Today, I’m pleased to welcome authors Brenda Whiteside from Arizona and Joyce Proell from Minnesota to talk about themselves and their new release, Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder: A Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery. Hello, ladies. Glad to have you on Ruff Drafts.
How long have you both been published?
What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher?
Brenda: 14 years. I published one 5-book series (Love and Murder) with The Wild Rose Press. I also published single titles with them: Sleeping with the Lights On, The Morning After, Post-War Dreams, Amanda in the Summer. Have you self-published any titles? Please give details. I acquired the rights back to the 5-book series and have self-published under the series name Wild Horse Peaks. I have self-published another series, The MacKenzie Chronicles. It is a 3-book series. Both of these series are romantic suspense. My current project is the Chocolate Martini Sisters Mysteries. This is self-published with a co-author, Joyce Proell. The first of three books released March 7, 2023. The second book will release in September, 2023.
Joyce: Ten years. The books are in this order: Eliza (Champagne Books), A Deadly Truth, A Burning Truth and A Wicked Truth (The Cady Delafield, Champagne Books) Amaryllis (Wild Rose Press) and Candy, Cigarettes and Murder (self-pubbed).
Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.
Brenda: I’ve been concentrating on romantic suspense for years. Both of those series are set in Arizona. I enjoy writing from several points of view. Most of the books have three points of view: the heroine, the hero, and the villain. My current series is a cozy mystery. I’m having great fun with this more light-hearted genre. The first book in the series, Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder released March 7. What makes writing this series so much fun is my co-author. The idea came from a twice a year ritual I have with my sister. We have a chocolate martini at an historical inn and saloon on our birthdays. We laughingly called ourselves the Chocolate Martini Sisters. The name conjured the story idea, and I presented it to Joyce. It’s been great fun creating the sisters and the mystery.
Joyce: Amaryllis and Eliza are historical romances. The Cady Delafield books are romantic suspense set in the late 1880’s. Candy, Cigarettes and Murder is the first in a series of cozy mysteries.
Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
Brenda: I want to continue on the cozy mystery path for at least another three books beyond the three Joyce and I have planned. Having a writing partner helps keep me on track. We have different styles in both writing and life so we balance each other. In fact, she has a much calmer approach, so she’s good therapy for me.
Joyce: I aim to challenge my mind, continue to perfect my craft, and deliver a product readers will love and enjoy, and hopefully, continue to read. My current energies focus on completing the next two books in the Chocolate Martini Sisters series.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
Brenda: The current series, Chocolate Martini Sisters Mysteries, should have wide appeal. Mystery entertains regardless of age or gender. Since it’s cozy, a reader can expect to not have graphic violence or sexual situations. It’s a good whodunnit read.
Joyce: With the Chocolate Martini Sisters, any reader who loves a light-hearted mystery will do.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
Brenda: Practice and keep at it. Every paragraph you write will be better than the last. Never give up. I’ve been lucky to have a group of critique partners who have helped me improve my craft over the years. I highly recommend finding a group to share your stories. And please, if you plan to self-publish, get yourself an editor.
J0yce: Keep your butt planted in the chair and write. Don’t fret with making it perfect. Revisions will soothe out the snags, add the pizzazz, and make it pretty.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
Brenda: I wanted an agent and I had a stack of rejections. But I didn’t lose faith. That’s important. I gave up on the agent route and started submitting directly to small publishers. I was working fulltime at an outside job so just finding the time to write was a challenge. I wrote one of my books almost entirely in fifteen-minute sessions before work every morning. When a publisher accepted my first book, I was ecstatic.
Joyce: I worked in a vacuum, days alone typing. I believed once a writer finished their manuscript and sent if off to a publisher, an immediate contract for publication would appear. Nah. Such success stories happen only to the storied few. Most writers receive countless rejections. Many never find a publisher. For most writers, myself included, getting published is a long, frustrating slog.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
Brenda: I have my critique partners. I belong to Arizona Professional Writers and Central Arizona Writers.
Joyce: Not at the moment. For years, I was in a critique group with fellow authors, and wear I met Brenda Whiteside, my co-author on the cozy series.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
Brenda: I adore time with my granddaughter. I try to spend several days every few weeks with my mom who is 92. I have a fairy garden that takes up way too much time, but I love to play in the dirt (as my husband FDW calls it).
