Welcome back, Debra H. Goldstein!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Debra H. Goldstein back to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your new book.

When the publishers of my first two books each went out of business, leaving me orphaned, I still wanted to write cozy mysteries, but I had a major problem. Traditionally, cozies take place in a closed environment, don’t have blood or sex on the page, and feature a character who demonstrates an expertise at crafts, cooking or baking. I’m not good at crafts and anything to do with the kitchen frightens me. As I thought about my dilemma of not being able to write what I know, I realized there had to be readers who weren’t handy with crafts or dreaded being in the kitchen. Consequently, I created Sarah Blair who finds cooking from scratch worse than dealing with murder.

 Two Bites Too Many is the second book in the Sarah Blair series. In this book, things are finally looking up for Sarah and her Siamese cat, RahRah. Sarah has somehow managed to hang on to her law firm receptionist job and – if befriending flea-bitten strays at the local animal shelter counts – lead a thriving social life. For once, she almost has it together more than her enterprising twin, Emily, a professional chef whose efforts to open a gourmet restaurant have hit a real dead end.

 When the president of the town bank is murdered after icing Emily’s business plans, all eyes are on the one person who left the scene with blood on her hands – the twins’ sharp-tongued mother, Maybelle. Determined to get her mom off the hook ASAP, Sarah must collect the ingredients of a deadly crime to bring the true culprit to justice.

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

 RahRah, the Siamese cat who lives with Sarah, is introduced in the first book, One Taste Too Many, as a primary series character. He, rather than Sarah, runs the show. In Two Bites Too Many, Fluffy, a dog, also becomes part of the ongoing story. Although Fluffy is a recurring character, she knows her role is secondary to RahRah’s.

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

My first pets were three small turtles – Turk, Durk, and Lurk. When my family moved to a new state, I had to give them to the boy next door. After we moved, we got a toy poodle who was part of our family for the next twenty years. When Lord Silver Mist passed away, a bichon frise took over running my life.

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

I use animals in my writing to create a sense of reality for readers and as a means of bringing different personality traits out in my human characters. In the Sarah Blair series, I try to make RahRah and Fluffy pets like those readers might have. That way, they can identify with each animal’s behavior and characteristics. I also want the animals in my books to help readers understand my human characters. As they see the characters interact with the animals in kind, mean, loving or indifferent ways, I hope subliminal clues are sent that generate reactions to the respective characters.

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

 My favorite animal used as a central character wasn’t in a book or a movie, but rather in a television show. As a child, watching reruns of Fury, I was impressed with the magnificence of the beautiful stallion, but what really captured me was the way the stories were written. There was always a good vs. bad plot line that would never have been resolved in the same way if Fury hadn’t been a central character. I think watching how different characters reacted to Fury and how Fury interacted with them taught me the ways an animal can be used to move a story along in a believable manner.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now?

See the picture below — and this doesn’t include what’s on my e-reader.

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

My favorite place to read and write is in an oversized club chair. As her first anniversary gift, my mother had the chair made two inches deeper than normal to accommodate my father’s long legs. The arms of the chair are between four and five inches wide. It was the perfect place for him to read the newspaper, write letters, or draw and for my sister and me to stretch our imaginations.

When my sister and I were children, we used the chair to pretend to ride horses and as the base for covered wagons, stagecoaches and tents. The chair was wide enough for both of us to hide in it or pretend one of us was a passenger while the other was a driver or riding shotgun.

When my father died, my mother took comfort curling up in the chair. When she passed away, other than some artwork, the chair was the only thing I wanted from her home. I had it shipped from California to Alabama. Today, it is where I sit with my laptop. Someday, I hope one of my children will continue the tradition of reading and writing in the chair.

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

 I would tell an aspiring writer to read extensively and think about the feelings each book or story generates. At this point, the reader should read with only the hope of enjoying the work in mind. There is no further agenda other than exposure to the works of an array of writers. Slowly, the would-be writer, now reader, will recognize what is moving, perplexing, exciting or boring. Once a wide gambit has been read, then, and only then, should the would-be writer dissect the stories and books to better understand their internal structure, plots, settings, and characterization. After doing all this, the individual should write the book or story that person wants to write.

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

The one lesson I learned is to write what I want to write. Although I read and studied the masters, other books in the genre I thought might want to write in, and what seemed hot on the publishing lists, the lesson I learned was to write the best book or story I could using techniques I’d gleaned from other works, but realizing my tale had to come from me. Trends go out of style; formulas can be broken, but an honest work will stand on its own merit and hopefully find an audience to resonate with.

What’s next for you with your writing projects?

October was a busy month for me. Kensington released the second Sarah Blair mystery, Two Bites Too Many, so I will be busy with launch events and PR. An anthology edited by Michael Bracken, The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods, which contains my first private eye story, Harvey and the Redhead was published by Down & Out Books, Inc. I’ve already turned in the third Sarah Blair mystery, which will be published in September 2020, so besides the PR related to the two October publications, I plan to take two classes to advance my skills, write a few short stories in response to prompts, and begin the fourth book of the Sarah Blair series (yes, they recently bought two beyond the original three).

Show us a picture of your writing space or one of your bookcases. What does it say about your style?

It demonstrates that I don’t have any style because I’m so far behind on things, I don’t have time to establish one.

 About Debra:

Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (One Taste Too Many, Two Bites Too Many). She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra serves on the national boards of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and is president of the Southeast Chapter of MWA and past president of SinC’s Guppy Chapter. Find out more about Debra at www.DebraHGoldstein.com .

https://www.amazon.com/Bites-Many-Sarah-Blair-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07MB4779P

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/two-bites-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1130055243?

Let’s Be Social:

Website – www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/

Twitter – @DebraHGoldstein

Instagram – debra.h.goldstein

Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-h-goldstein

 

 

 

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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.

 

Let’s Be Social

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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