Sunday, February 18, 2018

Cat-ching up with Charlie Harris and Diesel!


In honor of thier latest release, I pay tribute to:

The Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda (aka Dean) James.


Set in the fictional town of Athena, Mississippi, the action centers around librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel.  Diesel is quite large for his size, but very lovable, and Charlie walks him on a leash and takes him pretty much everywhere he goes.  Unlike the cats in the “Magical Cats” series, Diesel is more of a sidekick for Charlie than an active participant in the mystery solving – although he does lend a paw from time to time.  The series has many charming characters, some of which have even been put into a spin-off series by James. 

  My favorite in the series so far is THE SILENCE OF THE LIBRARY, which revolves around a library exhibit to honor YA novelists – in particular, one octogenarian, Electra Barnes Cartwright, the author of the beloved “Veronica Thane” series.  Once news of the author’s appearance goes viral, another rumor surfaces – that of five unpublished manuscripts – drawing out one rabid fan who will stop at nothing short of murder to get hold of the rare books.  Series book devotees will find the references and facts about actual series books interspersed throughout the book interesting, and it adds to the mystery. 

 their latest adventure, out February 20, is called CLAWS FOR CONCERN.  Here's the back cover blurb from Amazon:

Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, are embroiled in a new mystery when a cold case suddenly heats up in the latest installment of the New York Times bestselling series.

Charlie Harris is busy enjoying his new grandson when a mysterious man with a connection to Charlie's family starts visiting the library, bringing with him troubling questions about an unsolved murder...

Charlie may be a proud new grandfather, but he and Diesel still have work to do at Athena College and the small Mississippi town's public library. He's too busy to deal with true-crime writer Jack Pemberton, who wants Charlie as the subject of his latest book--and who won't take no for an answer. 
 
A more appealing proposition for Charlie is spending time helping a kind, elderly man navigate the library's genealogical database. But he's shocked when he learns that the visitor's search is focused on a member of his own family: his late aunt's husband.

Charlie befriends the man and considers inviting him to stay in his home, but he's soon given reason to question that notion. Jack is certain that Charlie's new houseguest was involved in a shocking homicide that took place years ago in a small town near Athena. As this cold case heats up, Charlie and Diesel have to uncover a killer who may already be too close to home...

It's always a treat to watch Charlie and Diesel investigate and even though I did guess the killer's identity early on, it didn't spoil my enjoyment of this book.  I liked the character of Jack Pemberton.  Could another spin off series be in the works???????/

Here's to Charlie and Diesel entertaining us for many more adventures to come!


WIN ROCCO'S REVIEW COPY OF CLAWS FOR CONCERN!

You can win ROCCO's hardback review copy of Claws for Concern!  Just leave your name and email address in our comments section and tell us your favorite "Cat in the STacks" mystery!  Entries without an email address will be disqualified, sorry. Contest ends midnight, February 23.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

ROCCO's February Cozy Roundup!

Here's ROCCO's take on Penguin's February roster of cozies!

TOP PICK:
The Fast and the Furriest
Sofie Ryan
February 6
Five Stars

Sarah Grayson owns Second Chance, a shop that sells lovingly refurbished items, in the charming town of North Harbor, Maine. But she couldn't run the store without the help of her right-hand man, Mac--or her dashing rescue cat, Elvis.

Mac's life before North Harbor has always been a little bit mysterious, but it becomes a lot more intriguing when a woman from his past shows up in town, and then turns up dead. Suspicion falls on Mac, but Sarah--and Elvis--know he can't be the killer, and they hope they can prove his innocence quick as a whisker.


Love, love, love this series!  Elvis is a remarkable cat and Sarah is turning into an excellent detective.  Also found myself liking the romance aspect!  If you haven't yet tried this series, I suggest you do so. Good reading on a cold winter night! Five PAws!!!!!!

ROCCO's Second Top Pick
CLAWS FOR CONCERN
MIRANDA JAMES
FEB 20
FIVE PAWS


Charlie Harris is busy enjoying his new grandson when a mysterious man with a connection to Charlie's family starts visiting the library, bringing with him troubling questions about an unsolved murder...

