Monday, May 21, 2018

ROCCO welcomes Mariah Fredericks



Meow! Today my guest is historical mystery author Mariah Fredericks!
Mariah Fredericks was born and raised in New York City, where she still lives today with her family. She is a graduate of Vassar College with a BA in history. She has written several novels for young adults; her novel Crunch Time was nominated for an Edgar in 2007. A Death of No Importance is her first mystery for adults. 

Hi and welcome Mariah! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks ROCCO!  I was born in New York City on a date too far in the distant past to be mentioned and have lived here all my life. My parents met working for the New York Times, where my mother was a fact checker and my father was a photo editor. I graduated from Vassar College with a degree in history. I also studied Russia and can still pick out words on the subway. For better and worse, I’ve always made a living working with books. I worked in a bookstore right out of college, then as a copywriter for Book-of-the-Month Club. For many wonderful years, I wrote young adult novels, before switching to historical mysteries, which I will hopefully get to write for many years to come.

Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?
First of all, thank you. One of the things I love about writing mysteries is you cannot forget the reader. Every piece of information you put on the page, you have to ask yourself how an intelligent person would interpret it. It’s a unique way to engage with readers. And I hope the book is a pleasure to read. Fun. I wrote the kind of book I enjoy reading, and I hope others do, too.

Please tell us about your newest release   
A Death of No Importance first came to me several years ago with the line, “I will tell it.” I felt this was a woman, not wealthy or famous, who had a truth she needed to tell after having kept it a secret for many years. The story is about a murder that happened in New York in 1910. The world thinks it knows who committed the murder, but they’re wrong. And so it’s up to this young woman who was a lady’s maid for one of the wealthy families involved to set the record straight.

 Please tell us about your main character
Jane Prescott is a lady’s maid in early 20s. She was brought to America from Scotland at the age of three. Her mother died on the journey over and her father left her on the docks with her uncle’s addressed pinned to her coat. Her uncle is a minister who runs a refuge for women who worked the streets, where they can be safe and train for other professions. She has one good friend, Anna Ardito, who is a labor organizer.

Jane is very intelligent, if irregularly educated, with the strong impulse to be kind and fight for the underdog. Doing things correctly is important to her, but she’s willing to bend rules if someone’s safety or happiness is at stake. She’s very loyal, possibly at this stage a little naïve. But she knows her own mind and is quite clear eyed. I love her.

Who is your favorite minor character and why?
The Benchleys—the family Jane works for—originally had a baby, who was a great source of comedy. He was into everything, greedy, messy, yet lovable, and he seemed to embody America in the Gilded Age. I had to cut him out because he didn’t really move the story along, no matter how entertaining he was.
Another small character I love is a woman Jane talks to while investigating the murder. She works at Wanamaker’s department store and she’s fallen on hard times. She’s harshly judgmental of women who have not faced their troubles as squarely as she has. But her innate kindness does show through.

Your character has the music blasting. What’s playing, and what is he/she doing while listening?
Caruso. If she could afford it, Jane would be a serious Caruso groupie. She also loves to dance, so ragtime would be on her playlist, if she had one. Songs like ‘That Scandalous Rag,’ ‘Everybody’s Doing It,” and ‘The Syncopated Boogie Boo.’


Please share a few favorite lines or one paragraph.
I really enjoy Jane’s back-and-forth with Michael Behan, the tabloid reporter who’s writing about the case not so much with an eye for the truth, but an eye for scandal. But I’ve always enjoyed this paragraph for what it reveals—and does not reveal—about the murder.
Now I must give my account of the events of Christmas Eve 1910. I am not the first person involved with the case to do so. Thomas J. Blackburn, the inspector in charge of the investigation, has written his memoir. The sister of the person convicted of the crime told her story. I believe one of the Newsomes’ footmen, a Daniel O’Reilly, makes a living taking groups by the house and regaling them with the “dark and bloody doings” of that night. I suspect he sensationalizes. For one thing, he claims it was he who found the body. Since I am the one who found it, I know that is not true

How long did it take you to write this book?
10 years. I was writing young adult novels for a long time, but this book would not go away. Only took me a year and a half to write the second one, though.

