Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Heroes and Hurricanes Interview


I'm pleased to welcome Nicole Leiren to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Nicole writes the Cocktail arc of the Danger Cove Mystery series.



Kathy: HEROES AND HURRICANES is part of the Danger Cove Mystery series in the Cocktail Mysteries. Do you enjoy cocktails? Have you ever had a hurricane? What is your favorite mixed drink?

NL: I love this question! 😊 Yes, I do enjoy cocktails very much. I had my first hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans. Now, to be honest, I think their version of hurricanes is a bit stronger version than your average bar’s rendition, but it went down smoothly and went straight to my head! That was the first drink I had that night and, after it, I only managed a couple more before we had to call it a night. I stand by my belief that their secret ingredient HAS to be high octane alcohol 😊 My favorite mixed drink is Malibu and Diet (Pepsi/Coke, either works.) It gives me enough caffeine to keep me going and how can you go wrong with coconut rum? (Just ask Jack Sparrow, he’ll back me up on this one!)


Kathy: Lilly Waters gets a bartending job at the Smugglers' Tavern. Have you ever tended bar? Or wanted to?

NL: Sadly, I have not ever had the opportunity to tend bar – I’m always on the other side of the equation. It is, however, one of those things I’d like to learn and do – even if it’s just for a short time and for fun – once in my life. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories – what better place to do that?!


Kathy: Lilly is new to Danger Cove and is trying to reconnect with her ancestral roots. Have you ever looked into your own family tree?

NL: My mother has shared with me some information about my family tree – going back at least a couple generations. I was excited to learn my great, great grandmother was full-blooded Native American. It is kind of cool to see how those traits (dark black hair and deep brown eyes) are in two of the four children my grandmother had. The other two (my mom included) are both fair skinned and light complexion. Ancestry is fascinating! I have never formally looked into it though by going to some of those websites or sending DNA in, etc. I have a friend who does that though and she’s met some family she didn’t even know about and learned so much about her family history. Maybe I should put that on the bucket list too!


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

NL: I have LOVED mysteries for as long as I can remember. I cut my mystery teeth on Encyclopedia Brown, then grew into Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries. I’m pretty sure I read some cozy mysteries when I was younger, not even realizing they were officially cozies 😊 In the last few years, I started reading them more, including one of my favorite series by Julie Hyzy, The White House Chef Mysteries. I still love the “whodunnit” aspect of the stories and enjoy reading for the little clues the author has dropped throughout the story. I think that’s what draws me to it the most – solving the puzzle!


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

NL: I’ve written some contemporary, sweet romances (Heroes of the Night series) that were published in 2015 and 2016. I’ve also written a story that is unpublished as of right now that combines mystery, suspense, and a touch of romance (those are a few of my favorite things LOL)


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

NL: The Danger Cove series has many different story arcs (quilting, bakery, farmer’s market, etc.) I write the cocktail portion of the series. The great thing about these stories is that even though they’re written by different authors, they take place in the same town. The authors work hard to have crossover of characters between their stories so it’s lots of fun for the readers and you definitely get that small town feel.

My Heroes of the Night series is a military romance and tells the story of three men who served together in Afghanistan. They are what I like to call real-world heroes. They weren’t special forces – just regular guys serving their country in the best way they knew how. My stories deal more with how they work to adjust to life AFTER completing their service to the country. It’s definitely an opposites attract romance that should make you smile, laugh, and maybe even cry from time to time.


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

NL: I love Lilly Waters, of course. She’s my main character in the cocktail mysteries, so she goes without saying. However, each of the other characters are special to me in their own way. A recurring character in both Heroes and Hurricanes and the upcoming release, Deadly Dirty Martinis, is Abe Sanders. He’s a grandfather figure to Lilly and I love the way the two of them interact. I love Mandi’s trivia that she shares – sometimes at the most inopportune times LOL And Tanner – well… Okay, so I guess I can’t pick a favorite 😊


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

NL: As I mentioned earlier, I love meeting people and hearing their stories so when I was asked to submit an idea for the Danger Cove series, my first thought was Smugglers’ Tavern! My experience with the hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s and the hero theme I have had for years now, all combined to create the inspiration for Heroes and Hurricanes. The idea of Lilly’s grandfather being MIA from Vietnam came when I visited the Palm Springs Air Museum and saw the commemorative bracelets that had been made during the time of the war to help raise money and awareness for the POW/MIA soldiers. That touched me deeply and so I wanted to be able to incorporate it in some way into my story. Lilly’s charm bracelet was a tribute to that inspiration.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

NL: I had been writing fanfiction for probably seven years and loving it! I had a large number of readers who enjoyed my work and so I thought that maybe I should/could create my own characters and tell their story. I met a man on a plane who sparked the inspiration for the character Daniel in the first book of my Heroes of the Night series, More than One Night. The rest they say…is history. 😊


