Sunday, February 26, 2017

ROCCO welcomes author Sandra Bretting

Meow, this week  my guest is author Sandra Bretting!

Sandra Bretting writes the Missy DuBois Mystery series for Kensington/Lyrical Underground. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, she’s written for the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle, among others.

The Missy DuBois Mystery series follows milliner and bona fide Southern belle Missy DuBois, who becomes entangled in several unfashionable murders on the Great River Road in Louisiana.  The first book, Murder at Morningside, debuted in May 2016. The second installment, Something Foul at Sweetwater, debuted in December 2016. Readers can connect with her at www.sandrabretting.com.


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

Thanks ROCCO!  I was studying journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism when I took a creative writing course for fun. On hearing my first story in class, another student said, “Well, you’ve come here to be a novelist, right?” A lightbulb went off in my head that still shines today.


R: Tell us about your Missy DuBois series. Where did you get that idea?

My husband and I visited the Great River Road in Louisiana one weekend about five years ago. (It’s only a short drive from our home in Houston.) We stayed in a beautiful antebellum mansion that now serves as a hotel and wedding venue. I think I surprised the tour guide when I squealed, “What a great place for a murder mystery!”

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?

Like Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, I relied on the kindness of strangers to find my agent. I sent my manuscript to one agent who felt it wasn’t quite right for her. But…she knew the perfect agent for me and sent it along. Once I signed with my current agent, I nearly fell over backward when she sold the Missy DuBois Mystery series to Kensington.

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

Believe it or not, I always wear earplugs when I write. They seem to block out everything. Not only noise, but everything around me, so I can create a much different world.

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

I’d like to meet Abraham Lincoln in the lobby of Ford’s Theatre so I could warn him not to stay for the show.

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’d like to see Debra Messing play Missy DuBois in the series’ second book, Something Foul at Sweetwater. (It’s a personal favorite, although writers aren’t supposed to play favorites.) For Ambrose Jackson, I’d choose a tall, dark and dreamy actor like Orlando Bloom.
 
R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

I grew up in a Dutch household where my parents gossiped in their native tongue so I couldn’t understand them.

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

The craziest thing I’ve done was move halfway across the country at the age of 18 to attend journalism school at the University of Missouri, sight unseen. I’d never visited the state, let alone the small town of Columbia.

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

I hope it gives them a reprieve from the everyday world. The real world can be tedious and predictable, but fiction allows us to escape that for a while.

R: You recently adopted a puppy (!!) What prompted that decision and do you have any cute stories you can share?

I blame the adoption on love at first sight. My daughter and I visited our local shelter to adopt an older, more mature dog. But then we saw Chance, and all bets were off. The first night we brought him home, twelve of my daughter’s friends (guys and gals) came over to see him. It was so cute to see these big, burly, 16-year-old football players handle the puppy as if he was made of glass.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a reformed pantser who now loves to plot. It happened after the third book in the Missy DuBois series (which will be out in May). Writing that book nearly killed me, and I think part of the problem was that I didn’t have a clear roadmap.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
I have a website readers can access at www.sandrabretting.com.  It gives information on new releases, upcoming events and my puppy, of course.
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Never give up. You don’t want to spend your life wondering “what if.”




Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Day .
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Puppy, but followed closely by kittens.
Beach or Pool?   Beach.            
Steak or salad?   A good steak salad.
Favorite Drink?  Lemonade.
Favorite Book?  Only one? Memoirs of a Geisha.
Favorite TV Series?  Currently “The Middle”
Favorite Movie?  The Great Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio version)
Favorite Actor: Tom Hanks.
Favorite Actress: Sandra Bullock.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada.
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii. (See “beach” above.)
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be __Jesus of Nazareth_________________
If I had just one wish, it would be: that my family always would be happy and healthy.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: Princess Kate Middleton, but only for one day.

Giveaway time!
Sandra will give away an eBook copy of Something Foul at Sweetwater, the second book in the Missy DuBois Mystery series 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, March 3.


Friday, February 24, 2017

ROCCO welcomes author Betty Webb!


