Friday, July 31, 2015

An Interview and Giveaway with Terrie Farley Moran

An Interview with Terrie Farley Moran:
 by Terri Parsons

MM: Terrie, what inspired you to write Well Read, Then Dead?

My agent, the fabulously supportive Kim Lionetti of Bookends was my inspiration. I met Kim at Sleuthfest in 2012. I pitched my first novel, Driven to Death. Kim read the first few chapters, pronounced it unsalable but said she liked my voice and style and asked if I would write something else. And so I wrote Well Read, Then Dead as part of a three book proposal, which she sold to Berkley Prime Crime.

MM:  You have also written short stories.  Which came first?  And how does writing short stories compare to writing a novel?

I’d just finished the first draft of Driven to Death when my Sisters in Crime chapter had a call for submissions for short stories for a chapter anthology. I wrote a story called “Strike Zone” and I was thrilled when it was accepted. While writing it, I discovered that I loved writing short stories, so I continued to do so. In fact I wrote two shorts stories during the same time I wrote Well Read, Then Dead. I will say that while my novels are cozy, my short stories definitely are not. Oh and I was short listed in 2009 and 2012 for Best American Mystery Stories.
For me the difference between the two forms is that in a short story I can take an incident that is usually life altering, examine it from all sides and tell it in a way I think highlights the most important kernel of truth. While in a novel, I intertwine lots of incidents to give a more comprehensive view of the characters, how they live and how the world affects them.

MM: Caught Read-Handed just came out. Tell us a bit about it and give us some insight into your series and its characters?

 Caught Read-Handed is the second Read ’Em and Eat novel featuring Mary Sassafras Cabot, aka Sassy, and Bridgy Mayfield, two BFFs from Brooklyn who pool their resources and move to Florida. They open the Read ’Em and Eat Café and Bookstore in sunny, happy Fort Myers Beach. When a cranky library volunteer is murdered in her own hot tub Sassy is dismayed to learn that the suspected killer is a veteran suffering from PTSD who happens to be the brother of her old friend and former boss. Friendship and loyalty are so important to Sassy that she doesn’t hesitate to try to prove that the veteran is innocent. And of course she is impulsive so she isn’t always as careful as she should be.

MM: You won the Agatha award for Best First Novel. What did that mean to you?
I have been asked this question a few times and my answer remains the same. I was honored and deeply humbled. I am delighted that mystery readers love Well Read, Then Dead as much as I do. Winning the Agatha Award steeled my resolve to work as hard as I can to write quality cozies that readers will continue to love.

MM: How important do you find Writing Groups, Organizations & Conventions to be in your process?
Writing is a very solitary occupation. I research. I think. I write. I research. I think. I write. There is no “we”. I don’t belong to a writing group and no one reads my work before I submit it. But I do belong to Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and SinC Guppies. I am physically alone when I develop a story, research it and write it, but it is important to know that there are thousands of people struggling through the process just like I am and that we can communicate through our organizations and get together at conferences like Bouchercon, Malice Domestic and any number of others.

MM: Who are some of your go-to authors when you want to read?
I love to read and re-read The Golden Age writers such as Ngaio Marsh, Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Ellery Queen. From an even earlier era, I enjoy short story writers G.K. Chesterton and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

MM: You left your day job to write.  How did that happen and how much support did you have?

I live in New York City and I was an Administrative Manager in City government. The tragedy of 9/11 changed the way I looked at things. After more than a year of funerals and memorial services, most for people younger than I was, I decided life wasn’t infinite. I wanted to write mysteries, so I stopped work and started writing. I had no clue how it was “supposed” to be done. I wrote completely in a vacuum. Then, around 2006, I’d pretty much finished the first draft of my first novel and I didn’t know what to do next. So I Googled “How to write a mystery” and found out that Sleuthfest was taking place a few weeks in the future about twenty miles from my daughter’s house. I signed up, attended and found out that there were great organizations like Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. And I learned that conferences weren’t a one-time thing, there are a lot of them every year.

MM:  So what is a dream writing day for you?

A dream writing day would any day the telephone doesn’t ring.

MM:  So, tell us what’s next on the horizon for you?

I am writing book three of the Read ’Em and Eat series. I would also like to write a couple of short stories since I only have two in the pipeline right now, and perhaps it is time to think about developing an additional cozy series.

