Sunday, June 18, 2017

ROCCO’s guest blogger: author Nancy Haddock!





Nancy Haddock is an award-winning and national bestselling author of mystery-romance and cozy mysteries. Basket Case and Paint the Town Dead are her current books in the Silver Six Crafting Mystery series with Berkley Prime Crime. The third book in the series, A Crime of Poison, will be released in December, 2017.
Nancy’s earlier books, also with Berkley, are La Vida Vampire, Last Vampire Standing, and Always The Vampire. These paranormal mystery-romances feature Cesca, aka Gidget with fangs, and are set in Haddock’s current hometown, St. Augustine, FL
Nancy draws on historic wealth, southern culture, and the plain old quirkiness of places and people for her books. She lives with her husband and rescue dog Baron.

Best Friends and New Friends
By T.C. (with Nancy Haddock because she takes dictation)

Meow, y’all! Greetings to ROCCO, his human, Toni, and all ROCCO’s Readers!

I’m known as T.C., and I’m a feline of the South—now of southwest Arkansas, to be precise. While I’m quite a lovely orange and brown tiger stripe with green eyes, I’m more a steel magnolia than a southern belle.

My BFF is black and tan German pinscher with some hound dog on the side. Yes, a canine is my best friend, and she’s named Amber for her amber eyes. We were the runts of our respective litters, born under neighboring houses in a place called north Louisiana. We found each other as youngsters, bonded, and took off to have adventures together.

After leaving home, we first found Doris Roche, an elderly lady who was ill and infirm. We sensed she needed us, so Amber and I helped and comforted her in her last months of life. We met Doris’s neighbor, Ruth, and sometimes romped with the young human men who helped around Doris’s property. Just to burn off some kitten and puppy energy, you understand. When Doris passed on peacefully, I stood guard while Amber ran to get Ruth. Within hours, we knew it was time for us to move along.

Running through piney woods, answering only to ourselves, was great for a few weeks. We foraged in small towns, occasionally accepting food from people who smelled kind and harmless when we sniffed them. We avoided being caught as strays, but never found a place we wanted to settle until we scampered into Lillyvale and scented our new human, Nixy.

Nixy’s man friend, Eric Shoar, was the first to spot us in an alley. We charmed him right away, but Nixy was a tougher sell. She’d never had pets, and was wary of adopting us, so we stayed on our best behavior to break her in slowly. Now we live with her above a store that smells of wood, plants, metal, and oil. Oh, and food! The food comes from Nixy’s family—the Silver Six—who work at the store, and live in a farmhouse with lots of room for us to run and play when we visit. We go to the park, too—technically a dog park, but Eric arranged for me to play there with Amber.

Amber and I hope to live with Nixy—and perhaps Eric, too—for a very long time. That is, if Nixy can stop finding bodies. We don’t care for the empty scent of death.

On a happier note, being a well-mannered southern lady, I’ve brought a gift for my host and hostess to giveaway! Read on for more information. Meantime, y’all come visit me, Amber, Nixy, and the Silver Six any time!



Nancy will give away a signed copy of Paint the Town Dead to two lucky readers. Please leave a comment or question for T.C., for Amber, or for Nancy, and please be sure to leave an e-mail address so we can notify you!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

ROCCO interviews Katherine Bolger Hyde!

Meow, today my guest is author Katherine Bolger Hyde!

Katherine Bolger Hyde is the author of the Crime with the Classics traditional mystery series as well as several books for children. She lives in the redwood country of California with her husband, youngest child, and two obstreperous cats. When not reading, writing, or working at her editorial day job, she can usually be found knitting while watching British mystery shows


