Welcome back, Nupur Tustin!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Nupur Tustin back to the blog. Congratulations on your new book!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

First of all, let me say that it’s wonderful to be back! Last time I was here, I told your readers that I misuse a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate murder in Joseph Haydn’s Austria.

I have to confess, I’m still at it. Prussian Counterpoint, the third Joseph Haydn Mystery, came out just about thirteen days ago.

When I visited last year, I was in the throes of writing the novel, and although I plot all my novels, this one was written a little more intuitively than others. If your readers have watched The Man Who Invented Christmas, they’ll know what I mean. That the experiences we encounter and engage in can influence the shape our novel takes—more so when we have a strict deadline to follow.

I talk about this quite a bit in Rehearsal Notes, the free companion novel I was offering readers who preordered the book. I’m happy to extend that offer to any of your readers who buy the book by the end of this month.

So, then did blogging for Pens, Paws, and Claws influence the third novel at all?

Funny you should ask, because, yes, it absolutely did. I remember being a bit apprehensive about being interviewed.

“But my novels don’t really include pets,” I protested. “Eighteenth-century individuals don’t appear to have viewed their horses and dogs as pets.” You allayed my fears.

And so I focused last time on explaining to readers why historical mysteries typically don’t involve pets, but I did mention a couple of odd characters who were very fond of their dogs: Marie Antoinette and Frederick the Great.

You wondered at the time whether Frederick’s dogs would be given a key role in the novel. Now I hadn’t really intended to do so, but your question gave me pause. And the more I considered the matter, the more of an excellent idea it seemed. And so Frederick’s Italian greyhounds do get a small but significant role in the plot. They also provide Haydn with an important clue.

We’d love to read an excerpt.

Yes, of course. Now this is the first time that Haydn and the reader encounter Frederick’s spoiled Italian greyhounds. The servants had to address them using the formal “Vous,” instead of the more usual third person. The hounds were served special food in special bowls and were warmly welcomed in their royal master’s bed.

In this scene, they’re in the opera house and Haydn, as you’ll see, is rather uncomfortable about this situation:

“What think you of our opera, my dear Haydn?” The King, who had insisted the Kapellmeister be seated next to him, tapped him on the knee. The Italian greyhound at his feet shifted, flopping itself onto Haydn’s feet.

The Kapellmeister stiffened. He had nothing against dogs. On the hunting fields, no animal could be more useful. But what kind of man brought a dog into an opera house? God forbid, the creature should do its business on his shoes!

On the stage, Medea complained of having lost the love of Jason. A most unsuitable subject for the occasion, Haydn privately thought. This opera about a woman who forced her unfaithful husband to devour his children. But it was not the sort of remark one made to a King.

“It is a most intriguing subject, Your Majesty,” was all he could think of saying.

“Indeed.” A pair of piercing blue eyes fastened themselves upon Haydn’s features. “And why is that?”

Haydn took a deep breath and took the plunge. “One wonders how a man would react under the circumstances, Your Majesty.”

“A man would simply cut his losses and move on, Haydn. But women rather than accepting their fate try to interfere, thus spoiling everything.”

Haydn’s eyes flickered involuntarily to the Empress. Was that the King’s assessment of Her Majesty, then?

“My remarks appear to have hit the mark.” The King’s softly uttered words pulled Haydn’s gaze back. His Majesty’s well formed lips were curving into an amused smile. “You have the misfortune of being acquainted with such a woman, I suppose, Haydn.”

The Kapellmeister felt his cheeks burn at the insinuation. His nostrils flared. “Your Majesty is mistaken,” he said as calmly as he could manage. The sound of teeth clicking against metal reached his ears.

The infernal greyhound was chewing on the buckles of his shoes.

“Pepi!” The King called sharply, giving Haydn a start. But it was only the dog that His Majesty was addressing. So, the hound was christened Joseph, too! God be thanked, the King had not seen fit to nickname the creature Sepperl.

Explain Haydn’s reaction to the dog’s name.

The name Joseph, Haydn’s name, that is to say, had two diminutives. One was Sepperl. This is what Haydn’s parents called him. The other was Pepi. So naturally, Haydn gets a start when the King calls out this particular nickname. Can you imagine how insulted an eighteenth-century individual would feel about having a hound named after himself?

I like to think Haydn would’ve taken it in good spirit. He was never inclined to take himself seriously.

Do Pepi and his greyhound friends get any other scenes in the novel?

Yes, as a matter of fact, they do. They’re not particularly good guard dogs, too lazy to bark at anyone or even to take any notice of anyone who walks past them. This time, it’s the Prussian King’s principal court secretary, Anton Eichel, who encounters the dogs:

Eichel stepped out of the picture gallery to the sounds of an ever-growing commotion. It appeared to be coming from the cluster of rooms beyond the chamber he occupied as principal secretary.

The noise was loud enough to arrest his motion, but Eichel noticed that the King’s Italian greyhounds—sprawling lazily on their embroidered cushions—dozed on undisturbed. His own footsteps on the stone floor had merely caused one of the three dogs to open a single eyelid and glance reproachfully his way over a long, pointy snout.

Do make that infernal noise stop, Eichel, the creature seemed to be saying. We are trying to nap! In the principal court secretary’s head, the greyhounds sounded just like their master, with a voice just as high-pitched and mannered as the King’s.

What are you reading now?

