Friday, April 24, 2015

Our guest today....author Laura Morrigan!



Meow! My guest today is author Laura Morrigan!

Spending the first years of her life on a Costa Rican coffee farm blessed Laura Morrigan with a fertile imagination and a love for all things wild.

Later she became a volunteer at a local zoo, helping out with everything from “waste management” to teaching an elephant how to paint. Drawing from her years of experience with both wild and domestic animals and her passion for detective novels, Laura created the Call of the Wilde series. She lives in Florida with her husband and far too many cats, loves the Blue Angels, wearing flip flops in November, and thunderstorms.

R: Welcome Laura! Tell us a little about your background

. Thanks ROCCO! Before I lost my mind and decided to become a writer, I worked as a massage therapist, at an animal hospital, antique store, and a zoo. I also do cover artwork for my fellow authors.

R: How did the idea for the Grace Wilde series come about.  Do you yourself have any psychic ingight when it comes to animals?

I wish! But sadly, no. Grace's stories were inspired by my time working at the zoo and the vet clinic where I really wanted to have the ability to communicate with animals.

R: Tell us a bit about your latest book , HORSE OF A DIFFERENT KILLER

 It’s the third book in the series. Grace winds up trying to solve the murder of her abusive ex brother-in-law when her sister is suspected of the crime. There are a lot of fun animals, too!

R: How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

 For me, characters tend to reveal themselves like real people. The longer I hang out with them and ask questions, the more I learn. Which is crazy when you think about it – as they are all in my head!

R: How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

 I have a large white board I work on to brainstorm an outline.

R: Which do you consider more important, plot or character?

? Plot is really important but (in my humble opinion) character will always win. If we didn't care about what happens to the protagonist or their friends why care about the plot

R: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

 I'm my own worst enemy. There are days I think "I have no idea what I'm doing- I'm a terrible writer." then I'll get a Facebook message or email from a reader telling me how much they loved the book and how much they are looking forward to the next one and I suck it up and keep going.(So, keep those messages coming! )

R: Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?

 My advice- Query, query and query some more- that's it.

R: What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

 Right now I'm working on the fourth book in the Call of the Wilde series, which takes Grace to New Orleans! But I have a lot of ideas for different series and future books- of course!

R: What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

How about we do a fantasy day? I get up, go for a walk and do yoga. Then I sit down at my computer or with a notepad and let the muse do all the work! (I said fantasy, right?)

R: You also do cover art – which do you prefer, drawing or writing?

 Writing- hands down.

R: What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

 Write every day. Never give up!

R: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

 What!? No comment!

R: What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

 I'm really terrified of animals – just kidding! Honestly, people are surprised at the oddest things so I don't know.

R: What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)

What's your favorite animal? Answer: unicorn!

R: Where can we learn more about you and your books?

I’m on Facebook www.facebook.com/CallOfTheWildeMysteries my website,lauramorrigan.com I also have a cool Pinterest board www.pinterest.com/lauramorrigan/grace-wilde-call-of-the-wilde-mystery-series-inspi/ with ideas for the series and great photos of some the animals in the books!


Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  .Yes J

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Ach! No comment!

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?  Salad

Favorite Drink?  Watermelon juice (really)

Favorite Book?  At the moment, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

Favorite TV Series?  I’m liking Game of Thrones a lot…

Favorite Movie?  Hmmmm The Princess Bride(?)

Favorite Actor: Johnny Depp

Favorite Actress: Jennifer Lawrence

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? “If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain…”

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be  Dumbledoor!!___________________

If I had just one wish, it would be__World Peace (not kidding)_________________________

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be _ My cat! (spoiled- really, really spoiled)

ROCCO: I like that last answer!

Thanks to the good folks at Berkley, we have a copy of HORSE OF A DIFFERENT KILLER to give 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. Contest ends midnight, April 30. Good luck!






Saturday, April 18, 2015

Our guest this week...FRAN STEWART!


Meow! My guest today is author Fran Stewart.  Fran writes the Scot Shop mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime!

