Friday, May 30, 2014

All Things Murder Winner

And the winner of a copy of All Things Murder is....keepmelaffn! Be on the lookout for an e-mail from me. Thanks everyone for visiting and commenting. I hope you continue to stop by-there are lots of exciting things in the works!

Review - All Things Murder


All Things Murder  by Jeanne Quigley
The First Veronica Walsh Mystery

For 32 years Veronica Walsh starred in the soap opera, Days and Nights, but when the show is cancelled she realizes roles are more difficult to come by for an almost 54 year old actress. She decides a change of scenery is what she needs, so Veronica moves back to her home town in the Adirondacks. The slower pace of her charming town soon proves dangerous.When her neighbor is murdered and Veronica finds the body, she decides to start sleuthing. She has the help of a childhood friend and now her former co-star, buy will these two male cohorts create more problems?

I don’t seem to run across many books that feature middle aged women. There are several starring senior citizens while the majority seem to feature 20 and 30 year olds. I’m pleased to say that All Things Murder fills this void, giving us Veronica Walsh, a woman of mature years who has had a lifetime of experience, but isn’t ready for retirement yet. The book also brings to light the sad truth in society when it comes to women of a certain age, but it does so with grace and humor. Neither does it hammer this state of affairs into readers’ heads. Instead, we have a funny, intelligent woman who, in searching for the next chapter in her life, finds comfort in her own mother and childhood home, the possibility of two suitors, and murder!

Jeanne Quigley deftly pens this mystery providing an enjoyable stay in the Adirondacks with a fun cast of characters.

Stay tuned-the winner of a copy of All Things Murder will be announced later today.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen. This book is the first in the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery series. Audrey co-owns The Rose in Bloom, a floral shop, with her cousin Liv. While Liv handles more of the business aspect of the shop, Audrey is known for her beautiful bridal bouquets, which she makes using the language of flowers. Audrey does a consultation with a one time friend, whose mother seems more interested in the wedding than the bride, and the blooms chosen are not auspicious. Then the bride to be cancels the wedding and the future groom winds up dead!

I can't wait to read more, plus I love learning about the language of flowers!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An Interview with Lesley A. Diehl

I'd like to welcome Lesley A. Diehl to the blog today. Murder is Academic is the first book in a new series and was just released at the end of March.

Kathy: I live in WNY and enjoy reading books set in my locale. What made you decide on upstate New York for your series?

LD: I’ve lived in upstate New York on and off since 1970, but relocated here permanently for the summers after 2000. I spend my winters in rural Florida, so I enjoy country life year round.

Kathy: Having worked on a college campus for many years, I know the intrigue and drama that can be found there. Have you had similar experiences and did they influence Murder is Academic.

LD: I began writing Murder is Academic soon after I retired from classroom teaching in 1997. I worked in higher education as a professor and as an administrator for over 25 years, so I experienced both sides of college and university life. The politics are so intense in academe that they shouted for me to use them as the backdrop for a murder mystery since faculty often rage at administrators’ lack of understanding of the classroom, and administrators think faculty are naïve about finances and pressures from outside the institution. Since I sat in both chairs, I thought I could bring some clarity and sanity to the ruckus…as well as a little humor.

Kathy: Laura Murphy likes donuts and coffee. Do you have a favorite type of donut?

LD: My favorite donuts were the ones my mother made. She fried them in peanut oil, a very costly enterprise for us since we had little money when I was a kid on the farm, so she made them only once each year. We sure looked forward to those donuts! They were cake donuts, spicy and soft in the middle and crispy on the outside. I looked all over the house for her recipe and never found it. I discovered a bakery in Cooperstown, NY, near us, that makes similar cake donuts, so I can always take a drive over the hill to buy some. I try not to do that too often.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

LD: I knew I had to write an amateur sleuth, not only because I didn’t know enough about police procedures and private detective work to allow me to write them, but I also I got hooked on Nancy Drew as a kid and then on Agatha Christie. My cozy mysteries include humor because I like a good laugh both when I’m writing and when I read.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

LD: I’ve written and had published a number of short stories that might be considered a bit noir, where the humor is dark. I also have written some poetry. I think I’m now in a transition period, thinking of moving into mysteries that have a noir edge to the humor. My microbrewing mystery series is a traditional mystery, not a cozy mystery.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

LD: Murder is Academic is the first book in cozy mystery series featuring Laura Murphy, an opinionated, brilliant and snoopy professor of psychology, the best person to find out who killed the college president because she knows all the campus secrets. And, oh yeah, she finds true love in the process.

