Friday, July 3, 2015

What's Opera, Victoria? An Interview & Giveaway

I'm so happy to welcome Victoria Hamilton back to the blog today. Victoria writes the Merry Muffin Mystery series, among others. Death of an English Muffin, the third book in the series will be released Tuesday, July 7th. Today Victoria and I talk about a favorite subject of mine: opera!

Kathy: In Death of an English Muffin Merry and her friends decide to put on a show. But no ordinary show, an opera! Why choose an opera, and why Die Zauberflote in particular?

VH: There is much more opportunity for comic scenes with an amateur company putting on an opera than, say, an Arthur Miller play, or even a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. I was looking for an opera that had an aria with a high degree of difficulty; Die Zauberflote fills that bill. And I must admit a fondness for all things German. I am somewhat of a Teutonophile… is that a word?

Kathy: The Queen of the Night sings my favorite aria, one that I studied years ago, " Der Holle Rache" (Hell's Vengeance). Not every soprano is capable of singing this role, as she must reach an F above high C. Are you able to tell us which of Merry's friends has this role? Is she up for the challenge?

VH: I certainly can tell you that it is Janice Grover who performs that exceptionally difficult part. And no… what fun would it be if she was up for it? But I didn’t do it just to have fun at Janice’s expense; it is actually an opportunity for another character’s redemption, in some way. You’ll see. It also introduces a particularly nasty aspect of The Legion of Horrible Ladies, who you will meet in the book.

Kathy: I am a huge opera fan. Are you? If so, how did you come to enjoy it?

VH: Okay, confession time… until recently I knew virtually nothing about opera, and I still know little. But I’ve become fascinated with it lately, and look forward to exploring it more, if only ‘virtually’.

Kathy: Do you have any favorite operas or composers?

VH: Composers, yes. I love Satie, Pachelbel, Rachmaninoff, Mantovani and Copland. This series, the Merry Muffin Series, is the only one that I actually listen to music while I write. I’ve used some music to give me mood, when I write, like Copland’s Hoedown, or Satie’s Gymnopédie.

Kathy: Have you seen any of the more recent operas? (Ones composed in the past 50 years or so) What are your thoughts of those as compared to the more old standbys?

VH: I have to plead resolute ignorance on this topic… maybe you can give me some examples I can look up? What I need is an opera mentor, someone who won’t mind giving me some ideas for a self-guided tour on great opera.

Kathy: Tenors have long been the rage (my favorite opera singer is Jonas Kaufmann) but the Barihunks are staging a takeover! Mariusz Kwiecien is another favorite and he’s my favorite baritone (who is also a hunk!). Do you have any favorite opera singers?

VH: I have an absolute fan girl crush on the sublime Luciano Pavarotti. (I know, I know… he’s passé and passed on. I can still fan girl out) His Nessun Dorma brings tears to my eyes. And I absolutely adore the horribleness of his duets. He went through this phase of singing with anyone and everyone, like John Denver and Celine Dion. Hearing him sing Jingle Bells reduces me to tears, too… of laughter. That august, composed, amazing man singing a silly little jingle is just sublime. Wretchedly hilarious.

But aside from the incomparable Pavarotti, when I was working on Death of an English Muffin I listened over and over again to Diana Damrau’s version of Der Hölle Rache, and she astounds me. I get chills… what a voice! In a completely oppositional way, you have got to listen to Florence Foster Jenkins, who gives chills in a completely different way. She also did the Queen of the Night aria, listen on YouTube:

Utterly amazing! And pretty much like poor Janice Grover’s performance.

Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?

VH: Kinda sorta. I know people who clothe their awfulness in the blanket of frankness. “I’m just being honest,” they’ll bleat, after saying something awful about someone’s looks, weight, or intelligence. It gets my goat. Not everything you think needs to be said. Your meanness is not honesty so much as a reflection of your bitter cruel soul. Think it bugs me? LOL. So… that was the genesis for the story; what if one of those ‘honest’ people… but no, I won’t say. Read on!

Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Merry?

VH: You know the saying, the path of true love ne’er does run smooth? Nothing in Merry’s life ever runs smooth, not love or life. She may think she’s got her life sorted out at the end of this book, but of course she doesn’t.

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

VH: I’m always happy to share more about my books. In November, Book #5 of my Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, White Colander Crime is coming out. And in February of 2016 Book #3 of my Teapot Collector Mysteries, The Grim Steeper (written as Amanda Cooper). I’m starting now writing book #4 of the Merry Muffin Mysteries… there will actually be a #4 and #5, I’m grateful to say.

Thanks you so much, Kathy, for having me. I don’t get a chance to talk about opera often, certainly with no one I know!


