Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Lucky Interview with Linda O. Johnston

I'm delighted to welcome Linda O. Johnston back to Cozy Up With Kathy. Linda has a new series which will make it's debut October 8th. Lost Under a Ladder will be the first in the Superstition Mystery series.

Kathy: Do you consider yourself superstitious? Has that answer changed since writing this book?

LOJ: I'd not thought of myself as especially superstitious before, although I did do the usual stuff like crossing my fingers now and then and picking up heads-up pennies I happened to spot on the ground. I'm always hoping for good luck--who isn't? I have found, since starting the Superstition Mysteries, that I'm a lot more conscious of superstitions, both my own and other people's. I'm always looking for more, too... and hoping for extra good luck!

Kathy: I will usually knock on wood, and will throw salt over my shoulder. Are there any superstitions you follow?

LOJ: As I said, I cross my fingers and pick up heads-up pennies and even other coins. I knock on wood, too--a lot more now that superstitions are constantly on my mind. I never walked under ladders, but you can be sure I'll be even more aware of that now and avoid them!

Kathy: Although I do follow some superstitions, some I patently disregard, like thinking black cats are bad luck In fact, I currently live with 2 black cats, Aleister and Licorice (along with Calumet and Mariusz). Are there any superstitions that you totally dismiss?

LOJ: Hey, other cultures consider black cats good luck! That's one of the things I've found about superstitions. They vary a lot. I haven't discovered anything that I completely shrug off but I do find it interesting that there are so many variations. And hugs to Aleister and Licorice as well as Calumet and Mariusz!

Kathy: What has been the most unusual superstition you've come across?

LOJ: Not sure it's the most unusual but it definitely caught my attention: I can understand why, if you trip going down the stairs it can presage bad luck, but did you know that if you trip while going upstairs that can mean an impending marriage in the family? Also, if you happen to own a cat and it sneezes three times, you may be catching a cold. 

Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this series?

LOJ: I happened to be knocking on wood one day, hoping that a wish I'd just made would come true--that I'd come up with an idea for yet another fun mystery series. It occurred to me nearly immediately: I'd just come up with that idea!

Kathy: Both your Kendra Ballantyne Pet Sitter Mystery series and the Pet Rescue series take place in California's San Fernando Valley, but Lost Under a Ladder is set in the fictional town of Destiny, near Ojai, California. Why the change in locations?

LOJ: I thought the Superstition Mysteries would work out best somewhere in which people flocked to learn more about superstitions and whether they were real. L.A. can be kooky, but it's not about superstitions--so I made up Destiny!

Kathy: Your previous mysteries were published by Berkley, but I see that your new series is published by Midnight Ink. Will you share the reason for the change?

LOJ: Things don't always stay the same in the publishing industry. As much as I loved writing my Pet Rescue and Pet-Sitter Mysteries for Berkley, both those series had pretty much concluded. I wanted to do something different but pet-related. Midnight Ink was interested in my idea for Superstition Mysteries and also became interested in another series, my upcoming Barkery and Biscuits series. I never burn bridges, but am delighted with my two new series and my new publisher, too.

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

LOJ: As I mentioned, I will be writing a second mystery series for Midnight Ink, the Barkery and Biscuits series where the protagonist runs a store that's a people bakery on one side and a dog bakery on the other. The first one, tentatively titled BITE THE BISCUIT, will be published sometime mid-2015. More Superstition Mysteries to come, too.

I also have further Alpha Force stories in the works for Harlequin Nocturne--my covert military unit of shapeshifters--as well as more Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stirring up an Interview, Recipe, Review, & Giveaway!

I'm delighted to have Daryl Wood Gerber with us today. Daryl, who also writes the Cheese Chop Mystery series under the name Avery Aames, pens the Cookbook Nook Mystery series. Stirring the Plot, the third, will be released September 30! In addition to our interview, Daryl shares a wonderful recipe. There's also a chance to win a copy of one of the Cookbook Nook books and a huge rafflecoptor prize!

