I hope you’re all enjoying your summers. I’ve been working on some writing projects and taking day trips as well as planning a longer one soon. I’ve cut back on a few promos this month but I do have a few things scheduled.
On August 26 at 7 pm EST, I’ll be moderating and participating in a pet author panel with other members of the Cat Writers’ Association for my library’s summer reading program event. Since it will take place virtually in Zoom, anyone can attend. Click here to register.
I’m also happy to announce that my cat book of poetry, “Meows and Purrs: A Collection of Cat Poems” has been accepted by Next Chapter Publishing. While there is not release date yet, it should be out soon. Below is a sample poem from the book. The cover image may not be the final one for the published copy.
Dark as night
Golden eyes shining bright.
Tame yet wild
On a string I wave.
Ready to spring
At the sound
Of the catfood tin.
Sleek and slim
Sturdy body, long lean limbs
Tiny black kitten
Now full grown
My Mini Panther guards our home.
*This poem is dedicated to Harry, my handsome and friendly mini panther.
Review: Cat Life: Celebrating the History, Culture & Love of the Cat
This book is not only beautiful, filled with gorgeous color photographs of cats, but also extremely informative. I would expect nothing less from the author. Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant who has published 30 bestselling pet books.
Cat Life is divided into four sections: Evolutionary of cat; cultured cat; physical cat, and gallery of breeds. Anything and everything a cat lover might want to know about this unique animal is included in this book. A Table of Contents and an alphabetical index are also provided to help locate topics.
If you are looking for a complete guide that is wonderfully illustrated, you need look no further than Cat Life: Celebrating the History, Culture & Love of the Cat. A companion dog volume by Ms. Shojai is also available.
“Purr”-chase this book here. JOIN Amy’s Audacious Allies, SUBSCRIBE to her free newsletter, READ her pet-centric blog: https://AmyShojai.com
Amy Shojai is a nationally known authority on pet care and behavior, a certified animal behavior consultant, a spokesperson for the pet products industry, and the author of 30 nonfiction pet books. She also writes THRILLERS WITH BITE! which includes the dog-viewpoint thrillers LOST AND FOUND, HIDE AND SEEK, SHOW AND TELL and FIGHT OR FLIGHT. In her other life, she’s a published and produced playwright of musical theater productions (some including pet characters!).
Amy addresses a wide range of fun-to-serious issues in her work, covering dog and cat training, behavior, natural and allopathic health care, nutrition, first aid, aging pets, “the bond” and cutting-edge medical topics. In her nonfiction books, she empowers pet lovers by providing the information they need to make informed decisions for their cats and dogs. She specializes in translating “medicalese” into easily understood jargon-free language, making it accessible to all pet lovers. Oh, and she loves bling-icity!
Her work has been honored with over three dozen writing awards and she is a two-time recipient of the “Friskies Writer of the Year” award. Her articles currently appear in the Herald Democrat newspaper, on Chewy.com and PetSafe.net among others. She’s published several thousand articles and columns during her career. Amy presents a twice-monthly “Pet Talk” segment at KXII-CBS, hosted the weekly “Pet Peeves” at PetLifeRadio.com and is an expert on Animal Planet DOGS 101 and CATS 101. Sometimes she has time to sleep.
Amy has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and in The Wall Street Journal, USA Weekend, The New York Times, Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Woman’s World, and many other leading newspapers and magazines. She has also been a featured pet care expert on Animal Planet Dogs 101, Cats 101, Petsburgh USA/Disney Channel program, Good Day New York, Fox News: Pet News, NBC Today Show, WGN-Chicago “Pet Central” and “Animal Planet Radio” and many others.
She is an active member of the International Thriller Writers, Sisters In Crime, and Alliance of Independent Authors. Amy is a certified member of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, founder and Past President of the Cat Writers’ Association, member of the Dog Writers Association of America, and Past President and Honorary Lifetime Member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. She frequently speaks to groups on a variety of pet-related and writing issues, lectures at veterinary and writer conferences, and conducts training and behavior demonstrations around the country.