My other cozy mystery series feature protagonists who, like Laura, can’t resist sticking their noses into murder. From Emily Rhodes (Dumpster Dying, Grilled, Chilled and Killed), retired preschool teacher turned bartender who stumbles onto dead bodies (literally!) to Eve Appel (A Secondhand Murder, Dead in the Water) Connecticut fashionista turned consignment shop owner in rural Florida, whose adjustment to life among cowboys, gators and cattle is anything but smooth, these gals are pretty unstoppable when it comes to chasing down bad guys.

For fans liking more traditional mysteries, I have also published a microbrewing series (A Deadly Draught, Poisoned Pairings). In this series Hera Knightsbridge operates a small brewery in the Butternut Valley of upstate New York. Her brewery operates on a shoe string so Hera juggles keeping her brewery open with the murder of her closest competitor, the killing of a student in her brewery, drought followed by floods, and the looming threat of hydraulic fracturing.

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

LD: It’s a tossup between Laura Murphy because she is a psychologist and professor as I was and Eve Appel who loves bargains. They represent the two sides of me, the academic and the shopper. Not a bad mix, huh? My favorite bad guy is Toby Sands, a fat, tobacco chewing dirty cop in the series set in Big Lake Country in rural Florida. He makes appearances in Dumpster Dying and Grilled, Chilled and Killed, and I’m planning to have him in the third one of that series also. He just won’t leave my protagonist, Emily Rhodes, alone!

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

LD: I divide my time between rural upstate New York and rural Florida. Things are always happening in the country. Spend your time listening to people in my village talk about their neighbors’ lives and you’ll have the inspiration for a lifetime of books.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

LD: It’s really simple. I laughed at what I wrote and enjoyed crafting the work. I thought other people might find it entertaining also.

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

LD: Elizabeth George because I love the attention she pays to developing her characters. They are so complex, so multi-layered. I like people like that, so it’s no surprise I’d like characters who share that complexity.

Robert Parker because I think he was the king of saying more in one short sentence than others manage in several pages. I think he was an awfully irreverent person, and I like that for spicing up the party.

Mark Twain, the most irreverent writer I can think of. He and Parker might like to tussle with one another, and wouldn’t it be fun to listen to that and George’s take on it?

Nevada Barr, who writes the park ranger Anna Pigeon. Anna must be more scarred from her physical injuries than any other female protagonist I’ve read. Imagine how she, Jesse Stone, Spencer, Lynley, and Barbara Havers might entertain each other and make Twain laugh with their take on contemporary life.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

LD: I just finished a book I’ve wanted to read for years, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I’m amazed at how compassionately she weaves the story of fiction with the reality of the Congo experience. It’s a masterpiece.

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

LD: I garden when I’m at the cottage in upstate New York. We have small raised beds of vegetables and a large perennial flower garden. Last year we canned jam, dill pickles and applesauce. I’m returning to the life I had growing up on the farm. We have no animals, but we love growing our own vegetables. We also work on our 1874 cottage. This year we’re renovating our front porch. Both my husband and I love to cook, and eat, of course. When we have time we like hiking in the state parks near us. We are contemplating a river cruise in Europe this fall as we both like to travel, but because both of us are writers, we don’t find the time to do as much as we’d like.

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

LD: Homemade pickles, regular, kosher and spicy sour dough starter, butter, yogurt, many kinds

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

LD: I intend to do a third book in all my series.

In my Eve Appel mystery series, the third book is already written.

For the microbrewing series and the one with Emily Rhodes, I only have two books out and will do a third one.

For Laura Murphy, the second book is already written. For the third book, I only have an idea for it.

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

LD: I get to write. It’s the way I entertain myself. I also like being with other writers and readers.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Introducing Jeanne Quigley & Giveaway

I'd like to welcome Jeanne Quigley to the blog today. Jeanne is the author of All Things Murder, the first in the Veronica Walsh Mystery series.

Kathy: Veronica Walsh starred in the daytime drama Days and Nights. Are you a soap opera fan?

JQ: I’m not a regular viewer these days, though I’ll tune in to The Young and the Restless and General Hospital once in a while to see what everyone’s doing. However, I do have a long history of soap watching. I started in grammar school with All My Children and One Life To Live and went through General Hospital’s Luke and Laura years with my sister, who was a big fan of the show. My best friend in college got me hooked on Days of Our Lives. I have a long history of watching daytime drama!

Kathy: After her series is cancelled Veronica faces the sad truth-while men of a certain age are still desired for prime acting roles, the same cannot be said for women of a certain age. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule: Betty White, Judi Dench, and Helen Mirren, for example, but, is the older woman relegated to character roles and "commercials for "hotflash herbs" and the like? Or can she make a comeback to starring roles?

