Welcome author Laina Turner to my blog today for a guest post and an excerpt from STILETTOS AND SCOUNDRELS
First, I want to give a big thanks to Caroline for letting me visit her blog and share my thoughts on how I keep my characters fresh.
My Presley Thurman series has 10, soon to be 11, books in the series and it can be hard to make sure not to write about the same things over and over. Especially, when you’re as forgetful as I am.
While people enjoy book series because they like the familiarity they bring, readers also want their familiar characters to experience new things.
As anyone reading this post knows life as we all live it is rarely the exact same from week to week. My books are the same way in the aspect that there are parts that are routine. Presley is always going to overindulge in coffee and good food, but I make sure there are enough differences to keep people wanting to read.
Presley’s life is a secondary storyline to the mystery element so it moves at a slower pace. Which I feel is typical of our normal lives. Most mystery books span a short time frame and it would seem odd if Presley’s personal life was at warp speed over and over. That’s the main difference of a series versus a stand alone. You can speed up the timeline in a stand-alone book because you want closure at the end. In a series, you can continue a particular thread for a few books.
From a technical perspective, I make sure I track the plots and character development aspects of each book so I don’t have 5 murders all the same 5 books in a row. From a creative standpoint, I am always writing down things I run across that happen to me, my friends, things my imagination brings me to use in stories. Since I rarely (ok never) come across murders, kidnappings, or the criminal element that is all my imagination but many of the circumstances leading up to and around these invented incidents are real.
Life IS stranger than fiction.
Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator turns up dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex-boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senators security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?
Excerpt from STILETTOS AND SCOUNDRELS
I took a sip of my latte, which was surprisingly good, and let my mind wander. I looked around the Coffee Café at the other customers, wondering if I would see a familiar face.
I noticed—of all people—Helen Daniels, the wife of Senator Tom Daniels, talking to a much younger man I didn’t recognize. Helen was even more attractive in person than she was in her pictures. I hadn’t seen her in person for years. Older than me by about ten years, I hadn’t known her personally and since Tom was elected senator, they spent most of their time in Washington, according to my mom.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Helen Daniels arguing with a man in her booth. Now that was interesting. Maybe I could pick up some juicy gossip to share with Katy. The man looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place him. I wished there was someone here I could ask, and then it hit me, I thought the guy was Tobey Stone. He was the younger brother of a guy named Chris, who was in my grade back in high school. I wondered what he could have to argue about with someone like Helen Daniels.
As I contemplated my next step, a familiar face came into the coffee shop. Another high school buddy, Dirt Robinson, whose real name was Derrick. After eating dirt on a dare in fifth grade, he was given the nickname and it stuck, making him the coolest kid in junior high. I wondered if he still went by Dirt. I couldn’t fathom calling him anything else, but as an adult, I was sure it had lost some of its coolness. As he walked up to the counter, he saw me sitting at the table, broke into a wide smile, and strolled over.
“Look what the cat dragged in. To what do we owe this honor that you would grace us with your presence?” Dirt said to me with a mock bow.
I squealed and gave him a hug. Always great friends back in the day, we had lost touch. Last I had heard he was in the army. “It’s so good to see you, Dirt. Just visiting the family. What are you up to these days?”
“Look at me, sister! I’m the law,” he said with arrogance, though I knew he was joking. I took a closer look at him and noticed he was wearing a sheriff’s uniform. Finally, proof that something around this town had changed, or maybe proof the town was going crazy.
“Are you freaking kidding me? You, a cop? They must have been desperate.”
In our past lives, Dirt had run with the rowdy crowd, spending more time partying, causing trouble, and breaking the law than worrying about other people doing the right thing. I was shocked that he was a cop now. Nothing could have surprised me more. I would have guessed that he’d end up in jail, not running the jail. I was mostly kidding. He wasn’t that bad, but this was a stretch for the Dirt I had known.
“Not just a cop, Presley, but an elected official. That means they wanted me,” he said in a manner that I first took to be joking, but after looking at his face I saw he was dead serious. “Since I know how a juvenile delinquent’s mind works, I can figure them out. It makes me effective at my job.” He laughed. Having been one himself, I could see how this might now work to his advantage. “Besides, not much serious crime happens here, so I have a lot of time to fish. And you have to admit the uniform looks good on me.” He preened for me.
I laughed. “Still the same conceited jerk, I see. You don’t look half bad, Dirt, but Erik Estrada is still the sexiest cop,” I teased.
