Monday, November 23, 2015

Jaya Kamlani, Garden of Life

AUTHOR/POET: Jaya Kamlani
BOOK TITLE: Garden of Life
GENRE: Poetry
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace, Amazon’s Publishing Division

Please tell us about yourself:

Jaya Kamlani is an Indian-American author, poet, a former Silicon Valley information technology consultant, and a graduate of St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, India. She has been living in the USA since 1969 and presently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jaya is the author of the non-fiction book “To India, with Tough Love,” (2013), memoir “Scent of Yesterday” (2014), and a poetry collection “Garden of Life” (2015). She wrote the books with the intent to bring awareness and change to the world.

Please tell us your latest news:

September 2015:  Participated in a reading event on peace and justice poems at Agnes Scott College in Georgia. On this day, poets across the world read poems on peace at over 500 institutions worldwide. Recordings are to be archived at Stanford University.

October 2015:  Panelist to discuss “self-publishing” at a literary festival held at Hunter College, New York.  I have self-published all my three books through CreateSpace in the last three years. Self-publishing is the new trend in America to get books published. Traditional publishers have not been taking on new clients in the last few years. They are primarily handling imprints. Many authors who have used the traditional route in the past, are now distributing books via Amazon because of higher royalties. However, book marketing is the responsibility of the author.

October 2015:  I have been selected to receive the HIND RATTAN AWARD by the Government of India. The award will be presented in January 2016 in New Delhi. The letter I received from Delhi stated the award is for  "outstanding services, contributions and achievements."
Every year, NRI Society of India selects 25 to 30 recipients from across the world for this award. Some 5 or 6 are presented to those of Indian origin living in America, usually to entrepreneurs and researchers in the fields of science, technology and medicine. The award ceremony is attended by top government officials – Parliament ministers, Supreme Court judges, and other dignitaries. Here is the link to the Hind Rattan award...
There are a few who believe I should not accept the award, following the killing of Indian writer and scholar. They believe I should join the solidarity movement with dozens of other authors, poets and journalists of India who have returned their awards as a result of his assassination and rising intolerance in the country. Reference: “Secular scholar in India fatally shot,” August 31, 2015, and Indian Writers Return Awards to Protest Government Silence on Violence,” October 17, 2015,
Although I respect their views, I believe as an award winner I can have more influence to help bring the change I want to see in the country. One of the big benefits a democracy offers is freedom of expression and press. 

This award began with the publication of my book “To India, with Tough Love” in 2013, which was written to bring change to the country in many ways. It addresses India’s many social ills and corruption in politics and the upper echelons of society. An Indian-American scientist from California, who read my book, sent 30 copies of the book to the Supreme Court judges of India. He believed that if there are to be any changes in the country, the Supreme Court judges have the power to do so. Incidentally, these judges will also be present at the Hind Rattan award ceremony this January 2016.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Upon retirement from my two-decade technology career, I started to write my books. I had long dreamt of doing so in my retirement years. Over the last fifteen years, I wrote my three books that required much research.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment? Did those change how or what you did in your novel?

As writers, we should never be afraid to expose the truth or express our views. When I wrote my non-fiction book “To India, with Tough Love,” there were men from India who left comments on my Facebook public postings asking me not to sell my book in India or visit the country. I understood their reaction for I had exposed the ugly truth – the social ills of society, the toxic environment in the country, and corruption at the upper echelon. Today, however, all Supreme Court judges of India have a copy of the book, as does the Prime Minister of India.

When I read my poetry to a writer’s critique group that I have attended for a dozen years, two older male members told me I should not write ill about America. In fact, they were down right nasty about it. But that did not deter me, as I had been down that path before when I wrote my book on India. If we want a better America, then we must expose its weaknesses as well as its strengths. One of our strengths is that in America we are not afraid to speak the truth or voice our opinions. The freedom of speech and expression is alive and well in our democracy.

