BLOG TOUR – Pawprints & Predicaments – REVIEW, INTERVIEW

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Welcome! Today, I’m hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Pawprints and Predicaments, the third in the Lucky Paws Petsitting mystery series by Bethany Blake! I really enjoyed this book, just as I have the two previous books in the series.  Underneath the review is an interview with the author, Bethany Blake.

About the Book

Pawprints & Predicaments (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Kensington (February 27, 2018)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1496707420
Digital ASIN: B071SK3VF9
Purchase Links: AmazonB&NKobo

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Synopsis

The Tail Waggin’ Winterfest is the highlight of the season in the famously pet-friendly Pocono Mountains town of Sylvan Creek. But despite attractions like an ice sculpture display, a dogsled race, and gourmet hot chocolate, Daphne Templeton finds herself annoyed by TV producer Lauren Savidge, who’s filming the festivities. She’s critical, controlling, and as chilly as the January air. Daphne would like to tell her to go jump in a lake—and as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what they’re both going to do . . .

It’s the first-ever polar bear plunge in Lake Wallapawakee, and Daphne and Lauren are among the eighty or so people who charge into the frigid water to raise funds for animals in need. Daphne makes it back to shore—with the help of a mysterious St. Bernard—but Lauren is dragged out stone cold dead. Now, with her trusty basset hound Socrates at her side, Daphne intends to assist Detective Jonathan Black in his investigation—whether he wants her to or not . . .

Includes recipes for homemade pet treats!

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Review – 4 out of 5 stars

I’ve really enjoyed all three books in this series!

Daphne is a wonderful, quirky character who has a fairly decent head on her shoulders. Sometimes she runs a little too impulsive for me, but most of the time she at least thinks about the danger before doing something. I also really love Jonathan Black as a character. We get to learn a little more about him in each book and I love that! It’s exactly how a series should be in my mind.

The plot this time around was very intriguing to me. I really had no idea who the villain was before it was revealed. The subplots were all great as well. The story was very well-written and I highly recommend it!

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Author Interview with Bethany Blake

Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: I do have a second job being… a writer! I work for Bucknell University, a small liberal arts college, in the Division of Communications. It’s pretty fun. I write stories and get a lot of free food.


Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: I try to write every day, and I set page or chapter goals. I like to have music in the background. My Spotify playlist is huge and varied.


Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: Oh, my characters always hijack my stories! I don’t outline. I feel as if things always come up that lead me in new directions.

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Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: I was fortunate to have a mentor who suggested that I join Romance Writers of America, and I found my agent there. I wrote a few manuscripts that I submitted to various places on my own, and those were rejected. Once I had an agent, I sold my first book pretty quickly. But, like every author, I have endured a lot of rejections since then. When I get a rejection, I give myself 24 hours to sulk and consider quitting. Then I pick myself back up and move forward.


Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: I usually have two or three revisions. I don’t have beta readers. Just my editors. And there’s always a period between the time I submit to my editor and the time I get revisions that I just set the manuscript aside. It’s good to take a break and see things with fresh eyes later.


Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: In my first book, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, the villain—a vampire prince—was also the hero. I tend to view characters as complex and nuanced, so it’s not hard for me channel the darker aspects of my personality. And there’s no real inspiration for the villain in my upcoming book, Pawprints & Predicaments. But I can’t say more for fear of giving something away!

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Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: There are aspects of me and my sister in the characters of Daphne and Piper Templeton. Like pet sitter Daphne, I’m an animal-loving, world-traveling, poor-at-bookkeeping bumbler, while, like veterinarian Piper, my sister is rational, organized and a medical professional.


Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: I would write about my father, Donald Fantaskey. He was one of life’s great unsung heroes. Whether quietly fighting racism in the 1970s, leading by example, or making everyone around him laugh, he always made the world a better place.


Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: I have been revisiting some classic cozies by Martha Grimes. Whenever I need inspiration, I turn back to her books.