Kathy: I love holiday themed books and am thrilled that Stirring the Plot is set around Halloween. Are you a big fan of All Hallow's Eve? Do you celebrate?
DWG: I love Halloween. When I lived in a flat neighborhood where lots of kids paraded in their costumes, I celebrated a lot. Tons of candy. Some scary sounds when the door opened. Lots of decorations. But we moved to a hilly area, and alas, I don’t do much any more. Maybe that’s why I decided to write about a Halloween theme in this book. So I could celebrate the entire time I was writing. I spent hours online (on Pinterest and elsewhere) looking at Halloween pictures for party and decorating ideas, food ideas, and recipes. It was delicious fun. 
Kathy: The Cookbook Nook has stocked up on Halloween-themed cookbooks and gadgets. Do you have a variety of Halloween cookbooks yourself?
DWG: I have a few. The Betty Crocker Halloween Cookbook is a great one for kid parties. As for gadgets, I also have pumpkin/ghost/witch cookie cutters. So much fun. For Mystery Lovers Kitchen, the blog on which I participate with other authors who love to cook up crime, we do Halloween Week each year. I’ve had a ball creating new recipes for that. Ghost cheese cupcakes. (The icing is made with goat cheese) Scary punch (with a frozen hand). So many more. In Stirring the Plot, I’ve included tasty recipes like caramel-marshmallow popcorn balls, some spicy homemade chocolate, and a witchy woman brew. 
Kathy: I love your covers, but this one for Stirring the Plot is extra special; warm, inviting, and mysterious all at once. Can you tell us about your covers and cover art? Did you give any suggestions as to what the covers should be like? Did you have any say in the matter at all? Do you know your cover artist?
DWG: I love my artist, Teresa Fasolino. She’s so wonderful!! She and I met in New York one year. She’s delightful and so talented. As for input, luckily for me, I get to give suggestions for my books’ artwork. I pluck pictures off the Internet to suggest the vibe that I want on the cover. I suggested that Tigger sports a witch hat. He wears one in the Black Cat parade in the book. Isn’t he adorable?
Kathy: I love that you include all sorts of recipes in your books. Which kind do you find easier to develop-sweet or savory?
DWG: I love both, so I don’t find it easier to do one or the other. I eat sweets when I’m writing. Usually about mid-morning, I have a need…with a cup of decaf coffee. Therefore, weekly I cook sweets. But savory is perfect for my husband, so I’m always trying to come up with something scrumptious for him. For the book, I focused on Halloween recipes. The only one in the book that isn’t specifically for Halloween is the French Silk Fudge cake. Um…divine!
Kathy: The Winsome Witches is the fundraising group working their magic in Stirring the Plot. Was this group based on a real one? How did you decide upon the name?
DWG: I read an article about a group of women in Los Gatos, California, who come together each year at Halloween to fundraise. They’re called the Witchy Women. They all wear witch hats. That’s about as much as I know about them, but the picture in the paper of the women gave me the idea to develop an entire story around a fundraising group. Of course, my group fundraises for literacy. So important! And just so no reader worries, these are not real witches. This is not a paranormal mystery. The Winsome Witches are simply women in Crystal Cove with a lot of verve and energy to do good deeds. Jenna’s Aunt Vera is a member.
Kathy: What fun events are going on at The Cookbook Nook or in Crystal Cove in Stirring the Plot?
DWG: In Crystal Cove, there will be a Black Cat parade, a pumpkin-carving contest, and the best window display award. The Winsome Witches are having a faire to kick off the week, and they end the week with their fundraising luncheon. At the shop, Jenna has hired a magician to entertain kids, and a local gardener will put on a display teaching customers how to make fun potions. So much to do and see for locals as well as tourists.
Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Jenna?
DWG: Jenna will be back in another story, Fudging the Books, which will come out in the fall of 2015. It occurs during the first week in February. Chocolate is always a great focus for the month of love, so expect plenty of yummy goodies. Yes, Rhett is still in Jenna’s life. You’ll learn more and more about their blossoming relationship as the series unfolds. In addition, it’s Pirate Week in Crystal Cove. [The town has a colorful pirate history.]  Aar, mateys, best be on your toes, for indeed, another murder will occur.
Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?
DWG: I write as Avery Aames, too. The next Cheese Shop Mystery, As Gouda as Dead, comes out in February 2015. What’s that story? When a beloved bar owner is discovered murdered on her fiancè’s farm, Charlotte Bessette is more determined than ever to contain the killer. For those who don’t know, Charlotte owns Fromagerie Bessette, or as the locals call it The Cheese Shop. She has been amateur sleuthing for five books. As Gouda as Dead is the sixth in the Agatha Award-winning series.

From Daryl Wood Gerber:

Often, fans write me about either my Cookbook Nook mysteries or Cheese Shop mysteries. (For those who don’t know, I also write under the pseudonym Avery Aames). Sometimes the fans offer praise. Not always. LOL!! I listen and I respond (usually). 

