Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spotlight - A Second Helping of Murder

I'd like to shine an Easter Spotlight on A Second Helping of Murder. This book is the second in the Comfort Food Mystery series by Christine Wenger and was just released on the first of this month.

From the back cover:

Trixie Matkowski is warming up to running her family's diner in the small town of Sandy Harbor in upstate New York. But the only thing more demanding than serving people piping hot comfort food twenty-four hours a day is getting to the bottom of a double homicide...

Trixie fondly remembers summers as a child spent visiting the shores of Lake Ontario. Not much has changed-there are still vinyl booths at the Silver Bullet Diner, families eating home-cooked comfort food, and days of swimming in the lake.

But before Trixie can say "Order's up, " someone's summer is abruptly cut short.One of the cottage residents is found dead, and Trixie suspects the crime might be related to an unsolved disappearance in the picturesque town's past.

As Trixie works with Deputy Ty Brisco to solve both mysteries, their shocking discoveries will shake up the small town. And when word gets out that she's on the case, Trixie's in trouble-after all, the murderer won't spare her life just because she makes a killer corned beef sandwich...

Includes delicious home-style recipes.

Friday, April 18, 2014

An Interview with Melissa Bourbon & Giveaway


I'm pleased to welcome Melissa Bourbon to the blog today. A Killing Notion, the fifth in her Magical Dressmaking Mystery series was just released this month.


Kathy: Harlow Jane Cassidy is a unique woman with a unique name. How did you decide upon her name, and the fact she's a descendent of Butch Cassidy?

MB: I love tying in historical elements in my books, or things that make a story or a character just a little bit meatier. I’ve always loved the lore of Butch Cassidy and Sundance, and one day it just popped into my head that Harlow should be a descendent of Butch’s. That meant I needed to create a slightly alternative history, which was so fun.


Kathy: Harlow has an amazing ability to design and sew clothing. What about you? Can you sew?

MB: I can! My mother taught me when I was in fifth grade. I made my first dress with some of her leftover fabric that year. I still love to sew, although I don’t have the time to do it much anymore. I hope to get back to it, and I do create little projects when I’m able.


Kathy: I love paranormal mysteries and was delighted as this aspect came to light in the first book in the series, Pleating for Mercy. Why do you think paranormal mysteries are so popular?

MB: A little bit of magic makes the world a better place! Those magical elements are what I wish the world had, sometimes. I think people respond to that charm and that special something that’s indefinable but makes us feel a little bit more.


Kathy: Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had a ghostly encounter? Or witnessed other paranormal activity?

MB: I’m not sure if I do or not. Sometimes I’d say the answer is a definite yes, but at other times I’m not sure. I’ve never experienced anything like that myself, but I love the idea that the past and present can live together in a special way.


Kathy: If you had a magical gift, what do you wish it could be?

MB: I love Harlow’s gift, so I’d choose that one. To be able to help people realize their dreams and desires would be incredible.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

MB: I’ve always loved mysteries, so when it came time to write a book, the mystery was the natural framework I turned to. My books are very character driven, but the mystery drives everything forward, which is fun.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

MB: I’ve written 2 romantic suspense novels. They both have mystery/suspense elements, so they’re still right up the same ally.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

MB: A Magical Dressmaking mystery series features Harlow Cassidy, a descendent of Butch Cassidy. She comes home to Bliss, Texas and runs Buttons & Bows, a dressmaking shop. In her spare time, she helps solve a few murders! There’s a fantastic cast of characters, and the female relationships are an important element in the series. These relationships play an important part of all my books. In the Lola Cruz mystery series, the family relationships are huge.


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

MB: I love Meemaw (as so many people seem to!). And of course, I relate to Harlow and she’s the inspiration for everything. I think I’m most like her…or vice versa.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

MB: When I first wrote Living the Vida Lola, I knew I wanted to share this character I’d come to love so much. That started the path to publication and I’ve loved every bit of it (even through the ups and downs). There’s nothing I’d rather do. The characters are part of me, and I love spending time with them as I write their stories.


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

MB: That’s tough! Margaret Mitchell, Jane Austin, Agatha Christie, and Shakespeare. It would be one interesting dinner party!


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

MB: I just finished The Orphan Train and The Perfume Collector, both really excellent books! I love women’s fiction, upmarket literary fiction, and such. Right now I’m deciding what to read next (after my revisions for A Seamless Murder, book 6, are done).