MM: Your favorite tv show, meal, movie, book, vacation spot, fun memory?
Well my favorite television show for a very long time was Justified, which might seem an odd pick for a cozy writer but I loved the relationships among the characters, especially Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder. And now it is over. *sigh*

My favorite meal is breakfast any time of day. Eggs anyway you would care to fix them with a side of bacon and rye toast, heavy on the butter. (Please don’t tell my doctor.)

My favorite movie is The Magnificent Seven. I adore the writing and the acting (no one can say so much with so few words as James Coburn). The musical score is incomparable.

My favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird. I am very excited about the new controversial Harper Lee book, Go Set A Watchman. My oldest granddaughter who will be thirteen in a few weeks and I both are dying to read it so we can talk about it. I’m on a tight schedule right now so I ordered it but had it sent to her. Hopefully by the time she is finished reading it, I will have a space in my schedule and can curl up with some iced green tea and the new book.

My favorite vacation spot would have to be Fort Myers Beach.

My birthday in 2014 will always be a fun memory. My grandkids decided I would be absolutely gorgeous with my face painted with cake frosting. They were right.

MM: Lastly, where can everyone find you and leave us with some writing words of wisdom.

I will share this nugget of writing wisdom from author Gillian Roberts: “Don’t write it write. Write it down.” I take that to mean that once it is on the page you can always fix it. The hardest part is getting it on the page.

You can find me here, there and everywhere on the internet.

Agatha Award recipient Terrie Farley Moran is the author of the beachside Read 'Em and Eat cozy mystery series including Well Read, Then Dead and Caught Read-Handed. Her short mystery fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies.


Terrie is generously giving away a T-Shirt – If you would like to win, just leave a comment with email addy and the winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday August 5th!  Good luck!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Interview with Gin Jones

By Pamela James

MM2: Gin, give us the backstory on when, how and why you became an author?

I've always been a writer (legal documents), but never thought I could do fiction until about twenty years ago when I was between jobs and took a writing class with romance author Jo Ann Ferguson. Then it took a while to figure out the right genre, which turned out not to be romance like my instructor. I enjoy reading romance but can't write it.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write? 

I write almost exclusively in my home office. I'm too easily distracted to write elsewhere, and I try to keep my office free of clutter and other distractions (other than my cats). 

MM2: Take us thru a typical writing day for you and your characters? 

I wish I could say I do something wild and crazy, but, really, it's just a matter of trying to keep my brain focused on the current manuscript instead of chasing off after some new and shiny idea. I just keep dragging myself back to the story until I meet the day's quota of words. Which sounds kinda' dreary, but it feels so great when I actually make some progress with the story. 

MM2: What advice do you have for those writers who want to write a hobby mystery?

I didn't really set out to write a hobby mystery. It just sort of happened, as part of the "write what you know" maxim. Plus, something I learned from Jenny Crusie's blog is that it can help the author to bond with a character if the author and character share one trait. You don't want the character to be a Mary Sue (an idealized version of yourself, with ALL of the author's traits), but if you can give each character one little bit of yourself, it can be useful. For example, Keely Fairchild knows a lot about quilts (and so do I), and she's got a background as a lawyer (and so do I), but she doesn't actually make quilts (which I do), she worked as a different kind of lawyer than I did, and she's a lot more confrontational than I am. She's also a lot taller than I am!

MM2: Do you reread your favorite books? 

Oh, yes. I reread Terry Pratchett's Hogfather every Christmas, and I've read most of the other Discworld books multiple times. I recently found that I particularly enjoy rereading by way of audiobooks, after I read a paper/digital book initially. I think I could listen to James Marsters narrate the Harry Dresden series or Kobna Holdbrook-Smith narrate the Peter Grant series an infinite number of times.  

MM2: What comes first, the plot, the characters or the setting?

It's the main character that comes to me first, and then I build the plot around her by asking what's the worst thing that could happen to her. Keely Fairchild needs calm and quiet because of her tendency to faint when stressed, but she also has the common lawyer trait of needing to fix situations, so the worst thing for her is to put her in a stressful situation where she can't simply sit back and let someone else fix things.

MM2: Do you have favorite quilts that you would like to discuss with us?

It's a little like choosing a favorite child or a favorite character; I love them all! Plus, I'm more of a "process" person (enjoying the making of the quilt) than a "product" person (more focused on the end result). Once the quilt is done, I'm not all that interested in it, other than as a useful object. 

