Monday, September 25, 2017

Merry Christmas, Y'All - Guest Post & Giveaway

Today I'm turning over the blog to Ellen Byron. Ellen writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. A Cajun Christmas Killing, the third book in the series,  will be released October 10th.

by Ellen Byron

I picked that post title for a reason. When I was celebrating Christmas in Louisiana a couple of years ago, I saw lights that spelled out “Merry Christmas, Y’all” strung from a French Quarter balcony. It became my favorite decoration - next to the giant, brightly lit purple and green fleur de lis that adorned another iconic wrought iron balcony. (I’m sure the owners of that ornament get double use out of it on both Christmas and Mardi Gras!) When I was trying to capture the Crescent City Christmas spirit, I incorporated both of those images into a chapter of A Cajun Christmas Killing, my third Cajun Country Mystery.

New Orleans, a city whose motto is laissez les bon temps rouler – “let the good times roll” – never misses a chance to celebrate, so of course they embrace the holiday season with gusto. Canal Street lampposts are festooned with white lights. Streetcars sport pine tree garlands and wreaths. Hotels like the Roosevelt and Monteleone boast elaborately decorated lobbies and Christmas trees. The entire city sparkles literally and figuratively.

One famous, age-old New Orleans holiday tradition is the Réveillon dinner. In French, the word “reveillon” means “awakening.” The dinners began in the early 1800s when NOLA Creoles celebrated the start of Christmas with a big family meal after returning home from midnight mass. Today you’ll find Réveillon dinners offered by many of the city’s restaurants throughout the month of December, at a much more reasonable dining hour. The meals offer a wide range of Creole dishes, from turtle soup to chocolate absinthe trifle.

Another wonderful New Orleans tradition is caroling in the French Quarter’s Jackson Square, which usually takes place the Sunday evening before Christmas. Hundreds of people congregate in the Square, where they’re provided with free candles and sheet music. Singing begins at 7 p.m. My family and I arrived at a restaurant that bordered the Square around the time caroling began. We watched and listened as we ate and when we finished our meal, we joined the carolers.

By the end of the last song, as the sea of voices harmonized, emotion welled up inside me and I shed a few tears. The Crescent City may endure tragedies like Hurricane Katrina, but its people and spirit are indomitable. And nowhere did I feel that energy more than Christmas week in my beloved Big Easy.

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Book Signing! Character Guest Post, Giveaway, and Review of Body on Baker Street

I'm pleased to welcome Jane Wilson to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Jane comes from the pages of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series courtesy of Vicki Delany. Body on Baker Street, the second book in the series, was released September 12th.

Jayne Wilson

From Body on Baker Street, a Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery by Vicki Delany

I am so excited! I can’t believe it but my very favourite author is coming to the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop on Saturday. Renalta Van Markoff (don’t you just love that name) writes the Hudson and Holmes series about Sherlock Holmes and his smarter partner and lover, Desdemona Hudson. In these books Mrs. Hudson, you see, only pretends to be the housekeeper.

Isn’t that clever?

I’m Jayne Wilson and I am half-owner, head baker, and manager of Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room at 220 Baker Street, West London, Massachusetts. My business partner (and best friend) Gemma Doyle owns and runs the business next door at number 222, The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium.

And on Saturday Renalta Van Markoff is giving a talk and doing a singing.


We’ll be closing the tea room for the talk, simply because of the expected crowds, but I’m hoping for a big rush after Miss Van Markoff has finished. After all, what goes better with a talk about Sherlock Holmes than a full traditional afternoon tea?

Although Gemma might scoff:

“I try to have at least one scene involving afternoon tea in each of my books. It gives Desdemona and Sherlock a chance to get together and talk over what they’ve learned.”

I refrained from mentioning that I couldn’t imagine Sherlock Holmes, man of action, pipe tobacco, and lover of a seven percent solution, enjoying a cream tea.

I love the books, and I love Desdemona Hudson and the portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, but Gemma has pointed out to me – more than once- that critics and die-hard Sherlockians hate them. They think Van Markoff has taken excessive liberties with the Great Detective.

Pooh! I know a good story when I read one. I’m not looking for a great work of literature here.

Gemma is worried that Donald Morris, our town’s staunchest Sherlockian, and some of his fellows might cause a disruption at the signing on Saturday.

I’m sure she has nothing to worry about. It will all go fine.


The Second Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery

Gemma Doyle is about to tell a hapless personal assistant that the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium couldn't possible host a book signing on such short notice, until she discovers the author is none other than Renalta Van Markoff. This bestselling author has been taking the world by storm with her controversial version of Sherlock Holmes stories and Gemma agrees to host the signing. Upon meeting her, however, Gemma glimpses a nasty side to the woman, although fans are oblivious. After her brief talk, Renalta starts to sign books, but after a gulp of water she collapses-and Gemma smells murder, literally. Who could have done the deed? The mousy and put upon PA, the smarmy publicist, the stalker fan? Surely it couldn't be Donald, the local Holmes scholar, even if he did threaten the author...could it?

