Please welcome Patrice Lyle and her new release, Killer Kung Pao with....
It's All About the Book…
Please tell us about your current or upcoming release.
KILLER KUNG PAO is the first book in the Health Nut Mystery series about a naturopathic doctor named Dr. Piper who solves mysteries at health expos with her 91-year-old great Aunt Alfa and her potbellied pig named Brownie. She uses a set of How to Be a PI flashcards to solve the mystery.
What is this book's genre? Is this the genre you usually write in? Are there any genre's you haven't written that you'd like to try?
KILLER KUNG PAO is a cozy mystery, which is my favorite genre. I've never written a funny romance before, but I'd love to try writing one someday. I've also published YA and tween mysteries.
What inspired you to write this book?
An experience my husband and I had at a wellness expo a couple of years ago was the catalyst for KILLER KUNG PAO. What we thought was a holistic health expo turned out to be a psychic fair! Not that I don't believe in the possibility of otherworldly things, but the expo just wasn't what we'd expected. The other vendors were arguing amongst themselves, and I said to my husband, "This would be a great setting for a murder mystery!" Then my passion for holistic health merged with my passion for cozy mysteries, and KILLER KUNG PAO was born.
How did you pick its title? Did it come first or did you have to write the story first?
My final titles often come to me during the revision process, which happened with KILLER KUNG PAO. Also I love short snappy titles with alliteration.
How did you create your characters? Did you use any real life people in their making?
I start with my two baby name books to create the name, and then I come up with the character's profession, and what makes the character funny. Dr. Piper is a naturopathic doctor with frizzy hair who's addicted to sparkly makeup and dark chocolate. Aunt Alfa is a 91-year old aromatherapist with a ‘tude, and who likes to date "younger" 80-something-year-old men. Tattoo Tex (Dr. Piper's love interest) is a "jock cowboy" who wears a ten-gallon hat and running shoes.
Who is your favorite character of this book and why?
I love Aunt Alfa! She's a feisty aromatherapist nonagenarian, and she's so much fun to write! I love her dating antics.
What is your favorite part of this book? Can you share an excerpt from that part?
My favorite part is the opening scene when Dr. Piper meets rude psychic Mystic Ming, and he insults her hair. Here's an excerpt:
You probably want to know how I solved Mystic Ming's murder, but first I should tell you why I almost killed him myself.
I stepped into the Manatee Inn's elevator and glanced at my hair in the mirrored walls. The words Night of the Living Frizz Freak instantly came to mind. Florida's balmy weather may have been great for the skin, but it sure was murder on my hair. I tapped the close button and dug through my silver sequined purse until I found my only source of solace.
A package of eighty-percent dark chocolate almond clusters.
I eagerly ripped the foil and popped a chocolate into my mouth. Yum. I ignored my reflection and concentrated on the gold elevator doors as they slowly slid shut. Seconds before they finally closed, however, a tiny beringed hand shot inside. The door halted and creaked open.
"Hold up!" A spry Asian man jumped in. Hot pink hair sprouted from his head, culminating in a giant poof that had been clamped into place with a pink chopstick. He jabbed the close button like it was a slot machine. "Hurry! Mystic Ming need to get to show."
The elevator dinged wildly in response, but the doors didn't close.
"Come on. Close, you dumb piece of metal," he said. "Mystic Ming berry late."
To keep from laughing, I gazed at the bejeweled flower painted on my big toe. His accent was as fake as his hair color. Pure Jersey simmered in his voice.
He slammed his palm against the button and let out a slur of cuss words amidst a blast of garlic breath so strong it could have flattened Dracula.
Not one to tell others what to do (except when people paid for my advice as a naturopathic doctor), I leaned against the wall and waited while the man attacked the buttons again. Finally, when the panel lit up like a starry night, I made what I thought was a polite suggestion.
"Sir, if you'd stop pressing the buttons, I bet the doors will close, and we'll be on our way." I flashed him a friendly smile before popping another chocolate into my mouth.
He shot me a look that could have melted my cocoa. "Why you tell Mystic Ming what to do?"
"Who's Mystic Ming?" Then I noticed his tight teal T-shirt adorned with the words, Mystic Ming, Kick-Ass Psychic. "Cute shirt. Very catchy."
He slapped the buttons again, but the doors still wouldn't close. "Shirt not meant to be cute. Meant to make sure clients not forget me."
I doubted he needed a T-shirt for that. "You here for the Body, Mind & Spirit Expo?"
"What's it to you?"
"I was just wondering." I reached past him and tapped the close button. Surprisingly, it acquiesced, and we began our sluggish descent toward the lobby.
"Mystic Ming not need your help." His words were accompanied with garlic-scented spittle.
Eeww. My poor chocolate. I stepped back and closed the package. "Sorry, sometimes you just need a woman's touch."
"Woman touch never good."
Oh, please. It worked, didn't it?
He squinted and stared at my head. "Your hair look like dung beetle nest."
My eyes widened while I waited for the obligatory, Sorry, just kidding.
He didn't offer those words though. Instead he countered with, "What happen to you? You get caught in typhoon?"