On the other hand, many readers of my books have confessed to me they have been touched and even got teary-eyed reading them.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them? 

My publisher is CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing division. I saw their ad on Facebook and got in touch with them. It has published all my three books.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

You can find me on Facebook and on my website

Tell me a little about your book. When did you first know you wanted to be a poet?

Although many of my poems have been written in the last two years, some of them were written in the early part of the millennium. When I had to write some tightly woven scenes for my memoir, I found that writing it first in poetry format helped. Then I took the verse, inserted it in my manuscript and edited as needed. Worked beautifully.

What do you hope readers will take from your poetry?

I believe readers will gather that I am trying to confront America’s issues, with the hope of bringing peace and unity to this great land of ours. We cannot have corporations running our country. We cannot have other countries urging us to get engaged in their wars. We must address gun control, as guns have taken the lives of many children. We must no longer be a war-based economy. We must protect our environment. Climate Change is real. Deal making by the multi-millionaires, the corporate CEOs, and bankers with our politicians has led to much greed, corruption and cronyism in the country. My poetry is bold and thought provoking, and addresses all these issues. The book also includes some beautiful nature poems and story poems set in different parts of the world that will inspire and touch the readers.

Why are you drawn to poetry?

Poetry is the elixir for our souls. Poetry can be so sublime it can lift our spirits and carry us to a world of dreams. It can even illuminate the truth of life. Through poetry, we can confront the harshest realities of life, with softer tones that appeal to the heart.

Would you say poetry is easier or harder to write than fiction and why?

Both genres have their own challenges. When writing a novel, the story must have a plot, set of characters, scenes, and a logical thread woven through the story. It must evoke a whole range of emotions, and show the protagonist’s internal conflicts.

On the other hand, poems can be grouped by themes.  Each poem must either be thought provoking, inspiring, emotive, or tell a story, even a story with a moral. Most of all, poetry is compact compared to prose. Much can be conveyed in just a few verses.

Is there anything in your poetry based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.

True life story poems include: wars of America (Vietnam War, 9/11, Iraq War), poverty and homelessness, corporate war on America, a young American girl in foster care sold into sex slavery, life and teachings of the first Buddha, story of King Tut of Egypt, Blood Diamonds, and my personal life stories.

Fiction stories woven around real life events include: the Great Recession of America, a prisoner on death row in Texas, rampant farmer suicides in India, and African diamond mining companies using child labor.

What about your poetry makes it special?

Through this poetry collection, I have helped raise awareness to America’s issues, with the hope it can bring change to our country and peace in the world.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

They can learn more about me and my books from:
- my postings and discussions on Facebook,
- my website, and
- my author page on

Would you give us an example of your poetry?

“Jaws of Hell” is a true poem. The victim’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Poem:  “Jaws of Hell” from the book “Garden of Life”
Copyright:  Jaya Kamlani

Born into a poor southern family, who could ill-afford to care,
tossed from one foster home to another, Cecelia’s nightmare;
many who sheltered her were hungry for a government check,
trafficked her, without caring her life was an emotional wreck.

No time to play, night after night, like a caged bird she wept,
sometimes abused by surrogates in whose care she was kept;
sold into sex slavery, at thirteen gave birth to a biracial son,
but identity of her child’s father, sadly she would never learn.

The little girl’s childhood was so mercilessly stolen from her,
by man’s irresponsible behavior for his momentary pleasure;
an angel heard her cries and freed her from the caged shell,
a foster couple took her home, away from fiery jaws of hell.

Cecelia loved her new parents, was tucked in bed with kisses,
she vacuumed, dusted home, gladly helped with the dishes;
though she loved her son dearly, gave him up for adoption,
now married, mother of two girls, gives them her attention.

Many like Cecelia have suffered far worse, contracted AIDS,
even died young, caught in a trap of cruel sex slave trades.

Any tips for new writers hoping to write poetry?

