Monday, March 28, 2016

Welcome Kathryn O'Sullivan!

 ROCCO welcomes….Kathryn O’Sullivan!



Kathryn O’Sullivan writes the Colleen McCabe mystery series (Minotaur Books) set on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Neighing with Fire, a Pacific Book Awards Finalist in Suspense, is the latest book featuring Fire Chief McCabe, her Border collie, Sparky, and the colorful characters of Corolla. Kathryn is a winner of the Malice Domestic Competition for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel for Foal Play, creator/writer/costume designer of the online Western series Thurston, a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, and a beach and animal lover.

  • Welcome Kathryn!  Tell us a little about your background
Thanks for inviting me, ROCCO! I’ve been curious about people and what makes them tick my entire life. As a child, this took the form of snooping on neighbors (much to my mother’s dismay) or eavesdropping on grown-ups at dinner parties. I was lucky to grow up in a family and town with interesting people – perfect for a future writer!  My inquisitiveness evolved into an interest in human psychology in college and graduate school and a job as an elementary school counselor. Now I channel that curiosity about human nature into helping my students at the community college and writing novels, plays and screenplays. I especially enjoy that as a writer I can explore the inner lives of characters and control the outcomes - unlike in the real world.
  • Tell us a bit about your books. Are you a horse lover?
My mystery series is set in the charming seaside village of Corolla, North Carolina located on the northern end of the Outer Banks. The books feature Fire Chief Colleen McCabe, Sheriff Bill Dorman (her romantic partner), Colleen’s Border collie, Sparky, an eccentric cast of town locals and Corolla’s endangered wild horses. I fell in love with this area and the horses when my family vacationed in Corolla when I was a teen. I enjoy featuring real locales in the books – especially those that have been suggested by my readers. As you can tell by the titles (Foal Play, Murder on the Hoof, Neighing with Fire), there is a horse theme. Corolla’s wild horses are endangered. Right now there is a bill before Congress to help them. I hope that by featuring the horses in my books, I am bringing attention to their plight and the amazing work of the folks at the Corolla Wild Horse Fund who are trying to save them.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters
There are elements of people I know or have known in every character. It’s fun to use the traits and quirks of real people and exaggerate them. The qualities I admire are given to characters I want readers to love and the qualities I find unpleasant are given to the villains. And I always try to put myself in my character’s shoes and ask, “If I were this character, how would I think, feel and behave?”
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
When writing a mystery, you must have a murder or two, a quest for the killer(s) and complications along the way. I have a general sense of the story and how the relationships of the regular characters are going to develop but I am definitely a pantser. This can be wonderful but also terrifying because you can write yourself into a corner. When this happens, I find it’s good to go for a walk and experience the world. I also like to pick my husband’s brilliant brain. When I was writing Murder on the Hoof, for example, I had Colleen enter a room and see something that would have a major impact on the investigation. I had no idea what that “something” was. My husband suggested that it might have to do with the science of ear identification (yes, there is such a thing) and I was off to the races.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
The two are intertwined. The main character’s overall goal or objective (to solve the crime) and her pursuit of that goal are what give the story its plot.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The biggest challenges for a lot of writers – aspiring and published – have to do with the “business” of being a writer:  writing query letters and synopses, finding an agent or editor who is interested in your work, publicity and marketing of your work, juggling personal and work lives with writing time, handling rejection, making enough money to cover book signing trips, etc. I’m lucky to have won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Finding an editor that believed in my work was an amazing, powerful experience. (Thank you, Toni Kirkpatrick!) My inspiration and motivation comes from my husband, family and friends. Their support means everything.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I recently emailed my agent a proposal for Gone with the Whinny, book 4 in the Colleen McCabe series. I am also working on a rewrite of a science fiction novel that I co-wrote with my husband, a short play and an idea for a new mystery series.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
During the school year, I squeeze writing in as much as I can around my full-time teaching schedule and duties. Once the school year is finished, I become what Donna Andrews has called a “binge writer.” I write almost every day for as long as it takes to make my quota. (Yes, some days I stay in my pajamas.) I try to complete a book per summer.
  • If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor and a book on the flora and fauna of the area so I would better appreciate the setting.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
1. Don’t be afraid to express your unique voice. Nobody else sees the world exactly the same way you do or has had the same experiences. 2. Read your work aloud. You will catch awkward phrases/mistakes and improve your dialogue. 3. Go to conferences and meet writers, bloggers, readers, librarians, bookstore owners, editors and agents. 4. Enter writing contests. 5. Think of all reviews and criticisms as feedback. Use what helps you to improve your work and ignore the rest. 6. Don’t give up. Every successful person has had many setbacks. Your hard work will pay off!
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I’m not sure if this is crazy or stupid. As a young person, I thought that if I slathered on the baby oil and sunbathed enough I would succeed in getting my freckles to connect into a lovely bronze tan. I failed at the tan and ended up with multiple skin cancer surgeries (thankfully no melanoma!). I guess what I did was crazy and stupid.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
My books are fun beach reads meant to transport you to the beautiful Outer Banks. My mystery readers might be surprised to discover that I also write more serious stories – mostly as plays and screenplays.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
I can’t think of one!
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your work?
My books are available in hardcover and ebook. Readers can learn more about my books and other works, upcoming events, giveaways, etc. at:


Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  I love both but have had cats all my life.
Beach or Pool?   Beach as you can tell by the Outer Banks setting for my series.
Steak or salad?  Salad. I stopped eating red meat in the last year.
Favorite Drink?  Non-alcoholic: Water. It may seem boring but I truly appreciate how lucky I am that I can turn on a faucet and get clean water. Alcoholic: Key Lime Martini.
Favorite Book?  Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Favorite TV Series?  I enjoy Downton Abbey, House of Cards, Longmire, Forensic Files, Fargo and True Detective. I also have a soft spot for reality shows where people have an opportunity to display their creative talents like FaceOff and So You Think You Can Dance.
Favorite Movie?  I don’t have a favorite but I can repeatedly watch “Caddyshack.” In addition to its silliness (The gopher dance is priceless.) and bawdiness, the movie has a heart and tackles class and cultural issues.
Favorite Actor: I tend to appreciate specific actors in specific roles, but if I had to pick one I’d say Cary Grant. He was handsome, yes, but also quite funny. Grant and Katherine Hepburn are hilarious together in “Bringing Up Baby.”
Favorite Actress: Like the men, they tend to be role specific. Some of my favorites are Barbara Stanwyck, Katherine Hepburn, Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada, although what I’d really like is a Key Lime Martini.
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be . . . stage and screen icon Mae West. I wrote a play about her and would love to know if I got her right.
If I had just one wish, it would be . . . that all children grow up in loving, healthy homes.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world . . . I wouldn’t. I like being me - imperfections and all.


Giveaway time!
Kathryn will give away two (2) hardcover complete sets of the Colleen McCabe series (includes Foal Play, Murder on the Hoof and Neighing with Fire). To two lucky commenters!
* 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 31!




Monday, March 21, 2016

Welcome Cathy PIckens to the blog!

Hello, my guest today is author Cathy Pickens!


