And other books…
Today I have the pleasure to present USA Today and Wall Street Journal Best Selling Author. Colleen Mooney. Born and raised in New Orleans, Colleen started going to parades and watched them from sitting on her Dad's shoulders before she could walk. An avid sailor and Scuba diver for many years, she made lasting friendships from sailing and dive trips. She now lives in New Orleans with her husband and four miniature Schnauzers she rescued.
What started you writing?
I worked for a large telecom company for twenty-five years and was relocated several times. Each time I found a way to get transferred back to New Orleans. It was during these jobs in other cities, New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Birmingham and traveling for work that I realized how different New Orleans was. I'm a native. I was born and raised in New Orleans along with all my family. I was the only one to ever leave for a job other than the men who were drafted. They all knew they were coming home after their tour.
I started to journal my experiences, like a diary and I had lots of books filled with crazy stuff we do here and how it compared to other places I lived. In Birmingham, Alabama, it's still the south, right? I asked for a ham and cheese sandwich, dressed. The man asked me to repeat my order, so I did. Finally, he said, Miss, I don't know what you mean by dressed. In New Orleans, lettuce and tomato added make it "dressed". The other way to order is a ham and cheese with 'nuttinonit'. That's a ham and cheese with no lettuce or tomato, but rather, nothing on it. Ordering coffee with chicory, anywhere, was impossible. Forget trying to order jambalaya or anything blackened. By the time I left New York, the blackened fish craze had arrived, only they were blackening everything...hamburgers, chicken, you name it.
I had one story in mind to write. When I got to the end of my first book, I already had book 2 more outlined. I kept going from there
New Orleans has a cast of characters, tons of festivals, parades, or activities year-round, not to mention unlimited places to eat and drink. No matter where I sit to have a sandwich--dressed-- and a cup of coffee--with chicory, a story starts to unfold around me.
Tell us about your series.
The story starts in book 1 about Brandy Alexander who at a Mardi Gras parade exchanges a kiss for a flower, a paper flower. This is done customary in just about every parade here, although since the pandemic, this might be one local tradition that disappears, and it would be sad. Gentlemen walking clubs stroll down St. Charles Avenue between floats and when they see a pretty girl, they ask for a kiss in exchange for a flower. Some girls say no, some offer their hand, and some give the guy a big smooch. After our heroine kisses a guy, and not just any guy, but a gorgeous man in a tux who didn't ask for a kiss, he just looked at her. After they kiss, he whispers in her ear to meet him at the end of the parade. She does just in time to see him catch a bullet. Before he gets hauled away in an ambulance, he asks her to do something for him...Save Isabella. Who is Isabella and why should she care? She wants to see him again to find out if he felt what she felt during that kiss. Saving Isabella takes her on a wild ride through a French Quarter Boy Bar, dodging hitmen, and getting herself kidnapped. Our sleuth stumbles upon murders or crimes in every book and the core group of characters move with her. She finds new people along the way.
While many writers see the steamier side of New Orleans which can be found everywhere here, not just the French Quarter. I write about what it's like growing up here, having family here, some of our traditions and the funny, often hilarious things we do that oftentimes take on a life of their own.
Tell us about the characters:
All my characters are based on people I've met throughout my life in New Orleans and places I've lived or travelled. Brandy Alexander is the name of at least one person I've met while working here. Our sleuth is not an exotic dancer which most people would assume, from her name and working in New Orleans. But she knows people who are.
Every job or organization I've belonged to have put me in contact with numerous people. I've worked at the University Library in college where almost every student passed through at least once. I worked for South Central Bell and AT&T in sales and that's where I started to notice how different people were here, even to each other. I also do dog rescue and have met some interesting characters on both the surrender and adoption side of the process. I've belonged to several Mardi Gras organizations over the years, walking krewes, dancing krewes, all women krewes, co-ed krewes, wine drinking krewes, you name it. There is no shortage of quirky characters here. Some of my characters just make writing about them easy.
