Franki Amato’s Back in Big Trouble in The Big Easy
Originally posted at: https://drusbookmusing.com/2016/07/30/franki-amato-2/

“Ciao, y’all. You’ll never guess where I am—in the dressing room at Madame Moiselle’s strip club on Bourbon Street. Why? Well, you remember Glenda O’Brien, my sixty-something ex-stripper landlady?”

“How could they forget me, Miss Franki?” Glenda fluffed her apple-pastied breasts in her Stripper Snow White shirt. “I’m a lady legend down here in New Orleans.” She pulled a sewing needle from a bosom-shaped pincushion. “Now face forward so I can finish your costume.”

“Oh.” I turned back toward the mirror. “So Glenda’s sewing me into a costume, but Marilyn Monroe at JFK’s birthday I am not. Thanks to a run-in with a raging Russian during a bikini wax, I look more like a Mardi Gras tiger with mange.”

“That babushka’s got a bad attitude.” Glenda stuck the needle into the tiger-striped fabric at my bottom. “But tell them about Amber, sugar.”

“Okay.” I cast a cagey look at my backside. “Amber is a young woman who used to strip at Madame Moiselle’s. The manager found her onstage, but she definitely wasn’t dancing. Instead, she was dead in a claw-foot bathtub surrounded by a candle, some incense, and a bottle of amaretto. But that’s not the weird part.”

“Bestill your booty, sugar.” Glenda brandished a pair of scissors at my behind.

I gave her a pre-pounce glare while she clipped her sewing thread. “As I was saying, the crazy thing is that before she was killed, Amber stole a necklace made from a piece of the missing Amber Room— a priceless work of art that the Nazis took from Russia during World War II.”

“And that necklace belonged to one of my squirrel friends, Carnie Vaul.” Glenda pressed the Velcro closures at my hip.

“In case you’re not up on drag queen discourse,” I said, eyeing the Velcro, “squirrel friends are men who hide their nuts. And Carnie doesn’t just hide her nuts, she is nuts. In fact, if she hadn’t hired me to find her necklace and Amber’s killer, I’d suspect her of killing that poor girl.”

Glenda handed me a pair of purple-and-gold platform pumps emblazoned with the LSU tiger. “She’s a little tense, but it’s hard being a queen. Just ask Elizabeth Windsor.”

I smirked and began to work my foot into one of the six-inch shoes. “Anyway, Glenda’s my consultant on Amber’s case, and we have a lengthy list of suspects. Besides the raging Russian, there’s the club manager, a Texas oil baron, a stripper named Saddle, and a pimp-turned preacher. So, we’re setting a trap for the killer by billing me as Amber’s cousin, Tiger Eye, in tonight’s strip revue at Madame Moiselle’s.”

I grabbed Glenda’s shoulder for support as I climbed into the other shoe, and I saw a gleam in her eye. “Why are you looking at me like that? What have you done?”

“Coming to the stage,” the club DJ boomed over the sound system, “Tiger Eye, the late, great Amber’s porn star cousin.”

“Porn star?!” I spun around on Glenda like a wild animal on the hunt.

“Go catch the tiger by the tail, Miss Franki.” She shoved me onto the stage.

I stumbled into the spotlight and caught sight of a tail she’d sewn onto my costume, and I had a sneaking suspicion that tiger she was talking about was me.

A Day in the Life of Gia Di Mitri
Originally posted at: https://drusbookmusing.com/2015/07/25/gia-di-mitri/

Yo, readers! My name is Gia Di Mitri, and I’m originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey, a.k.a. America’s Playground. But a few months ago I headed west to Danger Cove, Washington, to do makeup and nails at my step cousin Cassidi Conti’s hair salon, The Clip and Sip. And let me tell you, a playground Danger Cove ain’t. It kind of reminds me of Cabot Cove—you know, from Murder, She Wrote? Because it’s a quiet seaside town complete with its own famous mystery writer, Elizabeth Ashby, and because murders just keep friggin’ happening here. Even in my own family.