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

NL: Oh this is a tough one! Limiting it to four is difficult 😊 I would definitely have Sara Paretsky on the invite list. I’ve been reading her V.I. Warshawski novels for years and admire not only how she tells a story (set in the area I live in!) but also how she helped blaze a trail for women authors in the area of mystery. I’d love to meet Brian Haag as he’s one of the few authors that have been able to surprise me with plot twists and turns in his story. I literally gasped out loud in Union Station while reading one of his stories as I didn’t see something coming! I’d love to have J.K. Rowling at the table to talk to her about plotting and world building. And, if I have to limit it to just one more…I’d say Jeffrey Deaver. He’s a master at story telling and getting you to look one way while things are happening in a completely different manner.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

NL: I’m currently reading an ARC for an author friend. The title is Another Lifetime by Karen Bedore. It combines beautiful descriptions of the Renaissance era, a love story, and a little time travel just to keep things interesting 😊


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

NL: I love music and dancing. My tastes are very eclectic – on my playlist you’ll find anything from hymns, acapella music (love Pentatonix), The Piano Guys, all the way to pop, hip hop and even some rap.

Truthfully, between working a full time job, family, and writing, there’s not a lot of time for other interests or hobbies. I do enjoy getting to sleep some every now and then and naps have become a favorite pastime!

My favorite place/thing to do in the world is sitting on the beach, watching the sunset over the ocean. It’s peaceful and I find a great sense of contentment there.


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

NL: Lemon or lemon juice (I drink lots of water and love to have lemon in it.)
Chips and queso/salsa. This is one of my favorite snacks!
Chocolate. No need to elaborate on that one LOL
Cherry/grape tomatoes. I LOVE just walking by the counter, grabbing a few and popping them into my mouth. A nice little treat (and without any guilt! Total win/win 😊)


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

NL: Deadly Dirty Martinis, the next book in the Danger Cove Cocktail series is due out in November. Tequila Trouble has an anticipated release date next summer.


I’m also working on a new cozy series, set in the fictional town of Applewood, Wisconsin (in the Door County area for those of you who are familiar with that area of the country.) I hope to get something to my publisher in the next month or so. I hope to have the first book in that series out maybe late 2018.


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

NL: Hard to narrow it down to just one thing! If I had to, though, I think it would be meeting (either in person or online) someone who has read one of my stories and having them share with me how it affected them – made them laugh, cry, smile, etc. As a storyteller, I find no greater honor than knowing someone read my story and allowed it to be a part of their life for the time that they were immersed in my version of the world.

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For more information check out the following links:

www.nicoleleiren.com

"Heroes of the Night" Series - https://goo.gl/1ecdph

Heating Up The Night (Killer Beach Reads Anthology) - More Than One Night - Remember The Night

Danger Cove Mysteries:

Heroes & Hurricanes - May 23, 2017 - https://goo.gl/1ecdph


Monday, June 26, 2017

Leave it to Cleaver - An Interview and Review

I'm always happy to have Victoria Hamilton visit the blog. Among other series, Victoria writes the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries. Leave it to Cleaver, the sixth book in this series, was just released this past Friday.


Kathy: Leave it to Cleaver is different from the other Vintage Kitchen Mysteries as the storyline shifts from the present, to events in the past. Was it difficult to piece the two stories together?

VH: Actually it felt kind of organic. I normally force myself to plan books out, but this one flowed from day 1. I knew a few things going in: I wanted bits from several viewpoints in the past, and I wanted to convey information about the crimes, but I wanted to give a glimpse into Becca and her friends’ past, too. So I interspersed them a little unevenly, only when I really felt a piece of the past resonated. I did have to stay aware, though, of the flashback parts of the past that Jaymie (in the present) did not know about, as compared to bits that contained pieces from Valetta’s diary, which Jaymie is reading in the present. I asked my editor ahead of time to keep his eye out for any information that Jaymie could NOT have because it came from the sections of the past she had no access to.



Kathy: Although no stranger to writing historical fiction, and the 1980s isn't that long ago (I cringe calling it historical) what are the challenges in writing from a different time period?

A2 – Since I lived through the time (!!) there were only a few things I had to research to be sure I wasn’t introducing inappropriate lingo into Becca and her friends’ lexicon. I checked a few movie and music references, that kind of thing. Other than that, I was good to go!
 

Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for Leave it to Cleaver

VH: There were a few. I’ve known for a long time that I was going to do a Vintage Kitchen Mystery surrounding what happened in the past to a friend of Becca’s. It was just always there, in the back of my mind. Then a friend told me a random story, something about identical hand knit sweaters. It morphed in my brain into a story about a woman who knits identical sweaters for all of her son’s girlfriends. And from there, add a little alchemy, and it turned out great, I think. Leave It to Cleaver is my favorite mystery that I’ve written so far!