JQ: I think the older actress can definitely make a comeback. Actresses who are middle-aged have so many opportunities these days. Broadcast and cable channels offer many roles out there for older women to showcase their talent, and since television is no longer considered film’s ugly stepsister, both actors and actresses move back and forth between the two mediums. And Netflix has opened another door. Look at Sally Field: an Emmy winner for Brothers and Sisters and an Oscar nominee for Lincoln. Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates are two more examples of older actresses doing great work and winning recognition for it.

I do, though, think soap actresses face a challenge winning new roles. As in All Things Murder, the real world of daytime television has shrunk. There are now only four soap operas on the air. Roles are limited for the actresses (and to be fair, the actors too) whose soaps are canceled. There are only so many parts on the surviving shows for people over fifty; these shows already have longtime cast members fighting for air time. Though there are actresses who started on soaps and moved on to successful film careers, Julianne Moore and Demi Moore are two, and Susan Lucci certainly transcended soaps, daytime drama for years was unfairly stigmatized as lacking in artistic merit. It was hard for both actors and actresses to break out of the soap box. Someone like Veronica, who played the same character for more than thirty years, can have a hard time convincing a producer to give her another role and an audience to accept her as that new character.

Kathy: All Things Murder is set in the Adirondacks. What made you decide on this setting for your series?

JQ: When I was a kid, Lake George was usually my family’s vacation destination. It was then, and still is, a beautiful and wonderful place for families to relax and have fun. I’ve gone there in recent years with my mother and my siblings and their families; we’ve enjoyed it every bit as much as we did when we were growing up. And so the Adirondacks is an idyllic locale to me; a spot I’ve always thought of as a place of escape.

The Adirondack setting works well for the story. Veronica works in New York City and lives in a nearby suburb. Her hometown of Barton is close enough that she can visit on a regular basis, but also far enough away that she sees the village as a place of respite and escape from her daily life.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

JQ: A few years ago I wrote a commercial novel about a small-town journalist investigating the theft of a letter written by George Washington. One of the agents who read it referred to it as a cozy, though there is no murder in the story. I wasn’t familiar with the genre, so I picked up one of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen books at the library and was immediately hooked. I knew I had found where I belonged. I like the series aspect of cozies; so often I read a novel and wish I knew what happened in the characters’ lives after the last page. It is fun as a reader and writer to re-visit our fictional friends.

By the way, a few characters from that commercial novel are now a part of the cast of All Things Murder. The canasta club‑Ella, Madeline, Sandy, and Dotsie‑are just as they were in the original story. And the journalist who was the main protagonist is now a minor character.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

JQ: Not after a few failed attempts!

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

JQ: The series stars Veronica Walsh, an unemployed soap opera actress who returns to her hometown seeking peace and quiet and instead finds her controversial neighbor’s bludgeoned body. Veronica is worried that two friends are involved in the murder, so she takes on the role of amateur sleuth to find her neighbor’s killer.

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

JQ: I really love them all, but I’ll mention two. Dotsie for the simple reason that she cracks me up. And I’m very fond of Sandy. Yes, she’s a bit obsessive-compulsive, but she doesn’t put up with nonsense, is a good friend, and knows when to ask questions and when to be quiet! I hope readers find her as endearing as I do.

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

JQ: I don’t know if I can call it inspiration, but the cancellations of All My Children and One Life To Live gave me the idea to cancel Veronica’s soap opera. In an early draft, only Veronica lost her job due to budget cuts on the show. And, of course, the Adirondacks inspired the setting.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

JQ: Writing started as a creative outlet for me. My job at the time wasn’t very stimulating and writing gave me a way to exercise my brain and challenge myself. Writing is an incredible source of fulfillment and entertainment; I felt sharing my work was the natural next step and thus publication became a new goal. Despite all the “no’s” I received from agents over the years, I found the process of querying agents and submitting manuscripts an enjoyable challenge.

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

JQ: Anne Tyler, Stephen King, Agatha Christie, and Charles Dickens.

Kathy: What are you current reading?

JQ: Perfect by Marne Davis Kellogg. It is Kellogg’s third in the Kick Keswick series. Kick is a “retired” jewel thief who in this story tracks down the person who stole the queen’s jewels. This series could be categorized as Fantasy: Kick has a beautiful farmhouse in Provence, travels to Europe’s most exclusive locales, and has a multi-million dollar stash of jewels hidden in her house.

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

JQ: I love reading and probably spend too much time doing it. I also enjoy watching sports. There aren’t too many better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than watching a Yankees game. And the world stops on autumn Saturdays when my alma mater’s Fighting Irish are on the football field. I also enjoy baking (I’m a cookie person). I’m known in the family for the candy cane cookies I bake each year. For decades my grandmother made them every Christmas, using a recipe she found in a Betty Crocker cookbook. I assumed the tradition when she passed away in 1983.