Joyce: I’m an avid reader of mysteries, thrillers and general literary fiction. I swim early in the morning. I love walking, and now that I have a puppy, I can’t wait for the snow to melt and long walks with my little buddy. I tend my flower garden in the summer. Baking is very relaxing, and testing the cookies when they’re still warm from the oven is a sacrifice I make to ensure a good result.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
Brenda: I really am not fond of promo. But in this day and age, with the competition so fierce, an author has to put herself out there. My toughest challenge is allowing myself some personal time outside of writing.
Joyce: Analyzing a sentence and tweaking the words until the statement is bright, vivid and packs emotion is great fun. The toughest challenge is promoting me, and my work. I’m an introvert and naturally reserved and private.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
Brenda: F U N! My partner is a mystery weaver extraordinaire. It’s great fun working with her. I have a good time with dialogue and the repartee between the sister I writer (Nic) and Joyce’s sister she writes (Em). I love setting the scene. Making it real for the reader.
Joyce: Cozies are essentially fun, upbeat adventures with a puzzle to solve. The stories often occur in bucolic settings with a cast of characters that are charmingly quirky, and who are always on hand to offer support and kindness when needed.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?
Brenda: Yes. I chose this one because it is from the point of view of Nic, who is my character to write. It says a little about the two sisters’ different personalities.
Nic stood in front of the dresser mirror. One last burst of warm air to her mane, and she switched off the hair dryer. After a quick brushing, she gave her head a shake and left her locks to hang loose on her shoulders. “I don’t know how you can’t jump to that conclusion,” she shouted at Em in the shower. “Jillian’s personality and motivations make her the prime suspect.” Her sister, always the cautious one, still had doubts about the hotel owner’s guilt in the murder. She held dangly yellow and silver earrings from her jewelry pouch toward the sunlight pouring in from the hotel room window. Glancing at her blouse on the bed, she liked the color combination. Inclining close to the mirror, she hooked them in her ears.
Em, now out of the shower, poked her wet head from the bathroom doorway. “I do think she’s a strong possibility, but we need more substantial facts. Throw me my robe, would you? And you might think about wearing one considering the curtains are wide open.”
She glanced down at mostly skin. “I had a two-piece bathing suit twenty years ago that covered less than my underwear.” To appease her sister, she lifted the green and yellow blouse from the bed and slipped it on.
Robed, Em drifted into the room toweling her brown hair, the highlights of auburn and gold not yet shining with the dampness. “I’m jelly after that massage.” She lifted the hair dryer, and leveled her with a big, green-eyed there-you-go-again face. “You were all set on Chef Payne being the murderer earlier. Remember?”
She zipped her stone-washed, skinny jeans, and held her comment until Em shut off the dryer. “Yes, I admit he seemed a likely candidate. His abrasiveness, added to his drive to move to an exclusive restaurant in the valley, creates a volatile situation. The man appears to act out of angry passion in all manners of his life—under his chef hat anyway.”
“And you know this how?”
“I have my sources.” She grinned, feeling cocky. “At any rate, murdering won’t get him the review he wanted. More important though, I’m not feeling it anymore.” And she always trusted her gut over her sister’s analytical reasoning.
“What the hell?”
The painful howl jabbed at the very core of Emma’s center. It hurt her ears. “Sounds like a wounded dog or a coyote.” She exited the car and quietly closed the door, afraid any noise would further frighten the distraught beast. “Pathetic thing.” Images of the animal’s bloodied leg possibly snared in a jagged trap sickened her.
“Sounds like its coming from behind the house or the nearby woods.” Without hesitation, Nic pounded up the walkway to Joe’s front stoop, shoulders rigid in a no-nonsense manner.
She hung back a second checking her surroundings. The house had a vacant appearance as though no one lived there, though why she couldn’t say. They had the correct address and assumed the black truck belonged to Joe. The house, a one-story with stone on the bottom third and logs comprising the balance of the structure, sat a good shouting distance from the neighbors. A decorative A-frame in rustic wood crowned the front door. Next to it stood five side by side windows. A vacant carport sat off to the right.
She hurried after Nic, wincing at another volley of ear-piercing yowls. The tormented sound set her nerves on edge. Nic rang the doorbell, then cupped her hand against the door’s window and peered in. “I don’t see him. Wow! That is one honking big L-shaped couch.”
“We’re not here to critique furniture.” She squinted through the window. The open-concept design afforded a view through the living room to the dining area and a bit of the kitchen. Two windows at the back flooded the space with late afternoon light. Next to the massive television mounted on the wall, a hallway led off presumably to the bedrooms.
