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, 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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Teresa Inge and Her Writing

Today, Pens, Paws, and Claws author, Teresa Inge, tells us about her writing.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I love to write mysteries, go to car shows with my husband, visit the Outerbanks to write and read good books, and play with my dogs.

What is the first mystery book you remember reading? The Secret of the Old Clock. I remember the fascinating tale of Nancy Drew discovering a missing will in an old clock of a deceased family friend. When she helped the family regain their fortune from thieves, I fell in love with Nancy Drew.

What made you decide to write? I began writing professional articles many years ago and loved reading mysteries. So, I combined my love of both and began writing mysteries.

Do you have a special place you like to write? In my bedroom. I have a writing area with a beautiful country view.

Where do the ideas for your books come from? Everywhere! Conversations, news, songs, and sometimes plots come to me while I am driving to and from work.

Is there anything about writing that you find most challenging? Editing is a challenge but it is necessary to develop well crafted stories.

What do you think makes a good story? Relatable characters, an interesting location, great plot, and wrapping up all loose ends.

Tell us about your current work? I just finished writing “To Fetch a Thief,” four fun tails of theft and murder in the Mutt Mysteries series. In this howling good read, canine companions help their owners solve crimes and right wrongs. This was a lot of fun to write since I included Cagney and Lacey, two Yorkshire Terriers to solve the theft and murder.

What makes your books different form others in this genre? My characters and book titles. I love creating relatable characters and fun titles.

What’s next on the horizon for you? Book two in the Mutt Mysteries series.

About Teresa:

Teresa Inge grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today, she doesn’t carry a rod like her idol, but she hotrods. She is president of Sister’s in Crime Mystery by the Sea Chapter and author of short mysteries in Virginia is for Mysteries and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

Website: www.teresainge.com
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Welcome, Jayne Ormerod

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Jayne Ormerod to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing. My name is Jayne Ormerod and I am a write-aholic. I had an idyllic childhood, spending every free moment playing outside (a foreign concept to kids today!) A river ran through our property, surrounded by lots of woods to explore. There was always an adventure afoot, or a neighborhood baseball game to be played, or skateboarding to be done (down a HUGE hill, without a helmet! Lots of scrapped knees and elbows!) When not doing that, I was curled up reading, usually Nancy Drew adventure stories! I went to college (B.S. in Accountancy) and then spent 30 years as a military spouse, moving many times (19 for anyone counting). That afforded me the opportunity to meet many interesting people and live in many fun places. Except for one tour in Memphis, TN, we have always lived within a flip-flops throw of an ocean. A dream come true for a small-town Ohio girl. As a result, the majority of my cozy mysteries are set along the shore.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing? We have two rescue puppies. One was an emergency rehome situation, and we were told he would be 20 to 30 pounds.  Well, he’s 47 now, and still growing! He has a lot of Great Dane in him (everyone says so but I am in denial). Our other puppy is a Pot Dog (that’s what they call free-roaming island puppies who sustain themselves on scrapings from the bottoms of peoples’ pots, mostly rice and beans) from Puerto Rico. He’s still growing, too, but seems to lean more towards Chihuahuas characteristics. But he’s a cutie! Tiller and Scout make our lives complete.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names? In my most recent release, “It’s a Dog Gone Shame!” in To Fetch a Thief, the star of the show is a tawny terrier named Cannoli. We didn’t have any pets at the time so he is purely a figment of my imagination. But since then we have acquired two pound puppies whose antics will certainly find their way into my blog posts and future stories.

What writing projects are you currently working on? I am assembling some shorter-length cozy mysteries I’ve written in the past and throwing them together into one book. Title is Goin’ Coastal. It should be out in early December. Next project will be the third Blonds at the Beach mystery, working title Blond Justice. I wrote the first four chapters a while ago, just need to finish it. Only 27 chapters to go!

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them. My parents were cat people. We lived on a very busy road. We learned quite young not to get too attached to any of them. Sad, I know. But then someone who worked with my mom needed to get rid of a Siamese cat (seal point) who had been declawed. We got her and kept her inside. She lasted much longer! Her name was Punchy. She was a good mouser. We lived in an old farmhouse so there were plenty. It was quite common for my dad to wake up in the morning to find a dead mouse on his chest. I’m glad she never brought me any!

