Posted in Author Spotlight, Blog Tour, Cozy Mystery

Interview with Lori Robbins, Author of Murder in the First Position, the first On Pointe Mystery

Please welcome Author Lori Robbins from New Jersey to Ruff Draft

Hi, Lori. It’s great to have you here. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

I published my first book, Lesson Plan for Murder, a little over three years ago, in November 2017. In 2018 it won the Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery and was a finalist in the Readers’ Choice and Indie Book Awards. Lesson Plan for Murder was published by Barking Rain Press, which has since gone out of business.

My most recent work, Murder in First Position, was released November 2020, by Level Best Books. It’s the first novel in the On Pointe Mystery Series. My short story, “Accidents Happen” will be in the May 2021 Malice Domestic anthology, Murder Most Diabolical, and another short story, “Leading Ladies” will be in the New York Sisters in Crime anthology Justice for All in September 2021. I have not as yet self-published any books.

Very nice. Congratulations on your new series. 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.

Murder in First Position is the opening work in the On Pointe Mystery Series, which is set in the world of professional ballet. I’m nearly finished writing Murder in Second Position, which will be released November 2021. I now have the rights back to Lesson Plan for Murder, which is part of a planned Master Class Mystery series. I’m nearly finished with the second book, titled Linked to Murder.

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?

I plan to continue writing both mystery series, and I also have plotted the first work in a third series. I also hope to publish more short stories. My plan is to keep writing!

Great plan. I’m also hoping to start a new cozy series in addition to my Cobble Cove books. I have the first written and ideas for the next three. I currently have 5 full-length books and 4 short eBooks in my Cobble Cove series. My Easter mystery, KittyKai’s Easter Mystery, is on blog tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, too, until March 28.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

Although I’m not at all funny in real life, I’m very funny on the page. Readers who like some humor in their mysteries will enjoy my work. Although my new series is set in a professional ballet company, readers don’t have to know a single thing about dance to enjoy it. People who are drawn to a flawed narrator with a quirky, and occasionally dark sense of humor, will enjoy reading about Leah Siderova.

I think most readers enjoy a bit of humor in their books, especially in cozies.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Everyone has an important story to tell. Listen to the voices in your head. If you write as you think, your writer’s voice will sound, and be, authentic. And I think that’s what appeals to readers, irrespective of genre. The most important thing, of course, is to keep writing. You’ll find your audience.

I agree completely.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

I received forty-nine rejections before getting an offer from two publishers. I thought I was prepared for rejection, but honestly, it never got easier.

I hear you. I’ve been lucky finding my two publishers quickly, but it’s been a different story with agents. I’m still trying.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I’m a vice president of the New York chapter of Sisters in Crime.  I’m also a member of the Damsels of Distress, a group I formed with three other NY SinC writers. We give book talks and writing workshops. Other groups include the Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.

I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. They are both great groups. I’m hoping to join Mystery Writers of America, as well. I’ve never heard of Damsels in Distress, but I will check them out.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Unsurprisingly, I’m an avid reader! After all these years, I still take ballet classes, although for now these take place via zoom. I look forward to once again attending dance performances, and I recently took up swing dancing. I love traveling to foreign cities. I also enjoy baking, because then I get to eat the results. I have several knitting projects that are in the works but are unlikely to get finished. My guilty pleasure is crossword puzzles.

A nice variety of interests. I never had much interest in crossword puzzles, but I did love to solve Logic Puzzles at one time.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

My books are character-driven, and I love it when those characters begin to take on a life of their own. My toughest challenge is time: I wish I had more of it. On the other hand, I also don’t have time for writers’ block.

lol. Excuse me, but you summed up my feelings about writing exactly. There aren’t enough hours in a day for me to write and promote my work. I also love creating characters and enjoy where they take me in their stories.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

Cozy mysteries put ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances. They invite the reader to take part in the investigation, because the plots unfold in places that feel real, even though they’re often imaginary. These books are challenging to write for those same reasons: why would an ordinary person track a killer? Motivation has a special role in this genre. Also, I love puzzles, and mysteries have those in abundance.

Great points. You’re so right about that.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

The following is an excerpt from Murder in First Position

I was the girl all the other kids wanted to kill. Skinny, pretty, and confident, I was the target of much envy and very little affection. I realized later that people resented my extreme disinterest in their lives. But it was never personal, because all I ever cared about was ballet.

These days, I wasn’t quite so dismissive. I wouldn’t reveal the exact number of years that had passed since high school, but I would admit that while my former classmates were still young, I was old. Not too old to get pregnant, and not too old to make partner in a law firm, but definitely old for a ballerina trying to make a comeback. And for me, nothing else counted.

I wasn’t bitter. One minute you were the newest baby ballerina and the darling of every critic. The next thing you knew, you were having knee surgery and The New York Times’ dance czar was faintly praising you for your “mature artistry,” which was ballet-speak for “time to retire.” But I wasn’t ready to hang up my pointe shoes. And Bryan Leister was my ticket to the future.

I didn’t have much time. American Ballet Company had commissioned a new ballet from Bryan, and I wanted the lead role. If my performing career were to end soon, and persistent pain from my recently reconstructed knee indicated just that, then I wanted to go out with a bang. On my terms, not anyone else’s.

I called Bryan the night before we were due to return from our summer break. I wanted to grab him before anyone else called in her chips.

“Bryan! It’s me. How are you? How was Montauk?”

This seemed like a good opening. People loved to talk about their vacations. At least over the phone you didn’t have to look at any pictures. You could pretend you salivated over them on Facebook or Instagram.

Bryan’s enthusiasm didn’t match mine. “Uh, Leah. The summer was great. Yeah, it was great. Seriously, I’ve been meaning to call you, but I was, you know, about to leave for a really important appointment. Talk to you tomorrow?”

As Call Ended floated across the screen, I pondered his lack of interest. When we first met, he answered my calls as excitedly as a freshman girl who’d been asked to the prom by the captain of the soccer team. But Bryan sounded more like a college kid whose mother has phoned during his fraternity’s beer pong competition.

I worried all night about whether or not I’d be cast in Bryan’s ballet. Or any ballet. The next morning, I got up early and anxiously checked my email. If Grayson Averin, the Times chief dance critic, had finally written his long-promised feature article about my collaboration with Bryan, I’d automatically become a hot commodity. Powerful men would be calling me, instead of the other way around…

As I entered the lobby of the ballet studio, a different kind of nightmare emerged when a barrage of texts pinged in rapid-fire succession. By the time I disengaged the phone from the depths of my dance bag, the alerts had grown to epic proportions, more suited to a state of emergency than the ordinary resumption of the dance season. I figured family and friends were messaging their support upon my return to ballet.

No hearts greeted me. No smiley faces either. And no bursts of confetti-filled congratulations. Instead, a horrifying series of condolences filled the screen…

The links to each message were the same. Ballet’s Newest Power Couple:  Bryan Leister and Arianna Bonneville Remake the Future of American Ballet Company. When I clicked on the title, a dramatic photograph filled the screen. Bryan Leister, looking feverish and passionate, had his hands wrapped around a young dancer’s waist. She was bent backward, in an understandably ecstatic pose. The shock of seeing another dancer in my place was so disorienting, I forgot to push the elevator button. I stared at the picture, unable to look away.

Brian’s voice from behind jolted me out of my funk. “Totally amazing, huh?” Bryan, his arm draped over the shoulders of the girl in the photograph, had an annoying grin on his face.

I swallowed my gloom and congratulated him. “Hitting the big time, I see.”

“Yeah, the article was pretty great. Have you, uh…well, you probably already know Arianna? Arianna Bonneville?”

I bared my teeth—the closest I could get to a smile—and greeted her politely.

Taller than me by a good five inches, she looked down her flawless little nose. “Of course I know you. I used to watch you dance when I was still a little girl.” She flipped her long blonde ponytail over her shoulder and softly laughed.

Bryan wasn’t stupid. He probably knew what I was thinking, and he sounded sincere. “Leah, you know I appreciate all you’ve done for me.” He patted me on the back. “I’ll make sure Friedrich keeps you on the rehearsal schedule. If you’re up to it, of course.”

I unlocked my jaw. “Thanks, Bryan. But I’m fine now. Better than ever. And I can’t wait to get back into the rehearsal studio. I’m sure your ballet is going to be great.”

Bryan avoided further eye contact by addressing his next words to the scuffed door. “I think you’ll like our new ballet master. Friedrich Holstein is brilliant, and he has a lot of exciting plans.”

I’d met Friedrich briefly, during our Paris season. In the two weeks we worked together, the only talent he showed was his genius for biting criticism. Of course, I didn’t say what I was thinking. I already distrusted and disliked Arianna, and in the incestuous and competitive world of professional ballet, dancers could be quite ruthless in their quest for stardom.

When we got to the fifth floor, Bryan rushed into the men’s dressing room. I called after him, “Hey! Before you go, I wanted to ask you—”

He held up his index finger, indicating I should wait. Seven long minutes later, I realized he wasn’t coming back…

Excellent excerpt. Thanks for sharing.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

You don’t have to know anything at all about dance to enjoy Murder in First Position! But if you are familiar ballet, you’ll recognize the best—and the worst—of life in this beautiful world.

I’m sure readers will enjoy that. I’m sharing your blog tour and contact information below. Thanks so much for the interview and best wishes on your series.


Murder in First Position: An On Pointe Mystery
by Lori Robbins

About Murder in First Position

Murder in First Position: An On Pointe Mystery
Traditional Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Level Best Books (November 24, 2020)
Paperback: 260 pages
ISBN-10: 1947915746
ISBN-13: 978-1947915749
Digital ASIN: B08GQBDLN9

Ballerina Leah Siderova knows the career of a professional dancer is short. But rarely is it as brief as that of her rival, Arianna Bonneville, whose rise to stardom ends when she is stabbed in the back.

New York City police detective Jonah Sobol fixes upon Leah as the prime suspect. After all, she was the one who found the body, she had the most to gain from Arianna’s death, and it was her name Arianna whispered, just before she died.

Leah is desperate to clear her name, and she begins her own investigation, collaborating with her best friend and her ballet coach. As the three dancers sort through backstage intrigues, attempted blackmail, and a tangle of romantic liaisons, the noose around Leah’s neck grows tighter.

Ballet, with its merciless discipline, is all Leah has ever known. Is that enough to keep her one step ahead of the police—and the killer?

About Lori Robbins

Brooklyn-born Lori Robbins began dancing at age 16 and launched her professional career three years later. She studied modern dance at the Martha Graham School and ballet at the New York Conservatory of Dance. Robbins performed with a number of regional modern and ballet companies, including Ballet Hispanico, the Des Moines Ballet, and the St. Louis Concert Ballet. After ten very lean years as a dancer she attended Hunter College, graduating summa cum laude with a major in British Literature and a minor in Classics. Her first mystery, Lesson Plan for Murder, won the Silver Falchion Award for Best Cozy Mystery and was a finalist in the Readers’ Choice and Indie Book Awards. Murder in First Position is the first in her new mystery series, published on November 23, 2020, by Level Best Books.

She is currently working on the second book in both series. She is also the author of “Accidents Happen” a short story that will appear in the 2021 Malice Domestic anthology: Murder Most Diabolical. Robbins is a vice president of the NYC chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is also a founding member of the Damsels of Distress, a group that offers writing workshops and book readings. She is an expert in the homicidal impulses everyday life inspires.

Author Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

GoodReads

Purchase Links

Amazon.com IndieBound Bookshop.org Barnes&Noble Books-A-Million GoogleBooks
a Rafflecopter giveaway

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

March 18 – Mysteries with Character – GUEST POST

March 18 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

March 18 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

March 19 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

March 19 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

March 19 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW

March 20 – StoreyBook Reviews – CHARACTER GUEST POST

March 20 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author Blog – SPOTLIGHT

March 21 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

March 21 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 21 – I Read What You Write – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 22 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 22 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

March 23 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 23 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

March 24 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

March 24 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – REVIEW

March 25 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 25 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST

March 26 – Novels Alive – GUEST POST

March 26 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Cozy Mystery, New Releases

Interview with Elizabeth Pantley, Author of The Disappearance of Emily, A Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic Novel

I’m excited to chat with Elizabeth Pantley from Seattle, Washington about her new release, The Disappearance of Emily, the second book of her Mystery and Magic series.

How long have you been published, Elizabeth? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

I’ve written thirteen parenting books published by McGraw-Hill. I’ve just recently made a leap into fiction with my Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic series.

How interesting.

Tell us a 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.

The first book in the Destiny Falls series was released a few months ago: Falling into Magic. That’s where the story begins. The second book in the series, The Disappearance of Emily is releasing now, and I’m in the middle of writing the third book: The Ghost Camper’s Tall Tales.

