The Secret Life of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets

posted in: Entertainment, Fiction, Movies, Our Work, Scout and Malcolm | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The Secret Life of Pets opens across theaters today and we are pretty excited about it. We love all five of our pets and are pretty much obsessed with anything that includes talking animals.

What’s more, the Secret Life of Pets features an all-star vocal cast including Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, and Ellie Kemper. The trailer looks hilarious! (scroll down to watch)

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We are also excited about it because of our book, Scout and Malcolm. Last month, we released a middle grade mystery/adventure about two dog detectives who have to maintain a home life, appearing to be normal dogs who lounge around the house all day, and a work life, which takes them across their beach town searching for missing creatures. Secret Life, anyone?

If you love the Secret Life of Pets, we think you will absolutely love Scout and Malcolm: High Order of Undercover Dog Detectives Book 1!

We have previously discussed Scout and Malcolm here and you can see the description of the book here. Once you have enjoyed the Secret Life of Pets in your local movie theater, mosey on over and check out our awesome book.

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Izzy, the Wildest Dog in the West, PLUS New Book Announcement

Izzy, the Wildest Dog in the West, PLUS New Book Announcement

posted in: At Home, Scout and Malcolm, Woof Trekking | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

This month, we have introduced you to two of our five pets: Nana the Brave, and Billy the Most AMAZING Cat. Today, we are introducing our third pet, Izzy, the Wildest Dog in the West. Well, that might be an exaggeration… but only just a little bit.

You might be wondering why we have been blogging about our pets so much recently. The reason is our newest book: Woof Trekking: How to Road Trip with your Pets. Izzy is our cover girl, as you can see below!

wooftripping cover

Woof Trekking will be released 8 days from today: July 1st. It is a perfect summer vacation book. We are so excited to share all of the road tripping tips and tricks that we have picked up during our four years of trekking around the US with our pets.

But for now, let’s get back to Izzy.

Izzy is a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. We picked her up from the airport as an eight-week-old fuzzball. So cute!

izzy, dog, dogs, wheaten, soft coated wheaten terrier
8 weeks old

Izzy can get pretty wild. We think this is due to the purebred terrier aspect of her (i.e. more nature than nurture). She is very social and excitable, much more so than Nana.

izzy, dog, dogs, wheaten, soft coated wheaten terrier, terrier
4 months old

She is always “on.” According to Wikipedia, Wheatens were bred for “herding, watching and guarding livestock, and vermin hunting and killing.” When she naps, any small noise will wake her and she hops up to investigate.

She can also become overstimulated quite easily, which can cause a case of the zoomies, during which she lets out hilarious high pitched shrieks, tear around the house, and twirl around in circles.

This type of wild behavior is exactly what inspired us to write Scout and Malcolm. Izzy is Irish, like Malcolm, although he is probably four times her size. They are both purebreds, can be a little over the top, but remain completely lovable for their pure enthusiastic spirit.

izzy, dog, dogs, wheaten, soft coated wheaten terrier, terrier
11 months old. Her puppy fur grew out completely when she was about 10 months. Bye bye beautiful burnt orange. Hello Wild Wheaten.

Izzy has very expressive eyes. When she gets scared, her eyes grow wide. She takes advantage of her eyes by staring into your soul, thereby inducing you to feed her more treats. It usually works.

When you talk to her, she cocks her head as if if looking at you sideways will help her understand. Another great trick in her arsenal.

izzy, dog, dogs, wheaten, soft coated wheaten terrier, terrier
Izzy with her yogurt cup, enjoying a bit of Regis and Kelly back in December 2010.

Izzy is the polar opposite of Nana, but we love her. She is the wild one of our family and can always be depended on to bring some sort of excitement to our day.

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The Best Outlander Gift Guide

The Best Outlander Gift Guide

posted in: Entertainment, Fiction, Television | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

In March, we had the pleasure of listening to Diana Gabaldon speak at the Tucson Festival of Books. We wrote about our experience in our most popular post to date. Read it here.