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why? I loved the Cat Who . . . Mysteries. Maybe because the main feline characters were Siamese cats like Punchy. But they were also great cozy mysteries with lots of interesting settings. I would love to live in a converted apple barn!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story? My military husband deployed for 6 months. I was left home with a baby and 2 BIG dogs (combined weight 175 pounds!) My dad came to help out and offered to take the dogs for a walk. He didn’t know the area, and the neighborhood had lots of winding roads. He was gone a really long time. I got really worried. So I strapped baby onto my bicycle and we went looking. Found dad and the dogs about two blocks from home. We rode alongside to make sure he got there. A cat streaked across our path. I said, “Oh, there’s a cat.” He said, “What does that mean?” I said, “Hold on tight!” Next thing I knew my dad was on his belly, being dragged across a neighbor’s front yard. His arms were stretched over his head as he rocked back and forth (he had a big belly) as he was being pulled. I have never laughed so hard in my life. Don’t worry, only thing hurt on my dad was his pride. Oh, and he never offered to walk the dogs again!

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had? I have limited myself to the customary cats and dogs, but my son once had a pot-bellied pig, making Jesus (so named since they got him on a Sunday) my grand-pig. I never got to meet him because the city where son lived said he couldn’t keep a farm animal. But he was very photogenic. Lots of stories there, too, none of which are fit to print on this family-friendly blog. (Did I mention son  was living in a fraternity house at the time?)

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing? First, how challenging it is to sell books. Writing was the easy part! Hitting the bestseller list, not so much. The other thing is I didn’t think it would take so long to write one book. I mean, I can read a book in a week. I truly thought writing would go at the same pace, sit down and type the story. There is so much more to it than that. But will I ever stop writing because of these challenges? No way!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why? I have an upstairs porch that has comfy rocking chairs and if the wind is blowing just right I can feel the bay breezes and/or hear the surf crashing against the shore. Love to read there! Writing is anywhere my laptop can plug in (my battery no longer works…)

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer? Just do it! Yes, the blank page can be daunting, but there is no better feeling in the world than typing THE END!

About Jayne:

Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town then went on to a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her degree in accountancy, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.) She married a naval officer and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, have settled into a cozy cottage by the sea. Jayne is the author of the Blonds at the Beach Mysteries, The Blond Leading the Blond, and Blond Luck. She has contributed seven short mysteries to various anthologies to include joining with the other To Fetch a Thief authors in Virginia is for Mysteries, Volumes I and II, and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

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Welcome, Rosemary Shomaker


Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Rosemary Shomaker to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, I’m Rosie Shomaker. I’ve always liked writing stories, but I spent my professional life analyzing data and writing non-fiction policy reports and summaries. Now I’m free to write what I want to write. I’m as yet fairly undisciplined, though, but once I commit to a project, I focus my energy.

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

Mary and Carmen are the main dog characters in “This is Not a Dog Park,” one of the To Fetch a Thief novellas. Mary is a sheprador and Carmen is a fluffy white dog. In a subsequent story I’ll have to define Carmen’s breed. She’s owned by a stuffy rich lady in the story, so that dog has great mystery possibilities. Carmen and her owner live in a well-to-do neighborhood near a park that is central to the story. Mary the sheprador helps her owner Adam leave behind a life of disquietude.

What are you reading now?

I am reading several Nevada Barr novels. She had varied jobs and did summer work as in the national parks. Her main character, Anna Pidgeon, is a national park ranger. The Rope and Destroyer Angel were riveting. Barr comes off as a bit of a misandrist in her stories, in my opinion, and notwithstanding my feminist tendencies, her treatment of male characters can be harsh . . . although I admit the plot and character development rings sound. The adventure in these stories is great! When I need less adrenaline and more historical escape, I default to Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear mystery books.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

It seems so natural to include pets in a setting. So many readers live with pets. Pets can be used as a good character sounding board in stories; human-pet interaction and dialogue are straight lines to the human character’s psyche. Animals also can be used to move the plot along, change pace, and provide humor. I haven’t worked much yet with using animals to ratchet up tension. I’ll have to explore that.

