Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We welcome Author Donnette Smith to the Hotseat!

We welcome today author Donnette Smith!

Donnette Smith was born in Jacksonville Florida, but she has lived in the Lone Star State so long she deems herself a true Texan. She has a penchant for writing romantic thriller/suspense novels. Although she considers herself born with the gift to write, it wasn't until she took a job as a newspaper journalist that she realized writing fiction was her true calling in life. She is obsessed with forensic science and crime investigations, which greatly shapes the kind of stories she creates. If someone told her she could no longer write, she would feel the need to become a homicide detective. On second thought, she would probably just write that person into her next crime novel as the murder victim. She spent three years in New Orleans learning all she could about voodoo before writing her latest thriller novel, Cunja. Donnette is the author of Lady Gabriella, a mystery/suspense/romance novel published in 2008. She is also the co-author of The Chosen One, published as part of the Help Preditors and Editors anthology.

R: Hello Donnette and welcome!
D: Thanks, Rocco!

R:  Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.

D: I have raised 3 children, so back then I was a stay-at-home mom for the most part. But from a young age (12) I have dabbled in writing. I tried my hand at a first novel when I was 19. That same novel didn’t get published until I was in my late 30’s. Between that time, I took a job as a newspaper journalist.  I think it was then I became serious about writing. I had already accomplished the most difficult hurdle for any new writer: I’d completed a book from start to finish. Once you do something like that, you just do it again and again. So to answer your question, I think I was born a writer. I just didn’t blossom into it until later in life.

R: What drew you to the supernatural genre?

D: That’s an interesting question. I don’t know that I am specifically drawn to the supernatural genre in any way. I am most intrigued by forensic science and crime investigations. But during the writing of my latest novel, Cunja…it just turned out with a supernatural element. I can tell you I didn’t start out writing it with that genre in mind. I don’t ever have a genre in mind when I start writing a book. I think up an interesting concept, and then write out a full outline for the story. I am a big fan of subplots. I love using the element of surprise in my stories. If you read one of my books, you will most likely find there will be a mystery to solve. I’m the kind of author who will write a book…then sit back and decide which genre (genres) it fits into.   

R: What writers would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?

D: John Grisham would be at the top of the list. He has a way of writing that captures the audience. I think he is the most talented author in existence. Next would be Dean Koontz. I admire the way he gets away with introducing the POV of several different characters in his stories. Most editors will tell you to stick with the POV of 2 or 3 characters only. Otherwise, you risk confusing your readers. But Koontz has always broken this rule…and does it in a completely acceptable way. I envy that man. Lol.

R: Tell us about Cunja.   How extensive research on voodoo did you do for this novel?

D: Cunja is the story of a homicide detective struggling to catch an unusual serial killer. What complicates matters is that the only surviving victim in the case just happens to be a news-reporter who had recently swindled him out of privileged police information for a story she’s covering. He doesn’t trust the attractive reporter as far as he can throw her. It only gets worse when he discovers he is falling in love with her. To crack this case he must unravel the shocking connection between the victim and her pursuer. And…battle the power of an ancient voodoo curse.
Having lived in Louisiana for 3 years, I had all the information I needed about voodoo at my fingertips. The more I studied the religion, the more intrigued I became. When I began writing Cunja, I decided immediately that voodoo was going to be a large part of the story.      

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?

D: I only need 2 things: silence and no disturbances. In my busy household, these two things can be hard to come by. Sometimes I will escape to my mom’s house, where things are quiet and I can hide out to get some writing done.

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?

D: This is a no-brainer for me. I would jump at the chance to visit the cowboy era. This period in history has always fascinated me.

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

D: I love to sing as much as I love to write. I come from a family who loves music. My mother is a songwriter, and my father and her both play guitar. When I met my husband, he was a guitarist for a rock band. We both hosted karaoke shows for 9 years. I think music will always be a very big part of my life.

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done?                               