But whenever a fan sends me a recipe—they know I put recipes in my culinary mysteries—I sit up and take notice. I sit even taller when an item is naturally gluten-free. That means it doesn’t have wheat flour (or white flour as many know it) in the mix. I am a celiac, not just gluten-intolerant, so it’s very important I stay away from gluten. I can bake with rice flour, sweet rice flour, even coconut flour and so much more, just not regular old flour. By the way, I love when my fans take care of me!

Anyway, Nancy Foust me this recipe in a Good Housekeeping Magazine, the April 2014 issue, and I had to try it. The name alone made me want to taste it. Boy, are these good! So crisp and yet chewy. And pretty, too. They’re perfect for a book club or family…or just you. Enjoy.



1# powdered sugar (3 cups)
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa (used Penzey’s)
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large egg whites, slightly whipped
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 -1/2 c. dark chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In large bowl, whisk powdered sugar, cocoa and salt.  Whip the egg whites and vanilla to a gentle froth. Add egg whites mixture to the sugar-cocoa mixture. Whip with a spoon. Then fold in chocolate chips.  

Drop “dough” by rounded tablespoonfuls about a 1-2”  apart onto prepared cookie sheet.  They will “merge” into each other a bit, so beware. J

Bake 13-14 minutes. They’ll look set and crackly.  Don’t overbake. Let cool on cookie sheets 3 minutes; then, with spatula, transfer to cool completely.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Below is a tidbit about STIRRING THE PLOT, the next in my Cookbook Nook mysteries. It comes out September 30!  FYI, though I write a series, each book is a stand-alone and can be read first, even if you haven’t read the others in the series.

(3rd in Cookbook Nook Mysteries)

Halloween in Crystal Cove, California, is a big deal, involving a spooky soiree where the Winsome Witches, a fund-raising group, gather to open up their purse strings and trade superstitions. But party magicians, fortune-tellers, and herbalists are only the beginning of this recipe for disaster. Jenna Hart has packed The Cookbook Nook chock-full of everything from ghostly texts to witchy potions in anticipation of the annual fund-raiser luncheon. But there’s one unexpected addition to the menu: murder. When the Head Priestess of the Winsome Witches is found dead, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and Jenna will have to use more than just sleight of hand to conjure up the truth…

[This is NOT a paranormal story. It is a traditional cozy mystery.]



Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber
The Third Cookbook Nook Mystery

It's almost Halloween in Crystal Cove, California and the Winsome Witches are spearheading several fundraising events. From the Winsome Witches Faire to the haunted tour and Black Cat Parade, this book is filled with Halloween fun. However, the fun stops for the head priestess when she's found murdered. Was it her nasty daughter, a sister witch, an unhappy client, or someone else? Now Aunt Vera believes she's lost her powers, the sister witches (who don't actually practice witchcraft) are sniping at each other, and there's a feeling of dread around town. Has someone cast a spell on them? Between running her bookstore, learning to cook, and developing her relationship with Rhett, Jenna Hart is determined to help her aunt and if that means helping to solve yet another murder, so be it.
Daryl Wood Gerber creates a cozy autumnal read in this, her third Cookbook Nook mystery. Stirring the Plot gets readers in the Halloween spirit with vivid descriptions of Crystal Cove and its citizens as they prepare for the holiday. Cozy is an apt description of this book. Not only is the genre cozy, the entire book emits a cozy feeling. The warmth of the characters (even the prickly ones), the burgeoning romance, the adorable kitten, Tigger. Even though there is a murder, and suspense, the vibe is one of warmth and safety. You may be reading a murder mystery, but it's as if you're safe reading it snug in your own home with a blanket and a warn mug of cider.
While the release of Stirring the Plot helps to usher in Autumn, this book would be a pleasure to read at any time of year. Daryl Wood Gerber gives us a well crafted mystery filled with interesting characters I want to read even more about.

Recipes are included.


Would you like to own your own copy of a Cookbook Nook mystery? In addition to the rafflecoptor contest, you also have a chance to win a print copy of one of the books simply by leaving a comment on this post answering the following question: Do you have any special Halloween cookbooks? Let us know in a comment no later than 11:59 pm Tuesday, September 30th (release day). Please also leave your e-mail address and which book you would like, should you win (Final Sentence, Inherit the Word, or Stirring the Plot). Good Luck!

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Review - Fifth Grave Past the Light


Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones
The 5th Charley Davidson Novel

Darynda Jones leads her readers on an adrenalin rushed ride of sarcasm, caustic wit, hot sex, and a mystery or two...or three...or more.

