Sunday, January 21, 2018

ROCCO welcomes Laura Benedict!

Meow, my guest this week is author Laura Benedict!


Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of seven novels of suspense, including the forthcoming The Stranger Inside (February 2019). On the lighter side of mystery, Laura wrote Small Town Trouble, a cozy crime novel, for the Familiar Legacy series (January 2018). Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes: The Abandoned HeartCharlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review)and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-ReadsThe Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family. Visit her at www.laurabenedict.com to read her blog and sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

Welcome Laura and Hi! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
First, I’d like to say I’m delighted to be here. I love to connect with readers and make new friends. Thanks for having me!
I’ve been writing for approximately 800 years. Okay, maybe not quite 800, but several decades. Writing is the thing I do to keep myself sane and happy, and I’m never more content than when I’m deep into a writing project.
I’ve lived my entire life in a strangely narrow band of the Upper South and Midwest: Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, and now Southern Illinois. (Wait—there were two very cold years in Michigan!) That’s given me an unusual perspective on life and loyalties. And I’ve always lived within a very few miles of a river.
I’m a sucker for kittens, big dogs, muscle cars, country boys, dark chocolate, sushi, and my kids.

Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?
The most important thing I can say is thank you. Without readers, my work would be devoid of a critical element: readers’ imaginations. Every book is different for every reader because each reader brings their own perspective and energy to it.
Check out samples of my work via my Amazon Author Page or at my website before you borrow or buy. I write in several different genres—something for everyone--and I want every reader to be a happy reader.

Please tell us about your newest release   
I had more fun writing SMALL TOWN TROUBLE than any other novel I’ve written. As a cozy, it was a new direction for me, and I found that my light side is just as happy writing as my dark side.
SMALL TOWN TROUBLE is the fifth book in the FAMILIAR LEGACY SERIES. The series features Trouble, a very clever black cat who is excellent at solving mysteries.
 In SMALL TOWN TROUBLE, Erin Walsh arrives home to tiny New Belford, Kentucky from college only to clash with her young stepmother, Shelby Rae. When Shelby Rae is kidnapped and a dear friend of the family is murdered, Erin discovers that both victims had secrets connected to the violent death of her mother seven years earlier. In a small town the pool of suspects is limited, but it also means the danger to Erin’s own life is deathly close. Noah Daly, an old high school friend, is the son of the man everyone blames for the violent death of Erin’s mother. But he’s also the one person Erin feels she can trust to help her find Shelby Rae’s kidnapper and her friend’s murderer. Or is her sudden attraction to him blinding her to his true nature? Enter Trouble, the wise and wily black cat detective. His paws have barely landed in the bluegrass when he realizes Erin is about to put herself in danger. Can he lead Erin to the truth before she becomes a victim herself?

Do you think you may ever go into another genre?  If so, which one?
I’ve never felt like I had to remain in one genre. Twenty years ago I was writing literary short fiction and had several stories published. But it wasn’t until I had my first crime story published at Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine that I realized how much I loved writing crime and mysteries. My first published novel, ISABELLA MOON, was a mystery, but also had supernatural elements. With the Bliss House series, I explored the gothic. And with SMALL TOWN TROUBLE I’ve tried a cozy—something I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe science fiction next? Who knows!

What book are you reading today?
I’m listening to Cal Newport’s DEEP WORK, which I highly recommend for anyone struggling with prioritizing their need to take their life and work more seriously. Also Amy Tan’s THE JOY LUCK CLUB.

I’m inviting your main character to dinner. What should I make?
Since my main character for SMALL TOWN TROUBLE is a cat, I would recommend a fish or shrimp dish with a light cream sauce and a side of asparagus. He’s quite the gourmand. Every cat I’ve ever had has been mad for asparagus and fish.

Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us?
Come February 3rd, I’ll be at Murder in the Magic City Conference in Birmingham, Alabama with all the Familiar Legacy Trouble authors. On the 4th,  we’ll be in nearby Wetumpka, Alabama for Murder on the Menu.

What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m often reading, but more often being the chief operating officer of our home operation, which includes one teenager (plus one daughter out of the house), a husband, four furbabies, and twelve acres of woods, pond, and meadows. I embroider—needlepoint and crewel—as often as I can, and practice playing the piano (Chopin is my favorite).

Would you ever write a screenplay?
I have actually written a screenplay! It was produced by and shown on West Virginia Public Television. I was so touched and amused by my writer husband’s (Pinckney Benedict) short story, Getting Over Arnette, that I immediately volunteered to write it when the producers approached him. It was great fun, but now I leave screenplays to the real professionals. Novels are my favorite.

