Friday, August 8, 2014

Sally Berneathy - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on USA TODAY BESTSELLING Author Sally Berneathy. She is the author of mysteries, comedies, romance, romantic suspense and paranormal. Sally also provides editing services.

Author Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Romance

Website: Sally Berneathy
Twitter: @sallyberneathy
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Author Description:
I grew up in a small rural town in Oklahoma where our favorite entertainment on summer evenings was to sit outside under the stars and tell stories. When I went to bed at night, instead of a lullaby, I got a story. That could be due to the fact that everybody in my family has a singing voice like a bullfrog with laryngitis, but they sure could tell stories--ghost stories, funny stories, happy stories, scary stories.

For as long as I can remember I've been a storyteller. Thank goodness for computers so I can write down my stories. It's hard to make listeners sit still for the length of a book! Like my family's tales, my stories are funny, scary, dramatic, romantic, paranormal, magic.

Besides writing, my interests are reading, eating chocolate and riding my Harley.

Currently I have written four Death by Chocolate mysteries: Death by Chocolate; Murder, Lies and Chocolate; The Great Chocolate Scam; and Chocolate Mousse Attack as well as three Charley's Ghost mysteries: The Ex Who Wouldn't Die, The Ex Who Glowed in the Dark, and The Ex Who Conned a Psychic. More in each series will be released as soon as I can copy them from my brain to the computer!

I have sold fifteen romance novels ranging from comedy to dark suspense under the names Sally Carleen, Sally Steward and Sara Garrett. For these novels, I won several awards including National Readers' Choice, Romantic Times Best Silhouette Romance and two Rita finalist slots. Most of the Silhouettes are available as e-books, and I have e-pubbed six of the out-of-print single titles

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: The Ex Who Conned a Psychic. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

I am currently working on the 5th book in the Death by Chocolate series, tentatively titled Fatal Chocolate Obsession. Someone is leaving gifts for Lindsay, and people are dying all around her. I hope to have it finished and available by early fall.

You have a good following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that? How much has it changed your book launch process?

The whole world has changed since I sold my first book in 1992! In those days I sent a printed manuscript to my publisher and sat back while they did the marketing. I got snail mail letters from readers, replied, and that was the extent of our interaction. Now I get on Facebook, meet my readers, interact with them, get to know about their lives, their pets, their families… It’s much more fulfilling to actually be able to talk to the people who read my books. When I have a new book out, I post the information on Facebook and always get a wonderful response.

Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I do book signings in the Kansas City area. I will be doing one sometime soon for Dog Eared Books in Independence, but I don’t have an exact date. Readers can contact me on Facebook or email at I love to talk to readers. And writers. And riders. And computer programmers. And teachers. And gardeners. And dogs. And puppets and poets and pirates and pawns and kings. Okay, I just plain love to talk!

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

I have a wonderful cover designer, Alicia Hope in Australia. (YAY, Internet!) I give her a general idea of what the book is about, and she comes up with the covers. I have no artistic ability, so I rely totally on her creativity!

I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of a novel collection called Malice, Mischief & Men. What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other romantic Suspense authors? How did you put something like that together?

Our first venture into the author bundles was Mirth, Murder & Mystery. Several of us with mystery series contributed the first book in a series. Mine is The Ex Who Wouldn’t Die. This was to be a temporary experiment to increase sales of the other books in our series. However, the collection has been such a huge success, selling a lot more copies than we ever anticipated and increasing sales of the other books, that it’s still available. Malice, Mischief & Men consists primarily of single titles of romantic suspense from the same authors. I can’t take credit for any of it except contributing books! L. J. Charles, a fantastic writer and a dear friend, put it all together.