You see, last year Cassidi’s Uncle Vincent Conti (who’s my step uncle) died under what the Danger Cove Police Department describes as “mysterious circumstances.” But, if you ask me, the only thing mysterious about Vinnie’s death is the identity of the criminal who wrapped a fishnet stocking around his neck—and tied it good and tight. Dear old Uncle Vinnie was what we Italians call a donnaiolo, or a womanizer, so Cassidi thinks one of his gumads (girlfriends) did it. But he had longstanding connections in the Atlantic City casino scene and a stash of cash, so organized crime isn’t out of the question.

The thing is, Cassidi and I didn’t really know our Uncle Vinnie. So imagine her surprise when he left her his entire estate, which included an old Victorian mansion that he’d converted into a combined house and hair salon and—best of all—a totally sick black Ferrari. At the time, Cassidi was having some problems back home in Texas, so she packed her bags and got the hell out of Dodge, i.e., Fredericksburg. Her plan was to start a new life in Danger Cove. No problem, right?

Wrong. It turns out that Cassidi’s painted lady, as Victorian homes are called, has a bad rep with the local townsfolk, and it isn’t because of the paint job. Apparently, Vinnie was doing more than his clients’ ‘dos, and before he bought the building it had a hundred-year history as a brothel, not to mention some rather choice artwork. In 1955, a mob of God-fearing (read: prostitute-loathing) women actually tried to burn the place down, and trust me when I say that there are still plenty of people who’d like to see the old girl gone.

Anyway, a few of Vinnie’s regulars continue to come in to The Clip and Sip. One of them was Margaret Appleby, an eighty-year-old Miss Marple lookalike who always drank soy chai tea. I used the past tense because we lost Margaret after our stylist, Lucy O’Connell, put a blue rinse in her hair, and she turned as blue as a bowl of Boo Berry cereal. At first, I thought that Margaret had died because she was old, but the medical examiner said it was murder.

So, now Cassidi and I are trying to prove Lucy’s innocence (which I have my doubts about), save the business, and find out just what, exactly, is going on in our house and in this town. I mean, we know that two murders in one building might be more than a coincidence, so we’re all on edge. But, like I always say, green tea vodka does wonders to calm the nerves. Cassidi has been doing some asking around, and Amy Spannagel, our (lunatic) local librarian, is helping with the research. What we want to know is this: Why did Margaret Appleby turn blue? Was it the blue dye, or something else? And who would want her dead? Last but not least, was her death connected to Vinnie Conti’s?

If you know anything about either of these crimes, please contact the Danger Cove PD. You can also get in touch with Cassidi or me. You can find our contact information on the Danger Cove website. And if you can muster up the courage, stop by The Clip and Sip and have a drink on the salon. While you’re there, I’ll give you a free makeup consultation. FYI: Being from Jersey, I do a serious smoky eye.

Franki Amato’s Unadventure Adventure
Written for Adventures in Fiction 2015: http://adventures.freshfiction.com

You want to know about an adventure I might take? Obviously, you don’t know me very well, so let me give you the low down. My name is Francesca “Franki” Amato, and a lot of people would say that my whole life is an adventure. But if you ask me, it’s a never-ending series of misadventures.

For starters, I’m a PI in New Orleans. I know—it’s a great place to visit. But can you imagine working in law enforcement there? I mean, with the crime, corruption, swamps, voodoo, and [shudder] Bourbon Street?

Then when I go home, I have to deal with the tenants in my fourplex: my best friend, Veronica, who is also my workaholic boss, and our ex-stripper landlady, Glenda, whose motto is less is more—as in less clothing is more skin.

And if Veronica and Glenda aren’t home, chances are my Sicilian nonna has sent one of her Sicilian suitors to try to sweep my off my feet, because I’m 29 and unmarried. And, as every Sicilian grandmother will tell you (daily), “Twenty-nine is-a forty-five in Italian years.”

