Monday, August 28, 2017

ROCCO's LynDee Walker!

Meow! My guest today is author LynDee Walker!

LynDee Walker is the author of six national bestselling mysteries featuring crime reporter Nichelle Clarke, beginning with the Agatha Award-nominated FRONT PAGE FATALITY (2013).

The newest book in the series, LETHAL LIFESTYLES, was published on September 27, 2016. 

Before she started writing mysteries, LynDee was an award-winning journalist. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the U.S. 

She adores her family, her readers, and enchiladas. She often works out tricky plot points while walking off the enchiladas. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is either playing with her children, working on her next novel, or admiring beautiful shoes she can't wear.

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

LW: Thanks ROCCO! I’m a former journalist who left the newsroom when my oldest daughter was born. I’ve been interested in writing since forever, really—growing up, I always had my nose buried in a book, and I loved to swipe my mom’s crochet yarn to tie notebook paper together and make little books so I could write stories. In fifth grade, I won a local Optimist Club essay contest and my teacher called my mom to tell her how impressed she was with my paper. That bit of encouragement was all it took for me to decide I wanted to be a writer of some sort when I grew up.

R: Tell us about your “Headlines in High Heels” series. Where did this idea come from?

LW: I didn’t realize when I left reporting how much I’d miss writing. I thought it was something I liked to do, but it turned out it’s bigger than that: It’s part of who I am. It took me a few years to figure out why I had so much to be happy about, yet I was sad a lot of the time. Since I didn’t want to leave my little ones (there were two by then) to go back to the long, unpredictable hours of the news business, I wasn’t sure what to do about it—until one day I was loading my dishwasher and suddenly there was this feisty reporter in crazy shoes, talking in my head. She was locked in a car trunk, trying to figure out how she could possibly run if given the chance and worrying over her “characteristically impractical shoes” (that phrase made it all the way from that first moment to the actual on-the-shelf copy of the book).

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?

LW: I do, actually, because my story is backward: I sold my first book (actually, my first six books) without an agent. But publishing is a business, and more than that, it is a shiny purple unicorn of the business world in a lot of ways, with quirks and differences that even writers who come from corporate backgrounds must learn in order to navigate it successfully. Agents perform a valuable task, navigating the business end so writers can focus on the creative one. During a discussion of all this nuance, an author friend offered to ask his agent, who he was very happy with, to call and talk with me. By the end of the day, we had the same agent, and today I’m not sure what I’d do without him. Writer friends, trust me on this one: you make art. Publishing is a business. You need someone in your corner to help you navigate it successfully.

The call about that first sale is the same for almost every writer I know: it feels like a dream. This thing you’ve wanted for so long, and then all of a sudden someone is telling you it’s happening—it’s a moment nobody forgets. My call actually came in the middle of a diaper change for my youngest, from a city my husband was visiting on business at the time, so I saw the area code and thought it was him. That’s probably the one time I ever picked up a phone expecting to hear his voice and didn’t, and was more excited about the call for the surprise.

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

LW: Noise. Writing in dead quiet is difficult for me, probably because I spent years in a newsroom and then wrote my first several books surrounded by toddlers. A few years ago, I left a day early for a conference because I was on deadline and intended to hole up in my hotel room and work for one uninterrupted day. Nearly an hour into staring at my screen with maybe five words to show for it, I got up and turned the TV on the Disney Channel. Back then, I needed the kid voices in the background. These days, the 90s channel on Pandora does the trick.

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

LW: Dr. King’s speech at the March on Washington. I wouldn’t go back to tinker with anything—I’m a firm believer that things work out as they should, so changing the past is a lousy idea—but I’ve read and heard so much about the positive energy on the National Mall that day, I’d love to pop back and experience it.

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?

LW: Oh goodness. I never know how to answer this one—I do have a soft spot for SMALL TOWN SPIN, and I think several of the scenes might lend themselves well to film. The actor question is always a doozy for me, because my characters don’t look like actors in my head. But in the interest of not copping out, I’ll say I think Leslie Jones would be a fabulous Nichelle: I love her height and her smile and her infectious laugh. Joey could be played by Joe Manganiello, Kyle by Channing Tatum, and Bob maybe by Bill Murray—he needs someone who can be funny and serious. The only one I never have to think on is Grant Parker—Trevor Donovan is perfect for that role.