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Read everything you possibly can. Books, both fiction and non-fiction, including some classics, cereal boxes, poetry, biographies and memoirs. Watch smart contemporary films and television. We’re in an era of great televised storytelling. You should spend three hours reading for every hour you write for several years. You can’t write if you’re well isn’t filled with good prose and compelling stories written by the great and not-so great. Definitely read and watch things out of your chosen genre, or your work will be too derivative. Most of all, enjoy it. Writing is a privilege.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?
My website, laurabenedict.com, is the best place to find me. I blog there, keep a schedule of events, and you can read all about and purchase my books.
(If you’re in a hurry, grab SMALL TOWN TROUBLE here or at most online booksellers!)
I’m also on Instagram at @laura_benedict, Facebook at AuthorLauraBenedict, and Twitter at @laurabenedict.
When you sign up for my quarterly-ish newsletter at my website, I’ll send you a link for a free ebook. Do come by!

P.S. Some quick answers!
1.    Pepsi or Coke?  Coke (not diet)
2.    Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark
3.    Cats or dogs? Both
4.    Do you read more than you write? Equal
5.    Favorite movie? Anything with Doris Day or Idris Elba
6.    Favorite book to movie? Pride and Prejudice
Favorite book or author? Yeah we know it can be hard to choose! Margaret Atwood

Giveaway time!  Laura will give away a copy of SMALL TOWN TROUBLE to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave your name and email address in our comments section. One winner will be selected at random using random.org. Contest closes midnight, January 28!



Saturday, January 13, 2018

ROCCO welcomes author Tracy Weber and MOUSE!

Meow! My guests  today are Tracy Weber, author of the Downward Dog mystery series, and Mouse, the calico kitten from that series!




TW:Thanks so much for chatting with Mouse and me today, ROCCO.

R: You’re welcome, Tracy.  I’ll start with Mouse!  Welcome Mouse!  Describe a typical day in your life.

M: Thanks ROCCO! I’m a semi-feral calico kitten who lives at CB Cuts, a hair salon owned by the person who adopted me, Crystal. I don’t really trust people yet, so I spend a lot of my day hiding under the shampoo bowl or inside the hole I discovered in the wall behind it. I don’t like people, but I love the hair salon. It’s warm, and I never go hungry anymore. I like watching Crystal cut people’s hair, so in between knocking over all of her shampoo bottles and digging up her plants, that’s how I spend my spare time.

Describe your relationship with Crystal and Kate.

Crystal seems to think she owns me, which is funny. No one ever owns a cat, after all. The cat owns them. If Crystal moves really slowly, sometimes I allow her to point her finger at my nose, and I’ll sniff it to make her feel good. I don’t know Kate very well. She came into the hair salon to get a haircut. As far as humans go, she seems pretty nice, but she tried to touch me so I had to hiss-spit at her couple of times to remind her that I’m in charge.

Has being a polydactyl affected your life in any way?

Other than having really big feet? I don’t know what it would be like to not have big feet. They do allow me to grip things more easily, so I suppose that’s pretty cool. For the most part, I’m just like any other cat: smart, lithe, athletic, and independent. What’s not to like about that?

How do you get along with Kate’s dog?

Bella is huge! The first time I met her, she scared me a little. Kate and Crystal seem to think that Bella wants to eat me, but they’re wrong. Bella has a really big crush on me. Someday, I might even let her give me kisses.

If you could have one wish, what would it be?

I wish that Bella and I would get to know each other better. I’m pretty sure I would be the boss of her. How cool would it be for a little kitten like me to have 100-pound German shepherd slave?

Do you have any opinions to share on Kate’s recent foray into detecting?

Since Kate started coming around, everybody seems a little more on edge, and that makes a cat like me nervous. I didn’t know Gabriella, the woman who was killed, very well, but she seemed nice enough. I hope Kate finds out who killed her.

If you were able to speak, what advice would you give Kate?

Unless you want to go around wearing a mullet, don’t make my owner, Crystal, mad when she’s cutting your hair. I’m sure it’ll grow back someday, but seriously?

Thanks Mouse! And now, the talented Tracy Weber!

Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series.  The first book in the series, Murder Strikes a Pose, won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel.
Tracy and her husband Marc live in Seattle with their crazy new German shepherd pup, Ana. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 

   Welcome Tracy. Tell us a bit about Pre-Meditated Murder What was the inspiration behind this story?

I always wanted to set a story in Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. I also wondered how Kate and Michael would handle a major conflict in their relationship. Kate has always hidden things from Michael, and he’s been the good guy in their relationship. Many of my readers think he should have dumped her eons ago.

I started to wonder: What if Michael wasn’t the perfect boyfriend we always thought he was? How would Kate react if Michael betrayed her, now that she finally trusts him? The scene at the Space Needle Restaurant popped into my head, and the story unveiled itself from there.

