Monday, September 1, 2014

Interview with Nancy Coco-To Fudge or Not to Fudge

Please welcome to the blog author Nancy Coco who is here today to talk about her new Allie McMurphy Mackinac Island Candy Coated mystery. Please enjoy our little chat, get to know a little more about the series and about Nancy too!

  • ISBN-13: 9780758287120
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 9/2/2014
  • Series: A Candy-coated Mystery Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 352

With summer in bloom and tourists afoot, Allie is out walking her pup, Mal, when the curious canine digs up a bone from under a flowering lilac bush. The bone leads to a toe that's missing a body. For the successful confectionaire it's only the first in a series of sour events in the middle of the island's Lilac Fest. 

Read an Excerpt:

"A lilac by any other name still smells as sweet."

"Mal, get out from under that lilac bush," I called. It was almost time for the Lilac Festival, and my bichon/poodle puppy Marshmallow had fallen in love with the thick mulch that was spread under the lilacs. For some reason she found the bushes next to the Town Crier, Mackinac Island's newspaper, to be the most enticing.
I tugged on her leash. Mal dug in her heels and refused to budge. Like a fisherman fighting a hook, I reeled in the leash. This served to pull on her pink harness and drag one stubborn doggie out from under the bush one inch at a time. "Come on, Mal, let's at least pretend I'm in charge," I muttered and pulled harder.
As the proud yet harried owner of a 121-year-old hotel and fudge shop, I'd walked down to the newspaper to place a want ad for a part-time maid to help fill in during the busy times. Mackinac Island was known for its quaint Victorian feel. There were no cars. In fact, they were banned from the island. Only bicycles and horse-drawn carriages filled the streets.
Mal was a gift from my dear friend and reservation manager, Frances Wentworth. The puppy was supposed to keep me safe from evildoers. She had done her job well last month when I found myself investigating my grandfather's best friend's murder. I kind of had to as he had been murdered in my utility closet.
Still, on the days when she wasn't protecting me, Mal had a tendency to boss me about. Especially when it came to doing things she was interested in doing ... like sniffing under lilac bushes—instead of what I was supposed to be doing ... placing an ad in the paper.
"Come on, Mal, I need to get this errand done before noon." I yanked on the leash. Suddenly she popped out from under the bushes with a bone in her mouth.
I did a double take. Was that a sock hanging from that bone?
Surely not, but on close inspection it had an argyle pattern like a sock. It was knitted like a sock. Okay, so there was a huge hole in what appeared to be a heel like a sock. But then Mal loved socks. Maybe other dogs did too. Maybe, just maybe, some dog buried their bone in their favorite sock. It could happen, right?
I mean, what were the chances that the sock belonged to the bone? Slim to none. Right?
Mal proudly dropped the sock-wrapped bone at my feet and nudged it as if to show me what she found. Her little stubby tail wagged.
"I sure hope that's not what I think it is." I poked it with my white Keds. There was no way I was going to pick it up.
She pushed the bone toward me, wagged her bobbed tail, and darted back under the lilac bush. "Mal, come on, I have work to do." I yanked on her harness only for her to prance out from under the bush. This time she had what looked like part of a shoe in her mouth. She shook the shoe as if to kill it. Dirt and mulch went flying, along with hard pieces that hit my legs with athump, thud, thump.
Those hard pieces had toenails painted a neon orange.
The spit dried up in my mouth. Adrenaline washed through me. I did what any sane person would do. I scooped up my dog, yanked the shoe out of her mouth, dropped it next to the sock bone, and ran straight into the Town Crier.
There was no way I was going to be alone outside with portions of a dead person. I mean really, what if whoever it had been had been attacked by a wild animal and dragged under the bush to be saved for a later meal? Or worse. What if the animal was a rabid creature using the remains as bait? It could be true. There was no way I was going to hang around and find out.
"Dogs aren't allowed in here," said an older gentleman with a white beard, a balding head, and reading glasses perched at the edge of his nose.
"Right." I faced him and held the door closed with my body. Mal leapt out of my arms and sat down to stare at the old guy as if to dare him to kick her out.
He stared at me. "The dog ..."
I found my voice. "Just dug up remains from under your lilac bush."
He drew his bushy white brows together over his dark brown eyes. "Excuse me?"
I swallowed and cleared my throat as I fumbled for my phone. "Call 9-1-1. I think there's a dead guy under your lilac bush."
"A dead ... what?" He stood and took a step away from me, using his desk as a shield between him and the crazy woman at his door. It would have been funny if I weren't the crazy woman.
"Person," I said. "Well, not a whole person. A part of a person who wears argyle socks and leather shoes ... oh, and paints their toenails orange."
He picked up the phone and hit a single button. "Hi, Charlene," he said. "Get Officer Manning over here, will ya? There's a crazy woman in my office. No, she doesn't appear to have a weapon, just a small white dog. Um, hmm, hold on. Are you the McMurphy girl?"
"Yes," I said, my hands fumbling with my phone. After last month's trouble I had Officer Rex Manning's number on speed dial; I hit the button.
