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Interview with Hasta la Vista, Lola!’s Misa Ramirez

Misa Ramirez is the author of the Lola Cruz mystery series: Living the Vida Lola (January ’09) and Hasta la Vista, Lola! (2010) from St. Martin’s Minotaur. A former middle and high school teacher, and current CEO and CFO for La Familia Ramirez, this blonde-haired, green-eyed, proud to be Latina-by-Marriage girl loves following Lola on her many adventures. Whether it’s contemplating belly button piercings or visiting nudist resorts, she’s always up for the challenge. Misa is hard at work on a new women’s fiction novel, a middle grade series, is published in Woman’s World Magazine and Romance Writers Report, and has a children’s book published. You can visit her website at http://misaramirez.com and her blog at www.chasingheroes.com.  Connect with her at Twitter at http://twitter.com/misaramirez and http://twitter.com/chasingheroes or Facebook at http://facebook.com/misaramirez.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Misa. Can you tell us what your latest book, Hasta la Vista, Lola!, is all about?

Hasta la Vista, Lola! is the 2nd book in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series.  The first, Living the Vida Lola, came out last January.  I’m working on the third book, Bare Naked Lola.  The series follows Dolores (Lola for short) Cruz as she solves crimes and struggles to balance life and her culture as an American woman.

Hasta la Vista, Lola! deals with one of America’s most prevalent crimes: identity theft.  It’s Lola’s identity that’s been stolen, and when the woman who stole it turns up dead, Lola has to discover which one of them was the intended victim.

Q: Is this your first novel?  If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

This is the second book in the series.  Hasta la Vista, Lola! came much faster than Living the Vida Lola.  My children were older, and though I was still teaching, not having an infant made it a lot easier to write!  Plus I know the characters so much better now that I understand them, know how they’ll react and what they’ll do in certain situations.  That definitely makes the writing a more fluid process.

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

I have so much fun writing the Lola books that I barely consider it work!  That’s not to say there aren’t challenges; there are.  But I wouldn’t say they’re ever overwhelming or difficult beyond reason.

I don’t usually get ‘writer’s block’, but if I do I spend a lot of tiem mulling things over.  I just think and think and think!  I used to walk, but just had knee surgery, so no more walking!  I’m going to start bike riding after my recovery, so that will be my outlet and thinking time.  The writing process is different for everyone.  For me it does not come quickly.  I have to really work through problems, and often end up changing key elements along the way as I discover new or better plot points.

The wonderful thing about Lola Cruz Mysteries is that I now know Lola so well that she comes quite easily.  I like to say that she’s my alter ego (if I were a sexy, sassy, Latina private eye!).

Hasta la Vista, Lola! by Misa Ramirez (click on cover to order at Amazon)

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

When I received my first fan email, it was such a thrill!  To know that someone (who I don’t know) loved my book enough to email me and tell me so was astounding.  The response to Living the Vida Lola has been wonderful, though it takes time to build a series.  I anticipate that fans of the first book will absolutely love Hasta la Vista, Lola!

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

Once my kids are off to school, I make my own version of a mocha and head through the backyard to the office.  That’s where the magic happens!  I waste too much time with emails and such, but when I get into the zone, it comes quickly and I just love it!

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

Of course I love to read.  Go out with my friends, the Margarita Mamas, to unwind with our favorite drink.  Spend time with my kids and husband.  Watch Project Runway.  And Supernatural.  Yoga.  LOVE yoga, though I’m waiting for my knee to heal right now.

Q: What book changed your life?

Probably Gone With the Wind.  That’s the first book that I got so wrapped up in that everything else went by the wayside.  I was in high school and read every waking moment until I’d devoured it.

As an adult, I felt that way about The Joy Luck Club.  The relationships in the book struck a chord with me that I still treasure.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Ha!  Some Kind of Ordinary.  My life is nothing thrilling!  Though my mother would call it Pioneer Woman of the 21st Century because I’m a go-getter and a doer.  I’ll tackle almost anything (with the possible exception of dealing with snakes).