Excellent. I have to say I loved Falling into Magic and hope to read The Disappearance of Emily soon. I’m happy to hear you’ll be having a third in the series coming out, too.

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?

I have notes and ideas for the first ten books in the Destiny Falls series. I also have ideas percolating for several other book series. It will keep me busy!

Lol. You sound like me. I’m starting to think about the sixth book in my Cobble Cove series and am also hoping to start a new cozy mystery series. In addition, my Easter Cobble Cove story, KittyKai’s Easter Mystery, is on blog tour starting today, March 22, and I have a time travel thriller releasing in April. So many book ideas, so little time to write them!

What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

Anyone who likes fun, magical, cozy mysteries with a bit of humor and a lot of intrigue would enjoy the Destiny Falls series. I’ve had readers that range all the way from young adults to centenarians!

That’s a nice wide audience, and I think you can add cat lovers to that mix, as I love the cats in your books and am even interviewing one on my cat character’s blog today.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Write what you know in the style of books that you love. For your first draft, keep it to yourself and just get your story down on paper from beginning to end. Then share, edit and revise.

Good advice, but I’m more of a pantster in that regard. I let the story unfold as I write, but I have trained myself to do more plotting lately. Editing and revising are always important after a first draft.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

Well, that was over twenty years ago, but I’d say the challenge of just getting the ball rolling is hard.

It certainly is in more than one respect. Writing the book is the first challenge, getting it published is the second, and marketing/promoting is the third.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I’m a member of quite a few mystery groups – the support is helpful and encouraging.

I agree that groups, especially those in your genre, can lend much-needed motivation and support as well as networking and educational opportunities.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I love to run – I actually have a very hilly 5K route I run every weekend. I enjoy hiking in the woods. Most of all, I enjoy any activity I share with my four kids and one young grandchild.

Interesting. I’ve just started running, jogging mostly, but I also like to fast walk and do power walking videos when the weather isn’t nice enough. I find it really clears my mind. I had a feeling you were a runner by the wonderful descriptions of running in your book.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I love when a story unfolds as I write it and when other people enjoy it. The hardest challenge is the marketing and bookkeeping. I’d rather just write – but that work must also be done!

I think most authors would agree with you on that. I certainly do.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
I love that the characters and the location drive the story. It’s fun to create a world filled with interesting people who deal with unusual circumstances. I love that you can count on a good resolution!

Happy endings are a great feature of cozies. I also enjoy creating quirky characters in small towns with pets, of course, and murders that aren’t too gory.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

I’d love to! Let’s just start with the beginning!

Chapter 1

The mountain trail was tricky. I was moving slowly through the deep snow. I knew the lake had to be nearby. It was important to find it, but I could barely see ten feet in front of me. It was steep and slippery, and I was making my way using trekking poles to assess where I should step next. My hands and feet were cold. I heard Latifa calling out to me. Where was she? What was she saying? 

“Good morning, Sunshine!” Her lilting voice woke me from my dream. “Happy one-month-a-versary!” It’s amazing how accustomed I’d grown to my cat’s telepathic voice in my head.

I squinted at my fluffy Himalayan sidekick. She was sitting beside me on the bed. I stretched out my arms and gave an extra-loud yawn in her direction, hoping she’d get the hint that she had woken me up.

“Message received. Woke you up. So sorry. Got it.” She squinted at me and whispered, “Not sorry.”

I yawned at her again.

“Bet you forgot today is one month from the earth-shattering day we arrived in Destiny Falls.” Her big baby blues were focused on me, and her whiskers were twitching. “I have appointed myself Keeper of Your Calendar. You can be so forgetful about celebratory dates.” She shook her furry head as if it were impossible to believe.

“Squeeee! You remembered!” She head-butted my face and spun a little circle on the bed, then turned to tear open the package. There was more squealing as she discovered her new, feathered cat toy.

I patted my sidekick’s head and tossed my legs over the side of the bed. A glance at my phone confirmed that Latifa-the-alarm-clock was right on time. I needed to get changed and meet Axel downstairs for a morning jog into town. He was often too busy with work to join me in the morning, so it was a wonderful treat to have some extra time with my newfound brother.

My brother. How I loved the sound of that. After a lifetime as an only child in a tiny three-person family, finding out that I had siblings and a large hidden family was monumental. Add to that a mysterious, magical new world, and I was floating on cloud nine.

The only dark spot was missing my family and my best friend, Luna. I was still trying to figure out how to tell them about Destiny Falls. I’d have to sort this out soon, since my cover story of a working trip to Denmark was nearing its expiration. A month overseas was feasible, but as the timeline continued, I’d need to address my disappearance.

My Nana and Granana would be happy that I was happy. They’ve been my biggest cheerleaders my entire life. They always said my happiness mattered most to them. Both my parents disappeared the week I was born, so my grandmother and great-grandmother jumped into raising me. They were dedicated to the job, with an enthusiasm that was a complete contrast to their tiny, delicate appearances. Luna and I referred to them as the Mighty Minis, which was an apt description. 

Figuring out how to explain that I wasn’t really in Denmark, but in a magical, hidden town in an unknown location was a whole new ball of wax. Especially since the town was finicky about who it revealed itself to. Any e-mails or texts I attempted to send, explaining my location, disappeared into the ether in a wisp of bounces— undeliverable, message not sent, connection lost. Even phone calls suddenly lost the signal. Maybe Axel, my brother (deep sigh of joy), could help me solve this problem.

I turned on the movie channel for Latifa, my furry little movie buff, tucked my ponytail through the back of my baseball cap, and headed out. I strolled slowly down the hallway, so I could absorb the beauty of this amazing home.

Hmm. That was odd. Where was the window seat? It was usually somewhere in my hallway, but it was oddly absent. There was a glorious swatch of sunlight, which is where it normally would be lounging. I snickered. Imagine that. A window seat that can lounge in the sun. Magic touched the Caldwell Crest home in the most interesting ways.

Caldwell Crest is a masterpiece of design. It could be described as a cozy, mansion-sized mountain cabin. I felt embraced by the sweeping staircase made of polished wood. I loved the plank wood floors and ceilings and the gorgeous but understated chandeliers. I adored the stone fireplaces that soared all the way up to the tall ceilings. The earthy colors of the décor were soothing. Even after a month, I was still adjusting to the fact that it was now where I lived.

The home was enchanting. I could almost believe the rumors that it was originally built as a castle back in the 1800s and magically remodeled many times. It’s difficult to understand Caldwell Crest and the mysterious place that was Destiny Falls, especially since the definition seemed to always be changing.

It had been a wild ride of a month since I’d been thrown through a portal and landed here.

I gave another exaggerated stretch and reached over to the bedside table. With a flourish, I presented her with a small, gift-wrapped package.

Excellent excerpt. I really love your description of settings and places in Destiny Falls.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

I bet you won’t be able to guess the murderer in book one, and that you’ll be shocked at the end of books two!

You’re right that I couldn’t guess the killer in your first book, and I’m sure you’re right that I’ll be shocked at the end of the new one.

Thanks so much for the great interview. I’m sharing your blog tour, my review of the first book, and the link to the interview of your cat character. Best wishes on the new release and your wonderful series.

My review of Falling into Magic: https://wordpress.com/post/debbiedelouise.com/12053
Sneaky the Library Cat’s Interview of Chanel: https://wordpress.com/post/sneakylibrarycat.wordpress.com/4295


The Disappearance of Emily
(Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic Series)
by Elizabeth Pantley

About The Disappearance of Emily

The Disappearance of Emily (Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic Series)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Independently Published (March 15, 2021)
Number of Pages 250
Digital ASIN: B08MDZDQY7

Hayden has settled into her alternate, magical new home of Destiny Falls. She’s learning about the people here and the enchanted place, but something is amiss. When too many things occur to call them coincidences, all signs point to the mysterious disappearance of her mother – way back when Hayden was just two days old. Could it be connected to the mysterious ferry? Can she identify and eliminate the threat before another person in her life is stolen away?

About Elizabeth Pantley

Elizabeth Pantley is the international bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives near Seattle and is the mother of four and nana to one. This is her first work of fiction.

Author Links – Website FacebookInstagramPinterest Blog

Purchase Links – Amazon

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

March 15 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

March 15 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

March 16 – Cozy Up WIth Kathy – REVIEW

March 17 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 17 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

March 18 – Novels Alive -GUEST POST

March 18 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

March 19 – Literary Gold – REVIEW

March 20 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

March 20 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

March 21 – Christa Reads and Writes – SPOTLIGHT

March 22 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 22 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

March 23 – I Read What You Write – GUEST POST

March 23 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW

March 24 – Laura’s Interests – SPOTLIGHT

March 24 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

March 25 – Escape With Dollycs Into A Good Book – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 26 – Baroness’ Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

March 27 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 28 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Cozy Mystery

Author Spotlight of Abby Collette, Author of A Game of Cones: An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery

It’s a pleasure to welcome Abby Collette (also writing under Abby L. Vandiver and publishing a women’s fiction book, Where Wild Peaches Grow, under Cade Bentley in 2022). Abby is from Cleveland, Ohio.

How long have you been published, Abby? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

I am a hybrid author. I am both traditionally and self-published, writing more than twenty-five novels and short stories. I have about six series, and all but one are cozy mysteries. Henery Press published one of my series, and Penguin has published one and will publish another one sometime soon.

That’s wonderful. I also consider myself a hybrid author. I’ve been publishing with two Indie publishers under my own name, but I write both a cozy series, my Cobble Cove mysteries, and standalone thrillers for Solstice Publishing and Next Chapter Publishing. One day I hope to also publish with a large publisher.

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.

I write cozy mysteries. I have a new series about twins who were abandoned, one grew up in foster care the other was adopted. They find each other as adults, open a bookstore and soul free café. And as noted, I’m writing a women’s fiction to be published by Lake Union an imprint of Amazon.

Nice. Those sound like very interesting books.

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?

I just want to write as many books as I can. I hope to continue self-publishing and writing cozies and women’s fiction.

Good luck with that.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

I want everyone to enjoy my books. But, I do understand that readers don’t like every genre, so I guess I want every reader who enjoys the genres I write in, to read my books.

It’s true that some people prefer a certain genre, but I’ve found that if people like your writing, they may try your other books even if they’re in a different genre.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Don’t give up!

That’s short and sweet and oh so true.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

Learning how to write. I didn’t go to school for creative writing. As I used to say, who knew there were rules to writing.

People don’t realize that writing involves knowledge as well as talent.

9. Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I do belong to a writing group, it’s called #amwriting and started at my local library. Now, though we have it on Zoom. I also have a writing partner, another author, Kathryn Dionne.

That must be helpful. As a librarian, I’m glad when writers use the library. I host a writer’s group, First Draft, that meets once a month through Zoom. While we have a few patrons registered, it’s open to everyone since it’s virtual.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I love movies and traveling. I’ll be happy when I can get back to doing those things.

Me, too. I enjoy traveling, although I always miss leaving my cats.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I don’t think there is anything that I don’t like about being an author. I love the independence, writing on my own schedule and writing what I like.

Sounds like it’s a great fit for you.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

I love that they are light reads, fun and that I can make them funny.

I enjoy that, too.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

From a Game of Cones:

“We don’t need revitalization,” someone yelled from the audience. “There’s nothing wrong with Chagrin Falls.”

“It’s not revitalization,” someone else yelled out. “It’s gentrification.”

“We’re not a blighted area.”

I knew that voice. I swiveled from the waist and cast my eyes toward the rear of the room. Standing near where Miss Green-Eyed Junior Associate Veronica had just vacated, was my brother Bobby. The activist. Standing next to him was my grandfather.

Someone must have spread the word because neither of them had been there when the meeting first started. Now, the back of the room, since the last time I looked, had become standing room only.

“We’ve been named Tree City USA for twenty-five years running,” PopPop said. “We’ve got the falls, the trees, and our shops. We don’t need anything else.”

“That’s right.” I heard several people say. “Yes! We don’t need anything else,” came the chorus.

“We’re not going to stand for this!” Miss Devereaux said and stepped forward. Even dressed in a dainty summer pink sweater with three big bows down the back and a pair of loose fitting jeans, she seemed ready for a fight. Usually glittery and gem encrusted, the only sparkle I noticed was the one in her eye that I was afraid would flicker into a flame. At nearly seventy, I hoped she wasn’t thinking of forcibly ushering the man out of her shop. She was known to be a little feisty.

“You’re coming here trying to mess up things that aren’t broken.” It was Squeaky Voice speaking again, she seemed willing to join in the fight if that was Miss Devereaux had planned. I didn’t know which, if any, shop she owned.

