Sunday, March 31, 2013

Head Case Interview

I'd like to welcome author, Jennifer Oko to Cozy Up With Kathy. Jennifer joins us as part of the Head Case Book Tour. Head Case is her current release!

Kathy: What first drew you to the cozy mystery?

JO: This may sound silly, but with both my previous mystery GLOSS and with HEAD CASE, I didn’t fully realize I was writing a mystery, much less a cozy one, until after the fact! Even though some of my favorite authors (like Carl Hiaasen and Lisa Lutz) write books that are marketed as mysteries, I had a rather limited idea of what the definition of a mystery novel was supposed to be (i.e. it was either an Agatha Christie-type whodunit or a Harlan Coben-type thriller). I’ve since learned better, and was thrilled to learn about the cozy genre as it is evolving. I am so happy to be part of the club. I’ve also discovered some great new authors in the process.

Kathy: Do you write any other genres?

JO: My first book was LYING TOGETHER: MY RUSSIAN AFFAIR, a memoir centered around a year I spent working as a television news producer in Russia, navigating the collapse of a country and the collapse of my engagement at the same time. Next came GLOSS, a comic mystery about a morning television news producer caught up in a conflict of interest scandal. I definitely had more fun writing GLOSS and HEAD CASE than I did writing Lying Together. Fiction is very liberating!

Kathy: Tell us about your series. 
JO:  Alas, HEAD CASE isn’t part of a series. At least not right now. I would love to bring back the narrator, but I haven’t figured out how to do that quite yet. Per next question ;-)

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

JO: Definitely! I love, love, love Olivia, the narrator (who happens to be a ghost investigating her own murder). She is quite flawed, but she is smart and sassy and funnier than she knows. I really miss her.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for HEAD CASE?

JO: When I was in journalism school a gazillion years ago, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn was my “beat” for a reporting class. It’s an area with a lot of Russian immigrants (I used to speak Russian). The first day I went down there, I stumbled upon some elderly women selling prescription medication right on the street. The signs advertising their wares were written in Cyrillic, so the English-speaking beat cops were oblivious. Or at least they pretended to be.

A few years later, I wrote an article about it for New York Magazine. It was one of the first pieces of writing I was ever paid for. Now, it’s right here on the bookshelf next to my desk, nicely framed.

Around the same time, a dear friend was visiting, and in the morning she realized she had forgotten some medication she was taking. I happened to be on the same medication, so I gave her some of mine. That’s when we hatched an idea to write a screenplay about friends trading prescription drugs. We never wrote the movie, but I did start writing the book, combining some of these ideas. The story changed tremendously over the years, but there are still a few sentences from the original version.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

JO: HEAD CASE was originally set to go to press in early 2009, the second of a two-book deal that started with my novel GLOSS. The cover was created, pages proofed and all—when suddenly the publisher canceled about half of its titles because the economy was tanking and the market for fiction was going down with it. HEAD CASE was one of those titles. They reverted the rights to me, and I spent the next year revising the manuscript some more. After a few more attempts to sell it to another publisher ("Endearing!" they said. "Flawlessly written!" and then passed, for want of famous authors and guaranteed hits), I stuffed this labor of love into a virtual desk drawer. But then... the world started to change!
After reading story after story about once conventionally published authors having lots of fun (and occasionally great success) in the brave new world of digital self-publishing, I realized that an eBook format would be the perfect publishing platform for this somewhat unconventional book.

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

JO: Fun! These aren’t necessarily my all time favorites, but I do love them and it might make for a good “girls’ night out” as it were:
Jennifer Weiner, because I love that she is a positive force for getting female authors the attention they deserve.
Agatha Christie, because she is the Queen.
Joanne Fluke, especially if she will bring the dessert.
Dorothy Parker to spice it up.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

JO: Here are the top five on my Kindle, in order of when last opened:
Front Page Fatality, by LynDee Walker — Just started, looking forward to picking it up again this evening.
The Museum of Innocence, by Orhan Pamuk — Reading now. The protagonist is a bit of a creep, but I like it.
The Queen of Spades, by Aleksandr Pushkin — Inspiration for the new novel I am working on.
How to Make a Killing on Kindle, by Michael Alvear — Ha!
The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker — Loved.

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

JO: Does drinking coffee count as a hobby? Hmmm. I like making up stories with my kids (ages 5 and 7). They want to publish a book with me, so I recently typed up one of the stories and they are working on the art. It will probably have a very small but dedicated fan base.

