Welcome, Marilyn Levinson!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write mysteries, novels for kids, and the occasional romantic suspense. My first published book was a YA called AND DON’T BRING JEREMY, which came out in 1985 or 86. About fifteen years ago I started writing mostly mysteries. My most recent series is the Haunted Library mysteries, which I write as Allison Brook. DEATH OVERDUE (Oct, 2017) and READ AND GONE,(Oct 2018) the first two books in the series, have been receiving a good deal of attention and acclaim. DEATH OVERDUE was an Agatha nominee.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

 I live with my red tom Sammy, who is thirteen years old. Sammy is very smart and very affectionate. He also bites occasionally, which has earned him a pretty bad reputation among my friends, some of whom wish I’d gotten rid of him a long time ago. But I would never do anything like that! Sammy isn’t a model for any of the cats that appear in my books. Like the cats in my life, the cats in my books have their own distinct personalities.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

Smoky Joe is an important character in the Haunted Library series. The half-grown grey cat with the bushy tail appears one morning outside Carrie Singleton’s cottage in DEATH OVERDUE, the first book in the series. He jumps into Carrie’s car and since she’s late for work, she brings him to the library. She’s pleasantly surprised when Smoky Joe—as she names him—proves to be people-friendly and a big favorite of the patrons. Sally, her boss, finds herself having to agree that Smoky Joe is now the Clover Ridge Library cat. Of course Carrie brings him home with her at night. He plays an important role in READ AND GONE, the second book in the series.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading a Val McDermid mystery. She’s one of my favorite authors.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished writing the third book in the series. My working title is REFERENCED TO DEATH because the unpleasant reference librarian is murdered. With such an unpopular character that blackmails colleagues and neighbors, you can be sure there are many suspects. Smoky Joe proves to be a loyal companion to Carrie, my sleuth.

Who is your favorite author and why?

There are so many authors I adore and too many to name. I had to reread many Agatha Christie novels when I wrote my mystery MURDER A LA CHRISTIE because my characters, who are in a book club, discuss several Christie books. I discovered I still enjoyed her books and that they held up for me. I also reread Josephine Tey’s mysteries when I wrote MURDER THE TEY WAY. Again, the books were still wonderful to me.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I love to include animals in my books because I’ve had a furry companion most of my life. To me, the animals in my books are characters just like the people. In some of my books the animals play a role in helping to solve the mystery or they help their owners when their lives are in danger..

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

I loved the book and the movie “Lassie Come-Home.” Such a touching story about a devoted collie that wants to live with the boy he loves. I also loved the movie Seabiscuit, though I’ve never ridden a horse.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a writer or a ballerina. I started writing short stories in the second or third grade. After a while I stopped because I didn’t know how to write anything longer than a few pages. I needed to learn how to plot a story. I came back to writing in my early thirties when I was a young mother. I haven’t stopped writing since.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My Sammy lies close to me on my office carpet as I write. Usually he’s fast asleep. sometimes lying on his back.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

I have piles and piles of print mysteries waiting to be read. I also have hundreds on my Kindle. I play to read the “Best Mystery Short Stories of 2017” soon and another Val McDermid.

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

I write at my desk iMac, which has a big screen, something I require. I often read in bed or in the recliner in my office. Both places are very comfortable.

 What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Keep at it. Read. Join a critique group. Join Sisters in Crime and the Guppies if you’re a mystery writer. Keep on writing.

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Welcome, Melissa Gole!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Melissa Gole to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is Melissa Gole. I’m a nurse, a mum, a bellydancer and an author. I wrote blue after losing a colleague to suicide I saw people looked angry and were saying take, a tablet, call a line. I wanted people to know it was more then that. I saw on my therapist’s website he trained PTSD dogs and he often makes dog analogies during our sessions so that’s where the inspiration for blue came from. I think people are kinder to dogs then they are humans. If we know a dog’s been through something we’re kind to it. If a human’s been through something we tell it to toughen up and we can be cruel to it.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

We used to have a dog called Max who was a maltese x shitszu and would walk on his hind legs to beg. We had to give him away when we moved to Sydney. We are moving back to Port Stephens soon, so I am hoping to get a dog that I can train as a therapy dog. I’d love to do some volunteering.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

Blue was a great name for my dog because he crosses across so many different themes like feeling blue and the thin blue line. I wanted to get the idea out that the blue doggo is the one we look after.

What are you reading now?

I’m having a break right now but I have been reading many police ptsd stories. There are some great ones by Simon Gillard, Shaun O’Gorman and Jeff Garland. I’d strongly recommend them to see what a real-life hero looks like and goes through. It’s amazing to put a human face behind what they do. Definitely where Blue gets his adventure from. All great advocators and examples of how you can get through hard things too.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently writing another book about looking after people with dementia. I’m looking forward to it as its very poetic, but I want to make it a bit more positive.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Maureen McCarthy. I get lost in her stories. She has a way of making them educational as well as fictional learning about different issues from different times and places.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

Bugsy the bunny was my favourite. She looked like she had a big fur collar and like she had sass.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

All of my dogs were there own characters. They made their own world.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Because it would have been no where near as funny or engaging if it was a human.

Do you have any working or service animals in your stories? Tell us about them.

He could be. He works hard. Our police dogs serve as well and can be an essential part of the force. It’s sad hearing when people attack them.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

Dogs and Cat we’ve seen far too many times but it’s a great adventure.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

They’ve all had their moments of getting in and chewing things.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

It really was just an idea that came to me. My Dad used to always tell me stories so its kind of funny that its evolved like this now. I love that I’ve been able to integrate health information into a story.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why?

I’ve always wanted to go to Paris as that’s where my ancestors are from.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

How much work it would be and how much it would cost but it’s an important cause. I’m not making any money from it and it’s nice just to say that someone cares.