Here is Chapter One from Voodoo, Victims & Vows.
DENSE FOG SLITHERED into New Orleans spreading like mercury over the first weekend in October. By Monday morning it was choking the city in a heavy, wet mist. I could imagine my dad looking out the kitchen window while pouring a cup of coffee saying, ‘Boy, it’s thick as pea soup.’
It was 7:15 a.m. and still dark out as I walked to my car. I couldn’t see the roof on the house across the street. The wet air made my shoulder length, blonde hair feels damp like I just stepped out of the shower. I had to use my windshield wipers and headlights on the drive to work to see just a few feet in front of me. It looked like evening-into- night instead of morning-into-day.
My office felt oppressive, like a dark, damp cave, even with all the fluorescent lights on in the building. It was lunch time before my phone rang.
“Brandy, I’m glad to see you made it to work,” Jiff said when I answered. “I wanted to drive you this morning, but I had to be here early to prep for this trial.”
“I had to use my wipers. It’s odd weather for October, don’t you think?” I said.
“Weather is always odd here,” he said. “How about Napoleon House after work?”
“You know that’s my favorite place,” I said. We agreed on a time to meet and hung up.
My name is Brandy Alexander and you would think from my name I worked as a dancer on Bourbon Street. Instead, I work for a large communications company in fraud identification and prevention. My job is boring, but I have a sixth sense or talent for finding inconsistencies in data. Not exciting but it pays the bills. What is exciting is that my talent helps me see what is off or inconsistent in crimes, and I’ve helped the police solve a few. Odd thing, the police are not overly grateful, especially since I grew up next door to the Captain Dante Deedler of NOPD Homicide Department.
It was 5:30 p.m. when I called my fiancé back to tell him I was leaving the office to walk over to his law firm in Canal Place. He said he’d meet me at the back of his building, the corner of Iberville and N. Peters—one block off Canal Street.
“Wow, it looks like the Day of the Dead out here,” Jiff said after giving me a big hug and a kiss hello. “This is the worse fog I’ve ever seen. From our office windows on the top floor it looked like we were sitting on a cloud. I couldn’t see the river below us or the French Quarter. We can’t see more than half a block down here.”
“We don’t get fog very often here,” I said squeezing his arm tight. “It feels creepy tonight.”
The fog was heaviest near the river where we walked along St. Peter Street to St. Louis Street on the way to the Napoleon House.
After dinner, walking back to Jiff’s office building, I could only see as far as the middle of the block. Cars and buildings faded from view as if I was in a morphine-like dream. There was very little traffic tonight. No horns blasting at tourists who never look where they are going crossing the street. It was eerily quiet on Decatur Street for 8:30 on a Monday night.
As we crossed the intersection, I heard a clack-clack sound much like my high heels tapping on the old French Quarter brick sidewalks. The sound grew louder with every step. Out of the fog loomed two legs with an old manual typewriter sitting on someone’s lap. As we got closer, I could see a recessed doorway with a man sitting on a crate, his legs extending out onto the sidewalk. He looked to be in his seventies, clacking away on an old Underwood typewriter. He had a few sheets of paper in the open part of the crate facing the street. He faded into view like a ghost. He was dressed in a worn, tweed jacket and what appeared to be velvet trousers. He was clean and well groomed. His newsboy hat, made popular by the Irish, covered a thick head of gray hair that fell from underneath to his jacket collar matching his bushy gray eyebrows. The hat was a dark brown, herringbone tweed like his jacket. His round spectacles sat on the end of a long nose that fit his long face.
As we walked past him, he said, “Wait!” He held up one hand and pulled out the sheet in the typewriter with the other and handed it to me. When I hesitated to take it right way, he shook it at me saying, “Take it!”
Jiff reached for it and the man said pulling the paper away from Jiff for a moment, “It’s not for you. It’s for her.” He handed it to me.