“I’m not—we’re not-” Zeke Reynolds stopped what he was trying to say and let out a nervous chuckle. “Please,” he said raising his hands to control the crowd, “I’m just here to assess and send in a report. And,” he stopped to take a sip of out of his bottle water, “keep you informed of how things are progressing.”

“We don’t need your progress reports,” Miss Devereaux said. “And we don’t need or want you here.”

“That’s right!” Maisie pumped a fist in the air, choking out the words. “We don’t want you here.” The threat of tears emerging spilling out in her voice.

“Get out!” Riya said and with that hurled her shoe.

As it went spinning over the heads of the sitting shopkeepers and toward the podium and Zeke, a hush came over the room, and all heads turned toward Riya.

“What are you doing?” I screeched, my mouth gaped, my eyes big.

“Being supportive,” she said, as if it were obvious.

“Hey!” Zeke Reynolds shouted defensively, ducking out of the way of Riya’s projectile. “Don’t shoot the messenger!”

Excellent excerpt, Abby. Thanks for the interview, and best wishes on your new release. I’m sharing the blog tour for it along with your giveaway.


A Game of Cones (An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery)
by Abby Collette

About A Game of Scones


A Game of Cones (An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Publisher: Berkley (March 2, 2021)
Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN-10: 0593099680
ISBN-13: 978-0593099681
Digital ASIN: B089S6SPKB

In this charming mystery series set in an ice cream shop, no case is too cold to crack!

Bronwyn Crewse is delighted that Crewse Creamery, the ice cream shop her family has owned for decades, is restored to its former glory and serving sweet frozen treats to happy customers in the picturesque small town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. But when a big city developer comes to town intent on building a mall, a killer with a frozen heart takes him out.

After literally stumbling across the body, one of Win’s closest friends becomes the prime suspect, and to make things worse, Win’s aunt has come to town with the intention of taking command of Crewse Creamery. Even though Win has a rocky road ahead to help her friend and keep her ice cream shop, it’ll take more than a sprinkle of murder to stop her from solving the crime and saving the day.

About Abby Collette

Abby L. Vandiver, also writing as Abby Collette, is a hybrid author who has penned more than twenty-five books and short stories. She has hit both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller list. Books one and two, A Deadly Inside Scoop and A Game of Cones, from her latest cozy series, An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery, published by Penguin Berkley, is out now.

Author Links

Website: www.authorabby.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorabbyl.vandiver

Twitter: www.twitter.com/abbyvandiver

Instagram: www.instagram.com/abbylvandiver

Purchase Links

AmazonB&NKoboGoogle PlayIndieBound

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

March 1 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 1 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

March 1 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

March 2 – Reading Is My SuperPower =- REVIEW

March 2 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT

March 2 –My Journey Back the Journey Back – CHARACTER GUEST POST

March 3 – Moonlight Rendezvous – REVIEW

March 3 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

March 3 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 4 – Mysteries with Character– GUEST POST

March 4 – Novels Alive – REVIEW

March 5 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 5 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW

March 6 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 6 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 7 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

March 7 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author – SPOTLIGHT

March 8 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

March 8 – Here’s How It Happened – SPOTLIGHT

March 9 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

March 9 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – SPOTLIGHT WITH RECIPE

March 9 – Dee-Scoveries – SPOTLIGHT

March 10 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW

March 10 – Novels Alive – GUEST POST

March 11 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

March 11 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 12 – Literary Gold – REVIEW

March 12 – Cozy Up WIth Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 12 – Ms. Cat’s Honest World – REVIEW

March 13 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT

March 13 – Brianne’s Book Reviews – REVIEW

March 14 – eBook Addicts – REVIEW

March 14 – I Read What You Write – CHARACTER GUEST POST

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Cozy Mystery, New Releases

Interview with Author Toni LoTempio and Spotlight for her New Release, Hiss “H” for Homicide

Author Toni LoTempio, writing as T.C. LoTempio is here with me today on Ruff Drafts to talk about her writing and new cozy mystery. Toni hairs from Phoenix, Arizona.

Welcome, Toni. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

I’ve been traditionally published since December 2014 with the first Nick and Nora mystery. Before that I self published several paranormal suspense books under Toni LoTempio. 

With Penguin/Random House, the Nick and Nora Mysteries, first three: Meow if it’s Murder, Claws for Alarm, Crime and Catnip. With Beyond the Page: Hiss H for Homicide

With Crooked Lane:  Cat Rescue mysteries: Purr M for Murder, Death by a Whisker

With Midnight Ink:  Pet Shop Mystery #1, Meow is the Time for Murder; with Beyond the Page, Pet Shop Mystery #2, Killers of a Feather (due out late 2021)

That’s quite a writing history.

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.

The Nick and Nora mysteries are about Nora Charles, an ex-investigative reporter, and her tuxedo cat, Nick, who stumble into and solve mysteries kind of like the original Nick and Nora Charles, only without the martinis and Asta LOL.  The latest release in this series is Hiss H for Homicide, where Nick and Nora try to clear her  mother’s friend, a romance writer, of the murder of her ex-partner.  Book 5, Murder Faux Paws, will be out in 2022.

The Pet Shop Mysteries feature Crishell “Shell” McMillan as an ex-actress turned pet shop owner. She also solves mysteries with the aid of her cats, Purrday, a one-eyed Persian and Kahlua, a Siamese, and her ex-costar, Gary Presser.  Book two, Killers of a Feather, out later this year, deals with Shell trying to clear her friend Rita of the murder of a man who supposedly swindled her and her husband years ago.

Those all sound interesting. 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?

My primary goal as a writer is to entertain, which I hope my books do. In the next few years I would like to reach my goal of twelve Nick and Nora mysteries.  Good sales will  help  me accomplish that goal.

I hope you luck with that. What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

Anyone who enjoys a good cozy mystery, along the lines of Murder She Wrote, and who loves animals, especially cats, would probably enjoy my books!

I’m sure I would like them, as I also write a cozy mystery, the Cobble Cove Mysteries, featuring Sneaky the Library Cat.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Keep trying, don’t give up.  Make rejection your friend and learn from it, because in the  beginning you’ll hear that word a lot!

Great advice. What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

I actually started out writing horror, but switched to mysteries when I was told that unless you were Stephen King there was no market for horror.  I had ten years of rejections from publishers and agents before I finally got my agent and my first traditional publishing contract. In the meantime, I did self-publish paranormal suspense.

How inspiring. I’ve been writing and publishing with Indie publishers for 5 years now and am still seeking an agent.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Are there any other hobbies and interests LOL.  I would say I enjoy reading and I’m also a big Gray’s Anatomy fan.

Reading is always a good hobby for a writer to have as well as watching a popular TV show.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I like having the freedom to create characters and worlds, and hopefully people enjoy them.  Toughest challenge:  Selling something in today’s market.

I think most writers feel the same way.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

I like the small town flavor, the fact that the blood and gore is kept off-page.  Sometimes I feel too much is a turn off for the reader.

I definitely agree with that. Besides not being excessively gory, cozy mysteries also don’t feature explicit sex scenes or bad language.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

I could hear the chimes echo eerily through the house, but no one came to the door. Nick suddenly let out a sharp meow. Next thing I knew, he’d hopped down from the railing and started to trot around the house. I hesitated only briefly and then hurried after him. Around the side of the house was a wall comprised of glass doors. Nick paused before it, his tail sticking straight out in back of him. I walked over to the doors and saw that one was slightly ajar. Nick turned and looked at me expectantly.

“Oh, no.” I shook my head. “That’s breaking and entering, buddy. We can’t just barge in here.”

Nick turned his back on me, and before I could do more than blink, he’d miraculously managed to squeeze his plump body through the opening.

“Great,” I muttered. Well, I couldn’t just abandon him. I walked over to the door and gave it a tentative push. It swung back, and I stepped inside.

The house was deceptive. It was definitely larger than it appeared, which might have been part of its charm and could account for Marlene’s decision to acquire the rental. As I moved cautiously around, poking my head into rooms filled with antique trappings and silk-covered sofas definitely too fragile to sit on, I realized why most people had been loath to rent it. Who wanted to live in a museum? I kept on meandering, calling out Marlene’s name, but only a thick silence answered me.

Nick was sitting in front of the circular staircase, tail wrapped around his paws. “Come on,” I said. “She’s not here. We’ll come back another time.”

“Er-owl!”

With that, he uncurled his tail and scooted up the staircase. At the top landing he paused and looked back at me as if to say: What’s keeping you, human?

“I should leave you here,” I muttered, but my niggling sense of curiosity won out over my better judgment and I climbed the staircase, the sound of my heels muffled by the expensive carpeting that covered the stairs. A wide hallway extended itself on either side of me, and no sign of my tubby tuxedo. “Nick,” I hissed. “Where are you, you devil?”

No response, so I moved over toward the right side and opened the first door, which appeared to be a bedroom, and a holy mess. The bedclothes had been stripped from the massive canopied king-sized bed and thrown in a ball in its center. Drawers were pulled out of the cherrywood highboy and dresser and hung limply, their contents strewn helter-skelter around the room. A high-backed chair was overturned in the middle of the floor, and the closet door was half open. I could see dresses hanging half off hangers, and a half-open suitcase was propped up against the interior.

“Oh my God,” I cried. It certainly looked as if someone had been searching for something. A thief, perhaps? A chill ran down my spine at my next thought: Could he still be here? Had Marlene possibly caught him in the act? I stepped back into the hallway, uncertain what my next move should be.

“Ar-owl.”

The cry came from the left, so I moved in that direction. I saw Nick, squatting before a door at the end of the hallway; he looked up, saw me, and ducked inside. I hurried down the hall and peered into the darkened room. It was set up as an office, boasting a small cherrywood desk, file cabinet, and a laptop square in the desk’s center. “Nick,” I hissed. “Where are you?”

“Er-rup.”

“I hear you, Nick, but I can’t see you. This room is too dark to spot a cat that’s mostly black.”

I felt along the wall and finally my fingers touched a light switch. I flicked it on, illuminating a table lamp that cast a rosy glow through the room—and highlighted the colorless face of the woman slumped on the floor just to the left of the desk. I sucked in my breath.

Even though I’d never met her in person, I’d seen enough pictures on the inside covers of her books to know the woman framed in the circle of dim light was Marlene McCambridge—and she looked to be stone-cold dead.

Great excerpt. Thanks for sharing.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

The Return of Nick and Nora has been a long time coming…I hope fans will agree it was worth the wait.

It took me two years to write the 5th Cobble Cove mystery because I was writing standalones in between, but I also wrote some Cobble Cove short ebooks in between. I think fans like authors to write books in the series as fast as possible, but they understand that isn’t always possible. It also may bring you new fans for the first in the series.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc. and include some book cover graphics and author photos if possible.

www.tclotempio.net

www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com

https://www.facebook.com/toni.lotempio.5

Thanks so much, Toni. I’m featuring your blog tour and giveaway below. Best wishes on your new release.

Hiss H for Homicide (A Nick and Nora Mystery)
by T. C. LoTempio

About Hiss H For Homicide


Hiss H for Homicide (A Nick and Nora Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
4th in Series – 1st with this publisher
Publisher: Beyond the Page Publishing (February 9, 2021)
Paperback: 224 pages
ISBN-10: 1950461947
ISBN-13: 978-1950461943
Digital ASIN: B08QW7Z25S

Nick and Nora are back in a tantalizing new mystery that’s far more dangerous than a game of cat and mouse . . .
Never one to turn away from a challenge—even when it goes against her better judgment—Nora Charles can hardly say no when an old friend of her mother’s comes to town seeking her help. The author of steamy romances has learned that her writing partner is severing their relationship and threatening to reveal dark and dirty secrets in a tell-all, and she pleads with Nora to intervene. Reluctantly agreeing to help, Nora pays a visit to the writing partner, ready to make her case—right up until the moment she discovers the woman’s lifeless body.

With the police convinced that Nora’s friend is the culprit, she and Nick begin delving into the dead woman’s past and her provocative tell-all. It soon becomes apparent that the woman had a knack for digging up dirt and wasn’t shy about exposing skeletons in closets, and before long Nora has a seemingly endless list of suspects who were at risk of having their darkest secrets revealed. With a police force intent on throwing the book at Nora’s friend and time running out, she and Nick must outwit a dangerous killer before they take their own secrets to the grave . . .