I’ve been devouring Aaron Elkins’ art mystery series. He writes the Alix London series with his wife Charlotte Elkins and he’s also written a few standalones. I’ve just finished A Long Time Coming. A stupendous novel!

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new series with a new character. Haydn has several more cases to solve, but he’s informed me that he wants to focus on his music for a bit before I confront him with his next dead body. I think the poor man must be heartily sick of stumbling upon corpses.

He’ll do his duty and stumble upon more at my request, but I can understand his need to focus on something a little more pleasant for just a little while longer.

Who is your favorite author and why?

This changes all the time. At the moment, it’s Aaron & Charlotte Elkins. I love the cozy-thrillers they write. The books are fast-paced with a strong sense of danger, but you still get still get that sense of place and the sort of local flavor that’s only possible in a cozy. And their characters are wonderfully drawn as well with such fascinating backstories!

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

I usually don’t—not in my historical series, at any rate—for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. Prussian Counterpoint was an exception, and I enjoyed writing the dogs into the plot. For the most part, though, if the plot calls for animals, I’ll use them. That may not always happen, and that’s fine.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

This isn’t a funny story, but it’s one I fondly remember. About seven years ago, when my eldest was just a tiny baby, Chicken, our younger pit bull, trotted into the kitchen and nudged me back toward the bedroom. Rena had just woken up from a nap and was crying. Washing dishes in the kitchen, I hadn’t heard her. If it weren’t for Chickie, she’d still have been crying.

That wasn’t the first time, Chickie alerted me to Rena’s crying. While she slept, he and Fatty would sit on either side of her nap-nanny on our bed and watch over her. It’s memories like these that I’ll always cherish.

We’ve lost both our pit bulls, unfortunately. Some day when the kids are a bit older, we’ll get a couple more dogs. For now, we’ll have to make do with our memories. Both Fatty and Chicken were great dogs—and very patient with their three rambunctious human siblings!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
I think the most important advice anyone can give someone just starting out on this path is that you have to believe in yourself in order to stay the course. It’s easy to let other people and setbacks discourage you. But when you do that, the only person you’ve disappointed is yourself.

When I first conceived of the Haydn Mysteries in 2012, I never thought I’d get one novel written, let alone publish three! I’m glad I persisted. And I hope to keep writing until I draw my last breath.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Readers interested in getting a Complimentary Taste of Murder are invited to visit http://bit.ly/Haydn_Taste_of_Murder where I’m offering Three Free Mysteries.

About Nupur:

Bio: A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her musical works.

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Free Taste of Murder: http://bit.ly/Haydn_Taste_of_Murder

Links:

To Buy Prussian Counterpoint or the two previous Haydn Mysteries, visit:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/HaydnMystery3

Kobo: http://bit.ly/PrussianKobo

B&N Nook: http://bit.ly/PrussianNook

Apple iTunes: https://apple.co/2Sbja9i

 

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Welcome, Cheryl Russell

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Cheryl Russell to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

For many years, I was bedbound with severe ME, unable to do anything for myself. In 2013 God healed me and since then I’ve been building up my strength.

I’ve self-published 8 books which are a mix of genres. My first was historical fiction. Most of them are thrillers and one murder mystery. I wrote a nonfiction book about my life with ME and my healing.

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

I have 2 adorable gerbils called Tom and Jerry. I had gerbils through the early        years of ME but then had many years without them as I didn’t have anyone to        look after them. They are such beautiful animals. Very funny and cute. When they get themselves into trouble, they only have to stand up, and I’ll forgive them anything.

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

I have written a few short stories about gerbils. I used to attend a writing class and they soon realised my love of gerbils as I read our stories I’d written about them. I have also written about them in an email to a friend. She loves hearing about them. They make her smile and entertain her.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m editing a couple of historical fiction set around the second world war era. I’ve just begun writing another murder mystery, featuring the same female sleuths as in my last one. Its current title is Partners in Crime. Blood has been found in the bath but no body anywhere.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I thought my gerbil Hattie had escaped or something had happened. I hadn’t seen her. I decided to put my hand in the cage as that would usually elicit a response. Nothing. Worried I rustled my hand in the bedding. Hettie emerged but no sign of Hattie. I continued but no Hattie. I suddenly saw the cardboard egg box move that I’d put there for them to play with. It seemed to move on its own, earning the nickname the haunted egg box. A little head peered out from under it looking so innocent, no idea of the trouble she’d been causing. Hattie had been sleeping under the box all the time.

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

I’ve always wanted to be a writer from a very young age. During those awful years when I was bedbound I’d lay there imagining lots of different stories. I pretty much had the entire plot of Lily of the Valley, my first book, in my head. As soon as I was able, I wrote all the notes I had and then the book made its way on to my laptop and then to Amazon. It was my baby and sending it out into the world was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Sometimes they will sleep like they are today and other times they’ll be busy playing kicking bedding everywhere or destroying cardboard, chewing it into little pieces. They are very distracting when they are playing as I just want to watch them and enjoy the entertainment. Gerbilvision is better than television any day.

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

A mixture of books. Plenty of thrillers, Christian books, anything that looks good. I have no idea how many books I have. Two piles of physical books and loads more on my Kindle.

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

Keep going, don’t give up. Do writing courses, go to a local writing class. Practise at every opportunity.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

The writing is the easy part. If you go down the traditional publishing route its easier but still challenging. I chose to self-publish. It’s the marketing afterwards that’s difficult. Don’t give up.

