Friday, November 11, 2011

Lesley Diehl


Lesley Diehl, author of  Dumpster Dying and  A Deadly Draught, is here today. Welcome, Lesley. Please give us a short bio.

Thanks, Susan.
I retired from my life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed my country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York.  In the winter I migrate to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office.  Back north, I devote my afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of my trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew.

Wow! You're a lucky gal to have so much inspiration.

I really am.

Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

I can’t read music, but, when I was a kid, I thought I could write operas.  I didn’t realize when I heard them on the radio that they were written in another language, so I just made one up, and sang the meaningless words to a made-up tune also.  It’s no surprise that a kid as naive as me or one with as much chutzpa would decide to become a mystery writer after retirement.  It takes me a while to get the word!

How many books have you written?

Oh, well, many, many books, but not all have been published.  I recently took another look at my earliest manuscript, and it’s probably just as well some have never seen the light of day.  So far my books include A Deadly Draught from Mainly Murder Press and Dumpster Dying from Oak Tree Press.  Angel Sleuth will be released by UntreedReads later his year and MMP will release Poisoned Pairings, the second in my microbrewer series in May, 2012.

What books or authors have influenced you? 

I write cozies, so I must give credit to Agatha Christie, the second mystery author I read after Carolyn Keene.  Janet Evanovich helped me find my funny bone and my intricate plots come from reading Elizabeth George and P. D. James.

Tell us about your latest release, Dumpster Dying.

Dumpster Dying is my latest.  It is set in rural Florida around the area of the Big Lake (Lake Okeechobee) a county in which there are more cattle than people.  Think Texas with palm trees.  I always write about family and like to explore the secrets families often keep.  In this work my protagonist Emily Rhodes makes the mistake many women in love make.  She trusts her life partner to take care of her, but he dies suddenly, the only will found leaving everything to his ex-wife.  Emily, as his partner of over fifteen years, must fight his ex in court for her rightful share of his estate, but her attention is diverted by finding the body of a wealthy rancher in the dumpster of the country club where she is employed as a bartender.  The authorities initially try to pin the murder on her, but they finally settle on her boss and good friend.  In the process of tracking down the killer Emily’s past catches up with her as do the family secrets her good friend has kept hidden for many years.
It is available as a trade paperback, on Kindle and Nook.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others?

Dumpster Dying is, as you would guess, a humorous cozy.  The other book A Deadly Draught is not.  While humor is fun for me to write, it’s tricky because not everyone has the same sense of humor.  What’s funny to me may offend someone else.  So while I seem to gravitate toward humor (Angel Sleuth is also funny, and a manuscript in the hands of my agent now is, too), a writer must do all the character development and intricate plotting of a traditional mystery but also throw in humor, which may bomb.  A humorous mystery is a real high for me to write, but more challenging than if I’m not inserting funny situations, lines, or personalities.

How do you choose your setting?

My settings have chosen me.  I write about the places I live.  A Deadly Draught and its sequel Poisoned Pairings are set in the Butternut Valley in upstate New York.  It’s a real place and where I live for half the year alongside a usually well-behaved trout stream (Lee recently turned it into a raging river that overflowed its banks).  During the winter I live in rural Florida, the setting for Dumpster Dying.  I am at home in the country and don’t think I would feel comfortable writing about another setting.  Besides, as you can see, natural disasters present themselves, and I use them in my work.  The people I meet feel familiar to me, like those I grew up around on the farm, and I create characters with that same connection to the land.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

My microbrewer, Hera Knightsbridge, has only an inkling she is hiding from life and from her past by embracing her chosen career, crafting beer.  It takes murder and the reappearance of a former lover to convince her she’s not as invincible as she would like to think.  She is strong mentally and physically and she likes a challenge.  She will face up to anything.

In contrast, Emily Rhodes, from Dumpster Dying is tiny and a bit timid.  She’s a retired preschool teacher, and everyone expects her to be nonassertive.  But Emily knows dealing with fighting preschoolers has developed some backbone which she will have to use to get herself out of her financial mess and help find a murderer so that she can clear her friend’s name.  Although two men find her enticing, she’s no longer so trusting of men and will stand up to both of them when they come acourtin’.  Don’t underestimate the untapped courage of this little woman.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I was raised on a dairy farm in the Midwest.  I was an only child and spent my childhood entertaining myself by reading and hanging out with cows.  Then I moved away, went to college and graduate school to become a psychologist.  I was a professor and college administrator before I retired and came to understand my true vocation was writing mysteries, so, you see, my degree in psychology helped not at all in finding myself!  I think my background in psychology finds its way into my writing in helping me craft my characters and the villain’s motives for killing.  The cows keep me humble.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I think I’m becoming, as does every writer, the queen of social networking, but just when I think I’ve got a handle on it, another plum opportunity like this one comes my way, and I  embrace it.  I also do a lot of library programs, and those are great fun whether two or twenty-two people show up.  The in-person experience of interacting with readers and other writers is almost as good as chocolate.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

