Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Lowcountry Interview

I'm happy to welcome Susan M. Boyer to the blog today. Susan writes the Liz Talbot Mystery series. Lowcountry Boneyeard is the third in the series and was released April 21st.


Kathy: Location plays a big part in mysteries. Why did you choose South Carolina as the setting of your series? 

SB: I grew up in North Carolina, but our vacations were always along the South Carolina coast. I’ve always adored the beach. When I married my husband, I moved to South Carolina, and we’ve lived in the Upstate for many years. We also lived for a while in Mt. Pleasant, near Charleston. It was during this time that the idea of using the area as my literary landscape really came together.


Kathy: Spirits play a role in your series, and I'm not talking about bourbon. How did you decide to incorporate ghosts in your series? 

SB: The Charleston area has a rich tradition of ghosts and other supernatural entities. In one sense, their inclusion is part of the setting. This aspect also developed from Liz’s character. She has an over-developed sense of responsibility. She wants to make everything all right for everyone. When I was mulling what made her that way, I discovered that a close friend of hers had died when she was young, and she felt responsible, not in the literal sense, but in the sense that perhaps she could’ve prevented it. Once I had that storyline developed, it occurred to me that Liz was haunted by this tragedy. Since she lives in the Lowcountry, it seemed natural to make this haunting literal.


Kathy: Have you ever had a ghostly encounter? 

SB: I believe I have, several times in fact. Others may find explanations that better suit their philosophies. But I’m a believer.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries? 

SB: I love small towns, my family, good food, crazy relatives, a good laugh, and mysteries. I also enjoy these elements in books.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?  

SB: Not currently, but who knows what the future holds. I read very eclectically. I may decide to write a time traveling shape-shifter romance.


Kathy: Tell us about your series. 
  
SB: Private Investigator Liz Talbot works out of her home on Stella Maris, an island near Charleston, South Carolina. Each book in the series represents a different case for Liz.


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

SB: Liz would have to be my favorite character. She and I are very close, and while she’s definitely not me, we do have some things in common.


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

SB: Each book has its own inspiration, but the series as a whole was born out of my love for mystery series with strong female protagonists and my love of the South Carolina lowcountry.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work? 

SB: I never really thought about not publishing it. The decision to write full time came with the goal of publication.


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

SB: This is such a hard question for me. There are just too many possibilities. Can I throw a big party and invite all the living ones I know? I love hanging out with other authors.


Kathy: What are you currently reading? 

SB: The Deep End, by Julie Mulhern


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

SB: I read—a lot. I love spending time with family and friends, and often that leads to us breaking out the karaoke machine.


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

SB: Greek yogurt, blueberries, brie cheese, Champagne.


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

SB: I’m planning on many more adventures for Liz Talbot. Next up is Lowcountry Bordello, which comes out in November.


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

SB: I love creating these puzzles and then figuring out how Liz will solve them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Bite the Biscuit by Linda O. Johnston. This book is the first in the new Barkery and Biscuits Mystery series which will be released May 1st.

Carrie Kennersly loves her job as a veterinary technician in the small town of Knobcone Heights, but when the opportunity presents itself to own her own business, Carrie takes the plunge. While still working part time as a vet tech, she has just taken over her friends bakery and converted it into 2 stores: Icing, a bakery for people, and the Barkery, a bakery for pets! Her grand opening is going well, until Myra Ethman and her husband, owner of the town's pet store, enter spewing venom about Carrie's hand made dog treats and threatening to close her business down. The couple refuse to leave and Carrie finally tells the crowd that she'll find a way to keep Myra quiet! The next morning Carrie awakes to the news of Myra's murder and discovers she's the prime suspect!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Jersey Girl Interview and Giveaway

I'd like to welcome  Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa to the blog today. Jo-Ann writes the Jersey Girl Mystery series. Hide nor Hair, the second book in the series, was just released April 21st!


Kathy: New Jersey has a bit of a reputation, as do Jersey girls. Why do they have the connotations they do?

JR: I think women in New Jersey, at least those who grew up in the tri-state area, have to be tough. Life is fast-paced here and if you snooze, you lose. I think we're also a suspicious bunch, maybe even a bit paranoid, and we need an attitude to get through the day. And then we also have to contend with the driving! I mean, if that doesn't keep a gal in a highly irritated state, nothing will. Defensive driving is the only kind of driving we know. I swear, half the drivers in this area have no idea what a yield sign means!


Kathy: Were you a fan of Aqua Net back in the day?

JR: I was a huge fan of Aqua Net and I'll let you in on a little secret  -- I still am! It's better than gunking wet hair with gels and leave-in styling products that stick to my brush when I'm blow-drying and weigh my hair down. I just get my hair into some kind of a halfway decent style, give it a quick spritz, and I'm good to go.