About Cheryl:

Cheryl is a multi-genre author. She has written one historical fiction and is working on two others currently. She has written several thrillers and one murder mystery. A collection of short stories is also included in her list of published writing. In total, 8 books now.

Cheryl was bedbound for many years with the chronic illness ME. During those awful years when she could do nothing for herself she enjoyed spending time in her imagination writing books. Her debut novel was comprehensively plotted in her head, she just had to wait until she was able to put pen to paper and write it. She was miraculously healed by God in 2013 and has since been building up her muscles to get her strength back. This continues to be ongoing in 2019. It is a slow process, but she is doing well.

She was recently a runner up in the Student of the Year Award with the Writers Bureau. Last year she also achieved finalist in the Book Talk Radio Club Awards mystery category. Cheryl is very proud of these achievements as it shows just how far she has come from those awful days, and also it validates her writing ability.

When not writing she enjoys reading, going to an aqua fit class once a week. She is crazy about gerbils and currently has two called Tom and Jerry.

Cheryl is also autistic so has to work hard on dialogue. After finishing her debut novel, a friend looked through the first chapter and noticed the dialogue wasn’t natural. Telling her how it should be has really helped Cheryl improve that novel and improve her writing since then. Dialogue, although still difficult, has become easier to write and become more natural. She still has to check it carefully in the editing stages and correct it.

Cheryl has had to overcome so many challenges to reach the stage she is at now. Her lifelong dream of being an author has been realised.

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Welcome, Elizabeth Moldovan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Elizabeth Moldovan to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, my name is Elizabeth, and I recently published my life story only to help other people who struggle with drug use. I have 5 children, and the youngest is 15. I love gardening, drawing and painting, cooking and minding my granddaughter 2 days a week.

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

During the years it took for me to write my book, we adopted a dog that had been abused prior to her coming to live in our home. Shortly after we found out that she was going to have puppies and she gave birth to 7, in the corner of our kitchen. We called her “Tiny” and everyone loved her. She brought much joy to us all and we had over 40 different people visit us and her puppies. They went to good homes and after 3 years, Tiny went to live on a farm with a good home. At that time, we cried to let her go, because a young mum 18, from the community, who reached out for help with her newborn baby, came to live with us for the next 2 years.

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

My children always had pets growing up, and I wrote about them all in the book. (guinea pigs, fish, rabbits, rats/mice). We bought them a puppy for Christmas and called him Binky. I write about Binky in the book because we all loved him, and he grew up with my children. After I fell pregnant with my 5th child, we had to move home so my niece adopted Binky and cared for him into his old age.

 What are you reading now?

“The Invisible Girl” by Samantha Houghton

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I have been accepted to be part of a new book that will be released in April in the UK along with 13 other authors. I have to write 5,000 words about my life story, and the book has a working title “Courage: Dark to Light” and proceeds will go to Samaritans, who help people who have lost hope.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Anne Frank, because as a child I identified with her suffering and her courage touched and inspired me.

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

We were very poor growing up, but I remember before Dad fell ill with lung cancer, we had a cat. I was only 5 at the time, but I remember he crawled under the washing machine and Mum had to clean the grease off him.

Whats your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

It would have to be “Lassie.” I have very lovely memories of how beautiful and intelligent a dog could be.

What is your real life, funniest pet story?

There are so many, the stand out would be when “Tiny” was giving birth to her puppies and because she was so small, we all thought she would have about 3. After the 6th and then 7th were born, we were all laughing at the wonder and joy of life.

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

I have always loved reading and writing but never in a million years thought I would ever write my autobiography.

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

Mainly educational and biographies are on my Goodreads list. I know that I will never have time to read them all but the next book is “One nation under Therapy” by Christina Hoff Summers.

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

Market and build an interested base around your book about a year before it is published. Connect with people who read your genre, and like-minded authors.

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

My dining room table, perhaps because I feel comfortable in my kitchen and also because it was my mum’s table for 30 years.

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

Read the fine print. Be brave and never give up.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that youd like to share?

I learned that there is nothing to fear and that people love inspiring stories.

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Welcome, R. L. Seago!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, R. L. Seago to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. My name is R.L. Seago, and I have 6 self- published mystery/suspense novels under my belt. I live I northern California with my wife of almost 28 years, and served in the US Navy for nearly 5 years as a Hospital Corpsman

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? My wife Anna and I have 2 Pembroke Welsh Corgi sisters, Bella Rose and Sophie Marie. They are 7 ½ and sisters from the same litter

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? In Voices of the Passed I introduce Solomon, a bull terrier and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Chauncy. In Tears of the Innocent you will meet Joker, a German shepherd and his owner Ryder Raynes. They own and operate a private detective agency in Santa Barbara. In #5, There Are None So Bind, you will meet Baxter, a sight dog for a young bind woman named Cassidy. There is also Oscar the beagle cross and Angus, a black Scottish Terrier.

 What are you reading now? Currently rereading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 

What writing projects are you currently working on? Lucky #7 is in the creative process right now and will be a deviation in genre from my previous works.