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

This is a real possibility for my next story. Aren’t all pets service animals in a way—since they are usually emotional support animals for most of us? I was intrigued when I read Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper and met Campbell Alexander’s dog Judge. Judge helps warn Alexander of approaching epileptic seizures. Wow. Also, a local writer has shared her experiences with her own family dog that could indicate her daughter’s diabetic crises. The working nature of a dog can give real service to humans. I’ve also been introduced to police dogs and search and rescue dogs, and I admire the training and work of those canines. So much tension and conflict could be shown in stories featuring that type of dog in a criminal situation. I like the idea of a service dog, maybe a hearing dog that is specially trained to help people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Hearing dogs can alert their humans to sounds around the home and in public. I can see working that type of service dog into a story, too.

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

One day I’ll read a college thesis written about Charlotte of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. What a story! Even as a child I regarded Charlotte as a complex character. Cool to think that college theses have been written about her. As I child I was more of a Wilbur-type character who could not appreciate all there was to Charlotte, especially in their early relationship. I think I knew some Charlottes in my time. Now that I am older, I guess I am a Charlotte.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pup spends his time a room away from me when I write. He comes in occasionally to remind me to stop, drink some water, eat, and go outside. Well, he wants to do those things, and he provides the example that gets me out of my obsessive writing state. If not for my pup, I’d disregard most everything once I was on a roll and fixated on writing. Sometimes I’ll put him off and try to ignore him but he won’t ignore me, and soon his sad eyes are right at my hip level and hard to overlook.

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

I found a very old copy of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Prairie, circa 1900. I love Cooper. I feel right in the forest with his characters! The Prairie takes place not in New England forests but in the Midwest during America’s westward expansion. I’ve an idea for a novel set in the great plains, and I’m hoping Cooper’s book fills in some of the dramatic sentiment I need to spur me on to write more of my story. I have TBR piles in several rooms of my house. Some are piles of magazines or local newspapers. Others are piles of books that have come my way that I am not really set on reading. I let the piles accumulate, and when I have not made a move to read anything in a pile in a few weeks, I clear out the items to the recycle bin or the giveaway box.

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

My son found a very large beetle (two and one half inches long) when he was about five years old—my son’s age—not the beetle’s. They kinda bonded in a strange way. The beetle seemed happy to have a caretaker. My son made him a home in his room: a tray with water, grass and leaves for habitat, and who knows what for food? We most likely looked up what beetles ate. Mr. Beetle lived as a pet with us for four days. He’d sit on my son’s shoulder and even on his cheek when my son lay down. Mr. Beetle didn’t move much or very fast, and my husband and I hypothesized he was an old beetle, hopefully not a sick beetle. My son left on a short trip, maybe a cub scout trip, with my husband, and Mr. Beetle did not live to see my son again. A month or two later, my son found another beetle while playing in a friend’s yard. This new beetle wasn’t so nice. He stung my son! That ended my son’s interactions with beetles. My son’s entomology career, down the tubes.

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

My favorite place to read is outside on my deck, or even outside in a park. I like to have my legs raised while seated to read. The fresh air and natural light enlivens my soul. If I cannot be outside, I like to read sitting longways on the couch by our big front window. Inside I like to have a big cup of coffee at hand while I read. Outside, my drink of choice is water.

About Rosemary

Rosemary Shomaker was born in Maine and grew up with family—and heartstring—ties to New England. She currently lives in Virginia, and after a state government career now writes fiction. You can find a few of her short stories in anthologies such as Virginia is for Mysteries – Volumes I and II, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and several of the Shaker of Margaritas anthologies. Her “This is Not a Dog Park” novella is included in the Mutt Mysteries collection To Fetch a Thief.

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Welcome, David Ryan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome David Ryan to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I came to the author game late in life. I didn’t start writing my first novel until I was 45, which was both surprising and disappointing to me, because I’ve had as a goal since college to write a novel. I ended up in another writing direction first. I spent more than 30 years working as a journalist, writing, editing, and managing at newspapers before leaving for a marketing job. My career as a novelist started one night when I was traveling as a reporter and couldn’t sleep one night. So I started. And I got up the next morning and added to what I’d written. And added more that night. By the time I took the time to do any plotting, I had five or six chapters. I realized I needed to map out the story somewhere other than my head and create some characters with backstories, personalities, and descriptions. I write mysteries and thrillers because that’s what I’ve always enjoyed reading. And they’re fun to write.

Why crime writing?