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

LW: Ha! I’m not sure: I’m a pretty run of the mill suburban mom in real life. I suppose people who love Nichelle might be surprised to know that I can barely walk in heels.

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

LW: I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything too crazy—I have on occasion woken my littles in the middle of the night for an adventure, but that’s probably not what you’re looking for. The coolest thing I’ve ever done was last summer, darling and I were in Jamaica for our 15th anniversary, and I got to go swimming with dolphins. I’ve dreamed about that forever, and it was even better in real life.

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

LW: The idea that something I made up can help people through a tough time is the very most rewarding thing about this for me. Every once in a while I get an email from a reader letting me know that Nichelle helped them escape reality when reality was difficult: divorce, death of loved ones, and other various hard times, and I always lose my breath for a second. I do tend to write about some big issues, and I hope Nichelle makes people see things through a different lens, but at the end of the day, entertaining people is a pretty great gig.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next?

LW: I’m currently enjoying a much-needed summer break with my little ones. Between school and work and sports, we’ve all been so stressed this year I declared summer a work and anxiety free zone.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

LW: A little of both, though I definitely fall more to the pantser end of the spectrum. I start a story with an idea of where it’s going and let the rest come as I work. Here’s the thing, though: writing a book is the same amount of work no matter how you go about it. My friends who plot every detail before they write a word spend months on the front end with spreadsheets and lists. I spend months on the back end with revisions. It’s just that for me, what makes this fun is seeing what happens next: that’s why I turn on my laptop every morning and sit down to catch up with my characters. So I prefer to write first and fix later.

R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
LW: I’m online nearly every day at, and of course readers can find me at

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

LW: Seek honest feedback on your work, and don’t take it personally. The rough draft of my first novel was just about the worst jumble of rookie mistakes anyone has ever made, but I learned about craft, I sought advice, I reworked it…and that book went on to be nominated for an Agatha Award. This business is strange and wonderful and tough at times, but if writing is a part of you and you want to be published, don’t ever stop learning. Be a better writer today than you were yesterday. Write a better book this time than you did last time. Edits are my favorite part of the process, because I learn at least one thing every time that makes me a better writer and helps me deliver better books to my readers.

R: What book is on your TBR shelf you can’t wait to get to?

LW: Meg Gardiner’s new serial killer thriller, UNSUB. I’ve heard so many great things about this book, I can’t wait to get to the beach with it!

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Night. I am not a fan of mornings.
Dog or Cat? Personally, both, though I have a slight preference for dogs because all of my cats as a child were aloof and slightly mischievous. My husband is a definite dog person, though, so we’ve always been a dog household.
Beach or Pool?  Beach for relaxing, pool for actual swimming.
Steak or salad?  Salad. I’m less and less of a carnivore these days.
Favorite Drink?  Iced tea lemonade, or for festive things, a good margarita.
Favorite Book?  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I loved the way Rowling tied it all up for her fans.
Favorite TV Series?  Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Favorite Movie?  Depends on my mood: Die Hard is a watch-anytime one, as are Mrs. Winterbourne, The Sandlot, Pretty Woman, and Ghostbusters.
Favorite Actor: Denzel Washington
Favorite Actress: Julia Roberts
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii if I have to pick, but I’d love to see both someday.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be: Christopher Pike. His books were such a big part of my adolescence, I would love a chance to thank him in person.
If I had just one wish, it would be: world peace sounds hokey, but it’s pretty close to right. I wish people could stop focusing on what makes us different, because there’re so many more ways that we’re the same.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: honestly? Nobody. I love my family, my home, my friends, and my life, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.

Thanks LynDee!
You can find her at: Facebook at lyndeewalkerbooks, twitter @LynDeeWalker, and online at

Giveaway time!
LynDee will send a signed copy of one title in the Nichelle Clarke series to a commenter. US addresses only, please.

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:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, Sept. 3!