 
Kathy: Part of the book dealt with the preparation for a dual wedding. Have you ever been involved in such a wedding? Do you enjoy weddings? 

VH: In short, no, I don’t really enjoy weddings. I know some people do, but as a woman who never married and never really wanted to marry, I’m distinctly ‘meh’ about weddings. But… I do love seeing people happy, and I want the best for them, so I enjoy that aspect of weddings, the happiness it foretells. Never attended a dual wedding, though.



Kathy: I was thinking about that special yarn. Was it a real thing? 

VH: It sure is real, or was, anyway. Phentex was a part of my life, growing up. Every single Canadian woman at some time or another crocheted Phentex slippers. I’m not talking about the nice worsted yarn labeled Phentex; not the same thing at all. Phentex as a yarn was virtually indestructible, and it had this weird texture and an odd, iconic smell. It was made from olefin, an element used to make marine rope, even, because it lasts so long in the water. Heh-heh… yes, that’s why it is in Leave It to Cleaver!! And also, the Canadian connection. 

Short story: when I was a kid I had this lovely aunt, such a sweetie! Anyway, she took ages and ages to crochet my sister and me these skirt and vest sets in white and purple – you guessed it – Phentex. They were awful, a weird combination of ugly and uncomfortable. But… she took so much time and was so proud of her effort; what can you do?

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

VH: The next one, No Grater Danger, will really show Jaymie coming into her own as a new wife and stepmom to Jocie, but will also cover the pitfalls of newlywed life, especially for someone in her thirties who is used to living alone! And murder, of course… always murder!


Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

VH: I’m really happy that I have just signed a new contract for Books #7 – 9 of the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries! No Grater Danger, as I’ve said, will be the next book. After that, I have a few title options, and sometime titles help form the plot! For example, No Grater Danger will feature a collector of nutmeg graters, highly collectible and enormously valuable. I saw an antique Georgian silver nutmeg grater listed for about five thousand dollars! It led me to think about how portable and stealable they would be, and voila, I had the beginning of a plot!



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Review


LEAVE IT TO CLEAVER by Victoria Hamilton
The Sixth Vintage Kitchen Mystery

Wedding bells are in the air, but it is alarm bells that ring out amidst all the preparations. First Jaymie Leighton and her sister, Becca, find a body in a house they're cleaning and then another is found submerged in a car in the river. The bodies are those of two girls, classmates of Becca, who disappeared on the same day in 1984. At the time it was thought that the girls had each run away, but now it looks like murder. Prompted by the chief of police, as well as her own curiosity, Jaymie starts investigating these cold cases. Although she was a baby at the time, her sister and friends were contemporaries of the girls. Will any of them be able to share some insight into what happened? Is the killer long dead? Or is the killer still in their midst?

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. This saying fits LEAVE IT TO CLEAVER perfectly. An old missing persons case (two actually) leads to a new investigation. There are borrowed diaries and the blue of the water! To top it all off, Jaymie's investigating all works around her and her sister's dual wedding!

While LEAVE IT TO CLEAVER is the "wedding book", it isn't overly sentimental. The relationships, both between Jaymie and Jakob and Becca and Kevin, aren't gushingly romantic and sugary sweet. These are adult relationships and are more real and honest, therefore more meaningful. 

Victoria Hamilton delves into Becca's past in this latest installment of the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series. The story switches from the present to the days before the girls went missing in 1984. We get a better idea of Becca's teen years and see why she mothers Jaymie so much. We also get to see the deepening relationship between Jaymie and Jakob as well as with his daughter, Jocie. Indeed the whole story revolves around the differing relationships between parents and children as well as those between siblings.

LEAVE IT TO CLEAVER is a great addition to the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries. A well plotted mystery through two time periods provides great backstory and develops the characters even more.

Recipes Included.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Now That the Trip is Over - Guest Post

C.T. Collier has taken over my blog today! C.T. writes The Penningtons Investigate Mystery series. Stuck, the second book in the series was released this past March.


Now that the trip is over . . . keeping alive a sense of Cornwall and its people
by C. T. Collier


When I created my sleuthing duo, Kyle and Lyssa Pennington, I booked a trip to Cornwall. Was I looking for Merlin and Sir Launcelot? Doc Martin and Poldark? No, I was doing research for my hero, Kyle Pennington, whose family estate is close by Padstow on the north coast of Cornwall. I wanted a first-hand experience of the wild coast and countryside I’d always imagined—crashing waves, smugglers’ caves, mysterious moors, cozy villages. And it wasn’t just scenery I wanted, but the voices and expressions, people’s attitude and outlook on life, their values and lifestyles.

