Bold and Strong: Coffee Chat with Author Heather Weidner

Author Heather Weidner

I am so happy to be chatting with Heather Weidner this month. Heather writes the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series set in Virginia. Her new cozy series with vintage trailers and tiny houses, the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, launches in October 2021.

Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and Deadly Southern Charm, and her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Sisters in Crime – Chessie, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Through the years, she has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. Fill your mug with something delicious and join us as we chat about productive writing schedules, character inspiration, and research questions that you probably shouldn’t Google.

Me: When did you first feel like a writer? When did you first refer to yourself as one? 

Heather:I really felt like a writer when the first anthology arrived with my name and picture on it. That’s also probably when I first thought of myself as a published author. I’ve been writing since elementary school; I’ve always enjoyed writing.

Me: What was the first article or essay you published?

Heather: I had technical manuals and articles published for the day gig, but the first big article (with my byline) was a Christmas story published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. About the same time, I sold some clues to a trivia game, and that had a byline, too.

Me: Describe your writing schedule.

Heather: I am a binge writer. I know that I am more productive if I write every day, but life often gets in the way. I try to do some writing (or revising/book marketing) every day. I decided when the work-from-home mandate went into effect because of the pandemic, I would use my commute time to write. It has been a productive year. I finished two novels, started a third, finished two short stories, and finished a novella. I also get up at five every morning.

Me: What are some items you must have in your work space? 

Heather: My dogs. They are the fuzzy muses. We have two Jack Russell Terriers (Disney and Riley). They help me plot murder, and they listen as I work out dialogue. I also have to have chocolate, Dr. Pepper, and iced coffee.

Me: What do you enjoy about being a member of different writing groups?

Heather:  I love my writing groups. Writing is mostly a solitary effort. My writer friends are so generous with their time, energy, and encouragement. It is so helpful to know that you’re not alone.

Me: You have written many mysteries. What is your inspiration for those? Have you ever faced a real-life mystery? Unusual or unexplainable situation? 

Heather: I’m a CK (Cop’s Kid). I thought everyone talked about murder and mayhem at the dinner table. I didn’t realize that wasn’t the case. My dad is a retired police captain, but he’s still my best resource. There are just some things you don’t want to Google. “Hey, Dad, what does a meth lab smell like? How long would a body stay submerged?” I have loved Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew since childhood, so I’ve always been on the lookout for mysteries. When I was four, I uncovered reindeer tracks in the snow on our front porch. (Sadly, the culprit was the German Shepherd next door, and not Santa’s crew.) I work in IT (software testing and governance). Software testing is rife with mysteries that have to be solved daily.

Me: I love your character Delanie. Is she based on anyone you know in real life? 

Heather: Most of my characters are based on traits or characteristics from multiple sources. Delanie’s a sassy PI who runs toward danger. She does things that I would never think to do in real-life. I like to imagine her as a grown-up Nancy Drew. (All of my sleuths are redheads because I write what I know.)

Me: What is the best advice about writing you have ever received? 

Heather: Don’t give up. If you want to be a published author, you need to persevere. Writing is work, and you have to put the time in to build your skills and your audience.

Me:  What is the nicest/coolest thing a reader has ever said to you? 

Heather: “I read your book in one night. When does the next one come out?”

Me: What are you currently working on?

Heather: I have a three-book deal for my latest cozy mystery. It’s set in a vintage trailer park near Charlottesville. The resort also has tiny houses. Jules Keene, the owner, turned a traditional campground into an upscale resort for the glamping craze. This launches in October. I’m working on the fourth Delanie mystery and an idea for a new cozy set at the beach. I have a new Mutt Mystery (dog-themed) novella coming out this year, and I’m working on a short story project with a bunch of cool authors called Mystery by the Glass.

Me: What is the best way for readers to connect with you and find your work? 

Heather: My books are available at your favorite book store or retailer. My website is http://heatherweidner.com. Hop over to my website and blog and drop me a message. I’d love to hear from you.