Friday, August 25, 2017

ROCCO welcomes Alexia Gordon!

Meow, my guest today is author Alexia Gordon!

A writer since childhood, Alexia Gordon won her first writing prize in the 6th grade. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. She established her medical career then returned to writing fiction. Raised in the southeast, schooled in the northeast, she relocated to the west where she completed Southern Methodist University's Writer's Path program. She admits Texas brisket is as good as Carolina pulled pork. She practices medicine in El Paso. She enjoys the symphony, art collecting, embroidery, and ghost stories.

Hello Alexia. Tell us a bit about yourself.

--Thanks ROCCO! I've written fiction since I was a child. I grew up reading mysteries and science fiction and entertained myself by making up stories inspired by what I read. After college, I put creative writing aside in favor of more "practical" pursuits, like medical school. Eventually, I reached a point in my medical career where I had time to return to creative writing. I enrolled in a formal creative writing program, The Writer's Path at Southern Methodist University, with an eye to publication.

Tell us about your Gethsemane Brown series.

--The Gethsemane Brown series started out as a daydream I had about a musician stranded in Ireland. Early in my creative writing program, one of the class assignments was to come up with a plot for a story. The old daydream popped into my head. I added a ghost and a murder. The idea developed into Murder in G Major over the course of the program.

Do you believe in the paranormal?

--I've never had a paranormal experience. Family members have. As for belief in the paranormal, I'm in the "maybe" camp.

Do you have an “How I got  my agent” story you want to share?

--I sold my story before I got my agent. I attended the DFW Writers' Conference and pitched to Kendel Lynn of Henery Press. They accept submissions directly from authors. No agent required. After Henery Press offered me a contract, I networked contacts I'd made through The Writer's Path. The unsigned contract was the tool I used to land an agent, Paula Munier of Talcott Notch.

What’s a ‘must have’ for you during the writing process?

--My only must-haves are a pen and paper (I write my first drafts by hand), a laptop, and Internet access. Sometimes I write in silence, sometimes a little "white noise" in the background helps.

If a movie were to be made of one of your books, who would you want to play the lead?

--I only have two books out, Murder in G Major and Death in D Minor, and they're both in the same series. I'd pick Thandie Newton to play Gethsemane Brown.

What are some things your readers would be surprised to know about you?

--I've won ribbons in state fairs for weaving, knitting, and a duct tape project (a tray)

--I moved to Alaska for a few years.

What do you hope readers take away from your books?

--I hope readers come away from my books able to envision African American characters in a wide variety of fictional roles.

What are you working on now?

--I'm working on edits to Gethsemane Brown book 3, A Killing in C Sharp.

Plotter or pantser?

--I'm a plantser. I create outlines but don't always stick to them.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

--My advice to beginning writers is finish your manuscript. That's the first, and key, step to the rest of the process. A finished manuscript is much easier to sell than an unfinished one. And finished doesn't mean "perfect".




--Either. I love dogs and cats. I've had dogs in the past and a cat (a Havana Brown) now.


--Neither. I'm not much for the beach or the pool. I do enjoy sailing. I also enjoy visiting lighthouses.


--Alice in Wonderland is my favorite book. I don't have a favorite movie. I've seen so many I've loved, I can't narrow the list to just one favorite. I don't have a favorite actor/tress or a favorite TV series. I "cut the cord" and got rid of cable so I don't follow any series on a regular basis. I subscribe to a few streaming services and tend to binge watch. My queue is filled with British mystery series, documentaries, and science fiction and horror movies


--If I could meet anyone in the world it would be Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I heard him speak live once. He seems like an incredibly intelligent, kind, funny person dedicated to promoting peace.


--If I had just one wish it would be to live contentedly.


--I can't think of anyone I want to trade places with

Readers can find me at:

Alexa will give away a signed copy of Death in D Minor to one lucky commenter!  Just leave your comment and email address in our comments section!  US only please! Contest ends midnight, Aug 29!

