Sunday, August 28, 2016

Our Labor Day guest...Anna Lee Huber

We’re welcoming in Labor Day with author Anna Lee Huber!


Anna Lee Huber is Daphne awards-winning author of the national bestselling Lady Darby Mysteries and forthcoming Verity Kent Mysteries. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in music and minored in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana with her family and is hard at work on her next novel. Visit her online at www.annaleehuber.com.

Welcome, Anna! Tell us a little about your background.
I was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, and then my family moved to the Southeast when I was in High School. I attended college in Nashville, TN and graduated with a degree in Music and Psychology. While working as an administrative assistant after college, I rediscovered my love of writing in my spare time, and have pursued a career as an author ever since, publishing my first novel in 2012. I currently live in Indiana with my family and write two historical mystery series, the Lady Darby Mysteries for Berkley and the forthcoming Verity Kent Mysteries for Kensington, as well as Gothic suspense novels in the vein of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.

Tell us a bit about your Lady Darby mystery series. What was the inspiration?
My Lady Darby Mystery series is set in 1830s Scotland and features a widowed portrait artist with a macabre past and a talent for detection. The inspiration for the series mostly came from my desire to write a historical mystery series with a female protagonist who truly had important skills to contribute to an investigation. Contrary to many lady sleuths, she is not a darling of the ton. She’s awkward and uncomfortable, so she is not going to be a master of interrogation. However, she does have knowledge of anatomy—something that was truly scandalous for any woman, let alone a lady to know, as most men didn’t even understand the workings of the body. And she also has a keen eye and a marked ability to read expressions and body language from her natural ability and training as a portrait artist.

How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
Before each book, I create a detailed psychological profile for all major and secondary characters, focusing strongly on goal, motivation, conflict, and each character’s story arc.

How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I create about a 5-6 page outline, hitting all the major plot elements of the mystery and weaving in other story arcs—romance, individual character growth, etc. I find that I have to know where I’m going, especially in regards to the mystery, but I don’t like to get too detailed. That takes out some of the joy and spontaneity of writing. Thus far my novels have never turned out exactly how I plotted them, and I think they’re all the better because of it.

Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character. I find that you can have the most amazing plot idea ever, but if the characters don’t draw you in and drive that plot, then it can fall completely flat.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I would say my biggest challenge thus far has been the birth of my first child. I had to figure out how to carve out the time to get my writing done while caring for a baby, and retrain myself to focus.

Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
 I’m not sure my story is very interesting. I got my agent one of the usual ways, through a query letter. Though it was somewhat remarkable in that the manuscript I was querying was my fifth finished novel, and after so many rejections from the previous four manuscripts, I suddenly had three offers of representation. It was an amazing feeling after such a struggle.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am currently writing the first book in my new Verity Kent Mystery series for Kensington. It is set in England 1919, following the Great War (World War I), and introduces readers to Verity, who is a widow of the Great War and a former Secret Service agent. Then I will be working on another Lady Darby novella, which features Bonnie Brock prominently, and the next Lady Darby novel.

What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
 I have a babysitter who comes over to watch my daughter three mornings each week until naptime, and my husband watches her another morning, so I usually get in about 5-6 hours of writing time on those days. The other three days I try to write during naptimes and sometimes at night after she goes to sleep. When I’m close to a deadline, of course, I work even more, trying to squeeze in time whenever I can.

If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
 That’s tough, as I usually have at least half a dozen research texts I consult for each book. But I’m going to assume you mean fiction titles. Definitely something by Mary Stewart (maybe This Rough Magic or Madam, Will You Talk?), The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, and Persuasion by Jane Austen.

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
 Give yourself permission to write crap. At least for that first draft. Take the pressure off yourself to get it perfect, and just get the words out. You can always fix them during edits. After all, that’s what they’re for. No one will ever see that first draft of hot mess unless you show it to them, so stop sweating it and just write.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
 Hmmm. Maybe climbing in a car and learning on the fly to drive on the “wrong” side of the road in the UK after going 36 hours without sleep. Not my brightest move.

What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
My schooling trained me to be an opera singer, but I decided to become a writer instead.

What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? J No, but seriously. I can’t think of anything.