“C’mon, Pres, you’re breaking my heart. How can you not find me drop–dead gorgeous?” he said with exaggerated bravado.
I agreed that he looked good in his uniform. His lanky frame had filled out, giving him a sinewy hardness. Just less than six feet tall, he had beautiful curly black hair, which had been long in high school and was now cut short, military style. And the most beautiful blue eyes. “So, are you on duty now?” I asked. “Or can you stay for a while?”
“I thought we could catch up.”
“Of course. I have about thirty minutes.”
“Wow, a whole thirty minutes,” I joked.
“Why? Planning on speeding on your way out of town?”
“Senator Daniels is in town for some big speech which has us all hopping.”
“Yeah, I saw Helen talking to Tobey Stone. They were arguing about something.”
“He was probably trying to convince her not to go public with the knowledge of Tom’s latest affair.”
“Yeah. Tobey is the Senator’s assistant and the Senator, he’s a womanizer,” Dirt said, and I could see his jaw clench.
“And you seem mad about that? Why do you care?”
“I just don’t like him. Thinks we all should jump to do his bidding.”
Before I could ask any more questions, his radio went off.
“That’s my cue. I need to head out,” he said. “Good to see you.”
“Back at ya. Glad to know who to call if I get in trouble,” I said, with a teasing tap on his shoulder.
As a child Laina thought she would either be a truck driver (thanks to Jerry Reed in Smokey and the Bandit) or work at Taco Bell (her favorite restaurant as a child).
As she grew older she realized her talents lay in academics and business and for the last several years has been a business consultant and college professor where she uses the analytical side of her brain and not the side that makes up stories.
Through all her career choices she has continued to have a passion for writing. This stemmed from childhood whereas an only child she developed a vivid imagination spending most of her time making things up and thinking the Incredible Hulk lived in her closet.
Proud of her vast experiences in life from barrel racing to being on the dance team for a semi pro basketball team to being a mom of 2 amazing kids, she tells her family and friends that no one is safe from their escapades slipping in to her books.
Taking the plunge to write books (cozy mysteries and chick lit) that she actually let people read in 2010, she has worked her way up to being a real author, having 5 fans (maybe 6 now). Her blog, Writing is a Lifestyle, was launched to share the daily fun in the life of a Real Housewife of the Midwest along with the musing of other fabulous ladies.
Follow Laina's CLP Blog Tour: http://www.clpblogtours.com/2016/04/book-blitz-stilettos-scoundrels-by.html
Congrats to Zanna Mackenzie on the release of her latest book in the Celebrity Mysteries (Lizzie and Jack) series, MURDER AT THE BAKE OFF! I've read this one already and loved it.
Get your copy here.
Murder At The Bake Off (Celebrity Mystery Book 3)
Lizzie Carter would love nothing more than to enter and win the Grand Bake-Off competition at this year’s Delamere Baking Festival, setting her on the way towards fulfilling her secret and special quest, but there’s just one problem—she’s a mediocre baker at best. If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, this year’s celebrity judge, Cherry Bakewell, is found dead with a poisoned cupcake in her hand before the festival even kicks off. Even worse, Lizzie’s fiancé Jack, a private investigator and appointed security consultant for the festival, was the one who found Cherry dead, and the police are treating him as a suspect.
As if her life wasn’t crazy enough before, juggling two jobs and organising her wedding, now Lizzie, determined to clear Jack’s name, has to add tracking down a murderer to her To-Do list, as well.
Will the police haul Jack in for further questioning, leaving Lizzie to tackle the case all on her own? Can she hunt down the real murderer before they strike again? Should Lizzie just ditch her ridiculous baking dreams right now before her dreadful cakes become the laughing stock of the festival?
I live in the UK (Derbyshire/ Leicestershire border) with my husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that's home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.
Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is my 'day job' but, at every opportunity, I can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel I'm working on. I love it when the characters in my novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot.
I enjoy walking the dogs, gardening and reading.
If you'd like to get a FREE book from me simple head to my website at: www.zannamackenzie.co.uk
In probably the biggest news of my writing career,
DEATH BEFORE DECAF became a
USA TODAY BESTSELLER this week!
It hit the list at #106, and I couldn't be more thrilled about it!
Thanks to everyone who helped bring Death Before Decaf such success.
Congrats to Deborah Nam-Krane on the release
of her latest novel, The Golden Boy Returns!
I've read it, and it's another great story
as we've come to expect from Deb.
Every game has its rules...and everyone who plays has to admit they want to win.
