Monday, April 8, 2019

"Murder in Tranquility Park" by J. D. Griffo

Murder in Tranquility Park
(A Ferrara Family Mystery Book 2)
by J. D. Griffo

Murder in Tranquility Park (A Ferrara Family Mystery Book 2) by J. D. Griffo

Murder in Tranquility Park is the second book in the Ferrara Family Mystery series by J. D. Griffo. Also available: Murder on Memory Lake. Pre-order now: Murder at Icicle Lodge.

Murder on Memory Lake by J. D. GriffoMurder at Icicle Lodge by J. D. Griffo

Murder in Tranquility Park is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Alberta Scaglione and her twentysomething granddaughter, Jinx, love to spend time - and solve crime - together ...
Ever since Alberta Scaglione inherited her spinster aunt’s Cape Cod cottage, she’s been enjoying the good life in Tranquility, New Jersey, with her black cat, Lola. But since things are mostly quiet in this town, she finds other things to do - like joining Jinx for morning jogs in Tranquility Park. She has to do something to stay healthy, as long as it doesn’t involve Jinx’s healthful tofu sausages and gluten-free pasta. But when they stumble across a treehouse hidden in the trees, and a dead body underneath it, they take a detour into solving a murder. Now the Ferrara ladies will have to exercise extreme caution to avoid a permanent decline in their health ...
Includes Italian recipes from Alberta’s kitchen!

There’s no place like home.
Alberta repeated those words to herself several times, and while she knew they were true she couldn’t believe all of this was hers and that this was her home. How could it be possible? The Cape Cod cottage was traditional, ordinary even with its gray shiplap walls, faded black shutters, and the front door painted a cheerful yellow. But it was the view from her kitchen window that never failed to take her breath away. And it should because it was magnificent.
Parting the yellow and white gingham curtains to get an unrestricted look at the immense body of water that was essentially her backyard, Alberta marveled at the crystal blue water of Memory Lake just as she did most mornings. Undisturbed, the lake looked like a sheet of ice, strong and solemn, its liquidity only apparent when a stray bird flew by and dipped its beak into the water in search of food or when ripples gurgled on the surface, the result of some unknown activity underneath.
The lake was almost entirely surrounded by an array of trees and bushes in various sizes and multiple shades of green although a few houses, almost identical to Alberta’s, popped up here and there along the circumference. None were close enough to disrupt Alberta’s solitude, and the houses on the opposite side of the lake were hardly visible due to the distance that separated them and the lush foliage that kept them tucked away from easy sight.
Alberta watched as the morning sun crept up slowly from the horizon to introduce bright yellows and oranges to the cloudless dark blue sky. The view was majestic and it was hers, and yet she still couldn’t believe her good fortune. None of this makes any sense, she thought, this has got to be some crazy mistake.
“Alberta Marie Teresa Ferrara Scaglione,” she muttered out loud. “What in the world are you doing here?”
It had been almost six months since she moved into the house on Memory Lake, and Alberta still felt like an intruder. It was as if she was living inside a dream, but not one of her own making, someone else’s. Alberta was not someone prone to indulge in fanciful possibilities, of what could happen if all her fantasies came true or if she hit the lottery, so she never imagined she would own a quaint little cottage in a quaint little town overlooking a quaint, but not-so-little, lake. She had assumed she’d be spending her golden years living by herself in a modest-sized condo or among a bunch of other old ladies in a senior citizens building, and she had been fine with those scenarios. Life, however, had other plans for Alberta’s future.
Thanks to the very generous inheritance she received from her late Aunt Carmela, instead of looking forward to Bingo games on Tuesday nights, Alberta looked forward to the view from her kitchen window every morning. A part of her kept thinking that she didn’t belong here, and the other part kept reminding her that this was exactly where she was supposed to be.
Alberta bent down to scoop up her cat, Lola, whose black fur was the same color as her own hair, although the cat’s fur was natural and the shade of Alberta’s hair was the product of chemistry, and held her close to her chest so they could both enjoy the scenery.
“My life was supposed to be coming to an end,” she whispered into Lola’s ear. “It wasn’t supposed to be starting over.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Phew! what a whirlwind of a book! I came to this series with this book and I am going to jump right back and read the first one as this was so good!” ~ A Wytch’s Book Review Blog
“This series has found its place on my list of must read mysteries. It has a well crafted mystery, multi faceted characters and just enough real life and humor to balance it out. Now I have to wait - eagerly - for the next mystery …” ~ Susan E.
“I liked the book, the characters, and even the town. This is a group of people who would be extremely entertaining to know. I recommend the book. Since I haven’t read the first book, I look forward to doing so.” ~ Bobbie
“A great read!” ~ Jan
“The Ferrara family are funny and good at solving crimes. They are very likable and I enjoyed returning to their small town of Tranquility. It’s fun to have them work together as a family to solve the mystery. The sleuth was well crafted and I enjoyed the clues to conclusion. Great laughs throughout are a delight. I look forward to further books in this series and returning to the fun and witty repartee.” ~ M. Davis

