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I had a BALL interviewing the ladies from the Murder in the Valley Book Tour: Carole Price, Ann Parker, Staci McLaughlin and Penny Warner.  I am just sorry there weren’t MORE authors on their Book Tour.  I’m going to need fresh reading material, luckily, these ladies are all very active in their writing careers, so never fear, more goodies coming (and already in print).

Speaking of authors with LOTS in print, my final interview is with the fantabulous Penny Warner.  She is a best-selling author and has won several awards, both for her adult and children’s books.  I like to think you’ve really made it when you have your own Wikipedia entry… and she does!  I can’t resist, I must post…

Naturally, she also has a wonderful website with all things Penny.  She has a couple of middle grade series for children, plenty of fun mysteries for the grown-ups and, of course, there are the party books.  I tell you what, this lady is the real deal.  What’s the word?  Oh, right… multi-faceted… and how!  Be sure to bookmark her site:

Introducing party-girl, Presley Parker

– I just finished the first in your Party-Planning Mysteries, “How to Host a Killer Party” (BTW, LOVED it!  Such a fun ride!)  Looking at the other books I get to dive into, I noticed you continue using Bay Area locations: Alcatraz, the Winchester Mystery House and in your newest novel, “How to Dine On Killer Wine,” we go to Napa.  What has been your favorite setting thus far?  Where else would like you like to stage a murder?

It’s hard to decide on my favorite – I love them all. I choose places where I want to spend time, and place that lend themselves to murder. Alcatraz has such a history, the Winchester House is just plain spooky, and Colma—the City of Souls—has more dead people than alive, so how could I not set a mystery there!

The latest Presley Parker adventure, “How to Dine on Killer Wine”

– So, I’m sure you simply HAD to do some research to get your Napa setting just right.  Any tips for cannot miss spots in Napa?  Maybe some favorite wines? (I’m always on the look-out for new yummies!)

Yes, there was a lot of wine involved in the research. Tough job, but someone has to do it. As for where to go and what to do—beyond the obvious wine-tasting—try a mud bath, ride the Wine Train, check out the Bingo scene (!), and have a picnic lunch at Sattui!

– Your bio mentions that you, like your protagonist, Presley Parker, are something of a party-planner goddess.  Which came first, The Party-Planning Mystery Series or the real-life murder themed fundraisers?  How did you get into party planning?

I’ve been planning and hosting parties and writing party books for years. When my kids were little, there were no books on the market that offered ideas for kids parties, so I wrote my own, after interviewing moms who had great ideas. The party planning mystery seemed like a natural—since party planners are “behind the scenes” and make great sleuths…

– When you go to a party what type do you enjoy most?  Are you a dress up girl?  A themed event type?  Or just hanging out by the barbecue?

I loved themed events! My favorite party to host is a murder mystery event, where guests come as suspects and everyone has to guess whodunit. Every major milestone in the family is celebrated with a theme—Octoberfest, Mr. Fix-it, On Broadway—everything from invitations and decorations, to games, food, and favors.

Our favorite party gal, Penny Warner!

– You have crafted a very successful and interesting career for yourself, over fifty books (WOW!).  I love that you write children’s and adult books.  Is the process very different when writing for the various age groups?  Do you prefer one over the other?  If so, why

Sixty, actually, to date. There isn’t a big difference between writing for adults and kids—except there’s no violence, sex, or bad language in my kids books, of course. But the characters still have to be realistic, the story compelling, and the writing the best it can be.

–  How has your writing changed from your first books to today’s projects?  What’s different about, say, book seven versus book forty-eight?  What has stayed the same?

I hope I’ve become a better writer. But the process is the same.

– Likewise, have you noticed any changes in trends and practices in the publishing world?  What has remained constant?

The pub world is undergoing dramatic change. There are fewer publishers, so many writers are going the e-book way and publishing their own books on Amazon, etc. However, every book needs a good editor and that hasn’t changed.

– I’ve asked all of your co-authoresses from the Murder in the Valley Book Tour this question in one form or another, and I am sure you get asked it all the time, so, my apologies.  That being said, what advice do you have for writers starting out?  What is one unexpected piece of advice that you wish someone had told you when you were getting your feet wet?

