Character Interview with Rose Donnelly

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This is the last of the character interviews from the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series. I hope you enjoyed getting to know them.

Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m Melanie’s grandmother, but I’ve raised her since my daughter, Violet, left her with me when Melanie was just four years old. Violet broke Melanie’s heart when she decided that making it in Hollywood was more important than her own daughter. At first Melanie didn’t understand, but as she got older, her resentment grew. I pray that someday Violet will find peace and she and Melanie can have a relationship. But I have to say, raising Melanie has been my greatest joy. That child is more precious to me than anything in the world. I couldn’t ever imagine my life without her. Back when I was working as a nurse at St. Luke’s hospital, Melanie helped me take care of her granddad when he became ill. She has been a Godsend.

Where do you live?
I’ve lived in Birch Haven, Minnesota all my life. I was born here, and I’ll die here.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
No further than my own front porch. I love my home and every day I spend here is a blessing.

What is your favorite pastime?
Gardening and cooking. I love to work in my flower gardens and to teach Melanie how to cook. We Minnesotans love our hotdish, dontcha know, so there’s never a shortage of recipes to teach her. And there’s no better place to connect and spend time together as a family than in the kitchen. Melanie and I have had our best conversations while cooking or sitting at the kitchen table.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
When you’re retired, dear, every day is a weekend. My favorite way to spend any day is with Melanie and her friends. And they always make time for this old woman, those sweet kids.

What brings you the most joy?
Melanie. And my memories of her granddad. It’s those memories that help me through my broken heart from Violet. But I believe there’s still hope for her.

What is your most fond memory?
When Melanie was young, watching her with her granddad in the garage. He loved to work on cars and she was right by his side, soaking up everything he taught her. She’d come in with grease smudged on her face and cute as a button.

If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m the most blessed woman on this earth.

You wouldn’t change anything?
Well, maybe for Violet to finally find peace so she and Melanie could have a relationship. Maybe someday. Perhaps in one of the next books. Tune in to find out.

 

 

CI – Jack Dancy

Jack Dancy

Jack Dancy is the third party in Melanie and Claire’s circle in the Melanie Hogan cozy mysteries. Sit back, grab yourself a cold one, and get to know Jack.

Beer

Can you provide the readers with a physical description of yourself?
My heritage is half Asian from my father’s side and half Caucasian from my mother’s. I look more like my father, unfortunately. I’m about 5’9, have thick black hair, moussed back so it’s distinctly different from my father. I wear black-rimmed glasses, loafers, and designer jeans. Since I’m a clothing and jewelry designer, I like to look the part. I also like sports jackets. Melanie tells me I’m stuffy and too proper, but I’m hoping maybe the proper part will rub off on her a little bit.

Where do you live?
In Minneapolis. I lived in upscale Linden Hills until my partner and I split. Now I own an apartment in Logan Park which is in the heart of Northeast’s Art District. It suits me fine.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Switzerland or Germany. Europe in general. Actually, anywhere but Asia. But that’s just because of my father.

What is your favorite pastime?
Wandering around the Art District. I enjoy short trips to California as well, gleaning inspiration for my designs. I also enjoy reading the classics. I especially like The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Hanging out with Melanie and Claire. I give those girls a lot of grief but they know how to give it back. Especially Melanie. But it’s a relationship I would do anything in the world for. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Lately, most of our time has been spent with me trying to keep her out of trouble. Man, that girl can find trouble! In her defense, though, her trouble landed her a find man. Let’s just hope she doesn’t go messing it up with her escapades.

What is your biggest secret?
I’m gay. It’s not exactly a secret, but I don’t flaunt it, either. It’s personal to me. I was dating Bryce for several years but he’s always been resentful of my relationship with Melanie. Forced to choose, I chose Melanie. His control and anger issues helped make that decision easier.

What makes you angry?
My father putting my mom in an uncomfortable spot with her only child–me. The man is stubborn as a mule, has disowned me because I’m gay, and makes my mom pay for not sharing his opinions. I don’t know why she stays with that old goat. She’s a good, honest, hard-working woman who deserves better.
And, also, people being late. Punctuality is non-negotiable. When someone is chronically late, it shows a lack of respect for another’s time.

What brings you the most joy?
Melanie, Claire, my mom, and, of course, Melanie’s grandmother, Rose Donnelly. And my work. I love what I do. It’s an outlet for my creative side and I make a darn good living at it. Getting paid to do what I love is grand.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
I’d rather not say. Some people tend to remember those things and throw them in your face at the most inopportune times. Like Melanie did in Shear Malice. But I got her back. 🙂

What is your guilty pleasure?
Microbrew beer. I guess you could say I’m a beer snob.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Perhaps to be a little less uptight and take more time to enjoy life. Melanie is right about that, but I think I’ll keep that to myself.

 

***To read more about Melanie, Claire, and Jack, enter the Goodreads Giveaway to win one of three signed copies of Shear Madness. The giveaway runs September 1st through the 30th.