What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

Though I no longer write romance novels, I still belong to the national organization RWA (Romance Writers of America), Midwest Romance Writers (local chapter), Kiss of Death (RWA mystery chapter), Sisters in Crime, and Mid-America Romance Authors (local chapter of RWA). All these groups help with everything—learning the craft of writing (THE most important element; yes, after 23 books, I’m still learning), meeting editors and agents, networking with other writers, keeping up with market trends. I just returned from a national RWA conference in San Antonio where all of the above happened! Plus we had a lot of fun. And a few margaritas.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I republished six of my out-of-print romance novels, and each time I brought one out, I had a freebie weekend for it. It was a great way to find new readers and get reviews. I sometimes have $0.99 sales on my mysteries.

How do you start your book launch process for a new book? Give a brief outline of the steps you go through to get your book to market. What methods were the most successful?

After I finish a book, I do three rounds of revisions, then send to a copyeditor, get her feedback, and do one more round of revisions. Even though I have done professional editing, have an honors degree in English literature, and am very OCD, I still miss the occasional error! One that stands out is from The Great Chocolate Scam. On my last round of edits, I broke my own rule and added a sentence. It was midnight and I was very tired. I meant to say that my heroine knew she served the right kind of cookies (one with nuts, one without nuts and one gluten-free) to the right people because no one got anaphylactic shock. What I actually wrote was prophylactic shock. I had already sold several thousand copies before a reader emailed me! I can only hope the other readers thought my heroine was trying to be funny!

I then upload to Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and CreateSpace. As soon as the book is available, I post the links on Facebook and tell my friends.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

I rely on my readers to review my novels. I read all my reviews. Sometimes I have to grab a handful of chocolate before reading the bad ones. I’d rather just skip them, but if someone has a problem with my work, I want to know and try to do better the next time.

Bob Moats, one of our Spotlight Authors, recommended you for your great writing and your editing abilities. Explain to us your editing services and how authors can contact you?

When I left my stable job as a computer programmer to return to my highly unstable dream job of writing, I edited manuscripts for about a year until my books began selling well. Now I devote all my time to writing and editing my own manuscripts.

Author's Book List
The Ex Who Conned a Psychic - Charley's Ghost, Book 3
Amanda is still haunted by her ex-husband, Charley…literally haunted. He’s stuck between this life and the next, unable to move on, unable to get more than a couple of hundred feet away from Amanda and unwilling to go even that far. She’d like to take a shower without worrying about him peeking, to have a phone conversation without him listening and commenting, to have a date with the hot Detective Jake Daggett. Jake has asked, but a threesome with Charley doesn’t sound like fun.

Her new friend Teresa, a professional psychic and medium, may be able to help. However, before she moves Charley on to the next life, she needs his help in contacting her own dead husband to find out who murdered him. His ghost isn’t talking, and if they can’t find his killer, Teresa could go to prison.

Amanda would lose not only a friend but also the possibility of getting rid of Charley. The facilities for spiritual progression in prison are limited.

While Amanda is trying to help Teresa find her husband’s murderer, a man from Charley’s past shows up with a document signed by Charley giving him possession of Amanda’s motorcycle shop and apartment. Surely Ronald Collins doesn’t really believe he get can away with that, but after he shoots Amanda’s live oak tree and burns her truck, she realizes the man is serious…and psychotic.

Amanda just wanted to get rid of her ghost. Now she has a killer, a crazy man, and two ghosts in her life.

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Private Vows

She wore a blood-stained wedding gown, but had no memory of her groom—or her own name. In desperation, she turned to the sexy stranger who'd found her and begged for his help, his protection….

Ex-cop-turned-investigator Cole Grayson knew better than to get involved with another vulnerable, scared woman. But the strength beneath her fear drew him to "Mary"—and so he brought her home with him.Yet as he searched for her past, strange things began happening. Were Mary's fears valid? Suddenly Cole realized that helping her remember put him in danger—of losing her forever….

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Shifting Shadows
Elizabeth Dupard awakens at the foot of the staircase in her familiar home. But her home has changed. The furnishings are similar but not the same. Mama and Papa are gone.