During this panel, Ms. Gabaldon talked about how she had been asked to write an episode for the show during Season 1, but had declined. Not so for Season 2. Tomorrow’s episode (Season 2, Episode 11), titled Vengeance is Mine, was written by Diana Gabaldon, herself.

According to her website, Ms. Gabaldon spent a month in Scotland while the episode was filming. A recent LA Times article discusses the experience, as told by stars of the show. This article also includes a fun and insightful 30 minute long video of Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe discussing the show and its renewal for seasons 3 and 4. See it here: ‘Outlander’s’ stars thrill to the writer’s presence on set.

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In celebration, we have searched high and low for the best Outlander gifts and now we present them to you!

Order your favorite Outlander gifts and remember to watch this Saturday’s episode written by Ms. Gabaldon.

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Limited Time SALE! Plus Free Excerpt of SCOUT AND MALCOLM

Limited Time SALE! Plus Free Excerpt of SCOUT AND MALCOLM

posted in: Fiction, Our Work, Scout and Malcolm, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Yesterday, we were stoked to announce the publication of our first middle grade book: Scout and Malcolm.

Today, we want to present you with Chapter 1 as a FREE excerpt. Before we get to that, we have a special announcement.

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We are excited to offer Scout and Malcolm at a special reduced price of 99¢ through Friday! The book is 138 pages, perfect for middle grade readers, and full of action, adventure, and slobbery good times. Click the image below to access this superb sale!

scout and malcolm sale

And now we present, Chapter 1 of Scout and Malcolm.

pawprint border 600 w

Chapter 1

The odor is wild and musky. A bit like coyote but not quite. I stand on the porch and take in several quick breaths, scanning the air to no avail. I must investigate this threat, even if it means that I will be late for work. I head straight for the loose fence board, third from the end, hidden behind the oak tree. I push it forward with my head and slip out into the back alley.

The stench is stronger out here. I take quick sniffs of the ground, moving back and forth. It grows more and more intense as I track, sending an involuntary chill down my back.


The piercing shrieks of a chicken… Rita Mae! I take off toward the house of my favorite feathered friend. As I arrive, I peer through her fence and see a cloud of white feathers swirling in the air. Rita Mae is charging across her yard, pursued closely by a sleek, musky-smelling red fox with its jaws wide open.

“Help! Help, Scout! MAKE IT STOP!” yells Rita Mae, wings flapping, feet dancing, kicking up a haze of dust.

My eyes dart along the fence. How did the fox get in there? A mound of loose dirt is sitting at the far end of Rita Mae’s fence. I charge toward it and dive into the fox’s tunnel headfirst. My front legs and head pass through easily but when I get to my belly, I’m stuck. I shimmy and wiggle but make little progress.

“Uugh, nooo, come on. Suck in your gut,” I command, willing myself onward.

I stop to catch my breath for a moment and notice Rita Mae’s squawks have stopped. The yard is completely silent. Where did she go? Where’s the fox? Did he eat her?

“What the cluck, Scout? Cluck. Cluck,” Rita Mae demands from the top of her coop.

“Bhahaha, what a chunky dog you are!” comes the taunting voice of the fox.

He has fallen to the ground laughing, too distracted by me to focus on Rita Mae. “Am I supposed to be afraid of you? Fat chance. Oh, good one, Fitzy. So punny.”

Oh, Husky no! He did not just refer to himself in third fox. He’s going down. But first, I need to get through this darn hole. I wiggle with a new intensity, glaring at my furry foe as he laughs in my face. Every snicker adds more fuel to my fire. Then in one quick movement, I squirt free of the tunnel and charge toward the pompous fox.

“Oh, shoot. Fat dog got free,” says Fitzy, scrambling to get his footing.

“Who’s laughing now?” I snarl. In one lunge, my mouth is nearly around his skinny neck. He scrambles out of my reach, but I don’t give up easily. “You think you can just come in here and eat Rita Mae? Uh-uh, Fitzy. Not on my watch,” I growl.

