Sunday, March 30, 2014

Welcome Rosalee Richland - Interview

Rosalee Richland is actually the pen name of two authors, Rhonda Brinkman and Cyndi Riccio. Their series, the Darla King Cozy Mystery series starts with Load the Boat.
Kathy: Darla King is a Square Dance Caller and you square dance too. How did you get involved with square dancing? 
R.R: There was a "fun night" sponsored by a local square dance club (Circle Squares) to introduce people to square dancing, and it really was fun!  So then came lessons and building friendships....  Although we took lessons at different times, we both discovered that square dancing is a lot of fun and good exercise.

Kathy: Load the Boat takes place on a cruise ship. Have you ever been on a cruise? Was there square dancing?

R.R: We have been on a couple of cruises, but none with square dancing.  There are however a few square dance cruises each year.  The next one we know of is on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas leaving on March 30 (today) for 7 days. Jerry Story, is the caller and he is a lot of fun (

Kathy: You write as a team. How does that work? Does one person work more on the plot while the other writes the actual words?

R.R: We discuss the plot together and then take turns writing.  When one of us gets stuck, the other takes over, tweaks the part that is already written, adds to it  - almost like having a fresh set of eyes.  The story keeps going back and forth until it's done.  Sometimes we surprise each other!

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

R.R.: Both of us are avid readers and especially of mysteries. Cozy mysteries are less intense and less violent, sometimes with a bit of humor and romance.  They tend to be set in small towns or with an intimate group of characters.  Often a cozy mystery is a quick read, a needed escape from the stress of the real world.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

R.R.: Both of our “day jobs” include writing, more technical than fiction. Writing fiction is more for fun and we are still learning.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

R.R.: Darla King has re-invented herself as a Square Dance Caller. As much as Darla wants a quiet, sedate life, with no involvement in crime, she is by nature curious and analytical.  When details don’t add up or stories don’t make sense, she is compelled to figure it out.  In each of the books in the series, Darla’s curiosity gets her into the thick of whatever is going on and the connections between square dancers and her knowledge of square dancing help her figure it out.

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

R.R.:Other than Darla, of the recurring characters of Carlotta, Doug, Nick, and Sam, not so much a favorite. In Load the Boat, we both agree it is Mr. Jarcourt, the older, quirky man who won’t give up his satchel and is generally irritating. His story late in the book reveals why he does what he does and makes him an endearing character to us both.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series? 

R.R.: The inspiration comes from the enjoyment of square dancing and the friendships formed among square dancers in combination with our interest in mysteries and writing.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

R.R.: We started writing the first one just for fun.  Then it was done. It only seemed natural to share it and there is a natural niche for the series – square dancers!  Another reason is that maybe sharing part of what square dancing is about – the family fun concept and friendship - will spark some interest in this American folk dance.

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

R.R.: Cyndi would invite Louisa May Alcott, Daphne DuMaurier, Mercedes Lackey, JRR Tolkien
Rhonda would invite Janet Evanovich, Ayn Rand, Diana Gabaldon, and Maya Angelou
Kathy: What are you currently reading? 

R.R.: The Darla King Series Blog recently hosted Big Money by Jack Getz (3/25). Cyndi finished reading that one and has pulled Family Fallacies (Kate Huntington Mysteries) by Kassandra Lamb from her TBR pile. 

Rhonda is currently reading The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage, and recently finished Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy.

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

R.R.: When not writing, we both enjoy reading, traveling, meeting readers and fans, networking with other authors, and – of course – square dancing, as well as all other forms of dance.

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

R.R.: Chocolate & Diet Coke (Cyndi), yogurt & tomato soup (Rhonda)

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

R.R.: The third in the series is in the works with a tentative title of Follow Your Neighbor, another square dance call.  An enthusiastic fan has provided us with some possible titles for a fourth but we haven't gotten that far yet.

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

R.R.: It’s fun being able to say we’re published authors, but I’d say the favorite part is serving as an inspiration and encouragement to authors who are stymied at prepublication stages.