Where can we learn more about you and your books? www.annaleehuber.com

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Night
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat. Particularly my brown tabby Pita.
Beach or Pool? Rocky Beach 
Steak or salad? Salad
Favorite Drink? Peach Bellini
Favorite Book?  Everything by Mary Stewart
Favorite TV Series?  The Big Bang Theory
Favorite Movie? Inception
Favorite Actor:
Favorite Actress:
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Neither
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Jesus.
If I had just one wish, it would be for all the world to know and experience true, unselfish love.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be No one. I love my life.

Thanks Anna!  You can find out more about her at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnaLeeHuber
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnaLeeHuber

Anna will give away an autographed copy of AS DEATH DRAWS NEAR, Lady Darby Book 5, to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight Sunday, Sept. 4!





Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Midnight Louie is BACK

Midnight Louie fans rejoice – it’s time for the “Alphabet Endgame’.



It’s the moment Midnight Louie fans have waited long and hard for!  The final volume in this long running saga debuts August 23. In Cat in an Alphabet Endgame, many questions will be answered and situations resolved, among them the ones Louis fans are most anxious over:  Who will Temple choose?

For those of you not in the know, Midnight Louie is Midnight Louie, PI, twenty (give or take a few pounds) of street smart jet black cat.  He is also the part-time narrator of thirty novels and the
full-time companion and protector of his “girl”, petite PR powerhouse and amateur detective, Miss Temple Barr.

Louie fans needn’t fret, though…he hasn’t’ even begun to use up any of his nine lives,at least not where his literary career is concerned.  The 26-letter title alphabet sequence is bracketed by a foundation novel, Cat in an Alphabet Soup, followed by Cat in an Aqua Storm etc.… to the closing volume, Cat in an Alphabet Endgame. Naturally, a mere 26 letters is not enough to contain Midnight Louie and his life of crime-solving. Sue Grafton, eat your heart out. Midnight Louie is not hanging up his fedora!

Louie is no silent and “quietly domestic” feline. He is Sam Spade with hairballs: an intermittent narrator who’s a hard-boiled, hairy-chested, fully shived, streetwise sleuth with all Las Vegas as his turf. Midnight Louise, his daughter, is a kick-tail chip off the old block. Who better to prowl the mean streets in stealth than the two black cats who make up Midnight Investigations, Inc., and draw on a feral Vegas Cat Pack for backup?

Louie and his beloved Temple have encountered a slew of murderers over the years, and Louie has even busted into the local morgue a time or two.  The only flies in his Sin City ointment are Temple’s ex and current boyfriends. Max Kinsella is a magician and undercover agent. When “The Mystifying Max” eased out of the picture so Temple’s life was not endangered, she became intrigued by a hard-to-get, handsome new neighbor, radio talk  host and ex-priest Matt Devine. 


In Cat in an Alphabet Endgame. Our cast of four human crime solvers must not only stop a massive Las Vegas conspiracy involving international terrorism and the FBI, but feline sleuth Midnight Louie’s roommate, PR powerhouse Temple Barr, is contemplating marriage. Will syndicated radio counselor and ex-priest Matt Devine's inside track lose out to the return of that wily dark horse, magician Max Kinsella? The suspense is killing somebody.

Meanwhile, a Strip-wide resurgence the long-vanquished Las Vegas mob could have Temple in search of an undertaker rather than a Justice of the Peace. Luckily, Midnight Louie and the Las Vegas Cat Pack are planning their finest moments to bring down the baddies. But no one can help Temple find which direction her wayward heart must go.


And just who does ML collaborate with, you ask?  He presents for your consideration Carole Nelson Douglas’s biography:

From being a rare Midwestern finalist in a Vogue college writing contest won by Joan Didion and Jackie Kennedy, to being “first woman” in three positions and garnering 18 daily newspaper reporting awards, to writing sixty novels published by Ballantine, Bantam, S&S, Del Rey and Tor/Forge, Douglas has crossed genres under her own name to build a wide audience. She’s the first author to make a woman from the Holmes Canon a series protagonist. Her Irene Adler bowed to raves in Good Night, Mr. Holmes, a New York TimesNotable Book of the Year. She’s had bestselling mystery and high and urban fantasy titles on major lists, including USA Today, and nominations from the Agatha to the Nebula. Her fiction writing awards include RT Booklovers lifetime achievement awards in mystery-suspense, versatility, and as a pioneer of publishing.