My best advice is to persevere – not give up. I think authors who received rejections give up too quickly, not realizing that a rejection is just ONE person’s opinion. If you think your book is good, keep sending it out!

– Speaking of your Murder in the Valley Tour, that is an amazing, talented group of women.  How did you all meet?  What have you most enjoyed about the tour? 

Hmmm. I think I met them all in writing courses I’ve given over the years. I can usually tell if someone has what it takes to be published, and invite them to my critique group. We have a very talented group!

– After so many books, does marketing fatigue ever set in?  How do you keep it fresh?  Do you do more or less promotion now?

No, I love the process, the business, everything about it. There are ALWAYS fresh ideas to explore. In fact, sometimes more ideas than I have time for! I do about the same promotion as I always have – that’s a never –ending part of the business. But I enjoy it.

– Last question, from me anyway, it seems we’re in an interesting time for publishing.  Electronic books, social media, more gadgets… do these help you as a writer?  What have been some of the challenges arising from our techno-age?  Where do you see the industry going in the future

It can be confusing—do I stick with traditional publishing or go out on my own. I think a combination of both. I still like to work with professional editors, but enjoy bringing books back as e-books that are out of print. As for the future – wow – no idea. It will be exciting to see….

– My nine-year-old daughter, Anna, is reading the first of your children’s series, The Code Busters Club.  She’s not done, so no spoilers, but I hope you won’t mind, she had some questions for you, too.

Future Code Buster, Anna!

How cool!!!

From Anna:

1.)  What is your favorite part of writing

Hi Anna! My favorite part of writing is creating fun story, then watching it “come alive” as the characters begin their adventure. I get lost in their world!

2.) Do you have any kids? What do you like to do with them?

Yes, I have two grown kids and four grand-children, ages 2 to 7. I love writing stories for them (although most of them can’t read yet!)

3.)  Is making codes hard?  How do you do it? 

I LOVE making codes. I used to write secret notes in code when I was a kid and thought kids today would enjoy doing the same thing. I try to include lots of different codes in the books, and make them challenging, but not too hard. I hope you enjoy the first book. The second one comes out in November – THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE. If you didn’t get a secret packet of code cards, I’ll send you some!

Great questions

Thanks, both of you. What fun!


Well, Penny, that’s what I have.  Thanks again for agreeing to be on my little dog and pony show.  Anna and I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your time and the stories you have brought to life.  I should warn you, Anna is VERY interested in the code cards… apparently, she simply MUST have them.  I’ll, um, email you, okay?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Really?  It’s over? No more fun authors to talk to? DRAT.


Greetings, my friends!  I hope you have been enjoying this series of interviews with mystery writers: Carole Price, Ann Parker, Staci McLaughlin and Penny Warner as much as I have.  Hopefully, your desk has a stack of their fun books on it, all from your local independent bookstore (I love our own Towne Center Books in Pleasanton).  Or perhaps you’ve got your Kindle or Nook filled from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Either way, these ladies of mystery have been delight, both to read and to meet.  I’m going to be sad when we finish off next week with our final author, the fabulous Penny Warner, author of “How to Dine on Killer Wine.”

The Murder in the Valley Book Signing Tour is also drawing to a close, but it’s not too late to get up close and personal with these amazing writers!

October 18th, 7:30pm
Lafayette Library and Learning Center
3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA

November 11th at 2pm, Carole Price and Staci McLaughlin will be speaking at the Livermore Library, located at 1188 South Livermore Avenue in Livermore.

This week I am excited to introduce Livermore author, Staci McLaughlin.  Her first book, “Going Organic Can Kill You” is part of three book deal of cozy mysteries featuring marketing gal gone Jill-of-all-trades, Dana Lewis.  In addition to the Blossom Valley series, Staci maintains an active blog and website at:

Staci McLaughlin

You can keep tabs on when her next book, “All Natural Murder” is due to shelves near you and even gain a few organic tips!

