Here's the Birds on a Wire Blog 2013 list. If you know of a book or author I left out, send it along through the email link on this site. I can always add more. 
Obviously, it was another productive year for Birds readers who also happen to be authors. Congratulations to those of you who have sold books or published your own. You deserve a lot of credit for taking the leap. 
I always plan to put up this list earlier in the year, then fail. Sorry, I've done it again. I know it's close to Christmas, but don't let the holiday get in your way. Buy now, read later. Or save this list for a favorite someone's birthday or unbirthday in 2014. Any day is a good day to purchase a book for yourself or someone else. 
Let this list help you decide how to spend some of those cold winter nights or rainy spring afternoons. Grab a book to take to the beach, or download one to your e-reader to get into on your next flight. 
Here's how the list works: 
  • Click on the author's name for a link to his or her website. 
  • Click on the book to link to a site where you can purchase the book. 

Most books are available as e-editions for Kindles and Nooks, but some are also available in hard copy. You usually can buy directly from the author, ask your local bookstore to order a copy, or buy online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes or another digital seller.  
Every time you buy a book from one of your friends on the Birds blog, you help that author extend readership and make a buck or two. And, that's about all they make, especially if they published it on their own. 

If you love any of these books, let others know. Review it on Amazon, Goodreads or one of the other book sites. Every review helps authors--and publishers--build careers, even second (or third!) careers. Your review could be the one that opens the door to that author's success.   
So, buy, read, enjoy and share your thoughts. And get off to a great start reading your way into 2014! 



For those of us who lived through the Vietnam War either as a participant, protester, survivor, chronicler or bystander, this book may help us heal, once and for all. 
"Welcome Home/A Monument of Honor" was compiled by Ross Lewis, an Army veteran and former news photographer. Ross believes the real human stories of Americans involved in the Vietnam War were told through their personal non-combat photographs. 
Snapshots reveal the underlying dignity, pride and compassion of the men and women who were in Vietnam, Ross says. The intimacy of their pictures as well as their poignant written memories stand as a legacy for us all. 
There is no digital edition, but you can buy this full-color picture book directly from Ross at http://www.welcomemonument.com . 

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The very versatile Connie Wilson does it again! Here's a second adorable Christmas book from an author known for her horror stories, humor or young adult novels. Christmas Rats follows up on The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats, her first book written for young children. Each kid-tested book teaches a life lesson through an endearing story complemented by art from illustrator Gary McCluskey.  Order directly from Connie for a signed copy, or get both books from Amazon. 
This prolific author, columnist and blogger (
http://www.weeklywilson.com/) is based in East Moline, Illinois. 
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Connie Wilson and two of her granddaughters.

Mystery writer Elaine Magalis, who blogs at Late Fruitkeeps expanding her successful Green Mountain Whodunit series of cozy mysteries. Tall Man is her latest installment, continuing to follow amateur sleuths Tasha Mulholland, a retired librarian of-a-certain-age, and her young assistant, Alex. All Green Mountain Whodunits take place in or around an actual historic house and school in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. You can order this book directly from Elaine through her website, or buy from Amazon. 
Here's a video shot in and around the Old Stone House in Brownington VT, to get you in the mood. 

The US is not the only country dealing with homelessness. Great Britain has a serious problem, as well. Stories for Homes is a collection of short stories examining the concept of home from every angle. Created by a new community of people brought together to create a world-class collection of short fiction in all genres, all profits from sales of this book go to the homeless and housing charity Shelter. Look for the story Brick Heart by Manchester-based Jacqueline Ward, a long-time Birds reader and contributor. 

Jacqui says Brick Heart is about an elderly woman facing housing problems, and the range of emotions she goes through. Every story in this anthology shines a light in the importance of home, and what it means to people.

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Jacqui Ward

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Our old friend novelist/humorist/raconteur from DC, Bill Campbell, recently founded Rosarium Publishing, then teamed up with Edward Austin Hall to compile an impressive collection of science fiction stories for its first publication. Mothership includes stories from the likes of Junot Daz, Lauren Beukes, Victor LaValle, N.K. Jemisin, S.P. Somtow, Tobias Buckell and other winners of the Pulitzer Prize, American Book Award, the Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker Award. Many of these writers may be new to you, as they were to me. But, Mothership is your invitation to get acquainted with them and their fascinating work. 
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Bill Campbell

