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Category: Author Features

Author Interview: Louisa Bennet and Monty Dog Detective

Louisa Bennet - Monty & Me v2 (small)Louisa Bennet is interviewed by Bec Stafford

Louisa, Monty and Me is a funny, endearing whodunit, told from a dog’s point of view. We must know: what inspired to write from a puppy’s perspective?! Is it difficult to do?

It won’t come as any surprise that I have a dog, a Golden Retriever named Pickles. Why Pickles? Because when we chose him from the litter he was the biggest and the naughtiest puppy and spent the whole time chasing the tails of the others. We knew then he’d get into all sorts of pickles! Pickles’ inquisitive nature, super-sniffer of a nose, his obsession with food and his love of fishing, have most certainly inspired the character of Monty The Dog Detective. The more time I spent with Pickles, the more I realised that dogs often know way more than we give them credit for and can be trained to do truly incredible things. Just think about Guide Dogs and bomb detector dogs. The Golden Retriever in Monty And Me is exceptional: he understands what we say, even if he does get muddled on the meaning, and he can read and use a computer. But Monty also relies on wee-mails for information on the dog-vine, as well as using his formidable nose to track down the killer.

I decided to write Monty And Me primarily from the view point of the dog, although Rose Sidebottom, the junior detective, is a very important secondary narrator and the other half of the crime busting duo. It was great fun both researching and imagining how a dog views and interprets the world. Much of the humour and pathos is based on Monty’s misunderstanding of conversations and human behaviour. He takes things literally so when he first hears Rose’s mum oink down the phone, he assumes her mother is a pig. He doesn’t realise it’s meant to be an insult. There are some things about big’uns (dog-speak for people) Monty doesn’t understand, such as human tears, but he does understand grief. Monty is very attuned to Rose’s emotions and tries to comfort her when she’s unhappy.

Getting the dog’s voice right was really important. It needed to be credible and to make sense to people who know dogs. I wanted Monty to be a very clever dog but quite humble and lacking in confidence in his abilities. Despite the brutal attack on him and his master at the start of the book, I wanted him to be a positive and enthusiastic dog with endearing habits, such as his weakness for cheese and his gentleness with other creatures. He is without doubt incredibly loyal and heroic and I hope readers love him as much as I have loved creating him.

Bennett_ MONTY AND MEYou write action thrillers under your L. A. Larkin moniker and tales for younger audiences as Louisa Bennet. Is it fun to have two writing identities, and do you feel any different when you switch authorial hats?

Monty And Me is written for adults, but I expect younger audiences will love it just as much. It’s a bit like the Inspector Rex TV series with Rex, the German Shepherd, which appeals to all ages.

I really enjoy moving between two such different genres. Monty And Me is a cozy mystery that’s fun and whimsical. It’s a gentle read that will make you smile. My thrillers are fast-action, high-stakes and written to get readers’ hearts racing. They couldn’t be more different. Ideally, I’d love to be able to focus on one and then the other, but with competing deadlines it doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes I feel a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. Monty brings the humour and pathos to Monty And Me, and he is my Dr Jekyl.

When I’m working on my new thriller series, starring investigative journalist, Olivia Wolfe, I’m creating some very dark characters, including a Russian SVR agent and a vicious cyber stalker. That’s when I tap into the dark side of my imagination: my Mr Hyde.

It keeps my writing fresh, and me excited, just as I suspect it does for Marianne when she writes as Marianne Delacourt and then switches to Marianne de Pierres.

We are very happy to see that Monty, Dog Detective has his own Twitter following now. Are his friends and fans mostly humans, or other 4-legged furry types? Does he find typing a challenge?

Monty is very capable of using a keyboard even though his big paws make him clumsy. He’s new to Twitter (MontyDogD) and Facebook (MontyDogDetective) but he’s getting the hang of it and loves ‘chatting’ with big’uns and dogs alike. You’d be surprised at how many dogs use social media. Of course, their owners don’t know they’re doing it. What better way to pass the time when your owner is out and you’ve eaten the last bone, than to get onto Twitter or Facebook and find out what your friends are doing.

Monty now has his very own website, MontyDogDetective.com. The only problem is that Monty gets very distracted by possums on the roof, or a neighbour’s dog barking, and if there’s food about, he can’t resist checking it out.

