Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading an ARC of Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber. This book is the 3rd in the Cookbook Nook Mystery series and will be released September 30th.

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.

Recipes included.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dreaming with Mary Kennedy & Giveaway

I am so very happy to welcome Mary Kennedy to the blog today. Mary and I are kindred spirits and I can't wait for you to learn more about her! Mary has a new mystery series coming out, the Dream Club Mystery series. The first, Nightmares Can Be Murder, will be published September 2nd.



Kathy: Setting is very important to a story. Your new series is set in Savannah, Georgia. How did you choose this location?

MK: There's something wonderful and mysterious about Savannah. You have the feeling that anything can happen there and I figured it was the perfect setting for a Dream Club.


Kathy: Allison dreams of running an old fashioned candy store. I could get in trouble in her shop; rock candy, candy buttons, marshmallow ice cream cones, root beer barrels, Charleston Chews, satellite wafers...Do you have a favorite old fashioned candy?

MK: I love licorice! When I was researching the book (what fun!) I discovered all kinds of delicious licorice, everything from peach to pineapple.


Kathy: I've always found the study of dreams and dream interpretation interesting. I wish I could film my dreams, sometimes they're even better than TV. Do you often remember your dreams?

MK: I do, and I always advise people to keep a notepad by their bed. If you wake up in the night, just write down a word or two about any dream you remember. Even a fragment helps, and maybe you can reconstruct the dream the next day.


Kathy: You've written a non-fiction companion to the series, Dream Interpretation. Can you tell us about this guide?

MK: It's only 99 cents on Kindle and all profits go to a wonderful animal rescue group, the Wayne County Humane Society in Lyons, NY. it's one of the few shelters in the country that rescues farm animals as well as domestic pets.


Kathy: How has your work as a clinical psychologist helped in your writing?

MK: It's made me more conscious of body language and speech patterns. It helps when I'm writing "tags" for a character.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

MK: It was a pretty natural progression. I'd written dozens of middle grade novels and young adult novels. They all were written in the first person. And I love to write humor, and I adore mysteries, so it seemed like a logical step.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

MK: I'm re-releasing three of my Penguin YA's this summer with new covers and new titles and adding a sequel to one.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

MK: The Dream Club is about a group of Savannah women who meet once a week to analyze their dreams, eat some delicious pastries and solve a murder or two! The Talk Radio Mysteries is about a psychologist who closes up her Manhattan practice to move to sunny Florida and become a radio talk show host like "Frasier." And she solves a murder in every book (like Jessica Fletcher). My agent sold the series to Penguin-Random House with five words: "Frasier meets Murder She Wrote." The two YA series are Hollywood Diaries and South Beach Tales. Hollywood Diaries is about a girl from a small New England town who finds herself starring in a Hollywood movie and later becomes a teen correspondent for an entertainment magazine. South Beach Tales are about a Miami beauty who learns that life in fast lane isn't all it's cracked up to be. They'll be on the website in the Fall.


Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MK: I love Lola in the Talk Radio Mysteries, she's mid-fifties and a B-list actress still waiting for "her big break." I did modeling, acting and television news writing before turning to novels, so I know exactly how she feels.


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

MK: I had a dream about a place where people could talk about their dreams--seriously! I thought, "It would be like a book club and the same people would meet every week, but instead of talking about books, they'd analyze their dreams. And then I thought, "Whoa--it would be even better if they solve a murder or two!"


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

MK: Someone offered me quite a bit of money to write a YA. That's exactly what happened. I'd worked as a copywriter for a rock radio station, and then written TV news for a CBS affiliate and I thought, "Why not?" It was a bit of a challenge because I'd just accepted a job as PR Director for a travel company the very same day and I only had 8 weeks to write the book. But it was for a Big Six publisher and they offered me money, so I said yes and signed on the dotted line!


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

MK: Oscar Wilde, Woody Allen, James Patterson and Janet Evanovich.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

MK: Currently reading Cliff's Edge by Carolyn Hart. It's set in first century Rome and is fascinating. Also reading Book Clubbed by Lorna Barrett and Never Tell by Alafair Burke.


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

MK: My main (and very pricey) hobby is cat rescue. I love all animals, especially cats, and have 8 rescued (and highly neurotic) indoor cats. I've done my best to psychoanalyze them, but have failed miserably. They'll just have to be "charming neurotics." It's surprising how many writers are animal lovers. I support about ten animal charities and I donate all my speaking fees to a cat welfare group.


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

MK: Dolphin-safe, water-packed tuna fish (for the cats). Gourmet salmon in tomato sauce (for the cats.) Fancy Feast (obviously for the cats) and CD vet food (again, for the cats.) I bet you're beginning to see a pattern here.


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

MK: I hope to continue both the Dream Club Mysteries and the Talk Radio Mysteries,along with the two young adult series I've revived.


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

MK: Meeting readers from all over the country, either by e-mail or social media the occasional book signing. I recently wrote a funny blog on The Cozy Chicks about some rather disastrous book signings. The Cozy Chicks are a group of seven "cozy" mystery writers and we take turns blogging each week. You can read it here. http://www.cozychicksblog.com/search/label/Mary%20Kennedy And I did a sequel the following Saturday, More Book signings from Hell.