Charlie may be a proud new grandfather, but he and Diesel still have work to do at Athena College and the small Mississippi town's public library. He's too busy to deal with true-crime writer Jack Pemberton, who wants Charlie as the subject of his latest book--and who won't take no for an answer. 
 
A more appealing proposition for Charlie is spending time helping a kind, elderly man navigate the library's genealogical database. But he's shocked when he learns that the visitor's search is focused on a member of his own family: his late aunt's husband.

Charlie befriends the man and considers inviting him to stay in his home, but he's soon given reason to question that notion. Jack is certain that Charlie's new houseguest was involved in a shocking homicide that took place years ago in a small town near Athena. As this cold case heats up, Charlie and Diesel have to uncover a killer who may already be too close to home...


It's hard to believe that this is the ninth instalment in this popular series, and one can see why!  Each adventure is more thrililng than the last. I personally never tire of watching Charlie and his remarkable cat, Diesel, unravel the clues that will unlock the mystery. This time out, Charlie gets a little too up close and personal with a homicide. I liked the idea of the true crime writer wanting to do a series on Charlie's adventures but wait! Hasn't that already been done LOL.  This book will not disappoint die hard fans of the series and new ones will want to binge on the previous adventures.  Five Paws!!!!!

CLAIRVOYANT AND PRESENT DANGER
Lena Gregory
Feb 6, 2018
Four Stars

Cass has always relied on her abilities to guide her, but after communications with a ghost land her in the middle of a murder investigation, she has to wonder if her gifts are really more a curse.

Cass knows she is meant to help track down the killer--much to the chagrin of local law enforcement--when the apparition leads her to a dead body on the beach near her psychic shop, Mystical Musings. But the police are not the only ones who wish Cass would stick to reading palms. Someone is trying to scare her off, and it will take all her powers of premonition to catch the killer before Cass herself becomes the next victim...


This is the third instalment in the psychic island msytery series.  I've always been a fan of the paranormal, and there is just enough to satisfy me in this series!  Cass gets spunkier with each book! Four stars!


REPRINT OF THE M ONTH
PEKOE MOST POISON
Laura Childs
Paperback edition Feb 6.


In this reprint of New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs's latest Tea Shop Mystery, Theodosia Browning attends a "Rat Tea," where the mice will play...at murder.

When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston's most prominent hostesses, to a "Rat Tea," she is understandably intrigued. As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston to promote better public health.

But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen's entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat. And as she reviews the guest list for suspects, she soon finds herself drawn into in a dangerous game of cat and mouse...

Who doesn't love a tea shop mystery? Theodosia is quickly becoming one of my favorite female sleuths!  The plot is clever and Theo and company are in top notch form.  I also found the idea of a "Rat Tea" interesting!!!!!!  If you weren't able to get the hardcover, get the paperback now!  Five Stars!


WIN ROCCO'S REVIEW COPY OF CLAIRVOYANT AND PRESENT DANGER!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)


Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, Feb. 16!


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Revisiting an old favorite: Sofie Kelly a/k/a Sofie Ryan, Magical Cat author!

Meow, ROCCO here!
In honor of the fifth Second Chance Cat mystery, THE FAST AND THE FURRIEST, release on February 6th, we're reprinting this 2014 interview with its creator, Sofie Ryan a/k/a Sofie Kelly, who also pens the Magical Cat Mysteries!

Enjoy!



MEOW!  My guest today is Sofie Kelly, NYT author of the “Magical Cats” mysteries!

Sofie Kelly is the author of the New York Times best-selling Magical Cats mysteries. As Sofie Ryan she also writes the popular Second Chance Cat mysteries. In her spare time she cooks, hikes, practices tai chi and makes mixed media journals. She also has a tiny crush on the Today Show's Matt Lauer.

