Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Bite the Biscuit by Linda O. Johnston. This book is the first in the new Barkery and Biscuits Mystery series which will be released May 1st.

Carrie Kennersly loves her job as a veterinary technician in the small town of Knobcone Heights, but when the opportunity presents itself to own her own business, Carrie takes the plunge. While still working part time as a vet tech, she has just taken over her friends bakery and converted it into 2 stores: Icing, a bakery for people, and the Barkery, a bakery for pets! Her grand opening is going well, until Myra Ethman and her husband, owner of the town's pet store, enter spewing venom about Carrie's hand made dog treats and threatening to close her business down. The couple refuse to leave and Carrie finally tells the crowd that she'll find a way to keep Myra quiet! The next morning Carrie awakes to the news of Myra's murder and discovers she's the prime suspect!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Jersey Girl Interview and Giveaway

I'd like to welcome  Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa to the blog today. Jo-Ann writes the Jersey Girl Mystery series. Hide nor Hair, the second book in the series, was just released April 21st!


Kathy: New Jersey has a bit of a reputation, as do Jersey girls. Why do they have the connotations they do?

JR: I think women in New Jersey, at least those who grew up in the tri-state area, have to be tough. Life is fast-paced here and if you snooze, you lose. I think we're also a suspicious bunch, maybe even a bit paranoid, and we need an attitude to get through the day. And then we also have to contend with the driving! I mean, if that doesn't keep a gal in a highly irritated state, nothing will. Defensive driving is the only kind of driving we know. I swear, half the drivers in this area have no idea what a yield sign means!


Kathy: Were you a fan of Aqua Net back in the day?

JR: I was a huge fan of Aqua Net and I'll let you in on a little secret  -- I still am! It's better than gunking wet hair with gels and leave-in styling products that stick to my brush when I'm blow-drying and weigh my hair down. I just get my hair into some kind of a halfway decent style, give it a quick spritz, and I'm good to go.


Kathy: How has your work as a freelance correspondent influenced newspaper reporter Colleen Caruso?

JR: I think being a stringer has been the greatest influence for writing the series. Colleen begins her career the same way I did -- primarily by winging it. This creates some interesting moments as she feels her way through a story. I've been writing fiction since the fourth grade, but being a reporter is an entirely different kind of writing. A reporter has to be extremely accurate, she has to be able to connect with readers, and she needs to develop a rapport with the people she interviews in order to get the story. It's the perfect occupation for Colleen, who needs people to open up to her when she gets background for her crime column.  


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

JR: I love the crimes that take place in cozies. They're a little on the subdued side for the most part -- not generally huge headline grabbers. The suspects are usually from a small circle of suspects that have definite reasons for wanting someone to be dead, or for stealing a priceless vase or for ripping-off the elderly in the local retirement community. It's so much fun to eliminate people one by one as I'm reading  them  -- only to find out I got it all wrong at the end! I also enjoy the characters -- particularly the main character/protagonist. If she's likeable, she's relatable. We all need our heros.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

JR: I'm outlining a mainstream mystery right now, and have had several horror and science fiction stories published in the past. Horror is fun, but it's hard to find an original idea in this genre. How many vampires, werewolves and zombies does the world need right now? We're inundated with them at the moment, but I think they'll fade out for a while and then make a comeback -- which is why I write primarily mysteries. Murder never goes out of fashion.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

JR: The Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery series centers on Colleen Caruso, a part-time stringer for the Town Crier, the local newspaper, who is newly divorced and trying to find her way in world as a single mother. The mysteries in each of the books take place in the small, quiet shore community of Tranquil Harbor, New Jersey, which at times can be anything but tranquil.


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

JR: Because I based my protagonist on me, I won't say Colleen Caruso is my favorite (un-huh). The one character that I adore and who truly intrigues me is Colleen's boss and the Town Crier's executive editor, Ken Rhodes. He's suave, has a rigid personality, and yet can be so very kind. Oh, and he's gorgeous, which doesn't hurt!


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

JR: I can't really pin down anything specifically that inspired me to write the series. It just made sense to write what I know (like using a newspaper and using a small town, Jersey Shore setting) in order to make the story unfold more naturally. It's where I live and what I do -- familiar territory.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

JR: I've always written and knew someday I would try to get my work published. It wasn't until after I joined a local writer's group -- and this was many years ago -- that I started to submit short stories to various publications and anthologies. I wouldn't have dared to go for it without the encouragement of fellow writers. If anyone out there wants to see their work published, join a writer's group. The advice you receive from published authors is invaluable.