 

 

CI – Claire Davis

 

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CI = Character Interview, not Confidential Informant. 🙂

Welcome to the world of Claire Davis, side-kick of Melanie Hogan in the Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries, and co-owner of Melanie’s hair salon, A Cut Above.

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Hmmm…that’s kind of awkward. Let’s see…I’m taller than Melanie, but that doesn’t take much. I’m 5’6, to be exact, so I wear flats a lot. I’m African-American with brown eyes and kinky-curly hair. I love bright-colored hair scarves and bright colors in general. I love to work out so there’s that, too. Melanie and I couldn’t possibly be more opposite from one another but it works for us. Our friendship is as solid as they come.

Where do you live?
I’m originally from Southern Florida, but I’ve lived in Birch Haven, Minnesota for several years.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Paris! The city of love. Or Italy. I love the happy, robust Italian families I’ve see in movies. They’re always hugging and kissing and eating meals together.

What is your favorite pastime?
Being with my daughter, Sydney. She’s eight years old and looks so much like her daddy, my late husband. Tyler was in the military and died while on duty.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Saturday’s are spent at the salon. Mel and I own A Cut Above so Saturday’s really not a weekend for us. Our weekends are Sunday and Monday. Those days I love to spend with Syd, Mel, Jack—when he’s in Birch Haven—Rubie, and at Rose’s house with Melanie. Rose is Melanie’s grandmother and the sweetest, most kind-hearted, yet spirited, woman I know.

What is your biggest secret?
I don’t think I’ll ever be over my late husband. Tyler was everything to me. I’m super lucky to have my current boyfriend—and the only once since Tyler—Cole Mahoney, but I can’t ever give him my whole heart. Tyler will always have a huge part of that.

What makes you angry?
Life is too short to be angry.

What brings you the most joy?
My friends and family. There is nothing better than spending time with them and watching them when they don’t even know I am.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
When one of my flouncy-bouncy skirts got caught in the wind and flew up. Melanie never lets me forget that.

What is your most admirable character trait?
That’s the one thing Melanie and I have in common. I’m super loyal. Also, I don’t let things bother me. I don’t hold grudges or resentments. Life is too short for that stuff.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Maybe to be a little more discerning about who I trust. I want to believe everyone is good and for the most part, I truly believe they are. But every now and then I’m reminded that not everyone is nice. Especially lately with all the trouble makers Melanie has been attracting lately.

You can catch me in Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and soon in Shear Murder.

Carpe Diem

 

The Company We Keep

We Become Who We Spend Our Time With

Even though it’s not Wednesday, I had to sneak in an extra post.

This morning as I was running around Lake Estes in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, my thoughts circled around who I am today, who I was, and who I want to be. Thank God–literally–that I’m not who I was, that I’m finally comfortable with who I am, and that the power to be who I want to be lies within me.

On a recent episode of Hallmark’s Chesapeake Shores (I admit it, I’m a Hallmark Channel junkie), the character played by Treat Williams told his daughter that life is about the re-writing more than the writing. If you don’t like what’s on the page, change it.

Wow! Just wow!

The profound truth of that statement is so enlightening and empowering. Our lives are not changed by anyone else unless we allow it to be.  We have the ultimate power to change our own lives in any direction we want it to be changed.

Last weekend I was out to breakfast in a busy restaurant with some of my extended family. A table of six, not far from our table, got their food, bowed their heads, kids as well, and prayed over their meal before eating. It wasn’t the in-your-face-notice-us prayer, but humble and discreet. My husband and I always pray before meals at home, and when we’re in a public place I will sometimes quietly bow my head and silently give thanks. But only sometimes. Why not all the time? Because I forget. It hasn’t become a habit. That morning, I asked my nephew who is a youth pastor in Minneapolis, MN, if he would say the prayer over our meal. It was powerful, it was beautiful, and it was meaningful.

A week later, I was having dinner with some friends. Our food arrived, we were talking and laughing, enjoying one another’s company. When I got home I realized I didn’t give thanks. I didn’t have the reminder from someone around me, I got busy having fun, and simply forgot. While that’s not a bad thing, I want to be the person who gives thanks all the time, not just sometimes when I remember.

My point is how easily influenced we are by those around us. Subconsciously, we take in and absorb the world around us. We become who we spend our time with. There are some powerful Bible verses about this as well:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” – 1st Corinthians 15:33

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. – Proverbs 22:24

Your boasting is not good Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 1 Corinthians 5:6

Take the time to figure out who it is you want to be, who you want to grow into, and how you want to re-write the pages of your life’s book. Because you, and only you, have the power to make that happen. Surround yourself with the people you admire and respect and you will become someone you admire and respect.

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Character Interview

Grab a Cup of Java and get to Know Melanie Hogan

This month I’ll be posting character interviews from the world of the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, which thus far includes Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and coming in 2018, Shear Murder. This week’s interview is with Melanie Hogan, the protagonist in the series. I hope you enjoy getting to know Melanie. 