About T. C. LoTempio

While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She and her cat pen the Nick and Nora mystery series originally from Berkley Prime Crime and now with Beyond the Page Publishing. They also write the Cat Rescue series from Crooked Lane and the Pet Shop series, originally published by Midnight Ink and continued in 2021 with book two, KILLERS OF A FEATHER, from Beyond the Page. Catch up with them at ROCCO’s blog, catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com or her website, www.tclotempio.net

Author Links

ROCCO’s blog: www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com

Website: www.tclotempio.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/toni.lotempio.5

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKOBOGoogle Play

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

February 8 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

February 9 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

February 9 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

February 10 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – CHARACTER GUEST POST

February 10 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

February 11 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – GUEST POST. INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY

February 12 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT

February 12 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW

February 13 – FUONLYKNEW -SPOTLIGHT

February 14 – Cozy Up WIth Kathy – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

February 15 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

February 16 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

February 16 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY

February 17 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

February 18 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW

February 19 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

February 20 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

February 21 – Diane Reviews Books – GUEST POST, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Cozy Mystery, New Releases

Interview with Tracy Gardner, Author of Behind the Frame: A Shepherd Sisters Cozy Mystery

It’s a pleasure to have Tracy Gardner from Howell, Michigan, here to chat about her writing and new release, Behind the Frame: A Shepherd Sister’s Mystery.

How long have you been published, Tracy? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

My first traditionally published novel released last year through Hallmark Publishing. OUT OF THE PICTURE: A SHEPHERD SISTERS MYSTERY was the first ever Hallmark Publishing cozy mystery novel. That has now become a Hallmark cozy mystery book series, with book two, BEHIND THE FRAME, releasing August 11th, 2020, and book three, STILL LIFE AND DEATH, releasing summer of 2021.

And just recently, I’ve signed with Crooked Lane Books to publish a new cozy mystery with series potential called RUBY RED HERRING: AN AVERY AYERS ANTIQUES MYSTERY.

Prior to receiving the Hallmark Publishing deal in 2019, I had published a women’s fiction novel, THE FALL OF OUR SECRETS, through a small e-publisher that has since gone out of business. That book is still available on Amazon as well; readers should note that it has more PG-13 / R rated content as opposed to my nicely G / PG rated cozy mysteries above.

That’s wonderful, Tracy. I also have a 4-book cozy mystery series, The Cobble Cove Mysteries, with Solstice Publishing, a small Indie publisher, and am looking to publish a new one with a larger traditional publisher if I get lucky with an agent. In the meantime, I’m happy publishing my series and standalone mysteries with Solstice and Next Chapter.

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.

In Hallmark’s Shepherd sisters series, Savanna Shepherd has just returned to her small Lake Michigan hometown of Carson after a broken engagement and lost job in Chicago. As an art authenticator, Savanna has a special talent for spotting clues hiding in plain sight. Savanna is thrilled to be reunited with her two sisters, and her family is happy to have her home. In OUT OF THE PICTURE, when it becomes clear that someone is trying to kill Savanna’s would-be grandmother, town matriarch Caroline Carson, Savanna races to uncover the truth and find the culprit with help from her sisters, Detective Nick Jordan, and intriguing town doctor, Aidan Gallager. By book two, BEHIND THE FRAME (8/11/2020), Detective Jordan realizes Savanna could be an asset when she discovers the body of a murdered councilman and has insight into possible suspects. Savanna once again becomes embroiled in a murder mystery in book three, STILL LIFE AND DEATH (summer 2021), when her beloved uncle is suddenly a suspect in the strange murder of the town florist.

Aside the mystery in each book, Savanna and her sisters share a wonderful friendship, and we see Savanna recover from her broken engagement and begin a slowly developing relationship with a Carson resident. The Shepherd sisters series encompasses high-stakes mysteries, Sunday family dinners, a gourmet dog treat and grooming salon in a town you’d love to live in.

In Crooked Lane Books’ RUBY RED HERRING, Avery Ayers now runs her parents’ antiques and artifacts appraisal business a year after her parents perished in a fiery car crash. But Avery’s life is turned upside down again when she receives a mysterious message from someone claiming to be her (deceased) father on the heels of being hired to investigate a potentially priceless ruby that could be the missing dragon eye in famed Emperor’s Twins Xiang Dynasty medallion. Avery and new friend Detective Art Smith are pulled into a mystery involving a possible faked death, a stolen ruby worth millions, and New York’s Museum of Antiquities. RUBY RED HERRING takes place in the upstate New York town of Lilac Grove and in Manhattan; Avery Ayers younger sister Tilly and eccentric force of nature Aunt Midge keep Avery centered as she delves into her parents’ past and how it is connected to the ruby under lock and key at the museum.

Both those series sound excellent. 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?

I’d love to continue working with wonderful publishers and writing stories that matter to me and resonate with readers. I’m so extremely fortunate to be on this path, and I’m committed to doing the work necessary to continue.

Writing is definitely a labor of love. Best of luck to you meeting your goals.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

I think anyone who is looking for characters they can relate to, sweet, slow-burn romance, mystery and intrigue, and/or normal, everyday life issues we all deal with will enjoy my books.

That’s a nice, wide audience.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Don’t stop.

If you’re completely worn out from the effort of trying to get your work out there, and it’s too heartbreaking or soul-crushing for you to go on, go ahead and try to quit. If you feel okay and at peace not writing, or writing solely for your eyes only, then you’ve made the right decision. But if you try to quit and find you can’t, then get back on your journey to publication and keep on going. Don’t stop.

Great advice. Even if I never land an agent or publish with a large publisher, I will continue to write and publish wherever I can because I truly love sharing my characters and plots with readers.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

This question made me smile, coming right after the previous one, as the answer is in that advice. I became worn out and just mentally and emotionally crushed more than once. You can get into an unhealthy cycle of focusing so much on this one goal, that you lose perspective of what really matters. The last time I tried to quit, I’d reached the point where I realized I was siphoning away time, energy, and enjoyment from my family in pursuit of this thing I’d tried for over a decade to achieve, and for what? I told my agent (the one it took me years of querying to secure) to take me off her website because I was done. She nicely told me no, and to take some time and step away from writing for a while. I was able to strengthen my focus on the things that really matter to me—my kids, my husband, and how truly blessed I am in life for so many reasons. When my agent got back in touch and asked if I wanted to put together a proposal for Hallmark’s new publishing division, I said sure, why not? I think the difference then was that my expectations were gone. I can’t say the drive was absent, but I really had nothing to lose and zero expectations.

I’m sure there are a million different routes to becoming published. I wouldn’t recommend mine to anyone, but I’m so grateful I’m here.

What a great story. Thanks for sharing your experience. I know many writers who have gone through a similar period of despair, as I have, and questioned all the time and effort they’ve put into writing for very little reward. It’s good to know that a successful author such as yourself has gone through the same thing.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I don’t, but I should. Well, that’s not 100% true. The Hallmark authors have a little online group I’m part of, and they are some of the sweetest, most helpful and supportive people I’ve ever known. I do not belong to any organizations or formal groups, but I’m sure I would benefit if I did.

I also belong to my publisher’s Facebook groups and a writing group at the library which currently isn’t meeting. Other than those, I belong to  Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Cat Writers’ Association, and the Long Island Authors Group. I find certain groups are more helpful than others depending on your interests and type of writing you do.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I really enjoy spending time hanging out with my kids, who are now 18, 20 and 20 (son and two daughters, respectively). I learn so much from them; they are pretty cool people.

My husband and I have transitioned from a Harley to a Side-By-Side (SxS) ATV, different but still fun. I love, love, love live music, and that is one of the things I’m saddest about in our current pandemic: that I have no idea when my concert-wife and I will be able to see our favorite bands again. I also love reading, baking, and snuggling our pets.

My only daughter will be 16 in October, and I think she’s cool, too – lol. As for snuggling with pets, I absolutely adore our two-year-old cats and our 13 year old senior tabby.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

Most: Those moments when the little plot points come together or the characters are talking and I suddenly stumble across the deeper meaning in what I’ve written. That’s seriously the best. That, and being able to write the stories of these random characters who pop into my head. If I couldn’t do that, I think I’d always be curious about them. I keep notes on characters I’ve “met” and haven’t yet had time to figure out their stories and write them.

Least: The tech-angst I experience when trying to do necessary things like create and link newsletters or construct book promo graphics or change formats of files or find the right platform to get something to run. My tech guy (my 18-year-old son) is leaving for college any minute and then I have no idea what I’ll do!

Toughest challenge: Beginning. Writing that first sentence in a new manuscript.

Most authors cite promoting and marketing as their toughest challenges, and they are definitely mine. You mention your struggles with technology to create your promotions. I enjoy learning how to use graphics, but I have difficulty locating photos I’ve saved and the time it takes to master everything. As far as beginning a new manuscript, I have no trouble with that. I’m now outlining my plots which also helps.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

Oh, good question! I have fun coming up with who I want to be the victim, and then all the reasons various other characters might have to kill that person. I enjoy being along for the ride as my main character follows the clues. I especially love writing the mini cliffhanger—those  Oh no! What happened?!  moments when you’re reading a book and you know you absolutely can’t put it down now, you’ve got to read another few pages. At least!

I also love all of that, but I enjoy switching up genres now and then, alternating my cozies with standalone mysteries of a darker nature.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

Sure! Here’s a little from Behind the Frame:

Now Savanna saw what was wrong with the view. As she walked around the gazebo into Carson’s park, she stared up the twelve-foot-tall statue of Jessamina Carson on her pedestal. Jessamina wasn’t quite twelve feet tall any longer. Savanna gasped, covering her mouth in shock.

Jessamina Carson’s head was missing.

Savanna took an involuntary step back, away from the defaced, century-old statue, taking in the scene. What in the world? The head of the statue lay several yards away on the ground, scattered debris littering the grass between the base of the statue and the eerily severed concrete head. Across the base of the statue, from one side to the other, spanned large, red spray-painted words, NEVER CARSON.

Savanna whirled around at a sound behind her, hands up defensively—a reflex, considering what she’d just stumbled onto. Her friend Britt was walking toward her, his eyes wide and his short, white-blond hair making him look paler than Savanna felt.

“Savanna? What is this? What happened?”

She shook her head. “I have no idea.” She turned in a circle, searching the park for any sign of the person who’d done this. No one. The park was deserted.

Britt stood, hands on his hips, looking the statue up and down, gaze coming to rest on the ugly words. “Well, I’d say someone has a problem with your town.”

I liked that. Thanks for sharing it.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

You’ve asked some great questions, I can’t think of anything else. But I do want to say how grateful I am knowing people are enjoying the stories! Thank you for reading!

I’m glad you enjoyed the interview, Tracy. I’m including your blog tour and giveaway below. Best wishes to you on your new release and forthcoming books.


Behind the Frame: A Shepherd Sisters Mystery
by Tracy Gardner

About Behind the Frame


Behind the Frame: A Shepherd Sisters Mystery
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing (August 11, 2020)
Paperback 360 Pages
ISBN-10: 1947892975
ISBN-13: 978-1947892972
Digital ASIN: B084FHKMTG

When art in the park
leads to murder in the dark,
the Shepherd sisters
have another crime to solve.

Savanna Shepherd, an art expert turned elementary art teacher, is planning the Art in the Park festival for her hometown of Carson. But apparently, someone isn’t happy that Carson got to host the event: the beloved statue in the park is destroyed. Not long after, Savanna finds the dead body of one of the people on the planning committee.

Savanna and her sisters are convinced that the arrested murder suspect didn’t do it, despite strong evidence to the contrary. With the help of Dr. Aidan Gallager, Savanna’s new romantic interest, they uncover hidden resentments and intrigue. Several people in Carson had a motive for the murder. Can they find out which one of them is behind the framing of an innocent person?

This intriguing mystery includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Mini Rhubarb Pies.

About Tracy Gardner

Tracy Gardner is a fiction author represented by Fran Black of Literary Counsel. Tracy writes Hallmark Publishing’s Shepherd Sisters Mystery series, intriguing, engaging stories about Art Authenticator turned elementary art teacher Savanna Shepherd and her sisters solving murder mysteries in a small Lake Michigan town. A Detroit native, Tracy is the daughter of two teachers. She grew up on Nancy Drew mysteries and rock and roll. Tracy lives with her husband and best friend of thirty years and a menagerie of spoiled rescue dogs and cats, her front door constantly revolving with her two daughters and son back and forth from college. She is a strong believer in the power of baked goods, live music, family, and friends as staples to a happy life.