Of all the books out there, why should readers choose this one? (What makes your book stand out from the rest?)
Fair question. There’s a lot of well-written historical mystery out. But I think voice and point of view distinguish A Death of No Importance. It’s told first person by Jane herself, and I think she’s very good company. I also wanted to go beyond the fashion and grand house aspect of the time and really look at where America was as a country in the late Gilded Age. It was a time of vast inequality, dynamic change, high immigration, and societal conflict. How would that play out in the lives of ordinary people? There are a lot of parallels to our time and I think that makes it an intriguing read. Also, I have a lot planned for Jane and the chaotic Benchley family, so start following them now!

Is there an underlying theme in your book? If so, tell us about it and why/if it’s important to you.
Like a lot of people, I follow true crime. Whether it’s Leopold and Loeb or the O.J. trial, I’m fascinated by the narratives we construct around big public cases. And one thing I’ve noticed is we can, as a society, find reasons to be indifferent to the victim. We don’t necessarily dispute that the accused is guilty, but we decide other things matter more. Sometimes, it’s the character of the victim. That was the case in Jennifer Levin’s murder, the so-called Preppy Murder. America had two very different narratives for the O.J. trial. I would argue that we’ve been largely indifferent to gun violence, whether those affected are the children of Sandy Hook or Trayvon Martin. We care enough to post on social media, but not enough to change. Certain deaths are simply not that important to us, especially if the victim is poor or “other.” A Death of No Importance looks at how we decide who is a true “victim.”

Where can we purchase this book?
Any major bookseller or independent. If you can support a bricks and mortar store with your purchase, that would be wonderful.

Where do you see yourself at in five years—writing wise?
My fingers and toes are crossed that I’m still with Jane and the Benchleys. If I can’t do that, I’d love to explore other stories of Gilded Age New York or perhaps try a contemporary adult mystery.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Just go to mariahfredericksbooks.com. If the information there doesn’t tell you what you want to know, feel free to drop me a line!

Random Quickies!

Favorite kind of chocolate? Cadbury Fruit and Nut or a really good cake.
Cats or dogs? Dogs all the way. Basset hounds especially
Do you read more than you write? I write and read every day. Possibly, I write more hours than I read.
Favorite movie? Ugh, so hard. I do love historicals. I’ve watched Nicholas and Alexandra and The King’s Speech more times than I can count.
Favorite book to movie? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
How many paperback/hardcover books do you own? Thousands.
If you could live anywhere in the world it would be: New York. If I can cheat, I’d also like a flat in London. And the ability to teleport because I don’t like flying. That’s all possible, right?


Thanks for a great interview, Mariah!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

ROCCO welcomes author Peggy Ehrhart to the blog!


Merow! My guest today is author Peggy Ehrhart!



Peggy Ehrhart is a former English professor with a doctorate in Medieval Literature, currently writing the Knit & Nibble mystery series for Kensington. Set in fictional Arborville, New Jersey, the series features amateur sleuth Pamela Paterson, founder of the town’s knitting club. Murder, She Knit appeared in late March; Died in the Wool is due in August 2018 and Knit One, Kill Two in May 2019. Peggy is an avid crafter, dating from her childhood as a member of the 4-H Club in rural Southern California.    

Hello Peggy!  Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thanks Rocco!  I started reading mysteries when I was in graduate school studying medieval literature. After a long day in the library poring over Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon, the classic mysteries created by writers like Dorothy Sayers and Amanda Cross were a great diversion. I stayed up way past bedtime many nights because I just had to find out who did it.
I write the kinds of books I like to read, and when I meet readers who enjoy my work I know I’m meeting kindred spirits.

Tell  us about your new release:
Murder, She Knit is the first in a new series from Kensington—the Knit & Nibble mysteries. It’s a craft cozy featuring female amateur sleuth Pamela Paterson, her best friend Bettina Fraser, and the members of the Knit and Nibble knitting club. In Murder, She Knit Pamela has invited an old friend to join Knit and Nibble but the woman doesn’t show up—until Pamela finds her under the hedge in her front yard, killed by a knitting needle stuck through the front of her handknit sweater.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

I’m a long-time knitter, dating from high school, when my mother taught me. I’d recently taken it up again when I was invited by an agent to put together a proposal for a mystery series focused on a knitting club. Right away I realized that devising plots that used knitting to create clues and red herrings would be huge fun. Handknit argyle socks, for example, figure in Murder, She Knit because I remember my mother managing all those bobbins as she knit a pair for my father.

The Martha Stewart gene is very strong in my family—my mom has even done her own upholstering, and we all love to cook. So I knew I had to bring food into the series as well.

  Tell us about your main character.