D: I don’t know about crazy, but I can tell you the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. When I was a teen, I nearly set the whole woods behind my house on fire. I had gotten busted smoking in school. To keep my parents from finding out about it, I decided to burn the pink slip I received for my bad-deed. I took the slip into the woods behind my house, laid it on the ground (on top of dried brush, mind you), and set fire to it. Like an idiot, I only brought a small cup of water with me to put out the flames. When the fire began to get out of control, I ran back to the house for more water. By that time, it was too late. The woods were ablaze. Oh well…I sat on the front porch of my house frantically trying to figure out what to do. Finally, I realized the only solution was to admit to my mother what I had done so she could call the fire department. Boy, did I get a whoopin’. The good news is, the fire department was able to put out the fire before it reached the house.  
R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

D: A good story that completely entertains them. Hey, that’s a big reason why I do what I do.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next?
D: I am working on another thriller novel. Of course it has to do with a murder investigation. The book is in the beginning stages. But I’m really excited about the premise of the story.
R: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

D: I would either be a forensic scientist or a homicide investigator. I think I’d be very good at solving murders.

R: Just for Fun – your favorite
Favorite Book?  The Testament, John Grisham.
Favorite TV Series?  48 Hours.
Favorite Movie?  The Notebook.
Favorite Actor:  Dwayne Johnson.
Favorite Actress:  Sandra Bullock.

Thanks for a great interview, Donnette!

You can find Donnette on her website: http://www.donnettesmith.com/

Donnette will be giving away a free digital copy of Cunja to one lucky commenter! To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post with your email address! For extra entries, you can:

Friend moi or the human on FB
FB or Tweet about this contest
Follow me on twitter @RoccoBlogger

Contest closes midnight, December 2, winner chosen by random.org and announced Dec. 3 – open to US and International!

Get crackin’


Sunday, November 25, 2012

RIP....JR EWING (Larry Hagman)

Friday saw the passing of one of TVs most iconic, if not THE most iconic villian ever...yes, I mean JR Ewing, portrayed by the wonderful actor, Larry Hagman.

Growing up, I remember being introduced to Larry Hagman on the television show, I DREAM OF JEANNIE.  Who can ever forget his portrayal of Major Anthony Nelson, the astronaut who rescued a genie from a bottle and really never lived to regret it?  I remember looking forward to Saturday nights and the adventures of Major Nelson and Jeannie, which continued for five great years before, drat it, they married them off and the series, like so many others, "jumped the shark" and died once the romantic tension was removed.

But I DREAM OF JEANNIE was only a teaser of greater things to come - the 1978 premiere of the nighttime soap, DALLAS, that spawned many spinoffs and imitators (KNOTS LANDING, DYNASTY, FALCON CREST, to name a few)  But none could compare to the original - DALLAS was the story of an oil family, the Ewings, thier lives and loves - and the main story revolved around the conflict between two brothers - the ever goody-goody Bobby Ewing, and his dastardly brother, JR, portrayed with amplomb by the effervesent Hagman.

JR was definitely the villian everyone loved to hate, and he proved that evil didn't always have to be dark, it could have a funny side too.  Millions tuned in to see who shot him (making it the second most watched episode in history, even to this day) and securing Hagman's place forever in the annals of TV villany.

Just in June, Hagman starred in the "DALLAS" reboot on TNT.  It's a huge loss, and we wonder how the reboot will deal with his death - but one thing is certain. Recast?  Never.

Some people just can't be imitated.  JR Ewing/Larry Hagman is one of them.
RIP, Larry. you've earned it.

Incredible Blogging Cat

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Meow! I’m very pleased to welcome today author Stephanie Bond!

Stephanie Bond has written over 60 romance and mystery novels for Random  House, St. Martin’s Press, HarperCollins, and Harlequin Books.  She is best known for the BODY MOVERS humorous mystery series. Look for her new mystery series TWO GUYS DETECTIVE AGENCY coming in 2013.

R:  Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.

 Hi, Rocco!  I’ve always been a book person—I grew up on a farm where the entertainment choices were few, so I was a voracious reader from an early age.  Years later, I was happily working in a corporate computer programming career and pursuing an MBA at night when an instructor remarked I had a flair for writing.  That one comment sparked my interest in fiction writing, and I never looked back.

