Thursday, November 7, 2019

Wild and Wonderful Weather, a guest blog by Paula Munier

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Let's just get this out of the way first: Paula Munier's Mercy Carr series is like me. With dogs.

Now, obviously, this isn't something I would write in a blurb. Which I have had two unsuccessful shots at, I might add. Paula's editor sent me a copy of the first Mercy Carr mystery, A BORROWING OF BONES. I thought I would blurb it. But I was just three months past Ross's death and had way overestimated my ability to focus. Missed the deadline. 

Then, this past summer, I bumped into Paula at Thrillerfest. I told her how much I loved A BORROWING OF BONES and asked if she could use a quote for BLIND SEARCH. (Ever polite, Paula didn't mention she already had raves from Lee Child and Lisa Gardner.)  But when I asked her editor for an ARC, I was told it was too late for a blurb. (I did, however, get a copy. Yay!)

Which may be just as well, because every time I recommend this series to someone, I wind up saying, "It's me. With dogs." Of course, it's not exactly like my books. Paula has her own unique voice and edge. But there's a damaged army vet and a handsome local lawman. There's action and suspense and a bittersweet romance. And perhaps most of all, there's the setting: the beautiful, singular, dangerous, half-settled and half wild Northeast. Which is what Paula is going to talk about today.





Thank you, Julia, and all you lovely Jungle Reds for inviting me for tea. For that is how I think of dropping by here, not as the usual blog check-in, but rather as tea time with some of the most talented, fun, and funny writers and readers I know.

As I sit here in my comfy armchair in my study, all cozy with my tea (English Breakfast, milk and sugar), a nor’easter howls outside, high winds tumbling flower pots and tossing tree limbs and scattering leaves. The windows rattle as the rain pelts the panes and the walls creak, but we figure our old Colonial has been surviving these storms for 269 years (and we put a new roof on last year), so we’re safe enough.

After living in Northern California for nearly twenty years, where there is little actual weather but lots of natural disasters, I learned the hard way that the ever-changing New England climate demands preparation, planning, and patience.

I DEFINITELY want tea with Paula!
Mud rooms are a necessity, for, well, mud. And rain and snow and sleet and leaves and acorns and even ladybugs (who knew). You need ready access to boots, umbrellas, shovels, scrapers, sand, blankets, a first aid kit, water, a whistle, bug spray, and sunscreen—and if you’re smart you’ve got all that in your four-wheel drive vehicle as well. That’s how variable the weather is.

As Mark Twain said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” This is why—contrary to our xenophobic reputation—talking to New Englanders is so easy. You can always talk about the weather, sports (the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics, or the Bruins, not necessarily in that order), and/or the route you took to get wherever you now find yourself.

This is also why I set my Mercy Carr series in New England. Weather makes a great character, and here it’s as much a part of the setting as quaint villages and back country roads and deep, dark forests. Especially in the second book of the series, BLIND SEARCH, which debuts this week.

On the opening day of hunting season—autumn to the rest of us—a small boy wanders off into the Vermont woods and gets lost. It’s a splendid sunny October day and the foliage is at its peak but this being New England you can count on a bomb cyclone—superbad blizzard to the rest of us—hitting and that lost boy witnessing a murder. It’s up to former Army MP Mercy and her retired bomb sniffer dog Elvis—heroes to the rest of us—to solve the crime, apprehend the murderer, and keep the boy safe until the snowplows get through.

Now that I’m a seasoned New Englander (at least in my own mind), weather plays a key role in my stories, just as it plays in my life. What role does weather play in your life, real or imagined? Which of your best/worst weather stories are you willing to share?

Pour yourself a cup of tea, and let’s talk about the weather….





PAULA MUNIER is a senior agent with Talcott Notch Literary, specializing in commercial fiction and nonfiction, and the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Mercy Carr mysteries. A Borrowing of Bones, the first in the series, was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. The second, Blind Search, pubs this month. She’s written three popular books on writing: Plot Perfect, TheWriter’s Guide to Beginnings, and Writing with QuietHandsas well as Fixing Freddie and HappierEvery Day.

84 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Paula, on your new book. A new Mercy and Elvis story is always a treat and I’m looking forward to reading “Blind Search” . . . .

