Sunday, January 25, 2015

Traci Andrighetti Takes Over with a Giveaway!

Traci Andrighetti Takes Over Cozy Up With Kathy



PROSECCO PINK, the second novel in the Franki Amato mysteries, was inspired by my third visit to Oak Alley Plantation, a stunning, oak tree–lined antebellum sugar cane plantation built in 1839. Of course, I couldn’t use the real place for my setting, so I came up with my own plantation called Oleander Place and altered or borrowed intact some historical artifacts from Oak Alley. Below are a few of my favorite items from the plantation along with clues about how I incorporate them into my mystery.

THE LAVENDER ROOM
The lavender room belonged to Oak Alley’s last owner, Josephine Stewart. Its lavender d├ęcor, the antique furniture, and the persistent sightings of Josephine’s ghost make it spectacularly creepy. The minute I stepped into this room, I began to envision my “pink room”—and the beautiful blonde cosmetics CEO who would die there—all while sipping a mint julep. Evil, I know.

THE PINEAPPLE
This spiny fruit is, ironically, a time-honored symbol of Southern hospitality. Guests who stayed at Oak Alley were treated to sliced pineapple for breakfast the morning after their arrival. But those who overstayed their welcome awakened to find a whole pineapple at the foot of their beds. Kind of threatening, isn’t it? Well, that’s what Franki Amato thought, too.

THE COURTER’S CANDLE
Suitors who came to call on the plantation owner’s daughters were monitored not only by a chaperone, but also by a courter’s candle. This candle was placed inside a metal spiral. When the candle burned down to the top of the spiral, it was time for the suitor to leave. If he was a desirable match, the candle was set high so that it would take longer to burn down to the metal. But if he wasn’t, then it was set low so that his time would be up—and quickly. Talk about a way to scare someone off!

THE ROLLING PIN
Mattresses at Oak Alley were stuffed with Spanish moss, so they became lumpy after use. Each day the house slaves had to use giant rolling pins to roll the mattresses to make them smooth again. The perfect weapon to hit someone with.

THE SUGAR KETTLES
In the 18th and 19th centuries, four sugar kettles were used in the production of refined sugar (in order of decreasing size): the grande, the flambeau, the sirop, and the batterie. As the sugar cane juice boiled down, slaves transferred it to the smaller kettles in stages. This was extremely dangerous work because it involved fire and boiling liquid. And because the larger kettles were big enough to hold a body.

Curious? I hope so! I had a blast writing PROSECCO PINK, so I think you’ll have fun reading it. As they say in New Orleans, laissez les bons temps rouler!

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Romeow and Juliet & Giveaway


Today I'd like to shine a spotlight on Romeow and Juliet by Kathi Daley. Kathi, author of the Zoe Donovan Mystery series and the Tj Jensen Paradise Lake Mystery series, is a prolific writer who is starting a brand new series, the Whales and Tails Cozy Mystery series.




Romeow and Juliet is the first in a cozy mystery series set on Madrona Island, a fictional island within the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State. As a fourth generation islander Caitlin Hart is struggling to make her way as the economy and culture of the island evolves toward a tourism based industry. Cait lives in a cabin on her aunt's oceanfront estate where she helps her aunt run Harthaven Cat Sanctuary. When she isn't working with the cats, she helps best friend Tara, operate the coffee bar/bookstore/cat lounge they own, named Coffee Cat Books.

In the first installment to the series Cait and her dog Max find the body of a member of the island council dead in the back room of the old fish cannery. As Cait delves into the murder she finds herself with an unlikely sleuthing partner that might just lead to a relationship of a more personal kind.

Meanwhile, Romeo, as stray cat that followed Cait home, is causing all sorts of problems for Cait as, in spite of dire warnings from the neighbor next door, he refuses to stay away from her very expensive show cat, Juliet. Could Romeo really be trying to tell Cait something about the neighbor that she initially refuses to see?

Recipes included.


For a chance to win your own copy of Romeow and Juliet leave a comment on this blog post no later than 11:59 pm Sunday, January 25, 2015 EST. Let us know if you'd like to hang out at a "coffee bar/bookstore/cat lounge". If the winner has a US address he/she can choose between a print or e-book version. If the winner's address is in another country the prize will be the e-version. Be sure to leave your e-mail address as well, so that I may contact you should you win.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading In Hot Water by J.J. Cook. This book is the third book in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mystery series. Let me start by saying that I love this series-and Eric, the former fire chief who's still around...as a ghost!