R:  You have a feisty black cat in one of your romantic suspense novels, VOODOO or DIE – are you an animal lover? Do you own anypets?

 I am absolutely an animal lover!  Since I grew up on a farm, I was surrounded by pets (dogs and cats and rabbits and hamsters), and lots of barnyard animals, too—cows and chickens and horses.  Alas, I don’t have any pets now because my living space is so small, plus I travel too much to be a good pet owner.


R: What drew you to the ROMANCE genre?
Romance is the genre I read growing up, thanks to a beloved aunt who made sure I had a steady supply of Harlequin novels, plus Gothic and historical romance novels.

R: What writers in your genre would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?

Hm, that’s a tough one.  I’d say Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt instilled in me the love of a mystery combined with a romance...but I always put down their books wishing the stories had been more heavy in romance.  Honestly, though, every book I’ve read has influenced my writing in some way—if it’s a book I love, it makes me want to give my readers that same emotional experience.  If it’s a book I don’t love, I always ask myself why and try to bring that to my own writing, too.

R: Which of (your character) adventures was the most fun for you to write? Were any of them the least amount of fun?
Writing the BODY MOVERS mystery series has been the most fun because the books are set in my hometown of Atlanta, and because my main character Carlotta Wren has the guts to do things I’d never do!  I’m living vicariously through her escapades. 

 The books that have been the least amount of fun are the ones “mandated” by my publishers. Almost every writer has had those assignments before—when editors or publishers ask us to do something to “broaden our readership,” meaning they’re asking us to write something they think they can sell without any effort instead of them figuring out a way to sell the books we write best.  I’ve done my share of them in order to making a living; I’m not ashamed of those books, but they’re not the books I remember fondly.  And they’re almost never successful.  Several years ago I realized that most editors and publishers really don’t know what they’re doing—many of them just keep moving things around to justify their jobs.  It was a rude awakening, kind of like when you first realize your parents don’t know everything.  But the realization was my first step toward taking more control of my career.  In the future, I’ll be listening to my readers, not my publishers.

R: You took the PI exam for the state of Georgia – why did you do it and what was the experience like?

 I completed the classroom coursework to become a PI for the state of Georgia because I wanted to be able to write my stories with more authenticity.  And since each class of the course was taught by a different professional in the field (a police officer, a P.I., a self-defense instructor), I was able to add to my list of resources.  The experience gave me a real appreciation for the gamut of situations an investigator might be asked to handle.  Even a mundane assignment, such as conducting domestic surveillance to take a photograph can turn into a confrontation.

R:  Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share?  How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?

 I met an agent at a writing conference who invited me to submit something to her.  I did, and a few weeks later, I received a nice rejection letter from her, but she invited me to send something else in the future.  I did—the next day.  A few weeks later, I received a call from a colleague of hers.   She said the agent I’d submitted my work to had decided it wasn’t her cup of tea, but had passed it along to her workmate.  The colleague liked it, and wanted to see more.  We clicked and I signed with her shortly thereafter. The bottom line—be persistent!  If an agent asks you to send something else, do it!

 As far as my “first sale” call—I wasn’t home!  I was traveling for my corporate job and back then (1995), cell phones weren’t prevalent.  After a very long day of meetings and technical work, I returned to my bleak hotel room and called to check messages on my personal voicemail.  My agent had left a message there that we had an offer on my first book.  It was too late to call her back or to call anyone else, so I trekked to the vending machine and bought a can of ginger ale to celebrate by myself!

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?

 I have to have background noise when I write—the TV (news or sports) or music works for me.  The thing that aids my creative process the most is uninterrupted time, which is hard to come by!

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?

 The moment when Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson exchanged words over the device that would become the modern telephone.  It was, after all, the precursor to the technology we rely on today.  What a moment that must have been.  I wonder if the two men were aware that they’d just changed the trajectory of humankind.

R:  If a movie were to be made of one of your books, which one would you want it to be and who would you pick for the lead roles?

