I'm thrilled to be a stop on the blog tour for author
TAIL OF THE DRAGON
Book 3 in the Zodiac Mysteries
by Connie di Marco
San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice, but when her former boss and current client asks for help she agrees to go undercover at his law firm. Three people have received death threats and the only common denominator between them is a case long settled--the infamous Bank of San Francisco fire. Julia’s astrological expertise provides clues but no one wants to listen. Before she can solve the mystery, two people are dead and her own life is in danger. Julia must unmask the killer before he, or she, takes another life.
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TAIL OF THE DRAGON
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TAIL OF THE DRAGON
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LKBR: Thank you, Connie for being here today!
CdM: Hi Lisa, it’s great to be visiting with you again! Thank you!
LKBR: Please tell us a bit about your book/series.
CdM: This series first began with The Madness of Mercury in 2016, followed by All Signs Point to Murder. Tail of the Dragon is the third book in the Zodiac Mysteries and will be released on August 8, 2018.
San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice. After the death of her fiancé, she pursued the study of astrology and found it offered her solace at a tough time in her life. Eventually she realized that she had embarked on a whole new satisfying career. As the series starts, Julia has built a solid clientele and, as Ask Zodia, she writes an astrological advice column for the Chronicle.
In Tail of the Dragon, Julia agrees to go undercover at her former boss and current client’s law firm. He needs her help because three people have received death threats and the only common denominator between them is a case long settled -- the infamous Bank of San Francisco fire. Before Julia can solve the mystery, two people are dead and her own life is in danger.
LKBR: How did you come up with the concept?
CdM: I’ve always thought that San Francisco was a wonderful place to set a mystery. I’m not alone in that belief. There have been tons of mysteries, thrillers and films that have used San Francisco as a backdrop. Too many to count. I’ve even written a blog about that: http://www.conniedimarco.com/2017/08/06/san-francisco-detectives/
And I really wanted my protagonist to have an unusual occupation. She’s an amateur sleuth, but her clients bring their problems to her and she winds up involved in the investigation and the solution to the crime. Of course, because she’s an astrologer, the clue to the mystery must come in the form of an astrological clue that only she would figure out.
LKBR: What are your future plans for this series? Any hints or spoilers you can give us about the next book?
CdM: Well, I’ve been working on a couple of other projects right now, but I’ve had to put them aside to write the fourth in this series, which I’ve tentatively entitled Serpent’s Doom. I’ve got a bit to go before it’s finished, but I’m well into it and have to keep plugging along. One interesting thing is that several people have emailed or sent me Facebook messages and said they’d like to know more about Julia’s grandmother, how Julia found her cat and how she first became interested in astrology. So I had the bright idea to write a novella that takes place before the series starts and incorporates a story that covers all that ground. That’s another project I’m working on. Never enough time!
LKBR: Is writing an energizing experience, or does it take a lot out of you?
CdM: LOL! Both! It is energizing when ideas flow and plots come together. Of course, when you’re writing, you can’t see the forest for the trees, and you just have to trust that somehow, some way, it will all come together and make sense and be a page turner. Mostly you have to operate on trust because it takes a while to finish and then more time while you pull away, put the manuscript down for a while and then read it with fresh eyes. It can be exhausting when you know you need to sleep but you also know you have to carve out a few more chapters if you’re going to meet your deadline.
LKBR: Once you knew you wanted to be a published writer, who was the first person you reached out to for help? (Such as a publisher, or author)
CdM: I was a total newbie and knew absolutely nothing about the business or how one became published. Self-publishing certainly existed, but I knew even less about that. I certainly didn’t know any authors or editors or publishers. Once I finished my first book (of course at that time I thought it would be my only book), I read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published and learned what a query letter was. Then I bought the Writer’s Market and made a list of every agent/agency in the country that handled mysteries and made a very long list. After several rejections, I was super fortunate to find a wonderful agent who was interested in my book. What I’ve learned since, is just how lucky I was to find an agent.
LKBR: What sort of research do you do for your books? Is it more computer based or hands on?
CdM: What would any writer do without Google? I also surf lots of other sites, San Francisco Police Department, U.S. Customs, California Fish & Wildlife websites, anywhere I can learn more. Right now I’m learning all I can about smuggling. Then I’ll email or call information officers for info that’s available to the public when I’m looking into an area of that sort.
I lived in San Francisco for many years, so I know the city well, some parts of it better than others, and I’m lucky because I’m not that far away and can visit often. I like to take photos of places I know or places I love or locations I know I can use in a book.