Meow, my guest today is author Betty Webb!


Betty Webb is the author of the nationally best-selling Lena Jones mystery series (DESERT VENGEANCE, DESERT RAGE, DESERT WIVES, DESERT NOIR, DESERT WIND, etc.) and the humorous Gunn Zoo mysteries (THE LLAMA OF DEATH, THE PUFFIN OF DEATH, etc.). Before beginning to write full time, Betty worked as a journalist, interviewing everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel Prize-winners, and polygamy runaways. She has taught creative writing classes and workshops at the university level, and has been a nationally-syndicated literary critic for more than 20 years, and is currently reviewing for Mystery Scene Magazine. In addition to other organizations, Betty is a member of the National Federation of Press Women, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.



Welcome Betty! Tell us a little about your background.
Thanks ROCCO!  I spent twenty years as a graphic designer in Los Angeles and New York City (on Madison Ave., no less!) but over the years I began doing a little writing for my own entertainment. A poem here, a short story there. Once I moved to Scottsdale AZ, I also started doing some free-lance writing on the arts for local newspapers. As it turned out, my articles became so popular (more importantly, they required almost no editing) the newspaper eventually offered me a full-time job. I stayed with the newspaper for almost 20 years, but halfway through began writing “Desert Noir,” the first Lena Jones mystery. It came out in 2000. Getting up at four a.m. and writing until eight a.m. before going to the paper, I managed to write another four mystery novels before I retired from the paper. I need to add that I had NEVER planned to be a journalist; it was one of those strange things that happen while I was making other plans.

Tell us a bit about your two series, Lena Jones and the Gunn Zoo.  Do you find one more challenging to write than the other?
Those two series are about as different as anything two series can get. The Lena “Desert” books are hard-boiled, and they all reflect human rights abuses, so they can get pretty rough – especially my latest Lena, “Desert Vengeance.” In an earlier book, “Desert Wives,” I went after the polygamy cults here in Arizona, and singled out Warren Jeffs, who is now doing 25 years to life in prison for child rape. The research involved in the PI Lena Jones books are immense, and so they are quite difficult to write. In contrast to those books, the Gunn Zoo books are flat-out cozies, and are a snap to write. My protagonist is Theodora “Teddy” Bentley, a zookeeper. In the Cabot Cove tradition, poor Teddy keeps stumbling over corpses in the beautiful coastal California town where she lives on her houseboat. I am very proud of those books, because in addition to being a barrel of laughs, they also introduce readers to exotic animals they may never have heard of, and discuss how environmental factors are threatening more and more species.
  
On your website it mentions that you volunteer at the Phoenix Zoo. How did you get involved w/that and do you have any stories to share?
 When I first retired from the newspaper I was afraid I’d be bored, so I volunteered for several things. The only thing that “stuck” was my volunteer work in Monkey Village at the Phoenix Zoo. During training for that work, I began to realize I didn’t know as much about animals as I thought I did (I was a horse-and-dog-and-cat-owning farm girl as a kid; still have more pets than are probably good for me!). I fell in love with a pregnant giant anteater from Belize (they’re about the size of a Great Dane, and have four-inch-talons). The more I watched her, the more fascinated I became, and so I finally decided to write a book about her. It was going to be a non-fiction book, but despite my best attempts, it turned into a mystery titled “The Anteater of Death,” in which the anteater – Lucy – is suspected of killing one of the zoo’s big financial beneficiaries. I also created the town of Gunn Landing, which I modeled on the real town of Moss Landing, on Monterey Bay. My husband and I love that town and we vacation there every chance we get. Fun fact about Moss Landing: its population is only 500 (during the week), so it’s a great place to relax and listen to the ocean.   

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?  My biggest challenge came during the middle of writing “Desert Wives:Polygamy Can Be Murder.” I got up one morning to catch some news while my computer was booting up, and saw the Trade Towers on fire. It was 9/11/2001. I was so distraught I didn’t write another word for two weeks, and even then that I only had the heart to resume writing because I was convinced something had to be done about “Prophet” Warren Jeffs and the child molestation that was going on in his polygamy cult. Many of my writer friends never returned to the books they were working on when 9/11 happened: they just couldn’t pick up where they left off when the world changed.

Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I was lucky. I was a reporter at the time, and was interviewing true crime writer Ann Rule. At the end of the interview, I mentioned that I’d just finished writing my first mystery novel, and she recommended her agent to me. This was in 1999, and I still have that agent.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Right now I’m writing “The Otter of Death,” one of my more light-hearted Gunn Zoo mysteries. It’s a lot of fun. After that, I’ll write another Lena Jones book – “Desert Redemption” – which will end that 10-book series (at least, that’s the plan). I already have a new series waiting in the wings, but I’m not prepared to talk about that right now. Let’s just say it’s going to be very, very different than either of my current series.

Plotter or Pantser?
Although I always outline my books, I can never stick to the outline for more than two chapters (sometimes less), so I’m really a pantser.

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Write every single day, whether you feel like it or not. If you only want to write when you’re feeling “inspired,” stick to writing haikus, because you’ll never finish a novel.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Backpacked the Highlands of Scotland by myself, because the gal who was originally going to go with me couldn’t “get permission” from her boyfriend.  So I went alone. I had a wonderful time during my two weeks in the Highlands, and it was my first trip out of the country. I saw gorgeous scenery, met interesting people, and stood over Macbeth’s grave on the Isle of Iona (I’m a Shakespeare buff). When I returned to the States, I discovered that my friend’s boyfriend had left her for another woman. Needless to say, that solo excursion taught me a lot about life -- in more ways than one.

What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
 I was raised on a farm, and my everyday chores were to milk the goat and collect the eggs from the henhouse.

What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
I’ve been asked everything you can imagine, from where I get my ideas (I tell them at Costco) to who does my hair (Laurent, in Mesa, Arizona. He’s from Paris, and owns Le Studio).

Where can we learn more about you and your books?  www.bettywebb-mystery.com.

If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do?
I’d start painting again (I was a graphic designer before I became a writer, and sometimes I miss it, but there are only so many hours in a day, and now they’re devoted to writing). Then again, if I entered the witness protection program, I might just continue writing, just under a different name.

What is your most annoying habit.
 I’m a terrible slob. It’s easy to find me, because I always leave a trail of debris behind – mugs of cold coffee, socks, empty water bottles, half-eaten sandwiches, etc.

What would you love to have a never ending supply of?
Skinny vanilla chai lattes.

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Night.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully). Can’t choose. Have both. Miss my horses, too, but now I live in the city. 
Beach or Pool?   Neither. I prefer forests.
Steak or salad?  Steak.
Favorite Drink?  Skinny vanilla chai lattes.
Favorite Book?  “Unless,” by Carol Shields.
Favorite TV Series?  “Vikings” Love me some gore.
Favorite Movie?  “The Brand New Testament” (Magical realism, in French, and  I’ve already seen it twice this week, and will go back to see it again. In short, the plot is about God’s other kid – a girl – and she comes to Earth looking for six new apostles for herself; her brother J.C. told her not to get 12 like he did because things got “complicated.” Very funny, very heart-warming)
Favorite Actor: Tom Hanks
Favorite Actress:  Isabelle Huppert
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Ick. I prefer Virgin Bloody Marys
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be the Dalai Lama.
If I had just one wish, it would be that people be nicer to each other.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be… Nope, I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. We never know what burdens other people are secretly carrying, and those burdens might be much worse than the burdens we are carrying.




Saturday, February 18, 2017

ROCCO welcomes author Claire Booth!

Meow, today my guest is author Claire Booth!



BIO:
Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways.


R:  Welcome Claire! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
Thanks ROCCO! I’ve always loved to write. I started journalism in high school and decided I wanted to do that as a career. I got to write every day, meet new people every day, and learn something new every day. It was the best job in the world. And it was great preparation for being a novelist. I got very good at observing my surroundings and putting that into words. I also got very good at meeting writing deadlines! I don’t work in journalism much anymore, but all of those skills are still really valuable. I love turning them into works of fiction.