“Yeah, Scout! Get him!” screeches Rita Mae, hopping up and down on top of her coop.

I grab a mouthful of Fitzy’s tail and clamp down with the full force of my jaws. He yowls, leaps into the air and charges forward. I lose my grip, and I am only left with tufts of fur in my mouth. The foul fox bolts through his narrow tunnel and scampers down the alley.

“Don’t ever come back!” I bark at him before falling to the ground, panting. I spit out the disgusting red fur balls. I almost had him. One more step and it would have been lights out for Fitzy. What a shame.

“You did it, Scout. You saved me! Cluck. Cluck. And it’s a good thing too. You know I’m an only chicken. My mom would lose it if something ever happened to me.”

“All in a day’s work… I’m glad I was… passing by,” I manage, breathless.

Rita Mae flutters off her coop to join me on the ground. As she walks toward me, she pecks at the dirt, looking for any morsel of food she can find.

“Polish Chickens love to eat, love to eat, love to eat,” Rita Mae sings to the tune of “London Bridge” as she throws back bits of grain.

I watch the feathers on her head flop up and down as she pecks in a circle around me. Rita Mae is not your average chicken. She is a Polish Chicken, as she often reminds me. All of her plumage is marshmallow white and the feathers on her head are elongated, so it looks like she is wearing a fluffy headdress. The only spot of color on her is the small red wattle that sticks out under her beak.

I peel myself off the ground and survey the alley. No sign of Fitzy to the left or to the right. A quick inspection of the yard reveals no additional fox-sized entry points.

“I’m late for work, Rita Mae. I don’t think the fox will bother you again, but I’ll keep a look out.” I shimmy my way out of Fitzy’s tunnel and kick the pile of dirt back into the hole. “Make sure to show this spot to your mom so she can fill it in better.”

“Yes, ma’am, Scout. Thanks again. Cluck. Cluck. And hey… not bad for a chunky dog.”

“Always knew you were a bad egg, Rita Mae.” I chuckle at my own retort. “Stay out of trouble and have a good day.”

scout and malcolm sale

I continue my regular route to work. Back alleys are the safest byways for dog detectives to travel. Don’t want any meddlesome humans interfering in my business. I am not a lost dog.

Usually I am extremely punctual, but today, saving Rita Mae’s chicken butt has put me way behind schedule. The Captain won’t be happy. I change alleys twice before arriving at work. The sign above the door says, “PAWS Dog Boarding and Obedience School,” in blinding neon pink letters. I lurk in the alley next to PAWS and wait for a human to open the front door.

Three months after I was adopted, my family brought me to puppy classes here. I didn’t really need to go to school because I was the perfect puppy, but somehow obedience school is the “in” thing to do.

During my time in class, I noticed unaccompanied dogs walking toward the back boarding kennels. Who were they? Where were their humans? At the final puppy session, I snuck away to investigate and discovered the Captain sitting at the entrance to the kennels.

“We’ve been waiting for you,” he said. I almost wet myself but didn’t − because I am a dignified dog. He offered me a position in the High Order of Undercover Dog Detectives, HOUNDD for short, and I started training at the Academy the next week. That was three years ago. Now, I lead the Missing Creatures Unit of HOUNDD.

Presently, an old man wearing a purple velvet tracksuit and smelling of macaroni and cheese with a hint of tuna approaches the door. A Whoodle puppy is trailing behind him. She keeps getting tangled up in her own leash. At least I think she’s a Whoodle. These designer crossbreeds are all the rage. I try to keep track, but it’s confusing. Wheaten Terrier plus Poodle makes Whoodle. Or is it Pooten? Either way, I fall into step with them and walk through the doorway. They don’t even notice me.

