The Treemeadow College theatre crew stage an original musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, entitled Friends of Dorothy, at a summer theme park in Key West. Quickly cast and crew members melt away like a witch submerged in water. Nicky, as the Wizard on stage and off, must save the show and figure out whodunit. Once again, our favorite thespians will need to use their drama skills to catch the killer before a witch’s fireball sends them up in smoke. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining fourteenth novel in this delightful series. It’s a scorcher! So follow the yellow brick road. The stage lights are coming up in Oz on a girl with a dog who is one hot bitch, a wicked witch who would kill for a new pair of shoes, a sexy Wizard, a Scarecrow sitting on a big pole, a Tinman with a giant can of lube, a Lion with a long tail between his legs, plenty of monkey business, and murder!
Table of Contents
Nicky and Noah Mystery (series) by Joe Cosentino
Joe Cosentino, thank you for speaking about the art of writing at the release of the fourteenth novel in your award-winning and popular Nicky and Noah gay cozy comedy mystery series.
Thank you. I’m feeling very artsy.
You’ve written thirty novels!
And my mother wishes I had a “real” job like my sister the accountant.
How did you become a storyteller?
My mother says I tell tall tales—and she’s right! I’ve always had a wild imagination. My parents always feared what I’d make up and tell neighbors about them. And they still do! I appropriately majored in theatre at college. Then I went on to act opposite stars like Rosie O’Donnell (AT&T industrial), Nathan Lane (Roar of the Greasepaint musical onstage), Bruce Willis (A Midsummer Night’s Dream onstage), Charles Keating (NBC’s Another World), Jason Robards (Commercial Credit computer commercial), and Holland Taylor (ABC’s My Mother Was Never a Kid TV movie). Finally, I began writing plays and ultimately writing novels. Since I’m a cozy mystery reading fanatic, and there are so few gay cozy mystery series out there, I was happy to fill the bill—or in this new novel, the nightshirt.
You’re also a college professor/department head. How do you find the time to do all this writing?
I don’t get a lot of sleep.
Where do you write?
My home study is very much like Martin Anderson’s office at Treemeadow College including a fireplace with a cherry wood mantel and a cherry wood desk and bookcase. I also have a window seat beneath a large window/gateway to the woods.
Do you write an outline before each book?
For a mystery, an outline is imperative. It’s important to plot out all the clues and surprise reveals. I generally think of a great idea for a new book at 3 a.m. If I can remember it the next day, or read my notes on my night table, I draft the outline. Since I was an actor, I also write a character biography for each character. Then I close my eyes and let the magic happen. As I see the scenes in front of me like a movie and the characters start talking to each other in my head, I hit the computer. My spouse reads my second draft. After we argue, I write my third draft.
What advice do you have for unpublished writers?
Don’t listen to naysayers. Find the magic within yourself. Get in front of the computer and start writing your unique story. Don’t copy anyone. Write what you know and feel passionate about. Write every day. Don’t be afraid to take chances. When you have a story you think is perfect, ask someone you trust to read it. Then after doing another draft, email it to a publisher who has an open submissions policy and who publishes the kind of story you’ve written, or publish it yourself.
Is it hard to write comedy?
Not for me. I’ve always thought funny. As an actor, I remember directors telling me to stop making my scenes so funny. I didn’t realize I was doing it. I think I get this from my mother. For example, for Christmas one year my mother gave me a jacket and my sister a house. When I complained, she said, “But it’s a nice jacket.” Thanks, Mom!
Why do you write gay fiction?
Why not? LGBT people have many interesting untold stories. Go to a mall and look at the row of movie posters without any LGBT characters in them. Visit a bookstore and see cover after cover of opposite sex love stories. Take a look at so many of our Republican political and so-called religious leaders who raise money and gain power by demonizing LGBT people and trying (and often succeeding) to take away civil rights. I mourn for the young gay kids who consider suicide. So I support organizations like GLSEN (giving them a portion of my book royalties), and I write stories that include LGBT people and themes. However, just as my Jana Lane series with its gay supporting characters has huge crossover appeal for gay people, the Nicky and Noah series with its LGBT leading characters and straight supporting characters has a tremendous amount of crossover appeal for straight people. Most people like a clever mystery, a sweet romance, and a good laugh, regardless of the sexuality of the characters.