****** UPDATED ********You now have more time to enter! *****************

Mary has generously offered a signed ARC of Nightmares Can Be Murder to one lucky reader. In order to qualify all you have to do is leave a comment here by Thursday night, July 31, 2014 at 11:59 pm EST telling us about your dreams. Are they vivid? In color? Do you remember them? Would you like to learn more about them? I'll use random.org to pick the lucky comment. Be sure to leave your e-mail address as well, so that I'm able to contact you should you win!


For more information about Mary and her books, check out the following links:

http://www.marykennedy.net -visit Mary's website.
Nightmares Can Be Murder, the first in The Dream Club Mysteries, available as pre-order right now! http://www.amazon.com/Nightmares-Murder-Dream-Club-Mystery/dp/0425268055/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397658929&sr=1-1&keywords=nightmares+can+be+murder+by+mary+kennedy
Be Mary's Facebook friend https://www.facebook.com/mary.kennedy.948
Follow Mary on Twitter https://twitter.com/marykennedybook
Link with Mary on Linked In  http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10658765&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Mary blogs every Saturday with the Cozy Chicks. http://www.cozychicksblog.com



Friday, July 25, 2014

Review - A Potion to Die For

Review

A Potion to Die For by Heather Blake
The First Magic Potion Mystery

A Potion to Die For is a fun read that kept me up way past my bedtime, even though I had to get up early!

Heather Blake writes a fast paced story for this, the first in the Magic Potions Mystery series. It starts with a mob chasing Carly Bell Hartwell, careens through various wacky characters, includes two wild car rides, and ends with me pushing on to finish as I had to know the ending.

The characters are fresh and funny, but there is a depth to these characters as well. I want to know more about them. A perfect example is Delia. When she first made the scene I thought, "OK, here's the nasty character that's going to make all sorts of trouble and is going to annoy me". Delia may be dark to Carly's light, she may cause problems, but I like her. There's a lot more to her than the stereotypical nemesis and even Carly comes to that realization. Plus, Delia has Boo!

If you're looking for a fun, fast read you need look no further. A Potion to Die For is perfect for whatever ails you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Currently Reading...

It's been a very busy week for me, with, sadly, little time for reading. Therefore, I'm still reading Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley. I am also thoroughly enjoying the story. The new journalist at an extreme sports magazine, Meg has padded the adventure experience part of her resume, and is soon forced to demonstrate her skills on a hike. No easy stroll through the park, the hike spirals downhill when a loud mouthed competitor winds up dead.

Although our protagonist, Meg, is quite young (a recent college graduate) I can still relate to her and enjoy learning more about her and her take on the murder investigation. I also love Gam and hope she takes an even larger role.

Adventure tips and scenic tour included.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spotlight - Buried in a Bog

I'd like to shine a spotlight on a book that's on my TBR pile. I own it and the second in the series, but haven't had a chance to read it yet! Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly is the first in the County Cork Mystery series.

From the back cover:

New York Times bestselling and Agatha Award-nominated author Sheila Connolly introduces a brand-new series set in a small village in County Cork, Ireland, where buried secrets are about to rise to the surface...

Honoring the wish of her late grandmother, Maura Donovan visits the small Irish village where her Gran was born-though she never expected to get bogged down in a murder mystery. Nor had she planned to take a job in one of the local pubs, but she finds herself excited to get to know the people who knew her Gran.

In the pub she's swamped with drink orders as everyone in town gathers to talk about the recent discovery of a nearly half-century-old body in a nearby bog. When Maura realizes she may know something about the dead man-and that he might be connected to another, more recent, death-she's afraid she's about to become mired in a homicide investigation. Maura has a sinking feeling she may really be getting in over her head...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Trip Back to the Jazz Age & Contest

I'd like to welcome Ellen Mansoor Collier to the blog today. Ellen writes the Jazz Age Mystery series. Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is the third and most recent addition to the series.


Kathy: Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is considered a soft-boiled mystery inspired by actual events. How did you come across the actual events?

EMC: While doing research, I was amazed to discover that Galveston’s Bathing Girl Revue evolved into the Miss Universe pageant, attracting bathing beauties from all over the world. The promoters wanted to compete with Miss America in Atlantic City so they decided to one-up that pageant and turn their contest into an international competition. Hard to believe that these young women—all in their teens to twenties, many of whom couldn’t speak English—had traveled so far to a tiny island, then population 50K, to seek fame and fortune. I turned that premise, with a twist, into BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS.


Kathy: As part of the Jazz Age Mystery series, Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is a historical mystery which requires some amount of research. What is your favorite research method?

EMC: I’m very visual and really enjoyed watching old movies to study the settings, styles and period detail of the 1920s. The snappy dialogue, slang and mannerisms seemed so over the top that the characters were almost like caricatures—but that’s how people really talked and behaved, at least in the movies. Luckily I found actual clips of Galveston’s Bathing Girl parade on YouTube showing how the girls perilously stood in open cars with little support, which I described in BATHING BEAUTIES. So dangerous! During the parade, tourists milled around the Seawall, walking between the cars, and the poor beauties had to hold on for dear life.

I also like to peruse old magazines, newspapers and photographs to get a feel for the era. One of my favorite ways to research is browsing at antique malls or shows and seeing vintage clothing, hats and shoes on display, and examining the old appliances and equipment they used then. Besides being a great history lesson, it’s a perfect excuse to go antique shopping! LOL


Kathy: Jasmine Cross is stuck between the world of gossip and glamour and the world of gangsters and and gamblers. If you had a choice, which world would you be in?