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

JQ: The freezer is where the good stuff is: Turkey Hill Vanilla Bean ice cream, homemade blueberry muffins, marinara sauce, a few slices of pizza.

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

JQ: I’m about finished editing the second Veronica Walsh Mystery and hope to submit it soon to Five Star. I have written an outline and a few pages of the third book and plan on spending a good amount of quality time on it this summer. I’ve also recently started thinking about a second series. It’s slowly coming together in my head.

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

JQ: I can do whatever I want! I work with numbers, spreadsheets, and databases all day in my job. I don’t have many choices on how to do the work; I can’t be creative with formulas. In writing, I get to decide everything: character names, physical descriptions, “who done it,” how many inches of snow fall overnight. I get to create fictional villages and no one tells me I can’t put the drugstore on the corner or must give a street a different name. There are times when I stop myself and ask, “Can I do it this way?” I still get a kick out of my answer: “Yes, I can!”


Jeanne Quigley grew up reading mysteries, watching soap operas, and vacationing in the Adirondacks, never imagining these pleasures would be the foundation of her debut novel. Her love of characters—real and fictional—led her to study Sociology and English at the University of Notre Dame. Jeanne has never been a soap star, but she has worked in the music industry and for an education publisher. She lives in Rockland County, New York, where she is writing her second Veronica Walsh Mystery.


Jeanne Quigley will give a copy of All Things Murder to one lucky reader. To enter leave a comment on this post telling us if you watch soap operas and, if so, your favorite OR your favorite actress of a certain age! Comments must be received by 11:59 pm Thursday, May 29, 2014. US addresses only. Please leave a working e-mail address as well, so that I am able to contact you should you win!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones. This book is the 4th in the Charley Davidson series. This series is one that defies genres. One thing that it is not, is a cozy. I wouldn't call it a romance either. There are mysteries, there is romance...which can be quite erotic at times, it is paranormal, there is lots of action, and plenty of humor. I guess you could call it a hot, paranormal, romantic suspense with lots of laughs!

Charley Davidson is a PI. She's also the Grim Reaper. Yup, she lights up like a beacon to the dead and they can cross over through her. There's also always been a gorgeous guy who mysteriously appears when she needs him. He happens to be the son of Satan. Needless to say, their relationship hasn't been easy. Especially after what happened in the 3rd book. I'm only one chapter in to this book and can't believe I got behind (the 6th book in the series, Sixth Grave On the Edge, was just released). The book opens with Charley dealing with the ramifications of book 3 (Third Grave Dead Ahead). She's sequestered herself in her apartment, (well, her best friend's apartment) buying things she doesn't need from the shopping channel and chatting with her (dead) aunt. Cookie is working on getting her back to the land of the living, when Charley spots Reyes...doing something impossible.

You must read this series in order! First Grave on the Right is the first in the series. (I also love how the author helps us know the order of the books with the titles!) I love this series and can't wait to catch up!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Talking with Karen MacInerney

Karen MacInerney joins us today. Karen pens the Gray Whale Inn Mystery series. Death Runs Adrift, the 6th in the series was just released this month.

Kathy: In the Gray Whale Inn Mystery series Natalie Barnes leaves Texas for Cranberry Island in Maine. What made you choose Maine as the location for your series?

KM: I originally wanted to set it in Newfoundland, where I spent summers at my grandparents’ house on a small island, but have an interesting dialect and use words like “yaffle,” which means “an armload of dried fish,” so I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. When some friends invited us to visit them on Little Cranberry Island, in Maine, it reminded me enough of Newfoundland (but with vocabulary I understood) that I knew I had found the home for my series.

Kathy: Have you ever dreamed of opening your own inn or B&B? Do you think you'd run it like Natalie, or would you be more of a Basil Fawlty?

KM: If the current condition of my house is any indication, being a B&B owner is not in my future. I do have a friend who runs the Country Place Hotel in Fayetteville, Texas, and I like to visit her inn and pretend I am as domestic as she is and could pull it off. But I know better.

Kathy: Natalie cooks some wonderful dishes, especially breakfasts and baked goods. Do you like to cook?

KM: I do like to cook, and my family sometimes complains that I rarely repeat recipes, as I’m always experimenting. But I try not to bake too much, because I have a weakness for sweets!

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

KM: I grew up reading Nancy Drew and graduated to Agatha Christie, followed by Susan Wittig Albert, Diane Mott Davidson, and all the other great mystery authors out there. I guess I loved the genre, and it was the first type of book I read and felt, “I could do that!”

