Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Interview & Excerpt ~ TAIL OF THE DRAGON by Connie di Marco

Tail of the Dragon (A Zodiac Mystery, #3)
by: Connie di Marco
Series: Zodiac Mystery
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: March 16, 2021 (re-release)
Publisher: Suspense Publishing
Amazon | Paperback | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

A rare astrological event could help San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti avoid a deadly destiny.

Julia Bonatti loves the freedom of working for herself as a professional astrologer. But after receiving several unexpected bills, she considers a temp job offer from her old boss a stroke of luck too good to pass up.

On her first day, the posh law office becomes a crime scene when one of the partners is found dead. Julia discovers that a series of death threats have been sent to several employees of the firm, and she uses her astrological expertise to discover possible motives. But before she can convince the authorities of what she knows, the killer strikes again. Will Julia unmask the culprit before he, or she, takes another life?

Hi Connie. Welcome back to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
Hi Kim ~ I’m so glad to be back visiting with you again! Everything’s going well. 

Good. Congratulations on the upcoming release of Tail of the Dragon, book three in your Zodiac Mystery series.
Thanks so much, Kim! It’s really exciting to know that Julia’s third adventure will be out very soon. I felt like the day would never come, but now that the final edits and touch-ups are done, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. I just hope readers find it as exciting as the first two books.

How do you think Julia has grown over the course of the series?
Hmmm. That’s a great question. Well . . . Julia still has a big hole in her life from the death of her fiancé a few years before, but she is coping better. As she says to a friend in Tail of the Dragon, she’s happy with her work and her clients, she’s busy with her astrological advice column in the newspaper and she has the support of her friends and her family. Her family of course really only consists of her grandmother Gloria and Kuan, her grandparents’ good friend. But she’s happy even though she doesn’t feel she’s quite ready for romance or passion in her life. Just a heads up – there’s a romantic theme in this third book, and knowing what a great lover of romance you are, you’ll have to let me know what you think about this new development in Julia’s life, okay?

I’m flattered you remember that about me! I’m definitely looking forward to reading the book. What type of research did you have to do for Tail of the Dragon?
I’ve probably done less research for this book than any other book I’ve written, even the books of the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries. I really can’t say I’m fond of research, but I’ll do the work if it ties in with a subject I need to know more about. I want to make sure my facts are authentic or can be shaped to fit the plot.

One area that has consistently come up is the history of San Francisco. It’s been both fun and informative to incorporate that in the Zodiac Mysteries. In fact, I’ve probably learned more history about the city now than I did when I lived there. For example, Julia spends an evening at the Fort Mason Center, a center for arts and entertainment, and a place I know well. But what I didn’t know was that the original fortifications date back to Revolutionary times. Chinatown is a wonderful part of the city too and I’ve been doing a lot of research on its history. Did you know that in the great quake of 1906 records were destroyed and many Chinese-Americans became “paper sons,” i.e. they could claim citizenship and no one could prove otherwise?

That sounds really interesting. How do you come up with the titles for the books?
It’s really a collaborative effort with my publisher. Originally, I had planned to use the name of a planet in each title – for example, Dark Sun or Widow’s Moon. I felt the title should reflect the astrological clue that helps Julia solve the crime. I chose the first title in the series, The Madness of Mercury. Mercury in a natal chart indicates the way we think and speak and communicate and the Mercury reference has to do with obsessive people with a badly aspected Mercury and it’s also a reference to the “silver tongued” evil preacher, who can sway people with his words.

The second title, All Signs Point to Murder, was my publisher’s choice. Mine was Dark Sun, but perhaps their choice was better. (No astrological reference in that title, right?) This book, Tail of the Dragon is (and I hope it’s not a spoiler) a reference to the South Node of the Moon, the Dragon’s Tail or Cauda Draconis in ancient astrological terms. The South Node of the Moon indicates skills we’ve developed in past lives, while the North Node refers to the path we must take in this incarnation.

