When you are a novelist and musician and your vice is not drugs or alcohol but rescuing stray animals, you have to learn to stretch a dollar. And that’s what I am and that’s what I did. I was living in Los Angeles where I would often find injured animals such as birds or turtles, which I would take to my vet or a local wildlife rehabber for treatment. If the animals could be returned to the wild, we released them when ready. If this was not possible, they were given homes – often this was my apartment. I also adopted a number of cats and dogs. At my peak, my apartment included seven cats, a Springer spaniel, a poodle and two turtles. Cats and dogs are not so hard but for the turtle I had to buy a kiddie wading pool and deposit it in my living room. Trust me, it made a lousy coffee table. Have you ever tried resting your coffee mug on a moving turtle?
So getting back to stretching a dollar… As you can imagine, that’s a lot of mouths to feed, not to mention my own: I also have an annoying addiction to three square meals a day. I’ve always been very much into health and nutrition also and watch carefully what I eat. I wasn’t about to feed my clan any worse than I fed myself. With all those hungry stomachs and the lack of a money tree outside the building, I had to get creative. I had to learn to make my own cat, dog and turtle food. I went to the library, I talked to my vet, and I scoured the internet to come up with tasty yet reasonably priced alternatives that I could attempt in my tiny apartment kitchen. I baked, boiled and fried up a storm, too. Sometimes that ended up being more a storm cloud, like the time I tried to invent my own turtle food – a somewhat dubious combination of freshwater algal growth from the Topanga Creek, worms, snails, gelatin, strawberries and lettuce. A white cloud, whose smell I can only liken to putrefying zombie flesh, sent me running from the apartment. My neighbors wouldn’t speak to me for months afterwards.
Undeterred, I kept at it until I could feed both myself and my adopted family. Along the way, I also learned that there were actual people in LA whose job title was … drum roll – Gourmet Pet Chef! I was stunned. I was flabbergasted. Alas, I was also too poor to hire one. They worked mostly for the well-heeled, Beverly Hills type. But I realized that I could at least be one in a fictional world and, thus, the Kitty Karlyle gourmet pet chef mysteries were born with Dishing Up Death, in which readers meet Kitty as she starts her struggling business while dealing with the death of one of her first clients. In the follow-up, Lights Camera Murder!, Kitty finds herself the reluctant host of a new cooking show called ‘The Pampered Pet’ on CuisineTV. While shooting the pilot, the show’s producer is found in her office with a knife in her back – one of Kitty’s knives, to be exact. The list of suspects is long and time is short. Kitty needs to find the killer soon, or her own goose might be cooked.
Pet In Peril, the latest in the series, begins when a pet psychologist tells Kitty her dog and cat are suffering from lack of attention and recommends a pet-centric vacation. Kitty thinks the doc is barking up the wrong tree, but when her producer catches scent of it, he orders her to go. In fact, he orders the whole crew to pack their bags because he plans on shooting an episode of Kitty’s TV cooking show on location at the Little Switzerland Resort and Spa for pets.
Soon after Kitty and her best friend Fran arrive, tongues are wagging and fingers are pointing because ex-con, ex-late night infomercial guru, Victor Cornwall, is found strangled in his hotel room. The police start digging and discover that Fran’s family lost their life savings in one of Vic’s crooked money-making schemes – and Fran was the last one to see him alive. With the police now hounding Fran, Kitty has to get cooking and solve another murder.
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