It’s no secret if you follow my blog that I’ve got a brand new series starting on Monday, 1.13.20 titled A PRIDE OF BROTHERS: RICK. It’s a new romantic suspense trilogy about a private eye firm run by brothers ( hence, the name. Heehee)
I’ll be all over the place promoting it for the next month, but this past week I started my own little tour and visited a bunch of fabulous authors who volunteered to help me get the word out about the book – love them all. At each stop I told you all a little more about the book, how it came to be, what my inspiration for writing it was, and a bit more about my writing quirks.
So, if you missed any of these, here’s a recap of where I was all week with the links included so you can visit me. Better late than never, I always say.
Today is a real treat for me because I get to introduce you to a prolific writer and a very interesting woman, M.S. Spencer . Ms. Spencer recently stopped by for the Peggy grilling ( read: nosy interview!) and her answers are as fascinating as her bio. Stick around because she’s giving us a view of her latest book The Penhallow Train Incident, and you’ll want to read this gem.
Here she is:
M.S. Spencer, The Writer :
What drives you to write? As anyone knows who writes, it’s unavoidable (although Samuel Johnson thought anyone who wrote except for money was an idiot). I can’t go for long without writing something, even if it’s poetry.
What genre(s) of Romance do your write, and why? Romantic suspense/murder mystery. I like a plot-driven story with some twists rather than just a straight romance.
What genre(s) of Romance do you read, and why? When I read any fiction, it’s usually mystery or humor. When I’m writing (which is every day) I read history and biography. Otherwise I get confused J
What’s your writing schedule? Do you write everyday? I write every day for several hours, in the morning (about 9 to 11:30) and then late afternoon. In between I generally waste time.
Give us a glimpse of the surroundings where you write. Separate room? In the kitchen? At the dining room table? My study. I live in a Florida bungalow. While most of it is white and blue and red, my study has all the antiques—a beautiful mahogany desk, Dutch sink, and grandfather clock. It looks out on a tiny patio with a fountain. I can see the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico while working!
Are you the kind of writer who needs total quiet to compose, or are you able to filter out the typical sounds of the day and use your tunnel vision? Yes, once I buckle down—usually about an hour before cocktail time.
Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind? If not, why not? No. I am easily distracted and like to concentrate on the story.
How did you come up with the plotline/idea for your current WIP? My current WIP, The Ghost Hotel, is a mystery/romance set in Sarasota, Florida. While rummaging around on the internet I came across a news story about the “ghost hotel”—a Ritz-Carlton started in 1926 by John Ringling (of circus fame) and never finished. It sat in ruins from 1926 to 1964 and was—naturally—dubbed the ghost hotel. What better to find there than a ghost?
Which comes first for you – character or plot? And why? Actually, setting comes first, then plot. The characters have to fend for themselves until about the third chapter, when they can make a good case for both what kind of people they are and what their names should be.
What 3 words describe you, the writer? Distractable, flexible, odd.
M.S. Spencer, The Person :
Tell us one unusual thing about yourself – not related to writing! Just one? Lessee—I studied Arabic for seven and a half years & just barely scratched the surface of the hardest language to learn there is.
Who was your first love and what age were you? I’d say Steve Schreiber in 6th grade—he convinced me to take my hair out of the braids (it fell to my thighs) and taught me sign language.
If you could relive one day, which one would it be? Think GROUNDHOG DAY, the movie for this one – you’ll have to live it over and over and…. Not counting my wedding day (which could have used a little makeover)? Probably the day I galloped my roan stallion Farid across the Egyptian desert under what would be the nose of the Sphinx.
Do you like a guy in boxers, briefs, or commando? Boxers—a little mystery is nice & it makes his legs look thin.
If you had to give up one necessary-can’t-live-without-it beauty item, what would it be? I don’t use much makeup (70s type) so there’s nothing I can’t live without.
What three words describes you, the person? Introvert, curious, generous.
If you could sing a song with Jimmy Fallon, what would it be? Believe me, he wouldn’t want to sing with me—even my baby granddaughter doesn’t want me to sing.
If you could hang out with any literary character from any book penned at any time line, who would it by, why, and what would you do together? OMG no question—Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice—I’d just sit and listen to her speak those perfect sentences.
I love the Actor’s Studio show on Bravo, so this is my version of it:
Favorite sound: A coloratura soprano singing an aria (Lucia di Lammermoor’s murder scene)
Least favorite sound: Rap beat.