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

KM: I write a humorous mystery series, called the Margie Peterson mysteries, that features a stay-at-home-mom-turned-P.I. and is similar to Janet Evanovich in style; the first book, Mother’s Day Out, was released last month and is selling like wildfire! I also wrote a paranormal romance trilogy called Tales of an Urban Werewolf, set in Austin, and have lots of other ideas up my sleeve.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

KM: The Gray Whale Inn is set on a small island off the coast of Maine, and is a favorite fictional retreat for me as a writer. I love the characters, the community, the wild and beautiful setting, and the yummy treats Natalie bakes for her guests. The Margie Peterson series, on the other hand, is about a stay-at-home mom turned private eye who gets herself into all kinds of hilarious situations. They’re both fun to write, but very different!

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

KM: Margie Peterson is probably the favorite character I’ve ever written; I love how she responds to the crazy situations she finds herself in. As for the Gray Whale Inn series, I relate most to Natalie – she’s the most like me (fancy that). And I have to say that the island and the setting are almost a character in their own right, and I have a particular fondness for that part of the world.

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

KM: I knew I wanted to write a cozy mystery, but couldn’t figure out where to set it until my parents returned from a trip to the Lost Whale Inn in California. As soon as I saw the recipe book they brought back and heard about the idyllic setting, I knew I was going to set my series in an inn.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

KM: Like most authors, I wanted to share my vision and my story with readers – to transport them to the world I had imagined.

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

KM: J.R.R.Tolkien, Robin Hobb, P.G. Wodehouse, and Vladimir Nabokov.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

KM: What am I not reading, might be a better question? “You read anything,” according to my husband, “from caravan tales of African nomads to Janet Evanovich. And don’t forget to add a few parenting books.”

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

KM: I love, love, love to garden; it’s very restorative. Obviously I enjoy cooking, and reading. A few years back, I took up karate, and it’s surprised me how much I enjoy it – particularly sparring! I recently started a watercolor class, and I love it – I’m trying to do a little painting sketch each day.

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

KM: Chocolate, wine, olive oil, and pasta.

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

KM: Next up is probably another book in the Margie Peterson mysteries, and I am also working on a new cozy mystery series set in Buttercup, Texas, called the Dewberry Farm mysteries. It’s set in a beautiful part of the world, and I get to learn about Czech and German history and write about cooking AND gardening. There’s plenty of room for more stories in the Gray Whale Inn, too; in fact, I have so many potential ideas in my head I don’t know where to start. I suppose will write whatever is burning hottest when I finish my current project!

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

KM: Freedom to follow my fancy wherever it takes me!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Currently Reading...

I just picked a new book to read. I'm about to start reading Maltipoos are Murder by Jacqui Lane. This book is the first in the Doggie Day Spa romantic suspense series and will be released May 27. Cara Rogers moves to Virginia to help her aunt run La Maison de Chien, a doggie spa. I look forward to starting this series featuring dogs and some romance...along with a mystery.

Be sure to visit the blog June 15 when I'll have an interview with the author!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cozy Mysteries and Me - A Guest Post by Linda O. Johnston

Cozy Mysteries and Me
By Linda O. Johnston

I'm delighted to be here as a guest again on Cozy Up With Kathy. When I asked Kathy what she'd like me to write about she said that was up to me, but she anticipated it would include animals.

Of course it does!

Let me start by saying I love genre fiction, both reading and writing it. And those stories with animals, particularly dogs, are my favorites.

I wrote a lot before starting to sell anything, and when I began getting published my initial work consisted of mystery short stories. The first, "Different Drummers," won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award as the best first mystery short story of the year! It didn't include any animals, though.

At the same time, I was writing, but not selling, romances and mystery novels. Eventually, when I began writing time travel romances, my novels started being published, too. Did they include animals? Not all of them, but THE BALLAD OF JACK O'DAIR, about an Alaskan hero in Gold Rush days, included Taku, his wolf-dog. STRANGER ON THE MOUNTAIN was my take on why Penn State, where I went to undergraduate school, called its football team the Nittany Lions, even though there weren't any mountain lions around then--although that's changed now, I understand. And then there was ONCE A CAVALIER, another time travel romance. In it, the time travel that occurred to and from the time of King Charles II of England was based on the presence of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in the present or past. That's because Cavaliers are the descendants of the lovable little spaniels depicted in a lot of Old Masters artwork of the time, bred at court to help take fleas off the courtiers.

And my own dogs these days? Cavaliers! I've been owned by the breed for many years. I fell in love with Cavaliers on my first trip to London when I saw someone holding one on the underground and the rest is my history.

Fast forward to these days. I'd been interested in writing cozy mysteries but didn't begin to sell any till I wrote the first Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Rescue mystery SIT, STAY, SLAY for Berkley Prime Crime. It was about Kendra, a lawyer who lives in the Hollywood Hills, which is where I live. My law license is now inactive since I'm a full-time writer, but I'm a lawyer, too. And Kendra has a tricolor Cavalier named Lexie, who's depicted on the cover of SIT, STAY, SLAY. I'll bet you can guess my older Cavalier's name!