 I think I’d most like to see my book OUR HUSBAND come to life on the big screen.  It’s a bigamy story about three women who discover they’re married to the same man, who then meets an untimely demise!  The three wives have to reluctantly band together to find the real murderer, all while suspecting each other and dealing with the fallout of their husband’s betrayal.  My dream cast would be Nicole Kidman for the first wife, a socialite with a biting wit, Jennifer Lopez for the second wife, a family physician in a small town, and Jenna Malone for the third wife, a naïve stripper.

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

 That I’m not a funny person. My humor comes out on the page, but not in-person...I’m kind of a serious nerd. 

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 

 I haven’t done anything I would consider crazy...yet.  Have I mentioned I’m a nerd?  J

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

 I don’t have lofty goals for my books--I’m not trying to change the world with my writing, I just want my readers to be entertained for the few hours they’re reading my books.  When I get emails from readers saying I took them away from their problems for a little while, that makes me feel good.

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Night

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Meow

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?  Steak

Favorite Book?  Simple Abundance by Sarah Breathnach; I re-read it every year.

Favorite TV Series?   Northern Exposure

Favorite Movie?  Apollo 13

Favorite Actor:   Tom Selleck

Favorite Actress:  Laura Linney

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?  Red wine, all day long.  J

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Jane Austen, to say thank you for paving the path, not just for female writers who can now make a living because of the inroads she made, but for being independent in every facet of her life, when it would have been easier and more lucrative for her to cave to the norms of her time.

Thank you, Stephanie, for a great interview!  Meow!

Folks to keep up with the latest on Stephanie you can visit her at:

And now: A message about our giveaway from Stephanie!

In honor of you, Rocco, and the black cat in my humorous romantic mystery VOODOO OR DIE, I’ll give away a Kindle version of the book to the first 10 random commenters! (Please include the email address where you receive Amazon order confirmations in your comment.)

Thanks, Rocco!

OK, folks,  this giveway is a bit different from our norm: The first 10 readers to leave a comment with their email addys will receive a Kindle copy of VOODOO OR DIE! Contest closes November 21.

So…what are you waiting for!
And the winner of our Roxanne St. Claire giveaway is: NoraAdrienne! Watch for an email from Roxanne!



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Roxanne St. Claire in the Hotseat!

Today I am pleased to welcome author Roxanne St. Claire to my  hotseat!

courtesy of Amazon:
ROXANNE ST. CLAIRE is a New York Times Bestselling author of nearly thirty novels of romance and suspense. The author of two very popular suspense series, the Bullet Catchers and the Guardian Angelinos, her most recent release is a full-length stand-alone romantic suspense novel, Space In His Heart.
A five-time nominee and one-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award for the best in romantic fiction, Roxanne's books have also been awarded the National Readers Choice Award for best romantic suspense for two consecutive years as well as the Daphne du Maurier award, the Booksellers Best Award, the Award of Excellence, the Maggie, the Holt Medallion and many more. Her novel, The Sins of His Past, was selected as the Borders Top Pick in Romance for 2007, and will be reissued this March as part of the "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" trilogy from Harlequin. Roxanne's books have been published in dozens of countries and are routinely featured as selections in the Doubleday and Rhapsody book clubs.
Space In His Heart is her first independently published novel, a never-before-released thriller about a Navy fighter pilot turned astronaut and the PR superstar who sends his heart to the moon. This spring, a brand new contemporary romance series set on a fictional island off the coast of Florida begins with the April 2012 release of Barefoot In The Sand. In addition, Roxanne has stories in multiple anthologies throughout 2012 and her entire backlist is available in electronic versions. This summer, her first Young Adult novel, Don't You Wish, will be released in hardcover.

R:  Hello, Roxanne - Rocki - and welcome!
RSC:  Thank you Rocco.  Thanks for inviting me here! Great blog and great interviews!

R: Thank you for those kind words, Meow.  Now, tell us about your latest release. BAREFOOT IN THE RAIN. What was its inspiration?