But lots of the research that I do involves the history of the city itself. In fact, I know more San Francisco history now than I ever did when I lived there. Isn’t that the truth though? We should learn to be tourists in our own hometown.
LKBR: What is your writing process? Place, time of day, by the hour or word count?
CdM: I don’t worry about word count. I think I’d drive myself crazy if I did that. I’ve tried getting up early to write, but somehow, writing at night, even if I’m tired, is more productive. The pressures of the day have ended, the house is quiet and I can concentrate better.
The first editor I ever worked with required an outline. (This was the first book in the Soup Lover’s Mysteries – A Spoonful of Murder). It was a great learning experience that’s been invaluable and now I always outline. I may change things as I go along, but it gives me a roadmap and saves an awful lot of time and corrections.
LKBR: How do you come up with character names?
CdM: Sometimes a character’s name is modeled on someone I know or knew who fits the personality of a character. Julia has her name because I just think it’s a lovely name. Her grandmother Gloria is named for the mother of a dear friend. Nikolai, the past life regression hypnotist who appears regularly in the books has a Russian name because of someone I knew in a similar occupation with a different Russian name.
I guess I pull names from all sorts of places. There was one book (one of the Soup Lovers’) that I finished and realized I had several characters with names beginning with the letter “H.” I had turned the book into my editor before I caught that. I have no idea how that happened -- that Harry, Hillary, Henry and Horace etc. all had names beginning with “H.” Needless to say, I had to change a few. There’s a character in Tail of the Dragon that I had originally named Harvey Walstone. One trusted reader and my editor both heard only “Harvey Weinstein” when they read the name. LOL! Needless to say, that character’s name had to be changed.
LKBR: Is it difficult to write characters of the opposite sex? Do you have someone you use for advice?
CdM: Strangely, I can’t say I’ve found it difficult. Although I certainly thought it would be. I just try to put myself in their shoes because after all, feelings are feelings, whatever the gender of a character. But I do always make sure I have a few early male readers who will call me on any bloopers I make.
LKBR: Do you read reviews of your books? If you do, and a review is bad, what effect does it have on you? (I know some reviews are mean as opposed to constructive.)
CdM: I do read reviews. I like to see how a story or a book affects a reader. If it’s a thumbs down review, I just have to shrug. It’s one person’s opinion and they’re entitled to it. But I can’t let it affect me. And if it’s a mean review, I think it says a lot more about the reviewer than about the book. I just try to write the best book I can, hope it’s a page turner and hope the majority of readers will have a positive opinion.
LKBR: What are 3 things readers may not know about you?
CdM: Well, I spent many years working as an actress under my professional name and loved it. That was my first love. And I know many other actors who’ve turned to writing. I had great fun and in fact, I think it’s really the same job – entertaining people.
I certainly never dreamed I would be a published writer. In fact, I was horrified at the thought of staring at a computer screen or a blank pad of paper and having to come up with ideas. Torture! But I’ve always been a great reader of mysteries and thrillers and then one day, I thought ‘I wonder if I could do this?’ My goal was to write one book and maybe (hopefully) be traditionally published. I never thought I’d ever write another book, much less two series! But life is a funny thing, isn’t it?
Hmmm, two more things about me? Everyone knows I love to make soups. That came in handy when I was writing the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries. And I love to refinish old furniture and antiques. That’s very satisfying because it’s a totally different experience working with your hands.
LKBR: Where can readers go to learn more about you and your books?
CdM: You can visit my website and blog at , at Facebook.com/ConniediMarco(Author) and Twitter @AskZodia.
My website and blog for the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries can be found at , Facebook.com/ConnieArcherMysteries and Twitter @SnowflakeVT.
And before I forget, I blog regularly on the 15th of the month at Killer Characters where one of my characters does the talking.
LKBR: Thank you so much for letting us get to know you better, Connie!
CdM: Thanks, Lisa, so happy I’ve been able to visit with you again! I hope you enjoy Tail of the Dragon!
I pulled up to the garage door and searched for the opener. It wasn’t in my purse, the last place I had seen it. I checked the glove compartment. Empty. Where had it gotten to? I gave up the search, backed out to the curb and climbed out. I’d have a search for it tomorrow. I climbed the stairs, unlocked the door and called to Wizard. He didn’t come to greet me. I heard his bell jingle somewhere in the apartment. It wasn’t like him not to rush to the top of the stairs to greet me. I turned on the lamp on the hallway table and spotted his paws underneath.