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

JO: Oh, this assumes I always have four items! I am a terrible cook. That said, there is always enough stuff to scrap together a half decent school lunch. And there’s always ice cream. It’s the glue to my marriage. After the kids go to bed, my husband and I curl up on the couch and eat ice cream (usually Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip) almost every night.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books?

JO: The novel I am working on right now isn’t part of a series, but it could be the start of one. It’s about a writer whose books aren’t selling too well, so she has to return to work full-time. She is trying to balance writing, work and family life—but her creative mojo has been sapped. To get inspiration, she starts to re-read some of her favorite murder scenes from literary history, and those fictional events start to influence the what is happening on the pages she is writing—as well as events in real life around her. Got any recommendations for crazy crimes in classic literature?

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

JO: On a good day, the words just come pouring out and it’s like I’ve gone to visit another world. It’s amazing. On a bad day... well, I remind myself of this thing that happened when my last novel (GLOSS) was about to come out.

I was on an airplane and had the good fortune to sit next to an amazing, inspiring woman. She was a nurse in her late 50s with a long career behind her, as well as a doting grandmother to a couple of toddlers she loved madly, and she was leaving her family to help set up a military hospital in Afghanistan. I wanted to thank her for her work, her bravery, her trailblazing, but all I had was the galley copy of GLOSS. I gave it to her to keep her entertained on her long flight.

Many months later, I was getting ready for a reading at a small bookstore when my agent called to say that said that while the reviews were great, sales weren’t moving. It was crushing news, and I was so upset I wanted to cancel the reading. Then, like something out of a Nora Ephron movie, minus the romance, my inbox chirped. It was an email from the nurse, telling me how much she had enjoyed the book and thanking me on behalf of all her troops out there in the war zone for giving them a few hours of a fun, entertaining read that took their minds away from where they actually were.

I replied immediately, but never heard back. But when I’m having a bad day and start asking myself what the heck I’m writing for, why should I keep at it, I remember her and I get my answer. 
Thank you Jennifer, for the interview. If you want to learn more about Jennifer Oko you can find her via these links:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins. I don't consider this book a cozy's a bit too gritty for that, but it's a wonderful historical mystery. Set in London, England in 1665 we meet chambermaid Lucy who encounters a murder which strikes too close to home. Lucy is smart and determined to find justice for her friend.

The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy of this book as I'll be interviewing the author as part of a book tour on April 21, 2013. Make sure you stop by!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Love is in the Air and Winner Announced

While the mystery is the reason for the cozy mystery, it's not the only thing. Reading cozy mysteries is like traveling to places you want to go to visit with friends. Good cozy series develop characters you want to care about. More than that you want to learn about them. Love is such an integral part of real life, whether good or bad, and it stands to reason it finds its way into cozies.

Almost all cozies have a touch of romance in them. Sometimes it's hints, sometimes it's more obvious. It's never explicit and sometimes it's never even acted upon. The "will they or won't they" is a common theme. The cozy mystery embraces all types of romance.

Probably the least common romance in cozy series are those that start with a couple already married. There are married couples involved in many series, but it's not that common for our protagonist to start off married. The Bear Collector's Mysteries by John J. Lamb feature a happily married couple as does the Clay and Crime Series by Melissa Glazer. While I'm sure there are others, these are the only two series that pop into my head. What I find interesting is that both of these authors are men!

Some cozy protagonists start out single, but eventually marry their love interest. I'll only give one example of this type as I don't want to spoil anyone's reading-but since the first book in the series was published in 1975 I'll risk this one, The Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters.

A lot of times the love interest is a member of the police force. The romance oftentimes starts as a conflict, with the protagonist being a suspect. Sometimes she's not a suspect, but she's poking her nose in police business. This was the case with Jessie Hewitt in the Cueball Mysteries by Cindy Blackburn, Sophie Winston in the Domestic Diva Mysteries by Krista Davis, Sunny Meadows in the Fortune Teller Mysteries by Kari Lee Townsend, and many more.

Sometimes our protagonist has multiple romances throughout the series. Josie Marcus in the Mystery Shopper series by Elaine Viets is a single mom who is unlucky in love. We get the romance, but as oftentimes happens in real life, we discover he's Mr. Wrong.

Sometimes there's more than one love interest. Katie Lightfoot has feelings for two men in the Magical Baking Mysteries of Bailey Cates. This series has only just begun, so we'll have to see if she'll choose either of these men. There are currently 16 books in the Hannah Swenson Mysteries by Joanne Fluke and, unless something happened in the newly released Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, which I haven't read yet, our baker still hasn't decided which of the two men she's seeing is Mr. Right.