Best song ever written : Nessun dorma (Puccini, Turandot)Worst song ever written
Worst song ever written: Puberty Love from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
Favorite actor and actress : Peter O’Toole and Judi DenchWho would you want to be for 1 day and why? ( It can be anyone living or dead)
Who would you want to be for 1 day and why? ( It can be anyone living or dead: )Benjamin Franklin because he was at the center of the incredible, exciting, amazing foundation of America.Benjamin Franklin because he was at the center of the incredible, exciting, amazing foundation of America.
What turns you on?: Good manners.What turns you off?
What turns you off? : Bad manners.
Give me the worst 5 words ever heard on a first date ( here’s mine: “Is that your real hair?”) I almost married your sister.
What’s your version of a perfect day? Two different days—one sunny & beautiful at the beach; the other very rainy where I can sit and write all day.
The Penhallow Train Incident
A corpse on a train, hidden treasure, and the search for the Queen of Sheba’s tomb make for romance and adventure on Penobscot Bay.
In the sleepy coastal Maine town of Penhallow, a stranger dies on a train, drawing Historical Society Director, Rachel Tinker, and curmudgeonly retired professor, Griffin Tate, into a spider’s web of archeological obsession and greed. With the help of the victim’s rival, they set out to locate the Queen of Sheba’s tomb. Their plans are stymied when a war erupts between the sheriff and a state police detective who want to arrest the same man for different crimes. It’s up to Rachel to solve a mystery that includes two more murders, if she wants to unlock the soft heart that beats under Griffin’s hard crust. The Penhallow Train Incident is set in the fictional town of Penhallow. Midcoast Maine sits right about where the state begins to change from heading due north to “down East.” The land is quite different from the southern beaches or the North Woods. Fronting Penobscot Bay, it is a region of lakes, farms, small villages, and lobstermen. Most people have lived there for generations, and refer to anyone who moves to Maine from elsewhere as “from away.” Our heroine Rachel Tinker and her hero Griffin Tate are both from away, but when a series of murders roils their adopted town, they spring into action.
Without thinking, Rachel blurted out, “Are you after the money?”
Noreen’s eyes opened wide. “Me? Money? What money?” Her expression morphed into sly. “Nah. I broke up with John back in Belize. He wouldn’t share. Said I’d run through all his cash, but I didn’t believe him.”
“So why did you come up to Maine?”
Noreen dropped Rachel’s arm. “It’s here. I can feel it. His stash.”
I’m thinking consistency is not her strong suit.
As if sensing Rachel’s sentiment, Noreen shook her head. “I had nothing to do with any robbery anyway. John told me he’d inherited the money. I’m entitled to half his stuff, you know. I’m his wife.”
“What about Hannah Sundstrom?”
“She’s dead, ain’t she?”
The fact that Hannah wasn’t yet dead when Noreen married Pinkney didn’t appear to enter into her calculations. She’s waded so far into the swamp of lies she doesn’t know she’s drowning. “What about John?”
“John? He’s still in the slammer, ain’t he? I have a free hand.” Her face darkened. “Or I did, until you and your precious Marx started sticking your honkers where they don’t belong. Damn you! Now I’m on the sheriff’s radar again.” She reddened. “If he lets John out, I’m screwed.” The woman grabbed her arm again and squeezed painfully. “It’s all your fault. Why couldn’t you just let well enough alone?” Her voice rose. “Why are you persecuting me? I never did nothing to you. You Yankee snobs and your self-righteous hi-de-hos. I hate all of you.”
Rachel took a step back and Noreen lunged forward, baring her teeth. “Don’t you run away, bitch. You need a lesson in minding your own business, you do.” She drew closer, her hands balled into fists. Rachel took another step backward, but her right heel hit a stack of wood and she fell over. As she tried to push off from the rolling logs, Noreen loomed above her. “This’ll teach you.” She drew her arm back and smashed her fist into Rachel’s nose.
Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five continents, the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director and parent. She has two fabulous grown children and a perfect granddaughter, and currently divides her time between the Gulf coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.
Today, Author Joanne Guidoccio is my guest. She has new book coming out this week that promises to be a winner! She’s also having a giveaway – read on down to the end for a RAFFLECOPTER chance at an Amazon gift card.
Joanne, I’m so excited to have you here today.
4 More Days!!
Peggy, thanks for participating in the countdown to A Season for Killing Blondes.
I consider protagonist Gilda Greco to be my literary twin. She’s approximately 70 percent of me and shares many of my interests. As non-athletes it took us a while to find a preferred physical activity, but once we discovered yoga, we were hooked.
In my case, it took over three decades of yoga trials…
The blonde willow was out of her comfort zone.
As she removed a borrowed parka, four sizes too big for her perfectly toned size zero body, she sighed deeply and tossed her Farrah Fawcett curls. The California yogini was not impressed by winter in March and seven less-than-enthusiastic students in Sudbury, Ontario. She spoke eloquently about her personal journey, and then demonstrated her pretzel-like ability to contort her body in unimaginable poses.