He didn’t smile or appear threatening, just business like, so I took it. It read: Three things will happen to you in the next four weeks and they will change your life. Beware of the third. You can’t stop it. I just stood there wondering what this meant.
Before I could ask him, he had already rolled in another sheet of paper and began typing again in deep concentration. The sound of steps approaching made me look in their direction. The man said, “You must go, I need to prepare for the next one.”
Jiff pulled me along. When he felt we were at a safe distance so as not to be overheard, he said, “Wow, even the fog doesn’t keep the kooks in.”
“We’re out in it,” I said. “Guess that makes us kooks.”
“I don’t think we compare to a fortune teller with an old typewriter,” Jiff said with a hint of a laugh in his voice. “He’d do better in daytime by St. Louis Cathedral when there’s a throng of tourists. Or maybe he’s trying out his Halloween costume and gig early.”
“If he painted his face white, he’d look more the part for Halloween,” I said. “The guy didn’t even look like he was from this century.”
“Anyone who still uses an Underwood typewriter probably isn’t.” Jiff pulled me into him, wrapping his arm around me. “It’s the French Quarter. You see all kinds here.”
“He just seems different... like he knew me. This note he gave me should scare me though.” I read it to Jiff.
After I finished reading it aloud, he said, “Three things, huh? Well, one thing will be our wedding. That will change our lives.”
“The note says, ‘your life,’ not our lives. He handed this note to me. He didn’t even want you to take it for me. I don’t think it was meant to include you.”
“It could mean three great things. Why do you think it’s a bad omen?”
“Maybe the ominous part that says, Beware of the third. You can’t stop it. If it said, celebrate the third, I wouldn’t give it another thought.”
Jiff’s laugh lightened my mood. “We need to get home to walk our kids.”
Both dogs greeted us barking and spinning in circles anticipating the long-awaited last walk of the night. We leashed up Meaux and Isabella for our nightly sojourn around Bayou St. John. My apartment is at the Lake Pontchartrain side of town rather than the French Quarter along the river. It was just as foggy at this end of the city.
When we got to the bayou, Meaux pulled the leash out of my hand, running ahead barking fiercely at something near the water’s edge. Isabella also started barking and pulling on her leash. In an instant, Jiff handed me Isabella’s leash and took off running after Meaux.
When I caught up to them, Jiff was throwing rocks at an alligator. Meaux was standing nose to nose with the gator while barking in its face. It was a big alligator. The beast had something in its mouth it was chomping down on which is why Meaux wasn’t on the menu. Normally, small dogs are like an appetizer to alligators.
Jiff grabbed Meaux up without missing a step and ran back to me.
“Oh my God,” I said. “You... Meaux... both of you could have been dinner.”
“The reason we’re not is because that alligator already has someone in his jaws,” he said.
“Someone? Like a person?”
Tell us about this story and what's next.
Voodoo, Victims and Vows touches on superstitions that can be seen every day in New Orleans, even if you aren't a believer or practitioner. Examples are throwing salt over one's shoulder, carrying a rabbit's foot, or covering mirrors in your home after a death.
In this story, Voodoo, Victims and Vows our sleuth and her fiancé stumble on alligator with a corpse in his mouth. There's someone she can barely make out through the fog watching them across the bayou. Why are they watching, and why do they leave when Brandy tries to speak with them?
At the time I was trying to find an idea for this story, a notice came up on the NEXT-DOOR application that my neighborhood subscribes to in order to share news. Someone posted about young people going door to door to sell magazines. I researched it and it turns out this is a human trafficking operation that has been going on for years everywhere in the country. October is a big festival month in New Orleans with two or three happening in every weekend. The Voodoo Festival is in October. it's the perfect time for this kind of enterprise to infiltrate the crowds and not be noticed.
Book 9 in my series is Croissants, Crimes and Canines and should be released in December.
Croissants, Canines & Crimes
S. R. Mallery
Book 6 of 8 of the Witches Academy Series
And other books
Today I have the pleasure of presenting my good friend, USA Today Bestselling author and two-time READERS' FAVORITE GOLD MEDAL winner, S. R. Mallery. In her work, Sarah ‘brings history to life.’