Bruce Hartman's books are winners! His first book, Perfectly Healthy Man Drops Dead, won the Salvo Press Mystery Novel Award in 2008.  Kirkus Reviews named his second, The Rules of Dreaming, one of the best indie books of 2013.  His newest, The Muse of Violence, recently placed at the top of the list in Amazon's Kindle store, #1 in mystery and #1 in crime fiction. 
In The Muse of Violence, a chilling series of deaths strikes a writers' group in New York, leaving the remaining members to face the suspicion--and finally the terrifying certainty--that one of them is a psychopathic killer. They wonder: Is a sequel to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None being played out in their lives? 
Here's an excerpt:
“The writers’ group is just a memory now. I can still picture them sitting in my apartment—four women and two men in addition to myself—reading stories to each other in a search for fictional truth that seemed more important than real life. That was before death pulled up a chair and started spinning tales of its own. We were so naive, all we did was complain about the heat.”
Buy the book in digital form or as a large-format paperback directly from Amazon, or help keep your local bookstore in business by buying the hard copy there.  
Retired attorney, musician and composer lives in Philadelphia. 
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Bruce Hartman

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Archer Mayor
Three Can Keep a Secret

I've been looking forward to the publication of this book for two years and can't wait to read it. In his 24th book in the series, Vermont mystery writer Archer Mayor lets VBI Det.Joe Gunther loose on a case that takes place during Hurricane Irene, which, you may recall, devastated the state in late August, 2011. In the course of one weekend, roads virtually disappeared and bridges washed downstream, along with the hopes and dreams of thousands of Vermonters. In the midst of this chaos, the seasoned detective Joe Gunther is asked to solve a complex case "involving two corpses, one escaped mental patient and a long-held secret that binds them together." 
Three Can Keep a Secret is available directly from Archer's webpage, from Amazon and from your local bookstore. He goes on book tours, so be on the lookout for one his book signings or very entertaining guest appearances in your area.  
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Archer Mayor

PictureLeigh Russell
Britain's popular crime writer, Leigh Russell, has jumped the pond with her two earliest books featuring DCI Geraldine Steele, who might just be a cousin Prime Suspect's Jane Tennison. 
US publishing houses have bought reprint rights to offer these mysteries to any American readers who don't already know her. When they do, they are sure to stick with this young author.  
These two taut tales are still my favorites among her works, which hit best-seller lists as soon as they are released. 
Buy digital versions or hard copies through the publishers by clicking on the book titles, above.  

Ellen Kirschman is an award-winning public safety psychologist. She also is the author of the best-selling books I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need to Know, I Love a Fire Fighter: What the Family Needs to Know, and co- author of the forthcoming book, Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know. A pioneer in the field of police psychology, her workshops and seminars have taken her to twenty-two states and four countries. She is a lead clinician at the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat for first responders with post traumatic stress injuries and a member of the Police Psychology Sub-section of the International Association of Police Chiefs, the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology, and the International Association of Women in Policing. 
Burying Ben, her first novel, is drawn from her years of experience working side by side with officers on the street and listening to their secrets in the confines of her consulting room. One reviewer praises Burying Ben for its "compelling characters in a tight-turning plot." 
Follow the title link to Amazon, or look for the book at your local bookstore. 
Ellen Kirschman lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Ellen Kirschman

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If you haven't discovered the blog Murrmurrs, well, shame on you. Luckily, you can catch up on Murr Brewster's oeuvre in just a few sittings, since 70 of her most "snortworthy posts are quarantined for your safety in one handy spot. Cubic wombat poop, whale shrapnel, the continuing menace of the Baby Boom generation that will not die--it's all here, and illustrated beyond all reason" with the author's own drawings. BYO sense of humor, outrage and humanity. 
To buy Trousers directly from Murr's website, click on any of the links above. She blogs from Portland, Oregon.
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Murr Brewster


 
 
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It's that time of year, when everyone starts compiling lists. At Birds, the most important list of the year is the one of new books by authors who happen to follow this blog. We've got mystery writers and other novelists, self-help gurus, artists, a satirist, a poet,a French literature scholar and someone who writes in the young adult genre. We've even got a joyful CD. What more could anyone want? 
You'll recognize a few names, but I've read many of these books so am sure you'll hear more about all of them in the near future. 
Most books and the CD are available from Amazon through the link provided. If reviewed, I've provided the ranking. In some cases, authors also sell  books on their own websites and would prefer you buy directly from them.
Don't shop online? Then print this page and take it with you to your local bookseller for holiday shopping or your own reading pleasure. 