Although this book is only the third in the series, a lot has been going on since That Old Flame of Mine. Stella Griffin, the new fire chief, has finally decided to stay in Sweet Pepper, leaving Chicago behind. Her volunteer crew is becoming a family, but going through some growing pains. And Eric. Stella has fully accepted his presence-but others are afraid of it-especially councilman Bob Floyd. Bob is determined to get rid of Eric. As In Hot Water opens Bob has just brought the property where Stella lives, in the log cabin that Eric built, and a place to which Eric is tied. Not only has be bought it, he rented a bulldozer to tear down her home-without giving her any notice. Will Bob destroy Stella's home, and Eric? What's going on with the fire call that resulted in a fatality? I can't wait to read more and find out!

Recipes included.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dying to be Interviewed

I'd like to welcome Judy Fitzwater to the blog today. Judy writes the Jennifer Marsh Mystery series. Dying Before "I Do" is the latest book in the series.


Kathy: Jennifer Marsh is a mystery writer. How did you decide upon a mystery writer as the protagonist of a murder mystery?

JF: The first Jennifer book, Dying to Get Published, is the third mystery I wrote, but the first I sold. My first book featured a librarian as the sleuth, the second a P.I. husband and wife team. Breaking into publishing is hard, and I wasn't having a lot of luck with my first two books—Too many librarians and P.I.s already out there. So I sat down and wrote thirteen pages of the first Jennifer book, taking out all of my frustrations in a comical way through my heroine—a mystery writer who was also having trouble getting published. I took it to my writers' group, and they loved it. I said, "But I'll never be able to sell it." They told me they didn't care. They wanted to read it, and I had to write it. So I did. And when I sent it to a publisher, it sold immediately and went on to be nominated for an Agatha Award. It's ironic that Jennifer's inability to get published is exactly what got me my first contract.


Kathy: I love humor in my mysteries. What makes murder funny? How can humor improve the mystery?

JF: I don't think murder is funny, but people are. I try very hard not to lose sight of the fact that a "real" person has died in my books, that people are grieving that loss. But the living people can be incredibly funny in their attempts to solve a murder. I especially love Jennifer's crazy writers' group who seem to think what they write on paper might actually work in real life as well as Emma Walker and her buddies at O'Hara's Tara. A paranoid little old lady with a sharp mind is always a hoot to write. So it's Jennifer's interactions with all of these people and her own missteps and rather strange logic that make my books funny, not the murders. As for how humor improves a mystery, I think death makes us appreciate life more, and we all need as much joy in our lives as possible. So laughter, as far as I'm concerned, improves almost everything.


Kathy: In Dying Before "I Do" Jennifer is about to get married. Weddings can be stressful enough, but add murder to the mix...did you draw upon any personal wedding experiences (Stress inducing or not) to color this one?

JF: I didn’t use any personal experiences, but I don't know of a wedding that's ever gone off perfectly. I always say it's the things that go wrong that make a good story later. It was, however, stressful for me to write about Jennifer's wedding because I was taking the journey I'd set for Jennifer and Sam over six books to its logical conclusion. It was time for them to get married—but what would Jennifer's wedding look like? I hope I got it right. I feel like I did. It had to be something unique to them, but nothing crazy or ridiculous. They have a special relationship, and I wanted to honor that.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

JF: I've always loved reading cozy mysteries. I love the puzzles, the whole figuring out whodunit. I also love the quirky characters who solve the crimes. They're nosy, tenacious, and they have a strong sense of humanity and right and wrong. And the mysteries aren't usually too graphic. That makes for a pleasant read.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

JF: I do. I really like writing suspense with strong female characters. I love throwing a heroine into an impossible situation and watching her use her wits and her special talents to push her way through it. I've written two so far, Drowning in Air and No Safe Place. I hope to write more. They're exciting to read and to write—completely different from cozy mysteries. I've also written a paranormal romantic comedy, Vacationing with the Dead, which is just pure fun. Ghosts and mayhem and lots of laughs.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

JF: The Jennifer Marsh Mysteries are a seven-book cozy mystery series with more to come. Jennifer is an unpublished mystery writer, although she's co-authored a couple of true crime books with her newspaper reporter boyfriend/now husband Sam. I keep the mysteries in my series varied, so neither I nor my readers will get bored. The other characters pop in and out of the books as needed, but I seem to come back to them on a regular basis because I've grown very fond of them. Readers who enjoy the books will find both laugh-out-loud and poignant moments. At the books’ core is Jennifer herself, who is a really good person with a strong sense of right and wrong and decency. I think that's their greatest appeal—that, and the fact she and her friends do some pretty wacky things.


