Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Welcome Denise Swanson to the blog!



Meow! My guest today is author Denise Swanson!
New York Times Bestseller author Denise Swanson was a practicing school psychologist for twenty-two years. Good Girl Overboard is her first romance and begins the Change of Heart contemporary romance series. She also writes the Scumble River and Devereaux’s Dime Store mysteries. Her books all feature small-town heroines with lots of heart.
Denise’s books have been finalists for the Agatha, Mary Higgins Clark, RT Magazine's Career Achievement, and Daphne du Maurier Awards. She has won the Reviewers Choice Award and was a BookSense 76 Top Pick.
Denise Swanson lives in Illinois with her husband, classical composer David Stybr, and their cool black cat Boomerang.
For more information, please check her website. http://www.DeniseSwanson.com or find Denise on Facebook at www.facebook.com/#!/DeniseSwansonAuthor or follow her on twitter at DeniseSwansonAu
·        Welcome Denise! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO! Although I’ve always enjoyed writing, I spent 22 years as a school psychologist and in my spare time I worked as a travel agent. While attending graduate school, I worked as a police dispatcher and in high school I was a pharmacist assistant, so I have a lot of diverse experiences to draw from for my stories.
·        Tell us a bit about your latest SCUMBLE RIVER book
Murder of an Open Book is primarily about the influence of social media on all our lives. Because this is the eighteenth book in the series, it is also about the next step in my sleuth’s life. In Murder of a Small-Town Honey, the first book, Skye Denison was introduced to the readers as a young woman who had been jilted, fired, and was broke. In this book, Skye has just returned from her honeymoon—Murder of a Needled Knitter—and is trying to get back into her regular routine of a morning swim. This proves difficult because of an annoying teacher determined to exert her authority over Skye. When this teacher is found dead, Skye discovers that she was not the only one that had a problem with the victim.
·        Tell us about your other mystery series, Deveraux Dime Store.
My other mystery series, Deveraux’s Dime Store, centers on Deveraux Sinclair. Dev spent many years as a financial consultant, but when her grandmother’s health starts to fail and her boss pulls a “Bernie Madoff” Dev ends up the proud owner of an old fashioned dime store. This series is a bit edgier than the Scumble River books. It is told in first person with Dev’s love interests telling their side of the story in third person point of view.
·        How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
As a psychologist, I used to interview all my clients as a part of their psychological evaluation. When I started writing, I tweaked that interview and use it on my characters.
·        How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
When I first began writing, I used an extensive outline. But as I became more comfortable, I more and more just sit down and write the story. I always know the victim, the murderer, and most of the suspects, but that’s about it.
·        Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
While plot is important, I am more concerned with writing believable characters that readers will want to hang out with and want to know what happens to next.
·        What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The biggest challenge, aside from finding an agent and getting published, is sitting down every day and facing a blank screen. It is especially difficult after a bad review or a nasty e-mail. Although I’ve tried to develop a thick skin, I do not have one so every criticism takes a lot out of me.
Conversely, the readers who love my books and share how those stories helped through tough times in their lives are my source of motivation.
·        Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I had 270 rejection letters from agents. I finally was able to get my first agent when Sarah Ann Freed, an editor with Mysterious Press, read the first 50 pages of my manuscript and called it cozy writing at its finest. Using her enthusiasm, I re-queried my top 5 choices and had three offers within weeks.
·        What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am currently under contract for two mysteries a year for Random House Penguin. In addition, I’m writing the Change of Heart romance series, that I am publishing myself. The first book, Good Girl Overboard, came out in March, and I’m finishing up the next two books plus a novella that will debut in late September or early October.
·        What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I generally write 7 days a week. I start around 8 AM and usually try to finish up around 3 PM. My goal is 7 pages a day, every day.
·        What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Always remember that it isn’t how good you are. It’s how bad you want it.
·        What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Voluntarily, I walked on the live lava bed of an active volcano.
Involuntarily, because of information the school social worker and I had been gathering on a cult that was abusing children, I was chased down a school hallway by a person dressed in a mask and a robe.
·        What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’m a huge fan of zombie books and movies.
·        Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Fun or work? ;)
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Both, although I currently have a cat, I grew up with dogs.
Beach or Pool?   Pool
Steak or salad? Salad 
Favorite Drink?  Diet Coke
Favorite Book?  Little Women
Favorite TV Series?  Walking Dead
Favorite Movie?  Long Hot Summer
Favorite Actor: Paul Newman
Favorite Actress: Joanne Woodward
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 Gloria Steinem
If I had just one wish, it would be Acceptance for all people
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Nora Roberts
Thanks Denise!
Here’s all the places you can find Denise:
Twitter @DeniseSwansonAu
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/128487.Denise_Swanson
 Denise runs Goodreads giveaways every month or so. She also does giveaways on her FB group Denise Swanson’s Mysteries, Romances, and More

Friday, August 28, 2015

Say hello to author Bailey Cates!


