Sunday, June 19, 2016

Author Julia Buckey ini ROCCO's interview chair!

Merow! Today my guest is author Julia Buckley!



Julia Buckley is a Chicago-area mystery writer. Her new book, A DARK AND STORMY MURDER, debuts in July. Find out more about her at JuliaBuckley.com

  • Welcome Julia! Tell us a little about your background
Okay ROCCO! I was born in the suburbs of Chicago. My mom is from Germany and my dad is the child of Hungarian immigrants. I grew up loving to read and write, and I’ve really been writing, in one form or another, since I was a kid.
I am also a high school English teacher, a job I find particularly rewarding. However, it is challenging having two jobs, and some days it can be stressful!
  • Tell us a bit about your latest release, A DARK AND STORMY MURDER. How did the idea for this new series come about?
I had already created a series for Berkley Prime Crime, but I told my agent that I wanted to write a different one. She called me and we batted ideas around over the phone. She had seen on my website that I loved all the great Romantic Suspense novelists of the mid-20th Century, including Mary Stewart, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Victoria Holt. She suggested a series with a sort of Gothic spin as an homage to those names.
So I came up with the idea of a young woman who gets to live with her writing idol, a Mary Stewart type, and to become her writing partner. And, of course, they find a dead body.
  • You also write the Undercover Dish mysteries. Tell us about those.
The premise of these is that Lilah Drake, a young chef, has a secret business making food for people who want to take credit for making food themselves. This becomes complicated when one of Lilah’s dishes is poisoned.
This was also a clever idea from my agent, Kim!
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I don’t really do any of those cool writer things like interviewing my characters or keeping a diary for them. I really just embroider them as I go along.
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Both. I’ve always been a “let’s just start writing and see where this takes us” kind of writer, but my publisher does require a full outline at some point, so I do a bit of the first until I have to give them the second. J
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character. But that’s based on my own requirements as a reader. In some books, I don’t care how stupid the plot is if the character has an entertaining voice. Hopefully my plots aren’t bad, but I do think character is important for maintaining reader interest.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I’ve had a lot of deadlines in the last few years, and I’m glad to have them, but some days this was super challenging, especially as deadlines approached, or when the writing stalled. I don’t get writer’s block too often, but when I do, it can be painful.
  • Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I’ve had agents before that, for one reason or another, weren’t the right match for me. And as you and your readers may know, it’s not that easy to find a new one. However, I would advise your readers that persistence does pay off. I told myself that I would query at least 70 agents, and out of those I hoped to get about five who were interested (these odds seemed about right). So if I got a rejection, I would just say, “Hey, I haven’t sent out my seventy yet.”
So I kept sending out my query and three chapters of a recent novel, and guess what? I eventually did get interest from several agents. Kim was the one who said that the book wasn’t quite right for the genre, but that she would be willing to work with me on writing something else. And that’s what happened. It was a neat collaboration, and I’m glad she gave me a chance.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m finishing the sixth book I contracted with Berkley. I do not yet know if either of my series will be extended, so after that I’d like to polish a YA novel that I wrote, and perhaps work on a thriller.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I teach, as I mentioned, so I am that job from 7 30-3:30 each day. It can be exhausting, so sometimes I just have to come home and decompress, along with doing dishes or folding laundry or making dinner.
So my writing time has to be found in between my other life obligations. Some evenings, weekends, and school vacations. I also teach in the summer, but these are shorter hours, so I get more writing done.
  • 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?
Wow. It’s REALLY hard to narrow down. Today I would pick
1.     CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Fyodor Dostoevsky (not a boring classic at all, but a compelling thriller that is a novel of murder, redemption, faith, detection, suspense).
2.     HAVE HIS CARCASE by Dorothy L Sayers. All of her Peter Wimsey books are great, but my favorites are the ones with Harriet Vane, and this one just had a tremendous plot from which a person could learn a lot about plotting.
3.     SOMETHING BY P.G WODEHOUSE because his writing is so funny, especially when read aloud, that it would keep me amused all year.