 
 


Fran Stewart is the author of the Biscuit McKee Mysteries – GRAY AS ASHES is the seventh book in that series – as well as a standalone mystery – A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT.  Her new ScotShop Mystery Series from Berkley Press begins with A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP.

Fran lives quietly with various rescued cats beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta.

She sings alto with a community chorus and volunteers at her grandchildren’s school library. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

 

  • Welcome Fran! Tell us a little about your background:

Thanks for having me ROCCO!  I went to four different schools, 9th through 12th grade, the result of growing up in an Air Force family. I’ve lived lots of different places, but now I’m settled northeast of Atlanta, simply because I’m three miles from my daughter and grandchildren. Now both the mystery series I write are set in fictional small towns – the hometown I always wanted (except for the murders).

  •  Tell us about the Biscuit McKee mysteries? How did the idea for those evolve?

I was recovering, not very successfully, from a hysterectomy. A friend got disgusted with my whining self-pity and took me to a meeting of the Georgia Writers Association, where Harriett Austin was speaking about how to write a mystery. When she said, “Just write, and see if your characters surprise you—and do remember to put a body somewhere in the first five pages,” I looked down at my notepad and the words flowed out: There had definitely not been a body on the second floor landing when I had run upstairs to the attic earlier in the evening. But there definitely was a body, and a rather messy one at that, as I sauntered downstairs after a leisurely snack. I am not very squeamish, but I do admit to pausing a moment before I stepped gingerly over the leg that jutted out on the hardwood floor where the stairway turned down to the left. I looked at my notebook and said, “Who the heck are you?” Of course, I found out it was Marmalade, the orange and white library cat, when my friend took me home after the meeting and I began to pour my heart into writing what became my first book, ORANGE AS MARMALADE. The funny thing was that, as soon as I started writing, I started healing.

  • Is Marmalade based on a favorite cat?

Ah, yes. I was in my forties before I was ever adopted by a cat. She was an orange and white tabby, and I’d swear her spirit sat on my desk and dictated most of that first book. Now there are seven Biscuit McKee mysteries, the most recent is GRAY AS ASHES, which deals with arson. And yes, Marmalade is in all of them, and there are colors in all the titles.

 
  • Tell us a bit about your latest book, A Wee Murder in My Shop. How did you decide on a modern-day shop with a 14th-century Scottish ghost?

The book is set in Vermont, a state I lived in for 26 years. My fictional tourist town of Hamelin, though, is patterned after Helen, Georgia, a town where everything has a German theme—cuckoo clocks and bratwurst and polka music. I love Scotland, though, so I gave Hamelin a Scottish theme. After all, what could be better than a town where most of the men wear kilts? And I’ve always been intrigued with the time just before Chaucer, when the English language was changing so drastically. It made sense (to me, at least) to have Peggy Winn travel to Scotland on one of her frequent buying trips for the ScotShop and discover an ancient shawl that just happens to have a ghost attached to it.

 
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

One of the biggest lies in the publishing industry is that disclaimer at the front of each book that says the characters have no relationship whatsoever to actual people. Writers draw on a wealth of information about people they’ve known or people they’ve heard about. Quite often, a character starts out as someone I’ve known. But then, there’s something about the writing process that is almost magical. Before my eyes, a character I think I know quite well because she used to be my next-door neighbor or a college friend decides to take on a life of her own. She may turn out to have a sleazy past; she may decide to take tap dance lessons; she may open a restaurant, develop a passion for doughnuts, or become an arson investigator. Although I have a general idea of where I want her to go, she’s probably going to surprise me somewhere along the line.

I usually change physical characteristics to a certain extent, but there was one case where I hardly changed anything at all in my description of a character. Some years ago, I’d known a man who got very angry and ended up threatening me while I was helping his wife. No harm was done, but when I started writing my books, that fellow just happened to be one of my murderers. He got what was coming to him, I’m happy to say. And no—I won’t ever tell which character or which book.