Author Links

Website: tracygardnerbeno.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tracy_Beno

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TracyGardnerBeno/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/tracy-gardner

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19478520.Tracy_Gardner

Purchase Links – AmazonB&N

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

August 11 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

August 11 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

August 11 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

August 12 – Island Confidential – SPOTLIGHT

August 12 – Diane Reviews Books – SPOTLIGHT

August 13 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW

August 13 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

August 14 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

August 14 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

August 14 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

August 15 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

August 15 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT

August 15 – Christa Reads and Writes – REVIEW

August 16 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW, GUEST POST

August 16 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

August 17 – Brooke Blogs – CHARACTER GUEST POST

August 17 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

August 18 – Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder – REVIEW, RECIPE

August 18 – Cozy Up With Kathy – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

August 18 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Blog Tour, Cozy Mysteries, New Releases

Author Spotlight: Victoria Gilbert, Author of Booked To Death, A Booklover’s B & B Mystery

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Victoria Gilbert from the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina, a rural area outside the cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point.

Welcome, Victoria. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

My first published book (2014) was CROWN OF ICE, a fairytale retelling of H. C. Andersen’s The Snow Queen. It was originally traditionally published, but for various reasons I pulled all my rights from that publisher and republished that title, as well as its companion title, SCEPTER OF FIRE – a “mash-up” retelling of Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling and The Steadfast Tin Soldier – as books one and two in the Mirror of Immortality Series. Those books were both independently published in the spring of 2017 with my author co-op, Snowy Wings Publishing.

I also wrote a YA scifi novel that was traditionally published in 2016, but that book is another where I pulled my rights. It’s now out-of-print, and I currently have no plans to republish it.

My first mystery novel was A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS. It was published in December 2017 by Crooked Lane Books, and is the start of the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series. Since that time, Crooked Lane has published more books in that series – SHELVED UNDER MURDER (2018), PAST DUE FOR MURDER (2019), and BOUND FOR MURDER (2020). A fifth book, A DEADLY EDITION, will be published by Crooked Lane on Dec. 8, 2020.

The first book in my new cozy mystery series, the Booklover’s B&B series, is BOOKED FOR DEATH, which was released by Crooked Lane Books on June 9th.

You have quite an interesting publishing background.

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.

The fifth book in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series is A DEADLY EDITION, which will be published by Crooked Lane Books on Dec. 8th of this year.  It is already available for preorder.

I have recently signed a contract for books six and seven in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series, so I’ll be working on those books later this year and into 2021.

Currently, I’m working on book two in the Booklover’s B&B series, RESERVED FOR MURDER, which will be released in late spring of 2021.

Very nice. They all sound like great books.

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?

I simply want to keep writing and publishing as long as I can. As I already mentioned, over the next few years I plan to continue my current two series. I also intend to write a few books in the general fiction/women’s fiction genre and see if my agent and I can find a home for those books as well.

Those sound like excellent goals. Best of luck achieving them. It’s so important for writers to set goals. I’ve just made up my own plan for starting a new series and writing/finishing other book projects in the next two years.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

As I am a very eclectic reader myself, I would be happy to attract anyone who enjoys reading.

As far as who might be most interested in my two current series, I would say anyone who likes cozy or light mysteries, anyone interested in a small-town settings and interesting and diverse characters, anyone who enjoys some (clean) romance in their books, and anyone who likes historical mysteries mixed in with contemporary crime-solving.

Sounds like you have a wide target audience.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Experiment and try new things, especially if you are feeling “stuck” or unfulfilled with where you are now. I started out in one genre, and while I did get published, I discovered that my real strengths as a writer lay elsewhere. Experimenting with writing mysteries, a genre I always loved but wasn’t certain I could write successfully, opened up a new world to me. I learned that my style and interests fit the mystery genre – something I would never have known if I hadn’t attempted to write in a new and different genre.

I would also say to explore new paths to publication if you find that the traditional publishing world isn’t interested in books that you’ve written and love. Although my SF/F books don’t match the market for traditional publishing today, I still believe in them and have found that publishing them independently (with my author co-op) is a great alternative to leaving them languishing “on the shelf.”

Excellent advice. I haven’t yet landed an agent or a large publisher, but I’ve been publishing with two Indie publishers and have also considered self publishing in the future, although I’m still querying to agents and submitting to my current publishers. I agree completely that writers need to experiment with genres and styles as well as different publishing options.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

Despite starting later in life, my path to publication wasn’t as difficult as some. I actually signed with an agent and got a publishing deal after only a year of querying. To be honest, I faced more challenges AFTER being first published than before. I really don’t wish to go into details about those problems, but I will say that all my experiences have taught me a great deal about the publishing business, which I think is always beneficial.

There’s so much to learn about publishing, and writers have to experience most of it firsthand.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I am a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. I am also involved in my local Sisters in Crime chapter, Murder We Write.

I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. I’ve considered joining Mystery Writers of America, also.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Of course I love reading! I also enjoy gardening, walking, traveling, drawing and painting, listening to music, attending theatre and dance performances, and watching films and some TV shows.

A nice and varied set of hobbies.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

What I like most is the creative process and bringing my characters to life. I also enjoy developing plots and honing my words into something that can make me feel proud. (Even though my writing is never perfect and I am still learning). In addition, I love hearing from readers who have enjoyed my books, and discussing writing and books with other readers.

My toughest challenge is promotion. I am not a natural salesperson so dealing with the marketing aspect of the business is much more of a challenge for me than the creative side.

Those are my favorite and least parts of the publishing process, and I believe most authors feel the same about the challenges of marketing and promotion.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

As someone who is not fond of reading books that include graphic violence, language, or sex, I enjoy writing in a genre that doesn’t include those things. I also enjoy being able to focus on characters and everyday life while still being able to include action and adventure. In addition, cozies are fun – something I think we need more of in this world.

I feel the same way.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

From BOOKED FOR DEATH, Book One in the Booklover’s B&B series:

Scott leaned back in his chair. “A costume party? Sounds like fun, but I have another engagement. Of course, to be honest, I’m not really a part of the Tey celebration, so I guess I can be forgiven for my absence.”

“Yes, you’re excused, but no one else.” I kept my tone light. I never wanted to force my guests to participate in an activity. Their payment for the event, which ran from Saturday to Saturday after a Friday evening check-in, included the dinner party, but if they wished to skip it, that was their choice. “We do have some local people attending the party, so there are plenty of participants even if you can’t come, Scott. Although you are welcome, of course.”

“I, for one, wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Lincoln said. “I have the perfect costume, which I certainly don’t want to waste.”

“Let me guess,” I said. “Richard the Third?”

“Oh no.” A slow smile spread over Lincoln’s face. “That’s much too expected. No, I plan to represent his eventual adversary, Henry the Seventh.”

“Siding with the opposition—the House of Tudor against the House of York?” Scott stood up and tossed his napkin onto the linen tablecloth. 

Lincoln sat back in his chair. “The Tudors won.”

“But even that line didn’t last,” Scott observed. “Still, your choice is unique, so good for you.”

Jennifer tapped her chin with one finger. “According to Tey, Henry was the villain who killed the young princes.”

Lincoln shrugged. “Who knows the truth of that story? Tey had her opinions, but nothing has ever been proven.”

“At any rate, I hope you’ll all have a good time tonight, virtually traveling back in time just as Tey’s Detective Grant did,” I said, as Alicia appeared with fresh eggs and other items and plopped them down in front of Lincoln and Jennifer.

“Full English breakfast,” she said. “Enjoy.”

Lincoln lifted his fork. “Thank you. Now, once more into the breach…”

I turned aside, swallowing a remark about the inappropriateness of his quote. Because, as far as I knew, no one was at war, or in any danger of death.

Of course, as later events soon proved, I was quite wrong in this assumption.

Great excerpt. Thanks for sharing.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

I want them to know that I am happy to engage with readers on social media or via my website contact form and would also love to talk to them if we meet at any conferences, signings, or related events. So readers – don’t hesitate to connect with me!

Also, while I do write series, and there is character development and plot progression over the course of the series, I never write cliff-hangers! If someone wants to read my books out of order, they should still be able to enjoy them.

Finally, my mystery books are all available in audio book format as well as hardback and eBook.

Great! Thanks so much for the interview, and I will share your current blog tour and giveaway. Best wishes on your new series.

Booked for Death: A Book Lover’s B&B Mystery
by Victoria Gilbert

About Booked for Death


Booked for Death: A Book Lover’s B&B Mystery
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (August 11, 2020)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN-10: 1643853074
ISBN-13: 978-1643853079
Digital ASIN: B07XX7PHTV

From the critically acclaimed author of SIBA Okra Pick A Murder for the Books, Victoria Gilbert embarks with a new series for perfect for fans of Kate Carlisle and Juliet Blackwell.

A book lover’s B&B in an idyllic waterfront village becomes the scene of a grisly murder–and a ruthless battle between treachery and the truth.

Nestled in the historic waterfront town of Beaufort, North Carolina, Chapters Bed-and-Breakfast is a reader’s paradise. Built in 1770, the newly renovated inn hosts a roster of special events celebrating books, genres, and authors. It’s the perfect literary retreat–until a rare book dealer turns up dead in the carriage house during a celebration of Golden Age mystery author Josephine Tey.

The victim’s daughter points the finger at forty-two-year-old widow and former schoolteacher Charlotte Reed, who inherited the B&B from her great-aunt Isabella. Charlotte is shocked to discover that the book dealer suspected Isabella of being a thief who founded Chapters on her ill-gotten gains. Charlotte has successfully learned the B&B business in a year, but nothing has prepared her to handle a death on the premises.

Armed with intelligence and courage and assisted by her vibrant older neighbor, a visiting author, and members of a local book club, Charlotte is determined to prove her innocence and to clear her great-aunt’s name. But the murderer is still at large, and equally determined to silence anyone who might discover the truth behind the book dealer’s death. Now, Charlotte must outwit an unknown killer–or end up writing her own final chapter.

About Virginia Gilbert

Victoria Gilbert, raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned her early obsession with reading into a dual career as an author and librarian. Victoria has worked as a reference librarian, research librarian, and library director. When not writing or reading, she likes to spend her time watching films, gardening, or traveling. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers and lives in North Carolina. This is her fourth Blue Ridge Library mystery.

Author Links:

Website/blog: http://victoriagilbertmysteries.com/

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaGilbertMysteryAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VGilbertauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/VictoriaGilbert

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victoriagilbertauthor/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4J0jvZ-D0NVF9Qv7H2ua8Q

BUY LINKS: 

Amazon B&N Kobo Indie Bound

A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS: http://www.crookedlanebooks.com/titles/a-murder-for-the-books/

SHELVED UNDER MURDER: http://www.crookedlanebooks.com/titles/shelved-under-murder/

PAST DUE FOR MURDER: http://www.crookedlanebooks.com/titles/past-due-for-murder/

BOUND FOR MURDER: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/612101/bound-for-murder-by-victoria-gilbert/

A DEADLY EDITION (preorder): https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/647523/a-deadly-edition-by-victoria-gilbert/9781643854762/

BOOKED FOR DEATH: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/622813/booked-for-death-by-victoria-gilbert/

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

June 8 – The Bookwyrm’s Hoard – REVIEW

June 8 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

June 8 – The Ninja Librarian – REVIEW

June 9 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW

June 9 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT

June 10 – MJB Reviewers – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

June 10 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT

June 10 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW

June 11 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW

June 11 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

June 12 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW

June 12 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 13 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

June 13 – The Book Diva’s Reads – GUEST POST

June 14 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW

June 14 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – REVIEW

June 15 – eBook Addicts – REVIEW

June 15 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW

June 15 – Brianne’s Book Reviews – REVIEW

June 16 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

June 16 – Moonlight Rendezvous– REVIEW

June 16 – Jane Reads – GUEST POST

June 17 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW

June 17 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

June 18 – View from the Birdhouse – REVIEW

June 18 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

June 19 – That’s What She’s Reading – REVIEW

June 19 – Sapphyria’s Books – REVIEW

June 20 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW

June 20 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW

June 21 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW

June 21 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Interview

Interview with T.R. Ragan, author of Don’t Make A Sound, A Sawyer Brooks Thriller, by T.R. Ragan

I’m honored to interview Theresa Ragan/TR Ragan, author of Don’t Make a Sound, for my blog today. Theresa is from Sacramento, California.

Thanks for joining me today, Theresa.

How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

In 2011, after writing for 20 years and struggling to get published, I self-published two time travel romance novels—Return of the Rose and A Knight in Central Park, four contemporary romance novels, and a romantic suspense novel under the name Theresa Ragan. Soon after, I self-published one thriller titled Abducted by TR Ragan, which shot up to the top of the Amazon store. Months later I was approached by publishers. By that time I had sold more than 350,000 books. In March 2012, I sold Abducted and two more books in the Lizzy Gardner series to Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer thriller imprint. I have been with T&M ever since!