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

I’m between houses right now, so I’m becoming one o those people who hangs out in coffee shops to write mostly to get wifi, but I feel like I’m becoming pretty cliché.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Just follow your heart but think about planning and making a format for what I will evolve into.

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50 Fabulous Pet People That You Should Follow on Twitter

Sheri Levy is under the weather. We hope she’s feeling better soon. Heather’s filling in for her this week…

I love Twitter for keeping up with interesting people and cool ideas. And there are so many pet lovers out on Twitter. I started compiling a list and decided to share it. Here are 50 fabulous tweeters (in no particular order) that you should follow.

  1. Jeanne Adams
  2. Judy Penz Sheluk
  3. Sheri Levy
  4. Teresa Inge
  5. Maggie King
  6. Tracy Weber
  7. Debbie DeLouise
  8. Kristina Stanley
  9. Samantha McGraw
  10. Ernie and Bertie
  11. Krista Davis
  12. Ellery Adams
  13. Sparkle Abbey
  14. Bill Blume
  15. Humorous Animals
  16. Jayne Ormerod
  17. Cuties Overload
  18. Kristin Kisska
  19. Nuzzies
  20. Rosemary Stevens
  21. Barb Goffman
  22. Rosemary Shomaker
  23. Mary Burton
  24. Sherry Harris
  25. Edith Maxwell
  26. Kathleen Kaska
  27. Mollie Cox Bryan
  28. Donna Andrews
  29. Daryl Wood Gerber
  30. Spencer Quinn
  31. Dogs and Coffee
  32. Amy Reade
  33. Bethany Blake
  34. Libby Klein
  35. Leann Sweeney
  36. Mary Feliz
  37. Ellen Byron
  38. Maggie Toussaint
  39. Leslie Budewitz
  40. Janet Evanovich
  41. Kathi Daley
  42. Cats and Coffee
  43. Shari Randall
  44. Judith Lucci
  45. Standard Pups
  46. Fiona Quinn
  47. Annette Dashofy
  48. Victoria Hamilton
  49. Pens, Paws, and Claws
  50. And me, Heather Weidner

Who else would you add to the list?

 

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Welcome, Phil Hilliker

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Phil Hilliker to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I have been a freelance illustrator and graphic designer for the past 17 years, with the majority of my work focused on role-playing games and children’s books. After spending many years making pictures for other people’s words, I decided it was time to start focusing on my own. Right now I have a middle grade (aimed at eight to twelve-year olds) sci-fi novel on submission with my awesome agent, Erica Bauman at Aevitas Creative Management. I’m also revising a middle grade fantasy novel and several picture book projects. It’s pretty much all monsters or robots with me.

I have a short story and provided all the story header illustrations in River City Secrets: Stories from Richmond, edited by Lana Krumwiede and published by Chops Suey Books Books.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

My family has three pets—a betta fish named Sonic Blue, and two guinea pigs, David Bowie and Ringo Starr. We can’t take credit for those amazing names, though. They were already named when we adopted them. We wish we were cool enough to come up with those names.

All three are fairly new additions to the family! Sonic Blue has been with us about three months. We adopted David Bowie and Ringo Star about two months ago. So they haven’t made their way into my writing yet, but I’m sure they will at some point. They have such fun little personalities. David Bowie is always in the middle of the action while Ringo Starr hangs out in the background and avoids attention.

What are you reading now?
I read a lot of middle grade, because that’s what I write, and it’s important to know what’s happening in the particular category in which we write. I recently finished The Mothman’s Curse by Christina Hayes, which captured a wonderful family dynamic. It was easy to root for the characters. Currently, I’m also listening to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey—an adult fantasy novel that’s basically Jane Austin with magic. It captures the Edwardian vibe really well, and I’m enjoying the way she’s describing how the characters use magic.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.
I didn’t really. We had a cat for a short period of time that we believe was cat-napped. I still wonder what happened to her sometimes. But that was it. I have a deep love of cats, but I’ve developed a sever allergy to them as I’ve grown older, keeping my family from getting one now.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?
I don’t have any animals of note in the manuscript I currently have on submission. However, in the novel that’s currently being revised, there are several main characters who are animals. It’s a portal fantasy, where two boys travel to fairy, and in keeping with the tropes of the portal fantasy, they have a few animal sidekicks who talk and help them navigate the world.

I’m also working on a picture book that has a loveable chicken as the main character.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, even as a kid. But, visual art was naturally easier for me, so I went to art school and chased my natural talent with the idea that I would get around to writing when I had the time. That always seems to be the way, doesn’t it? But when I was well into my thirties without finding the time, I realized I’d better make it, or it would never happen.

So I wrote without telling anyone for a few years, figuring that pretty much everyone wanted to write a book and it wasn’t worth mentioning. Getting involved with James River Writers gave me the confidence to actually admit it aloud to folks.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?
I have physical TBR piles all over the house, not to mention the digital one on my Kindle and the holds I’m still waiting to come through at the library! I’m excited to read Gwen Cole’s sci-fi western Ride On and the second book in N.K. Jemison’s Broken Earth Trilogy. The first one, The Fifth Season, stunned and impressed me in ways no other book has in years.

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?
A child. I know that doesn’t really count, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying that, but taking care of a kid—really from infancy through toddlerhood—is a lot like having a pet. You’re constantly cleaning up after it, chasing it down, and trying to keep it safe. But those moments of connection and appreciation, that feeling that all is right with the world because this creature you’ve been caring for is showing their full appreciation, makes it all worth it.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
1) The literary world is one of contradictions without a lot of concrete answers. For every piece of advice out there, there’s either counter advice or someone being successful doing the opposite. It can be hard to know which advice to go with, so I’ll give you this piece of advice (knowing that someone out there is doing the opposite)—just do whatever you can to be easy to work with and don’t make other people’s lives harder. I think that’s the biggest secret to success. If an agent asks for certain materials in submissions, follow them, because you don’t want to be known as the writer who can’t follow directions. But if someone tries to give you the formula for producing a successful book, they’re probably full of it.