From the national bestselling author of Muffin but Murder, baker Merry Wynter returns with a fresh tray of muffins and a case that has authorities stumped…

They say one’s home is one’s castle, but when it comes to Wynter Castle, Merry would like it to belong to someone else. But until a buyer bites, she could use some extra dough, so she decides to take in renters. The idea pans out, and Merry’s able to find a handful of tenants eager to live in a real castle. The only problem is most of them are crumby, tea-swilling old biddies.

The Legion of Horrible Ladies, as Merry calls them, is led by the terribly nasty—and fabulously wealthy—Cleta Sanson. The abrasive Englishwoman keeps everyone whipped into a frenzy—until she meets an embarrassing end behind a locked door. Evidence reveals that Cleta was murdered, yet no one is privy to how the deed was done. Merry knows she must quickly find the killer before another of her guests gets greased…


Victoria Hamilton is the national bestselling author of three bestselling series, the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries and Merry Muffin Mysteries as Victoria, and the Teapot Collector Mysteries as Amanda Cooper. She is also the bestselling author of Regency and historical romance as Donna Lea Simpson.

Victoria loves to cook and collects vintage kitchen paraphernalia, teacups and teapots, and almost anything that catches her fancy! She loves to read, especially mystery novels, and enjoys good tea and cheap wine, the company of friends, and has a newfound appreciation for opera. She enjoys crocheting and beading, but a good book can tempt her away from almost anything… except writing!


Merry Muffin Mysteries Facebook Page:



Title: Death of an English Muffin
Author: Victoria Hamilton
Series: Merry Muffin Mysteries
Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Do we have a prize pack for you! Victoria Hamilton has generously donated an incredible prize pack. One lucky reader will win a copy of Death of an English Muffin, a copy of Shadow of a Spout, and some Wynter Castle Blend teabags! To be eligible simply leave a comment on this blog post about opera and I'll use to pick the winning comment. Please leave an e-mail address so that I may contact you, should you win and leave your comment no later than 11:59 EDT on Sunday, July 5th 2015. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Currently Reading...

I finished Well Read, Then Dead, and am now reading Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran. This book is the second in the Read 'Em and Eat Mystery series and will be released July 7th!

While dropping off a book donation at the local library Sassy sees a familiar face, but a closer look reveals it's not the man she thought it was, her former boss. Before she can continue into the library itself she hears a caterwauling, and the man rushes out of the library he had just entered. The carrying on came from a trouble making volunteer, who seems to be there only to placate her rich husband and give headaches to the librarian and patrons. However, when Tonya "Trouble" is found murdered the deputies zoom in on this homeless veteran who so recently had an altercation with her as a person of interest. Sassy can't believe this man, who looked haunted, not predatory, could possibly murder anyone,and when she discovers his name, she realizes he must be the brother of her former boss. With the real murderer still on the loose and a lawyer who seems more slimy than the giant anaconda threatening Bow and the small animals of Fort Meyers, Sassy and the gang at the Read 'Em and Eat Cafe delve into the thick of things once again!

Recipe Included.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Criminal Kind Interview & Giveaway

I'm happy to welcome Mary Anne Edwards back to Cozy Up With Kathy. Mary Anne writes The Charlie McClung Mystery series. Criminal Kind, the third book in the series, is being released today!

Kathy: The Charlie McClung Mystery series is a traditional mystery series. While staying true to yourself, do you sometimes try to channel some of the authors of the Golden Age of detective fiction, such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers?

MAE: I love the Golden Age detectives and I truly hope my stories has at least a tiny bit of that spirit woven into them. Someone once compared my writing style to that of Agatha Christie. I was thrilled by the compliment, not that I think I’m anywhere near her caliber. Maybe one day. An old lady can dream, right?

Kathy: Speaking of these great authors of the past, many were very interested in true crime and often studied cases and came up with their own theories. Are you interested in true crime as well? If so, stories of the past only, or current true crime cases as well?

MAE: Love true crimes of the past! So interesting to see how crime-solving has evolved over the years. Current crime cases can be interesting as well. Even with the advancements we have now, solving a mystery can still prove to be most difficult.

Kathy: When it comes to writing I understand there are 2 general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pansters, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a panster, or do you fall somewhere in between?

MAE:  I fall somewhere in between. For each story, I have a three-ring binder with loose leaf paper. I first come up with the crime, then the characters, and then write a few lines for each chapter. The chapters always change but at least I have a beginning, middle, and an ending.

Kathy: Your protagonist in the Charlie McClung Mystery series is a man. Is there a reason you chose to have a man instead of a woman take the lead role in your series?

MAE: Good question! Well, I wanted to write a traditional mystery and I’ve always liked a man in the lead. I’m old fashion, I guess. So, I decided to have a strong male who could handle a strong, yet feminine, female. They are equals as well. My characters are based on real people and real situations.

Kathy: In Criminal Kind Detective Charlie McClung takes a Caribbean cruise. Have you ever been on a cruise?