  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
The advice I gave above about being persistent. But also, hone your craft. I’ve met some people who care only about the idea of selling or being famous, but don’t care at all if their writing needs work. They want the accolades without the work. So I would also say, work on your writing. Go to classes and keep trying to make it better.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I’m not that crazy. I’m a stay-at-home kind of gal. I also don’t drink, but once in my college days a friend challenged me to drink what he called “a German shot” of whiskey. Since he and I are both part German, I took this as a challenge to my heritage, and drank the thing down, having no real tolerance for alcohol. It was so stupid, because I really could have died. It was like a tall juice glass full of whiskey.
Instead of dying, I simply lay down and went to sleep immediately—out cold. While I was unconscious, my friends carried me in a very obvious way back to my room, and the R.A. was alerted to my drunken state. The next morning I woke up and asked my roommate if SHE was in trouble, not realizing that I was.
And it’s so funny to contemplate, because I wasn’t a drinker then or now, but I did get in some serious trouble for that German shot.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I have tons of phobias, including heights, bugs, storms, planes. I am afraid of just about everything.  J
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Interesting question!  I guess it would be nice if people said “What are your other creative outlets?” Because I do love to paint in watercolors (and I have some art teacher pals at the high school who have been helping me build my strengths). I also love to sing.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?
I have a website at www.juliabuckley.com, and a blog at www.juliabuckley.blogspot.com
Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day, especially morning.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Both! I have a big Lab puppy named Digby, and three cats named Pibby, Panther and Mulliner. My son and I are already kind of longing for a new kitten.  They all bring something special to our lives, although Digby is trying the patience of my husband. It’s kind of like having a horse in the house, and his idea of playing is to jump on my husband and “bite” him in play. Jeff is not very fond of that.  J
Beach or Pool?   I have never been a swimmer—I actually FAILED swimming in college. But I do love to walk along the beach because it is scenic and restful.
Steak or salad?  Salad. Not a red meat person.
Favorite Drink?  Diet coke.
Favorite Book?  Crime and Punishment.
Favorite TV Series?  So hard to pick! For comedy, probably 30 Rock or Arrested Development. For Drama, Broadchurch or Happy Valley or something.
Favorite Movie?  The Bourne Identity.
Favorite Actor: Past—Cary Grant.  Present—Harrison Ford.
Favorite Actress: Past—Hayley Mills   Present—Melissa McCarthy
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?  Pina Colada!!  I like to have at least one every summer on my patio. I favor the sweet drinks, when I imbibe.
Hawaii or Alaska?  Hard to choose! But Hawaii.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be  Mary Stewart (which is what my book is about!!!)
If I had just one wish, it would be –Good health for my family and friends.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be   Some singer—maybe someone like Sheryl Crow—so that I could sing the folksy songs I love.  Or Tina Fey, who gets to write, be smart, open doors for women in male-dominated professions.

Thank you Julia! Folks you can find her at:
Facebook: Julia Buckley mystery novels
Twitter: Juliabucks
Pinterest: Julia Buckley
Instagram: Julia Buckley

GIVEAWAY TIME:
Berkley has donated a copy of “The Big Chili” for one lucky reader to win!
To enter, just 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. Contest ends midnight, June 25! Good luck!

You can also watch Julia’s Facebook page or website for her own give-away info! Or sign up for her newsletter (on her website).




Monday, June 13, 2016

Rocco's guest EJ Copperman!

MEROW! Today our guest poster is the author, E. J. Copperman


EJ is the author of the Haunted Guesthouse series, as well as several other mystery series!  His first in the Mysterious Detective Series with Crooked Lane Publishing, WRITTEN OFF, debuts today!
And now, without any further adieu: E.J. Copperman!

Thank you, ROCCO!
The first thing you have to understand is that writers are crazy.
Our job, first and foremost, is to make things up. And the better we can think of stuff to make up that nobody has made up before (or at least this month), the more novel (you should pardon the expression) the work will appear to be.
So our minds never stop looking for new things to make up. That’s the job and we know it. You might be taking a walk on the beach, watching the ballgame, making dinner, making love, playing Life, living life, walking the dog, doing the downward dog or lying in bed before sleep.
When we’re doing all that, we’re also working. If something happens that might be interesting (re: useful), we’ll be sure to make note of it. If we remember it the next morning, you can assume it’ll show up in our work somewhere.
So when the casual notion of a character I’ve written showing up at my door and announcing him/herself happened into my fevered brain—and it was just an idle thought, in the middle of doing something else—I stopped whatever the hell that was I was involved with and started thinking about it. How would I react if Alison Kerby or Samuel Hoenig called on the phone asking for help on her/his current problem?
Since I write mystery novels, the notion that the character would be asking for guidance on a murder was not a huge leap. I do, after all, concoct all sorts of odd problems for them to solve (in Samuel’s case, questions for him to answer; he’d want me to make that distinction). They’d expect that surely I could provide direction, if not simply an answer out of thin air.
But it wasn’t the character’s perspective that I found interesting. Although my spouse (yet another plug for an upcoming book) and a few others I’ve met would say that I am indeed a character, I’m also an author. I know how an author thinks and if one is going to spend a few months writing a book, it might as well be something the writer understands fairly well.
So what would I do if Alison or Samuel (or now Duffy Madison and his hapless creator Rachel Goldman) knocked on the door and asked me to help solve a heinous crime? In WRITTEN OFF, that’s what happens to Rachel. She writes the Duffy Madison series in which a consultant for the Morris County (NJ) prosecutor’s office works on missing person cases. And when her phone rings just after she finishes the latest Duffy Madison mystery only to be told that her caller is a consultant for the Bergen County (NJ) prosecutor’s office who works on missing person cases—and that his name is Duffy Madison—she has a situation to deal with.
I didn’t stop to consider what my own reaction would be under such circumstance because in writing the book it didn’t matter. I’m not Rachel; she reacts to things differently than I would. It’s only since I finished the book—and if the truth be told, written the second in the series—that I’ve taken the time to consider. And I know exactly what I’d do if that ever happened to me.
I’d slam the door and lock it, then hide under my desk until the phone stopped ringing.
I’m not that crazy.