EMC: I’d like to do some of both since I think both worlds are fascinating in their own way. I’m intrigued by the criminal element—but only from a safe distance. That’s why I enjoyed freelancing for a variety of magazines, so I could explore different topics, meet interesting people and learn new things. I’ve interviewed all types of people, from garbage collectors to semi-celebrities, including Nancy Brinker and Suze Orman.


Kathy: Do you gamble (legally, of course-wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more)? If so, what games of chance do you prefer to play?

EMC: My idea of gambling is going to Vegas, sitting close to a band and playing nickel slot machines. Sometimes I even splurge on the quarter slots if it gets me closer to a good band. LOL I love the people-watching aspect in a casino, especially while they play Black Jack or poker.

Personally, I’d rather invest in a vintage purse or piece of jewelry than gamble. That’s where my research comes in!


Kathy: When I lived in Texas I visited Galveston and enjoyed my time there. What is your favorite thing to do on the island?

EMC: How cool! When did you live in TX? I enjoy sitting or walking on the beach, but when it’s hot, we prefer eating seafood in a restaurant like Gaido’s or Landry’s with an ocean view. Actually I love going to Artwalk and Artoberfest on Post Office Street in the Fall—live music, wine and cheese, antiques and artwork. I relate to artists trying to sell their creations!


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

EMC: I love the puzzle aspect and relationships in mysteries, not the blood and guts. I’d call my novels more soft-boiled rather than traditional cozies since they have hard-boiled elements, but the violence tends to be toned down. I get so queasy, I can’t even watch CSI or Law and Order!


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

EMC: No.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

EMC: In my soft-boiled Jazz Age mysteries, real-life rival gangs fight over booze and bars during Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, Texas—the “Sin City of the Southwest.” Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross, a 21-year-old society reporter, feels caught between two clashing cultures: the seedy speakeasy underworld and the snooty social circles she covers in the Galveston Gazette.


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

EMC: Jasmine is my favorite, followed by Amanda, because they’re both good girls struggling to make their mark in a town filled with corruption, decadence and temptation.


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

EMC: After going on a “mobsters tour” in Chicago, I found out Galveston had its own crime familes and connection to Al Capone. I heard all these wild rumors about Galveston gangs and wanted to learn more about the Maceos and the Beach and Downtown gangs.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

EMC: I came close to getting an agent but that was before Boardwalk Empire and the Great Gatsby helped fuel the Jazz Age craze. I’ve worked as a professional magazine editor and writer half my life, my brother is a graphic artist, and l have several editor friends so I charged ahead and decided to do it myself.


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

EMC: My answers may change every year, but for now: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and either Agatha Christie, Edgar Allen Poe or Shakespeare.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

EMC: The Illusion of Murder by Carol McCleary about the adventures of Nellie Bly. As the first female investigative reporter, she was fearless!


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

EMC: I worked for two antique dealers/designers between journalism jobs in my 20s, and became interested in old things.

I collect vintage purses and Deco vanity items, and enjoy getting worn or damaged pieces restored to their original condition—or better!


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

EMC: Milk, 7 Up Ten, ice cream, seasonal fruits, especially grapes and watermelon during the summer.


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

EMC: I have a few new ideas but it depends on interest and time. I want to end on a high note and keep the series fresh, rather than wear out my welcome.


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

EMC: I love connecting with readers who enjoy my books and give me their opinion and thoughts on my characters. A few readers have e-mailed me wanting to friend me on Goodreads—and I’m delighted—but now it looks like only my good friends give me five-star reviews! LOL

One gal e’mailed me at 3 a.m. after finishing Bathing Beauties and was so excited that I was working on GOLD DIGGERS. She knew so much about the history that she actually gave me an idea for the ending.

One fan of the series is designing knitwear based on Jazz’s character—cloche caps, I think. Can’t wait to see her book!

These types of reader responses make all the hard work worthwhile.

For more information check out the following links: 

Website: http://www.flapperfinds.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ellen.mansoorcollier?fref=ts
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Gold-Diggers-Gamblers-Guns-Jazz-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00KF3TJCM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401823006&sr=1-1&keywords=ellen+mansoor+collier
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6452242.Ellen_Mansoor_Collier


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Currently Reading...

I just started reading Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley. This book is the first in the Pacific Northwest Mystery series. Meg Reed is a recent college graduate with a degree in journalism. Sadly, she graduated when newspapers and other print media are laying off reporters rather than hiring newbies. Crashing on a friend's couch, Meg is desperate to find a job. When a surprise opportunity appears, Meg jumps at it-even though her experience with extreme sports is as a viewer, not as a participant. I love it when the character says, "What do I have to lose?" Uh oh....

Adventure tips and scenic tour included.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chatting with Victoria Hamilton

Join Victoria Hamilton and me as we talk about her latest mystery, Muffin But Murder, and other things!


Kathy: Merry has an eclectic group of friends of various ages, both in NYC and Autumn Vale. Is your circle of friends as eclectic with people from different generations? Do have both Shilos and Pishes?

