Authors In Our Midst: The Dog Thief and Unreasonable Doubt

I am very excited about the response to my request for submissions from authors in our midst. If you missed it, here are the first and second installments. There was enough of a response that I think I’ll do two authors in each post, for variety – if one genre doesn’t appeal to you, another might. I’ll probably post twice a month, more if I have time.

I’ve asked the authors to chime in, in the comments, to give a bit of their journey, how they came to write their works, what inspires them. I hope you’ll play along and ask them questions. Think of it as your very own writer’s workshop/author meet and greet.

First up: Jill Kearney, The Dog Thief (available here)*


This book seriously sounds like it could be a Balloon-Juicer’s favorite: 

This collection of related short stories on the themes of death, loss, and memory features a crazy cat lady, an enclave of aging bikers, and people who sneak around in the dark caring for neglected dogs. The writing style is spare, realistic and evocative.

It has some impressive reviews, too:

Kearney’s impoverished, misfit, outcast characters live mainly on the fictional Sebequet Peninsula, which features a Native American reservation, ramshackle trailer parks and plywood cabins surrounded by trash and rusting metal. In this zone of squalor and despair, people’s connections with animals are, for many, their only links to life.

In the story “Sparrows,” a disabled man and his meth-head sister precariously prop each other up but find a stabilizing influence when they take in a maimed pit bull. In “Beverley and Jim,” a raucous old woman, stricken with multiple sclerosis and alcoholism, lives in a caved-in trailer with a herd of cats. An exasperated neighbor helps her out only to realize her importance in his life too late. In the engrossing title story, members of the Sebequet community—including a pot-dealing commune, an animal-control officer and a busybody city transplant who runs a local resort—work out their mutual responsibilities by helping a household full of abused dogs.

The Sebequet-based stories are remarkable for their understated, yet vivid, realism and their pitch-perfect rendering of the hard-bitten poverty and frayed social fabric of rural America (read more here)


Next up: Vicki Delany (a serious B-J lurker), Unreasonable Doubt (found here)


I’m not sure where to start with Vicki “One Woman Crime Wave” Delany, so let me let her give you some highlights (and then you can be in awe as I am):

I am Canadian, live in Price Edward County, Ontario, and I am the author of (so far) 21 crime novels. I write the Constable Molly Smith series of police procedurals set in British Columbia, the Klondike Gold Rush series, and standalone novels of suspense.  I also write the very cozy Year Round Christmas mysteries from Penguin Random House, and under the pen name of Eva Gates, the Lighthouse Library cozy series also for Penguin. (more about Vicki here)

Well, I feel like a slacker now. Here’s a little bit about the featured novel:

After a two year break, Constable Molly Smith, Sergeant John Winters and the rest of the residents of Trafalgar, B.C. are back. Unreasonable Doubt is the eighth book in the popular series.

Twenty-five years ago, Walter Desmond was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of young Sophia D’Angelo in Trafalgar, British Columbia. For twenty- five years, Walt steadfastly maintained his innocence.

Now he’s out of prison, exonerated by new evidence that shows corruption at worst or sheer incompetence at best, on the part of the Trafalgar City Police.  And he’s back in Trafalgar.

Tensions are running high in the small mountain town.  Tension between those who believe an innocent man was convicted and those who maintain the police got the right man. Surrounded by supporters, Sophia’s bitter family is determined to see Walter back in prison. Or dead.  But it’s mid-summer in Trafalgar and women’s dragon boat teams are in town. At the B&B Walt Desmond meets lonely widow Carolanne Fraser, and Walt decides he might have reason to stay.

…if Walt Desmond didn’t kill Sophia Angelo, someone else did. (read more here)

Okay, I’ve done my part, you guys hit the comments with questions for the authors or just talk about your favorite books and genres.

I’m still happy to take submissions, info on that here (and if you’ve submitted and didn’t receive a reply from me, it means I did not receive it, try again).

*FYI, for the Amazon links, I’ve used the Balloon-Juice donation link.

65 replies
  1. 1
    Mnemosyne says:

    I saw a fun one-woman show about loving romance novels and now I’m considering digging my half-finished historical out. Ciji Ware said some nice things about it at the time.