Purchase a Delanie Fitzgerald mystery here 

Order your copy of I Love You More Than Coffee here.

Bold and Strong: Coffee Chat with Zibby Owens

Zibby Owens, host of Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books podcast

In recent months, Zibby Owens, creator and host of the award-winning podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, has offered book recommendations on Good Morning America and had her upcoming anthology included in Town & Country’s list of 28 Must-Read Books of Winter 2021. Zibby is a fan of strong voices and excellent writing, and she is an advocate for busy moms everywhere. She recently created Moms Don’t Have Time To Lose Weight  – a podcast and private support group on Instagram for women who simply want to feel better about their bodies.

I am so happy to have spent a little time chatting with Zibby this month about the power of a good book, what she would do with an extra hour each day, and her upcoming anthology that will be raising money for a cause so close to her heart. Fill your mug with something yummy, and find time to read our interview!

Me: Are you a regular coffee drinker? What is your favorite beverage?
Zibby: YES. Three cups a day. Hard to admit it because in my head I only drink two a day, but I almost always make an exception for that third cup, so….  I prefer k-cup produced coffee at home to store-bought, although I typically drink Starbucks Breakfast Blend. Coffee is my favorite beverage. By far! 

Me: You’ve been called a book influencer and a top literary podcast host, among many other impressive titles. Which professional accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Zibby: I’m most proud of being able to help 60+ amazing authors create original works during the pandemic. While I released them on my website at the time, I’m now getting them out into the world in anthology form in Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology. I’m also proud of the fact that I could interview Alicia Keys without being so star-struck that I clammed up!

Me: Describe an early childhood experience or relationship with a book that influenced your love of reading.
Zibby: I remember finishing Charlotte’s Web, hiding in my bathroom after my parents had put me to bed, and crying. I didn’t realize how much books could make me feel until that moment (at age 8!), and I haven’t stopped craving that connection since.

Me: Moms barely have time to go to the bathroom, much less find long stretches of time for uninterrupted reading. When do you make time to read? How do you prioritize yourself and other activities you enjoy?
Zibby: Who says my reading time isn’t interrupted?!?! I’m interrupted constantly! But I just have to get back to it. I don’t lounge on the sofa mid-day reading. It’s more that I’m pacing outside the kids’ rooms while they protest bedtime each night for about an hour with a book in hand, reading as I walk in circles, or I’m listening to an audiobook in the car driving them somewhere, or I read at my desk while they’re in school. I also treat myself to a book before bed every night once they finally fall asleep. And, I’m divorced and remarried, so every other weekend I have a lot more time to myself to read. 

Me: If you were gifted an extra hour of free time at the end of each day, how would you spend it? 
Zibby: Replying to more emails. I hate when they pile up, and I wake up to an overflowing inbox. But if I’d gotten everything done (ha!)…. I’d spend it cuddled up next to my husband watching a movie or TV show. I can’t even remember the last time we did that!

Me: Why is the anthology important to you? What would you like readers to know about it?
Zibby: First of all, I’m donating all the proceeds to the Susan Felice Owens Program for COVID-19 Vaccine Research, so I’m trying to get the word out to get us all a vaccine option. My mother-in-law passed away from COVID last summer in a horrific six-week battle with it, and I want to spare other families from going through that. Also, it’s a work I’m really proud of. The words of these authors will help other readers out there connect, feel less alone, and, perhaps like the young me crying in my bathroom, feel emotions that sustain them. It’s a deeply personal work that exemplifies why I do everything I do: to connect readers to authors, to help the right person find the right story for them at the right time, and to help busy people –like moms! —  fit more reading into their lives. 

Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology will be available February 12, 2021. Order your copy here.

Purchase I Love You More Than Coffee by Melissa Face here.