Self-published: Return of the Rose, A Knight in Central Park, Having My Baby, An Offer He Can’t Refuse, Taming Mad Max, Here Comes the Bride, Finding Kate Huntley, Dead Man Running, I Will Wait for You: a novella

Published with Thomas & Mercer: Lizzy Gardner series: Abducted, Dead Weight, A Dark Mind, Obsessed, Almost Dead, and Evil Never Dies; Faith McMann Trilogy: Furious, Outrage, and Wrath; Jessie Cole series: Her Last Day, Deadly Recall, Deranged, and Buried Deep; Sawyer Brooks series: Don’t Make a Sound, Out of Her Mind, and Untitled Book #3.

What a great story. My first book, Cloudy Rainbow, a paranormal romance, was also self-published but I used a publishing company to do it. That book has since been reprinted with the publisher of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series. I also write traditional mysteries and short stories of various genres. My latest book, Sea Scope, is a psychological mystery, and I just submitted a medical mystery to one of my publishers. I’ve also always enjoyed time travel and Twilight-Zone type tales and have a manuscript for one I hope to get back to soon.

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.

My newest series is about three sisters who all grew up within a dysfunctional family in a small town with lots of secrets. I have four sisters of my own, and we all remember things from our childhood a little differently. Same goes for Sawyer Brooks and her two sisters. They all handle the lingering horrors of their childhood a little bit differently. Sawyer Brooks, the youngest of the three, is the main character weaved through the three-book series. She struggles to overcome her feelings of being abandoned by her older sisters. It isn’t until she returns to her hometown that she learns that not everything is what it seemed. DON’T MAKE A SOUND by TR RAGAN was released on June 1, 2020.

Congratulations on your new release and interesting comment about how people remember things differently. I just submitted a manuscript that deals with repressed memories of a trauma that the main character is seeking to recall to solve a murder.

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?

My goals as a writer is to always improve, always push myself to do better. After I turn in the third Sawyer Brooks novel next month, I will be writing my first standalone. I’m excited!

That’s great. I enjoy writing both standalones and series books.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

When I write, I usually have readers like myself in mind. People who know the difference between right and wrong. People who want justice for all. My thrillers are about everyday people overcoming tremendous obstacles and finding ways to not only move on in life, but thrive. My heroines are not victims. They are survivors.

Excellent!

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Read and write. If you have to give up TV to write for an hour after coming home from a full-time job, then do it! If you’re at home raising kids, write while they’re asleep or at school or while you’re waiting in the pick-up line to bring them home. I started writing when I was pregnant with my fourth child. My first book took me five years to write. I call it my Writing 101 Class. I thought about quitting a few times, but I didn’t. I wrote every day. I was determined and I persevered. When the rejection letters came in the mail, I cried for five minutes and then kept on writing. I have sold over three million books and I hope to sell three million more. It’s not easy. If it were, everyone would be writing a book. But if I can make it happen, so can you.

Three million books! That’s amazing. You’re an inspiration for many would-be and less successful authors including me.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

Finding time was the most difficult part. I worked full-time while raising four kids. When daycare costs became more than my paycheck, it made sense for me to stay home while my husband worked to keep a roof over our head and food on the table. I wrote late at night and early in the morning. There were six of us in a small house, so I set up a table in my bedroom and that’s where I wrote for the first fifteen years. I also wrote in bed and at the dining room table and in the car. When I signed with my first agent, I thought I had made it! I was so excited. I made all the revisions that editors asked of me, but to no avail. After writing for more than fifteen years, I grew frustrated and I started writing my first thriller, ABDUCTED. I got out my frustrations with the publishing world by killing off characters. If a character didn’t spit out great dialogue—off with their head. I’m kidding. Sort of. The point is, I found a new genre and I found my voice. Everything changed after that.

Such an incredible story. While I also work full-time and have difficulty finding the time to fit in writing, I can’t imagine what you went through with four kids while I only have one daughter, now a teenager, and 3 cats. I’m still trying to find an agent and a large publisher, but I’m not waiting for that to happen.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I belong to ThrillerFest, RWA, and the Sacramento Chapter of RWA.

I haven’t heard of ThrillerFest, but I belong to International Thriller Writers as well as Sisters-in-Crime and a few other groups.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I love hanging out with my husband and all four of my grown children. I play the piano, self-taught since the age of fourteen. I love hiking with my sisters, too.

Nice. I tried to teach myself piano, but I haven’t played in years. I enjoy walking and a little running that’s not too hard on my knees, but I haven’t tried hiking.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

The most challenging part for me is writing the first 100 pages of every single book. It doesn’t matter if it’s the second book in a series or the sixth. Those first 100 pages can cause me to lose sleep. I’m also not a big fan of deadlines. But that’s part of the deal! The very best part is writing THE END and realizing I did it again! Of course, I still have to revise, revise, revise, but that first draft is the tough part.

The best part for me is taking an everyday person/character and putting them in harrowing situations to see how they’ll deal with finding a way out of this often deadly and dangerous predicament. In my Faith McMann trilogy (Furious, Outrage, and Wrath) a wife, mother, and teacher is left for dead. Her husband has been killed and her two children have been kidnapped. Once Faith McMann begins to recuperate, she realizes she might be her children’s only hope. Faith becomes stronger, physically and mentally, and there is nothing that will stop her from finding her kids.

Good answers. I get stuck in the middle, but then I find that it gets going again if I don’t give up. The hardest part for me is promoting and marketing my books because I’d rather be writing which is my favorite part of the process because I enjoy creating characters and seeing where they lead me.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

Of all those tragic memories, the night her sisters left was the most troubling, often as eerily vague as it was disturbingly real. Sawyer had been wearing her favorite nightgown, a light-pink cotton shift with a torn hem that fell below her knees. Out of breath and freezing cold, her heart hammering against her chest, she’d stood on the front porch of their old house in River Rock, staring into the night, praying it was all a bad dream and her sisters would return. That’s when a weighty hand had clamped down around her shoulder.

Oooh, exciting!

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

I would like anyone who reads one of my books to know that my sole purpose is to entertain. I would love for readers to finish a book of mine and truly feel empowered—to know there is absolutely no obstacle they can’t conquer.

Readers interested in signing up for a monthly newsletter or getting their name in a TR RAGAN book should check out my website at http://www.trragan.com

Very nice. Thanks for the great interview, and I will also share your current blog tour and giveaway. Best wishes on your new release.

Don’t Make a Sound (Sawyer Brooks)
by T.R. Ragan

About Don’t Make A Sound


Don’t Make a Sound (Sawyer Brooks)
Psychological Thriller
1st in Series
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (June 1, 2020)
Paperback: 287 pages
ISBN-10: 1542093872
ISBN-13: 978-1542093873
Digital ASIN: B07S4MFSFG

Her own past could be a reporter’s biggest story in this twisting thriller about murder and family secrets by the New York Times bestselling author T.R. Ragan.

Plagued by traumatic childhood memories, crime reporter Sawyer Brooks still struggles to gain control of her rage, her paranoia, and her life. Now, after finally getting promoted at work, she is forced to return home and face her past.

River Rock is where she’d been abandoned by her two older sisters to suffer alone, and in silence, the unspeakable abuses of her family. It’s also where Sawyer’s best friend disappeared and two teenage girls were murdered. Three cold cases dead and buried with the rest of the town’s secrets.

When another girl is slain in a familiar grisly fashion, Sawyer is determined to put an end to the crimes. Pulled back into the horrors of her family history, Sawyer must reconcile with her estranged sisters, who both have shattering memories of their own. As Sawyer’s investigation leads to River Rock’s darkest corners, what will prove more dangerous—what she knows of the past or what she has yet to discover?

About T.R. Ragan

New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author T.R. Ragan has sold more than three million books since her debut novel appeared in 2011. She is the author of the Faith McMann trilogy (Furious, Outrage, and Wrath); the Lizzy Gardner series (Abducted, Dead Weight, A Dark Mind, Obsessed, Almost Dead, and Evil Never Dies) ; and the Jessie Cole novels (Her Last Day, Deadly Recall, Deranged, and Buried Deep). In addition to thrillers, she writes medieval time-travel tales, contemporary romance, and romantic suspense as Theresa Ragan. An avid traveler, her wanderings have led her to China, Thailand, and Nepal. Theresa and her husband, Joe, have four children and live in Sacramento, California. To learn more, visit her website at theresaragan.com.

Author Links

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/TRRaganAuthor/ Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/trraganauthor/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/TRRaganAuthor

Purchase Links – Amazon B&N

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

May 26 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

May 26 – Booked on a Feeling – REVIEW

May 27 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT

May 28 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

May 29 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW

May 30 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

May 31 – Gimme The Scoop Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 1 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

June 1 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

June 2 – That’s What She’s Reading – REVIEW

June 3 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author – SPOTLIGHT

June 4 – eBook Addicts – REVIEW

June 5 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW

June 6 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

June 7 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT

June 8 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Blog Tour

Author Spotlight of Abby Collette, Author of A Deadly Inside Scoop, An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery


Today,  I welcome Abby who writes under the pen names Abby L. Vandiver and Abby Collette. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.

Hi, Abby. Please tell us how long you’ve been published and  what titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

I’m a hybrid author and have penned more than twenty-five books and short stories. I first self-published a mystery-sci-fi-ish book in 2013 and I’ve been writing full time ever since. I have six series, five of which are in the cozy mystery genre—Mars Origin Series, Logan Dickerson Cozy Mystery, Normal Junction Mysteries, Tiny House Cozy Mysteries, the Romaine Wilder Mystery published by Henery Press, and starting in May, 2020, the Ice Cream Parlor Mystery published by Berkley (Penguin Random House).

That’s wonderful. You are quite prolific.

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.

My books are mostly cozy mystery, although I’d like to try my hand at writing different genres, so look out for that. My first three books were sort of a Dan Brown mystery but not fast paced or action packed, it was more character driven. I have a new series with Berkley, the first book is A Deadly Inside Scoop. It’s an #ownvoice cozy set in a real suburb of Cleveland. It’s the first series I’ve written a series set in my hometown since my first book, In the Beginning. A Deadly Inside Scoop was released on May 12, 2020.

I also write cozy mysteries but have dabbled in other genres myself. I’m hoping to publish a medical thriller soon. I love the idea of an ice cream parlor mystery series. Best of luck with the first book.

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?

I hope to continue writing books both as a self-published author and traditionally published. I also want to branch out and try my hand at writing in different genres. And I’d like to promote my books, especially the old ones. Sometimes, I think that I neglect them and I have a handful of short stories that have yet to be published. I’d love to work on that, but writing takes me in different, unexpected directions so I look forward to finding what surprises the future hold for me.

We have a lot in common in that I also have old book-length and story-length manuscripts that I’d like to revisit and publish one day. Some of them aren’t even on computer, so they will require a lot of work. I understand your feeling of needing to promote older titles. It isn’t easy to write new material and promote the old at the same time.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

I hope everyone likes my books! I do write with everyone in mind, but for some, I know, cozies just aren’t their “cup of tea.” My readers are those that enjoy a light, humorous read. Ones that like to settle in, escape for a while and hang out with “friends” as I hope my characters will be to them.

I agree that characters are one of the most important features of a good book especially a cozy one.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

I’d say to hang in there. It will come. And today, there are so many options. Self-publishing, and self-help publishers are great alternatives (or first choice) to traditional publishing. But whatever you choose, don’t stop writing. Finish that book and get it into the hands of readers.

Great advice. I’m still hoping to find an agent and publish with a large publisher, but I’m happy that I’ve been able to get my work out there through two Indie publishers.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

I had a lot to learn when I first started. I didn’t have experience writing, never taken any writing classes and had been in writing groups. I had to learn my craft at the same time I had to learn how to market the book. Publishing was the easy part seeing that I did it myself.

I think it’s very important for authors and those who are hoping to publish to educate themselves through classes and writing groups. I’ve been taking courses through Sisters-in-Crime that I feel have been very helpful. I agree that it’s true that marketing is the tough part for most authors.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I belong to a writing group, #amwriting, at my local library. I started the group about two years ago. In addition, I have a writing partner. We share our work and offer feedback and help on our work. I couldn’t do what I’m doing without the support of others.

I agree completely. No writer is an island. As a librarian, I also find it nice that you belong to a writing library group. I started one at my library, as well. It’s been led by a writing teacher.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I love binge watching Netflix shows, good movies and traveling. I’ve been known to wake up and decide to take an out-of-town trip that day!

I also enjoy traveling. I miss it, but I also like being home with my cats who I worry about when I go away.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

Coming up with ideas for the next book is a challenge. You always want to write something fresh and new, but that it hard to do. I can’t think of anything I don’t like about being an author.

I don’t have much trouble coming up with ideas, but it’s hard to find the time to execute them. Even being off from work, there are so many other things for me to do including virtual work for the library.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

I love writing cozies because they are fun. I get to show my humorous side and set up clues for people to follow.