I’m working on the second Emily Rhodes book, tentatively titled Grilled, Chilled, and Killed.  This time Emily stumbles upon a dead body sauced like a brisket of beef and hidden in a beer cooler truck.

My agent has another Florida based manuscript about a Connecticut fashionista come to the wilds of Florida to set up a consignment shop.  You guessed it.  A patron is killed while trying on a cocktail dress.

I’ve put another manuscript on the back burner.  It represents a departure for me from cozies and is a traditional mystery set in upstate New York.  The protagonist is a woman who runs an auction house and is the mayor of a small village.  Folks in the village believe coyotes are killing their livestock.  She engages an expert on coyotes, someone she knew when she was in college, to look at the situation.  The most vociferous proponent of an open season on killing coyotes is himself killed, and the authorities suspect the protagonist’s friend.  Helping him to clear his name forces the protagonist to reveal a family secret, one that will drive her daughter away from her.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Go to my website or visit my blog

Continued success, Lesley!                                       

Thanks so much, Susan.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Joyce Luciani, Cancer Survivor and author

Joyce Luciani, author of Killing The Cure is my guest today. Thanks for coming by, Joyce.

I appreciate the invitation, Susan.

Before we talk about the book, please tell us a little about you.

I went to college after my family grew up and I was 50 years old, graduating with honors in philosophy and loving every minute of it.  I’ve always been a person who throws herself entirely into whatever subject interests me most.  In doing the research for Killing the Cure I accumulated hundreds of books, papers, notes and other information on the condition of our health care industry.  The more I learned, the angrier I became.  Since I had always been known as a ‘peacemaker’ type, (I learned that from growing up as one of eight and from having nine children of my own), my angry attitude came as a surprise to my friends and family.  The result was this novel, a fictional story based on the facts as they appear to me.

How many books have you written?

Although Killing the Cure is my first novel, I co-authored a biography, Semka, the Sammy Skobel Story, which was published several years ago.  (Perhaps I should say I’ve written three books as I have another novel (The Benediction) finished and am actively searching for an agent and/or publisher). I have also had a number of articles and a few poems published.

Have any writers inspired you?

First and foremost my favorite author would be Ernest Hemingway.  I read him very early in my life and loved his style.  Another is Leon Uris, especially his Irish novel, Exodus.A more recent one would be Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With a Pearl Earring and Remarkable Creatures.

Had any great experiences while writing?

Seeing one’s work in print is always a great thrill, but I think one of the greatest experiences in writing fiction is when my characters take over the story and do or say things I didn’t expect.   It’s then I know I’ve created characters who have become real.  It’s a fantastic high!

Tell us about Killing the Cure, Joyce.

Killing the Cure grew out of a period when both my husband and I had cancer.  He was receiving his third series of radiation treatments for prostate cancer which had spread to his bones when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  We were overwhelmed, not only emotionally, but financially.  The cost of treatments and prescriptions were eating up our savings.  I was angry that after all the years of research, no cause or cure had been found.  Throwing myself into researching the subject, I found that the vast majority of research funds had been spent on treatment drugs rather than on finding a cause or a cure.
      Killing the Cure is the story of two brothers, one a doctor, the other a newspaper columnist, whose mother died of cancer when they were boys.  They vow to search for a cure for cancer, but find that the pharmaceutical companies are raking in billions of dollars from their treatment drugs and are willing to go to such extremes as arson and even murder to keep a cure from being discovered.   When Greg realizes that his girlfriend’s father is the head of this corrupt group, his lack of trust sends his love life into a spin.  Jared exposes the group in his column and in television interviews, opening himself to their revenge.  It is their own greed that brings the pharmaceutical companies down in an unexpected scandal.

 Where can we find Killing the Cure?

Killing the Cure is available at and, in both print and eBook, and at   It is also available on the website .

Did you have many challenges while writing this book?