    Weather along the shore isn’t generally isn’t something to be taken lightly even though most of the time it's no big deal. We survived Superstorm Sandy in good shape [only a few trees down]; hurricanes tend to blow through reasonably quickly; those monster snowstorms just keep us all sitting inside in front of the fire.

    I think Sandy may have been the worst storm in recent memory but we had a whopper of a hail storm when we lived in Alabama. We thought we survived okay, but the insurance company insisted on coming out to inspect the house, decided we needed a new roof, and sent some folks to do the work. Who knew insurance companies were so proactive?

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    1. Thak you for the kind words. As for weather, hail is the worst. We lived in Oklahoma when I was a kid, and a hail storm dropped big marbles of ice onto my dad's new Buick and peppered it with dents. It was positively dappled. The Colonel was not pleased.

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  2. I can't wait to read this one, Paula!

    The blizzard of 78 also struck southern Indiana. I'm a native Californian, it was my first winter in a cold climate, and I was stranded at a boyfriend's house south of town (fun for a while...). After two days I was stir crazy, but the buses weren't running yet, so I walked the three miles home. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. The sun was out and I needed the fresh air.

    See you tomorrow!

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    1. And then there were the 115-degree summer days in the Pasadena area when the smog was so bad you couldn't see the 6000-foot mountain range that was only twenty miles away - or play tennis outdoors. We were teenagers and did, anyway.

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    2. I love the snow. When I lived in Northern California, I really missed it. Now we get plenty.
      PS: Hate the smog. Along the Norcal coast it mostly dissipates, but when we lived in Chico it would settle in...and now there's the wildfires....

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  3. Paula, I can't wait to read the new book!

    As for weather, being a lifelong New Englander I'm used to all kinds of weather. But as the temperatures start to drop I find that I'm looking forward to the winter months less and less. Of course, I don't look forward to the hot and muggy weather either. So I'm basically kind of screwed. Still, much like talking about sports teams year round, there's always something to talk about when it comes to this crazy "a new season of weather every few minutes" climate we have here in New England.

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    1. I love winter for writing and reading and bascially just hiberating. Bad weather is the best excuse to stay home. Of course, I don't have to do any of the shoveling--thank you, Michael!--so it's not really a burden for me.

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    2. Jay, I'm feeling that way myself. Just the other day, through, I realized it wasn't so much the cold and snow I dread- it's these darn days shrinking down to eight hours of sunlight. I'd take 20 degrees and ice if only the sun wouldn't set until 6pm.

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    3. The short days are hard. And we New Englanders need our vitamin D. I try to walk the dogs around noon, to get some sun while I can. They love the snow, and I love walking through the woods while the ticks are sleeping/dead/whatever.

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  4. Congratulations Paula! I hope there will be lots of copies at Crimebake!

    We have become weather wimps lately. I panicked at the idea of driving in the snow this weekend....though I wouldn't have been actually driving, but the back seat is probably worse.

    I'd love to hear how in the world you squeeze in everything you're doing!!!

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    1. Ha! People always ask me that. Which I find funny, because this is the least complicated my life has ever been. My kids are grown and gone, I work from home--no meetings! no commuting! no nonsense!--and even though I have more than enough to do, I have fewer distractions. I do travel a lot, but that keeps me from going stir crazy.
      Looking back, I think I was a very earnest parent, trying to do the right thing, but it was such hard work. Being a grandmother is so much easier LOL

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  5. Congratulations on the newest book, and how I wish I could go to Crimebake. As Lucy Roberta said, snow is predicted for this weekend, but I prefer snow to the years in California with the natural disasters always looming.

    During my first year in upstate NY I experienced an ice storm, watched while the clump birch in the back garden bowed her three trunks and laid across the driveway. Fortunately we were amongst the ones who didn't lose power, but we certainly couldn't get the cars out of the garage for a couple of days. And it was beautiful!

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    1. Ice storms are hard on the trees and the power lines and more, but SO beautiful! My dad was in the Army and when I was a kid we lived in Germany on the top of the mountain where it snowed all year round, even in JUNE. One winter we had an ice storm that was so spectacular, it looked like a scene from FROZEN: "With frozen fractals all around." Yes, I know that Let It Go song by heart, I have three granddaughters....