Author Links

Goodreads/Rosalee Richland:
Rosalee Richland on FB:
Rosalee Richland blog:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Currently Reading...

I need to spend more time reading. Sadly, I've been so busy, and even my regularly scheduled reading times have been shortened or cancelled this past week. Thus I am still reading last week's book-Death on Eat Street by J.J. Cook.

I'm enjoying the first in this new Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery series...although it has me really wanting to eat a biscuit bowl!!! Zoe is charming, albeit a little naive, or perhaps it's just her rosy, positive outlook. I just discovered the second mystery in this book and am intrigued to learn more, especially if it's historically accurate. I don't want to give anything away-so you'll just have to read it yourself when it's published next week!

Recipes are included.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meet Beverly Allen & Giveaway

Beverly Allen joins the blog today. Her first mystery, Bloom and Doom, will be published April 1st. It's the first in the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery series.
Kathy: Flowers are great subject matter, bringing light into this unrelenting winter. Although I love many different kinds of flowers, my favorite has to be the violet. What's your favorite flower?

BA: I've always been a sucker for a good rose. My wedding bouquet was mainly white roses with ivy, which I was pleased to later learn the meanings of. (White rose is innocence and ivy is fidelity.) But after delving into the language of flowers as research for the books, choosing a favorite becomes more difficult. It's like choosing a favorite word. I love lily of the valley, both for its delicate white flowers, but also its meaning: happiness restored. It's hard to look at flowers the same way.

Kathy: I've always been interested in the language of flowers and so was pleased to see you using it...especially with bridal bouquets. How did you discover the hidden messages of flowers?

BA: The language of flowers can be a little tricky to navigate, in part because there's no universal agreement on what certain flowers mean. To complicate matters, modern florists have redefined most of the flowers to their advantage. For example, how many orange lilies can they sell if people think they mean, "I hate you"? So they change it to something like, "I burn for you." But I found a lovely reprint of an old Victorian guide and try to use that as often as I can. (I think Audrey Bloom might have found a tattered copy of the original, but she'll use the reprint when working with customers.)

Kathy: We're both Western New Yorkers. What made you decide to set your series in Virginia?

BA: That started out as the publisher's idea. I think it has to do with cozies being extremely popular in the South. That's not to say I don't have a connection with the area. I do get down there a bit. My husband has regular business in Chantilly, Virginia, and all my in-laws live in North Carolina. When I was drafting the first book, I really wanted to find and visit a small town about the size of my fictional town of Ramble, VA. To save money, I could combine it with my husband's business trip and just drive there for a day. That was the plan, anyway. Only the trip kept getting delayed, so I researched the best I could online, created the rest, and kept writing. About two weeks before the book was due I was finally able to make the trip. In Berryville, Virginia, I drove slowly down an almost idyllic Main Street, then parked in the lot of their new municipal building. I dropped unannounced into the police station, where they proceeded to give me a tour and answer a bunch of questions. (Ramble's building is much older, by the way. Probably before the upgrade!) The next building over was the county visitor's center. Talked there for over an hour about the culture and history of the area. A block away (through a park with a gazebo eerily similar to the one I'd already written into the book) was the flower shop. I'm still friends on Facebook with the florist I talked with. I had lunch at a delightful little cafe and walked up and down Main Street, taking pictures. It was amazing how close I'd come, for example, in the number of employees in the flower shop and police officers for a town that size. I only changed a few details, mainly because the police don't house their own prisoners (Andy Griffith style). They're all kept at a larger regional facility. But it was a fabulous trip. While Ramble isn't Berryville, I think it has the same small-town Virginia feel.

Kathy: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing, especially for a new release. What's your favorite part of marketing your work? What do you dislike about marketing?

BA: In a lot of ways, authors are the least well-equipped to market well. We're an introverted lot. But I have discovered that I love to talk about writing. Even more about my own, so that's not really a problem.