First, a huge thank you to the author herself for taking the time to share her experiences and insights with us.  Staci, I really enjoyed your first book, “Going Organic Can Kill You” and I am looking forward to reading your forthcoming sequel.

Book One of the Blossom Valley Series!

– How did you choose your pen name? Are you writing under your real or an altered name? Why so? What happens if Julia Roberts stars in a movie from one of your books and you become a household name?

I currently write under my own name. I’m so excited to finally have my book published that I want everyone in the world to know that I wrote it! If I were to write another mystery series that is completely different from the Blossom Valley series, then I would definitely consider a pen name. I would want readers to approach the book with fresh eyes and know that it was something totally new. And if, by some miracle, I become a household name, I could always move to a nice rural area in Maine like Stephen King. Oh, to dream…

– Wilbur seems to an ode to the childhood classic, “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White. What are some of your favorite childhood books? Which books do you feel your own children should read, whether these books were your personal favorites or not?

I loved “Charlotte’s Web,” along with “Black Beauty,” “Island of a Blue Dolphin,” and the entire Three Investigators series. I would like my kids to read all sorts of books, from Twain’s classics to “The Wind in the Willows.” It’s interesting because I have two boys, so the books that I loved as a child, such as “Little House on the Prairie,” may not generate the same level of interest for them. But as long as they read something, even comic books or the back of the shampoo bottle, I’ll be happy.

– You just brought back a childhood memory, I loved “The Three Investigators,” too!  It seems like perhaps you, like Dana, are not completely convinced that the path to organic is necessarily the path to happiness. Has there been anything that you tried in your research that you enjoyed? On the other side, what was the worst tasting thing you tried?

I’ve tried quite a few organic chocolates that were very tasty. You can’t go wrong with chocolate. On the flip side, I think the worst thing I’ve tried is wheat grass. The taste was surprisingly mild, much like green tea, but I don’t even like pulp in my orange juice, so the little bits of grass that got stuck in my throat really didn’t go down easily. Literally!

– Someone, please cover Wilbur’s ears… my own writing critique group is named the Beer and Bacon Babes… bacon is kind of a thing for us. How do you like you bacon best? More than one way is fine 🙂

I can’t think of any way that I don’t like my bacon (sorry, Wilbur). Bacon cheese dogs, bacon burgers, BLTs, breakfast sandwiches–you name it, I like it. I made this thing called pig candy once that was so delicious. You roll the bacon in brown sugar and then cook it in the oven. All this bacon talk makes me want to go cook some right now.

– Wait a second, you can’t bring up something as delish-sounding as Pig Candy and not tell us how to make it!  Details, Staci, we need details!  Can you share the recipe?

Absolutely! The Pig Candy recipe comes from The Sweet Potato Queens’ Big-Ass Cookbook, and it’s ridiculously easy. You take however many strips of bacon you want and and roll them in dark brown sugar until they’re coated. Then you put all the slices on a rack on a cookie sheet and place the cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for about twenty minutes or until the bacon is as crispy as you like it. That’s it!

– Note to self, make Pig Candy as soon as humanly possible.  Back to your book, it sounds like Blossom Valley would be somewhere outside of Ukiah. I love that area, my family and I vacationed every year at La Trianon on Blue Lakes, about six miles outside Ukiah. Did you have any special memories of the area that let you to set your books there? Memories of Mendocino or Lake Counties?

Even though it’s grown quite a bit, Ukiah still has a great small-town feel to it. Growing up, I’d roller skate all around our neighborhood or walk to the corner store for candy. I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but looking back, it was a wonderful place to grow up and seemed like a good spot to set a murder. You don’t typically see that type of violence in a small community, so it’s a nice contrast. Also, my grandmother had a small pear orchard in Lake County, where I spent a lot of time. She also grew her own corn, tomatoes, and zucchini, and that might be where the farm element in my books came from.

– Are there any elements to your characters that are drawn from your real life, people you know? Any harmless anecdotes you can share?