She and her husband live with Karma-Kat the feline delinquent and Bravo-Boy, the Bullmastiff. They, along with the enduring inspiration of Siamese wannabe Seren-Kitty and Magical-Dawg the German Shepherd, continue to inspire her work. Find more information about her work at www.shojai.com and follow her Bling, Bitches & Blood Blog at https://amyshojai.com.
I just returned from the Cat Writers’ Association’s 25th anniversary conference and thought some of you might want to hear about it. While it’s impossible to cover all the presentations, events, exhibits, and other happenings, here’s a brief recap of the programs I attended and my sightseeing experience in St. Louis.
The trip didn’t get off to the best start when I realized my iPhone was missing after passing through security. I went back, but it hadn’t been handed in to their lost and found. Luckily, the phone turned up when it was pinged. However, after all the confusion and rushing around, I ended up waiting at the wrong gate and nearly missed the flight. The only reason I didn’t was because the plane was delayed. After that, it was smooth sailing or should I say smooth flying.
I landed in St. Louis around noon and grabbed a taxi to the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch where I was booked for the next 3 nights. I was impressed by the lobby and the friendliness of the front-desk staff. Even though the rooms aren’t usually ready until 3 pm, they arranged for me to get in earlier because I wanted to attend the session given by Robbi Hess on “The Myth of Busyness: How to Claim Time for your Business” and needed to freshen up before it.
While waiting for a room to open, I took the opportunity to grab some lunch at Angelo’s Taverna, the Italian restaurant located in but not a part of the hotel. The food was delicious. I even came back later that night for dessert after the swag stuffing party and had spumoni which really hit the spot after taking a stroll around The Arch park in the close to 90-degree temperature.
The swag stuffing party Thursday night was more play than work as we oohed and ahhed over the great donations by the pet sponsors of the conference.
We were also treated to an appearance by Summer the Therapy Cat with her human, Janiss Garza. After the bags were stuffed, there was a raffle and then all the helpers were given a pretty gift bag that included a few snacks and a CWA 25th anniversary cookie.
On Friday morning, I attended a session presented by Dr. Kurt Venator and Dr. Janet Jackson of Purina on “The Science of Cats: Feline Nutritiion and Hydration.” This was very informative and made me feel more at ease about feeding my cats both wet and dry food, and I learned that the average cat needs to drink 20 teaspoons of water per day. I’m looking forward to viewing the flash drive in Purina’s swag cup for more information on feline nutrition and Purina’s role in providing it.
During the break after the session, I visited the exhibits, picked up some giveaways and won a prize.
The following session was conducted by Robyn Conley, a book doctor. Robyn presented “Cross marketing and Self-Editing to Broaden Markets and Multiply Sales. This was another interesting seminar that covered two important topics for writers. I also met with Robyn privately for an editor appointment the following day for her to review the first five pages of my unpublished manuscript. She wanted to spend more time to look it over, so we arranged for her to send me back the pages with her feedback.
Before lunch I attended Lisa Miller’s presentation “Practical Guide to Social Media for Selling Books.” Lisa, Business and Marketing Manager from Amphorae Publishing, discussed goal setting for book selling on social media and strategies to reach those goals. An interesting fact I learned from her talk was that a 3,000 copies is considered a good number for hard copy books to sell. She emphasized the importance of knowing yourself and your audience and to pick one primary platform to use for the majority of your postings and sharings. She also explained that social media is just one of the tools an author needs to use to reach an audience. I also met with Lisa for an editor appointment, and she answered some questions I had about publishing.
Later that day, I did some sightseeing and visited The Gateway Arch where I waited in a huge line despite my ticketed time but finally was able to take a tram up to the top where I was treated to a clear view of the city and was able to purchase a commemorative photo. I also picked up a few souvenirs in the gift shop and viewed the museum attractions.
