New Kitty Couture Mystery and Interview: Cat Got Your Secrets by Julie Chase

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Lacy Marie Crocker has settled into a comfortable groove back home in New Orleans, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, she’s busier than ever running a thriving pet boutique, helping her mother organize the upcoming National Pet Pageant, and untangling her complicated love life. But when delivering a king-sized order of dreidel-shaped doggy biscuits for a Saint Berdoodle’s bark-mitzvah, Lacy stumbles into yet another murder scene—and the last person to see the victim alive was her own father.

It’s up to Lacy to clear her dad’s name from the suspect list before Detective Jack Oliver has to cage him for good. But just when she starts pawing at the truth, she receives a threatening letter from a mysterious blackmailer bent on silencing her with her own secrets. And Lacy’s not the only one with bones in her closet.


Author Interview with Julie Chase

Julie, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell us about your protagonist, Lacy?

Lacy Marie Crocker owns Furry Godmother, a pet boutique on Magazine Street in the famed New Orleans Garden District, where she uses her fashion degree to make custom couture clothing and costumes for pets, as well as fresh baked organic treats for local furbabies. She is smart and kind, loving and curious. Her big heart and keen eye for details often get her into trouble when she really just wants to help.

Are you and Lacy alike? 

Lacy is a lot like me, except rich, confident and brave. LOL! I live vicariously through her adventures. She thinks what I think, then does the things I’d never be able to do from my cowering position behind her. If I met Lacy in real life, we would be great friends. I’d want to know all about her crazy adventures.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

Absolutely, and not just the hero and heroine. Like flesh and bone people, my characters are each on a journey through their life. They grow and change as a result of the experiences and encounters they have. Often, they change each other.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean? 

No. I’m fortunate, I guess, because there’s no one I’d like to see meet an untimely death.

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

Lacy’s world is a mix of real and fantasy. New Orleans is a very special place to me. I visit as often as I can to get the big details right. But, Lacy is fictional. Her family, friends and past are too, so I create and events shops as needed or fabricate street names. It’s something I put a lot of thought into, keeping New Orleans authentic while making Lacy’s adventures unique.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

Ha! I’d be thrilled just to get the opportunity to write book four in this series! But in the interest of fun, I have written a post on this topic before. You can find it here with photos, but the bottom line is:

Ashley Benson as Lacy Marie Crocker

Ian Somerholder as Detective Jack Oliver

Jensen Asckles as Chase Hawthorne (Lacy’s love interest / friend)

Emma Stone as Scarlet Hawthorne (Lacy’s BFF)

Susana Thompson as Violet Conti-Crocker (Lacy’s mom)

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

The worst advice I’ve ever been given as an author is to only write in one genre. For a long while at the beginning of my quest for publication, it was a popular thing to read on blogs and social media. Folks would say, “Don’t genre jump. It makes you look amateur.” Well, that’s hooey. If you’re a writer, then you should be writing the stories of your heart. All of them, and that doesn’t make you a novice. It makes you real.

The best advice I’ve been given as an author is to keep writing. If your manuscript isn’t selling, then write another and put that first one behind you. You can always come back to it, but obsessing over getting THAT one sold will stagnate you. We have to keep working, learning, improving. You don’t have to delete the work you can’t sell, but don’t get so hung up on selling that one piece that you stop writing. Keep. Writing.

 


About The Author

Julie Chase is a mystery-loving pet enthusiast who hopes to make readers smile. She lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three spunky children. Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and Sisters in Crime (SinC). She is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyons Literary Agency.

Julie also writes as Julie Anne Lindsey. Learn more about Julie at her website.

 

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New mystery in Mary Angela’s campus cozy series: Passport to Murder

Announcing book #2 in Mary Angela’s campus cozy series!

Start with an unlucky number. Throw in a romantic location. Include a dashing Frenchman and an uncompromising professor. And you have all the ingredients for a passport to murder.

This semester, it seems that Professor Prather’s dreams are about to come true. Ever since she was a young girl, she’s imagined going to France, and her French colleague, André Duman, has finally made that trip possible. Over spring break, she and André are to lead a group of students and faculty to Paris to explore the City of Light. But before she can utter her first bonjour, a professor dies, and they are stuck in Minneapolis. She returns to Copper Bluff with an unstamped passport and a mystery to solve.

When André becomes the prime suspect, Emmeline puts her research skills to good use, determined to find out who really killed the professor and spoiled their spring break plans. With thirteen travelers assembled, the possibilities are varied and villainous. Luckily, her dear friend and sidekick, Lenny Jenkins, is close by. Together, they will sort through the conflicting clues even if it costs them time, trouble, or tenure…


 

About The Author

Like her protagonist in the Professor Prather mystery series, Mary Angela lives on the Great Plains and teaches college writing and literature. When she’s not grading papers (when is she not grading papers?), she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She and her husband have two amazing daughters, one adorable dog, and a cat who would rather not be limited by an adjective. For more information, go to www.maryangelabooks.com.

 

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New Malice Mystery: Highland Peril by Amy M. Reade

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Trading the urban pace of Edinburgh for a tiny village overlooking a breathtaking blue loch was a great move for budding photographer Sylvie Carmichael and her artist husband, Seamus—until a dangerous crime obscures the view . . . 

Sylvie’s bucolic life along the heather-covered moors of the Highlands is a world away from the hectic energy of the city. But then a London buyer is killed after purchasing a long-lost Scottish masterpiece from Seamus’s gallery—and the painting vanishes. As suspicion clouds their new life, and their relationship, Sylvie’s search for answers plunges her into an unsolved mystery dating back to Cromwellian Scotland through World War I and beyond. And as she moves closer to the truth, Sylvie is targeted by a murderer who’s after a treasure within a treasure that could rewrite history . . . and her own future.


Amy, thanks for stopping by Island Confidential! Can you tell our readers about Sylvie? 

The protagonist in Highland Peril is Sylvie Carmichael, an Edinburgh transplant to the Scottish Highlands. She moved there with her husband Seamus and they both have a deep love for their adopted home.

Sylvie discovered a love of photography a few years ago and has made a career out of that passion. Since Seamus is a painter, their lives revolve around art. Together they own a shop in the Highlands that sells antique artwork and they also have a gallery where they sell both Sylvie’s photographs and Seamus’s paintings.