I was an avid reader as a kid, and one of the series that captured me early on was the Alfred Hitchcock Investigators series. This was a variation of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I was hooked. When I’d watch TV on Sunday nights, we tuned into shows like Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife. Sometimes you knew the criminal right away because they told you But what they showed was how the detective solved the crime. Toward the end of my journalism career, when I’d already started writing Dead Odds, I managed a breaking news team, which was basically the crime team. That pretty much sealed the deal.

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

I didn’t know until college. I was fortunate to have two people give me a kick-start. My youth-league basketball coach was a journalist, and he helped me land a gig working Friday and Saturday nights on the sports agate desk at one of the local papers. Those were the two busiest nights in the department, and if you could survive those, you could make it in the newspaper business. After a while, one of the editors let me cover games. Once he learned I could make deadline, I was in. The second person was a manager at a restaurant where I worked, and her brother was the editor of a local sports magazine. She learned I was writing and introduced me to her brother. He gave me some writing assignments, and I was in heaven. I eventually joined the college newspaper staff. Even though I was writing and getting paid for it, I didn’t find my writing voice for many years. I think that came when I finally relaxed and started telling as many stories as I could in the way that I wanted to tell them. At some point, the editors stopped editing so hard and started letting my ways get into the paper.

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

Our two pooches are with me constantly – in my heart. During the writing of Dead Odds, we had to face the hard choice that most pet owners confront at some point. Both our Miniature Schnauzers crossed the Rainbow Bridge in recent years. Baron was older, stocky and muscle-bound with a smooth, silver coat and a feisty, all-guard-dog disposition. He was sweet, but he disliked kids. And he ran the house – until Xena joined us. That first night, we gave Xena a toy to play with. She wrestled with it until Baron stole it from her and took it to play with underneath the coffee table. When Xena, at 12 weeks old, barked at him and tried to retrieve it, Baron growled and chased her away. The next night, the same scene played out. We gave her the toy, he took it, and she went after it. This time, though, when Baron growled, she pounced. With sharp puppy teeth, she bit him on the ear and walked off with her toy. It was Baron’s last day running the household. Baron used to lay in a chair next to my work desk at home, snoring away as I rewrote scenes from Dead Odds. Xena, as her name suggests, was a fierce pup but what a sweetheart. But she was not a literary companion. She didn’t tolerate others not paying attention to her, and in many ways she was more cat than dog. She preferred to sit in my lap when I wrote. But she refused to stay still, and often she opted to be in another room where she could lay in the sunlight or watch lizards outside.

How do you fill the pet void? Do you see yourselves having more pets?

My wife and I get asked that all the time. We don’t have a final answer. We want to do some traveling, but at some point I think we’ll get another dog or two. Right now, we’re the resident dog-sitters of our neighborhood. Two young couples around us occasionally need help when they travel or have conflicts, so now we’re a second home for Buster and Bonnie. Buster is a black mutt who has some Dachshund in him. He’s excitable. I can’t get any writing done with him around. He wants to play too much. Bonnie is a young Miniature Schnauzer who reminds us so much of Baron and Xena. She’s silver and has a beautiful coat and a wonderful temperament. She likes to bark, but she’s a doll. My wife likes that neither Buster nor Bonnie like to lick people in the face.

Did you have childhood pets?

I didn’t. I am allergic to long-haired dogs and all cats. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m still allergic, but at some point I was around a dog that didn’t shed, and my sinuses didn’t go haywire. When my wife and I got married and I was traveling a lot, we thought a dog made sense for us. (We have no kids.) And it worked.

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

There are no pets in Dead Odds. Well, wait. The protagonist, Conrad Keane, reveals that he had a pet dog as a teen but had to leave the dog at home when he left for college. In the second book in the Keane series, tentatively titled Dead Sleep, Keane gets reunited with a Miniature Schnauzer. At least, that’s the case in my current draft.

What are you reading now?

I just finished November Road by Lou Berney. Up next are two novels by fellow Floridians, Four Years Gone by Dallas Gorham, Beached by Micki Browning, and Yard Goat by Ray Flynt. At some point soon, I’ll get to Holy Ghost, John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers novel, and Bob Woodward’s Fear.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Well, this blog post. I have another guest blog post teed up for the International Thriller Writers website. The work on Dead Sleep is always there, and I am working on a short story about an ex-mobster who is living quietly in northern Florida. Although my days as a journalist are behind me, I write a number of blog posts, emails and internal office missives in my role at a digital marketing and technology company.