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    2. Oh, no, I am now singing....:- )
      And I always love how they worked fractals into that song...

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    3. YEs! Any time you can weave the word "fractals" -- or anything to do with chaos theory -- into a song or a story it's a good thing!

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  6. I have just bumped Blind Search to the top of my TBR pile!

    Having grown up in a farm family, weather has always been a major player in every life action. In the summer, we watched for a string of dry, sunny days to get the hay put up. In the winter, an impending blizzard means gathering the livestock, putting out extra feed, and keeping the water trough free of ice.

    I remember one heavy snowfall during which I was stuck in the house because of recent surgery. My husband had to take over the task of feeding the horses. He actually broke out the snowshoes just to get to our barn! (The following spring, he finally caved to my request for running water in the barn. He'd always told me it was no big deal to lug buckets from the basement...until he had to do it in thigh-high snow!)

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    1. Ha! My husband is a native Californian who'd lived there all his life until he moved to New England eight years ago and he was SO COLD all the time. "Why would anyone live here?" he asked me. When we lost power for 5 days during a winter storm, he broke down and bought a generator. And a pellet stove. And a bobcat LOL Now he's Mountain Man personified.

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    2. This sounds like the home and barn version of "How can you possibly need to stop the car again? I don't have to go!" beloved by wives everywhere. :-)

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    3. Ha! Indeed! The weird thing is, he never wanted to stop for me or the kids. But now he'll stop all the time for the DOGS....

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  7. congratulations on your new release! I enjoyed the first.
    In Cincinnati we talk about the Bengals, Reds, FC Cincinnati, and the weather. And road construction. The latest craze is what I call a rotary, but Cincinnati calls a traffic circle. And nobody except New Englanders understands how to navigate one.

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    1. Thank you for the kind words.
      As for rotaries: Yes! Those rotaries scared me to death when I first moved to New England. I am not a particularly good driver, nor a particularly bold one. But I learned. Do or die!

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    2. In the UK they are called roundabouts!

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    3. And they're even scarier in the UK, where everyone is driving on the wrong/right side of the road.

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  8. Margaret, traffic circles are terrible everywhere! No one knows how to drive in them, and even if they did, everybody else in the Rotary has no idea. Craziness!
    Yes, here in new England it’s so gaspingly incredible when the ice coats the trees and weighs them so heavily that the branches touch the ground. Or when the sun comes out and sparkles through the ice. And how the hope that the power doesn’t go out becomes paramount.
    Congratulations, Paula! BLIND SEARCH is riveting!

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    1. The worst traffic circle I've ever seen is the one we encountered in Australia--where they drive on the left. Eek! It took every ounce of attention we both had to navigate that one.

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    2. Awwww thank you! You are the best, but then we knew that.

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    3. I've never had the courage to drive on the other side of the road. I pay a fortune for drivers when I go to the UK and elsewhere....

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    4. Oh, Karen--that would be IMPOSSIBLE>......Ahhhh SO scary! Good for you for not driving away....

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  9. I really enjoyed A BORROWING OF BONES, and I'm looking forward to BLIND SEARCH.

    I grew up in Buffalo, NY so winter played a big role. I remember walking to school one day through 8-foot drifts. The temperature was well below freezing and the wind chill so cold they stopped measuring it. Despite being wrapped up in several layers, I didn't thaw until fourth period. I took my driving road test in December - the snow was so high very few cars were on the street, so the DMV had cut car-sized spots in the piles for parallel parking.

    When my daughter was very young (only a couple months) we went up to Buffalo for...Thanksgiving, I think it was. They closed the NYS Thruway due to snow so I spent several hours at a rest stop with an infant and a dog (we finally followed some tractor-trailers out).

    We now live in Pittsburgh, where we usually don't get that kind of snow, but I remember a few winters ago when we lost power for three days because of a storm. Fortunately, we have a wood stove and was able to stay reasonably warm.

    And just so you don't think all my stories are about snow, I remember when The Hubby and I still lived in our ratty apartment a micro-burst hit the area. We lost power for a week - as well as all the food in our fridge. What a stinky mess that was!

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    1. Yuck. I don't like cleaning the refrigerator even when we have power LOL
      Buffalo! Yowsa! Now THAT'S weather!