In your various series, how do you remember all the elements about the characters and settings over a long time period?
I keep good notes on everything for continuity. Also, the regular characters are like family to me. I know them so well. I love watching them and their relationships grow and develop. It’s equally fun creating new characters in each book. I laugh out loud when writing my novels, and the endings still surprise me—even though I wrote them!
You’re a college theatre professor/department chair like Martin Anderson in your Nicky and Noah mysteries series. Has that influenced that series?
As a past professional actor and current college theatre professor/department chair, I know first-hand the wild and wacky antics, sweet romance, and captivating mystery in the worlds of theatre and academia. The Nicky and Noah mysteries are full of them! I never seem to run out of wild characters to write about. My faculty colleagues and students kid me that if any of them tick me off, I’ll kill them in my next book.
Are you Martin Anderson, the theatre department head, in the novels?
My colleagues say my sense of humor is Nicky’s but I look like Martin Anderson. I love how Martin is so loyal and supportive of Nicky and Noah. His one up-man-ship with his office assistant Shayla is a riot. I’ll admit that like me Martin is a bit of a gossip. His spouse, Ruben, is based on mine. It’s great when Ruben keeps Martin’s theatricality in line with hysterical barbs. The older couple stay sharp by engaging in their verbal warfare, but it’s all done in deep admiration and respect. Finally, it’s wonderful to see an elderly couple so much in love (uncommon in the entertainment field), and how they can read each other like a book—no pun intended.
Are college theatre professors/amateur sleuths/adorable couple Nicky and Noah based on any of your younger colleagues?
Like most of the characters in my books, Nicky is a combination of a few people I’ve known. He’s handsome, muscular, smart, charming, and he has an enormous manhood, which doesn’t hurt (or maybe it does). However, what I admire most about Nicky is his never give up attitude and sense of humor in the face of adversity. He is genuinely concerned for others, and he’ll do anything to solve a murder mystery. Finally, he is a one-man man, and Nicky is proud to admit that man is Noah Oliver. Nicky is also incredibly devoted to his family and friends. Noah is blond, blue-eyed, lean, handsome, smart, and devoted. He makes the perfect Watson to Nicky’s Holmes. (I always thought Holmes and Watson were a gay couple.) Noah also has a large heart and soft spot (no pun intended) for others. Finally, like Nicky, Noah is quite gifted at improvisation, and creates wild and wonderful characters for their role plays to catch the murderer.
Since both you and Nicky are of Italian-American decent, are Nicky’s parents like yours? Are Noah’s parents like your spouse’s parents?
Both Nicky’s parents and Noah’s parents have many of the traits of my parents. They’re absolutely hilarious. I love Noah’s mother’s fixation with taking pictures of everything, and his father’s fascination with seeing movies. I also love how Noah’s father is an amateur sleuth like Nicky. As they say, men marry their fathers. Nicky’s mother’s obsession with Bingo at her church is a riot. Both sets of parents fully embrace their sons and their sons’ family, which is refreshing.
For anyone unfortunate enough not to have read them, tell us the titles of the Nicky and Noah mysteries.
Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle, Drama Dance, Drama Faerie, Drama Runway, Drama Christmas, Drama Pan, Drama TV, and now Drama Oz.
Why Drama Oz as the fourteenth novel in the series?
Like many other people, my favorite movie of all time is The Wizard of Oz. I’m definitely a friend of Dorothy, since I adored those books as a kid, and I still love them! So I decided the Treemeadow College theatre group would take a trip to a Wizard of Oz theme park to stage an original musical adaptation of the much-loved classic entitled, Friends of Dorothy. Of course murder and mayhem ensue.
Why is the novel set on Key West?
Key West, Florida is one of my favorite places! If you haven’t been to Key West, it’s a peninsula with white sandy beaches laden with foamy waves tickling jagged rocks under an azure sky dotted with marshmallow clouds. Gorgeous white seagulls and towering lighthouses herald gorgeous pink, violet, and gold sunrises and sunsets. Quant guesthouses, theatres, and restaurants inhabited by people open and affirming to all line the shore. It’s the perfect place for the fictitious Wizard of Oz theme park.