Alexia Gordon
Author of the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries from Henery Press
Winner of the 2017 Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel (Murder in G Major)
2016 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel (Murder in G Major)
Book 1, Murder in G Major, available now in paperback, hardcover, and audio
Book 2, Death in D Minor, available 11 July 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

ROCCO welcomes author Kellye Garrett!

Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company—while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, will be released by Midnight Ink on August 8, 2017. It was a Library Journal Debut of the Month.

  • Welcome Kellye! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO I’m a recovering TV writer (Cold Case) who people always said seemed too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. When I moved back to my native New Jersey about five years ago, I decided to use my experiences as a semi-successful, kinda-broke former black writer in Hollywood to write a mystery series about a semi-famous, mega-broke former black actress in Hollywood.
  • Tell us a bit about your “Detective by Day” series. How did that idea come about?
I was literally driving down the street and I saw a billboard offering a reward for information on a murder. At the time I was unemployed, so my first thought was “I should solve that for the money.” My second thought was, “That’s a horrible idea.” But I did use that for the basis of the book. My main character Dayna Anderson tries to solve a hit-and-run she witnesses to get the reward money and help save her parents’ home.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I went all out with creating bios and backstories for all five of my main characters. I even chose celebrity doppelgangers for each of them. Of course, those stories evolved as I was writing but it was fun to create these entire lives. Interestingly, I was most invested in picking out their names.
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
The blank page scares me more than Freddy Krueger so I’m definitely an outliner. I have an MFA in screenwriting from USC so I use a lot of what I learned about movie and TV show structure to figure out my plots. All my books have three acts and I make sure each chapter ends with a bit of a cliffhanger. The outline is just the jumping off point though. I still change things as I write.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
I have to choose?? As a mystery lover, I have to say plot. My favorite series are ones where the main character is actively investigating. And there’s nothing I love more than a good twist or reveal. On the flip side, it’s the character that makes me come back to a series.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The biggest challenge was definitely have enough faith in myself to just finish the book. I’m a writer who hates writing. (Weird, I know.) In terms of inspiration, I did the cliché’d write a book that you want to read. There are so few books with black main characters that it was important for me to create Dayna.
  • Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
In 2014, I took part in a contest called Pitch Wars, which pairs an experienced writer with an unagented writer to help revise their manuscripts for an Agent Round where agents can request to read it. Hollywood Homicide (then called IOU) was selected. Michelle Richter asked to read it during Agent Round. I met her in person a few days later at the Crime Bake conference and she offered me rep at the hotel bar!
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Book 2 and Book 3 of the Detective by Day series, which will be out in 2018 and 2019.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Not enough. I have a 9 – 5 so I have squeeze in writing when I can. I tend to write for a couple of hours right before bed. I don’t write every day even though I should.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Just do it. I also suggest finding friend who also write so that you can give each other notes and hold each other’s hands during the emotional roller coaster of going from finishing a manuscript to actually getting it published.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I’m not known for doing crazy things. The most brave thing I did was turn down a job promotion that would have doubled my salary to go to film school.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’ve been told more than once that “I thought you’d be taller.” I’m barely 5’4.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Where can I find mysteries by writers of color and marginalized voices?
We are out there. Unfortunately, we can be hard to find. Sisters in Crime has Frankie’s List (, which is a compilation of published marginalized voices so I would definitely start there. Some of my favorites are Valerie Wilson Wesley, Rachel Howzell Hall, Naomi Hirahara, Steph Cha, Kyra Davis, Sujata Massey, Gigi Pandian, Linda Rodriguez, Alexia Gordon and Kristen Lepionka.
  • Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Definitely on my website:

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat!! (I’m allergic though so hopefully I don’t lose any points for that.)
Beach or Pool?   Beach
Steak or salad?  Steak, three meals a day if my waistline could get away with it.
Favorite Drink?  Snapple Lemon Iced Tea but only from a glass bottle.It just tastes better than the exact same drink in a plastic bottle. I’m sure it’s a psychological thing.
Favorite Book?  Such a hard question. My favorite series may be the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton.
Favorite TV Series?  The Wire
Favorite Actor:  Chadwick Boseman, solely because I just saw the Black Panther trailer.
Favorite Actress: Viola Davis
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada. Try it with Kahlua if you haven’t before. So good.
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii though I’ve never been to either.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be my maternal grandmother. She passed away literally days before I was born.
If I had just one wish, it would be to eat and drink anything I want without exercising and never go above a size 6. (World peace would be a very close second though.)
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be J.K. Rowling because she’s an author, a billionaire and seems so cool on Twitter.