MM2: Okay for some fun questions: Where is your favorite place to vacation, favorite meal, your favorite dessert, favorite song and favorite movie?

I'm not really a traveler, so my vacations tend to be staycations, usually spent playing with fabric. Favorite meal is pizza, favorite dessert is carrot cake. I'm not all that musically inclined, so I don't have a favorite song. I'm not a big fan of movies (although I love the old Hepburn-Tracy classics), and in recent years, I think some of the best visual storytelling has been happening on television instead of in theatres, with shows like Orphan Black and Justified. 

MM2: Let's talk about where you live and why you love living there?

I'm a New Englander. I love the seasonal changes and the access to both mountains and the ocean.

MM2: Is there something you would like to say to your readers?

Thank you for reading my books (and books generally)!

MM2: When was the moment you realized that it's true you are an author?

I believe that anyone who writes a story, no matter how long or short, polished or not and published or not, is a writer/author. Still, it took a while to really apply that to myself. Beginning writers can have incredible resistance to taking their work seriously. A writers group I belonged to had a warm-up/introduction exercise where everyone would take turns saying "My name is ...., and I am a writer." For a lot of us, it took practice to be able to say that without either laughing dismissively or speaking in a whisper. 

MM2: What are your future writing projects?

Oh, so many. I've got another Danger Cove Quilting Mystery lined up for November release, and another one percolating in the back of my brain for next summer. I'm also working on a spin-off series, set in Danger Cove, but against the backdrop of the farmers' market. A short story introducing that main character is in the collection Killer Beach Reads (available July 16). Plus, the fourth Helen Binney mystery is in the works. And then there are all the ideas and partial manuscripts I've got in a folder on my hard drive. 

If I start naming friends and family I'm grateful to, I'll never stop. How about if I just thank my three cats, Emma, Jazz and Todd, who never judge me for walking around the house talking to myself while I'm trying to work my way out of a plot hole. 

MM2: Leave with some words of wisdom that your character would say about you?

Keely would say, "Gin never lets me have any fun. I just want to enjoy my new life in the quaint little town of Danger Cove, appraising quilts and perhaps getting to know the local arts reporter a little better, but Gin keeps sending dead bodies my way. And she thinks it's funny! She really has a warped sense of humor."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An Interview with Nancy Parra

Interview With Nancy Parra:
By Pamela James

MM2: First, Terri, and I want to welcome you to our blog. Now would you give us some back story on why and how you became an author?

Hi Pamela, Hi Terri, Thanks for having me on your blog. How did I become an author? I guess I always loved to read. Then in 5th grade I asked my best friend to write a pioneer book with me. She said, "No." So I wrote on my own. I still have a Star Trek Fan Fic piece I wrote in 8th grade. I didn't take it seriously until I took a creative writing course in college and two nontraditional class members told me I should write novels for a living. Their random comment got me started. 

MM2: How many books have you written? 

Well, let's see, I wrote 17 complete novels -when #15 sold. Since then I've published 18 new novels with one more out this year- two next year. Plus I've written maybe ten more that couldn't find a home. I'm lucky in that stories are like a box of tissues. I finish one and another pops up.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?

I write using a laptop so that I can write in my office or on the couch or at a coffee shop. We have so many more options now that computers are mobile. I would say writing on the couch is my favorite because the dog sits with me and keeps me company.

MM2: Take us through a typical writing day?

I try to write 5 to 10 pages a day and my goal is to treat it like a job and write on weekdays and take weekends off. But then I procrastinate and so sometimes I'm writing weekends. Usually I get coffee and check emails and then write with a goal of hitting my page count before I can do social media. I love reading blogs and interacting on Facebook and Twitter and such. Sometimes I end up writing late at night because the day got away from me. But I really try to hold to my personal deadlines.

MM2: What writing advice have you received that you would like to pass on to others?

There are two pieces actually. 1) Writers write-write every day at first. Never leave a book unfinished. The middles and the endings have a lot to teach you. 2) And when you become published, this from my friend, NYT Bestselling Author Julie Garwood: "Never believe your own press." That means don't believe the good and don't believe the bad. You can't control how others think about your work. Just do your best with each work and make yourself happy.

MM2: Tell us about your latest book and future writing plans?