Tell us a bit about the plot—no spoilers.
A killer is loose in the Wizard of Oz theme park theatre. The young actress cast as Dorothy is quite the diva. The young actors cast as Toto, the Munchkin Leader, and the Winged Monkey Leader fully inhabit their roles and their G-string, chaps, and loincloth respectively. Of course Nicky and his crew use their drama skills, including playing wacky characters in investigative role-plays with the suspects, to catch the killer before the witch’s fireball sends them up in smoke.
It’s great to see our favorite characters back.
Nicky Abbondanza, our foot-long wonder and gay and hunky Sherlock Holmes, is the wizard onstage and off, doing double duty as show director and playing the Wizard. As Nicky says, “It takes a wiz!” Nicky’s gorgeous and devoted husband, Noah Oliver, is cast as the Scarecrow sitting on a long pole (pun intended). Their teenage son, Taavi, plays the role of the Tinman with a large can of lube, and his best friend, Ty, counters as the Lion with a playful tail. Nicky’s best friends, older couple Martin and Ruben, join the cast playing Aunt Em and Uncle Henry “going down on the farm.” They also double as Glinda who does it good and the Wicked Witch of the wild West.
Who are the new characters/suspects/victims for book fourteen?
Adorable actor Pip Manning plays Toto in the show. His affections waver between handsome Mormon Drew Gateway the stage manager and bodybuilder Detective Rick Boulder. Gymnast with a secret Topper Tucker, who plays the Winged Monkey Leader, has his wings set on stocky Taz Zaman, who plays the Munchkin Leader. A crew of woman technicians and the diva starring as Dorothy have more baggage than an airport.
How can your readers get their hands on Drama Oz and how can they contact you?
The purchase links are below, as are my contact links, including my web site. I love to hear from readers! So do Nicky and Noah. I tell them everything!
Thank you, Joe, for interviewing today.
As if my wish was granted by a fairy godfather, my wonderful husband appeared next to me—picking hay out of his eyes. After bringing me in for a healing hug, he said, “Nicky, everything will be fine in the end.”
I was as doubtful as a porn star bottom with a horse-hung overly-energetic top. “We haven’t even finished the first act yet.”
“We’ll pull everyone together.”
“That’s what the Texans said at the Alamo.”
Noah took my hand. “I think our troupe just needs some nourishment. I ordered dinner for the cast and crew in your honor: the theme park restaurant’s Wizard’s Crock Pot.”
“It should be ‘cracked’ pot.” I massaged my throbbing temples. “Why did we ever take this job—besides the desperately needed money?”
“To create another terrific show, and to be together as a family.” He kissed my Roman nose.
“Taavi has little time for us. He’s otherwise engaged, hopefully not literally, with Ava Boada.”
“How does Gabriela feel about that?”
“Ava’s mother is encouraging their relationship, since it evidently reminds Gabriela of her first love. Our costume designer also has designs (no pun intended) on her daughter stepping up from our show’s wardrobe assistant to star.”
“Interesting.” Noah sat me down next to him. “Tell me everything you know.”
“I don’t know anything.”
Noah cocked his head at me. “You’ve been spying on the cast and crew as usual. So spill it, husband.”
I guess he doesn’t mean my seed. “According to our son, and Gabriela, Ava is quite the talent.”
“Then why doesn’t Ava audition for theme park shows here in Florida?”
“Ava doesn’t think she can cut the mustard, so she mimics Bria Newkirk’s Dorothy from the wings. And since Ava’s late father was a set designer, and her mom is a costume designer, Ava sees her future behind the scenes.” I added, “Like the Wizard behind the curtain. It doesn’t help matters that Bria treats Ava like Cinderella.”
Sounding like our gossip-starved friend Martin, Noah asked, “Have any ‘relationships’ formed in our merry little group?”
I scratched my head. “Gabriela may be interested in our Winged Monkey Leader.”
Noah gasped. “Gabriela Boada likes them young.”
“And double-jointed apparently.”
“Does our cheeky monkey share Gabriela’s interest?”