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

MB: I love reading, of course, sewing, yoga, cooking, and recently took up boxing (via a class), which is killer, but I love!


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

MB: Frozen chocolate chip cookie dough (homemade), soy sausage links, baba ganoush, and gluten free everything! Two kids with celiac disease mean we have lots of wheat free/gluten free things in the house and do a lot of cooking from scratch.


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

MB: I’m working on revisions for book 6, A Seamless Murder, and am plotting books 7 and 8 right now. I also have plans for the 4th Lola Cruz book. Always busy!


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

MB: I love creating worlds that other people want to read about. To get to spend my time with characters like Harlow and Lola make my days so fun. I also love being able to have the flexibility to work and be with my kids and family. Being a writer is fantastic!

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If you'd like a chance to win a digital copy of Pleating for Mercy, the first in the Magical Dressmaking series or Living the Vida Lola, the first Lola Cruz Mystery just leave a comment on this blog post no later than Monday, April 21 at 11:59pm EST. Please include your e-mail address so that I can contact you should you win, as well as which of the 2 books you'd select! Be sure to also enter the Rafflecopter contest below!





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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading A Second Helping of Murder by Christine Wenger. This book is the second in the Comfort Food Mystery series. Trixie Matkowski continues to run the Silver Bullet Diner as she prepares for the summer season to begin in Upstate New York, her first season as the owner of the lakeshore cabins she stayed in when young. Things get off to a rocky start when the body of a teen aged girl gone missing 25 years earlier is found, a girl that stayed in Cottage 8 of Trixie's Sandy Harbor Housekeeping Cottages. Then Trixie's first renter arrives; a particular man who specifically wants Cottage 8 for the whole summer; a man who winds up murdered. Is there a connection? Trixie is determined to find out. Recipes are included.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Food Truck Talk-an Interview, Review, and Giveaway!

Joyce and Jim Lavene, also known as J.J. Cook, have returned to Cozy Up With Kathy to talk about names and their recently released book, Death on Eat Street, the first in their new Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery series.


Kathy: You write many different series under a few different names. How do you decide which pen name goes with which series...and why so many different ones?


JC: Authors don’t gladly take on pen names – in most cases. It’s seems especially unimportant in our digital society where our signatures are barely dry on a contract before reviewers and websites know what pen name we’re writing under. But publishers still like to use them. Pen names are supposed to give readers a fresh perspective on the author, and separate their books, if they write a lot like we do.

It’s a real problem for authors, who have to promote very hard to tell their readers that this other name belongs to them. While the people involved with the business of writing pick up very quickly, readers are sometimes slow to follow.

Our pen name – J.J. Cook – came about because we write three or four mysteries a year for Berkley Prime Crime. It was a way of distinguishing between those series, and the books we write as Joyce and Jim Lavene.

At Simon and Schuster, it is a way of distinguishing between their mysteries that we write, and the Berkley mysteries (and Harlequin and Amazon mysteries).

J.J. Cook writes the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries and the Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mysteries for Berkley. Ellie Grant writes for Simon and Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint (pie shop mystery).

We’ve also written romance under the names Joye Ames and Elyssa Henry because the publishers wanted us to have one, feminine name.

It’s all part of being a professional writer. It may be confusing for readers sometimes, but websites such as Cozy-mystery.com and Fantasticfiction.co.uk – and an author’s website – can show a reader the many names most writers have written under. Our website, www.joyceandjimlavene.com has all of our books, and all of our names.


Kathy: Zoe decides to work from a food truck since her diner is not fit for customers yet. Food trucks seem to be all the rage these days. There's even a food truck competition show on TV. Are there lots of food trucks in your area?

JC: Yes! We have really good food trucks in the Charlotte, NC area. We were able to visit with several of them – even spend the day with Ollie’s Onions – you’ll see one of our main characters named Ollie in Death on Eat Street. It was very helpful to really experience all the hard, fast work and food prep that goes with running a food truck.


Kathy: Do you have a favorite type of food truck fare?

JC: We really loved Ollie’s Onions because he makes a deep-fried onion as his main dish, just as Zoe makes biscuit bowls. It is surprisingly not greasy and delicious. I wish I could tell you how he makes it, but that is his secret recipe. We found many food trucks have secret ways of preparing their food. Ollie also makes really good fries of almost every variety, and to-die-for hushpuppies.


