Wrinkles and my other four-legged muses

MUSE: a person or force providing inspiration for a creative artist

Synonyms: inspiration, creative influence, stimulus, DOG

I started out as a fantasy and science fiction writer. Well, actually I started out as a newspaper reporter covering courts, cops, and crime. But when I dove into the fiction well it was dragons and ogres and goblins and the like. That’s when I discovered that the dogs wrapped around my feet were my muses.

When I needed to write scenes from creatures’ perspectives, I didn’t want them to seem like humans in scaly suits. Those characters shouldn’t think like humans…or be motivated by all the same things.

So I looked at the world through my dogs’ eyes for inspiration. Dogs are pretty basic. Though each one has a very distinct personality; they all like to eat, play, sleep, and be in my company. They adore cheese, apples, strawberries, an assortment of things that are not meant to be edible; chasing tennis balls; ripping apart fluffy toys to find the squeaker; naps by the fireplace in the winter; walks down the block and peeing on every mailbox post along the way; chasing lightning bugs and butterflies; slaying rabbits that foolishly slip under the backyard fence; barking at the wind; and taking long dips in the kiddie pool in the summer. They live in the moment. They are amazing.

I wrote The Stonetellers Dragonlance trilogy for Wizards of the Coast, where the main goblins and hobgoblins were drawn from dogs who shared their years with me. My editor at the time told me he thought it was my best work. I never mentioned where the characters came from.

Now that I’ve switched genres, diving into the mystery well, I use my dogs another way…I slip them wholly into the stories.

My favorite dog…I think people with multiple dogs lie if they claim they love their dogs equally…is Wrinkles, an elderly pug gifted to me by a woman who was in the Air Force and who could no longer keep him. As I write this, Wrinkles is draped across my toes and softly snoring. He’s my constant shadow, and I sneak him cheese when the other dogs aren’t looking. My other canine companions include: Missy, a Boston terrier rescue; Fable, a Labrador my husband brought home from a farm; and Jake, a BIG Labrador, a foster who has made himself at home.

In my first mystery novel, The Dead of Winter, dogs and cats play an integral role in the plot. They’re carefully scattered in the background, but are key in my villain’s motivation. No fictional dogs or cats were harmed in the book. Wrinkles appears curled between the feet of a murder victim, and because he has some age to him, one of my characters takes him home rather than to the shelter. He also makes an appearance in The Dead of Night, my second mystery novel featuring Sheriff Piper Blackwell. Another dog and cat are added to the mix in that book. It comes out September 15. Maybe it’s a theme for the Piper books…adding pets to my characters’ lives. I think I’ll put a parrot in the third book. I have a miniature macaw named Trouble in my office.

One of my favorite mystery writers, Robert B. Parker of Spencer and Jesse Stone fame, put dogs in his books. His picture on the dust jacket showed him with a German Shorthair Pointer. Another favorite author, Robert Crais, introduced a canine character Maggie in his excellent novel Suspect, and continued her adventures in The Promise. My friend Margaret Weis, who writes fantasy, has four fine canine companions who join her in flyball. Donald J. Bingle, a writer pal who specializes in thrillers, has two rescue Shar-Peis. I know writers with cats…but this column is about dogs. Fantasy author R.A. Salvatore has three Japanese Chins. The awesome tale-spinner Brendan DuBois posts pictures of his companion Spencer the Wonder Dog. Alaskan SF author Craig Martelle talks about his walking buddy Phyllis the Arctic Dog. Jack Dann, most excellent author from Down Under, has a beagle. I’ll stop my list now.

Dogs and writers seem to go together, I think. They get us up from the keyboard for walks and to throw tennis balls. They lure us outside at night in the summer to marvel at the fireflies and to bark at the wind. They keep our feet warm, our hearts happy, our wallets thinner, our homes messier, and our writing lives better. And they are so kind as to let us look at the world through their eyes.

USA Today Bestselling author Jean Rabe has written 37 fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction novels. The Dead of Night, her 38th, is her second mystery. She has roughly 100 short stories in print, has edited a couple dozen anthologies, and has edited more magazines than she cares to tally. When she isn’t writing or editing, she tosses tennis balls to her cadre of dogs, visits museums, and tries to find gamers who will play Axis & Allies with her.

The Dead of Winter Find The Dead of Winter on Amazon by clicking here: https://www.amazon.com/Dead-Winter-Piper-Blackwell-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01LY5X4BB/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475603013&sr=8-1&keywords=the+dead+of+winter+by+jean

And my Amazon author page at: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Rabe/e/B00J1QR5U2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

I have a newsletter filled with tidbits about my dogs, upcoming books, reviews of things I’m reading, and writing advice. You can subscribe here: http://jeanrabe.us14.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=89364515308e8b5e7ffdf6892&id=9404531a4b

 

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