Write poems on subjects you are passionate about. Not all of your poems have to rhyme. Write short and long poems. Poetry does not always have to be soft; it can also be bold to make a statement. It can appeal to both the heart and mind. Play with different creative layouts, as I have done in my poetry book. Take your readers to different places and do a bit of research of that city or country.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Karina Fabian, I Left My Brains in San Francisco, narrated by Becky Parker

AUTHOR: Karina Fabian
BOOK TITLE: I Left My Brains in San Francisco Audiobook
GENRE: Horror/Humor

Please tell us about yourself.
I was raised by a single mother who made her living as an exterminator, and I sort of grew up in the business. She taught me everything I needed to know about the work, so when I want to college, I took some basic courses but majored in art appreciation. Mom said it was the one time in my life I would have a chance to not have to be thinking about the job, so learn something that was enriching. I’m glad I did. Mom’s gone now, and I’m carrying on the family business. I’ve also starred in a reality TV show, and I’m a spokeswoman for the HunVans brand, and I’m dating a great guy – a little goofy, but so sweet…and really hot when he takes out zombies.

Wait… That’s not me. That’s Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. But you know what? She’s much more interesting to read about. I am an overextended mother of four, happily married, writing for Top Ten Reviews by day and taking on freelancing and fiction at night.

Please tell us your latest news.
The second Neeta Lyffe novel, I Left My Brains in San Francisco, is out in audiobook. Becky Parker, who narrated Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, is again tackling the crazy world of the zombiefied 2040s with great voices and sound effects – and she produced the TREE terrorism theme song. It’s been a fun experience working with her and the audiobook shows it. You can find the audiobook on Audible or learn more about it on my website[KF1] .

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
Lately, that’s changed since I have a full time job. I spend a weekend a month or so making crockpot meals for the family, which seems to include several of my teenage son’s friends these days. I love that. I also do a lot of fun things with my friends at work. We have a regular D&D game going, and this Halloween, a bunch of us dressed as Scooby Doo – Monster Hunters for the office. I was Velma. Shaggy was a zombie. Old Man Witherspoon wasn’t so harmless after all.

On a less happy note, we’re spending a lot of time working with our youngest son who has some severe health and medical issues right now. Much of my non-writing time is taken with that, and in fact, I’m not even writing fiction for now.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
Has to be done by authors. It’s fun in some aspects, but can be a pain, especially when you don’t see the return on your investment of time. The most important parts are finding your target audience and connecting with them in a way that they will give you money for your books. Fans who praise you are great for the ego and can even motivate you, but if you don’t get folks who love you with dollars, then you won’t be able to feed yourself and your family with your writing.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
I don’t believe in writer’s block. If I’m not writing, it’s because of something going on that I need to address: the story is moving in the wrong direction and the characters are balking, so I back up and take a new route. The scene intimidates me for some reason, so I give myself permission to write badly, knowing I can fix it later. I feel guilty about taking time away from X, Y, or Z, so I schedule the time. (This last only happens with uncontracted fiction.) Mostly, if I’m not writing it’s because I’m feeling lazy, so I sit down and make myself write, anyway. I do not believe in being blocked as if some mysterious force has taken away my ideas or my muse has left or whatever, any more than a plumber would believe a mysterious force has removed his ability to fix a sink. If something is “blocked,” you act like that plumber, face the crap and clear it out.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

Any other news you’d like to share?
I teach monthly writing webinars covering different aspects of writing. What more perfect topic for October than monster building? October 19, I taught Zombies and Monsters and Fairies! It was a one hour webinar on creature creation. We talked about physiology, psychology, the sheer otherness of monstrous beings – and how they may in fact reflect who we are as well. Check out my website for upcoming webinars.

What genre do you write in and why?
Science fiction, fantasy, horror, humor, romcom (usually in fantasy), spirituality, business, features… I write whatever interests me and pays.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
I Left My Brains in San Francisco was published a couple of years ago in print and ebook, but this month, it comes out in audiobook with narration and sound effects by Becky Parker. Here’s the summary:

Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator--but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she's looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it'll be a working vacation after all.

Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

What comes first: the plot or characters?
Depends on the story. Often, I come up with a character, and then create the situation for them to be in. In the case of Neeta Lyffe, however, the plot came first – or to be more precise, the title. I was asked to write a short story for The Zombie Cookbook, and not being a zombie, fan, I decided to write a silly story that was more slapstick and puns. “Wokking Dead” was an obvious choice, so the zombies invaded a Korean restaurant. I started thinking of all the funny things zombies could do with Korean food.

Of course, I needed some to take them out, and since I didn’t want to go the overwhelming apocalypse route, I decided they’d be more pest than pestilence. And who takes out pests? An exterminator. Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator was a big hit, so then I had the character, and I’ve been making plots for her ever since.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
I Left My Brains in San Francisco takes place in a refinery, so I had to research not only the approximate layout of the refinery but also the basic process, safety functions, etc. Then I took that knowledge and adapted it to refining manure to make the latest in fuel technology, and added as many potty jokes as I could. It was grueling work, I tell you. Probably the best part was calling the refinery in SLC and trying to convince them I needed a tour so I could plan a zombie attack. I did not succeed, but I did get to interview one the publicity guy. He’s probably logged that as one of the strangest PR encounters he’s ever had.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you?  Why or why not?
I’m OK with violence, although gratuitous scenes are not my style, and I prefer it more cartoony. Fri example, I stopped watching Daredevil because of the violence, even though the story itself was great. Ironically, my favorite fight scene is Daredevil taking on a dozen or so bad guys to save a child. The scene was very real, in that they actually got tired, slowed down, staggered. I liked that it wasn’t easy. But when the villain slammed a guy’s head in the door repeatedly, I had passed my limit.

I have a lower tolerance for sex scenes. I can write them, but I won’t. In fact, I have a novel that has been in my head for 20 years because the characters needed to calm down. I don’t like reading or watching sex scenes, either. Romance, heat – yes. Innuendo? Sure, especially if it’s funny. But if it’s too much for a public display, it does not belong in the fictional “public,” i.e. where readers are exposed.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
For I Left My Brains in San Francisco, it was the relationship. Neeta and Ted love each other, but neither would say anything to the other about it until it was almost too late. I know why they acted that way, but I don’t get it. It made it hard to be in their heads sometimes. By contrast, my husband and I fell in love in a week and declared our love 10 days after meeting. We’d have been engaged then, but Rob needed to meet my parents and ask for my hand first.

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?
All my books are on Amazon or with their respective publishers. I have over a dozen in four universes, plus some nonfiction, so I won’t list them all here, but I can tell you that they include snarky dragon detectives, psychics who move planets, and Catholics and Christians doing adventurous things in time and space – plus zombie exterminators. You can find more information, videos and buy links on my website,

The next book to come out is Shambling in a Winter Wonderland, the third in the Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator series. In October 2016, Discovery, my first Rescue Sisters story comes out.

What book are you currently reading? What do you like or not like about it?
I just finished the Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett. I loved the message of the king as servant (or in this case, queen). It’s a very Christian book to my eyes, and as it was his last and he knew he was dying, I wondered as I read if he was having a conversion of sorts. He might not have; some principles of life are truly universal. Catholics call that Natural Law. I didn’t like that it was his last. I get teary thinking about it and how he must have felt writing it.

What seven words would you use to describe yourself?
Catholic, mother, geek, serendipitous, overextending, distractible, driven

I Left My Brains in San Francisco
The second Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator book, in audio
Author Karina Fabian; narrator Becky Parker; publisher, Damnation Books


Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator--but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she's looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it'll be a working vacation after all.

Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator

BIO – Karina Fabian:

We could tell you Karina Fabian is an award-winning author, that she writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, and devotionals (15 books and counting.) It would all be true, but makes for a boring bio. If you really want to learn about her stuff, go to She has book trailer videos, excerpts from her books, and pictures of her dogs and her Mazda Miata, all of which are more fun to see.

However, if you’re interested…

Karina is a native Coloradoan who lives in Utah because she and her family like it better. With 270-degree view of the mountains and the Great Salt Lake, great neighbors, lots of geeky conventions (Salt Lake City Comic Con rocks!), what’s not to love? She works full-time at Top Ten Reviews, where she is a proud member of the business team (Business Badgers, unite!). Honestly, researching mortgage companies and the like is deadly dull, but her coworkers are nerdy and funny. It’s like what she imagined high school would be in a perfect world.

She’s married to Robert Fabian, a retired Colonel, project manager for BAE systems and VP of Propulsion for Rocket Crafters, Inc. She definitely married up! Her first words to him were “Live long and prosper,” and they have been ever since. They have four great kids who love to pun, watch anime, read fantasy and play D&D. Their bedtime stories were often her rough drafts, but no one’s gone to therapy for that yet.

Everyone likes to know about pets! They currently have two dogs: Toby and Marley. Toby, the coon shepherd, is beautiful and soft, and Marley, the lab-basset, is bassadorable. Toby’s favorite pastime is pulling 2x4s from under the porch and running across the yard with them, while Marley dreams of killing chickens. Again.

Oh! And the Miata. Bright red, hardtop convertible… She will drive it in 20-degree weather with the top down. After 21 years of minivans, it was time for a fun car, and it’s the most fun she’s ever had behind the wheel.
Karina is founder and active member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, and she teaches writing live and in monthly webinars. Check out the website above. She’s always glad to do guest appearances.

BIO – Becky Parker:

Becky Parker Geist is the founder and owner of Pro Audio Voices, serving clients internationally as a go-to place for exceptional voiceover for audiobooks, advertising and animation.

After receiving her M.F.A. in Acting in 1981, Becky began narrating Talking Books for the Blind through the Library of Congress, narrating over 70 titles in two years, and quickly became one of their most popular narrators. As a professional stage actress, she has toured internationally (England and U.S.) and on the east and west U.S. coasts. She performs a wide range of voiceover work, but has a particular love for creating audiobooks with sound effects – the more theatrical the better! Becky brings her broad range of theatre skills – acting, directing, producing, marketing – to bear in all her voiceover and production work.
Committed to leadership and building strong, long-term relationships, Becky serves as President of BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Association) and is a member of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Assn), APA (Audio Publishers Assn), and TBA (Theatre Bay Area).

Becky is married to classical composer John Geist and has 3 adult daughters: Elise, Jes and Jerrilee. As of 2015, Becky can truly say she is bi-coastal, going back and forth between New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been having a blast working Off Broadway in NY for the past few years and has been a professional stage actor in the Bay Area since 1985.


"Hi! Welcome to Zomblog!  It's ‘Time to Re-kill!’  This is Kelsey Gardenberger, and we are reporting to you live from Fisherman's Wharf, where zombie exterminators Rii and Hi Lee of Bay Exterminations have been called in to take out a zombie."
Police held back spectators who had cell phones to film the event.  On the ground lay a man in a black-and-white striped shirt, black pants with suspenders and gold makeup on his rotting skin.  He pounded on the air with imaginary fists, and then felt along imaginary walls with his hands.  Where he should have had fingers, only mangled skin and bare bones showed. Rii and Hi, both in protective gear, watched the prone figure and spoke among themselves.  The zombie continued his act unconcerned, except to pause now and again and make drinking motions before pointing to the top hat waiting beside him.
"It looks like Rii Lee and Hi Lee have decided on their strategy.  Despite the fact that the zombie appears so docile, it could turn violent at the slightest provocation--and if you don't believe me, check out 'Don't wave that thing at me!' on the Zomblog archives.  They're starting!"
While Rii stood by with a power blaster of anti-zombie foam, Hi ambled up to the prone zombie, sword relaxed but ready in his left hand.  He watched the undead mime its struggle against the imaginary coffin, nodded appreciatively, and tossed a twenty into the hat.  The Wasted Mime started clawing with fervor, dug himself up, and brushed himself off.
Some of the crowd in the front stepped back.
It picked up the hat, checked the money.
The crowd took in a breath.
It faced Hi.
Hi bowed.
The crowd gasped.  Cameras flashed.
The zombie bowed back, deeply and theatrically.
Hi lashed out with his sword, its blade cutting deeply and theatrically into the zombie's neck.
The re-killed corpse folded over.
The crowd broke into wild cheers.
Kelsey smiled big for the camera.  "And there you have it!  Looks like a mime isn't such a terrible thing to waste after all."