Pamela is a young widow who has just sent her only daughter off to college when the series starts. She lives in the charming town of Arborville NJ and works, mostly at home, as associate editor of a magazine called Fiber Craft. I wanted her to be at home a lot and have a job with a flexible schedule so she’d have time for her sleuthing and because I wanted to bring out the small-town atmosphere of Arborville as Pamela takes her daily walks and does her errands on foot. And I made her a young widow so I could bring in a romance element. In Murder, She Knit, she gradually becomes acquainted with the interesting unattached man who has bought the house next to hers—though her first impressions of him aren’t good! He’ll become more and more important as the series goes on.


What is your favorite personality trait of your main character?

Pamela is very logical—a good trait for a sleuth. In her mind, she compares working out the puzzle of a who committed a murder and why to mastering a complicated knitting pattern and seeing a garment gradually take shape.


One of your characters is going on a shopping spree. Where does he/she go and what does he/she buy?

Pamela is totally uninterested in clothes, much to the disappointment of her best friend—and fellow sleuth—Bettina. Bettina isn’t tall and slim like Pamela, but she has an extensive wardrobe and loves to get dressed up every day, even if all that’s on her agenda is covering an event at the senior center for Arborville’s weekly newspaper, the Arborville Advocate. A shopping spree for Bettina would be a visit to the mall, with stops at Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Saks, and Lord and Taylor. This time of year, she’d be shopping for summer—a few of her favorite floaty sundresses in bright prints, and high-heeled sandals in coordinating colors like turquoise and hot pink. She’d try to talk Pamela into joining her but Pamela would prefer to stay at home in Arborville, perhaps baking a pie or cobbler for an upcoming meeting of Knit and Nibble.

I’m inviting your main character to dinner. What should I make?

Please don’t intimidated, but Pamela loves to cook too. As a good cook, however, she appreciates good food. She always likes to try new things, so if you’ve got a special recipe you’d like to experiment with, she’d be happy to be your guinea pig.

Were you surprised by the behavior of any of your characters or the direction of your plot at any point while writing?

When I invented Harold Bascomb, a vigorous retired doctor in his 80s, I did so because I wanted to give Nell, one of the knitting club stalwarts, a nice husband. I knew that Nell and Harold had been very adventurous in their youth and were devoted volunteers committed to helping others, but as the series went on (I’ve already written and submitted two more Knit & Nibbles though the first has just come out), Harold became quite an entertaining character, sneaking behind Nell’s back to help Pamela and Bettina with their sleuthing. The relationship between Nell and Harold has become much more real with Harold as the charmer who Nell adores—and who adores Nell—despite his tendency to laugh off her disapproval of amateurs trying to solve murders.

How long did it take you to write this book?

Six months.  I had a deadline.


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to play the lead characters?

I only have one idea: My husband suggested that Allison Janney would make a good Pamela. I was delighted when he said that because it suggested that the essence of her character came through when he read Murder, She Knit. Like the character Allison Janney played in The West Wing, Pamela is a smart, hardworking person who tries to do what’s right. She’s tall and slim and attractive without really being aware of it.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I myself am kind of a Pamela Paterson. I take long walks around my little town, I plan and cook meals for myself and my husband, I haunt thrift stores and estate sales, I do things with yarn—I’m just finishing a three-year-long crocheted afghan project, I work in my yard, I fall asleep on the sofa watching PBS mysteries in the evening

Is there an author or book that influenced you or your writing in any way growing up or as an adult? 
Jane Austen has influenced my mystery writing. P.D. James said Jane Austen would have been a great mystery novelist had the genre existed when she was writing, and Emma is the best example. From Austen I’ve learned how to hide clues in the mundane doings of small-town people and also how humorous people can be when they go about their everyday lives quite unconscious of how they appear to outsiders.

Where can we purchase this book?  
It’s available online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and is also in a number of brick and mortar bookstores.

Where do you see yourself at in five years—writing wise?
I’m hoping Knit & Nibble goes on and on and on. I’m already hatching plots for books 4, 5, and 6—and I’m envisioning how my characters will develop as time passes. Pamela’s daughter Penny will graduate from college in a few years and it will be fun to follow her as she starts a career.  

If you could live in the world you have created, would you? If no, why not?
I’d love it! I purposely based Arborville NJ on the town I live in, but a little more idealized—though my town is quite nice as it is. One factor that draws people to cozy mysteries is that they offer a chance to enter a world where the only bad thing that happens is the occasional pesky murder, which is then solved by a resourceful amateur and stability is restored. I think of cozies as the narrative equivalent of magazines like Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living—aspirational, because the reality they portray is a bit glossier than the reality we actually inhabit.

Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us?
I’ll be at Malice Domestic at the end of April.

How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”? 
I’ve always been a detailed plotter and that habit has served me well now that I’m writing for Kensington. My editor requests an extensive synopsis before greenlighting new projects.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?
www.PeggyEhrhart.com and Facebook author page: PeggyEhrhart@mysterycozy

Random Quickies!

Please answer 5-7
Cats or dogs?  Cats
Do you read more than you write? Yes
Hardback/Paperback or eReader?  Hardback/Paperback
Favorite color?  Red
Do you own a laptop or desktop computer?  Desktop

Giveaway time!

Peggy will give away a copy of MURDER SHE KNIT 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, May 19!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Leslie Karst visits ROCCO!




Meow, Today my guest is author Leslie Karst! 



Leslie Karst Bio:

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. Putting this early education to good use, she now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder, Death al Fresco), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California.

An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. She now spends her time cooking, singing alto in her local community chorus, gardening, cycling, and of course writing. Leslie and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawai‘i. Visit Leslie at http://www.lesliekarstauthor.com/


Hi! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Perhaps my most defining attribute is my ceaseless curiosity. And I have to admit, this personality trait has caused certain problems throughout my life. The need to constantly ask questions, to understand the details of absolutely every little thing around me, has over the years driven first my parents, then my teachers, and now my wife a little bit crazy. But I do believe it’s proved to be a benefit with regard to my chosen vocation as a mystery writer.


Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?
Sure! Here are some non-writing words of wisdom: If you’re hosting a dinner party and something has gone awry with one of the dishes you’ve prepared, do not mention it to your guests. If you act as if everything is perfect, they will likely never notice the problem (especially if you’re serving cocktails and/or wine, as well). And even if they do notice, your mentioning it will only serve to make everyone uncomfortable. (And yes, this advice comes from first-hand experience.)


Please tell us about your newest release.
Death al Fresco is the third book in my Sally Solari culinary mystery series. Sally practically grew up in the kitchen of her family’s Italian seafood joint out on the historic Santa Cruz wharf. But ever since inheriting the trendy, upscale restaurant Gauguin from her aunt, she’s been trying to extricate herself from Solari’s so she can concentrate on running her new place.

Alas, it is not to be. In this third book, Sally’s been roped into helping her dad host a huge outdoor dinner at Solari’s in honor of the visiting mayor from Liguria, the birthplace of Sally’s great-grandfather. But just weeks before the big event, her dog sniffs out the body of an Italian fisherman—one of the Solari’s regulars—entangled in a pile of kelp on the beach. And when Sally’s father is accused of allowing the old man to plunge to his death after drinking too much during dinner, Sally’s life becomes very complicated, indeed.




What was the inspiration behind this story?
Although the first two books in the series certainly involve the family restaurant, Solari’s, they were a bit more concerned with Gauguin, and with Sally’s trial by fire in learning the ropes of running a restaurant so very different from the old-school eatery she grew up around. So for book three, I decided it would be fun to focus instead on the Italian American culture surrounding Solari’s, and the colorful cast of characters who frequent the hundred-year-old fisherman’s wharf on which the restaurant sits.


Tell us about your main character.
Sally Solari is an ex-lawyer who, after losing her mother to cancer, reluctantly returns to the family fold to help her dad run the her dad’s restaurant, Solari’s. She’s not yet forty and already experiencing erratic hormones and hot flashes. As a result, she can tend towards over-the-top emotions and sarcasm (though cycling and bourbon help). But she’s also smart, stubborn, and resolute, and rarely takes no for an answer. So when Sally sets her mind on tracking down a murderer, you do not want to be the one who gets in her way.


Your character has the music blasting. What’s playing, and what is she doing while listening?
Sally has a varied taste in music. Her mom played a lot of jazz around the house when she was young, and Sally also inherited a love of Italian opera from her granddad, Ciro, and her father, Mario (who’s named after a character in Verdi’s Tosca). But, having grown up in the 1980s, she loves rock n’ roll, as well. So while Sally’s whipping up a batch of fettuccine Alfredo or grilled salmon with habanero-lime butter for a dinner party with her friends, she’s equally likely to be listening to Stan Getz’s smooth saxophone, Maria Callas singing a heartfelt aria, or Elvis Costello rasping out a raucous rendition of “Watching the Detectives.”