"The one who found Joe Jessop dead in a utility closet?"
"Yes." I put the phone up to my ear and listened to it ring.
"It's the same crazy woman," the man said into his phone. "Right. Okay. Bye." He hung up the phone and sat down slowly, watching me with narrowed eyes as the ringing on my phone dropped me into Rex's voice mail.
"Hey, hi," I said into my cell phone. "I hope you're on your way to the Town Crier. I'm pretty sure Mal dug up a dead person."
I hit the END CALL button. The old man studied me, and I studied him. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled something out. Then he slapped it down in front of him. It was a rabbit's foot. Ew. Okay, I'd seen enough disembodied feet for one day, thank you very much.
"What is that?"
He raised his right bushy eyebrow. "If you don't know I bet the dog could tell ya."
I sighed and crossed my arms. "It's a rabbit's foot. I know what it is. I wanted to know why you got it out."
"Because I don't know how to make an evil eye." He tipped back in his chair, and it squeaked.
"An evil eye?" I shook my head, dazed. "I don't get it."
"It wards off bad omens and such," he said and reached over to adjust his placement, ensuring the rabbit's foot sat square between him and me.
"Um, okay. I'd join you behind your rabbit's foot, but I'm currently busy making sure the door stays closed."
"Now why would you be doing that?"
"Because there is a killer out there. It might be a wild animal. It might be a serial murderer. Either way, there is going to be a door between me and it." I hated to sound smug, but really, a strong wooden door was a lot better at keeping a rabid animal away than a rabbit's foot.
"Well, there, see, that's where we disagree."
"We do?" I scrunched up my eyebrows.
"As far as I can tell the bad luck is already inside with me."
"What? Where?" I glanced around, but there were only three of us inside: me, him, and Mal.
"I'm looking at it." His gaze was steady on me.
"You mean me?" I pointed to my pink polo shirt.
"You're the only one in this room that finds old men dead and seeing as how I'm an old man ..."
"But you're not dead," I tried to reason with him.
"Thus the rabbit's foot."
"Okay, seriously, I don't know what you heard, but I did not murder anyone."
"I didn't say you did."
"But you just said ..."
"That you have been known to be alone when you find old men dead." He shrugged. "I'm hedging my bets."
I didn't know what to say to that, so I simply glared at him. He glared back. Mal sneezed and we both jumped.
"Does the dog bite?" The man finally broke the silence.
"Mal? No, she's a puppy." I picked her up and decided to play nice. I stuck out my hand. "I didn't properly introduce myself. I'm Allie. I run the McMurphy."
"I know." He sat back carefully, still wary. "Charlene told me."
"Right." I pulled my empty hand back.
"Besides, I'm a reporter, not much escapes my notice." He crossed his arms over his wide chest.
"Except a dead body under your bushes."
"I thought you said it was a sock and shoe."
"With bones and toenails." I hugged Mal until she squeaked.
"Orange painted toenails." He pursed his mouth. "Yep, you told me that part, Ms. McMurphy."
"I'm not crazy," I said in my own defense.
"There are people on this island who would disagree with that." He watched me from over the top of his eyeglasses.
"There are people on this island who think we should allow cars. Everything people think is not always right."
"Well, you have me there." He leaned back. "I'm Angus MacElroy."
"I'd say it's very nice to meet you, but right now I'm not so sure." Mal wiggled, but I held her tight. Her fluffy fur was a comfort.
"Why'd you come here, Ms. McMurphy?" Angus asked.
"I came over to place a want ad, but instead it seems I've uncovered a dead body or possibly a murder victim." I tilted my head and studied him as if he were the perfect suspect. For all I knew, he was. "Being a reporter, you probably have seen a million dead bodies."
"Only ten and they were open-casket funerals," he admitted, his brown eyes twinkling. "A murder victim? Isn't that jumping to conclusions?" he asked in a calm manner—too calm, if you ask me.
"It looks like murder to me unless you purposefully buried someone under your lilac bushes."
He leaned back, and the squeak of his chair reverberated round the room. "I didn't bury anyone under the lilacs. There's a law against that, you know."
"Grandpa, are you scaring away customers?" A woman about my age stepped out of the back room. She had dark brown hair, a heart-shaped face, and soft blue eyes. She wore cargo pants and boots and a pale blue tank top under a red, white, and blue plaid shirt.
"She's not a customer," he glanced at me. "She's a crazy woman who won't leave the door. She has some ridiculous notion that holding the door will keep a wild animal from bursting in and killing us."
"Don't be silly." She bussed a kiss on his grizzled cheek. "It's more likely she's afraid to get near you." She stepped around the desk. "Hi, I'm Elizabeth MacElroy. Everyone calls me Liz."
I shook her hand. She had a nice firm grip. "Allie."
"Hi, Allie, who's this sweet puppy?" She leaned in, and Mal jumped into her arms and kissed her. Liz laughed and stood holding Mal. "Aren't you the sweetest?"
"Oh, no." I tried not to panic. "Don't let her kiss you."
"Why not? I love doggies." Her blue eyes twinkled in delight as Mal proceeded to wash her face.
I winced. "She may have dead-body breath."
"What?" Liz froze.
"That's what I told you." Angus leaned back with a smug smile. "Ms. McMurphy seems to think she found a murder victim hidden in the lilacs. Anyone you know missing?"