In Fifth Grave Past the Light we find out a little more about Garrett and  the knowledge he gained while in hell, as well as the research that said knowledge inspired. We learn of some terrible information from Rocket and we see a more domestic side of Reyes; well, as domestic as the sexy son of Satan can be.

Driving the story, however, is the mystery of the 27 murdered women now residing in Charley's apartment. Who are they? Who killed them? And how can Charley help them cross?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There's more to it than the fun quotes that start each chapter, the quips and barbs from Charley and the gang. There's the intriguing puzzle that is the relationship between the Grim Reaper and the Son of Satan, the romantic relationship between Charley and Reyes, the family bond (that also includes friends) of Ubie, Gemma, Cookie, Artemis, and even Angel, Rocket, and Quentin. Emotions trump the blithe attitudes and sarcastic comments. These people care for each other and we as readers in turn care for them. No matter if you're in the mood for mystery, romance, or humor, you can find it all with Charley Davidson.

*** Warning*** This is NOT a cozy mystery. Also there is a scene that survivors of trauma may find difficult to read.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the Truth about the Other Side by James Van Praagh. A co-worker lent me this book and I'm enjoying this nice easy read. James Van Praagh is a medium who also developed the television show The Ghost Whisperer, which is based on the life of a friend of his, who is also a medium. In the book, James talks about his experience with ghosts and explains his beliefs regarding the afterlife. There are lots of anecdotes and well as protection techniques and exercises.

Monday, September 22, 2014

An Unlikely Interview

I'd like to welcome Clare Langley-Hawthorne to the blog today. Clare pens the Ursula Marlow Mystery series. The third book in this historical series, Unlikely Traitors, was released in July of this year.

Kathy: Unlikely Traitors takes place during the winter of 1913. What made you choose this time period for your series?

CL-H: When I was writing the first book in the series, Ursula Marlow walked into my head dressed in suffragette colors so I knew that was the time period for the book. I wanted to set the third book in the series, Unlikely Traitors at a time when there was considerable unrest, both in Ireland as well as in England, with fears of war and of a German invasion running amok. 1913, two years after the first book was set, seemed a natural progression as well as a way of setting a story during that time of unrest.

Kathy: Historical mysteries require an extra special brand of research. What's your favorite method to research this time period?

CL-H: I love nothing more than travelling to London and sitting down at the British Library to read periodicals, magazines and newspapers from the Edwardian era.

Kathy: The first two books in the Ursula Marlow Mystery series, Consequences of Sin and The Serpent and the Scorpion, were published in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Unlikely Traitors, the third in the series, was just published July 8th of this year, 2014. Why such a long wait for this book?

CL-H: My family and I undertook not one but two transcontinental moves which delayed finalizing the book and its publication. We moved back to Australia after 15 years living in the US and then, two years later, we returned to the US to live in Colorado!

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

CL-H: I fell in love with Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries and knew that if I was to write a novel, I wanted to emulate that kind of style. I’m also not a big fan of gore or intense violence.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

CL-H: Most of my work has either an historical or ‘alternate’ historical element. I am trying my hand at YA and middle grade fiction but both those fall much more in the fantasy, alternate history side of things.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

CL-H: The Ursula Marlow series is about a feisty, independent woman trying to make her way in Edwardian society. She gets involved in helping solve crimes only when she has something very personal at stake – in the first book this is the arrest of her friend and fellow radical Winifred Stanford-Jones, in the second in is the murder of her new friend Katya – the mysterious wife of a wealthy Russian financier. In the third book, Unlikely Traitors, it is defending Lord Oliver Wrotham on charges of treason.

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

CL-H: My favorite character has to be Lord Wrotham. In him I got to create my own Mr. Darcy (though my husband is a bit leery about that!)

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

CL-H: I just decided to write the kind of book I’d love to read if I was sitting on a beach and when Ursula walked into my head, I knew it would be a combination of history, mystery and romance.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

CL-H: My writing group really encouraged me and I was lucky enough to meet an agent at my very first writing conference who was interested in representing my work.

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

CL-H: Jane Austen, Vera Brittain, Charlotte and Emily Bronte.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

CL-H: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (for my book group) and Zeppelin Nights, London in the First World War by Jerry White (for research).

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

CL-H: I love crosswords and try to complete the New York Times crossword every day. I also love to paint, do yoga and Zumba (I love dancingJ)

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

CL-H: Vegemite. Wine. Cheddar cheese. Pasta. Hopefully I’ll never have to cook a meal that involves only those ingredients!

