Cocktail Conversations – Patricia Sands
My readers are in for a delicious treat because today’s guest is my friend and fellow author Patricia Sands. In case you haven’t yet met Patricia, you are missing out on some wonderful stories. It was Patricia’s novel “The Promise of Provence” that inspired me to do a home exchange and spend three wonderful weeks in Paris. When it comes to Women’s Fiction, her books are always at the top of my list.
Patricia is a world traveler, who spends her summers in France, soaking up the culture and snapping breathtakingly beautiful pictures. She then translates the things she has seen and done into stories that make readers feel they have journeyed along. Today we will talk about her Love in Provence Series and perhaps learn a bit about the new series she’s is currently working on.
So pull up a virtual chair and join in as Patricia and I begin our celebration of all things French with a Kir Royale. We’ll start with what is on the table…French cuisine, of course. Patricia has made foie gras on thin slices of toasted baguette. (Yes, we will include recipes for both the food and drink)
Foie gras on toast for cocktail hour
1 6-ounce (180 g.) jar or tin of foie gras entier
1/2 loaf of white bread, preferably a baguette
2-3 tbsp. fruit preserves
sprig of fresh basil or mint leaves for garnish
a chilled bottle of Champagne or a top-quality sweet white wine like Monbazillac or Sauternes
Patricia: ~Pours crème de cassis in the bottom half of flute glasses~ I thought this would be the perfect drink for today because as you know the French love champagne. This berry liqueur is the perfect addition for a special celebration!
Bette: ~pops cork on champagne bottle~ I am delighted to have you here today, and super excited to have my followers learn more about your Love in Provence Series ~Fills the remainder of the glass with champagne~ Something I think many people don’t realize is that the series started with “The Promise of Provence” which was originally written as a stand alone novel. Can you share why you decided to turn it into a series?
Patricia: Bette, it was a surprise to me! I received so many requests from readers to continue the story I realized I wanted to know what happened too! It was very satisfying for me to keep developing Kat’s story and pull it all together in Book 3, I Promise You This.
Bette: ~Sips Kir Royale~ I’m glad you suggested this drink; it’s absolutely delicious. Even more festive than champagne, if such a thing is possible.
Patricia: ~Smiles and passes plate of foie gras appetizers~ The French see food and wine as an art, not a necessity, which is one of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with the country. I especially love the market squares with their fresh vegetables and lovely flowers.
Bette: Going back to the Promise of Provence. It is such a tribute to your writing skills to have readers fall in love with the characters and want more. When you created Katherine and Philippe were they based on any person in particular?
Patricia: Katherine stepped out of my imagination, but I love how I happened upon the character of Philippe. I was standing in the daily market in Antibes (a truly wonderful market!) waiting to buy some cheese. I watched the fromager speaking with a customer about a sample of cheese he was holding on a paper on his hand. He was SO passionate and emotional about it that I fell in love with him right there and knew Katherine had to do the same.
I got to know him and met with him several times early in the morning before the market opened so he could answer questions for me about cheese and how one goes about becoming a fromager. It was a real education for me … and a delicious one!
Bette: I know the Love in Provence is a trilogy, but I hate the thought of Katherine and Philippe not returning; will they be included in any other books you have planned?
Patricia: I receive emails from readers almost every day asking me to keep telling Kat’s story and it would be my pleasure to do so. I’m working on a stand alone novel now that is set in a different part of France. Once that is published I hope to get back to visiting with Kat and Philippe and friends.
Bette: Another thing I love about your books is how vividly you paint a picture of each locale. This past summer I’ve followed your travels through the gorgeous pictures you’ve posted on Facebook, so I have to ask, will those places be used in your new novel?
Patricia: Oh yes indeed and I’m excited about that. We spent two weeks in Arles, and have been there before a couple of times, so I was able to do a lot of research. As you know, I love to take photographs and they are very important to me as I tell a story. Great writing prompts! This novel will be set in and around Arles and also in the very unique Camargue area to the south of the town.
Bette: Sounds exciting. Which came first – Did you decide on the locations for the new novel and then book home exchanges in those areas or did you plan the home exchange first and create the story around the location?
Patricia: In this case, the exchange came first. When I realized we were going to spend time in Arles, this story began to develop in my head. It just felt right. As I strolled those ancient streets, I could feel the main character, Arianna, becoming more alive.
Bette: When you are writing a scene, do you take out the pictures you took in that particular location and refer to them for the detail in your description?
Patricia: Absolutely! As I mentioned above, the photos remind me of details and also of feelings I had when I was in a certain area. It’s surprising how they can help move a story along by providing a small reminder of something that might have slipped my mind.
Bette: ~Nibbles on foie gras~ I know that sampling different cuisines is part of your travels, do you collect recipes and try to replicate them once you are back home?
Patricia: Well, you are right about the first part of your question, I love to sample different cuisines when we travel. Isn’t this foie gras delicious! I particularly love to put a little fig jelly on it. I do collect and share recipes but would rather write than cook when I am back home! Fortunately I have an understanding husband who tells me I “buy” great dinners. *smile*
Actually, I love photographing the food at French markets. For example, don’t you think these radishes are beautiful? J’adore the way the French like to serve them simply with softened butter and fleur de sel, the caviar of sea salt! Just dip them lightly and enjoy the crunch! Having a fresh baguette to accompany this can turn it into a nice addition to lunch.