Who is your favorite author and why?

There are three authors I will read anytime, anywhere: John Sandford, Lee Child and Pat Conroy. I enjoy Sandford and Child because they drive stories as if they’re running a race and they don’t dare slow down. Conroy, who died in 2016, captured me shortly after college with Prince of Tides. I grew up in the South, and Conroy’s11 language and sense of the South grabbed my heart and dragged me around for years. But one of the things I’ve discovered in this author journey is that there are so many great books out there written by people you’ve never heard of before.

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

First is “show, don’t tell.” This is a much more nuanced approach to writing than I was aware of. Telling is saying someone was angry. Showing is having the person throw a cellphone across the room after learning something bad has happened. The second thing is how important beats and tags are to telling a story the right way. As a journalist, I could finish every paragraph with the same attribution: he said or she said. You can’t do that as a novelist.

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

I give the advice that was given to me: read. Read a lot. There are those who say to study the language, the word construction and the engineering of whatever it is that you like to read. For me, those things didn’t stick until much, much later in my writing career. I just loved to read entertaining stories. But if you read a lot, you will by necessity read a variety of authors and styles. You’ll find a genre and an author (or two or three) who speaks to you.

 

About David:

David Ryan is a former award-winning journalist turned mystery and thriller author. After more than 25 years as a sports writer, assigning editor, digital editor and people manager, Ryan opted out of daily journalism for a second career that includes crafting crime fiction stories. His first book, Dead Odds, is available in eBook on Amazon. The paperback version will be available next month. He lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife.

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Welcome, Jodi Rath!

Please welcome author, Jodi Rath, to the Pens, Paws, and Claws blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hello, I’m Jodi Rath, and I’m so thrilled to be here! My husband and I are both animal lovers, rescuers (although I believe they rescue me), and animal advocates, so finding this blog was a wonderful things for me! I’m married to the man of my dreams and we’ve been together for 16 years. Currently, we have seven cats. We’ve had 13 cats over the last 16 years and we love them all dearly, and even though we’ve lost some of them as they crossed the rainbow bridge, they will forever be a part of our family and in our hearts. All of our cats will be featured in my new series, The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Five of the seven show up in book 1, Pineapple Upside Down Murder, which comes out 11/23/18 and is available for preorder now and they will all be on the covers of the books at one time or another.

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

Definitely! In book 1, the protagonist, Jolie Tucker, has four of our cats: Lenny Lee, Sammy Jr., Bobbi Jo, and D.J. Lynn. One of her two love interests ends up adopting another of our cats, Stewart at the end of book 1 and there is a hilarious scene that describes how my husband actually met Steward and decided to adopt him. LOL. All of our cats have middle names too, LOL!

 What writing projects are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on two flash fiction stories that will be freebies and come out two weeks before the release date of Pineapple Upside Down Murder (so early November this year). They are prequels to lead into book 1, although, people can still read book 1 without reading these, but they are a really fun look at the protagonist as kids in the first and teens in the second and the kitties will show up there too! I’m also working on book 2 which is called Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Murder where Stewart Michael will be on the cover!

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

Hmmm . . . our cats are not MAIN characters in my books, but they are a central part of the book and over time will become more integrated into the later books in the series. There are currently 14 books in this series and I already have each title and book planned out with an overarching theme to tie it all together and the cats are definitely a part of that theme!

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Why wouldn’t I is my question! LOL  I LOVE animals SO much! Our cats are our lives. They are our kids. Just like I can’t imagine living without them, I can’t imagine writing without them or having them in the writing!

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

I do not have any in book 1, but there will be some in later books in the series!

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Oh boy, well, one of them is that scene about my husband, Mike, and Stewart which you can read about in Pineapple Upside Down Murder. The other one, hmmm, I’m not sure it’s clean enough for the blog. LOL.  My husband is a snorer. A loud snorer. So, he is lying on his back snoring loudly one night, and Stewart sits on his mouth and he chokes and gets up yelling in fear. It frightened me when he told me what happened, and I’ve never laughed so hard in all my life. Stewart was looking for a way to shut him up! LOL

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

At age five, I used my stuffed animals and dolls as my staff of my “pretend” magazine business. I used my mom’s old magazines and would cut them up and paste things together and use a red pen to mark on them. At age seven, I signed up to win a set of encyclopedias and won! I used to randomly pick out an encyclopedia then open up to any page, read an article and summarize it pretending to be a journalist. When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer as a job, but I think I knew back at age five.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

My pets all lay around me while I write. I can have anywhere between three to five cats around me at one time while I’m writing.