I'm currently working on book 4 of the Candy Coated Series from Kensington which I write as Nancy Coco. This series is set on Mackinac Island Michigan which is a beautiful place where cars are not allowed and there are many gorgeous Victorian summer cottages. People travel by horse and carriage or bicycle.  This series will have a holiday novella come out in October. I'm also working on three super secret projects that I hope to have announcements out on later this Fall.

MM2: Do you re-read any of your favorite books? Do you watch reruns of your favorite shows? If so what are the books and shows?

I do reread old favorite books and I re-watch favorite TV shows. Right now I like "Big Bang Theory" and "Criminal Minds" as well as "CSI." The favorite books are too many to share here and I have a stack of new books to be read. I think it's a great time to be a reader. There are so many wonderful writers to be discovered.

MM2: What would you like to say to your readers?

I would like to thank them for reading. Readers are why I write so much. There is something magical about what the reader brings to the story when they read it. Sometimes they leave comments about things I had not realized were even in the book. 

MM2: What would your characters tell us about you?

Ha! Good question. They might say I don't always let them do what they want. Or that I torture them. They might say I don't write fast enough. Some characters haunt me for years before I have time to get their story down. Some haunt me after a story is written because I didn't get it published. One time I told a character to go away. I wasn't a good enough author at the time to tell their story and 18 months later another author had that story on bookshelves. After that I quit telling them to go away. lol. And no, I didn't know that other author at all - we never met and we never discussed the character or their story.

MM2: Lastly but always fun: What is your favorite meal ? Place to vacation? Tell us about where you live and why you like living there? Your favorite movie? What comes first the plot, setting or characters?

I have Celiac disease so I have to watch what I eat. That said I've lived a long time in Kansas and I like good Kansas City Barbecue. I'm lucky in that there are many KC places making gluten free BBQ sauce these days that is just as tasty as original sauces. 

I like to take cruises. I took the TCM Classic Movie cruise. What a fantastic time that was - they showed three theaters worth of classic movies every day and interviewed Mickey Rooney and Debbie Reynolds. Rich Little was on board and Alex Trebek as well as all the TCM channel hosts.

I recently moved to the west coast. I've lived in the Midwest my entire life and it was time for a change. I'm really enjoying the weather and the hiking and ocean.

It is difficult to choose a favorite movie. I love movies as you can tell from my TCM cruise. It was actually Star Wars the original that made me want to tell stories that left people feeling like they did when they left the movie theater.
Finally, character always comes first. Then I have to ask, who are you? Where do you come from? Why are you here? What is your journey? What do you want? What do you hate? What keeps you from getting what you want? How do you need to change? Is it for the good? Or do you fear you must change for the worst? What is your secret? And boom a book is born.

MM2: Leave us with some sage words of wisdom for living your life?

In life you are going to be afraid-everyone is. But think about the things you are most afraid of such as: Success? Failure? Love? Loss? Then do it anyway because what you fear is your soul telling you what you need to do. If for no other reason than to try. I promise you'll have a story to tell your family whether you win or lose. So go- write, paint, knit, travel, rescue animals, say hi to an interesting stranger in a coffee shop. Make life your story. Cheers and thanks for having me on your blog. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

An Interview with Laura Levine

Shirt was a gift from one of Laura's Readers

By Pamela James

MM2: Laura, give us the backstory on your writing career?

Long, long ago (I think it was some time in the Pleistocene era) I started out as a reporter/photographer at a newspaper so small we had our photos developed at the local camera shop. After a year of trying (and failing) to get my facts straight, I segued into the wonderful world of advertising, where I created the cereals Count Chocula and Frankenberry for General Mills. (I don’t think you get these cereals in the UK, but I’m proud to report that these wonderful products have decayed the teeth of generations of kiddies here in the US.)

Eventually bored with writing “void where prohibited by law” for a living, I got the show biz bug and, after churning out a gazillion spec scripts, I finally started my career as a sitcom writer, writing for shows like THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, THE JEFFERSONS, THREE’S COMPANY, THE LOVE BOAT,  and MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN.

Years later, when my gray hairs began outnumbering my credits, my agent (who later got arrested for pilfering funds from her clients’ accounts) stopped returning my calls, and I figured it was time for another career move. It was then that I decided to try my hand at mystery writing, and Jaine Austen was born. (And her cat Prozac, too, who to this day, still resents getting second billing.)

MM2: Let's talk about your series. I love Prozac, Jaine and of course her parents. I often think these books should be Hallmark Movies or television series. How did the characters, names and series come to fruition?