Then she looks in the mirror and sees a stranger looking back at her. The year is 2013, not 1905. Elizabeth Dupard died a hundred years ago and was reincarnated as Analise Parrish, the face she sees in the mirror but doesn't recognize.

Analise has recovered memories of a past lifetime as Elizabeth Dupard and lost her memories of her present life. Someone killed her in that former lifetime. Someone is trying to kill her in the present, and she must recover her memories of this lifetime or die.

Can she trust Dylan Forrest, the mysterious stranger next door whose touch is hauntingly familiar? Did he love her or murder her in a past lifetime? Will he love her or murder her in this lifetime?

Order the Book From: Amazon - KOBO
Chocolate Mousse Attack - Death by Chocolate Book 4
A phone call at two a.m. is never good news. But there’s bad news and then there’s strange news. Lindsay’s two a.m. call is a plea for help. There’s a woman in Fred’s closet and he can’t get her out.

Their new neighbor, Sophie Fleming, has taken up sleepwalking, straight into Fred’s house and his bedroom closet. She’s having nightmares about the brutal stabbing of a little girl named Carolyn. But Carolyn was her imaginary childhood friend.

Lindsay, Fred, Trent, Paula and Henry must solve a twenty-year old murder with no bodies, no DNA and no proof the victims ever existed.

How can someone who never lived be murdered? Why is Sophie seeing it happen in Fred's bedroom? Why is she hiding in his closet? Will his clothes even fit her?

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The Ex Who Glowed in the Dark - Charley's Ghost Book 2
Amanda was in the process of divorcing her lying, cheating husband Charley when he was murdered, so she’s stuck with his last name. And even worse, she’s stuck with his ghost.

She can’t seem to get rid of his ghost, but at least she is able to go to court and get rid of his name. Elated at the small victory, she returns to her motorcycle repair shop ready to celebrate. But her assistant, Dawson, is having a meltdown because his younger brother has been kidnapped.

Amanda can see the obvious pain Dawson is in, but in the two years he’s worked for her he’s never mentioned a brother. Is this brother real or only an avatar from one of the computer games he loves to play? Charley thinks Dawson is losing it. Amanda thinks Charley lost it a long time ago.

Dawson produces an e-mail from demanding computer code written by Dawson’s father as ransom for the boy. That seems a little odd. Don’t kidnappers typically want large sums of money in unmarked bills as a ransom?

When Dawson tells Amanda his name isn’t really Dawson Page and that, since his parents were murdered two years ago, he and his brother have been living under false identities bequeathed to them by their father, she really begins to worry about him.

Then she talks to his next door neighbor to find out if he saw anything, and the man wearing a tin foil hat tells her he’s never seen Dawson’s brother, but if somebody’s missing, aliens undoubtedly took him to work in the crystal mines on Alpha Centauri.

Though the kidnappers have warned Dawson not to bring in the police, Amanda decides the situation has gone beyond her ability to help by offering a cold Coke and soothing words. She calls Jake Daggett, the detective who saved her life a couple of months before. Charley isn’t happy about that. He claims she only called Daggett because she wants to see him again. That really isn’t the only reason, but he does look nice in his T-shirt stuffed with bulging biceps, pecs and deltoids.

In case the kidnappers are watching when he arrives and might identify him as a cop, Amanda greets him as cousin Jake and throws her arms around him in a friendly cousin sort of way which Charley finds completely unnecessary.

Will the kidnappers believe Jake is her cousin? Do the kidnappers even exist? Is Grant only an Avatar? Will Amanda ever find a way to torture Charley? Will she give up her trademark Coke for a Pepsi? Will Global Warming melt Amanda’s Magnum Double Chocolate ice cream bar?

Okay, you need to test that last question for yourself, but the answers to everything else are in this book!

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Anything You Can Do
Ares and Aphrodite
Antony and Cleopatra
Superman and Lois Lane
Bailey Russell and Austin Travers

They can’t get along with each other, but they can’t get along without each other. Bailey likes to win whether in the courtroom or on the 10K race track. So does Austin. When the two meet, sparks fly in all directions.