2) How long things would take, and to have patience. I started the novel that’s currently on submission eight years ago, never having written a novel, and totally not knowing how to write one. I completely rewrote it several times. I put it through a critique group and beta readers. I signed with my agent about a year ago and revised it four more times with her! My novel has had a long road. Now, just as I wrote in number 1 above, this industry is full of contradictions. Your book might happen very quickly. But, if you’re publishing traditionally, don’t enter into any project without some flexibility to how you think it should go.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Find a critique group! It’s not always easy to find a functioning critique group. They are a relationship that has to be built on trust and respect, which can be difficult to find. So even if you find your first critique group doesn’t work out, find another one. That’s what I did. My first critique group fell apart through a combination of factors, and I was sad when it happened. But, I’m in a solid group now that’s been chugging along for four years, and I would do anything for my critique partners. They’re amazing. Critique groups don’t always work. But when they do, they can improve your writing at an astounding rate while being a positive accountability factor to keep you going.

Also, join a professional group like James River Writers. Having a sense of community is key, and being in a community makes it easier to find a critique group!

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Welcome, B. Lynn Goodwin

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I own Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com. My memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62 was a National Indie Excellence Award Winner and a Human Relations Indie Book Award Winner. I’ve also written two other books, You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers and Talent, which was short-listed for a Literary Lightbox Award, won a bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was a finalist for a Sarton Women’s Book Award.

My shorter works have appeared in Voices of Caregivers, Hip Mama, Dramatics Magazine, Inspire Me Today, The Sun, Good Housekeeping.com, Purple Clover.com and many other places. She is a reviewer and teacher at Story Circle Network, and I am an editor, writer and manuscript coach at Writer Advice.

In addition, I got married for the first time six-and-a-half years ago at 62 and am the proud mommy of our aging toddler-in-a-fur-suit, Eddie McPuppers.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

Eddie is part terrier, part pound puppy, and part human. He’s been a columnist for a PetFinder newsletter. I was his typist.

He likes food, walks, toys, sitting in the sun, and guarding Mommy. Also snacks and table scraps. And belly rubs. He keeps adding to this list.

Eddie and his honorary older brother, Mikko, are in Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62. https://www.amazon.com/Never-Too-Late-Wannabe-Wife/dp/1633936082

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

Spike, named by my husband, is the dog that belonged to Sandee’s brother, Bri. He stayed at home when Bri joined the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan. He hung around outside and sometimes in Sandee’s room while waiting for Bri to return.

What are you reading now?

Unfortunately, I cannot name the book because it’s an entry in Story Circle Network’s Sarton Women’s Book Award Contest. I’m a judge there. There’s a dog in that book, a stray that found a home with the protagonist.

There are lots of racing dogs in Jamey Bradbury’s The Wild Inside. They play an important role. My interview with the author will be up until the beginning of October at Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com. I just finished Peter Swanson’s All the Beautiful Lies, but I don’t remember a dog in that one.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Shhh! Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, various flash fiction pieces, and an amorphous piece involving… Shhh!

Do you have any working or service animals in your stories? Tell us about them.

No but that’s a great idea!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Eddie and I were going through the Burger King drive-through window one day. I ordered chicken nuggets while he drowned me out. “Raahhh… Ruuffff…. MMMM!” Eddie said, trying to leap past the driver’s seat, out of the car, and into the open window where Burger King employees deliver food. “One big leap and I’ll be there, Mom. Wanna make a YouTube video?”

Burger King’s employees had seen pets before but never one quite so eager and articulate.

Now when my husband and I go through, he always gets a patty without a bun, explains to the voice in the box that it’s for the dog, and I break it into pieces so Eddie doesn’t swallow it whole.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Sometimes Eddie watches but often he lies in his personal space, underneath a chair in my office. The chair has a flounce around the bottom for easy doggie access and privacy. He loves his parents, but he’s not too sure about the titanium box with the black keys.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

Three-and-a-half. The half is for the books, sent for review, that are still in envelopes. Some non-contest books include Susan McBride’s Walk a Crooked Mile, Jill Hitchcock’s Rhino in the Room, Peng Shepherd’s The Book of M (which may be getting old for review), Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, Jonathan K. DeYoe’s Mindful Money, Tod Wodicka’s The Household Spirit (which may also be getting old for review), Rachel Jeffs’ Breaking Free, and more.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

The publishing world will always be changing and there is more to writing than I thought when people first told me I wrote so well.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Write daily. Take classes that promise feedback. Learn from the writers you respect. Work with people who praise as well as critique. Write more. Write in new settings. Read what you’ve written. Don’t be afraid to add and delete.

Never stop learning, growing, and reaching. There are no mistakes—only new material. (Of course some material can be polished and reshaped to make it better and more accessible.)

Meet B. Lynn Goodwin

  • Managing Editor of www.writeradvice.com
  • Author of Talent and You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers
  • blynngoodwin.com
  • Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62 —2018 National Indie Excellence Award Winner, Human Relations Indie Book Awards Winner, and Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist 
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Welcome, Susan Schwartz

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Susan Schwartz to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing:

I began writing in 2006 with freelance articles. I wrote on all sorts of topics and researched these pieces thoroughly. I made a little money, but I was more interested in fiction writing. I joined the Virginia Writers Club and started learning how to write with style. I found good mentors and people who wanted to help me succeed. I took over leadership of the club for two years giving back to the writing community and helping to mentor a few new writers.