Interview With the Author
J. D. Griffo joins me today to discuss his new book, Murder in Tranquility Park, Book Two in the Ferrara Family Mystery series.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Both Murder in Tranquility Park and Murder on Memory Lake, which is the first book in the Ferrara Family Mystery series, are for readers of all ages, the only requirement is that you love a good mystery. Since the ages of the characters range from early 20s to late 60s, a reader will have no problem finding someone to connect with.
What sparked the idea for this series?
When I was working on discovering what my twist to the cozy mystery genre would be, I kept coming back to the idea of an intergenerational story focusing on one family. I enjoy exploring how the many layers of relatives and relationships impact and strengthen a family. From there I accepted the old adage that you should write what you know and since I come from a large Italian family, that’s what began to take shape. From there I tightened the idea to its kernel, which is the grandmother/granddaughter relationship.
So which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the series?
For this series the idea came first. With a mystery it’s important for me to have a strong plot, a unique murder, and a host of suspects. That means I need to know who dies, how do they die, why do the die, and who did the killing before I can delve into character. The way I plot out a mystery I use that idea and then branch out and create a character’s story based on the specifics of the idea.
It’s also how I wrote the first book in the series. I had the idea for a cozy mystery that I describe as The Golden Girls meets Nancy Drew with an Italian twist and knew who was going to get murdered, how, and by whom. What I didn’t know – fully – was who the Ferraras were. So, once I was on secure footing with the plot and how the mystery would unfold, I wrote a backstory for each continuing character – Alberta, Jinx, Helen, and Joyce.  I even wrote histories for the supporting characters as well – Vinny, Sloan, Freddy, and Father Sal. Now I know these characters as well as I know my own family!
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Killing off a major character! I had worked the death into the plot and it was important for the story, and I think the series itself, to raise the stakes with this book, so it was not an unexpected death that came to me organically while I was writing, it was planned in advance. Still, when I had to type the words and kill off this character I was devastated. I second-guessed myself and contemplated changing the character’s fate up until I received the copyedited manuscript. However, once I read the book again, I realized I had made the right decision. not just for the story but the series.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope the readers are affected in two ways. First, I hope they enjoy the mystery, how it unfolds, and feel like it was a worthwhile ride to take. Second, I hope they fall even more in love with Alberta, Jinx, and the rest of the characters like I have and consider them part of their very own literary family.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I’m a rather fast writer, so it took me only about a month to write the first draft of this book. I wrote early in the morning before work, during my lunch hour, and on weekends. It was a crazy schedule, but I had some vacation time coming up, and I wanted to make sure I was finished before I left town! Once the first draft was finished, I took a break, went to the beach, and then about three weeks later plunged back in. I spent about another six weeks editing and rewriting it, so in total it took me about three months to write.
What is your writing routine?
Because I have a full-time job, my writing time is limited. Planning a schedule and sticking to it are, therefore, paramount and if I get off track I’m in trouble. My typical routine is that I’ll get up at 6am on a Saturday, put on the coffee, and write until the chapter is finished. It might take three hours or six, but I don’t stop until the chapter that I set out to write is completely finished.
If I’m inspired, I’ll repeat this on Sunday – or at least make an attempt!  Then during the week I’ll reread and edit the chapter – or chapters if I’m lucky – before and after work and even during lunch, if I can squeeze the time in. Sometimes it can feel like a race against the clock, but the good news is that I’ve always crossed the finish line with lots of time to spare.
How did you get your book published?
Before I decided to write a cozy mystery series, I had already published several novels with Kensington Books, so I had an established rapport with my editor. We were discussing what my next book would be and he suggested writing a cozy. At first, I was reluctant because I just didn’t think I could do it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, writing a mystery is hard! Writing a continuing series of mysteries was not something I thought I could do. The endless plots, red herrings, unique murders – I am not ashamed to admit that I was terrified by the prospect. But then it dawned on me that a cozy mystery series is very similar to a soap opera, and I have been an obsessed soap fan for decades. Once I made that connection, I embraced the cozy world and have never looked back.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
In my opinion, you have to have the 3Ds – desire, discipline, and dedication. If you don’t have all three, you will have a very difficult time becoming – and remaining – a published writer. Of course, you need skill and an understanding of your craft, but that will only get you so far. Lots of people have great ideas for a novel, but without the 3Ds you will have a hard time publishing that novel.
