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Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Real Scoop Behind Dirty Rotten Tendrils

Dirty Rotten Tendrils”, the 10th Flower Shop Mystery, hit the bookstores on October 5th. Quite frankly, there are several unanswered questions in this reader’s mind, including Why does florist Abby Knight keep finding corpses? It’s like Grandma always said. “Nice girls don’t associate with dead bodies.”

I couldn’t come straight out and interrogate author Kate Collins; Grandma also claims that direct questions are rude. It did occur to me that Kate’s fellow authors on the Cozy Chicks blog might be forthcoming with details about Abby Knight and Kate Collins if only I asked nicely, so I approached Deb Baker, Maggie Sefton, JB Stanley, Heather Webber, Lorna Barrett, and Leann Sweeney. I began with the most pressing query and phrased it as delicately as possible.

Ten-plus murders! Ten! That’s an awful lot of bodies surrounding florist Abby Knight. And in “Shoots to Kill”, she’s even arrested for murder on page one! She admits to having a short fuse. Is Abby really so unlucky, or is author Kate Collins trying to cover up her protagonist’s nefarious past?

From Leann Sweeney: Unlucky? No. Who wouldn't want a smart, curious, intuitive woman ready to step in and solve a murder? We all have things we like to do besides work at the day job. Like quilting or painting or gardening or catching murderers.

Abby Knight is both a florist and a crusader. Her mother teaches kindergarten and engages in a long list of creative endeavors, such as making designer candy. Are energetic, multi-tasking women like these purely fiction? And what exactly is a Dancing Naked Monkey table, one of Maureen Knight’s many creations?

From Maggie Sefton: Abby Knight delights readers with her creativity, her crusading spirit, and her tenacity in finding clues and figuring out murders. She may even take after her energetic, multi-tasking, and creative mother, Maureen. As for the Dancing Naked Monkey table? Only Maureen really knows.

Abby’s fiancé, ex-Army Ranger Marco is described as tough and sensitive--a man who could cook up an omelet and take down a killer in the same day. The couple has already called it quits once. Any guesses on whether we’ll hear wedding bells in the future?

From Lorna Barrett/Lorraine Bartlett: Does this give you a clue: Dum dum de dum. Dum dum de dum. Dum dum de dum dum de dum dum de dum. (And Abby's had the wedding flowers designed for ages.)

This is just between friends, and I’m not asking because I’m jealous (my thumb is a distinct shade of brown), but is author Kate Collins actually good with plants?

Deb Baker/Hannah Reed: Kate is the queen of green thumbs and can dish dirt better than anyone else! Uh, I mean, mix dirt.

Abby seems a little self-conscious that she flunked out of law school. I’m all too familiar with that feeling of failure. What advice would you give me--I mean Abby--to help her get over her perceived failure?

From JB Stanley/Ellery Adams: I’d tell Abby that when one door closes, another opens. After all, if she hadn’t flunked out of law school, how could she have become the engaging sleuth and skilled florist that we all know and love? Her “failure” has become a source of delight and enjoyment for readers across the globe!

For readers who haven’t enjoyed the Florist Shop Mysteries, can they jump right in with book #10? And what kind of read can they expect?

From Heather Webber: As with all Kate’s books, Dirty Rotten Tendrils is filled with humor, fantastic characters, twisty-turny plots, a bit of romance, and a warmth that’s just Kate’s natural voice. You absolutely don’t have to start at the beginning of the series to enjoy Kate’s books. Jump right in with Dirty Rotten Tendrils, and then once Kate has you hooked (and she will), go back and fall in love with the rest of the Flower Shop Mysteries.

You can find "Dirty Rotten Tendrils at your usual booksellers.


Barnes and Noble

IndieBound Independent Booksellers

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Character Collections

I admit it. The only thing I collect is paper. Masses and masses of paper that cover my desk, which unfortunately is also my dining room table. That may be why I'm always up for eating in front of the television.

I admire people who have the foresight to hang on to trinkets. I had some pretty cool stuff when I was younger, stuff that would be worth money now. Star Wars collectibles and Barbies. And I tried collecting Christmas ornaments the first few years of my marriage. Each holiday season I'd find something with the year on it. 1990 - 1994 was the limit of my attention span. I've occasionally purchase a dated ornament since, but it's too depressing to note all the gaps in the timeline.