R:  Meow, Sofie, welcome. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
S: Thanks ROCCO! I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I won third place in a poetry contest in third grade. As a child I loved to make up stories—I still do.

R: Tell us about your latest release, FINAL CATCALL.  What was the inspiration for this series?
S: FINAL CATCALL is the 5th book in the Magical Cats mysteries. A theatre festival has been moved—at the last minute—to Mayville Heights. Kathleen knows one of the directors involved, through her parents, and when another director is killed, she ends up involved in the investigation. That’s complicated by the fact that her relationship with Detective Marcus Gordon seems to be over. And her ex-boyfriend has come to town to try to win her back. Luckily she has her cats, Owen and Hercules to help.

I think the series is inspired a lot by my love of libraries--and of cats, of course.

R: So what’s in Kathleen and Marcus’ future? Any news you can share?
S: All I’m going to say is “it ain’t over til it’s over!”

R: Which of (your character) adventures was the most fun for you to write? Were any of them the least amount of fun?
S: It’s hard to pick just one. I enjoy any adventure that involves the cats. They’re all inspired in some way by something a real cat I know has done. The least amount of fun was the scene in SLEIGHT OF PAW where Kathleen is trapped in a basement. I’m not crazy about small spaces.

R:  Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share?  How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?
S: My agent is Kim Lionetti of Bookends. I had been represented by an agent who had retired, and when Kim said she felt we could work together I was thrilled. She’s a very positive person.

My very first book was a young adult novel and when I learned it was going to be published I was speechless—and that rarely happens!

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
S: A title. It’s a weird little quirk that I have. I have to have a title. It doesn’t have to be that creative a title and it’s rarely the published title, but the book has to have a name before I start.

If I’m not feeling especially creative I remember that the orthodontist expects to be paid and that usually give me the nudge I need to start writing!

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
S: I’m laughing because my husband looked over my shoulder, read this question and said, “You’re going to tell the raisin bread story, aren’t you?”
(Yes, I am.)

The raisin bread story comes from our history. When we were first dating I made raisin bread to impress him with my cooking skills. (His mom was a great cook.) He said, “Thank you, but I don’t like raisin bread.” And I apologized! I tease him that if I had a time machine I would go back in time and tell him exactly what I thought of that comment and maybe kick him in the shins. He likes to remind me that I married him despite his gauche behavior. And he still doesn’t like raisin bread, but I do and I don’t have to share.

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
S: Probably that I run. My gait is awkward and I sweat profusely. I don’t look like a runner. I look like I’m about to pass out.

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 
S: Three 5K races.

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
S: I hope they’re entertained. I hope they finish one of my books and don’t feel that they’ve wasted their time.
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
S: Plotter all the way. I think it’s a personality trait. I like to make lists and when I travel I like to have a map.
R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
S:I like to cook. As a family we do a lot of hiking. And I sing with a great deal of enthusiasm but almost no musical ability.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
and for my new alter ego coming in early 2014: www.sofieryan.com
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
S: Read everything. Read good books and terrible ones. Read in your favorite genre and outside of it. And of course, write. It doesn’t matter how bad your first draft is. Once you have the story down on paper you can fix it, but you can’t fix what you haven’t written.


Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat—no disrespect to any dogs who may be reading. (ROCCO: Love that answer!)
Beach or Pool?   On a hot day, either.
Steak or salad?  Salad. (I’m assuming there’s no chocolate.)
Favorite Drink?  Coffee
Favorite Book?  It’s impossible to pick one. I’m a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve probably read every book by Agatha Christie at least twice.
Favorite TV Series?  Big Bang Theory
Favorite Movie?  The Princess Bride
Favorite Actor: Nathan Fillion from Castle is pretty cute. I wonder if he likes raisin bread. (ROCCO: Dunno. We’ll  have to ask him. I’m the official spokescat for his charity, Kids Need to Read)
Favorite Actress: I’m a big fan of Mariska Hargitay from Law & Order SVU.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Neither.
Hawaii or Alaska? I’ve never been to either, so both.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be probably my father. He died when I was very small.
If I had just one wish, it would be that we could all learn to see past our differences.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Julianne Moore, solely so I could have her hair for the day.