Bailey Russell’s life is pretty much perfect. She has a dog, a condo, and she’s on the fast track to becoming a partner in the small law firm where she works. Then Austin Travers shows up with his electric blue eyes and electric touch. He beats her in a 10K race, almost overtakes her in an impromptu swim meet, and cooks a delicious meal while her cheesecake tastes like greasy cardboard. However, she takes him down in the courtroom and in a game of chess. The score is close to even. Then she learns he wants to change her law firm, merge it with a bigger one, disrupt Bailey’s life.

To her chagrin, Bailey finds herself attracted to the annoying man, but she remembers only too well the painful days of being a skinny, awkward adolescent, the butt of jokes about red hair and freckles and brainy women. Men like Austin Travers reserved their interest for beautiful women with soft voices and bust line measurements that exceeded their IQs.

Austin soon realizes that Bailey is the most frustrating woman he’s ever met, a tiger, a force to be reckoned with. She makes him crazy, but all other women are pale ghosts beside her. She makes him feel vital and alive. If only he can figure out how to be around her for five minutes without wanting to strangle her.

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The Great Chocolate Scam - Death by Chocolate Book 3
Finally Rick has agreed to sign the divorce papers and give Lindsay her freedom! She is sitting in her lawyer’s office waiting for him when she gets the call.

Rick is dead. Murdered by a bomb that blew up his car in his own driveway.

Lindsay is his sole heir. Or is she? She’s never met any of Rick’s family. Though he told her various conflicting stories about them, she came to believe they didn’t exist, that Rick was an alien stranded here when the mother ship left without him. But then Rick’s mother and two brothers show up followed by a woman who claims to be his ex-wife and a boy she claims is Rick’s son. Everyone except Lindsay wants to inherit Rick’s estate. What’s so valuable that someone killed for it and is ready to kill again?

Come for the Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars, stay for the murder, mayhem and fun!

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Ghost of Summer
When Kate Fallon tells her father she's going to be married, he insists she discuss it with her mother. Kate's mother died when she was two. Kate is immediately concerned about her father's welfare. She adores him, he's her whole world AND the sheriff of Briar Creek County. If he's seeing Mama's ghost, will he also see the ghost of Billy the Kid or Jessie James...and try to arrest or even shoot them?

When Kate goes to Briar Creek, she is shocked to find Luke Rodgers, her best friend when they were children, has returned to town and is her father's new deputy. Luke left town when she was eleven. The pain of losing first her mother and then her best friend set Kate on a path to avoid further involvement. Her planned marriage is a sensible, mutually beneficial agreement, but her heart isn't involved. Luke reaches her heart, and that terrifies her. She tries to stay away from him, but circumstances continue to throw them together.

If one is to believe her father, Mama is responsible for much of this. It's Mama who suggests they invite Luke for dinner, insisting they use her good china, Mama who prompts Papa with answers to Kate's questions about what to cook for the dinner, Mama who seems to know which dishes are Luke's favorites.

Can Mama help Kate and Luke recapture the wonder and magic of their childhood love, the ghost of their summers past and the promise of all the summers to come?

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Murder, Lies and Chocolate - Death by Chocolate Book 2
Rodney Bradford comes into Lindsay's restaurant, offers to buy her small house for double its value, eats her brownies, and drops dead on the sidewalk in front. Then someone breaks into her house and tries to dig up her basement. Next her almost-ex-husband offers to sign the divorce papers, but only if she'll give him her small, old house and take his big, new house instead.

Suddenly everybody wants Lindsay's house. Is there oil under the basement, plans to bring the railroad through, pirate treasure buried in the basement? A second break-in occurs and causes her cat, King Henry, to launch into full attack mode, taking a few chunks out of the intruder.

Lindsay enlists the aid of her enigmatic neighbor, Fred, to help solve the mystery while trying to keep her police detective boyfriend, Trent, from getting in their way with his insistence on all those silly cop rules.