Sylvie is a fierce defender of her husband, though that doesn’t mean they always get along, and it doesn’t prevent her from becoming suspicious of him when his actions and his words don’t add up. She’s a loyal friend and a loving sister and proves herself to be one tough customer when it comes to getting to the bottom of the mysteries that plague her and Seamus.

How much do you and Sylvie have in common?

That’s a question that I’ve had to think about for a while. Sylvie tends to be pretty even-keeled, though she’s been known to fly off the handle once in a while. And as much as I wish I never flew off the handle, I’m afraid there’s a bit of me in that description. I also love the outdoors and I am a loyal devotee of the Scottish Highlands. I suppose we’re alike in those ways. But we’re different in some ways, too—Sylvie is the person I would want to be when danger strikes.

What if you met her in real life? 

How would I feel if I met Sylvie? I think we would get along very well.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

The short answer is “yes.” The longer answer is this: Sylvie and Seamus were not the main characters in the first book in my Malice series—Sylvie’s sister, Greer, was the main character. Anyone who knows Sylvie from the first book will notice that marriage and a career and a home in a ruggedly independent region of Scotland has matured Sylvie. She’s not as selfish as she used to be and she’s more appreciative of the people around her.

Sylvie and Seamus learn some important lessons in Highland Peril about trust. It costs them heartache and time, but they’re wiser for it in the end.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean? 

You bet. Say, for example, someone made me cry in Belfast because he was the meanest man I’ve ever met. I might love to make him a villain/kill him off in a future book. This is just a hypothetical, you understand. I’m not bitter or anything.

Great hypothetical and totally made-up example! Speaking of making things up, how realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

I tried to make my setting as realistic as possible, while taking liberties with certain things like village names. My goal is not to write a perfect representation of everything in the Scottish Highlands, but to give a perfectly accurate account of what it feels like to be there. Readers of my previous books have said they feel like they’re in the setting right along with the characters, and that’s how I want to portray the Highlands, too.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

Rose Leslie would play the role of Sylvie

and Brian Dykstra would be Seamus.

What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received as an author?

The best advice I’ve ever received was to start marketing early—as in, the day I decide to write a book, not the day I finish it. And the worst? It’s from anyone who suggests I write the book in their head.

 


About the Author

Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, and recovering attorney. But she also writes (how could she not write with that last name?) and is the author of The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross) and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

 

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New thriller and author interview from Kathleen Valenti: Protocol

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Freshly minted college graduate Maggie O’Malley embarks on a career fueled by professional ambition and a desire to escape the past. As a pharmaceutical researcher, she’s determined to save lives from the shelter of her lab. But on her very first day she’s pulled into a world of uncertainty. Reminders appear on her phone for meetings she’s never scheduled with people she’s never met. People who end up dead.

 

With help from her best friend, Maggie discovers the victims on her phone are connected to each other and her new employer. She soon unearths a treacherous plot that threatens her mission—and her life. Maggie must unlock deadly secrets to stop horrific abuses of power before death comes calling for her.


Kathleen, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell us a little about your protagonist Maggie? 

Maggie O’Malley is a 20-something coming into her own. She just got her first real job at an up-and-coming pharmaceutical, moved out of her childhood home and is finally fulfilling her dream of helping humankind through pharmaceuticals. She’s a self-professed nerd, the girl who skipped the dance to do extra credit in biology. She’s also smart, gutsy, loyal, shy—and has no idea how strong she really is.

How much do you and Maggie have in common? 

There’s more than a little bit of me in Maggie, although my nerd-dom is more bookish and linguistic. (Math and science make me want to run screaming from the room!) Despite our differences in age (Maggie is—ahem—a good deal younger), she’s more self-possessed and brave than I am. If we were to meet, I know we’d be fast friends. She might not understand my emotionality (she’s very stoic), but we both speak the same language: movie quotes.

Will your characters change as the series progresses?

Maggie grows quite a bit between PROTOCOL and 39 WINKS. Life-threatening experiences tend to have that effect. She’s stronger, less retiring and has learned not so much what she wants out of life, but rather what she doesn’t. That’s an important lesson for us all.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

No, although I did turn a real-life bad guy into a fictional one in my second book, 39 WINKS. Sweet revenge!

I know you can’t give us any more details, but I’d like to hear more about that! How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

My setting is 100% fictional. I considered setting the series in Oregon, either in my hometown or a more populous area like Portland, but neither provided the kind of educational opportunities or industries that my protagonist—and my story—needed. In the end, the fictional Midwestern cities of Collinsburg and Greenville suited my needs. They have the just-right sizes (large and small), amenities, weather and ambiance I wanted, while offering the infinity flexibility of fiction.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

Maggie would definitely be played by Emma Stone, Constantine by Adrian Grenier (Vince from “Entourage”) and Ethan by Chris Pine. I just need the call from a major studio to make it happen. (ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease)

 

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve received as an author?

The best advice I received was from a romance novelist who told me to set word count goals—and then meet them—every single day. This got me out of the loop of editing the same sentence over and over again without progressing.

I wouldn’t say I’ve encountered any “worst” advice—maybe just advice that wasn’t a good fit for me. I think that can often be the case. What works for one writer may not work for another. We’re all different, after all, and that’s a beautiful thing!


About the Author

When Kathleen Valenti isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. Protocol is her debut novel and the first of the Maggie O’Malley mystery series. Kathleen lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running.

Author Links

Webpage – www.kathleenvalenti.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authorkathleenvalenti/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KathyValenti1

GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16773270.Kathleen_Valenti

 

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New Tangled Web Mystery and interview from Sadie Hartwell: A Knit Before Dying

>>> Win a print copy (U.S. only) <<<
A new business might add some much-needed charm to downtown Dorset Falls—and draw tourists to Josie’s yarn shop. But when someone gets murdered, a close-knit community could come undone . . .

Shop owner Josie Blair is finally settling into the pace of living in Dorset Falls, Connecticut. Between running Miss Marple Knits, jumpstarting a blog, and handcrafting items with the help of her knitting pals, Josie’s too preoccupied to worry about her past in New York. And thanks to Lyndon and Harry, the owners of the brand-new antique shop next door, she has another project in her midst—repurposing a box of vintage crocheted doilies adorned with the most curious needlework . . .