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Other than my greener than average eyes, similar to a cat’s eyes according to Claire and Jack, I’m Plain Jane. I don’t like a lot of makeup, and typically wear my hair loose or in a ponytail. My favorite things to wear are jeans, black boots or black sandals, both with chunky high heels to make me a bit taller than my five-foot-two frame, and hoop earrings. I have hoops of every size and color.

Where do you live?
In a small town called Birch Haven, Minnesota. It’s up north about an hour from St. Cloud.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I rather like staying home or at my Nana’s. Those are my two favorite places in the world. If I ever get adventurous and travel outside of my comfort zone, I’d visit Ireland or Scotland.

What is your favorite pastime?
Hanging out with my best friends—Claire, Jack, and Rubie. And, of course, with Nana in her kitchen. She loves to teach me how to cook and we’ve made some pretty good progress, proving there’s hope for me in the kitchen. I’m also kind of a loner and love spending time alone.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Owning a salon, Saturdays are spent neck deep in hair color and perm solutions, inhaling fumes from artificial nails and hair spray, and listening to the hum of blow dryers, stationary hair dryers and the chatter and laughter from our clientele. I love hearing the secrets they tell. On the wall of my salon hangs a plaque that says If These Walls Could Talk. If they could talk indeed. Sundays, I love to spend hanging out at my log house. I enjoy sitting on the balcony that overlooks the lake reading my devotionals, drinking coffee, and an occasional glass of wine with Claire. I also like to take my little boat out on the lake and drift.

What is your biggest secret?
Well, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore if I told you, now, would it?

What makes you angry?
Thanks to my birth mother, Violet, and my ex-husband, Cain, infidelity and dishonesty. I harbor just a wee resentment toward them but am working through it slowly. I might just get there before I die. Maybe. Also, anyone who hurts my friends and Nana.

What brings you the most joy?
Nana, Claire, Jack, Rubie, and Claire’s daughter, Sydney. I know it’s kind of creepy, but I love children, and since I can’t have them, sometimes I pretend she’s mine.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Showing up on the first day of beauty school wearing the ugly black polyester uniforms when everyone else showed up in “cool” clothes. Apparently, everyone else read their welcome and orientation packet better than I did. Which is super unlike me. I’m typically a more thorough and follow-the-rules kinda gal than the average person. Well, until a couple of years ago, that is, when dead bodies started littering my life.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
My sarcasm. But it is what it is.

What is your most admirable character trait?
I’m more loyal than a dog to my friend and to Nana. That and I’m probably the most stable person you’ll ever meet. Well…there, again, until a couple years ago. My life was so stable, planned, and predictable, that I longed for some action and spontaneity. And boy did I get it! I quickly learned to be careful what I wish for. Carpe Diem

 

Development of the Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries

Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries
I’m often asked by my readers, “How do you come up with your ideas?” To which I chuckle and joke, “My mind is a scary place.”

Okay, so maybe I’m not joking. Not completely, anyway. But since I write cozy mysteries and suspense, both that contain “clean” romance, I think I’ll pass my mother’s inspection.

When asked “What’s a cozy mystery?” my answer is always, “Something you would be comfortable with your grandmother reading. Think Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.” That usually does the trick. In fact, it was watching so many episodes of Murder She Wrote that made me fall in love with mysteries, though I don’t think they were coined “cozies” back then.

My cozy mystery series is set in small town Birch Haven, Minnesota, which is essentially its own character. The steady cast includes the protagonist, Melanie Hogan, who co-owns a hair salon with her best friend, Claire Davis. Enter Jack Dancy, the third musketeer with Melanie and Claire. Jack is a clothing and jewelry designer from Minneapolis. Add Rubie and the rest of the stylists who work in the salon, as well as Melanie’s grandmother, Nana, a retired nurse who raised Melanie since she was four years old, and Melanie’s go-to. Nana is modeled after my own grandmother who was my go-to. Most of Nana and Melanie’s chats occur around the kitchen table or when Nana is giving Melanie one of her famous cooking lessons. Each book includes one of Nana’s recipes at the end. In fact, Shear Madness, book one, includes two recipes. The cast is diverse in every way possible, which makes for fun interactions and endless story lines.

Birch Haven is a combination of two towns I’ve lived in, towns that hold a special place in my heart. Melanie’s lake house is fashioned after the house I grew up in. So when writing the books, I get to be back in those places again, which makes it fun and more intimate. When I read the newspaper, watch TV, or read a book, I will frequently ask myself, “So what if that happened in Birch Haven?” From there it takes on a life of its own.

As each day unfolds, it’s ripe with potential storylines. It’s a matter of training the mind to actively think like a writer rather than passively watch and listen. Just be careful what you say to another in the grocery line or waiting for a latte at Starbucks, because if a writer is within earshot, it could end up in a book.

The series includes three books so far, Shear Madness, Shear Deception, and Shear Malice, which was just released on June 11th. Shear Murder is in the works and scheduled for a 2018 release. Stay tuned for more.

Carpe Diem