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

I think I have about 700 books in my Nook. I think I have about one thousand or more physical books. I was an English Literature major in my undergrad work. I LOVE books—all books! I also use the library like an insane person. LOL I have two local libraries near me and I am constantly taking books out for research too. There are books all around me as I read. I’d have to take up a thousand pages to list them all.  Some of the books I am planning to read are anything by Sara Paretsky and her V.I. Warshawski series. I’m all caught up and anxiously awaiting the new one to come out soon! I love Heather Blake, Amanda Flower, Victoria Laurie, and Elaine Viets to name a few more.

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

I love to read in bed at night. My little bobtail kitty, Bobbi Jo, likes to snuggle right up by my belly while I lay on my side to read, and I love it!

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

I have been an educator for close to twenty years.  I’ve had so many teenagers who want to do something in a creative field, like: write, art, act, sing, play in a band, etc.  I think that is wonderful! I think a lot of people think because something is creative that it is all fun. To me, what I do now is more fun than anything I’ve ever done…so that is true. At the same time, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked a lot of jobs that were difficult and time-consuming, but I’ve never put in more time and effort than I have as a writer. Everyone wants a creative, fun job. There is a lot of competition. So, to do it well one has to be willing to put all their time and effort into it if you want it to be a career.

About Jodi:

Moving into her second decade working in education, Jodi Rath has decided to begin a life of crime in her The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. Her passion for both mysteries and education led her to combine the two to create her business MYS ED, where she splits her time between working as an adjunct for Ohio teachers and creating mischief in her fictional writing. She currently resides in a small, cozy village in Ohio with her husband and her seven cats.

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The Dogs Have Their Day

by Maggie King

When I posted about cats in mysteries earlier this year, I promised a companion post about canine mysteries.

And now, at last: the dogs have their day!

I took a democratic approach and pooled my dog-loving social media followers with this question: “What are your favorite mysteries with a dog as a significant character?”

Read on for their responses.

In the Books by the Bay mysteries, Olivia Limoges returns to her home town in North Carolina with Captain Haviland, a black standard poodle. Created by Ellery Adams.

In Bethany Blake’s Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries, you can enjoy the company of both dogs and cats. Krista Davis also pairs dogs and cats in her Paws and Claws Mysteries.

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. All of her dogs find a role in her books.

More than one responder suggested Susan Conant’s Dog Lover’s Mysteries series, featuring magazine writer Holly Winter and a cast of dogs.

Robert Crais wrote a standalone crime story with LAPD cop Scott James and his partner, Maggie, a German Shepherd. Man and dog suffer from PTSD as a result of horrendous experiences. Note: I’m convinced that the #1 pet names are Maggie and Fred!

Waverly Curtis created the Seattle-based Barking Detective series of humorous mystery novels starring Pepe, a talking Chihuahua.

Of course, there’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring the inimitable Sherlock Holmes. The legend of a terrifying, satanic hound of supernatural origin instigates an attempted murder.

Alex Kava’s series features former marine Ryder Creed and his K9 dogs.

Bailey, a very sarcastic canine, saves his companions in Be Careful What You Wish For by Solomon Knight.

Ketch is a key character in J.R. Lindermth’s The Limping Dog, about a dog rescued from a wrecked sailing ship.

One follower suggested White Fang by Jack London. She wasn’t sure if it qualified as a mystery, but we’ll just say it does.

Mystery/thriller author Paul D. Marks highlights racism and immigration in his crime novels. His canine characters are Baron in White Heat and Molly in Broken Windows.

In Louise Penny’s books set in the village of Three Pines, Quebec, Henri is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache’s German Shepherd.

Spencer Quinn’s Chet & Bernie series got a few votes. Chet the dog is the faithful companion of Arizona private investigator Bernie Little.

In David Rosenfelt’s bibliography you’ll find a long list of dog-themed mysteries featuring Andy Carpenter, an irreverent defense attorney in Paterson, New Jersey.