VH: I have a group of friends whose ages range from fiftyish to mid-seventies, and acquaintances much younger. I don’t exactly have Shilos and Pishes, but my friends are quirky in their own unique ways, as we all are.


Kathy: Merry Wynter, who previously resided in NYC, now lives in a castle in the Finger Lakes region of NY. Jaymie Leighton lives in a 19th-century yellow-brick house on the Michigan/Ontario border but also stays in an island cottage. Sophie Taylor lives in an apartment above her grandmother's tea shop. If you could live in any of these places, which would you choose?

VH: What a great question! Sophie’s apartment is too tiny for me; I need storage… lots and lots of storage! I’d love to stay in Merry’s castle for a while, but I think it would get exhausting just running up and down stairs for stuff. And to clean!!! What a nightmare, not to mention the cost of running it, which is one of Merry’s main concerns. Ultimately I would love Jaymie’s house in Queensville, Michigan. I love everything about it, including the Belfast sink in the kitchen, the summer porch on the back and the long lawn ending in a parking lane behind.

But I kind of like Rose Tree Cottage, too… ;-)


Kathy: In Muffin But Murder Merry decorates the castle for a spooky soiree. Do you enjoy all things spooky? Do you like to decorate for Halloween?

VH: Actually no. I’m just not a fan of Halloween, and neither is Merry. (What a coincidence!) That’s why she tries to make it Hallowe’en Lite, though the coffin kind of lends itself to creepy!


Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for Muffin But Murder?

VH: It was basically a continuation from Bran New Death. The story wasn’t quite done yet, so I just continued on. It started with the party shop in Ridley Ridge… I got a clear image of the place in my head, and knew where I was starting.


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

VH: I’m in the thick of writing Book 3 right this minute! Merry is up to her ears in elderly ladies, amateur opera, snipey tea parties and Binny Turner still convinced there is treasure to be found in the castle! A whole passel of folks have moved in, and she’s tearing her hair out by the roots, right now. Oh, and muffins. Always muffins!


Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books in any of your series?

VH: Dee-lighted! I just finished a copyedit of No Mallets Intended, Book 4 of the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, out November 4th! I’m so excited, because the copyedit gave me the chance to go through it again, and I’m hoping that readers like what I’ve done. Jaymie is excited too because she gets to go hunting for another Hoosier cabinet! It’s definitely mostly mystery, but Jaymie’s love life is going to be in turmoil.


Kathy:A new interview section-this or that. Pick one of the 2 choices given.

Library or Bookstore: Library. I believe in libraries and contribute my books whenever I can, especially to small town libraries with a small budget. Libraries kept me going back in the poverty stricken days. I just love browsing, and I’d always leave with a heavy stack of books: fiction, art, history, cookbooks, you name it!!

Expositional or Continuing Story: Do you mean a series? I adore reading series, and have several that I follow. I can’t wait every year for another Sue Grafton!

Editing or Marketing: Dang… marketing I guess, because I love talking to readers and other writers! But editing is fun; I’ve written the book, so I’m not in a panic, and I just get to go through and clean up, rewrite, perfect. So… both??

TV or Film: TV. I’m a stay-at-home type.

Chocolate or Vanilla: Chocolate. With nuts.

Mountains or Beach: Beach. Mountains make me feel claustrophobic.

Tea or Coffee: Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon!

Cats or Dogs: Love dogs, but cats are just easier.

Summer or Winter: Fall.

Normal or Paranormal: Normal. Every time I try to write a paranormal, it turns out… normal. Mostly. Except for the werewolf series (Awaiting the Moon, etc.) I wrote several years back. Mwah-hah-hah!!

Vampire or Werewolf: Ah, well, there you go. Answered kind of in the previous question. Love wolves, so… werewolves, but only the kind that are actually beautiful wolves when they’ve shifted, not the standing-on-their-hind-legs, slavering, drooling and red-eyed kind of werewolf. Werewolves as heroes, I guess. Have a look at this page! http://donnaleasimpson.com/AwaitingSeries.html


Learn more about Victoria Hamilton and all her mystery series at: www.victoriahamiltonmysteries.com

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Tarot Mystery Interview With a Review & Giveaway

I'd like to welcome Steve Hockensmith to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Along with Lisa Falco, Steve has written The White Magic Five & Dime, the first in the Tarot Mystery series which was published the first of this month.
Kathy: The White Magic Five & Dime is written by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco. How does this collaboration work?

SH: We'll tell you when we figure it out! We haven't nailed down a system yet. The White Magic Five & Dime went like this: Lisa had an idea for a series, I added a bunch of stuff to it (murders, for instance), then I outlined and wrote the first book while consulting with Lisa on the tarot and the overall direction. For the second book, I again did the outlining and wrote the first third, then Lisa took over to finish the first draft, and we'll work together on revisions. I'm guessing the third book in the series will follow the same pattern...but I also wouldn't be surprised if it looks entirely different.


Kathy: I am a collector and have several tarot decks, including some super fun ones (I have a Gummy Bear set!). Do you have any tarot decks of your own? If so, do you have a favorite, or a most unique?

SH: Lisa has some offbeat decks, I think, but I've just got two of the old standbys: the Rider Waite and the Universal Tarot. I don't know if I could handle a Gummy Bear set. I'd be giggling too much to do a reading.