Do you ever write a book and surprise yourself with the way it turns out?
I’m laughing here! I’m always surprised that I’ve managed to come up with a good plot and have actually finished the book! Every time I tackle a new project, I wonder how I ever did it in the past and how I’m going to get through all that struggle again.

When I wrote A Broth of Betrayal, in the Vermont series, which is actually a revenge story, I hadn’t considered that my murderer might have killed years before. Don’t ask me why. I should have. But as I was writing, I realized that, hey, yes, he dispatched one of those people very cleverly and at the time it was regarded as an accident. That concept fell into my lap as I was writing and not only that, it was the motivation for the murderer to be killed himself. Everything was tied up in a neat little bow.

It’s really a wonderful feeling when you know you have a first draft and have gotten to the end. You have something that can be shaped and made better, and I’m even more surprised when I hold the book in my hands and realize I really wrote this!!!

In the past, I’ve asked Connie Archer about her writing style. As a reader, I feel your series are completely different. Do you approach writing for the Zodiac Mystery series differently from the Soup Lover’s series, since you have to add in the zodiac factors?
Not really. I think the “feel” of each series is different. For one thing, the Zodiac Mysteries are written in the first person. Everything that happens is from Julia’s point of view. The Soup Lovers’ Mysteries, on the other hand, are written in the third person and so more points of view can be introduced and the reader gets to know each character more intimately.

Initially, I had a hard time deciding which way to go. But finally, I felt that Julia’s adventures in the Zodiac Mysteries would feel a lot more immediate and compelling written in the first person. I’m not comparing myself by any means, but you’ll recall that the Sue Grafton books are also written in the first person. Everything we know about Kinsey is from Kinsey herself or through Kinsey’s point of view.

That said, there are both similarities and differences. Both Lucky (in the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries) and Julia (in the Zodiac Mysteries) are amateur sleuths. I wanted Julia to be a little older and more urban than Lucky. Julia is 36 when the series starts and I chose that age because I believe it’s an age at which you’ve let go of a lot of the naiveté of youth and are much more aware of who you really are. But don’t take that as a slur against Lucky. Lucky is younger, but smart and perceptive as well.

In the Vermont series, the village is a very safe place and trouble always comes from the outside. And there’s always a connection to someone we know in the village. One example is the clan in A Roux of Revenge and we learn that Janie’s mother had a strange life before she came to the village.

The Zodiac Mysteries differ in that they take place in a city setting where the possibilities for crime are all around. Julia gets inveigled in crime solving in order to help a client or someone close to her. One thing that’s a device that has to be honored in this series is that the clue that will break open the investigation is an astrological clue that only Julia can know. It’s kind of tricky to work all that out and so I always make sure I’ve set up charts for the important people in each book so I don’t make a mistake that someone knowledgeable in astrology would call me out on.

And one last question, if Julia was a real person and I could sit down and talk with her what do you think she would say about you?
She’d probably complain that I give her way too many problems and difficulties and make her life too dangerous. She’d criticize me for sitting safely at my keyboard while I send her away to break into a dangerous religious cult, or face a murderer and barely escape by the skin of her teeth. She’d wonder why I make her life so hard! But she’d also tell you a secret that only she knows –that her author would probably love to live the adventurous life that she does!

I love that answer. Connie thank you for your time.
Thank you, Kim! It’s been great to visit with you again! I really hope you enjoy Tail of the Dragon!

I cut across the Park and followed 19th Avenue to Taraval. Michael’s apartment had been above a small Realty office in the 3400 block near 45th Avenue. The building hadn’t changed. Still peach-colored with dark blue trim. I pulled over and parked across the street, staring up at the front arched window. It was dark now, but someone was home. Light emanated from an interior room. From this angle I could see a lamp, pictures on the opposite wall and a section of the beamed ceiling. A woman with long dark hair approached the window and turned on the lamp. Her face was flooded with light before she turned away. Strangers were living there now. Many times I’ve dreamed I still lived there. Dreams so vivid I felt confused when I woke up, as if my soul or my astral body still lingered in the old place. Every detail of that apartment was clear in my mind. The tiles above the stove, the cabinet that never shut properly, the bedroom window that always stuck. It was strange but I had never wondered what had happened to that apartment, who might have moved into Michael’s place where we had spent so many days and nights. I tried to recall some of the details of our daily life. Things we had worried about at the time. Small problems that seemed to loom large. How narrow our vision was.