E.J. Copperman is the author of the Haunted Guesthouse mystery series and the co-author with Jeff Cohen of the Asperger’s Mystery series. On June 14 E.J. unveils the Mysterious Detective Mystery series in which a crime fiction author is confronted by the flesh-and-blood incarnation of her fictional sleuth.
GIVEAWAY:  Win a copy of WRITTEN OFF!
 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, June 18.

Friday, June 10, 2016

ROCCO's guest poster....GAYLE LEESON!

Rocco Talks with Rory and Princess Eloise
By Gayle Leeson, author of The Calamity Café

Rory: Hi, Rocco! How are you? Are you fine? I hope you’re fine. I’m fine. I love it when people are fine. Princess Eloise thinks I’m a little high-strung but I don’t think so. Do you think so?
Princess Eloise: [Giving the little brown terrier a disdainful sniff.] You are high-strung. I guess that’s to be expected of a dog. You don’t conduct yourself with much dignity, you know.
Rory: That’s okay, princess. You have enough dignity for both of us. You know who else has dignity? Amy. Amy’s our person, Rocco, and she’s the best! Oh, I know you have a person you think is the best, but Amy’s our best. You know what I mean. She’s been going through a rough patch, though. That mean bossy boss of hers has been bossing her around and generally being mean to everybody! Amy told me she’s going to buy that place and make it the kind of café it ought to be—a really charming place where people will enjoy hanging out and eating all kinds of good food. I love food. Do you love food, Rocco? My favorite is beef. No, chicken. No, turkey. No, beef. I don’t know. What’s your favorite?
Princess Eloise: I know you weren’t addressing me, but I prefer salmon. I wonder if Amy will serve salmon at her new café. If she does, I won’t go there to eat it. Going places to get food is the type of thing peasants do. I prefer my food to be brought to me. And then I can decide whether I’m in the mood to eat it or not. But I do hope Amy gets her café. I’m more partial to her mother Jenna, but I care for Amy too. She’s a good human.
Rory: You shouldn’t make it so obvious that you prefer Amy’s mom, princess. That hurts Amy’s feelings.
Princess Eloise: What do you care? You’re the one always snuggling up to her. If I were to take a fancy to sitting on her lap, where would that leave you?
Rory: Good point. I enjoy sitting on Amy’s lap, so things are okay just as they are. It probably doesn’t hurt Amy’s feelings that bad anyway. Keep having Amy’s mom as your favorite. Amy’s mom should be your favorite anyway, you know. She’s the one who raised you as a kitten. She can’t help that Aunt Bess is allergic to you and that you couldn’t go live with them.
Princess Eloise: I’d appreciate it if you do not bring up that tiresome woman’s name to me.
Rory: I don’t think Aunt Bess is tiresome. For an old human, she has lots of energy. And the stuff she puts on her computer makes Amy laugh. She does something called pinning to boards. Amy will sometimes laugh until tears stream down her face when she reads from the board Aunt Bess calls Lord, Have Mercy.
Princess Eloise: Yes, I know good and well that Amy laughs at all that nonsense. She’s awakened me from many a pleasant nap with that unladylike chortle of hers.
Rory: Ah, come on, princess. You love Amy. Deep down, I know you do. You act like you don’t particularly like any of us except Jenna, but we’re your family, and you love us. You know you love us. [Dancing around the white Persian.] Admit it! Admit you love us!
Princess Eloise: Don’t push your luck.


GIVEAWAY
Gayle is giving away a signed paperback copy of The Calamity Café (to U.S. readers, international readers will receive a digital copy). 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)
* Like Gayle’s page on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/GayleTrentandAmandaLee/)
* Follow Gayle on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/GayleTrent)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Contest ends midnight, June 13! Good luck!