PAWS is covered from floor to ceiling in pink: from the vivid fuchsia wallpaper to the magenta floor tiles to the plump rose-colored chairs. Amid the sea of pink is a full-size, life-like statue of a wrinkled English Bulldog perched on the reception desk. He is white with splashes of brindle, and if you look closely, you can see his toenails are painted hot pink. This is the PAWS mascot, also known as the Captain.

I make my way toward the boarding kennels. My journey takes me past the piles of dog food for sale, the double doors that lead to the training arena and storage cubbies full of training equipment, including clickers, hurdles and cones.

There aren’t many dogs being kenneled today. I walk by a pint-sized Yorkshire terrier yipping at her own shadow. Then I tiptoe past a dreaming St. Bernard, legs twitching as he chases an imaginary rabbit. At the end of the row is Kennel K9. It looks like all of the other kennels. Only HOUNDD detectives know that it’s different.

I am positive that I have not been followed, but I check behind me once more. No humans. No cats. The coast is clear. Rule Number Five of HOUNDD: Always check for tails, especially cats.

I enter through Kennel K9’s open gate and walk to the back. I put my front left paw into the empty water bowl and press down. A small touchscreen rises from a crack in the floor and stops at my eye level.

I hold my nose in front of it. A green band of light flashes across the screen, scanning my nose. The nose print of every dog is distinct, like human fingerprints. The screen displays my official HOUNDD photo and reads:

Name: Scout Louanne Peck
Rank: Detective Sergeant
Department: Missing Creatures Unit
Coat Color: Tan
Breed: Mixed
Weight: 35 pounds
Years of Service: Three

I chuckle every time I see “35 pounds.” Last time I went to the vet, I weighed 43, but that is my little secret. The grubby white wall in front of me slides upward, and I step inside HOUNDD Headquarters.

scout and malcolm sale

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt. If you did, please buy the book!

Thank you very much for your support!


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Introducing… Scout and Malcolm, HOUNDD Detectives Extraordinaire!

Introducing… Scout and Malcolm, HOUNDD Detectives Extraordinaire!

posted in: Fiction, Our Work, Scout and Malcolm, Writing | 1 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Two years ago, we came to a crossroads in our lives. We had both graduated college with degrees in Animal Science but we didn’t really want to get jobs in the field. We are both natural storytellers and Mac always knew she wanted to be a writer. Al needed a little more coaxing to admit that being a writer was what she truly wanted to do.

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One day, we were sitting around, Mac trying to persuade Al that writing was the best thing in the whole world. Al, ever the skeptic, said to Mac “Tell me some of your ideas,” thinking none of Mac’s ideas would be very good. Mac replied with “Well, I had this idea about dog detectives who cruise around a California beach town rescuing lost pets…”

“That actually sounds pretty good,” Al interrupted, stunned at the idea. That was the beginning of the High Order of Undercover Dog Detectives (HOUNDD) and our collaboration as Z.Y. Doyle.

middle grade fiction, children's fiction, ebooks, ebook, cover, books, dog, dog detectives

When developing our main characters, Scout and Malcolm, we had to look no further than our two hounds, Nana and Izzy (who we introduced earlier this month in the post Nana the Brave!).

nana and scout
Scout and Nana

Nana is very focused while Izzy can’t pay attention for more than ten seconds. The same is true for Scout and Malcolm. Now that we had a premise and our characters, we just needed to give each of them a badge and dream up a fun escapade for them, preferably involving an evil cat.

izzy and malcolm
Izzy and Malcolm

Today, we are pleased to announce the official publication of our middle grade mystery-adventure. So without further ado, check our newest ebook: Scout and Malcolm: High Order of Undercover Dog Detectives Book 1.

Get ready to meet the furriest heroes on the block!


Scout Peck, 100% mutt.


Rescue Trixie, a missing Airedale puppy.


Scout has a new partner. Malcolm is a rookie Irish Wolfhound with a secret: he’s a mutant. His genetic disorder causes him to faint when frightened and drool enough to fill a swimming pool.