The one thing I'm dreading, however, are the negative reviews cozies sometimes generate. I'm not talking about honest reviews--they're fair game. (Not everybody likes every book.) But I've read enough cozy reviews to notice that some mystery readers are extremely bad at picking out books. And some don't have a clue what a cozy is. So they pick up a book with a punny title and teacups and kittens on the cover, and then rant because they're not getting James Patterson, saying things like "the whole idea of an amateur sleuth is ridiculous" or "how many murders can you have in the same small town"? I won't respond to those, of course. Publically, that is. But it does illustrate how important reviews are to writers.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

BA: Loved Nancy Drew. Graduated to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers back in junior high and high school. But that was back in the 80s before the modern cozy really erupted onto the scene. So when I looked for mysteries beyond those, they were darker and grittier. And then when two high school classmates were murdered, I lost my interest in reading about murder. For a long time. I read biographies and classics. When my daughter was growing up, I read quite a bit of award-winning middle grade and YA. It might have been Monk that pulled me back to the cozy--that juxtaposition of mystery and humor. Even when cozies are overtly funny, there's something inherently humorous about an amateur solving mysteries.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

BA: I started writing inspirational. In fact, the first thing I wrote that was published was released as an inspirational romance. But people kept dying. (It was really a cozy mystery with a romance arc.) I tried romantic suspense, but it kept becoming a cozy. I think I'm a one-trick pony.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

BA: Audrey Bloom is the wedding coordinator for the Rose in Bloom, the flower shop she owns with her cousin Liv. Audrey loves creating custom bouquets for her customers, based on the language of flowers, and all of the brides who have carried her bouquets down the aisle are still living happily-ever-after with their spouses. It remains to be seen if everyone will survive the wedding...

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

BA: That's a tough one. Audrey Bloom is probably the one who's most like me, but I have to say I've fallen in love with her memories of her beloved Grandma Mae. She really had an impact on the kind of person Audrey became. And Audrey's cat, Chester, is a live wire.

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

BA: For parts of it. For example, Audrey Bloom grew up spending summers with her Grandma Mae and her cousin Liv. I grew up in a rich extended family, with my Grandma Bea and my cousin Lisa. Like Audrey, I have fond memories of that time to draw from.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

BA: I'd be delusional (and probably very disappointed) if I said I became a writer to become rich and famous. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with the craft of writing. For a lot of years, I gave it away, mostly writing puppet shows and church programs. Then I tried my hand at fan fiction. (I had fans in the literal dozens.) During that time I read a blog post, very disapproving of fan fiction, suggesting that if writers thought they were so good, they should try to write something original. I'd never considered doing that. But somehow the idea stuck--almost became a challenge. Publishing to me is a lot like galleries must be to artists--an chance to get their work seen and enjoyed (and criticized). It's really a scary thing. But scary like a roller coaster.

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

BA: Ugh. That's a tough one. Well, I'd have to invite the dead ones, since it's not often that I get that opportunity, right? Agatha Christie would be good. Maybe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, if he promises to come sober. Mark Twain (ditto), to liven things up a bit. Then I'm not sure. I'm waffling between Dickens, Hawthorne, Poe, and John Bunyan.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

BA: I'm currently reading the Agatha nominees. Right now it's Kneading to Die, by Liz Mugavero.

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

BA: Too many of them. I used to do a lot of needlework--cross stitch and embroidery, but carpel tunnel kind of killed that. I enjoy cooking and baking. I've made a few wedding cakes and planned (and catered) more than one church dinner. I like crafts of all kinds and garden, although sporadically. I've decided I really don't like gardening. I just like having one. I'm also very fond of board games and word games, and I'm a complete Disneyholic. True confessions: I've only done a little flower arranging, mainly because of severe allergies--which kind of inspired a character for the book.

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

BA: Sugary kids' cereal, chocolate, coffee, milk.

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

BA: Bloom and Doom is the first book. The second, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls is with the copyeditor. In it, Audrey Bloom designs a special bouquet for a bride participating in a reality TV show. I had a lot of fun writing it and it will be out next January. The third, Floral Depravity will come out later in 2015. That book centers around a murder at a medieval-themed wedding.