There were nine mysteries in the Kendra series, and my Pet Rescue Mysteries were a spin-off. In them, Lauren Vancouver runs a very special no-kill pet shelter in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley--and in the Pet Rescue Mysteries, "no-kill" means pets, not people! They are, after all, cozy mysteries. There are five books and one novella in that series.

Meanwhile, I've also been writing romances for Harlequin. My Harlequin Romantic Suspense stories haven't included animals--at least not yet. But my Harlequin Nocturnes include the Alpha Force mini-series, and, yes, there are animals in them. Some are real--cover dogs or other animals. And why do the characters need cover animals? Because those animals resemble how the humans appear when they've shapeshifted! The latest Alpha Force story, UNTAMED WOLF, was just released this month, and the next, LOYAL WOLF, will be out later this year.

My next mystery series, the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink, begins in October of this year with LOST UNDER A LADDER. They take place in a fictional town called Destiny, California, which is all about superstitions. Are animals involved? Of course! My protagonist Rory Chasen winds up running the Lucky Dog Boutique--and, yes, solving murders. I'm also working on another series for Midnight Ink that also involves dogs!

Okay, you get my drift. I love animals. I love writing about them. I've always loved animals and used to beg for a dog until I was eight years old and my grandfather bought me a puppy from a pet store--which we had to return, because all the dogs in that store had distemper. In those days you couldn't bring a dog into a home where there'd been distemper for three months, so I had time to pick out the kind of puppy I'd get next--which turned out to be a Boston Terrier, Frisky. I've had dogs pretty much ever since. I even wanted to be a veterinarian when I was young, until I realized I might have to do surgery or worse on my patients.

That's a good reason to write fiction about them. All dogs in my books, even the Pet Rescue Mysteries, are healthy and well cared-for, or at least they become that way. And I never depict abuse or worse. There's enough of that in reality.

And I always say, "Reality is for those who lack imagination!"

Sunday, May 11, 2014


We have a winner! Congratulations goes to Miss Carole, the winner of our Hannah Dennison giveaway! A hardback copy of Murder at Honeychurch Hall will be on its way to the governess giving smouldering but repressed glances to the master!

Happy Mother's Day - Spotlight

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there-whether you kids are human or another species. I thought that on this Mother's Day I'd spotlight a book featuring a fact a book that my mother told me about. I adore the early books in this series, but admit that the books fall flat in the end. Still, this book, the second in the Jane Jeffry Mystery series, is brilliant fun and both my mom and I loved it!

A Farewell to Yarns by Jill Churchill
published in 1991

from the back cover:

Knit One, Kill, Two

Life's hectic enough for a housewife who must survive the politics of a church bazaar and finish the afghan from Hell-without having to entertain houseguests as well. So Jane Jeffry isn't exactly thrilled when her old aquaintance Phyllis Wagner arrives with her ill-mannered teenaged son. Phyllis' visit turns out to be a short one-and suburban tongues start wagging.

Who's the killer? Was it her estranged tycoon husband, her smarmy, resentful stepson, or Jane's nosy, evil-tempered neighbor? And who dumped a second corpse in the dumpster at the mall?

It's Detective Mel VanDyne's business to find out-but Jane is making it hers. VanDyne is a handsome cop, and even if he calls her help "damned dangerous meddling," Jane calls it "solving the case"...and a good bit more interesting than her knitting!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Currently Reading...

While not currently reading, I am about to start reading Topped Chef by Lucy Burdette. This book is the third in the Key West Food Critic Mystery series and I'm trying to catch up! It looks like Hayley will be involved in a Top Chef type televised cooking show...but I have a feeling that murder is on the menu!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chatting with Hannah Dennison & Giveaway

I'm so happy to welcome Hannah Dennison to today's blog. Hannah writes the Vicky Hill Mystery series and is about to release Murder at Honeychurch Hall, the first book in a new mystery series.

Kathy: I've always been interested in old buildings, but most of the ones near me date only to the 1700s and 1800s. You grew up around ancient ruins and also have a love of old buildings, yet now live in the western United States. How do you find your current home, where buildings are much younger?

HD: The 1700s and 1800’s are definitely old by Los Angeles standards! Portland, Oregon (where I currently live), has some beautiful Victorian homes but I’ve not seen anything older than the mid 1800s. I definitely miss the sense of history in our six-year old townhouse but at least the plumbing works!

Kathy: Moving from the UK to the US, what do you find is the most difficult "American thing" to get used to? And what do you find odd that most Americans don't get?