Scout and Malcolm must face paw-to-paw combat with a delinquent dog, battle a sinister feline foe, and outwit dastardly dognappers too, if they want to save Trixie in time.

We hope you take some time to check out the book and tell your friends about it!

The Secret Life of Pets

While we were finishing this book, we were surprised to discover that Illumination Entertainment was releasing a movie in 2016 called The Secret Life of Pets. Our book is also about dogs who lead double lives. In case you haven’t heard of the movie, here is the trailer.

We are very excited to see the movie. It will be released in the UK on June 24 and in the US on July 8.

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Diana Gabaldon and Outlander: Cameos, and Cookbooks, and Claire Bears! Oh My!

Diana Gabaldon and Outlander: Cameos, and Cookbooks, and Claire Bears! Oh My!

posted in: Entertainment, Fiction, Our Work, Television, Writing | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

“Diana Gabaldon and Outlander” was the only ticketed panel we attended at this year’s Tucson Festival of Books. By the time the session started, there was not an empty chair in the 300-seat auditorium.

Here is Ms. Gabaldon, along with the moderator for the session, Barbara Peters, a friend of Ms. Gabaldon’s and the owner of The Poisoned Pen, an independent bookstore located in Scottsdale, AZ.

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diana gabaldon, starz, outlander, tucson festival of books

The Outlander series has been published in 42 countries and in 38 languages. The series has also been adapted into a television show that appears on the Starz Channel.

The show is currently streaming Season 1 right now for FREE!!!

From the time Outlander was published in 1991, Hollywood was very interested in creating an adaptation of the book. Ms. Gabaldon used these criteria to select the person she wanted working on a tv/movie adaptation of Outlander.

  1. Someone who has read the book
  2. Someone who has previously made a movie/tv show
  3. Someone who understands the book

Outlander, Book 1

In the end, Ronald D. Moore, of Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek fame, fit the bill. He is the executive producer of the Outlander television series. It took 2 years of negotiation with Sony to make the show a reality.

Mr. Moore had previously signed a three pilot contract with Sony and the first two pilots he had created were not picked up. Outlander was his last shot.

Sony liked the pilot and agreed to produce the show. You can see Ronald in “Set Tour with Diana Gabaldon” below. Mr. Moore also creates a podcast to go along with each episode of Outlander, which can be found here.

diana gabaldon, starz, outlander, tucson festival of books

In Season 1, Episode 4 of the Outlander TV series, “The Gathering,” Ms. Gabaldon appeared as a guest star. She was originally going to play an extra in a crowd. However, if she did that then she would have to stand in the same spot for three days. Instead, they created a small speaking role for her, Iona MacTavish, that only required one day on set.

You can read more about Ms. Gabaldon’s cameo experience on her blog at My Brief Career As A TV Actor (Part I) and (Part II). Below is a clip of Ms. Gabaldon’s cameo, along with her commentary.


diana gabaldon, starz, outlander, tucson festival of books

In the above photo, along with the first image on this post, you can see the Claire Wedding Bear, released by Sony and created by the North American Bear Company. You can read more about the Claire Bear at Diana Gabaldon’s website and purchase an autographed bear on the Poisoned Pen’s website.

On June 14, 2016, the Outlander Kitchen will be available. It was written by chef and food writer Theresa Carle-Sanders. Ms. Carle-Sanders was a fan of the Outlander books and created recipes to the food items mentioned in them and posted them to her blog, which led to the cookbook. There is also an Outlander Coloring Book by Diana Gabaldon.

diana gabaldon, starz, outlander, tucson festival of books

Ms. Gabaldon is currently working on the ninth book of the Outlander series, which does not yet have a title. In the above photo, she is reading the audience an excerpt during the session.

She read the excerpt, “Moonlight and Howling,” which is available, along with other Book Nine excerpts, on Ms. Gabaldon’s webpage under the hashtag: #BookNine.