Bailey Cates Cattrell aka Cricket McRae grew up in the West and earned degrees in philosophy and English before moving to the Seattle area for twenty years. Now she's back in Colorado, where she lives with her guy and two cats. When not writing, she loves to cook, spin, garden, read, spend time with friends, and bike and hike the gorgeous terrain outside her door. She has also been known to play the occasional round of really bad golf.



R:  Hello, Bailey! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.


I've always known I was going to be a writer. When I was 19, I wrote in my journal that by the time I was fifty I would have two mystery series and write standalones on the side. It happened when I was 48. So: write down your goals, folks! :)


R: You write three different series under three names. Can you tell us a bit about each of them?


As Bailey Cates, I write the Magical Bakery Mysteries featuring baker and kitchen witch Katie Lightfoot. They are set in Savannah, Georgia and have a reoccurring cast of women who are part of the spellbook club -- which is also their informal coven. The fifth in that series, Magic and Macaroons, released in July. The sixth is titled Spells and Scones, and will be out July of 2016.

As Bailey Cattrell, I write the Enchanted Garden Mysteries which star Elliana Allbright. She owns the Sense & Nonsense perfume and aromatherapy shop, which is also graced with a garden full of little fairy houses, tiny doors set into rocks and stumps, and miniature gardenscapes. It's set in the fictional town of Poppyville, California. The first in that series is Daisies for Innocence, available in January 2016.

And I have the Home Crafting Mysteries, as Cricket McRae. The main character is Sophie Mae Reynolds/Ambrose (she gets married in the series), a soap maker who lives with her best friend and best friend's daughter in Cadyville, Washington (loosely based on the town of Snohomish). There are six in that series, each of which features a different colonial home craft amid the murder and (cozy) mayhem -- food preservation, spinning, cheese making, mead making and vegetable gardening (and soap making, of course). At this time that series is on hiatus.

I actually have a standalone as KC McRae, as well. It's NOT a cozy, but a contemporary western mystery set in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. It's about Merry McCoy, recently released from prison after killing someone in self-defense, who dives into a murder investigation when her cousin is accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend.



R: How do you differentiate between all your series. Do they require a different mindset to write?


Because of the timetables for the different series, I'm always working on two, if not three, books at once. Luckily, they are usually at different stages. For example, right now I'm promoting my recent release (Magic and Macaroons), working on copy edits and soon the galley proofs for my upcoming release (Daisies for Innocence), and working on the next Magical Bakery Mystery (Spells and Scones) which is due toward the end of the year. As it happens, I'm also playing with plot for the second Enchanted Garden Mystery, as yet untitled, and getting ready to record the Home Crafting Mysteries to audiobook. 

Holy cow. Now that I write all that down, I look like a crazy person!

When it comes to drafting the stories, each series does require a different mindset, and I achieve that primarily by steeping myself in the personality of my main character. Since I only draft one book at a time that works. The other elements of writing -- editing, revisions, copy edits, blog posts, or research -- don't require that kind of distinction.



R: Tell us about your latest release,


As I mentioned, Magic and Macaroons is the fifth book in the Magical Bakery Mystery series. Katie Lightfoot, her aunt Lucy, and the other members of the spellbook club are meeting after hours at the Honeybee Bakery when a woman stumbles in, starts talking about voodoo queens, and asks for Katie's help in finding a lost talisman before collapsing into a coma. Soon after, a dead body is discovered -- and the dead man has obvious connections to the comatose woman. Cookie Rios, the youngest member of the spellbook club, is originally from Haiti and once practiced voodoo. Katie enlists her reluctant help and delves into Savannah's voodoo culture to find the talisman -- and a killer.



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?


I do! I wrote the first Home Crafting mystery, sent out a bunch of queries -- and got a bunch of rejections. In the meantime, I rewrote another book (another western mystery) and sent out queries for that, in June of 2005. On December 26, 2005, I got a phone call from an agent. She wanted to represent the western mystery. She had already rejected the Home Crafting mystery, but didn't seem to remember. I asked if she would represent both the cozy and the western, and she agreed. 

She sold the cozy within weeks, and another two to go along with it. She never sold the western, which was the book that had sparked her interest in the first place. I'm with a different agent now, because mine left the business, but still at the same agency.


How did I feel when I got the call? Well, it was actually an email, and my first reponse was disbelief. Then I called up my writing group buddies and broke out the champagne!



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


Showing up. Even when I don't want to, if I show up at the keyboard, it's usually okay. I can write pretty much anywhere, though I find it really difficult on planes because I don't like someone looking over my shoulder. If I’m really having problems with a scene, then changing venues can be helpful, as can writing by hand.



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


It’s hard to tell what might surprise people, but I’m afraid I’m not very secretive. One thing might be that, while I love writing cozies, I also like to write grittier, scary stuff. I have a feeling there is a thriller in my future.


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


Probably shouldn't say. Not sure the statute of limitations is up. : )


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


This question gave me pause, but when I think about all the series together I think I want people to take away a sense of possibility. 


R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

My website is www.baileycates.com (or www.cricketmcrae.com -- it's the same place). I have a personal Facebook page (Cricket McRae) and an author page as well (Bailey Cates). I'm on Twitter, too: @writerbailey and @cricketmcrae.