Kathy: How has your work as a freelance correspondent influenced newspaper reporter Colleen Caruso?

JR: I think being a stringer has been the greatest influence for writing the series. Colleen begins her career the same way I did -- primarily by winging it. This creates some interesting moments as she feels her way through a story. I've been writing fiction since the fourth grade, but being a reporter is an entirely different kind of writing. A reporter has to be extremely accurate, she has to be able to connect with readers, and she needs to develop a rapport with the people she interviews in order to get the story. It's the perfect occupation for Colleen, who needs people to open up to her when she gets background for her crime column.  


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

JR: I love the crimes that take place in cozies. They're a little on the subdued side for the most part -- not generally huge headline grabbers. The suspects are usually from a small circle of suspects that have definite reasons for wanting someone to be dead, or for stealing a priceless vase or for ripping-off the elderly in the local retirement community. It's so much fun to eliminate people one by one as I'm reading  them  -- only to find out I got it all wrong at the end! I also enjoy the characters -- particularly the main character/protagonist. If she's likeable, she's relatable. We all need our heros.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

JR: I'm outlining a mainstream mystery right now, and have had several horror and science fiction stories published in the past. Horror is fun, but it's hard to find an original idea in this genre. How many vampires, werewolves and zombies does the world need right now? We're inundated with them at the moment, but I think they'll fade out for a while and then make a comeback -- which is why I write primarily mysteries. Murder never goes out of fashion.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

JR: The Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery series centers on Colleen Caruso, a part-time stringer for the Town Crier, the local newspaper, who is newly divorced and trying to find her way in world as a single mother. The mysteries in each of the books take place in the small, quiet shore community of Tranquil Harbor, New Jersey, which at times can be anything but tranquil.


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

JR: Because I based my protagonist on me, I won't say Colleen Caruso is my favorite (un-huh). The one character that I adore and who truly intrigues me is Colleen's boss and the Town Crier's executive editor, Ken Rhodes. He's suave, has a rigid personality, and yet can be so very kind. Oh, and he's gorgeous, which doesn't hurt!


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

JR: I can't really pin down anything specifically that inspired me to write the series. It just made sense to write what I know (like using a newspaper and using a small town, Jersey Shore setting) in order to make the story unfold more naturally. It's where I live and what I do -- familiar territory.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

JR: I've always written and knew someday I would try to get my work published. It wasn't until after I joined a local writer's group -- and this was many years ago -- that I started to submit short stories to various publications and anthologies. I wouldn't have dared to go for it without the encouragement of fellow writers. If anyone out there wants to see their work published, join a writer's group. The advice you receive from published authors is invaluable.


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

JR: I would invite Amy Tan, Susan Isaacs, Gillian Flynn and Mary Shelley. The dinner menu would be nothing but chocolate.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

JR: I'm currently reading Naming Jack the Ripper by Russell Edwards. I've read so many books on the subject that if I were just a few years older, I could be The Ripper.


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

JR: I'm an Antiques Roadshow junkie! I love the old stuff that turns out to be valuable enough to cause a major coronary.


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

JR: I always have fruit, which rots in the crisper because my intentions are good, but the Devil Dogs I keep around are even better. Then there's salmon, which I love (in the freezer) and boneless chicken breasts, because I'm always on a diet. I'm getting awfully tired of eating chicken and I'm not losing all that much weight anyway. I guess the Devil Dogs aren't helping much with the weight-loss thing.


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

JR: Yes! I'm currently working on a third book in the Jersey Girl series called Food For Thought -- which is the name of the trendy shore restaurant where the staff at the newspaper celebrates their fiftieth anniversary and where Ken Rhodes, the executive editor, is poisoned.


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

JR: My favorite thing about being an author is being able to live vicariously through the characters I create. I get to investigate crimes, plus commit murder, burglarize, extort, and do all the things I wouldn't do in my real life. 







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Sunday, April 26, 2015

A CONTEMPORARY TRIP TO MONTEVIDEO - Guest Post & Giveaway


I'd like to welcome  Jerold Last to the blog as part of the Escape with Dollycas tour. Jerold writes the Roger and Suzanne South American Mystery series. The Deadly Dog Show is the 6th in the series.

 
A CONTEMPORARY TRIP TO MONTEVIDEO

By Jerold Last


Given the fusion of travel and reading characteristic of Dollycas, I want to briefly discuss my real-life experiences in some of the actual places featured in my other books in the Roger and Suzanne mystery series in addition to “The Deadly Dog Show”. These books use exotic locales, mostly in South America, as a setting for their story.