But even Louie will let Carole have the last word about why she believes cats make the best detectives.

“When cats bond with people, the connection is more individually wired than with pack-based dogs. Dogs are our children. They must obey. Cats are our equals. We must earn a cat’s trust and love. And then the bond is sealed with Superglue”

ROCCO and feline Nick Charles couldn’t agree more!

And as for the burning question, at least in this writers mind, of who does Temple finally pick? You’ll have to read the book to find out? Like the gentleman he is, Midnight Louie will never tell. One thing is certain:  we haven't seen the last of Midnight Louie, not by a long shot!

Cat in an Alphabet Endgame is available now! Get your copy today!




Sunday, August 14, 2016

ROCCO welcomes the father daughter writing team of Kurt and Jessica Hansen!



Meow, our special guests today is the father/daughter writing team of Kurt and Jessica Hansen!
Kurt Hansen is a co-worker friend of “The Human”. He and his daughter co-write the Computer Love sci-fi series.  Kurt is also an accomplished songwriter and has several videos on YouTube!  His daughter Jessica is a freelance writer and a marathon runner!  Meow, I can’t wait to sink my claws into this interview!!!!!!!1 Kurt’s a really cool guy….even if he has called me a “Feline Fuzz Ball….”

  • Meow, Welcome Kurt and Jess! Tell us a little about yourselves! How did you get into writing?
Kurt: Thank you,ROCCO.  I’ve been a songwriter/storyteller and musician for decades. Over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for both stories told through music as well as the written word. Ultimately, an attempt at writing a rock opera is what led me to become an author that loves writing novels in addition to writing music.
Jess: I’ve had my head in a book since my parents introduced me to Dr. Seuss, and I always enjoyed writing as well. I majored in English at Montclair State University and I currently work as a freelance copywriter, but my real passion is fiction. Together, my dad and I have become a father daughter co- author team and I think I speak for both of us when I say we really enjoy creating stories and working together!
  • Tell us a bit about your latest book  -
Computer Love Inc. III is the culmination of the Computer Love series. It takes our protagonist Marius, the head of the Computer Love Company, on a truly wild ride with a creation called the Guardian of Development, along with his cohorts John and Zak. We don’t want to say too much about it for anyone who hasn’t read the first two novels, but things at the company headquarters have escalated, and Marius’s team of elite Companions also have some events of their own that are unfolding.

  • What drew you to the sci fi genre?
Kurt: I’ve been a bit of a Sci-fi nut since childhood. Our Computer Love Inc. series is actually a byproduct of a song that I wrote and recorded years ago. It’s a song that was created as a commercial for a fictitious bio-robotic company with the hook: “You need Computer Love. The song, along with others that I have published, can be heard on our website, www.ComputerLoveInc.com.
  • Would you ever consider or have you ever written in another genre?
Kurt: Absolutely! In fact, I recently completed a collection of humorous short stories about my lifelong fishing and boating experiences. I’m currently seeking an agent and publisher for the project. The current title, although it is subject to change is Bait, Beer, and Bullsh*t.
Jess: As someone who writes for a living, I’ve completed a few ghostwriting projects that I can’t divulge, but let’s just say I’ve written about everything from raising goats to Feng Shui! My dream project would be to do a true crime project. Maybe one day!
·        How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
We have to say that character creation and development is one of the most enjoyable perks of writing. Getting a feel for the characters as the book progresses and creating names to fit the characters has always been exciting for us. As a fun fact, one of our main characters in the Computer Love Inc. series is named Marius, after the not-so-well-known God of Mars. One of his quips in the books when facing perplexing situations is his use of the phrase “What on Mars?” Interestingly, Marius had a different name throughout the entire first novel – the decision to change it was very last-minute, but we haven’t regretted it at all. We think Marius fits his personality quite well.
Now that we are on the third book in the series, the established characters have such a feel to each of their personalities that much of it comes out in us. As we write a scene, we often know how they will react instinctively even before we get the text out on the screen. At this point, we always say that they tend to have minds of their own. In fact, most of our characters are pretty headstrong, now that we think about it… Perhaps that’s why they’re always getting themselves into such crazy situations!
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Honestly, we have done both. In the beginning of the series, there was much “seat-of-the-pants writing,” and the pants were like a new pair of blue jeans. As the series progressed, we started to develop an outline that we actually followed – for the most part. Like all pairs of jeans, they just got more comfortable as time progressed, but we did find places that needed a bit more stretching here and there!  We do enjoy writing segues that readers might not deem important in the moment, but end up having more to do with the outcome of the story than most would expect.