Killing the Cure required a tremendous amount of research.  I spent the better part of two years searching for the answers, pouring over newspaper articles and books, as well as visiting Washington, D.C. before I could start writing.  The biography, on the other hand, required hours and hours of meetings and discussion as well as editing each section as it was written.  The writing itself went rather smoothly.

Joyce, how do you develop characters?

I write up character sketches with background material and descriptions, creating a history of their lives, their parents, their education, their desires, their friends, their likes, their dislikes, etc.  Minor character are treated the same way but not in as much detail.  My characters are often a composite of people I have known or observed.

How about setting?

There was only one setting possible for Killing the Cure.  That was Washington, D.C.  I had lived in Washington for four years in the past and was familiar with the city and the way things worked, but I had to go back to see how things had changed since I lived there.

Speak to us about any flaws in your characters.

Greg’s main strength is his dedication and perseverance in spite of setbacks.  His flaws are his lack of trust and his self-doubt.  His brother’s strength is in his positive attitude regarding his handicap.  Although he is in a wheelchair he feels there is nothing he cannot do.   His flaw is that he tends to blunder through when a simpler path would be the better way.

Why did you write this particular novel?

My firm belief that a cure for cancer is out there waiting to be discovered kept me researching and writing through the four years of writing this novel.  My background in journalism and my years living in the Washington D.C. area definitely influenced my writing.   Also my personal experience as a cancer patient and as a primary caregiver gave me a special viewpoint on the subject influencing my writing of this novel.

Where can readers learn more?                     

I have a website dedicated to Killing the Cure and promote it on facebook.  I speak about the book at various clubs and organizations in the area, as well as at book clubs and booksignings...  I also write a weekly blog on current health tips that I pick up during ongoing research ( 

Are you working on a project at this time?

I have recently finished an Irish historical novel which is set in the early nineteenth century and is searching for a home with a publisher.  This novel, too, involves brothers, and one girl who attracts the attention of all four.   It is a story of betrayal, of loss of faith, and of a family torn apart.  Their search for each other and all they have lost takes the reader from Ireland where their home and the village itself are destroyed, to Boston where their welcome is not what they expect.

How can folks find out about signings and such?

Check out my website at for upcoming dates and new blogs, as well as an excerpt from the book.

Joyce, I wish you the best with Killing the Cure. You strength and endurance are an inspiration! I want to also remind readers that all proceeds from my cookbook, Killer Recipes, are donated to cancer research so that we can more happy endings like Joyce had, available on my web site at or ask you favorite store to order copies if they're out.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beatlemaniac Sally Carpenter

Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

I have a black belt in tae kwon do and have won a number of trophies at several martial arts tournaments. At the tourneys awards were given for forms (katas) and sparring (fighting). I did better in sparring than forms. Most of the trophies are for second- and third-place, but I have six first-place wins.

How many books have you written?

One, The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper.

What books or authors have influenced you?

Richard Levinson and William Link. They wrote the best TV mysteries and created my favorite detective, Columbo. Two years ago I had the privilege of meeting Link at a book signing. He’s published a collection of short stories with the Columbo character. Arthur Conan Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes stories. The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew series. I think most mystery writers started there. I based my book on the Hardy Boys structure—fast pacing, cliffhanger chapter endings, attempts on the hero’s life—although my book has better dialogue and more character development.

What has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

Actually finishing the book. It’s a long haul from getting the idea to putting it down on paper. I think many new writers struggling to write a novel get discouraged, tired or bored part way through and never complete the book. I like when a scene finally pulls together. I do an extensive amount of revision and it’s a joy to finally see the gem emerge from the rough stone.    

Tell us about your latest release.

 My protagonist is Sandy Fairfax, former ‘70s teen idol and star of the hit TV show “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth.” Now it’s 1993 and he’s a 38-year-old recovering alcoholic, forgotten and desperate for a comeback. When Sandy makes a guest appearance at a small Beatles fan convention in Evansville, Ind., a member of the Mercy Marvels tribute band is shot. When the police finger Sandy as the prime suspect, and Sandy fills in for the dead musician at a concert, the schoolboy shamus is back in action to find the killer.   

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

In print. My publisher has started releasing titles as e-books and I’m sure my book will be available electronically at some point

What are some of the problems you faced while plotting a series with ongoing characters?
I’m trying to avoid the problems of most series books through advance planning. I’ve sketched out the next ten or so books. I don’t have the details or necessarily the crime in mind, but I know the setting of each book and what happens in Sandy’s personal life. Sandy’s trying to reconnect with his estranged family, so there’s new emotional issues in each book. At some point he’ll remarry. This will be an intricate part of the book, not a tacked-on gimmick. His wife will assist him in his crime solving.