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

Oh, wow, that’s tough!  I don’t think I have many bits of myself hidden away.  What you see is what you get, so I think people pretty much understand me.

I guess, if I absolutely MUST answer, I’d say that I wish people would understand that my motivation is usually centered around my convictions, what I believe to be right and best for whoever or whatever is at stake.  I’ve learned over the years that I have to be willing to stand up for what I believe.  It’s been a hard lesson at times, but one that is worth learning and putting into practice.

Thank you for this interview Misa.  I wish you much success on your latest release, Hasta la Vista, Lola!

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Interview with James Hayman, author of THE CUTTING

James Hayman

Crime Thriller Novelist James Hayman

Crime fiction novelist James Hayman is a former creative director for a New York advertising agency who now lives and writes on Peak’s Island, Maine. Jim was kind enough to answer a few questions about his debut crime novel, The Cutting (St. Martin’s Minotaur Books).

Thank you for this interview, James. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Cutting is all about?

First and foremost The Cutting is about a character named McCabe.  He’s an ex-NYPD homicide cop, a single father, who hoped moving to a place like  Portland Maine would allow him to build a new and safer life, both for himself and his teenage daughter. Little did he know what terrible violence awaited them on the cobblestoned streets of this small and charming city.

The Cutting

The Cutting

Yes. It’s my first novel.  I’m 90% finished with McCabe#2 now and that’s been a totally different experience.

How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

In some ways it was hard.  I don’t work from an outline and that makes the process more difficult bit, I think it lso frees yo to be more creative, to take unexpected turns.

As for writer’s block, I just let my characters lead me through it.  If characters are full, well-rounded and truly human, they’ll always let you know where the story should go next. Just listen and they’ll pull you through. any writer’s block you might experience.

How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

The people who read it love it!  I never expected the book to be so well-liked but reader after reader has said that it’s a great story they couldn’t put down. They love the characters, and they just can’t wait for McCabe #2 to appear on the shelves.

The Cutting also received a bunch of fabulous  write-ups from professional reviewers both in traditional newspapers and online.

What is your daily writing routine?

I usually get up about six or six-thirty, make a cup of coffee and start writing.  About ten or so I’ll put it aside and take a four or five mile walk.  Then I’ll eat lunch.  After lunch I try to write for anoth hour or two.  Sometimes it comes. Sometimes it doesn’t.

When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

Have a couple of glasses of wine. Read. First, I read the news. Then maybe a novel.  Only good ones.  I no longer have the patience to finish books I have no respect for. And I no longer watch much television.  Books are better.

What book changed your life?

No one book has changed my life.  Many have influenced it. Most recently, Ian McKeown’s Atonement. I thought it was a great book that I think will last and still be read many years from now.

If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Dreamer.

Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

I’m a really good writer.  A really, really good writer.

Thank you for this interview, James  I wish you much success on your latest release, The Cutting!

You can visit James on the web at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.

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Book Excerpt: The Cutting by James Hayman

The Cutting

The Cutting

Portland, Maine
September 16, 2005
Friday. 5:30 A.M.

Fog can be a sudden thing on the Maine coast. On even the clearest mornings, swirling gray mists sometimes appear in an instant, covering the earth with an opacity that makes it hard to see even one’s own feet on the ground. On this particular September morning it descended at 5:30, about the time Lucinda Cassidy and her companion Fritz, a small dog of indeterminate pedigree, arrived at the cemetery on Vaughan Street to begin their four-mile run along the streets of Portland’s West End and the path that borders the city’s Western Promenade.