Thank you, Sofie, for a wonderful interview!
Folks, to find out more about Sofie and her mystery series, check out these sites:
www.sofieryan.com

 Since this interview, Sofie has gone on to write more Magical Cat and Second Chance Cat mysteries.  The most recent Magical CAt mystery, A TALE OF TWO KITTIES, was published last year: 

In this charming mystery from the bestselling author of Paws and Effect, two magical cats have powers of detection that prove indispensable to librarian Kathleen Paulson…

With a well-placed paw on a keyboard or a pointed stare, Kathleen’s two cats, Hercules and Owen, have helped her to solve cases in the past—so she has learned to trust their instincts. But she will need to rely on them more than ever when a twenty-year-old scandal leads to murder…

The arrival of the Janes brothers has the little town of Mayville Heights buzzing. Everyone of a certain age remembers when Victor had an affair with Leo’s wife, who then died in a car accident.

Now it seems the brothers are trying to reconcile, until Kathleen finds Leo dead. The police set their sights on Leo’s son and Kathleen’s good friend Simon, who doesn’t have much of an alibi. To prove her friend innocent, Kathleen will have to dig deep into the town's history—and into her sardine cracker supply, because Owen and Hercules don't work for free...

And on February 6, the fifth Second Chance Cat Mystery, THE FAST AND THE FURRIEST, debuts (cat-ch my review of this on next week's blog)

Sarah Grayson and her trusty companion, Elvis, race to tail the right suspects in the fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat Mysteries.

Sarah Grayson owns Second Chance, a shop that sells lovingly refurbished items, in the charming town of North Harbor, Maine. But she couldn't run the store without the help of her right-hand man, Mac--or her dashing rescue cat, Elvis.

Mac's life before North Harbor has always been a little bit mysterious, but it becomes a lot more intriguing when a woman from his past shows up in town, and then turns up dead. Suspicion falls on Mac, but Sarah--and Elvis--know he can't be the killer, and they hope they can prove his innocence quick as a whisker.

WIN MY REVIEW COPY OF THE FAST AND THE FURRIEST!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US entries only, please!  Contest ends midnight, February 10! Good luck!


ROCCO
INCREDIBLE BLOGGING CAT

Friday, January 26, 2018

Rocco's Guest...Laura Benedict

Meow, my guest this week is author Laura Benedict!


Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of seven novels of suspense, including the forthcoming The Stranger Inside (February 2019). On the lighter side of mystery, Laura wrote Small Town Trouble, a cozy crime novel, for the Familiar Legacy series (January 2018). Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes: The Abandoned HeartCharlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review)and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-ReadsThe Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family. Visit her at www.laurabenedict.com to read her blog and sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

Welcome Laura and Hi! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
First, I’d like to say I’m delighted to be here. I love to connect with readers and make new friends. Thanks for having me!
I’ve been writing for approximately 800 years. Okay, maybe not quite 800, but several decades. Writing is the thing I do to keep myself sane and happy, and I’m never more content than when I’m deep into a writing project.
I’ve lived my entire life in a strangely narrow band of the Upper South and Midwest: Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, and now Southern Illinois. (Wait—there were two very cold years in Michigan!) That’s given me an unusual perspective on life and loyalties. And I’ve always lived within a very few miles of a river.
I’m a sucker for kittens, big dogs, muscle cars, country boys, dark chocolate, sushi, and my kids.

Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?
The most important thing I can say is thank you. Without readers, my work would be devoid of a critical element: readers’ imaginations. Every book is different for every reader because each reader brings their own perspective and energy to it.
Check out samples of my work via my Amazon Author Page or at my website before you borrow or buy. I write in several different genres—something for everyone--and I want every reader to be a happy reader.