Find Karina at:

Find Becky at:

Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco at:

Video Links


Monday, November 9, 2015

C. A. Newsome, Sneak Thief: A Dog Park Mystery

AUTHOR: C. A. Newsome
BOOK TITLE: Sneak Thief: A Dog Park Mystery
GENRE: Semi-Cozy Mystery
PUBLISHER: Two Pup Press

Please tell us about yourself. I spent many years as an artist with a day job before I fell into writing by accident, when a head injury derailed my plans. I paint the dog portraits on my covers.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? Half-time. The rest of the time, I live with a head injury. My symptoms dictate when I can write. I’m horrible at following schedules. I make commitments instead. I’ll set a launch date, then aim to meet it.

When and why did you begin writing? I’m an avid reader of crime fiction, but I’d gotten to the point where I wanted something more than what was available. In 2010, I set out to write A Shot in the Bark, just to see if I could. My mother encouraged me to find a publisher, and I put it up on Amazon instead. It started selling and I haven’t looked back.

What inspired you to write your first book? A co-worker asked me to help him edit his book. After two months of having my advice rejected, I had to prove to myself that I knew what I was talking about.  The first thing I did was invent a character based on my co-worker, then kill him off.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing? Hang out at the dog park with my dogs, Shadda and Chewy, ride my bike up at Mount Airy Forest or Spring Grove Cemetery, experiment in the kitchen. I lead a quiet life.

What are your thoughts about promotion? Done right, it’s fun. It’s also necessary if you want anyone to find your book.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? The biggest complaint I’ve received is the lack of resolution in my first book. People either loved it or they hated it.

What was the biggest compliment? My favorite compliment is being told my book kept someone up all night reading it.

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel? I resolved never to leave readers hanging again. Partly due to reader complaints, but also because I discovered I didn’t like writing when the plot was limited by the previous book. There is a long story arc about Lia and Peter’s relationship, but each book can be read as a stand-alone after the first two.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it? Writer’s block is one of two things: either not knowing what happens next, or being so concerned about crafting a good sentence that you can’t get started. If I don’t know what happens next, I dig into my characters and think about how each would react to the situation. If that doesn’t work, I bounce ideas around with my sister or my friend, Pat. I never stress about craft in my first draft. I just get down what I know is happening however I can. Either the words start flowing or else I can come back later and fix it when I have more insight into the scene.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them? Two Pup Press is my own imprint.

What are your current projects? What do you plan for the future? Right now, I’m working on Muddy, Mouth, Book 5 in my Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries. For 2016, I plan two books. Fur Boys features an extortionate music professor and (tentatively titled) Fat Boy is about a rehabbing couple in their own personal War of the Roses.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
Through my website is the best bet:
I’ve recently started experimenting with Periscope. You can follow me @C_A_Newsome
I’m on Facebook,, though I don’t spend much time there. I always respond to email,

What genre do you write in and why? I call it “Semi-Cozy Mystery with Dogs.” I like a book that has humor along with thrills, some romance, and a puzzle. I write what I know, and what I know best are life as a struggling artist (the basis for my main character, Lia Anderson) and the regulars at my local dog park.