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Elaine Magalis
Elaine Magalis

Long-time Birds reader and blogger at Late Fruit, Elaine Magalis lives near the Canadian border in West Glover, Vermont. A writer, editor, art historian and docent at the Old Stone House in Brownington, Elaine taps into her interests in the first two installments of a series of "cozy mysteries" set in the mythical Shrubsbury, Vermont, the quintessential small New England village of lore.  


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The Body in the Butter Churn  
5 stars from Amazon!

A gem of a mystery! Elaine rolls history, the practice of art restoration, arts administration, Internet research and police procedure into a big knitting ball of a tale about an improbable murder in an idyllic locale. Follow her two would-be detectives as they track down a killer in a town ripped right from a Currier & Ives print. Reading this book is like taking a dip in a refreshing Northeast Kingdom quarry pool on a sweltering afternoon, without getting wet. 



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The Organist Who Wore Gloves 

Another great cozy mystery from Elaine Magalis, a perfect read for a cold winter night. In this tale, we learn much more about the two "detectives," Alex and Tasha Mulholland,  both of whom are experiencing trepidation over growing older. One is facing puberty and the other, old age. If you love Vermont, or just have a vision of how idyllic life might be in a slower-paced, less congested locale, you may be surprised to learn that ordinary people are less than perfect everywhere, even in Shrubsbury, Vermont, and especially to its south, in the nearly heathen Brattleboro. Can't wait for her third book in this series!



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Kathleen Scott and Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D.
Conversations with the Wise Aunt: The Secret to Being Strong as a Teenager and Preparing for Success as an Adult  
4.5 stars from Amazon!

Don’t you wish a wise relative would step in and help you raise your kids? Life-coach Dennis E. Coates and his wife, writer and blogger 
Kathleen Scottassume the roles of favorite relatives in this book and its predecessor, Conversations with the Wise Uncle. Coates and Scott say all those things you wish you could say easily, but can’t. Even better, they throw in the advice your kids don’t want to hear from you (of all people!).  What a blessing for a frazzled parent on your gift list! 


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Kathleen Scott
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Dennis E. Coates

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Ann McNeal
Ann McNeal
The Spaces Between  
5 stars from Amazon!

A closet poet for decades, Ann McNeal taught physiology at Hampshire College for 33 years while writing poetry published by small journals, including Peregrine, Paper Street, Equinox, and several anthologies, including On Retirement: 75 Poems (University of Iowa Press, 2007) and Solace in So Many Words (Weighed Words, 2011).

This collection of her work speaks the quiet language of New England backyards and woods. Using images from nature, her writing portrays subtle changes of weather, both external and internal. Observations on a quiet pond, mathematics lessons in grammar school, the poignancy of autumn, all lead to accessible yet profound meditations on life and aging. 



Bill Campbell

The Koontown Killing Kaper  
4 stars from Amazon!

I finally got a chance to meet the iconoclastic novelist Bill Campbell. His third novel, Koontown Killing Kaper, is making some waves, even in academe where it is popping up on syllabi for African-American and contemporary lit courses. Bill is one of the most literate writers you’ll ever encounter, but he hides his reading addiction well behind a near-perfect voice for satire, especially on any topic related to the black experience. If you like the book, he has a whole range of related merchandise on his website


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Theasa Touhy
Theasa Tuohy
Five O’Clock FolliesWhat's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway?  
4.5 stars from Amazon!  

Says Amazon:
In her brilliant debut novel, longtime daily journalist Theasa Tuohy captures the essence of what drives those who go into war armed only with a camera, notebook, and pen. At a time when women rarely dreamed beyond careers as nurses, teachers or secretaries and certainly not as news reporters, a tall, enigmatic redhead arrives in Saigon. She is an object of great interest to the male correspondents, one of whom reports she arrived at Tan Son Nhut Airport wearing high heeled bikini shoes. Few take her seriously as a reporter. To most, she is a trifle, a bobble, a lagniappe. Angela Martinelli survives a chopper crash, spends several days in the bunkers of the so-called Alamo Hilton during the siege of Khe Sanh, is captured briefly by the Viet Cong while trying to make her own way to the battle of Hue after being refused a hop on a military chopper because she isn't male, and finally is badly wounded when a jeepload of other correspondents are killed in Cholon, the Chinese quarter of Saigon. Her life, loves and struggle to prove herself chronicle the deterioration of the war, the strategic battles around the Tet offensive, and the conflict raging back home over the conduct of the war. Not since Graham Greene has anyone captured so well the tedium and terror of reporting on war.