MAE: Yes, I’ve been on 10 or 11 cruises. Love cruising! I did take a few liberties with the staff and their job duties. But it’s fiction, right? Sometimes facts are not that exciting. I hope I will be forgiven.

Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?

MAE: I do a lot of people watching during a cruise. I wonder how many of the passengers are criminals in disguise. If any one of them, could toss someone over the side of the ship or push someone down the stairs without a second thought. My mind begins to spin and different scenarios pop into my head. I wonder how many people assume a different persona while on board and then return to their “real” life once they’re off the ship.

Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Charlie?

MAE: Charlie’s career advances. His and Marian's relationship will deepen. There will be surprises and tragedies.

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

MAE: The fourth book, “Sins of My Youth,” will be focused on Joan, Marian’s best friend. And you’ll see the stalker, again. Right now, I have a total of 10 books planned for this series. Who knows how far Charlie and Marian will go.


The author has an e-book for two lucky readers. One reader will win a Kindle copy of Brilliant Disguise, the first book in the Charlie McClung Mystery series and the other a Kindle copy of A Good Girl, the second in the series.To qualify, simply leave a comment on this post no later than 11:59 EDT Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Tell us if you've ever been on a cruise. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I may contact you if you win along with which book you'd prefer to win.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Tourist Trap Interview & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Lynn Cahoon back to Cozy Up With Kathy. Lynn writes the Tourist Trap Mystery series. Dressed to Kill, the 4th book in the series, was just released this past week!

Kathy: Dressed to Kill features a dinner theatre murder mystery. Have you ever attended one? Or participated in one?

LC: Great question. Not a murder mystery, but I used to go with a group of friends to a dinner theater in Boise, Idaho. Knock ‘em Dead put up a stage in an old warehouse and put on great shows. I saw Big River (Tom Sawyer) there and their Christmas variety show was not to be missed.

Kathy: The dinner theatre event in which Jill is reluctantly participating is for charity. Have you ever participated in something you would have rather avoided, but got involved as it was for charity?

LC: I’m not a big fan of fun runs. Now, I’ve done them, mostly as a participant, and I have a great time once I’m there, but getting me to commit? That’s the hard part.

Kathy: I've always been fascinated by the 1920s and would love to dress up as a flapper. Do flappers have any special meaning for you?

LC: Besides wanting the cool fringe dress? Actually, I love the idea of an independent woman, dancing because she loves her life. My mom always said I looked like Veronica Lake, who was an early screen star in the 1940’s. I’m sure she did her share of partying.

Kathy: Sherry is a master manipulator. Do you have the misfortune of personally knowing someone similar?

LC: Oh, my, yes. My ex-husband was a professional at the task. J I’ve also worked for people who weren’t in the job for anything but themselves. You can always spot them because they rise up fast in the ranks, never staying long enough for their decisions to start causing problems. Good news is I’ve worked with a whole lot more of the nicer people.

Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?

LC: I wanted Dressed to Kill to be about a theme. What would you do for a friend? There are several characters who are struggling with that issue in the book. But mostly, I wanted to continue with writing a good story about my friends who live in South Cove.

Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Jill Gardner?

LC: Killer Run releases in August. Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books, and More—has somehow been talked into sponsoring a 5k race along the beautiful California coast. The race is a fundraiser for the local preservation society—but not everyone is feeling so charitable…

The day of the race, everyone hits the ground running…until a local business owner stumbles over a very stationary body. The deceased is the vicious wife of the husband-and-wife team hired to promote the event—and the husband turns to Jill for help in clearing his name. But did he do it? Jill will have to be very careful, because this killer is ready to put her out of the running…forever!

Murder on Wheels, comes out in February 2016. I love this new story, where the food truck comes to South Cove.

Both of these are available for pre-order. I signed a contract for three more books after Murder on Wheels. Look for them in June and January on going.

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

LC: The Cat Latimer series, book one, is called A Story to Kill (working title) and releases in print in October 2016. I love building a new town where new imaginary friends can live. The house Cat’s remodeling into a writer’s retreat, bed and breakfast is based after an old mansion in Boise. I loved riding my bike past the house and dreaming of what it might be like to live there.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran. This book is the first in the Read 'Em and Eat Mystery series. It was released last year and won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel!

Sassy and her best friend Bridgy have been through a lot together over the years. After a series of unpleasant ends up North, they decided to start over, relocating to the Gulf Coast of Florida to start a combination book shop and cafe. Running book club meetings and serving literary styled food the two have made many friends, including elderly cousins Augusta and Delia. Not everyone is friendly however, including the pastor's wife-who not a shining example of God's grace! There are also treasure hunters who have made veiled, and not so veiled threats. Delia is soon found murdered and Augusta decrees that Sassy must find and bring the killer to justice. With a considerate journalist and a good looking new lieutenant with the Sheriff's department both telling her to leave the investigating to the police, Sassy becomes more determined to look into things on her own.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Spotlight - The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss

I'd like to shine a spotlight on another new release. The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista Davis was published this month. This book is the 9th book in the Domestic Diva Mystery Series.