How did you first get into thriller writing and which author in that genre has been your greatest inspiration?

Can I change this question to, What inspired you to write a murder mystery?

I’ve always loved murder mysteries and detective stories. I enjoy who-dun-its with a sense of humour, like the Tara Sharp novels. I also enjoy what I call fantasy crime, such as Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair, about a Literary Detective searching for a character kidnapped from a book. In the USA, Spencer Quinn writes a very popular dog detective series called the Chet And Bernie Mysteries.

Your last thriller, Thirst, was set in Antarctica; and you travelled there for your research. When can we expect another L. A Larkin thriller, and where would you next like to travel for your writing?

My next thriller introduces investigative journalist Olivia Wolfe and is set in Afghanistan, Antarctica and the UK. It looks as if that will be published in early 2016.

Where would I like to travel for the second in the Olivia Wolfe thrillers? I have already been to seven African countries, travelling overland in a rickety truck, sleeping in tents, but the theme for the second Olivia Wolfe book may well lead me back to Africa. I’ll keep you posted!

You studied literature at the University of London. What are some of your favourite literary works and why? Are there any that you hated studying?

My favourite authors are Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, D.H. Lawrence and the Irish poet W.B. Yeats. Studying literary fiction and poetry has made me aware of how powerful and emotive words can be and how stories can explore the big issues of our time in a non-confrontational and engaging way. Dickens challenged Victorian England to think about the poor and vulnerable; Austin explored relationships between men and women and the taboos and pressures on women to be married; Lawrence dared to explore women’s sexuality in his books. Any author I hated? Thomas Hardy. What a miserable man he must have been!


Bio

Mystery author, Louisa Bennet, studied Literature at the University of London and went on to learn Canine Linguistics from her golden retriever, Pickles, which is how she discovered what dogs really get up to when we’re not around. Truth be told, Pickles came up with the story for the Monty And Sidebottom Mysteries, and Louisa just transcribed it. She’s faster on the keyboard and less easily distracted by food and passing squirrels.

Louisa worked in magazine publishing and climate change consulting before focusing on novel writing. She divides her time between London and Sydney, Australia, and runs courses on crime fiction and creative writing. Pickles runs courses on wee-mailing, duck toppling and drool management.

To stay in touch with Monty, the sniffer super-sleuth, please go to www.MontyDogDetective.com

Interview: Caroline de Costa

Caroline de Costa interviewed by Bec Stafford

Caroline De Costa 1You’ve finished work on the 2nd instalment of your Cass Diamond series, & we hear that you’re working on a third. The series involves the medical profession & an interwoven ‘sordid underbelly of psychosexual depravity.’ I can’t help but think of the recent allegations we’ve been hearing about in connection with workplace sexual harassment in the medical industry. What was your response when these stories came to light & is your fictional work informed by reality?

What I’m writing is definitely fiction; Double Madness is not a roman à clé. However, of course, the story is based on my general experience of practising medicine and living and working with other doctors, and I hope the fact that I have this experience validates my work for readers. The people I have created inhabit a world I know, and the actual medical detail is accurate.  In regards to the allegations, I was fascinated by the  way the senior woman surgeon who complained about harassment of surgical trainees got the attention the way she did – it was much more effective than simply making allegations of harassment, however true they might have been. The existence of harassment for women in surgical training has been widely known in the profession for years. So again, while my main feeling in regards to these allegations was of hope that this problem might actually be addressed by those in charge of surgical training, I also felt that it helped validate my own work.

Double Madness is set for release later this year. Could you tell us a bit about it, & give us some insight into your writing process? Will you continue to write crime fiction?

Certainly, I intend to go on writing crime fiction. As you’ve mentioned above, I have completed a second Cass Diamond novel, present title Blood Sisters, and while it is not yet accepted for publication I am working with an editor on improving it. And I am well on the way with a third. I no longer practise clinical obstetrics and gynaecology, but I work almost full-time as a professor in the JCU medical school in Cairns, teaching, research, administration etc, so I have to organise my writing time around my work. I find I do  best if I write perhaps a thousand words, then go away and think about it, come back and rewrite, and then repeat the process several times. Sometimes just walking along the Esplanade in Cairns in the evening brings me insights into how a character might think or behave in a certain situation and then I have to rush to write it all down. My characters are very real to me.