Who is your favorite author and why? Steinbeck, Bradbury, Koontz and of course James Patterson. Oh, and a relatively new writer named Stephen King…lol

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing? I use dogs in most of my projects, and believe in giving them their own personalities, character traits and purpose in the story. I firmly believe that dogs can make a great story even better. My primary rule with digs in my writing is simple- people can die, bad things happen, but THE DOG never dies

Why do you include animals in your writing? They give us so much unconditional love and enjoyment, to not use them in our writing is almost cruel

Do you have any working or service animals in your stories? Tell us about them. In None So Blind, Baxter a golden retriever is a sight dog for Cassidy Delgado, a former US Marine who was blinded in Afghanistan

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why? Probably Rascal by Sterling North. I read that in 5th or 6th grade, and too this day it has a place on my bookshelf

 When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? High school on my newspaper

What do your pets do when you are writing? Sleep on our sofas, giving me their own form of support..lol

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing? How difficult it is to get a publisher to take you seriously

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? In my office or at the beach

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Do it for the love of the craft, not for the money or “fame”

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share? Perseverance and patience

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Snow Books, Snow Dogs and Recharging the Batteries!

Sometimes, when it snows, you need to stop shoveling, stop worrying and just curl up with a hot cup of cocoa/tea/coffee and a damn good book. Right? It’s one of the best ways ever of totally recharging your life, your writing batteries, and your whole soul.

Earlier in the month we had a good snow here in DC. It was supposed to only be six inches, not that much,  considering it came early in the day.  The plows would be able to take care of that, I thought. Not a problem.  There would be school for the kids the next day, of course, because hey…not that much snow, right?

Wrong!

We did get 6″…then it stopped snowing and the plows came through. I kept my usual schedule because, as I said, there would be school and work and everything because this was a small snow.  Very pretty, but not a problem.

Then it started to flurry again.  Then to actively snow.  There were points when it was almost blizzard-y in the sheer volume of snow coming down.  We got just over a foot of snow, when it was all said and done.

So much for all that shoveling I’d already done!

It was still relatively early in the day as this second half of the storm hit. Only about 6 pm when I realized that we were going to get a LOT more snow than they’d predicted.  I also realized there would not be school the next day.  Probably not much getting out and about, either.  Not till at least mid-afternoon from our neighborhood anyway.

My sons were ecstatic. No school.  With just as much glee, I realized I could take a “me-day” – a reading, sleeping, catching up, fun day.  Sure, I’d have to help shovel at some point (we have some older neighbors we do for, plus our own stuff) BUT…

I could take a whole morning. Just. To. Read. 

Ahhhhhhh!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I read all the time.  As a writer you HAVE to read.  You just have to.  You lose your creative edge if you don’t “fill the well” with great stories.  At one point in my writing career, life got complicated and I didn’t read much.  It sucked.  It got harder and harder to write.  The less I read, the more I felt like I  couldn’t tell good stories.  I didn’t feel the spark of story-ness in my soul and it was like slogging through cold molasses to get words on the page.

I will never do that again.  It was torture!

So, now I read a lot. Sometimes it’s research stuff, sometimes it’s Science Fiction, Fantasy, YA, or books I’m judging for contests. (I’m about to start my RITA Award reads – SO Excited!) Sometimes its revisiting old favorites in every genre. A good read never fails to stimulate my mind, engage my senses, and take me on a journey to the most fascinating places.

On this lovely snowy day, I managed to visit some amazing places! From 1820’s London (A friend’s manuscript draft) to the modern-day UK, including York and London (Nancy Northcott’s The Deathbrew Affair), I stole away for about five hours.  Soooo wonderful!

The DH, our boys, and I got out and played in the snow – a moral imperative! – made snow cream, and then got down to the business of shoveling out a little before total dark set in.  Since we’d already cleared after the first dollop of snow, it was pretty easy!  As darkness fell, we went back to playing with the dogs.  For those of you who have them, do yours chase snowballs?  Ours do! Then they look super surprised when the “ball” disappears into the snow on the ground! Where’d it go? It’s hilarious.

We all finally tromped back in, had soup and grilled cheese – YUM! – and settled in for the night.  The DH opted for a movie in the living room. The boys headed to the basement man-cave for some video gaming. Me? I headed to the big cozy chair by the fireplace with a massive mug of Constant Comment tea, a plate of apple slices, cheese and crackers, and a re-read of Nora Roberts’ Shelter In Place.

The next day, I snuggled in bed with yet another fabulous read, Sue Coletta’s Wings of Mayhem – SO GOOD! I’ve gotten to know Sue via her fabulously informative writers blog, and on social media. Such a fab writer and a generous social media presence as well! That can also be said about the author of my late afternoon reading choice, Jordan Dane.  Got her The Last Victim, the first in her Ryker Townsend series. Also riveting.

SUCH a great reading day, snow day, and dog fun day.  After playing for hours in the snow, the dogs were worn out enough to curl up with me in the reading chair and on the ottoman.  I was pretty much cocooned with dog fur. They snored and I read.  Same thing the next day. We played and shoveled, then they snored and I read.

When the next day dawned, with school for the kids and the DH off to work, it was back to the regular routine for the most part.  However, I came to the day relaxed and refreshed because I’d been on a book vacation.  While there was heart-pounding tension, it wasn’t work related, it was story related.  What a joy.

So I know that a lot of people dislike snow, but I find that I’m longing for another snow day, another day to just dream, read, and sip tea by the fire.

What about you?

Do you like snow?

What’s your drink of choice while reading?  I love hot tea, but it frequently goes cold when I get so involved in the book and forget to drink it!

Have you had a good snow-day-reading-day yet this winter?

Fill me in!

(The lovely teacup/book graphic is from Pinterest but was unsigned. No copyright infringement intended and the work is that of the artist, not mine.  All other photos are mine.)