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

JF: Jennifer, of course, but Emma Walker is a close second. She's an octogenarian who lives quite comfortably in one of Atlanta's ritziest high rises. She's a tiny, frail, elderly, harmless old lady—on the surface. Beneath the skin she's sly, clever, paranoid, and always up for a little adventure. Bridge and Bingo bore her. Espionage delights her. She's just plain fun and owns a ridiculously ugly pet that may or may not be a dog.


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

JF: My own frustration with the publishing industry, as I mentioned earlier, was my inspiration.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

JF: I've never considered writing a hobby. It's my occupation. I want people to read my work, and the only way to do that is to publish it. As many books as I've written, I always feel a thrill when a new one comes out.


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

JF: Wow! Now that's just not fair. I'd rather invite the sleuths they created—Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, Perry Mason, Sherlock Holmes, and, of course, there'd have to be Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet Vane, and… Would I really have to limit it to four?


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

JF: I always love a good thriller and a good mystery. I read a lot of non-fiction as well, especially when I'm writing. I don't want to be influenced in any way by another author's style. I just finished reading/editing a book for a fellow mystery writer. So I read a number of books that have not yet been released that are in the final editing stages written by friends of mine.


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

JF: Oh, goodness. I have so many "use-to's". I used to sew a lot. I used to cook a lot. I used to…I'm doing more traveling these days and have several trips I hope to make this year. I'm interested in things that some people might find boring, like reading about archeology, history, animal intelligence, how the brain works—pretty off-the-wall, random stuff. And I love doing crossword puzzles, especially the ones with “tricks” in them.


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

JF: Milk, eggs, mayo, and ketchup. Try making something out of that!


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

JF: Yes. I'm a slow writer, but they'll be coming. I want to explore how marriage will affect Jennifer and Sam in my series, and I have the beginnings of at least 4 suspense novels that I hope someday to finish.


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

JF: LOL! Finishing a book! The relief is amazing when I've finally been able to take all of those plot strands and pull them together into a cohesive, interesting story. Writing is hard, but having written is wonderful. I also love hearing from readers who really enjoy my work. That makes all the hard work worth it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Let's Ask Alice with Giveaway

I'd like to welcome Alice Loweecey to the blog today. Alice writes the Giulia Driscoll Mystery series. Nun Too Soon was just released January 13th.


Kathy: Giulia Falcone-Driscoll was once a nun. I've spent a good amount of time with sisters, having attended Catholic schools from Kindergarten through graduate school, and I always enjoy reading mysteries with nuns. Why did you decide to make Giulia a former nun?

AL: Back when I was writing horror, an agent passed on my horror but said he’s really like to see a crime-fighting ex-nun. 8 months later, I had Force of Habit, the first Giulia book. I sent him the first three chapters… and he passed! I got a good laugh out of that.


Kathy: How do years of convent life aid in investigations? How is it a hindrance? (Or is it?)

AL: One thing I learned in the convent was multi-tasking. Well, that and internal politics and spying on people and functioning on very little sleep and disguising who you really are. Turns out all those things are useful attributes of a private investigator.


Kathy: Driscoll Investigations' client is known as the Silk Tie Killer. How did you choose a silk tie as the murder weapon?

AL: I wanted an anti-client. The kind Giulia with her innate sense of justice and fairness would take on even though he creeped her out. So I came up with a client who uses ties for kinky and nefarious purposes—the polar opposite of Giulia and her husband Frank.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

AL: I’m actually surprised to be writing cozies. I do bad things on-screen to my characters. So perhaps I’m the surprise cozy.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

AL: I also write horror and urban fantasy novels and short stories.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

AL: Giulia Driscoll, ex-nun and private investigator, working for justice and to keep herself and her employees in food, rent, and health insurance. She’s practical, still idealistic, and addicted to flavored coffee.


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

AL: Sidney Martin, Giulia’s assistant, has always been my favorite. She’s all-natural, perky, overflowing with enthusiasm, and a great foil for Giulia. Sidney is so much fun to write. She’s always coming out with fun dialogue I don’t expect.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

AL: I’ve been writing since age nine. Fortunately the Internet wasn’t around when I was writing reams of angsty teenage poetry! I shredded all of it post-college. (You’re welcome.) When I finished my first-ever novel, I knew I could let it sit in a drawer like all that poetry did for years or try to get it on a bookshelf. “Bookshelf” was the only answer for me.