That night, I joined other CWA authors at a book signing event open to the public that featured a fundraiser for the Humane society of Missouri.
On Saturday morning, I attended the CWA member business meeting and then took some time off to sightsee where I visited the St. Louis Central Library and donated some copies of my books. As a librarian, I enjoyed touring the lovely building and it’s interesting collections including it’s rare book room overseen by librarian Renee Jones.
Back at the Drury, I was one of the four panel members for the “Communicating, Capitalizing, and Connecting in a Fictional World.” My fellow panelists included Mollie Hunt, known for her Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series; Patricia Fry, prolific author of the Klepto Cat series; and Sandra Murphy, short story author. During the presentation, a slide show created by Mollie was shown featuring the cats and books of the four panelists. After we each gave a brief bio, we opened up the session to Q & A and were glad to answer a variety of questions about fiction writing and cozy mysteries in particular.
Since many CWA members are non-fiction writers, some weren’t familiar with genre classifications and needed a definition for a cozy mystery. I provided one that described a story usually set in a small town with quirky characters and a murder that takes place behind the scenes and isn’t gory or grizzly. I also mentioned that foul language isn’t used and that romances are sweet with any sex scenes behind closed doors. Patricia added that the cats in these books are never harmed. At the end of the discussion, we raffled off some of our books. Maggie Marton won a copy of my latest Cobble Cove mystery, Love on the Rocks. I autographed it for her, and we took a photo together.
After the panel, I attended a session on “Instagram for Authors.” I have to admit that, although I have an account, I don’t use this social media platform often. Janiss Garza (JaniceGoddess), Jessica Spawn, (catmom), and Summer the Therapy cat, Janiss’ cat who has his own Instagram account (summerstravels), have now convinced me I should consider using it more. Their presentation included instructions on how to set up an Instagram business account and profile page and the best practices for Instagram (photos vs. videos vs. live video, stories vs. posts, and IGTV). They also had suggestions on how to reach your audience by following the big accounts in your niche and the smaller active ones as well as using 20-30 hashtags on posts.
The final presentation before the awards banquet was conducted by Bob Baker who is devoted to helping creative people make a living from their endeavors. His books include The Guerilla Music Marketing Handbook that appeared in the movie “The School of Rock,” The Empowered Artist, The Guerilla Guide to Book Marketing, and The Passion Principles, 55 ways to promote and Sell Your Book on the Internet, Unleash the Artist Within, and more. Bob’s presentation was called “Hypnotic Marketing: How to Create Descriptions and Sales Offers That Mesmerize Readers and Sell More Books, Products and Services.” It was a very interactive session where members of the audience read three different versions of the same paragraph and showed how the use of using “You” more often than “I,” can make a difference in capturing people’s attention. He also gave 3 steps to effective marketing and focused on the revenue-generating step. He gave the audience a laugh and a good example when he shared an email headline that produced a high open rate when he advertised his new release by writing, “I’m giving birth to my 8th baby–take a look.”
The highlight of the conference was the awards banquet the final evening. This was a chance for cat writers to strut their stuff, donning cat ears and fancy feline wear. The event started with former president and co-founder of CWA, Amy Shojai, accompanied by Marci Kladnik and Paula Gregg singing the tune”Muse” from Strays, a musical written and created by Amy. After the wonderful entertainment, the guests were invited to a delicious buffet dinner with a special 25th anniversary cake.
The winners of the special awards and the muse medallions, the equivalent of what Arden Moore called the Acatemy Awards, were then announced. Pet Safety Cat, Casey who teaches pet first-aid with Arden, assisted her in hosting. A complete list of the winners is posted on the Cat Writers’ Association website and can be found here.
Before my flight home Sunday, I took a pleasant carriage ride through town and visited the Old Courthouse near the hotel.
It was wonderful to meet and mingle with my fellow authors, cat writers and lovers, at the conference. As a long-time member who hasn’t been able to attend many previous conferences, I was glad to be able to make the 25th anniversary and also see some of the sights of St. Louis. It was also fun to have a few photos of my cats included in the conference and award banquet programs that were beautifully illustrated and designed by member Wendy Christensen.