None of my characters are based on one specific person. Instead, each character is a combination of several people. I might take certain mannerisms from one family member and physical attributes from another. Still, my mom’s friend got quite upset when she discovered that Dana’s father had died before the book even opens. She felt horrible for my own dad, even though he’s alive and well.

– What was the moment? When did you decide, hey, I can write a story? When did you believe and how can others believe in themselves?

I worked for a number of years as a technical writer, and one of my coworkers was always working on one fiction project or another. He’d helped run a short story magazine and was writing a horror trilogy and working on short stories, and he spoke with such passion that it got me thinking about writing fiction myself. I started with a short story, and when that got published, I moved up to National Novel Writing Month. When I looked back at what I’d written, I realized it wasn’t half bad and that maybe I had a future with fiction writing. I think anyone who has a passion for writing should believe in themselves. The publishing world has a high rate of rejection (something I have a lot of experience with), but that doesn’t mean the person isn’t a good writer. It simply means that the editor or agent wasn’t looking for that particular thing at that particular moment. It’s important to keep trying.

– While, you are certainly not the same, everyone wonders: how much of you is in Dana? Better yet, how much of your ideal man is in Jason?

I’m fairly similar to Dana. Since I’m writing in the first person, my beliefs and viewpoints kind of leak into my writing. Jason definitely has some traits that he shares with my ideal man. He’s smart, dependable, and supportive. I ended up writing him as a guy that I could bring home to Mom – Dana’s and my own. Oh, and he’s cute!

– I love that you use everyday California need-to-knows to help solve your mystery. Your writing certainly displays a love of California. There are so many stereotypes of our state… what would Dana, as a marketing person, love to tell people about California that they might not know?

California has a lot more to offer than Hollywood and the beach (although those are definitely fun places). The Sierras are a beautiful place to visit, particularly this time of year when the leaves change color. You can visit former gold mines and old railroad towns. Dana would also be sure to tell people about the vast agricultural regions in California, especially in the Central Valley, and suggest everyone stop by the orchards that allow you to pick your own fruit.

– Dana seems to just be getting her legs under her at O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa, how will things change, or NOT change in the next book… or two?

Conditions on the farm definitely reflect the current economy. Even though parts of the town are showing signs of recovery, reservation rates at the farm are still inconsistent in the second book, and Dana and the rest of the staff are trying to think up ways to boost business. To add to the mix, Dana is trying to clear her sister of a potential murder charge, and she spends so much time on solving the murder that it impacts her job performance. Let’s see if she still has a job in the third book…

– Will Ashlee ever find true love? (C’mon, I had to ask!) Or, will she be on Jerry Springer?

Ha! You know, that could be a great plot for one of my books. Ashlee could get pregnant and go on a talk show for one of those paternity tests but then her baby’s daddy gets murdered. Hmm…

Seriously, though, it might be a while before Ashlee finds true love. She’s young and independent but still likes to be taken out on a date and treated like a princess. For her, it’s fun to meet new guys and go on adventures. Some day, I’m sure she’ll be ready to settle down.

– In your path to becoming a published author: what was the best move you made? What is the one thing you wish you could do differently? How so?

Hands down, my best move was joining a critique group. It’s hard to keep perspective when you’re writing for only yourself. It’s so easy to start adding in too many metaphors and flowery language or trying out a new plot twist that makes no sense. My critique group does a great job of pinpointing awkward phrases or letting me know when something isn’t working. They’re also quick to point out things they like. As for what I would have done differently, I was going to say that I wouldn’t have been in such a rush to submit my book to those early agents before it was ready or maybe joined a critique group sooner, but I think those things were all part of the journey to publication. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I hope that’s made me a better writer.

Staci, if this book is any indication, then mission accomplished.  Your writing reads like a movie playing in my head, I can see it all.  Here’s to many more entertaining tales for you to tell, starting with your forthcoming “All Natural Murder.”

Thank you, thank you for taking the time today!

The second book in the Blossom Valley mystery series!!!

As I mentioned in last week’s blog on the fantastic Carole Price, we have three more Trivalley Mystery Authors to interview and enjoy!  This week I need to thank multiple award-winning author, Ann Parker, for taking the time to share her thoughts and enthusiasm on her books, the publishing world and the wild, wild west that was the Silver Rush in Colorado during the 1880’s.