A series writer faces the challenge that the characters need to grow somewhat—or else they’re caricatures, not real humans—but not change so much that readers no longer like them.

How do you develop characters?

Sandy was developed through extensive research—attending concerts and reading autobiographies written by real teen idols, non-fiction books about rock bands and teen idol fanzines. I use some of the techniques from my acting classes in how an actor analyzes a script. Imagination is helpful, too. I generally don’t base characters on real people I know. For most writers, their base of family and friends is rather limited and I want to broaden my characters beyond my own social sphere. 

How do you choose your setting?

This was set by my character. He worked in Hollywood and still lives in Los Angeles in the house he bought with the royalties from his first album (although he may move to a new home later in the series). In each book he performs in a different venue and that will determine the story’s setting. In this book, he’s in the Midwest. It’s a “fish out of water” story in that Sandy is a different environment than he’s used to and working with people he doesn’t know. He’s stressed because he’s separated from his home and support base. That makes for some great tension. I placed the story in Evansville, Ind., because I grew up in the area and know it well. Also, it’s one of the last places my hero would go if he had a choice.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

He’s a teen idol, so physically, he’s cute and gorgeous. That’s a major strength! Seriously, he’s smart, perceptive, outgoing, helpful, friendly and charming. He has a great sence of humor. Sandy’s braver than he thinks he is and he’s concerned about justice. He’s a talented musician and a decent actor. He works well with other performers. As for flaws, sometimes he’s a “people pleaser” to a fault. His teen idol days were based on making the fans and the studio executives happy. Some of this carried over. He’ll either give in to others or be downright stubborn about doing what he wants. He’s a perfectionist about his art and gets annoyed during a performance or rehearsal when things don’t go right. He has an explosive temper. He’s crabby when he’s exhausted. Sometimes he’s tired of living up to his wholesome teen idol image. In his heyday Sandy was used to having managers take care of details for him, so he gets absent minded at times about what he need to do. He’s not good at handling money. Sandy got use to spending money freely and never learned how to control his spending after the cash stopped flowing in. Sandy has been arrested twice, once for a DUI and also for starting a bar fight. He still has a scar on his cheek.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I believe in God and the ultimate triumph of good over evil, so the good guys always win in my books and the killer is brought to justice. I don’t want to read about graphic sex, violence or serial killers, so I don’t write it.

When I read, I want to escape and have fun. The world is a bad enough place as is and I try to brighten it up with an enjoyable book that puts a smile on a reader’s face.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I belong to Sisters in Crime (men can join too), an international support group for mystery writers. It’s a great place to start networking, both online and at chapter meetings. I’ve written guest spots on numerous blogs (like this one!). There are a number of online sites that publish book reviews. Some of these bloggers actively seek books to read or authors to promote. I’m also contacting the Beatles fan blogs. The good news is that the Internet provides a number of promotional outlets that are open to new writers. The bad news is that contacting all these sites takes a good deal of time and effort.
Also, with the fragmented nature of the web, blogs only reach anywhere from a dozen people to a few thousand. A writer must blog on numerous sites to reach even a handful of potential readers.

I plan to contact some syndicated radio shows about the Beatles. The libraries in my area love to host local writers for presentations. I have several events in the works. Librarians also love book donations.
I believe that in these economic times, and with the high price of hardcovers and closure of bookstores, more people are getting their reading material from libraries than stores. Readers who enjoy a library book may still purchase a copy or at least buy other books in the series. Also, bookstores mostly promote the bestsellers, whereas libraries give more attention to local authors.

Writers conferences are fun to attend, but are expensive and require a commitment of time and travel. I’m selective regarding the ones I attend.  Promotion nowadays consists of many steps and contacts; there’s no single place one can go for instant publicity.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

I’m working on the next book in the Sandy Fairfax series, “The Sinister Sitcom Caper.” Most of the action takes place at a movie studio where Sandy’s a guest star on a TV show. When an actor drops dead at his feet, he begins sleuthing with the aid of a dwarf and an animal actor.
We also start meeting members of Sandy’s family. And he falls head over heels in love with a woman he meets—but will she give him a tumble?

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

 My book’s available from and my publisher, If you have questions about me or my book, contact me directly at

"The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper"
A Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol Mystery