Author Interview, cozy mystery, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel

Writing Update, PLUS Dark Matter: Artificial Release | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE.

My short answer to this question is “yes” and “yes, then no.” One of the reviews for Smitten with Croissants said that it was just short of a romcom. At first I was surprised because it is a romcom. Or at least, that’s what I was trying to write. Then I recalled some of the books that I’ve read labeled as romcoms which didn’t even make me crack a smile. Yet other people said they had them rolling on the floor in laughter. It was a good reminder that humor is soooo subjective. What makes me giggle causes other people to roll their eyes.

Anyway, enough of that – I’ve got more in store for you. First a writing update, then I’m celebrating the release of Dark Matter: Artificial with an interview with one of its authors, Stephanie Espinoza Villamor.

Writing Update

Overboard on the Ocean was released at the end of April! This is the final full-length book in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series. (Don’t worry Mollie fans, there’s a Christmas novella planned – we couldn’t let Mollie sail to the Bahamas without solving one more murder, could we?)

If you like cozy mysteries with lots of goofy humor*, plenty of chocolate, and adorable cats, you can pick up a copy at your favorite retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU)

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple Books | Google Play | Smashwords

*Note: As discussed above, my idea of goofy humor might not be yours. 🙂

I finished writing Smitten with Candy Canes in April – whoo-hoo! This novella will be released exclusively as part of the Love, Laughter & Happily Ever After sweet romantic comedy collection in July. You can pre-order your copy HERE for only 99c. All pre-order profits go to Pets for the Elderly!

Can you help with the release of Love, Laughter & Happily Ever After either by reading and reviewing an ARC of my novella and/or spreading the word about the collection? You can? That’s awesome! Just fill out this form and I’ll be in touch!

Dark Matter: Artificial – Interview with Stephanie Espinoza Villamor

I’m excited to interview the winner of the Dark Matter: Artificial anthology – Stephanie Espinoza Villamor! I loved Stephanie’s story, as well as all the others. (You can read my review HERE.) If you haven’t grabbed a copy yet, you can snag one at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU)

Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books

Now, on to the interview. Grab a beverage and a snack, sit back, and find out what Stephanie has to say about writing, cookies, and penguins.

1 – What inspired / motivated you to write this story?

Two members of my writing group participated in the Insecure Writers Support Group anthology contest the year before I did. My dear friend Beth Anderson Schuck was selected as one of the top 10 authors that year, and her story, “The Orchard” can be found in Voyagers: The Third Ghost. I wanted to participate, but just had a baby and couldn’t do much of anything in those early months with a newborn! So I promised myself I’d try when the contest came around again. Then they announced the genre and theme: Science fiction. Dark matter. I didn’t know anything about dark matter! I’d never really written science fiction before (mostly fantasy and contemporary). But I brainstormed while my baby slept. Inspired by a habit of saving every memory as photo (my husband will tell you how obsessed I am with pictures) and a friend’s master’s thesis on artificial intelligence, I came up with an AI that has a photo memory and the dark matter found within it.

2 – What stage are you at in your writing and publishing journey?

I feel very much in the middle of my writing and publishing journey. I’ve loved to write since I was a child, and even started sending query letters out for an unpublished fantasy novel when I was 16. I researched the publishing industry a lot as a young adult (remember the SASE? We don’t need Self-Addressed Stamped Envelopes anymore with email queries). Then college and jobs and married life kept me busy, and while I continued to write when I could, I didn’t really focus on publishing again until closer to 2016 when I formed a writing group with Beth and other friends. In 2017 I also joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to workshop a middle grade novel I’d been writing for years. I continue to try to publish middle grade novels, but I’m working on several short stories for publication contests in the meantime and hope to hear back from them soon!

3 – Do you have any writing rituals?

My son is 21 months old, so my biggest writing ritual is waiting until he falls asleep to start writing anything. Seriously though, while I don’t have any strict rituals, I do find it’s easier to write when I’m motivated by other writers—when I’ve just come out of a writing group meeting or just read an author blog post or finished a really great story. It just makes me want to write even more.

4 – What’s more important – character or plot?