Please tell us about your newest release   
I had more fun writing SMALL TOWN TROUBLE than any other novel I’ve written. As a cozy, it was a new direction for me, and I found that my light side is just as happy writing as my dark side.
SMALL TOWN TROUBLE is the fifth book in the FAMILIAR LEGACY SERIES. The series features Trouble, a very clever black cat who is excellent at solving mysteries.
 In SMALL TOWN TROUBLE, Erin Walsh arrives home to tiny New Belford, Kentucky from college only to clash with her young stepmother, Shelby Rae. When Shelby Rae is kidnapped and a dear friend of the family is murdered, Erin discovers that both victims had secrets connected to the violent death of her mother seven years earlier. In a small town the pool of suspects is limited, but it also means the danger to Erin’s own life is deathly close. Noah Daly, an old high school friend, is the son of the man everyone blames for the violent death of Erin’s mother. But he’s also the one person Erin feels she can trust to help her find Shelby Rae’s kidnapper and her friend’s murderer. Or is her sudden attraction to him blinding her to his true nature? Enter Trouble, the wise and wily black cat detective. His paws have barely landed in the bluegrass when he realizes Erin is about to put herself in danger. Can he lead Erin to the truth before she becomes a victim herself?

Do you think you may ever go into another genre?  If so, which one?
I’ve never felt like I had to remain in one genre. Twenty years ago I was writing literary short fiction and had several stories published. But it wasn’t until I had my first crime story published at Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine that I realized how much I loved writing crime and mysteries. My first published novel, ISABELLA MOON, was a mystery, but also had supernatural elements. With the Bliss House series, I explored the gothic. And with SMALL TOWN TROUBLE I’ve tried a cozy—something I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe science fiction next? Who knows!

What book are you reading today?
I’m listening to Cal Newport’s DEEP WORK, which I highly recommend for anyone struggling with prioritizing their need to take their life and work more seriously. Also Amy Tan’s THE JOY LUCK CLUB.

I’m inviting your main character to dinner. What should I make?
Since my main character for SMALL TOWN TROUBLE is a cat, I would recommend a fish or shrimp dish with a light cream sauce and a side of asparagus. He’s quite the gourmand. Every cat I’ve ever had has been mad for asparagus and fish.

Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us?
Come February 3rd, I’ll be at Murder in the Magic City Conference in Birmingham, Alabama with all the Familiar Legacy Trouble authors. On the 4th,  we’ll be in nearby Wetumpka, Alabama for Murder on the Menu.

What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m often reading, but more often being the chief operating officer of our home operation, which includes one teenager (plus one daughter out of the house), a husband, four furbabies, and twelve acres of woods, pond, and meadows. I embroider—needlepoint and crewel—as often as I can, and practice playing the piano (Chopin is my favorite).

Would you ever write a screenplay?
I have actually written a screenplay! It was produced by and shown on West Virginia Public Television. I was so touched and amused by my writer husband’s (Pinckney Benedict) short story, Getting Over Arnette, that I immediately volunteered to write it when the producers approached him. It was great fun, but now I leave screenplays to the real professionals. Novels are my favorite.

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Read everything you possibly can. Books, both fiction and non-fiction, including some classics, cereal boxes, poetry, biographies and memoirs. Watch smart contemporary films and television. We’re in an era of great televised storytelling. You should spend three hours reading for every hour you write for several years. You can’t write if you’re well isn’t filled with good prose and compelling stories written by the great and not-so great. Definitely read and watch things out of your chosen genre, or your work will be too derivative. Most of all, enjoy it. Writing is a privilege.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?
My website, laurabenedict.com, is the best place to find me. I blog there, keep a schedule of events, and you can read all about and purchase my books.
(If you’re in a hurry, grab SMALL TOWN TROUBLE here or at most online booksellers!)
I’m also on Instagram at @laura_benedict, Facebook at AuthorLauraBenedict, and Twitter at @laurabenedict.
When you sign up for my quarterly-ish newsletter at my website, I’ll send you a link for a free ebook. Do come by!