You have to want to be a writer and tell stories, you need to create your own writing schedule and routine and stick to it, and you need to be committed to finishing the books and stories you start writing no matter how difficult the journey might be. Ask any writer, and they will tell you that the journey will absolutely contain difficult moments. The only way to push through the hard times and the defeats and the ever-present self-doubt, is to have a strong foundation, and that’s what the 3Ds give me.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to travel and, in fact, just got back from a long weekend in New Orleans. We went after Mardi Gras, but the city was still lively and amazing. The highlight of my trip was that I held a baby alligator while on a swamp tour in the bayou! It was an amazing moment. 
Since writing can be both isolating and sedentary, I try to stay as active as possible. I ride my bike when weather permits, practice yoga when I’m feeling flexible, and for the past year I’ve been taking figure skating lessons. I’ve been a fan for decades and finally decided to see how well I’d fare on the ice. So far, I love the challenge, the freedom, and most of all, the physicality of it. Being a novice, my brain doesn’t really have that much control over what my body does while skating, so I’m forced to give up control and use my mind in a completely different way than I do as a writer.  
What does your family think of your writing?
I am blessed to have a loving and supportive family, so they think that anything I write is brilliant and should be awarded a Pulitzer Prize or, at the very least, be turned into a Netflix film! Seriously, they support me every step of the way by reading a first draft and giving me their almost unbiased opinion, showing up at book signings, and spreading the word about my books with their friends and on social media. I couldn’t ask for a better support system.
Since the Ferrara Family Mystery series is about a close-knit Italian family – just like the Griffo’s – they love when I write about food and include certain bits of dialogue or character names that they know are from our history. My brother is obsessed with trying to figure out if any of the characters in the series are based on real people in our family. I told them he can keep on guessing, but I’ll never tell!
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
My childhood really was idyllic. I didn’t grow up in a picturesque countryside or in the lap of luxury, but an apartment building in Hoboken, New Jersey. But it was a home filled with love, creativity, laughter, and really good food! There was no backyard to play in, but I didn’t need one because I had my own imagination. Plus, a huge kitchen where I could spread out all my toys as my mother folded laundry on the kitchen table or made dinner, often at the same time!
When I was eleven, we moved to the suburbs, and I did get to do all the things that come naturally to suburban kids but that city kids might not get the chance to do. I learned how to ride a bike, swim, skateboard, rollerblade, and spent as much time outside as possible. And yet, I still held tight to my imagination and the stories that had been swirling around in my head since practically the time I learned how to write the alphabet. Before my twelfth birthday, I had written my first story, “Unexpected Company”, about aliens who crash a girl’s sweet sixteen birthday party. Hmm, maybe I need to explore that idea further?
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I loved reading as a child. Like I said, I grew up in Hoboken, which is a great city, but we lived in an apartment so there was no backyard that I could run around in, nor were there any nearby parks. As a result, I was confined to the apartment and playing indoors, but it was hardly a prison!  It was a fertile playground that ignited my imagination.
When I first started to take books out of the library, which is such a milestone in my life, I think I read Where The Wild Things Are ten times before my mother forced me to take out a different book. I whipped through all the Clifford The Big Red Dog books, Ramona The Pest, and then graduated to the entire Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mystery series, and even the lesser-known Christopher Cool series. Christopher was a teen-aged James Bond who solved international mysteries. I should’ve known I’d grow up to be a mystery writer!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was around 12-years old, several things converged in my life. I was old enough to understand that books were more than just entertainment but could be powerful tools to expose truths, comment on society, and push a reader to examine their own lives. 
At the same time, I discovered soap operas. Now, I know that lots of people dismiss the soaps as nothing more than campy TV, but those are the same people who’ve never watched them. Any viewer knows that soaps can be pure entertainment, but Agnes Nixon, Bill Bell, Douglas Marland, and so many other head writers, infused their shows with socially relevant stories like racism, alcoholism, domestic abuse, and homophobia that could be explored on a daily basis, from multiple characters’ viewpoints, and over the course of several months or years. They entertained, and they taught. 
During this period in my life, I started to find my own literary voice. I found that, through writing, I could explore my opinions and the ideals I was formulating at the time and, by infusing them with humor and plot twists, I could entertain readers while simultaneously giving them something to think about. , It was the beginning of my lifelong desire to communicate with others and creatively explore the world as a writer.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
