Monday, February 8, 2016

Character Interview: Piper Lamb, from Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes

Where are you from? Did you have a happy childhood? I’m from upstate New York, where I spent many happy childhood summers at my Aunt Judy and Uncle Frank’s farm. It was in my Aunt Judy’s kitchen that I learned all about pickling and preserving, and I continue to love it.
Where do you live now and what do you do for a living? Is there something you'd rather be doing? I’ve recently moved to Cloverdale, NY, the town near my aunt and uncle’s farm.  After breaking a going-nowhere engagement and leaving a dull office job in Albany, I set up Piper’s Picklings to do what truly makes me happy.
What's going on in your life right now? My pickles and preserves shop is doing well, but I had a couple of close calls myself after becoming involved in two murder investigations. Now a third murder has occurred, and the college-age son of a good friend is looking awfully suspicious to our sheriff. His mom is desperate for help, so I’ve started digging around to find out what really happened.
Is there someone special in your life? I’ve been seeing Will Burchett, a great guy who owns a Christmas tree farm not far from town.
How did you meet? What's his/her family like? My Aunt Judy sneakily set up a meeting at the town fair, where I took a booth to sell my pickles and introduce my shop. Will was flipping burgers for a youth group fund raiser. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but a few sparks were definitely flying beyond the ones on the grill. Will is a newcomer to the Cloverdale area, a transplant from central Pennsylvania. I’ve yet to meet his family.
What's keeping you two apart? I haven’t been in any hurry to jump into a serious relationship after my disappointing engagement. Then, after traveling the world to “find himself,” my ex-fiancĂ© decided we belonged together and moved to Cloverdale! To my surprise, I saw very positive changes in him, which stirred up feelings that I thought were long dead. I’ve been trying to get my head straight, since then. Luckily for me, Will has been very understanding and patient.
What one thing could you do that would make you feel like the relationship will work out? I could make up my own mind about exactly what I want! The distraction of all these murders, though, hasn’t given me much time to think.
Any last comments? You might think pickles and preserves have little to do with murder, but you’d be surprised. The two things become dangerously intertwined in the latest crime described in Scene of the Brine. 

Book blurb: Piper Lamb has to take a break from jarring her delicious pickles and preserves to blow the lid off a poisoner....
Business is booming at Piper’s Picklings in Cloverdale, New York. But not all is sweet in the life of Piper’s number one customer and friend, local caterer Sugar Heywood. Sugar is dating wealthy realtor Jeremy Porter, but his family doesn’t approve. After their unscrupulous accountant finds some dirt on Sugar, the family quickly urges Jeremy to throw her out like rotten fruit.
Things are further spoiled after the accountant is found poisoned, and all evidence points to Sugar’s son, Zach. With the Porter family determined to avoid scandal, it won’t be easy for Piper to preserve Zach’s innocence. And after someone falls victim to a poisoned jar of some of her brandied cherries, Piper’s got a peck of trouble to deal with herself…
Piper was helping an elderly gentleman who had stopped in at the shop to buy a large jar of bread and butters, when Emma Leahy walked in, her posture stiff and her face tense. Something was definitely up, and Piper hurried through the sale to learn what was bothering Emma. As the man shuffled out, Emma hurried forward.
“Bad news,” she said. “Joan Tilley’s in the hospital. She’s critically ill.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry to hear that. What’s wrong?”
Clearly struggling with her emotions, Emma took a moment to answer. “It was very sudden. Luckily her neighbor came by and called the ambulance.” She swallowed. “Joan had the same symptoms as Dirk Unger.”
“No!” Piper cried. “Mrs. Tilley? How could that be? And why?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense at all. But there’s something else you should know.”
Emma paused, the strain of worry for her friend making her suddenly gulp. When she regained control, she said, “It might have been your cherries. She’d been eating from a jar of your brandied cherries.”
Piper gasped, not knowing which was worse to hear—the illness or the cause. She stared, speechless for several moments. “I can’t believe it! How…?”
Emma shook her head, having no answer to Piper’s unfinished question. “I have to go,” she said. “I just wanted you to know.” She turned and hurried out.
A flood of questions filled Piper’s head as she stared in dismay after her disappearing friend.
Her cherries?  It couldn’t possibly be! The thought made her physically ill—though not, she was sure, as ill as poor Mrs. Tilley.

Author bio: Mary Ellen Hughes is the nationally bestselling author of the Pickled and Preserved mystery series, which begins with THE PICKLED PIPER and continues with LICENSE TO DILL and SCENE OF THE BRINE. She has also authored the Craft Corner mystery series, and the Maggie Olenski mysteries. A native of Wisconsin, she currently lives in Maryland. 
Author links, webpages, fan pages, and book trailers.