  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
That’s a tough one, Rocco. That’s like asking which is more important: your canned food, or the can opener you need to open it! Most of us – cats and humans alike, we think – would agree that you can’t have one without the other. They really go hand-in-hand and are nearly inseparable. In order for your characters to develop thoroughly, they need to be faced by a unique problem, which of course is the conflict – one of the most critical components of the plot. But you could have a really intriguing conflict, and if the character doesn’t have enough depth, the story wouldn’t really go anywhere. Maybe characters are more important after all. But that’s a great question, Rocco.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as writers? What keeps you motivated?
Kurt: We are not yet full-time authors. I’ve worked in the aerospace defense industry for over 30 years. Outside of a 40-hour work week, I enjoy playing and writing music, spending time with my family, fishing, gardening, the list goes on…  Time is a challenge. As far as motivation goes, writing and collaborating with Jess is awesome. Life is sort, carpe diem.
Jess: I’m a fulltime freelance writer, and sometimes “full time” means pulling late nights to meet a deadline. Otherwise, I’m also a proud “corgmom” of a one-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Yoda. Pile that on top of planning a wedding and training for marathons… It becomes difficult to find time to write! Luckily, I can always count on my dad for a little push of encouragement here and there. We’re both pretty good multitaskers, and we’ve learned to juggle our schedules. I’m also convinced that nothing in this world could be accomplished – for me at least – without coffee.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Although we originally thought of our Computer Love Inc. series as a trilogy, it is difficult to stop writing about characters we adore and know so well. That said, book four in the series has been started, as well as a second fishing story book with more humor and unforeseen outdoor circumstances and happenings.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Kurt: I work a Monday-through-Friday job and as I mentioned before, I tend to have a 40+ hour work week. There’s also a pretty long commute involved in my day. With that said, I can usually squeeze in a couple of hours on most week nights, as well as some additional time on the weekends.
Jess: Even though I work from home, I try to maintain structure in my daily routine. I work from about 7:30 to 5 or 6, but then my Fridays and Saturdays are generally lighter in terms of work load. That’s when I can usually do most of my “enjoyment” writing. Otherwise, I’m usually too burnt out from doing writing for my clients on weeknights.
  • If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
Kurt: The Old Man and the Sea, for sure. I’d also bring 2001: A Space Odyssey because I consider it one of the greatest works in the sci-fi genre, and Tales from Margaritaville, because Jimmy Buffett captures the spirit of adventure so well.
Jess: Rocco, you’re really asking another tough one here. I’d like to be stubborn and just say “Impossible. Next question.” But I’ll be a good sport… I’d have to pick one thriller, like Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins or The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson, because it’s my favorite genre. Then I’d also have to bring something for comic relief… any of David Sedaris’s books, for instance. Finally, I’d have to take a classic, like Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and actually read it to enjoy it instead of reading it as an assignment and dissecting every line. 
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Kurt: OMG, there are many of them. On a professional level, outside of becoming a self -published author, I’d have to say writing, recording, and self-publishing a rather sarcastic song titled “Space Garbage”. On a personal level, rappelling Australian style, (face down) off of a 75 foot cliff.
Jess: Running a marathon, for sure. Also the most painful thing I’ve ever done. But I think I want to do another… Runners are much like writers in the fact that we’re all at least a little bit crazy.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Kurt: If not the songs I have published on YouTube, I would have to say the cut-off flannel shirts I wear on weekends.
Jess: I have 2 tattoos – one is a quill on my arm and the other is a dragonfly on my back.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Why on earth would you get involved with writing, considering how difficult it can be to sell books? Answer: Because we truly love the process of it – for us, the enjoyment of writing is the reward.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  .
Kurt: Day
Jess: Night!
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Kurt: Well, two of our favorite books, Martha Speaks and the Art of Racing in the Rain come to mind. My, those are sharp claws you have there, Rocco.
Jess: I have a serious allergy to cats, and I may be a little partial as a dog owner… but I will say that I spend a lot of my spare time watching cat videos online. If I could own a cat without going into anaphylactic shock, I would probably consider it!
Beach or Pool?   Pool… after the beach!
Steak or salad? 
Kurt: Steak
Jess: Salad
Favorite Drink?  There’s this tropical drink called Pirates’ Punch at Aunt Catfish’s, a restaurant down in Port Orange, FL. If you’re ever in the area, it’s a definite must!
Favorite Book? Kurt: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Jess: Definitely way too hard!
Favorite TV Series? Both: Game of Thrones
Favorite Movie? 
Kurt: The Princess Bride
Jess: The Princess Bride
Favorite Actor:
Kurt: Alan Rickman
Jess: Bradley Cooper
Favorite Actress:
Kurt: Tina Fey
Jess: Amy Poehler
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada (both authors)
Hawaii or Alaska?  Hawaii for sure (both authors)
Finish this sentence:  (Both authors)
If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be  Hemingway
If I had just one wish, it would beTo keep my loved ones happy and healthy, always
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be You Rocco, because you are a cool cat. Or our dogs, Jake and Yoda. They’ve got it made.