  2. 2

    @Mnemosyne: What type of romance novels do you like? Do you have any favorites? There are so many badly written ones out there.

  3. 3

    Can lowly bloggers pimp their blogs as well? I know you had said yes earlier, but wanted to make sure before I sent you links and such.

  4. 4
    PaulW says:

    did you want recent works? what about anthologies containing a short story? I am going to be featured with a story in the upcoming Strangely Funny III anthology…

  5. 5
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Like any genre, there’s good and bad. Do you like historicals or modern day? Serious or lighthearted?

    I mostly read historicals (I’ve been getting back to Lisa Kleypas, Mary Jo Putney, and Mary Balogh) but I’ll also read Jennifer Crusie, who writes some of the funniest books I’ve ever read regardless of genre. My one caution with Putney is that she had been putting some Indian and half-Indian characters into her books, but they sometimes smack of Orientalism to me.

  6. 6

    @PaulW: I liked the story you had in that Christmas anthology last year.

  7. 7
    Baud says:

    These threads make me want to write something.

  8. 8

    @Mnemosyne: I prefer historical to modern romances. Are her Indian characters credible? I love Appu from the Simpsons, that’s a spot on parody

  9. 9
    PaulW says:

    @Iowa Old Lady:

    thank you!

    Unfortunately, that seasonal anthology has been taken off-market: my writers group is currently in the throes of re-organizing, and they’re re-focusing on marketing Stories for All Seasons as a printed book. Hopefully we’ll get that straightened out very soon.

  10. 10
    WaterGirl says:

    @Baud: The short pithy comment really works for you, so I’m not sure how you would write a novel. Would a chapter be more than one page long? :-)

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    Baud says:


    That’s exactly my problem. I don’t have the attention span to write more than 15

  13. 13
    Steve in the ATL says:

    Congrats successful writers (as a lawyer, I am professionally obligated to be a frustrated novelist)! I look forward to reading these as soon as I finish my current book. Unfortunately, it’s Greg Iles’ new one so it’s going to be a while.

  14. 14
    Baud says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: It would be a blast to be able to put together real campaign ads for my presidential run.

    Maybe I made a mistake not accepting any dark money.

  15. 15
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    It’s hard to say. There’s a lot of talk about how beautiful and alluring and exotic they are, but you get some of that regardless of the heroine’s ethnicity. The book I’m thinking of specifically is called “Nowhere Near Respectable” and the heroine is a half-Indian aristocrat in England around 1813.

    ETA: On the plus side, Putney always manages to work at least one cat into almost every book.

  16. 16
    WaterGirl says:

    @Baud: hahahahaha Nicely done, Baud!

  17. 17
    Vickie Feminist says:

    Thanks for introducing Vicki Delany. Being a serious mystery reader, I was delighted to learn about all her books. I just put her first book in the series she posted about on my kindle.

  18. 18
    tokyo expat says:

    I love cozies and police procedurals and, like Mnemosyne, I’m a romance reader as well. I will have to check several of these cozy series out.

    I’m also getting back into writing and hope to have a romantic suspense out by the end of the year. Then I’ve got two different paranormal romantic suspense stories to finish up.

    It’s cool to learn about the talented writers on this site and their books. Thanks for doing this. While the publishing industry has opened up in many ways, the intense competition makes it difficult for writers to get traction with readers. A little boost from a blog like this really helps.

  19. 19
    ruemara says:

    Loving all the authors here. I should add some more to the kindle for Vegas.

  20. 20
    wonkie says:

    Thank you for posting my book ( Jill is my pseudonym). My real name is Laura and I live on an island in Puget Sound. I did steal a dog and that is what set off the story writing jag that resulted in the book featured above. Thanks again, Ta Mara.

    I posted some of the Stories on Kos just to try them out with people and got a positive response: made the spot light list five times! The stories are not true, but are truthful about life in the backwoods in this rural area. I learned about the people of the woods through dog and cat rescue

  21. 21

    Thanks so much, Vickie Feminist. The Constable Molly Smith books are about a young woman making her way as a police officer, but I also write standalone novels that explore the situation of women in the past, and juxtapose that with current day. More than Sorrow, Burden of Memory, and Scare the Light Away

  22. 22

    @ruemara: That is certainly the joy of ereaders, isn’t it. No more suitcases full of books

  23. 23

    @tokyo expat: You are so right. It’s a tough world out there and support like this really counts. Good luck with your own work

  24. 24

    I’m more a regular reader and a frequent lurker, though sometimes I get involved in this community. But in 2013 I published “Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture War and the Return of the Divine Feminine,” with Quest.