In the summer of 2013 I flew to and from Montevideo from my home in Northern California. The trip takes about 25 hours airport to airport including the layovers for connecting flights; it’s a long way south and east of my home in Northern California to that part of South America. According to American Airlines, it’s about 7,000 air miles one-way. Our route took me from Sacramento to Dallas-Fort Worth to Miami to Montevideo and vice-versa. Miami-Montevideo and the return trip are overnight flights where an hour or two of sleep makes all the difference in how you’ll feel when you get there.

The overall impression I got from my previous trips to Montevideo was that little had changed over the 31 years I’d been going back and forth. This time it was different. New construction of apartments and buildings for businesses was evident as we drove west from the airport in the Carrasco neighborhood, all along The Ramblas bordering the Rio de la Plata as we drove into the heart of the city, and in Pocitos, the upscale neighborhood between downtown and Carrasco Elaine and I had lived in back in 1999. The book cover for my novel “The Matador Murders” is a photo of the actual area in Pocitos near the Rio de la Plata where we lived in Montevideo. Occasional new high-rise apartment buildings were going up seemingly everywhere downtown and along the Ramblas, inland from the river. Several buildings were being remodeled and modernized.

Gentrification of neighborhoods extended to restaurants. In 1982 you had your choice of beef or beef in any Uruguayan restaurant. It was very good beef, free range fed, either very large portions of the best of cuts individually or the parillada compleada (essentially all the parts of the cow barbecued at the same time), a meal guaranteed not to let you walk away hungry. If one were a vegan, you were dead meat at dinner (figuratively, at least). In 1999, you could find one or two restaurants in Montevideo with a rudimentary salad bar (lettuce, tomato, potato salad, canned beets or peas) to complement the beef. It is significant that even now, Uruguayans use the word “meat” as a synonym for beef. But, it’s even more significant that the menus in the better restaurants now have chicken, pork, and often a vegetarian selection available for dinner in the new Montevideo.

We ate at a popular superb new restaurant (Tandory, expensive by Uruguayan standards, but worth every peso of the bill) on an obscure side street in a residential area. Tandory’s offerings were every bit as good (or better) than the best restaurants of Sacramento or the San Francisco Bay area. The style was a fusion of Uruguayan and Thai flavors that really, really worked well. High points of my meal were Mollejas al jerez (Sweetbreads with mushrooms in a sherry-based gravy) and Red Naam Pescado (fish) coated with coconut and lemongrass, with a risotto of banana and cilantro. This went very well with a nice bottle of a red Tannat wine from the menu.

We went to another dinner a few nights later at a restaurant two blocks north from our old apartment. I didn’t recognize anything we saw---trendy restaurants, a new parking garage, banks, and a new shopping mall. Everything was new since 1999. We drove two blocks south and everything was the same---the same apartment building, the same small park where the Saturday morning Feria described in my novel “The Ambivalent Corpse” was held, the same buildings all around the park. The new construction at random in the better neighborhoods speaks well for the current state of the economy and the strength of the Uruguayan peso compared to the U.S. dollar. At the airport, I got 18+ pesos for my dollars when I exchanged currency. The last time I’d visited, just a few years earlier, the exchange rate was 28 pesos to the dollar.

The course on toxins produced by blue-green algae I helped teach at the University of the Republic went very well. There were about 60 registered attendees from Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Colombia, 46 scheduled contact hours (but a lot longer for the students taking the laboratory practical portion of the course), over a 5-day period from Monday to Friday. My lectures (presented in English with slides I prepared in Spanish) were well attended and went smoothly. Thanks to the improved version of Google Translator now available, it was easy to do the bulk of translating by computer followed by very careful proofreading.

The other guest faculty member was from Rio de Janiero. She lectured in Portuguese. It was the first time I ever listened to several hours of classes back to back in Portuguese, and I was pleased to find myself understanding a lot more than I expected to. A highlight was a “for-fun final exam”, played after the real exam, set up as a three-team competition in “Jeopardy” format. The students really got into that part of the course.

Saturday afternoon the world was put on hold for 3.5 hours to watch the under-20 FIFA World Cup Football (Soccer) Championship match between France and Uruguay from Istanbul, Turkey. I refereed youth soccer for about ten years here in Northern California while my sons were growing up, so I know the rules, which impressed my hosts quite a bit. France finally won a 0-0 match (two overtimes) by a score of 4-1 on penalty kicks (“penals” in Spanish). It was an exciting event for the Uruguayans, who had never done better than fourth place in previous World Cup under-20 competitions.
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The author is generously giving one reader an e-copy of his short story The Dog With No Name. Simply leave a comment on this post no later than Monday, April 27th at 11:59pm EST telling us if you've traveled to South America or have attended a dog show. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I may contact you should you win, along with your preferred e-reader format!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Brilliant Interview & Giveaway!