Sunday, June 5, 2016

A warm welcome back to Laura Bradford!

Meow, help me welcome author Laura Bradford!

As a child, Laura Bradford fell in love with writing over a stack of blank paper, a box of crayons, and a freshly sharpened number two pencil. From that moment forward, she never wanted to do or be anything else. Today, Laura is the national bestselling author of several mystery series, including the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, the Amish Mysteries, the Jenkins & Burns Mysteries, the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries written as Elizabeth Lynn Casey, and the upcoming Tobi Tobias Mystery Series. She is a former Agatha Award nominee, and the recipient of an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award in romance. A graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, Laura enjoys making memories with her family, baking, and being an advocate for those living with Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Welcome back Laura!  Tell us a little about your new series, the Emergency Dessert Squad. How did that come about?
The concept for the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries came to me while trying to encourage a former Girl Scout of mine. Emily loves to bake and I was throwing out creative ways she could frame a business around her talent. I threw out the idea of an Emergency Dessert Squad and, lo and behold, I realized I had the makings of a super fun cozy mystery.
As for the series, it follows my main character, Winnie Johnson, a young woman who, like Emily, has always loved to bake. When Éclair and Present Danger (book # 1) opens, Winnie is in her final day as a bakery owner thanks to an inability to keep up with the rising cost of rent. For a moment, she thinks she has a reprieve when she learns she’s been names in her late friend’s will. At the attorney’s office, Winnie learns the specifics of her bequest—a cat (who hates her), and an old vintage ambulance.  Neither of which can save her bakery.
Or so she thought…


  • What’s your favorite dessert?
Oh my, I love all things sweet. But if I had to pick an absolute favorite, I’d say my white chocolate mousse pastry puffs.  I make them during the holiday season in December and they’re always a huge hit.
  • Do you have any dessert recipes you’d like to share?
Sure!  I’ll share one of my kids’ favorites. It’s for Gooey Butter Cake (a St. Louis tradition).
*1 package yellow cake mix
*1 stick butter
*1 egg
Combine. This will be dry. Press into greased 9 x 13 pan. Set aside.
Then, in a bowl, combine the following:
*1 16-ounch package of powdered sugar.
*8 ounce cream cheese
*2 eggs
*1 teaspoon vanilla.
Pour mixture on top of crust.
Bake at 350 for 32 minutes.  Cool completely or it will be runny.
Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and cut into squares.
Enjoy!!!

  • You also write the Amish mysteries for BPC.  Is it difficult doing two series and how do you keep the characters separate?
I actually write three series for BPC—the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries and the Amish Mysteries under my own name, and the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries under my pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey.  
As for how I keep the characters from the various series separate, they’re real people in my head so that makes it easier.
  • Do you have a favorite character/series?
Of my own?  That’s tough. I love them all for different reasons.
The Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries are special because that’s how I broke into a big NY publishing house. My favorite characters in that series are Rose (the 80-something matriarch of the sewing circle) and Margaret Louise (the kind of friend everyone wants).
The Amish Mysteries speak to my heart. I love the characters, the setting, and the pace.   My favorite characters in that series have to be Aunt Diane (you can’t not love this woman) and Detective Jakob Fisher (there’s so much still to be unearthed in him and I find that appealing).
The Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries simply make me smile. They’re fun and they’re light and littered with fun characters. If I have to pick a favorite among those characters, I’d have to say Mr. Nelson, Winnie’s downstairs neighbor. He makes me laugh.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m currently wrapping up book # 12 for the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries. 
After that, I’m on to book # 6 for my Amish Mysteries, and a new E-series I’ll be doing with Kensington that’s set in the world of advertising. I also have a top secret project (new genre) that I’m working on, as well.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I can recite the old Big Mac ingredient list backward. J

 What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Tell us about a few of your most special author moments…
1)     Having grown up reading Mary Higgins Clark, I’ll never ever forget the moment I got to speak to her on the telephone—Harlan Coben’s phone, to be exact.  A completely surreal experience, I must say.
2)     I’ll never forget walking through the stocking stuffer section at my local K-Mart one December morning when my agent’s phone number showed up on my cell. I thought maybe she was calling to wish me a happy holiday. However, when I answered, she said, “we have a deal.”  My answer back to her was, “but we don’t have anything on submission right now.”  Her response? “Well, on your Facebook page this morning, you mentioned wondering what the Sweet Briar crew (from the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries) is doing for Christmas and now your editor is wondering, too. So we have a Christmas book.”  J
3)     Learning that someone drove 5 hours just to meet me at a signing.  MeFive hours.  Total pinch-me moment, that’s for sure.