Cathy Pickens has been, under different names, a lawyer, a business professor, a university provost, a clog-dancing coach, a church organist / choir director, and a typist.
The most profound influences on her life have been her family, her faith, Nancy Drew, and Perry Mason. She grew up in a small town and, forced to move to "big cities" to support herself, first as a lawyer and then as a professor, she found the only way to return to the comfortable familiarity of her childhood was by moving Avery Andrews back home and chronicling her exploits.
  • Welcome Cathy! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO.  I’m a lawyer by training, from South Carolina hill country, spent a long time teaching graduate business students (which I loved).  I recently decided it was time for new adventures – I’ve been teaching business to jail inmates, starting a new business, and (of course) writing.
  • Tell us a bit about your Avery mysteries. Where did the idea come from?
I’ve always loved traditional puzzle mysteries.  I left small-town life for a terrific job in a large city, so I decided it would be fun to write a novel where I could “go home.”  The South is a funny, quirky place; the books are my love letter to a place I adore.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters?
That’s an interesting question.  My editor, Ruth Cavin, said it should be like walking along with someone, having a conversation.  And that’s how it’s always felt to write.  You spend a lot of time with these people, so it seems only right to ask them, “How would you handle this?  How does this make you feel?”
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Ah, the question all writers want the answer to, since I’m sure we secretly suspect that other writers have figured out a way to do it without all the sweat and angst we individually face.  For life in general, I like to plan things, so in setting out to write a book, I talk to myself about what should happen and when.  But that doesn’t mean the result looks anything like an outline.  Instead, it looks like an exuberant mess: a large sheet of art paper full of sticky notes and arrows and jots, accompanied by notebooks full of scribbles about “what if” and “then …”  And, of course, as I write, all that can change.  
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
For me, both are indispensible.  As I get older, my reading tastes seem to be focusing more on character-driven story.  But something’s GOT to happen.  I want to care about them – and it’s hard to care until that first dead body shows up, isn’t it?
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Time … and all the other ways to spend it.  We all are given the same amount of time every day.  The key is how we use it.  Time spent writing means time spent not doing something else.  I can gladly give up time mindlessly socializing or watching TV, but I won’t give up time with my family or close friends.  It’s all a question of balance … or imbalance.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
After Can’t Never Tell (book #5), I decided to send Avery on an extended vacation in order to work on a nonfiction project dear to my heart: a book on how to develop the creative process.  It’s embarrassing to say how long I’ve worked on it, but it’s been important to me to get this right.  I’ve also taken my time and (finally) finished a new crime novel.  We’ll see if my agent or anyone else is pleased with it.  (Send good wishes, please!)  I’ve enjoyed the luxury of taking my time and working on those projects until I was satisfied with them.  I’m in the home stretch with both of them.  (Again, send good wishes!)
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Writing every day is a must.  Life of course intrudes, but any creative endeavor is akin to a physical workout – once you get away from it, it’s that much harder to get cranked back up again.  Ideally, I like to write in the morning.  The afternoon is then spent on other projects or on all the stuff that needs to be done to support the writing (research, correspondence, preparing for speaking engagements, travel arrangements … and trips to the grocery and those ordinary activities that get in the way …).
  • 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?
Such a tough question! I take an inordinate amount of time picking my books for a week-long trip – and that’s done before I think about packing clothes.  Hmm, the books would have to be long.  The Bible (full of good stories and loads of conflict).  Can I take all of Shakespeare?  I still have some catching up to do there.  And War and Peace.  I’ve been re-reading it lately.  Wow, what a book!
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Read.  Everything.  Write.  Every day.  Study the market, which is changing in crazy fast ways.  Enjoy the process. 
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Besides wanting to be a mystery writer … ?
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I was a competitive ballroom dancer.  And that I just got a new Mustang GT.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?) 
I wish they’d ask me over for dinner … I’m having trouble finding time to cook.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your work?

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Early morning, late night.  I can’t figure out afternoons.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cats and the large dogs who love them.  (R: good answer!)
Beach or Pool?   Mountain stream.
Steak or salad? Steak, always.
Favorite Drink?  Strong, hot black tea.
Favorite Book?  The one I’m looking forward to reading next.
Favorite TV Series?  Perry Mason … and The Big Bang Theory.
Favorite Movie?  Wizard of Oz
Favorite Actor: Alan Rickman (major crush on him)
Favorite Actress: I’m too sad about Alan Rickman’s death to think about this …
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Ice tea
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska—or anywhere else cold and lumpy

Cathy will give away a signed copy of SOUTHERN FRIED 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 27.



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

ROCCO'S GUEST...B B HEYWOOD!



Meow, today I welcome cozy author BB Heywood!


Tell us about your background:


Rob has always loved to write. He is managing editor of a magazine and has also written young adult science fiction/fantasy books. Beth has also always loved to write. She also bakes and has created the recipes for the  books.

