Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

posted in: Books, British, Entertainment | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

I discovered the 44 Scotland Street series while listening to Confessions of A Serial Novelist by Alexander McCall Smith, an obscure audio offering in the OneClickdigital App. I downloaded it because I had read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency some years earlier and was curious to hear what nuggets of wisdom such a successful author as McCall Smith might have to share.

The recording turned out to be a one hour lecture given in New York City in 2006 and featured more humor than substantive advice on how to succeed as a novelist. (Although, perhaps that is a good lesson in itself. Perhaps humor is the secret to success as a novelist?) The highlight of the lecture came at the end: an excerpt from the second 44 Scotland Street novel: Espresso Tales.

44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is <a href="" target="_blank">Edinburgh Castle</a>, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.
44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is Edinburgh Castle, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.

The passage was about a six-year-old boy named Bertie whose mother forces him to learn Italian and play tenor saxophone. This was interesting. I immediately checked the app for the 44 Scotland Street audiobook and downloaded it. While the passage McCall Smith read focused on Bertie, the series features a much larger cast of characters, some of whom are listed here on his website.

The first book of the series focuses primarily on the residents of the building the book is named after. (While Scotland Street is a real street in Edinburgh, there is no number 44.) There is Pat, a young girl of 20 on her 2nd gap year, working as a receptionist at an art gallery. Pat’s flatmate is Bruce, a rugby shirt-wearing narcissist with a passion for hair gel who works as a surveyor (real estate appraiser in the US). Across the hall is Domenica: world-wise anthropologist, widow, advisor to Pat, and friend to Angus. Angus lives on a neighboring street: a 50-something portrait painter and companion to Cyril, a beer and coffee-drinking dog with a gold tooth.

There’s also Matthew, the somewhat dejected owner of the art gallery Pat works at, who often enjoys long coffee breaks at Big Lou’s. Before Big Lou purchased Big Lou’s, it had been a bookshop. After the purchase, Lou moved all the remaining book inventory to her residence. She reads them whenever she is not running her coffee bar, giving rise to thoughtful and occasionally spirited philosophical discussions over coffee with customers.

With all the characters and funny storylines, I am reminded of Julian Fellowes and Downton Abbey. The books are fun to binge on, another thing in common with Downton Abbey! I discovered the series in August, four months ago, and I am already on the fourth book of the series: The World According to Bertie.

I have plenty more to say about the books, their author, and the narrator of the audiobooks, Robert Ian Mackenzie, but I will save it for a later post. For now, I will leave you with this interview with Alexander McCall Smith that I discovered from The Guardian. In it, he discusses the 44 Scotland Street series in his usual light-hearted and modest style. Happy Friday!

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Dragondrums: The Conclusion of the Harper Hall Trilogy

Dragondrums: The Conclusion of the Harper Hall Trilogy

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In Dragondrums, the main character is no longer Menolly, but rather Piemur, Menolly’s first friend at the Harper Hall who we met in Dragonsinger. Here are my reviews for Book 1: Dragonsong, and Book 2: Dragonsinger.

A Brief Summary

The book opens three years after Dragonsinger, and finds Piemur’s splendid soprano beginning to crack as he is now in his teens. Consequently, he needs something else to do until his voice settles back. Master Robinton, head of the Harper Hall, decides to send sociable Piemur to the isolated Drum Heights.

His intention is to test sociable Piemur’s discretion and integrity, while also hoping he will learn an integral skill (drum beats are the equivalent of a very loud Morse code in Pern). After an unfortunate incident, Piemur completes his time at the Drum Heights and begins an all-together new adventure which involves travel and… going undercover!

A photo by Liz Weston.

Taking It As It Is

At this year’s Tucson Festival of Books, we attended a panel entitled, The Art of the Book Review, featuring two well known critics: Maureen Corrigan of Fresh Air fame and Louis Bayard, known for his recaps of Downton Abbey in the New York Times. In the panel, Corrigan talked about how book reviews ought to “take the book as it is,” rather than how the reviewer would have written the book. I have tried to keep that in mind while writing this review, but I really do wish that Dragondrums had continued Menolly’s journey.