·        How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I’m a pantser through and through. I’ve tried outlining, but I get so bored with the process I give up and just start writing. Of course, the challenge of that way of writing is that when the plot heads off on a tangent I wasn’t expecting, I have to go back and re-write a number of earlier scenes so the book will make sense.

  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

On my third book, GREEN AS A GARDEN HOSE, my editor told me I needed to take a particular character out of the first 200 pages. She wanted me to remove my murderer! I’d built up all these wonderful clues, and she wanted me to take him out? I was appalled, but I took it like an adult—I cried for a few hours and stormed for the next two days. But then I re-read the manuscript and saw that she was right. He was too obvious. So I took every clue and put it into a scene with other characters—a conversation here, something someone glimpsed there. It was the hardest rewrite job I’ve ever done, but I’m very proud of the end result.

As to what keeps me motivated, the characters themselves simply have more to say; I have to keep writing so I’ll find out what it is. And then, too, deadlines help. There’s nothing quite so motivating as realizing I have only another two months to complete a story.

  •  Do you have a “How I got my agent” story you want to share?

Oh yes! I opened my emails one morning, and there was one with the subject line “Agent seeks writer.” It seems he’d found me online and thought I’d be “the perfect person to write a cozy series with a Scottish flavor. Would you like to talk about it?” Would I like to talk about it? Who was he kidding? I spun around the room a few times, looked him up online to be sure he was valid, and said yes. His idea was this: what if someone went to Scotland and bought something, like a kilt, that happened to have a ghost attached to it. He asked if I could craft a three-book series around that germ of an idea. From that, the ScotShop mysteries were born. He sold the idea to Berkley Press, and I haven’t stopped writing since then.

 
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

 I’m actively finishing the revisions requested by my Berkley editor on the second ScotShop mystery, part-time writing the third book in that series, and fleshing out ideas for my eighth Biscuit McKee mystery. I also have a vague idea for a standalone mystery that may see the light of day in a year or two. The good thing about working on four writing projects at once is that when I get stuck on one story, I simply shift gears and work on one of the others. Obviously, though, when a deadline looms, I put full effort into that particular book. As to future writing plans, I’ve already come up with 25 titles for the ScotShop series. I’d better get busy!

 
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing? I try to get emails answered early in the morning (after I feed the cats and myself and do some exercising). Then I work for a couple of hours on whatever current freelance editing job I have going. I edit non-fiction. Right now I’m working on a book by a first-time author who is a disabled vet. Afternoons and evenings are my primary writing times. Although I write actively almost every day, sometimes I’m just toying with ideas, so I spend only a few hours. When a book begins to come together, though, I may write from one in the afternoon till ten or eleven at night. Once I sat down at my computer at five pm and decided I would write until seven o’clock. And I did. I completed INDIGO AS AN IRIS at seven – but it was seven the next morning. I’d written for fourteen hours straight and never noticed the passage of time.

 
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

 Read, read, read. And write, write, write. Read the best books you can find in the genre you’re interested in writing. Read a few crummy books in that same genre and think hard about how you could make those books better. Learn from the good books. Forget the crummy ones. Learn how to write effective dialogue. If your characters don’t speak right (right for who and what they are), your book will end up in the slush pile. I wrote FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: A WORKBOOK FOR WRITERS to help people solve many of the sticky problems any writer encounters. There are a lot of other good books out there to help you with writing, but ultimately, you simply have to write. And be willing to delete what doesn’t work.

 
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Now, if you’d asked what’s the stupidest thing, I’d say it was quitting college and getting married too young. I went back years later and finished college, but it was a long haul. Craziest thing was walking around for ten days with a ruptured appendix before I went to see a doctor.

 
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

I’m incredibly shy in crowds. I’ve learned to cover it up pretty well, so most people would never guess.

 
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)

The question: “How do you take care of yourself?” The answer: I’ve kept a gratitude list for more than a decade, which keeps my mind concentrating on what’s positive in my life; I’ve been taking Juice Plus for the past five years, which helps keep my body healthy; I’m following my dream, which keeps me focused on my goals; and I’m fortunate enough to have a circle of good friends who laugh and cry with me at appropriate times, thereby helping me keep my balance in life.