  25. 25
    tokyo expat says:

    @Vicki Delany: This made me laugh. When I first came to Japan, the cost of English books was triple what I would pay in the US due to the exchange rate, plus unless I went to Tokyo (I was living in another prefecture at that time), my choices were really slim. So, when I went home, I would hit B&N and fill my suitcase up to the limit.

    Nowadays, with the airlines so tight on weight and given that I’m a book hoarder, I have no space for more print books. On the other hand, I have an entire library on my Kindle.

  26. 26

    I’m late to the party, but glad you’re all here. I’m enjoying this and glad you guys are, too.

  27. 27

    @Mnemosyne: In Indian fiction, British are never heroes. In many of the post independence Hindi movies the portrayal of the Brits is over the top, mustache twirling villains.

  28. 28
    WaterGirl says:

    Looking forward to reading Unreasonable Doubt. I found it on amazon but haven’t checked iBooks yet. I really do read more ebooks than real books. It happened after I lost a beloved dog and my kitty soulmate in the same year. We used to read books on Sunday afternoons, all snuggled together on the couch, and then lay the book down and take a little nap when ‘we” got sleepy.

    An avid reader all my life, I realized 3 years later that I hadn’t read a single book since I lost my two guys. Thank god for eBooks, I am reading again!

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:


    I spent a couple of hours today getting library cards from the city and county of LA’s libraries because G introduced me to Overdrive. Library books straight to your Kindle for FREE! Check your library’s website.

  30. 30
    Mike in NC says:

    I like travel writer Bill Bryson and am currently reading his latest called “The Road to Little Dribbling” on my iPad. Very entertaining.

  31. 31
    debbie says:


    This seems up your alley, no?

  32. 32
    WaterGirl says:

    @debbie: Linky no work.

  33. 33

    @WaterGirl: so glad to hear you’re back to reading. I’m sorry for your loss

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    @TaMara (BHF): thanks so much for having me here. I am at an awards banquet tonight – I’m not nominated – and popping out to join the conversation

  36. 36
    ruemara says:

    @Mnemosyne: Oh, I have been abusing that for a bit and then I got on Harper Collins’ ARC program. HALP I R DROWNDING IN BOOKS! I have a massive backlog right now.

  37. 37
  38. 38
    WaterGirl says:

    @Vicki delany: That’s very kind of you to say.

  39. 39
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Baud: You’re not alone, I think so many people these days are attuned to the Twitter-length short bursts of flavor.

    Though, I never got what was so new about Twitter; Tolstoy wrote entire novels with 140 characters, and that was more than a hundred years ago.

  40. 40
    WaterGirl says:

    @debbie: @Baud: THAT IS TOTALLY BAUD.

    I love that! I even clicked the link that was at the link. I think there should be a BJ challenge for anyone interested to try that. I think it would be great fun.

    Not sure I could do it, but I would try.

  41. 41
    Mnemosyne says:

    My obsession with you-know-who continues so I thought I would share something I found while bickering with Anne Laurie the other day about John Adams vs Alexander Hamilton. Apparently, one of Adams’s beefs with Hamilton was that Hamilton would sometimes get drunk and start bragging about the enormous size of his … administration. Really:

    Although I read with tranquility and suffered to pass without adversion in silent contempt the base insinuations of vanity and a hundred lies besides published in a pamphlet against me by an insolent coxcomb who rarely dined in good company, where there was good wine, without getting silly and vaporing about his administration like a young girl about her brilliants and trinkets, yet I lose all patience when I think of a bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar daring to threaten to undeceive the world in their judgment of Washington by writing an history of his battles and campaigns. This creature was in a delirium of ambition; he had been blown up with vanity by the tories, had fixed his eyes on the highest station in America, and he hated every man, young or old, who stood in his way or could in any manner eclipse his laurels or rival his pretensions. . . . (emphasis mine)

    G reminded me that this probably happened while Adams was Washington’s vice president, so Adams most likely resented that Hamilton had a real job and Adams didn’t. Still, it made me laugh.