Impressed and intimidated, we dreaded the short lesson that would follow.
She did not consider our beginner status. Instead, she continued with her favorite poses, and we struggled to follow.
Within minutes, I developed a tickle in my throat and started coughing uncontrollably. I quietly left the room and closed the door behind me. I had a drink of water, but my cough still persisted. I assumed the walls were soundproof, but I was wrong. I found out later that my loud and persistent bark was heard throughout the remainder of the short yoga session. When I re-entered the room, I received several looks of concern and pity. As for the blonde willow…she had transformed into a blonde oak.
Fast forward twenty years.
After sharing the usual advice about portion control, exercise and stress management, my oncologist urged me to take up yoga. Memories of the blonde willow/oak still lingered and I tried not to show my frustration. But my oncologist persisted and I agreed to give yoga another try.
I bought the clothes—sleek, black yoga pants from Roots and several Life is Good t-shirts—and signed up for a weekly yoga class with a very charming (and highly recommended) instructor. He gave each of us individual attention during the first class. At the beginning of the second class, he distributed business cards and chatted about his multiple sideline businesses. By the third class, the other students were writing checks for his wonder products. I was not impressed and did not return.
A few months later, I heard about a new yoga instructor who was offering classes in her own home. When I called, she assured me the course was geared for complete beginners with no previous experience. She sounded surprised when I asked if she had a sideline business and stressed that yoga was her main focus.
Reassured, I showed up and was pleased to see only two students in the room. Within a few minutes, an active and poorly trained Boston terrier joined the class. She eyed me with interest: I was the new girl, fresh meat. The dog spent a lot of time circling and sniffing me throughout the hour-long class. As for what happened during Downward Dog…I shall leave that to your imagination.
Three yoga trials. Three strikes. Yoga was out.
All that changed during the second summer after retirement.
I had just picked up Wayne Dyer’s latest book, Excuses Begone! and read the entire book in two sitting. I was drawn to his suggestion for practicing yoga and imagined myself having a conversation with the motivational guru.
“You must give it another try, Joanne. I’ve been practicing ninety minutes every day for the past four years and I’ve noticed a lot of positive changes. I got rid of all those aches and pains I inherited from three decades of running and tennis.”
“That’s wonderful, but I can’t see myself doing yoga every day. For one thing, I would have to take lessons. I don’t like following DVDs or books.”
“Take a few lessons. What’s the big deal?”
“I’ve tried that before.” I gave him a brief summary of my three yoga trials.
He shook his head. “You have to give yoga an honest thirty-day trial.”
“Thirty days!” I couldn’t imagine lasting that long. “Do you know how expensive that will be?”
He repeated, “Give yoga an honest thirty-day trial.” He added, with twinkle in his eye, “You’ll feel better and you may just stop making so many excuses.”He pointed to the cover of his book.
I was skeptical, but I had to admit he was right. I had not given yoga a fair trial, and I had a tendency to make excuses. I decided to wait until the fall and then investigate the different yoga studios in town.
A few days later, the following ad appeared in a local paper:
Unlimited Yoga during the months of July and August for $160
I imagined Wayne Dyer laughing and whispering, “The universe has spoken. No more excuses.”
I planned to attend three classes a week and see how I felt by the end of the summer.
I was hooked after the first week.
The classes were small and the instructors were able to work with me on an individual basis. I test-drove all the instructors and then zeroed in on my favourites: Amy, the social worker from Newfoundland who had completed her training in India; Claudia, the young mother who offered a structured class that appealed to my left brain tendencies; and Lisa, the quintessential (and kind) willow.
It was reassuring to discover that all my body parts were working and reporting faithfully for yoga duty. I felt myself growing healthier and stronger with each stretch, breath and positive thought. And I didn’t feel pressured or frustrated when I struggled with a pose. I kept repeating Lisa’s mantra: A yoga pose is a journey, not a destination.
I still have my personal challenges, but I am less reactive and more inclined to let things go. Instead, I gravitate toward that beautiful place where I can step out of time and leave all my concerns behind.
A Season for Killing Blondes
Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.
When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.
As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.
In high school, Joanne dabbled in poetry, but it would be over three decades before she entertained the idea of writing as a career. She listened to her practical Italian side and earned degrees in mathematics and education. She experienced many fulfilling moments as she watched her students develop an appreciation (and sometimes, love) of mathematics. Later, she obtained a post-graduate diploma as a career development practitioner and put that skill set to use in the co-operative education classroom. She welcomed this opportunity to help her students experience personal growth and acquire career direction through their placements.
In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.
Where to find Joanne…