Bold and Strong: Coffee Chat with Coffee Roaster Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock, founder of Legacy Roasting

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Larry Hancock, founder of Legacy Roasting in Hopewell, VA. My children and I visited his store on Library Street that is housed in a 1920s historic brick building. We learned a little about the roasting process, held raw coffee beans, and purchased several bags of coffee to take home. I was an instant fan of both coffee (The Wonder City Blend is my favorite) and owner. 

For my first coffee chat of the year, I am thrilled to be talking with Larry about entrepreneurship, parenting, and building community. Larry has a lot brewing in 2021 – both personally and professionally – and he’s ready to spill the beans!

Me: So, you own a coffee roasting company, but are you a regular coffee drinker? What are some of your favorite beverages? 

Larry: I’m more of a social coffee drinker as opposed to a functional one. Instead of needing a cup of coffee every morning (to get through the day), I’m more likely to drink coffee when I’m hanging out with others or when I’m doing coffee drop-offs. Ultimately, I love how coffee brings people together, whether I’m meeting friends or supporting the local shops we work with. I judge a product by tasting attributes. Coffee is a subjective beverage, however, so the presentation by the barista also plays a part. My go-to beverage is a cortado when I can stop and drink coffee, a pour-over when I have plenty of time to sit and relax, and a mocha when I’m on the go. 

Me: How did you start your business? What were the early days like when you first opened?

Larry: Legacy Roasting Company was started in February 2014 in my parents’ garage. My dad found that a Chevy windshield wiper motor turned at the right RPM to turn a metal drum over the grill flame. We primarily sold to friends and family and at the farmers market. It was a great way to test the brand and meet folks in our community. 

Me: What are some of your professional goals?

Larry: My goal is to continue a community-minded business model. A company called Zingermans in Ann Arbor, Michigan influenced how I view business. Basically what I learned about making an impact in your community is: 1. Listen to the needs of your community and 2. Build opportunities for it. Legacy Roasting hopes to move to a job development model where people can come in and start as an internship to learn job skills and then from there they could stay employed at Legacy Roasting, or we could help them start their own business. Going into 2021, I would like to build a real estate side to the business to allow more affordable housing to the tri cities area. 

Me: What is the most stressful part about parenting? What are you enjoying about raising children?

Larry: Since living as an entrepreneur includes wearing all the different hats, the most stressful part is always making sure I can be the best dad possible. I want my kids to know I love them. I’m fortunate to have a loving wife and family who support me, so it does make it easier. I just always want to make sure I understand my “why” in everything I do. What I enjoy most about parenting is it has deepened my wife’s and my relationship. We’ve learned to communicate better. I also enjoy how my daughter has taught me to find wonder in what seems like the simple things in life. Now that we have one daughter and identical twin girls on the way, I’m really regretting our current house choice – we only have one shower! All jokes aside, I think the biggest thing I didn’t realize is by having a kid, your “why” in life changes dramatically. My need for personal time has shifted to  “I want to make sure my kid is loved and cherished, and I would do anything for her to know she is loved”. 

Me: What would you like your “Legacy” to be?

Larry: “Freely you have received; freely give.” – Matthew 10:8. I would want my legacy not to be about what I created, but be measured by the positive impact that can be felt in a community (fewer individuals who are homeless, more jobs, less crime, etc.). Time is our most valuable asset, and how we spend it counts. We should be willing to freely give it in the areas that matter most. 

Me: How can customers learn more about Legacy?

Larry: Customers can order online, or follow our journey by going to legacyroasting.com. We offer local delivery, shipping across the US, and coffee subscription programs. 

***Purchase your copy of I Love You More Than Coffee.

Order Now for Christmas!

With more than seventy 5-star reviews on Amazon, I Love You More Than Coffee is the perfect gift this season. Pair it with a decorative mug or a favorite bagged coffee for a cozy, thoughtful gift.

Plus, it’s currently on sale at Amazon for only $13.18, and it will ship in time for Christmas if ordered soon!

Happy Holidays!

