Welcome romantic suspense and young adult author P. J. O’Dwyer. She writes books that educate as well as entertain, and she’s here today to share her debut young adult novel Claimed, the first book in the Hunter’s Moon Series.
P. J., what inspires you to write books about horses?
I fell into that by accident or so I originally thought. I love animals. But writing suspense something bad has to happen. And with Bren [from Relentless, book one in the Fallon Sisters Trilogy,] it had to be about the horses. I wanted my reader to care about Bren and her life’s work. I also wanted to expose the hidden truth about something so hideous. When I learned of horse slaughter, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the senseless murders that happen every day to such a noble companion we know to be the horse.
On a lighter side, I’ve been told I couldn’t avoid writing about horses if I wanted to. They tell me, those who have researched our Irish heritage, horses are in our blood. My father bet on them, my cousin and uncle own them, and back in Ireland they stole them.
I guess the sparkling shores of freedom looked a mite safer than an Irish jail cell.
So you write romantic suspense and young adult?
Yes. Actually, Claimed is my debut young adult novel. I think I just love to write a good story. It doesn’t matter if it is a scorching romance or a coming-of-age story with a jaded teen like Mac Stonebreaker in Claimed. To create a three-dimensional character that can step off the page at any minute or create that never-saw-it-coming plot twist or ending is a rush—and self-satisfying once the last word is down on paper.
Interestingly enough, I found I enjoy writing about teens. I guess my stint as a Girl Scout leader came in handy, and having just gone through the teen years with my own daughter helped me to understand the teen psyche. Plus, kids are so much fun to write about!
Tell us a little about your young heroine Mac.
Sure. Mac is a good kid in a tough situation. What she’s lacking is guidance and a nurturing environment. A group home for wayward teens is a poor substitute for the mother she’s always longed to have. But she’s a fighter, and she refuses to accept the status quo. She’s going to change her life for the better, and it starts with an unauthorized road trip.
So without giving away too many surprises, I’ve included a sneak peek of Claimed, the first book in the Hunter’s Moon Series, which I hope you’ll enjoy.
And if you have a mind to comment and let me know what you liked best about the excerpt, you will be entered to win one of ten Combo eBooks and Keepsake Necklace Gift Sets during the Claimed Blog Tour.
CLAIMED THE FIRST BOOK IN THE HUNTER’S MOON SERIES
AND GIVEAWAY BY P. J. O’DWYER
Fourteen-year-old, Colorado juvenile delinquent Mackenzie Lynn Stonebreaker doesn’t do horses. But the volunteer gig at Hunter’s Moon Ranch has its perks. With cold, hard cash she lifts from its boarding fund, Mac’s poised for escape to search for her birth mom when an Arabian mare named Bella is viciously struck by a shotgun blast. Alive and talking—well, telepathically only to Mac—the horse begs for her help.
Talking to horses totally freaks Mac out. But leaving Bella and her colt Raider isn’t an option. Ditching her plans for now, Mac becomes a modern-day Dr. Doolittle, looking for justice. Only Mac tends to act first and ask questions later. When her protective instinct for the horses gets in the way of her good sense, Mac finds herself, once again, on the other side of the law.
Dodging a return trip to juvie, thanks to the ranch owner’s partner Dr. Rachel Hunter, Mac is now in the pediatrician’s custody and living a life she could only dream. With newfound friendships, the gift of gab with two quirky horses, her first kiss, and a chance at that family she’s always wanted, she can’t quite let go of one thing.
Abandoned and unloved by her mother, Mac wants to know why. But sleuthing for answers puts Mac on a collision course with the past—one that will shatter everything she believes in about herself and those she’s come to love and trust at Hunter’s Moon.
Mac just may find that what she’s been looking for her whole life is the exact opposite of what she will get.
What time is it?
The heavy, even breaths of Caroline whistled above. Mac threw off the covers and climbed her ladder. Caroline had her elbow thrown over her face, her other hand hanging over the side. If she woke her, she might make noise. Mac put her hand over Caroline’s mouth, and placed her lips close to her ear and whispered, “Caroline, wake up.”
Caroline’s hand flew off her face, her eyes large black marbles in the dim light of the window, body jerking like she’d been shocked with one of those EMT heart paddles. Mac almost peed her pants and rolled her lips in, trying not to laugh. “Get up.”
Caroline nodded, and Mac let go of her mouth. “I’ll meet you in the hall.”
Mac moved down the hall, sat her backpack down, and slipped into the room to her left. She crouched down next to the bottom bunk and checked the time on the digital clock sitting on the desk in the bedroom—12:03 a.m. She remained on her haunches, dressed in jeans, boots, and a dark blue sweatshirt she’d thrown on before leaving their room. She and Caroline figured dark colors would help them blend into the night and aid in their escape. Of course, hanging out in a room that wasn’t even hers, doodling, was a total risky move. A door creaked, and Mac froze with eyeliner in hand.
“What are you doing?” Caroline whispered, her shadow cutting across the bed and Jordan, aka Enemy Number One, sleeping soundly. Mac went back to work, drawing up Jordan’s cheek and around her eye, making a giraffe tail.
Caroline grabbed her arm and yanked her up, pulling her into the hall. They both bit down on their lips, trying not to laugh. Caroline handed Mac her backpack, and they headed for the steps. They took them agonizingly slow in the dark, inspected the office to the left, and Mac angled her head around the wall to the right, remaining on the last step, checking out the activity room.
Mac grabbed Caroline’s shoulder and pointed to the blonde head above the couch. They had waited until after midnight, hoping Hale would have drifted off to sleep. Not that youth workers were supposed to nod off. But they did some nights, and Mac counted on this night being one of them.