Kellye will give away one copy of her debut novel 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:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! US entries only, please! Others will be disqualified (sorry)  Contest ends midnight, August 26!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

EJ COPPERMAN dishes up some dog dirt!!!!!!!!

Dishing up the Dog Dirt! On ROCCO’s blog!
E.J. Copperman
Much to what I’m sure is Rocco’s chagrin, my latest novel—the first in a new series—is called Dog Dish of Doom. Alliteration aside, the title seemed fairly obvious when you consider that a (human) man is stabbed in the back and lands face down in his dog’s water dish. (In the book.)
Titles are a funny business, and I don’t mean “funny ha-ha” necessarily. For me they should convey at least a sense of humor because my books are intended to make you laugh. Or at the very least encourage you to laugh. So I’ve had titles like Spouse on Haunted Hill and Inspector Specter in my Haunted Guesthouse series, and—spoiler alert!—the second book in the Agent to the Paws series, which begins with Dog Dish of Doom will be Bird, Bath and Beyond.
A title is something meant to convey a great deal of information in a very few words. First, it should have some sense of what the story is about. I think Dog Dish of Doom manages that. Second, the title should convey some feeling of the book’s tone. Thrillers tend to get short, (pardon the expression) punchy titles. If I’d named Dog Dish of Doom something like Deadly Dish you might get the wrong impression. Especially if the title were in big chunky letters on the cover with a picture of rain-washed city streets.
The book’s title should also be somewhat intriguing. The idea, after all, is to get the reader interested enough to at least pick up the book and think about buying it (buy it!). If the title of this book was This Guy Gets Stabbed and Falls in His Dog’s Water Dish and the Dog’s Agent Has to Figure Out Who Did It you’d get a really strong sense of the story, but you wouldn't necessarily feel like anything had been held back other than the name of the murderer, which of course is—you didn’t think I was going to tell you, right?
Some titles are—and I know you’ll be shocked—not actually written by the book’s author. I wrote a book called Deadlier Than the Sword (a “clever” pen reference) which came out as Written Off. That’s fine; the publisher had another marketing strategy and I had no problem with it. But when people ask me why the book has that title, I can point to the fact that the main character is indeed a mystery writer and… that’s about it. I wasn’t involved in the process that chose the title. I don’t think it’s a bad title. I just don’t have insight into its genesis.
For Dog Dish of Doom, trust me that’s my title. The acquiring editor liked it right from the beginning and she still chuckles when we mention it today. That’s good enough for me.
Whether or not a title can guarantee a book commercial success is something I can’t address. If To Kill a Mockingbird, which is a brilliant book, had been named The Trial of Tom Robinson, would it have been ignored? I can’t tell you. I do know that To Kill a Mockingbird is a better title than The Trial of Tom Robinson.
So if you’re interested in a story where a woman who runs a theatrical agency for animals (the actual non-human kind) and has to solve a mystery to help her client, a large furry dog named Bruno, appeals to you, pick up Dog Dish of Doom whether you find the title amusing or not. After all, it’s just four words. The book has 82,000.

E.J. Copperman is the author of the Agent to the Paws mystery series, beginning Aug. 15 with Dog Dish of Doom. E.J. also writes the Haunted Guesthouse mystery series, the Mysterious Detective mystery series and with Jeff Cohen, the Asperger’s mystery series. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for hobbies, so E.J. takes the occasional nap. E.J. does have a pet dog named Gizmo who was in no way the inspiration for Bruno. Bruno is a good dog.

Want to win a copy of DOG DISH OF DOOM?
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:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck!  US entries only, please.  Contest ends midnight, August 22.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

ROCCO's Guest....Maggie Toussaint!