Holy chocolate babka, how can he say that?
"It's the Florida humidity," I said, shocked at his rudeness.
"You should have stayed home where hair not look so ratty."
I gasped and bravely peeked at my hair in the mirrored walls, hoping for a miraculous change in the last couple of minutes. Nope. I was still a frizz ball, despite the shine serum, leave-in conditioner, and anti-frizz cream. How could I give my natural health presentation looking like a lightning-strike victim?
Or, as Mystic Ming had so clearly articulated, looking like a haven for dung beetles?
What was the hardest part of this book to write? Can you share an excerpt from that part?
The hardest part for me to write was the scene where Dr. Piper and Tattoo Tex find the body of a second murder victim. Here's an excerpt:
"Dare I try the doorknob?" I thought of my flashcards. "Is it considered breaking and entering if we're concerned about someone's safety?"
"I wouldn't reckon so." Tattoo Tex twisted the knob, and the door creaked open. "Definitely won't be breaking in because the door's unlocked."
"That's not a good sign." My pulse raced as I stuck my head into the entryway. "Hello? Is anyone home? Van, are you all right?"
"Hello thar?" Tattoo Tex cupped his hand by his ear and leaned over the threshold. "I don't hear anythang."
We scanned the living room, and nothing looked odd. Except for the furniture, that was. A faded orange floral couch dominated the room and was flanked by a couple of grubby lawn chairs. The fringed-shade on the lamp dated back to the sixties as did the pea-green shag carpet.
I gazed at the TV. The cracked screen made me wonder if it was turned off or broken. "Maybe Van went for a walk and forgot to lock up?"
Tattoo Tex gripped my shoulder and pointed toward the kitchen. My pulse raced when I saw someone's feet peeking out from the other side of the wall…wearing a pair of yellow Sparkle O sandals. Holy chocolate babka. Instinct took over, and I ran into the kitchen.
I crouched beside Van and gasped. The woman Charles had been arguing with and the one who'd run from me in the hallway, Van, or Vanessa, was lying on his back wearing a yellow sundress, a slightly askew long black wig, and the face of death.
With my medical training, I'd recognize that pale grayish hue anywhere.
"He's dead." I reached for Van's wrist. Coolness seeped into my fingers, and goose bumps pebbled my arms. "Probably for a few hours at least."
A serious look crossed Tattoo Tex's face. "Weird that he died after talking to the police."
"No kidding." I swallowed down a sour taste and tried to connect the chocolate dots. My gut told me Van's death wasn't a coincidence.
Tattoo Tex gestured toward the slight stubble emerging on Van's jaw line. "Van's definitely a dude. Can't cover up a beard."
"True, and he's also the mystery woman from the parking lot," I said. "And the one who ran from me in the hallway outside Babette's room."
"Positive." I sat back on my calves and stared at Van's body. "We need to call the police."
"How do you reckon he was killed?"
"I'm not a medical examiner, but I'd say the cause of death wasn't natural." I pointed at the light swelling and slight bruise covering his right cheek. "Looks like he was beaten before he died, and with no gun-shot or stab wounds, I'd guess he was bludgeoned."
"Two murders in this Podunk town. Who would have thought?"
My chest tightened as I realized my PI mission was more complicated now. Why would someone want to kill Van? Had someone paid Van to add the peanut oil to Mystic Ming's kung pao and now wanted to shut him up? But if Van had already gone to the police, what was there to silence?
Tattoo Tex pointed at an oversized, powder blue, patent-leather handbag propped against the refrigerator. "He could have gotten clocked by that old-lady purse."
"I wouldn't think a purse could pack that much force." Not my tiny sequined one anyway.
"Depends on what's inside." He approached the bag and lifted it. "Feels like a ton of bricks in here."
"You better not touch it, Tattoo Tex. The flashcards said not to taint the evidence."
"Good point." He set the purse back down, grabbed a paper towel from the roll on the wall, and used it to unzip the bag. "This is odd. I'd bet my best tattoo this is the murder weapon."
I joined him and reviewed the contents. A travel pack of tissues, a gold tube of lipstick, and several shrink-wrapped packages of partially frozen meat were stowed inside.
"Who carries around one-pound packages of meat in a purse?" My purse would barely hold a turkey hotdog.
"Someone packed this purse with intent to kill."
I counted five packages and then peered at the labels. "Organic grass-fed beef. They would have been frozen as hard as a gemstone a few hours ago, and heavy enough to deliver a lethal blow."
"My grandma had a purse like that. She used to threaten to knock me in the knees with it if I didn't behave. But who would have thought a grandma purse could kill someone?"
An army of dung beetles flipped in my stomach. The murder weapon happened to be an old-lady purse filled with organic beef? Was this a set up designed to implicate Aunt Alfa? Then I turned and saw a familiar box sitting on the counter near the sink.
An unopened box of Cosmic Cake gluten-free cupcakes. Aunt Alfa's favorite. Yep, this was a set up, all right.
But would Detective Fifi get it?
Did you have any special rhythm or quirks while writing this?