I’d always wanted to try my hand at writing a mystery. And at the time I was a big fan of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone (and still am). But I knew I could never write a Kinsey-esque tough gal heroine, so I decided to make Jaine a scaredy cat detective, the kind of sleuth I’d be if I were solving a murder, stumbling and bumbling her way to the killer. I thought about giving her a wisecracking neighbor (aka Rhoda in The Mary Tyler Moore Show), but I figured the wisecracking neighbor had been done to death, so I decided to give Jaine a wisecracking cat instead. Thus Prozac was born. And she’s not stopped slinging zingers since.

I’m so glad you like Jaine’s parents, MM2. And here’s a behind-the-scenes secret about them: They actually came about by accident. While writing the second book in the series, LAST WRITES, I realized I was going to be very short on pages. So I thought, why not write about Jaine’s parents? I’d always loved epistolary novels, so I decided to tell their story through emails. I’m so glad I was running short on that book, because I adore writing for Mom and DaddyO.

MM2: Take us through a day and the life of Laura Levine?

Must I? It’s really quite embarrassing. I stumble out of bed around ten (on a good day), read the papers, do the crossword puzzle, and eventually sit down at my computer, where I then proceed to master the fine art of Work Avoidance. (Never will you find a writer with sharper pencils or more frequently watered plants.) Somewhere along the line I manage to wrench a few pages from my fevered brain. Then it’s time for dinner at one of Los Angeles’ fine eateries (and I’ve got the ketchup packets to prove it), followed by an evening of trash TV and/or a good book. (Last read and really loved: ONE MISSISSIPPI, by Mark Childress.) Finally, a few episodes of FRASIER re-runs to lull me off to sleep.
How do I stand all the excitement?

MM2: Today if you were going to say "Make mine a double." What would you mean by this statement?

In my family, we always kiss each other on both cheeks. And we call it a double. So if you run into me at a book signing and I ask you for a double, better pucker up.

MM2: What has writing brought to your life? What has life brought to your writing world?

Aside from the paychecks (always gratifying), writing has given me the freedom to work when and where I please, a wonderful gift. What can I say? It’s good to be your own boss.

What has life brought to my writing world? Plenty of plot lines. If I see a funny story in the newspaper, or hear one from a friend, zap—into my Idea Box it goes. I actually do have a box (very pretty, with flowers and butterflies painted on all sides) where I stash random ideas, and pluck them out when it’s time to start a new book.

MM2: For a minute let's talk about some fun questions about you...
What is your favorite movies, dessert, meal, books to reread and song?


FAVORITE FOOD: Pasta, potatoes, bread!! (Total starch-o-holic)

SONGS: I’m stuck in the big band era. Anything Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, or Rosemary Clooney sings, I pretty much love.  Adore June Christy singing Billy Barnes’ SOMETHING COOL. And of course, how can I leave out LAURA, one of the loveliest songs ever? So lucky to have such a beautiful song with my name on it. Whenever my late husband and I were at a place where they took requests for tunes, Mark always asked them to play LAURA. Wonderful memories!

BOOKS: I’m not much for re-reading, or re-watching; I like being stimulated by new plots and stories. But I have re-read all of Agatha Christie, and P.G. Wodehouse. Other favorite authors: Joe Keenan and the remarkable Anne Tyler.
Most unforgettable book: William Styron’s SOPHIE’S CHOICE.

MM2: You make writing humor look so easy and effortless. To me this is the mark of a great author to make their work read and feel effortless. Are you a natural at humor writing or is this something that requires many rewrites?

Moi? A great author?? You are officially my new best friend! (By the way, I think William Styron and Anne Tyler might beg to differ with you on that one.)

But in answer to your question, I like comedy writing, and I suppose it comes fairly naturally to me. In fact, I think I’d be lost if I had to write a serious book.

MM2: Okay, I would be remiss if I didn't ask if you know people who are like the characters in your series?

Jaine is essentially a younger, much braver and more resilient me. Everybody else I’ve pretty much made up.

MM2. Let's talk about your latest book in the series. Promote away and I hope there are lots of parental emails. I just love dad and mom.