Kathy: Through the years I've frequented and loved spending time in many New Age shops. Is The White Magic Five & Dime based on a real shop?

SH: Yes and no. In the beginning of the book, our hero, Alanis, is extremely cynical about the tarot and anything New Age-y. She assumes everyone's a con artist -- and some of the time she's right. By the end of the book, however, she's come to accept that it's possible to be utterly sincere about the tarot, and one of the people who teaches her that runs a New Age shop. So you've got good readers and bad readers, which has been my personal experience. Lisa gives incredible readings. But I've also had readings done by people who were trying so hard to manipulate me it was almost laughable.


Kathy: Some people believe that all tarot readers and other new age and paranormal practitioners are con artists, while others are devout believers, and still others have a healthy skepticism but willingness to believe. Where do you fall on this scale?

SH: Oooo -- that's a toughie! I guess I'd describe myself as an open-minded skeptic. I think the scientific method is our friend, and I don't put any faith in anything magical or mystical. On the other hand, I think it would be arrogant to dismiss the spiritual realm entirely. As science advances, we're learning that all kinds of weird, counter-intuitive things seem to be true. Quantum entanglement, for instance, would seem to suggest that objects and events can be linked in ways that don't follow the rules of Old School cause and effect. Einstein even called it "spooky action at a distance," and if that doesn't sound like "the paranormal" I don't know what does! When it comes to tarot, I've come to accept that (A) there's something to it (because Lisa has done readings for me that were so prophetic it's almost disturbing) yet (B) I have no rational explanation for how it works.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

SH: My dad was always watching mystery TV shows and movies when I was a kid, and when I figured out that they were basically a game -- you're trying to be the first one to figure out the puzzle -- I found that I enjoyed them, too. I especially liked the movies Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun, because in addition to being entertaining puzzle-games they were funny, too. Ditto for the Thin Man movies, which I discovered when I was in college (and have since watched a gazillion times). The genre has moved away from that style, for the most part, yet it's still my favorite kind of mystery.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

SH: Oh, I dabble. I've written Westerns and zombie romance novels and kids' books and science fiction and fantasy and horror stories. So I get around!


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

SH: Thank you! What writer doesn't love an opportunity to plug mercilessly? My Holmes on the Range novels and stories follow a pair of cowboy brothers in the 1890s who set out to become detectives using the methods of their hero, Sherlock Holmes. The first book in the series was a finalist for an Edgar Award. I also wrote an original prequel and sequel to the bestselling "mash-up" Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And I've started writing a series of mysteries for kids with teacher and gadget-builder Science Bob Pflugfelder. The fourth book in the series, Nick and Tesla's Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove, comes out this fall.


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

SH: Of my own creations, I think my favorites are Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer, the heroes of the Holmes on the Range books. They're very different characters -- Big Red is brash and talkative, Old Red is moody and introverted -- yet they're both reflections of me. Except more heroic, of course. I've never solved a mystery greater than, "Where did the remote control go?"


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

SH: My inspiration was pretty straightforward. Lisa told me her idea for the book, and I said, "Throw a mystery in there and you'd have a great series." If only good ideas always dropped into my lap like that!


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

SH: I guess I’m just a show-off! I’ve always loved storytelling and entertainment and I’ve wanted to be a part of that in some way since I was a kid. In my early twenties, I toyed with the idea of moving to L.A. and trying to become a TV writer, but I was intimidated by all the negative things I’d heard about the industry. So I focused on trying to write books because it seemed like it would be something I could do entirely on my own without having to jump through a lot of hoops. That was a pretty na├»ve way of looking at publishing, but fortunately it worked out O.K.!


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

SH: From what I’ve read, I get the impression that the two writers who had the biggest influence on me – Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Chandler – were sour old poops. So I’d like to invite them, but only if they were going to show up in a good mood. I’d want to have David Sedaris there, too, but I’d be worried that he’d write about it later and I’d come off looking like a schmuck. So he’d have to sign a non-disclosure agreement for anything that happened that night. And finally I’d invite the science fiction and mystery writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch because (A) she’s always been really nice to me even though (B) we’ve never met face to face and (C) I’d need someone I could turn to from time to time to say, “Can you believe it? We’re in the same room as Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Chandler!”


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

SH: These days, I’m usually reading two books, one fiction and one non-fiction. (I like to read when I’m at the gym, but for some reason novels don’t hold my attention when I’m on a StairMaster.) So at the moment I’m half-way through 52 Pickup by Elmore Leonard and Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company by Harry Carey Jr.


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

SH: I have kids and a day job and contracts for several books, so I don’t have any hobbies. I barely have time to sleep and eat! I do have a lot of interests, though. Movies, music, politics, history, science, bourbon, beer. I manage to squeeze in a little of it from time to time – especially the bourbon – but I won’t be able to get serious about anything until I retire. Twenty five years from now, I plan to be one incredibly well-rounded guy!


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

SH: Leftover Chinese, leftover pizza, the aforementioned bourbon and fruit and vegetables I should really eat a lot more of.


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

SH: Lisa and I are hard at work on the sequel to The White Magic Five & Dime, and there will be at least one more book in the series after that. In the meantime, I’m working with Science Bob on the fifth book in the Nick and Tesla series while also making tentative plans to launch a new series for kids while relaunching the Holmes on the Range series. So plans? I’ve got too many!