I’m already excited about attending the next conference which will be in Edison, New Jersey next July during the Garden State cat show.
This week, I’ll be flying to St. Louis to join fellow members of the Cat Writers’ Association for their annual conference. This year, CWA will be celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary. I’ve been a member for twenty of those years.
Back when I decided to join, I was an unpublished author. I’d been writing for many years but; besides the articles I’d written for my college newspaper and the stories and books I’d composed in dozens of notebooks, I hadn’t submitted anything to be published professionally. Learning of this group that represented authors of all types who wrote about cats, I felt it would be suitable for me since I’d always been a cat lover and enjoyed reading cat mysteries by such authors as Carole Nelson Douglas famous for her feline sleuth Midnight Louie and Shirley Rousseau Murphy, who writes about Joe Grey, both of whom were members.
The only thing that stood in the way of my becoming a professional member of CWA was that I needed to have two published pieces. To fulfill this requirement, I began sending articles about my cats, Floppy and Holly, to pet magazines and newsletters. I wrote one about how I introduced Holly to Floppy that was published in the 1998 issue of Cat Fancy Magazine. I published another article on how to care for a cat with diabetes when Floppy became diabetic.
When my membership was accepted, I attended the 1999 conference in Kansas City and met Shirley Rousseau Murphy in person. I also met Amy Shojai, the then CWA president and founder. I felt right at home with these cat-loving authors and enjoyed the conference sessions, awards banquet, and meeting people with whom I had so much in common.
I regret that I wasn’t able to attend any conferences after that first one that was so enjoyable. Although I continued to write and kept up my membership, I didn’t have much time or opportunity to travel. I was working full-time as a librarian and had a young daughter. I continued, however, to write cat-related articles in pet magazines and, in 2001, published my first cat mystery, “Stitches in Time,” a short story that appeared in the anthology, Cat Crimes Through Time.
In 2008, I published my first novel, Cloudy Rainbow, that featured Floppy, who passed away the year before. I self-published the book and didn’t sell many copies, so I stopped writing for a time until a patron at my library encouraged me to write another book. In 2015, I published A Stone’s Throw, that became the first of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series featuring Sneaky the Library Cat. The series now consists of four books. This first edition was published by Limitless Publishing and was later reprinted by Solstice Publishing with whom I now have six books including the reprint of Cloudy Rainbow, as well as several short stories and a novella. I also recently published a standalone mystery, Sea Scope, with Creativia.
All my books feature cats who don’t play major roles or talk but usually help uncover clues to the mysteries. The 4th book of my Cobble Cove series, Love on the Rocks, recently won a Certificate of Excellence from the Cat Writers’ Association and is one of several up for consideration for the coveted Muse Medallion that will be awarded in St. Louis this Saturday night.
I’m looking forward to attending another CWA conference and appearing on a panel of cat fiction authors. I’ll also be signing books at the Missouri Humane Society’s fundraiser with other CWA authors.
My bags are almost packed, and I’ve managed to gather all my cat tops, cat ears, and other cat items to bring to the event in, what else, a cat suitcase. It should be fun as well as educational with speakers, editors, sessions on a variety of topics, and networking opportunities. My only regret is having to leave my three cats at home, but I know they’ll be happy when I return with my swag bag of feline goodies from all the wonderful pet company sponsors. The 25th anniversary will definitely be something to meow about!
Multitasking is counter-productive. Although I’ve suspected this for some time, Robbi Hess of All Words Matter in her seminar, “Overworked & Overwhelmed? 4-Step Process to Reinventing Your Writing & Your Routines,” stated that “multitasking is not your friend” and that the only way to get things done effectively is to focus on one task at a time. Hess also outlined a way for conference attendees to organize their goals.