Meow! My guest this week is author Maggie Toussaint

Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes mystery, suspense, and dystopian fiction. Her work won the Silver Falchion Award for best mystery, the Readers’ Choice Award, and the EPIC Award. Under her name and her pen name of Rigel Carson, she’s published sixteen novels as well as several short stories and novellas. The latest book in her paranormal mystery series, Dadgummit, released August 1, 2017. Maggie serves as Chapter President for Southeast Mystery Writers of America and as Vice-President for Low Country Sisters In Crime. Visit her at

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

M: I grew up in a family of oral storytellers. How I loved to listen to their stories! Later, when I tried oral storytelling, my introverted personality was a problem. Then it occurred to me, I could write stories. Even better, with writing I could smooth out all the rough places and add in just the right amount of oomph to keep readers hooked. Writing was no cakewalk either, but I kept at it until I broke through.

R: Tell us about your “Dreamwalker series”!  Where did that idea come from?

M: I’m a wimp. There. I’ve said it. Scary things terrify me. But something about solving a puzzle prevents me from being scared. After the losses of two members of my birth family, my thoughts kept drifting to the hereafter. How did it work? Was it real? How did faith and ghost stories and the paranormal fit together anyway? These were some of the questions running wild in my head. The best way I knew to explore a tough, scary issue was to write about it. So I did, and I changed things around a bit to suit me. Is my take on the afterlife correct? Read the series and decide for yourself.

R:  You also write several other series. Tell us a bit about those.

M: My first cozy series was heavily influenced by chick lit. Cleopatra Jones is a woman trying to get her groove back after getting dumped by her guy for a younger woman. I wrote this series to show there is life after divorce and to highlight the love of friends and family. Since Cleo is an accountant, her series titles all have money in them (In For a Penny is book one). I wrote two traditional cozy mystery stand-alones with pets before I hit upon the Dreamwalker series. I accidentally wrote an ecothriller mystery series set in the future, little thinking about that being a different genre. I adopted the pen name of Rigel Carson for my Guardian of Earth series. And in the midst of all this mystery writing, I released a trilogy of romantic suspense novels, the Mossy Bog series, each featuring different couples, sleuthing in the same small town.

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?

M: I’ve been at this for a while, so I had met several agents at conferences. That’s how I got my first agent. Not much excitement in that, other than a glorious milestone. As for THE CALL, the answer was outright euphoria! My feet didn’t touch the ground. I floated in a grinning haze for days. So for me, getting an agent was akin to getting into a difficult academic course, landing a contract was like being class valedictorian.

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

M: A solid chunk of morning is what I need for writing. Interruptions are distractions and only allow me to touch the surface of what’s going on in my work-in-progress. My muse responds well to any form of the arts: singing, dancing, painting, crafting, and so on, but not in the aforesaid morning. I need radio silence for that.

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

M: I’d walk on the moon with Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969. I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut, but I get motion sickness and vertigo so a time machine is the only way to fulfill my fantasy of space travel. I’d like to be there, invisible of course so as not to mess up the actual timeline, when Apollo 11 lands. Once they leave, I’d get to walk on the moon myself before hopping back in the time machine.

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?

M: For years, Sandra Bulloch was my go-to actress for strong female lead. Now I lean toward Emma Watson (aka Hermione Granger in Harry Potter films). She was the real brains behind the boys in the Potter series and not much scared her. She’d be perfect for Baxley Powell in my Dreamwalker Series.

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

M: I once served my parents green eggs and ham, thanks to a well-known story by Dr. Seuss. I overdid the green food color though, so don’t try this at home unless you have a light hand with color.

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

M: What’s crazy to an introvert like me may not seem crazy to anyone else, but as a kid, I tried to float off roofs like Mary Poppins. Ruined all of our family’s umbrellas too.