Bette: Now for some of the fun stuff that readers love to hear, can you share a secret tidbit about yourself and your interests?
Patricia: Well, this isn’t really a secret … but it’s one of the things I love best about life. We have six grandchildren, ranging in age from seven to (yikes!) twenty-one. I love sharing our travels with them. The young ones love to visit us in Florida. This year our teenage granddaughters came to France on their own for a week with us. This selfie is one of my favourite photos of the summer as we took the girls to the places we love.
Our older granddaughter spent a week with us later when she was traveling after graduation as a registered nurse. It was a delight to have her in Antibes with us for my birthday.
Bette: And how about upcoming trips? Are you already planning your home exchanges for next year and will they be a tie-in to another new book?
Patricia: Of course we will be back in France next year. For part of that time I will be leading another women’s tour based on my Love In Provence books. I’ve done two tours in the past and they were great fun. Most of the women had read my books and were eager to see the places I wrote about. We take 16 women and spend 6 days in Nice and 6 in Avignon. Then we do day trips to Antibes and all the other lovely villages in the stories. It’s great fun getting to know readers personally too. I believe there are two spots left if any of your lovely readers would like to come! The information is on the Travel page on my website and we’re going from June 6 to 18. I can’t wait!
Bette: Oh how I wish I could get away and join you, but the timing is no good for me. Readers – I would urge you that if you have ever wanted to explore France, do it on one of Patricia’s tours. They are wonderful and you’ll see the real France, the one the tourists so often miss. Patricia is the person who encouraged me to try a Home Exchange and spend some time in Paris. She said I’d love it, and she was absolutely right.
Time flies when you’re spending it with friends and while our time with Patricia has come to an end for today, you can keep up with her adventures by following along on her blog and newsletter. I do and it is always fun to find one of her lovely newsletters in my in box.
Here is a list of places where you can find Patricia:
Mary Campisi – Cocktail Conversations
Today I have quite the treat for my readers, and since it’s early in the day, we are setting aside our usual cocktail for steamy mugs of cinnamon-laced latte and biscotti. But fear not, we’ll be feasting on a lunch of Mary’s Penne Pasta with Spinach. She is buzzing around the kitchen as we chat and already it smells delicious!
Before we settle into our conversation, let me tell you a bit about Mary Campisi. She first popped up on my radar screen when I read her story “A Family Affair” and after I’d turned the last page, I knew I wanted this wonderful author as a friend. Luckily we have a mutual friend, Christine Nolfi, who introduced us and the rest was history. Mary and I discovered that we have so much more in common than simply writing heartfelt stories about families.
So pull up a virtual chair and join us as I pour the coffee…
Bette: ~Hands Mary mug of coffee with biscotti on the side~ I am absolutely thrilled to be spending this time with you Mary, as I’ve told you I loved your novel A Family Affair and I am now moving on to reading the other books in the series. As I understand it there are eight Family Affair stories already out there and you are working on the ninth.
Mary: Yes, I am. ~Catches a whiff of cinnamon~ This smells delicious. The ninth A Family Affair book is A Family Affair: The Wish, and is part of the Truth in Lies series. It will be published April 14th. Also, the first in the series, A Family Affair is a free download.
Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, GooglePlay
Bette: And since I know you have multiple people with different characters taking the spotlight at different times, who is up to what in this next book?
Mary: This book is about Bree Kinkaid, the woman whose white-picket-fence dream blew apart and Adam Brandon (secondary character in Paradise Found) aka Mr. West Coast and a wounded hero. These two are both in need of a second chance, but it’s not going to be easy…
Bette: And I understand you are planning a tenth, right?
Mary: Yes, this one is already in the works. It’s A Family Affair: The Gift, and will be out in September. Readers want to know if one of their favorite couples, Daniel “Cash” Casherdon and his wife, Tess, are finally going to get their baby. Stay tuned!
Bette: Will that be the final book in the series?
Mary: No, there’s more to come… And speaking of series novels, I understand you are working on a fourth book in your Wyattsville Series?
Bette: Yes, I am. In each of the Wyattsville novels a new character comes to town and in this one it is Cyrus Dodd, a man burdened with what he believes are regrets.
Mary: Do the characters from Spare Change return in this book?
Bette: Yes, they do; Olivia, Ethan Allen and a few others. I think that’s the fun of a series, you fall in love with certain characters and they stay with you. Christine Blackworth in Family Affair inspired me to read the other books in the series.
Mary: ~laughs~ Yes, Christine feels like an old friend to me.
Bette: The onions sizzling in the skillet smells wonderful, and to think this Penne Pasta is only one of your delicious Italian recipes! It’s a wonder you and Jim stay so slim with all that good food.
Mary: We’re both very active, so I guess we work it off. I do a lot of gardening—especially flowers and herbs.
Bette: I know, I hope you don’t mind if I share this picture of your begonia?
Mary: ~laughs again~ Of course not. You are lucky to be in Florida where you have a year-round gardening season. Our summers are much shorter here in Ohio, but I try to make the most of them by spending most of my free time in the garden.
Bette: Speaking of seasons I am going to share pictures with my readers of our rescue dogs. My rescue was Katie and yours is called Cooper. Considering the seasonality, I doubt our followers will have much trouble determining which is which.