I’m very big on writing character. Individual identities intrigue me so much that sometimes I’ll come up with a character and a concept without any idea of where the story is going to end up. This is definitely a problem, because then I don’t always finish what I start. So you must have a good balance of both if you want to be successful; one can’t really be more important than the other. But I will say that if you have a compelling enough character, and come up with an ending that you want to reach, the plot does become a lot easier. I don’t know if the same can be said if you have a really compelling plot but no one to put in the story for readers to care about.

5 – What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least?

I love writing! I love getting “in the zone” when I have an idea that excites me, and crafting fun dialogue for interesting characters. Being an author means you get to create something personal, whether it’s worlds you’ve always wanted to live in or people who you’d love to get to know. What do I like least? There’s a lot of internal pressure to produce. And there’s always that fear that if you’re not producing, can you call yourself an author? (Spoiler alert: you can). I really enjoy editing, but I get overwhelmed sometimes thinking about all the things I might have to go back and edit in a novel draft if I decide to make a major change. And, of course, there’s going to be anxiety with any situation where you put your work out there to be judged by others. But it’s definitely worth it–otherwise I wouldn’t keep putting myself through it!

6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”

Gosh, I’m more of a cake and ice cream kind of person…but I thought about this question more than most people probably deliberate on cookie preferences. I like peanut butter, oatmeal, gingerbread, graham crackers, shortbread, cookies with icing, and Mexican polvorones (especially the pink ones). But I think my favorite would have to be a nice vanilla biscotti dipped in coffee. And it cannot have anise—I am NOT a fan of anise seed. But I am a big fan of coffee. You should ask me about my coffee preferences….

7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

Well, penguins cannot talk, so he doesn’t say anything. But I will look him up and down, and realize his beautifully embroidered charro hat matches his black mariachi outfit and so I’ll do all the talking. Clearly he’s here to perform for our family. “Permiso. Nos puede tocar ‘Solamente Una Vez?’” I don’t speak much Spanish, but my mom says that’s how I could ask him to play her wedding song.

8 – What else would you like us to know about you?

In my bio for Dark Matter: Artificial I was able to sum up my identity being a “librarian writer mom.” Those are some of the most important pieces of who I am. I’m close with my family. I love my jobs. Oh, and I’m also a big geek! Before having a baby I played video games ranging from MMOs to RPGs, everything from Fallout 4 to Spider-Man to Disney Sing It karaoke! Now I’m happy playing real life games that make my son laugh and reading to him as he sits in my lap.

Connect with Stephanie on Facebook | Twitter | Website

Dark Matter: Artificial – Blurb

Discover dark matter’s secrets…

What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets?

Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Godim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a journey across time and space. Prepare for ignition!

Congratulations to all the authors of Dark Matter: Artificial! Have you grabbed a copy of the anthology? What good books have you read lately?

Author Interview, Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Cozy Mystery Author Interview | J.L. Collins

It’s time for another fun cozy mystery author interview. I’m featuring J.L. Collins today. She’s the author of several series including the Witch Hazel Lane Mysteries, the Spell Maven Mysteries, and the Ice Witch Mysteries. Right now, you can grab the first books in several of her series for only 99c so be sure to check out Grits in the Graveyard, A Cold Case in Spell, and Spell Maven from Spell Haven.

I loved her answers to my questions, especially the part about saving cookies from Cookie Monster’s delicious destruction! Grab a beverage, a snack (maybe some cookies that Cookie Monster didn’t eat), and have read below to find out what J.L. has to say about writing, penguins, and cookies.

Interview with J.L. Collins

1 – What inspired you to write your books?

A love for murder at the tender age of nine. Actually, that’s not exactly far off—I’ve loved mysteries my whole life. I was and still am a very curious person so when someone gives me something to solve, I’m in heaven!

Writing a book can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility, but I’ve only ever known passion for it. There are, at any given time, ten or so plots spinning around my brain. Any time I go anywhere, see something new, hear about something funny, all of it gets categorized into ‘I’ve gotta write about this’ boxes. So I guess the short answer is everything!

2 – What’s your favorite thing about cozy mysteries?

