous animals/pets. Hey! This may be the basis for my next Mutt Mysteries novella—I see lots of possibilities!
Teresa: Since my story involves a dog walking mystery, I found that I had too many animals in the book. Unfortunately, I had to cut a few dogs but plan to use them in a future book.
Heather: My husband is a realtor, and I am always amazed at what people leave in their houses when they move. In “Diggin’ up Dirt,” the former owners leave a lot of unrelated items that could be clues.
Jayne: I was challenged to write a story about a dog, a theft and a murder. In my neighborhood we have a Dog Gone Garden, which displays rocks painted with the names of pets who have crossed the rainbow bridge. They are brightly colored and not only liven up the rose garden in which they are displayed, they give comfort to the owners. A few years ago, somebody stole all of the rocks! That gave me the idea for the theft. While my story solves that crime, the real life thief has never been caught. The artist had to repaint over 50 rocks to replace them.
Rosemary: I’d drive past this park that fronted a street in a posh part of town, and I’d see people throwing balls to their dogs in the park. The park looked very small, not more than a field, and the parking area was tiny. There didn’t look to be much to the park, but I always wondered. One day I stopped and was delighted to see that the park was larger than I expected. Only a narrow portion fronted the street. The park bordered a posh neighborhood and two less-than-fancy neighborhoods. Plus, the park was near a commercial shopping area. This all fed my imagination, and I wondered who frequented the park. The people with their dogs kept to themselves but did let their dogs go unleashed. I’d read in a local paper about some controversy in the area about free-range dogs in this park. All this coalesced into “This is Not a Dog Park.”
Teresa: To Fetch a Thief came about from my love of mysteries and animals. I also noticed at book-signings that my readers love both. That’s when I set out to create a series that would appeal to mystery and animal lovers.
- What are the most important things about you that you would want prospective readers to know?
Heather: I love mysteries and writing. And I’m a binge writer. I try to write every day, but work and life get in the way sometimes, so I take advantage of any free blocks of time to write.
Jayne: I don’t set out to change the world with my writing or spark deep meaningful debates. I just want the reader to enjoy the time they spend with my fictional characters as much as I did when writing about them.
Rosemary: I’d like readers to know that in my stories they’ll read a good story with a believable main character that avoids crazy or oddball plots. The main character is usually grappling with failure or inadequacy issues.
Teresa: To Fetch a Thief is about four fun tails of theft and murder. As a Board of Director with the Chesapeake Humane Society, part of the sales will go toward helping animals.
- Are there other things you’d like readers to know about you or your book? (Personal challenges you’ve faced that influenced you while writing this book, funny stories about the writing or research, etc.)
Heather: I write fiction, but you still have to do your research. Readers will know if you get the details wrong. And Google may not always be the best way to research ways to kill people. I am fortunate that my dad is a retired police captain, and he’s my best law enforcement source. Our dinner conversations were almost always crime-themed. I didn’t know that that was not normal dinner conversation until I got to college. One of my earliest kid jobs was picking up shell casings at the range after he qualified. My sister and I played with handcuffs and night vision goggles. And way before paintball was around, he and I melted down tons of my crayons to make practice bullets for his SWAT team.
Jayne: I had to take long walks on the beach in order to absorb the bayside setting. (I know, rough job, but somebody’s got to do it!) Also I had to write about dogs during a period in my life when we didn’t have any pets. (Our most recent dog has a rock in the garden I write about.) Cannoli, the dog in my story, was based on a picture I found on the internet of a tawny terrier. We’d never had a tawny dog before. About four weeks after I finished the story, we were asked to take a puppy in an emergency rehoming situation. Lo and behold, it was a tawny dog! It was meant to be, I felt sure! Jokes on me…the cute tawny puppy turns out to have Great Dane in his lineage, and he’s now almost 60 pounds and still growing! But such a gentle soul. He’ll probably be featured in a future story, along with our most recent acquisition, a Puerto Rican Potcake dog.
Rosemary: The four of us contributing novellas to To Fetch a Thief first joined forces as contributors to the Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II anthologies. We all live in Virginia and had a great time getting to know one another while visiting conferences, book fairs, libraries, book clubs, and more when marketing the Virginia is for Mysteries books. The four of us also contributed stories to 50 Shades of Cabernet. Our project collecting the four novellas into To Fetch a Thief taught me a lot about how a collaborative project can work when each team member brings different strengths. I also realized the varied talents of my fellow authors, and I appreciate the differences in our approaches to writing. Readers get a range of characters and plots in the book—something for everyone!
Teresa: Since I work a full- time job, I wrote “Hounding the Pavement,” in my car during my lunch hour each day. This included being in hot and cold weather. Having a day time career and writing career takes great creativity and balance.
- What’s the craziest/funniest/most enjoyable thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
Heather: I am working on my third book in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. She’s a private investigator in Central Virginia. In this book, she gets a job to go undercover at a drag show to find out who’s stealing from the talent. I had never been. So, my writer pal Rosemary Shomaker, put together a group, and we attended the Sunday brunch in Richmond. The food and entertainment were great. It was fun research.
Jayne: For our 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology I had to drink wine. A lot of it! All in the name of research, of course! I’ve had to drive a Porsche (again, tough duty!), a mini cooper and a golf cart. I also went to a shooting range because there are a lot of guns used in my mysteries and I’d never even handled one. Under careful instruction, I started with small guns and worked up to one that looked really menacing but wasn’t huge. My instructor warned me it had quite a kick. Yup. I ended up on my butt.
Rosemary: My kids will tell you the story of the crazy goat man. We were on an adventure, in search (by car) of a lesser-known boat landing on the James River. In a lovely rural area, I saw a dirt road leading to goats on a small hill and I thought, why not drive up this road to see the goats? I was usually on the lookout for opportunities to explore, both in order to teach my children and to store up details for my writing.
Yep, we drove up to the goats. They were fenced, so we just looked and took photos. A small pickup truck approached from farther along the dirt track. An interesting old fellow hopped out of the truck—unarmed—so I called out as he advanced and introduced myself. Now, we were only forty yards from the rural paved road, and I’d noticed the location of the closest houses in case I needed assistance.
Well, this old guy, who identified himself as “retired religious,” seemed charmed with the company, and my kids and I learned a lot about goats. Turns out this man had just bulldozed four dead goats into a pit for burial because predators had killed those goats. He had the other goats within skimpy electrical fencing powered by a car battery. He’d been sleeping in the field with the goats to protect them, and he smelled like it! My kids chatted with him like he was their uncle. We left having had an adventure. I left thankful the eccentric old goat man wasn’t upset or threatened by us.
Teresa: In writing the story “Shopping for Murder” in Virginia is for Mysteries, I wrote a car chase scene behind a narrow mall. Since I wanted to make sure a chase scene could work in the space, I drove my own car at a high speed behind the mall and realized it could happen. I love doing research to ensure what I am writing is factual.