Mary: Those pictures certainly do tell the story, don’t they? As you can see, Coop obviously loves a romp in the snow. We’ve had him almost eight years and Jim and I both are crazy about him.
Bette: The same was true about Katie. We lost her three years ago and now have another Bichon named Sugar. She’s my little writing buddy and spends most of her day sitting my lap and watching out the window for the mailman. ~Laughs~ I think it’s the highlight of her day.
Mary: Cooper is a lab and pointer mix. We got him from a local rescue and he has given us endless hours of happiness—and exercise!
Bette: As Long as we are pulling out our family pictures, I have got to show this one of you and Jim, along with one of Dick and I taken at the FWA Awards gala. (include picture of Mary & Jim here)(Also one of Dick & I)
Mary: We are both very lucky to have our husbands working in the business with us. I know I would be lost without Jim to take care of the zillion things he does to keep the business up and running.
Bette: So true. It is the same with Dick. Being a novelist is no longer just about writing, there are a million other things to be done—not the least of which is record-keeping which I am terrible at.
Mary: So true. Even if you were good at all those things, there’s not enough hours to do it all and leave a bit of time for recreation.
Bette: ~laughs~ And by recreation, I’m assuming you mean you and Jim tooling around on that Harley. Definitely looks like fun!
Mary: It is. Plus, we’ve got kids in different cities and states that we love to visit, and a grandbaby with another on the way…exciting stuff!
Bette: ~Laughs~ I am amazed at all the hobbies you have. In addition to all that we’ve talked about, you press flowers, make bookmarks and even note cards.
Mary: It’s true, I do have a lot of hobbies. ~Smiles~ But I guess that’s how I relax. I’m more relaxed when I am puttering in my garden than I am taking a nap.
Bette: I am not much of a gardener at all, but I do love to lounge in the pool—that’s when I do my most creative thinking. Dick and I also play golf together, but not very often. He won’t admit it, but I am not the least bit athletic. I’m sort of like the little redheaded girl in Charlie Brown—busy daydreaming as the ball conks me on the head.
Mary: Speaking of not paying attention—Christine Nolfi and I were at a writer’s retreat years ago, taking a long walk, chatting away and didn’t realize we’d landed on a “golf” green. In our defense, it was not the usual, fancy golf green, but it made us move—fast! I’ll tell you more about it during lunch, which is about ready. I hope you’re hungry.
Bette: Absolutely, but before we go, I want to share this awesome recipe with our followers and give them links where they can find you and your books. I downloaded my copy from iBooks, but they are in lots of other places. So read on folks, while Mary and I sit down to this delicious lunch. I wish you could all join us….but maybe next time. ~smiles~
~Mary waves goodbye to readers and pulls up a chair at the table~
Here is where to find Mary Campisi’s books:
Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, GooglePlay, Audible
CLICK HERE to visit Mary’s website.
And now, the recipe you’ve been waiting for:
Penne Pasta with Spinach
4 Cloves finely chopped Garlic
1 medium Onion finely chopped
3-4 tablespoons Olive Oil
4 large Tomatoes (Chopped) or 1 ½ large cans diced tomatoes (32 oz. Cans) Seasoned Dei Fratelli – big can – 1 – 1.5
1 can Garbanzo beans (Cici beans), drained and rinsed
1 pound of fresh spinach with stems removed and steamed (may sub frozen cooked spinach)
1 lb. Penne pasta
Salt & Pepper
Sauté onion in olive oil over low/medium heat until clear. Add garlic and simmer 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until softened. Salt and Pepper to taste. Add garbanzo beans. Add cooked spinach to hot mixture. Add cooked pasta, mix well. Serve with romano cheese.
Cocktail Conversations with Toby Neal – #fanfun
I am super-excited to have Toby Neal as my Cocktail Conversations partner today. Toby, as many of you already know is the author of the fabulous Lei Crime Series and recently I joined her Kindle World with a novella titled “Esther’s Gift”. It was a true delight getting to know Toby and working with her. Thanks to her feedback and help…yes, much help… my novella is rich with Hawaiian feel and folklore.
Toby’s favorite drink was a mai-tai but after recently discovering an allergy to pineapple juice, she has switched to mojitos, so that will be today’s drink. With it I think I’ll serve chicken chunks skewered with sweet red onion, green pepper and cherry tomatoes – cooked over an open grill of course.
Bette: Welcome Toby, I am so excited to have you here. ~Sets mojito in front of Toby~ Hope this is not too heavy on the mint.
Toby: ~Takes a sip and smiles~ Perfect. I love it.
Bette: ~Sniffs palm of hand~ I love having the smell of mint on my hands. Before our friends start asking, I’m going to post the recipe for this mojito right here. I snagged it off of the Bacardi Rum website.
Depending on who you believe, the mojito either came from the Spanish word ‘mojar’, which means to wet, or the African word ‘mojo’, which means to cast a spell. Anybody who’s ever tasted one will agree that it’s thirst quenching and spellbinding in equal measures.
Mojito cocktail on white background
2 parts BACARDÍ Superior rum
4 lime wedges
12 fresh mint leaves
2 heaped tsp caster sugar
1 part soda water/club soda
Sprig fresh mint to garnish
Gently press together the limes & sugar. Bruise the mint leaves by clapping them between your palms, rub them on the rim of the glass and drop them in. Next, half fill the glass with crushed ice, add the BACARDÍ Superior rum & stir. Top up with crushed ice, a splash of soda and a sprig of mint.