As a reader, I became so invested in Menolly’s thoughts, feelings, and life purpose. She is still in Dragondrums, but she’s nearly just part of the background. Another book about Menolly would have really filled out the trilogy in the most beautiful way. That being said, Dragondrums was actually quite fun to read.

During Piemur’s new adventure, he revisits his earlier life as a herdsman’s boy, before he entered the Harper Hall. There is a particularly poignant scene near the end of the book involving a young herdbeast that nearly brought tears to my eyes. As always, Thread is a constant threat to life on Pern and Piemur has his own battle with Thread in Dragondrums.

With regard to length, the first book of the trilogy, Dragonsong is 208 pages, the second, Dragonsinger is 288, and the third, Dragondrums is 256. Dragondrums took me the longest to read because I just was not as into the book since it wasn’t about Menolly.

Dragonsinger is easily my favorite of the series and I highly recommend it! Happy Friday everyone!

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The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

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The Lincoln Lawyer is the 16th book of Michael Connelly’s and is the first in the Lincoln Lawyer Series. The main character is Mickey Haller, a defense attorney in Los Angeles who works out of his car, a Lincoln, hence the name of the book.

Mickey is doing fairly well defending drug dealers, prostitutes and motorcycle gang members. One day, he gets a call to defend a man accused of attempting to rape and kill a prostitute. The defendant claims he is innocent, and thus we begin the journey of Mickey trying to defend his new client and get an acquittal.

The Lincoln Lawyer Review

Skeptical at First

This book was difficult for me to read for a couple reasons. My first and biggest reason for not immediately liking this book is that the defendant is not a likeable guy. From the beginning, you are very suspicious of him. He doesn’t seem trustworthy.

The second reason I had a hard time with this book is that in the beginning, the storytelling is very choppy and we are introduced to a lot of characters. Now, maybe I would have been able to keep track of who was who if I didn’t read it before going to sleep, but I’m not so sure. There are a lot of names and it became confusing.

Eventual Redemption

I won’t spoil the ending, but for all my dislike of the first three-quarters of this book, in the end, I actually liked the Lincoln Lawyer. The ending was satisfying and brought all of the characters that Michael Connelly introduced along the way together.

This book was made into a movie in 2011 starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller and Ryan Phillippe as the defendant. I didn’t see the movie before reading, so I didn’t have any spoilers while reading the book. This fact made the ending all the better.

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Dragonsinger Book Review: Harpers, Hogwarts and a Hawaiian Kolohe

Dragonsinger Book Review: Harpers, Hogwarts and a Hawaiian Kolohe

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Earlier this month, I reviewed Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. Today, I will be reviewing the second book in the Harper Hall of Pern trilogy, Dragonsinger. If you wish to read the first book, I highly recommend you stop and read the first review, as this second review may spoil a key surprise.

In my last review, I drew comparisons between Dragonsong and the Giver Quartet. Dragonsinger then is most comparable to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but McCaffrey’s book is more upbeat (i.e., light hearted and less serious).

There are quite a few parallels between Harry Potter and Dragonsinger.

We join Menolly arriving on dragonback to the Harper Hall. This is the place of which she has dreamed of likely since Petiron began teaching her about music back at Half Circle Sea Hold. The Harper Hall is not at all what she had imagined it would be like, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. She is there to learn music and throughout the book, there are many teachers who invest a great deal in her education (much like Harry Potter’s education at Hogwarts).

Dragonsinger Book Review

I listened to this book, just like Dragonsong, through the OneClickDigital subscription through my local library. Sally Darling narrates again and once more, she does a lovely job!

Master Robinton has a twinkle in his eye similar to that of Albus Dumbledore, and like Dumbledore, he tracks the movements of his star pupil, Menolly, while keeping busy, managing any business that crops up throughout the continent of Pern. He is a very busy man, but remains compassionate, thoughtful, and generous. The best kind of leader.