But before Josie can formally welcome her neighbors, she discovers Lyndon on the floor of his shop stabbed to death by a rusty old pair of sheep shears. Police have pinned Harry as the killer, but Josie isn’t so sure. Now, she’s lacing up for another homicide investigation—and no eyelet or stitch can go unexamined, lest she herself becomes ensnared in the criminal’s deadly design . . .

INCLUDES ORIGINAL KNITTING PATTERNS!


Author Interview

Sadie, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell us something about Josie, the protagonist of A Knit Before Dying? 

 Josie Blair is a thirty-something former New York City fashion designer who now runs a yarn shop in rural Connecticut. She takes no guff from anyone, including her crotchety great-uncle, with whom she lives on his farm. She loves being in control of her own destiny, even if she’s not quite sure yet what that destiny is.

How alike are you and Josie?

 Josie is part of me, because I created her. But she’s better at speaking her mind and coming up with snappy comebacks than I am. And she gets to own a yarn shop (insert pouty face). I’m pretty sure she and I would be friends if we met on the street.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

Yes, although over the course of a series the character arc can’t develop too fast, otherwise there’s nowhere to go in later books. But I never want to have a stagnant character, and I try very hard to give even the side characters their own personal journeys.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean? 

Not only have I thought about it, I’ve done it. Twice. But that was in my other series (the Greek to Me Mysteries, written as Susannah Hardy). And no, I won’t tell you who I killed or why, LOL!

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

Dorset Falls is a completely fictional village in western Connecticut. It’s fairly representative of many small towns across America, where once-thriving downtowns are full of empty storefronts. But Dorset Falls is slowly turning around—and it’s Josie’s yarn shop, Miss Marple Knits, that is the catalyst for the revitalization, even though Josie doesn’t know that. Fortunately, I do.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

Jennifer Lawrence would make a perfect Josie. Jeff Bridges in crusty-old-man mode would be Uncle Eb. And Mitch would be Chris Evans (with dark hair).

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

The worst is that I “have” to write every day. For most writers, that’s simply not feasible, and for me, at least, I need time for the well to refill before I can go on. I’m better off trying to hit a weekly word count goal rather than a daily goal. The best advice was to stop being nice to my characters—great stories only happen when characters are constantly tested and the author makes it worse and worse for them as the narrative goes along. Then when they finally “win” (in whatever form that takes—escaping the bad guy, solving the mystery) the resolution is much more satisfying.


About The Author  

Sadie Hartwell grew up near the Canadian border in northern New York State, where it’s cold, dark, and snowy almost half the year—a perfect environment for nurturing a simultaneous love of mystery fiction and needlework. She attended St. Lawrence University, graduating with a degree in history, and has worked as a waitress, handbag designer/manufacturer, paralegal, and copy editor before turning to writing full time. Now she gets to play with yarn and make up stories whenever she wants, and wishes everyone had a job as much fun as hers.

Webpage  |  Twitter – @SadieHartwell  | Facebook

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A New Resort to Murder Mystery (with giveaway and author interview): ICED by Avery Daniels

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Julienne has her ideal job as an event planner at a prestigious resort. During a luncheon event she coordinated, a renowned celebrity pastor is killed next to the buffet. All eyes turn to her as the suspect. If she wants to stay out of jail or even keep her job, Julienne needs all the help she can get to solve the crime.

She has her work cut out for her with a vengeful high school rival now reporter, the public demanding she be fired, plus family who knows what’s best for her, and a boyfriend who doesn’t understand her. She turns to friends and a new ally to uncover who wanted to put the pastor on ice.

Julienne goes undercover and investigates a local swingers group as she follows the trail of clues before they go cold. Can she gather enough suspects and motives to convince the police to widen their investigation? Can she do it before the killer sets his murderous sights on her? Will her personal life ever be as simple as unveiling a murderer?


Interview with Avery Daniels

Avery, welcome to Island Confidential. Can you tell us something about Julienne, the protagonist of Iced?

Julienne LaMere, or Julie for short, lost her mother to Breast Cancer as a young teen. Her father, who made good money and is retired in Florida now, wants to see her married to a well-to-do man and living a country club life and providing grandchildren for him to spoil – not working for a living. Julienne still misses her mother deeply and works at a luxury resort in a management-training program because this is her ticket to live and work around the world. She has wanderlust and doesn’t want to live in just one place, and not just vacation and sightsee exotic locations – but live there. She has many posters and books about resorts everywhere and this is her dream career. The series will follow her to resorts. As for providing grandchildren for her father to spoil, she isn’t inclined towards that either.

How much are you like Julienne? 

I took clarinet lessons as an adult and am nowhere near as good as Julienne who is symphony quality. The townhome complex where Julienne lives is loosely inspired by where I live. Her French heritage is perhaps my wishing I had grown up with more of the French culture from my great-great grandmother who came to America from the Alsace-Lorraine area of France, but sadly didn’t pass down any of the culture or language. I took French in high school and college and in 2010 finally got to travel to Paris for ten days. I was in Notre Dame Cathedral Christmas day and spent an entire day at the Louvre, but only made it through about 65% of the museum.

I think Julienne and I would be friends. She enjoys people, which makes her good at her job. She is a loyal friend, as we find out in this first book in the series.

Will your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

Absolutely. Even in this first book we see Julienne face some issues left from her mother’s passing when she was an impressionable teen and how it has impacted her romantic relationships.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

It is a joke among mystery authors and considered therapeutic. I am planning on getting the t-shirt that says “I’m a writer. Be careful or I may kill you in my next book.” Yes, such a shirt already exists. But seriously, only after the last bad relationship breakup have I considered it. Friends joke about how they can guess who the victim is in some future book.

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

The setting in Iced, the first of the Resort to Murder series, is a large mountain resort in Colorado Springs. It is inspired by the Broadmoor Hotel and Resort. I have taken only a few liberties and changed the name to be the Colorado Springs Resort. This stunning and glamorous resort is in my backyard and I grew up visiting the grounds. The lake was open to the public to feed the ducks and walk around, but it has since been closed off. The Broadmoor has many shops and is still open to the public, you just have to go through the hotel to access the lake currently.

For the next book in the series, Nailed, I am planning on using the Sonnenalp Hotel, a five star Bavarian style resort in Vail, as the setting. I will sadly be forced to go visit for research. I may have to fudge a few details to work the plot though – they will be snow bound for a few days!