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Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: Everything by Dickens, Austen and Dumas. I was an English major, way back when, and those books paved the way for my future writing career.


Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: I would hang out with my amateur sleuth, Daphne. We’d start off with a big breakfast at the Silver Moon diner, then pick up her best friend, Moxie Bloom, and go shopping for vintage clothes. Next, we’d eat lunch at Casita Burrito and walk Daphne’s various fosters and clients. We’d round out the day with dinner at Franco’s, where only Moxie would admit to having a huge crush on Detective Jonathan Black.


Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Blake’s Answer: I don’t read reviews anymore unless my editor shares them with me. And I never respond. I don’t change my work to reflect reviews, either. There’s no way you’ll ever please everyone. I will say that the negative reviews I’ve received—and everyone gets some—have made me a more compassionate person. When I dislike a book or movie, I’m keenly aware that someone poured their heart into the project. I would never trash something that another person created. We should all be here to lift one another up!

Thank you to Ms. Blake for being willing to answer my questions!

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Thank you for joining me today! If you wish to visit more stops on the tour, please click on the banner below which will take you to the main tour page!

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BLOG TOUR – Clairvoyant & Present Danger – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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Welcome! Today’s blog post is part of the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Clairvoyant and Present Danger, a Bay Island Psychic Mystery by Lena Gregory. I’m featuring an interview with the author. Information about the book, purchase links, and a rafflecopter giveaway will be down underneath the interview!

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Author Interview

First, let me say a big “thank you” to Ms. Gregory for being willing to answer my questions!

Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?  

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: When my middle son was diagnosed with autism and needed speech, occupational and physical therapy five days a week, I started cleaning houses to allow me the flexibility I needed to work around his schedule. As he got older, I continued to clean, and I do enjoy it. I’ve had most of my customers for more than ten years, so I could follow the routine of cleaning their houses in my sleep. It gives me time to let my mind wander and come up with new story ideas. More than one person has been killed off while I was working! Plus, it’s great exercise. I’d go crazy if I had to sit still all day.


Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: I really need quiet to write, which is rare in my house. I like to write early in the morning, before everyone else gets up, or very late at night. I aim for a thousand words a day, but often don’t meet that goal when other stuff is going on.


Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: I used to just sit down and write, which I enjoyed. Then, when I started contracting more books, I had to provide outlines ahead of time. So, now, my characters do still hijack the story, but I do a rough outline of the story before I start writing. Though I don’t decide who the killer is until after everything else but the last two chapters are written, and it’s still a toss-up whether or not the story will actually follow the outline.

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Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: I originally wrote romance and young adult fantasy, and while I did manage to contract everything I wrote, I could probably wallpaper my office with rejections. I never did think about quitting, though. I simply took each thing that came, the good and the bad, as a learning experience. I was fortunate to have worked with some wonderful editors who really taught me a lot. When my agent suggested I try writing cozies, I figured why not, and I found my niche.


Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: For the past few years, most of my books have been contracted before they were written and had a deadline, so I don’t usually have time to set them aside. When time allows, I do use a beta reader, then my agent will sometimes read, then my editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader.


Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: There was no real-life inspiration for the villain in Clairvoyant and Present Danger, though I do tend to give my villains qualities I don’t like in people. I have to admit, though, I do enjoy writing the villains, giving them both good and bad qualities, so it’s not always immediately obvious who’s the bad guy.

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Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional? 

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: Most of my characters are purely fictional, but the heroine in my young adult fantasy series is largely based on my daughter who was in her early twenties when I wrote it. Their personalities are very similar.


Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: Scarlett O’Hara! Gone With the Wind has been one of my favorite books since I was a kid, and I’d love to write a continuation of her story. She gripped me so much that I’d love to see where she ended up.


Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: I haven’t had a lot of time to read lately, but some of my favorite books, that I fall back on when time is limited, include Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books.

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Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: Cozy mysteries in general have had the most influence, ever since I was a child and ran to find a comfy spot to read each time the newest Nancy Drew book came in the mail.


Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: I’d have to choose Bee Maxwell from the Bay Island Psychic Mysteries series. I’d love to just hang out with him, make the rounds to catch up on good gossip, try on some of the gowns he’s designed, and definitely go for coffee and donuts.


Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Gregory’s Answer: If my book is on tour, I always read my reviews. Good or bad, I always respond with a thank you, because I appreciate the time and effort someone put into reading and reviewing my books. Other than that, I read them if someone tags me on social media or if I come across one somewhere, but they don’t usually influence what I write.

Thank you again to Ms. Gregory for being willing to answer my questions!!

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Clairvoyant and Present Danger (A Bay Island Psychic Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Berkley (February 6, 2018)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0425282779
E-Book ASIN: B071L5C99M

Purchase Links: AmazonB&NKobo

Rafflecopter Giveaway

Whoever said that dead men tell no tales has never met Cass Donnovan…

Cass has always relied on her abilities to guide her, but after communications with a ghost land her in the middle of a murder investigation, she has to wonder if her gifts are really more a curse.

Cass knows she is meant to help track down the killer–much to the chagrin of local law enforcement–when the apparition leads her to a dead body on the beach near her psychic shop, Mystical Musings. But the police are not the only ones who wish Cass would stick to reading palms. Someone is trying to scare her off, and it will take all her powers of premonition to catch the killer before Cass herself becomes the next victim…


Lena Gregory lives in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island with her husband and three children.

When she was growing up, she spent many lazy afternoons on the beach, in the yard, anywhere she could find to curl up with a good book. She loves reading as much now as she did then, but she now enjoys the added pleasure of creating her own stories.

Author Links:

Website: http://www.lenagregory.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lena.gregory.986

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Lena.Gregory.Author/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LenaGregory03

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14956514.Lena_Gregory?from_search=true

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lenagregoryauth/

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BLOG TOUR – The Phantom of Oz – INTERVIEW

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Welcome! Today’s Great Escapes Virtual Book Touris for The Phantom of Oz by Cindy Brown. I’m bringing you a spotlight on the book and an interview with the author! I’ll be posting the interview first with the spotlight on the book underneath the interview! Enjoy!

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Interview with Cindy Brown

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Q1) Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?

Ms. Brown’s Answer:  I do have a day job—as a writer. I’m a ghostwriter (nonfiction only), and a content and copywriter.  I love my job.  I work with really great people, and I get to learn things and play with words. It can be difficult, though, to sit at a screen all day (especially because I’m an extrovert), and to give my brain enough space for my fiction writing.


Q2) Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

Ms. Brown’s Answer:  I write every day, though life does interrupt sometimes. I do set deadlines for myself, but have to be a little bit flexible with them so I don’t get obsessed.  I sometimes like to listen to Baroque music when I write, and there’s a great app called Coffeetivity which sounds like the murmur of a coffee shop.  It’s supposed to aid creativity, and I like the energy it brings to the room.


Q3) When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Ms. Brown’s Answer: I wouldn’t say the characters hijack the story, but sometimes they surprise me. Sometimes a new character will pop into the story, too, one that I didn’t see coming. Before starting the book, I do a lot of character analysis, and I make sure I know the major points of the story.  I’m a former playwright, so I use a three-act dramatic structure to create an outline. But, things always change as I write—sometimes in a big way.

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Q4) How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Brown’s Answer:  It took a couple of years and two major rewrites before I sold Macdeath to Henery Press. I think a couple of things raised me out of the slush pile and kept me going:

  • First of all, those rewrites: When agents told me why the book wasn’t marketable, I listened, and I changed the book drastically.
  • When I found out that Sue Grafton was judging the Words with Jam First Page contest, I entered, using the first page from The Sound of Murder. I won third place, and was so excited I woke up my husband with my yelling. That award looked good in my query letter.
  • I kept learning. I read, and went to workshops and conferences. At one of those workshops, Rhys Bowen offered to blurb my book—that also looked great in my query letter.  At another, I heard Kendel Lynn of Henery Press speak. I really liked her energy and Henery’s books, so I pitched to her once I got home.