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    2. Liz, I spent my high school years right outside of Syracuse (and my dad still lives there.) I'll say one thing: if you learn to drive in New York's snow belt, you can drive ANYWHERE.

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    3. Julia and LIz must be GREAT drivers. If we ever carpool, you're at the wheel!

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  10. I loved A Borrowing of Bones... the dogs are amazing. The human characters are human and heartfelt. The story a page turner. And Blind Search is atop my TBR pile. Waiting for a quiet period when I've cleared my desk. I agree, weather makes a great character. Season defines a story. I grew up in Southern California where there was fire season and mud slide season with intermittent quakes.

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    1. You are too kind. As always.
      I spent nearly twenty years in Northern California and survived the big SF quake, wildfires in Chico, landslides in the Santa Cruz mountains, etc. Give me a n'oreaster any day!

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  11. How did I not know about these books before! Paula, I am certainly putting these titles on my list. Here in upstate NY weather can always be a bit of an adventure. I don't mind being snowed in but I do hate when the power goes out for any length of time because without power we can't get water from the well and you can see how that can become problematical.

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    1. We've got a well, too. But we also have a big generator. My husband makes it all work somehow no matter what the weather. I just keep on reading and writing LOL

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    2. Judi, you're going to love this series.

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    3. Thanks so much! I'm working on Book Three now....

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  12. Am reading and enjoying this second story about Mercy and Elvis. I love characters and the setting, Paula.
    As for weather, up here in Manitoba, we had a wet snowstorm on our Thanksgiving that took down trees and power lines and really messed up that long weekend for half the province. Seeing the huge damage to so many trees has been very sad.

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    1. Thanks so much for the generous words.... I am in love with trees. Our house sits on 19 acres of woods--sugar maples, oaks, birches, etc. Whenever anything damages them--wind, fire, snow, ice--it is heartbreaking. I always feel like they really belong here, and I'm just a visitor.

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    2. Oh, Paula, I just had to have an enormous sugar maple taken down. It's been in the dooryard, watching over the house, for as long as there's been a house here - probably close to two hundred years old. I had two arborists look at it and both agreed it was a beautiful tree that had become a danger to house, car and barn. I was in Bouchercon when they did the work - I couldn't bear to see it happen. Now I'm trying to convince myself I like the view of the sky as much as that of branches and leaves. Sigh.

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    3. Oh, that's heartbreaking. I don't blame you for not watching. We have an old oak in front of the house that people try to warn me about...I may have to bite the bullet bravely, as you have.

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  13. I'm happy to say that A BORROWING OF BONES is one of the books I picked up at Bouchercon. I can't wait to get started on it!

    I live near Dallas, and I don't think we've had snow for at least the past two winters. Summer is my cabin fever season, since I am sensitive to the heat and don't want to leave the AC unless I'm in dire need. We've had intermittent Autumn for the past few days, but today we have rain and a blue norther. It hit the high for the day--60--just after midnight. The temps will keep dropping until we reach somewhere around freezing tonight. And, oh yeah, there was that cluster of ten tornados a couple of weeks back . . . It's always something here in Texas.

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    1. Oooh tornadoes! We lived in Oklahoma and Kansas when I was a kid, aka Tornado Alley. They are really scary. Out of all the natural disasters I've seen, tornadoes and earthquakes are the worst, because they are the most sudden. You don't know what hit you.
      Stay safe! PS: Dallas was a fun Bouchercon!

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  14. We had the blizzard of '78 here in Cincinnati, too. I caught the last bus downtown to my new job at Merrill Lynch, only to find the place shut up. I'd fought my way across the Square in insane wind, and was about to cry over trying to get back home when one of the brokers arrived and offered me a ride... in his Porsche.

    That was a crazy winter. It was -35 degrees, and stayed cold for more than a month. The Ohio River froze solidly enough that many hundreds of people walked across it.

    This area also gets tornadoes and floods. So far, the earthquakes have been small ones, but we are not far from the New Madrid Fault.

    Paula, I'm sure you also need to lay in a good supply of firewood and candles, right?

    I've been meaning to read your first book, now I have added incentive!