P.S. Some quick answers!
1.    Pepsi or Coke?  Coke (not diet)
2.    Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark
3.    Cats or dogs? Both
4.    Do you read more than you write? Equal
5.    Favorite movie? Anything with Doris Day or Idris Elba
6.    Favorite book to movie? Pride and Prejudice
Favorite book or author? Yeah we know it can be hard to choose! Margaret Atwood

Giveaway time!  Laura will give away a copy of SMALL TOWN TROUBLE to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave your name and email address in our comments section. One winner will be selected at random using random.org. Contest closes midnight, January 28!




Thursday, January 25, 2018

Back from the Dead - MURPHY BROWN GETS A REBOOT!

The Human here.....

Cutting into ROCCO's blog to announce that my prayers have been answered!!!!!!  In the wake of the rebooting of many old favorite tv sitcoms, CBS has announced they are bringing back MURPHY BROWN!!!!!!

Murphy Brown was one of my favorite sitcoms, and Candice Bergen my idol. I longed to be just like the beautiful, witty journalist who was never without a snappy comeback!  I can't wait to see how they tackle the current politial climate (something the original show was noted for). 


I also can't wait to see Candice Bergen return to TV (she was on The Practice for several years after MB).  I loved her portrayal of Murphy and can't wait to see what she does with this!  Her son, Avery, should be in his 20's.  Maybe he'll be a reporter at FYI too! We'll have to wait and see how many of the original cast come back. Alas, no Robert Pastorelli (Eldin) as he died in 2004.




Murphy Brown II will debut in the 2018/2019 season, so most likely this September/October. I'll be counting the days!

In the meantime, you can read about it here:
https://apnews.com/d0b9cbf50c594a1c8f6f376956855683/Candice-Bergen-to-star-in-CBS%27-%27Murphy-Brown%27-revival


Does anyone else remember Murphy Brown?  How do you feel about the reboot?


Sunday, January 21, 2018

ROCCO welcomes Laura Benedict!

Meow, my guest this week is author Laura Benedict!


Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of seven novels of suspense, including the forthcoming The Stranger Inside (February 2019). On the lighter side of mystery, Laura wrote Small Town Trouble, a cozy crime novel, for the Familiar Legacy series (January 2018). Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes: The Abandoned HeartCharlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review)and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-ReadsThe Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family. Visit her at www.laurabenedict.com to read her blog and sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

Welcome Laura and Hi! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
First, I’d like to say I’m delighted to be here. I love to connect with readers and make new friends. Thanks for having me!
I’ve been writing for approximately 800 years. Okay, maybe not quite 800, but several decades. Writing is the thing I do to keep myself sane and happy, and I’m never more content than when I’m deep into a writing project.
I’ve lived my entire life in a strangely narrow band of the Upper South and Midwest: Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, and now Southern Illinois. (Wait—there were two very cold years in Michigan!) That’s given me an unusual perspective on life and loyalties. And I’ve always lived within a very few miles of a river.
I’m a sucker for kittens, big dogs, muscle cars, country boys, dark chocolate, sushi, and my kids.

Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?
The most important thing I can say is thank you. Without readers, my work would be devoid of a critical element: readers’ imaginations. Every book is different for every reader because each reader brings their own perspective and energy to it.
Check out samples of my work via my Amazon Author Page or at my website before you borrow or buy. I write in several different genres—something for everyone--and I want every reader to be a happy reader.

Please tell us about your newest release   
I had more fun writing SMALL TOWN TROUBLE than any other novel I’ve written. As a cozy, it was a new direction for me, and I found that my light side is just as happy writing as my dark side.
SMALL TOWN TROUBLE is the fifth book in the FAMILIAR LEGACY SERIES. The series features Trouble, a very clever black cat who is excellent at solving mysteries.
 In SMALL TOWN TROUBLE, Erin Walsh arrives home to tiny New Belford, Kentucky from college only to clash with her young stepmother, Shelby Rae. When Shelby Rae is kidnapped and a dear friend of the family is murdered, Erin discovers that both victims had secrets connected to the violent death of her mother seven years earlier. In a small town the pool of suspects is limited, but it also means the danger to Erin’s own life is deathly close. Noah Daly, an old high school friend, is the son of the man everyone blames for the violent death of Erin’s mother. But he’s also the one person Erin feels she can trust to help her find Shelby Rae’s kidnapper and her friend’s murderer. Or is her sudden attraction to him blinding her to his true nature? Enter Trouble, the wise and wily black cat detective. His paws have barely landed in the bluegrass when he realizes Erin is about to put herself in danger. Can he lead Erin to the truth before she becomes a victim herself?