Bette: Okay, I am going to start off by saying how much I’ve enjoyed working with you and how much I enjoyed getting to know Detective Lei Texeria in your novels. After you invited me to join your Kindle World, I started reading the Lei Crime Series and whizzed through five or six of the books, which for me is a record because I seldom read the same author’s books one after another.
Toby: ~laughs~ I hope that was because you became attached to the characters.
Bette: Absolutely. Although each story had a satisfying ending, as opposed to a cliff-hanger, I got caught up in the stories and wanted more each time. Lei is a very likeable character, flawed enough to have readers rooting for her and tough enough to keep going even when the odds are against her. Did you have her complete profile before you started writing the series or did she grow as you moved from one book to the next?
Toby: Well, the whole series actually started as a short story on my anonymous blog on a writing site, LiveJournal. It was sparked by my real-life experience working as a school counselor and doing emergency grief counseling at our local high school, when two young girls were drowned. The tragedy was later ruled an accident, but at the time we thought it was a homicide and I felt so frustrated that I couldn’t help find the answers that I went home and wrote this story. Readers liked it and said, “What next?” and Lei emerged on the page, brave, damaged… and relentless in finding answers.
Bette: Wow, that is an awesome story. When you come across characters that way they become so genuine. I think that is why readers have really gravitated to Lei. And you have really brought her full circle. Readers not only get a good detective story but they become involved in her life.
It’s kind of the same with me. I know my character at the start but as I write I move deeper into their soul. In several books, I have finished my first draft and then gone back and totally re-written the beginning because I was so much more in touch with the character by then and could speak more in their voice.
Toby: Blood Orchids was rewritten at least three full times from its beginning as a short story on a blog. I spent thousands on editing; I wanted it to be a great book! I became much more efficient as I kept writing; I learned to develop “character bios’ before a story, which my mental health background really helps with. As a clinical social worker, I assess and diagnose people as well as do therapy, so I began doing “assessments” of my characters, and learned to outline. Now I can write a full length novel in about three months if I stay focused and work every day.
Bette: I have to say I am so impressed, twenty books in six years- plus having a Kindle World of your own. I know how much work goes into a book, so when I say I am impressed, I am REALLY IMPRESSED!
Toby: ~Laughs~ If seven years ago someone would have told me I’d be here at this point I’d have called them crazy. I was able to write that many books because I backed away from pressuring myself to do something huge and be all things to all people.
Bette: I know, I recently read your blog post about “embracing mediocrity,” but I would hardly call what you do mediocrity. I am a ridiculously picky reader and I found myself very wrapped up in your stories; writing like that is hardly mediocre.
Toby: As I said in my post, I suffered from “first child syndrome” and always had high expectations of myself, delusions of grandeur if you will, which were, to be fair, rooted in some talent. Having talent has never been, or ever will be, enough. You must PERSEVERE to be excellent, and put in your ten thousand hours (per Malcolm Gladwell’s groundbreaking Outliers book.) I had enough talent to get paralyzed by my own expectations, and it crippled me from writing (along with wanting a “real job” to provide for my family.) “Embracing mediocrity” simply meant that I allowed myself to be mediocre…enough to get past that perfectionism and keep writing.
I’m happy to report that this little “mind hack” got me past self sabotage, (along with launching my children) and I’m thrilled to be improving in my writing with every book. I DO wish I’d believed in myself from the beginning enough to keep writing… I won several contests in high school and planned to major in journalism, then went into mental health because I was interested in it and there was more, better work. I always wrote, but just in my journals until I was approaching forty. It feels like a lot of lost time, but I’ve chosen to see it as seasoning with life experience.
Bette: That blog post you wrote gave me some serious food for thought. It seems that we are alike in many ways. Like you I am a first child and also always trying to be everything to everybody – and do it perfectly and with grace. With every new book I start I worry that it won’t be as good as the last one. This sounds strange to say, but I almost feel intimidated by myself. Or maybe it’s the me of today that’s intimated by the me of last year, or last month. ~laughs~ Writing novels is a lonely endeavor, we work for months on end without knowing whether or not readers will like the book. We don’t get to find out the answer until the book is finished and sent out to our Advance Readers.
Toby: OMG, Bette, I’m so glad to find a kindred spirit. Let’s toast to that! *clinks glasses* When you are really growing, stretching, taking chances and doing excellent work, you DO worry about topping yourself! I’m so glad I’m not alone in that. I was on fire with Red Rain and I think it’s my best Lei Crime book yet, but it was an action packed roller coaster ride. I feel the same worry about Bitter Feast, the next book, now. Is it exciting enough? It’s a whole different kind of story, told from multiple points of view, character more than plot driven, and focused on the mystery. Will readers like it? I hope so, but there’s no guarantee.
One of the delights of a long-running series is the variety of kinds of reading experiences I’ve provided, from thrill rides to carefully constructed puzzles…but with every book, some won’t like it. And that has to be okay too. I’ve got some stinging reviews on Red Rain, people who didn’t like the way I designed the story, and that is their right. I just have to keep writing the stories that are in me to tell, and stay fresh and passionate doing it.