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    1. Last winter was our first in the old house --built in 1760--and we learned a lot. So my husband built the world's biggest shed--it's an outbuilding, really!--and he assures me that it's filled with everything we'll ever need for winter. And there's a barn with more tools and supplies in it. I stay out of the shed and the barn. I stay in the living room, where there's cable and wifi and books and a blazing fire in the pellet stove. Oh, and a wet bar.

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    2. A wet bar is a very civilized addition to the essential winter survival kit!

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    3. Don't forget the Old New England Egg Nog! You buy it at the liquor store up here and it's got brandy, rum, whisky, and Kentucky bourbon in it. Even my ladylike mother loves it--and she gets a little tipsy every year, which is lots of fun for the rest of the family.

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  15. After a lifetime of living up north, I do not miss scraping windshields or shoveling driveways living in south Florida.
    Watching the kids play in the snow was lovely, but I'm not sorry to live without it.

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    1. But you have alligators! We have bears and moose and coyotes and eagles and hawks, but ALLIGATORS!

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  16. Can't wait for the book! The worst weather I remember was really a toss-up - I was in the middle of a flood that occurred in 1956 and stranded us (my family minus my dad) for a few days with no power and water. I was 10 and it made and permanent impression on me after seeing a house float down what had been a quiet creek. And in 1988 we survived a typhoon in Guam that did a lot of damage and scared us all, but in the long run wasn't as bad as we thought it could have been.

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    1. Flooding is really scary. How did you get out? Did you have a boat?

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  17. Congrats on the release of your book, Paula! As a former CT girl, how have I not found your series? I’m thrilled to now have a reason to hit the Poisoned Pen today! Also, the weather thing is so true! If I want to know my weather in AZ, I call my fam in CT or MA - because the weather nerds know their weather forecast and mine. LOL.

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    1. Love your books! Love Poisoned Pen! I'll be there November 17 with Margaret Mizushima, who also writes K9 mysteries, and Hank Early and Scott Graham, who also write "outdoor mysteries." I didn't know there was such a thing, but apparently I write them....speaking of weather LOL

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    2. Paula, my word for our genre is "Mysteries set in places where the weather can kill you."

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    3. That's Awesome! I'm going to repeat that, and attribute you accordingly!

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  18. Paula, I'm looking forward to reading Blind Search. Mercy and Elvis are wonderful characters.
    Winters in western New York can be a challenge (the dreaded "lake effect" can pile up pretty quickly) but the times I was most affected by snow were all when I lived in New Jersey. Small amounts of snow combined with huge amounts of traffic can wreak havoc!

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    1. Snow + Traffic = Disaster, at least in my case. As I mentioned, I am not the greatest or pluckiest driver. When the weather is really bad, my husband usually drives me. He's a very good driver.
      Hmmmmn, Michael is coming off WAY TOO GOOD here today. Don't let him see this.

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  19. These books look excellent -- like some before me, I can't imagine how I've missed them until now!

    I was in college during the blizzard of '78. Two male friends of mine and I cashed in on it big time -- they walked to the stores on the main street of the small college town and posted hand-made flyers offering to do sidewalks, listing their dorm room phone number. I sat by the phone taking calls and dispatching them. (No cell phones then, so they had to swing by the room about once an hour to get their next list of customers.) Kept us in beer money for the duration of the storm and beyond!

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    2. How very enterprising of you! Moguls in the making! You obviously totally rocked college.
      I, on the other hand, was so miserable and depressed in college that I married my first husband...but that's another story.

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  20. I remember the ice storm that hit Dallas in the '70's -- we lost power for 3 days and lots of trees as well. We had to stay at my Grandmother's house which thankfully had gas heat. I remember making nachos over the fireplace and accidentally catching my sister's hair on fire :~( (it ws just one long strand, but it smelled horrible!) Dallas is not a town that adapts to winter weather, and unfortunately, it gets ice more that snow which basically shuts down the city. We moved to Colorado for a while, and it was wonderful -- we actually had seasons there, and they were all wonderful -- even winter (just snow, no ice!).

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  21. Setting your sister's hair on fire! I bet she never lets you forget that. A story to bring up every Thanksgiving.
    I love those kinds of family stories. That's a great question for a writer: What stories does your character's family bring up every year? I'm going to noodle on this...thanks!