HD: I could talk FOREVER about this. We’re definitely divided by a common language. If someone says “call you later,” I expect “later” to be at least on the same day—if not within a few hours. A “what’s up?” really used to make me uncomfortable. If you ask someone “what’s up” in England, it’s like saying, “what’s wrong?” What do I find odd? The English sense of humor can be very self-deprecating and especially what we call “gallows” humor. One time I made a flippant remark that if I didn’t hear from “X” by noon I would throw myself under a train. The woman I said this to was so horrified that she gave me the number of her therapist.

Kathy: It's said that Murder at Honeychurch Hall will appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs, and other such shows. Are you a fan of these types of shows yourself?

HD: Of course! As a teenager I was besotted with Captain James Bellamy in Upstairs Downstairs. I also adore Downton Abbey. I must point out that I would not have been one of the above-stairs residents had I been born in those days … I would definitely be below stairs. In fact my grandmother was “in service” and it was a very hard life.

Kathy: Kat's mom writes racy bodice rippers. Are you a fan of this genre? (I am!)

HD: I just finished reading E.M. Hull’s The Sheik—really old-school racy stuff that was published in 1921. It’s not as blatant as 50 Shades of Grey but there are a lot of smoldering glances and crushed lips. I’ve never had the courage to pen my own romance novel but writing vicariously through Kat’s mother Iris is so much fun.

Kathy: Honeychurch Hall has some resident ghosts. Are you a believer? Have you ever had a paranormal experience?

HD: I was happy you asked this question because I have seen a ghost. I used to live in a cottage on Chailey Green in East Sussex. It was built in the mid-1600s but the ghost in question died in 1851. His name was Thomas Jeffrey and he was the local butcher who met with a tragic accident when his knife slipped. I only saw him once but it frightened me half to death—and my cat. In fact it was my cat that saw him first. It was in the middle of the night and I was startled by this awful growling and hissing sound coming from my daughter’s bedroom (happily, she was away at the time). The room was icy cold. Standing in the doorway of the walk-in-closet (it used to be an old staircase) was a shadowy, translucent figure with reddish hair. After that, I sensed Thomas around me a lot and things got out of hand—poltergeist stuff. In the end our local church got involved and sent him to the light. I’ll never forget it.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

HD: I’m drawn to small town stories that could happen to you or me. You are writing about people you know, people down the street, your uncle, your neighbors. By definition, a cozy mystery includes these parameters: the victim and killer are known to each other. It’s not a random killing. The motive is domestic–it’s not a crazy person on a spree. There is little or no onstage violence, cussing or sex. There is no forensics. There is always a satisfying ending. My mother always says “no one knows what goes on behind closed doors” and I think that’s what I find interesting.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

HD: I have a couple of stand-alones I am working on but there will always be an element of suspense because I enjoy creating puzzles.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

HD: Murder at Honeychurch Hall: the first in the series My protagonist Kat stars in a hit road show called Fakes & Treasures. Weary of being permanently in the public eye, Kat switches careers initially to set up an antique business with her newly widowed mother, Iris. Kat’s mother, however, has other ideas and Kat is horrified to learn that not only has Iris secretly purchased a dilapidated carriage house on a crumbling country estate several hundred miles away from London, she’s actually an internationally best-selling author of erotica, writing under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm. An upstairs-downstairs backdrop wouldn’t be complete without a feisty, octogenarian countess but I also threw in a precocious seven year old who is obsessed with the famous fighter pilot called Biggles, a treasure trove of antiques, the occasional haunting and of course, the paparazzi, who are always hungry for celebrity news. As you can imagine there are plenty of motives for intrigue … and murder. Yet at the core of my new series is the relationship between a mother and daughter facing new and uncertain beginnings. I’m fascinated by the notion that it’s those who are nearest and dearest to us who are often the most duplicitous of all.

The Vicky Hill Mysteries: Vicky Hill is based on my own experience as an obituary writer for a small West Country newspaper. Vicky is in her early twenties and aspires to be the next Christiane Amanpour of CNN fame but she’s more like Lucy Ricardo. Her parents are wanted for armed robbery and are hiding out in Spain. Like all of us, Vicky has a nemesis. Hers is Annabel Lake. Annabel is everything that Vicky is not—sexy, worldly and someone who uses her sexual wiles and manipulations to get her own way. Vicky has never even had a boyfriend. She is far more interested in snagging her front-page scoop. Oh – and I always feature an eccentric British hobby as a backdrop. So far I’ve had hedge jumping, hedge cutting, snail racing and Morris Dancing. This series is very quirky.