The Labs – Daisy and Dakota – are mine, as is the imminently silly Irish Water Spaniel, Tucker. The dachshund, Coco, belongs to my dear friend Sophia Nash. If you haven’t read her Whispering In French, you are missing a treat. (It got a coveted starred review in Publisher’s Weekly!)

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Welcome, Christopher Tubbs!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Chris Tubbs to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I was born in Dorset in England. My ancestors going back before the 1500’s were all clay miners. My day job is to represent an American Software company in Europe and to promote their products. That means I get to speak at loads of conferences and exhibitions as an industry veteran. But my secret love had always been military history. I am a firm believer that all the major advances in technology have been fueled by conflict. Add to that a healthy interest in reading sci fi and sci fantasy and you see that I am leaning towards historical fiction with a twist. My favorite period is the late 18th century moving into the 19th as that was when the basis of our lives now was laid down.  I write on average an hour a day on planes, in airports (I travel a lot)  or at home. My pets (I have two dogs and two cats) are a central part of my life so its only natural that one or two sneak into my writing.

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

I have two Dutch Shepherds; Zeeva a nine year old female and Blaez a one year old male  and two cats;  Vaskr a male Norwegian Forest Cat, and Caja a female British Longhair.  We try to choose names that reflect the personalities of the animals or something in their history so Zeeva is Hebrew for She-Wolf and Blaez  is old Breton for Wolf as they are basically as close to a wolf as you can get in a domestic dog. Vaskr is old Norse for Gallant as he is a bit of a hero and Caja is Spanish for cash as she cost a fortune.

Blaez gets into the Dorset Boy series as pet of our hero Marty. He follows him through his  adventures in the Navy and as an agent for British Intelligence.  He saves our hero’s life a number of times. Maybe I will find a place for the others in later books but it will have to make sense in the plot line.

What are you reading now?

Maybe surprisingly for some I am reading fantasy. I think that reading traditional Naval Historical fiction novels right now would constrain my thinking but reading fantasy actually frees me up to explore plot lines and situations that you wouldn’t expect.  I don’t want my stories to follow Hornblower or Aubery but to do their own thing. I am reading Linsey Hall and M.D. Massey at the moment, their books have good pace and don’t skimp on the violence.  I have read all the big Naval History authors in the past but for now they are on hold.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am working on book three of the Dorset Boy Series. The first, A Talent for Trouble, covers our hero leaving the Dorset Clay mines, to joining the Navy as a cabin boy then making a name for himself at the Siege of Toulon where he rescues a beautiful Contessa and her family earning him the interest to become a Midshipman.  The second, The Special Operations Flotilla, sees him being sucked into the world of British Intelligence and becoming a founder member of the SOF.  He discovers Blaez on a mission to save the Dutch crown jewels from the French.

Now I’m on book three, Agent Provocateur, and we are following our hero into an undercover mission to Paris where they have to try and disrupt the smooth running of the French revolutionary government not realizing he is walking right into the center of a coup d’Etat by Napoleon to take over France himself.

Who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a tough one. I really like the way Dewey Lambdin writes and I find myself re reading David Eddings’ fantasy books.  I also like Adam Hardy as he tries to be different and his hero is darker. But I am in awe of anyone who is successful and attracts a following.

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

My first dog was a Jack Russel terrier called Spot who was bred as a ratter.  He had homicidal tendencies and was lethal to rats which was good as we lived in the middle of nowhere. My second dog was a black Labrador who’s pedigree name was Lord Fred of Salisbury but, as my little sister couldn’t say Salisbury, he ended up being called Saucy.  My father had a pub by then and Sauce would greet the lady customers by sticking his nose up their skirts. So Saucy by name saucy by nature.

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

Blaez is a full character and he is part of the team as much as any other of Marty’s followers.  In fact he is featured more than some of the others.  He is bodyguard, scout and companion to Marty. He also lets him know who he can trust as dog’s instincts for that are far better than ours.  Dutchies are loyal, defensive, loving, all the things you expect from Shepherds.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I have had pets around me all my life and I can’t imagine a world, even on a ship without any. The other thing is it brings colour to a scene when a dog is in it and it can change the dynamic from what people expect as you can be as illogical as a dog.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Our First Dutch Shepherd was Gus-Troy van Stavast  (Troy) and he was Blaez’s grandfather.  He was in the breeding program and he had already sired two litters. Then he was chosen by another breeder for their bitch Claire.  As it turned out Claire came into season about 2 days before we went on holiday and although she was ‘presented’ to Troy he knew it wasn’t the right time and wasn’t interested.  So we talked to the people who ran the kennel that all the animals were going into while we were away.  For some reason they got all excited by the prospect of having a conception in their kennels and agreed to let the breeder bring Claire to Troy there.  Well they set up a ’love nest’ and the deed was done in front of quite an audience cameras and all, but that didn’t stop my boy as he fathered 11 pups in that litter. He always was a show off

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

I always had a couple of stories going around in my head and I always told myself a story to get myself to sleep.  I was always quite active and didn’t sit still long enough to write but then a few years ago I suddenly developed arthritis and that slowed me down quit a bit.  Then one day I just fired up word on my laptop and wrote “You’re early again” said Miss Kate, the teacher at the school in Stoborough. It was a long walk for a twelve year old from Furzebrook to Stoborough through the heath, which was yellow with gorse flowers at the end of June.”  And that was it. I now write every day for at least an hour, my day job permitting.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

They try and climb on my lap as soon as I pick up my laptop but once we get over that Blaez lies at my feet and Zeeva is never far away.