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    American romance novels are usually written by Americans or Brits, so at least one person is British and they usually take place in Great Britain (though Putney did have a series in the 1990s that took place in India).

  43. 43
    Mary G says:

    My Kindle backlog is even bigger now. I got to borrow Jill’s book for free because I have a Kindle Unlimited subscription and I got Vicki’s first Molly book on sale for 0.99. I am looking forward to reading them. I always wanted to write but the blank page is so intimidating.

  44. 44
    ruemara says:

    @Mary G: Just put words down. Sort them out later.

  45. 45
    Mike J says:

    @Mary G:

    I always wanted to write but the blank page is so intimidating.

    More common for movies than books, but write a beat sheet. Put down all the major points of action. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets iguana. Flesh out each point. Fill in what happens in between. One of the more popular (and predictable) movie beat sheets has 15 spots for you to fill in. That’s 8 pages of script to get from point a to point b. easier to do in little chunks.

  46. 46
    tokyo expat says:

    @Mary G: There is no one way to start except to start. There are many places you can take classes online to help build your confidence. There are also many books. Look for writers groups in your area. Your local library can be a good source for information. But try because you really don’t know what you can do until you do it. And if you do start writing, I’d love to hear about your progress.

  47. 47
    Mnemosyne says:

    @tokyo expat:

    I can’t remember who said it, but there’s a quote from a famous novelist that’s something like, “There’s only one way to become a writer. Unfortunately, that way is different for everyone.”

    Sadly, I have yet to master the important lesson I learned from my screenwriting teacher, Steve Duncan: “Ass + Chair = Screenplay.”

  48. 48

    @Mary G: thanks MaryG. I hope you like it

  49. 49
  50. 50

    As this is Balloon Juice, let me ask if you like any politics in fiction? How much is too much? Is there too much ? Molly Smiths dad was a Vietnam draft dodger and I get letters complaining about that

  51. 51
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Vicki delany:

    I don’t mind some politics, but then again, I’m a liberal. I would divide the number of those complaint letters against the number of copies sold, and also keep in mind that conservatives LIVE to complain.

    One of my favorite Jennifer Crusie books is “Strange Bedpersons” and one of the conflicts is that he’s an uptight lawyer and she was raised in a hippie commune. They work it out, because it’s a romance novel.

    It also has probably the funniest “dinner party gone wrong” scene I’ve ever read, which climaxes with the heroine’s best friend puking on her future mother in law’s Manolo Blahniks.

  52. 52
    Omnes Omnibus says:


    One of my favorite Jennifer Crusie books is “Strange Bedpersons” and one of the conflicts is that he’s an uptight lawyer and she was raised in a hippie commune. They work it out, because it’s a romance novel.

    Wasn’t that a sit-com with Jenna Elfman?

  53. 53
    tokyo expat says:

    @Mnemosyne: I’ve heard it described as BICHOK = Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. Very very true. I have to admit BJ is a serious distraction for me. Writing gets too hard, I come over here. ;)

    @Vicki delany: Coming from a cozy mystery fan perspective, a main character with very right wing beliefs would probably not get me reading book two. Secondary characters that spout those beliefs, well, that’s real life. And secondary characters that represent a slice of history, what’s wrong with that? People might have strong feelings about Vietnam, but those who served and survived, those who died there and those who chose to evade it through school deferments, medical reasons or fleeing to Canada are all part of life at that time.

  54. 54
    ruemara says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: One of my fave sitcoms for 2 season. then it careened off a cliff.

  55. 55
    Mike J says:

    @Vicki delany:

    As this is Balloon Juice, let me ask if you like any politics in fiction? How much is too much?

    My question is, why is it there? Does it move the plot forward? Obviously that’s got to be ok, or you don’t have a book. Does it tell us who a character is? That’s fine with me. I don’t have to agree with a character, and knowing their politics can help turn them into a real person. Is it there because the author wants to win converts to a cause? That’s where I’d set the book down and move on to something else, even if I agreed with the pitch.