They’re so much fun. It’s a delicate line to balance lightheartedness and murder, but when you see it being pulled off it can put a smile on your face even in the midst of the worst day.

3 – Do you have any writing rituals?

I wouldn’t say I have rituals per se, more like weird tics.

I always have my headphones on listening to some kind of music and when the music hits the scene just right, I’m bobbing my head like a pigeon. No, seriously! My kids and husband have called me out on it several times. There’s video evidence that won’t see the light of day.

I also get cold hands pretty quickly while typing, so when I’m really on a roll with the words I always rub my hands together really fast like I’m standing in front of a bonfire. Why? I have no idea but it’s a surefire sign that you should approach me cautiously.

4 – What’s more important – character or plot?

Ooh, that’s a good question! I’m personally a sucker for characters. My books are all character-driven because that’s what I like to read. To me, plot-driven books are great but they can feel distant, if that makes sense? And I like to be pulled into a book via a character right away. The classics are an exclusion, but newer works? I’m all about characters.

5 – What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least?

Best… I love working for myself doing the thing I always told myself I would do one day. In the middle of this business it can feel like you’re treading water sometimes, throwing books that you love out into the void, but I can still say it’s my job. How many people can say they’re living their dream job?

Least… The mechanics and back-end stuff. It’s so boring I won’t even go into detail but I know fellow authors are nodding their heads, mumbling to themselves.

6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”

Favorite cookie? Can’t I pick more than one?

All right fine, you drive a hard bargain. If I was in a room with Cookie Monster and I could only save one type of cookie from his delicious destruction, I would pick the chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips. Chocolate & PB are the yin and yang flavors in the world and I would be doing everyone a disservice by allowing their demise.

7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

First, I would spray him down with Lysol and request him to stand at least the standard six feet away. There would be scouring involved most likely. Then I would remind him that the show doesn’t start until nine pm, but since he’s already here, I’ll save him a seat down in front. The curtains open, the spotlight goes on, and the piano man is playing a sad tune. Pierre the penguin downing his second bottle of tequila already, stumbles to centerstage and starts woefully singing along in French. Yes, French. What, French penguins can’t wear sombreros?

What happens next is a mystery. See? Characters > Plot.

8 – What else would you like us to know about you?

My books are cozy but they’re more than ‘just cozies.’ There’s a mystery in every book, but an engaging plot that carries out through each series, too.

The first books in my last three series are all only 99c—perfect for a fun read. And I have a new series coming in May, all about a woman getting trapped in a town hidden in a cursed eternal winter. There’s a talking owl, need I say more?

I also have a newsletter where I routinely show off sneak peeks, deleted scenes, and hold a monthly giveaway. Last month my giveaway winner got their prize and also got to pick which non-profit I sent an additional amount to, to help fight the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Your readers should check it out! ❤

About J.L. Collins

J. L. (Jerri) lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, with her family and feisty canine. She loves delicious southern food, dogs, Carolina sunrises on the beach, shopping on King Street, and curling up with about twenty different books on the weekends. When she gets the rare chance, she also likes to go exploring and learning more about Charleston’s rich history!

Connect with J.L. on her Amazon author page and sign up for her newsletter.

Editor’s Note: Thanks so much for the interview, J.L.! You cracked me up with your comment about having the penguin observe social distancing. 🙂

Author Interview, Reading

Murder, Just Because by Yolanda Renee: An Author Interview Plus a Giveaway!

It’s a pleasure to be participating in author Yolanda Renee’s MURDER, JUST BECAUSE Blog Tour through MC Book Tours today.

The author is offering an awesome tour-wide international giveaway including a $25 Amazon Gift Card! More information on the giveaway is listed below.

Interview with Yolanda Renee

1 – What was your hardest scene to write?

Every scene where Stowy Jenkins is at his worst. It took me forever to do more than tell in as few words as possible what he was up to. It will be a long while before I write such an antagonist again.

2 – What makes you run screaming?

It used to be spiders, but now I just squish them. Snakes, especially when they crawl out from under the chair you’re sitting on. Which happened and yes, I did run screaming! Which I continued to do until the beast was gone! I did not sit on the porch or in that chair for a very, very long time!