Bette: I know exactly what you mean. Passing through Perfect is what I consider my very best work – and it gets great accolades from some people and a thumbs down from others – basically because it is too painful a subject for them to deal with. (discrimination)
Moving on to what I’m certain many readers would like to know and that is… what goes on behind the scenes in creating a “World”. When I first joined the writer’s group doing the Lei Crime Kindle World books, I was extremely impressed with the camaraderie in the group and how they bounce ideas off of each other and jump in to help with suggestions. You know a good working group always filters down from the top, so this says volumes about your excellent leadership skills.
Toby: Early in one of my psychology classes we did personality profiles, and I came up as someone with high leadership potential and the profile of an “influencer.” I like to build concensus, and have everyone happily working together, but I am not afraid to make decisions and step out in front. In my job as a school based therapist I rose to a supervisory role and eventually, became the primary trainer of new therapists in the position on our island as well as a supervisor. I always like to figure out how to do things better, more efficiently, and have more fun while working! I applied those skills to my writing and entrepreneurial authoring. I truly believe there is no reason not to share and support other authors and their work. Kindle Worlds is a perfect fit for my belief system!
Bette: Oh I see the chicken is done ~removes skewer kabobs from the grill, puts them on a plate and serves~ Careful, they’re hot. ~Mixes up two more mojitos and hand one to Toby~
Toby: ~Sips drink and nibbles on a blackened piece of sweet onion~ Delicious. Chicken is used in many of the traditional Hawaiian dishes. On Kauai, chickens are protected as “native jungle fowl” which has led to them roosting everywhere and crowing their silly heads off! I prefer those native chickens cooked imu-style, as laulau, which is baked in ti leaves in an underground oven.
Bette: Dick and I have been to Hawaii twice. The first time was on our honeymoon. It truly is like no place else I know of. When we were there we did all the traditionally tourist things – a luau, watching native dancers, playing in the surf and even a few catamaran sails, but it wasn’t until I started reading your books that I got a great feel for the underbelly side of the islands.
Toby: Yeah, it really is paradise—but it’s also an island nation that was stolen from its native people, and then populated by waves of agricultural labor from other countries… So you have a very complex society. I don’t think most tourists visiting on vacation have a clue about all the layers there are to it. I wanted to write a series that showed the “real Hawaii” but was the kind of entertaining story I like to read personally.
Bette: No question you have done that. I love the sunset pictures you post. Is your home actually close to the ocean?
Toby: I’m about twenty minutes from the ocean, up on the side of a volcano which is how I get those great views. You’re in Florida, which is somewhat of a paradise itself. Do you ever use this locale in your books?
Bette: I’ve only used it in one book – What Matters Most. I come from a family of Southerners so most of my novels are set in the south – Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama. Florida is definitely a southernmost state, but it’s not really southern at all. Most of the people living in Florida came here from somewhere else. We’re on the East Coast so most of those in this area came from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and so on.
Toby: You have a book coming out in March, don’t you? What’s the name of it and where does it take place?
Bette: Baby Girl is the title and the story is set in Virginia. This book is based on a true story of an unwed mother and the baby she gave up for adoption. We so often hear stories of a child searching for a birth mother, this is the story told from the birth mother’s perspective.
Toby: Bette, your skill as a writer really shone through in Esther’s Gift. I admit I was a little worried that you wanted to take on the most culturally sensitive of all my characters, Esther Ka`awai, the Hawaiian wisewoman, kupuna and kumu hula (teacher.) And you did it, with only a few corrections, painting a moving and well rounded portrait and fully inhabiting the world Esther occupies in Wainiha. Thanks so much for the gift of writing this book in the Lei Crime Kindle World! You are clearly a master at character-driven story.
Bette: Thanks Toby, coming from you that’s quite a compliment. I know you have a new book out now also – Red Rain – I already have it on my kindle and am anxious to get started reading it. I loved the intro where it says in Hawaii red rain means the death, change or birth of a chieftain… already we know this book is going to be an emotionally charged suspense story. I think that’s one of the things I love about your books- the fact that the powerful narrative draws you into the story so quickly. ~gives a gleeful smile~ and our readers are going to be super-thrilled when I tell them that today one lucky blog visitor is going to win a copy of Red Rain. Thank you for doing that.
Toby: It’s my pleasure. I think one of the reasons for the loyalty of the Lei Crime Series fans is how available I am to them. I’m active on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and I blog regularly about life in Hawaii. It helps that I enjoy social media as a way to really connect with readers.
Bette: So true. I feel the same. Actually, I say all the time, hanging out on Goodreads and Facebook is my guilty pleasure. It seems that no matter what time of day or night it is, you can find a friend ready and willing to chat on Facebook. If I’ve had a long tough day, I go there and chat with friends. And the beauty of it is, I can do it in my pajamas.
I know you are busy as can be and will have to run, but before you dash off, take a moment and tell our readers one secret thing that no one probably knows about you.
Toby: I have a dramatic scar on my wrist. Interestingly, that’s one of the things Lei has—she struggles, in the beginning of the series, with some self harm behaviors due to abuse in her past. My scar looks like it could be from that—but it’s a weird one. I was fishing on the reef on Kauai when I was a teenager, slipped and fell, and impaled my wrist on a sea urchin. It ended up superficial, thank God, but was pretty gruesome at the time. That’s a case of truth being stranger than fiction!