We decided to write a cozy mystery after reading the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton. We put together Cape Willington from the small New England towns we have lived in and visited.  Candy Holliday is a blueberry farmer in Down East , Maine. She runs the farm with her father ‘Doc’ Henry Holliday.  Cape Willington is filled with quirky residents and of course way too many murders. Candy has become the town sleuth and is usually solving mysteries with her sidekick and best friend, Maggie Wolfsburger.

Tell us about the Candy Holliday series. How do you get to know your characters?

In Town in a Cinnamon Toast, Maggie Tremont is days away from being wed to the town baker  Georg Wolfsburger. The best man doesn’t show up for the rehearsal dinner, and Candy goes off to find him. She finds him, but he is dead, struck over the head with a champagne bottle. The bottle happens to be the same brand that was ordered by Georg himself for the dinner.  That means everyone is suspect , and Candy has to solve the mystery so her best friend Maggie can live happily ever after.

The characters come to us in different ways. Some characters are based loosely on real people we’ve known, or a collection of people, or various character traits we’ve seen in people we know. Other characters come completely out of the blue and define themselves. Candy Holliday is like that, as are Maggie Tremont and Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday. They essentially write themselves, sine they’re fully formed as characters in our minds, and they help dictate the journeys they take through each book.

We usually start with a general theme, time of year, fictional event in town, and title, and work from there. We’re required by our publisher to provide an outline, which is usually three to five pages and hits the highlights of the story, although one outline we did was very detailed and ran 30 pages. WE have the opening section of each book fairly firmly in mind when we begin writing , and from there work into the middle and third sections of the book.  All our books basically have three acts, and if you pay attention when reading, you can actually tell when, for instance, the first act ends and the second act begins. Each act usually occupies about 8—120 pages.


What do you consider more important, plot or character?

One can’t work without the other. Character drives plot, but plot reveals character. Our goal is to start each book strong, and then by the end of the first act, we’ll “thicken” the plot with a twist of some sort. If there’s a second death in a book ( some books have one death, some have two). It usually takes place toward the end of Act Two, and is designed to keep readers reading until the end. We love big, splashy endings in our books, with lots of action and drama.


What is the biggest challenge you face as writers?  What keeps you motivated?

Time is the biggest problem. We estimate that it takes us about 600-800 hours to write a 300- page book. If we’re working full time, finding time to write is tricky. During the writing process, it can take several months to write the first half of each book, with some chapters taking several weeks to write, but we speed up in the second half, when often we can write one or two chapters in a day or two.


What is a typical workday for you?

It depends on our schedules. We usually write at night and on weekends, but if we’re fortunate to have some time off, then we write all day. There are numerous life-based distractions, but you just have to push on through them and keep writing. It’s a discipline that all successful writers have.

 What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Write a book every year going on eight years?!

What would your readers be surprised to find out about you?

That  B.B. Haywood is two people and we are both Pisces.

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

Is there going to be a book number 8 in the series? The answer is Yes!  The title is Town in a Maple Madness.

 Where can readers find out more about you?
You can learn more about our books at hollidaysblueberryacres.com.  We also have a facebook page at facebook.com/hollidaysblueberryacres,  and an instagram at instagram.com/capewillington. The links for all of those are on the website as well.  We also have our email hollidaysblueberryacres@gmail.com.

Just for Fun

Day or Night? Beth: Day- Rob: Night

Cat or Dog:Dog, sorry ROCCO!

Pool or Beach:Beach, it’s nice to walk on.

Steak or Salad? Salad

Coffee or Tea?Tea and hot chocolate

Favorite Book: Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton

Favorite TV Show: X-Files , and currently Doc Martin

Favorite Movie: Too many to love. The Lord of the Rings is a family favorite.

Favorite Actor:Tom Hanks, Ralph Fiennes

Favorite Actress: Helena Bonham Carter

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii—it’s warmer than Maine

If I could meet anyone past or present it would be…Winslow Homer.  To watch him paint and see the best view of the sea from his studio on Prout’s Neck.