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

BA: I get a thrill thinking about people reading and hopefully enjoying what I wrote. I also love conferences. I'll be at Malice Domestic this year, and Bouchercon. I love meeting other writers and readers. At this point, I hope to earn enough to cover my conference habit.

Thanks to the generosity of the author one lucky person will receive an autographed copy of Bloom and Doom. In order to qualify, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite flower. I'll use to pick a winner from those that comment before midnight next Monday, March 31st EST. Be sure to leave me your e-mail address so that I'm able to contact you, should you win!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Levinson a la Christie - An Interview

I'd like to welcome Marilyn Levinson to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Murder a la Christie is the first in the Golden Age of Mystery series.

Kathy: Murder a la Christie could be considered an homage to the Grande Dame of mystery, Agatha Christie. How were you first introduced to her work?

ML: I can’t remember when I first heard of Dame Agatha. What I do know is I devoured many of her novels when I was pregnant with my older son, David, who’s now 43. While writing Murder a la Christie and rereading many of Agatha Christie’s books, I discovered I owned 27 of her mysteries.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie novel?

ML: Among my favorites are The Body in the Library, N or M? , Murder on the Orient Express, and The Pale Horse.

Kathy: Agatha Christie's novels have been brought to both the small and big screen. Do you have a favorite movie/TV show? Do you have a favorite Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot?

ML: I love David Suchet as Poirot. To me, he is Poirot.

I enjoy seeing various actresses playing Miss Marple, though I must admit there’s a small window of time in which I must adjust to the “new” Miss Marple. I suppose we all envision her a certain way in our minds.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

ML: I like to read mysteries that take place in villages, where everyone knows everyone yet secrets and misdeeds abound.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

ML: I write novels for kids and the occasional romantic suspense novel.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

ML: Murder a la Christie is the first in my Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series. In each book, my characters discuss the works of a well-known mystery writer. The next in the series is called Murder the Tey Way, and includes conversations about Josephine Tey’s books as Lexie solves the murders taking place around her.

A Murderer Among Us & Murder in the Air are the first and second novels in my Twin Lakes series. My sleuth, Lydia Krause, is a widow who has sold her business and moves to a retirement community where she encounters murder and mayhem while forging a new life for herself.

Giving Up the Ghost features 30-something Gabbie Meyerson, who takes a position as an English teacher in a small Long Island village. Gabbie discovers she has a ghost for a housemate, who nags her until she agrees to find out who killed him. Cam, my ghost, was to disappear when his murder was solved. However, so many people have asked me to write another book that includes Cam, and I intend to do so in the near future.

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

ML: Cam (Cameron Leeds) is one of my favorite characters because he’s a wheeler-dealer who thinks nothing of using his friends, though he’s quick to make amends. He’s aware than any one of five or six people may have killed him. Cam’s fun-loving and a ladies’ man. He only realizes how much he loved his girlfriend when he’s dead.

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

ML: Not really.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

ML:I’ve been writing for many, many years. My children’s books were published many years ago.

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

ML: Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, William Shakespeare

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

ML: Krista Davis’s Murder She Barked: A Paws & Claws Mystery

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

ML: Of course I love to read. I knit for my granddaughter and daughter-in-law, do Sudoku, love foreign films, and love to travel.

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

ML: Wine, cheese, various nuts, various kinds of bread

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

ML: I plan to write more books in my Golden Age of Mystery series. I’ve also begun a series about a librarian in charge of events and programs in a picturesque CT village.

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

ML: I love hearing from readers that they’ve enjoyed my books and want to read more of them.

Want to learn more about Marilyn Levinson and her books? Check out these links:

web page:
Untreed Reads books:
Amazon page:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Death on Eat Street by J.J. Cook. This book is the first in the new Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery series which will be released April 1st.