  • Where can we learn more about you and your books?

My website http://franstewart.com is still in process of development, so, although you can find something about my books there, and can see where I’ll be appearing, please don’t judge me—or my books—based only on the website.

My books (and e-books) are available at all the usual places, but I encourage readers to buy their books at independent bookstores whenever possible.

 

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Dawn and Dusk

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Don’t have to think about this one. Definitely Cat (although I have two grand-dogs I love (an Australian Shepherd and a GBBD).

Beach or Pool?   Mountain forest

Steak or salad?  Pepperoni pizza

Favorite Drink?  Water in the summer / hot tea in the winter

Favorite Book?  The entire Outlander series (tied with Pride and Prejudice)

Favorite TV Series?  I haven’t had a TV for the past 23 years. Don’t miss it.

Favorite Movie?  Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly

Favorite Actor:  Uh . . . I dunno.

Favorite Actress:  Meryl Streep

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Glenfiddich straight up

Hawaii or Alaska? The Big Island (not touristy)

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be my grandmother as a young woman, before life intervened.

If I had just one wish, it would be____. I’m already turning my dreams into reality. I’m happy with life as it is progressing now; I just want to see a lot more of it!

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be ___. See previous answer. Not sure I’d want to be anyone else, even for a little while – mainly because I can’t imagine the mess I might make of someone else’s life!

Fran will give away a signed copy of A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP, the 1st ScotShop Mystery and a copy of ORANGE AS MARMALADE, the 1st Biscuit McKee mystery to two lucky commenters!  To enter, leave a comment in our comments section below with your email address and the title of the book you want!

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, April 23!

 

 

 



Sunday, April 12, 2015

We welcome National Bestselling author..CONNIE ARCHER!


My guest today is author Connie Archer!


 

Connie Archer is the national bestselling author of the soup lover’s mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime:  A Spoonful of Murder, A Broth of Betrayal, A Roux of Revenge and Ladle to the Grave.  Connie was born and raised in New England and now lives on the other coast.  You can visit her website at http://www.conniearchermysteries.com, connect with her on Facebook.com/ConnieArcherMysteries and Twitter: @SnowflakeVT.

 

 

R:  Welcome Connie! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.

 

Well, to be honest, writing was only a thought in the back of my mind for a long time.  I wasn’t sure I’d ever write anything.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always devoured mysteries and thrillers and thought about writing.  Then finally one day I decided to do it.  Or at least try to do it.  I gathered my courage and started.  I must have re-written my first manuscript twenty-five times until I felt it was halfway decent. 

 

R: What writers in your genre would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?

 

So many!  I’ve been reading mysteries ever since I can remember.  I really enjoyed Georges Simenon’s Maigret series, Dorothy Sayers’ plot twists, Nicholas Freeling’s Inspector Van der Valk, and the Wahloo and Sjovall Beck books.  Those are ones that come to mind right away, even though I’m going back a long way.  In recent years, I’ve loved the Sue Grafton alphabet series, and Tana French’s books. I discovered Ann Cleeves through the Vera series on PBS, and was thrilled to actually meet her.  I love her characters and her writing and the way her plots flow, never opting for the obvious.  I’m reading Harbour Street right now, and will probably read it many more times!

 

R: What made you decide on a soup shop as the backdrop for your series?

 

I don’t think there’s anything cozier or more comforting than soup.  And I do love to make soups.  Plus I grew up in New England and I know just how long and dreadful the winters can be.  What could be better than a soup shop as the center of a culinary cozy?

 

R: Tell us about your newest release, LADLE TO THE GRAVE.

 

Ladle to the Grave involves two separate murders – a local woman who dies at a pagan ritual in the woods and an unidentified man who’s found floating in a creek outside of town.  My protagonist Lucky’s grandfather Jack comes under suspicion for the first death because he provided the herbs for the gathering.  But Lucky discovers that her mother, before her death, was suspicious of a couple in town, and when Lucky finds the clues her mother left behind, she comes to believe that both deaths are intimately connected. 