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

I always envisioned Julienne as Connie Seleca in her twenties – I’m not sure of a similar looking actress today. Suggestions? For Mason, I describe him in the book as a cross between a young Hugh Jackman and Aidan Turner (Poldark Actor). For the movie or TV series I can go with Aidan Turner, twist my arm.

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

That is a tough question. I have taken writing classes that focus on everything from plot development, character development and arcs, sizzling dialog, description and setting, theme, and on and on…but the best advice is to look at what I love in the books I read now (which every successful author reads a lot.) Not to copycat, but to learn from those authors. How do they pace and build the suspense, draw out the tension between romantic interests, drop the subtle clues of the murderer?

The worst advice is not to worry about details or editing, yes some out there think that it ruins the creative flow captured in your first draft. Another worst piece of advice is to have anybody you know (whether they know and like the genre you are writing) to be beta readers or critique partners and work to please them. I am fortunate to have two great critique partners who understand the cozy mystery genre and give constructive insights, then leave the rest to me.


About The Author

Avery Daniels was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense her entire life.  Her most eventful job was apartment management for 352 units (plenty of fodder for stories there!).  She still resides in Colorado with two brother black cats as her loving companions.  She volunteers for a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic.  She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books and history at the dinner table.  Her first try at writing a fully developed story was as a teen was a tale of a girl trying to nurse a fawn back to health and then release it into the wild again.  She is plotting her next Resort to Murder novel and struggling over which Colorado resort should be her setting.

Author Links

Web – Avery-Daniels.com

Facebook –   https://www.facebook.com/AveryDanielsAuthor

GoodReads –   https://www.goodreads.com/Avery-Daniels


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A Margin of Lust (The Seven Deadly Sins) by Greta Boris

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Gwen Bishop, wife, mother, and struggling real estate agent, has two big fears: claustrophobia and being buried in suburban obscurity. When she signs her dream listing, a multi-million dollar beachfront property in Laguna Beach, California, she’s sure her problems are behind her. And they would be, if it wasn’t for the secret in the basement and the body in an upstairs bedroom.

When the crime scene tape comes down, Gwen enlists the aid of a handsome co-worker with a background in construction to help her ready the house for sale and bolster her flagging courage. But every time they’re ready to put it back on the market, something goes horribly wrong. She must face old fears and new ones, temptations and buried truths. Gwen is determined to sell the dream house—or die trying.


Author Interview

Greta, welcome to Island Confidential and congratulations on A Margin of Lust. Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist? 

Gwen Bishop is the mother of three school aged kids, the wife of a Lutheran School Principal and a real estate agent. She was a stay-at-home mother until her youngest started full days at the Lutheran school and has only been back in the work force for about three years when the book opens.

Gwen’s a type A personality. The lust she struggles with is primarily for prestige and financial success. Although she is attracted to one of her co-workers, that’s not the kind of lust that defines her. Her greatest fears are claustrophobia and being buried in suburban obscurity.

Hmm…Greta and “Gwen” are not dissimilar names. Coincidence? How much are you like Gwen?

Gwen’s degree was in Performing Arts, and she’d planned to be an actor. She gave up that dream when she married Art. My second major was also Drama and that was my plan. She has a conversation with her husband, then fiance, in which he tells her he just couldn’t stand watching her do love scenes with other men. That scene was pretty true to my life. My husband, then fiance, told me he didn’t think he could be married to an actor for the same reason.

Other than that, Gwen and I aren’t much alike. She’s much more driven than I am, has a much hotter temper, and she’s more impulsive. I would love to hang out with her. Despite her flaws, she has a big heart, good sense of humor, and I think she’s interesting.

Will your characters change and evolve throughout the series?

Each of the stories in my series has (will have) a different protagonist. The main character’s story will have the strongest arc. However, many characters make appearances in several, if not all, the books. Olivia, who is the mother of one of Art’s students in book one, is the main character in the second book in the series, The Scent of Wrath, out this December. Art plays a small role in that book as well.

I do try to add some hints about what’s happened in character’s lives between stories if it fits. For instance, I left some of the marriage issues between Gwen and Art a bit open-ended at the end of A Margin of Lust, but fill in some of those details in The Scent of Wrath.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

I’ve joked about it frequently, but no, not really. I don’t like readers to get too attached to my victims, so the victims are either very minor characters, or the crimes happen off set. I don’t like to read stories that are too horrifying or too sad, so I don’t write them. However, there are personality traits that annoy me and I do build characters with those traits into the stories. Maybe I’ll kill one someday, you never know.

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

By and large the settings are real. A Margin of Lust is set primarily in Laguna Beach, California. The street names are real and I try to give a sense of the place. The house where many of the crimes happen is completely fictional. There are no homes in Laguna that have basements created from a warren of caves tunneling into the cliffs. But how cool would it be if there was!

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

A: Oh, that’s hard. I know a lot of writers have actors in their heads as they write, but I see my characters as unique people. I guess I’d cast Connie Britton, the actor who plays the mother in Friday Night Lights, as Gwen, Liam Neeson as Art, and Ryan Gosling as Lance.

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

The worst advice I’ve gotten is all the “rule” stuff, like never use adverbs, or don’t spend time on settings or descriptions, or never use any dialogue tag but “said.” While too much of a good thing is like too much icing on a cake, it’s still nice to have some icing. I find when I focus on what you’re not supposed to do, it inhibits my writing. I’d rather go back and cut if I’ve overdone things than get myself all tied in knots afraid to put a word on the page.

The best advice I’ve gotten is to be persistent. Every author you’ve ever read received tons of rejection before they got a publishing contract. Every New York Times bestselling author has hundreds of one star reviews. You just have to put your head down, write the next story and hope each is better than the last.


About the Author

Greta Boris is the author of the 2017 releases, A Margin of Lust and The Scent of Wrath, the first two books in her 7 Deadly Sins domestic suspense series. She’s also the Director of O.C. Writers, a community of over 800 published and aspiring authors in Orange County, California.

She’s published articles on culture, health, and entertainment for a variety of national magazines including Victorian Homes, Zombies, 50 Scariest Movies, Exodus, and Women of the Bible. She’s also the author of the Amazon Kindle Bestseller The Wine and Chocolate Workout – Sip, Savor, and Strengthen for a Healthier Life.