Grandma's Million-Dollar Fudge
4½ cups of sugar
1 can of evaporated milk
½ cup butter
4 large (4 ½ ounce) chocolate bars
2 packages of chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
1 pint marshmallow creme
2 cups nuts

Butter an 8" x 8" x 2" pan, then line with wax paper or parchment.
Boil together sugar, milk, and butter for approximately 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Place candy bars and chocolate chips in a large bowl and pour sugar mixture over candy. Beat well. Add marshmallow creme and nuts. Beat until cool. Spread in pan. Let cool and cut into squares.
"Ewww." Liz held Mal out at arm's length.
"Sorry." I scooped up the pup. "This is Marshmallow. She sniffed out a bone from under the lilacs. I wouldn't think that much of it, but it had a sock attached."
"Oh." She wiped the back of her hand across her lovely mouth. Her gaze sparkled, and she laughed. "Joke's on me then."
"We called the cops," Angus said.
"Well, what are you doing sitting here?" Liz put her hands on her hips. "Let's go out and contaminate the crime scene like any good reporter would." She opened the door, and I followed her out. There was supposed to be safety in numbers, right?
Officer Rex Manning walked up to us. The police station was practically across the street. "Liz, Allie." He nodded his greeting. "What's this about a dead body?" Rex was a stocky man with wide shoulders and biceps to match. He looked good in fresh starched blues. His baby blue gaze was serious. He wore his trooper hat over his shaved head. Rex was all no-nonsense and efficient movement with competent hands.
I had a bit of a crush on him. It was hard to think beyond the flutter I felt every time I saw him. "Mal dug up the evidence," I said. The words came out breathless, and Liz glanced at me a little too aware. I told myself not to blush or I would give everything away. For someone as pale skinned as me, not blushing was as difficult as not sneezing.
Luckily Mal barked and jumped out of my hands, distracting everyone from my hideous attempt to hide my emotion.
I loved Mal—for a puppy she was brilliant at keeping me safe. She went over and sat next to the sock-covered bone. A single bark, and she put her white paw on it.
"What's this, little girl?" Rex squatted down next to her and examined the bone. He took out a pen, and using his cell phone, took a photo.
Liz kept an arm's distance back but also squatted to get a better look. "Is that argyle?"
"That's what I thought." I got down next to Liz.
"What made you think it was human?" Rex asked behind his camera. "Besides the fabric?"
As if on cue, Mal jumped up, grabbed the tattered bit of shoe, and shook it. A bit of bone flew out and hit Rex in the face.
"Ow." He rubbed his cheek then grabbed the shoe from Mal. At least I thought of it as a shoe. It was actually only the shredded toe of a shoe.
"Is that a toe?" Liz looked at once horrified and fascinated.
I picked up a twig and pushed at the bits that had flown out earlier and hit my shin. They were scattered in a small arc. "Yes," I said. "I don't know of any wild animal that paints its nails orange." I pointed at the flakes of polish, not wanting to get any closer than necessary.
"Cool." Liz pulled a digital camera out of her cargo pants pocket and snapped a photo.
"Stop." Rex covered her lens with his hand.
"Hey." Liz glared at him.
"I'm declaring this an official crime scene. That means it's closed to photographs."
"I don't think so." Liz lifted her camera and snapped a photo of Rex, momentarily blinding him. He did what anyone would do: put his hand across his eyes to block it.
She was fast. I watched with amazement as she snapped a couple more pictures of the bits of toe and of Mal sitting proudly next to the sock-covered bone.