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

SH: Writing is hard, having written is wonderful. I love being able to look at the shelf over my desk and see all my books lined up. It’s like the tagline at the very end of every X-Files episode: “I made this!” It’s a great feeling.



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Review

The White Magic Five & Dime by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco
The First Tarot Mystery


Alanis McLachland receives a phone call regarding her mother, the mother she hasn't had contact with in twenty years, the mother who has just been murdered. Alanis travels to Berdache, Arizona to deal with the resolution of her mother's remains and receive her inheritance (the White Magic Five and Dime- a new age store offering tarot readings) and perhaps search out justice. In so doing she encounters a threatening bailbondsman, a sullen teenager, a good looking cop, and the realization that all is not what it seems.

The White Magic Five & Dime is called a cozy and although it meets the general requirements (an amateur sleuth, small town environment-or neighborhood in big city, no graphic violence or sex) I would not classify it as a cozy. There is a tone to it; a grittiness, a harshness. This book is not a feel good story, the setting, not a place you'd like to hang out. You may be curious to visit, but I'm not sure you'd like to stay. However, while I find I can't call it a cozy, I certainly can call it a good mystery.

Alanis McLachland is not your typical heroine. She's brash, cynical, and jaded; not surprising given her upbringing. Periodically, throughout the book the authors take us back in time to see pivotal moments in her youth. We begin to understand her actions and her personality. These flashbacks give reason and show that behind the tough, non-caring exterior is a woman who does feel and ultimately does care.

Also interspersed throughout are images of tarot cards with the meanings as given by Miss Chance from the book, Infinite Roads to Knowing, the book Alanis has chosen to learn the tarot and her mother's latest con. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book as I also enjoyed the realization that while some tarot readers may be con artists the cards themselves can hold many truths.

Enter the White Magic Five & Dime with an open mind and no preconceived notions and you'll find an intriguing mystery you can enjoy.


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For a chance to win a print copy of The White Magic Five & Dime leave a comment here telling us if you've ever had a tarot reading and/or your thoughts about tarot cards by 11:59 pm Monday, July 14, 2014. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I'm able to contact you should you win. US mailing addresses only.



Friday, July 11, 2014

Review - A Dollhouse to Die For

Review

A Dollhouse to Die For by Cate Price
The Second Deadly Notions Mystery

Daisy Buchanan discovers a dollhouse that will be a perfect gift for a young friend, after a little restoration. But Daisy gets more than she bargained for with this purchase. There must be something more than meets the eye to this dollhouse. A dollhouse fanatic tries to buy it from her at a price much higher than its value, then someone tries to steal it! When Daisy finds the fanatic dead, electrocuted by one of her own dollhouses, she can't help but look into the crime. Unfortunately, she also has to look for a new location for her store, Sometimes a Great Notion, as she has a new landlord who wants to raise her rent threefold.

I admit that I had some issues with Daisy Buchanan in the first book of the series. I didn't really like her. In her second outing, however, I find that the behavior that bothered me in Going Through the Notions wasn't noticeable in A Dollhouse to Die For. Perhaps Daisy has grown, or possibly, the simple fact that she wasn't interacting with her daughter meant she hadn't the opportunity to bother me. Whatever the case, Cate made me like Daisy in this book and I enjoyed reading it.

Cate Price showcases the world of dollhouses and their collectors in the second book of the Deadly Notions Mystery series. We see the interest and the fanaticism, and how easily one can lead to the other. By the end of the book even I wanted to fix up my own dollhouse!

Household tips and recipes included.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Currently Reading...

I just started reading A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell. This book is the 6th in the Witchcraft Mystery series. I adore this series and am glad to be back at Aunt Cora's Closet with Lily and the gang. Lily happens to be a witch, a witch who specializes in fabric. She can read the fabric and sense the vibrations of the people who once wore the vintage clothes she finds. Although she's about to refuse to buy a truck of damaged clothes, she stops when a piece of clothing seems to call to her. The cloak, however, may prove to be more dangerous than it seems. Oscar (her familiar) knows something is wrong, but before he can stop her Lily puts the cloak on, and is awash in a nightmarish experience. In addition, someone connected with the cloak has been murdered-and I haven't even started chapter 3! I'm eager to see what else in store-and happily await reuniting with Sailor.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Go Organic! An Interview with Liz Mugavero

I'd like to welcome Liz Mugavero to the blog today. Liz writes the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series. A Biscuit, A Casket, the second book in the series, was released in April.


Kathy: Kristan "Stan" Connor bakes organic pet treats. Why go organic for our furry family members?

LM: What our pets eat is just as important as what we eat. Just like our own food, if we’re not paying attention to ingredients and how things are made we’re doing ourselves - and our pets - unknowing harm. Organic and local is always better. Plus, we’ve had so many incidents over the past few years with treats made in other countries getting our pets sick that there are very few non-homemade items I’ll feed. As a result, the cat/dog food bill is a little crazy….


Kathy: I understand you have a house full of animals (so do I). Do your pets enjoy bakery treats, organic or otherwise?

LM: Here’s to a house full of animals! Although I hope yours aren’t as messy as mine…. My schnoodle, Shaggy, loves bakery treats. She loves just about any kind of treat, but over time she has become picky and she knows the good stuff. When we go through a drive-through and someone hands her an off-the-supermarket-shelf cookie, she accepts it graciously then spits it out when we’re out of sight. But she devours the organic, fresh-baked treats. My other dogs are a tad more picky. And the cats are REALLY picky, but sometimes I get lucky! 