Kathy: While Zoe is having some issues with her food, her biscuits are spot on. Are you able to make a perfect biscuit?

JC: I am definitely NOT Zoe Chase! I bake a little at Christmas, but otherwise my food is mostly on the go. I had a wonderful aunt who made the best biscuits. I gave her recipe to my son, Christopher, who is a pizza chef and loves to play with food. He improved her recipe, and helped us write the one you’ll find in the back of Death on Eat Street for deep-fried biscuit bowls.


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

JC: Our inspiration for this series was our daughter, Jeni, who said ‘Why don’t you write a food truck mystery?’ We had never been to a food truck until then, but she had, and loves them. We couldn’t have written this series without her!


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?

JC: We’re a little of both, and it changes with each book. We have written lengthy outlines and synopses so we both understand what we’re doing. When there are two of you writing together, as my husband and I do, you have to make sure you’re on the same page. Some books seem to need that, while others seem to write themselves. I don’t know what the difference is, but we roll with it.


Kathy: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing, especially for a new release. What's your favorite part of marketing your work? What do you dislike about marketing?

JC: Our favorite part about marketing our work has always been going out and meeting with readers at bookstores and other events. Writing is a lonely occupation, and you spend a lot of time without feedback. Hitting the road, as we are with Death on Eat Street, is always refreshing. We’re still a little nervous on TV and radio, but we’re working on it!


Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

JC: Of course! In May, the seventh Peggy Lee Garden Mystery – Lethal Lily – will be out. In August, the sixth Missing Pieces Mystery will be out. In November, the next pie shop mystery (Ellie Grant), Murderous Mince, will be out. In December, our new series, the Retired Witch’s Spell book will be out with the title – Spell Booked – under Joyce and Jim Lavene.

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Review

Death on Eat Street by J.J. Cook
The First Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery

In Mobile, Alabama Zoe Chase has decided to follow her dreams. After getting passed over for promotion yet again, she cashes in her 401(k), and buys a run down (although dilapidated may be another word) diner. The diner is not yet fit for customers so she uses a food truck to sell her biscuit bowls; food, both savory and sweet, served in her signature biscuit bowl. Business isn't good, however, and then she finds a fellow food truck owner, with whom she recently had words, dead in her food truck. What can make matters worse? Being a "person of interest", discovering her boyfriend is a louse, overbearing, wealthy parents...unfortunately for Zoe, the list could go on.

In their latest release Joyce and Jim Lavene, writing as J.J. Cook, bring the food truck into the world of cozy mysteries. Filled with diametrically opposed characters: the overbearing, wealthy parents and the good-hearted, eccentric uncle, the "bad" girl with the good heart, the troubled lawyer, the homeless men who help, and the protagonist herself, the poor little rich girl who decides to live the life she chooses, Death on Eat Street is a solid start to a new series. Zoe is charming, albeit a little naive, or perhaps it's just her rosy, positive outlook. However, I believe we may need her to show us that rosy hue as things are somewhat grim in Zoe's new neighborhood.

This first Biscuit Bowl Food Truck mystery brings the food truck into the realm of the culinary mystery and I'm pleased with its presence, as it joins the diners, B & Bs, and assorted food shops as a place to enjoy food as well as solve murders! I also really want to eat a biscuit bowl, I'm thinking of strawberries and cream for me, what about you?

Recipes are included.

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If you'd like a chance to win a print copy of Death on Eat Street leave a comment here telling us what you think about food trucks or give us a new dish that Zoe should serve in her biscuit bowls. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I can contact you, should you win. This is a quick contest too-make sure you leave your comment by 11:59 EST Monday night, April 14, 2014 to qualify.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading A Dollhouse to Die For by Cate Price. This book is the second in the Deadly Notions Mystery series and will be released May 6, 2014.

Daisy Buchanan discovers a dollhouse that will be a perfect gift for a young friend, after a little restoration. BUt Daisy gets more than she bargained for with this purchase. There must be something more than meets the eye to this dollhouse. A dollhouse fanatic tries to buy it from her at a price much higher than its value, then someone tries to steal it! When Daisy finds the fanatic dead, electrocuted by one of her own dollhouses, she can't help but look into the crime. Unfortunately, she also has to look for a new location for her store, Sometimes a Great Notion, as she has a new landlord who wants to raise her rent threefold!