I thought you’d never ask!  Jaine’s next adventure (DEATH BY TIARA) takes place in the cut-throat world of teenage beauty pageants. It all starts when Jaine gets hired by an uber-pushy pageant mom to write novelty lyrics for her teenage daughter in the Miss Teen Queen America beauty pageant. Jaine watches in disbelief as pageant moms go at each other like cougars at feeding time. Backstabbing, name-calling, and hair pulling abound. And that’s just at the registration desk! When one of the pageant staff is killed after the talent show, Jaine’s client is the leading suspect. Jaine sets out to find the true killer—all the while trying to impress the insufferably stuffy parents of her hunky new boyfriend.

Meanwhile, back in Tampa Vistas, Daddy brings home his latest love, a used golf cart named Nellybelle. And as always with Daddy, disaster ensues.

MM2: What is the best writing advice you ever received?

I will pass on a piece of advice given to me when I first started out in show business and I was teamed up with an experienced sitcom writer.  We were working on a script together and were having a tough time getting started.  My mentor told me, “Everything stinks in the beginning, Laura.  Just keep on going.  We can always come back and fix it later.”

Those words are so true. Writing is always hard, especially at the beginning. That’s when you’re filled with self-doubt and at your most vulnerable. Don’t let your inner critic slow you down. Just keep on going. The more you write, the more your momentum—and confidence—builds.

MM2: What advice do you have for humorous mystery authors? Also for those who want to turn the books into a series?

The same advice I’d give to any aspiring author. Keep writing, and reading. The more you write, the better you get.

As for series: If you’re a mystery author, hoping to write a series, you’re in luck. Most publishers (at least, here in the states) are looking for series, and will offer a first-time author a two or three book deal, in the hopes that you will be the next Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich.

MM2: Lastly what would Jaine, Prozac and Jaine's parents want us to know about you?

Jaine and her parents are perfectly lovely people who wouldn’t breathe a word of gossip, but Prozac is such a blabbermouth, she wouldn’t hesitate to spill the beans and let you know that I’ve never even tasted Chunky Monkey ice cream. (My real favorite is vanilla. How boring am I??)

MM2: Oh, one more question. Where is your favorite place to write? 

I often think of ideas while walking or driving and take notes en route. But most of my writing is done in my office, a cozy hideaway with a view of my Chinese elm out front and plenty of bread crumbs stuck in the keyboard. (See starch-o-holic above.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Good Morning,

I hope everyone has a Sunny Sunday and plenty of time to read. Or create what your imagination reveals, anyway have a great and fun filled Sunday.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Interview with Nancy G. West

Interview with Nancy G. West
By Pamela James

MM2: Nancy what comes first, the plot, characters or the setting?

      Pamela and Terri, Thank you for having me!
      Aggie Mundeen popped into my head as a supporting character while I was writing my suspense novel, Nine Days to Evil. I looked around to see who was seated in class with my protagonist, Meredith, and was fascinated by Aggie. She was funny, smart, obstreperous and peculiarly wise. She announced she wouldn’t let me finish Nine Days until I promised to write a book about her. Or maybe a series. She’s not shy. I was snagged.
            Details are revealed at

MM2: How many books and genres have you written and penned?

       Nine Days to Evilsuspense. Winner of the Blether Gold Award

Single, pushing forty and afraid of nothing but descending into middle-age decrepitude, Aggie struggles to shape up at the health club before anyone discovers she writes the column, "Stay Young with Aggie." To capture the attention of a San Antonio detective, she tries to “help” with his investigations. He is not pleased.

Fit to Be Dead #1 – Lefty Award Finalist for Best Humorous Mystery

Dang Near Dead #2 – A “Must Read.” Southern Writers Magazine

Smart, but Dead #3 – Aggie, approaching the big 40, returns to college to learn about the genetic effects of aging. But she discovers a dead academic, winds up prime suspect and is on target to become next campus corpse. 
(Available for pre-order August 24, 2015.)

MM2: Tell us about your writing schedule?
      If I exercise and eat early, I write from eleven-thirty a.m. to about five p.m. On days I don’t exercise, I start at nine and work until five or until I poop out, whichever comes first.

MM2: Are there books you like to re-read?
      Not really. I enjoy and absorb them the first time and make notes about lyrical language, winsome characters or intriguing plots. The better I like a book, the slower I read.

MM2: What writing advice do you have for writers who want to write series?
      Create a character who fascinates you and is a mishmash of good and bad qualities. Know her background, current status, goals, desires, fears, the kinds of trouble most likely to unravel her, and her strengths and weaknesses. Is she multi-faceted enough to sustain a series?