Kathy: Stan has a Main Coon. Is Nutty based on anyone in particular, a composite, or a unique fictional cat?

LM: Nutty is based on my own Maine coon cat, Tuffy, who was a stray living in the neighborhood. He was hanging around in the yard a lot, and finally began coming around for dinners. Then breakfasts and dinners. One night he didn’t show up, and he was “missing” for a few days. When he finally returned he’d been injured. After a vet visit and some discussion about what it meant to be an indoor cat, he moved in. He’s actually got a story coming out in September in a rescue anthology (I helped him write it). 

Nutty had a lot of the same background, although Nutty has some digestive issues, which are the catalyst for Stan’s cooking and baking organic. Tuffy doesn’t have those problems - as a matter of fact, he prefers junk food!


Kathy: A Biscuit, A Casket takes place at Halloween. What made you decide upon a holiday themed book?

LM: I love Halloween. I don’t think I made a conscious decision to write a holiday themed book, but rather it just seemed perfect to have a body found in a haunted corn maze like my dead dairy farmer, Hal Hoffman. Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday and I think it’s the perfect backdrop for a murder mystery. Plus, there’s just something so special about fall in New England, and I wanted to capture that in a book. 


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

LM: Cozies are just so much fun. You can have murder, laughs and food all in the same chapter. Plus, I love the communities that cozies take place in, and often wish I could move to one of these little towns and have these people as friends. 

Cozies also appeal to me, as I think they do to most people, because justice always prevails and every story has a happy ending. Who doesn’t want a happy ending? Especially since we don’t always get them in real life.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

LM: I am a fan of thrillers and dark mysteries as well. I have a book that loosely fits that description that I wrote before this series got picked up, and I’m now working with my agent to get that published as well. More to come, hopefully!


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

LM: The Pawsitively Organic Mysteries feature Kristan “Stan” Connor, a corporate PR executive who suffered a job elimination. Humiliated, she decided she’d had enough of the corporate and city life and picked up and moved to tiny Frog Ledge with her Maine coon cat Nutty, and in the process she realized her true calling was baking organic treats for furry friends. And solving murders. 


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

LM: I enjoy writing about all the characters in Frog Ledge, but I have to say I’m partial to Char Mackey. Char is a New Orleans native transplanted to Connecticut, and even twenty years later she’s kept her southern flair. She’s a lot of fun and she loves to cook and eat yummy southern food! I love that she keeps hoping a drive-through daiquiri business will pop up in Frog Ledge. If I know Char, she might just get her wish someday!


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

LM: My pets and my rescue work, definitely. It was like fate when I was able to combine both my passions - animals and fiction writing. In one of my past lives as a reporter, I’d sometimes get to write about the plight of animals, like the time I did a series on feral cats in the town I covered, but to be able to work rescue and health themes into my fiction is a dream come true.  


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

LM: I’ve wanted to be a published author since I learned how to read. When the Pawsitively Organic series came to me, I’d been trying to publish for quite a while before that. Some of those books are still kicking around and I have every intention of getting back to them. I love the idea of my books entertaining people, and I like knowing that I’ve created a place people want to visit over and over with people they would love to hang out with. It’s such a great feeling.


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

LM: Dennis Lehane, J.D. Salinger, SARK, Louise Hay. Can you imagine that party?


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

LM: I have a number of books going at any given time. It all depends on my mood. Right now, I have R.J. Ellory’s Saints of New York on my nightstand, my Wicked Cozy Author blog mate Edith Maxwell’s ’Til Dirt Do Us Part on my Kindle, and LynDee Stephens Walker’s Buried Leads on iBooks.


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

LM: Not surprisingly, I read - a lot. Lately I don’t have as much time to do that as I’d like, but I squeeze it in wherever I can. Since it’s summer, I love visiting famers’ markets in the area. And I love taking my dogs out to walk the green, just like the one in Frog Ledge. 

And on Wednesday nights from October through January, you can find me watching American Horror Story - my absolute favorite twisted show. 


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

LM: Vanilla flavored almond milk and spinach for my green smoothies, potato chips and coffee.


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

LM: Yes and yes! I recently submitted a proposal for books four, five and six in the Pawsitively Organic series, so fingers crossed that they will continue. And I mentioned above the book I’m making some edits on, in the thriller genre. Very excited about both of those projects. 


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

LM: I get to spend time with imaginary people, tell stories and meet amazing readers every day, both in person and via social media. What’s not to love?

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For more information about Liz Mugavero check out the following links!

Webpage: www.lizmugavero.com
Blog: www.wickedcozyauthors.com
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6475412.Liz_Mugavero

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Organization

I read a lot of books. I own a lot of books. Even though I have a library in my house, I still have books everywhere. My library is semi-organized, but I have more books than bookshelves, and then things get out of order. Books have specific places in other areas in my house as well: cookbooks in the sun room, animal books and science fiction in the living room, some culinary and animal mysteries in the dining room, and new age books in my bedroom. But books find themselves in other places as well-piled next to my bed, under the desk in my bedroom, around the computer, in the hall next to the library, even in the bathroom!