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Pamela Chatterton-Purdy
Pamela Chatterton-Purdy 
and David Purdy
Icons of the Civil Rights Movement  

Some of you may be familiar with artist Pamela Chatterton-Purdy’s Icons of the Civil Rights Movement, a multi-media exhibit featured on this blog as part of a series of posts about civil rights. Using wood, oil paint and even gold, Pamela created 26 pieces of art commemorating milestones in the US civil rights movement or honoring its martyrs. Like religious icons, these panels tell a powerful story through images capturing the power and the dignity of those involved in the struggle.

The Icons have been exhibited at over 22 universities, art galleries, libraries, houses of worship, as well as at the Obama inauguration in 2008. As Pamela and her husband David, a retired United Methodist minister, traveled with the exhibit, they got a chance to meet and talk with some of their heroes, including Rep. John Lewis, the family of Viola Liuzzo, the father of a child killed in the Birmingham church bombing and one of the nine students who integrated the Little Rock schools in 1957. The Purdys also met “ordinary people who did extraordinary things,” Pamela says. These were the unknowns who marched, sat in, registered voters and did legal work for equal rights.  

Using eyewitness testimony collected over the course of their travels, the two created a large-format, hardcover art book featuring 22 of Pamela’s pieces and a narrative based on David’s historical research. Not only does Icons of the Civil Rights Movement: Connecting the Dots contains high-quality reproductions of Pamela’s work, the book includes exclusive interviews with people whose courage and commitment changed the course of history. 


You can purchase this book directly from the Purdys. Click on the title to link to their website.   


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A glimpse of several icons, used to illustrate a story published in 2008 about Pamela's work.

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Leigh Russell
Leigh Russell
Death Bed (2011 in UK, 2012 in US) 
4 stars from Amazon!

UK author Leigh Russell writes the very popular DCI Geraldine Steele police-procedural series. Leigh’s most recent book, Death Bed, hit UK bestseller lists a year before it was available in the US. She promises her next book, Stop Dead, will top all the previous Geraldine Steele mysteries in shock and complexity. Not an easy task! Stop Dead  will be published this month in the UK, but is available now for pre-order in the US at amazon.com. 

 




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Paula Dumont
Paula Dumont
Les convictions de Colette: Histoire, politique, guerre, condition des femmes 

French university professor Paula Dumont looks at 20th century French novelist Colette's views on women's lives, loves, and history in a book published this month, in France. Les convictions de Colette is not available from Amazon at this time, but can be purchased through the link above. 

Colette was a brilliant female writer, perhaps best known for Gigi, her scandalous novel about a young courtesan-in-training. Colette's own life was far more flamboyant than her literature. At 34, she began a very public romance with one of Napoleon's nieces. At 47, she seduced her teenage stepson. In the 1940s when she was in her 70s, she aided many Jews hiding from the Germans, including her own husband. At the same time, she flirted with Nazi occupiers. 

For more about Colette's life and work, see http://bit.ly/UEI60z. I look forward to learning  more about what drove this complex woman, according Professor Dumont's research.    
 

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Colette, writing.

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Archer Mayor
Archer Mayor
Paradise City: A Joe Gunther Novel  
4 stars from Amazon!

Another year, another mystery for Joe Gunther and his crack team at the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. This one takes them out of their comfort zone in Brattleboro, Vermont, to the lawlessness of urban and rural Massachusetts.  An elderly woman surprises thieves in her Beacon Hill home and is viciously murdered. Thus begins a tale that moves from the streets of Boston to ivy-covered Northampton (a/k/a Paradise City) in the west, and ultimately back north to the Green Mountain State.  Archer Mayor’s 2011 book made it to the New York Times Bestseller list. He’s on a roll. Best wishes, Archer!


 



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Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem
Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem
Some Bright Morning (CD) 

I’ve written at length about Rani Arbo and the agnostic gospel group Daisy Mayhem. We never miss a chance to hear them perform live. In fact, the best live music I’ve heard this season came from Daisy Mayhem and the hospice choir Hallowell at a Brattleboro church last month.

If you want to feel good or just belt out a few joyous sounds with like-minded folks, join with the Mayhem on their new album, Some Bright Morning.  Follow the link to song samples, downloads and a place to purchase this gem of a CD. Suitable for all ages, orientations and most musical preferences. 



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Connie Corcoran Wilson
Connie Corcoran Wilson

For the last several years, blogger and journalist Connie Wilson has published three, four or five books a year. How does she do it? Does this woman ever sleep? This year, she co-authored a textbook on creative writing while producing weekly entertainment reviews and a collection of award-winning mystery/thriller short stories that are sure to scare you into mending your ways. All are available on Amazon.