They say She’s as eclectic as my characters. She’s been a singer, a composer, a calligrapher, a quilt artist, and an ESL/Reading teacher. But it is the world of writing historical fiction where I feel I've come ‘home’ — while readily venturing into cozy mystery and paranormal romance.
What made you think of writing a book about a witch with psychological insecurities and hidden demons?
First off, I was invited into this eight book romantic witch series by the fine author and my good friend, Suzanne Jenkins. Being a great, supportive leader, she gave us quite a bit of writerly leeway. Except for having to at least peripherally talk about this Witch Academy in New Orleans, she basically let us “do our own thing,” genre-wise. So, putting my thinking cap on, I started my research (one of my favorite things to do).
I love movies and TV series, and often get ideas from them. So first up was the 1958 film, “Bell, Book, and Candle,” with Kim Novak and James Stewart. Upon viewing it, one thing instantly stood out and grabbed me: the fact that Kim Novak didn’t want to use her extraordinary witch powers. Bingo! That became the basis for my own lead witch, Gillian. But, unlike in that movie, in my Endangered Spells’ case, Gillian’s mindset about pulling back from witchery was because of her possibly causing a past disaster and a near death. No way was she ever going to do a spell again––ever.
Until her old college friend is found dead.
And what kind of research did you do for it?
Because I love murder mysteries, I decided to include a murder—well, three, actually—to the plot. And as the book develops with various suspects and some twists and turns, Gillian falls in love for the first time in her life––with one of the lead detectives in the case.
Meanwhile, as I continued my journey of watching various movies/TV series about witches, I also percolated about what kind of pet Gillian and her family would have. That’s when I got completely sucked into watching Youtube videos of cockatoos. They are hilarious!
I also read articles about witches and warlocks, and even ordered a thick book on spells that sat on our coffee table for several months. At one point, my hubby eyed the book and calmly remarked, “Don’t you think you’re going off the deep end just a little bit with this book?”
To which I answered, “Be careful what you say…You know, I can always do a spell on you!”
Instantly, we both wriggled our fingers up in the air, scary movie style, and called out, “Ooooh!”
Tell us about the story?
Sometimes Magic Can Be Complicated
What happens when a beautiful and talented witch refuses to use her powers?
Even as a child, Gillian could perform magic far better than most people. Her spells swayed teachers, nabbing boyfriends was a piece of cake, and she had the added ability to foresee events, good or bad. But when one of her spells causes a near-death and a future forecast completely rocks her entire world, she steps away from magic––until her friend’s murder slams her back into the game…and straight into a detective’s arms.
How does the story open?
I swear, Carly is gonna put me into an early grave.
With traffic at a complete standstill in the dark bridge tunnel, Gillian couldn’t help ruminating about her reckless, dare-devil sister, Carly—and the exchange of insults they’d spat at each other the night before. Engrossed in thinking about what she herself should apologize for and what things her sister should admit were out of line on her part, Gillian ignored everything else going on around her.
Until she couldn’t.
Without warning, some kind of magnetic force pulled her gaze through the back window of a Mercedes ahead of her car. There, she could make out the silhouettes of a man and a woman on the front seat. Nothing unusual. But when the male driver’s hand flew out, grabbed the woman passenger, then jerked her toward him, Gillian went on high alert.
Stunned, she eyed the Mercedes and its license plate as cars began to inch forward again and she neared the tunnel’s end. A spark of familiarity flitted through her brain, but there was no time to reflect any further. The driver now shoved the woman backward, and revving up the car, he also headed toward daylight. Suddenly, he swerved over to the tunnel’s narrow sidewalk and drove, half on, half off, missing cars by mere inches before he sped off and disappeared from sight.
“Where have I seen that car before?” she muttered, as she maneuvered through the streets of Wheelton to get to an appointment with her family’s dear friend, Amanda Rankin.