I like that, too. I hope to get back to my Cobble Cove mystery series soon.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

Excerpt:

“Was there anyone else out tonight?” he asked. “Anyone that may have seen you or the gentleman you found?”

My mind and my eyes wandered back to Ms. Devereaux and her store. He got what he deserved . . . She had to know who he was, otherwise how would she know that he’d merited his fate?

The store was set directly in front of Bell Street.

Maybe she had seen something. But when I brought my eyes back to meet with the detective’s, I saw that scarf.

The multi-colored one.

It was wrapped around the neck of a young boy. Probably the young boy I’d spotted under the streetlight as he’d scrambled back up the hill coming up from the falls. A woman stood behind him, her hands on his shoulders.

“He may know something,” I said, and led him in the direction of the boy with my eyes.

Detective Beverly looked over his shoulder, following my gaze, then turned back to me. “Who?” he asked.

“That little boy,” I said. “I saw him down by the falls.”

“You saw him?”

“I think I did,” I said, and focused my gaze on him. “I saw his scarf.”

“Hold on.” He turned to the officer and asked him to go and get the boy.

I heard the detective say something to me, but my attention was on the boy and the woman. Through the sea of faces and movement, it seemed that briefly her eyes had locked with mine. It was as if she knew, somehow, that I had spoken about her—or the child—and she started to edge away.

The officer must have radioed his intent because before he got to her, another officer came up behind her. He leaned in and spoke to her. I saw her acknowledge the officer as he headed over.

“Bronwyn.” Snap! Snap! Fingers were in front of my face making the noise. “Bronwyn!”

“Yes,” I said, diverting my thoughts and refocusing my eyes on the detective.

“You got lost there for a minute,” he said. “You alright?”

“Yeah. I am,” I said. “Just cold and tired.”

“Do you need another blanket?” He tugged on the one I still had wrapped around me.

“Mm-mm.” I shook my head. “This one is fine.”

“Detective Beverly.” It was the officer speaking. He had escorted the woman and boy over. She didn’t seem too happy about it. “Here’s the woman you wanted to speak with.”

Her red lipstick was faded and dull. The mascara laid thick on her eyelashes had begun to run due to the dampness in the air. The curls in her blond hair—dyed, as evidenced by her dark brown roots—had flopped. She held her head up, her grip on the boy tight.

“What do you want?” she said. Her voice was gravelly, like she’d been smoking ten packs of cigarettes a day for the past forty years. She didn’t look that old, though. “I have to get my son home. Out of the cold.”

“Ms. Crewse here”—the detective pointed to me—“said she saw you down by the falls.”

“Not her,” I corrected. “Her son.” I flapped an arm in his direction.

“He wasn’t there,” she said, not even taking the time to consider my claim.

The detective looked at me.

“I saw that scarf around someone’s neck. A child’s neck,” I said. “That’s how I found the body. Chasing after it. Him. Then I saw the scarf again lying on the ground when I came back up to get help.”

“She must’ve seen another scarf,” the woman said dryly.

“Exactly like that one?” I asked, sarcasm threaded through my words.

She shrugged. “It wasn’t my son’s. He wasn’t anywhere near the falls tonight. Or anytime today.”

“Then why are you over here?” I asked, and before she gave an answer, I suggested one for her. “You come looking for that scarf?”

She blew out a snort. “No. I came to see what was going on, just like everyone else.” She looked at the detective.

“Where were you coming from?” I asked. “Did you go to the movies tonight?” I remembered the voices I’d heard earlier. I had heard a woman calling out something . . .

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Is she working for you?” She directed her question to the detective.

“No.” He chortled at the woman’s words, his green eyes lighting up. “But do you have any more questions, Bronwyn?”

I wasn’t amused. “It was his scarf,” I said. “And it was him.”

“Is this why you asked me to come over here?” she said, slowly taking her eyes from mine and looking at the detective. “So she could accuse me—or my son—of something? I don’t know what this is about, but I can’t help you. And neither can he.”

Great excerpt. Thanks for sharing it.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

I think my books are fun and funny, and I love sharing them with readers. I also think they may be a little different and many are filled with fun facts!

Very nice. I’m sharing your blog tour and giveaway for An Inside Scoop below. Thank you so much for the wonderful interview, and best wishes on your new release.

A Deadly Inside Scoop (An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery)
by Abby Collette

About A Deadly Inside Scoop


A Deadly Inside Scoop (An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Berkley (May 12, 2020)
Paperback: 384 pages
ISBN-10: 0593099664
ISBN-13: 978-0593099667
Digital ASIN: B07WJF48NC

This book kicks off a charming cozy mystery series set in an ice cream shop—with a fabulous cast of quirky characters.

Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.

To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It’s not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she’ll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown…

About Abby Collette

Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Abby Collette loves a good mystery. Born and raised in Cleveland, it’s even a mystery to her why she has yet to move to a warmer place. Author of the two Southern cozy mystery series Logan Dickerson Mysteries featuring a second-generation archaeologist and a nonagenarian who is always digging up trouble, and the Romaine Wilder Mysteries, set in East Texas, it pairs a medical examiner and her feisty auntie who owns a funeral home and is always ready to solve a whodunnit. Abby spends her time writing, facilitating writing workshops at local libraries and spending time with her grandchildren, each of which are her favorite.

Author Links

Facebook – www.facebook.com/authorabbyl.vandiver; Twitter – www.twitter.com/abbyvandiver;

Instagram- www.instagram.com/abbylvandiver; Website – www.authorabby.com

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NGoogleIndieBound

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

May 12 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW

May 12 – The Layaway Dragon – REVIEW

May 12 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

May 12 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

May 13 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW

May 13 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

May 13 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

May 14 – Christa Reads and Writes – REVIEW

May 14 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

May 14 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

May 14 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW*

May 14 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

May 15 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW

May 15 – Diane Reviews Books– REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

May 15 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT

May 16 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW

May 16 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT, RECIPE

May 16 – Here’s How It Happens – SPOTLIGHT

May 17 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

May 17 – Baroness’ Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

May 17 – Brooke Showalter – SPOTLIGHT, RECIPE

May 17 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – REVIEW*

May 18 – Jane Reads – GUEST POST

May 18 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

May 18 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

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Posted in Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight of Sybil Johnson, author of Ghosts of Painting Past, An Aurora Anderson Mystery

It’s my pleasure to interview author Sybil Johnson from Manhattan Beach, California.

Hi, Sybil. Please tell us how long you’ve been published and share some details about your books. h

My first published piece of fiction was a short story, “Family Business”, that came out in 2005 in Crimson Dagger, a magazine that’s now long gone. It marked the first appearance of Rory Anderson, the main character in my Aurora Anderson mystery series. The first book in the series, Fatal Brushstroke, also my first book published, came out in November 2014. There are 5 books in the series so far, all published by Henery Press – Fatal Brushstroke, Paint the Town Dead, A Palette For Murder, Designed For Haunting and the recently released Ghosts of Painting Past.

My series features computer programmer and tole/decorative painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson. The books are set in the fictional town of Vista Beach, California. Ghosts of Painting Past, the fifth book in my series, came out November 19, 2019. In it:

It’s Christmastime in the quiet Los Angeles County city of Vista Beach, home of computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson. The magic of the season fills the air as residents enjoy school concerts, a pier lighting ceremony and the annual sand-snowman contest.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Rory plans on painting ornaments to sell at the local craft fair and joining in on the holiday fun. But she finds the season anything but jolly after the house across the street is torn down, revealing a decades old crime. Past meets present when her father is implicated in the murder.

Fearing for her father’s future, Rory launches her own investigation, intent on discovering the truth and clearing his name.

Sounds like a wonderful holiday mystery and also one that people would enjoy reading at any time.

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?

I’m currently working on book 6 in the series that’s set around Valentine’s Day. I also have a couple ideas for other series—one cozy, one historical—that I’d like to develop further. At some point, I intend to get back to writing short stories. A dream of mine is to one day be published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine or Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I think the best way of reaching my goals is to continue to write and submit my work.

Great goals. Good luck with them.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

Anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries and a good whodunit.

Your books should attract a wide audience.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Be persistent and be willing to learn about writing and the publishing world. Join an organization like Sisters in Crime, if possible. There you’ll get a lot of support from other authors. I also think writing short stories is a good way to dip your toes in the water and, potentially, get some publishing credits.

I agree. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime myself, and I also write short stories in addition to my mystery series and novels.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

I first started writing in my early 40s while I was still in the software development game. I’d read a lot of mysteries over the years, but had no experience in writing fiction. My first challenge was to learn how to write fiction in general and a cozy mystery in particular. I read a lot of how-to books on writing and took a couple online classes geared toward mysteries. I also knew absolutely nothing about the publishing business. I joined Sisters in Crime and learned a lot from other authors. I’m a perfectionist so I find it hard to accept that I don’t have to be perfect when I write the first draft of a scene. I have to constantly remind myself of this even now.

Thanks for sharing your publishing challenges.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. I served on the board of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime for 6 years as Recording Secretary, Vice President/Programming Director and finally President. I recently finished a two year stint as We Love Libraries Coordinator for Sisters in Crime National.

Nice. As I said, I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime and their online Guppies chapter. In addition, I’m also a librarian.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I love reading, of course, both fiction and non-fiction. Like my main character, Rory, I enjoy decorative/tole painting, which I’ve been doing since the early 90s. I also enjoy learning about languages, particularly ancient ones. My focus for quite a few years has been on Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Coptic.

Interesting hobbies and those that will help you with your writing, too.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I enjoy plotting stories and putting together a set of characters. It’s great fun to create my own little world. Deadlines are one of my least favorite things about being an author. I have a love/hate relationship with them. On one hand, they keep me writing on a consistent basis. On the other, I feel very stressed out every time I think about them. The other thing I find challenging is the promotion end of writing. While I enjoy meeting readers and going to conferences, promoting myself and my work doesn’t come naturally to me.

I have the same issues, and I think most writers don’t enjoy promoting themselves even though it’s necessary to sell their books.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

As a reader I’m drawn to cozies for a variety of reasons. I enjoy visiting the worlds and characters authors create. I feel like the characters are old friends. I also enjoy the puzzle aspect of cozies where the emphasis is on the problem and finding out whodunit rather than on blood and gore. They also always have a satisfying ending where the case is solved and the killer brought to justice, something that doesn’t always happen in the real world.

Those are the same things that I like about writing them. I like building a world and characters that I can revisit again and again. I like putting together a puzzle that readers will enjoy seeing solved, putting in twists and turns and red herrings. I also feel great satisfaction in figuring out a way for the killer to be revealed and caught.

As a writer and reader of cozies, I feel the same way.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest release?

This is from Chapter 1 of Ghosts of Painting Past:

The earthmover moved back and forth, tearing down the last remnants of a house on Seagull Lane, digging up all its secrets. Its engine rumbled, producing a deafening noise heard up and down the narrow street.

Rory Anderson turned up her radio, hoping the Christmas carols would drown out the noise enough she could work. Brushing her shoulder length brown hair behind her ears, she concentrated on her computer screen. Half an hour later, a frenzied shout followed by the cutting off of the machine’s engine brought a sudden silence down on her street.

Rory looked up from her programming task and leaned over her desk to peer out the window at the construction site directly across the street from her single-story stucco home.

Construction workers clustered around the earthmover, their attention divided between something in one of the worker’s hands and the ground in the far corner of the lot. Before long, the foreman pulled out his cell phone.

Rory’s gaze shifted to the street where residents went about their business, trying to ignore the intruders on their block. On the lot to the left of the construction site, a slender woman less than five feet tall stood on a ladder, hanging icicle lights on the eaves of the Tudor-style home.

Rory returned to her work, figuring the issue would be resolved soon just like all of the others the developer had encountered the previous week. When a police car arrived less than ten minutes later and two uniformed officers approached the construction crew, she abandoned her programming task, put on a hoodie over her long-sleeved T-shirt and headed outside to see what was going on.

Nice excerpt.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

While Ghosts of Painting Past is the fifth book in the series, you don’t have to read the others to enjoy this one. I write all of my books so a reader can pick up any of them and get into the story without having to know what happened in the ones before it.

I try to do that with my Cobble Cove series as well.

Thanks for the interview, Sybil, and best wishes to you on your new release. I’ve included the details of your blog tour for the book below.