  •  Where can we learn more about you?
My website is the best place to find information on my books:  www.laurabradford.com
My Facebook page is the best place to find day-to-day me:  https://www.facebook.com/laurabradfordauthor/

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  .Day 
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)   Cat
Beach or Pool?   Beach
Steak or salad?  Steak
Favorite Drink?  A vanilla milkshake
Favorite Book?  A Cry in the Night by Mary Higgins Clark
Favorite TV Series?  Current? I’ll go with The Middle
Favorite Movie?  The Intern
Favorite Actor: James Marsden (because he’s completely adorable)
Favorite Actress:  Meryl Streep
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 Walt Disney. I’d like to thank him for creating a place that has made me (and my children) so incredibly happy.
If I had just one wish, it would be for good health for my loved ones.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be no one. Because if I did, I wouldn’t have my children.

Laura will give away ONE copy of Éclair and Present Danger.

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, June 10!


Sunday, May 29, 2016

ROCCO interviews graphic novelist RAY NORTON!

Meow, my guest today is graphic  novel author  Ray Norton



Like the cool cat that I am, I’m crazy for graphic novels: and if they have a Buffy-ish feel to’em,all the better! A talented friend and co-worker of the HUMAN’s, Ray Norton, has just published just such a graphic novel via Amazon, so I thought I’d sit him down for a little cat-to-human chat about being a graphic novelist!

  • Hello, Ray! Tell us a little about your graphic novel. How did you get that idea?
Thanks ROCCO!  It’s a 3 part series about teens that get caught up with demons plotting to take over civilization. The creatures try to control the kids and the teen’s fight back vowing to destroy them and their ways. I got the idea mainly from the Buffy the vampire slayer comics. I like the idea of people sticking together and overcoming their challenges as a team. It’s really inspired me.
  • Have you always drawn?
I started drawing about 6 years ago. I picked up a pencil one day and never put it down. I soon discovered the Kubert School for Comics, in Dover NJ which offers a Saturday morning introduction to drawing comics’ class. I signed up for the course and it’s been a passion ever since.
  • What’s more challenging for you, the artistry or the plotting of the story?
I have to say drawing comics has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Just getting the characters to look the same every time is a challenge. I’ve always written quick little horror stories so writing scary stuff tends to flow naturally. Be very afraid. I enjoy creating comics. Nothing gives me a greater sense of accomplishment than seeing a completed work. I actually drew Blitz, twice. The first time was just to see if I could and then I wanted work on the characters more so their looks were more consistent. I really like the way it came out.
  • Is there any artist or writer you regard as your inspiration?
Josh Whedon is my hero! No one has inspired me to the extent he has, especially his earlier work; Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Faith, Firefly. That’s the guy I want to be like, that’s what I want to do.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans? Are there more graphic novels on the way?
Right now I’m finishing up the 2nd book of the series. It takes a long time to get things just right. Sometimes I’ll do an entire page over and depending on the detail it could take days. I hoping to have the book completed by August. I do have a stack of stories on the shelf that I’m just waiting to start drawing the first chance I get.
  • Would you like to try your hand at writing a novel and if so, what genre would you write in?
I attempted a novel once, but it ended up short.  So I thought about a book of short stories, and then said hey! What about comic books! I did a reading once of a story about a guy that worked in a huge basement and all the creepy things that went on down there, it really creeped people out. I should revisit that one.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Spit into the wind. Actually I was hiking with a friend years ago. We were somewhere in the Poconos behind an old mill. We took a steep trail downhill. The journey down seemed endless and by the time we made to level ground we were ready to head back. There was no way we were going back the way we came so we headed back in the direction of the mill trucking through the growth of the forest. We came upon a stream and knew it would take us in the direction we needed to go. Soon the earth on either side of us jutted straight up, we had hiked into a canyon. It looked like we would have to turn back. Looking straight up on our right was the mill. In front of us was a waterfall. It would take us up directly where we wanted to go. We decided to climb the waterfall. The climb was steep with occasional moss covered rock. Crawling on the moss the running water would push us closer to the edge. With nothing to grip onto it seemed certain we would slide off and fall to the rocks below. We clawed our way up the cascading water to the top. We made it. Then I spit into the wind.

  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’m a pastry chef by trade. I worked in New York city for years, standing for hours in hot steaming kitchens cooking for hundreds of people. I decided I needed a break and that’s when I found something I enjoyed even more, writing graphic novels.
  • Where can we learn more about you and your works? Do you have a website?
I haven’t caught up to the 21st century yet, but a website is on my list of things to do, as well as learn Photoshop, how to tweet, and some hang gliding lessons.