Thank you so much, Kurt and Jess!

Folks, Kurt and Jess will give one lucky commenter their choice of either a $25 Amazon gift card or all three books in the Computer Love series!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:

* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, August 21!







Thursday, August 4, 2016

ITS KIDS NEED TO READ AUCTION TIME!

Meow!

After a slow start, the Human finally has all three auction items for Kids Need to Read posted onEbay! Yay!

The auctions run until August 12!  Links are below.  Please have a look and support Kids Need to REad!  100% of proceeds will be donated to them!

Auction Links:

Nook Auction

Autographed Cozies and Claws Tote

Hardback Cozies and Kitty Tote




We thank you for your support!


ROCCO (and the Human)

Monday, August 1, 2016

KIDS NEED TO READ AUCTION NEWS

The KNTR annual auction will kick off Wednesday morning!  Mainly because the human was having trouble with her Ebay account Meow!

Here is the link to the Nook auction which will go live Wens. morning.  We will also have two book prizepacks. Check back Wednesday for all the links, and support Kids Need to Read!



NOOK KNTR Auction

Kids Need to Read Website

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rocco's guest...author Mike Befeler!



Meow! My guest this weekend is Mike Befeler, author of the Geezer-Lit mysteries.

Mike Befeler’s geezer-lit mysteries include Nursing Homes Are Murder, Care Homes Are Murder; Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder, a finalist for The Lefty Award for best humorous mystery of 2012; Senior Moments Are Murder; Living with Your Kids Is Murder; and Retirement Homes Are Murder. His other published mysteries are Court Trouble, The V V Agency, The Back Wing, Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse and Murder on the Switzerland Trail. He grew up in Hawaii and lives in Lakewood, CA, with his wife Wendy. http://www.mikebefeler.com

  • Welcome Mike! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks, ROCCO! layed competitive tennis as a kid and in college. After graduate school I followed a business career for 39 years until I retired into writing—I didn’t begin writing until 2001 when I was 56.
  • Tell us a bit about your Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series
There are six books in the series: Retirement Homes Are Murder, Living with Your Kids Is Murder, Senior Moments Are Murder, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder, Care Homes Are Murder and Nursing Homes Are Murder. Paul is in his mid-eighties and has short term memory loss. Even though he can’t remember the day before, he becomes an amateur sleuth and even has a romance with a young chick in her seventies. The first book in the series was inspired by active older people with good senses of humor I met when my mom and stepdad moved into a retirement community.
  • What is your latest release?
Released in July, 2016: Court Trouble, A Platform Tennis Mystery. Having played platform tennis for the last 20 years I set a mystery in a sport I love.
In Court Trouble Mark Yeager is retired from his stressful career as an entrepreneur and now gets his adrenaline fix from games of platform tennis with a motley crew of equally middle-aged buddies. But when one of his good friends is bludgeoned to death in the dark on one of the platform tennis courts, Mark takes it personally: Manny Grimes had likely saved Mark’s life by
insisting he see a doctor for what turned out to be prostate cancer. Mark decides he must identify the killer, even if it means another close encounter of the Grim Reaper kind.