Household tips and recipes included.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Organized Winner!

Congratulations Linda Rima-you are the winner of the Ritter Ames giveaway!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Are You Organized? An Interview with Ritter Ames & Giveaway

Organized for Murder, the first of the Organized Mystery series was published on February 24, 2014. I'd like to welcome its author, Ritter Ames, to the blog today.

Kathy: Kate McKenzie is an organizational expert. Do you follow in her footsteps. Is your home organized?

RA: My home stays as organized as it can be with an active family, but there’s always room for improvement. I do many of the things I have Kate discuss in the book, like let the people who helped make the mess help clean it up. My family has always had weekly cleaning nights on Thursdays, and with everyone working a couple of hours we can have everything completely done and not have to worry about cleaning over the weekend.

But I am the “finder of all lost things,” since I’m the one who automatically picks up wayward objects as they are left in the house and puts they back where they belong. Part of this is being a mom, and part is just the fact that one of my biggest pet peeves is to really need something and not be able to find it. I don’t necessarily have a “place for everything and everything in its place” but I do always know which drawer, cabinet, or room an item should be in at any time.


Kathy: What's Kate's best tip for collectors and other pack rats?

RA: Probably the one I mention in her task note at the very beginning of Chapter One. The memo reminds Kate of what she needs to discuss with her newest client, Amelia Nethercutt. Kate writes, “since she’s a collector, offer the ‘One-In/One-Out Rule’ so if she buys something new, she must throw out an item it is replacing.” If it’s too good to throw away, give the old item to someone who can use it, or donate it and take a write-off.

And on a related note to donations, my best friend is a CPA, and she told me a great trick I use all the time. Before she buys anything new, she always figures out how many hours she has to work to pay for the item—with after-tax dollars. Once she figures that out, she often puts back a collectible or anything else that doesn’t justify for her the hours she has to spend behind her desk to meet its price. I’ve used this tip many, many times to truly decide if I wanted to take an item from the store to my home.


Kathy: I understand that you enjoy spending time in the art world. Do you have a favorite period? Who is your favorite artist?

RA: Yes, I write two mystery series, and the Bodies of Art Mysteries feature an art recovery expert as my main protagonist. If I had to choose a favorite period of art, I would probably have to say the impressionists because of the calm feeling I get from the works of Monet and Renoir, and the farm scenes about the same time by Corot. But at the same time I can spend hours looking at amazingly detailed renaissance period work by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian. Luckily, with the series I write, I don’t have to choose. Art is such a broad category, and my character works to recover everything that any museum considers priceless--all to keep art available to the public. She has a high and exciting mission, and I just hang on and enjoy the ride.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

RA: A favorite aunt gave me my first Trixie Belden book when I was in 4th grade. While those aren’t truly cozies, they have the amateur sleuth angle and the inclusive community covered pretty well. So by the time a family friend left behind an Agatha Christie when she visited a couple of years later, I fell right into Miss Jane Marple’s world and never looked back. I was hooked on American authors like Katherine Hall Page and Carolyn Hart as soon as they started their series in the mid-1990s, and I’ve lost count on all the cozy authors I read every year.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

RA: My first book Counterfeit Conspiracies is considered a mystery, but not a cozy, because it moves from Italy, to London, then to France and back to London. But I’m pretty settled on the mystery genre. I’m a voracious reader, and devour whatever books interest me, but when I write it always seems that mystery takes the forefront.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

RA: The Bodies of Art Mysteries start with Counterfeit Conspiracies, which is a wild, fun, fast-paced ride with a lot of plot twists and turns, great settings, and witty banter. I have two characters who are tops in their fields, but have their own flaws to work through the series story arc, and must save art from disappearing at the same time.

In the Organized Mysteries, Kate McKenzie is starting a new business in a new town, while her husband transitions into a new career, and they raise twin six-year-old daughters. Kate stumbles into mysteries related to her business, and solves crimes because she has to, not because she’s nosy.


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

RA: I would love to have Laurel Beacham’s life, but it would likely exhaust me. The character I most relate to is Meg Berman, Kate’s neighbor and sidekick in the Organized Mysteries. Where Kate is careful and works more inside the box, I tend to process things pretty quickly, like Meg, and figure out just how to get the job done. I sometimes don’t even see the box sides at all.