What comes first: the plot or characters? Long before I ever thought I would write a book, I thought it would be fun to have a series with amateur sleuths who connected at their dog park, and I based my first book on my dog park friends.

Which of your characters do you love the most and why? Peter Dourson is my fantasy guy. Tall and lean, laid back, and the kind of guy that grew up working with his hands. He’s solid, a nice guy and former boy scout with still waters that run deep.  He loves Lia, though he doesn’t entirely understand her. He’s willing to take some bumps in the road for the sake of the relationship.

How did you decide how your characters should look? Most of my characters are based on real people (with their permission) so I start there. I have been known to shave off a few pounds.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind? I want everything that happens in my books to be possible, no matter how outrageous. I research anything  I don’t know for a fact. I can do most of this on the Internet. I’ve consulted an assistant funeral director about burial mishaps, and a pair of firemen I know about gas leaks. I have a couple of former cops I can go to for issues with police scenarios. I attend the Writers’ Police Academy, which is a real blast.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not? I prefer writing romance to sex, and I will do a tasteful fade to black instead of showing sex acts. They don’t bother me, but I think they would bore me. I’m more interested in the seduction. As for violence, I won’t do violence against animals. I once wrote two sentences where a killer remembers drowning a kitten. That continues to bother me years later, even though it was essential to the development of that character. I’m okay with writing violence against people because it’s more of a fair fight. I try to stay on that line where the violence is thrilling and believable, but not gratuitous or gory.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? Figuring out how to catch the bad guy.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process? Right now it takes about a year. I hope to cut that down so I can put out 2 books a year. I maintain a mental inventory of scenes and premises that I’d like to see in a book. At some point, two or three of these will gravitate together and I’ll start building a story around them. Muddy Mouth is based on a local knitting club full of cat ladies, the Northside Fourth of July Parade, and fellow author Russell Blake. Then I ask how my characters would logically react to the situation.

What advice would you give a new writer starting out? Know your genre inside out. You’re playing to an audience with certain expectations. Whether you are going to follow the prevailing tropes or explode them, you need to know what you’re doing and why.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel? I read a lot of series, and I hate it when they gel into an aggregate of series-specific cliches. I’ll often stop reading when that happens. I lose interest when the author goes so far overboard creating an interesting character, that the final result is unsympathetic. I  also dislike the current mantra that the author’s job is to torture their character, then torture them more, with no relief. Huge body counts bug me too. I was reading one book where someone died, then everyone the protagonist talked to died. When the body count got up to six, I stopped reading. Lots of things bug me in books, so it’s a good thing I can write my own. 

Starving artist Lia Anderson’s new job at Scholastic Scoring Systems would be a bore if it weren’t for her scoring partner. Lia embraces Desiree, a sassy man-killer, and draws her and her equally sassy Beagle, Julia, into the dog park circle. When hand-crafted foil dolls from a secret admirer start appearing, Desiree enjoys the tiny tributes while Lia worries that the phantom beau is dangerous. Desiree winds up dead, and the detectives assigned to the case ignore Lia's concerns about her stalker. When Lia finds her own foil gifts, she must take matters into her own hands, with the help of her friends.


Lia leaned over to peer at the odd squiggle on Desiree’s monitor. “Is that supposed to be a bicycle?”

Desiree sighed. In the vast array of computers that was Scholastic Scoring Systems, it was an insignificant gesture.

“I guess so. A bicycle in a wreck with a tree. I think he’s trying to say, if he were riding the bike at the speed they said in the question, he wouldn’t have been able to stop. Proficiency testing is whack. Fourth-graders think they’re so cute. After grading the same question 5,000 times, they’re a freaking riot.” She rolled her eyes.

Lia tilted her head sideways to get a better look. “I don’t know, I like the added touch of the body on the ground. The broken arm really makes it. What’s that blob?”