What I want is an unadventure. You know, a romantic evening at home with my boyfriend, Bradley. And if he’s away on business, I’ll take the next best thing: a jar of Nutella—the jumbo size. I don’t even need a spoon.

The Inspiration and the Artifacts Behind Prosecco Pink
Originally posted at: http://cozyupwithkathy.blogspot.com

PROSECCO PINK, the second novel in the Franki Amato mysteries, was inspired by my third visit to Oak Alley Plantation, a stunning, oak tree–lined antebellum sugar cane plantation built in 1839. Of course, I couldn’t use the real place for my setting, so I came up with my own plantation called Oleander Place and altered or borrowed intact some historical artifacts from Oak Alley. Below are a few of my favorite items from the plantation along with clues about how I incorporate them into my mystery.

The lavender room belonged to Oak Alley’s last owner, Josephine Stewart. Its lavender décor, the antique furniture, and the persistent sightings of Josephine’s ghost make it spectacularly creepy. The minute I stepped into this room, I began to envision my “pink room”—and the beautiful blonde cosmetics CEO who would die there—all while sipping a mint julep. Evil, I know.

This spiny fruit is, ironically, a time-honored symbol of Southern hospitality. Guests who stayed at Oak Alley were treated to sliced pineapple for breakfast the morning after their arrival. But those who overstayed their welcome awakened to find a whole pineapple at the foot of their beds. Kind of threatening, isn’t it? Well, that’s what Franki Amato thought, too.

Suitors who came to call on the plantation owner’s daughters were monitored not only by a chaperone, but also by a courter’s candle. This candle was placed inside a metal spiral. When the candle burned down to the top of the spiral, it was time for the suitor to leave. If he was a desirable match, the candle was set high so that it would take longer to burn down to the metal. But if he wasn’t, then it was set low so that his time would be up—and quickly. Talk about a way to scare someone off!

Mattresses at Oak Alley were stuffed with Spanish moss, so they became lumpy after use. Each day the house slaves had to use giant rolling pins to roll the mattresses to make them smooth again. The perfect weapon to hit someone with.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, four sugar kettles were used in the production of refined sugar (in order of decreasing size): the grande, the flambeau, the sirop, and the batterie. As the sugar cane juice boiled down, slaves transferred it to the smaller kettles in stages. This was extremely dangerous work because it involved fire and boiling liquid. And because the larger kettles were big enough to hold a body.

Curious? I hope so! I had a blast writing PROSECCO PINK, so I think you’ll have fun reading it. As they say in New Orleans, laissez les bons temps rouler!

Another Day in the Life of Franki Amato (Prosecco Pink)
Originally posted at: http://drusbookmusing.com/2014/11/28/franki-amato/

It’s hard to describe a day in my life, because it’s anything but typical. For starters, I’m a PI for Private Chicks Inc. in New Orleans, which is Anglicized French for “highly unusual.” Plus, I live in a fourplex with my best friend and employer, Veronica Maggio, my sixty-something ex-stripper landlady, Glenda O’Brien, and her collection of stripper costumes (they occupy the fourth apartment, and trust me when I say that it’s for the best). To top it all off, we’re right across the street from a creepy cemetery, which often drives me to drink at the bar conveniently located next door.

What I can tell you is that things have changed since the last time I was on Dru Ann’s blog. I’m now in a relationship with Bradley Hartmann, that handsome bank president I told you about? At least, I think we’re in a relationship. His sexy new secretary, Pauline Violette, is doing her darnedest to drive us apart, and I’m playing right into her pernicious plan. How? Well, I drove my car into a swamp while I was secretly following them to one of their business meetings—which Pauline had scheduled at a bed and breakfast—and Bradley saw me! I’d tell you what happened next, but I can’t bear to relive it. Let’s just say that it involves horny alligators and a gun (don’t worry, the gators are fine, but I’m not so sure about Bradley).