If I had one wish it would be for…More time with family

If I could trade places with anyone it would be…Someone with a blueberry farm. It would be fun to experience that life for a while.


Penguin has donated a copy of TOWN IN A CINNAMON TOAST to be won by one lucky commenter! To enter, leave a comment below with your email address. Winner will be chosen by random.org. Contest closes midnight, March 20!




Friday, March 11, 2016

Give a warm welcome to...Kristi Abbott!!!

Hello, I’m pleased to welcome Kristi Abbott to the blog!



Kernel of Truth is Kristi's first book with Berkley Prime Crime. She has been obsessed with popcorn since first tasting the caramel cashew popcorn at Garrett's in Chicago. If you've never had it, you might want to hop on a plane and go now. Seriously, it's that good. 

Kristi lives in northern California, although she was born in Ohio like the heroine of Kernel of Truth. She loves snack food, crocheting, her kids, and her man, not necessarily in that order. 

  • Welcome, Kristi! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO! Ah, my checkered past. What can I say? I’ve written a few different things under a few different names. I wrote four chick lit novels as Eileen Rendahl and then switched to writing urban fantasy under that name. I also wrote some romantic suspense as Eileen Carr. Now I’m writing cozy mystery as Kristi Abbott. The truth is I’m a reader. I read all kinds of books and always have. As a result, I like to write all kinds of different stories.
  • Tell us a bit about your new book, Kernel of Truth.  Are you a popcorn lover?
In Kernel of Truth, Rebecca Anderson returns to her hometown of Grand Lake, Ohio, after her marriage to a celebrity chef ends in divorce. She opens a popcorn shop with the help of her friend and mentor, Coco Bittles, owner of the chocolate shop in town. Coco and Rebecca plan to merge their stores, but all that comes to an abrupt halt when Coco is found dead in her shop in what appears to be a burglary gone wrong. Or at least that’s what everybody but Rebecca thinks happened.
I am a popcorn lover. I used to be hooked on microwave popcorn, but started popping my own a while back when I was told that some of the chemicals in microwave popcorn are really bad for you.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I have to write my way into a character. I generally have an idea of age and background and attitude, but the only way for me to really find the voice is to write it. It can take a few pages or dozens, but that’s my process.
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Yes. Oh, wait! Did you want me to choose one of those? To be honest, I exist somewhere between those two extremes. I generally need at least a bit of a roadmap to start the journey, but it’s very rare that I have the patience to do a detailed outline. I start mapping the story out and then I get excited and need to start writing.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
I feel like character is plot. You put a certain type of person in a certain situation and things happen a certain way. A different person would react a different way and create a completely different set of events.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
The second Popcorn Shop Mystery, Pop Goes the Murder, is finished and turned in. I’m finishing a psychological thriller titled Cover Me in Darkness before I start Popcorn Shop Mystery #3. Cover Me is coming out in December from Midnight Ink and will be under my other author name, Eileen Rendahl. Pop Goes the Murder will come out in January of 2017. I’m trying to figure out if I can do one booksigning for both books and pretend that people will meet two authors.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Oh, my goodness. It was pretty crazy. I’ll see if I can describe it. This was back in 1992 or 93. I was living in Chicago. My oldest son was a baby and I was working full time for a trade magazine in downtown Chicago. My husband traveled a lot on business so for much of the time I was essentially a single mom. It got a little stressful.
One evening on the way home on the El, a man walked through wearing a ski mask. Other than that, he was dressed professionally. Not a suit, but he had on dress pants and a tie. He was slapping himself on the top of his head with a pair of gloves and chanting over and over “It’s warm right now in Sao Paolo!” in a loud voice. It was a little unusual. I started trying to figure out why he would be doing that and decided it was some kind of weird stress relief to act super crazy for just a minute or two while being totally anonymous.

Well, I needed some stress relief. The next night on the way home, while the train was moving and making a lot of noise, I started making a very quiet high pitched humming noise without moving my lips or anything. As the train came into a station and got quieter, people could hear it and I could see them looking around to figure out where the sound was coming from, but then the train would start moving again and they wouldn’t be able to hear it. It was strangely satisfying.