On the positive side, sales skyrocket for the special dessert Lindsay calls Murdered Man's Brownies. Prisoners, murderers, crazy relatives and strippers are all part of the chaos in this second book of the Death by Chocolate series.

BONUS! Chocolate recipes at the end of the book. Poison optional.

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The Ex Who Wouldn't Die - Charley's Ghost Book 1
When Amanda's lying, cheating, scam-artist husband, Charley, saves her life in a near-fatal motorcycle accident, she can almost forgive him for dragging his feet on their divorce. Then she discovers he'd been dead for several hours at the time she thought he rescued her. And not just dead…murdered.

On the good side, at least they are no longer married.

But she's the primary suspect in Charley's murder and, as if that isn't bad enough, Charley's ghost shows up in her apartment. He was rejected, kicked back, not allowed to go into the light. The situation was bad enough when he was alive and trying to charm his way back into her life, but now he claims to be unable to go more than a few yards away from her. She can't even be certain he isn't peeking when she undresses for bed.

Even death did not them part.

As Amanda puts her life in danger in an effort to bring Charley's murderer to justice and send him into the light or the dark or anywhere away from her, she learns her knowledge of Charley's misdeeds is only the tip of a toxic iceberg. Charley blackmailed his murderer, blackmailed Amanda's father, lied about his family being dead when he is actually related to half the town of Silver Creek, Texas, and, with his treachery, has stirred up secrets that will change Amanda's life.

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Secrets Rising
When Rebecca Patterson's parents die in an automobile crash, she is shocked to find a note hidden in a locked drawer. "I thank you for what you're doing for Rebecca. I know you'll give her a good home and loving family, all the things I can't…If she ever finds out you're not her natural parents, you must not, under any circumstances, let her try to find me."

Devastated by this revelation that her mother and father lied to her, weren't really her parents, Rebecca determines to find her biological parents. She hires private investigator, Jake Thornton, a rugged man who dresses in black, has eyes the color of the midnight summer sky and dark hair a little too long and shaggy, as though he hasn't taken time for a haircut lately.

Jake knows from experience that his new client's quest may not end happily. Her birth mother isn't looking for her. She doesn't want to be found. She isn't waiting with champagne and roses to greet her long-lost daughter. Rebecca will likely be disappointed, and he's not sure she's strong enough to withstand another disappointment after the twin shocks of losing her parents to death and discovering she's adopted.

Jake is attracted to his tall, willowy client with her shiny blond hair and blue-green eyes that seem a combination of the trees and the Texas sky. He yearns to touch her, make love to her, smooth her brow, dig up loving parents for her, make everything all right.

He knows that's impossible. He's loved and lost enough family to be wary of becoming involved with someone who needs a permanent relationship. His motto is "Love and let go," while Rebecca feels lost and alone and desperately needs to find someone to belong to. No matter how much he might want her, he can't let her mistake passion for something else, can't let her count on him for anything else when passion is all he has to give and all he wants to take.

Their search for her birth family takes them to a small town three hours from Dallas. On the surface, Edgewater is an idyllic town, a remnant of a bygone era when life was slower and simpler. But ugly secrets seethe just beneath the picturesque surface. Rebecca's search causes those long-buried secrets to rise and put her life in danger while her continued presence in Jake's life causes him to doubt his ability to love and let go.

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Secrets Among the Shadows
Eliot Kane fears he's a modern day Jekyll and Hyde.

Eliot dreams in graphic detail about choking a woman. The next day, he learns that woman is the victim of a brutal murder. From his dream Eliot knows details about that murder that haven't been released to the public, details only the killer can know. He seeks the help of psychiatrist Leanne Warner to learn if he's a murderer, if he has a personality split and a monster named Edward lives inside his brain. Eliot doesn't dare love Leanne because Edward wants to kill her.