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

The story is in you. Don’t be frightened of putting it on paper and giving it to someone else to read.  It is like exposing your soul but the satisfaction of having anyone read your story and enjoying it is unbelievable.

About Christopher

Christopher C. Tubbs is a descendent of a long line of Dorset clay miners and has chased his family tree back to the 16th century in the Isle of Purbeck. He has been a public speaker at conferences for most of his career in the Aerospace and Automotive industries and was one of the founders of a successful games company back in the 1990’s. Now in his fifties he finally got around to writing the story he had been dreaming about for years. Thanks to Inspiration from the great sea authors like Alexander Kent, Dewey Lambdin, Patrick O’Brian and Dudley Pope he was finally able to put digit to keyboard.

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Welcome, Debra Goldstein

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome mystery author, Debra Goldstein to the blog this week.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, transplanted Yankee and civic volunteer are all words used to describe me. My writings are equally diverse. Although my novels are traditional mysteries with cozy elements, my short stories tend to be darker with unexpected twists. My non-fiction essays reflect emotional slices of life.

I am very excited about One Taste Too Many, the first of my new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series being published by Kensington. In One Taste, culinary challenged Sarah knows starting over after her divorce will be messy. Things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin sister’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with her cat, RahRah, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and her sister wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death – being in the kitchen!

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

Presently, I don’t have any pets (unless you count my husband), but in the past, I’ve had dogs. Traits from our toy poodle and bichon frise find their way into book two, Two Bites Too Many, but my limited knowledge of animals beyond dogs was a definite problem when I decided I wanted a cat to play a major role in the Sarah Blair mystery series. I remedied my lack of familiarity with cats by contacting a friend who has a very special Siamese cat, Suri. Suri’s behavior, tricks, and even appearance became the model for my absolute favorite cat, RahRah.

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

One of the main characters in the Sarah Blair mystery series is RahRah the cat. Sarah married at eighteen, divorced by twenty-eight and in doing so swapped a luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a job as a law firm receptionist. The only thing she can show for the past decade is her feisty Siamese cat, who previously belonged to her ex’s mother. Knowing RahRah already probably spent one of his nine lives when he was rescued, as a kitten from a hurricane’s floodwaters, Sarah is very protective of RahRah – when she isn’t wishing she could have the resilience and confidence he has. Basically, RahRah owns the world.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

One Taste Too Many is the first of at least three Sarah Blair mysteries. I’m doing final edits on the second book, Two Bites Too Many, and am writing the third book, Three Treats Too Many. In my spare time, I’ve been writing short stories. Several of them will be published in 2019 including The Dinner Gift, which won an award in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable competition, Harvey and the Red HeadThe Eyes of Texas anthology, and Nova, Capers, and a Schmear of Cream CheeseFishy Business, an anthology compiled by the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

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

The earliest pet I remember having was a goldfish won at a school carnival. Sadly, it barely survived the transfer from its plastic bag to a small bowl. After a proper mourning period, my parents bought me three miniature turtles. I named them Turk, Dirk, and Lurk – perhaps a sign of the mystery bent my writing career would take. Later, we added a grey miniature poodle, Lord Silver Mist (Misty) to the family menagerie.

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

I believe animals have true personalities and impact the lives of everyone in a household. Consequently, when I use an animal in my writing, as I do with RahRah in the Sarah Blair mystery series, the animal must be a fully developed character. I want the reader to enjoy the animal’s behavior and interaction with the human characters, not simply be a reference to a cat or dog because the book or story has cozy elements. For me, the interaction between animals and humans can provide the impetus to move the story forward, be an instance of comic relief, or simply serve to illustrate another character’s personality. RahRah does all of these things at different points in One Taste Too Many.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in my writing because they allow me show, rather than tell, the reader about different aspects of the other characters’ personalities. For example, if a fussy animal rubs against the leg of a seemingly tough character, but the character unconsciously bends and pets the animal, we realize the tough guy has a soft side. My animals also create or dissipate tension through dramatic or comedic moments. Finally, I use animals because I like them.

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

My favorite book with an animal as a prominent character is One Taste Too Many because after living with it for the past year, I’m partial to it. Bambi is the movie with a central animal character that had a lasting impact on me because of its plot twists, but those twists are what keeps me from using the word “favorite” with it.

 Bambi was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I was three years old and the movie was a treat my father took me to because my parents had recently brought home this thing they called my sister. I’m not sure if they wanted me to have one on one time with a parent or simply thought it a good idea to get me out of the house because every time they asked me to help by handing them something for the baby, I threw it at her – don’t worry, we are very close now. Although I still smile when I think of Bambi and Thumper, the animals, the scenes when Bambi’s mother was killed and where the fire spread through the forest were so powerful they made a lasting impression on me. I watched the movie again as an adult and was again disturbed by those scenes, but now I understood them from a writer’s perspective. Each was a major plot point change where tension and conflict occurred. For a writer, Bambi is an excellent lesson in how to effectively manipulate the emotions of a viewer or reader.

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

When I first started writing, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I thought getting the story in my head on paper was all I had to do. I wish I had known more about the business side – agents, publishers, distribution, marketing, social media usage, and personal platforms. It has been a steep learning curve. The other thing I wish I knew when I started writing is how wonderful and supportive other writers would prove to be.