Bette: Well as much as I hate to see this end, I know you’ve got to run. I’ve had a ton of fun getting together with you, let’s do it again.
Toby: *raises empty mojito glass* This was amazing! I loved the deeper discussion we got going with your excellent questions. Mahalo for having me and lots of aloha! If you’re curious about my books, Blood Orchids, the first in the series, is free on all platforms, so check out the story that started it all!
I know you all have enjoyed this visit with Toby and I’d highly recommend you sashay over to her blog and sign up for her newsletter. It will keep you posted on all the new things she is doing and the new books coming out.
To buy Toby Neal's books on Amazon CLICK HERE
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of Toby’s newest release Red Rain! Just leave a comment!
Cocktail Conversations with Cheryl Bradshaw – #fanfun
Whew, December turned out to be such a hectic month that Cheryl Bradshaw and I had to push our get together into January, but it was well worth it, because she is such an interesting guest and yep, you’re right, she’s every bit as cute as she appears in her pictures! Cheryl started this get together off with a bang because when I got ready to make the drinks and asked what her favorite was she answered, “A Kissy Suzuki.”
Hmmm. That sent me scurrying to the computer to find out how to make this drink I’d never before heard of. Turns out it’s not so hard, and it comes with a bit of trivia attached…The Kissy Suzuki was created for the James Bond movie Casino Royale. Can you hear the theme song playing?
I’m certain there will be a dozen or more requests for this recipe, so I’m giving it to you right here and right now:
You’ll need a shot of Vodka, 3 or 4 shots of Apple Juice, 3 tablespoons Raspberry Puree, 3 tablespoons Cranberry Juice, Lemon-Lime Soda, Fresh Strawberries – Pour the vodka, raspberry puree, cranberry juice, and apple juice into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain equally into 2 highball glasses half-filled with ice cubes. Top up with lemon-lime soda. Garnish with strawberries.
Normally I’d serve some salty hors d’oeuvres but with this deliciously frothy drink, I’m going with a big platter of cakes and cookies…including a few squares of my traditional Christmas favorite…fruitcake.
Bette: Welcome Cheryl, I can’t begin to tell you what a pleasure it is to have you here. Before we settle in, try the Kissy Suzuki I made ~passes glass to Cheryl~ Hopefully it’s good. I followed the recipe you gave me. ~shakes head in amazement~ right down to pureeing the raspberries.
Cheryl: Every once in awhile I can find a jar of raspberry puree in a specialty supermarket. If I can't, I usually add a bit of water to thawed raspberries and blend it up in the mixer for about thirty seconds.
Bette: I have to admit I tried this myself the evening Dick and I trimmed the Christmas tree and I thought it went delightfully well with cookies and cakes. ~passes cookie tray~ Try some. The chocolate/raspberry filled Milano cookies are perfect with this.
Cheryl: Um, they are good. My favorite sweet is a chocolate chip cookie made using a white cake mix instead of flour. By the way, is that square a piece of fruitcake?
Bette ~Sheepish grin~ Yes, it is. I love fruitcake. Every Christmas Dick buys me a small one and I eat the whole thing myself.
Cheryl: ~laughs~ I’ve got a few such weakness myself. I absolutely can’t stop at having one Cheeto. I am addicted to chocolate and cheese.
Bette: Luckily you’re so nice and trim, it never shows. Being short definitely has its disadvantages in that when you gain weight there’s no place to hide it. Of course sitting so much doesn’t help either and I am at the computer ALL the time. How about you? Do you exercise or go to the gym?
Cheryl: Before I start writing, I meditate in the mornings whenever I can and go to the gym with my sister a few times a week. I prefer getting out and staying active hiking or sightseeing to going to the gym, but during the snowy winter months in Utah, it's a challenge!
Bette: Speaking of writing, do you start with an outline or just a few ideas and let the story develop from there?
Cheryl: I start out with an idea and then sit at my desk and allow the story to take shape from them. I have found that outlining makes it harder for me to write as creatively as I want to, so I leave the story to whatever comes to me on that particular day.
Bette: Well it certainly works for you, I read your newest release Eye for Revenge over a month ago and have been dying to talk to you about it. I absolutely loved the story and the characters were so totally believable.
Cheryl: Thank you, Bette! I’ve wanted to write a romantic suspense novel for a while, and my agent suggested that I still keep the murder element while adding a bit more romance than I normally do. The idea of lost love is a storyline that never gets old to me.
Bette: One of the things that struck me as so creative was the way you began the book when the two women were little girls and how one was always so protective of the other. Did you have a best friend like that or was it a relationship you just created?
Cheryl: I didn’t have a friend like that. Most of my close friends I made in my 20s and 30s. Originally the concept of a memory of two childhood friends wasn’t how the story even started, but as I went along, I felt that first connection between Evie and Quinn was important so I went back and added it.
Bette: It was interesting to see the role reversal of the two friends change. It left me with the thought that no one is strong all the time, but we can all be strong at one time. Quinn was a perfect example of that. Wherever did you get the idea for such a twisty-suspenseful plot?
Cheryl: I like to layer my stories, so the initial idea was to write about lost love where two people found each other again, but I also wanted to layer in a subplot, and that's how I came up with the murder of Quinn's childhood friend Evie. There are so many emotions for Quinn to deal with between the murder and seeing her high school sweetheart again, it allowed the story to go in multiple directions.