You’re Perfect the Way You Are. This was one of the ending remarks of Kathleen Gage’s keynote address, “The Delaney Factor: Discover How to Overcome any Obstacle and Achieve More Than You Dreamed Possible.” Gage emphasized, through personal example and those of other people who have achieved their dreams despite setbacks, that the only person we need to compete with is ourself. We are all unique with unique talents and abilities, and we should not let fear or insecurity stop us from reaching higher goals for ourselves.
Content Differs by Medium. Twitter users know that they are restricted to 140 characters and that images are the primary focus of Pinterest and Instagram, but how are similar posts fashioned to reach audiences of various social media sites? Susan C. Willett, CWA member and award-winning blogger of Life with Dogs and Cats, explained with examples how this can be done in her presentation, “Telling Tales: How to Write & Craft Posts that Attract, Engage & Keep Your Audience Coming Back for More.”She also went over some important blogging facts such as keeping posts short, how and where to find ideas for posts, and the average length of a link that sets engagement (it’s longer than you think).
Networking in person at conferences and events adds a dimension beyond online networking. Although it isn’t always possible to attend in-person events because of costs or travel issues, the benefits outweigh the problems. Even if you are restricted to a local author event or book talk, meeting people in person, even those you “know” online, can forge a deeper connection. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Amy Shojai, CWA founder, CABC, and nationally known bestselling author and pet expert who writes the September Day series of novels, or “Thrillers with Bites,” as she calls them. Amy and I met for the first time years ago at one of the CWA conferences. We have been in touch online, but seeing her in person again after all these years was like reuniting with an old friend. I also enjoyed meeting Mollie Hunt, another CWA member and online friend, for the first time. Like me, Mollie writes a cozy mystery series, The Crazy Cat Lady Series. A new CWA friend, Dawn White, who I met at the conference and had not known online realized that we live very close to one another despite the fact that CWA has members all over the U.S. and several in other countries.
Attending Conferences can be stressful and tiring but also a lot of fun. While traveling and networking carry
some anxious and exhausting moments, they can also be enjoyable and fun. During the joint conference of BlogPaws and the Cat Writer’s Association, cats and dogs were seen throughout the conference center and were guests during sessions and at meals. The exhibit hall was full of booths featuring great products, information, and creative displays, some of them interactive. One of the sponsors, Red Roof Inn, a hotel chain where pets stay free, held a Sip and Paint Night where attendees painted a sunset beach scene with pets and, for those who wished, could have their paintings shipped home free of charge. The CWA kitty lounge included a feline/human astrologer, Ellen Zucker of Practical Astrologie. The CWA Happy Meower and awards banquet was a great opportunity for members to chat, grab a bite to eat and drink, and dress up in their fanciest cat clothes. Food was plentiful, and desserts beyond delicious especially one memorable Key Lime Pie. And, of course, the overflowing swag bags by the generous pet exhibit sponsors, made all the pets left at home happy when their person returned from the conference.
I had many other wonderful experiences at the BlogPaws/CWA 2017 conference. These are only some of the highlights and important concepts I learned.
In a few days, I’ll be leaving for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to attend the joint conference of the Cat Writer’s Association and BlogPaws. For those not familiar with these two great groups, let me fill you in. The Cat Writer’s Association (CWA) is a group of authors dedicated to spreading the word in all formats about felines. Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to encourage professionalism among cat writers, photographers, artists & broadcasters.” The group was founded in 1992 and is still going strong. Its first president was Amy Shojai, a nationally known, award-winning pet expert and CABC (Certified Animal Behavior Consultant) who has written numerous articles and both non-fiction and fiction pet books.
I am honored to have been a member of this association for many years and actually published my first two pieces of writing so I would be eligible for membership. Last year, I won a special award from Hartz Corporation for my entry, “Brush Your Cat for Bonding, Beauty, and Better Health,” in their annual contest.