I have been an Operating Room Nurse for 18 years. As you can imagine, I see many interesting and gory things while working. I channel many of those sights and sounds into my stories. I love blood and guts, and I tend to write stories where people are getting killed or maimed in some fashion. I try to write them with a twist making you wonder what hit you at the end. I have enjoyed this genre immensely because of its ability to lead the reader into something they are not expecting.

I have three short stories published at present in the Nightmares & Echoes series. They are “The Sparkling Floor,” “I Thought You Did,” and “Blurred Line.  “Blurred Line” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in Long Fiction by the Horror Writers Association in 2016. My non-fiction piece in the Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology is titled “Using my Karate Chops in Nursing.” I also have a non-fiction book coming in the Spring of 2019 titled Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties. I am quite excited about my stories and especially, my Haunted book.

Please check out my website to see future happenings and new books coming out soon. https://www.susanschwartzauthor.com.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for your writing?

I have had up to 14 feral cats in the past. We just lost the last one, Mr. Imp, in 2015. At present, we have two kittens, Manchego and Speck. We have multiple fish tanks, and we also love on one leopard gecko named Zoey.

I do not use them in my writing, but Zoey likes to help me write sometimes. She inevitably always goes off on a tangent about finding lost crickets.

What are you reading now?

I tend to read three to four books at once. My list at present consists of:

The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis. I love most everything Patterson has his name attached to these days.

You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. This one just sounded like an awesome book.

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Everyone has catastrophes to deal with, this was suggested to me by a neurosurgeon.

Dinosaurs in the Cornfield by William Hardison. I have known Mr. Hardison for almost 35 years, and this book is an amazing recollection of memories and life lessons.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am starting to research for another haunted book, possibly in the eastern region of Virginia. I haven’t quite decided yet. I have a paranormal romance novel that I have been working on for several years that I want to finish. I also have about six short stories in the works for a couple anthologies and just from pleasure writing.

Who is your favorite author and why?

For horror influences, I look to Stephen King and Bentley Little. The medical drama comes from Michael Palmer and Robin Cook. For general fiction, I like David Baldacci and Michael Connelly.

All of these produce a great story with plenty of red herrings to make you think something else is going to happen. Then BOOM! The carpet is pulled out from under you. I love that.

What ‘s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

Milo and Otis was definitely a favorite with the dog and the cat. I also so loved Homeward Bound. The voiceovers in both movies were simply the best. It always makes me wonder now when my cats are looking at me what they are thinking.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I started writing back in 2003 doing fanfic for several TV shows I watched at the time. They weren’t really great stories, but mainly continuations of what I thought should have happened. I really enjoyed writing the different views on some of the characters. Once these got some comments, I started wondering if I could write longer and more in-depth pieces. I am happy to say I can and I do.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Manchego and Speck are normally chasing each other back and forth through the house. Manchego is around nine months old, and we rescued her off the street on a cold winter’s night at the age of about two months. Speck is also a kitten that we found at the Goochland Animal Shelter in July to help Manchego get over her separation anxiety. He has been a welcome addition to the family, although it took about two weeks for Manchego to warm up to him.

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?

I thought about this one. These weren’t really pets, but I took care of them for a length of time. We had a baby squirrel named Lucky that had fallen out of his nest, and his mother never came to find him. My father, knowing my love of animals, called me to come get him and take care of him. It was a fun experience for about four days until we found a Wildlife Rehabilitator that would take him. Fun Fact: Squirrels are lactose-intolerant.

The second unusual animal we loved on was a Silverback Bat. This guy had fallen on our front porch and didn’t move. We were worried he was dead. We got a plastic container, much like the ones we kept crickets in for our gecko, and scooped him up with it. Over time, he started to move by hopping, so we named him Scooter. We also took care of him for several days until we could find a Bat Rehabilitator in the area. We discovered that he had burned up one wing. If he couldn’t fly, he couldn’t hunt for food. Sadly, he passed away a couple days later. I still have fond memories of him though, and I love to walk at dusk to see the bats flying. Fun Fact: Bats look just like puppy dogs in the face. Check out some pictures.

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?

The best advice given to me by many authors in different genres is to read that which you are trying to write. The greats in this genre, such as Stephen King, Bentley Little, and Richard Laymon, have shown me how to write and what people are looking for when they read this genre. Stephen King also wrote a book, On Writing, which has helped me a great deal as well.

Write what you know and love. Writing becomes much easier when you know where you want to go with a particular piece. I always know the ending. I leave my title for when I finish because you want to write a great story, and then finish it with a title that encompasses all that is inside.

Don’t stop because someone told you No. This just means you have to go another way instead of the path you are taking. Keep trying and don’t give up. You can do it!

About Susan

Susan Schwartz RN, MSN, MSHA has been an avid writer for 10 years writing freelance articles, editing manuscripts, and proofing medical competencies. She has published three short stories in the anthologies of Nightmare & Echoes I, II, and III and a non-fiction piece in the Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology. Her alter ego is an Operating Room Nurse/Nurse Educator who loves creating tales from the interesting and weird things she has seen. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Virginia Writers Club where she is serving as President of the Richmond Chapter. She also has two novels in the works, a paranormal romance and a medical thriller. In her spare time, she loves to read, travel to foreign lands, and traipse through old graveyards and cemeteries. Please leave feedback at susanschwartzauthor.com.