  • Welcome Katherine! Tell us a little about your background.
Thanks ROCCO! I taught myself to read at age four and decided at age eleven I wanted to be a novelist. My degree is in Russian literature. I’m the daughter of an editor and have worked as an editor my whole career. So it’s fair to say books are my life.
  • Tell us a bit about your Crimes with the Classics mysteries. Where did that idea come from?
I love classic literature and the mysteries of the British Golden Age. So when I decided to write a mystery series, incorporating the classics into the traditional mystery format seemed like the logical choice.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I don’t do a lot of detailed character analysis before I start writing. I establish the character’s role in the story and a few basic facts, then I allow the character to reveal him- or herself as I write. My characters often surprise me once I get going and they take on a life of their own.
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I’m halfway between a plotter and a pantser. I sketch out about a one-page synopsis and make virtual notecards in Scrivener for a bunch of scenes I know I’ll need. Then I start writing and let the story evolve. Inevitably new characters and elements come up in the process of writing, though the basic story trajectory usually stays pretty much the same.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Characters always come first for me. The plot evolves from their desires and motivations. When I’m reading, the best plot in the world won’t hold my attention if the characters have not engaged me first.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The biggest challenge was to persevere through all the years before I got my first contract. At this point, I’m motivated by all the stories I want to tell. Also, my computer wallpaper is the Squirrel of Judgment who wants to know why I’m not writing.
  • Do you have a “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
When the manuscript of Arsenic with Austen was about half finished, I won a scholarship to a mystery writing conference that included the opportunity to meet with an agent. The agent I met with, Kimberley Cameron, loved my series concept and my writing, and she asked to see the book when it was finished. I sent it to her, and she read it over a long weekend and offered me representation. Then she sold the book to the first editor she sent it to.
But lest it sound like this was all too easy, let me hasten to add that I had been writing and getting rejected for twelve years by that point. I call it my “twelve-year overnight success story.”
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m working on the fourth volume of Crime with the Classics, called Drowning with Dickens. I also have ideas for a different series and a couple of standalones. Where I go next depends on how long Minotaur wants to continue this series.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Never give up. And always have the humility to accept criticism and good advice. As an editor who has read manuscripts from hundreds of aspiring authors, I can say definitely that humility is the one quality that separates the potentially successful writer from the mere dabbler.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Whatever it was, it was a long time ago, and I’ve blocked it from my memory.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
In my thirties, I led a dance troupe that did Renaissance court dances in authentic costumes we made ourselves.
  • If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do?
I’ve always had a latent desire to be an architect. But at this point, I’m a little old to embark on something that takes that much training. So I’ll stick to designing fictional houses like Windy Corner in Arsenic with Austen.
  • What would you love to have a never ending supply of?
Good dark chocolate, good coffee, and great books. And yarn. Lots of yarn.
  • What’s the last tv show that made you laugh?
Father Brown. Although the show has almost nothing to do with G. K. Chesterton’s classic stories, it’s charming in its own right and often quite funny.
  • What store could you browse in for hours?
Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. They even have a cafĂ© where they let you bring unpurchased books in, so there’s no reason to leave before closing time.

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat, of course. In fact, Rocco, you would be perfect to play Bustopher Jones, the cat Emily inherits along with her aunt’s mansion in Arsenic with Austen.
Beach or Pool?   Beach, but I don’t sunbathe and don’t go in the water. I just like to stroll by the waves.
Steak or salad?  Yes.
Favorite Drink?  Dark chocolate mocha.
Favorite Book?  Persuasion
Favorite TV Series?  Inspector Lewis
Favorite Movie?  A&E’s Pride and Prejudice
Favorite Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch
Favorite Actress: Emma Thompson
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Margarita
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Jane Austen.
If I had just one wish, it would be to have the money, time, and health to make a literary pilgrimage to the UK and Ireland.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Louise Penny. I want to be her when I grow up.




 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ROCCO welcomes Sharon Farrow!

MEOW, MY GUEST TODAY IS AUTHOR SHARON FARROW!



Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award winning author Sharon Pisacreta. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Sharon has been a freelance writer since her twenties, with her first novel released in 1998. Published in mystery, fantasy, and romance, Sharon currently writes the Berry Basket cozy mystery series. The first book in the series, Dying for Strawberries, was published in 2016. Blackberry Burial will be released Oct. 31, 2017. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins historical mysteries.