“Joe. You in there?” Her sister’s elevated tone raised another beastly cry.
“He could be out back, trying to help that tortured critter.”
“C’mon. Let’s take a look.” Nic shone with a “take no prisoners” expression as she hurried from the porch, her sandals smacking against the steps. Ogres. Hurricane winds. Vicious animals. Nothing would get in her way.
“Nic! Wait! Let’s take this slow. What if we spook it?” She envisioned a yet to be determined creature attacking. A scan of the area revealed no weapon they might use for protection should the animal, crazed with pain and fear, pounce on them. Dang!
“Hey. Don’t worry.” Her sister resumed her purposeful march. “Animals love me.”
“Uh-huh,” she replied with an eye roll. This could be one of those situations where optimism had its limitations. She prayed it wasn’t. They followed the cracked, sloping concrete walkway between the house and the carport, bypassing a banged-up dumpster. At the back, steps led to an elevated wooden deck. Without warning, Nic thrust up her arm and paused.
“Geez, Nic,” she hissed, almost tripping. “I about ran into you.”
How unlike her sister to show restraint when rushing in with great abandon was more Nic’s style. The added caution prickled the hairs on her neck. Evidently, the dangers of the wailing animal hadn’t gone amiss. After checking left and right—Nic’s idea of aerial recon—she proceeded up the steps.
She followed, uneasy at the scrape and dragging noise against the planks of the overhead deck.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
Brenda: I’ll toot my horn and say that my romantic suspense books have won awards. Also, if they would like to keep up to date on releases and bits and pieces of my life as well as be entered in quarterly gift drawings, an end of the year grand prize, and receive a free book just for joining, they can join BNG (Brenda’s Newsletter Group) https://us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=4804e039587723cfe02e83f2c&id=5e4b22a4ac
Joyce: Candy, Cigarettes and Murder is a story about two mystery-loving sisters on a fun weekend getaway. When a murder occurs, they are excited to apply their sleuthing skills to finding the killer, an experience making for a memorable trip. It’s a wild frolic you’re sure to enjoy.
Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc.
Or on FaceBook:
She blogs and has guests:
Amazon Author Page:
Goodreads Author Page:
Join her Newsletter Group here:
Author Joyce Proell
Joyce Proell/Author | Facebook
Joyce Proell (@jproell1) / Twitter
Joyce Proell (Author of Amaryllis) | Goodreads
Joyce Proell Books – BookBub
Thank y0u both for your great interviews. I’m sharing your blog tour below. Best wishes on your new release.
Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder (Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery)
by Brenda Whiteside and Joyce Proell
About Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder
Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder (Chocolate Martini Sisters Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – Wyatt, Arizona
Independently Published (March 7, 2023)
Print length : 266 pages
Digital ASIN : B0BN96RS4G
It’s a birthday weekend with the gift of murder.
Recently widowed, Emma Banefield looks forward to a getaway birthday weekend with her free-wheeling sister, Nicole Earp, sipping chocolate martinis at the peaceful, historic Dulce Inn. When a rude stranger, a nasty food critic, and a madhouse of temperamental artists greet them, all hope for a tranquil weekend evaporates faster than dew on a hot desert morning.
Overlooking the riotous atmosphere is doubly hard after Em discovers the body of a hotel guest, and a second murder affects Nic personally. Now, entrenched in a caper that pits them against a surly detective, they cozy up to a hotel staff hiding dangerous secrets to uncover clues to the killer.
Using their smarts and love of all-things mystery, will the Chocolate Martini Sisters solve the crime ahead of the obstinate Chief Detective or find themselves trapped in the middle of a third murder?
About the Authors
Joyce Proell is the award-winning author of Amaryllis, Eliza and the Cady Delafield mysteries: A Deadly Truth, A Burning Truth and A Wicked Truth. Along with her husband and little dog, Nellie, she lives in Minnesota in her very own little house on the prairie. She loves to hear from readers.
Visit her website at: www.joyceproell.com
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Joyce-Proell/author/B009K432O8
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6545483.Joyce_Proell
Brenda Whiteside is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, romance, and cozy mystery. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They admit to being gypsies at heart and won’t discount the possibility of another move. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW fishes, Brenda writes.
Visit Brenda’s Website: https://www.brendawhiteside.com
She blogs and has guests: https://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003V15WF8
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3972045.Brenda_Whiteside
Join her Newsletter Group here: https://us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=4804e039587723cfe02e83f2c&id=5e4b22a4ac
Purchase Link – Amazon
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