 

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Welcome, Joan Hicks Boone!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Joan Hicks Boone to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is Joan Hicks Boone and I am an author from Burnsville, Minnesota. My first book, The Best Girl, published by Koehler Books in may 2018, is a memoir about growing up in a home where Domestic Violence dominated. Prior to becoming a published author, I was served as a registered nurse for thirty-two years in a variety of settings in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I first found the poser of writing in a creative writing class I had in ninth grade. Mr. Hoffman was my teacher and he taught us how writing can be used in both a very personal, and public, way. Once I finished college and started my career and family, I didn’t have much time to write but I took it up again in my late forties and have been writing daily since then.

What are you reading now?

I tend to read about four books at once. Currently, I am reading Dopesick by Beth Macy, The Third Hotel by Laura Van Den Berg, and The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on The Choicemaker, which is the sequel to The Best Girl and I Understand, which will be a collection of essays from my nursing career.

Tell us about your pets.

As a child, I had two dogs. My first dog was Midnight, a beautiful black lab mix. Midnight dies by getting hit by a car in our neighborhood and I was devastated. My next dog was a Cocker Spaniel named TNT who was originally bred to be a show dog. He wasn’t able to compete due to crooked teeth, so he became our dog. He died after having him for about a year. I write about both of them in The Best Girl, as I was very close to them and missed them terribly once they were gone.

Currently, my husband and I have two black labs – Tehya (9 years old) and Tesla (18 months old). They keep us very busy and are very spoiled.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

Midnight and TNT are characters in their own right in my books. I grew up in a susubur bo St. Paul and I was out with them constantly. Everyone in our neighborhood knew Joanie and her dogs.

I have also written an essay, Golden that was a finalist in a writing contest. Golden is about my grand dog, Olive, who is extremely self-aware of her golden retriever beauty. The essay showcases her drama as I walk her in the Seattle neighborhood she lives in. The neighborhood has a fair amount of homeless people whom Olive provides joyful, beautiful “golden moments” to. My father died as a homeless person, so I tie his love for dogs into the essay. For those who are interested, the essay is posted on my blog page.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

Too many piles to keep track of! But at the top right now are My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsberg and I’ve Been Thinking by Maria Shriver.

I am also in the start-up phase of an online book club that will feature books about health care and am cultivating a list for that. This will coincide with the writing of the book, I Understand, a collection of essays from my nursing career.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Keep at it, don’t give up. Life is busy and throws a lot of curve balls in trying to find the time to write – don’t stress out if you aren’t able to write very single day – rejoice in the time you DO have to write and make the most of it.

Start a website and FB page or other social media as soon as you think you may be on to something that will be published. The better following you have going in, the more sales you will have once published.

Obtain Beta-writers as soon as you feel you have something worthy of publishing. I chose three people from different areas of my life – I met with them individually while I wrote The Best Girl and their feedback was overwhelmingly helpful.

About Joan:

Joan Hicks Boone is an author and speaker from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Joan is a former registered nurse who practiced in a variety of settings in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for over 32 years.

In her memoir, The Best Girl, Joan Hicks Boone takes readers through the experience of growing up in a family struggling with alcoholism, domestic violence, neglect, and other dysfunctions. Throughout the book, readers will see and feel what Joan saw and felt as a toddler, young child and adolescent – and how, throughout all that happens, she holds out hope that by being The Best Girl, her father will be healed, and her mother will smile.

Joan is currently working on her second book, The Choicemaker, a sequel to The Best Girl. For more information about Joan, visit her website at www.joanhicksboone.com.

Synopsis of The Best Girl

Joan’s neighborhood is filled with kids of all ages – a select few are considered her friends, but even they don’t know how violent Joan’s dad is. As she navigates the troubled waters of her home life, Joan becomes adept at reading her dad’s mood, and trying to prevent him from inflicting harm upon her mom. But, time and again, her dad succeeds in his mission. As the violence escalates, Joan is plagued with the constant fear that her mother may die. Repeatedly she asks the same questions: why is her dad so violent and why can’t he be stopped? Throughout the course of her childhood, several heroes enter Joan’s life – readers will cheer for each as they offer Joan gifts of validation, acceptance and hope.

Joan is an exceptional, yet frank, storyteller who brings the reader directly into her home, providing unembellished awareness of the multiple issues that encompass domestic violence. The Best Girl is a story of resilience and survival and, as the book concludes, readers are left with feelings of possibility and hope: it appears that sixteen-year old Joan is going to make it.

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Welcome, Judith Lucci

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Judith Lucci to the blog.

Hi Heather, it’s such a pleasure to be invited to your Paws and Claws blog. I’m a fellow animal lover so anything I can do concerning animals becomes a priority for me.

I write medical thrillers, crime fiction and cozy mysteries. My medical thrillers, the Alexandra Destephano series, is set in New Orleans and in Virginia. Alex is a young nurse who gets a law degree from UVa and moves to the Big Easy to work for a large medical center. Many of my own experiences as a nurse are included in this thriller series. The sixth book, Run for Your Life, releases this fall.  The Michaela McPherson crime fiction novels, ‘Two Sleuths and a Dog’ are set in Richmond Virginia, the city where I was born. Main characters include Michaela, a RPD retired homicide detective, her former partner, K9 Angel, and Dottie, her 82 year old Italian Countess friend. The trio solves international crime. The fourth book, The Case of the Very Dead Lawyer, releases on October 23rd. My cozy series, Artsy Chicks is set at Massanutten, Virginia. The Artsy Chicks are group of quirky, zany artists who manage a gallery at the resort and the Artsy Chicks books feature stories about the customers they meet every day.

I think every author needs a pet, either a dog or cat, to keep them company while they write.  I currently have four shih tzus that are a focus in my life. None of them are featured in my books, but in my Two Sleuths and a Dog series I have Angel, a retired Richmond canine who is often the star of the series. Angel was Michaela’s partner on the police force. He took a bullet for her and saved her life. Angel was retired from the RPD with honors and Mic adopted him. Now they live together in Mic’s Fan District home and solves international crime, along with the Countess Dottie Borghase.