I met Ann on an appearance at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton during her Murder in the Valley Book Tour with fellow authors Carole Price, Staci McLaughlin and Penny Warner.  This tour still has dates coming up, so if you live locally this is a can-do, must-do event!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012, 1:00 p.m.
Danville Public Library
319 N. Vermilion Street
Danville, California

Saturday, November 3, 2012, 6 p.m.
“A Literary Feast”
Lafayette Library and Learning Center
3491 Mount Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, California

Saturday, November 10, 2012, 11 a.m.
“Second Saturday” Bookclub
Berkeley, California

Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 7 p.m.
Livermore Public Library
Livermore, California
***-With author Camille Minichino, special event for NaNoWriMo: Tips on getting through the “muddle in the middle”

For more information on the world of Ann Parker, please check out her website:

– Of all the places in the world, Leadville? What about this place first drew your attention to it?
I came to Leadville through family history… and pretty late in life, actually!  It turns out my paternal grandmother was raised in Leadville. The strange thing is, although she told us grandkids many a tale of her life as a young married woman in Denver, she NEVER mentioned Leadville to us at all. It was my Uncle Walt who told me this tidbit of family information. I’d never heard of Leadville, but my uncle described it with such enthusiasm (“It was a h-ll of a place! One of the great mining centers of the world! A huge silver rush back in the 19th century!” etc. etc.) that I became intrigued. Uncle Walt then told me: “I know you’ve been thinking about writing a novel. I think you should research Leadville and write a novel set there.” So I did. Not quite as easy as that, but it was the impetus that got me going. Once I started reading about Leadville and its background, I was entranced. I staked my claim in Leadville, and the rest, you might say, is history!

Book One of the Silver Rush Mystery Series- Silver Lies

– I have just finished Silver Lies, which I adored, and I am thrilled to see that you have THREE more in the series in print.  How many books do you envision for the series?  Will they all feature Inez Stannert?

Well, I don’t envision a set number of books… I intend to just keep writing until I run out of time or energy or both!  At this point, I’m focused on Inez and her situation (which becomes ever more complicated as the series progresses). I have toyed with the idea of eventually writing a Silver Rush novel from the point of view of Doc Cramer or Susan Carothers. Or even jumping forward in time, twenty or so years, and writing one from the point of view of Inez’s son. As noted, it just depends on my time and energy.

Book Two of the Silver Rush Mystery Series- Iron Ties

– Your novels are a fascinating mix of real life and fictional characters. As a writer, what is more fun: creating your own characters or taking the opportunity to play with real people in your stories?

Thank you, Erika! Ooooo, that’s a difficult one to answer. Since the core characters are all fictional, I suppose that’s where my heart lies. But I do enjoy researching the real people of the times and working them into the storyline, as appropriate. I can get very obsessed about some of them, almost becoming a “stalker of the past,” in trying to uncover who they were and what they were like.

Book Three of the Silver Rush Mystery Series- Leaden Skies

– Which of the real life characters of the Colorado Silver Rush of the 1880’s most fascinates you?  Why?

I hope I don’t have to pick just one!  I’m fascinated, in general, by the women of the times. People like Mattie Silks, one of the famous Denver madams of the late 1800s. Augusta Tabor, who was Horace Tabor’s first wife. (Horace Tabor was one of the most famous “silver kings” of Leadville… he had a rags-to-riches-to-rags story that is almost mythical in nature.) I’m particularly intrigued by Mrs. Anna Galbreaith, who I stumbled across in my research for the fourth book in the series, MERCURY’S RISE. Mrs. Galbreaith was a photographer in Manitou Springs in the 1880s. There’s very little I could find out about her, although I did procure one of her cabinet cards of Manitou Springs. As for the men, I think Bat Masterson is a fascinating character: This is someone who successfully “morphed” from the Wild West of the 19th century into the Urban East in the 20th century, from buffalo hunter to lawman to professional gambler to fight promoter to sports writer… and not always on the right side of the law throughout this time span. He died in New York, in 1921, slumped over his typewriter at his desk.