Rex swore something dark and dangerous under his breath and reached for the camera. Liz ducked out of his way and rushed back inside the newspaper office.
I watched while Rex debated whether it was more important to follow her or to stay with the evidence. Tilting my head, I smiled. "It seems I'm not the only troublemaker on the island."
"Reporters," Rex mumbled and went back to his investigation.
It was then I noticed that Mal had disappeared back under the lilac bush. "Oh, no," I said and stepped forward to get her.
Rex stopped me with a hand on my arm. "Don't move. You're not trained in crime-scene investigation."
"Neither is Mal and she seems to be doing fine." I crossed my arms over my chest. Mal popped back out with another bit of bone in her mouth. She dropped it at his feet and gave a short bark before running back to the bush.
"I'll get her," he strode to the bush and got down and pulled Mal out from under the bush. She rewarded him with a lick on the cheek.
"Ha!" Liz said, coming out of the Crier sans camera. "Someone else getting dead-body kisses."
"Don't wipe it off," I warned him with a grin. "It could be evidence."
"It's not evidence," he grumbled and raised his hand to swipe it off.
"It could be DNA evidence," I said, holding up my hand in a stop motion. "Or soil evidence. Do you really want to take the chance of ruining microscopic clues?"
"Oh, for the love ..." He strode my way, his sexy eyes stormy. My heartbeat picked up, but I stood my ground. "Here," he said and handed me Mal, his cheek clearly dirt-smeared from her kiss.
"This is definitely nail polish on this toenail," Liz said as she studied the bit of bone. "These must be female bones."
"How do you figure that?" Rex asked.
"Do you know any men who paint their toenails?" Her blue gaze teased as she raised one winged eyebrow.
"You can't assume anything," Angus said as he strolled over to her. "Huh, it does look like a toe. Came out of the shredded shoe, you said?" He shoved his hands in his brown corduroy pants. He tilted his head and studied the bits.
Mal squirmed in my arms and gave a short bark. I jumped. It still startled me when she barked out of the blue.
"Dog says yes." Angus nodded. "So, Manning, looks like there's a body under the lilacs. What are you going to do about it?"


Nancy Hi! Welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
Tell my readers a little about To Fudge Or Not To Fudge.
To Fudge Or Not To Fudge is set during the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival in early June. The island is getting ready for an explosion of lilacs with their sweet scent and lovely blooms. The festival includes an entirely horse-drawn parade and the annual crowning of the Lilac Queen.
Our protagonist, Allie McMurphy, is excited to join in the festivities when her faithful puppy, Mal, discovers something sinister in the mulch. Due to Mal’s sensitive nose, Allie finds herself embroiled in yet another mystery this one includes a murder, a reality show fudge-off, and old island secrets.  Allie knows things are bad when her mother shows up out of the blue and decides Allie might just be in over her head.

How are your Candy Coated Mysteries related?
The books all take place on Mackinac Island Michigan. Billed as the island time forgot, it is a quiet Victorian get away where no cars are allowed and tourists called, Fudgies, come for the fudge, the history and the elegant lawns of Victorian painted-lady summer homes.  The stories revolve around Allie McMurphy, an expert candy maker and the newest owner of her family’s Historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge shop.