Gillian turned resentful. After all, she hadn’t even wanted to see anyone at their coven’s Gambit House. Why should she? Even though Amanda was nice, all she’d hear from other members would be yet another lecture, ad nauseum, about how avoiding her magical powers was simply not tolerated in their world. More than that, she owed it to their coven, because—
Without warning, the screech of a car’s wheels braking blasted through the air. Is it from that Mercedes? In an instant, Gillian remembered who owned that car. It was her old high school friend, the investigative journalist and mystery author, Rebecca Newell.
Is Rebecca in trouble?
She couldn’t help herself. She had to find out. Canvasing through several quiet neighborhoods, she maneuvered up and down the streets slowly, so she could eagle eye each car, driving or parked. But after a good twenty minutes and no Mercedes in sight, she figured it was fruitless.
Quickly, she texted Amanda, explaining that something important had come up, and unfortunately, she had to go elsewhere.
No kidding. To Wheelton’s local police station.
Tell us about the Cockatoo, Joselyn?
Click–click–click came the sound of Joselyn pacing down the hall, heading toward her bedroom. Click–click–click. Two throaty whistles later, and Gillian got out of bed, shuffled over to her door, opened it up, and let the cockatoo in.
“Peek-a-boo!” Joselyn trilled. “Peek-a-boo!”
“Yeah, yeah. Peek-a-boo to you, too.”
She was met with long, human-like wolf whistle.
Putting aside Sarah’s troubling words, she studied the parrot for a few seconds. Perhaps she should once again try a spell. Maybe even a combo. A love spell and solving the case spell—in preparation of her cooking date with Nate. But first, she should test it out on Joselyn to see if finally, anything magical could evolve through their pet.
In the distance, she could hear breakfast goings-on in the kitchen, so she decided to proceed with caution. Closing her door gently, she got out five candles and lit all of them. Then, sitting on the floor in her PJs, once again with her eyes closed, she began. It was her old standby, a spell she’d always used as a teenager. The kind that had always brought her male affection. Don’t think about Willy.
Breathing in deeply, she remembered how, whenever she’d use Joselyn as a guinea pig, the bird tended to come through.
“Joselyn, your love for me will come in strong, come in bright.
And no matter what, no matter when,
For me, your love shall never dim its light.”
Her eyes still shut, she could just picture it. The show of affection from their pet that the world would definitely classify as adorable. The movements her bird would do as she waddled over to her, with the feathers on her head slightly raised, her throat emitting soft trills. Then, she’d surely hop up onto Gillian’s lap, where she’d rub her head against her owner’s chest, just begging for some rubs and soft words.
What the—? She popped open her eyes.
Joselyn was busy chewing on one of her feet, devouring a bit of cracker that had landed on it from the night before.
“Oh, for goodness sake.” Gillian blew out the candles, put them aside, got dressed, and shook her head. “That used to be a slam-dunk. So much for spells,” she snapped as she marched by the still pre-occupied bird.
One last excerpt, please?
What is wrong with me? Gillian ruminated on her way over to the Clean & Care Laundromat. As soon as she and Nate had shaken hands back at the post office, some kind of tingling had rippled up and down her arms for several seconds. Goose bumps. At least, she thought that was what it was. Having read a couple of romance books in her life, the authors would often describe this type of feeling as proof of titillation. Certainly something new for her. No boys in her past ever caused that sensation. And even if they had, she wouldn’t have dared tell her mother. She’d just get a lecture on the hazards of dating a male human…..
….“How can there be three murders?” she questioned aloud as she drove. “Okay. Maybe Rebecca brought this on herself, but Lilith and Marsha? What did they do to cause their deaths?”
Then, without warning, she remembered Nate’s touch. I can’t believe how much he gets to me. Then a second thought popped out. Papa, is this the same kind of compatibility to Mama you described in your note, similar to what I’m feeling with Nate?