Book Four of the Silver Rush Mystery Series- Mercury’s Rise

– Your protagonist, Inez, is one amazing woman who does not seem to suffer fools gladly.  I know you mentioned you drew inspiration from your own sister, but are there any traits that you share with Inez?

Inez and I share a love of classical music. However, I only listen. She plays.

– I think your books would make an amazing television series or mini series.  Dreaming big here, who would you cast as Abe? Inez? Handsome Rev. Sands? And I have to ask, Harry Gallagher?

I’ll cross my fingers for that! As for casting, perhaps you can answer that better than I. When I first started writing the series, back in the late 1990s, I thought Morgan Freeman might make a good Abe. I always pictured Inez as looking like my maternal grandmother. (I gave Inez my paternal grandmother’s name, and my maternal grandmother’s looks. She was, by all accounts and from the photos I have, quite a looker and had gorgeous long dark hair that she would wind up in a knot, per the fashion of the days.) As for the rest of the crew, I’m stumped. I’d love to know what your “picks” would be…

– Your writing has a gritty, even dark slant to it in places, which adds to the suspense and the vividness of the action.  Have you ever thought of writing a different genre, or even a different type of mystery? What would it be and why?

I would love to try my hand at steampunk “on the dark side.” I enjoy the books I’ve read in the genre. Steampunk (for those who haven’t heard of it before) usually incorporates the Victorian Era, technology (of the steam era), and science fiction/alternate history (check the wikipedia entry for more information ) . It combines a number of elements I love, including science, science fiction, and history. Lots of leather, brass, and glass. A funny thing: as a young teen, one of my favorite TV shows was the Wild Wild West, which (as it turns out) is often cited as one of the earliest mainstream examples of steampunk-ery.

– What sort of writing do you admire the most?  Who are your favorite authors?

I love writing that takes me to other places and times such that the outside world “disappears.” This magical moment happens less and less these days, as I tend to read novels with a more critical/analytical eye than I did before (one of the casualties of becoming a fiction writer!). One of my favorite contemporary authors is Martin Cruz Smith. Other writers I admire include William Shakespeare, John Milton, W.B. Yeats, and T.S. Eliot (lingering faves from my long-ago college days). I also love Sandra Dallas’ writing… she creates marvelous, evocative historical novels, many of which take place in Colorado .

– If you could share one overlooked or little known author with the world, who would it be and why?  (No fair using anyone from your critique group- we already know they’re wonderful.  Besides, how could you pick just one?)

Oh boy. Another difficult question. Michelle Black writes very engaging historical fiction. I recently finished her newest novel SÉANCE IN SEPIA, which has lingered with me.

I’m sure I’ll think of a dozen others, as soon as I send this to you.

– What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?  Marketing? Editing? Creating? What makes it your favorite?

Researching!  I love the serendipity of research. I might be trotting in one direction, looking up information about some specific topic, and then stumble into a gem that ends up being a key part of the story I’m creating. I have to be very firm with myself about putting the research aside and getting down to the business of writing.

– “Serendipity” is one of my favorite words, Ann. What skills, other than the ability to spin a good yarn, do you believe writers today could benefit from developing?

Stamina. Persistence. Manners (? Is that a skill?). Having marketing skills—particularly being proficient with online/social media—also seems to be a HUGE plus in today’s world.

– Do you have any words of wisdom for other writers?  For example, perhaps things NOT to do?

Don’t diss other writers, agents, or publishers. It’s a small world, and that sort of talk gets around.

– What do you think your readers would be most surprised to know about you in your private life?

Readers of SILVER LIES would probably be surprised to learn that we have pet rats here at the homestead. Two of them. Mushi and Chewbacka are, of course, very sweet and tame… nothing like the wild rats one finds in the back alleys or the Silver Queen Saloon!

Ann Parker, author of The Silver Rush Mystery Series

Ann in front of a map of her beloved Leadville, CO.