Vicki Delany gives us a glimpse of the publishing world in BODY ON BAKER STREET. We see the lives of an author, publicist, and publisher and how they intersect, intertwine, work together, and be at odds. Expectations of a bookseller are also shown as Gemma deals with a famous author and her fans...and detractors.

The characters here are unique and well developed, with motivation beyond the page. A smart, perhaps too smart, protagonist lacking in most of the social graces still manages to get readers to not only appreciate her, but like her as well. We even see some vulnerability in her.

I really enjoy this series, a cozy version of Sherlock Holmes that provides interesting characters and a deftly written mystery. 
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Friday, September 22, 2017

Gone With the Wings - An Interview & Giveaway

I'm happy to welcome Leena Clover to the blog today. Leena writes the Meera Patel Cozy Mystery series. GONE WITH THE WINGS, the first book in the series, was released earlier this summer.

Kathy: In GONE WITH THE WINGS we meet Meera Patel who has moved back with her family after dropping our of graduate school. What makes a small college town in Oklahoma the perfect setting for your mystery series?

LC: College towns have a vibe of their own. Even tucked away in the heartland, they are a melting pot of different cultures and influences. There is a variety of people from across the world interacting with each other. This provides plenty of possibilities for a mystery setting. Anything can happen, and it does!

Kathy: Meera mixes up fusion recipes at Sylvie’s Cafe & Diner in Oklahoma. My mouth watered when I read the words Masala Fried Chicken. What do you love most about South Asian food?

LC: South Asian food is so versatile. All the aromatic spices and rich flavors give a cook plenty of ways to experiment. I love mixing and matching various spices to create unique dishes.

Kathy: Do you enjoy cooking or do you prefer to just write about it?

LC: I love cooking! I’ve been trying out recipes in the kitchen since I was very young. Writing about it allows me to share my creations with my readers. I really hope they try out the recipes given in the books. Some of the recipes like the Masala Fried Chicken are just an extension of the basic recipe and not too intimidating, I hope.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

LC: I always enjoyed reading mystery books. I rediscovered the ‘cozy mystery’ genre as it is called today when I started reading on my Kindle. I have always liked a good puzzle. Writing a cozy mystery allowed me to focus on clues without dealing with any guts or gore or profanity. Meera and her friends talk to people and do some old fashioned analysis. Readers can follow the clues and often figure out who the culprit is.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

LC: Not yet. I want to write more cozy mysteries. Look out for a new series next year.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

LC: The Meera Patel Cozy Mystery Series centers around Meera and her family. Meera finds herself at a crossroads in life. She gets pulled into solving mysteries to help her friends and family. But what does the future hold for her?

All books can be read as a standalone. But there is also an overarching plot about Meera and what is happening in her life.

The series offers a glimpse into South Asian or Indian culture, highlighting food and festivals and certain aspects like the joint family with many generations living in the same house, stress on higher education etc.

Translations are included inline wherever ethnic terms are used and a glossary is also included at the back. Every book contains both fusion and Indian recipes for adventurous cooks.

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

LC: Motee Ba or Meera’s grandma. She raised her own kids, moved to a foreign country and then raised her grand kids. She’s elegant and lady like with a strong loyalty toward friends and family. She is the one Meera always goes to in times of crisis. And she’s an active senior. I hope I have half her energy when I cross 70.

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

LC: As a mystery writer, Agatha Christie is my greatest inspiration. With the Meera Patel series, I wanted to depict diversity against a familiar backdrop.

Life in a college town has always fascinated me. The setting is inspired by my own college days. The Patels are immigrants who have almost completely assimilated themselves into the American way of life, although they retain their own customs and culture. Individual characters are partially inspired by people I have known or read about.

I hope readers find the series as enticing as I do.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

LC: Writing a book was part of my life plan. But I had never assigned a timeline to it. I took up the NaNoWriMo challenge one year, where writers pledge to produce fifty thousand words in the month of November. Meera Patel was born and I never looked back.

So publishing a book wasn’t a conscious decision. But now that I have written almost four books in the series, I can’t imagine not being a writer.

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

LC: That’s a hard one. M C Beaton, Donna Andrews, Janet Evanovich and Debbie Macomber.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?


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

LC: Reading and cooking, and eating of course! I love to try out different cuisines.

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

LC: Tomatoes, rice, pepper and ice cream

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

LC: The fourth book in the Meera Patel series, BACK YO THE FAJITAS is coming on October 11. Join the Patels on an epic road trip to California. There’s more than one mystery with amazing Route 66 experiences.

I am planning a new series for next year. Join my newsletter to be the first to know about it.

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

LC: Being an author allows me to reach people across the world. I hope my books give them some respite from their daily drudgery and bring a smile to their face. I love connecting with readers and hearing what they think about my books.

Links –


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