A soft boss nova piece floated through the car speakers. With its gentle beats and smooth, pleasing chords, her body began to sway from side to side as she steered. Feeling so relaxed and peaceful, she smiled––until something else occurred to her. Did their human mama insist on learning how to be a witch just to please their papa? Or did he teach her a lot about witchcraft so she could help him be an even stronger warlock?
Too many unanswered questions, Mama.
And other books
Today I have the pleasure to present my friend, award-winning and USA Today bestselling author P.D. Workman. She writes riveting mystery/suspense and young adult books dealing with mental illness, addiction, abuse, and other real-life issues. For as long as she can remember, the blank page has held an incredible allure and from a very young age she was trying to write her own books.
I find the idea of a hero with a fortune-teller gig that started as a scam and turns into a gift so intriguing. What inspired you to write the series, Reg Rawlings, Psychic Investigator?
Reg Rawlins, Psychic Investigator is a spin-off from the Auntie Clem’s Bakery series. Reg is a foster sister of the main character (Erin) in that series and makes an appearance in book 6, Coup de Glace. I enjoyed writing her so much I knew she needed her own series. I already had the plot for the first book in a paranormal cozy series on the backburner (believe it or not, from a dream my husband had), so I adapted it for Reg.
All books in both series can be read as stand-alones, but of course you’ll get extra enjoyment from reading the whole series.
Please tell us about Reg Rawlins. What is she like?
Reg was born to an addict mother and spent her first five years in poverty and neglect and the rest of her childhood in foster care. Always in poverty, she grew up to be a scam artist, always trying to make money off of a con. She thought she’d really found her sweet spot with telling fortunes and pretending to commune with the dead. Fun clothes, big acting, and the ability to cold-read people made it the perfect profession. But when she moves to Black Sands, a haven for psychics, witches, and people with other gifts, things start happening that she can’t explain…
Fairy Blade Unmade is book 7 in the series, so Reg has figured some things out by then, but each revelation about herself and her past creates new complications and even more questions.
The title for your new book in the series is unique and full of contrasts. Tell us about Fairy Blade Unmade and how you came up with the title and what is special to you in her new adventure.
Fairy Blade Unmade brings back a character that Reg first met in book 2, A Psychic with Catitude, the adolescent fairy Calliopia. Calliopia has received a dire wound and everyone has given up on being able to save her. Reg believes that the destruction of the magical weapon that wounded Calliopia is the key to her being able to heal. But unfortunately, no one in Black Sands has the ability to unmake it. Can you say road trip?*
I generally title my books before I begin writing them, brainstorming various words and phrases that fit with the theme of the book, playing with them, and searching on Goodreads to avoid identical titles if possible. Then I lay the various “winners” out on a mocked up cover to see what works well visually. I particularly liked the rhyme and resonance of “blade unmade” for this book.
*Tip: Don’t take two cats, a pixie, and energy drinks on a quest. They don’t mix well.
As a prolific writer, you write both thrillers and mystery. Do you get into a different frame of mind when moving from one genre to another?
I think the protagonist makes a bigger difference to my frame of mind than the genre. Thrillers and mysteries have a different structure, but it is really the characters’ that I need to switch tracks for. Erin Price is light and optimistic, Zachary Goldman darker and grittier, and Reg Rawlins is playful and adventurous. It’s always fun to go back to Reg after writing something more serious.
You give your readers a taste of your writing by reading a chapter to them on YouTube. Is reading aloud also part of your writing process?
No, it’s all composed in my head, but I do have a very strong internal narrator. It’s been very interesting to learn as I get older that not everyone has a voice narrating everything they do and think!
Usually, reading for my fans on release day is the first time that I’ve read aloud from my book. I enjoy reading aloud and have read all of the Harry Potter books aloud to my son at least three times. Some of them more. Dobby still makes me cry…
Please share an excerpt from Fairy Blade Unmade with us. (Maybe also a youtube reading.)
Here is a scene from the road trip!