Now it’s viruses–such as COVID-19. Except there’s nowhere to run. That’s the scariest of all.

3 – You’re about to be dropped in a remote spot for a three-week survival test. Where would you go? What three tools would you take?

The Brooks Range of Alaska, a high-mountain cabin next to a creek with grayling. Camping gear and my laptop so I can keep writing.

4 – If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?

Paris, of course. It’s always been my dream location, but a year may not be long enough. 😊

5 – If you could tell your younger-writing self anything, what would it be?

Never, ever leave Alaska. What you search for is there. All my books have been set in Alaska and while I live on a beautiful beach, I would trade all that to live in Alaska.

About Murder, Just Because

by Yolanda Renée

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Publisher: Yolanda Renee
Series: Detective Quaid Mysteries
Paperback: 291 pages
Print & eBooks
ISBN-10: 0985820632
ISBN-13: 978-0985820633
Contains explicit sex & graphic violence

“While this book does contain explicit sexual language and graphic violence, it could easily be taken from the daily headlines. The content is plausible and realistic as we look at the world around us. The events in the book are not overly done but give a pragmatic look at the terrifying actions killers can and sometimes do take.”

It was a matter of beginner’s luck, but rookie detective Steven Quaid’s career and reputation as an elite investigator skyrocketed when he captured one of the most sadistic serial killers in Alaskan history: Stowy Jenkins, AKA the Snowman. But that was ten years ago.

And now…Jenkins is back. Escaped from prison and on the move, his bloodlust is stronger than ever, and his methods of torture are even more horrifying than before. As his bloody rampage continues and the number of mutilated bodies mounts, terrified Alaskans increasingly doubt Quaid’s ability to catch the killer again. The detective’s reputation is on the line, and he’s going to need a lot more than luck, because this time, Jenkins is driven by more than the thrill of a random kill.

This time, it’s more personal. He’s out for revenge…and his ultimate target is Quaid. In a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, Jenkins starts picking off the people in Quaid’s life…slowly, gradually tightening his circle of corpses and drawing ever closer to the most important person in Quaid’s life…his wife. Can Quaid do the impossible again? Can he outmaneuver the killer, or has the detective’s luck finally run out?

About Yolanda Renee

For those who aren’t familiar with the author, here’s a bit of background on her in her own words.

At one time Alaska called to me, and I answered. I learned to sleep under the midnight sun, survive in below zero temperatures, and hike the Mountain Ranges. I’ve traveled from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, and the memories are some of my most valued. The wonders, mysteries and incredible beauty that is Alaska has never left me and thus now influences my writing.

Despite my adventurous spirit, I achieved my educational goals, married, and I have two handsome sons. Writing is now my focus, my newest adventure!

For more on Yolanda and her writing, you can connect with her here:

Blog    *     Facebook     *     Twitter     *     Pinterest     *     Email

Giveaway Details

This tour-wide giveaway is for a complete set of the Detective Quaid Mystery series books for one winner, paperback copies of MURDER, JUST BECAUSE for five winners, and a Kindle copy of MURDER, JUST BECAUSE for 10 winners. There’s also a $25 Amazon Gift Card up for grabs!

To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. If the widget doesn’t show up, just click HERE and you’ll be directed to the widget.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to follow Yolanda on her week-long tour HERE. You never know what you might find out. Do you enjoy watching a character grow from one story to the next?

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Author Interview, Reading, Writing

Top 10 Lessons about Self-Publishing “Dancing with Dementia” with Jemi Fraser

It’s a pleasure to be participating in author Jemi Fraser’s DANCING WITH DEMENTIA, Recognizing and Coping with the Early Stages of Dementia Blog Tour through MC Book Tours today.

I absolutely loved this book! Here’s my review on Goodreads:

Dancing with Dementia is an utterly engrossing memoir which is brutally honest, funny, and tear-jerking. The author does an amazing job of blending stories about the impact of her mother and step-father’s dementia had on herself and her family with tips about how you can recognize the early signs of dementia and support those afflicted with it. You’ll find yourself alternating between laughter at the author’s dark humor and wiping away tears as she shares poignant stories about the impact of this terrible disease. Be prepared to set aside a serious chunk of time once you pick up this book. Once you start reading it, you won’t want to stop.