I'm pleased to welcome Mary Anne Edwards to Cozy Up With Kathy. Mary Anne writes the Charlie McClung Mystery series. The first book in the series, Brilliant Disguise, was released in February 2014 followed by A Good Girl. The third in the series, Criminal Kind will be released June 30th. So, if you haven't started the series yet you have time to catch up!


Kathy: In Brilliant Disguise, Charlie McClung leaves the big city for a small one when he isn't able to find fulfillment in his career or personal life. Have you ever made a similar change?

MAE: My husband and I moved about three years ago to be closer to his work. I retired from my job as branch manager at a small credit union and began writing full-time. Not quite as drastic as Detective Charlie McClung but was quite a change for me, leaving our home of 26 years.


Kathy: The Charlie McClung Mystery series is set in the 1980s. What made you choose this time period?

MAE: This was a time when technology was just emerging, computers and cellphones were not common place. I feel that detectives had to rely more on their interview techniques, observations, and deduction of clues.


Kathy: You are very active in social media. What are your favorite aspects of it? What don't you like about it?

MAE: I love being able to connect with my readers. I enjoy seeing their pictures, I laugh when they laugh, and I cry when they are suffering. I feel their prayers and I hope they feel mine. I feel like we are close friends and family. There really isn’t much that I don’t like about it.


Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?

MAE:I love solving puzzles, connecting the dots. I guess I’m curious, nosy, so to speak


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

MAE: I have written Christian short stories, few have been published. My first manuscript, “Useless Beauty,” is Women’s fiction. One day, I will dust if off and publish it.


Kathy: Tell us about your series. 

MAE:  Oh, that’s hard for me to do. The Charlie McClung series are mysteries with a touch of romance. That’s it in a nutshell. My characters are different from most mysteries. They are mature, respectful, and believable. They are based on people I know. I hope readers will fall in love with them and will want to get to know them more intimately.


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

MAE: Right now, I would have to say, Ma, Charlie’s mother. She is funny, lovable, a great cook, loves everyone, and everyone loves her. She was going to be in just one book but I’ve had so many readers asking me to bring her back. So she will be in the fourth and fifth book. Who knows where she’ll pop up?


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

MAE: The first book was based on a true story. I get inspiration from news stories and Tom Petty songs, note the book titles.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

MAE: My husband. He is my champion and cheerleader. With his support and encouragement, I followed my dream.


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

MAE: Just four? Fine, I’ll do my best to limit my party to four. Elizabeth Peters, Agatha Christie, Caroline Graham, and Wilbur Smith. If I can have one more, Gretchen Archer.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

MAE: A must read! Expedition Indigo by Stacy Allen.


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

MAE: I’m rather boring. I collect shot glasses. Whenever I travel, I like to find a Christmas ornament for my ornament tree. My hobbies are reading, watching mysteries and historical fiction. I love anything Egyptian. I tried to teach myself to read hieroglyphics but my eyes crossed. I’ll try again, one day.


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

MAE: Eggs, cereal, Almond milk, and Diet Dr Pepper.


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

MAE: Right now, I have ten planned for the Charlie McClung Mysteries, who knows there may be more. I will publish Useless Beauty, my first manuscript and republish my collection of short stories.


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

MAE: I get to create my own world. I’m a puppeteer making my characters do and say whatever I want. Well, sometimes, they tell me “no” and do what they want to do. Plus, I get to set my own hours.


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Mary Anne Edwards has graciously offered a Kindle edition of  Brilliant Disguise and A Good Girl to Cozy Up With Kathy readers. To qualify all you have to do is comment on this blog post telling us what you like about mysteries set in the not too distant past. Also be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I can contact you, should you win. Leave your comment no later than Sunday night at 11:59 pm EST. I'll use Random.org to pick 2 winners, one for each book!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs. This book is the 16th book in her Tea Shop Mystery series.

Theodosia and the gang are back. Theo is attending the exclusive black tie opening gala for the Gibbes Museum. It's not quite her cup of tea, even though the museum is exhibiting an 18th century Chinese tea house. But she's there to support her boyfriend, Max the public relations director for the museum. Festivities grind to a halt when Theo discovers the murdered body of a major museum donor. Things get even stickier when Max gets fired! Theo is determined to set things right and prove Max isn't the killer-even if he did publicly fight with the dead man, days, then minutes, before the murder. There are plenty of other suspects though-the wife, the girlfriend, the business partner...Theodosia is sure to explore all the possibilities, while brewing up tea and serving the delightful delicacies of the Indigo Tea Shop.

Recipes and Tea Time Tips included.

I'm reading an ARC of the book-it will be published May 5th, but you can pre-order it now!