In life, love and romance isn't always easy. The same goes for our cozy mystery romances. But some people have it trickier than others. I so want Penelope Thornton-McClure to find happiness with Jack Shepard. Author Alice Alfonsi makes it difficult for these two in the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries as Jack is a ghost! One of my favorite characters is Lily Ivory in the Witchcraft Mysteries by Juliet Blackwell. I'm not sure which of the possible love interests is best for her, and that makes the reading even more interesting.

What do you think about romance in cozy mysteries?

Now for the winner of the e-book A Charming Wish by Tonya Kappes: Cricket! Cricket, please send me your e-mail address so that we can get your prize to you. You can message me on Facebook at my Cozy Up With Kathy page or e-mail me at cozyupwithkathy @ gmail dot com. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Currently Reading...

I just started reading Sacrifice of Passion by Melissa Bourbon Ramirez. Not a cozy mystery, this book is billed as romantic suspense. There appears to be a chupacabra at work, as well as an evil entity that invades dreams. This author also pens the Magical Dressmaking Series (which is a cozy mystery series).

Don't forget, you still have time to enter to win a free e-book. Read last Sundays guest post, leave a comment, be a follower of the blog, and you'll be entered to win an e-book copy of A Charming Wish by Tonya Kappes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Welcome Mr. Prince Charming & Giveaway

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'd like to welcome a very special guest to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Mr. Prince Charming, from the Magical Cures Mysteries by Tonya Kappes, is here to give my first guest blog post.

Life was good. I mean real good until Isadora Solstice decided to stick her nose into my business. Granted, she was the one responsible for picking me to be June Heal’s Fairy God Cat.

Yes, you read that right. FAIRY GOD CAT. Being a Fairy wasn’t just for cute little winged creators, though I am a very cute white, male cat.

After all, it wasn’t that hard to find a place in June Heal’s heart on her tenth birthday. I knew she had always wanted a charm bracelet because it was very well known that she prayed every night for one. I made sure that I had snuck a charm from the shop Bellatrix Baubles, in the magical town of Whispering Falls, before I showed up on June’s front door step with a cute turtle charm dangling from my tattered collar.

It took a lot of rolling around in sticks and muddy water to get that collar to look all ratty. But I had to get in June’s heart somehow, in order to protect her from evil spiritualist that would do anything to have her powerful gift. After all, my name wasn’t Mr. Prince Charming for nothing!

Little did I realize, she was going to have a place in my heart. I was there to do a job. . .protect. . .not LOVE.

Like I said, life was good. June had taken over her mom’s homeopathic cure shop at the local flea market, A DOSE OF DARLA. She had just started honing her spiritual gift of knowing how to cure what A Dose of Darla client’s really had. They might think they had heartburn and wanted June to make a homeopathic cure for it, but in reality June knew they were suffering from a broken heart. With a few “special” ingredients, June healed the client and A Dose of Darla took off.

That was until Izzy showed up realizing that June had her late father’s spiritual gift and she made June a deal to move to Whispering Falls to open her own shop. That was when June found out that she wasn’t a “typical” person and I wasn’t just a stray cat.

We moved. And life hasn’t settled down since. I’m having to keep June safe at each stage of her life by adding protection charms to her bracelet. Plus her budding romance with Whispering Falls’ sheriff Oscar Park, leaving her little time to give me a good scratch. Not to mention Madame Torres, June’s snarky crystal ball was high-maintenance and requires a lot of June’s free time.

But it was all up to me to help keep June safe and out of trouble, even when villagers show up dead with June’s prints all over the evidence.

Sometimes I wish for those long days back in Locust Grove where I could smack around cicadas all day and warm my belly in the beating sun.

Get to know Mr. Prince Charming and the magical gang of Whispering Falls in THE MAGICAL CURES MYSTERY SERIES. A Charming Crime is the first novel in this fun series, followed up by A Charming Cure. And the fun doesn’t stop there. A Charming Potion is a holiday short story. The third novel in the series, A Charming Wish was released on March 14th.

Want to learn more about Tonya Kappes? Did you read my interview with her this past January? You can also read more about her on these sites:

Author Website/blog:
Goodreads author/book page:

Author Tonya Kappes has graciously offered an e-book copy of A Charming Wish to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is to be a follower of this blog and leave a comment about this post. Please include your e-mail address so that I can contact you if you win. You have until 11:59pm EST next Saturday, March 23, 2013 to enter. Then I'll use to pick a winner and announce the lucky reader on that Sunday's post.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti, the second Magical Baking Mystery by Bailey Cates. The more I read, the more I love. Katie is learning more about being a witch and has stumbled upon a group of Druids. Let's hope her powers continue to grow, Mungo can help keep her safe, and we get more great recipes.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hey, Target! Where Did the Cozies Go?