A few more nuggets from the panel:

  • Ms. Gabaldon wrote an episode for the upcoming season, Season 2, Episode 11.
  • Ms. Gabaldon doesn’t own the merchandise rights to anything related to her show; Sony does.
  • Ms. Gabaldon uses first person accounts as a base for intense content in her books like fight scenes and psychological damage after trauma.
  • Ms. Gabaldon writes 6-7 chunks of the story then moves them around to form the final book. It takes about 18 months to see the shape of the book, and it takes 2-3 years to complete a book.

We had a wonderful time at the panel and really enjoyed listening to Ms. Gabaldon.

By the way, on Thursday, April 7, USA Today will be hosting a live chat with Diana Gabaldon at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT. Read more at USA Today.

Are you a fan of Outlander? Let me know in the comments below!

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Tucson Festival of Books: Longmire

Tucson Festival of Books: Longmire

posted in: Entertainment, Fiction, Our Work, Television | 7 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

In my earlier post about the Tucson Festival of Books, I promised to tell you about the ticket process at the Festival and my time at the panel, “Longmire and Me.” Here is the low down:

Presenting…Ticket Time!

During previous years (when there were no tickets), we had observed the long lines of people waiting to see famous authors speaking in the largest venue at the Festival, the Student Union Ballroom. We just shook our heads and said,

“That will never be us. No one could be worth waiting to see in that long line.”

But when we heard there would be tickets available for the largest venues this year, our interest was piqued. Maybe, just maybe, we could see a famous author or two.

When we heard that Craig Johnson would be there with Walt (Robert Taylor) and Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), we were ready to log onto the Festival website and reserve the tickets as soon as they were available. While we were at it, we also reserved tickets to see a panel featuring Lisa See, Jean Kwok, and Amy Tan.

Ticket Reality…

So Saturday arrived and we were excited to try out the new powerful tickets. These magical tickets surely meant that we could bypass the never-ending line of misery…

We arrived to the Lisa See, Jean Kwok, and Amy Tan panel twenty minutes before the start, just like the tickets had prescribed. We saw the line stretched down the hallway and sighed. Then we started to follow it.

It just kept going and going and going and going.

The line snaked in and out of rooms and down hallways. By the time we reached the end, they had already merged the ticket line with the non-ticket line (25% of the seats were reserved for walk-ins) and we just gave up. Instead, we decided to attend a different panel of two animators turned illustrators, Molly Idle and John Rocco. It was excellent and no tickets were required.

Newbies No More!

With this experience in mind, we decided more drastic measures were required for Sunday’s Longmire session.

We arrived at 10:15 (even though the panel was not set to begin until 11:30). There were already about fifty people in line! We were surprised, but pleased that we were at least assured a good seat. We had brought sandwiches with us and chowed down on a nice brunch while waiting.

(Side note: The lines for food at the vendors for lunch are SO long during the peak lunch hours (11-1). It takes at least an hour out of your day if you buy your lunch. The breaks between panels are only half an hour. We bought our lunches our first year attending the festival, and have brought our lunches every year since.)

The time went by pretty quickly because we had our phones. Whenever you have your phone, you will never be bored. The Internet was practically invented to cure boredom. I spent most of my time on StumbleUpon. My favorite stumble was a post: “15 Before-And-After Photos Of Cats Growing Up.” Click it! You know you need some more cute cats in your life right now!

At about 11:15, they opened the doors and we began to file into the ballroom. The first three rows in the middle section were reserved, but we snagged seats in the sixth row, which were not too shabby (especially since the tickets were FREE!) On the whole, the ticketing system was a brilliant idea by the organizers of the Festival. The process was extremely smooth and all the volunteers were kind and informative.

Walt, Henry, and The Creator

We settled into our seats and waited for the hundreds of others behind us in line to do the same. There was a gentle buzz of excited conversation filling the ballroom. (We are here to see a famous writer AND actors! How lucky are we?) A couple people proudly sported “The Red Pony Bar & Grill” shirts, which we admired with envy. We found them later as being available for purchase on Craig Johnson’s website.