RSC:   BAREFOOT IN THE RAIN is the second book in my Barefoot Bay contemporary romance series, but it was actually this story that launched the series idea. Although Barefoot in the Rain story is a romance through and through — star crossed lovers reunite after fifteen years and must learn life’s most challenging lessons before their hearts can be open to that happy ever after — the tale is told against a backdrop of some universally tough issues.

Jocelyn Bloom’s father was physically and verbally abusive so when she left for college, she never looked back. That cost her Will Palmer, the boy she loved and any chance at a soft heart and new love. But a decade and a half later, Jocelyn is forced to go back to the island where she grew up. She discovers that her father is suffering from Alzheimer’s and the disease has not only changed the surly sheriff into a sweet ol’ pussycat, it has also wiped away any memory of who and what he was. Even worse, Will is in Barefoot Bay, too, and he — a man with a heart of gold and a few issues of his own — is taking care of Jocelyn’s father and still carrying a burning hot torch for her.

Jocelyn battles with whether or not she can forgive and forget, even knowing that she must do both before she can take the love that Will is offering. She also knows that if she forgives, she makes herself vulnerable, and nothing terrifies her more.

The story was inspired by my own desire to explore the concept of forgiveness by forcing a character to realize that she cannot love until she forgives someone who has done something unforgivable.  Surprisingly, it was fun to write (but lots of tissues were involved) and still has a light, easy, breezy voice that my contemporary readers love so much.

R: You’ve written several series – do  you have a favorite?

RSC: I really love the Bullet Catchers!  That was my first series -- about a group of elite, high-end bodyguards run by a super dictatorial power-woman.  The guys were hot, the stories were a blast, and the series was pure fun to write.  There are eight books, three novellas, and a few short stories, but I hope there might be more.

R: If any one of your books could be made into a movie, which would you pick? Who would you like to see as the main characters?

RSC: One of my books has been optioned for film and some truly amazing actors are actually reading the script right now!  The book is my one and only young adult novel, DON’T YOU WISH, and it’s in the hands of several ideal actors, which means I have my fingers crossed.  I don’t even want to jinx it by saying who they are! 

R: Which genre is your favorite to write in – romantic suspense, contemporary, or YA?

RSC: I love them all, to be honest.  Each one taps into a different muse and out pops a slightly different voice.  The contemporaries are considerably harder than I thought they’d be -- the stories are so emotional that the process can be creatively draining.  I love the pace of the romantic suspense and writing YA was just plain AWESOME.

R: You’ve been an actress and a journalist/broadcaster.  How would you compare those professions to being an author?

RSC: Every time I start a new scene, I’m stepping into a new character.  I think acting has actually helped me more than any other job experience because I have to call on method skills to imagine what it feels like to experience something I have never done before.  When I get a physical response to the scene (tears, increased heart rate, the occasional unbridled squeal of joy) then I know I nailed it...and that feels a lot like when you know you’ve nailed a character on the stage or screen.

R: Of course I love your nickname (Rocki). Is there a story behind it?

RSC: Thank you! I was supposed to be named Judy...but my mother read Cyrano de Bergerac in the very late stages of her pregnancy.  (She has alternately claimed that it was the day she went in labor or the last month, so I don’t know -- but she fell in love with the name Roxanne.)  Then she brought me home from the hospital and my big family of older siblings began to shorten the name...and my mother had a fit.  Roxie, she said, sounded like a stripper.  She insisted on Rocki, and it stuck.  I’ve been called Rock or Rocki my entire life.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard my father call me anything but Rock.

R: Is there a writing genre you have not yet attempted that you would like to try your hand at?

RSC: I’ve got a young adult epic fantasy brewing and have, in fact, written an exhaustive 25 page outline of that book...but the genre is daunting!  We shall see!

R: Every writer has an “agent” story. How did you get your agent, and what is your advice to aspiring novelists querying agents?