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

My favorite place to read or write is in an oversized club chair that my mother had made for my father for their first anniversary. My father wasn’t a big person, but he had long legs. She ordered the chair built with an extra two inches of length in the seat and plenty of back support. For years, my father used that chair to read the paper and watch television. When he wasn’t home, my sister and I used the arms of that chair as our imaginary horses and by covering it with a blanket, we often made it our tent or covered wagon.

When my father died, the chair, for the next decade, became the one my mother curled up in when she wanted to read or visit with any of her kids or grandchildren. If I was visiting, I’d wait for her to go to bed and then sneak into the chair to read or write. It just felt right. When my mother died, other than some art work, there was only one piece of furniture I insisted on shipping from California to Alabama. Today, the chair sits in my bedroom. I use it to read and write and our grandchildren have discovered how wonderful its arms are for make believe.

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

Do it! Passion should never be ignored.

About Debra

One Taste Too Many is the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series by Agatha and Anthony nominated Judge Debra H. Goldstein. Her prior books include Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Debra’s short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. She is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppies, serves on Sinc’s national board, and is vice-president of SEMWA.

 

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Find out more about her writings at www.DebraHGoldstein.com , on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/ , or on Twitter @DebraHGoldstein.

One Taste Too Many is available in print and e-book from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Many-Sarah-Blair-Mystery/dp/1496719476 ), Barnes & Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-taste-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1128297322?ean=9781496719478#/ ) and your local indie bookstores.

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Welcome, Author and Blogger, Julie Ryan!

Happy New Year! Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author and book blogger, Julie Ryan to the blog as our first guest of the new year.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I was born in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. Not venturing too far from home, I studied French Language and Literature at Hull University, where I also trained as a teacher. Then the wanderlust kicked in and I lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. I am a bookaholic with a one-click addiction much to my husband’s dismay as we are running out of space. I will probably need to live to be 197 in order to read all the books on my shelves. When not writing or reading, I love amateur dramatics and this year I get to play the Soothsayer in Robin Hood.

My Greek Island Mystery series includes Jenna’s Journey, Sophia’s Secret and Pandora’s Prophecy. Each can be read as a standalone. My latest book is Finding Rose, a story of three sisters, three time periods and three secrets.

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

At the moment we just have one cat, Smudgie, having lost our grumpy old man, Gizzie, over a year ago. Smudgie was a stray that my husband brought home from work. He was in a sorrowful state, covered in oil from the garage with an abscess on his neck. Now he is the most affectionate cat ever. His friendliness knows no bounds and one morning I woke up and looked out of the window to find him inside the pub opposite. He’d obviously stayed for a lock-in. There are always pets in my books, but none based on my own pets so far.

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

It wasn’t intentional, but I think there is a cat in most of the books I’ve written. All my books are standalones, so the pets aren’t recurring characters. In Jenna’s Journey there is a cat with catitude ironically called Mr. Tickles, in Sophia’s Secret there is a female cat called Elektra who is a bit of a diva, in Pandora’s Prophecy there is a puppy for a change called Pickles, and in Callie’s Christmas Countdown, Cleo the cat makes an appearance. My latest book, Finding Rose features a black furball called Blackie as well as a pet pig called Lady.

What are you reading now?

After reading a lot of Christmas books, I’m just about to get started on The Palace of Dreams by Charlotte Betts.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m trying to write a new trilogy set in Greece, but I seem to be working on two books at the same time. My head is also buzzing with a possible sequel to Finding Rose.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have far too many to choose just one ‘favourite,’ but I love everything written by Victoria Hislop.

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

We got our first cat, Lucky, when I was about ten. I adored that black and white scamp and my lifelong love of cats stems from that time. We also had a budgie but unfortunately, he came to a sad end.

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

I was always a sensitive child and remember watching Lassie films where I would inevitably end up blubbling. I just can’t bear cruelty to animals, so I seem to remember being distraught when Lassie was kidnapped by some baddies.

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

I don’t think you suddenly become a writer. In my case I have always loved writing. I used to scribble short stories and even wrote a play for my best friend and me to act out for our parents when we were kids. However, I never thought of myself as a writer. Even now, with five novels under my belt, it still feels strange to call myself a writer, but I guess if you write, then you’re a writer. I don’t think you have to have a mega publishing contract; you just need to have the confidence to believe in yourself. Incidentally, I only started writing novels in my fifties so there is hope for everyone.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

When I’m typing Smudgie likes to ‘help’ by lying across the keyboard. If I try to write in bed, he nudges my hand until I stroke him. I’m sure that without his help, my book would have been finished months ago!

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

Reading is my number one passion apart from writing and I’m also a blogger. I’m in the     lovely position of writers and publishers sending me books to review. I manage to review about 100 books a year, but even I was shocked to discover I have nearly 2000 books on my Kindle aside from the physical books. It’s getting to the stage that I no longer have a TBR pile so much as a TBR room. It’s an addiction really as I can’t resist books no matter where I am. I do buy books too and at the top of my TBR list is Heroes by Stephen Fry – I’m really looking forward to that one.

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

Develop a thick skin and resilience. Unless you are incredibly talented and amazingly lucky, you will be rejected at some point. There are also trolls who will do their best to bring you down. Believe in yourself and be persistent. Don’t forget to enjoy the process though when you can, as to see your book in print is a feeling like no other.