Happily, I got all of that and more. The trip was for expressly for photographers and the itinerary included a day on the moors; walks along on the coast, glimpses of derelict tin mines; hours to wander through lush gardens; and opportunities to view paintings by The Newlyn School and at the Tate Gallery. Plus an afternoon in the ruins at Tintangel; the inside scoop on a lifeboat station; and plenty of time in centuries old pubs in fishing villages. And seafood, yum! Enjoying a ploughman’s lunch at a pub was a golden opportunity to eavesdrop on local conversations while studying the pictures and stories stuck up on walls.

I’d go again if I could, but it’s not likely to happen, and that presents a problem for an author. How do I keep alive that all-five-senses experience of Cornwall, so I remain true to my hero’s character and everything he stands for?

I do a lot to keep it fresh. Don’t laugh: for starters, I watch Doc Martin and Poldark on PBS. Poldark for the history of seafaring and smuggling, the impact of class struggle, the legacy of tin mining, and the dependence on the elusive pilchards. And Doc Martin for the thick accents, quaint phrases, spectacular scenery, fickle weather, food, drink, and humor.

But that’s not all I do to keep Cornwall in mind. I’m fortunate that excellent mystery authors have series set in Cornwall. First on my bookshelf is John Bude whose 1930s crime classics include some set on the chalk cliffs of Dover and in the Lake District, in addition to The Cornish Coast Murder.

Historical mystery author, Carola Dunn is next. In addition to her Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, Dunn writes the Cornish Murder Mysteries set in the Cornwall she experienced on vacations in the 1960s. Her heroine is a spry elderly lady, Nell, whose neighbor is an artist who paints and sells charming pictures to the tourists so he can produce his own abstracts off-season. Nell’s niece, Megan is a police detective who’s fast becoming Nick’s love interest. The trio represent hard-working locals who interact with a wide variety of Cornishmen and who cover the countryside in the execution of their jobs. The fifth book in the series, Buried in the Country, involves a car chase in Bodmin Moor, death by drowning in a bog on the moor, and a near-suicide on top of the tors at Cheesewring quarry. Dunn doesn’t write the series from Cornwall, but she is in communication with friends who live there, and she consults online sources for facts such as which fish is abundant at markets this week.

Another mystery series of Cornwall is more contemporary than Dunn’s, that by mystery author Janie Bolitio. Her series of half a dozen mysteries feature a woman artist, widowed, who lives a stone’s throw from Penzance, between the active port of Newlyn and the picturesque village of Mousehole. Rose Trevelyan moves easily from high-end art galleries to desolate homes on the moor, and she dates a policeman. I feel tuned into every socio-economic group as I turn the pages, and I often underline phrases and highlight the controversies that play out in a book.

Those are my tricks for staying attuned to the Cornwall of my hero, Kyle Pennington. And, as you can imagine, Kyle, always the gentleman, gently corrects me anytime I slip up.

**************************************************************************


Excerpt:

Justin’s assistant claimed the president was in a meeting but added, “You sound out of breath, Lyssa. Is it urgent?”
“I’m running to a murder scene. Yes, it’s urgent.”
Justin came on the line, and she told him what little she knew.
“For God’s sake, be careful.”
That spooked her. But he was right. A man was dead. Was the killer still in the neighborhood watching the aftermath? Hanging around would be too risky, wouldn’t it? People in these neighborhoods watched what happened all day. And night. Someone must have seen something. Heard something.
She pressed forward the next two blocks and paused at the end of the Van Derzee’s brick walk. Where were the police? Emma had said she’d called them. Surely they hadn’t come and removed the body already? And why leave the door open?



 
By C.T. COLLIER
Self Published (March 18, 2017) Paperback: 308 pages ISBN-13: 978-1544277967 
Meet the Penningtons: Lyssa, Ph.D. Economics, and her husband “the handsome Brit” Kyle, Ph.D. Computer Science. When their clever minds ask questions, clever killers can’t hide.
Murder never entered the picture until Fritz Van Derzee decided, at long last, to clear his name. Who stuck a jeweled stiletto into his desktop after stabbing him to death? Fritz’s daughter, Emma, recruits her former professor Lyssa Pennington to find the killer.
But where’s the ten million Fritz was falsely accused of embezzling? Tompkins College President, Justin Cushman, hires his old friend Kyle Pennington to trace the missing money.
While Lyssa uses charm and tenacity on the long list of suspects, Kyle reconstructs the college’s old homegrown finance system. As they converge on the killer, Lyssa and Kyle may be the next two casualties.

About The Author:
C. T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting is entirely fictional: Tompkins College is no college and every college, and Tompkins Falls is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY (AKA Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life).

Author Links:  

Website: https://drkatecollier.wordpress.com  
Facebook: kate.collier.315  
Twitter: @TompkinsFalls  
  • Purchase Links
Amazon Print: http://amzn.to/2pnXSWU
Barnes & Noble Print: http://tinyurl.com/lpo7dsp  
Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQP5VYZ/  
Nook: http://tinyurl.com/lep4smt