“Topper Tucker seems charmed by Gabriela and Ava, but not in a romantic way. I think our Georgia farm boy wanted to monkey around with our Munchkin Leader.”
“Until Taz Zaman mentioned his belief in the Quran.”
“Yeah, given the anti-gay passages in that book, I don’t think Taz Zaman will have a monkey on his back, at least not Topper Tucker.”
“Do you think Taz is gay?”
“Maybe bi. Taz and our musical director slash choreographer share some kind of secret known only to them—and to Bria Newkirk.”
“That sounds like an unorthodox threesome.”
Noah squeezed my hand. “Are any of our other company members headed down the Yellow Brick Road together?”
“Our Toto may want a bone, literally, from our stage manager.”
“Pip Manning finds Drew Gateway fetching?”
No pun intended. “Possibly.” I explained, “But they come from very different backgrounds. Pip’s a local here in Florida. His impoverished Protestant father is disappointed Pip’s living hand to mouth (or paw to snout) as an actor rather than studying to become a lawyer. Pip’s mother tried to drum the Bible into him, but it didn’t take—except in Pip’s nightmares about Adam and Eve.”
“He’s a Mormon from a medical family in Utah.”
My husband the romantic said, “I hope their differences don’t get in the way of Pip and Drew’s budding relationship.”
I rubbed my cleft chin. “There’s hope. Pip mentioned being turned on by the Mormon temple garment.”
“The long underwear Mormons wear to protect them from evil.” I smirked. “Though I have the feeling Drew may not want much protection (no pun intended) from Pip.”
My gentle and caring husband said, “I feel sorry for people whose religions don’t recognize God created them exactly as they are.”
“And whose religions spend millions of dollars to take away their rights via the Republican Party.” I thought about our Open and Affirming liberal Christian church back in Treemeadow, where the pastor, prayers, songs, sermons, and congregants welcome and support everyone. “Drew doesn’t need to stay in a religion that vilifies and demeans him for being gay.”
“Is he struggling with that?”
“He’s grasping at the straw that his religion will one day accept people like us.”
“Why doesn’t Drew leave the church?”
“Because of his family ties. Drew’s family members are Mormons in the medical profession.”
“How do Drew’s folks feel about their stage manager son?”
“They wish he was operating a stethoscope rather than a lighting and sound board.” I recalled our technical director’s comments about Drew. “Connie Wong would agree with them.”
As always, Noah defended the underdog (no pun intended). “Drew will get it together. He just needs to focus on stage managing rather than on trying to do everyone else’s job. Hopefully he and Pip will get it together too.” Noah tried to find the silver (or pink) lining. “On a positive note, the acting in the show is quite good. I went over each character’s actions, objectives, emotional beats, and tactics with them.”
“And they are certainly characters.” My stomach growled louder than a factory spewing toxic mercury into the air after a Republican president’s environmental deregulations.
Noah lifted me to my feet. “Come on, Wizard. Let’s dive into The Wizard’s Crock Pot.”
We stepped up the stairs and across the stage. When we reached the wing, Noah gasped and pointed to a lifeless body sprawled out on a pile of hay. “Nicky, look!”
I followed Noah’s horrified gaze and discovered Bria Newkirk lying next to Uncle Henry’s pitchfork. Both were dripping with blood. Bria is off pitch.
JOE COSENTINO was voted Favorite MM Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery novel.
He is also the author of the remaining Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle, Drama Dance, Drama Faerie, Drama Runway, Drama Christmas, Drama Pan, Drama TV;
the Player Piano Mysteries: The Player and The Player’s Encore; the Jana Lane Mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll;
the Cozzi Cove series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Moving Forward, Stepping Out, New Beginnings, Happy Endings; the In My Heart Anthology: An Infatuation & A Shooting Star; the Tales from Fairyland Anthology: The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland and Holiday Tales from Fairyland; the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories Anthology: A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift, The First Noel; and the Found At Last Anthology: Finding Giorgio and Finding Armando.
His books have won numerous Book of the Month awards and Rainbow Award Honorable Mentions. As an actor, Joe appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Jason Robards, and Holland Taylor. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Goddard College, Master’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, and is currently a happily married college theatre professor/department chair residing in New York State.