In 2014, you were made a Member of the Order of Australia for ‘services to medicine’, in particular to the health of Indigenous & immigrant women. Congratulations on this extraordinary achievement. Could you share with us a defining moment, or moments, from your long history of service in this field?

I have to say I loved practising obstetrics, from the moment I began it as a medical student. Caring for a woman with a complicated and perhaps risky pregnancy and having, most of the time, the satisfaction of seeing her give birth to a healthy baby who can then go home with her, is immensely rewarding. Of course, not every case turns out well, but when it does not, being able to support the woman through the process of grieving and recovery and seeing or being told by her that this is helpful, can also  bring its own rewards.

de Costa-doubleYou’ve written a range of non-fiction books & other publications, including a work about Samuel Pozzi & Sarah Bernhardt, a text about Australian abortion law reform, & a guide to Caesarean section. How challenging (&/or satisfying) is it to shift between fiction & non-fiction writing, & what are you currently researching?

Even in my non-fiction I have often found the opportunity to introduce stories in order to get the message across. I’ve found it easy to enliven quite dry fiction with a human story. In Never Ever Again, my history of abortion law in Queensland, I carried out research in the State Archives in Brisbane and found chilling stories of women who died trying to access abortion or perform their own abortions. In my caesarean section book, I included (de-identified) accounts of different women I have cared for and their experience of giving birth by caesar. And in the history of Pozzi and Bernhardt, I used letters to expand, somewhat fictionally, the extraordinary lives of these two people and the bonds between them. It’s more fun to tell stories than just recount facts!

 What’s on your recreational reading pile at the moment?

Syria Speaks,  published just last year in London. I found this in the bookshop of the Institute of the Arab World in Paris. It’s an amazing and courageous collection of short and medium length pieces, art and photos, from writers and artists mostly still living in Syria, using their talents to try to oppose the violence and, many of them, still expressing hope for the future of their country.

And I just finished Ian McEwan’s The Children Act, published last year, a novel about a Family Court judge, Fiona, who lives and works in London, and how a case comes to intrude into her own life.  As I went along I felt Fiona became a friend of  mine. I was fascinated by the details of her daily professional  challenges, very different from but still very similar to, my own in clinical practice. And the story and dénouement were very moving.

Find out more about Caroline de Costa on her website. Read our review of Double Madness.


Bio

Caroline de Costa is professor of obstetrics and gynaecology in James Cook University, Cairns.  She was born in Sydney and undertook her medical training in Ireland, the UK and Papua-New Guinea. She has worked in Sydney, northern Western Australia, and in Cairns since 1994. She is the author or co-author of a number of books about women’s healthcare, several textbooks, and a biography of the French gynaecologist Samuel Pozzi based on letters between himself and the actress Sarah Bernhardt. She has now turned her hand to crime fiction with the publication by Margaret River Press of the first of her planned Cass Diamond series of novels.

L A Kornetsky supports Animal Welfare Week

kornetsky_doghouse-244x400Pawlease help us celebrate Animal Welfare Week (October 5-11) and National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week (November 2-8) with DOGHOUSE and the Gin & Tonic Mystery Series by L.A. Kornetsky!

WIN A COPY by describing your pet in the comments section. Australian residents only!

 Praise for the third Gin & Tonic Mystery, Doghouse:

“Human and animal characters are equally appealing.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.”  I Love a Mystery

Doghouse is a crafty mystery with engaging characters and countless unknowns…L.A. Kornetsky makes mysteries inventively delightful, and Doghouse entertains with wit and cleverness.”  Single Titles

“I recommend it to those that really like animals and cozy mysteries.”  Books and Things

“The third Gin & Tonic “researchtigations” is an appealing anthropomorphist amateur sleuth enhanced by life in a cheerful neighborhood bar. The lead humans and their animal owners remain fresh leads while the case proves bloody in the ring and the bar.”  The Mystery Gazette

“Sniffing out clues…L.A. Kornetsky brings back Ginny Mallard and her bartender friend Teddy Tonica, along with Ginny’s pet shar-pei puppy and Teddy’s tabby cat, for their third outing in Doghouse.”  Library Journal