You can visit her at http://gretaboris.com. She describes her work (and her life) as an O.C. housewife meets Dante’s Inferno

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Murder with a paranormal twist: New Sins for Old Scores

Murder, like history, often repeats itself. And, when it does, it’s the worst kind of murder.
Detective Richard Jax was never good at history—but, after years as a cop, he is about to get the lesson of his life. Ambushed and dying on a stakeout, he’s saved by Captain Patrick “Trick” McCall—the ghost of a World War II OSS agent. Trick has been waiting since 1944 for a chance to solve his own murder. Soon Jax is a suspect in a string of murders—murders linked to smuggling refugees out of the Middle East—a plot similar to the World War II OSS operation that brought scientists out of war-torn Europe. With the aid of a beautiful and intelligent historian, Dr. Alex Vouros, Jax and Trick unravel a seventy-year-old plot that began with Trick’s murder in 1944. Could the World War II mastermind, code named Harriet, be alive and up to old games? Is history repeating itself?Together, Jax and Trick hunt for the link between their pasts—confronted by some of Washington’s elite and one provocative, alluring French Underground agent, Abrielle Chanoux. Somewhere in Trick’s memories is a traitor. That traitor killed him. That traitor is killing again. Who framed Jax and who wants Trick’s secret to remain secret? The answer may be, who doesn’t?


T.J., thanks for stopping by Island Confidential.  Can you tell us a little bit about your lead characters, Richard and Trick?

 T.J.:Richard Jax and Trick McCall are some of my fav characters from my mysteries! Jax is a Special Agent with the Virginia Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI)—the state’s version of the FBI. He’s a likable, hardworking guy who runs afoul of his fiancé and best friend—Kathleen Cullen and Special Agent Leo Carraba. Let’s just say he trusts the wrong people. Jax has a few quirks, too, like reciting movie quotes and characters when he gets nervous. His favorite is old firm noir from the 1940’s like Charlie Chan.  Then there’s Trick. When Jax is ambushed and nearly killed, he’s saved by the spirit of long-dead World War II OSS—Office of Strategic Services—operative, Captain Patrick “Trick” McCall. Trick was murdered in 1944 and is hunting his own killer, now. But being the pragmatic investigator he is, Jax thinks he’s losing his mind and not seeing a ghost—despite the help Trick gives him. When Jax has to face his own failures with his fiancé and Carraba, he begins to question his own sanity and wonder if his being the prime suspect in Carraba’s murder is for good reason. Was he to blame? Did he actually kill his best friend?

While Jax is pragmatic and often too serious, Trick is a fun-loving, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants adventurer who pushes and cajoles Jax along the way to solving the murders. Together they must find the truth behind a WWII traitor and a treacherous plot that has lasted for over 75 years. As they do, Trick has to come to terms with being a 1940’s man suddenly thrust into 2011. The people and advances are unnerving to him and he uses humor and sarcasm to make his place in this world.

 In the end, Jax learns the truth behind Captain Trick McCall, his friends and loves, and why history has once again repeated itself.

Is there any of you in either of the protagonists?   

 T.J.: Moi? Well … a bit but not as much as my protagonists in my other novels. I’m an acquired taste and it’s best to spread the real-me over a few characters and not all in one. As a former government agent now a consultant, Jax’s persona and idiosyncrasies are certainly from me. So are his skill-sets. I’ve run homicide and corruption investigations, chased terrorists, and dealt with the human side of these crimes and adventures. Those things come from my experiences and onto the pages—I hope. I try to capture that human cost—the innocent caught up in the chase, the untold consequences of my character’s actions and inactions. Many other’s thrillers and mysteries are focused on the chase, the clues, and the grand finale. Mine are too, but I try hard to carry along the cost of these events in my stories. With Jax, he loses his friends and loves along the way, and as he makes new ones, there is a larger cost—trust, respect, even his career. I’ve experienced these things myself.

There is certainly more of me in Captain Trick McCall than Jax. I love Trick’s character. He’s an adventurer—that’s how he was recruited into the OSS in the 1940’s. He tries to keep things light and fun and even in the face of danger, keeps his cool with jokes and sarcasm. That’s 110% me. Trick also likes to dissect problems with a little charm and wit—keep the goal in mind but don’t let it consume you. That’s also something I try to do. Not always successfully, but then, Trick isn’t, either.

In my writing, no matter the character, I try to look through their eyes and respond realistically. I’ve been in many real-life adventures and can relate to what my characters endure. Even the bad guys—although it’s a bit harder since I’ve never been a truly bad guy in my life. I have been to murder scenes, autopsies, terror attacks … you name it. I know what holding back bile is like when you first get to a nasty crime scene. I know fear and what it’s like to wonder if you’re going home that night. I also know what it’s like to tell someone their loved one is dead. So those costs in a murder mystery are real to me and I try very hard to make them real to my characters.

So between Jax and Trick, they each have a good piece of me in them. After all, I wrote them so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a big investment in their lives.

How would you feel about these characters if you met them in real life?

 T.J.: Truth is, I have. Every one of my characters comes from my real-life background and adventures I’ve had around the world. I’ve lived and worked in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, the United Kingdom, throughout the America’s and elsewhere. I’ve known some pretty amazing people and some pretty nasty ones. So when I develop a character, I steal traits from those I’ve known. Bad guys included. Oh, there is no character that is 100% someone, but maybe 50-50 between a couple people I’ve known.  So, if I’d met them now, I’d be right at home.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

  T.J.:  Absolutely. If they didn’t, who’d read about them? I try to develop a character as close to life as possible—strengths, weaknesses, oddities. Jax can be too pragmatic, loses his confidence, and is no-fun—too focused and driven. As New Sins for Old Scores moves along, Trick begins to break through and pull other traits out of him. Jax lightens up a bit and regains some of his confidence. But since Jax is a victim in this story, too, he has a long way to go to find normalcy again. By the end of New Sins for Old Scores, he’s close but not completely healed up. Trick also continues to go through character development. He begins as an out-of-sorts forties man trying to understand the 21st century. As the story progresses, he begins to hone his own contributions to the story and grows his confidence in this new world of his.