The worst thing about the whole Pauline situation is that she’s got my meddling Sicilian grandma’s number. You see, my nonna is up to her usual antics, trying to get me married off before I turn 30 (I’m 29, which is apparently 45 in Italian years). Thankfully, she isn’t setting me up on dud dates with Sicilian suitors anymore, but she is planning my wedding—and Bradley hasn’t exactly popped the question yet. Bradley is blissfully oblivious to nonna’s scheme, but Pauline is patently aware of it. In fact, she’s threatening to tell Bradley all about our Machiavellian marriage, and I have no doubt she’ll finger me, and not my nonna, as the marital mastermind.

As anxious as I am about Pauline dropping that not-so-little bomb on my boyfriend, the truth is that I have bigger things to worry about, like my continued existence. This morning when I was buying a dozen beignets (for everyone at the office, that is) I ran into Chandra Toccato, the self-proclaimed “Crescent City Medium.” And believe you me, this psychic is psycho. The minute she saw me, her eyes rolled back in her head and she started vibrating. Then she claimed that a female spirit had done something terrible that had put me in danger. If all that wasn’t proof enough that this woman is wacko, “Toccato” is Italian for “touched,” as in “crazy.”

I’d just managed to escape the mad medium when Delta Dupré showed up at the office. She’s the executive director of Oleander Place, an antebellum sugar cane plantation, and a descendent of its founder, General Knox Patterson. Now, Delta might be descended from sugar, but she’s far from sweet. She has the manners of Maleficent, and she’s a dead ringer for Cruella De Vil. Unfortunately, Delta just hired Private Chicks to investigate the murder of Ivanna Jones, a beautiful cosmetics CEO who was found dead in the very same bed that General Patterson’s wife, Evangeline Lacour, was poisoned in almost two centuries ago. Oddly enough, Ivanna was clutching a bottle of pink lip gloss and wearing Evangeline’s pink crinoline dress!

Now, I’ll give you one guess who Veronica appointed lead investigator on the case. That’s right, me! Normally, I would be ecstatic to work a high-profile murder like this. But there is one teensy detail I haven’t told you about: Oleander House is rumored to be haunted by the spirits of General Patterson, Evangeline, and the pirate she cheated on him with—the notorious Beau the Black, who just happens to be the general’s brother. So, this is no Casper-the-Friendly-Ghost kind of haunting, y’all. These ghosts are freakin’ angry.

Of course, I don’t really believe in ghosts and psychics and all that. It’s just that where the supernatural is concerned, I make it my policy to be safe rather than sorry. And I’m more than a little spooked at the moment because it’s looking like that spirit the medium mentioned (you know, the one who managed to jeopardized my life?) is connected to this murder somehow.

Anyway, I’m on my way to the plantation to start the investigation. It’s going to be a piece of cake.


A Day in the Life of Francesca ‘Franki’ Amato (Limoncello Yellow)
Originally posted at: http://drusbookmusing.com/2014/01/31/francesca-amato/

A day in my life? Okay, well, I can tell you about today, but I’ll need to backtrack a bit. Now, keep in mind that my motto is “When life gives you lemons, make Limoncello.” But after the events of the past few weeks, I’m sort of inclined to skip the “making” Limoncello part and go straight to drinking it.

It all started on the morning of December 26th in Austin, Texas, when my police partner and I responded to a 911 call reporting a woman in distress at a local motel. Let’s just say that a woman was in distress, but that woman was me—after I found my boyfriend, Vince, at the scene. And the woman? Oh, she was there too. But as it so happens, she wasn’t distressed at all. Quite the contrary.

Later that day I gave notice to the police department. Don’t think I’m a flake or anything, because I’m not. The thing is, I had issues with certain aspects of the job before the incident at the motel, like the routine violence. There’s just no getting used to, say, being punched in the face on Halloween night by a drunken sorority girl who—to add insult to injury—said she’d thought I was a civilian in an “unsexy cop” costume.