The cemetery was one of Portland’s oldest and was surrounded by a chain- link fence, now falling into disrepair. The gates on the Vaughan Street side were locked to keep out neighborhood dog walkers. The earliest gravestones dated back to the late 1700s. On most of these stones, dates and other specifics had faded to near illegibility. Those that could be read bore the names of early Portland’s most prominent families, Deering, Dana, Brackett, Reed, Preble. These were old Yankee names, many of which had achieved a measure of immortality, having been bestowed upon the streets and parks of a young and growing city. More recent stones marked the graves of Irish, Italian, and French-Canadian immigrants who came to Portland to work in the city’s thriving shipbuilding trades or on the railroads in the last half of the nineteenth century. Today, however, no more of the dead would be buried here, regardless of ancestry or influence. The place was full, the last remains having been interred and the last markers erected in the years immediately following World War II.

When the fog moved in, Lucy considered canceling her run, but only briefly. At age twenty-eight, she was preparing for her first 10K race. She had more than enough self- discipline not to let anything as transitory as a little morning fog interfere with her training schedule. It was tough enough getting the runs in, given the long hours she worked as the newest account executive at Beckman and Hawes, the city’s biggest ad agency. In any case, Lucy knew her route well. The fog wouldn’t be a problem as long as she took care not to trip on one of the sidewalk’s uneven pavers.

The air was cool on her bare legs as Lucy performed her stretches—calves and quads and hamstrings. She pulled off her oversized Bates College sweatshirt, revealing a white sports bra and blue nylon shorts, and tossed it into her car, an aging Toyota Corolla. She saw no other joggers or dog walkers and thought she and Fritz might well have the streets to themselves. She slipped off his collar to let him run free. He was well trained and wouldn’t go far. She pulled a Portland Sea Dogs cap down over her blond hair, stretching the Velcro band down and under her ponytail. She draped the dog’s lead around her shoulders and set off along Vaughan Street at a leisurely pace, with Fritzy first racing ahead and then stopping to leave his mark on a tree or lamppost.

Lucy liked the quiet of the early morning hours in this upscale neighborhood. Passing street after street of graceful nineteenthcentury homes, she glanced in the windows and imagined herself living in one or another of them. The image pleased her. She saw herself holding elegant dinner parties. The food would be simple but perfectly prepared. The wines rare. The men handsome. The conversation witty. All terribly Masterpiece Theatre. Ah well, a pretty picture but not very likely. She was not, she knew, to the manner born. She watched Fritz scamper ahead and then turn and wait for her to follow. Lucy moved through the damp morning air, bringing her heart rate up to an aerobic training level. She thought about the day ahead, reviewing, for at least the twentieth time, details of a TV campaign she was presenting to the marketing group at Mid-Coast Bank. She’d worked her tail off to land this new client, but they were turning out to be both difficult and demanding. After work, she planned a quick trip to Circuit City to pick up a birthday present for her soon to-be twelve-year-old nephew Owen. Her older sister Patti’s boy, Owen told her what he “really really wanted” was an iPod, but he wasn’t optimistic. “We don’t have the money this year,” he added in grown-up, serious tones that had Patti’s imprint all over them. Well, Owen was in for a big surprise.

After that it was back to the Old Port for dinner with David at Tony’s. The prospect of dinner at Tony’s pleased her. The prospect of sharing it with her ex- husband didn’t. He was pushing to get back together, and yes, she admitted, there were times she was briefly tempted. God knows, no one else even remotely interesting was waiting in the wings. Yet after a couple of dates, she was surer than ever that going back to David wasn’t the answer for either of them. She planned to tell him so to night.

She ran along Vaughan for a mile or so, climbing the gentle rise of Bramhall Hill, before turning west across the old section of the hospital toward the path that lined the western edge of the Prom. The fog was thicker now, and she could see even less, but her body felt good. The training was paying off, and she felt certain she’d be ready for the race, now ten days away.

Suddenly Fritz darted past and disappeared into the mist, barking furiously at what Lucy figured was either an animal or another runner coming up the path in her direction. Then she saw Fritz run out of the fog, turn, and stand his ground, angry barks lifting his small body in an uncharacteristic rage. Instantly alert, Lucy wondered who or what could be getting him so agitated. Usually he just wagged his stub of a tail at strangers.