 My characters also have true-to-life failings. As I mentioned, Jax loses confidence and also is too pragmatic to let loose and enjoy sometimes. He struggles with the loss of his friend and fiancé, and that weighs him down. As the story builds, he occasionally finds his feet again but it doesn’t always last—causing him to make bad decisions and fail. As the series moves on, those gains and losses will continue and he and Trick will undoubtedly have to deal with other setbacks, too. It’s those setbacks and challenges that I use to move the stories and the characters forward. Without that, it would be the same old characters, doing the same old investigating. No fun at all.

 One of the big changes in Jax is how he comes to grip with Trick McCall. He gives up trying to decide if he’s a ghost or the byproduct of his near-death injuries. Over time, he treats him like a partner in solving the murders and even allows Trick to “share” him. You’ll have to read New Sins for Old Scores to learn what that means!

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean? 

 T.J.: Well … Did someone say something about me? They can’t prove it!

 In my profession, especially back in the gun-toting days with the government, I often considered the possibility I’d have to kill someone. Part of my mission back then was protecting high-ranking dignitaries from terrorist attacks and investigating terror attacks. While most missions were relatively safe, there were a few that raised the hair on my neck and kept me awake nights. There were lots of times I considered the very real possibility of having to kill someone—or someones.

But to your real question, absolutely. At one of my client offices, I have a very close friend. Every time he gives me trouble, I threatened to make him my next victim. Slow. Maniacal. In a dark basement with leeches and snakes. Yeah, he loves it.

 In truth, there have been people I’ve known in my past that have already been the bad guys and victims in my books. About five at last count. It’s easier for me to connect with bad guy characters if I mentally connect them to someone. I know their personalities, their dark sides, their mannerisms, etc. I project them into a character. It works well for me.

 And let me tell you, my ex-wife … boy, was knocking her off fun!

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

T.J.: Both. My settings are, for the most part, real places that I take a few liberties with. For instance, the Grey Coat Inn in New Sins for Old Scores is a real place. It’s called something else and is not exactly where I say in the book, but it’s real nonetheless. It also has a deep history as part of the Underground Railroad just as I say in the story. Leesburg is a growing historic town in Virginia, as is Winchester (from my Oliver Tucker series). I try to keep places real so readers can relate, perhaps find and explore them too. I change things that can cause issues—building names (unless they are innocuous to the story) and specific streets, in particular if a murder occurs there or a bad guy lives there.

I am very fortunate to live in Virginia where history and wonderful towns are plentiful. All my mysteries have a historical subplot in them and I love to use the local Virginia culture and history to further those plots. It’s not hard to stay true to life, because in Virginia, history goes back to before we were a country and it has “been-there, done-that.”

I use historical events to bolster my modern-day plots. In New Sins for Old Scores, the historical subplot surrounds Operation Paperclip. This was a real OSS operation during WWII where the US was sneaking scientists and industrialists out of war-torn Europe back to the US. The Soviets and other allies did it as well. In New Sins for Old Scores, I overlaid that famous operation into the modern day and simply asked the questions, “What would happen if someone did that today in the Middle East? What if they did it illegally? What might happen then?” I connected Operation Paperclip, modern day activities surrounding the Middle East conflicts, and poof, New Sins for Old Scores was written.

 Characters are real to life, too, and based on true events. Captain Patrick “Trick” McCall is based on my mentor of 25 years, Wally F. Wally was one of the last OSS Operatives from WWII and a former deputy director at CIA. He worked with me on the characters and history, and in time, became half of Trick McCall. I, of course, was the other half—clearly the better half. The fun half, too. I lost Wally in 2015 to age and a bad heart (he was 92!) and publishing New Sins became even more important to me.

 Still, you might notice it’s not dedicated to him. That’s because I have since written a thriller, The Consultant: Double Effect, about modern day terrorism in Northern Virginia that will be published by Oceanview in May, 2018. In The Consultant, Wally is 100% the character named Oscar LaRue and plays a huge role in this book and the coming sequels. That book is dedicated to him as “the real Oscar LaRue.” I dare say, too, that every story I’ve written and published, Wally has been a main character in some way. In his living years, he begrudgingly loved it. He wasn’t a fan of the paranormal mysteries on the outside, but he loved that he was a main character on the inside.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

 T.J.:The big question, right?  Today, you have to look a bit deeper into film and TV to find the really good characters. The media shoves the same old names and types at you—Brad Pitt, Jolie, DiCaprio. All stellar performers, no doubt. But there are some really great “others” that I’d go to see before any of them.

I’d love to see Nathan Fillion as Trick. I think he’s a fun-loving, personable actor who could pull off the role of being a man from the 40’s suddenly thrown into the 21st century. I also think Karl Urban from Almost Human would make a great Jax, or perhaps Alex O’Laughlin. Both of them are great actors. They can be focused and serious, but when a Nathan Fillion gets involved as Trick, they would be fun and adventurous, too. Alex, the beautiful historian, would definitely be Hayley Atwell from Agent Carter. She’s beautiful, skilled in action shows, and has that strong, take-charge persona.

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

 T.J.:

Best advice: Keep writing. Don’t quit. It takes years to get where you’re going for most of us, don’t give up or you’ll never get anywhere. It’s the way it is. Unless you’re the 1% of authors, you won’t write a blockbuster for your first book or two or three that will allow you to quit your job and move into the mansion. I’ll never be able to do that but I won’t stop writing and hope my books continue to be published. It takes time. Long hours. Rewrites. Rewrites. Rewrites. Then more rewrites and a hell of a lot of rejection. Don’t quit. Ever.

Worst Advice: So many I can’t pick. Here are a couple of small pieces of advice that nearly threw me before I realized they were not for me:

  1. Never mix first-person with third-person in the same novel. Oh please, it’s done all the time and while I’m a new author, it works for me just fine.
  1. Start with self-publishing to get your work out. If you’re really, really good at editing, covers, marketing, and all the things no one tells you about publishing, then this might work. For me, I went to traditional publishing first. I wanted to make my bones (establish myself) before I even considered any other path. I felt, and this is not true for everyone, that getting an agent and traditional publisher first would prove to myself that I was good and could “do this.” I can always self-pub later after I develop my work and an audience. To me, it was a means of proving myself in the market. Now, having said that, many authors find happiness and a good platform doing it exclusively on their own. There are some that have best sellers and have made a huge career on their own. I am in awe of them. One day, maybe. The truth is, there are so many publishing paths today. Self-publishing is just one. There are some amazingly good micro-presses and indie presses that even if you can’t get into one of the big houses, there are great options for more traditional publishing. Black Opal Books, who published New Sins for Old Scores, is among the best of these indie presses.