I’m inviting your main character to dinner. What should I make?
Pretty much anything! Restaurateurs rarely get invited to dinner parties, as people are always nervous cooking for a chef. But what they don’t get is that cooks love food—all food. Although Sally does, of course, enjoy a tasty dish of Boeuf Bourguignon or Chicken Saltimbocca, she’s also utterly happy to chow down on some down-home meatloaf or a burger and fries.


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to play the lead characters?
I’d cast Jennifer Garner as Sally, Brad Pitt as her ex-boyfriend/best pal Eric, and Robert Forster as Sally’s dad, Mario. (I can dream, can’t I?)


Is there an underlying theme in your book? If so, tell us about it and why/if it’s important to you.
The themes of family and the food movement, and how the two create a conflict between Sally and her father, are important to my series. The Solaris are descended from one of the original Italian fishermen who arrived in Santa Cruz in the 1890s, and Sally’s dad is fiercely proud of the family’s traditional Italian seafood restaurant out on the historic wharf. But when Sally inherits her aunt’s trendy restaurant, Gauguin, her father—hurt that Sally no longer wants to work at Solari’s—becomes convinced she now looks down on her family heritage.

In addition, each of the books has a secondary underlying theme—that of one of the five senses. Sight is one I focus on in the most recent book, Death al Fresco, in which Sally and her best pal Eric enroll in a plein air painting class.


 Is there an author or book that influenced you or your writing in any way growing up or as an adult?
Absolutely: Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Our family was living in Oxford, England, at the time (my dad, a law professor, was on sabbatical there), and it was that year when I first started reading mysteries. Among others, I devoured all of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels, and—being the daughter of an academic myself—was particularly taken with Sayers’ account of the life of an Oxford don.

But in addition, I loved the way each of Sayers’ mysteries would submerge me in a different subculture: how in one, I’d learn about the inner workings of a 1930s London advertising agency; in another, all about bell ringing; and in another, about painting and fly fishing in the highlands of Scotland. I think it was this aspect of Sayers’ books that much later on inspired me to try my hand at a similar concept, by incorporating one of the human senses as a theme into each of my Sally Solari mysteries.


If you could live in the world you have created, would you? If no, why not?
Yes! And, lucky me, I do! At the time I arrived in Santa Cruz in 1974 to attend college, it was a sleepy beach town, home to Italian fishermen, ranchers, retirees, and summer vacationers drawn by its famous redwood trees and Boardwalk. But over the years—largely because of the advent of the university in the late-1960s (the reason I came)—the makeup of Santa Cruz has expanded. As a result, the town is now also teeming with hipsters and hippies, who have brought with them their more cosmopolitan culture, including art movie houses, a variety of music, and fabulous restaurants. So for me, it’s now the ideal combination of old and new, traditional and hip, pastoral and urban.


What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Realize that rejections are the norm in the publishing business. Literary agents receive dozens—if not hundreds—of queries every single day, and most only represent between twenty and thirty authors at a given time. So not only does your book need to be well-written and compelling, but it needs to jump out as special to that particular agent (or acquiring editor). In other words, although getting traditionally published takes an enormous amount of hard work, it also takes a certain amount of luck—for your manuscript to land on that one agent’s desk at the particular time that the agent is looking for something just like your book.

So my advice is never give up and never stop believing in yourself as a writer. As the fabulous developmental editor Kristen Weber said to me when I became discouraged after receiving more than eighty passes on the manuscript that ultimately landed me my publishing contract, “You can get hundreds of rejections, and many writers do. But remember: It only takes one yes.”


What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

I was the lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter for two different bands in my younger years—a new wave group called Enigma in the early-1980s, and a country-rock band called Electric Range in the ’90s.



Random Quickies!


Cats or dogs?
Dogs.

Favorite movie?
True Stories, directed by and starring David Byrne, of Talking Heads fame

Favorite book to movie?
The Wizard of Oz

Favorite book or author? Yeah we know it can be hard to choose! ;)
The Alexandria Quartet, by Lawrence Durrell (kind of cheating here, because it’s actually four books)

Favorite color?
Yellow—the brighter the better!

How many paperback/hardcover books do you own?
At least 1,000.

What book are you reading today?
An advanced reader copy of She Her Run, a mystery by fellow Santa Cruz author, Peggy Townsend (releases June 1, 2018).