 

R: Which of (your character) adventures was the most fun for you to write? Were any of them the least amount of fun?

 

I think they were all fun to write.  But I have to admit, writing the nasty or annoying characters, the ones who provide the most conflict or the most gritting of teeth for the reader, was the most fun of all.  I’m not really sure why, maybe I enjoyed giving my main characters a tougher time!  When I was working out the plot of A Roux of Revenge, the third book in this series, I really wanted a nail-biting chapter as a climactic scene.  That’s when I discovered that farm equipment could be very useful.  It’s amazing how many deadly machines exist on a farm.  That was a lot of fun to write. 

 

R:  Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share?  How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?

 

When I started, I knew absolutely nothing about the business end of writing -- how one found an agent, how one got published.  It was a totally new world for me.  I made a list of fifty agents who handled mysteries, broke that down into groups of ten, learned how to write a query letter, and started sending out packages, depending on what each agent required.  I received nine (very nicely written) rejections and was waiting for the tenth to come in before starting on my next list of ten.  Instead, a letter arrived to say my agent was intrigued by my proposal and requested a full manuscript.  The next thing I received was a contract.  I certainly felt totally blessed. 

 

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?

 

Quiet and privacy, no music, no noise, no emails, no distractions.  I really need to be able to concentrate.  I can’t imagine how people write on laptops in coffee shops.  That would drive me completely insane. 

 

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?

 

I think I’d love the Paris cafĂ© scene of the 1920’s.  I adore the fashions of the time, but it would be amazing to be a witness to the art scene in that world and that time.

 

R:  If a movie were to be made of one of your books, which one would you want it to be and who would you pick for the lead roles?

 

I guess my choice would be the first book – A Spoonful of Murder – which takes place in winter.  A body is discovered frozen in a snow bank after a blizzard.  The snow and ice and cold make for great atmosphere.  But casting is a tough call.  I have an image in my mind as to how my characters appear, and every reader has his or her own images.  I think it would be a hard job to choose actors who would make those images take on real form.  I doubt even the most famous writers have a say in casting, but personally, I’d choose excellent actors who are not famous or connected in a viewer’s mind with other productions.  Just very good at their jobs. 

 

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

 

I love antique furniture and one of my interests/hobbies is restoring old pieces.  They don’t have to be valuable, just unique.  I’ve picked up lots of things very cheaply in junk shops and yard sales over the years, stripped them and refinished them.  It’s slow and messy work, but very satisfying when the project is done. 

 

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 

 

Oh, do I have to say?  I better not! 

 

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

 

I hope my characters will come to life in readers’ mind, and be characters that readers connect to emotionally.  The fascination in crime fiction for me, no matter the genre, is the opportunity to explore the dark side of human nature.  I hope readers will think, ‘Yes, I’ve known people like that, in those situations, I can understand why they committed that crime.’  I’m more interested in the psychology and forces behind the crime than clever details of plot.  But most of all, I hope each story will flow naturally and give readers an exciting ride. 

 

 

Just for Fun:                                                

Night or Day?  .                                           Night

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)          Love both, but I have a much loved cat!

Beach or Pool?                                            Beach

Steak or salad?                                           Salad

Favorite Drink?                                          Coffee

Favorite Book?                                           Right now, it’s Harbour Street (Cleeves)

Favorite TV Series?                                  Beck (Swedish thriller)

Favorite Movie?                                         Tootsie

Favorite Actor:                                           No favorite, just one that surprises me

Favorite Actress:                                      Same

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?             Neither – red wine

Hawaii or Alaska?                                    Paris – okay,  Hawaii

 

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be H.P. Lovecraft – he must have been so strange!

If I had just one wish, it would be -- to always stay close to my loved ones. 

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be – No one, everyone has their burdens. 

 
 

Berkley Prime Crime will give away a copy of LADLE TO THE GRAVE 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. Contest closes midnight, April 16! Good luck!