I thought I’d come with a clever harmless way to relieve my stress. When I told my husband about it, he had a somewhat different reaction. That was pretty much when he decided it would be a really good idea for us to move to Phoenix and for me to take some time off.

So . . . too crazy?

R: Not at all, merow!!! 

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  .
Day. I love me my sunshine.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) 
Don’t tell Rebecca’s dog Sprocket, but the answer is cat. I’m not sure if Sprocket would forgive me, but sometimes you have to tell the truth and shame the devil.
Beach or Pool?  
Depends on what I’m doing. Swimming? Give me a good old fashioned cement pond. Lounging? Put me by those ocean waves.
Steak or salad? 
Salad. I’m not a big red meat eater, although every once in a while a girl needs to get some iron in her blood.
Favorite Drink? 
I am currently ever so slightly obsessed with Vesper Martinis. It’s the original James Bond Martini and they are very very yummy although also very very strong. Kind of like James Bond, now that I think about it . . .
Favorite Book? 
There was a time when I would have answered Little Women with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever. I reread it a few years ago and, well, those girls were some awful goody two-shoes! I still cried my eyes out over Beth, though. I don’t think I have a favorite anymore.
Favorite TV Series? 
Several years ago, there was a show called Wonderfalls that lasted about four episodes. Eventually they released the whole first season on DVD. I loved it. I still think about it now and then. I’m not sure if it counts as my favorite TV show of all time, but it’s definitely one I feel ended way too soon. You really weren’t certain if the main character was losing her mind or getting messages from some higher power.
Favorite Movie? 
Favorite Actor:
Keanu Reeves. Don’t judge me.
Favorite Actress:
I know it’s clichĂ©, but Meryl Streep. That woman can do anything. One time I watched The Devil Wears Prada and Mama Mia back to back. It was almost like it was two different women, but it wasn’t. It was just her being absolutely magnificent. Plus she’s super cool. Did you know she funded a special screenwriting lab for women screenwriters over 40? How awesome is that?
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?
Definitely martini. Those sweet drinks give me a heck of a hangover. Although I’m more of a twist girl than an olive girl when it comes to martinis.
Hawaii or Alaska?
Hawaii. I’m not crazy about being cold.
Finish this sentence:  If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be JK Rowling. She wrote those awesome books. She’s a class act. As my great aunt would say, she is smart and pretty, too. Doesn’t get better than that.

Folks, you can find out more about Kristi and her other writing identities at:
www.KristiAbbottAuthor.com
www.EileenRendahl.com
https://www.facebook.com/KAbbottAuthor/

Giveaway time!!!!

Kristi will give away a copy of KERNEL OF TRUTH to one lucky commenter on this blog! 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, March 14. Good luck!





Monday, March 7, 2016

ROCCO welcomes back Mary Ellen Hughes!

ROCCO welcomes Mary Ellen Hughes back to the blog!