The difference between Dragonsong and Dragonsinger is night and day, quite literally. Dragonsong is filled with a sad darkness and a sense of emotional and physical isolation. The ways of Half Circle Sea Hold are quite insular, given its closed off location, but also the mentality of Menolly’s father who happens to be the leader of the community. Menolly’s family attempts to snuff out her musical gifts at ever opportunity causing Menolly to feel she has no choice but to run away, at great personal peril.

Dragonsinger, on the other hand is full of light, laughter and friendship. Menolly’s gifts are revered and celebrated, even if a few Harpers are skeptical at first. They attend a Gather, pretty much a festival with lots of food, drink, entertainment, and trade/shopping! Life flows freely and abundantly in the Harper Hall – quite a 180 from Half Circle Sea Hold. There are still challenges to overcome, but none as serious as those she faced in the first book. Dragonsinger is a comparative breath of fresh air to Dragonsong.

The best part of reading Dragonsinger was the characters. Menolly’s fire-lizards continue to play a big part in the story, especially with regard to Menolly’s emotional growth. Each Master Harper has something unique to offer, as well as the Journeyman Harpers. We meet Piemur, a young rascal with an angelic soprano voice. Al and I spent a few years during our childhood in Hawaii, and there is a Hawaiian word that captures Piemur’s mischievious spirit: Kolohe (pronounced ko-lo-hay). Basically it means “endearing troublemaker” and that’s Piemur to a T.

I have begun reading Dragondrums and Piemur is the main character. I was surprised that Menolly was not the main character in this book since she was in the first two of the trilogy. That being said, I am on Chapter 5 and it really isn’t an issue. Piemur is a very pleasant character to spend time with. Stay tuned for my review of Dragondrums!

You can read a full summary of Dragonsinger at the Pern Wikia page here.

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Dragonsong Book Review: A Joyous Flight through Pern on Dragonwing

Dragonsong Book Review: A Joyous Flight through Pern on Dragonwing

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Ever since we finished bingewatching all five seasons of BBC’s Merlin a few months ago, I have been on the look out for more dragon literature. John Hurt’s the Great Dragon was one of my favorites of all time.

After typing in the word dragon in the search of the local library catalog, I was scrolling through a list of books and came across an unexpected book cover. It featured an older woman with a tiny dragon perched on her hand. The book turned out to be the biography of Anne McCaffrey, Dragonholder, written by her son, Todd McCaffrey.

I was intrigued. I decided to check out some of Ms. McCaffrey’s books and settled on Dragonsong because I liked the name. I found the audiobook, read by Sally Darling on the One Click Digital App and downloaded it. It took a while to get used to Ms. Darling’s reading style and also to get to know the world of Pern. But wow, it was worth it.

Dragonsong is right there with my other favorite fantasy/sci-fi books, from the The Hobbit to Animorphs to the Giver Quartet.

It is quite a bit like Gathering Blue and Son, the 2nd and 4th books in the Giver Quartet. All three feature female protagonists that face life’s challenges with strength and grace; Menolly in Dragonsong, Kira in Gathering Blue, and Claire in SonDragonsong was written much earlier though, published in 1976 while the Giver Quartet was published from 1993 to 2012.

Though Menolly sometimes moans and groans in excess, that is perfectly normal for a 14-year-old, especially a neglected and misunderstood one. Menolly’s distress is genuine and as a reader, you really feel for her. Yanus, Menolly’s father, reminded me of Uther Pendragon from BBC’s Merlin and got me throwing shade like… oh no you didn’t.

The physical copy of this book is 192 pages. It only took me 10 days to listen to the whole book, which is quite speedy for me. I tend to lose interest in books quickly. I can’t wait to read more. I’m already on Chapter 2 of the second book of the trilogy: Dragonsinger. The audiobook is also read by Sally Darling.Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey Review - 2

Fire lizards and Spiderclaws, Thread and Harpers, Benden Weyr and Half Circle Sea Hold, I’m so glad we met!