David Hwang was idealistic, smart, and hard-working—and he wanted to help. Powerful Lucy Bartolome recognized his talent right away, but first he needed to smooth out his rough edges. He’d need every lesson she’d taught him if he was going to run for mayor of Boston—again.
Kasi Panchal was smart and hard-working, but she’d seen too much for too long to be idealistic. Something about David Hwang made her believe in a lot of things she’d given up on—including herself.
Zainab Hendrickson and Emily Graham knew David and Kasi could make things happen if they joined forces. Of course they’re right, but can those two get out of their way long enough to see it too?
Deborah Nam-Krane is a writer in Boston proper who has been writing novels since the age of thirteen. When she’s not reading, writing, editing or reviewing, you can find her running around Boston with her homeschooled sons or acting like a mad scientist in her kitchen.
In the latest Lizzie Hart Mystery, MY FUNNY VALENTINE, Lizzie and Blake have a killer engagement party! (Pun intended.)
I asked my friend, cookbook and children's author Lanea Stagg, to come up with a menu for the party with recipes from her wildly popular RECIPE RECORDS cookbook series.
Every recipe name is a clever play on a rock 'n' roll song, and many have a songlist to cook along with. And since all of the titles of the Lizzie books are songs, I thought it would be the perfect match!
You can get Lanea's books here. Don't miss her Valentine's special--all of her RECIPE RECORDS cookbooks are on sale for only $10 each!
The menu for the party:
And Then He Quiched Me—All Lizzie wanted in It’s Just a Little Crush was for Blake to notice her. In her wildest dreams, she never thought she’d end up engaged to him!
The Crystals charmed the music world in 1963 when they released “Then He Kissed Me.” A flaky pastry crusted seafood quiche will have your man falling all over himself. He may reward you with a kiss….
Girls Just Want to Have Rum—Lizzie and her BFF Julia make a great sleuthing team in That Old Black Magic, and their girls' nights out are always a lot of fun.
1980’s Rocker Cindy Lauper admitted that girls only want to have fun and this recipe invites rum to the party! A tall cocktail shaker, skewers of lime, lemon and orange ……you’ll be singing “I want to be the one to walk in the sun!”
Doctor, Doctor Gimme the News Gotta Bad Case of Lovin’ This Stew—In Bad Medicine, Lizzie goes toe-to-toe with the new doctor in town, and it’s bad news.
The late Robert Palmer enjoyed a Grammy nomination for “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor) and you’ll be nominated for Chef of the Year with this delicious seafood stew! Creamy and chock full of flavor, the stew may be served over rice or noodles.
Bullet in the Bread—One of Lizzie’s nemeses ends up this way.
The politically charged band, Rage Against the Machine, screams a message of government control in their song “Bullet in the Head.” Hopefully this appetizer won’t bring about any violent episodes!
Helter Skelter Skillet—In honor of all the serial killers Lizzie and Blake have put behind bars.
More from Lanea about Helter Skelter Skillet...
“Helter Skelter Skillet” is a breakfast dish inspired by The Beatles’ song found on their album “The Beatles,” more commonly referred to as “The White Album.” Paul McCartney wrote the song in order to prove that he could write an edgy, metal song. In pop history, the song has been linked to the infamous Manson murders, after the psychopath claimed The Beatles had written hidden messages throughout the song and others contained on the album. The words “Helter Skelter” were even written in murder victims’ blood at a crime scene.
Since this recipe is in response to a song with a “sordid past” and since this is a murder mystery blog….I thought I would chat with a Manson murder expert about the connection of “Helter Skelter” to one of the most renowned murder cases in history.
Beatles author, Ivor Davis, recently appeared on Lifetime television’s documentary "Beyond the Headlines--Manson's Lost Girls," which discussed the Charles Manson murders. Davis, author of “The Beatles and Me – On Tour,” holds an inside connection on this subject as he covered the murders in Los Angeles during the Manson reign of terror; and he covered the 1964 Beatles concert tour of America. His coverage of the murders resulted in a book titled “Five to Die: The Book That Helped Convict Manson,” which was used by the State’s prosecutor as a blueprint for convicting Manson.
I asked Ivor to weigh in on Manson’s interpretations:
“When I met Paul and John after the Manson murder trial (and told them I had written a book about the Manson gang, and attended the trial) I asked them about the fact that Charles Manson claimed their songs contained hidden messages to him ---urging people to start a revolution with blacks against whites.
Both said "It's a load of old shite" and John said "thousands of Beatle fans listened to our music and interpreted the lyrics to suit their own interests."