Praise for the second Gin & Tonic Mystery, Fixed:

“[Fixed] is the second foray into the lives of a very unlikely pair of investigators; unlikely and a whole lot of fun…Collared was the first title that introduced this extremely fun ‘family and friends’ grouping, and the author has come back with a sequel that will truly make Gin & Tonic a well-known duo! Very light-hearted, this is a great book. Any reader who likes the ‘cozy’ avenue will love this mystery, with a little bit of cat and dog language thrown in for fun.”  Suspense Magazine

Praise for the first Gin & Tonic Mystery, Collared:

“The plot moves quickly, enhanced by smart dialog and good characterizations…Recommended for purchase where pet mysteries are popular.”  Library Journal

 

Laura Anne GilmanSummary of Doghouse:

Amateur sleuths Ginny Mallard and Teddy Tonica and their furry partners prove in L.A. Kornetsky’s DOGHOUSE (Pocket Books; July 22, 2014; $7.99) that twelve legs are better than four when it comes to solving a risky new case in the third novel from the “entertaining” (Library Journal) Gin & Tonic mystery series.  At her favorite Seattle bar, professional concierge Ginny Mallard can always count on a perfectly mixed gimlet and a friendly welcome for her shar-pei, Georgie, from resident cat, Penny.  On this visit, Ginny gets an unexpected bonus.  One of the regulars asks her and her sometime partner, bartender Teddy Tonica, to save an old friend who’s facing eviction.  This is no simple landlord spat.  Rumors abound of an underground dogfighting ring on the premises—a crime guaranteed to get Gin’s hackles up. Gin and Teddy want to believe the old man is innocent of all charges, thought a new piece of evidence suggests otherwise.  Penny and Georgie keep their noses to the ground as they help their humans investigate the vicious animal rights case.  But the truth is buried deep, and digging it up will unearth dangerous complications for owners and animals alike.

 Chapter 1 excerpt from Doghouse here.

 About the author:

L. A. Kornetsky is the author of two previous Gin & Tonic mysteries.  She lives in New York City with two cats and a time-share dog, and also writes fantasy under the name Laura Anne Gilman.  She welcomes visitors to www.lauraannegilman.net, @LAGilman and Facebook L-A-Kornetsky.

Interview: Livia Day--author of Drowned Vanilla

Tansy Hugo BWBec Stafford interviews Livia Day aka Tansy Rayner Roberts

 

The sequel to A Trifle Dead, Drowned Vanilla is the second instalment in your Café La Femme series. Murder! Romance! YouTube! Ice-cream! It sounds very intriguing, and a lot of fun. Can you tell us a bit about what readers can expect from Tabitha Darling’s world this time around?

It’s another self-contained murder mystery that’s going to make you feel hungry while reading it – this time for ice cream! There’s some emotional fallout from the previous book, too – Tabitha’s in a relationship now, and is still processing how she feels about her experiences of being stalked and nearly dying. Once again her mad people person skills pull her into a mystery – this time about a disappearing webcam girl, and the weird vibe around the small town that she comes from. It’s loosely inspired by The Lady in the Lake, a Raymond Chandler novel about dead girls and mistaken identity – so there’s lots of gratuitous film noir references, because these characters love their pop culture.

But mostly it’s about icecream. ‘Vanilla’ is a big theme, the personality type as well as the flavour, and I researched it quite thoroughly because there’s a whole fascinating history of vanilla and how it became the most popular flavour, the one people take for granted.

roberts_DrownedVanillaTansy, you’re native to Tasmania, and set your crime fiction there. What do you like about it, as a book setting, and what sort of feedback have you received from fellow residents about finding their fair isle in your popular work?

People’s eyes really light up when I tell them that I write murder mysteries set around a Hobart cafe! I’ve had lovely feedback from A Trifle Dead. It took me a long time to feel comfortable about writing fiction set in my own backyard – I like to think that cultural cringe is something we grow out of as we get older! I love taking familiar settings and elements and presenting them as part of the story. I started working on these books because I wanted to write about the Tasmania I grew up in – a place full of art and sunshine and cafes and interesting, eccentric people. So much fiction set here is dreadfully grim and heartbreaking, and a lot of it isn’t even written by people who live here! I have nothing against a bit of dark fictional misery, but I felt that the fun, lively side of Tasmania was under-represented in books.