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

M: Anything is possible if you believe in yourself.
R: What are you working on at the moment / next?
M: I’m working on a new entry in my Cleopatra Jones series – a long novella to bring her into current times. Readers have been begging for more Cleo for years, so this year they get their wish! My 2018 Dreamwalker book is already in the editorial pipeline, and I’m going to polish my 2019 Dreamwalker book once I get the Cleo novella turned in. My Dreamwalker sleuth Baxley Powell is a pet caretaker also, and she is owned by three dogs and two cats. I’m also in the midst of re-issuing my novella series from 2016. The Lindsey & Ike series has two of three novellas released now; the third will be out in early fall.
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
M: I’ve been both, now I’m a hybrid. Turns out I need some structure and lots of character freedom.
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

M: Learn your unique writing process and don’t let anyone sway you from that self-realization. Being true to yourself shines through in your writing.

R: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

M: I used to be a scientist. If I hadn’t caught the writing bug, I’d still be in the lab because that kind of work is perfect for an introvert.

R: What book is on your TBR shelf you can’t wait to get to?

M: I prefer not to read new books while I’m writing because then I start to write like that person. However, I enjoy re-reading novels in my extensive Jayne Ann Krentz collection while writing, so I either grab one off my bookshelf or flip to one on my Kindle. I love reading these authors at other times: Charlaine Harris, Jeffrey Deaver, JD Robb, Daniel O’Malley, and Lori-Rader-Day.

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  day
Dog or Cat? I love all animals, but I’m a dog person at heart.
Beach or Pool?  beach
Favorite Book? Soft Focus by Jayne Ann Krentz
Favorite TV Series? Grimm
Favorite Movie?  Galaxy Quest
Favorite Actor: Sean Connery
Favorite Actress:  Jodie Foster

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be my father. I was too young when he died. I’d love to sit and listen to all of his stories.

If I had just one wish, it would be that people could get along.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be no one. I love what I’m doing and the people in my life.

List all the places readers can find you

Giveaway time!
One commenter will win a digital format of Gone and Done It, book one in Maggie’s Dreamwalker Series.
 Gone and Done It (Dreamwalker Mystery) by [Toussaint, Maggie]
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:

* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
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Winner will be chosen at random using  US entries only please! Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest closes midnight, August 19!

Friday, August 11, 2017

ROCCO's August Cozy Review Roundup

ROCCO’S AUGUST ROUNDUP! (courtesy of Night Owl)
The latest in cozy mysteries from Berkley!

·       Series: A Costume Shop Mystery (Book 3)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (August 1, 2017)
  • ROCCO’s Rating:  Four Paws!

Costume shop owner Margo Tamblyn faces a deadly conspiracy when a small-town festival turns into big-time trouble.

It’s no secret around Proper City, Nevada, that the Sagebrush Festival, the town’s annual family-friendly event, is the place to be. This year’s theme of board games has everything from Conspiracy to Clue. Margo Tamblyn’s costume shop, Disguise DeLimit, has been tasked with providing costumes for the festival headliner, the Domino Divas. But on the night of the performance, one fallen Domino threatens to bring down the whole show when head dancer Ronnie Cass is found in her dressing room, unmasked, unprepared, and very, very dead. 
As the police investigate, Margo learns that Don Digby, her father's best friend, is the prime suspect, tied to the victim by an unsolved robbery connected to Proper City’s past. As conspiracies abound and theories are debunked, Margo seeks to unmask the real killer before her dad's buddy winds up in a costume made with prison stripes.
Diane Vallere continues the suspense in the third instalment of her costume shop mystery series.  I thought the festival was a  nice touch and as always, there is an appropriately quirky cast of characters.  Fans of this series and Vallere in general will not be disappointed! Four Paws!

Chime and Punishment (A Clock Shop Mystery #3) 
  • Series: A Clock Shop Mystery (Book 3)
  • Chime and Punishment
  • Julianne Holmes
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (August 1, 2017)
  • ROCCO’s rating: Four Paws!
Expert clockmaker Ruth Clagan has another murder on her hands in the third Clock Shop Mystery from the author of Clock and Dagger.

Years ago, the serenity of picturesque Orchard, Massachusetts, was shattered by a fire that destroyed the town's beloved clock tower. Ruth inherited the dream of repairing it from her late grandfather. Now that she’s returned home to run his clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, she’s determined to make it happen, despite wrenches that are being thrown into the works by her least favorite person, town manager Kim Gray.