Ghosts of Painting Past (An Aurora Anderson Mystery)
by Sybil Johnson

About Ghosts of Painting Past

Ghosts of Painting Past (An Aurora Anderson Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
5th in Series
Henery Press (November 19, 2019)
Paperback: 264 pages
ISBN-10: 1635115590
ISBN-13: 978-1635115598
Digital ASIN: B07XC3DXGN

It’s Christmastime in the quiet Los Angeles County city of Vista Beach, home of computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson. The magic of the season fills the air as residents enjoy school concerts, a pier lighting ceremony and the annual sand-snowman contest.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Rory plans on painting ornaments to sell at the local craft fair and joining in on the holiday fun. But she finds the season anything but jolly after the house across the street is torn down, revealing a decades old crime. Past meets present when her father is implicated in the murder.

Fearing for her father’s future, Rory launches her own investigation, intent on discovering the truth and clearing his name.

About Sybil Johnson

Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.

Website: www.authorsybiljohnson.com
Facebook Author page: www.facebook.com/sybiljohnsonauthor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/sybiljohnson19
GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/SybilJohnson

Blog: : www.typem4murder.blogspot.com (This is a multi-author blog. I post every other Wednesday.)

 

Purchase Links – Amazon KindleAmazon PaperbackKobo

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

November 18 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

November 19 – Here’s How It Happened – SPOTLIGHT

November 20 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

November 21 – I Read What You Write – SPOTLIGHT

November 21 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

November 22 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

November 23 – My Reading Journeys – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

November 24 – The Self-Rescue Princess – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

November 25 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

November 26 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

November 27 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

November 27 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

November 28 – Thanksgiving

November 29 – Diane Reviews Books – REVIEW

November 29 – MJB Reviewers – REVIEW

November 30 – Sapphyria’s Books – REVIEW

December 1 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

December 2 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

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Posted in Author Spotlight, New Releases

Author Spotlight of Mystery Author Judy Penz Sheluk

I’m pleased to have fellow mystery author Judy Penz Sheluk here to chat about herself and her writing.

Nice to have you here, Judy. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher: Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

My first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery, was originally published in July 2015 by Barking Rain Press (BRP). BRP has also published book 2 in the Glass Dolphin series (A Hole in One) and book 1 in my Marketville Mystery series, Skeletons in the Attic.

In Feb. 2018, I started Superior Shores Press, my own publishing imprint. I have since published The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, a multi-author anthology where I worked as publisher and editor and two more books in the Marketville series: Past & Present (Sept. 2018) and A Fool’s Journey (Aug. 2019).

Very nice. Tell us a little bit about your books — what genre you write, 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.

I write amateur sleuth mysteries without the cats, crafts, or cookie recipes. The plots are a bit more complex than a traditional cozy, but they don’t contain bad language, violence or sex. My most recent release is A Fool’s Journey, which releases on Aug. 21.

Interesting. I always thought my mysteries, although they always contain cats, are non-traditional cozies, too. I envisioned the first book of my Cobble Cove mystery series, A Stone’s Throw, as a romantic suspense novel. Readers felt differently, and so began the cozy mystery series.

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?

I’m currently working on the third (and final) book in the Glass Dolphin series; I love the series, but I know where I want the characters to end up in their lives. Sometimes it’s just time. I plan to continue the Marketville series, and I’m working on a standalone suspense. I hope to publish another anthology next year, if The Best Laid Plans is successful.

I have a few stories in anthologies. I like to write them along with my books. I have 4 books in my series and hope to write at least another one. I also have plans to start a new series. So many ideas, so little time. I know you can relate to that.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

Anyone interested in clever cozies and mainstream mysteries, age 14 to 140.

A large audience.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Don’t give up. Rejection is part of every writer’s life. Believe in yourself, and in your story.

Excellent advice.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

The usual, I’m sure. Self-doubt and rejection topped the list. But I knew this is what I was meant to do.

That’s so important.

Have you taken any writing or publishing classes? If so, please provide information about them and if you feel they helped you further your professional skills.

I’ve taken writing workshops, and have a diploma in Fiction Writing from Gotham Writers Workshop and a diploma in Creative Writing from Winghill.

Good for you. I participate in a writer’s workshop at my library. I’ve taken several online courses and am currently taking two Sisters-in-Crime classes. They are very helpful.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I love to golf in the summer, walk my dog (a three and a half-year-old Golden Retriever named Gibbs) year round and try to read at least one book a week. I also love hanging out at our camp on Lake Superior – but only in the summer and fall. Winters in Northern Ontario are brutal!

I also like walking. When I can’t do it outside, I do exercise videos. I can’t walk my cats, but I play with them. I enjoy running after the two young ones. I wish I could read a book a week. With my full-time job at the library and my writing, I find it hard to read a book a month.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I love the writing part best. I also enjoy doing local events, speaking engagements, and going to book clubs (either by an online Zoom meeting or in person). I don’t love shameless self-promotion, but I also understand that it’s part of the job. And to be honest, if I wasn’t an author, I probably wouldn’t have any social media presence.

I relate to that. I find marketing and promotion time-consuming and frustrating, but, like you, I know it’s necessary.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc.

Facebook: https://business.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8602696.Judy_Penz_Sheluk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JudyPenzSheluk

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/judypenzsheluk/

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Blurb for A Fool’s Journey

In March 2000, twenty-year-old Brandon Colbeck left home to find himself on a self-proclaimed “fool’s journey.” No one—not friends or family—have seen or heard from him since, until a phone call from a man claiming to be Brandon brings the case back to the forefront. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and her team at Past & Present Investigations have been hired to find out what happened to Brandon and where he might be. As Callie follows a trail of buried secrets and decades-old deceptions only one thing is certain: whatever the outcome, there is no such thing as closure.

Excerpt:

Poplar Street was a mixed bag of retail, commercial, and questionable residential. Real estate ads liked to suggest that it was a neighborhood in transition, though which way it was transitioning was uncertain.

Trust Few Tattoo was sandwiched in with Triple P Pizza, Pasta & Panzerotti, and Totally Tempting Thai. The building itself was narrow, with a red brick façade and charcoal board and batten framing a gilt-lettered window and canary yellow door. Food smells from both restaurants wafted out to the street and I knew I’d be getting takeout for dinner.

I opened the door and was greeted with the droning sound of a tattoo machine. My senses were further assaulted with the sickly-sweet smell of industrial strength sanitizer and walls completely covered with framed pages of brightly colored tattoo designs.

The front desk attendant was leaning on a glass display case full of various jewelry items, half of which I wouldn’t know where to put. She glanced up from her smartphone when I walked in. I wasn’t sure if it was the head-to-toe look she gave me, or her heavily tattooed hands and fingers that made me feel slightly out of place. She stood up and favored me with a gap-toothed grin.

“Hey, welcome to Trust Few. I see you’re checking out the flash. What can we do for you?”

The flash? The dazed expression on my face must have given me away, because the shop assistant’s grin broadened.

“The generic drawings,” she said, waving her intricately patterned hands. “They’re called flash. Not as popular as they were once, if I’m being honest. Most of our clients are looking for custom work, unless, of course, they’re underage or impaired. Sam won’t work on either. But flash still makes nice wall art, don’t you think?”

I nodded and then got straight to the point. “I have some questions about a tattoo.” I felt a flush of embarrassment creep up my neck. Why else would I be here, if not about a tattoo? “I was hoping you could help me.”

“Sure.” She pulled a large day planner out from behind the jewelry-filled display case, and her arms opened to reveal a tattoo of a bear trap inside her left elbow. I winced, thinking of the pain.

The assistant caught my look and laughed. “Don’t worry. We never do ditch tattoos on newbies.”

Ditch tattoos? Once again I must have looked clueless, because she elaborated.

“Inside the crook of an elbow is called a ditch tattoo, and yes, it hurts like hell. Not as much as this one did, mind you.” She raised her right arm to reveal a black rose covering her armpit. “Anyway, Sam’s with a client right now, but I can probably slip you in for a consult in a few minutes. When and what were you thinking of getting tattooed?”

I shook my head. There was nothing in this world that I cared enough about to have it permanently inked on any part of my body. “The tattoo isn’t for me.” I reached into my bag for the photocopy I had brought of Brandon’s tattoo. “I have some questions about someone else’s tattoo, and I was wondering if you could help me?”

The shop assistant eyeballed me further, her former grin transformed into something resembling a scowl. “Like, what kind of questions? Is it infected or something? Because we usually recommend the person comes in so we can look at it…”

I placed the photocopy of the tattoo on the counter as the girl trailed off. As she spun the image around to face her, I was able to make out the tattoos on each of her digits—what initially had appeared to be random shapes and lines were actually symbols of the Major Arcana. Thank heavens for Pinterest.

“I like your finger tattoos,” I said, quickly realizing how hokey the words sounded.

“Thanks.” She extended both hands so I could take a closer look. “Sam is big on mystical things. She wanted to practice, so I said she could give me a few finger-bangers.”

Flash. Ditch tattoos. Finger-bangers. I was getting a primer on tattoo talk. I wondered what kind of monopoly you placed on your own skin to let someone randomly practice tattoos on a place as visible as your hands. I also felt my pulse quicken as I realized that I’d made the right choice in selecting Trust Few, though I felt moderate surprise at the fact that Sam was a woman. I’d expected Sam Sanchez to be a big, burly, intimidating biker-type. It served as a reminder to let go of any preconceived notions. That type of thinking could block an investigation. I pulled myself out of my thoughts when the shop assistant spoke.

“What do you want to know about this tat…oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name?”

“Callie,” I said, extending a hand. The assistant shook it, and I was surprised at how soft her hands were, despite their harsh exterior.

“Tash,” she said. “Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise. As for the tattoo, I’m curious about the young man who got it. That is, if he got it here.”

“It looks like it might be Sam’s style, but she’d be the expert on that. C’mon around and we can ask. Like I said before, she’s with a client, but they’ve been at it for quite a while. I’m sure they can both use a break.” Tash waved me around the desk.

I picked up the photocopy and followed her down a narrow hall. More tattoo flash was on the walls, along with a neon Jägermeister sign and a framed poster of The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem final concert in Kingston on August 20, 2016. Three small offices opened into the hallway; the one at the end of the hall had its door slightly ajar and I could hear laughter mixed with rock music and the buzz of the tattoo machine. Tash rapped on the door three times and pushed it open.

“Hey, Sam, sorry to bug you, just wondering if you can help this lady out with a question about a tattoo?”

The buzzing stopped. “Sure.”

Tash moved out of the way and I took it as my cue to step into the doorway. A thirty-something woman wearing combat boots, a sleeveless black Nine Inch Nails T-shirt, and torn jeans with more rips and holes than denim looked up at me and nodded. A tattoo of a woman on a bucking brown horse took up most of her lower right arm. The words “Cowgirls don’t cry” were written above it, with a green heart below circling “We can be heroes.” The image reminded me of the 1950s Calamity Jane movie poster I’d discovered in the attic of Snapdragon Circle, and I wondered if there was an equally personal meaning behind her artwork. There were countless other tattoos on her legs, arms, chest, and I imagined, on body parts I couldn’t see or begin to imagine, but I didn’t want to stare.

“Hi,” I said, holding out my hand.

“Ah, sorry. Sterile environment.” Sam held up two latex-gloved hands. Her current client was lying facedown on a padded table, and turned her head away from the wall to face me. I tried to look at what was being tattooed on her lower back, but couldn’t make it out. Sam put the tattoo machine down on a stainless-steel countertop, the surface covered in industrial grade paper towels, and gave me her full attention. Her cornflower blue eyes were in stark contrast to her long dark hair, which had been shaved on one side. Under the buzz cut I could see “Sanchez” and I found myself wondering how much getting your scalp tattooed would hurt. I figured a lot, maybe as much or more than a ditch tattoo, maybe even more than one under an armpit. I had no plans to get any of them.

“Tash says you have a question about a tattoo?” Sam smiled, showing off a row of perfect white teeth, made whiter by the deep plum lipstick she was wearing. I wondered what made her eyetooth gleam so brightly until I noticed the tiny diamond adhered to it.

I held up the photocopy of the partly finished tattoo. “Do you recognize this?”

Sam cocked her head and peeled off her gloves, throwing them into the trash. She took the photocopy from me, her expression serious as she studied it from every angle.

“This might help to jog your memory,” I said, and offered the newspaper photograph of twenty-year-old Brandon Colbeck. “It was taken a few years back.” I omitted the year. Sam either remembered Brandon and his tattoo, or she didn’t. There was no point planting seeds that might otherwise not be there.

Sam looked up at me, then turned her attention back to the photocopies, her fingers tracing the outline of The Fool tattoo over and over.

“Yeah, I remember this tattoo,” she said, finally. “I never got to finish it, though…”

Now available for pre-order, A Fool’s Journey, book 3 in Judy’s Marketville Mystery series, will be released on August 21 in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, and on Kindle.

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