Baxter and Maisie double team!

As is now Read by Candlelight tradition, I’m going to introduce the pets that Read by Candlelight is dedicated to. If I’d been thinking ahead, I would have dedicated the book to Cora, the most ghostlike of all the cats I have housesat. Instead, I went with Baxter and Maisie for their contributions to the editing process.

Baxter and Maisie belong to a writing friend, Jillian Barnes (, who, after several attempts at a family holiday were thwarted, took off with her husband for an amazing caravan adventure leaving me with Baxter and Maisie.

Baxter, a seven-month-old German short haired pointer and Labrador cross, was full on, from the moment he woke up at seven in the morning, until the moment he put himself to bed, usually around seven to eight pm at night. He was a lot of fun, but I learned fast that he was not a dog that could be left to his own devices. He did not enjoy being alone, even for so short a thing as me needing the bathroom. Even when we were in the same room, I had to keep my wits about me. More than once, I was really into working or editing, only to realise there was an ominous crunching sound coming from somewhere in the room. Baxter chomped on a gunboat, the lid of a coffee keep cup, countless cabbage tree leaves, a few sticks, his toys, the replacement toys, and a beautiful crochet blanket that Jill had created… Yeah.

Baxter with a massive stick

In order to keep up with Baxter, it was necessary to take him for lots of walks and play. Fortunately, there was an amazing park nearby with a dog park. Baxter loved haring around the park, bouncing all over the place and playing with the other dogs and they loved him too. Watching the dogs, I was really impressed how, no matter how excited they got, the dogs always remembered to tailor their energy to who they were playing with. Baxter preferred to tussle with dogs his size or a bit bigger, but when he played with smaller dogs, he never hurt them.

Baxter was really popular with the other dog owners too, many complimenting his coat or his good nature. I really enjoyed basking in Baxter’s associated glow. I also got to witness many fun dog park shenanigans. There was a yoga class who positioned themselves right at the point where the two halves of the dog park meet up. There is a hedge running down the centre of the park, with two gaps at either end. These gaps ended up channeling wave after wave of excited dogs directly into the yoga group, with very little warning.

Baxter and I would pair playing at the dog park with an extended walk around the park. I really enjoyed being out and about with him. I don’t like walking when it’s just me, but having a dog just adds so much to the walking experience. That we were in absolutely gorgeous surroundings, and the weather, with only two exceptions was amazing, didn’t hurt either! I lost working time, but I definitely gained energy and endorphins from my walks with Baxter. Sadly I have not managed to keep this habit up—I will have to find some excuse to hang out with Baxter again!

When Baxter put himself to bed, I quietly packed my laptop and myself down the hall to my bedroom. A few minutes after I’d got settled in, Maisie would appear and get herself settled in. She preferred to sit on my collar bone, but generally, after I failed to stay still enough for her satisfactions, she would migrate to sitting on my stomach, or next to me on the bed.

Maisie and me!

Baxter was a bit too exuberant for Maisie’s tastes, so they occupied different halves of the house. Since I spent most of the day with Baxter, Maisie was seemingly determined to make up for lost time. She was not shy, getting up close and cuddly and generally just being the sort of cuddly every cat owner dreams about…until she’d had enough and it was off to to stalk the night streets of Christchurch.

Baxter and Maisie might have been a bit of a handful, and while I did not get as much writing done as I had hoped, I had such a blast, I did not even care—the best kind of housesit!

The Dead Letter Office in paperback format, resting on a bed of autumn leaves.

Look what the mailman dragged in…

Jasper Carruthers has turned deciphering smudged addresses and avoiding conflict into a fine art. A crate from Egypt contains a problem he cannot return to sender: a mummified cat sought by a desperate thief. Failure to deliver the cat will give the Postmaster General—Jasper’s vengeful son—the excuse he needs to oust Jasper from the postal service.

Jasper’s attempts to deliver the package attract the interest of Captain Candy, an insufferable bore under the mistaken impression that Jasper tolerates him. Even worse: the cat does not seem to realise she’s dead. Jasper’s not sure if he needs an Egyptologist or an exorcist. There’s only one thing he’s certain of: he needs help.

Forced to trust Candy with his secret, Jasper may at last have found something worth fighting for—but can he deliver the package before the cat lets herself out of the bag?

The Dead Letter Office is book twelve in the Read by Candlelight series of standalone Gothic novellas featuring an expanding cast of LGBTQIA+ characters. Pairs well with a hot pot of tea and a biscuit.


The Dead Letter Office is currently available in epub format from my store here, and to my Patreon supporters in mobi and epub format here. It will be available for sale until October 2nd, at which time, in order to comply with Amazon’s KU terms of service, I will take it down. Amazon readers, you can preorder The Dead Letter Office here.