What an interesting question. At first, I interpreted this to mean an experience that affected a story idea or plot point in one of my books, and I can’t pinpoint a specific experience that I later wrote about. However, when I transferred to public school in 6th grade I found out that I was in the top tier of students when it came to my English skills. My essays and book reports were always praised, and this gave me the extra push I needed to explore my writing abilities further.
When I was writing short stories and little plays, I would give them to friends to read, and my cousins would act out the plays, and everyone loved them. I’ve unfortunately lost all of my early material, so I don’t know if I was being applauded for my talent or the novelty of having created something. Whatever the reason, it was the confirmation I needed to know that I was moving forward in the right artistic direction and that I should keep forging ahead.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
There are so many writers who’ve influenced me over the years and continue to do so to this day. The many authors who wrote under the pseudonyms Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene and spun the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, were probably the first who influenced me. The strong characters and the interesting plot twists hooked me immediately.
As I got older, I remember reading all of Lois Duncan’s books, and they introduced to me the joy of the domestic and sometimes supernatural thriller. Summer of Fear is still one of my all-time favorites! Of course, I was enamored by Jane Austen’s use of language and character to move plot forward and comment on society simultaneously. The Bronte sisters taught me the power of the gothic romance and I often ask myself “What would Shirley Jackson do?” She is the queen of making the ordinary extraordinary.
When it comes to literary taste and which authors influenced my writing, I run the gamut from potboilers by Jackie Collins and Sidney Sheldon, to taut mysteries by Lawrence Sanders and, of course, Agatha Christie. But I’m also drawn to the preternatural and gorgeously verbose works of Anne Rice.
Specifically, it was because of reading Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, that I decided to write my novel Moonglow in first person present tense. I couldn’t recall reading another novel that was written like this, and I thought it created such an urgency to the story and an immediacy between Katniss and the reader, that I just had to see if I could do it with Dominy, the protagonist of The Darkborn Legacy series. It took me a while to get into the rhythm of it, but it turned out to be a successful challenge.
And, as far as my cozy mystery series, no one has influenced me more than Henry Slesar. He was a prolific mystery and science fiction writer, but his claim to fame, and the reason I became aware of his brilliance, was that he was the head writer for the soap opera, The Edge of Night. I watched the show for years and marveled at how he spun one mystery after the other, and rarely could I figure out whodunit.
Wow, that’s quite a list! Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Often readers of the cozy mysteries will be surprised to find that I’m a man because the four main characters – Alberta, Jinx, Helen, and Joyce – are all women and vastly different types of women to boot. I’m happy to hear that they find the relationships among the women to be natural and authentic, and I’ve even had some tell me that the rhythm and cadence of the dialogue reminds them of how they and their mothers and girlfriends talk. I chalk that up to a lifetime of listening to the women in my family chatter away. And, boy, can they chatter! The funny part is that I’ve inherited my mother’s gift of the gab, and I can have a fascinating conversation with a tree stump.
Probably the most amazing thing a reader every said to me was that my words touched him so deeply that he had to have them tattooed onto his body. And the amazing thing about this is that it didn’t just happen once, but twice. On two separate occasions, two young men tattooed the phrase “Forever Beautiful, Forever Mine” onto their bodies – the shoulder and the forearm respectively. It’s a recurring phrase in Unnatural and the rest of the books in the Archangel Academy series, and it’s what Ronan, the vampire, says to his human boyfriend, Michael. I was shocked when I heard this, but immensely proud that words I strung together had such an impact on these two guys that they wanted to be permanently reminded of them. Such an honor.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Coming up later this year is book three in the series – Murder at Icicle Lodge. The entire Ferrara family and their friends go on a road trip to a mountain lodge where they find themselves stranded and in the middle of yet another murder mystery. It’s a little bit like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, so you’ll have to read it to find out who’s left standing ... alive!
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
J. D. Griffo
Italian by birth, Jersey by upbringing, J. D. Griffo is the pen name of Michael Griffo, an award-winning playwright and author who has written ten novels, over twenty plays, and a handful of screenplays that have yet to see the light of day.
Griffo studied Journalism and Marketing at New York University, graduating magna cum laude many, many years ago, as well as Creative Writing at the New School and Gotham J. D. Griffo’s Workshop. 
And the J. D. stands for the author’s mother – Jean Dolores – who absolutely loved to read and tell stories.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of three print copy sets of A Ferrara Family Mystery series by J. D. Griffo (includes Murder in Tranquility Park and Murder on Memory Lake; US only).


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