Should we read them in order?
The books can stand alone, but you may want to read them in order to watch how friends come together around Allie as she learns how to become part of the island community. The friendships and romances build with each book.

The first two are set on my Dad’s favorite vacation site Mackinac Island in Michigan.
Will they all be set there?
Yes, I hope to set the majority of the books on Mackinac Island.

And, why there?
 My mother grew up near the island so it is near and dear to my heart. That and everyone who ever gets the chance to visit Mackinac Island comes away relaxed, happy, and looking forward to visiting again. It’s my hope that the books help to extend the visit as well as give those who have never been a taste of the genteel lifestyle and fudgy flavors.

Nancy, Coco is not the only last name you write under.
What do you write under Nancy J Parra?
I write the Baker’s Treat Mystery series under Nancy J Parra. This series is about a gluten-free bakery in a small town in Kansas, the breadbasket of the USA. Here the amateur sleuth, Toni Holmes, bakes up yummy gluten-free treats, while dealing with a very large and slightly out of control family.
I also write the Perfect Proposal series under Nancy J Parra. This third series is set in the suburbs of Chicago and our amateur sleuth is event planner, Pepper Pomeroy, who helps men and women pop the question in the most imaginative ways. Pepper is often described as a hoot as she bumbles her way through investigations as you might imagine a modern day Lucile Ball would.

Why write under two names?
I have two different publishers and my editor asked me to use a pen name to help the Mackinac Island books stand out from the others. It’s a lot of fun to have two names, until I forget and sign the wrong name in a book.

Do you write your different series simultaneously?
Yes, I’m writing all three series at the same time. I write three books a year-one book in each series. It keeps things fresh and fun and interesting to me. Plus I have three big notebooks of character information to help me keep them all straight.

Nancy your novels are labeled Cozy Mysteries.
Do you mind the tag?
No, actually, I don’t mind the tag at all. Cozies are pure entertainment and cozy readers are very discerning. My goal is to not only give the reader a good puzzle but to introduce a community of friends and family whom the reader gets to know and hopefully wants to continue to invite into their life year after year.

Nancy you’ve had some really nice praise for your books.
Are reviews rave or otherwise something you like reading?
Oh, gosh, I am so thankful for people who write reviews. They really make a big difference to other readers and for a writer’s reputation.  Keep writing reviews, my friends, writers need you. That said, I really try to focus on the books and creating something reviewers are proud to talk about.

Nancy thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
Good luck with your novel.
Will there be any events/signings for fans to find you?
I have the joy of returning to Mackinac Island on Saturday September 6th to sign To Fudge Or Not To Fudge in The Island Bookstore from 2-4 pm. I’ll also be signing at Horizons bookstore in Traverse City that morning from 10-11 am.
Also, I try to attend as many reader conferences as possible to meet readers and find out what they like and what they want to see in the stories. Some of the conferences are Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, Killer Nashville, and Bouchercon.

CONNECT WITH NANCY -Website - Facebook - Twitter

Best known for writing plucky heroines Nancy Coco AKA Nancy J. Parra has 15 books published-
Most recently Nancy has three cozy mystery book series going.
Gluten for Punishment and Murder Gone A-Rye are both part of the Gluten Free Baker's Treat Mystery series. (Berkley Prime Crime)
All Fudge Up and To Fudge or Not To Fudge are part of the Candy Coated Mystery series (Kensington) -which Nancy writes as Nancy Coco
Then there is Engaged in Murder- the first in the Perfect Proposal series from Berkly Prime Crime. All Fudged Up was Nancy's first National Best seller.

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  1. Cute! I loved this. Thanks for sharing it and I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

    1. Hi KIndlemom, thanks for commenting :)
      and my weekend is nine days long ha I'm on vacation ;)

  2. Aw man I had a nice pretty comment and then my internet went out and lost it. lol This one does sound good Debbie :) I love little towns like this with their festivals.

    1. LOL Anna, I hate when that happens but I'm used to it because usually blogger and wordpress don't play well together and I make an effort to copy before sending. I'm sorry I missed the first one I know I would have LOVED it!!!