Bette: You did a great job with Evie’s son, in making him so traumatized that he stopped talking. Super great way Quinn discovered who the killer was…but ~clasps hand over mouth~ I’d had better not say anything more for fear of giving new readers a spoiler. I think this is a book most anyone would enjoy. It’s suspenseful, but with its own moments of warm-heartedness and romance.
Cheryl: ~Blushes a bit and laughs~ Thank you! I love it when my stories resonate with readers in a meaningful way they can relate to.
Partying at the 2015 NINC Convention at St. Pete's Tradewinds – Cheryl Bradshaw, Bette Lee Crosby, Shea MacLeod.
Bette: ~Mixes another round of Kissy Suzukis and refills glasses~ These are so delicious, we simply have to have a second one. ~Sips and gives a pleasurable sigh~
So, is this the first stand-alone book you’ve written, and how did you feel about working on it as opposed to working on a book in one of your existing series?
Cheryl: I'd written six novels in my Sloane Monroe mystery series and was ready to try something different. I like to change things up and see how my fans respond. I’ve noticed that most of the books you write read like stand-alones, but many of them are part of a series. Did you start out with that intention?
Bette: No, I wrote the first books as stand-alones, then readers started asking me to bring the characters back and I did. Even though most of my books are part of a series, they all read as stand-alone women’s fiction – I guess it’s just the style I’m most comfortable writing in.
Cheryl: But you really jumped genre’s here recently when you wrote a novella for Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Kindle World, didn’t you? ~Munches on a chocolate raspberry Milano~ These are really delicious. I wonder how many calories are in each one?
Bette: When it comes to calories, it’s best we don’t know otherwise we couldn’t enjoy them so much. ~laughs~ The answer to your question is yes and no. Esther’s Gift is part of the Lei Crime Kindle World, but it is not at all a crime story. I used Esther Ka’awai a middle-aged Psychic from Toby’s novel Torch Ginger and went back in time to when Hurricane Iniki hit the island of Kauai. So it’s more a story of survival and hope than crime.
Cheryl: ~Laughs~ Leave it up to you to find a different angle.
Bette: True enough. I guess I am always looking for the road not taken – or looking to find the magic in what could have been instead of what was. I love using that kind of magical realism in stories, so Esther was the perfect character for me to work with.
Cheryl: So what’s next for you?
Bette: I have several stories in my head right now but I think the first one I write will be a prequel to the Wyattsville Series. I love that series and am super-attached to those characters. How about you? What are you working on or ready to release?
Cheryl: I have a lot in the works for 2016. I'm putting out two new series. One is a mystery/thriller series and the other is a cozy mystery series. Both characters have been fun to create, and I'm excited to see how they take shape.
Bette: Wow, sounds great. I’ve already got the first three books in your Sloane Monroe Series on my Kindle and can’t wait to get started on them. What are you reading now?
Cheryl: I'm always usually reading one fiction and one non-fiction book. Right now I'm reading Hope to Die by James Patterson and The Power of I AM by Joel Osteen.
Bette: With all you’ve had going on in your life, I’m amazed that you can even find time to read. You just recently made a big move back to Utah, right?
Cheryl: I did. I moved back to Utah over the summer. My family is here, and it's great to be close to everyone again. Although, having grown up in California, I'd like to buy something there as well.
Bette: It was nice that you got to spend the holidays in your own hometown. I can’t say I really have a hometown. My family was kind of like gypsies – they moved all the time. Dick and I have been here in Florida for seventeen years and that is the absolute longest I ever lived anywhere.
Cheryl: That's how I feel too. In ways California still feels like home, and in other ways Utah also feels like home. This has given me the idea to live both places and divide my time, which I'm hoping to do in the next few years.
Bette: Oh my gosh, look at the time! I can’t believe how this hour has flown. I hope you’ll stop by again Cheryl, I really enjoy talking with you and hearing about all the fascinating things you are doing.
Although my visit with Cheryl has come to an end, you can learn more about her by visiting her blog at http://cherylbradshaw.com/
Also, please be sure to stop by next month because Toby Neal will be my special guest and we will be talking about her awesome Lei Crime Series that is set in Hawaii.
This is my favorite time of the month…when I can get together with an author pal, kick back, have a cocktail or two and some fun conversation. This is where we get to chat about our personal lives as well as work. Please come on in, pull up a virtual chair and join the party.
Today’s drink is a dirty martini, made with Grey Goose vodka. It’s Christine Nolfi’s favorite and today she’s my special guest.
Bette: I have to confess Christine, when you said a dirty martini, I had to stop and think in order to remember how they are made. I’ll share the recipe with our friends…
- 1.5 oz Grey Goose vodka
- ¾ oz olive brine (juice from the olive jar)
- Shake or stir with ice and then serve straight up with 2 or 3 blue cheese stuffed olives.
Bette: I’m not usually a big fan of martinis but I must admit this is delicious. ~ Serves drinks on tray ~ So tell me Christine, when or how did you come upon this delightful concoction?
Christine: I enjoyed my first dirty martini at a restaurant in Cincinnati at a raw oyster bar. I enjoyed both the martini and the oysters! Unfortunately, the thought of raw shellfish made my husband a bit green.