Amy Shojai created a “pet-centric” thriller series with September Day, an animal behaviorist/trainer, and her German Shepherd service dog named Shadow.

In Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mysteries, Kate Davidson is a yoga instructor in Seattle with her German Shepherd sidekick Bella.

Seems like German Shepherds reign as top dog in mysteries. Inspector Rex reigns, appropriately enough, on TV. An Austrian police procedural comedy-drama television series, Inspector Rex follows the German Shepherd police dog Rex, his partners, and the rest of the team at the Vienna Kriminalpolizei homicide unit, as they work together to solve crimes. Since 2008, the show has been set in Rome.

There are many, many more mysteries with dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, birds, goldfish, you name it. Look for my upcoming posts. And let me know your favorite mysteries with animals. Our furry friends enrich not only our lives, but our reading as well.

Twinkle was my childhood dog. Truth be told, he was my mother’s dog and loved her best. Twinkle, a Toy Fox Terrier, had a brown and charcoal patch over one eye, and a mere stub of a tail. Below, he poses with my mother and grandmother on “the farm” in upstate New York.

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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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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Welcome, KB Inglee!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, KB Inglee and her menagerie to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

My name is KB Inglee. My parents started calling me KB as an infant to differentiate me from all the other Katharines in our family. When I attended my first writing conference in the 1990s, I was surprised how many other women were using their initials instead of their full name.

I write historical mystery short
stories, and work as an interpreter at a local living history museum. The
picture I have included shows me in 18h century farm wife attire trying to keep
a sheep from running out the open gate behind me. I am not reaching down to pat her.

I write three protagonists, Emily Lawrence, lady detective in the late 1800s, Faith Ivey in early colonial New England, and Iccarus Norton, in the early republic. Only Iccarus has an animal, his horse, Medusa. I think I came up with the pair because I had no animal in my other work.

Emily has her own book, The Case Book of Emily Lawrence. The others appear in short story anthologies.

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

We have five turtles, two budgies (Blueberry and Pi), four cats, and one dog.  None appear in my writing. Though after much urging by my dog Wendy, I have started a series of short stories about a service dog.

What are you reading now?

Aria to Death by Nupur Tustin.  I love fiction about real
people, and this is a well researched series. No pets. No farm animals.  I
think she mentions a cart horse now and then.

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

When I realized I had no animals,I did two things. I went back and gave Emily a kitchen cat and I named one of the carriage horses Benjamin.  Last Christmas, for my holiday story, I started a series about a service dog and the college professor who relies on him to get around. It is fun to write. Anonymous Dog has yet to find his way into print.

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

I’ve started a series of short stories about a Portuguese Water Dog/Irish Wolfhound that is a support dog for a college professor with a degenerative bone disease. The human is based on my daughter who is just beginning her search for the right dog. The story is from the point of view of the dog, so I don’t have to be specific about the ailment, or much of anything else. How much do dogs actually know? Like all dogs he is red green color blind but he has great senses of smell and hearing.

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

I love the Will James books about life in the west. They are illustrated by the author with action packed line drawings. They are about horses but when I read them I felt like I was reading an adult book.

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

I think it was fourth grade. I wrote a story about a girl and her horse. When my daughter was young, I wrote a series of kids’ stories that she could have read to her when I was away. I didn’t start writing adult stuff until I was in my 50s and ready to retire from my day job as a psych social worker.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Wendy (the dog) finds writing boring, so she sleeps through it. The birds yell. Do you think they are sending me plots? The cats are in the other room, and the turtles don’t care about anything except food.

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

My bedroom floor is my TBR. It divides into fiction and non-fiction. I read probably one non-fiction for each two fiction. Lots of the nonfiction is research either for my writing or my job. I just finished a book on the difference between how native people and European settlers behaved toward animals. Fiction pile consists mostly of mysteries.

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

We had an iguana that came from an iguana rescue. Something was wrong with how her front legs worked, but she got around well anyway. Oh, yes and a rooster who lived in my dining room. The museum got a shipment of chicks to work in the garden, lay eggs for us and on occasion, provide a meal. We chose dominiques since they would have been common in the 1750s. One bonus chick was included, a Hamburg rooster. The Dominique hens beat the s**t out of him, so I took him home to heal, but I was never able to introduce him back into the flock.

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

Start early and persist until you learn the craft. Find a community to support and teach you.’

Visit KB at her website.

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