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  22. Congrats on the new book. Somehow that one slipped by me but on my TBR now. I love the way you describe the California weather: little actual weather but lots of natural disasters. Very accurate. We are constantly looking at the weather but actually at what disaster is lurking. We were very fortunate to be out of the danger zone for the recent Kincade fire but of course still on alert. I grew up in NW Indiana where there is real weather and snow and ice and remember "The Great Blizzard of 1967" because my sister and I were teenagers and had to walk about 3 miles to get our mother, who had spent the night with friends because of drifting snow and then decided she wanted to come home. She was a short little thing and when we turned around she had fallen down into one of said drifts. Fun days.

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    1. Oh wow, great story! Good for you for saving "Little Mom"!
      My sister-in-law's elderly parents lost everything in the Paradise fire. Then they turned around and bought the only house left standing in the neighborhood, fully furnished. You Californians are resilient!

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  23. Wow, this is new to me, so I'm getting the first book. Since I really love Julia's books, I'm looking forward to this!

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    1. Oh, well, that sets the bar wicked high for me. I hope you like dogs or nature or vets....

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  24. Paula, welcome to Jungle Reds and congratulations on your new book.

    Diana

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    1. Thank you so much! Such a thrill to be here! Love and admire and READ ALL the Jungle Red Writers!

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  25. Hi Paula! I'd heard of this series before and just hadn't gotten to it yet. But I'm inspired now. Anything with veterans will grab my interest. As for weather...Floods and hurricanes in Houston and New Orleans. Sand storms in El Paso. Dust storms in Lubbock. Snow and ice in all of those plus Austin, Minnesota, and NE Ohio. White outs yes. Roads closing behind us as we drove, yes. We've managed to miss blizzards though. We've had uneasy times with tornadoes nearby but have been lucky. But the worst of it all is here and now: *#@% humidity and heat in Houston. Heat I can take. But humidity wipes me out now. It sucks me dry, literally. I sweat as soon as I step out the door. I have got to move away from this!

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  26. Wow, you've lived in as many places and survived even more weather nightmares as I have. Impressive!
    But like you I can't do humidity any more. I may be the only New Englander of a certain age not planning to move to Florida. Ever.
    PS: There's plenty of room here in New England. Come on up!

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  27. Paula, your series is on my list to catch up on in my reading. A Borrowing of Bones and now Blind Search are waiting in my Amazon cart to be clicked on, hopefully soon. I love dogs, so the dog element is great for me.

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    1. I do hope you enjoy them. I am admittedly fond of the dogs!

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  28. Love to but my husband has this thing about shoveling and/or plowing snow. He doesn't want to do it anymore. Sold his snowblower when we moved here. I just don't understand his attitude...

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  29. Paula, I loved Borrowing of Bones and can't wait to read Blind Search. Your characters - human and canine - are so beautifully presented. They certainly feel like real people. I'm jealous of your move to New England. I'm currently in SoCal and I think I belong on the other coast. I hope Blind Search does very well for you.

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    1. Thank you SO much.
      Note: There's plenty of room here in New England. I'm just saying.

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  30. Hi Paula! Chiming in late from London, where when I arrived today it was 52 degrees and sunny--but it will not last, sadly. How did I miss meeting you at Bouchercon?? Your books are on the very top of my to read pile. It can't get much better than "Julia, with dogs." (Says the GSD person.)

    If you came into Dallas on Tuesday or Wednesday last week, you will know about our weather. They say the same thing about Texas that they say about New England. Blistering summer heat, ice storms, blue northers, and the worst tornadoes. We've got 'em all!

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    1. SO lovely of you to say hello! My daughter lives in Switzerland, so I know how tough it is to manage the time change. Have a great time across the pond!

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    2. Hi Deborah, did you see books in London book shops that you never see at home in the States?

      Diana

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    1. You are such a charmer, Jack Getze (and a GREAT writer).

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  32. Great to see another Mercy and Elvis book! I really enjoyed a Borrowing of Bones and recommended it to the very-growing membership of folks training scent detection for fun (AKC Scent Work, UKC Nosework, NACSW, etc). We love dogs and love reading about scenting and tracking dogs!

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    1. That is so cool. Thank you! Our new rescue Bliss is part Great Pyreness part Aussie cattle dog and she's wicked smart. We'll have to sign her up for this. Is there an association for you folks yet? I'd love to know more about it....

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