In Mobile, Alabama Zoe Chase has decided to follow her dreams. After getting passed over for promotion yet again, she cashes in her 401(k), and buys a run down (although dilapidated may be another word) diner. The diner is not yet fit for customers so she uses a food truck to sell her biscuit bowls; food, both savory and sweet, served in her signature biscuit bowl. Business isn't good, however, and then she finds a fellow food truck owner, with whom she recently had words, dead in her food truck. What can make matters worse? Being a "person of interest", discovering her boyfriend is a louse, overbearing, wealthy parents...unfortunately for Zoe, the list could go on.

I'm in the early stages of this book, but am enjoying it so far.

Recipes are included.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Extra Special

I read a lot of books. Not as many as some, but, a good amount. I guess I'm lucky because, in general, I enjoy all the books I read. Since expanding the blog, I've been fortunate enough to read some books I may not have normally chosen. I've had some wonderful surprises, and a few that I didn't like.

When it comes to liking cozy mysteries, I can fit the ones I read into 4 categories: 1. the rare: I don't like you, 2. the good solid bunch: I like you and there's a good chance I'll buy you, 3. the great ones: I really like you and can't wait for the next installment, and 4. the extra special ones: you have something extra special about you, I can't wait to read more, I must have you!

What does it take for a book to reach that super level? It's something quite subjective. What I may find fantastic, you may think just good. Attributes that lead to extraordinary for me, may not do it for you. So what is it about the top books that make them stand out for me?

First of all, they must be well written. I think that goes without saying. But just being well written doesn't do it. In fact, just being written by a specific author doesn't count. The author of one of my top series writes another series; a series I enjoy, one that I will buy, and recommend, but it doesn't make it into the top bunch.

What do my top cozy mystery series have it common? They have a main character I relate to-they are not necessarily like me, but I understand them and see where they're coming from. There's a touch of romance, in the extra special books there's a male character with whom I could fall for myself. There's subject matter beyond the mystery that I find interesting. In many cases, there is a hint, or more, of the paranormal.

I guess I have to say that the books that resound with me, that make my super special list have a certain je ne sais quoi! Have I piqued your curiosity as to my favorite series? The Nell Sweeney Mystery series by PB Ryan (Still Life with Murder is the first in this historical mystery series which has concluded), The Witchcraft Mystery series by Juliet Blackwell (Secondhand Spirits is the first), The Bibliophile series by Kate Carlisle (Homicide in Hardcover is the first), and The Magical Cats series by Sofie Kelly (Curiosity Thrilled the Cat is the first in the series) are all in my extra-special category.

What are some of your extra special cozy mystery series?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Steeped in Evil - Review & Giveaway


Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs
The Tea Shop Mystery series #15

Theodosia Browning leaves tea and turns to wine-at least for the fancy new wine reveal at Knighthall Winery. Unfortunately, the opening is marred by murder. The owner's son, and organizer of the event, is found his own barrel of wine. Pressured by her good friend Drayton she starts asking questions, and is soon driven by her own curiosity to investigate the murder. What exactly was going on at the winery? What is "green alien"? Could it be something even more dangerous than men from outer space?

Laura Childs once again brings us the charming setting of Charleston, South Carolina and its environs with its quaint shops and interesting people. While exploring the new world of wine Theodosia gets involved with a new group of people, people who are not quite what they seem. As readers we learn about wine, as well as tea, as Theo expands her knowledge.

I really enjoyed this book, and not just because I'm an oenophile. Laura Childs pens another solid mystery in this enjoyable, long running series, adding depth to her characters and branching out to keep things interesting. Theo is a likeable protagonist who deals with not only murder, but also runs a successful business, handles friends who can be most difficult at times (I was pleased that I didn't "see" much of Haley in this outing), enjoys a bit of a romance, and always has time for a run with her dog, Earl Grey! I only wish I had her stamina! Steeped in Evil is a great addition to an always enjoyable series.

Recipes are included.


Laura Childs has offered 2 of my readers an autographed copy of Steeped in Evil. All you have to do to qualify is comment on this blog post by 11:59pm EST Monday, March 17th. Let us know either your favorite wine or tea! I'll use to pick 2 winners who will be announced Tuesday, March 18th.