In my case, I’m extremely lucky that I have three publishing houses. My first series, the Oliver Tucker Gumshoe Ghost mysteries (God, I hate that tag line) has three books with Midnight Ink, a smaller publisher under Llewellyn publishing. New Sins for Old Scores is with a great indie, Black Opal Books. My new thriller, The Consultant: Double Effect is with Oceanview Publishing, a larger, great house right up there with the biggies. I’m thrilled with all the deals my agent put together and each one moves me farther ahead. Had I stopped early on and went solo in self-publishing, I’m not sure I’d have had the ability to get even this far along.

 So, my advice? Look around. Do your research on your options. And above all, don’t be afraid to take a risk.


About The Author  

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of New Sins for Old Scores, from Black Opal Books, and Dying to KnowDying for the Past, and Dying to TellHis new thriller,The Consultant, will be out in May 2018 from Oceanview Publishing. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York’s Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of theReader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014,and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

Web Site    Facebook     Blog     Goodreads


 

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New first in series: Engaged in Trouble (An Enchanted Events Mystery Book 1)

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When a washed-up pop star inherits a wedding planning business, it’s all bouquets and bliss until a bride turns up dead.
Paisley Sutton shot to stardom as a teenage rock sensation, but ten years later that star has fizzled out, just like her bank account. When she unexpectedly inherits her aunt’s wedding planning business, Paisley leaves the glamour of Los Angeles for a charming small town in Arkansas. Thinking she’ll arrive in Sugar Creek and liquidate the moldly property, Paisley’s shocked to find Enchanted Events has experienced a major makeover and is now the place for brides. She’s got two months to keep Enchanted Events afloat if she wants to sell and rekindle her music career with the profits.Paisley’s tossed into a world of vows and venues, but her most difficult challenge comes in the form of one demanding bride. When this Bridezilla’s found facedown in her cake, all fingers point to Paisley as the prime murder suspect. And she does not look good in prison orange.

This former pop princess will need the help of her gun-toting, ex-CIA grandmother and her handsome neighbor, Beau Hudson, to unravel the mystery and clear her good name. As she and her unruly posse dig into Bridezilla’s life, she discovers the woman had a long list of enemies. The closer Paisley gets to the truth, the more her own life is in danger.

Love is in the air this wedding season, but before Paisley can help the ladies of Sugar Creek say, “I do,” she’s got to unveil a killer. Or find herself the next target.

Engaged in Trouble is the first book in the long-awaited Enchanted Events cozy mystery series by award-winning author Jenny B. Jones. If you like laugh-out-loud adventures, small-town romance, unforgettable, sassy characters, and a mystery to keep you guessing, then you’ll love this new page-turning series.


Jenny, thanks for stopping by Island Confidential! Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist? 

JBJ: Paisley Sutton is a former member of an uber popular girl band. If you think about the band Destiny’s Child, there’s at least one member you might not be able to name. That’s Paisley. She rose to fame as a teen, but now over ten years later, she’s barely getting gigs singing on cruise ships. When she unexpectedly inherits her great-aunt’s mothball ridden wedding business, Paisley moves back to Sugar Creek, Arkansas, planning to keep the business afloat long enough to sell the vintage home its housed in and cash in the profits. But when she rolls in to Sugar Creek, she realizes the moldy business is now a booming event planning agency, which is just the beginning of her complications. A dead bride in a waiting room doesn’t help either.

How would you feel about her if you met her in real life?

JBJ: I’d love to meet Paisley in real life. She wears her funky stage clothes to work, has stories of rock stars to tell, and has a gun-toting granny who’s former CIA in her corner. But Paisley’s also battling some demons and is the underdog. I’ll always root for the underdog. 
Paisley might be like me in a few ways—she’s sarcastic, likes to keep things on the bright side, and has a grandmother she adores.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

JBJ: I’m just finishing book two, Royally in Trouble, but the series is somewhat planned out. Paisley really struggles with self-esteem issues and earning the approval of her super successful parents. Her siblings are brainiacs, and Paisley’s always been the artsy gypsy who never quite fit their mold of what success should look like. Through the series she has to slowly let go of the old dreams to grab hold of the new ones life is offering her, including a romance with a man who was once her childhood enemy.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

JBJ: Ha, no, but maybe I need to up my game? I have named some bad guys or annoying characters after a few people who’ve crossed my path who weren’t the kindest.

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

JBJ: My setting is very realistic. It’s set in the Northwest corner of Arkansas, which is an interesting blend of Mayberry meets Los Angeles. It’s the home of Wal-Mart, which means that celebrities are occasionally there to do business with the mega retailer. The downtowns in the area cities have undergone renovations and are rebuilding and rebranding, including some downhome stores/restaurants, as well as some trendy, urban upper scale venues. So you might go eat a favorite Mexican restaurant, walk the square, hear some bluegrass, and even see someone like Tom Cruise or Hugh Jackman. Sugar Creek is a fictional town on a very real creek that nestles next to these Northwest Arkansas cities. And a Rockwell town is a perfect place to have a fictional murder, right? The locals all seem so innocent…

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

JBJ: I’m not totally sure, but I do know I want a walk-on part. I think Emma Stone would make a great Paisley, and for her romantic interest, I’ve been modeling him after an actor named Ross Marquand. Luke Evans is welcome to audition as well. I wouldn’t turn him down, though I might make him go through a few call backs.

What’s the best advice you’ve had as an author?

JBJ: Six months before I got my first contract, I was at my first writing conference. I had paid to have a few chapters of my manuscript reviewed by an author I admired. She asked me if I had pitched to any agents or editors. I said, “No, I was told not to since my book isn’t done.” And she said words I will never forget. “The rules are made for everyone but you.” In other words, push through those barriers and doors. Assume the answer is yes until you hear a no. Assume you can be an exception. Expect a miracle. Years later that author and I are now friends, but I’ll be her fangirl forever and owe her so much. She passed my few chapters on to a publisher, and six months later, I had the contract that launched my career.