From the back cover:

The New York Times Bestselling author of The Diva Wraps it Up unwraps an all-new tale in which chocolate is the kiss of death.

Domestic diva Sophie Winston is in charge of the sweetest event in Old Town this summer. Amore Chocolates is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary with a chocolate tasting at the mansion of the company's CEO, Joe Merano-and Sophie is running the show. With cookies, candy, and five kinds of chocolate cake, it's a chocolate lover's dream! But after Joe goes missing, the celebration becomes bittersweet. And when Sophie discovers the body of a competing chocolatier in the guesthouse the event turns downright deadly.

As if that wasn't enough, Sophie's been receiving daily boxes of sweet treats. After ruling out her new beau and her exes, Sophie wonders if someone's trying to send her a message-and if she's next on a chocoholic's hit list...

Recipes Included

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Meet Joanne Guidoccio & Gilda Greco with a Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Joanne Guidoccio to the blog today. Joanne writes the Gilda Greco Mystery series. A Season for Killing Blondes is the first book in the series and was released earlier this month.

Kathy: Gilda Greco is about to open a career counseling practice. Have you ever received, or provided, career counseling?

JG: Eight years before retirement, I decided to plan ahead for the future. I signed up for a Career Development Practitioner program with a low residency option. It took me five years, but I was able to obtain the designation and hone my new skill set in the co-operative education classroom. During the last three years of my teaching career, I helped students identify career direction, prepare résumés and cover letters, hone interview skills, and adapt to their work placements.

Kathy: Not only does Gilda have to deal with a former high school crush, she has to deal with mean girl antics. Did you have to deal with such behavior in high school? Or now?

JG: In every school, past and present (and I imagine future), there will be mean girl antics. As a student, I was able to steer clear of that particular crowd. During my teaching years, I watched carefully for any inappropriate behavior and nipped it in the bud. If the behavior persisted, I enlisted the aid of social workers, guidance counselors, and administration.

Kathy: I've never agreed with the saying "blondes have more fun". They certainly don't in A Season for Killing Blondes. Did you have a particular reason to kill blondes?

JG: My well-honed left brain loves patterns. So, when I conjured up the storyline, I searched for several constants. Four dead blondes immediately came to mind. BTW...All my blonde friends are getting a chuckle out of the title.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

JG: During my “cancer” year, I was very particular about my reading material. My primary focus was healing and I could not afford any major energy drains. Cozy mysteries fit that bill beautifully. During my sixteen-month leave of absence, I read voraciously and often completed a book in one sitting. Well acquainted with the genre, I decided to try my own hand at writing.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

JG: I also write paranormal romances about middle-aged ex-mermaids. My debut novel, Between Land and Sea, was released in 2013. The sequel, The Coming of Arabella, will be released by Soul Mate Publishing in August 2015.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

JG: A Season for Killing Blondes is the first book in the Gilda Greco Mystery Series. Based in Northern Ontario, these books feature a fifty-something Italian woman, her relatives, deserving and undeserving men, and food

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

JG: I identify strongly with Gilda Greco, the protagonist of the novel. So much so, that I used the first-person POV. Our similarities...Italian Canadian, born and raised in Sudbury, relocated to Southern Ontario, mathematics teachers, career development practitioners, yoga enthusiasts, non-foodies.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

JG: Reinvention is the recurring theme in all my novels. I’m especially interested in inspiring and motivating boomer women (and their older sisters) to launch spectacular second acts. On my website, I have featured the reinvention stories of 90+ women from Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

JG: While I enjoy writing for my own personal development, I also wish to share my work. I have been very fortunate to attract the attention of The Wild Rose Press and Soul Mate Publishing.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

JG: I would invite Louise Penny, Ann Lamott, Maeve Binchy, and Maya Angelou.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

JG: I have two books on my night table: The Birthday Lunch by Joan Clark and Your Next Breath by Iris Johansen.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

JG: Reading, blogging, yoga, Toastmasters, movies, scrapbooking, photography.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

JG: I love colorful fruits and vegetables and usually have the following in my fridge: blueberries, cantaloupe, yellow or orange peppers, and Swiss chard.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

JG: Several ideas are percolating for Books 2 and 3 in the Gilda Greco Mystery Series – Too Many Women in the Room and A Different Kind of Reunion.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

JG: After spending 31 years in a very structured workplace, I welcomed the opportunity to flex my creative muscles and enjoy a more relaxed life. There is some structure to my days, but I feel free to change the pace and add/subtract activities. Seeing my name in print is the icing on the cake.

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