Here’s Connie's current lineup:
Creative Writing Primer
by Ellen Tsagaris, Connie (Corcoran) Wilson, Robin Throne and Jodie Toohey  

Hellfire and Damnation II  
4.5 stars from Amazon!

The Color of Evil
3.5 stars from Amazon!

The Legend of Tug Fest and Other LeClaire Ghost Stories

The Bureau 


 
 
Here is the first of what I hope will be a series of exclusive interviews with authors who happen to follow this blog.

Five years ago, Leigh Russell was a mom and special education teacher in southern England. Today, she’s still a mom, but also is an internationally known, bestselling mystery writer, with three successful books published and a fourth slated for release on Christmas Day. She says she already is working on three more books for No Exit Press, all part of the same series.   

Cut Short, Dead End and Road Closed introduce DCI Geraldine Steel, a protagonist unlike Jane Tennison of the PBS series Prime Suspect, Olivia Benson of SVU or Jane Whatshername of the NBC’s new Prime Suspect knock off. Geraldine is younger and probably better trained than all of them but, like her fictional colleagues, she often finds herself swimming against the current in the tough environment she works in.  

These are really good reads. Without hesitation, I would recommend any or all to anyone who loves British police procedurals, or is looking for some real escape fiction. Her next book, Death Bed, is available for pre-order now for download on December 25 to Kindle and perhaps other e-readers. It also will be available in hardcover in all the usual places. For more information about Leigh or any of her books, go to
http://leighrussell.co.uk/.  

Q: What gave you the courage to leave teaching and jump into writing full time? 
A: I have not yet abandoned teaching completely. This term I am teaching a crime fiction unit to sixth form, which is great fun! I never planned my jump into writing. I wrote the story of Cut Short and the Geraldine Steel series really took off in a way I never anticipated. It’s very exciting!

Q: What are some important books on your personal bookshelf? Who is your favorite novelist? What mysteries do you read?
A: Some personal favourites are Dickens, Edith Wharton, the Brontës, Jane Austen and, among more contemporary authors, I really enjoy Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguru because they write so beautifully. Of course I also read a lot of crime novels and my favourites are too many to list. I mainly read UK authors, but do admire Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child and Tess Gerritsen.

Q: Do you borrow elements from the news to develop plots? 
A: My plots are never based on true life incidents.  All my stories are flights of imagination.  I start with a question --  what if? -- and start speculating about dark possibilities. It might sound strange, but I find real crimes too disturbing to use in my fiction which is, after all, a form of entertainment.

Q: Two of your books open in the middle of the commission of a crime. Do you work out all the elements of your story lines before you begin, or do start with the crime and go where the Ouija board takes you? 
A: I know the beginning and the ending of my books before I start writing, and do try to work out the journey between the two in advance.  That said, often a character will lead me along a slightly different path, or a plot twist will occur to me as I’m writing, and I follow that. So the books are planned yet at the same time they do develop as the story unfolds.

Q: In all three books, I found the police were a bit slow tracking down the culprits. If that isn't my imagination, is it intentional? 
A: My readers tend to be one step ahead of the police in my books, because the reader is sometimes privy to information the police don’t yet know.  That can add to the suspense, as the reader can see the police going along the wrong path, but is helpless to put them right. Of course, readers can be misled from time to time as well, but my books are “why-done-its” rather than “who-done-its.” The characters and their motivation fascinate me more than the intricacies of plot.

Q: Where and how did you learn about police procedure? Do you have professional sources? If so, how did you develop them? 
A: I do a lot of research, and have a lot of wonderful contacts on the police force. I have met them since my books were published, and many of them are fans of my books.
Whenever my books require detailed knowledge, I ask for help. It is vital to have professional sources and I solicit help from all sorts of people, not just the police. Many of my advisors are leading experts in the fields of DNA, forensic anthropology, forensic medicine or psychiatry in prisons. I have spent an afternoon with local fire officers, and with market traders, finding out about their work. I was recently invited to meet a murder investigation team, and have been invited to visit a police station, both of which were fascinating.

Q: Are any characters based on people you have met or know?
A: My characters are never based on real people. I don’t know where they come from. They are not planned in advance but appear on the page as I write. They really just evolve.  They must be composites of people I’ve met, snippets I’ve seen and heard, or read, but their creation is not a conscious process.

Q: Unlike some successful authors, you are extremely responsive and available to your readers. Why is that? 
A: These days I think many successful authors are willing and happy to interact with their readers. With so many other demands on our time in the modern world, it’s important to encourage readers. Apart from that, I really enjoy meeting people. They always interest me. And it’s lovely meeting fans of my books!