Bette: That’s a great story. When I was in my early twenties, I got very very tipsy drinking gin martinis and I’ve had a dislike for gin ever since. Here, try some of this Irish cheddar ~serves cheese board~
Christine: Delicious, and what are these crackers?
Bette: Nabisco Triscuit with sun dried tomato and olive oil. My favorite. I am such a snacker, I could polish off a whole box in one sitting if I didn’t stop myself. I’m not sure if it’s easier to stop myself from snacking or just go ahead and overindulge then exercise to work it off.
Christine: Carb binging seems a bane of novelists. Do you suffer the urge to clear the kitchen of cookies whenever you’re deep into a scene? I do. If not for daily visits to the gym, I’d never manage to curb my carb mania! It’s also much easier to put in the long writing hours with a gym break each afternoon.
Bette: I really admire how disciplined you are about that. It’s a much healthier lifestyle that’s for certain. After I finished the last book, I resolved to get back to my walking routine. That’s an exercise I actually enjoy, plus I can take Sugar along.
Christine: How is Sugar? I can’t wait to see her when I come down to visit next February. Btw, I also like walking—mostly because Nala bugs me daily for a stroll through Charleston.
Bette: I’m sure you have no problem staying busy, especially this year with all that’s going on. First your daughter’s Marguerite’s wedding and now all new covers on the Liberty Series. I love the new covers; they’re awesome. The small town main street on all of the covers is so perfect for this series. What inspired you to approach it this way?
Christine: Even though each book provides a stand-alone story, the town of Liberty ties the series together. Btw, I never add a cliffhanger to a Liberty book. I wouldn’t want to irritate readers!
Bette: Do you have plans to continue the series?
Christine: At the moment, I’m working on my new series Heavenscribe. Once the series is complete next spring, I’ll write another Liberty book. I have so many ideas for Liberty—many of which were supplied by readers! I love asking the women in my private reading group for suggestions on plots.
Bette: That’s a great idea. We’re both very fortunate in that we get great feedback from our readers. I know the gals in my BFF group are always anxious to read something new or another part of a series and I swear as a group they have the eye of an eagle. What one doesn’t spot the other does. ~Divides bonus portion of martini and tops off both glasses ~
Christine: ~laughs~ Good thing I’m not driving home tonight.
Bette: Absolutely. This is an evening where we’re entitled to just let our hair down and party, right? ~Passes cheese platter after helping self to handful of crackers and several chucks of Irish cheddar~ Dick is probably wishing that you were the one cooking dinner tonight. He loves Italian food and you are such a good cook.
Christine: Please tell Dick I promise to cook when I visit in February!
Bette: With all that good cooking it’s a wonder that neither you nor Barry are overweight. At our house that’s not a problem because I’m not all that good a cook. I love all the Southern recipes I post here on the blog, but I seldom have time to make them.
Christine: Don’t tell me you are already working on another novel ~laughs~ What is this one about?
Bette: The name of the book is Baby Girl, it’s based on a story one of my followers offered to share with me. When she was very young she had a baby and gave it up for adoption. After I listened to her story, I was so enthralled. I couldn’t walk away from the story idea. Of course, like all of my books I’ve fictionalized it.
Christine: Is Baby Girl part of a series?
Bette: It’s book four in the Memory House Series. Readers are enjoying that series a lot, so that makes me happy. In it I have more contemporary lifestyles and younger protagonists.
Christine: I’ve used a similar twist in Heavenscribe, which suggests that we often “adopt” people we care about and create our own extended family. Women are quite adept at this. Often they weave the love they share with women friends into a bond as deep as any family’s—and just as magical. In Heavenscribe, young Zobie Marsh is taken under the wing of an older woman she meets in Charleston, South Carolina. Together, they find a third woman who shares similar, extraordinary gifts.
Bette: I love the thought of people adopting other people. I think that is true in many of our lives. We don’t name it adopting, but when we start looking in on the elderly woman down the street or helping a child, we are in our own way adopting them.
Christine: So true, I think that’s why I’m having so much fun writing this series.
Bette ~laughs~ I guess we are a lot alike, happiest when we’re hard at work on a book. Thanks to you I ventured out and tried something totally new for me. After I read The Shell Seeker and The Shell Keeper I enjoyed them so much that I also agreed to do a story for Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Kindle World. It was a fun project but not at all a crime story. Happily, I found a character who definitely had a sweeter side to her and like The Shell Seeker, there’s a bit of magic involved.
Christine: As we approach the holiday season, isn’t it easier than ever to believe a bit of magic graces the world? Or perhaps I’m thinking of love’s alchemy, and how it binds people together. ~She lifts her glass~ Here’s wishing you and your readers a holiday season brimming with love, laughter and light.
Bette: Amen to that. I love sharing my “friends time” with readers. It’s kind of like having a big cocktail party without all the after-party clean up. Speaking of which, I know you are super busy right now. I’d love to have you stay and chat all evening, but I know you have to run.
~Big hugs are exchanged~ See you in February, I yell as I wave goodbye….
Be sure to stop by Christine Nolfi's blog to find out more about her…
Pick up all of Christine Nolfi's books on Amazon
Readers! Please be sure to stop back in December when I will have my Cocktail Conversations very special guest Cheryl Bradshaw. I just finished reading Cheryl’s latest book Eye for Revenge and I knew I just had to have her as my next party guest.
~ Bye for now…Y’all drive carefully now, and hurry back~