In addition to writing, Sharon has had a number of job titles, including college history instructor, photographic classifier for the Frick Art Reference Library, archaeologist, art gallery assistant, and owner of an office services company. Although she’s lived in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, she’s quite happy to be back in her home state, specifically the beautiful coastline of Lake Michigan.


Welcome Sharon!Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO! I was the kid who read under the covers with a flashlight. The pediatrician told my parents I spent too much time reading indoors and needed to get out in the fresh air more. So I brought my books outside. I began submitting to magazines as a teenager, scoring my first sale a decade later. Because writing rarely pays all the bills, I’ve always had a day job; my favorites were those spent working in museums and universities. Initially, I wrote short stories and articles, although I also had a one-act play produced off-Broadway. Not until the 1990s did I begin writing novels, and was thrilled when my first novel was released in 1998.
I probably put off writing novels for so long because of my first attempt. In 9th grade, I decided to write a thriller called The Bloody Kitchen, which contained a lurid scene where the heroine enters the kitchen and finds it literally dripping with blood. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to end the story and bailed on it midway through. I still regret not keeping the spiral notebook I wrote the unfinished manuscript in. I have no idea why a blood soaked kitchen was so integral to my story, but I’d love to re-read the tale of mayhem and murder my 14-year-old self was intent on telling.

Tell us a bit about your Berry Basket mysteries. Where did that idea come from?
In 2008 I moved to a scenic village along the shores of Lake Michigan. The beauty of the locale, along with its unique shops and galleries, made it the perfect setting for a cozy. A shop devoted to all things berry was a natural choice since this region not only boasts beautiful beaches and sand dunes, it’s a fruit belt filled with orchards. I also took inspiration from The Blueberry Store in neighboring South Haven. Btw, when I moved to the village, I worked part time in several shops and galleries. Perfect experience for writing about a store owner in a resort beach town.

Tell us about your “Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins” mystery series.
The series is based on the characters from George Bernard Shaw’s famous play Pygmalion and the musical it inspired, My Fair Lady. Several years ago, friend and fellow author Meg Mims drove across the state to visit me while listening to the soundtrack of My Fair Lady. As soon as she arrived, she proposed we team up to write a series featuring Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins as amateur sleuths. The idea was too delightful to resist, but we did have to learn how to collaborate, something neither of us had done before. The series is currently up for its second Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery, so I think we made the right decision.

How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
My characters reveal themselves to me in their own time, usually through dialogue. They tell me things only my writing subconscious knows. And I must “see” what a character looks like before I begin to write about them. A character isn’t ready to be put on the page if I can’t imagine them standing in front of me. I also need to choose the right name. I once found myself unable to get past the first chapter until I realized the heroine had the wrong name. After the perfect name for her popped into my head, the book flowed beautifully. In fact, it ended up being the easiest novel I’ve ever written.

How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I was a pantser for many years. Now I write lengthy outlines. In the D.E. Ireland series I co-write, a long, detailed outline is mandatory in order to prevent us from going off in different directions. As for the series I write on my own, my editor at Kensington prefers a detailed outline for each book. My outlines average about 30 pages, which is probably longer than he anticipated. However, those outlines help keep me on schedule, especially since I write two series concurrently.

Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character. One of my favorite quotes is “Character is destiny”. If you create a fascinating character, an intriguing plot is sure to follow.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I find it difficult to write if things are extremely stressful in my personal life. When my father became ill, I stopped writing novels for several years because his health issues were so overwhelming. Some authors escape into their writing when they go through painful personal issues. I’m not one of them. I require a measure of peace and stability to do really good work. As for what keeps me motivated, being a writer has been my dream since I was nine years old and announced my decision to my mother. The pleasure and satisfaction of telling stories outweighs all the speed bumps that are part a writing career.

Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I acquired my most recent agent when Meg and I were almost done writing our first Eliza Doolittle/Henry Higgins mystery. Fellow mystery author Barbara Ross was kind enough to recommend us to her agent. We emailed him a brief proposal and he accepted us as clients that same day. Two weeks later, he sold the series to St. Martin’s Press. Thank you, Barb. And thank you, John.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m writing Killed on Blueberry Hill, the third book in my Berry Basket cozy series for Kensington. In addition, Meg and I are working on the fourth book in our Eliza Doolittle/Henry Higgins series. With two deadlines looming ahead before autumn, I don’t have time for much else at the moment.