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

HD: I love all my characters but some are more fun to write than others. In Honeychurch Hall, it’s the protagonist’s mother, Iris Stanford. I’d love to be more like Iris and tell everyone to mind their own business and live my life exactly how I want to live it! In Vicky Hill, it’s the paramedic Steve Burrows who is so besotted with Vicky that he just can’t accept that he’s being rejected. Steve’s eternally optimistic and because of this optimism, Vicky slowly begins to thaw towards him. I like that persistence!

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

HD: I honestly hadn’t considered getting published at all until I started the UCLA Writer’s Program. The instructor talked about us “getting published” and the thought of it gave me an odd thrill and a “Why not me? I’ll have a go!” Of course, the challenge of getting published took most of the thrill away …

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

HD: Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart, Anthony Horowitz and Jane Austen.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

HD: Endless Night by Agatha Christie, Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri, and a fascinating non-fiction book called Women of Devon by Todd Gray. I often read two or three books at the same time.

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

HD: I have a full-time job as well as a writing career so hobbies are few and far between. I try to walk every day; enjoy Yoga and Pilates and skiing. I’m very interested in British Heritage and in another lifetime would have loved a career in conservation or working for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. I’d love to restore my own country house one day.

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

HD: Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. (The dark variety-no truffles. I don’t like truffles).

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

HD: Yes! The second in the Honeychurch Hall series comes out in May 2015. I have been contracted to write two more. Meanwhile, I am currently writing a fifth Vicky Hill for Constable in the UK.

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

HD: All the wonderful people I continue to meet on my journey—amazing writers and generous readers, many of which have become very dear friends.

Hannah has kindly offered a copy of Murder at Honeychurch Hall to one lucky reader. To qualify all you have to do is comment on this post no later than 11:59 pm EST Saturday, May 10th telling us what role you'd have if you were in a manor house. Upstairs? Below? Cook? Governess? Baron? Also be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I can contact you should you win!

For more information on Hannah and her books, check out these links:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Researching Food & Drink - A Guest Post by Cathy Ace

By Cathy Ace

A topic that comes up a lot in Q&As with readers is how I research my books. I think it’s true to say that every Cait Morgan Mystery holds within it a fair amount of cultural background and historical context. This isn’t surprising since I have always been fascinated by such matters. But what I will admit to having done is making my protagonist a bit of an adventurous eater and drinker, because I also think that food and drink can tell us a great deal about a culture. And a person, of course!
In THE CORPSE WITH THE SILVER TONGUE Cait Morgan, my Welsh Canadian criminology professor, finds herself in the south of France. Being a woman after my own heart in terms of her attitudes toward eating and drinking (generally positive, with a side of guilt) I allowed Cait to indulge in some of the things I used to enjoy encountering when I lived in Nice. Escargots feature heavily in this book, as does champagne. At one point Cait even exclaims that she’s NOT looking forward to more servings of pâté de foie gras—something she thought she’d never feel nor admit to herself.
In THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE I dropped Cait into British Columbia’s delightful wine country, where she is a willing participant in a foodie feast. At one luncheon a “retro food” theme is employed, and Cait finds herself face to face with all sorts of “delicacies” she wishes she could forget. Of course, this is offset with servings of liberal quantities of local wines, and even some real foodie treats like snail caviar and chilled sweet and savory soups, so she struggles through the book somehow!
In her latest escapade she’s on the Pacific coast of Mexico, which could offer her tastebuds some real delights—the fish in the area is excellent, the local methods of preparation simple and delectable. But she’s disappointed by the “fake” food she seems to find. Cait also has to face up to the challenge of tequila, since she’s secreted at a tequila-producing agave plantation. It’s something she grapples with unhappily. As I had to myself. You see, I’ve promised myself and my readers that I will consume everything Cait does, and everything all my other characters do, too.
So—back to research. I promise that I do it for all the food and drink, and I also promise that it’s not always fun. Yes, to be fair it’s MOSTLY fun, but not all. My worst experience to date has to be tequila. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed discovering the very different flavors and sensations of the drink in all its forms. I also enjoyed the people who taught me about it—very genuine people who had worked hard, for generations, to perfect their method of making this now world-famous drink. But, although some tequila is very smooth and enticing, my body doesn’t seem to care for the after-effects. I found that even when taken in moderation, and accompanied by appropriate amounts of foods that are said to -allow the body to deal with the spirit produced by the awe-inspiring agave plants, I still found myself with a painful head the next morning, and an inability to face more than a couple of painkillers and a gallon of water! So, if you’re going to eat and drink your way through the Cait Morgan Mysteries, as I know some people, and especially some book clubs, like to do, let me be clear that I have warned you. Not everything is for everybody. Though the white chocolate bread pudding in her fourth mystery (THE CORPSE WITH THE PLATINUM HAIR, set in Las Vegas, and due out in September 2014) might be the closest thing to perfection I’ve ever tasted! Again, you have been warned!