In late July, I released a set, Summer Snoops and Cozy Crimes, with 11 other cozy authors and raised money for non-kill shelters. I’m happy to announce that we’ve sold over 22,000 books and are delighted with the response. One hundred per cent of this money will be sent to designated to non-kill shelters. I’m also pleased to announce that Summer Snoops and Cozy Crimes is still a #1 Best seller on Amazon. The book also made the USA Today and the Wall Street Journal best seller lists which delighted all of us!.

This fall, along with 20 other incredible authors, I will release Love Under Fire, a 21 book romantic suspense boxed set with all new novels by 21 Wall Street Journal, USA today and Amazon best-selling authors. This set is incredible.  Here’s the blurb!

LOVE UNDER FIRE

“When Love Sparks Danger get ready for an explosion!”

Twenty-one Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and bestselling authors bring you a heart-pounding collection of stories all in one amazing romantic suspense boxed set.

On the road to love lurks mystery, betrayal and greed.

With every turn of the page, romance smolders and fiery suspense lights up the night. Feel love and pain as you fight alongside the tenacious heroes and heroines as they battle for their love and survival. They’ll put everything on the line to thwart the danger coming after them.

They want to trust in the power of love. But is it enough? Available EVERYWHERE.  Click and HELP US SUPPORT VETERANS AND SAVE THE LIVES OF ANIMALS.

 https://books2read.com/LoveUnderFire

We’ve designated Pets for Vets as the charity for this set and have formed an official relationship with them. I’d love it if you’d pick up a copy to help us help the men who keep us safe. I’m excited about this collection and delighted to work with romance authors for the first time in my life! The book will release on November 13, just in time for Veterans Day. My book in this outstanding series is my sixth medical thriller, titled Run for Your Life. If you buy it soon, there is a 19 free book incentive that we are offering. Please help us help Veterans and save Pets!  It’s a winning combination.

I love to read and for me reading is a reward after a hard day of writing. I’m currently reading a book by Liliana Hart, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I’ve read many of her books and enjoy Liliana’s writing style.  On my to be read list, I have quite a few books by Indy publisher Leslie Wolf. Leslie writes very much like I write, and I really enjoy her books. I also like Mary Burton’ work, another Richmond author. I don’t have one favorite author. I have dozens of favorite authors. I also love to read historical novels and one of my favorite authors is Indy writer Jana Petken, who lives in Spain.

I’m a true, dedicated animal lover – you can ask anyone. I can’t imagine sitting around my house without a dog in my lap or next to me. My dogs are with me when I write. They’re also with me when I paint. I can’t imagine life without them. I’ve had dogs and cats my entire life. I had a little mutt named Pepsi-Cola when I was about eight or nine years old. We sort of grew up together I also had a collie named Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring. I think animals make us better humans. I recommend one or two or even three for everyone!

I’ve told you about Angel, the canine in the Michaela McPherson series.  Angel is often the hero in the book. Alex also has a rescue military dog in books four thru six of my med thriller series. I have a another medical thriller planed that will feature medical dogs and education people about how dogs save lives. I do this so people understand that police and military dogs are critical in every single day. I don’t think enough people understand or appreciate their value.

The number one item on my bucket list is to spend six months on the Spanish coast. I love Spain and I taught there for a few years.  I want to go back! If I could figure out a truly safe way to get my animals to Spain, I’d be there. My dogs are older, as a matter-of-fact they’re almost senile, so I can’t travel and have anything happen to them. We’ve checked out airlines but have ruled out flying because my dogs are a short-nose breed. We’re also looking at taking a ship to Spain. If have any ideas, let me know!

I think I knew I was a writer when I first learned how to write, maybe in the second or third grade. I used to write little short stories with the picture above them. I encourage this with my grandchildren, hoping they’ll love to read and write, too.

As a college professor, my writing was limited to research studies and scholarly articles. I co-authored several med-surgical textbooks and other texts during my professional life. I’ve written numerous research articles and concept papers. I can assure you that making up stuff and writing down is a lot more fun. I love fiction intermingled with my life-long experiences as a nurse.

I’ve been writing for about six years and I think a bit of wisdom to pass on is the importance of good editor and proofreader. In truth,  none of us can edit ourselves. I can’t always see the corrections after they’ve been made so, in my opinion a content editor and a copy editor are essential to have as consultants. I also wish I had completely understood Amazon and their algorithms. In truth, they change them all the time, but I think a thorough understanding of how to do your landing page and social marketing would’ve been helpful. I’ve been told that it’s hard to make money as a writer until you have multiple books, so I would encourage you not to get discouraged but to keep on keeping on.

I want to thank Heather for inviting me to be a part of Pets, Paws and Claws. It’s been great. I always like to hear from people so feel free to check out my website@JudithLucci.com or email me at Judith Lucci writes@Gmail.com.

Many thanks for your attention and please purchase Love Under Fire so we can help veterans get pets! It’s a win-win. Oh, and if you go to my website and follow me, you’ll get a free book!

Judith Lucci, PhD., RN

WSJ Best Selling Author

USA Today Best Selling Author

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

 

Website: www.judithlucci.com

Email: judithlucciwrites@gmail.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/judith.lucci

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JudithLucci

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judith-lucci

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Judith-Lucci/e/B00AUVN0GK/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

 

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Meet Charles Wendt: K-9 Trainer, Search and Rescue Team Member, Writer

I had the pleasure of interviewing dog trainer, search and rescue team member, and author, Charles Wendt, about his adventures with Jasta.

Heather: Tell our readers a little about yourself and K-9 Jasta.