Ann, you are amazing, just like your books!  Thank you for your time and all the wonderful insights into your work.  I shall be reading your remaining books with glee!

Incidentally, as to casting, hmmm, I admit, it’s a tough question.  I had thought Danny Glover for Abe, and I toy with the idea of Jennifer Connelly as Inez.  Renee Zellweger is not my favorite actress, but, I wonder, she’s a good character actress, maybe as Mattie Silks?  I like Kevin Spacey for Gallagher, so hard to tell if he is a good guy or a bad guy.  He’ll need to play against type as Inez needs to have fallen for him, if only briefly.  He’d have to display a charming streak.   Lastly, what about Christian Bale for Sands? He’s pretty, he’s young, but he plays tough characters. I realize this is taking terrible liberties with your creations, Ann, so feel free to cringe, or even throw something!

Thank you, again!!!

Ann’s books are available from your independent book store, through her publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Large print is also available.
Alright, readers, be sure to check out next week’s mystery writer, also from Livermore (there must be something in the water there), Staci McLaughlin!!!

Last week my writers’ critique group, The Beer & Bacon Babes (aka The BBB’s), had a night out at Towne Center Books on Main Street in Pleasanton.  We were there because four fabulous LOCAL authors were doing a book signing.  Well, honey, you put four great mystery authors, wine and chocolate at a book store in front of me and my friends?  It’s just like we’ve died and gone to heaven.

Photo by Amy Moellering, used with permission from Towne Center Books.

As four very different, but equally intelligent and engaging ladies began sharing their stories with us I knew a.) I needed to read them all and b.) you had to meet them.  Ladies & Gentlemen of my blogging universe allow me to introduce: Carole Price, Ann Parker, Staci McLaughlin and Penny Warner. Lady Authors, please meet… everyone.  It’s clear that this sort of intro won’t do anyone any justice so… Ergo, these interviews.  I will be interviewing each of these authors in turn weekly because that is just how amazing they all are.

This week we’ll be meeting Carole Price, the author of Twisted Vines.  This is Carole’s first published novel and the beginning to a wonderful new cozy mystery series, The Shakespeare in the Vineyard Mysteries.  I read Twisted Vines in a day.  Imagine a beautiful, but independent-minded crime analyst, our heroine Caitlyn Pepper who has just inherited a fortune from an aunt she has never heard of, let alone met.  Now picture that maybe not everyone is happy about Cait’s inheritance, and maybe didn’t care for the aunt either… It was a page turner full of vivid and complex characters, action, twists, a dash of romance and just right amount of danger.  I highly recommend it.

Author, police volunteer, hiker, mother and wife- she does it all!

So let’s find out a bit more about Carole Price…

– Sorry to go for the obvious question, but where did the idea of Shakespeare in the Livermore Valley come from?

A. When our daughter, Carla, moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I started attending many of the plays. I fell in love with the Bard. I signed on for a back stage tour and thought how fun it would be to bring Shakespeare to the Livermore Valley, create my own festival, and toss in a few bodies.

– What other places in the TriValley do you love and might possible pop up in future books?

A. I hope to feature more at Las Positas College. Cait needs to venture out more, probably to Pleasanton. Although not in the Tri Valley area, I have an idea for a book in Niles/Fremont where there’s a fun silent film museum.

– Do you have a guilty pleasure spot in Livermore?  You know, something off the diet, a spa or maybe a nail salon?  Some place that you can spoil yourself just a bit?

A. Not really. I do hike almost every week in the hills in and around Livermore. I get inspiration from that and take tons of pictures.

– Did you research this book?  How so? What was your favorite part of this learning process?

A. I arranged to talk with someone from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival about their actors, i.e., their education, experience, etc. I bought lots of books and materials from their gift shop and used the Internet to research weapons from that era. To learn about police procedures, I went through Livermore’s Citizen Police Academy and am an active police volunteer. I role play with the SWAT team, work at events (Livermore rodeo, festivals, etc.), and have a “regular” weekly volunteer job. The officers have been great answering my questions.

– Your main character, Cait, is a dynamic, vibrant woman.  What is your favorite quality about her?