Soon after Manson was arrested I went along to the Spahn movie ranch outside L.A. and did interviews with Paul Watkins and Brooks Poston--two guys who lived with Manson and the girls at the ranch.
They told me--- and it's in my first book written in the late Sixties--that Manson did tell his drug addled girls that The Beatles lyrics were written for him! Manson, was a frustrated musician, and desperately wanted fame and had asked Doris Day's son Terry Melcher to produce his songs in an album. I met Melcher when he picked me up at Carmel Airport to drive me to meet his mother --who I was interviewing. He told me he met Manson at the Spahn Ranch, was intrigued by Manson's music and made noises to indicate that he liked the music---but did nothing. Apparently Manson was furious at Melcher dumping him and the weird coincidence was that the Sharon Tate murder house was once the home of Melcher! (He had moved out at the time of the murders.) That's another story.”
On a foodie note, Davis added “The Manson gang ate very well. The girls befriended managers of local supermarkets, in exchange for information about precisely what time food from the store was put into the dumpsters. And they were there to collect it and take it back to the ranch!”
Thanks to Ivor Davis, Author of The Beatles and Me on Tour. www.IvorDavisBeatles.com
About Lanea Stagg:
Author Lanea Stagg continues the Recipe Records series with her latest publications: Recipe Records the 60's Edition and Recipe Records - a Culinary Tribute to The Beatles. Maggie McHugh (1967 - 2011) and Lanea published Recipe Records in 2010.
Lanea & her late bestie twisted their passions for food & music into a quirky, yet practical cookbook that appeals to all music lovers. Lanea lives in Southern Indiana with her family, where she writes for many projects, serves as a Revolving Expert for the Girl Scout Council, gives cooking lessons and more. Contact her for programs & cooking demonstrations.
Author of Recipe Records Cookbook Series
Little Dog in the Sun and
Little Dog About Town – An Evansville Tail
One of my favorite authors, Zanna Mackenzie,
has a great Valentine's Day gift for her readers,
a new compilation, including a novella and four short stories!
Get it for only 99 cents HERE!
Harriet’s life is chaotic.
She’s lucky if she catches a rare glimpse of her husband as they pass in the kitchen, they’re both working so hard. When Ollie had taken over the running of the family business the Country Oaks, a seen-better-days hotel in the picturesque Lake District, it had turned their lives upside down.
Now, fighting to keep the place from financial ruin takes all the time and energy they can muster.
And don’t even get her started on her anxiety-inducing teenage daughter who wants to go to the college Valentine’s Day dance with the local bad boy.
When Harriet accidentally pokes a handsome stranger in the eye with her umbrella and has to rush him off to get medical help, she finds herself spending more and more time with him. He’s funny, charming and attentive, everything her husband Ollie used to be… and Harriet feels her life starting to spiral out of control.
As the Country Oaks prepares for a hectic Valentine’s weekend, packed with loved-up guests, Harriet and Ollie are forced to face the realities of their life, their marriage and their future together.
Can they rekindle the romance or has the spark fizzled out and died, never to be lit again?
SPECIAL BONUS CONTENT
You’ll also receive:
· * Four short stories with romance at their heart.
· * Exclusive sneak peek extracts from four romantic comedy novels by Zanna Mackenzie.
· * PLUS – a FREE romantic mystery book
All of this for just 99p/99c!
Alexa polished off the last bit of her muffin. “So, what are your plans for Valentine’s Day then?”
“I’ll be working, while Ollie attempts to charm about forty women,” Harriet replied, her own chocolate chip muffin untouched on her plate. She’d lost her appetite lately.
“Forty eh?” Alexa giggled. “That’s ambitious even for Ollie.”
“I don’t mind. It’s part of his job.”
“Say that as if you mean it,” Alexa challenged. She looked closely at Harriet as she sipped her coffee. “Things are okay with you and Ollie, aren’t they?”
Harriet sighed, pushing a lock of hair out of her eyes. An appointment with the hairdresser to tidy up her unruly auburn tresses was long overdue, but she never had the time - or the money - for such luxuries. “Sometimes,” she paused, choosing her words carefully. “Mostly, I feel as though I’m there purely to be a stand-in for the staff when they phone in sick; to sort the hotel accounts out, oh, and to cook dinner for everyone. I wonder if my husband actually remembers I’m his wife, not just another employee.”
“You guys have been working like crazy since you took on the hotel from his parents,” Alexa reasoned. “It must be tough.”