R: Tell us about the Branson mysteries.  How did the idea for that come about?
Branson, Missouri is not a big place – only about 11,000 people live there – yet it gets millions of visitors a year. It is in a very proudly rural area in the Ozark Mountains. And I wondered what would happen if someone got dropped in from the outside and was suddenly put in charge of an entire law enforcement department. So that’s what I did to my main character, Hank Worth. He comes in and has to figure out all sorts of small-town politics and then on top of that, solve a murder.
A tourist showboat called The Branson Beauty crashes on a nearby lake and the body of a popular former high school student is found on board. A showboat actually did crash on a lake near Branson several years ago, but there was never any murder. That was my writer brain asking “what if . . .”

R: You are a former crime reporter. What’s the most significant story you ever covered? 
The story that had the most impact on me was a quintuple murder case in the California Bay Area. A man who had worked as a stockbroker got it into his head that he was a prophet of God and had been chosen to usher in Christ’s Second Coming. But, in order to do this, he said he needed a lot of money. So he and two of his followers hatched a plan to kidnap a retired couple who had been his stockbroker clients, extort their life savings, and then kill them. They did this, then killed an innocent young woman whom the “prophet” had been dating, as well as the woman’s mother and a friend who was with her at the time. So, five people died and many other people’s lives were devastated, all because this man wanted a lot of money, and he wanted people to follow him unquestioningly. It was horrific and complicated and it took authorities years to unravel and prosecute the whole thing.

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?
My “how I got my agent” story is a bit different from most people’s. My first book was a nonfiction true crime book, The False Prophet: Conspiracy, Extortion and Murder in the Name of God (about the story I refer to in the previous question). Unlike with fiction, where you need to have the novel completed, you don’t need to have the book done beforehand with nonfiction. You have to do a lengthy and very specific book proposal, though. And that’s what prospective agents want to see along with your query letter. So I sent out query letters and proposals and was very, very fortunate to get one of the best agents in the business, Jim McCarthy. He represented my true crime book, and I’ve been with him ever since. We tried unsuccessfully to sell another true crime book, but that was when the market (and the whole economy) fell off a cliff. So that’s when I turned to fiction. When Jim told me The Branson Beauty had sold, I had to sit down. Literally, my knees buckled. Then there was a lot of delighted dancing around the house.

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
I don’t need anything, really. When I was a reporter, I got used to writing anywhere and everywhere, on whatever was available. So I can still do that. But I do love it if I can have a cup of tea.

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
I would love to go back to Britain during the “Golden Age.” It’s the time period between World War I and World War II when authors like Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham were doing their best work. I’d love to experience the world that led to so many great mysteries being written!

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?
This was such a hard question! I didn’t write my three Branson Beauty main characters with any actors in mind, so I really had to wrack my brain to come up with ones who would be good fits. I think for my main character, Hank Worth, I would choose Mark Ruffalo. For his chief deputy, Sheila, I would love Octavia Spencer. And for his other deputy, Sam, a perfect fit would be Logan Lerman from the Percy Jackson movies and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. 

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
I was detained by San Francisco police during the protests of the Iraq invasion in 2003. I was covering the story for the Contra Costa Times newspaper, and following a big group of anarchists who started vandalizing property and police cars (I’ll point out here that the protests were otherwise primarily peaceful). The police barricaded the entire group and detained everybody. They let me go when they figured out I was only reporting on the actions (the notebook, press pass, and somewhat dorky clothing helped), not participating in them.

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
I hope my readers get to learn about a different part of the country, and I very, very much hope that they fall in love with Hank and Sheila and Sam and enjoy the story.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a pantser. I just start writing and see where it takes me.

R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Another Man’s Ground, the second Hank Worth mystery, comes out this July. For more about it, and about me, you can visit my website, www.clairebooth.com. Send me an email through my contact page. I’d love to hear from Rocco’s readers! And every once in a while, you can also see me on the Investigation Discovery channel if they rebroadcast one of the true crime shows about the False Prophet case.