Interview with Nina Mansfield, Author of SWIMMING ALONE

What made you decide to be an author? I’ve never been able to keep myself from writing. Even when I have 8 million other things going on in life that are sucking my attention, I still have these stories swirling around in my head that I need to write down. I guess in part, it’s because I have loved books since I was a child. I wrote my first book when I was five years old. It was called CINDY AND SALLY IN POLKA DOT LAND. It was riddled with plot holes and spelling errors, but I was hooked! I went on to write a lot of poetry, especially in my teen angst years. My first “serious” attempts at writing were plays, a number of which have gone on to be produced and published. About ten years ago, I decided that I wanted to write a young adult mystery novel. I was teaching in high school at the time, and I wanted to write something that might hook even the most reluctant reader. It took me a while to get it out into the world, but I am thrilled that I finally did it.
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? I love actually writing. Sitting down and having the words pour onto the page—that is just an amazing feeling. Especially when the words are coming easily and I know I am telling the story that I want to tell. I also really love reading my work in public. I have a background in acting, so it is great to share my work with a live audience.
The thing I hate least is worrying about book sales and book promotion. I enjoy promotional events (like readings, and interviews like this), but I hate trying to promote myself via the world of social media. I always feel a little slimy sending out my promotional tweets.
How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? Oh, wow! I won’t get into all of the sordid details, but I have lived a zillion different lives and encountered many wonderful, wild, compelling and disturbing people during these lives. I think the time I have spent in the theatre has influence me the most, however. My acting days in New York really taught me to step into someone else’s shoes, which comes in very handy when writing.
Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? Absolutely. I feel like that with almost every writing project. It usually happens right at the beginning, when I get that first spark of inspiration. Often, I don’t know where it is coming from. I felt that way when I started doing one of my rewrites of SWIMMING ALONE.  I had been working for a long time on capturing my character’s voice. One day, it came to me, and the words just spilled out of me.
You’ve written one novel and are working on a 2nd novel. What’s your favorite time management tip? I am the worst with time management. But as I am working on revisions of my 2nd novel, what seems to be working for me is to write in very small manageable chunks. These days, I am a stay-at-home mother with a very active toddler, so I usually only get a chance to write during her nap time and in the evenings (when I am usually too exhausted to think!) If I tell myself that 200 words is plenty, then I am able to get some writing done. Much of the time I can write much more than that. In short, I have let myself off the hook a bit, and I find that I am getting much more writing done.
Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer? I start off as an organic writer. Sometimes I have no idea where the story came from or where it is going. But there always comes a point when I need to go back and outline. And then I end up making a number of different outlines which keep changing and changing.
If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Don’t be afraid to write a “bad” first draft. Just get those words on paper!
Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? No. I know that music helps a lot of writers, but I really need complete silence. Otherwise, I just can’t focus.
Tell me more about Swimming Alone.
The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe).  Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes.  When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question:  has the Sea Side Strangler struck again? 
How about an excerpt from Swimming Alone?

The Sea Side Strangler Strikes Again!
Leave it to my mentally unstable, common sense impaired parents to ship me off to the only town in America with an active serial killer on the loose. I could so easily have the life squeezed out of me by some deranged killer. Now that would be the ultimate revenge. I mean, talk about a guilt trip—not that I’d be alive to benefit from it. And quite frankly, I’d prefer to die peacefully, in my sleep, at the age of one hundred and eight, thank you very much.
But seriously, what kind of psychos send their only daughter, their bundle of joy, the light of their lives away to a town where dead bodies keep washing up on shore? My parents, that’s who—all so they could strangle each other without having to worry about me getting in the way. Not literally, just legally. You know—the “d” word: Divorce. The week before they shipped me off, Mommy dearest smashed one-half of the Tiffany china when she found a foreign thong in Daddy’s glove compartment. Now the lawyers are trying to figure out whose half she smashed. (I’d find the questionable thong far more intriguing if I wasn’t totally skeeved.) These are the atrocities they are trying to shield me from.
Serial killers weren’t exactly on their radar when they decided to ship me off.
This particular serial killer wasn’t on my radar either until I saw the headline splashed across the front page of the Beach Point Gazette.

Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?
Buy Links:
Nina, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Night Owl Reviews Love is in the Air Book Lover Contest

Hi Readers,
Ready for find new authors and to win prizes? I'm one of the sponsors of the Night Owl Reviews Love is in the Air Scavenger Hunt. (Feb 4 - 27)
During this event I'm going to help you find some great new books and authors to read. Make sure to check my featured title out along the way.
The grand prize is a $100 Amazon Gift card.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Interview with Maureen Willett, Author of Near The Wild

What made you decide to be an author? I’ve been compelled to write fiction since I was in college, so in way I’ve had no choice. Writing has chosen me, more than the other way around.
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? The best part of writing is being the first to see your story unfold. It’s like being the very first reader of a novel, so you have no idea what will happen or where it will take you. My stories and characters surprise me every time I write.
I don’t like the revisions and detailed work it takes to get the story into shape. Once the story is told, I want to move on to the next one, but it usually takes me 6-12 months to do revisions and edits.
How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? When I was in college I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I also knew I’d have to wait until I had enough life experiences to make me a good writer. Everything I experience becomes a mental note I may use in a novel.
Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? Yes, all three of my published novels, and the one I’m currently writing. I usually don’t know what I’m setting out to write until the first draft is finished.
You’ve written four novels and are working on a fifth novel. What’s your favorite time management tip? Get up an hour earlier than you want to every day, so you have that extra hour to write. I don’t always do that, but it is a good goal.
Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer? Definitely organic. Never done an outline. I do, though, have the characters and an idea in my head before I started writing.
If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Take as many creative writing classes as you can when you you’re young and have the time. Then, write, write, write, and never stop believing in yourself.
Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? No, music isn’t a factor for me.
Tell me more about Near The Wild.
Cowboys and leprechauns: Both occupy Maeve MacKeighry's world in 1870, and she must decide which will win her heart. Leprechauns are feared, even in Ireland, but that doesn't prevent Maeve from striking up a friendship with one who lives near her village. But once Maeve becomes a young woman, the local villagers start to gossip, especially since the MacKeighrys are known to practice magic in their home. It's just for entertainment, but the town folk don't see it that way. Rather than be outcasts, the MacKeighrys set off to America to homestead in Kansas, vowing to leave their magical ways and friends behind. Little do they know that Maeve's friend follows and protects them on their journey.
How about an excerpt from Near The Wild.

I didn’t notice much about his face at first.  It was his hair that caught my eye.  It hung just below his jawline and was beautifully cut, as was fitting for a man of his wealth.  The thick, raven-colored ringlets framed his angular face in an almost angelic fashion.  He gracefully moved his tall frame toward me on the narrow, wooden walk in front of the store.
Normally, this stretch of sidewalk in Colton was quite busy in mid-day.  I would nod and greet just about everyone, feeling obliged to make it apparent that my mother raised her children to have manners, but it just happened to be an odd day, so he and I were the only ones passing by each other.  Because the sidewalk was so narrow, he stopped, made a slight bow with his head, and let me pass, keeping his eyes downward in a polite manner.  The silver grey of his tailored suit and well-turned silk cravat glistened in the sunlight.  He carried a top hat in his gloved hands.  His fingers looked long and slender through the kid leather.
Grateful for his polite gesture and thinking his eyes were still averted, I glanced at his face to get a better look at this polished, dapper young man, only to be surprised by the flawless white complexion.  His high cheekbones, straight nose, and perfect, creamy skin must be the envy of every woman in Colton, especially those who had grown up plowing fields in the sunlight and now had faces resembling tough leather.
Believing I’d seen an angel come down from heaven, or at least one of those men who would never marry and spend his life seeking the company of other men, I looked into his eyes.  It was then I realized my mistake.  There, in the blue-green depths, was a lustful intent that unnerved me to my core.  I almost stepped back in surprise.  His dark, arched brows went up in mock politeness.
With a beautiful smile, he made his desire to see me without my petticoat quite clear.  I gulped and almost lost my footing as I walked away, quickening my step to hasten my retreat from the depths of his alluring blue-green eyes.  My heart pounded and my face heated as I ran toward the safety of my brothers, away from the unconventionally handsome Mr. Fuerst.
It was a common fact in Colton that he was the only heir of a royal fortune.  It seemed his father had been a prince in Germany but was banished to America for marrying a commoner.  Mr. Fuerst was here to build a mansion across from the new train station, because his father was one of the investors in the transcontinental railroad that would one day connect Kansas to California.  Apparently, he built the largest mansion in the area of Colton that was now burgeoning with homes for the emerging upper class, Bell Street.  Colton was the end of the railroad line on the western side—at least for now—and the young Mr. Fuerst would be our resident patriarch.  The next time I’d run into him would be under quite different circumstances.

Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?
Buy Links:
Maureen, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.