Q5) In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Brown’s Answer: I usually do three revisions before sending it to my editor, then there are two more after that. I rely heavily on readers—they see things I can’t.  I belong to a writing critique group,  and I also use beta readers for each book.  I would love to set my books aside for awhile during the process, but my deadlines are pretty tight


Q6) A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Ms. Brown’s Answer: Usually my villains are mash-ups of people who piss me off (scammers, narcissists, greed-heads—you get the idea), but the one of the villains in The Phantom of Oz is based on a reality TV star I read about in a gossip magazine. I don’t want to say who—that seems a little mean.

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Q7) Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?

Ms. Brown’s Answer: The characters are truly fictional.  They sometimes have mannerisms or attributes of real people, but I find it distracting to base a character on someone I know. I can’t even name major characters after people I know well, though sometimes I do my friends’ names in cameo appearances.


Q8) If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Ms. Brown’s Answer: I did get to write about one of my heroes! Even though she’s dead, Annie Oakley plays a major role in Ivy Get Your Gun.  Annie was an amazing woman who raised her family out of poverty single-handedly when she was just a teenager, went on to be the most famous woman in the world,  and never lost her modesty,  kindness, and sense of fairness.


Q9) What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Brown’s Answer: I loved Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty—great characters, a gripping plot, and full of humor and heart. I’m also a big fan of anything by Louise Penny, Tana French, and Elizabeth George.

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Q10) What books have influenced your life the most?

Ms. Brown’s Answer: That’s a tough one. I’m a fast reader, and I always have a book going, so I’ve read thousands of books. Shakespeare has been a major influence—not just with my writing, but with life—I really appreciate his insights into humanity.


Q11) If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day? 

Ms. Brown’s Answer: I’d hang out with Ivy. We’d meet up for lunch (we’re both late sleepers), grab good cheap Mexican food at Filiberto’s drive-through, pick up her brother Cody, and take the food to Encanto Park, where we’d picnic. We’d laze around and feed the ducks, then drop Cody off at his group home, check out one of the funky art galleries in downtown Phoenix before eating dinner and seeing a show. After the show, we’d go out with the cast for drinks (Ivy would know someone in the play—the theatre community is small).


Q12) Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Brown’s Answer: Someone once told me that humans tend to remember the negative, not the positive.  It’s certainly true with me. I was successful as an actor, with a lot of good reviews, but of course, the one that sticks in my head is the worst one.  So now as a writer, I have my husband read my reviews. If they’re good, he’ll let me know and I’ll read them.  If they’re bad, I’ll ask him to let me know about any constructive criticism. I’m sure I’ve incorporated some of that feedback into my writing, but I can’t say what. Everything gets put in that into that giant melting pot that’s my subconscious mind.

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About the Book

The Phantom of Oz (An Ivy Meadows Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
5th in Series
Henery Press (January 30, 2018)
Paperback: 268 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1635112924
E-Book ASIN: B0772Z1CSP

Purchase Links: AmazonB&NKobo

Rafflecopter Giveaway

Creepy munchkins. A mysterious phantom. And a real Wicked Witch. Are you ready for it?

Actress and part-time PI Ivy Meadows has been hired to uncover the cause of the creepy accidents that plague the roadshow The Wizard: A Space OZpera and find out who dropped a chandelier on the Wicked Witch of the East.

Was it the ghost who haunts the Grand Phoenician Theatre? A “wicked witch” in the cast? Or is it someone—or something—more sinister?

It’s Ivy’s most personal case so far.

Her best friend Candy, who’s touring with the show, is caught in a downward spiral of self-destruction, and is in more danger than she knows.

To save her friend and the show, Ivy must answer even tougher questions: Do spirits really exist? What is real beauty? What does friendship mean?