A. Cait’s integrity and honesty runs deep. She’s a good friend.

– I love Cait’s name, Caitlyn Tilson Pepper.  How did you chose your protagonist’s name?  Did you think of it or did the character sort of simply “be” the name?

A. I love her name too. I wanted a name easy to remember and easy to pronounce. My daughter had a friend named Caitlyn. Tilson is the middle name of a San Francisco symphony conductor. Pepper just came to me.

– As your series develops, can you give us a hint as to how Caitlyn may change as she comes into her inheritance and leaves her law enforcement background behind?  Or do you ever leave that kind of experience behind?

A. Good question. I’m told that once a cop, always a cop. Cait struggles with this as she works with a detective from the Livermore PD to solve crimes that affect her or her Shakespeare festival. She’s impatient when told to let the police do their job, that she’s no longer a cop. But Cait has changed. She’s come to terms with family secrets. She’s taking viticulture classes at the local college and will become involved with Livermore’s wine associations. And she may learn to love again.

–  Okay, I have to ask, as any woman would, will we see hunky R.T. again?  And, is he based on anyone in real life?  (Please say yes!)

A. I love RT. He’s a keeper. He’s a composite of traits I like, and I did a little Internet research on Navy SEALS. He had to be organized, cynical, anti-social at times, a private person, and a thinker. And, of course, hunky. The name Royal Tanner just popped into mind as a strong name with character. I did have a friend with the last name of Tanner.

– Did you always want to be a writer?  What led you to this path?

A. Sorry, I wish I could say I always wanted to write. But I am an avid reader, particularly mysteries, and thought it would be fun to create my own story. I didn’t start writing until I retired. I met an author at a book signing who encouraged me to write. When she invited me to join her critique group, I jumped at the opportunity.

– It comes up in almost every interview, but, the question remains, you’ve achieved your dream, what words of wisdom do you have for the writers trying to make it today?

A. Don’t give up. Write every day. I had lots of rejections on my first (still unpublished) book. I used to think all I had to do was sit behind my computer and make up stuff. Not so. Join a critique group and attend conferences. Sign up for a writing workshop. Be involved.

– I know you rely on your critique group for solid feedback, would you recommend a critique group to other writers?  What do you like best about your group?  (No fair saying lunch!)

A. Absolutely. Twisted Vines would never have been published if not for my critique group. We meet every Friday to discuss our books, conferences, the world of publishing, and social media. We give positive feedback. We support each other and celebrate our successes.

– While I would never ask for spoilers to your forthcoming sequel, Sour Grapes, can you give us any hint on what Cait may be facing next time around?

A. Cait was a police officer before becoming a crime analyst. An unpleasant situation during her years as a cop comes back to haunt her. Sorry, but any more would give it away.

– I am ready NOW for the sequel, when can we buy it?

A. Ha. I hope Five Star will offer me a contract for Sour Grapes after I send them a synopsis. That should be soon since I only have two more chapters of the first draft left to write. I know my publisher is pleased with my promotional efforts. And I just learned that Twisted Vines will come out in large print in January 2013.

– Finally, I am a wine drinking gal.  Please dish, what is your favorite Livermore Valley wine?  It’s okay if you have more than one!

A. I’m a tea drinker, but I do like Wente wines and only white.

Carole, I’m partial to Earl Grey myself.  Thank you so much for taking the time to share your craft and your characters with us today.  We’ll all be looking forward to Sour Grapes!

To purchase Twisted Vines I always encourage people to call your local independent bookseller, like our own Towne Center Books at 555 Main Street, Pleasanton 925-846-8826.  However, failing that, Carole’s book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You can keep up with the latest Shakespeare in the Valley Mystery by checking out Carole’s website:

Twisted Vines by Carole Price

More Murder in the Valley Book Tour Dates!

Sunday, Sept. 23, 4 p.m.
Book Passage
Corte Madera

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 1 p.m.
Danville Library
Danville, CA

Thursday, Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Lafayette Library
Lafayette, CA

Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m.
Livermore Library
Livermore, CA

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