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Write every day. Even if you think it isn’t any good, keep at it. Even if you don’t have time, carve out ten minutes during a work break. Every little bit will help you become a better writer.

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Can I say both?
Beach or Pool?  Beach
Steak or salad?  Salad
Favorite Drink?  Moscow Mule
Favorite Book?  A thesaurus
Favorite TV Series?  Justified
Favorite Movie?  The Hunt for Red October
Favorite Actor? Benedict Cumberbatch
Favorite Actress? Can I say two? Kate Winslet and Taraji P. Henson (have you seen Hidden Figures?!)
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Dirty Martini
Hawaii or Alaska? Right now I’m cold, so I’ll say Hawaii!
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Agatha Christie.
If I had just one wish, it would be world peace.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be no one! I’m very lucky to be me.

Thanks Claire!

 Claire will give away 1 copy of The Branson Beauty to a Rocco 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 Feb. 24!  US entries only.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Micki Browning on the Blog

Meow, this week  my guest is author Micki Browning!


FBI National Academy graduate and award-winning author Micki Browning worked in law enforcement for more than two decades and retired as a division commander. Her debut mystery, Adrift, set in the Florida Keys, was published by Alibi-Random House in January 2017. It won both the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award. Learn more at www.MickiBrowning.com


R:  Welcome Micki! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
Thanks ROCCO!  I became a professional writer the day I joined the police academy. Oh sure, they draw you in with the ability to drive fast, carry a gun, and wrestle bad guys, but right there in the fine print is the disclaimer that everything has to be documented. Report writing captures facts, and in many ways is easier to write than fiction. Towards the end of my career, I joined a writers group. I was hooked.


R: Tell us about your Mer Cavallo series.  How did the idea for that come about?
After retiring from law enforcement, my better half and I retired to the Florida Keys. We are both avid divers and I hold a professional divemaster rating. I love fish-out-of-water characters, so I created an analytic marine scientist whose latest research gig was in the Arctic. A real-life medical emergency a diver suffered while filming an underwater documentary triggered the first story. The diver completely recovered, but the event prompted a bevy of “what-ifs” that I had a great time exploring.

R: You are a retired police captain?  Have you always been interested in law enforcement?
You can blame Charlie’s Angels for that… the opening montage sparked my interest. A couple ride-alongs clinched it. Next thing I knew I was in the academy. I never looked back!

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 love my agent story. I had entered Adrift in the R.W.A Kiss of Death contest for the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence. My agent was one of the two judges in the mainstream mystery/suspense category. I won the award, she requested the full, and the resulting phone call was probably one of the best conversations I’ve ever had.

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
I listen to soundtracks when I write. I also usually have a cup of tea on hand in various stages of cooling (which is why I drink tea—cold coffee just doesn’t do it for me). I start my morning by reviewing my work from the day before, and then I jump into new territory.

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
Oh, good question! I’d want to witness an act of courage—maybe the first time someone trusted a tank on their back and freely finned across a reef underwater? Or the brave soul who first ate a “poisonous” tomato and lived to tell the tale?

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 always cast my characters. Adrift starred Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Mer and Daniel Craig as Selkie. In an odd bit of casting, Brian Blessed, the Shakespearean actor would have to play Leroy. He’s perfect!

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
I play the Celtic Harp.

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 
I’ve chased down a guy with a sawed-off shotgun on foot--and I’m a writer. Take your pick.  

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
Life doesn’t always have a correct answer. It’s messy, but we all do our best.
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I started writing as a panster, but mysteries benefit from a lot of planning. Now, I plot the story milestones and pantster my way between them.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
First, don’t give up. Second, plot from the point of view of the antagonist and write from the perspective of the protagonist. Trust me.


Just for Fun:

Night or Day?   Night

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)   Um, cat. Definitely.

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?    I have to have my greens, but every now and again, I love a petite fillet mignon. Bonus points if it’s bacon-wrapped.