      Think about places and situations that will point up her assets and highlight her foibles.

      Can you create character arcs for her so she learns something in each book that changes her? Can you have her grow and develop over the course of the series without losing her personality and voice?

      What kinds of supporting characters and dilemmas can you conjure up to goad her into action?

      Make notes on these items before you start writing the series.

      MM2: After a long day of writing. What do you do to de-stress?
      Watch the five-thirty news. It’s a different variety of stress. Have a glass of wine…crackers…cheese. Or listen to music in a breezy outdoor place.

MM2: What would your characters say about you?
      That I’m a slave driver who won’t let them rest. That I put them in dangerous or humorous situations and expect them to claw their way out. That sometimes I weaken and let them have their way.

MM2: Are you a member of a writing group?
      Yes, Third Monday Writers and Writers’ League of Texas. But I’d like to be in an online two-to-four person critique group of published (or soon-to-be published) mystery writers.

MM2: In closing what would you like to say to your readers?
      Thank you for loving Aggie and her friends like I do. They’ll frustrate you, scare you, irritate you, endear themselves to you and make you laugh, but I don’t think they’ll bore you.

Thank you, Pamela and Terri, for sending great questions!

Come visit me here,

Twitter: @NancyGWest_
Henery Press:

and check the sites for notice of contests, giveaways and miscellaneous shenanigans leading to the release of Aggie’s third mystery-fiasco-romance, SMART, BUT DEAD.   

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

An Interview with Lorraine Bartlett/LL Bartlett/Lorna Barrett

By Pamela James

MM2: Lorraine, please give us some backstory on when and how you became an author?

LB:  I started writing when I was a teenager. I heard about Star Trek fanzines, read them, and thought, “I can do that, too!” Of course my first efforts were dreadful, but I persevered. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d become a New York Times bestselling author.

MM2: For you what comes first the character, plot or setting?

Definitely character.  I’ll start thinking about a character, and then the setting, and finally figure out a plot to go with him or her.

MM2: How many books have you written?

22 novels, but a load of novellas and short stories, too.  In all I think I have something like 39 titles (under three different names).

MM2: Tell us about your latest book in all of your series?

LB:  In the Booktown Mysteries, it would be A Fatal Chapter.  The Stoneham Historical Society plans to give nighttime tours of the Stoneham Rural Cemetery, but someone wants to prevent that--taking extreme measures by committing murder and vicious attacks. Can Tricia figure out who is behind the mayhem before someone else becomes the cemetery's newest resident?

For my Jeff Resnick mystery series, it would be Eyewitness (a novella):  It’s been two years since the mugging that nearly killed him, and Jeff Resnick is finally putting his life back together. But his sense of peace is shattered when the detective investigating his wife’s murder calls to update him on the cold case. Can Jeff's if his sixth sense can help him find the man who killed Shelley Resnick?

In the Lotus Bay Mysteries, it’s With Baited Breath:  Tori Cannon and her grandfather return from her grandma’s funeral to find a body jammed in one of their derelict motel units. The victim had no enemies except for maybe the rich woman who wants to level his eyesore of a home, a resentful daughter, and friends who were anything but. Tori’s BFF, Kathy, arrives to help spruce up the place and they are soon mixed up in the deadly consequences that murder entails. Can they save the business and find a murderer or will they, too, sleep with the fishes?

For the Victoria Square series (which has been on hiatus—but will be coming back out in 2017) it’s One Hot Murder:  At the height of the heat wave, a tragic fire strikes Victoria Square. Wood U, a small store selling wooden gifts and small furniture, is destroyed. But the fire may just be a smoke screen—for murder. A body is found among the charred wreckage, and the victim didn’t die from smoke inhalation. He was shot. Now—despite making Detective Ray Davenport hot under the collar—Katie Bonner is determined to smoke out a coldhearted killer…

For my Tales of Telenia adventure-fantasy series, it’s Journey (I’m currently plotting the 3rd book in the series):  Life takes an unexpected turn when Prince Paxdon bans Amanda Shelton from Telenia’s Summer Palace, but that’s just the first step in an incredible journey that has her leading the province’s oppressed women into a life of self-sufficiency. The threat of war remains, and others are watching her every move as Amanda leaves the safety and security of the rural north and ventures to the capital city where she faces peril and life altering decisions.  Will her future be a life of luxury or despair?