RSC: I  cold-called my current agent (not my first), totally prepare to leave a voice mail.  I had written a script of the message.  I was put on hold by her assistant, ready to read my script, when my agent  picked up the phone and said, “I’ve been hoping you’d call.”  There went the script and my heart right along with it.  She’s AWESOME!  My advice is never give up -- I got my first agent after a good 30 rejections.

R: If you had access to a time machine, what era would you visit and why?

RSC: I wouldn’t mind witnessing that Red Sea part for Moses!  Can you imagine how cool that must have been to march into the Promised Land with walls of water on either side?  Really, any biblical moment would be a great joy to experience.

R: What advice would you give new writers just starting out?

RSC: Read everything you can, write every single day, and meet as many writers as possible!  Anything is possible, so don’t let rejections throw you into despair.  Hope is the magic elixir and all you need is one editor who loves your work.  Also, have lots of friends, thick skin, and don’t be afraid to try something different.  And by different, I mean vodka instead of wine. 

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?

RSC: A title and a picture of my hero.  If I’m floundering around without a title, I can’t seem to get a grasp on my story.  And I always give myself at least one full day (maybe more!) to search the internet for hot guys who look like my hero.  Hey, it’s WORK!

R: What is the one thing readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

RSC: I hate to write.  I mean, I absolutely ABHOR writing.  There’s nothing that makes me as sick to my stomach as the words  Chapter One.  However, I love love love love love to revise.  That is the only thing that saves me!

R: What are you working on now? What can we expect to see in the future?

RSC: I’m just starting (the worst part!) the fourth book in the Barefoot Bay series.  You can expect two more of those books in 2013, a young adult thriller in 2014, and hopefully more romantic suspense novels peppered all the way through the next few years.

R: Finish this sentence:  If I had just one wish, it would be: ________________________________________. 

RSC: Clearly you haven’t read DON’T YOU WISH -- the lesson is: be careful what you wish for!  You might just get it.  I don’t wish for anything except joy and peace for my family and friends and to have all my Christmas shopping done by mid-November.

R: Just for Fun, Your Favorites:

Book(s) -- MR. PERFECT by Linda Howard; MORNING GLORY by LaVyrle Spencer; WELCOME TO TEMPTATION by Jennifer Cruise; IN HER SHOES by Jennifer Weiner.
Movie -- Overboard, The Cinderella Story, Top Gun, and of course Gone With The Wind (these are movies I am physically incapable of not watching should my remote surf over them -- I can NOT turn away.)
TV show -- Lost (miss it!) - nothing currently replaces it.
Actor -- Changes daily, honestly.  I’m loving Ryan Gosling now, but he is starting to get overexposed.  And not in a good way.

Actress - Again, it depends on the role.  I’ll watch anything with Jennifer Aniston in it and am praying she’ll read it for the mom in my YA script.

Night or Day - Dawn  is my very favorite moment of the day.  I rarely miss a sunrise since I have a new puppy who believes that every day starts at 5:30!

Mountain or Lake -- mountains since I live in Florida and never see them.

 Martini or Manhattan -- My dad made a mean Manhattan! They put me under, though.

Book or Nook -- Kindle

Cat or Dog? -- I love dogs more than life itself.  If I had a huge, fenced in yard, I’d have a pack of them.  As it is, I have two, Ginger (shih tzu puppy) and Pepper (Aussie terrier.) The spice girls! (HMMM. Spice Girls????? OK I forgive you for being a dog lover, Meow!)

Thank you for a great interview, Rocki!

Folks here’s where to find out more about her:

Links of interest:

Rocki will be giving away a set of the first two Barefoot Bay books -- BAREFOOT IN THE SAND and BAREFOOT IN THE RAIN to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment with your email address in the comments section of this post.  To get extra entries, you can:

Friend Roxanne on FB or follow her on twitter
Follow me on twitter @RoccoBlogger
Friend the “Human” Toni LoTempio on Facebook
Tweet or FB about this post/contest (3 extra entries!)

Contest open to US residents and ends midnight, November 12, winner announced November 13!

Get postin’
PS:  The winner of our Jessica Sims giveaway is ANNQ! Congrats!