Folks, you can check out BLITZ here:


Next week:  
LAURA BRADFORD returns to the blog!





Sunday, May 22, 2016

Say hello to LAURA BRENNAN


Welcome ROCCO’s guest, Laura Brennan!


Laura’s eclectic career includes television, news, theater, fiction, and film.  Her horror film, Most Likely to Die, opened auspiciously on a Friday the 13th and her short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including “Last Exit to Murder” and “Hell Comes to Hollywood.” But it’s not all blood and guts: her webseries Faux Baby explores the lighter side of motherhood. And if the faux baby loses a limb here or there, well… No, actually, she has no justification for that at all. Find out more at DestinationMystery.com.

  • Tell us a little about your background
Whoo, boy, where to start? Right out of college, I joined a theater company and spent three years traveling around Pennsylvania writing, producing, acting and directing. We wouldn’t just put on plays for local residents, we would convince the residents to be in the plays with us. The idea was to build community through theater and it was fun and exhausting and a wonderful challenge. From there, I went to PBS, where I wrote and produced on a news and current affairs show, and from there, I moved to Los Angeles and started working in episodic television and film. I’ve written a web series, lyrics to songs, essays and short stories, and I just finished writing my first novel -- a mystery, of course. You name it, I’ve probably tackled it.
  • Tell us a bit about your “Destination Mystery” site. How did that come about?
I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, and I’m always meeting wonderful authors and having great chats about their work. Then I thought, wow, how much fun would it be to share this with the rest of the world? And I’d never tried podcasting before, so a new challenge was exciting. I built it to have all the things I enjoy when I listen to a podcast: I include a transcript so that people can read rather than listen, and show notes -- that’s my favorite part. I love having a way to follow up on cool stuff that comes up in the conversation. So far it’s included everything from organizations that help prevent human trafficking to info on the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London.
  • Is there an author or a celebrity you wish you had a chance to interview and why?
Ngaio Marsh. She’s a Golden Age mystery writer and underappreciated in my book. She was a theater director as well as a mystery writer, and several books have murders taking place on stage -- that’s right up my alley. Also, her characters have great depth and humanity; even when you don’t like them, she allows you to understand them. Plus her novel, “Artists in Crime,” is one of my favorite play-fair mysteries. All the clues are there, but it still kept me guessing until the end.
  • You’ve written plays and screenplays. Tell us about your first play (and that porn house???)
Ha! Okay, so here’s what happened: we were a brand-new theater company, and we were invited to come to a tiny town in Pennsylvania to help “rehabilitate” their downtown. They had just closed the porn theater, but they couldn’t convince families to check it out. I think they tried showing “The Care Bears” for free, but no dice. So they thought having us perform plays and teach workshops out of the movie theater would help change the image -- and it did have a decent stage. They paid us very little upfront, but we got to keep the box office for our performances and they agreed to put us up. They very kindly un-condemned the former brothel next to the porn house so that we could live there and then quietly re-condemned it after we left. It was all a bit surreal, but it was our first residency and we were grateful for a chance to show what we could do. Grateful, but broke. So I wrote an interactive murder mystery, a local restaurant agreed to cater, and we held “Murder at the Playhouse Café” for a whopping nine nights and made enough money to feed the company for a few months. Murder is a big draw! I did play fair, but the only group to pick up on all the clues and solve the mystery were the local high school mystery book club. They were our dress rehearsal, and those kids were crackerjack.
  • You’ve worked in many genres – news, tv, fiction – do you have a favorite and why?
In episodic television, the bit I love with all my heart is breaking story. Do you remember the Dick Van Dyke show, when Rob, Sally and Buddy all spitball ideas for the Alan Brady show? That’s essentially what happens when you’re breaking story. I got to meet Rose Marie and tell her how much Sally influenced me; I wanted that kind of camaraderie, and I found it in television.
However, for the sheer joy of writing, nothing beats fiction.
  • Your horror movie, Most Likely to Die was recently released.  Tell us a bit about that.  How did you feel when you learned it was going to be produced?