Giving your character a collection can reveal oodles of information about their likes and dislike, their personal habits, and that spark that drives them. In my case, my Christmas ornaments say I'm scattered. Or maybe I'm not attached to material things. Yeah. That sounds better.

What if your character collected tea pots? She could crave refinement, be a huge Anglophile, or simply love tea. She could also hate tea and feel that each pot they collect is one less servicing the hypocrisy of a delicate ritual.

A history buff could collect stamps. So could a greedy kid who heard there was money in postage. An invalid could live vicariously through a postcard collection and arrange them on a map of the world, but an insatiably nosy person might file them by message type: lovers, parents, and friends.

Collections can also tell the reader something about a third party. When your sleuth interviews a witness who is surrounded by stuffed cats, does he absently stroke the black one and reminisce about his favorite childhood kitty? Or does he immediately dismiss the hobby as an obsession or a waste of money.

The next time you describe a character's home, throw in some unique passion - coffee can lids or porcelain ostriches, and then let the reader paint the character sketch from his own imagination.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Interview with Author Cheryl Malandrinos

Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A regular contributor for Writer2Writer, her articles focus on increasing productivity through time management and organization. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.

Cheryl is also a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book, a book reviewer, and blogger. Little Shepherd is her first children’s book. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two young daughters. She also has a son who is married.

You can visit Cheryl online at her website or at the Little Shepherd blog. And don't forget to read the contest information at the bottom of this post!

Cheryl, on Writers in Residence, we introduced you as Cheryl the Pump Up Your Book lady. Could you re-introduce yourself as Cheryl the Writer?

Let’s see what I can tell you about little old me. I’ve lived in Western Massachusetts my entire life. I grew up in a six-family apartment with my paternal grandparents living downstairs from us and a maternal uncle living on the other side of the building. My maiden name of Gevry, comes from the commune of Gevry in eastern France, though all the relatives I knew as a child came from Canada or had originally settled in the United States.

I am currently married and have three children, ages 23, 9, and 6. Our son is married and our girls seem to have inherited my creative side. Both of them enjoy arts and crafts of all kinds.

Did you always know that you wanted to write?

I began writing as a teenager. My stories and poems, though dark in nature, helped me to cope with the grief of losing my mother to cancer. I stopped writing for a while, but picked it up again as an adult. It was more of a hobby in those early days, but when I became a stay-at-home mother in 2004, I began to pursue my career in earnest.

Investing in the Breaking into Print program at Long Ridge Writers Group, I graduated in 2005 and set my heart on getting published. I began writing time management articles for a now defunct online magazine, most of which were picked up by Writer2Writer when I became a regular contributor in 2006.

I also began blogging around that time. I currently run three blogs:

The Book Connection

The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection

Book Tours and More

I review books, host fellow authors during their virtual book tours, and discuss other literary items of interest. It was through my blogging that I first became aware of Pump Up Your Book (formerly Pump Up Your Book Promotion).

Did Pump Up Your Books help you or provide a distraction? 

Pump Up opened its doors in April 2007. A couple of months later I began hosting their clients. By September of 2007 I became a virtual book tour coordinator. For a while it was just our founder, Dorothy Thompson, and me. Pump Up Your Book has grown so much over the past few years that there are currently five people on staff. Becky, Jaime, Tracee, Dorothy, and I are spread out across the country, and Jaime is in Australia. The Internet allows us to stay in constant touch with each other, and is the backbone of our business.

During the time I was reviewing books and promoting others, I never gave up on my dream of becoming a published author. I attended writers conferences, participated in critique groups, and read books in the markets I was interested in breaking into.

How did you wind up publishing a children's book?

Our oldest daughter is a reluctant reader, so I understand parents who struggle with getting their kids to read, especially when so many school districts expect their students to read daily. So, when my good friend and mentor, Lea Schizas, proposed the idea of creating a group dedicated to encouraging a love of reading and writing in young people, I was right there with her. Musing Our Children is made up of authors, storytellers, illustrators, and editors dedicated to sharing their love of the written word with children. We hold workshops in our local schools. We also have a quarterly newsletter titled, Pages & Pens. The newsletter is available as a free download on our website or your can subscribe to receive it by email.

