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!

Monday, August 24, 2015

HAPPY RELEASE DAY....MIDNIGHT LOUIE (AND CAROLE NELSON DOUGLAS)




 

Meow! I’m here today to talk about one of my idols – MIDNIGHT LOUIE

For those of you who are not familiar with him, let me say that Midnight Louie is my kind of detective.

In his own words, he’s short, dark and unobtrusive. He talks like a detective out of a forties pulp novel. Plus, he’s remarkably light on his feet and he can shimmy into places Columbo would never dare to tread.

And why not?  Louie is a cat.

Yessir, he’s a twenty pound, jet black tomcat with all of his—um—assets intact (well, for the most part). He has had a vasectomy – yeah, you heard me right. Louie is the first furpurrson of mystery, or as he puts it, the star of his own multivolume mystery series. And make no mistake about it, Louie is THE star, even though at times he finds himself sharing center stage with some very interesting humans: Crime-solving Temple Barr, PR woman and burgeoning sleuth, is Louie’s roommate. (No one “owns” Louie.) He’s Temple’s protector and “muscle.” Hard-boiled female homicide lieutenant C.R. Molina has to put up with the pair of them. Max Kinsella is Temple’s ex, a magician and counter-terrorist operative on the run. Matt Devine is an ex-priest radio advice counselor who’s become Temple’s fiancĂ©e.

And this is not to mention the feline characters, which include his alleged daughter, Midnight Louise (who loves ragging on dear old pops), Ma Barker, his mom who still oftentimes refers to him by his given  name, Grasshopper, a bomb and drug sniffing Maltese, Nose E., assorted cats, big and little…oh! And let’s not forget those glamour pusses, cats of the female persuasion that set Louie’s tail to thumping: Shaded silver and gold Persians Yvette and Solange, between whose affections Louie bounces like a furry black ball; the deadly Hyacinth, a seal-point Siamese whose claws are dipped nightly (supposedly) in Curare; and Satin, a comely black chick with a fluffy tail, one of Louie’s first amours and the maybe-momma of Midnight Louise.

Louie’s creator,the fabulously talented Carole Nelson Douglas, writes the series like a daytime soap,  interweaving plot points and characters throughout.  Louie’s latest adventure, CAT IN A ZEBRA ZOOT SUIT, which debuts today, continues the series.

 

In the 27th Midnight Louie mystery he channels the jazz and swing-dance age. In Cat in a Zebra Zoot suit, Circle Ritz residents petite PR powerhouse Temple Barr and her faithful roommate, Midnight Louie, must defend their beloved elderly landlady from a bizarre murder charge that echoes a long-past atrocity. Meanwhile Temple's fiancé, Matt Devine, turns detective on a secret mission and her ex, a magician with a counter-terrorist past, tangles with vengeful IRA members and a psycho stalker in Ireland. And what makes a defunct fifties nightclub building in Las Vegas the pit of all evil and greed?

All involved will face surprising dangers and choices and will balancing on the edge of survival . . . and maybe even shocking new futures. Deadly encounters and unexpected reunions force all the main characters into unforeseen loss and disclosure, the suspense leavened by Douglas's characteristic wit and heart.

And if that’s not enough enticement for you, you can read my review over at Night Owl Digital Magazine: https://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Reviews/Rocco-Lotempio-reviews-Cat-In-A-Zebra-Zoot-Suit-by-Carole-Nelson-Douglas

It certainly makes me salivate over the next volume in the series, CAT IN AN ALPHABET ENDGAME. Which man will Temple end up with? Will Louie have to move out of Las Vegas?  Will he finally end up with his true  love Yvette?

Author Carole Nelson Douglas promises us many more adventures from Louie! Thank goodness! 

As Louie says, he lives in “the city that never sleeps” – and with a crew like that, who could?

More importantly, who would want to?

 

 The Midnight Louie series:

  • Catnap (1992) I
  • Pussyfoot (1993),
  • Cat on a Blue Monday (1994),
  • Cat in a Crimson Haze (1995),
  • Cat in a Diamond Dazzle (1996),
  • Cat with an Emerald Eye (1996),
  • Cat in a Flamingo Fedora (1997),
  • Cat in a Golden Garland (1997),
  • Cat on a Hyacinth Hunt (1998),
  • Cat in an Indigo Mood (1999),
  • Cat in a Jeweled Jumpsuit (1999),
  • Cat in a Kiwi Con (2000),
  • Cat in a Leopard Spot (2001),
  • Cat in a Midnight Choir (2002),
  • Cat in a Neon Nightmare (2003),
  • Cat in an Orange Twist (2004),
  • Cat in a Hot Pink Pursuit (2005),
  • Cat in a Quicksilver Caper (2006),
  • Cat in a Red Hot Rage (2008),
  • Cat in a Sapphire Slipper (2008),
  • Cat in a Topaz Tango (2009),
  • Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme (2010)
  • Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta (2011)
  • Cat in a White Tie and Tails (2012)
  • Cat in an Alien X-Ray (2013)
  • Cat in a Yellow Spotlight (2014)
  • Cat in a Zebra Zoot Suit (2015)
  • Cat in an alphabet endgame (2016)
  • ???????? (2017 – beyond)