Here is a picture of their empty seats.

Empty Seats

Finally, they arrived and the crowd erupted.

Please Be Seated

Confession Time

We have not read a single Longmire book. Pretty terrible, right? We have however, seen every single episode of the Longmire television show. We own the first book by Craig Johnson, The Cold Dish: A Longmire Mystery, but just have not found the time to read it yet… but hopefully that will change soon.

The show is absolutely fantastic! We happened onto it during the second season on A&E. They were playing a marathon before the new episode that evening.

The first scene we saw was of a black horse running free, mane ripping through the wind, nostrils flared as the beautiful creature drew in each ragged breath. The sky was so pure blue, like lapis lazuli, and the ground was golden brown, dust flying in a haze behind the horse. Then this rugged cowboy appeared on screen, raising a lasso above his head. It was like a painting!

I mean, COME ON!

How could you not be hooked? This show captures the very essence of the romance of the West. I could next go on a rant about how ridiculous it was of A&E to cancel Longmire, but no matter. We will definitely be watching season 4 on Netflix. And you should too! It is an AMAZING show.

Highlights of the Panel

Lou Diamond Phillips (Henry Standing Bear) is a very engaging and funny man! He was excited to be back in Tucson because the last time he had visited was for filming Young Guns II, released in 1990.

  •      Prior to auditioning, Mr. Phillips read all the Longmire books to get a sense of his character. He knows Henry so well that he has pointed out to the writers that Henry Standing Bear doesn’t (does not) use contractions.
  •      When Mr. Phillips joined Longmire’s cast, he visited with Cheyenne elders in Montana. He had played Native Americans before, but never a Cheyenne. He wanted to go the extra step to really make sure he was faithfully representing the Cheyenne Nation.

Robert Taylor (who plays Walt Longmire) is a man of few words. He didn’t have much of an Australian accent that day, but he did give a little sample for the audience.

  •      He admitted he was a bit nervous as he looked out across the hoard of fans. (We must confess that this surprised us. He seems so calm and collected, on TV and in person.)
  •      He told us a bit about how he got into acting in Australia: He saw an ad for an acting school in the newspaper. When asked how his character, Walt, has developed over the seasons, he remarked in an understated way, “Not much.” He really is just like Walt!
  •      On a separate note, we recently saw Mr. Taylor on PBS on an Australian show, Mr. and Mrs. Murder (specific episode: “A Flare for Murder”). It was great to hear his Australian accent in all its glory. Also, did you know he was in The Matrix?

Craig Johnson is a well-spoken and down-to-earth guy. He talked about how he used to be precious about his writing time. He had to be at his desk, sitting in his chair, drinking from his coffee cup. But in the past year, he spent more than two hundred days on the road on a global book tour. Now he writes wherever he is, be that in his hotel or waiting at a train station. He commented that no matter where he writes, whenever he writes Longmire, he feels like he is home.

We shall close with an excellent story about Craig Johnson and Lou Diamond Phillips.

Recently, Mr. Johnson was invited to give a graduation speech for a high school on a local Native American reservation in Wyoming. However, he found out he was scheduled for a book tour stop elsewhere on that day. He was really bummed that he couldn’t give the speech. Then he mentioned it in passing to Lou Diamond Phillips, who promptly offered to give the speech for him. Craig Johnson accepted, Lou Diamond Phillips did as promised, and the high school had the biggest turnout ever for a graduation ceremony. What a heart-warming story!

If that doesn’t make you want to support the Longmire franchise, what will? Plus, there is a wonderful community of Longmire fans on Twitter, lead by the supreme Longmire Posse. You should follow them! While you’re at it, follow Craig Johnson and Lou Diamond Phillips!

Happy Saturday everyone!

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Tucson Festival of Books: Weirdness, Memoir and YODA!

Tucson Festival of Books: Weirdness, Memoir and YODA!

posted in: Entertainment, Fiction, Our Work | 1 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.