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

RA: You know, I really can’t say just one series, but rather all of the great series I’ve read through the years. The late Elizabeth Peters was one of my favorite authors, and I learned so much about plotting from seeing how she developed her three series: Amelia Peabody, Vicki Bliss, and Jacqueline Kirby. And I read every Jenny Cain book by Nancy Pickard, and newer series like the Wine-Lovers Series by Michele Scott, Kate Collins, Nancy Martin, and every wonderful series written by Heather Webber/Heather Blake.

I can’t really point to one so much as I can the joy of having such great writing resources to read, and let the ideas of how to develop a series work into my brain. If I have to give some particular credit, however, I’d have to say the early two series I mentioned, Trixie Belden and the Miss Marple series. Those two set the tone for me in all my future reading and writing.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

RA: I finished Organized for Murder, and started working on the manuscript that became Counterfeit Conspiracies. I had a good working synopsis and was about forty pages into the story when I saw a contest blurb in an author’s newsletter, offering a first-chapter writing contest with a grand prize of a Kindle Paperwhite. I entered, hoping for a Paperwhite, and a couple of weeks later received an email from the author, Gemma Halliday, wanting to know if I had more of the manuscript to submit, as she was interested in publishing it with her new boutique press. I sent what I had by then, about five chapters and the synopsis, and she sent me a contract. Then picked up the cozy series when I pitched it right after. So, I lost out on a Paperwhite, but I gained two book contracts instead. I’d say I was the winner, hands down.


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

RA: Oh, wow, this is tough. Equally difficult is not the fact that I would want to keep each of them for myself, for one-on-one dinners instead of a dinner party. I love hearing stories, and if I have to only pick four it would be my favorite storytellers. Mark Twain would top the list—what stories that man could tell! A few years ago, I got to meet Pat Conroy, whose Prince of Tides is probably the most over-read book in my personal library, and I still have the pen he used to sign my newest copy (I’ve only used the pen since to sign my book contracts). I think he and Mr. Twain would be excellent dinner companions.

Elizabeth Peters would definitely be one of the four. She had so many great stories to tell, and I’d love to hear her talk about the Whimsey Foundation she was a member of with Joan Hess, Carolyn Hart, and Dorothy Cannell. The last is probably the one I am most in awe of, and that would be Frederick Forsythe. I still remember reading the Omega File in high school for the first time, and how my jaw dropped at the big surprise point of the novel. That’s what I will always be working toward in my own writing.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

RA: I always read two books at the same time—one paper, one Kindle. On my Kindle I’m reading Magic Mirror by Michaela Thompson and in paperback I’m reading Inherit the Word by Daryl Wood Gerber.


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

RA: I love photography, and at one time thought I would major in that in college. Instead, I’ve stayed an enthusiastic amateur. I also love to knit. I started when I was five, when my mother decided to take knitting lessons. I can’t remember not knowing how to knit or not knowing how to read. Both are just a part of me.


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

RA: Always—pasta and cheese. Usually at least four kinds of cheese. I also always have green tea and honey. Oh, and nuts. That’s five, but those are my “always” things.


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

RA: Yes, both of my series are ongoing. I’m doing final revisions on the second in the cozy series, while also pretty far into the sequel for the art series. I also have another cozy series outlined, and the story arc built with character sketches. That was all started just before I got the book contracts last summer. When I get the time, I’ll get the first of that series written and see what my beta readers think of it.


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

RA: So many things. Get to network with some of the most interesting and supportive people anyone could ever ask for. I can read and daydream and people-watch without feeling like I have to make any excuses. I can work any time of the day—so if I prefer to get up at three in the morning and be done before noon, that’s cool, or if I’d rather sleep until noon and work until three in the morning, I can do that, too.

Would you like to win an e-book of Organized for Murder or Counterfeit Conspiracies? To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment telling us about your home's level of organization. Are you perfectly tidy and have everything in its proper place or are you more likely to be featured on an episode of Hoarders? Leave a comment and an e-mail address so that I will be able to contact you if you win by 11:59 pm EST Monday, April 7th, 2014. Also please tell us which book you'd prefer should you win and the type of e-book you'd like (for Kindle, Nook, etc). Also, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter Contest as well!

Author Links:
Web page: http://ritterames.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ritter.ames
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RitterAmes
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ritterames/

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