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

CL-H: I have an outline for a 4th Ursula book and am working on a draft for a new historical mystery series. These will probably have to wait, however, while I complete the middle grade ‘alternative history’ fantasy I am currently finishing up.

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

CL-H: It gives me the flexibility to pursue my dream as well as play ‘mum’ to my twin boys. I love that I can spend all day lost in my imagination (with my collie Hamish beside me) and still pick up my kids from school and help them with their homework (well, so long as it’s not math!)

For more information about Clare Langley-Hawthorne and her books, check out the following links:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lost Legacy - An Interview

I'd like to welcome Annette Dashofy to the blog today. Annette writes the Zoe Chambers Mystery series. Lost Legacy, the second in the series was released the 16th of this month.

Kathy: Setting plays such an important role in a mystery. How did you decide upon rural Pennsylvania?

AD: I’ve lived my entire life here in southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s home, so it was a natural choice. I have to do so much research on these books, at least I don’t have to research the location. I can simply take a drive!

Kathy: Zoe Chambers is a paramedic and you once worked as an EMT. Did your work experience serve as fodder for Zoe?

AD: Absolutely! But not the actual cases as much as the environment and the attitude of EMS workers. They’re a fiercely dedicated but irreverent group of people. To say we have an off-beat sense of humor would be an understatement!

Kathy: In Lost Legacy a recent death is tied to some that occurred over 45 years previously. How does working to solve a mystery from the past help and/or impede a current investigation?

AD: For one thing, the killer obviously had to be around 45 years ago if the cases are connected. But the fact that the killer has kept the crime covered up all this time makes things a little tricky. This character has gotten away with murder for decades and suddenly having the police poking around in it makes him/her a little nervous and a lot dangerous.

Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?

AD: As a kid, I loved The Hardy Boys. Then I graduated to Agatha Christy and Mary Higgins Clark. So I always enjoyed the genre as a reader. Plus I liked puzzles—both creating them and solving them. Writing them seemed second nature.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

AD: If nonfiction counts, then yes. Up until the time I signed my contract for three books with Henery Press, I was a regular contributor to Pennsylvania Magazine. As for fiction, when I was a kid, I wrote westerns and sci-fi, but once I wrote my first crime fiction story, I never looked back.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

AD: My series is about a small town Pennsylvania paramedic who’s also a deputy coroner, so she deals with life and death. In the course of doing her job, she frequently encounters Vance Township Chief of Police Pete Adams, helping—and sometimes hindering—his investigations.

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

AD: In Lost Legacy my favorite character has to be Harry Adams, Pete’s dad. He suffers from Alzheimer’s as did my father. There’s nothing fun about this disease, but I had to find a way to make Harry entertaining. While he isn’t exactly “based on” my dad, I did borrow a lot of my dad’s quirks and sayings (Harry likes milkshakes and calls Zoe “Sunshine”), so I feel very close to Harry.

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

AD: I had finished two books in a series that never sold and was looking for something else that I felt had enough potential storylines to go on for a while. I’d written a short story (A Signature in Blood) that had been published in Mysterical-e Magazine and had been nominated for a Derringer Award (2007). Someone asked if we were going to see more of Pete and Zoe. That was my inspiration!

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

AD: Probably my husband telling me to get a “real” job. Just kidding. Sort of. Seriously, I never looked at my writing as a hobby. It’s been my goal all along to get it published and earn some money at it. I’m not going to get rich, but those royalty checks keep my hubby from sending me off to get a job at Cabela’s!

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

AD: This question always gives me pause. There are so many! Lisa Scottoline, because I adore her and she makes me laugh until I cry. Hunter S. Thompson—I have no idea why except that I don’t think there could be a dull moment with him there. Tom Robbins—same reason as Hunter S. Thompson (and I can tell I’m in a weird mood by my choices here!). Finally Craig Johnson because I’m such a huge fan. I could sit and listen to him tell stories for hours.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

AD: I just started The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds by Katherine Ramsland. Not exactly a light beach read. I’m in research mode.

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

AD: I love horseback riding, although I don’t do much of it any more. I also enjoy camping and biking. Of course I love to read. And I adore my two spoiled cats.

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

AD: Coffee, peanut butter, chocolate wine (yes, there is such a thing and it’s fabulous!), and pasta. This is my deadline madness survival kit.

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

AD: I’m about to start revisions on the third book in the series. Bridges Burned is scheduled for release in April 2015 and deals with Zoe and Pete examining their futures—individually and as a “couple.” Also, I’m taking notes and researching books four and five.

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

AD: Being able to hang out with my imaginary friends without being carted off to the asylum!

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