MM2: Take us through a typical writing day?

LB:  I start the day by checking email and Facebook.  Then I like to make a couple of graphics.  I do them for myself and my friends. I’ve recently done a series of them for Leann Sweeney’s upcoming Cats in Trouble Mysteries (The Cat, The Sneak and the Secret), and Mary Kennedy’s Dream Club Mysteries (Dream a Little Scream).  I’ve made them for Storytellers Unlimited, The Cozy Chicks, Tonya Thomas, and other friends.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write? If it is your office may we take a peek at a picture?

LB:  I have a screened-in porch that overlooks my pool and garden.  I prefer to write there, but since I live in Western New York can obviously do that in warmer months. Otherwise, I sit on the couch in  my living room with my laptop on the coffee table (and a keyboard on my lap). It still overlooks the pool, but it’s not nearly as pretty a view when there’s 2-3 feet of snow on the ground.

MM2: What has being an author taught you about living?

LB:  Be prepared for failure, and learn to live with it.

MM2:  What has living taught you about being an author?

LB:  Everything is story fodder.

MM2: Here are some fun questions. What is your favorite meal?

LB:  Thanksgiving dinner.  I look forward to it all year.

MM2:  What is your favorite movie?

LB:  That’s a tough one. There are so many I enjoy watching over and over and over again.  Off the top of my head?  Star Trek: The Search for Spock.  The two JJ Abrams Star Trek movies. Galaxy Quest; Love Actually; Groundhog Day; Jaws; Little Miss Sunshine ….

MM2:  What television series do you like to watch or watch reruns?

LB:  I probably rewatch my Star Trek Voyager DVDs more than anything else. But I also rewatch Gilmore Girls, Midsomer Mysteries, etc.

MM2: What is your favorite dessert?

LB:  Crème brulee (or coconut cake).

MM2:  Place to vacation?

LB:  England.  I haven’t been in 14 years (simply because I don’t fly anymore and the trans-Atlantic ships don’t go there on my schedule). 

MM2:  Tell us about where you live and why you like living there?

I love Western NY in the warmer months.  During winter—not so much. It’s a pretty place to live, especially in the spring and summer.  I don’t have much family left here, so if my brother moved … I might consider doing the same someday.  I don’t want to think about it.

MM2: What would you like to say to your readers?

LB:  Thank you.  Without you, I’d still be writing Star Trek fan stories.

MM2: What would your characters tell us about you?

LB:  That they wish I’d work on THEIR story and not some other one. (Right now Amanda Shelton is really NAGGING me to tell her third adventure, but I have other books that need to be written first.)

MM2: If you had a twin to help you this week. What would you have her doing to help?

LB:  I put him or her in charge of my promotion so I could spend all of my time writing (and cooking and gardening).

MM2: Do you have a group of people who read your books before publishing? Such as a writing group, husband etc..?

LB:  I have a Street Team of readers.  Our group is called The Lorraine Train.  They read my books, novellas, and short stories for typos and if they enjoy them, will often review them on Social Media.  I also hire a copy editor who looks at everything I write before it goes out.

MM2: Leave us with a funny story either about family, friends. Something that happened at a book signing or just what one of your characters might have to say about you?

I don’t know about funny, but I know that all my characters seem to be screaming “GET BACK TO WORK” in my ear. 

The immensely popular Booktown Mystery series is what put Lorraine Bartlett’s pen name Lorna Barrett on the New York Times Bestseller list, but it’s her talent -- whether writing as Lorna, or L.L. Bartlett, or Lorraine Bartlett -- that keeps her there. This multi-published, Agatha-nominated author pens the exciting Jeff Resnick Mysteries as well as the acclaimed Victoria Square Mystery series, the Tales of Telenia adventure-fantasy saga, and now the Lotus Bay Mysteries, and has many short stories and novellas to her name(s). Check out the descriptions and links to all her works, and sign up for her emailed newsletter here:

writing as Lorraine Bartlett, L.L. Bartlett, and Lorna Barrett - Victoria Square Mysteries & Tales of Telenia (Facebook) - Jeff Resnick Mysteries (Facebook) - Booktown Mysteries (Facebook)

Review: Deadly Solution by Keenan Powell

Maeve Malloy is a lawyer who has had struggles with drinking, done a stint in rehab and trying to prove herself again as a lawyer.  She is...