“Wiz, what are you doing? Come on out for a hug.” I petted his paws and made kissing sounds. Wiz returned the affection with a gurgle and rushed out to my arms. “What are you doing hiding there?” I cuddled him as I walked into the living room. I flicked on the wall switch and stood in stunned horror. My apartment had been trashed.
The room was in shambles. A ceramic vase lay shattered in a hundred pieces on the floor. Books had been tossed off the shelves and two of the sofa cushions had been ripped open. I couldn’t breathe and could barely move. Wizard mewed and snuggled closer in my arms. I went back to the hallway, terrified something might have happened to my bronze Buddha. It was still in its place, probably because it weighs a ton and it’s impossible to lift. I sighed, it hadn’t guarded my nest very well tonight. In the kitchen, dishes from the cabinet were smashed. Food from the refrigerator, what there was of it, had been thrown against the walls to drip on to the floor. Bureau drawers had been dumped out, jewelry flung all over the room. The pillows on the bed and the comforter were slashed. The clothes hanging in the small closet, mostly just a couple of suits and some jeans and sweaters that I had been wearing that week had been ripped off the hangers and cut to ribbons.
I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. My hands started to shake. I knew now why Wizard had been hiding under the table terrified. Then the thought occurred that someone could still be in the apartment. Perhaps I had just interrupted the intruder. I lowered Wizard gently onto the floor and shushed him. I made a dash for the small coat closet in the hallway where I keep a toolbox. Opening the door as quietly as possible, I released the catches on the metal box and grabbed a long thick screwdriver. It was the only thing I could think of in a hurry. If I had to defend myself, there was a good chance I could do a job on someone with this. I slipped off my shoes so I could walk silently and, against my instincts, returned to the bedroom where I peeked under the bed. My hands were still shaking. Wizard had followed me and now was hiding under the tall bureau, his tail sticking out. I was tempted to join him. I picked up the phone and dialed Gale’s number, praying she’d answer. She picked up on the third ring.
“Gale. It’s me. Can you come right over?”
“Julia? Sure, honey. What’s wrong?”
“Tell you when you get here.” I hung up. Tiptoeing softly, I walked to the end of the corridor and the office. Nothing in there had been touched. Thankfully, the computer was in one piece. The charts were still stuck on the bulletin board, so whoever it was had either taken no interest in this room or had been interrupted. I checked the desk drawer where I store my laptop. It was intact. I breathed a sigh of relief. The filing cabinet with hard copies of client charts, just as a backup, was undisturbed. Everything seemed in order.
There weren’t too many hiding places in my apartment, and the ones that did exist I knew very well. I looked in the large walk-in closet in the hallway where most of my clothes were stored. As usual when I pulled on the knob, the door stuck. I leaned all my weight on the handle and it released. If that clothing had been destroyed, it would have been a real blow. I checked the bathroom, the shower stall and peeked under the bed again for good measure. I walked very softly down the hall to the living room, made a circuit of that room, checked the coat closet by the top of the stairs again, and the small laundry room next to the kitchen. Then I went back to the bedroom and pulled out the small case I keep under the bed. It holds a flashlight, a small radio and a pair of tennis shoes in case of earthquake. There was only one possible hiding place left and that was the storage area under the stairway. I tiptoed down the stairs. The triangular-shaped door is painted the same color as the wall of the hallway and the handle of the door is camouflaged by color as well. Anyone who wasn’t familiar with the apartment might not even notice this. I steeled myself in case my intruder was hiding there and lunged out at me. I pulled open the door and stepped back quickly. Nothing happened. I had been holding my breath. I shone the flashlight around the almost empty space. Nothing but two boxes of old tax papers and files and a large plastic storage container for extra blankets. I shut the door and turned the hasp to lock it. The doorbell rang. I jumped involuntarily. It took me a moment to catch my breath.
I called out, “Who is it?”
“It’s me,” Gale called out from the other side of the door. I opened it and let her in.
“How did you get here so fast?”
“I was just down the street on Clement having a drink. Are you okay? Gale took my hand. What’s going on?” She glanced at the screwdriver I was clutching tightly. “Holy crap, put that down. You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Let’s go up to the kitchen.”
“Somebody broke in. Go have a look. You won’t believe it.”
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. Tail of the Dragon, third in the series, will be released on August 8, 2018.
Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14751339.Connie_Di_Marco Author Central: amazon.com/author/conniedimarco
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