Several months ago I was wandering around Target, as I am wont to do, when I stopped to peruse their book section. I was delighted to find several cozy mysteries. This happened a few times. Invariably I'd pick out a book, or two, to buy. So many new series being released I just had to give them a shot. I justified the expense as my weekend entertainment. It was the weekend, I wasn't going out, and the books would give much longer satisfaction.

A few weeks, or perhaps months, later I went to a different Target and looked at their book selections, hoping to pick out a cozy as a gift. There wasn't even one. There were several romance novels (nothing wrong with that-I love romances too), a few thrillers, but not a single cozy. Huh. I decided that whoever choose the books selections at that store stunk and a few days later went to my usual Target for that gift. Imagine my amazement when there weren't any cozies there either! What happened? They had been stocking 5-6 new releases and now nothing? Every time I return to the store I look...nada.

One of the reasons I'm disappointed that Target is no longer carrying cozies is that Target always discounts their books, as does Walmart (I can't find cozies there either). I also used to find cozies at Wegmans (my grocery store) but they don't seem to be there anymore either. While I wish I could buy every new release as well as their subsequent titles, like 99.9% of the population, I'm on a budget. I like to save where I can. I don't like to buy used books as the authors don't make money from them. There's only one independent bookstore near me, and while it's great, it's out of the way, requiring a special trip. In a way the same goes for Barnes and Noble. Amazon is wonderful, but it seems books are no longer discounted there either. Buying cozies at Target was convenient and while my pocketbook is happy, my soul isn't.

What happened to all the cozies? I need to talk to some managers and try to find the answer.

While I'm checking into this issue, I hope you'll come over and find me on Facebook. Yes, Cozy Up With Kathy now has a corresponding Facebook page, with the same name: Cozy Up With Kathy. Once I get 100 likes on that page and 100 followers on this blog I'll have a special giveaway. Please, spread the word.

Be sure to stop by next week when I'll have a special guest blogger. A Charming Wish, the third in Tonya Kappes' Magical Cures Series will be released March 14th and the author will join us for a fun time and a giveaway on Sunday, March 17th!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Currently Reading...

I'm just about to find out who dun it in Sofie Kelly's latest Magical Cats Mystery, Cat Trick. I adore this series. What's not to love? It has a hint of the paranormal (Hercules and Owen are not your ordinary house cat...but then, what cat is?), people who help animals (volunteers look after a feral cat colony), cats, books (our protagonist is a librarian), and the protagonist is named Kathleen-my name! This book is the fourth in the series. Start with Curiosity Thrilled the Cat and keep reading; and buying!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Action can be broken down into sections. Real life can be divided into days, television has commercials, and books have chapters.

Do you pay attention to chapters? How they break up the action of the story plays a big part in how the book is experienced. Are chapters long or short? Do the chapters have divisions as well? I believe that chapters and their placement as well as length, play an integral part in the pacing of a novel.

In general, I am only able to read in short bursts. I try to read for 10 minutes or so during my lunch break at work. My main reading time is in the bathroom. Yes, I admit it. I am a bathroom reader. I love to read in the bathtub and that's where most of my reading is accomplished. Sometimes I read in bed, before going to sleep and sometimes, when I'm on vacation, before getting up. With that in mind, I prefer short chapters. I also tend to read more with short chapters. I finish one so quickly, that I read another...and another, especially when the chapters end with a cliffhanger. It's interesting to note that some chapters end at a stopping point, while others are cliffhangers. Those cliffhangers beg you to keep reading.

Some chapters have divisions within themselves. I'm never sure about those. Why not start a new chapter? In some cases I see the chapters might be considered too short if the author were to do that. Still, some chapters are quite long and have those breaks as well. Personally, I like to stop reading at the end of a chapter. Sometimes super long chapters prohibit that. In some cases I even stop reading to see how much longer I have to go before the chapter ends.

Some authors have a table of contents at the start of their books, listing all of the chapters. Sometimes these chapters also have titles. Carole Nelson Douglas does this with her Midnight Louis Series. If you read these you may have a glimmer of what's to come. Some authors start each chapter with a saying or quote, Darynda Jones uses this approach in her Charley Davidson Series. Krista Davis starts each chapter of the Domestic Diva Mysteries with a question and reply from either Sophie or Natasha's columns. Some authors give tips between chapters (gardening tips, recipes, and so on) while others put their tips at the end.

What do you think about chapters? Do you have a preference between long or short chapters? Or have you not even considered it?