    I can see how having a father who was a lawbreaker, but for a moral purpose, would inform the outlook of a police detective. That sounds like a whole book. It would be a very boring book if everybody was a cardboard cutout saying “the war was immoral” or “you deserted your country”. Good writing makes politics in stories fine, even if you disagree with the characters. It doesn’t really matter what bad writers write about (unless you’re Philip K Dick who told great stories but wasn’t a great writer.)

  56. 56
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    I love these threads! I’m a writer too, but of the academic variety and in a rather narrow field. Book 3 came out in Dec and I’m super proud. Back in Nov book 2 won a pretty prestigious award in my field. Book 4 is an edited volume and papers should start coming in in April and book 5 has 1 chp drafted and a book proposal will be submitted to a major uni press in the next week or so.

  57. 57
    tokyo expat says:

    @TheMightyTrowel: Congratulations! I work in academia and have published papers (nothing at all compared to what you have accomplished). I prefer the teaching to the research aspect. It’s an intense peer process to get through to publication. You should certainly be proud of what you have added to your field’s knowledge.

  58. 58
    Orchid Moon says:

    @Vicki delany: I do like politics within a plot. Some of my favorite books are those written by Anne Perry. However, the politics in her books are those of Victorian England. I also think that the addition of politics allows the writer to provide information around the issues, education of their readers, so to speak.

  59. 59
    satby says:

    I love these book threads! Every one introduces me to new books I need to read.

  60. 60
    Miss Bianca says:

    very late to the party (been out with the horses and hounds) but just wanted to shout out to Tamara to say thank you for doing this, and all the writers who have posted. I will look for “The Dog Thief” and “Unreasonable Doubt”!

    Also, wish my luck – I’m applying for a gig as a reporter for our local paper!

  61. 61
  62. 62
    stinger says:

    I love these book threads. Even though I’m a committed dead-tree reader, I broke down and got a Kindle app for my laptop last week, as so many books I’m interested in are e-only. Now I’m reading books by Juicers! Unfortunately, that means any comments I post will be long after the applicable thread. I hope the authors keep reading these threads.

    First up was Iowa Old Lady‘s Finders Keepers. It was great, and I especially liked the god quotes at the beginning of each chapter.

  63. 63
    J R in WV says:


    One of our dogs was taken off a chain in a back yard at 2 am after 2+ years of abuse and neglect. A vet clinic took her in to cure her heart worm and various injuries, in their kennel for 9 months. They offered to allow us to take her home, we have a tract of woods so that our dogs can run free. Little one lane dirt road, slow speed traffic, miles of wooded hillside.

    Her name is Happy, because she was such a different, happy dog after just a couple of weeks at our house. She’s probably 11 or so, smallish lab mix, very sweet and affectionate. Gets along with other critters, friends and neighbors, etc.

  64. 64
    wonkie says:

    I got into story writing because of a dog. Well, several dogs, actually. A friend and I did all we could to get Animal Control interested with no result. I spent two years delivering food and water to the dog whie trying to work with the owner. Finally I went down one night with wirecutters, a leash and a whole lot of fried chicken. The dog was emaciated had maggots in the natts under his tail and his teeth were rotten. It is really cowardice on my art that it took me so long to act. However the experience brought me inot coantact with the pepel of the woods and I heard their stories. It was all so fascinating to me–the lives of the people who are off the grid and up in the forest– that I had to write about it. The unpluggedthe blockage in me that said I was an artixt, not a writer. I produced fifteen or so stories–I had a litter! I am interested in the outwardly small events taht have pivotal meaning for one person Only on eof the stories is about rescuing a dog but all one way or the other include a relatioinship between a person and an animal.Most of the stories are connected by geography: an imaginary version of the island where I live. As you can see, I can’t type, It took me over a year to get the manuscript clear of typos! About half of the book is prefessionally edited–that’s all I could afford. I was amazed by the review I got from Kirkus. My book also made the list of best indy books of 2015. So now I guess I am really a ewriter. Th eodd things is, I think I’m done. I don;t think I have any more stgories in me..

  65. 65

    @stinger: I’ll keep reading. I love talking to people about books

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