Charles: After competing sport performance horses in dressage and eventing for a couple of decades, I was ready for a change of pace. My grandfather had trained dogs for the navy during World War II, and I loved shows like Rin Tin Tin K-9 Cop growing up, but other callings when I was a young professional had kept me from fully engaging with working dog activities. At first I thought I would go do dog sports like Schutzhund, but I had hundreds of horse show ribbons in plastic tubes collecting dust in the basement, and wanted to do something more meaningful than add dog show ribbons to them. When time was finally right about two years ago, I embarked on a path to be a Search and Rescue Dog Volunteer Handler for Live Wilderness Air Scent. Jasta came to me as an eight-week old Belgian Malinois, and we’ve spent the past year training to become operational for searches (only one more year to go!).

Heather: What is a “Live Wilderness Air Scent” dog?

Charles: Unlike a bloodhound which follows scent on the ground, an Air Scent dog finds the person by using the cone of scent emitting from a subject and moving with the air. This is a good discipline for finding someone lost in a 200-acre patch of woods and you don’t know where they walked to start on their trail. Of course the odor you are rewarding the dog for finding is “live human scent.” This works great in the state forest, but in a city park you would find a whole bunch of people who aren’t lost, making your K-9 team a better resource for “wilderness” search tasks.

Heather: What type of training goes into developing a search dog?

Charles: Our search team trains one day of each weekend as a group, mostly at State Parks or State Forests. There is a lecture topic at first light which goes for forty-five minutes or so, and then we do some group dog obedience. After that, we take turns working search problems until it gets dark. We practice in all weather conditions and temperatures, and once every couple of months we do a night training. During the week you need to practice at home to show improvement week to week.

Heather: Wow, with all that how do you find the time to write?

Charles: I think that is one of the most challenging aspects of being a writer these days. Life is busy with relationships and commitments, you really have to learn to juggle different tasks and shoe-horn them in when you can. On the search team, we all have to take turns being “lost” for the dogs to find, leaving you sitting against a tree for a few hours. I like to use that time to develop plots lines and flesh out characters. That way, when I get to be in front of the keyboard, the story seems to flow off the fingertips better.

Heather: How long have you been writing?

Charles: My first book was a self-illustrated story I did in fifth grade about a lion who didn’t have a kingdom even if he was supposed to be king of the jungle. Like most, I enjoyed writing short stories in high school and started attempting novels in college, and later while serving in the military. Especially during that year in Korea. Nothing worthy of pursuing publishing, however. I got married and transitioned to corporate life. Being settled allowed me to pursue seriously competing horses. I didn’t write for a couple of decades! Then, it was time for my last horse to retire, and I didn’t want another. My big-corporate job ended soon after, and I had some time to regroup life. The world had also changed with Amazon’s Kindle and the options to self-publish. New Year’s Day of 2016 found me banging on the computer keys surrounded by sleeping dogs, and it felt good.

Heather: Tell us a little about your current writing project?

Charles: My Kelton Jager series is about an Iraq War veteran who comes home with his ex-military working dog, Azrael, and has trouble finding a job. He walks his dog into a town, makes town a little better than he found it, and then walks his dog down the road to the next town. My vision was for real and gritty, with an imperfect hero, instead of being larger than life or cuddly. I’m preparing to launch the fifth in the series where Kelton feels duty bound to help a small beachside sheriff’s department solve a teen girl’s abduction but is worried law enforcement will discover arrest warrants from his past vigilante deeds before she is rescued. Kelton’s character grows by settling on a life’s path that is right for him and his dog, even if he knows his deceased mother would be disappointed.

Heather What type of relationship do you have with K-9 Jasta and how has it influenced your story writing? I mean, real Jasta and fictional Azrael are both Belgian Malinois?

Charles: While Search dogs and Military dogs aren’t the same thing by a longshot, I sure am learning a lot about the day to day management of working K-9’s from Jasta. My dog loves me, is bonded to me, but even though I love furry snuggles, I can forget it. He wants to fetch or play tug and can be quite assertive in expressing his wishes. We’ve an hour walk before work, and another when I get home, and all of it off leash on the farm so he can run around. Physical stimulation isn’t enough, though. We’re always working on a new obedience exercise or trick for the mental side of things. In short, while he is a wonderful working dog, he’s the absolute worst pet I’ve ever had. Having firsthand knowledge of this dynamic has let me portray the breed realistically in my stories. I want my readers to understand what it’s like to have such a dog for the majority of the time when the dog is not getting to be a hero.

Heather: What are some of the most outrageous things K-9 Jasta has done?

Charles: I could swear in court that he doesn’t have paws in front, but rather hands. He’s turned on the water on the side of the house numerous times. I need to teach him to turn it off when he’s done. He can work doorknobs, and even pull doors open to get through. Our home has several exterior doors, and I will be seeing my fuzzy buddy very shortly after throwing him outside if they aren’t all locked. He will go and check every one of them. High energy problem solvers like him will keep you on your toes.

Heather: Have you always liked books or movies with an animal as a central character?

Charles: My most favorite novel of all time is Richard Adam’s Watership Down, about a warren of rabbits needing to relocate because of a housing development. I experienced the animated film when in the sixth grade and read the novel three times before getting through high school and college. It’s not just about the incredible adventure, but also the drama in the relationships between the characters. I was most saddened to learn of the author’s passing just after I published my first book, K-9 Outlaw, and I note his influence on me. For example, even though my genre is driven by realism instead of fantasy, I always do a scene from the dog’s point of view because animals are characters with goals and motivations like everyone else.

Heather: What are you reading right now?

Charles: I’ve just finished Nelson DeMille’s The Gold Coast, and I enjoyed it so much I went on to its sequel, The Gate House. Its main character is a successful man, about my age, who is nonetheless a little bored. The difference being I pursued joining a K-9 Search and Rescue team, while the tax lawyer character in DeMille’s book takes on a mafia boss as a client even though he has no background in criminal law. Both of us have a wild ride after.