Favorite Drink?  Tea.

Favorite Book?  Impossible to answer.

Favorite TV Series?  The Big Bang Theory. Castle was a close second.

Favorite Movie?  Casablanca.

Favorite Actor? Daniel Craig.

Favorite Actress? Cate Blanchet.

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? I write about the Keys! Pina Colada.

Hawaii or Alaska? Mer would answer Alaska. I’m a Hawaii gal. Warmer diving.

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

If I had just one wish, it would be to finally know the difference between lay, laid, and lie, without having to look it up—Every. Single. Time. (And of course, in the immortal words of Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, “... world  peace.”)

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be me. I’m quite content.


One lucky reader will be selected from the comments to receive a free digital download of Adrift. 
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, February 18!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Welcome Susan Breen!

Meow, today my guest is author Susan Breen!



Susan Breen is the author of the Maggie Dove mystery series, published by the Alibi digital imprint of Penguin/Random House. She lives in a small village in the Hudson Valley with her two dogs and two cats. And her husband, Brad.

R:  Welcome Susan!Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
Thanks ROCCO!  Well, I’ve always loved reading. When I was in the 4th grade, my uncle gave me a dictionary and I lugged it around for years. Let us just say, I scored very well on the vocabulary part of the SATs!  When you love to read you can’t help but wonder what it would be like to write your own book, and I have to say, it’s just as thrilling as I ever hoped it would be.

R: Tell us about your Maggie Dove series.  How did the idea for that come about?
I love stories about more-or-less ordinary people who are forced to become extraordinary. Maggie Dove is as ordinary as you can be. She’s a 62-year-old Sunday School teacher who lives in a small village in the Hudson Valley. She might have gone her whole life without doing anything remarkable, except that a young man she loves, who was her late daughter’s fiancĂ©, is accused of being a murderer. Maggie has no choice but to defend him, and to her surprise, and to mine, she’s ferocious.

R: Which of (your character)  adventures was the most fun for you to write? Were any of them the least amount of fun?
In the second book in the series, Maggie Dove opens a detective agency. I have no idea what it’s like to be a detective and so I enrolled in a course to get my detective license and one of the first things I had to do was follow someone. I work in NYC, near Times Square, and so I picked a family and followed them and it was so much fun. Very thrilling and oddly empowering.  As to scenes which were not fun to write, at one point Maggie and her business partner have an argument, and I had to channel my own anger and frustration to write that. It was probably cathartic, but stressful.

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 met my agent, Paula Munier, at the NY Pitch Conference. I knew right away that she would be a good fit for me because she’s very honest and not afraid to give her opinion. One day she invited me to meet her for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. She ordered margaritas for us, and when I took my first sip she said, “Congratulations I sold Maggie Dove.” Immediately my left arm went numb and I thought I was having a heart attack. But then I drank the rest of the margarita and felt much better!


R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
I need quiet. I like to have my two little dogs at my feet. Whenever I get excited, I jump up and they bark.

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
I’m very intrigued by Tudor England and I’m working on a book about that time period, so I’d love to see what the people are really like.

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?
Judi Dench looks like Maggie Dove, so if she’s feeling up to it, I’d love for her to play the role. Clarie Foy would be great as Maggie’s young associate, Helen, though Foy may be busy right now.

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
I started off as a reporter for Fortune Magazine and my job was to report on the mining industry. I’ve spent a fair amount of time crawling around in the dark.

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 
I went zip-lining with my daughter in Costa Rica.

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
One of things I love when I’m reading is to feel a real friendship for the characters in a book, and so I hope readers will feel like they’ve made a friend in Maggie Dove.
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I always start with character and go from there. So I suspect I’m a pantser with plotting tendencies.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My web site is at www.susanjbreen.com. I’m also active on twitter @susanjbreen. And I blog regularly for www.missdemeanor.com
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

I teach creative writing for Gotham Writers in Manhattan and so I work with beginning writers a lot. I think the most important thing is: Write something. Anything. You have to start somewhere.



Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  I have two dogs (cockapoos Buster and Bailey) and two cats (Calvin and Brady), so I can’t choose.
Beach or Pool?   Beach
Steak or salad?  Salad
Favorite Drink?  Scotch on the rocks
Favorite Book?  Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory, and many others!
Favorite TV Series?  At the moment, The Crown
Favorite Movie?  North by Northwest
Favorite Actor:  Cary Grant
Favorite Actress: Myrna Loy
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Martini
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Eleanor Roosevelt
If I had just one wish, it would be for peace
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Lin Manuel Miranda. He always looks like he’s having fun.



Susan will give away a Maggie Dove tote bag 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! US only, contest ends midnight, Feb. 12!


Sunday, February 5, 2017

ROCCO welcomes Jill Amadio!


My guest this week author Jill Amadio!

 


Like Tosca Trevant, the amateur sleuth in her crime series, Jill Amadio hails from St. Ives, Cornwall but is nowhere near as grumpy or unwittingly hilarious as her character. She is a true crime and thriller ghostwriter, and was a reporter in Spain, Thailand, Colombia and the United States.  She writes a monthly column for the UK-based MysteryPeople ezine, and freelances for My Cornwall magazine. She is a member of Crime Writers Association (UK), Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Authors Guild. She lives in Southern California where it hardly ever rains, much to Tosca Trevant’s annoyance.

 


 

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

 

Thanks ROCCO! I am from a small fishing village, St. Ives, in Cornwall. I won all the writing contests at school. My dream was to become a newspaper reporter. I moved to London at age 18 and got a job on a national newspaper, The Sunday Dispatch, as a newsroom ‘general dogsbody’ (copy girl it is called here). I handled all the mail for our Agony Column, advice for the lovelorn. I married an American in Spain and wrote for the Spanish-American courier. We moved to Bogota, Colombia, where I freelanced. Then Bangkok, where I worked for the Bangkok Post as feature writer, reporter, and lifestyles editor. 

 

I moved to the States and was a reporter for Gannett Newspapers then travel writer and also wrote a syndicated automotive column. I moved to California when offered a job with a magazine as their auto editor. In addition I freelanced doing PR for Rolls-Royce West Coast, The British Royal Mint, and Range Rover.

 

R: Tell us about the Tosca Trevant mysteries.  How did the idea for that come about?

 

A client hired me to ghostwrite a crime novel and gave me mostly free rein. I created a series character, a forensics accountant, hoping we could continue with additional books but the client was happy just to have her name on one. I became interested in the genre as a long-time Christie fan and joined Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. I took creative writing classes and attended writers’ conferences to learn as much as possible about the genre and the publishing industry.

 

My books are traditional mysteries. To create my series character, Tosca Trevant, I base some of her experiences on my own. She’s a Cornishwoman, a newspaper columnist covering the royal family and of course discovers a scandal. She is re-assigned to America.  The setting is Newport Beach. As her name suggests she is a lover of opera and a bit grumpy because of culture shock - few teashops, a lack of rain. Tosca’s natural nosiness leads her discover a body in a neighbor’s yard after she decides weeding is required. She digs up some bones. With the help of a new friend, a retired Secret Service Agent, she solves the crime using her knowledge of music as clues. Opera and classical music is a recurring theme.

 

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 was rejected by around 35 agents. I knew the big publishers only accepted agented work so I tried small presses which one can contact directly. I fell in love with the second name on the list, Mainly Murder Press. Their web site declared in big black letters, NO SUBMISSIONS UNTIL LATE SPRING. It was only January. I wrote immediately with a query saying, “I live in southern California and it is already late spring here. The roses are in bloom.” To my delight I received a reply within an hour asking for chapters and within a week I had a three-book deal. There was no advance but everything else was standard – 15% royalties and all of the business side of the deal taken care of by the publisher. I was tremendously thrilled that finally I’d be a published mystery writer.