“I’m used to us both working long hours, it goes with the territory in the hospitality industry, but lately Ollie starts at about five in the morning and finally collapses into bed at around midnight. I’m worried about him. I’m also…” she paused, wondering if she dare admit to what had been on her mind more and more often since Christmas. The full extent of her concerns about her marriage.
“Also what?” prompted Alexa.
Harriet stared out across the lake, today it was shrouded in mist and drizzly rain. She loved the Lake District and had been thrilled to move here from the grit and grime of Manchester when Ollie had taken on his parents’ hotel just over a year ago. Even if it had meant they’d had to sell their gorgeous home and move into the less than salubrious three bedroom flat on the top floor of the hotel.
Alexa reached her hand across the table and placed it on top of Harriet’s. “You know you can tell me anything, but if you aren’t ready to talk, then I understand.”
“I am worried about our marriage, truth be told,” Harriet replied quietly, picking at the edge of a table napkin. “We’ve always done okay in our relationship despite the unsocial hours we’ve both worked. Even when I took time off to raise the girls, we still somehow managed to find time for each other. We talked, we laughed… we kissed. Nowadays, we don’t do any of those things, and I miss them. I miss Ollie. I miss the man I married. I know the responsibility of running the hotel weighs heavily on his shoulders, it does on mine too. It’s a lot of pressure, taking on the business your parents built from nothing.”
Alexa let out a long breath, puffing her fringe out of her eyes. “Have you said anything about all of this to Ollie?”
Harriet shook her head. “No. He’s got so much on at the moment. He looks tired and harassed enough as it is, and I don’t want to add to his already sky-high stress levels.”
“Even so, if you’re worried you should try to…”
“Look, forget I said anything.” Harriet waved a hand in an attempt to end their conversation. “Ignore me. It’s my imagination getting carried away with itself, that’s all. We’ll be fine. It’s one of those phases. Every marriage goes through them.”
“It’ll just be from all the demands of the hotel, he’ll be exhausted. You know how he is. You two will be fine. I’m certain of it.”
“Of course, you’re right.” Harriet nodded and forced a smile. “I’m being silly. I’ll try to persuade him to take an hour for dinner one night soon. I’ll cook something special for us. Imogen is often out with friends straight from college most nights, so it will just be the two of us, the perfect chance to sit down and properly catch up with each other.
“Brilliant idea. You make sure you do that,” Alexa said sternly. “So, going back to your earlier comment about the forty women Ollie will have to charm on Valentine’s Day, I’m presuming you have forty couples booked into the hotel restaurant and he’ll be dishing out the red roses to all the ladies, along with that winning smile of his?”
“Got it in one. With Valentine’s Day falling on a Wednesday this year most people have booked to celebrate on the preceding weekend. Which does mean there’s the slimmest chance Ollie and I might even manage a rushed romantic meal ourselves up in the flat on the big day itself. I’ve got my fingers crossed!”
“Do not take no for an answer. Even if you end up eating at midnight,” Alexa said before getting to her feet. “Sorry, sweetie but I have to get going, lots of errands to sort before I head back to the office.”
Glamourous Alexa ran her own recruitment agency providing temporary staff to local hoteliers. The two women had met at a parish council meeting not long after Harriet and Ollie had moved to the tourist hotspot of Allithwaite and they’d instantly become firm friends.
“No worries. I need to get moving and call in at the visitor information centre on my way back to the hotel to drop off some more leaflets,” replied Harriet, hugging her friend goodbye. “They rang us to say they’d run out and wanted a new supply.”
The visitor information centre was packed to the rafters with people seeking advice on what to do on a rainy February day in the Lake District. Parents with fractious children were perusing the display racks of leaflets in search of places with the potential to keep their offspring amused. Harriet quickly dropped off the hotel’s leaflets with Susie, the young girl who was on duty, and headed for the door, finger poised on the button of her umbrella, ready to click it open as soon as she stepped out into the now-torrential rain. A woman with a double pushchair tried to negotiate the doors at the same time and the buggy rammed into the back of Harriet’s heels. Pain ripped through her leg and foot and she stumbled forward, off balance, her hand slipping on the button and the umbrella springing open in the cramped vestibule.
At first Harriet thought it was her own cry but swiftly realised it was a male voice yelping in pain close by. She turned to spot a man clutching at his right eye, doubled over in discomfort. Quickly, she closed the errant umbrella and dropped it to the floor, realising its impromptu opening must have poked this poor guy in the eye.
“Oh no!” she gasped, racing to his side, hand to her mouth. “Are you all right?”