Ivy needs to learn the answers, and fast—before Candy reaches the point of no return.

Books in the Ivy Meadows Humorous Mystery Series:

MACDEATH (#1)
THE SOUND OF MURDER (#2)
OLIVER TWISTED (#3)
IVY GET YOUR GUN (#4)
The Phantom of Oz (#5)

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About the Author

Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s lucky enough to have garnered several awards (including 3rd place in the 2013 international Words With Jam First Page Competition, judged by Sue Grafton!) and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Though Cindy and her husband now live in Portland, Oregon, she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.

Author Links

Website & Blog: www.cindybrownwriter.com

Twitter handle: @friendlybrown

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cindy-Brown-author/288210721356802?ref=hl

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BLOG TOUR – Mermaid Fins, Winds, & Rolling Pins – REVIEW, INTERVIEW

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4.5 out of 5 stars.

Welcome! Today I’m hosting another spot on a Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. Today’s tour is for Mermaid Fins, Winds, & Rolling Pins, the third book in the Spells & Caramels series by Erin Johnson. I’m totally enamored with this series and this one doesn’t disappoint! After my review, there is an interview with the author, Erin Johnson!

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Purchase Links: Amazon

Rafflecopter Giveaway

Synopsis

The enchanted village of Bijou Mer’s on high alert, with the villainous Horace on the loose. Imogen’s excited to escape the tension with a trip to the underwater Mermaid Kingdom to bake for the young mermaid queen’s engagement to the pirate king.

But when the mermaids turn out to be less French Riviera and more Jersey shore, the bakers are wrapped up in their world of clubbing in sea caves and fighting off seals for the best tanning spots, and are embroiled in a pirate smuggling scandal. It gets worse when a member of the mermaid court is found dead in a fishing net, and one of Imogen and Maple’s baked goods seems to be the murder weapon.

Imogen tries to fish out the real murderer to clear their names, while struggling with her romantic feelings for Hank. At the same time, she’s working with him to learn to control her magic and investigate Horace’s riddle and her own mysterious past.

As the mermaid court’s freewheeling lifestyle rubs off on the bakers, the gang lets loose and passions rise to the surface. But with a giant octopus crawling the ocean floor, the mermaid court filled with simmering secrets and scandals, and the ever present threat of the Badlands Army, Imogen must solve the murder before she ends up fish food herself.

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Review

As I stated above, I am absolutely enamored with this series. I love the characters, the settings, the plots, everything. This latest installment didn’t disappoint.

In this installment, many of our characters experience growth and changes in their lives. This is always great to continue to see in a series. When characters start to stagnate, it can spell the end of the series, so I’m thrilled to continue to see growth among the characters.

This installment took us away from the castle and into the Mermaid world. It’s a great change in scenery and offers new locations for Imogen and her friends to utilize in their investigation.

The plot line moves along smoothly and at a steady speed. It’s not so slow that you get bored, but it’s not so fast that you can’t keep up with the changes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the changes in various relationships and the characters themselves. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t elaborate on those changes.

Overall, while there’s not that little extra pizzazz that’s needed to push it up to a 5-star rating, it is a very solid 4.5 and I really enjoyed it. If you’re just starting with the series, I do suggest you start with the first book, Seashells, Spells, & Caramels as there is important back story that you will need to understand things in the second and third installments.

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Author Interview

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Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I do! I’m a Pilates instructor and have been for the last five years. I love my clients and really believe in what I’m teaching, so I do enjoy it. It’s kind of a nice compliment to writing, which can be a bit isolated and sedentary. When I teach, I’m forced to talk for hours straight and it inspires me to work out.


Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Sometimes, I’m in the outlining or editing phase, or just between books, and in those cases I’m not writing every day. But when it’s time to write, I generally do spend several weeks, writing daily. I usually have a word count goal—normally it’s about 3,000 words. But right now I’m on a crazy deadline to finish book 4 in the Spells & Caramels Series, and I’m doing between 4,000 and 8,000 words a day. Wish me luck—I need it! I like it quiet, though sometimes I put on music that puts me in the mood for certain scenes. For instance, book 4 is holiday themed, so I’m listening to a lot of old English Christmas carols (like “Good King Wenceslas”).


Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: In order to write quickly, I tend to do a lot of outlining. During that phase, sometimes characters do take the story in an unexpected direction. In the first book, for instance, Imogen’s cooking flame, Iggy, revealed the reason for his surliness to her, and it was honestly unexpected and really moved me! Which might sound kind of funny, since I wrote it, but sometimes as an author, I get surprised, too. But after the outline, things don’t veer too off course.

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Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: So, I actually spent a lot of time deciding how I wanted to publish. I’d always assumed I’d traditionally publish and did research along those lines, even making a list of all the agents I intended to contact. But after reading about so many rejections being typical, and feeling like I’d procrastinated acting on my dream for too long, the idea of self-publishing really appealed to me. Especially, after reading and listening to Joann Penn and Chris Fox, both really positive, inspiring people, who made me excited about being an Indie author. So, I never contacted any agents, and just jumped full in to indie publishing.


Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: So, I’ve modeled my writing and publishing of this series, almost exactly on the recommendations of Chris Fox, and they’ve worked great for me, though they might not for everybody. I write a draft, read through it fully making notes, then I edit it myself. Then I give it to my alpha readers (my mom and sis) and incorporate their notes. My editors are really great (Hot Tree Editing). I then give it to them, I incorporate their suggestions and send it back and they do a final pass, proofread and have volunteer beta readers who take a look at it. By that point, it’s pretty polished. All of those steps are pretty much one, immediately after the other. So no, I don’t let the book sit at all.


Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: When I write villains, I try to make them intelligent and with motives that are relatable. I think lines can get blurred when you’re acting with the belief that you’re doing something for someone, or some cause, you really believe in. So, I usually try to give them something they really care about, that drives them to murder. No real life inspiration for this villain, though.

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Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’d say my sister and I show in most of the things I write, just because we’re close and make each other laugh, and I borrow a lot of our inside jokes. I haven’t written any character to be a straight parallel to a person I know in real life (though some TV personalities are in there), but I’m sure real people I know are influences.


Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Oh my gosh, I’m stumped on this one. Can I pass? Haha!


Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’m reading both, “The Bear and The Nightingale” and the first in the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, right now, and am really enjoying both.

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Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Probably the Harry Potter books. They’re beautifully written, imaginative and feel so real.


Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’d probably hang out with Iggy, Imogen’s cooking flame. He makes me laugh and is brutally honest, yet loving. We’d wander around the cobblestoned streets of Bijou Mer, eating baguettes and his favorite, Linden tree branches.


Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I do read most of my reviews, though I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m hovering, so I don’t leave comments. I’ll for sure respond if someone emails me directly with a link to or a copy of their review, but I do that privately, to thank them. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that readers love Iggy and that I’d better put him future books.

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Thank you for joining me today for the latest Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour stop! If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of tour participants!

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BLOG TOUR – Unnatural Causes – INTERVIEW

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Welcome everyone! Today I’m hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Dawn Eastman’s newest book, Unnatural Causes. I have an author interview for you today. I was supposed to have a review for you, but there was a small mixup in getting the book so the review will come in another week or so! I’m still planning on reviewing it because it’s set in the same area of Michigan as where I live so I’m looking forward to reading it!

The usual links for purchasing, Goodreads, and the Rafflecopter Giveaway will be located under the interview with the author.

Before I begin with the questions and answers, I want to thank Ms. Eastman for being willing to answer my questions for us today!

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Author Interview

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Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: Yes. I serve as an unpaid personal assistant to Rowdy, my bichon-shih tzu. I can’t say that I always enjoy my day job.


Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I try to write everyday or at least work on plot. However, life often interferes with this plan, so I stick to it more when a deadline is looming. I have a quota of around 1,000 words per day but that will adjust up or down depending on where I am in the process. I often listen to classical music while writing, but anything with words is too distracting.


Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I am definitely in the plotter (or outliner) camp. The outline is loose, however, so sometimes characters do make decisions I hadn’t planned for. Also, sometimes a secondary character will start to demand more time on the page. There are certain characters that take over every scene they are in.

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Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I took an online workshop and that teacher recommended her agent. Before that, I think I queried fifteen to twenty agents with no results. At the time I was querying, I didn’t think about quitting because I was in a great writer’s group. We are all very supportive of one another. I think at some point or another we’ve all thought about quitting, but we convince each other to keep going. Also, I know that even if I was not published, I would write. So, there’s no point in quitting – it wouldn’t last long.


Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: In general, it’s probably four or five revisions. I submit an edited version to my writing group and then incorporate their suggestions. Then the editors at my publisher take a look and we might go through another one or two revisions (more if needed). I would love to set the books aside for awhile, but often with the way the deadlines creep up on me (even though I have plenty of access to calendars) I don’t always get as much time as I would like.


Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: So far, there have been no real-life inspirations for the villains. It seems many of my villains are somewhat sympathetic. They murder out of a sense of desperation or to protect someone or something they love. I think everyone has a dark side, so I like my villains to be relatively normal people who are pushed too far.

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Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional? 

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: It’s fictional, but certain traits or habits might show up that are inspired by people I know. The character of Seth in the Family Fortune series was loosely based on my son.


Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: Queen Elizabeth I has always fascinated me. She was a strong female leader at a time when women had very little power. I love to read about her (either non-fiction or historical fiction). I think others have done such a great job that I probably won’t ever jump into that pool.


Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I am currently in love with Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series. I’ve also been devouring Deborah Crombie’s series. A non-mystery I listened to recently was Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory. I loved how each point of view in that book was spot on and hilarious.

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Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I remember reading Little Women when I was young and that book first inspired me to want to be a writer. Then I discovered Agatha Christie and fell in love with mysteries. Later, the Harry Potter novels influenced my life because I have kids who love them as much as I do and a lot of our great memories as a family have to do with Harry Potter (themed birthday parties, Halloween, visiting Harry Potter world, visiting the Harry Potter studios outside of London).


Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I feel like I already spend whole days with characters from my books. We usually solve murders together. But if I had to pick one, I’d say Aunt Vi from the Family Fortune series because I’m sure it would be entertaining. From the Katie LeClair books I’d pick Matt Gregor. We’d listen to Frank Sinatra and drink whisky.


Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Eastman’s Answer: I read reviews if my publisher sends them to me. I also will read reviews of bloggers on a blog tour like this one. I typically don’t respond to reviews unless the reviewer sends it to me.

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Thank you again to Ms. Eastman for being willing to answer my questions today!

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Synopsis

Katie LeClair has finally settled down as the new doctor in Baxter, MI. After years of moving, schooling, and training, she wants nothing more than to find a place she can call home, and a small town outside of Ann Arbor seemed perfect.

Katie quickly gets to work in building a life for herself in Baxter, and beyond reviving her love life, she also finds a pair of business partners in a team of father and son family practitioners. But that idyllic dream is immediately shattered when one of her patients is found dead. That wouldn’t be the worst thing, except the death is ruled a suicide, and as evidence has it, the suicide was a result of the medication Katie had prescribed. But she doesn’t remember writing it.

When a closer investigation reveals it was murder, Katie is catapulted into an off-the-books investigation that leads her down a dark path of past secrets. But someone is willing to kill to keep part of the town’s history in the shadows, and Katie must race to find out who before it’s too late in nationally bestselling author Dawn Eastman’s riveting series debut Unnatural Causes.

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Thanks for joining me for today’s stop on a Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastman! To visit other stops on the tour, please click on the banner below. That will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of participants!

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