A crowd of residents and visitors are excited to see the progress of the tower at a fund-raiser for the campaign, until Kim is found crushed under the tower’s bell, putting an end to all the fun. The list of suspects is so long it could be read around the clock, and it includes some of Ruth’s nearest and dearest.

This series is a fun one and I sincerely hope more are in store.  The story is well paced and I wasn’t too sad to see this particular villain go!  A definite four paws!

 Product Details

  • Series: A Yarn Retreat Mystery (Book 5)
  • A Tangled Yarn
  • Betty Hechtman
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (August 1, 2017)
  • ROCCO’s rating:  Four Paws

Casey Feldstein has her hands full with preparations at the Vista Del Mar hotel on the scenic Monterey Peninsula as another yarn retreat begins. The retreaters will be thrown for a loop this time, learning the trendy art of arm knitting and finger crocheting.  

But not everyone is enthusiastic about trying something new, and Casey is forced to come up with an alternative craft for her less adventurous pupils. Things go from worst to worsted when a travel writer from a neighboring retreat group is found dead in his room among a sea of feathers. When one of the owners of Vista Del Mar pleads for help, Casey gets hooked into the case and must unravel a delicate skein of secrets to catch a killer.
Book 5 in the series does not disappoint!  Fans of Casey will cheer as she goes about looking into the death of a travel writer at the hotel. That girl just cant turn down a plea for help!  Full of knitting tips, too. A fun read.  Four Paws!

 Product Details
·        Series: A Merry Muffin Mystery (Book 5)
·        Muffin to Fear
·        Victoria Hamilton
·        Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
·        Publisher: Berkley (July 25, 2017)

In the latest from the national bestselling author of Much Ado About Muffin, newlywed baker Merry Wynter has some unwanted guests looking for ghosts at Wynter Castle…

While Merry is distracted by her quickly planned marriage to Virgil Grace and a blissful honeymoon in New York, her friend Pish invites the ghost-hunting crew from the TV show Haunt Hunt to investigate Merry's home, Wynter Castle. Merry soon discovers that not only is the crew out of sync, there are so many feuds and squabbles, it's a miracle they get a show produced at all. 

It all goes from bad to worse when the show's psychics claim to have contact with people murdered on Merry's property. When two cast members are found dead, Merry and Virgil must figure out who’s picking off the Haunt Hunt team before their hard-earned happily ever after is cut short.
Fans of Merry will love her latest adventure.  As a big paranormal fan, I was enthralled with the plot myself!  Readers will enjoy trying to figure out who’s sabotaging the Haunt Hunt team!  A definite must read!  Four Paws!

·        Series: A Royal Spyness Mystery (Book 11)
·        On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service
·        Rhys Bowen
·        Hardcover: 304 pages
·        Publisher: Berkley (August 1, 2017)

In the new Royal Spyness Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Crowned and Dangerous, Lady Georgiana Rannoch juggles secret missions from the Queen, Darcy, and her mother. But it’s all in a day’s work when you’re thirty-fifth in line to the British Crown. 

When Darcy runs off on another secret assignment, I am left to figure out how to travel to Italy sans maid and chaperone to help my dear friend Belinda, as she awaits the birth of her baby alone. An opportunity presents itself in a most unexpected way—my cousin the queen is in need of a spy to attend a house party in the Italian lake country. The Prince of Wales and the dreadful Mrs. Simpson have been invited, and Her Majesty is anxious to thwart a possible secret wedding.  

What luck! A chance to see Belinda and please the queen as I seek her permission to relinquish my claim to the throne so I can marry Darcy. Only that’s as far as my good fortune takes me. I soon discover that Mummy is attending the villa party and she has her own secret task for me. Then, Darcy shows up and tells me that the fate of a world on the brink of war could very well depend on what I overhear at dinner! I shouldn’t be all that surprised when one of my fellow guests is murdered and my Italian holiday becomes a nightmare...
I have to confess I’m not big on period mysteries but this series could change my mind.  This was my first experience reading Rhys Bowen and now I do want to try more!  Well plotted and and an excellent read!  Four Paws!

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