Which time? Seriously, that film was almost produced half a dozen times. It was three months out from being shot -- Adrian Paul from Highlander was going to direct -- and the bottom fell out of the economy. It got postponed and then cancelled and then resurrected… But I was very happy when cameras finally rolled. It’s a high school reunion, and a bunch of old friends are being killed off according to their yearbook superlatives. I like to tell people I didn’t write a horror movie, I wrote a love story… just one under very difficult circumstances.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The hardest thing as a film or television writer is getting kicked off a project you love. It happens all the time -- writers are seen as the most replaceable of all the cogs in the Hollywood machine. Perhaps that’s why I prefer writing fiction: no one can kick me off my novel. And to be clear, I’m not talking about getting notes or needing to edit. Being able to make a note work always makes the piece stronger. But having a new writer, someone you may never meet, come in and muck around with your work, that’s always hard. You just have to let go and move on to something new.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Right this minute, I’m breaking the story for a film for a producer I love to work with. Once she okays it, I’ll start writing the script. This is a project she owns, so I’m a writer for hire on it, but I love the story and it’s been great fun to work on. I’m also toying with ideas for my next novel, and I’m in conversation with yet another producer about working together on one of my television ideas. And, of course, setting up more interviews for Destination Mystery!
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Typically, I work from 7am to about 3pm, then I do the mommy stuff, and then after dinner, while homework happens, I usually work another hour or two and catch up on e-mails and whatnot. My creative sweet spot is from about 8am to noon. That’s when I try to do as much writing as I can. I do corporate writing as well as work for hire, like this latest film, and of course my own projects. I have a short story that I’ve mostly worked out in my head -- I need to get that down on paper before I lose it!
  • 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?
Jane Eyre, the complete short stories of Dorothy Sayers, and any of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster novels. The language is delicious!
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Write! Write everything, all kinds of things. Finish something and write something else. You’re a writer when you write. It’s a big clubhouse, come join the fun.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Running off to join the circus… Um, I mean, the theater. That still holds as the craziest thing. But that’s also how I met my husband -- I auditioned him for the role of my lover! -- so crazy wins big in my book.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I think this is something that surprises most people about writers: we are all our characters. The hero, the villain, everyone in between. There’s something of us on every page. It surprised me to realize that when I started writing, even when I was writing on someone else’s television show or doing work for hire. We always bring something of ourselves to every single project.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Q: What’s the one thing that’s made the biggest difference -- for the good -- in your life?
A: Being part of a community. We have this notion of the lone hero, and an even more corrosive notion of the solitary writer. Sure, writing involves a lot of sitting at your desk getting words on a page, but it’s important to have a community, multiple communities, even as a writer. I mentioned that I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, I’m also a member of the Horror Writers Association, I run a writers group, and I’m part of an informal “mastermind” group to help me stay on track. That’s in addition to getting out there and meeting producers and directors and other writers; some become contacts, others become friends. You need layers of support to help you grow as a writer and to keep it fun. You gotta have someone to celebrate with when things go well!
  •  Where can we learn more about you?
You can find out more about me and the authors I interview at DestinationMystery.com
Thanks, Rocco!
Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Night.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  My wonderful host would make all other animals, cat or dog, pale in comparison.
Beach or Pool? Beach.  
Steak or salad?  Salad.
Favorite Drink?  Hot chocolate.
Favorite Book?  Jane Eyre.
Favorite TV Series?  Currently? Castle. Of all time? The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Favorite Movie? My Sister Eileen.  
Favorite Actor: Cary Grant.
Favorite Actress: Octavia Spencer. Before she won her Oscar, she did a cameo in my web series, and she was the most delightful woman to work with. Plus she’s a writer! That woman rocks.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada.
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Terry Pratchett.
If I had just one wish, it would be World Peace.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Charlize Theron. She makes really interesting acting choices, and OMG, those clothes! But I’d only trade for Oscar week, then I’d want to be me again, back in my sweats typing away.