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey: ★★★★★ (5/5 Stars!)

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Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey Review Featured

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How to Find the Time to Write ANYWHERE & End Procrastination For Good!

How to Find the Time to Write ANYWHERE & End Procrastination For Good!

posted in: Indie Publishing, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

J.K. Rowling famously wrote a great deal of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the Edinburgh coffee shop: The Elephant House. (Edinburgh is pictured above, fyi.) But you don’t need to be in a coffee shop to write.

You Can Write Anywhere!

We have been writing for a few years now and have found that inspiration can strike anywhere and any time. Here are some of the places we have found the time to write, even if that means just jotting down an idea:

  • Mall Food Court
  • Produce Department of the Grocery Store
  • Panera Café
  • The Car
  • McDonald’s
  • Doctor’s Office Lobby
  • Bruegger’s Bagels
  • The Library
  • Barnes and Noble Café
  • Home (Virtually every room in the house)

It doesn’t matter where you are. It just matters that you are there and you have is some paper (or a napkin) and pen. What’s more, smart phones make it easier than ever to be a writer.

You can record a voice memo. Or dictate a few lines of witty dialogue into your notes app. Mac particularly likes recording/dictating on her phone because she is a bit dyslexic and a bit hyperactive. So… availability of supplies is no longer an issue. What can be an issue is… YOU!

Mind Games

Once you decide that you can write anywhere, then you still have one major excuse: Procrastination. We’ve all been there. A couple years ago, we discovered it’s a common problem and one author has a solution.

In March 2014, we attended a panel at the Tucson Festival of Books called: “Workshop: Finish That Book” featuring Sophie Littlefield and Laura Fitzgerald. Ms. Fitzgerald handed out a particularly helpful worksheet set, all about “Passion and Productivity for Writers.” We found the third page most useful (pictured below).

You can get the full PDF of the worksheet set here.

Stop Sabotaging Yourself

We have all said, “It’s too hard,” or “I don’t have time,” or “I’m waiting for inspiration.”

Ms. Fitzgerald offers the deeper meaning of these seemingly harmless statements, and then most importantly, she offers alternative self-talk to help end procrastination for good. We highlighted these and offered a final takeaway, courtesy of Fifth Harmony, “Baby, I’m Worth it!”.

If you don’t take your writing seriously, you cannot expect other people to.

People say this all the time, and there’s a reason: IT’S TRUE! Now start writing anywhere and everywhere with a newfound confidence!

“Seize the day. Carpe diem. Make your lives extraordinary!” -John Keating, Dead Poets Society (RIP Robin Williams).

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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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The Best Outlander Gift Guide

The Best Outlander Gift Guide

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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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Happy National Poetry Month, Plus New Book Release!

Happy National Poetry Month, Plus New Book Release!

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Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? The Academy of American Poets started National Poetry Month twenty years ago. It is a wonderful time to spend a few hours writing some lines or reading some of your favorite poetry.

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I have loved poetry since I was a little girl. My first two favorite poets were Mary O’Neill, especially Hailstones and Hailbut Bones, and Shel Silverstein, especially The Giving Tree. offers 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month on their website, and here at, we have one more way for you to celebrate National Poetry Month:

Read my new poetry collection!


Two by Two: Into the White: A Poetry Collection

The book is a collection of 50 couplets on the subjects of youth, love, judgment, solitude, nature, and existence. You can read more about the book on my Two by Two: Into the White page or on Amazon. I will be posting a few free excerpts in the following days.

If you own a Kindle, you can check out the book via the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library or if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can read the book for free. You can also join Amazon Kindle Unlimited with a 30-Day Free Trial by clicking on the preceding link or on the image below.

Currently, Two by Two is available as a Kindle Edition, but a Print Edition will be out shortly. I’d love to hear what you think of the poems. Let me know!

How are you celebrating National Poetry Month?

Happy Friday 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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