About Julie:

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances; thrillers set in the Greek Isles.

A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and rescue cat. She manages to write a book a year although without their help, she would probably write more quickly. She is a book addict and will soon need either a bigger house for her collection or a new husband!

When not writing or reading or eating chocolate, she can be found treading the boards in the local amateur dramatic society – Oh yes, she can!

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Cat-Lovin’ Men

The perfect stocking stuffer! That’s what I thought when I spotted Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen at the intimate and atmospheric Fountain Bookstore, tucked in the heart of Richmond, Virginia’s historic Shockoe Slip district. I had the perfect person in mind for this charming volume: my cat-lovin’ husband.

In Of Cats and Men, author Sam Kalda entertains with amusing profiles and quotes from history’s most famous “cat men.” King Hywel the Good, Sultan Baibars, Sir Isaac Newton, Samuel Johnson, Edward Lear, Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, Sir Winston Churchill, T.S. Eliot, Paul Klee, Raymond Chandler, George Balanchine, Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway, Balthus, Romare Bearden, William S. Burroughs, Saul Steinberg, Charles Bukowski, Marlon Brando, Edward Gorey, Andy Warhol, Haruki Muraakami, and Al Weiwei are just a few Mr. Kalda has included.

Now I knew that Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Raymond Chandler loved their cats. But Nikola Tesla, Marlon Brando, and Charles Bukowski? I had no idea. And, at the risk of revealing my cultural ignorance, I wasn’t familiar with many of the names profiled.

Nikola Tesla and cat
Marlon Brando and cat
Charles Bukowski writing a love letter to his cat.

Sam Kalda features feline-inspired quotes:

“I have my favorite cat, who is also my paperweight, on my desk while I am writing.” – Ray Bradbury

“What greater love than the love of a cat?” – Charles Dickens

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” – Ernest Hemingway.

∞∞∞

Edgar Allan Poe and his beloved tortoiseshell cat, Catterina, are not included in this volume. Neither are the Viennese painter, Gustav Klimt and his cat, Katze. In Klimt and His Cat (Berenice Capatti, author and Octavia Monaco, Illustrator)Katze narrates, giving readers a glimpse into the painter’s world.

Edgar Allan Poe with Catterina. From Poe Museum collection
Gustave Klimt with Katze. theonlinephotographer.typepad.com

I’m late with Christmas gift ideas, but gift giving is a year-round pleasure. Give your favorite cat-lovin’ man a copy of Of Cats and Men. He’ll appreciate the great company he’s in!

Note: women will love Of Cats and Men as well.

Here’s Glen, my cat-lovin’ man, with Olive and Morris:

Glen and Olive
Morris and Glen go online

Support your local bookstore. Or, Richmond’s Fountain Bookstore will ship your copy:

Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen

Klimt and His Cat

∞∞∞

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

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Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2Bj4uIL

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Welcome, Morgan Summer!

Happy Holidays! Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Morgan Summer to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. Currently, I am a 2nd year High School Biology teacher, married for almost 15 years with an 8 year old little girl. I write crime/detective novels as well as recently started writing an unnamed young adult mystery series. My first book Jean Stone Crime Series Volume 1: Stranger Among Us will be released early 2019.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? I have two shelter rescues, Sheldon just turned 6 and is an 18 pound orange tabby cat and Chief is our 3 ½ year old Catahoula Mix. They are definitely apart of my book series.

What writing projects are you currently working on? Currently finishing up edits on Jean Stone Volume 2, writing Book 3 of Jean Stone, and Book 2 of my young adult mystery series.

Who is your favorite author and why? Edgar Allan Poe, his short stories were my first introduction to mystery and suspense, that day I fell in love with his writing and the genre. The Tell-Tale Heart is still my favorite of his numerous stories.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. Too numerous to name. My dad was a veterinarian so we always had every type of pet imaginable brought home, cats, dogs, birds, lizards, turtles, etc. They still have a chinchilla named Jasmine who is about 18 or 19 years old.

Why do you include animals in your writing? My writing is about my life and my animals are just an extension of our human family members. There hasn’t been a time where I didn’t have a dog or a cat as a companion in my life. I will always include them in my stories.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? I was always a reader, but as I got older I enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper. That turned into song lyrics since I wanted to be a county singer during my teenager years. College helped refine my writing skills, it was around that time I realized that I truly had a gift for writing. Then the day came that a fellow teacher jokingly told me that I should write a crime novel. Six weeks later, Jean Stone was born.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why? Visit Italy. Reading is my favorite past time which transported me to different places all around the world through the pages. After reading numerous novels set there, I decided one day I would go see for myself all the beautiful sights and sounds Italy has to offer.

What do your pets do when you are writing? Lay at my feet and snore or annoy me depending on their mood.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have? “FDR Letters” and “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America”, sadly I have so my TBR I can barely keep up!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? Outdoors in the country away from the world with no technology. There are no distractions, just me, my pencil and paper, and my imagination.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Do not write for anyone else, write for yourself. Be a limited edition.

Author Bio:

Reading was always a love of Morgan’s, devouring crime novels by the dozens. A random conversation with a fellow mentor and coworker, would inspire her to write the book series in the genre she loved. This was how Jean Stone was born.

 She has worn many hats from being a Navy Wife for 13 years to currently teaching High School Biology. Currently living back in her home state of Texas, if she isn’t teaching, she is either writing, crocheting, or spending time with her husband and daughter.

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