Thanks for a great interview, Leslie.
Death Al Fresco, published by Crooked Lane, is available now!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

ROCCO welcomes author Sally Handley


Meow, my guest today is author Sally Handley!




President of the Upstate South Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Sally Handley debuted her Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series with her first book, Second Bloom, in May of 2017. Frost on the Bloom followed in November of 2017. She also writes a blog entitled “On Writing, Reading and Retirement” (www.sallyhandley.com).
An avid reader, Sally has been a mystery lover since she read her first Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books as a young girl. An English major, she graduated from Douglass College at Rutgers University and earned her Master’s Degree with a concentration in Shakespearean studies from Wroxton College, Oxfordshire, England.
After six years as a public school teacher, Sally transitioned into business, and had a 30 year career as a professional services marketer. She returned to teaching as an adjunct professor of English before retiring in 2015. Now a resident of Mauldin, SC, she devotes her time to writing cozy mysteries and gardening.

Hi! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m an avid reader and have been a mystery lover since I read my first Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books as a young girl. I also love to garden. I got the inspiration to try my hand at writing my own mystery back in 2010 when my sister and I were sitting in the garden at the Daniel Webster Inn on Cape Cod. We were admiring the flowers and I said something about Rosemary and Thyme, the PBS series that featured two women gardeners as amateur sleuths.  Suddenly I got the spark of an idea. Wouldn’t an American version be great…a series about two sisters who garden and solve mysteries? And that’s where it all began. Since that time, I’ve retired and I devote my time to gardening and writing cozy mysteries. I also write a blog entitled “On Writing, Reading and Retirement” at www.sallyhandley.com.
Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?
I want to let my readers know how very much I love hearing from them. Whether they send me an email, write a review or send a brief comment to a blog I’ve written, I’m always delighted to read their reactions to my writing. Writers work alone and until they get feedback from readers, they can’t know if their writing has touched someone or brought them pleasure.  So, keep those comments coming.

Please tell us about your newest release  
 
My most recent release came out in November of 2017.  Frost on the Bloom is the second book in the Holly and Ivy mystery series. One of Holly Donnelly’s former students, Becky Powell, asks the look-alike sisters for help when they all spend Christmas at Skyview Manor, and Becky becomes the prime suspect in the attempted murder of her manipulative grandmother, Lyla Powell. Once again the plucky sisters are reluctantly drawn into a murder investigation, convinced that Mrs. Powell’s duplicitous friends and greedy Powell family members have framed Becky for the crime. Holly’s involvement becomes a source of contention between her and Detective Nick Manelli, threatening their budding romance. The question is can their relationship continue to sizzle as the investigation heats up and the sister sleuths try to catch a cold-blooded killer?

Where can we purchase this book?
Frost on the Bloom and Second Bloom, the first book in the series, can be purchased by visiting my website, http://www.sallyhandley.com and clicking on the links there or by directly going to Amazon.com.

Fiction can often provide powerful life lessons. What message do you hope readers get from your book?

It is a story about middle-aged women Hence the title, Second Bloom.
My sleuths are two middle-aged sisters. At the start of the series, they are both at a stage in life when they are feeling vulnerable about the aging process. As a result of being drawn into a murder investigation, both sisters find inner strength and renewed purpose, experiencing a renaissance at an age when many choose to accept the limitations of aging. Holly and Ivy may not have superpowers, but they still have plenty to offer the world. Their unique life experience helps them to help others. I hope my readers are encouraged by that.

Is there an author or book that influenced you or your writing in any way growing up or as an adult?
Elizabeth Peters, author of the Amelia Peabody series, is probably my favorite mystery writer of all time, and while “I am not worthy” to even aspire to write like her, I do aspire to have strong women characters, who, in spite of their foibles and flaws, strive to do the right thing. And, of course, I especially love the romance between Amelia and her beloved Emerson in Peterson’s novels. I aspire to write romantic episodes between Holly and Nick Manelli that leave you feeling just a little tingly.

Are you reading anything interesting at the moment? If so, what is it?
I am reading A Front Page Affair, A Kitty Weeks Mystery, by Radha Vatsal.  I got my copy at last year’s Malice Domestic conference where I heard Ms. Vatsal speak on a panel of authors whose sleuths are newspaper reporters. Set in New York City in 1915, this delightful mystery involves Capability “Kitty” Weeks, an aspiring journalist, in the murder investigation of a man found dead at an upper crust social event that she is covering for the woman’s page. The spunky heroine, the engaging mystery and lots of historical tidbits make this book a real pleasure to read.

Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
From the moment I started to write my first cozy mystery, I realized that developing characters a reader cares about was more important than the plot. Let’s face it. A murder mystery plot follows a formula. Someone gets killed, an investigation ensues, and someone gets caught. In cozy mysteries, especially, you know, in the end, justice will be served and the killer will get what s/he deserves. Of course, the plotting of the mystery that keeps you guessing is important, but again, especially with a series, the reader has to want to spend time with the recurring characters. The reader has to care what happens to the characters and want to travel with them on their investigative journey.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am busy working on book three of the Holly and Ivy mystery series. In Full Bloom, the look-alike sisters are set out for a relaxing few days in the Catskills. Holly and Ivy have their plans thwarted when, once again, they become involved in a murder investigation. The day they arrive at the house of  Holly’s friend, Kate Farmer, they discover the body of Kate’s next-door neighbor , Chuck Dwyer, in a pool of blood on his kitchen floor. In a rush to judgement, the local sheriff sets his sights on 18-year old Tommy Cranston as the most likely suspect, but Kate insists Tommy is innocent. The sister sleuths set out to prove that a shifty, former neighbor and the victim’s widow have better motives for the murder. In the meantime, Ivy and Kate try to unravel another mystery -- the cause of Holly’s break up with detective Nick Manelli, who proposed to Holy at the end of Frost on the Bloom. I’m hoping to have the book ready to publish by November of this year.

Do you think you may ever go into another genre?  If so, which one?
If I could write in another genre, I would love to write a Young Adult/Science Fiction novel. Futuristic books where anything is possible always intrigue me. I admit I am very enamored of dystopian novels, like Hunger Games, Star Wars, and the Harry Potter books, in which young people face the ultimate battle of good versus evil, and have to re-define the world on their own terms.

What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
My goal every day is to get writing right after breakfast. If I can write for two hours, I’m happy…three hours, I’m ecstatic. That’s about my limit. Sometimes as I get to the end of the book and everything is worked out in my head, I can push myself a little further. The hardest part is sitting down and getting started. Some of the best advice I ever read was from John Grisham, an author I really love. He says to write 200 words every day. Now, you might think that’s not a lot, but at the end of a year, you will have a book.  Also, what I’ve discovered is that because 200 words doesn’t seem onerous, I don’t have as much trouble convincing myself to sit down and get cracking. Frequently, I get on a roll and easily exceed the 200 words. Best of all, on days when I don’t have two hours, I know I still can do at least 200 words.  By writing every day, I stay connected to the story and the characters. That’s what’s really important.

Random Quickies!

Pepsi or Coke?                                COKE
Favorite kind of chocolate?             Milk Chocolate covered caramel
Cats or dogs?                                  Dogs
Do you read more than you write?  Read more
Favorite movie?                              Rocky (I really love the trilogy of the
first three movies)
Favorite book to movie?                 The Thornbirds
Favorite book or author? Yeah we know it can be hard to choose! ;)
Author- Shakespeare
Hardback/Paperback or eReader?   Kindle
Favorite color?                               Green
How many paperback/hardcover books do you own?   Can’t count them.
Do you own a laptop or desktop computer?        Laptop
What book are you reading today?                     A Front Page Affair by
Varda Ratsal
If you could live anywhere in the world it would be: Barbados

Thanks for a great interview, Sally!




Sunday, May 6, 2018

ROCCO's May Cozy Roundup

Meow!

Here are my cozy reviews for May!

MURDER SHE WROTE
A DATE WITH MURDER
Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain and Jon Land
Penguin Random House
On Sale: May 1, 2018
Five paws!


Jessica Fletcher takes up the cause of her good friend Barbara "Babs" Wirth after Babs' husband Hal suffers a fatal heart attack that Jessica has reason to believe was actually murder. At the heart of her suspicions lies a sinister dating site Hal had used while he and Babs were having marital issues--a site that may be complicit in somehow swindling him out of millions.

Jessica's investigation reveals that Hal was far from the only victim and when his former business partner is also killed, a deadly pattern emerges. Jessica teams up with a brilliant young computer hacker to follow the trail but as she gets closer to the truth, two near misses force her to realize that she may very well be the next victim. 