I sighed and turned the key in the ignition. That’s when I noticed a van parked further up the street, its back doors were open and two men were stacking boxes on the sidewalk. Could one of them be the son of the elderly man who had died? I turned the engine off and climbed out. I hesitated, but finally headed in their direction. When I neared the house, I looked to the top of the stairs. A woman stood by an open front door. A FOR SALE sign was stuck on the postage stamp-sized lawn. I reached the men just as they were turning back to climb the flight of stairs to the house.

“Excuse me,” I said. One man continued up the stairs but the other stopped and turned back. “I understand your father died recently.”

He looked puzzled, but said, “Uh, yes, he did. A few weeks ago. Were you a friend of his, a neighbor?”

“I . . . I didn’t know him very well, but we used to see him all the time walking his dog. I was sorry to hear about his death.” I hesitated, “I used to live across the street.” I pointed vaguely in the direction of Michael’s old apartment. “I’ve been told you found some pictures.”

The man took a step closer. “How did you . . .?”

“It was my fiancé who was killed here.”

The woman who had been standing by the front door descended and stood next to her husband. I could see now they were older than they had appeared at first. Perhaps early fifties. The man started to speak, but his wife interrupted him. “I’m so sorry,” she said. She glanced at her husband. “We did. We found a very strange photo, but we contacted the police about it.” Was there a slightly defensive tone in her voice?

“I know. His family told me.” I neglected to say it was only Maggie. Why make things more complicated? “I just . . . I happened to be driving by and I saw your van. I thought I’d . . .” What did I think? I was burning with curiosity and unanswered questions but I didn’t want to alienate these two.

“We knew about the accident of course. Just terrible. My father-in-law talked about nothing else for a while. Of course, it was such a long time ago . . .”

Not for me. “Two years and ten months,” I replied. This woman had never lost anyone close to her.

Her expression shifted. “Of course, I . . . I didn’t mean to imply it wasn’t important.”

“Can you tell me? Did you find any other photos?”

They both shook their heads. “No, we didn’t. We didn’t have time to go through all the negatives, we turned them over to the police, so perhaps there’s something there they can work with.”

“Do you have any idea why your father-in-law didn’t come forward at the time?”

The woman took a deep breath. “I don’t know,” she finally stated flatly.

“Look, I’m not criticizing anyone. I’m not. I’m just wondering why, if he talked to you about being a witness to a hit and run, he didn’t talk to the police. And I know they canvassed the neighborhood.”

The woman’s lips pursed. She was weighing her options. But her husband spoke, “I can’t say for sure. He was certainly concerned about it. I just assumed he had talked to the police. I asked him about it a few weeks later but he shut me out. Said he didn’t want to think about it. He was upset. Maybe he felt he was getting old and vulnerable and something like that might happen to him too. He said he really didn’t see or remember anything.”

I stared at them. I was confused. “Any idea why he did an about face like that?”

“Maybe he was getting a bit senile.” The man shrugged, “maybe he thought if he dwelled on it . . . I don’t know. I can only guess.”

The woman turned to her husband. “I told you what I thought at the time,” she replied sharply. “I thought he was frightened. I even wondered if he was scared of something. Or someone.” She shook her head, “But I don’t really know either.”

There was nothing more I could glean here. My presence was making them uncomfortable, almost as if I were accusing them of a crime. “Well, thank you. I appreciate your talking with me.” They nodded in unison. Probably glad to see me go. “I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“Thanks,” the man said. They watched me for a few moments as I turned away and headed back to my car. I hadn’t learned a thing.

Purchase Tail of the Dragon from:

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The Zodiac Mystery Series:

The Madness of Mercury ~ Review
All Signs Point to Murder ~ Review

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the series was re-released in October 2020.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.

Places to find Connie di Marco:


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