 

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

 

Having worked in a few crazy newsrooms when typewriters were the norm and phones rang loudly and constantly I learned to block out noise. Now, I prefer solitude but at airports and other crowded places I manage to retreat into Tosca’s world. At home I play classical music all day. To aid my writing process I re-read the previous chapter, or pick up one I’d left off in the middle. Sometimes re-reading the research on various points gets me back into the groove. I am an early riser an start writing around 7 a.m. If it goes well I work until 3 p.m. If not, I read, watch TV, or go for a walk.

 

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

 

I’d travel back to the 1920s and 30s, the flapper days, Bloomsbury, and when poets and writers still struggled but seemed to be more cherished. I love art deco, Aubrey Beardsley, Somerset Maugham, the fashions, and a more sane world, at least until the rise of the Third Reich.  

 

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’d choose the first book in the series, “Digging Too Deep,” and I’d pick Emma Thompson for the lead role. She has a quirky sense of humor and dry delivery with which I try to endow Tosca. Or Tracy Ullman. Tosca’s sidekick, Thatch MacAuley, is gorgeous – wish he were real! I’d pick Scottish actor Iain Glen to play him.

 

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

 

I narrate audiobooks, a late calling for me but one which I decided would be fun to pursue. A few radio hosts remarked during book talks that I had a nice radio voice and did I do voice overs? I had no idea what it meant but they said I’d love it.  I checked it out, trained, and now do radio commercials documentaries, and books. I haven’t narrated my own – yet.

 

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

 

Fly to Vientiane, Laos at the end of the Vietnam War to interview an ex-prisoner of war. Anything could have happened to the small plane as there were still pockets of resistances. Plus, I had three children at home.

 

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

 

To have an entertaining, humorous read laced with learning about poisons, plants, musical instruments, composers, evil people, and murder, and how it feels to be plopped into a new country despite speaking the same language.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a pantser. I write a one-para outline, then a lengthier one, about two pages, then chuck it. I find that if I just sit down and write with a general idea, the stuff shows up. I make up the elements – characteristics, settings, plots already roughly decided upon-  as I go along although I carry through the main characters. My favourite pastimes are research and re-writing the first two or three drafts.

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

My websites are www.jillamadiomysteries.com, and www.ghostwritingpro.com. My books, paperback and eBook, are on amazon.com and in some bookstores. My World War II biography of a fighter ace is also on amazon as an eBook ( now part of a BBC documentary) , as is a story titled, “Farang,” about a Thai peasant dealing with G.Is. My voice over site is www.britishvoicejill.com with samples. Or Google my name.

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

 

Key up your passion for writing and keep it high. Read everything – not just in your genre. Non-fiction, especially memoirs, can give you ideas for creating characters and settings. Observe the world, write a note when a person’s voice or their demeanor catch your eye. Everyone has their own style of writing, no need to copy someone else’s. Some noir crime novelists emulate Raymond Chandler but he’s the master. Join organizations in your genre to exchange knowledge, ideas, and become inspired. Write for their newsletters. Offer to be a beta reader or first editor. Write articles for local papers and writers’ magazines. Hang out with writers. Be persistent and persevere. If you love writing and want to be published passionately enough you’ll make it happen.

 

 Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day.

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Love ‘em all.

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?  Salad

Favorite Drink?  Red wine

Favorite Book?  The Human Factor, Graham Greene

Favorite TV Series?  Ancient Aliens

Favorite Movie?  Dr. Zhivago

Favorite Actor: Stephen Fry

Favorite Actress: Vivien Leigh

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 Agatha Christie

If I had just one wish, it would be to blink myself to travel around the world..

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be  No one!

Thank you Jill!  Jill will give a copy of  Digging Up the Dead and Digging Too Deep to one lucky commenter!  Leave your name and email addy in the comments section below. For extra entries, you can:

Follow the Human (Toni Lotempio) on Facebook
Follow moi on Twitter @RoccoBlogger
Post about this contest on Facebook
Post about this contest/interview on Twitter or your own blog

You will get one extra entry for each.  Let us know what you've done in your post so we can give you credit! Winner selected at random by random.org.  Contest ends midnight February 11. Good luck.
US entries only please.