Heather: What advice would you give to new dog owners or folks interested in adopting a new four-legged family member?

Charles: For the love of God, don’t get a Belgian Malinois! No, I’m not kidding. Other than that, I’m a big proponent of forever homes and until death do we part. When people announce they need to rehome their dog because of a new apartment or new job, I’m like, then why did you make such a choice to move? One must understand it’s a long commitment and your moral obligation to follow through on that promise. That being said, hardly any home is perfect but most certainly better than being at the shelter. Make a difference in this fuzzy baby’s life, and I guarantee it will make a positive difference in yours.

Heather: What advice would you give folks for traveling with their dogs?

Charles: I’ve wrestled with that both from driving all over the state for training, as well as the two-day journey to visit my parents. First is the planning aspect of the trip. I don’t just look for a dog friendly motel, but rather such a motel that is near a state park. After driving all day, an hour walk is just as good for me as it is my dog. The scenery is always beautiful, and fees are just a few dollars. Second, I love my Trans-K9 kennel for the “it’s super-hot and I can’t leave the dog in the car, but I have to go inside and use the facilities” conundrum. You tell the company the year, make and model of your vehicle and they provide a dog crate that fits your vehicle’s cargo area which has locks on it. That way you can lock the car with the hatchback open (and sunroof). No one can take your dog or get inside your vehicle, but he’s no warmer than just being outside. The battery powered fans make it even better.

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Welcome, A. R. Kennedy!

Pens, Paws, and Claws welcomes A. R. Kennedy!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is A R Kennedy. I’ve been writing novels for seven years, but the stories have been in my head for as long as I can remember. I have a self-published mystery series, The Nathan Miccoli mystery series. I’ve also written a legal thriller and a cozy mystery (which I plan to expand into a series).

Saving Ferris, a legal thriller featuring a golden retriever, is available for pre-order now. Cover reveal coming soon!

Additionally, I love writing short stories and have won the Writers’ Police Academy’s Golden Donut story in 2016 and 2017.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

I currently share my home with a seven pound dog, h, of unknown breed but is full of spunk. Although a cuddler and a love in our home, he’s a spitfire on walks. My neighbors call him ‘killer’ because all he does is bark at them.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

Laude, a secondary character in the Nathan Miccoli series, is a beautiful black miniature schnauzer. She is a combination of two schnauzers I’ve had. (Sadly, both have passed). Laude has the beauty and attitude of L while also possessing the lovability and friendliness of H. Laude appears in all the novels.

In Saving Ferris, a legal thriller, Ferris is a golden retriever who has failed out of service training. After Cecilia’s husband dies, she’s forced to become Ferris’s caregiver, something she does not immediately warm to. But when his life is threatened by an intruder, she shoots the intruder to save Ferris. The prosecutor feels that Cecilia has committed murder, not self defense. In the eyes of the law, one can use lethal force to protect themselves and others, but not property. Pets are considered property. Cecilia endures a murder trial where her defense attorney forces everyone to ask themselves, Is the your pet property or family?

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on upcoming novels in the Nathan Miccoli mystery series and in the Traveling Detective series, a cozy mystery series I’m currently seeking representation for.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

My parents had a mini schnauzer, Kelly, when I was born. A few years after she passed, after years of begging for a puppy, I picked out C, a miniature-toy poodle. After college, at my first professional job, a co-worker told me her dog was pregnant and I needed a dog. I hesitated but the hesitation flew away when she told me the mom and dad were miniature schnauzers! I met L soon after she was born and we bonded instantly. (She also peed on me!)

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

I’ve written an entire novel, Saving Ferris, inspired by the love so many of us feel for our pets. There’s no doubt my dogs are members of the family and I know so many people feel the same. But the law does not.

In the Nathan Miccoli mystery series, although I consider Laude a major character, most would consider her a minor character. If we’re reading Lily’s point of view, Laude is probably right there with her.

In the Traveling Detective series, after book one, there will also be a pet. But because Naomi’s adventures occur while on vacation, we probably won’t get to see her cat, Cher, too much.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I love animals. For my day job, I visit people in their homes. I always make it a point to say hello to each of the animals, including the birds! People are often surprised how their animals, cats and dogs, take to me right away. On our last visit, I always tell people I’m terrible with names and may not remember them if they call me with updates but just mention their pet and I’ll remember everything about them.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When L was a puppy, my roommate had a cat. L and the cat (it’s been too long I can’t remember her name!) would chase each other all day. After taking L on her midday walk, a neighbor asked for the package I was holding for her. She followed me to my apartment. When I opened the door, L saw the cat and took off after her. Surprised by the quick and strong pull on the leash, and distracted by the neighbor, I was pulled to the floor, landing flat on my face. The neighbor, who I did not know well, just stared at me as I got up. I handed her the package, assuring her I was alright. (Nothing was injured but my pride). The neighbor never passed me again without laughing.

(My ten-pound L pulling down the seven foot Christmas tree is also a good story.)

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why?

Most of my bucket list items involves travel and animals. I’ve been fortunate enough to view the Big Five while on safari in South Africa (which inspired a cozy mystery novel and birth of my series, The Traveling Detective), to swim with penguins, a shark and seals in the Galapagos, and to observe kangaroos and koalas in the wild and feed them and a plethora of other native animals at a sanctuary in Australia.

A gorilla trek in Uganda remains unchecked on my bucket list.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

h lies on my lap as I write. He often scratches my arm for belly rubs while I’m trying to work. He’s lying next to my leg right now!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

I love to read and write on my couch, with h next to me.

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