Desiree squinted. “Blood, maybe? But I can’t give him any credit for this, can I?”

Lia shrugged. “You’re asking the wrong person.” She shot her hand up in the air to grab their Team Leader’s attention. She already knew what the answer was, but Eric liked to feel needed. And he’d get a kick out of the little sketch.

Eric bopped over to their row—he was much too energetic to merely walk—and stood behind the women. He stroked a trim red beard and raised his eyebrows as he examined Desiree’s screen.

“What should I do with this?” Desiree asked. “This kid clearly knows the answer.”

“He doesn’t state it directly, and he doesn’t show his work. We can’t give points for artwork. No matter how creative it is.” Eric folded his arms and gave her a mock-stern look over his glasses. “You know the rules.”

Desiree slumped back in her chair and twisted her mouth. “I guess. You’re no fun, Eric.”

“I’m not supposed to be fun. Just consistent.”

“You’re fun on Fridays, when you bring us chocolate.” Lia toasted him with her half-eaten Nestle’s Crunch bar. “Do you get an allowance for all the treats you give us?”

“What? No, of course not.”

Eric’s head popped up, his attention caught by a waving hand two rows up in the expanse of monitors.

Lia watched as Eric bounced off to settle another question. “You know, he’s kinda cute for a short guy.”

“I’m so over that whole shaved head thing,” Desiree said. “I ran into it a lot at The Comet. I thought you had a boyfriend?”

“I was thinking for you.”

“You think so?” Desiree made a moue. “I don’t know . . . I usually go for bad boy types. Eric is just so . . . chipper. And I usually like them taller.”

The two women considered Eric Flynn as he bent over a retiree’s monitor. He was actually taller than he looked, since he tended to lead with his head, leaning forward as if he couldn’t wait to get where he was going. Lia pegged him in his late twenties. Blue eyes, the shade of the sky on a crisp autumn day, hid behind heavy, black-framed glasses.

Lia wondered if his shaved head was due to early male pattern baldness, style or politics. Perhaps inspired by a bout with cancer? She thought his Batman hoodie showed just the right amount of humor. Desiree’s coppery hair with its blue-green tips would look cute next to Eric’s Buddy Holly glasses and baggy—not saggy—jeans.

What guy wouldn’t go for Desiree? Lia always caught men staring at the shorter woman’s packed, curvy figure. She looked up to see Avery, the room supervisor, watching them from the corner of his eye as he strolled down the center aisle separating the computers like Moses parting the Red Sea. His eyes flicked away when Lia caught him ogling her scoring partner. Case in point.

Desiree seemed oblivious. Or maybe she was just used to it. Though it was probably self-defense. Still, Lia couldn’t imagine any woman wanting to encourage Avery. The guy was a prissy tyrant in Ralph Lauren his mother bought at a factory outlet. Ugh.

She nudged Desiree. “Back to work. Avery is looking over here.”
Lia and Desiree were hunched over their monitors when Eric came back. They looked up at him with wide, owl eyes.

“Why do I think you girls—excuse me, women—are plotting something?”

“Who, us?” Desiree blinked, a suspiciously blank expression on her face. “We’re just scoring away here. Was there something you wanted, Bwana?”

Eric’s lips twitched. He leaned over and tapped a little figure made of crumpled aluminum foil that was sitting on top of Desiree’s monitor. “Who’s this funny little guy?”

“I found him clinging to my car antenna yesterday. Cute, isn’t he?”

“I think Desiree has an admirer,” Lia said.

Desiree rolled her eyes and huffed. “Whatever.”

“Just be sure to take him with you when you leave tonight,” Eric said. “First shift gets wiggy if the work stations aren’t pristine when they show up.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Some people have no sense of humor.”

“First shift sure doesn’t,” Eric agreed. “Back to work. We’ve got the best stats in the room. You don’t want to ruin that for us, do you?”