R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?


Read -- everything, but definitely the kind of thing you want to write and also plenty of books on the craft of writing. Write and write and write. Repeat forever.



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


What do you wish you had more time for? And my answer would be that I’d like time to work on some more experimental standalone projects.




Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Love both, but cat (as evidenced by my two: Cheesecat the Orange and Minerva the asthmatic wonder kitty)

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?  Steak on salad

Favorite Drink?  Tea

Favorite Book?  So hard to choose, but if there’s a gun to my head, then Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read it every year.

Favorite TV Series?  Loving Sherlock right now.

Favorite Movie?  A toss up between Casablanca and Bandits

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

If I had just one wish, it would be________More wishes. Sophomoric, but true._________________________________

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be ___No one____



Folks, Bailey will give away a copy of Magic and Macaroons 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, Sept. 3!



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Welcome Virginia Lowell


Meow, my guest today is author Virginia Lowell!
Virginia Lowell is the national bestselling author of the Cookie Cutter Shop mysteries. She lives in the frozen north with her husband and two bossy cats. She grew up in a wonderfully quirky small midwestern town that rarely experienced a murder.
         Welcome Virginia! Tell us a little about your background:
            I grew up in a small midwestern town populated by quirky, interesting, and sometimes irritating people. They all had stories to tell. I thought about teaching, even earned a Ph.D. and worked as a researcher, but in the end nothing was as intriguing to me as stories.
         Tell us about your cookie cutter series. Are you a cookie lover/baker?
            Yes, I’m definitely a cookie lover and baker, as time permits. In truth, Olivia and Maddie are far better at baking and decorating cutout cookies than I will ever be, so I leave that to them.
         Tell us a bit about your latest book, DEAD MEN DON’T EAT COOKIES
            Cold cases have always fascinated me, the older the better. Less blood, more puzzle. Solving a cold case reminds me of conducting research… except for, you know, the dead body thing.
         How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
            I plunk them into a scene and watch how they behave. Honest. I do encourage them to fight with each other, which draws out their personality quirks and their secrets.
         How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
            In my experience, outlines are instruments of torture. I often start a story with an idea—such as “cold case”— and then begin creating characters who promise to have interesting secrets, resentments, anything that ratchets up the intrigue and tension. Letting the story evolve through the characters’ behavior (and their secrets) feels most natural to me.
         Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
            For me, at least, the characters drive the plot. Sometimes they surprise me. I love that!
         What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
            I’d have to say that finishing DEAD MEN DON’T EAT COOKIES with tendinitis in both arms, while my father was dying, was right up there at the top of the challenge list. What kept me going? Besides panic? When I’m in the story, watching it unfold, the real world feels more distant, almost less real. I love the experience of dropping into another world, especially one with lots of cookies!
         Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
            I found my agent through my husband’s college alumni magazine!
         What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
            When I need a break, I work on another mystery series which I haven’t shown to anyone yet. Shhh.
         What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
            I wish I had a typical workday, but I just work as long as it takes… or until my brain melts.
         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?
            PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, a dictionary, and a thesaurus
         What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
            Write what you love.
         What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
            When I was young and daring, I purchased a one-way ticket to London and went by myself. (In those days, such behavior wasn’t seen as suspicious… just dumb. But I had a great time! And I found my way back eventually.)
         What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
            I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD—as you probably guessed from my answer to the previous question.
         What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
            Honestly, I can’t think of one.
          Where can we learn more about you and your books?
            www.virginialowell.com
            killercharacters.com (I blog, through my characters, on the 24th of each month)
Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  I’m a night owl. My brain refuses to function before 10 a.m., and I have a hard time turning it off at night.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  I’ve lived with dogs and currently have two cats, and I’ve loved them all. Of course, dogs do have to be walked. I’m just saying.
Beach or Pool?   Beach, but only under a large umbrella and with a fun book to read.
Steak or salad?  Salad. I have to admit, I’ve never liked steak. Hot dogs, on the other hand…
Favorite Drink?  Strong hot tea with milk and sugar. I drink gallons of it while I’m writing.
Favorite Book?  PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, always and forever. Mr. Darcy… sigh.
Favorite TV Series?  Joan of Arcadia, which didn’t last long, but I can watch it over and over. Fantastic dialogue.
Favorite Movie?  Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Favorite Actor: James Mason. What a wonderful, mellifluous voice he had.
Favorite Actress: Maggie Smith (Yes, I’m addicted to Downton Abbey.)
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?  Chardonnay, and lots of it.
Hawaii or Alaska? England
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be: Jane Austen…no wait, Agatha Christie, preferably on a dig in Egypt. ___________________
If I had just one wish, it would be: a better memory. Oh yeah, and world peace. _________________________________________
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be_____
I wouldn’t trade places with anyone, especially if it meant leaving my cats! Oh yeah, and my husband.
Thanks Virginia!  Folks  you can keep up with her at:
Virginia will give away a signed copy of DEAD MEN DON’T’ EAT COOKIES 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 August 30!