This disarray, combined with the sheer number of books leads to some doubt and confusion, as well as lost books. I won the second book in a certain series so I went out and bought the first one (I must read in order). Now I can't find either of them. I'm behind one book in another series. When the latest came out-I couldn't find the previous one that I know I have...somewhere. Then comes the wonderings. Have I read that book? How behind in the series am I? Have I read it, but don't own it? Or vice-versa?

I used to write all the books I've read in a notebook. Now I use Goodreads. However, I'm about to embark on a new system for the books I actually own. I'm going to start a new notebook and write the titles of books I own, along with their type (paperback, hardcover, ARC, or e-book) and whether or not it's autographed. I hope that by writing this down I'll refresh my memory of what books I own, those I still need to own, and hopefully where they are!

What do you think? Are you as unorganized as I? What system or systems do you use to organize and/or keep track of your books and/or books you've read?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Favorite Holiday - A Guest Post & Review & Contest



My Favorite Holiday
By Dawn Eastman


Halloween. Ghosts. Witches. Pumpkins. Costumes. I love it all. Even now, in the midst of summer, I’m already looking forward to Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday because, for our family, it’s all about fun. There’s no pressure with Halloween. You can dress up, or not. You can decorate, or not. There is no required large meal to be cooked and cleaned up. No shopping – except for candy, which really doesn’t count.

Autumn is my favorite season and so Halloween celebrations are an excuse to do all those great fall activities like going to an apple orchard, or a pumpkin patch. I drag my family to the local Living History museum every year for trick or treating in the old-fashioned town and horse and buggy rides through the spooky woods. We have popcorn and cider and listen to ghost stories. We roast marshmallows over a bonfire. As my kids get older, I’m worried I may have to borrow some neighbor kids just to have an excuse to go back every year.

The lead-up to the end of October is even better if there is a gloomy, stormy day so that I can read a good ghost story or gothic novel while lightning and thunder rage outside. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is a great modern gothic. Debra Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy is wonderful and the first one, A Discovery of Witches, takes place in the month leading up to Halloween. Katherine Howe’s Physic Book of Deliverance Dane is another witchy favorite.

On Halloween, I love to see the little kids come to the door with their princess and superhero costumes.  But even more, I love to see the big kids who are trying to hold on to childhood for one more year. On his first Halloween, my son spent the evening in shocked delight that every house he went to gave him candy. Now, he walks the neighborhood with his younger sister who generously shares her loot.

When we moved to Iowa, we had to get used to the different customs of our adopted state. For one thing, our city does its trick or treating on October 30th. Growing up in Michigan, October 30th was known as devil’s night, and only the tricksters were out roaming the streets. In Iowa, the kids have to tell a joke in order to get the candy. This is a tradition that I still am not used to and often the older kids demand I listen to their joke before they will accept my candy, which tends to take the shine off the exchange for me.

Be Careful What You Witch For, the second book in the Family Fortune Mystery series begins on Halloween night. In the woods. At Midnight. With a bonfire. Hope to see you there…

What Halloween traditions do you enjoy? Do you have any favorite spooky books? I’d love to hear about it the comments!

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Leave a comment answering Dawn's questions about Halloween traditions and favorite spooky books for a chance to win a copy of Be Careful What You Witch For no later than 11:59 pm EST Monday, July 7, 20014. Be sure to leave an e-mail address so that I am able to contact you should random.org choose your comment!

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Review

Be Careful What You Witch For by Dawn Eastman
The Second Family Fortune Mystery

In Be Careful What you Witch For author Dawn Eastman brings us back to the spiritualistic community of Crystal haven, Michigan. This, the second book of the Family Fortune Mystery series, opens in the midst of Fall Fun Fest. Clyde's friend Diana is in charge of the festival and has included a Wiccan Samhain ceremony to this year's schedule of events. After Clyde sees "something" in the flames a member of the circle collapses in what seems to be a severe allergic reaction. Was it merely an accident? No.

Dawn Eastman deftly handles her characters keeping them grounded (albeit kooky at times) personable (although annoying at times), and interesting. We want to spend time with these characters and learn more about them. I especially love how she's developing the romance between Clyde and Mac. Their major obstacle from Pall in the Family has been removed, yet we know issues will abound. However, we are able to see the deep concern and, can we say love, that Mac has for her. Eastman is able to keep it sweet, but not saccharine, actions are concerned, but not controlling; all in all an adult relationship handled with aplomb.

I loved this second entry in the Family Fortune Mystery series. It is interesting to see that even in a spiritualistic community, not everyone is accepting of Wiccans. We see prejudice and the unfortunate tendency of mankind to distrust and hate what is different and unknown. Even our protagonist falls into this trap with one of the new characters. Yet the subject matter is treated with respect and knowledge. Dawn Eastman gives us a realistic look into a paranormal world and I'm delighted to follow where she leads.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Untamed Wolf by Linda O. Johnston. This book is not a cozy mystery (although its author writes cozy mysteries too!) but rather a paranormal romance. Lieutenant Sara McLinder is the aide to a general with Alpha Force. She's just arrived at an out of the way military base. Although the general has hinted that the people here are different and even joked about them being shape shifters, she knows he must be joking. Mustn't he? I just started the book but can't wait to find out what happens!