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

AL: Suetonius (The Twelve Caesars). He’s like the TMZ of the ancient world. Dickens. Jane Yolen. Kazuya Minekura (author of the multiple Saiyuki manga series). Her action, humor, and characterization are awesome.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

AL: The translated original documents of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Fascinating.


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

AL: I have a huge veggie garden. We eat its produce from the end of summer through part of the winter. I love growing my own food. I also watch a lot of bad horror—the kind where you can see the zipper in the monster’s costume. It relaxes me.


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

AL: Sauce, like all good Italian moms! Multiple kinds of tea, homemade jam, and wasabi peas


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

AL: Yes indeed! The next Giulia book, Second to Nun, comes out in the fall, and I’m currently writing the third in the series. My horror novel, And You Shall Find, comes out this May from Dark Recesses Press.


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

AL: Creating worlds for all these characters crowding my head. I have a huge folder on my desktop of new story ideas and new characters.


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Friday, January 16, 2015

A Visit with Lesley Cookman

I'm pleased to welcome Lesley Cookman to the blog today. Lesley writes the Libby Sarjeant Mystery series. Murder Out of Tune is the the 14th book in the series.


Kathy: Libby Sarjeant is a retired actress. You were once an actor as was I. Studying theatre is more useful in "real life" than non theatre people realize. How do those skills help Libby?

LC: I think they help in questioning people’s motives and how they react. Playing a character on stage requires you to think about the background, and play the “what if” game quite a lot! And Libby can pretend to be both more intelligent and more dumb than she really is quite convincingly.


Kathy: In Murder Out of Tune a member of a local ukulele group is found dead. I must admit, I've never heard of a ukulele group. What made you choose ukuleles?

LC: It was my elder son’s idea. (He has quite a lot of them.) In the UK at the moment there is a ukulele craze, and every town and village seems to have a group. Ukes are comparatively easy to play, although the results can be a bit ear shattering, and it seemed to be a good setting for yet another murder.


Kathy: Libby and the gang are gearing for a Christmas concert and pantomime. Do you have any special memories of such events in your past?

LC: I am involved in pantomime almost every year at our local theatre, and my pantomimes are performed all over the UK so I have so many memories they get all muddled up. I have also written a book about pantomime, which is now in its third edition.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

LC: I read all my parents’ Golden Age detective stories when I was young, and they have remained my favourite genre of fiction. Libby, I hope, follows in its footsteps.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

LC: I have written romance (not very well!) and there are two books available somewhere under a different name, both written in the eighties. Not telling you about them!


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

LC: The Libby Sarjeant series is a cosy series in the amateur sleuth tradition, with a regular setting and cast of characters.


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

LC: I love them all, but apart from Libby, perhaps Harry, the chef-patron of The Pink Geranium restaurant, because of his brashness, irreverence and hidden vulnerability.


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

LC: The first book was inspired by learning about the history of Hop Pickers in Kent in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It grew from there.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

LC: I was approached by my publisher before the first book was finished. I had been a working journalist and stage writer for years before then.


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

LC: Ngaio Marsh, Jerome K Jerome, Dodie Smith and Rex Stout.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

LC: The Cinderella Killer by Simon Brett.


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

LC: Reading and theatre – particularly pantomime and Music Hall.


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

LC: Tinned tomatoes, minced (ground) beef, onions, potatoes.


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

LC: Murder In the Blood will be out in May or June, and Murder En Pointe in October. I have a few ideas for other series, but I’m not sure I will ever get around to them. Libby takes up so much of my time!


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

LC: Working from home, choosing my own hours and the friendship of other authors.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading The Book Stops Here by Kate Carlisle. This book is the 8th book in the Bibliophile Mystery series (9th if you count the Penguin Special, Pages of Sin). Although I adore this series I'm only just now reading it, even though it's been in my library since it was published back in June!

Brooklyn Wainwright, my favorite bookbinder, is back in action. She has just landed a part time job as an expert appraiser for the TV show This Old Attic while it films in San Francisco. Television jitters ebb as Brooklyn enters her special world of books and talks about a special copy of A Secret Garden, which the owner bought at a garage sale for $3. The likable owner is thrilled with Brooklyn's appraisal, but there is something off about her. In fact there's something off about the show's host too. No one will believe that Randolph Rayburn has a stalker, but when Brooklyn is attacked outside the studio by a man claiming to be the book's real owner Derek Stone steps in. And when Brooklyn is almost crushed in an offstage "accident" Derek gives credence to Randolph's misgivings.

At this juncture one has to wonder-who won't make it out alive?