The Year of the Bobcat. That’s what 2015 was at the Tucson Festival of Books. Our fourth year attending the festival was our best yet!

This year was also the first year the festival has offered tickets for the most popular panels. We attended one (Longmire and Me) and it was a very smooth process. However, we will be writing more about that in a later post.

The rest of this post is full of highlights and nuggets from MG and YA authors who generously shared their time and expertise with festival attendees.


“Story Interrupted: Moving In and Out of Time and Space in YA”

E. Lockhart, Jo Knowles, Andrew Smith



1. Jo Knowles emphasized the importance of writing from the heart and writing what speaks to you. (So true!!!) She also discussed how she frequently writes (much to her chagrin) a “discovery draft” in which she writes the story in a different tense and point of view from what the story eventually ends up being.


2. Andrew Smith usually wakes at three in the morning to write. He can do this because he does not watch television. (How is this possible?) He writes from beginning to end and then presses send (All in one draft! Wow!).


3. E. Lockhart often writes fifteen to twenty full drafts with “global changes” (big plot or character additions or deletions) before she gets to the story she wants to tell. She also said my favorite quote of the panel, “I only have the weirdness in my own head to work with.” (That’s true for everyone!)



“I only have the weirdness in my own head to work with.” -E. Lockhart



“Memoirs Matter: Our Lives as Story”

Jacqueline Woodson, Marilyn Nelson, Katherine Paterson



1. All three panelists stressed that when writing a memoir, there are many ways to tell the story of your life.

2. You have the power to leave things out. It is your truth to tell.

3. Also remember to “talk to the old folks,” because they won’t be around forever.


On Jacqueline Woodson:

The main reason we attended this panel was to see Ms. Jacqueline Woodson. We first discovered Ms. Woodson’s work while perusing audiobooks at the local library.  Miracle’s Boys looked interesting and was read by Dulé Hill. That book made me cry several times! Highly recommend it. I am currently reading After Tupac and D Foster and find it just as captivating and insightful. Ms. Woodson has a gift!

Here are two points Ms. Woodson made during the panel that we found particularly insightful.

1. In fiction, you write characters from the outside-in. As you write, you get to know them better. In memoir, you already know the characters, so you need to write them inside-out. (Brilliant way of describing it!)

2. Ms. Woodson also said in her writing, she always tries to provide the reader mirrors to see themselves, as well as windows to see others. (That is so spot on! Even though I am a twenty something woman, I felt all of Lafayette’s pain and confusion in Miracle’s Boys. Laf, Ty’ree and Charlie were all mirrors and windows for me as a reader.)


The "Where's Waldo" Scavenger Hunt was a fun attraction at the festival.
The “Where’s Waldo” Scavenger Hunt was a fun attraction at the festival.


“Girl Power: Stand Up! Take Charge!”

Ally Carter, Jenny Han, Sarah Mlynowski



1. Ally Carter: Always ask yourself “How can things go wrong?” and “What’s the worst that can happen?”


2. Jenny Han: Be honest and truthful to the characters and the story. Always ask yourself what feels realistic to the character? Won’t work if it sounds contrived


3. Sarah Mlynowski: It’s ok to mess up. It may even end up being a better situation. (This applies in Whatever After series and in real life). Also, she said that she writes a full outline of the book. Whenever she gets stuck, she moves to a different part of the outline.


“Art2-D2: An Origami Yoda Folding Workshop”

Tom Angleberger



We are huge Origami Yoda fans. We first saw Mr. Angleberger at the Los Angeles Festival of Books in 2013.  It was a pleasure to see him again this past weekend.

I have no idea how many times we walked straight past his books at Costco and Barnes and Noble, but I now regret that lost time- especially since the series has ended with Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus. The books capture the exact essence of my middle school experience. Just amazing!

Here are some pictures from the session:

An Ewok named Larry
My very own Origami Yoda!!!
Origami Star Wars Galaxy and Tom Angleberger



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