Leanne looks out her bedroom window in the middle of the night and sees Eliot Kane leaning against a tree, watching her. He straightens when he sees her, stands erect and returns her gaze. In the pale glow from the corner street lamp, his eyes seem to blaze. She can almost feel the hatred coming from him. Evil surrounds him like an aura. It's there in his stance, in the tilt of his head, in the very air around him, and it's directed toward her.

But that's crazy. Eliot doesn't hate her. Is she looking at Edward?

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Undercover Secrets
Brad Malone, undercover cop, is trying to blend with the homeless community and find a killer before somebody else dies. He's been a cop for thirteen years. Dealing with murder is nothing new to him. However, he's never before dealt with anyone like television news reporter, Allison Prescott. She follows him, takes his picture, asks embarrassing questions and gets close enough that she could blow his cover. Yet in spite of his irritation with her and the warning of his own common sense, he finds himself involved in her personal life, helping her deal with her obnoxious ex, taking her daughter to a rock concert and falling in love with her.

Allison is struggling to start over after her plastic surgeon husband dumped her for his hot young nurse. Dr. Doug got the big house, the nice car and the fat bank account, though he generously offered Allison a free face lift since she's over thirty. Allison did not think it would be a good idea to let her ex anywhere near her with a sharp knife.

Now Dr. Doug is suing for custody of their daughter, twelve-year old Megan, and Allison doesn't have the money to fight him. With nothing on her resume except "homemaker" and "mom," Allison is lucky that an old friend helps her get her a job as a reporter for a local television station. However, her beginner's salary isn't enough to fight Dr. Doug in court. She needs a big story, a promotion and a raise. Allison will do whatever it takes to keep her daughter.

She's covering the story of the latest murder of a homeless man on the streets of Oklahoma City when she spots a derelict who looks anything but homeless. He's too alert, too well-muscled…too sexy. Who is this man and why is he pretending to be one of the street people? Can he be the murderer?

Her daughter thinks he's a famous rock star in hiding.

Dr. Doug thinks he's generally annoying. He resents this strange man who effortlessly hustles him out the door when he's not finished berating Allison. He's also disturbed by the spate of tickets he's suddenly getting…parking, speeding, failure to signal…but surely there's no connection.

Whoever this man is, Allison is determined to stick to him like glue until she gets the big story which will equal more money which will equal the ability to fight for her daughter. But her plans did not include falling in love.

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Death by Chocolate
Lindsay loves chocolate. It tastes good, it makes her feel good, it never cheats on her like her almost-ex-husband. It's her best friend. But someone wants her dead and uses her weak spot—chocolate—to try to murder her.

Lindsay's only secret is the recipe for her chocolate chip cookies, but she is surrounded by neighbors with deadly secrets. Suddenly she finds herself battling poisoned chocolate, a psycho stalker, and a dead man who seems awfully active for a corpse.

Her best friend and co-worker, Paula, dyes her blond hair brown, hides from everybody and insists on always having an emergency exit from any room. Secrets from Paula's past have come back to put lives in jeopardy.

Determined to help Paula, Lindsay enlists the reluctant aid of another neighbor, Fred, an OCD computer nerd. In spite of his mundane existence, Fred possesses tidbits of knowledge about such things as hidden microphones, guns, the inside of maximum security prisons and how to take someone down with a well-aimed kick to his chin.

As Lindsay battles the elusive stalker, poisoned chocolate, and the dead man, she will need more than a chocolate fix to survive. But that’s always a good start.

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Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle


  1. Great interview Sally. I loved reading how your boxed set idea came along. Excellent way to boost sales.

  2. Nice interview Sally! You gave all us wannabes an idea on how it all works. I'm always learning something new from you. I love Sally and all her books! She is not only a good writer and editor but also a good friend. I can't wait for the next book!

    1. Thanks, Diane! I'm about half finished with Fatal Chocolate Obsession. And I just tried a new recipe from my cousin Ruth...Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie....that is definitely going in this book!