BlogPaws is known as “the premier social media company for pets and their people.” Founded in 2009 by pet lovers and bloggers, Their website states that, in less than 5 years, they became “the go-to resource for pet bloggers and social media enthusiasts looking to build their online presence to enhance their social networks and support animal shelters and rescues around the world.”
The conference features speakers, workshops, one-on-one sessions, table topics, and much more. Topics range from branding, copyright, social media, videography, photography, SEO, and other areas of interest to writers, bloggers, and pet enthusiasts. The keynote speakers are marketing strategist and product-creation expert Kathleen Gage and New York Times bestselling author and most re-tweeted person among digital marketers, Jay Baer.
There will be a banquet dinner on Friday night, May 19, at which CWA awards will be presented. The Nose-to-Nose Blogpaws awards event is the following night along with a final party before the conference ends on Saturday, May 20. The exhibit hall where sponsors and other vendors will display their pet-related products and services throughout the conference will also feature a cat lounge where CWA members will sell books, offer giveaways, and provide information about CWA to those visiting their table. I will be volunteering there on Thursday, May 18 from 4-5 pm and on Friday, May 19, from 11-12. The conference hotel is also pet-friendly, and there will be a pet park as well as a rest/nap area for attendees who bring their pets. Although I’m not bringing my cats, I’ve promised them I’d bring home some kitty souvenirs.
To give you an idea of what goes on at a BlogPaws/Cat writer’s conference, here’s a video from last year’s event that I, unfortunately, couldn’t attend.
As with all conferences, the volunteers and sponsors are the ones who make things run smoothly. There will be special events hosted by Bayer, Merrick Pet Care, Pet Safe, Red Roof Inn, and VCA. Purina is also sponsoring the CWA Awards. For those who have registered for the conference, a weekly email newsletter is sent with updates and an online planner is available for them to organize their schedules. Blogpaws has also been hosting weekly twitter sessions about the conference on Tuesday nights.
I was asked to write a synopsis with a character-oriented focus to help my publisher create some cover copy for my upcoming book. While doing this, I began to reflect on how I created the varied characters, some major and some minor, in “A Stone’s Throw.” I think it’s pretty obvious that the librarian protagonist, Alicia Fairmont, is based on me. While she’s not identical in her personality or looks, there are some interesting similarities. When the story starts, she has been a librarian for 17 years. I’ve been one for over 20. She and her husband have been married 15 years without children. I had my daughter after 15 years of marriage. She has chestnut hair (some people consider my hair reddish brown), and she is quite stubborn (I’m a Taurus, need I say more?).
What about the rest of my characters? Going back to my previous analogy of authors giving birth to their book, I believe that their characters are their “babies” that grow throughout the story. In an online Gale Course I am taking on Mystery Writing, I am learning about the protagonist’s and antagonist’s flaws. No one is perfect, and characters share the same imperfections as real people, so it makes sense that they are based on real people – whether it’s the author or a relative, friend, neighbor, or acquaintance of the author. A character can also be a composite of more than one person. Characters are then shaped by their experiences, both the back story and the continuing plot.
Some authors create detailed sketches of their characters before even adding them to their manuscripts (I wish I had been one of those). Like me, others create characters as they write. It often feels that the characters create themselves.
Another type of character that adds interest to a book is the pet character. As a member of the Cat Writer’s Association, I am familiar with cat and dog mysteries such as those written by Rita Mae Brown, Carole Nelson Douglas, Shirley Murphy, Lilian Jackson Braun, Amy Shojai and others. While the cat and dog characters in “A Stone’s Throw” don’t speak or solve mysteries by themselves, they play important roles. Sneaky, the Siamese who is the Cobble Cove library cat, is modelled after my 15-year old Siamese cat, Oliver. Fido, the old, overweight golden retriever, is just the perfect type of dog for 80 year old Mac.
The most important thing about a character is that a reader can relate to that person and finds the person interesting, not a flat caricature. I believe one of my strong points as a writer is the way I depict characters. I hope you will agree when you read “A Stone’s Throw.”