Every book in this series is, for me, a continuation of the television series.  It never fails to amaze me how Jessica can solve the mystery and identify the killer on the slenderest of clues...but then again, she IS Jessica Fletcher!  You don't have to be a fan of the old tv series to enjoy these fine, well plotted mysteries that take us back to Cabot Cove and a time when there was actually something good on television!  Jon Land does an excellent job of "taking the baton" over from the late Donald Bain.  The transition was seamless, and I look forward to Land injecting some  new life and a fresh take into this tried and true series!  Land brings a slightly more "edgy" vibe to the series.  You can't keep a good woman down, and there's lots of life in Jessica yet!  Five paws!


MURDER ON UNION SQUARE
A Gaslight Mystery
Victoria Thompson
Penguin Random
On Sale: May 1, 2018
Four Paws



Sarah and Frank Malloy are enjoying married life and looking to make their family official by adopting Catherine, the child whom Sarah rescued and has been raising as her daughter. The process seems fairly straightforward, but at the last minute, the newlyweds discover that Parnell Vaughn, Catherine's legal father, has a claim on the child, and his grasping fiancée is demanding a financial settlement to relinquish parental rights. Even though exchanging money for a child is illegal, Frank and Sarah's love for Catherine drives them to comply. 

When Frank returns with the money and finds Vaughn beaten to death, all evidence points to Frank as the culprit. A not-quite-famous actor with modest means, Vaughn seems an unlikely candidate for murder, particularly such a violent crime of passion. But Frank soon uncovers real-life intrigue as dramatic as any that appears on stage. 

Sarah and Frank enlist those closest to them to help hunt for Vaughn's killer as Frank's own life--and the future of their family--hang in the balance.

Another fine entry in this series.  Well plotted and intriguing.  You don't have to have read the others in the series to enjoy this! Four paws!

CLASS REUNIONS ARE MURDER
  • Series: A Poppy McAllister Mystery (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 407 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington (January 30, 2018)
  • Author: LIbby Klein
  • Rating: Four Stars

This book debuted in January but i only just got around to reading it now.  Widowed Poppy McAllister agrees to go to her class reunion to help out a friend, and ends up the chief suspect in the "bad girl's" murder.  Interesting take on the genre, with the sleuth being slightly overweight (and with lots of references to that) and also being a widow, which few sleuths in the cozy mystery genre are.  People can relate to the frenetic Poppy and her problems, and enjoy watching her clear her name.  Four Paws.



ONLY SKEIN DEEP

  • Series: A Knitting Mystery (Book 15)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (May 1, 2018)
  • Rating:  Four Stars


Kelly Flynn and her boyfriend, Steve, couldn’t be happier as they await the birth of their bouncing baby boy. Kelly’s got a built-in group of fiber arts specialists, the Lambspun Knitters, who are working away on blankets and booties. As they sit around the table crafting their keepsakes, the story of Giselle Callahan is a popular topic of conversation. 

Giselle is the young wife of Henry Callahan, a Fort Connor banking scion, who traded in his previous wife of forty years for a newer model. Giselle’s prowess as a skilled country club golfer and social climber puts her on someone’s hit list. When she is found dead on the greens at the golf club, Kelly and her Lambspun crew worry that a vicious killer is in their midst. They must work fast to bring an unhinged murderer to justice on the back nine before Kelly’s very special delivery…


Another  stellar entry in this tried and true series.  When a trophy wife is found dead, Kelly and her Lambspun crew go into Sherlock Holmes mode to solve the mystery before Kelly's precious bundle of joy arrives!    an enjoyable read for both fans and non-fans!  Four paws!!!!


WALKING ON MY GRAVE
A Death on Demand Mystery
Penguin, May 1, 2018
Carolyn Hart
Four Stars



Annie’s friend and fellow shop owner Ves Roundtree is a very wealthy woman. Her rich brother entrusted her with his estate, and upon her death, his fortune is to be divided. Several cash-strapped islanders are in line to collect life-changing inheritances. The problem is, Ves is very much alive.

Ves hosts a dinner for the prospective beneficiaries and feels a chill in the air that has nothing to do with the wintry season. Not long after, she suffers a bad fall that was no accident. Everyone at the table had a motive but not a shred of evidence was left behind. 

When one of the suspects is found floating in the harbor and Ves disappears, Annie and her husband Max spring into action to catch a calculating killer before greed takes another life.


This popular series never seems to run out of steam.  Longtime Annie and Max fans will enjoy watching their favorite sleuths track down clues to apprehend another killer.  You don't have to be a fan of the series to enjoy this book, although you will probably want to read the entire series from book 1 afterward. Carolyn Hart never fails to deliver.  Four Stars.


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