The time had come for a complete life do-over. So, I accepted my best friend Veronica’s standing offer to work at her startup detective agency, Private Chicks, Inc., in New Orleans. Then I packed up my 1965 cherry-red Mustang convertible and set off with my Cairn terrier, Napoleon, for The Big Easy, where I had fully intended to laisser les bons temps rouler.

But when I turned onto my new street in the Uptown neighborhood, an ominous pall was cast on my partying plans. (Did I mention that I’m somewhat superstitious?) Yes, there was a jazz funeral in full swing, so to speak. It turns out that the apartment Veronica had helped me rent in her ex-stripper landlady’s fourplex was right across the street from a creepy cemetery. And, thankfully, a bar.

So, on a typical day, I’m greeted by the cemetery’s spooky statues and ghoulish gargoyles before I drive to work in the French Quarter. Then, after I park, I usually have to dodge the ever-present hordes of tourists, drunks, crazies, artists, and mimes as I make my way to the office. I have to steer clear of the beignet vendors, too, because I just can’t resist those puffy, powdered sugar–covered pastries. (You know Italians and dough products.)

Sometimes, I stop by Ponchartrain Bank to do some banking and visit with my teller friend, Corinne. All right, so maybe I also go there to see Bradley Hartmann, the dashingly handsome bank president. But it’s not because I’m desperate or anything . . . At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

You see, I’m 29, Italian-American and single. The single part would be okay if it weren’t for the fact that, according to my nonna, 29 is really 45 in Italian years. I know because she reminds me that I’m a zitella, or old maid, every chance she gets. My parents don’t try to stop her either, because I’m their only daughter, and they want to see me settled. I’d like that too, but not the way they would—that is, with a baby in one arm and another in the proverbial oven while I stir a pot of ragù in my red and white gingham apron. The problem is that my family has roots in Nola. So, my nonna has set me up with a slew of Sicilian suitors, which means that in addition to the tourists et al., I’m often dodging blind dates on my way to work (that’s right, she gives out my office address, just in case).

Once I’m safely at my desk, I check my mail, make some calls, update case files and things like that. Mostly, I do a lot of research, unless our part-time assistant, David, is available to help.

But today is different. Veronica and I are investigating the homicide of Jessica Evans, the beautiful young manager of a local LaMarca, the famous international boutique. Jessica was found there, strangled to death with a cheap yellow scarf. When I went to LaMarca to investigate, I found something the cops had overlooked—a sinister item with grave implications. The only one who can help me make sense of the murder (and, incidentally, my love life) is Odette Malveaux. Who’s she? Rumor has it that she’s the descendent of Marie Laveau, New Orleans’ legendary voodoo queen. So, I’m about to go to a voodoo store on Bourbon Street to find her.

No big deal. Right?

Ten Things You Should Know about Limoncello Yellow’s Franki Amato
Originally posted at: http://www.books-n-kisses.com/2014/02/blog-tour-giveaway-limoncello-yellow-by-traci-andrighetti/

Instead of the usual “how-I-came-up-with-the-idea-for-my-book” post, I thought I’d share some fun facts from my character development sheet for Francesca “Franki” Amato. Franki is the tough-talking, 29-year-old private investigator protagonist of my debut novel, Limoncello Yellow.