For Drowned Vanilla I invented Flynn, which is an amalgam of small towns everywhere, but also is a reaction to the way that so many of our small towns have been revived in recent years – Campbell Town, on the Tasman Highway is a great example. It used to be a place with a pub and a shop and a roadhouse and not much else, but then this one great Italian coffee restaurant moved in and within a few years the town became THE place to stop on the road between Hobart and Launceston, with so many new businesses opening up and thriving. My mother lives in Cygnet, a town about 40 minutes south of Hobart, which is bursting with cultural events, traditions, art galleries, and other exciting things. So I invented Flynn, a little town that’s at the beginning of that journey, with a few people trying to kickstart the process of reviving the town and turning it into a place that people want to move to, instead of move away from. In particular, I look at the teenagers and that urge to escape the small community you were born into. It might be Tasmania specific, but I think that’s something that a lot of people across Australia can identify with.

 

roberts_TrifleDead-Cover2I love your Drowned Vanilla Pinterest board and Tabitha Darling’s Bedroom Floor Tumblr. How important are visuals to your writing process?

It depends on the book – but Pinterest is brilliant for assembling mood boards to inspire stories! I use visuals a lot for Cafe La Femme because Tabitha is all about colour and vintage fashion and delicious recipes. Basically, Tabitha IS Pinterest. It’s had a bonus effect as well in that I can link the cover designer to the board and she can immediately get a sense for colours and ideas and tone, far more than reading the text of the book. Also, it helps with areas I am not all that expert at but have to fake for the story – Tabitha knows far more about fashion and clothes than I do, so it’s good to be able to see the frocks she’s wearing, and so on. She’s a better cook than me too!

Growing up, what were your favourite childhood crime stories; and, did you daydream about becoming a junior sleuth yourself?

I started out with Enid Blyton – the Famous Five, Secret Seven and Five Find-outers. But the kid detective of my heart was Trixie Belden. I adored Trixie and her world – and that the stories were so much about friendship as much as they were about mysteries. I always kind of wanted to read the books where Trixie and Honey were adults and running a detective agency like they always planned to. Miss Marple was another favourite – I read lots of crime fiction through my teens, but I’ve always been drawn to amateur detectives. I wonder what kind of person would actually do that, get involved in crimes for the sake of solving a puzzle. I would make a terrible detective myself, I think! 

 

Bio:

Livia Day is a stylish, murder-obsessed fashionista who lives inside the head of someone else entirely. Tansy Rayner Roberts is a mother, a blogger, a podcaster, a Hugo-award winning critic and a feminist. Together they WRITE CRIME. And sometimes they invent ice cream recipes. Livia is the author of the Café La Femme series of cozy mystery novels, including A Trifle Dead and new release Drowned Vanilla. Warning: reading these books will make you crave dessert.

Author Interview: L.A. Kornetsky

Bec Stafford interviews crime author L.A. Kornetsky

 

kornetsky_doghouse-244x4001. In Doghouse, Ginny and Teddy discover a dog fighting ring; and, with the help of a Shar-Pei and tabby, have some serious work to do. What’s it like writing dialogue back and forth between human and animal characters, and are your animal characters inspired by other real-life, or fictional, animals you’ve loved?

One of the things I really wanted to make sure of, writing this series, was that the interaction between humans and animals was as realistic as I could get, from the presumption that the animals were alert and aware of what their humans were doing, if not always why.  That put immediate restrictions on the dialogue – everything the animals did had to be via body language, and depended on how alert their humans were.  One of the really fun things to do, as the books progress, is show how much better Teddy – originally not a pet-person – gets at reading Penny’s body language, and doing what she wants him to (mostly).  The fact that this also parallels their learning curve as investigators…coincidence?  Probably not.

Likewise, having the dialogue between the animals reflect their respective comprehension of what’s going on limited me in interesting ways…both cats and dogs observe and react to things through different filters, so their responses have to be filtered, too.  And Penny is so clearly the big sister in this duo, to the point where she gets very stressed if she can’t boss, I mean, direct Georgie …

One of the best compliments I’ve gotten on this series is how recognizable and realistic the interactions between the four are.  That’s definitely due to having grown up surrounded by animals – I think the only time I’ve been without a cat was a period of a year or so when I was a teenager, and even then we had a dog.  They’re pets, yes, but they’re also roommates, each with their own distinct personalities.  I currently have two cats and a time-share dog, and being able to stop and check their reactions to something is definitely on-going research.