The bluish glow of the TV bounced off the walls, and Mac inched her way into the activity room to check things out. She held her breath, moving ever so slowly to the couch, and peered over.
Mouth wide open, her body turned to the side with her blonde hair sticking up, glasses awkwardly smashed into her face. Ms. Hale was dead to the world.
Mac backtracked, motioned to Caroline, and the two quietly rounded the bannister. They entered the kitchen and headed toward the back door. Thinking better of it, Mac slid open the cabinet drawer and grabbed the flashlight they sometimes used when taking out the trash.
Caroline glanced back. “Good idea,” she whispered and reached for the door knob. Mac tensed while Caroline turned the deadbolt and opened the door slowly. It creaked super loud, and Mac’s stomach took a nosedive. She grabbed for Caroline.
They waited for what seemed like forever, and when Hale didn’t appear, they cleared the door and shut it—minus the creak. They crept down the back steps and crossed the dewy lawn to the shed, dropping their backpacks.
“Oh, my God!” Caroline blurted out. “Tell me you just didn’t draw on Jordan’s face.”
Mac shrugged. “Okay. I won’t.”
“You’re out of control. She could have woken up.”
“But she didn’t.”
Caroline grabbed Mac’s hand and pulled open her fingers. “Where’d you get the black eyeliner?”
That was a reasonable question, considering Mac didn’t wear makeup. “Skylar.”
“She gave it to you?”
“No. I took it.” Mac shoved it in her back jean pocket.
Caroline opened the shed and glanced over her shoulder. “Jordan’s going to think she did it.”
Mac was a lot of things—most recently a thief. But she would never let Skylar take the fall for something she did. “Give me some credit. That’s why I drew a giraffe.” She laughed. “She’ll know.”
Caroline pulled her into the shed. The scent of mildew and rotten wood filled the dark, cramped space.
“Ding dong. Then they’ll know it was us.”
Mac shrugged. “No . . . me. Not you. And she deserved it.”
“Come on. Help me with this.”
“How can you see?” Mac squinted into the dark and clicked on the flashlight for Caroline.
Caroline handed her a bike. “Take it out and check the tires.”
Mac handed her the flashlight and then pulled the bike out into the moonlight. Flat. Just like she said it would be. She laid it next to the shed and stuck her head back in. “Unless we find a pump, we’re dead.”
“Hold on.” Caroline grunted, metal clanked, and she pushed another bike out to Mac. She checked it. The tires weren’t flat, but the chain was hanging.
“This one’s screwed—”
“Try this one.”
Mac grabbed the handlebars and guided it out. Surprisingly, this one, although rusty, seemed to be in good shape. Mac popped her head in. “We have a winner. Any more?”
Caroline shimmied out of the shed, shoving the flashlight at Mac. “That’s it.”
Great. Now they were going to have to tuck tail and sneak back into their rooms and give up on the plan. “I guess we’ll get to see Jordan’s reaction first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Jeez, Mac, you’re such a downer.” Caroline pushed past her and crouched next to the one with the busted chain, said a bad word, then another, and then came up smiling. “We’re good to go.”
Mac burst out laughing. Grease smudged Caroline’s forehead and nose.
“Shh.” Caroline swung her head like a crossing guard. Only instead of traffic she was checking for the enemy. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing.” Mac stuffed the flashlight in her backpack, put the other bike in the shed, and shut the door.
Caroline came behind her and locked it, pocketing the key in her backpack. “Let’s—”
The kitchen light popped on, and Hale stood with hands on hips, looking right at them.
Mac stood painfully still. “We’re dead,” she whispered.
“Don’t move,” Caroline urged.
“Not even a muscle.”
Caroline’s fingers nervously laced the waistband of Mac’s jeans. “I don’t think she can see us.”
“So what do you want to do?” Mac kept her eye on Hale. She hadn’t moved. If Hale could see them, she would have flown out the door by now. Hale gave them her back, and the light went out.
Mac grabbed her backpack, slung it over her shoulder, and hopped on the bike. Caroline was behind her. They pedaled down the side yard and out of Hale’s view. Cutting across the front yard, they hit the narrow walkway and then pushed the gate open and slipped through. Caroline took the time to shut it, and they were on the sidewalk pedaling like crazy, furry gerbils on a wheel. But unlike gerbils, they were making progress. The neighborhood with its old brick Cape Cods and ramblers disappeared with every block, along with barred windows and locked doors and Ms. Hale’s stupid whiteboard with all her ridiculous schedules.
For the first time, Mac truly let go. The lilac and honeysuckle floating on the breeze smelled sweeter. The cool night air brushed her face, tugged at her hair, and ran across her hands, holding fast to her bike.
Whatever happened, she promised herself it was all worth it.
I’m so glad you asked. As a writer, I believe we are entrusted to entertain as well as educate. My first book Relentless gave me the opportunity to do both. Relentless became a reality for me due to the gracious nature of horse rescuers who took a call from a stranger, listened and agreed with enthusiasm to read Bren’s story, and offer their insight and knowledge.
As a way to thank them for their kindness and because their fight has become mine, I am donating 10% of all book sales to horse rescue along with all handmade jewelry inspired by the heroines from my novels.
If you’d like to get a copy of Claimed, it is on sale on Amazon in eBook format for a special introductory price of 99 cents during the blog tour. Hardcover copies of Relentless and Defiant are also on sale for $10 on shop.blacksirenbooks.com. You can shop for books and jewelry and save $5.00 by entering the promotional coupon code FSJBC5.
Thank you for visiting and for your interest in my books!