Plotter or Pantser?
Plotter. Years ago, I wrote romantic suspense and prided myself on being a pantser. That changed when I got to the climax of one of my manuscripts and realized I had no idea how to save my heroine from being murdered. I’d written myself into a corner where I’d end up with a dead heroine. I had to go all the way back to the beginning of the manuscript and try to figure it out. Ever since, I’ve been a plotter.

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Never give up. I’ve known a lot of talented people who walked away from writing due to the frustrations and obstacles all authors deal with. You never know if the next manuscript is the one which will snag your first publishing contract or jumpstart your career. Hold on.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Years ago I worked for a nonprofit which gave drug prevention workshops for children. The workshops utilized both animal puppets and people who wore big furry costumes representing these puppets. On occasion, I was drafted to dress as a giant cat or dog and dance to one of the workshop songs before an audience. I once performed at a shopping mall at the same time several Detroit Tigers made an autographing appearance. I’m sure Tiger pitcher Dave Rozema is still puzzled about giving an autograph to a person wearing a yellow furry suit and a giant cat head.

What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I trained as an archaeologist and worked on a number of archaeological digs, including a Roman site in Britain, a Civil War fort, Native American settlements, and Ellis Island.

If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do?
Principal dancer with American Ballet Theater. But I’d need to be much younger. And thinner. And possess dancing skills.

What would you love to have a never ending supply of? 
Friends who make me laugh. And Harry & David dark chocolate truffles.

What’s the last tv show that made you laugh?
Difficult People.

What store could you browse in for hours?
Barnes and Noble.

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Night.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  I plead the fifth. That’s like asking if I have a favorite child.
Beach or Pool?   Pool for swimming. Beach for walking, reading, relaxing.
Steak or salad?  Salad, especially if sprinkled with feta cheese.
Favorite Drink?  A Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino. With whip, of course.
Favorite Book?  Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.
Favorite TV Series?  Survivor.
Favorite Movie?  The Godfather
Favorite Actor: Tom Hanks
Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Can I choose Maine instead?
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be: Anne Boleyn. I love all things Tudor, and she is the most intriguing person from that period.
If I had just one wish, it would be: World peace. Yes, I’m stealing the punch line from Miss Congeniality, but things are so crazy right now, nothing is more urgent.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: I can’t think of anyone I’d currently switch places with. Back in the 1970s, I would have traded lives with the young Canadian ballerina Karen Kain, who often danced with my idol Rudolf Nureyev.
Thanks Sharon! You can find her at:

Giveaway time!

Sharon will give away a signed copy of Dying for Strawberries, the first book in the Berry Basket Mysteries.
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, June 10!



Friday, June 2, 2017

A Message from ROCCO

Merow!  ROCCO here!

I just wanted to take time out of my busy day (napping, eating, torturing my brother, more eating and napping) to thank everyone for the purrday wishes!  I can't believe that I am 9 years old already!  It seems like only yesterday the Human brought me home here!

Our little family has suffered losses the past few years: sister Trixie in 2015 and Gata in 2016 (Oddly they both died on April 10, one year apart).    But brother Maxx and I have no intention of going anywhere anytime soon, so we will be around to torture the human for hopefully many years to come!

I would also like to take this opportunity and thank each and every one of you who follow our blog and participate in our giveaways.  More than ever, it's important to let authors (and publishing houses) know how you feel!  the Human is still awaiting to learn the fate of our Nick and Nora mysteries, but rest assured there will be another Cat Rescue coming out in 2018.  Hopefully Crooked Lane will continue that series, and who knows? Maybe another new one is in our future.....

We couldn't do what we do - write - without readers.  The Human and I love each and every single one of you!

Oh, well, enough of that!  Onto to business.....coming up
on Sunday...author Sharon Farrow!!!!!!!!


ROCCO