The man muttered something under his breath she didn’t hear and suspected it wouldn’t be a good idea to ask him to repeat. She took him by the arm and led him back into the centre towards a bank of chairs out of the way of the miserable, rain-soaked tourists.
“Sit down and let me take a look at your eye,” she commanded.
He did as instructed and she reached for his hand, gently pulling it away from his face.
“My umbrella really did get you, didn’t it?” She winched. “Your eye is all bloodshot and watering quite badly. Let me get you to the doctors. It could be iritis.”
The man managed a weak laugh. “Iritis? You just made that up. There’s no such thing.”
“I promise you, I didn’t make it up. Are you a local? I’m sorry, I don’t recognise your face. Are you here on holiday? I think the doctor’s surgery keep a few slots open for visitors who aren’t registered and just here on vacation and get ill or injured.”
“I’ve recently become a local again,” he replied, covering his eye with his hand and grimacing again. “I grew up around here and moved back a few weeks ago.”
“Okay. Are you registered with the health clinic in town yet?”
“Right, we’re off to the doctors with you then, are you all right to walk?”
“Honestly, I’m fine, there’s no need for the doctors,” he protested and leaned back in the chair, resting his head against the wall. “You could make up for injuring me by taking me out to dinner one night this week though.”
Harriet found herself smiling at his cheek and his bravado. “I’d say that’s flattering, but as you can only see with one eye at the moment, maybe it isn’t quite so flattering after all. Plus, I happen to be a married woman.” For a second she wondered why she hadn’t said she was a happily married woman. Slip of the tongue that was all.
He looked her up and down through his one good eye and replied, “I can see you perfectly well, but I confess I hadn’t spotted the fact you’re wearing a wedding ring. Sorry if I offended you.”
She smiled. It actually felt rather nice to be noticed by somebody, flattering, even if it was a total stranger. “Forget about it. It’s fine. Right, I’m taking you to the doctors, and no arguing.”
He got to his feet and swayed alarmingly.
“Steady on!” Harriet reached for his arm and peered nervously at him. “Do you feel dizzy?”
“A little,” he admitted. “My eye is throbbing like crazy. Maybe you’re right and I’d best get it seen to.”
Linking her arm through his so she could ensure he didn’t topple over, she said, “Let’s go. Now.”
Want to read more? Fantastic!
The fourth installment of
The Lizzie Hart Mysteries series,
MY FUNNY VALENTINE,
is out today!
Get it here!
I'm excited to interview Laura again and
let her take over my blog, and even more
excited for her newest release,
GOING FOR TWO,
the sequel to FIRST AND GOAL!
We decided to do the "interview swap" thing again, which means we both throw some questions into the ring and we both have to answer all of them. It's pretty fun! Read my answers on Laura's blog tomorrow: http://www.change-the-word.com/
Take it away, Laura!
In honor of Going for Two’s release, I’m sharing some fun facts about the book and Queen of the League series.
One of my favorite parts about writing First & Goal and Going for Two was getting a chance to capture my hometown in a story. I’ve lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, most of my life, and as a lifelong Husker fan, it was almost second-nature to weave details about both into the stories. Lincoln is a fun city. It’s the state capital of Nebraska, home to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and it is a booming location for tech startups. All of that adds a lot of life to the community.
I hope you will check out the other facts—view a complete listing of locations and dates on my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com—and the series.
Thank you, Caroline, for featuring Going for Two—and me—today. Enjoy!
First to answer Caroline's questions...
Were you a big football fan in high school? A cheerleader, perhaps?
I’ve been a football fan most of my life. I grew up in Nebraska during the back-to-back National Championships in 1994 and 1995, followed by our last title in 1997. I also started following the Packers in the ‘90s, so I was a pretty spoiled fan. I loved football in high school, though to quote the great Taylor Swift, “But she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts, she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers.” I played percussion in the marching band, so I attended a lot of football games. My high school won the state championship my sophomore year. I unfortunately missed the game, because I had my wisdom teeth out. I did watch the game on TV, and I vaguely remember cheering my heart out. Unfortunately, I was pretty doped up (I had FIVE fully impacted wisdom teeth, so it was kind of a thing).
I knew I liked you, but now that I've learned you were a percussionist, we're "sister drummers"! The things you learn from interviews! Now that you’re grown up, would you prefer to go to a local high school football game, a college football game, or a professional football game?
I’ve actually never been to a professional football game, but would love to someday. That said there is no place like Lincoln, Nebraska, during a home football game. I suppose that’s where the line in “Dear Old Nebraska U” comes from. So I’ll always probably say college football, because that’s where my heart belongs.