While reviewing books, I became aware of Guardian Angel Publishing. After reading several of their titles, I knew I wanted to submit my first children’s picture book idea to them. Little Shepherd is the story of Obed, a young shepherd in the hills outside Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth. He wishes to join the others to see the newborn King, but is afraid to leave his sheep unattended. While his father finally convinces him to go, Obed spends his time away anxious about his flock. Once he returns to the fields, he realizes what a night of miracles it is.

The funny thing is that Little Shepherd was not a children’s story when God first planted the idea in my heart. I thought I was supposed to be writing a story of an adult Obed, who leaves home in search of the apostles after the Resurrection. He wants to know if Jesus was the Savior he met as a boy. As I was talking to my pastor about the book, he asked if it was a children’s story and I began wondering if telling the beginning of Obed’s story is what I was supposed to concentrate on. Since I don’t believe in coincidences, I decided to begin writing this story. It flowed very quickly. After a few revisions and some feedback from author friends, I submitted it to Lynda Burch at Guardian Angel Publishing. After a few additional edits, Lynda accepted the book for publication.

Getting that acceptance was thrilling. Then when I learned Eugene Ruble accepted the contract to illustrate Little Shepherd, I knew I was almost in heaven.

What do you think most helped you become a published writer?

Though no one would ever accuse me of being a patient person, my perseverance toward becoming a published author has paid off. I often tell others that they have the power to make their dreams come true. I believe that in the bottom of my heart. If we set goals to achieve our dreams and work steadily through them, it will happen.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to talk to us.

Thanks for allowing me to share a little bit of myself and my work with your readers. Everyone can find me online at http://ccmalandrinos.com. For anyone interested in following my virtual book tour, they can visit www.pumpupyourbook.com or check out my new blog at http://littleshepherdchildrensbook.blogspot.com/. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Little Shepherd can be purchased at:

Guardian Angel Publishing



Giveaway #1 is for those readers who comment on Cheryl’s blog stops during the tour. One comment per person, per blog, through the length of the tour. Giveaway #2 is for those who purchase a copy of Little Shepherd between its release date of August 21, 2010 and the end of the virtual book tour on December 17, 2010. Proof of purchase must be submitted to Cheryl via email at cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com. Please substitute the appropriate symbols for the (at) and (dot). Those are zeroes in the address, not Os. If you prefer to mail or fax a copy of your proof of purchase, please contact Cheryl via email for that information.

Additional rules and guidelines can be found at the end of this post.

GIVEAWAY #1 (for people who comment during the VBT)

An autographed copy of Little Shepherd

Angel figurine printed with the Serenity Prayer

A Little Shepherd sticky note pad

Little Drummer Boy 2010 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament

Gift of Peace 2003 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament

Retail value of Giveaway #1 is $65 (rounded to nearest dollar)


GIVEAWAY #2 (for those who purchase a copy of Little Shepherd between August 21, 2010 and December 17, 2010)

A ”Sparkling Angel” scented jar candle from Yankee Candle

An angel gold and silver lid topper for the candle

An angel tea light holder from Yankee Candle

A Little Shepherd sticky note pad

A Jim Shore Nativity Star hanging ornament

A Jim Shore Holy Family hanging ornament

A $25 Amazon.com gift card

Retail Value of Giveaway #2 is $97 (rounded to the nearest dollar)

Here are the rules and guidelines for these giveaways:

1) For Giveaway #1 you must leave a comment on the hosting blog with a working email address for the author to contact you if you win.

2) For Giveaway #1 only the first comment with your working email address is used to determine eligibility (one comment, per blog).

3) You are eligible to win Giveaway #2 if you purchase a copy of Little Shepherd between August 21, 2010 and December 17, 2010 and provide the author with proof of purchase via email, mail, or fax prior to December 19, 2010. Little Shepherd is available at the Guardian Angel Publishing website, Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com, and at indiebound.org.

4) All giveaway winners will be selected using Random.org.

5) Prizes will be shipped via USPS with appropriate insurance. The author cannot guarantee receipt before December 25, 2010.

6) Author, blog hosts, and Pump Up Your Book are not responsible for lost or damaged goods.

7) The same person cannot win both giveaways.