  1. Franki looks like the 1960’s Italian movie actress Claudia Cardinale, but she wears the signature cat-eyeliner of Sophia Loren.
  1. She is 5’10”, 170 pounds and has an oversized butt. She can’t decide whether Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” is her least or most favorite song.
  1. Her motto is, “When life gives you lemons, make Limoncello.” But in extreme cases, she revises it to, “When live gives you lemons, skip the ‘making Limoncello’ part and just go straight to drinking it.”
  1. Thanks to her meddlesome Sicilian nonna, Franki suffers from Catholic guilt even though she’s not a practicing Catholic and precisely because she’s not a practicing Catholic.
  1. She loves Murder She Wrote, trashy reality shows featuring New Jersey, and any and all variations of Say Yes to the Dress.
  1. Although she’s OCD about the outward appearance of her apartment, inside her cabinets, closets and drawers total chaos reigns.
  1. She has a passion for food, especially Nutella straight from the jar. She rationalizes that the ridiculously caloric chocolate hazelnut spread is basically just the Italian version of chocolate pudding.
  1. When she’s at work at Private Chicks, Inc., Franki often spontaneously worries that she has forgotten to shave the hair that grows on her big toes.
  1. She uses profanity—but mostly in Italian—so that it doesn’t seem as offensive to her readers. And because it just plain sounds cool.
  1. Her one intense dislike: mimes. She simply can’t understand why anyone would want to paint himself (or herself) white or monochrome and then pretend to do things like juggle or cry.

Any questions? If so, send them to me at traci@traciandrighetti.com. Franki doesn’t like talking about herself, and she can be kind of confrontational, especially if you ask her about her love life.

My and Franki’s Favorite New Orleans Travel Destinations from Limoncello Yellow
Originally posted at: http://brookeblogs.com/limoncello-yellow-traci-andrighetti-review-guest-post-2-giveaways/

One really fun aspect of being an author is picking the setting of your novel or series. When I set out to create the Franki Amato Mystery series, I wanted a colorful setting with a combination of famous and quirky places. The city that immediately came to mind? New Orleans, Louisiana.

With its exotic blend of cultures and history of pirates, plantations, voodoo, jazz and Mardi Gras celebrations, NOLA is unique in the world. And as a frequent traveler to the city, I realized that my debut novel, Limoncello Yellow, presented an opportunity to start documenting all my favorite New Orleans haunts.

So, I decided to start a personal writing tradition. Every series I create (and I have two more in mind) will serve as a kind of travel diary. My characters will hang out, investigate leads, and solve crimes in places I regularly visit. Below is a partial list of The Big Easy locales my private investigator protagonist, Francesca “Franki” Amato, visits in Limoncello Yellow.

Café du Monde
Whenever I’m in New Orleans, I start my day at this world-renowned café, and Franki does too. We can’t stop eating the little French pastries known as beignets. I mean, who can go wrong with fried dough covered in powdered-sugar (especially when they’re served with chicory coffee)? Not us Italians! After all, we’re known for our love of coffee and dough products.

Bourbon Street
If drinking at 10:00 a.m. is your thing, then skip the shops in the French Quarter and head straight to Bourbon Street. Franki and I just have to go there once in a while. Not because we’re morning drinkers, or anything, but because it’s always awesome having men shower you with beaded necklaces from overhead balconies.

Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
While you’re on Bourbon, do what Franki and I do to escape the strippers and waitresses selling sex and test tube shots in the streets—pop into Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. But brace yourself. Besides the cute little love potions and brightly colored gris gris bags tied with ribbon, there are severed alligator heads and chicken feet. And watch out for the voodoo priestess Odette Malveaux. I’ll say no more.

Carousel Bar and Lounge
You’ll need a drink after visiting Marie Laveau’s—I know Franki and I always do. So go to the Hotel Monteleone and check out the famous Carousel Bar and Lounge. Ernest Hemingway wrote there, and I did too (LOL). And yes, the bar really looks like a carousel. But be careful not to drink too much, because it spins like one too.

Central Grocery
To avoid a hangover from all that drinking at the Carousel, eat a hearty meal. One sure-fire gut buster: the historic muffuletta sandwich, which was created at Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the early 1900s to feed Sicilian farmers. Franki’s dad got his start in the deli business at Central Grocery, so she’s eaten more muffulettas than she cares to remember. But for my dad and me, the muffuletta is the pièce de résistance of any trip to the weird, wild and wonderful city of New Orleans.