Any big plans for the Super Bowl?
I’ll definitely watch, but how closely I follow the game depends on who actually plays. As I answer these questions, my Green Bay Packers are still contenders. If they play, I’ll be glued to my TV and probably drink too much beer and not eat enough food, which tends to happen when I get nervous during football games. I’ll also watch pretty closely if the Broncos play, because Peyton Manning was my fantasy football quarterback for several years, and he has a special place in my heart. If any of the other teams play, I’ll have the game on, but spend most of my time following the commercials while texting snarky comments about both teams to my friends and family. I’m also pretty excited to hear that Queen Bey will once again be on stage for the halftime show.
This series involves fantasy football. Do you play fantasy football yourself?
I have played fantasy football for several years. The past three seasons I have managed two teams, one a keeper league, which is a bit trickier. Like Harper, I’m frequently the token girl, though my league-mates give me less grief. My own experience with fantasy football is actually why I decided to write a series about it from a woman’s perspective. I had to use my imagination a lot to write it, though, because my fantasy football experience has been a lot less entertaining than hers!
Tell us about how you put together your team. Are they favorite players of yours or were they chosen for their particular abilities and stats?
The last two years I’ve thrown my teams together. This year, I didn’t check any player stats or projections before my drafts, because I was busy preparing for the release of First & Goal. For the first time, neither of my teams made it to the playoffs, but I have zero regrets. My second season I had both teams go to the playoffs, and I did a lot of prep work. Harper actually used a lot of my best practices to put her team together in Going for Two, which should shed some light on my method. Probably my all-time favorite fantasy football players have been Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, and Jordy Nelson. Sadly I didn’t have any of them on my team this year, and Peyton and Calvin are probably nearing the end of their careers, and Jordy spent the season recovering from a torn ACL. That might explain why my teams did so poorly…
Do you have a “soundtrack” to Going for Two? Or any songs that helped you get in the mood for writing it?
Absolutely. I make playlists for all of my books. It’s part of the pre-writing, brainstorming process. I curate it while I write and edit, and then I make it available to readers on Spotify once the book is published. You can find my playlist for Going for Two at https://open.spotify.com/user/1224839748/playlist/3kE1AWRP0v0XsXka0p4nmT. While writing this book, I probably most frequently listened to “Tighten Up” by the Black Keys, “Fire” by Augustana, and “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled. They helped set the mood.
I love your character names. How do you come up with such unusual names?
Harper’s name actually came to me in a dream. I was struggling with my first draft and not really feeling the name I had. Then one night I had a dream (which I explain in greater detail in this blog post: http://www.change-the-word.com/2015/09/wcw-meet-harper-duquaine.html) and poof “Harper” popped into my head. She’s originally from Wisconsin, so I researched common last names there to get Duquaine. Brook gets his first name from my all-time favorite Husker football player, the late Brook Berringer. And his last name MacLaughlin is a play on my high school football coach’s last name. He happened to be my homeroom teacher and was a great guy, so I wanted to pay tribute to him. (You can read more about it in this blog post: http://www.change-the-word.com/2015/09/mcm-meet-brook-maclaughlin.html)
What can readers expect to see from you in 2016?
In addition to reading Harper’s continuing adventures in Going for Two, readers should be able to see what happens next in Three & Out. I’m in the process of writing this one, and we plan to release it in the fall. Aside from that, I have a couple of other projects in the works, but I’m not talking specifics on any of those just yet.
And now to answer my own questions...
What was the first murder mystery you remember reading and what did you most enjoy about it?
I read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie when I was in sixth grade. I was already a fan of mysteries—I’d worked my way through the Baby-Sitters Club mysteries and Nancy Drew, but this was my first time dealing with a serial killer in print. I remember being completely awed and shocked by the brilliance of the whole story. I’ve always been pretty good at deducing whodunit, but that was the first time I was left thinking “Oh. Em. Gee.” It’s been almost twenty years since I read it, and I still think about that book a lot.
Who is your all-time favorite fictional sleuth?
I am my mother’s daughter, and I am a big fan of both the Kinsey Millhone alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton and Annie and Max Darling in the Death on Demand series by Carolyn G. Hart. I love that Annie and Kinsey are both pretty fearless and they’re so cool without trying. I wouldn’t mind shadowing both of them for a day on the case. I’d probably need some pre-sleuthing pointers from them to make sure I don’t accidentally give our position away to a murderer. I’m not terribly graceful, so that’s a real concern.