Sunday, May 15, 2016

Say Hello to....Deanna Raybourne!

Meow, my guest today is NYT bestselling author Deanna Raybourn



New York Times bestselling novelist Deanna Raybourn is a 6th-generation native Texan. She graduated with a double major in English and history from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of one, Deanna currently makes her home in Virginia. Her novels have been nominated for numerous awards including five RITAs, two RT Reviewers’ Choice awards, the Agatha, two Dilys Winns, a Last Laugh, and three du Mauriers. She has recently launched a new Victorian mystery series with the 2015 release of A CURIOUS BEGINNING, and her Lady Julia Grey novels are currently in development as a television series in the UK.
  • Welcome Deanna! Tell us a little about your background
I’m a sixth-generation native Texan transplanted to Virginia. I double-majored in history and English and have been writing since I was 23. It took me fourteen years to get published, but I’ve made up for it since then! I have just turned in my eleventh novel, and I also have six digital novellas in print.
  • Tell us about your Veronica Speedwell mystery series.  Where did the idea for that come from?
 It was time for me to change publishers, and I very much wanted to keep to the Victorian era. I wasn’t finished exploring it yet, so I dug into my research books and rediscovered a lepidopterist of the time I had read about some years before. Her name was Margaret Fountaine, and she traveled the world collecting butterflies—and men! She had a string of romantic adventures, and I thought a woman with some of her attributes would make a fabulous sleuth. So I created Veronica Speedwell, a butterfly hunter with a knack for finding handsome men and dead bodies…
  • Tell us a bit about your Harlequin series. Do you enjoy writing period pieces. Would you ever do a story set in present day time?
I am very fond of the Lady Julia series. In fact, it was my devotion to the Victorian period that led me to eventually leave MIRA for Penguin. I was sorry to say goodbye to Julia, but MIRA felt the series had run its course, and declined further books in the series. I had written a few books set in the 1920s which were great fun, but I wanted to get back to gaslit, foggy London. Penguin gave me a chance to do that and I jumped at it. I have written one contemporary magical realism book, but it’s really quite bad, so it is tucked away in the attic. I might dig it out again one of these days and tear it to bits.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
 I do heaps of research, always collecting snippets of characteristics while I’m reading. Somehow various bits and pieces come together to form a person—I’m not entirely certain how it happens. It’s a weird writer alchemy, and I try not to examine it too closely. I just know that I’m always paying attention to what makes people tick and how they act upon those motivations. I also think about what a character likes to eat and wear and the music they like, the books they read. If I know their world, I know them.
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
 I always have to construct a plot since I’m writing a murder mystery; by definition, they have a certain logical structure. I’m becoming more of a plotter as I get further into my career. Pantsing can waste masses of time, and if you’re writing to a deadline, extra time is a commodity you don’t always have.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
 They’re equally important, and in spite of what most people say, you can begin with either as long as there is logical consistency between the two. Would the characters you create DO those things? Would those things happen to the characters you’ve created? As long as those things hang together, it really don’t matter where you start. I generally begin with plot. Veronica Speedwell is a rare exception.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Not being published for fourteen years was fairly brutal, but I kept writing because I was a writer, and writers tell stories whether anyone is listening or not. Now I’m motivated by deadlines! I turn in my books on time, every time. It’s a point of pride.
  • Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I had initially queried the agent she worked for and received a very kind letter informing me that the senior agent had quit the business to study in a monastery! In her stead, my agent sent me the nicest rejection letter you can possibly imagine—gracious, kind, encouraging. So the next year, when I had a better book in hand, I queried her again. This time she accepted me, and we’ve been together for eighteen years on a handshake. She is my rock in this business!
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
 I have just turned in the second Veronica Speedwell book and am preparing to dive into book three—as well as a few of secret projects I can’t talk about quite yet…
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
When I am working on a draft, I tend to work every day for about six weeks. I work in the morning for about an hour and a half, maybe two hours. I type quite fast and I don’t stop to ponder—I know what I’m writing when I sit down, so in that short period of time I can bang out exactly what I want to get done that day. When the draft is done, it sits for a few weeks until it’s time to pull it out and start on it again. During that break, I don’t write. I read instead. If I’m very hard against it, such as editorial revisions, I have been known to rewrite an entire book in five weeks—about 90,000 new words. I don’t recommend it! And most books don’t demand that kind of rewriting, thank heaven.
  • 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?
A collected volume of Jane Austen, THE BIG BOOK OF CHRISTMAS MYSTERIES edited by Otto Penzler, and a collection of fairy tales—the good, juicy ones, not the sanitized happy ending version.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Don’t think that people who are published know the right answers for YOU. We know what works for us. If we swear by a technique or a rule or a principle, it may not work for you and that’s perfectly alright.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Well, I generally have a good reason for anything I do, no matter how insane it might seem to someone else…
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
 I’ve been bitten by a tiger cub.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
 What perfume are you wearing? Today it’s Lubin’s Black Jade.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?
 www.deannaraybourn.com

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Morning.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Dog, always.
Beach or Pool?   Beach.
Steak or salad?  A steak salad.
Favorite Drink?  Tea or wine, depending upon mood. If mood is very foul, a stiff gin and tonic.
Favorite Book?  Ha! No comment.
Favorite TV Series?  Very into BLACK SAILS right now.
Favorite Movie?  The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Favorite Actor: Peter O’Toole.
Favorite Actress: Maggie Smith.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Eleanor of Aquitaine. She’s my 23rd great-grandmother, and I have questions…
If I had just one wish, it would be to always have one tiny wish unfulfilled. It’s good to have something to work towards.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be…heavens, no one! I am quite happy where I am. Although it might be fun to tag along with the Queen one day. I’d like to peek at her art collection and maybe have a nice chat over a cocktail.

Giveaway time!!!!

Deanna will give away a signed copy of trade edition of CITY OF JASMINE.  Contest open to US residents only
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, May 19!