Bold and Strong: Coffee Chat with Bookshop Manager Melanie Ferguson

Melanie Ferguson – bbgb shop manager and buyer

by Melissa Face

I have been rooting for independent bookstores since I first saw Meg Ryan star in You’ve Got Mail. Anyone who has seen the film knows that F-O-X may as well have spelled an obscenity. In recent months, however, COVID has been the real threat to independent stores; so, it made sense for me to celebrate one of Richmond’s local treasures during the month of December. 

Please grab your favorite beverage; make yourself comfortable, and join Melanie Ferguson – shop manager and buyer of bbgb books – and me, as we chat about her background, the job of a bookstore manager, and the vital role that an independent bookstore plays within a community. And please, consider bbgb books and other independently owned stores for your shopping needs this holiday season!

Me: Tell me about your coffee habit. Are you a daily coffee drinker?

Melanie: Oh yes! We like to say that bbgb is fueled by Sugar & Twine. I usually go for their oat milk latte, but I’m not really the type to turn down any coffee.

Me: Tell me a little about your beginnings as a bookshop manager and buyer.

Melanie: I actually majored in entrepreneurship and family business as an undergrad, with hopes of owning a bookshop one day, but of course no path is quite that straightforward. I had a few odd jobs following graduation and then took a part-time job in a school library while working on my Masters in Library and Information Sciences. The school held a book fair with bbgb each year, which is how I met the shop owner, Jill. I called her after the fair and asked if she needed any help. A few weeks later, I was working school book fairs for them and was hooked. I finished my degree and am now the shop manager and buyer. It’s such a special shop with a tightly curated collection which makes it especially fun to buy for. 

Me: Describe a time in childhood when you were completely enchanted with a book.

Melanie: Just one?! My childhood was shaped by the books I read and characters that inspired me. Daisy-Head Mayzie was one that had a big impact on me. I memorized the entire thing before I learned how to read (I’m sure my mom still has nightmares about reading it so many times). Eloise was another favorite, I was (and still am) drawn to books with quirky protagonists that know exactly who they are. Once I was able to read on my own, I read just about anything I could get my hands on. 

Me: What is the process like when a new book you’ve ordered arrives at the store? What do you have to do?

Melanie: New books release on Tuesday, so Mondays are like Christmas morning in the shop. We make it a point to read just about every book before we order it, so by the time a book arrives, we already know we love it and can’t wait to start hand-selling it. As the buyer, most of my work happens before the books get to the shop. But I do the merchandising in the shop too, so it’s always fun to find the perfect spot for a new book on the shelves. 

Me: How do you go about making recommendations for readers?

Melanie: I always start by asking what books the reader has enjoyed recently. That usually gives me a good sense of what types of books they like and what their reading ability is. A lot of times when they name a book they’ve loved it sparks an idea for me, and I will start booktalking. Once I’m telling them about books, I can really fine-tune suggestions based on their reactions to certain titles.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about resuming normal business operations?

Melanie: Hand-selling, hands down! I’m sure it’s no surprise that we love to talk about books here. It’s been odd not having any kids in the shop; that’s when I get to hear all about what books kids have been enjoying and also tell them about my favorites. We just recently opened by appointment, so we are really enjoying sharing the wonderful stories that came in while everyone was staying home.

Me: How is an independent bookstore an important part of the community?

Melanie: I’ve always found something magical about independent bookstores, each one has its own unique personality and gives bookselling a special twist. Indies, no matter where they are, have the wonderful opportunity to truly know their readers and community. One of the most important things to us at the shop is giving back to our own community. We donate as many books as we possibly can to kids and educators. Currently, we are donating books to the Lit Limo to help get new books into the hands of Richmond Public School kids who are learning from home and don’t have the same access to their school libraries. We know that books have the power to help us empathize, grow, and bring us together. As an independent bookstore, we love being able to find those gems and share them with our community. 

This holiday season, shop bbgb books online, or schedule a private, in-shop appointment. Learn more here.

***Order your copy of I Love You More Than Coffee.