Do you think you may ever go into another genre?  If so, which one?
I’ve never felt like I had to remain in one genre. Twenty years ago I was writing literary short fiction and had several stories published. But it wasn’t until I had my first crime story published at Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine that I realized how much I loved writing crime and mysteries. My first published novel, ISABELLA MOON, was a mystery, but also had supernatural elements. With the Bliss House series, I explored the gothic. And with SMALL TOWN TROUBLE I’ve tried a cozy—something I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe science fiction next? Who knows!

What book are you reading today?
I’m listening to Cal Newport’s DEEP WORK, which I highly recommend for anyone struggling with prioritizing their need to take their life and work more seriously. Also Amy Tan’s THE JOY LUCK CLUB.

I’m inviting your main character to dinner. What should I make?
Since my main character for SMALL TOWN TROUBLE is a cat, I would recommend a fish or shrimp dish with a light cream sauce and a side of asparagus. He’s quite the gourmand. Every cat I’ve ever had has been mad for asparagus and fish.

Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us?
Come February 3rd, I’ll be at Murder in the Magic City Conference in Birmingham, Alabama with all the Familiar Legacy Trouble authors. On the 4th,  we’ll be in nearby Wetumpka, Alabama for Murder on the Menu.

What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m often reading, but more often being the chief operating officer of our home operation, which includes one teenager (plus one daughter out of the house), a husband, four furbabies, and twelve acres of woods, pond, and meadows. I embroider—needlepoint and crewel—as often as I can, and practice playing the piano (Chopin is my favorite).

Would you ever write a screenplay?
I have actually written a screenplay! It was produced by and shown on West Virginia Public Television. I was so touched and amused by my writer husband’s (Pinckney Benedict) short story, Getting Over Arnette, that I immediately volunteered to write it when the producers approached him. It was great fun, but now I leave screenplays to the real professionals. Novels are my favorite.

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Read everything you possibly can. Books, both fiction and non-fiction, including some classics, cereal boxes, poetry, biographies and memoirs. Watch smart contemporary films and television. We’re in an era of great televised storytelling. You should spend three hours reading for every hour you write for several years. You can’t write if you’re well isn’t filled with good prose and compelling stories written by the great and not-so great. Definitely read and watch things out of your chosen genre, or your work will be too derivative. Most of all, enjoy it. Writing is a privilege.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?
My website, laurabenedict.com, is the best place to find me. I blog there, keep a schedule of events, and you can read all about and purchase my books.
(If you’re in a hurry, grab SMALL TOWN TROUBLE here or at most online booksellers!)
I’m also on Instagram at @laura_benedict, Facebook at AuthorLauraBenedict, and Twitter at @laurabenedict.
When you sign up for my quarterly-ish newsletter at my website, I’ll send you a link for a free ebook. Do come by!

P.S. Some quick answers!
1.    Pepsi or Coke?  Coke (not diet)
2.    Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark
3.    Cats or dogs? Both
4.    Do you read more than you write? Equal
5.    Favorite movie? Anything with Doris Day or Idris Elba
6.    Favorite book to movie? Pride and Prejudice
Favorite book or author? Yeah we know it can be hard to choose! Margaret Atwood

Giveaway time!  Laura will give away a copy of SMALL TOWN TROUBLE to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave your name and email address in our comments section. One winner will be selected at random using random.org. Contest closes midnight, January 28!