Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass" by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass
(An Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery Book 1)
by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass (An Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery Book 1) by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass is the first book in the Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery series by Heather Day Gilbert. Available for pre-order: Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.

Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass 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.

When exotic pet-sitter Belinda Blake moves into a carriage house in tony Greenwich, Connecticut, she’s hoping to find some new clients. Instead she discovers a corpse in the garden - and a knack for solving murders ...
Pet-sitter Belinda Blake doesn’t rattle easily, but move-in day has been eventful, to say the least. The python in her care tried to slither to freedom - just as she met Stone Carrington V, her landlords’ disarmingly handsome son. With the constrictor back in its cage, she heads out to the garden, only to discover a designer shoe poking out of the boxwood hedge - attached to a woman’s dead body.
The victim, Margo Fenton, was a Carrington family friend, and no one in their circle seems above suspicion. Between client trips to Manhattan and visits to her family in upstate New York, Belinda begins to put the pieces together. But though she’s falling for Stone’s numerous charms, Belinda wonders if she’s cozying up to a killer. And soon, daily contact with a deadly reptile might be the least dangerous part of her life ...

The first time I saw Stone Carrington the fifth, I had a snake wrapped around my neck.
Now granted, he acted as if it was something he saw every day, a girl with unwanted snakeskin accents in her curly blonde hair.
“Pet-sitting,” I explained, trying to extricate myself from the ball python I had agreed to “walk” for his owner. “They’re supposedly a relatively mild breed,” I continued.
“I should hope so.” He dipped his tennis visor in a fake bow. Unfortunately, he had emerged from the tennis courts at the exact moment the snake had started climbing me like a tree. “Stone Carrington. And you are?”
“Belinda Blake.” I felt the need to over-explain, one of my persistent habits. “I’m your new tenant. In the carriage house. It’s lovely, by the way.” The snake had stopped wriggling, so I walked a bit faster toward my small house. Why had I chosen to walk up the main drive for another gape at the Carringtons’ mansion?
Stone gave me a once-over as the snake moved again. I was sure my ripped jeans, worn Crocs, and gamer T-shirt didn’t impress, but I was yanked from my self-conscious musings as the python slithered over my shoulder and disappeared down my shirt. I launched into the dance of death, jerking about like Elaine from Seinfeld.
“Here, let me help,” Stone said, making an arguably decent attempt to extricate the wriggling creature from my shirt by wrapping both hands around its tail.
The snake gave a low hiss and slid down further.
“Never mind,” I said hastily, pulling my shirt up and throwing modesty to the wind so I could see the snake’s beady eyes. “Grab its head! We have to grab it!”
Stone was a bit too hesitant as he obliged, and the snake lunged at him.
“It can sense our fear! Just call animal control or something!” I shouted. The snake’s patience was probably exhausted and soon he would start nibbling on me.
Stone did as I said, pulling an expensive-looking cell phone from his white shorts, which must’ve been a bit chilly in November. Still, the shorts managed to show off his naturally tan legs.
The snake continued his horrifying quest to cozy up somewhere on my torso until one of the older gardeners approached us. “Pardon my intrusion, but you are having trouble, no?”
“Yes. Could you help get this thing off me?”

Praise for the Book
Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass is a uniquely themed mystery that proves a great start to a new series.” ~ Cozy Up With Kathy
“A wonderful start to an interesting series that shows much potential.” ~ Laura’s Interests
“Gilbert is a skilled storyteller and she has crafted a story that moves quickly with several unpredictable twists and interesting situations, drawing the reader in right from the start. The characters are great - colorful and a tad quirky, likable and realistic.” ~ Anne Rightler
“Once again Heather Gilbert shows her readers that she is a dab hand at cozy mysteries.” ~ Susan Snodgrass
“The characters are really interesting and well developed. The story was so well written and held my attention. The mystery had some unexpected turns and I was surprised by the ending.” ~ Miss W Book Reviews

Interview with the Author
Heather Day Gilbert joins me today to discuss her new book, Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
It's a cozy mystery that's entirely appropriate for teens and up.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I wanted to brainstorm a cozy mystery series that featured a sleuth with a job no one else had come up with yet. I can't even recall how the idea of exotic pet-sitting hit me!
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
Both sort of happen together. For Belinda, I did some research on her Myers-Briggs personality type ahead of time, then I imagined what she'd do in any given situation. I also liked getting to know her family and friends better as I wrote the series.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
It's funny, but I honestly didn't have any difficulties writing this one - it was just a fun mystery to craft. However, I did switch murderers mid-stream from the one I'd told my publisher I was going to use. I love it when my story surprises me like that.
That’s interesting! How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope it gives them the feeling of having read a satisfying and realistic mystery, full of characters they want to hang out with again. I also strive to have twists most readers can't see coming (like Agatha Christie!).
How long did it take you to write this book?
For this series, I was on a deadline with each of the three books, so I wrote them consecutively, taking about three months for each.
What is your writing routine?
Currently, I write when two of my daughters are at school (one is in K4, and one is a senior!). I often write for four to five hours straight.
How did you get your book published?
My agent, Julie Gwinn with The Seymour Agency, proposed the Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery series to Kensington, and I was very grateful that they were interested in it!
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
You have to learn to take critiques of your writing, but be careful who you listen to. It helps to find authors who've already been published in your genre, since they've been edited and they know what's expected. It also helps to find an amazing crit partner who gets your writing (no matter what genre you're writing). I've been blessed with a gifted crit partner, Becky Doughty, and I love her writing. She brings things to the table I need, and I hope I bring some things to her books, too! :)
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Like Belinda, I play video games - for me, it's a stress release, something I can do kind of mindlessly, since I live in my head a lot as a writer. I also love puttering around in my perennial flowerbeds and being outside.
What does your family think of your writing?
I am so thankful that my husband, my four children, my parents, my in-laws, and all my family supports my writing. I recently was so thrilled my parents were able to attend the Christy award gala in Nashville with me when my book finaled for an ECPA Christy award last year.
Fantastic! Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I remember reading from age four and loving it. I played outside a lot - barefoot. :) I loved climbing trees. So, I guess I was a tomboy in some ways. I had a really lovely childhood, largely because my parents have a great relationship. Belinda Blake has great parents, too - they were quite fun to write, because her dad's a veterinarian, and her mom is a back-to-nature kind of woman who's working to get off-grid.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Definitely. I read all the time.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think it was after winning a few writing contests. As a teen, I wrote a poem and kind of had an epiphany that I was a writer. :)
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I'm sure they did. I love writing rural settings because I grew up in the very rural mountains of West Virginia.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
For my mysteries, it would be Agatha Christie and Daphne du Maurier.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I love emails from readers! The best thing is when they relate to some aspect of my books, such as the marriage dynamics in my Viking historicals or the mother-in-law relationship (a good one!) in my Murder in the Mountains mysteries. They also tell me that my main characters feel like best friends, and that's always a joy to hear.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I'd say you can definitely look forward to more mystery series and possibly a psychological thriller series.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Heather. Best of luck with your future projects.
Thank you!

About the Author
Heather Day Gilbert
Heather Day Gilbert, an ECPA Christy award finalist and Grace award winner, writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. Her novels feature small towns, family relationships, and women who aren’t afraid to protect those they love. Like Belinda Blake, Heather plays video games, although, so far, she hasn’t done any exotic pet-sitting or hunted any murderers.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a themed gift basket.


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