  • Welcome Mary Ellen!  Tell us what you’ve been up to since your last visit in August 2014!
Since I was last here, second book in my Pickled and Preserved mystery series, LICENSE TO DILL, was published in February, 2015. After that I wrote book #3, SCENE OF THE BRINE, which was released February 2, 2016! In between there were mystery conferences and book festivals where I met so many wonderful readers and writers.
  • Tell us a little bit about your latest release, SCENE OF THE BRINE.
Piper Lamb, owner of Piper’s Picklings, is drawn into a murder investigation when the college-aged son of her caterer friend, Sugar Heywood, is suspected of the murder by poisoning. Piper also deals with her own romantic dilemma: new boyfriend Will or former-fiancĂ© Scott? On top of that, poison that mysteriously found its way into one of Piper’s preserves nearly kills one of her customers – along with Piper’s business!
  • How long does it take you to write a novel, start to finish
Writing and editing might take 10-11 months.
  • Do you do a lot of research for your books?
There’s always research needed before I start a book, mainly on points that my plot depends on. Then, as I write, things come up that I need to be sure about. I might reach out to experts who can set me straight, or, if I’m lucky, I can find what I need in books or on the internet.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I’ll first picture them in my mind—age, physical characteristics, job, temperament. They’ll then develop more as I write through their dialogue and actions. It’s fun to see them take shape.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My biggest challenge was probably writing to a deadline and giving up certain time-consuming things to keep on track. I do love to write, though, which keeps me motivated. Hearing from readers who’ve enjoyed my books is a major boost, too.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I do most of my writing in the mornings, five or six days a week. The exact time varies.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
“Crazy things,” if they happened, would have been so long ago that I’ve mercifully forgotten them, LOL!
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Nobody ever asks what my favorite kind of music is. Although I enjoy popular music, my top favorite is classical.
  •  
·        Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be:   Just one? I guess that might be George Washington. I’d love to hear his side of all that happened back then and find out what he was really like. A lot of myths about him grew over the years.
·         
·        If I had just one wish, it would be: that I could have a thousand more wishes, LOL.
·         
·        If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: No one. I’m happy to keep working on my own problems and perks. Nobody’s life is perfect, though it might appear that way for a while.
Thanks MaryEllen! You can find her at:



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Guest Blogger....LAURA CHILDS!!!!!!!!!

Meow!
I’m thrilled to have as my guest blogger this week, NYTimes Bestselling author Laura Childs!

Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 Tea Shop Mysteries, 13 Scrapbooking Mysteries, and 6 Cackleberry Club Mysteries.  On July 5 she will release Little Girl Gone, the first book in her Afton Tangler Thriller Series written by Gerry Schmitt.  In her previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays.  She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Shar-Pei dogs. (But we love her anyway LOL)

What’s a Tea Shop Mystery without
steaming pots of tea and delicious food!

A guest blog by Laura Childs, New York Times bestselling author of
Devonshire Scream, the newest Tea Shop Mystery.


Ah, food.  Lucky me.  Since my Tea Shop Mysteries distinctly fall into the category of culinary mystery, my main characters always seem to be caught in a dizzying aray of tea and food.  Theodosia, my beloved tea shop owner and protagonist, is constantly sipping new teas from Ceylon and India.  While Haley, her young wunderkind baker, dances about the kitchen creating tasty new sandwiches and savories.  And there’s Drayton, too, tea sommelier and arbiter of good taste at the Indigo Tea Shop.  When these three characters aren’t kicking dead bodies out of the way, they’re focused on serving tea and staging events such as a Full Monty Tea, Lady Devonshire Tea, and Lavender Dreams Tea.

And, oh yes, they do catering, too.  In Devonshire Scream, Theodosia caters a fancy soiree at Heart’s Desire Fine Jewelry in Charleston, SC.  But when  
a gang of jewel thieves stage a daring “smash and grab” raid, she gets yanked into a bizarre mystery.  Could the robbers have been led by a wealthy yacht broker, transplanted European, motorcycle tough guy, or mild-mannered professor?  The FBI thinks international jewel thieves are at work, but when the Heritage Society decides to put a priceless Faberge Egg on display, Theodosia takes matters into her own hands and investigates.

Lots of excitement ensues as Devonshire Scream delivers a gripping, realistic murder that also includes tea tips and recipes for Cranberry Cream Scones, Shortbread Squares, and Waldorf Tea Sandwiches.

And if your taste buds are suddenly craving a special tea treat, why not try my favorite recipe for scones: 

Chocolate Sour Cream Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
½ cup butter
1 beaten egg yolk
8 oz. sour cream
½ cup miniature chocolate chips

Mix together flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in butter.  Add egg yolk and sour cream and mix.  Add chocolate chips and stir until soft.  Spoon dough (about 2 Tbsp worth for each scone) onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.


Even Laura's dogs love 'em!!!!!!!
Reader Giveaway!

Win one of two hardcover copies of DEVONSHIRE SCREAM, inscribed and signed by Laura Childs.


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)
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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, March 6!