Is there an author or book that influenced you or your writing in any way growing up or as an adult?
Susan Conant’s Dog Lover’s Mystery Series inspired me to be a writer. I love how she understands us crazy dog people. I hope to meet her in person someday.

How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I take a combination approach. I have ideas that I jot down and scenes that pop into my head. I start with that as a hazy framework and begin writing. Characters and motivations appear as the pages fill. Unfortunately, they don’t always agree with each other. After I finish the first draft, I outline what I’ve created and look for plot holes, inconsistencies, and questions. I work from that outline to fix any issues I find.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I find writing first drafts to be brutally hard. Something about looking at a blank page and knowing I need to fill it and approximately 280 more just like it makes my stomach churn. I still don’t know how I force myself through it, but some days it feels about as pleasant as getting a root canal.
My readers keep me motivated. I love meeting them in person, chatting with them on Facebook, and reading the reviews that they write. If it weren’t for the connection I feel with my readers, I could never keep going.

Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I met my agent’s boss at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference while I was still in the middle of writing my first book. She asked me to submit the manuscript when it was finished, and I did. A few weeks later, I signed with her agency.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Right now I’m working on the sixth Downward Dog Mystery, tentatively titled Murder Likes It Hot. I hope that my publisher will sign on for a seventh, but if they don’t, then I’ll have to decide whether I continue the series on my own or start a new one. I have a couple of other series in mind, but I can never find time to write them.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I didn’t think it was crazy, but certainly everyone else thought I was nuts when I quit my upper management job at Microsoft to start a yoga studio. That was seventeen years ago, and I still don’t regret it.

What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That’s an interesting question. I’m sort of an open book, so I’m not sure there are too many surprises. Perhaps that I started my work life as a chemical engineer. I’m a techie at heart.

What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Well, I always like to talk about my dog, so I guess it would be, “How is Ana?” Answer: As mischievous as ever. I adore her.

 Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Check out my author website http://tracyweberauthor.com/, friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tracywe or subscribe to my blog at http://www.wholelifeyoga.com/blog/. So many ways to find me, so little time.  ;-)
I hope to hear from some of your readers!

thanks Tracy and Mouse!!!!!

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!!
Tracy  (and Mouse!) will give a way an “Authors and their Dogs” zippered pouch 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)
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* 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, Jan. 21!



Friday, January 5, 2018

ROCCO's January Cozy Roundup!

Meow, here are the Penguin cozies for January!

DEATH BELOW STAIRS
JENNIFER ASHLEY
JANUARY 2, 2018

FOUR PAWS

Highly sought after cook Kat Holloway takes a position at a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of the hunky Lord Rankin.  She's fine with all the odd residents of the manse as long as they keep out of her kitchen but guess what!  Her young assistant is found murdered below the stairs.  Afraid for her life, Kat turns to the mysterious Daniel McAdam for help. McAdam takes a post as footman in the house so he can investigate, but Kat decides to whip up a suspect list of her own.  And as they begin to uncover secrets, Kat also begins to discover secrets of the man she's falling in love with - Lord Rankin.

I'm not much on historicals but this is a neatly crafted little mystery.  Ashley weaves in plenty of authentic historical details so as to make the reader think they are actually back in that century! Definitely worth a look! Four paws!

DIAL M FOR MOUSSE
LAURA BRADFORD
JANUARY 2, 2018

The Emergency Dessert Squad is back!  Winnie Johnson receives a request from Sally Dearfield to make motivational treats for an artist retreat.  She pulls out all the stops, but it isn't long before she and her friend run across Dearfield's dead body.  It doesn't take long for Winnie to realize there could be a killer amongst the artists at the retreat, and she sets out to find him!

Another solid entry in this series.  the descriptions of the desserts are mouth watering, as is the mystery itself.  A definite four paws.

TWELVE ANGRY LIBRARIANS
MIRANDA JAMES
JANUARY 2, 2018

Charlie Harris and his cat Diesel are back in another adventure.  This time The Southern Academic Libraries Association is holding their annual meeting at Athena College and Charlie is tasked with delivering the opening speech.  To top things off, Charlie's old nemesis from library school is delivering the keynote address.  When the nemesis is found dead, Charlie jumps to the top of the suspect list, having had an argument with the man the day before.  Charlie and Diesel must catch the real killer before Charlie has to put on prison stripes!

What can you say about the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries? That they are entertaining, well crafted mysteries with engaging characters - even the villians- and this one is no exception.  I always enjoy watching Charlie put the pieces of the puzzle together with Diesel by his side for moral support.  Here's wishing this series a good, long life!  Four Stars.


WIN ROCCO'S REVIEW COPY OF DIAL M FOR MOUSSE!

Leave your name and email address in our comments section.  The winner will be chosen by random.org.  For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:

* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
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  Contest ends midnight, January 12th!