Like Dr. Piper, I love dark chocolate. So I ate quite a bit of dark chocolate while I wrote KILLER KUNG PAO. I also do my best writing at the beach on my trusty old Alpha Smart.
Is this a stand-alone book or is it part of a series? If so, we want to hear about it and what's next in the series. If not a series, what comes next to be released?
KILLER KUNG PAO is the first book in the Health Nut Mystery series. The second book is called KILLER KARAT CREAM. Dr. Piper hosts a spa night where someone drops dead immediately after applying the exciting new Karat Cream. KILLER KARAT CREAM should be released later this year by Gemma Halliday Publishing.
Killer Kung Pao
Health Nut Mysteries Book #1
Humorous Cozy Mystery, 63k
Unwilling to let her auntie squander her golden years in prison, Piper orders a set of How To Be a PI flashcards and sets out to find the real killer. Secrets and suspects sprout up faster than wheat grass, including a handsome tattoo artist, Tattoo Tex, who intrigues Piper more than she'd like to admit. But can she trust him? Piper had better solve the case of the killer kung pao before the murderer turns his sights on victim number two...one sleuthing doctor!
My aunt was the most adorable health nut ever. Clad in her size-two teal velour pantsuit, matching foam rollers, and red, patent-leather Mary Jane pumps, she strutted across the beige carpet pulling a neon green duffel roller bag and munching on a gluten-free Cosmic Cupcake (her favorite). She hadn't changed at all—including her hennaed hair—in the last three decades. And I hoped she never would.
"Hey, Pipe." She planted a kiss on my cheek. "You'll never guess what happened on our walk. It was the craziest thing."
Even though it had only been a couple hours since I'd last seen her, I gave her a quick hug. "I was wondering where you—"
And that was when I noticed the suspicious pink snout sticking out of the side zipper of Aunt Alfa's bag. Oh, holy chocolate babka to the nth degree.
"You heard that yoga girl at registration," I said quietly. "Animals aren't allowed in here, and we have to follow the rules."
She pursed her lips as if she were sucking a lemon, which she did every day because lemons are great for the liver, and pointed at a woman nearby who was accompanied by a guide dog. "Check out that dog. Studies have shown pigs are fourth on the intelligence roll, behind humans, primates, and dolphins."
I was familiar with the study because she talked about it all the time.
"It's rude to point." I gently lowered my auntie's arm before someone noticed her. "That woman is blind, Aunt Alfa. Guide dogs are always allowed."
"I know." Aunt Alfa crumpled up her Cosmic Cake wrapper and tossed it into a nearby trashcan, making the shot like a basketball star. "Our piglet should be allowed too because he's smart enough to be a guide pig. Besides, I'm ninety-one years old. I defy anyone to stop me."
A nonagenarian with a 'tude was what her dead ex-boyfriend had called Aunt Alfa during the nightmare séance. I feared he might have been on to something.
"I don't like it either, Aunt Alfa, but you have to take Brownie to our room."
"You know how depressed he gets alone. He'll pig out." She jutted out her crepe-paper jaw. "I can't believe I forgot Charlotte's Web. That's the only movie he likes."
Finally, progress. "Actually, he loves Babe, and I brought the DVD with me."
"Yeah. We watched it last weekend, and he sniffled at all the sad parts." I'd been in major Floyd-avoid-mode so I'd spent my Friday night curled up with a movie, a bag of dark chocolate chip cookies, and a piglet.
Aunt Alfa shot me her pity grin. "He was just being polite, Pipe."
That figured. Guys were all the same. Even the potbelly breeds.
Aunt Alfa rose on her toes and glanced around the room. "I'm going to find the manager and force him to see things my way."
Oh, no. Had I made a mistake insisting she come? I'd worried about her starting a riot at my condo complex while I was gone, but I hadn't considered the consequences at the expo.
"You have to take Brownie to our hotel room," I said. "Seriously."
Brownie must have recognized his name because just then a high-pitched, someone's-murdering-me piglet squeal erupted from her bag.
Weee. Weee. Weeeeeeeeeeee.
Several people turned in response. One woman having a tarot card reading by the yellow-turbaned psychic looked perturbed and asked, "Was that… a pig?"
Then a sneeze louder than a New York City firework festival rang out. Followed by a coughing attack.
"Mystic Ming allergic to pig," a familiar voice choked out. "Ming berry berry allergic to many things."
I turned to see Mystic Ming wobbling in the aisle across from me. Then his skinny legs buckled, and his face lightened to the shade of a marshmallow.
Right before he collapsed onto the expo floor.
Patrice Lyle loves green smoothies, dark chocolate, mysteries, and humor. She wove these elements together when she created the Health Nut Mysteries, a cozy series about a naturopathic doctor who solves mysteries at health expos. Patrice also writes paranormal young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as holistic medical suspense. She has an MA in Writing Popular Fiction and a PhD in Holistic Nutrition. She's also a Certified Traditional Naturopath. She now lives in Florida with her husband and two kitties, and is a firm believer in the theory that laughter is the best medicine.
Giveaway: $20 Amazon Gift Card