“This solid series launch from Befeler introduces an unlikely amateur sleuth, platform tennis buff Mark Yeager. . . . Readers will look forward to seeing more of this determined tennis enthusiast and cancer survivor.” —Publishers Weekly

  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
My characters may have snippets of people I know but always have their own characteristics that seem right for them. I do some character sheet listing of qualities but then it always evolves from there as I write
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I have tried various amounts of outlining but have never been a complete seat of the pants writer. I typically write a basic outline and then see how the plot develops, and it always surprises me by going in a direction I didn’t expect. This is one of the joys of writing—I can’t wait to see what happens. Often when writing mystery novels, I don’t know who the murderer is when I start. I have a number of suspects, set up clues and red herrings and then eventually I discover who the murderer is. Then during revision I go back and tune the clues and red herrings.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character although plot is a close second. Modern mystery readers consistently say they fall in love with the characters not the plot.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The biggest challenge is overcoming the rejections and lack of response from editors and agents. I sold my first short story on my 112th submission. Perseverance is a must in this industry. I have my emotional ups and downs but don’t wallow in self pity. After a downer, I get up and tell myself to keep going.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Right now I’m in editing mode. I have a number of completed manuscripts that I am tuning and considering whether to pursue traditional publishing or self-publishing.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I’m a morning person and do my best work early in the day. Before we moved from Colorado to California a year ago, I wrote every morning for several hours. We moved to Southern California because our daughter was having a baby, so now more of my morning time is enjoyably consumed with my grandson, now 11 months old.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Keep writing, no matter what. When you finish a manuscript, edit it and also start on the next one. It’s important to build a portfolio of manuscripts. Realize that you need to stick to it. Writing and publishing are not easy, so you have to suck it up and keep going.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
When in college I spent 6 months in Europe. At the Alhambra in Spain we raised an American flag on the flagpole at the top of the Alhambra. Then we skedaddled before Franco’s police caught us
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Until my most recent book came out, that I had a background in tennis. I had some measure of success—I was ranked number 30 in the country as a boy, played collegiate tennis at Stanford and at the age of 19 was the second ranked men’s tennis player in the state of Hawaii. I peaked at 19 and never made it to the next level.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
What’s your biggest peeve with the publishing establishment?
Answer: I’ve listened to many panels of agents and editors at writers and mystery conferences, and they often say that they’d like to see authors be more responsive. My experience is that most writers are responsive and follow through on their commitments but that the agent and editor world could show improvement.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?
All the usual places such as Amazon and barnesandnoble.com as well as my website http://www.mikebefeler.com

Just for Fun:
Favorite Book?
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I love the quirky characters. This inspired me to write my own quirky characters

Favorite TV Series?
America’s Funniest Home Videos

Favorite Movie?
First released Star Wars movie

Favorite Actor:
Tom Hanks

Favorite Actress:
Sandra Bullock

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Athanasius Kirker (I have a completed manuscript in which he becomes an amateur sleuth; he was known as the last man to know everything)
If I had just one wish, it would be a cure for cancer
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be me

Thanks, Mike! You can find out more about Mike at:

Send Mike an email at mikebef@aol.com if you want to enter a drawing for a character name in his next book!



Sunday, July 17, 2016

ROCCO's guest...Melanie Travis author .Laurien Berenson!

Meow! My guest this week is author Laurien Berenson!


Laurien Berenson is the author of thirty novels that have sold more than two million copies worldwide. Her cozy mystery series revolves around the world of dog shows, a milieu she knows well as her family has been involved in the sport of dogs for three generations. There are currently nineteen Melanie Travis canine mysteries including the newest book, LIVE AND LET GROWL.


Berenson is a four time winner of the Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Assoc. of America and a winner of the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is also an Agatha and Macavity nominee. Her work has  appeared in The New York Times as well as numerous magazines. She is a graduate of Vassar College, and she and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky, surrounded by horses and dogs.