Penny is very definitely based on my Pandora, who died last year.  She was a tabby, too, and nicknamed “The Duchess” for a reason.  But Penny’s personality evolved out of being a stray, of having chosen where she will be, and what she will do, very similar to a number of barn cats I’ve met over the years.

Georgie was inspired by Meeskait, a Shar-Pei I knew when I was a kid – one of the first I’d ever met, in fact, when they were still a rare breed in the USA.  Meeskait was an absolute doll, a sweetie … unless she thought you were a threat.  Then BOOM the protective growl came out, and you could see how intimidating the dog could be. I chose that breed because they’re still relatively unknown, and that exact cross of protective and doofus that people don’t expect, without any of the unfortunate negative connotations of a Pittie breed that might limit where she could go/do.

But, truthfully, they both evolved the same way Ginny and Tonica did, on the page.

 

Laura Anne Gilman2.   How did you first get into mystery writing, and if you could be any famous sleuth from literary history, who would you choose and why?

Oh … I’ve always been a mystery writer, really.  My urban fantasy novels (collectively, the Retrievers, Paranormal Scene Investigations, and Sylvan Investigations) are all mysteries, they just happen to involve a world where there’s also magic/fantastical creatures alongside the ordinary in our daily lives.  So when my editor at Simon & Schuster asked me if I’d be interested in writing a ‘straight’ mystery – I jumped at the chance. 

Fact is, I was reading mysteries before I was a SF/F reader, so we’re talking single digits – Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators, which led directly to Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Dorothy L Sayers, then Tony Hillerman, Lindsey David, James Lee Burke, Laurie King …  I think if you’re interested in what makes people tick, why they make the choices they do, mystery is the logical genre to dive into first.

And if I could be any famous sleuth … oh,  Harriet Vane, of course.  Or possibly Bunter, depending on my mood.  I do so love Bunter. (Everyone, loves Bunter!)

  

3. I’ve read that Clawed is in its revision stage already! Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from Gin and Tonic #4?

This is a fun book to write, because I’m taking the things they’ve learned so far and shaking them on their ear a little – they’re stuck in separate locations for a portion of the book, and have to take on each others’ strengths, to get to the bottom of a mystery they’ve been dunked into without any warning.  And yes, I’m talking about Georgie and Penny too, not just Tonica and Ginny! 

Kornetsky_FIXED-revised-cover-257x400It’s also a bit of a turning point for them, because they’ve caught the eye of people outside their own community, and they’re going to have to make some decisions about the future…

 

4. Which of your fictional characters burns brightest in your mind and why?

Georgie’s up there, but of the two-legged variety, I’d say Danny Hendrickson.  He was originally a walk-on character in the earlier Cosa Nostradamus novels, working with Wren Valere and the PUPs on a very loose rein …  but every appearance got larger and larger, until after DRAGON JUSTICE he was suddenly in my face demanding his own stories!  Danny’s fascinating because he’s caught between worlds, having rejected his father’s people but not quite accepted by his mother’s, and he’s turned that experience into a strength for others in need, even as he’s still struggling with his own issues. 

Looking back, I can see where he was influenced not only by the fictional detectives I’ve read, but also the ones I’ve watched; he’s the life-weary ex-cop with the soft spot for kids in trouble and dames who are trouble (and yes, he’s getting his demanded-adventures, in MILES TO GO and PROMISES TO KEEP, and the upcoming WORK OF HUNTERS).

  

L.A Kornetsky’s new Gin and Tonic novel DOGHOUSE is available now.

L.A Kornetsky is the author of the “Gin & Tonic” mystery series.  A former editor-turned-writer, under the name Laura Anne Gilman, she also writes SF/Fantasy and horror, including the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy. Her next novel, Silver on the Road, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2015. She lives in NYC with two cats and a time-share dog, none of whom could catch a mouse, much less a criminal.

Learn more at www.lauraanegilman.net or follow her on Twitter: @LAGilman