Seconds later a runner emerged from the fog about fifteen feet in front of her. He was a tall man with a lean, well-muscled body. Had she seen him jogging here before? She didn’t think so. He was unusually good- looking with dark, deep- set eyes that would be hard to forget. Late thirties or early forties, she thought. Fritz backed away but kept barking.

“Quiet down,” Lucy commanded. “It’s okay.” She smiled at the man. “He isn’t usually so noisy.”

The tall man stopped and knelt down. He extended his left hand for Fritz to sniff, then scratched him behind the ears. He smiled up at Lucy. “What’s his name?”

Lucy registered the absence of a wedding band. “Fritz,” she said.

“Hey, Fritz, are you a good boy? Sure you are.” He scratched Fritz again. The dog’s stubby tail offered a tentative wag or two. He looked up. “I’ve seen you running here before. I’m sure I have.”

“You may have,” she said, though she was sure she would have noticed him. “I’m here most mornings. I’m training for a 10K.”

“Good for you. Mind if I run along? I’d enjoy the company.” She hesitated, surprised at the man’s directness. Finally she said, “I guess not. Not as long as you can keep up. I’m Lucy.”

“Harry,” he said, extending a hand. “Harry Potter.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, I was christened long before the first book came out, and I wasn’t about to change my name.”

They took off, chatting easily, laughing about the name. Fritz, no longer barking, kept pace.

“You live in Portland?” she asked.

“No, I’m here on business. Medical equipment. The hospital’s one of my biggest clients.” “So you’re here quite often?”

“At least once a month.”

They picked up the pace and turned south down the western edge of the Prom.  “Normally there’s a great view from up here. Can’t see a damned thing today.”  A dark green SUV sat parked at the curb just ahead of them.

“Could you excuse me for a minute?” Harry pointed and clicked a key ring. The car’s lights blinked; its doors unlocked. “I need to get something.”

He leaned in, rummaged in a small canvas bag, and then emerged from the car holding a hypodermic and a small bottle. “I’m a diabetic,” he explained. “I have to take my insulin on schedule.” Harry carefully inserted the needle into the bottle and extracted a clear liquid. “Only take a second.” Lucy smiled. Feeling it was rude to watch,  she turned away and looked out toward over the Prom. The fog wasn’t dissipating. If anything it seemed to be getting thicker. She performed a few stretches to keep her muscles warm while they waited. She sensed more than saw the sudden movement behind her. Before she could react, Harry Potter’s left arm was around her neck,  pulling her sharply back and up in a classic choke hold. Her windpipe constricted in the crook of his elbow. She couldn’t move. She wanted to scream but could draw only enough breath to emit a thin, strangled cry. Frantic and confused, Lucy dug her nails into the man’s flesh, wishing she’d let them grow longer and more lethal. She felt a sharp prick. She looked down and saw the man’s free hand squeezing whatever was in the hypodermic into her arm. He continued holding her, immobile. She tried to struggle, but he was too strong, his grip too tight. Within seconds wooziness began to overtake her. She felt his hands on the back of her head and her butt, pushing her, head-first, facedown, into the backseat of the car.

Turning her head, Lucy could still see out through the open door, but everything had taken on a hazy, distant quality, like a slow-motion film growing darker frame by frame and seeming to make no sense. She saw an enraged Fritz growling and digging his teeth into the man’s leg. She heard a shout, “Shit!” Two large hands picked the small dog up. She tried to rise but couldn’t. The last thing Lucinda Cassidy saw was the good- looking man with the dark eyes. He smiled at her. The slow-motion film faded to black.

Book excerpt of The Cutting (St. Martin’s) by James Hayman.  Visit James’ website at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.  Buy his book at Amazon by clicking here.

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