  • Hello, and welcome Laurien! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO! I grew up in a family that always had animals: everything from dogs and cats to guinea pigs, parakeets, and ponies. My love for animals has continued to this day and I was thrilled when I sold my first Melanie Travis mystery, A PEDIGREE TO DIE FOR, as it combines two of my favorite things, dogs and humorous cozy mystery.
  • Tell us a bit about your latest book, LIVE AND LET GROWL
LIVE AND LET GROWL is the 19th book in the Melanie Travis series. Melanie is a mother, a teacher, and a breeder and exhibitor of Standard Poodles. In this book she and her Aunt Peg (a dog show judge) travel to Kentucky for a cluster of dog shows. While there, they become involved in suspicious activities that center around the Thoroughbred horseracing industry.
  • You are, obviously, a dog person…your lead character is the owner of a Standard Poodle.  Is this your favorite breed of dog?  Do you own any poodles (something in common with the HUMAN – she owned a miniature poodle growing up)
(Lucky HUMAN!) I had Poodles, both Standards and Minis, for more than 30 years. For most of that time I was a breeder and dog show exhibitor. I adore Poodles but I also think that there are many great breeds of dogs. Right now, I am taking a break from grooming and I have 2 smooth Collies.
  • You also write about dog shows – have you ever participated in one?  Any stories about that you can share?
I have participated in hundreds of dog shows as a dedicated owner-handler (something I have in common with my characters Melanie Travis and Aunt Peg.) Dog shows make a wonderful backdrop for a mystery series as there is always something interesting going on.
  • Do you have a favorite among the books you’ve written?  If so, which one and why?
I have several favorites in the series and I always hope that the next book I write will be my new favorite. Among the books that are already available I like UNLEASHED, WATCHDOG, GONE WITH THE WOOF and LIVE AND LET GROWL.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I don’t usually try too hard to get to know my characters ahead of time as I find that they are apt to tell me the things about themselves that they want me to know. One of the joys of introducing new characters to the series is having them take me to new and unexpected places.
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
In the beginning, I used to outline my books religiously. But now I’ve become a much more free form writer. I have a basic plot in my head when I start but then I just sort of wing it and see where the story takes me.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
For me, as both a reader and a writer, character has always been more important. Even the best plot can’t make me enjoy a book with characters I don’t like.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
With 19 books in the series so far, my biggest challenge is keeping things fresh and interesting. As for motivation, I have always been very disciplined. Plus, deadlines scare me. It’s much easier for me to write each day than to have to worry about the fact that I am not writing.
  • Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
Thirty years ago, I went to the first RWA convention in New York City. I sat down in the front row of the first presentation and introduced myself to the person seated beside me. She, like me, was an aspiring writer. The woman next to her was an aspiring agent. The agent took both of us on as clients and within the next year we had both made our first sales. Thirty years later, I am still represented by the same agency.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am currently working on Melanie Travis Mystery #20 (MURDER AT THE PUPPY FEST) which will come out in 2017. Reader support for this series has been wonderful  and I hope to be able to continue to write about Melanie and her adventures for years to come.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
That depends on what stage of the book I’m working on (first draft, editing, etc.) but generally I start working first thing in the morning and I work about 4-5 hours a day, six days a week.
  • If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
Yikes, they would have to be long ones! Truthfully I don’t think I could last a year with only three books.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Write the story that you want to tell. Even if everyone else tries to fit you into a different mold, stay strong in your own voice. Also, rejection is a fact of life for aspiring authors, even really good ones. So keep writing and be determined! Your turn will come.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Left college to go on a three month camping trip to Alaska with a boy I had known for four weeks. (We’ve now been married 40 years.)
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I breed and race Thoroughbred horses.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
I have no idea! I am always asked great questions.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?
On my website at www.laurienberenson.com  or they can friend me on Facebook (I love talking to readers there). Or they can “like” my FB Author Page.

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  dog (sorry!...no, not really. ;)
Beach or Pool?   pool
Steak or salad?  steak
Favorite Drink?  tea
Favorite Book?  too many to name
Favorite TV Series?  The Big Bang Theory
Favorite Movie?  Dangerous Liaisons
Favorite Actor: Chris Hemsworth
Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska
Finish this sentence: 
If I had just one wish, it would be  for world peace
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: Nobody! I am happy being myself

Thanks Laurien!
Giveaway time!

Laurien will give away a signed copy of Live and Let Growl to one lucky reader!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest closes midnight, July 19th!