Jemi offers some lessons that she learned self-publishing Dancing with Dementia that you’ll want to check out below.

The author is also offering a tour-wide international giveaway of an Amazon Gift Card. More information on the giveaway is listed at the end of this post.

Top 10 Lessons Learned about Self-Publishing

Dancing With Dementia is my first foray into self-publishing. I decided not to seek traditional publication because I wanted the book out there quickly. Well, also because #8.

10. If there is a super-difficult or round-about way to do something, I’ll find it. If there is a glitch in a system, it will find me. I’ve not yet found the easy way on the first try. Or even the fifth.

9. (Directly connected to #10) There is no ONE way to do anything. And there are at least a bazillion books & articles on each of those different ways. Choosing what works for you isn’t easy!

8. I’m kind of a control freak. I like knowing how things work. I like knowing how to fix things. I like knowing what stage things are at.

7. I like learning new things. I loved learning all these new skills. From finding a drawing program, to learning to combine voice and visual files, to creating a YouTube channel, to building a website, to making a cover, to formatting, to uploading files, I’ve had a ton of fun.

6. Technology hates me. Well, maybe it’s not sentient and maybe that’s an exaggeration, but maybe not. In the past few months I’ve had a recurring computer virus that no one can fix. This has caused technological hissy-fits that have put me out of commission for hours/days at a time.

5. Despite my control-freak status and my joy of learning, self-publishing is anything BUT a solo journey. You need extra eyes on every stage of the project.

4. The writing community is awesome! I already knew this, but it has been confirmed by so many along the way. There are so many blogs out there to learn from, people who willingly offer helping hands and advice for others.

3. Asking for help is hard. I’m not very good at this, but I’m working at getting better.

2. My Tigger Brain is very bouncy. This is sometimes a good thing. I can switch between tasks pretty easily. But, maintaining focus on one task for extended periods of time when other tasks are calling my name is tough!

1. There is a LOT to learn and that learning never ends. Which is also part of the fun!

About Dancing with Dementia

Dancing with Demntia: Recognizing and Coping with the Early Stages of Dementia
by Jemi Fraser

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Publisher: Just Jemi Books
ISBN-13: 978-1-9991258-1-3

Dementia and Alzheimer’s touch the lives of millions around the world, but so much is still unknown.

As first-generation Canadians, we didn’t recognize the early warning signs. We didn’t know the differences between regular aging and the early stages of dementia. We’ve made mistakes but we’ve learned a lot.

•Identify those early warning signs
•Use visuals to improve communication
•Choose your words wisely
•Redirect and reassure
•Stay calm and cope with your own emotions
•Consider nursing home options
•Improve caregiver self-care

We’ve learned to dance the early steps of the disease with our love and laughter intact. If you are looking for help recognizing early signposts along with practical ways to cope with early Dementia and Alzheimer’s, this book is for you.

Grab a copy of Dancing with Dementia at: | | Apple Books |  Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Add DANCING WITH DEMENTIA to your Goodreads shelf

About Jemi Fraser

Jemi Fraser writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her nonfiction work focuses on the ways that dementia has impacted her family. Her fiction work varies from contemporary romance to suspense and flash fiction. Years as a teacher have taught Jemi that life is short and that happy endings are a must.

Jemi lives in Northern Ontario, Canada where snow is always a topic of conversation and the autumn leaves make everything better.

For more on Jemi and her writing, connect with her at: Website | Just Jemi Blog| Dancing With Dementia Blog | Amazon Page | BookBub | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Quick Tips Videos

Giveaway Details

This tour-wide giveaway is for a $20 Amazon Gift Card. The giveaway is open internationally.

To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. If the widget doesn’t show up, just click HERE and you’ll be directed to the widget.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to follow Jemi on her week-long tour HERE. You never know what you might find out. I hope dementia hasn’t touch your family or friends, but in case it has do you have any tips to share on dealing with this terrible disease?

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