About The Author

Award-winning, best-selling author Jenny B. Jones writes romance, cozies, and YA with sass and Southern charm. Since she has very little free time, Jenny believes in spending her spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits, such as eating ice cream, watching puppy videos, and reading celebrity gossip. She lives in the beautiful state of Arkansas and has worked in public education for half of forever.  She loves bluegrass, a good laugh, and strong tea. She adores hearing from readers.

Webpage: www.JennyBJones.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/jennybjones/
Twitter: @jenbjones

Instagram: @JennyBJonesAuthor
Good Reads: www.goodreads.com/JennyBJones

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New Zodiac Mystery: All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

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The stars predict a wedding-day disaster, but San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never expected murder

Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary’s wedding day, but nobody asked Julia’s opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one’s prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.

With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family part, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could occur. As she digs deeper into the family’s secrets, her astrological insights will lead her to the truth about a criminal enterprise that stretches far beyond the California coast.


Island Confidential: Connie, thank you for stopping by! Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?

Connie di Marco: Julia Bonatti is a San Francisco astrologer who never thought murder would be part of her practice. In fact, she never in a million years would have predicted she’d be a practicing astrologer. Her life took an abrupt turn when her fiancé was killed in a hit and run accident, and she was no longer able to continue with her life plans. Astrology offered a sense of solace and comfort, a pathway to understand the cruel blow that she had been dealt. She discovered she was fascinated by the arcane symbols and their meanings and eventually realized she was quite good at the art of synthesis and helping her clients through difficult times.

How much of you is in Julia?  

CdM: It’s probably not possible to create any character that isn’t some aspect of oneself. Julia’s outlook on life, her values and sensibilities are probably mine, but she is a much freer and more daring agent. She’s a woman alone, although she has close family and friend connections that support her. But in a real sense, she’s a lone wolf, free to wander the city at any time, day or night, and open to far more adventure than I would be. She’s much more physically daring than I, not afraid to investigate, to confront suspects or to do whatever she feels necessary to solve the crime in spite of the danger this could represent. If I met her in real life, I’d probably admire her and wish I could be more like her. Perhaps every protagonist is an idealized version of each writer’s psyche.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

CdM: Yes, they do. There is a chronology to the characters’ lives and as the series continues, I do want everyone to grow and evolve. But it’s also important for each book to be read as a stand alone. I’ve found authors I’ve loved by picking up their fifth or maybe tenth book in a series, and enjoying it so much, I’ve gone back to the beginning and read each one from the start. It can be a tricky task to give readers enough backstory to understand what forces shaped a character, but not describe so much that it bogs the story down or bores a reader who is familiar with the series.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

CdM: Hmmm. Should I admit to this? Well, I’ll say this, one or two of my victims are modeled on people I’ve known and really disliked, although the names have been changed to prevent any lawsuits! And I know I’ve modeled villains on real life people too. That’s even more fun. I like to invent murderers who could be someone we know, someone who lives next door, an everyday person, someone for whom there’s a logic to their crime. They may not by nature be all bad or evil, but just people who commit crimes out of passion or impulse. Or because they believe they must commit that terrible act in order to protect themselves and survive. Delving into that gray area makes those characters far more interesting I think.

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

A: The Zodiac Mysteries are set in San Francisco, a real city with real streets and real buildings. So I try to be completely accurate when I describe a location like the downtown courthouse, or the kinds of restaurants in North Beach for example, although I do take liberties. It’s impossible not to. In All Signs Point to Murder, Julia meets a man who can give her information she needs at a place called Wong’s, an all night diner in Chinatown. Is there a real Wong’s? I doubt it, but there are plenty of small eateries like that in that area, so the location seems true to the city and the story. Sometimes, Julia will go to a place that really does exist. For example, she has a lunch at the Garden Court restaurant inside the Palace Hotel. A beautifully restored historic location with potted palms and glass ceilings and plus, it was a chance to incorporate a little history about its builder from 1873.

My earlier series, the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, written as Connie Archer, required a different approach. Snowflake, Vermont is an imaginary village but it offers the same things that any small town in Vermont would have – a Village Green, a white-steepled church, a soup restaurant and so on. But in those books, I wanted to cultivate that imaginary sense of place. I studied a list of Vermont cities and towns before coming up with names that don’t really exist in Vermont. The jail is in Bournmouth and the hospital’s in Lincoln Falls. I wanted to make sure that any town I mentioned did not have a counterpart in real life. I wanted the village to exist in an unreal place, like Brigadoon in the musical, a mysterious village that only appears for one day every hundred years.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

CdM: I don’t really ever think about that. For one thing, no writer ever has any control over scripts or casting. I think every reader forms a picture in his or her head about a character, how they walk, what they look like, how they sound, and often the casting of actors doesn’t work very well. When Katherine Heigl was cast as Stephanie Plum, I was taken aback. Nothing against the actress, but in no way did she seem like my vision of Stephanie Plum. In the best of all possible worlds, a writer would have some control over those decisions, but that rarely if ever happens.

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

CdM: Probably the worst advice writers receive is to write what they know. I think that’s a very limiting concept that puts braces on our imaginations. Where would all the historical novels come from? How would authors be able to inhabit another century and recreate what was and wasn’t there for a modern reader?

It’s fine to write about worlds one is familiar with, but a writer also needs to constantly stretch and investigate worlds they know nothing about. Do I know anything about the discovery of a dead body? First hand? I don’t, but research will give me the answers I need. Do I know anything about human trafficking or smuggling or child abduction? Fortunately not, but these are all subjects that crime writers deal with. On the other hand, we all experience the same griefs, regrets, loves and sadness, all sorts of emotional states, no matter who we are and the exploration of those feelings is what makes a book memorable.

The best advice I’ve ever heard, and I knew it before I heard or read of it, is to get out of your own way. In other words, just let things flow. A writer friend, Dennis Palumbo, has written a book called Writing from the Inside Out. It’s a really wonderful and compassionate book. In it, he quotes Pablo Casals who said, “Learn the notes, then forget about ‘em.” Really great advice! You can spend your whole life nitpicking and worrying and editing and never get anything finished. Just get out of your own way, turn off the editor in your brain and keep your fingers moving over the keyboard.


About The Author

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti.  The first in the series, The Madness of Mercury, was released in June 2016 and the second, All Signs Point to Murder, available for pre-order now, will be released on August 8, 2017.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime.  Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook  and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook.  Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

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