If you could spend a day with any of the characters in your most recent book, who would you choose and what would you do?
While I’m head over heels for Brook MacLaughlin, I know his heart already belongs to Harper, so I’m going to say J.J. While he might come off as a bit of a dick, I suspect that underneath that mask, there’s a good guy just waiting to be reformed. I’m also getting a bit of cabin fever now that winter has descended on Nebraska, and he strikes me as someone who would be good at getting me to ditch the sweatpants and go out on the town for a night. I imagine we’d explore the Railyard in downtown Lincoln, eat too much pizza and french fries, drink too many beers, and possibly get into a little bit of trouble if we bumped into any non-Husker fans during our excursion. It’s a good thing we’d only have a day together. I’m pretty sure I’d end up in jail if we spent a second day together, either because of the aforementioned trouble, or because I’d lose my patience mid-reformation and end up punching him.
Would you consider, or have you already written any books in other genres? If so, which ones?
I have several genres I’d like to explore. I’ve started a young adult, regency romance, and cozy mystery. One of these days, I’ll finish all of them—I hope. While I’m committed to finishing the Queen of the League chick lit series and a couple of other projects, I’ll probably take a little chick lit break within the next year and explore some of these other genres. I say that today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. My writing priorities change all the time depending on what idea is speaking to me loudest.
If you were planning your dream writing retreat, where would you go, who would you invite, and what would be on the itinerary?
I always talk about wanting to run away to a cabin in the mountains for some serious writing. I’ve been binge-watching When Calls the Heart on Netflix lately, so I’m really feeling the greater Vancouver, Canada-area for the actual mountain destination. (I suppose I could make Breckenridge, Colorado, work if pressed.) I’ll pack a whole stash of sweatpants, leggings, sweatshirts, sweaters, and thick socks for my week in the mountains. I’ll drink my weight in hot chocolate with peppermint Schnapps and Fireball. I’ll eat a grilled cheese sandwich with black bean soup every day at lunch. I’ll work by the fireplace in the lodge’s great room, at the desk by the window and in the bed in my bedroom. And if I play my cards right, I might end up spending the evening having a romantic dinner with the smart, sexy, and single ski instructor I bumped into at the reservation counter on the first day. He’s trying to talk me into taking ski lessons from him, and I’m doing my best to resist his charms. And, bonus, he actually finds the fact that I didn’t bring any fancy dining clothes charming and refreshing. I’m not sure where this will lead, but the conversation and company will be a good break for me each evening after putting in a full day of hard work.
About the Book
Harper Duquaine is back for another season of fantasy football! This time she’s a year wiser and prepared to dominate the league. But while she finally seems to have her fantasy life in order, reality proves more challenging.
Her plans to peacefully play house with her boyfriend come to a halt when the high school suddenly names Brook its head football coach. The promotion comes with more responsibility on the field and less time at home. It also unexpectedly means more work for Harper, who already has her hands full helping a friend pull off the perfect proposal (while dodging questions about when she and Brook are going to get hitched already). Plus, a new development at work could leave her—and half of the fantasy league—jobless.
With the complications of her career and being “Mrs. Coach” adding up, Harper wonders if she’s committed to the life she’s already building or if there is something else out there.
Find the Book
And from January 20-29 you can get First & Goal, book one in the Queen of the League series, for only 99 cents.
About the Author
Laura Chapman is the author of Going for Two, First & Goal, The Marrying Type, and Hard Hats and Doormats. Her work also appears in Merry & Bright, A Kind of Mad Courage, and the holiday collection All I Want For Christmas from Marching Ink. She loves Huskers and Packers football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Laura makes her home in Nebraska, where she is penning her next novel.
Connect with Laura
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/laurachapmanbooks
Twitter - https://twitter.com/lmchap
Instagram - https://instagram.com/lmchap614/
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/lmchap
Website - http://laurachapmanbooks.com/
I’m thrilled to announce that Bad Medicine, Book 3 of
the Lizzie Hart series, was named one of
Suspense Magazine’s “Best Books of 2015!”
Thank you to Julie Whiteley of The Book Review for nominating me and to the staff at Suspense Magazine for choosing my book for their annual list. It’s a real honor to be named among such great writers as Dean Koontz, Neil Gaiman, and JD Robb (AKA Nora Roberts).
If you haven't read Bad Medicine yet, visit my
Amazon page and get your copy today.
You can view the December 2015 issue of Suspense Magazine here.