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

JR: I would invite Amy Tan, Susan Isaacs, Gillian Flynn and Mary Shelley. The dinner menu would be nothing but chocolate.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

JR: I'm currently reading Naming Jack the Ripper by Russell Edwards. I've read so many books on the subject that if I were just a few years older, I could be The Ripper.


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

JR: I'm an Antiques Roadshow junkie! I love the old stuff that turns out to be valuable enough to cause a major coronary.


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

JR: I always have fruit, which rots in the crisper because my intentions are good, but the Devil Dogs I keep around are even better. Then there's salmon, which I love (in the freezer) and boneless chicken breasts, because I'm always on a diet. I'm getting awfully tired of eating chicken and I'm not losing all that much weight anyway. I guess the Devil Dogs aren't helping much with the weight-loss thing.


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

JR: Yes! I'm currently working on a third book in the Jersey Girl series called Food For Thought -- which is the name of the trendy shore restaurant where the staff at the newspaper celebrates their fiftieth anniversary and where Ken Rhodes, the executive editor, is poisoned.


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

JR: My favorite thing about being an author is being able to live vicariously through the characters I create. I get to investigate crimes, plus commit murder, burglarize, extort, and do all the things I wouldn't do in my real life. 







a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A CONTEMPORARY TRIP TO MONTEVIDEO - Guest Post & Giveaway


I'd like to welcome  Jerold Last to the blog as part of the Escape with Dollycas tour. Jerold writes the Roger and Suzanne South American Mystery series. The Deadly Dog Show is the 6th in the series.

 
A CONTEMPORARY TRIP TO MONTEVIDEO

By Jerold Last


Given the fusion of travel and reading characteristic of Dollycas, I want to briefly discuss my real-life experiences in some of the actual places featured in my other books in the Roger and Suzanne mystery series in addition to “The Deadly Dog Show”. These books use exotic locales, mostly in South America, as a setting for their story.

In the summer of 2013 I flew to and from Montevideo from my home in Northern California. The trip takes about 25 hours airport to airport including the layovers for connecting flights; it’s a long way south and east of my home in Northern California to that part of South America. According to American Airlines, it’s about 7,000 air miles one-way. Our route took me from Sacramento to Dallas-Fort Worth to Miami to Montevideo and vice-versa. Miami-Montevideo and the return trip are overnight flights where an hour or two of sleep makes all the difference in how you’ll feel when you get there.

The overall impression I got from my previous trips to Montevideo was that little had changed over the 31 years I’d been going back and forth. This time it was different. New construction of apartments and buildings for businesses was evident as we drove west from the airport in the Carrasco neighborhood, all along The Ramblas bordering the Rio de la Plata as we drove into the heart of the city, and in Pocitos, the upscale neighborhood between downtown and Carrasco Elaine and I had lived in back in 1999. The book cover for my novel “The Matador Murders” is a photo of the actual area in Pocitos near the Rio de la Plata where we lived in Montevideo. Occasional new high-rise apartment buildings were going up seemingly everywhere downtown and along the Ramblas, inland from the river. Several buildings were being remodeled and modernized.

Gentrification of neighborhoods extended to restaurants. In 1982 you had your choice of beef or beef in any Uruguayan restaurant. It was very good beef, free range fed, either very large portions of the best of cuts individually or the parillada compleada (essentially all the parts of the cow barbecued at the same time), a meal guaranteed not to let you walk away hungry. If one were a vegan, you were dead meat at dinner (figuratively, at least). In 1999, you could find one or two restaurants in Montevideo with a rudimentary salad bar (lettuce, tomato, potato salad, canned beets or peas) to complement the beef. It is significant that even now, Uruguayans use the word “meat” as a synonym for beef. But, it’s even more significant that the menus in the better restaurants now have chicken, pork, and often a vegetarian selection available for dinner in the new Montevideo.

We ate at a popular superb new restaurant (Tandory, expensive by Uruguayan standards, but worth every peso of the bill) on an obscure side street in a residential area. Tandory’s offerings were every bit as good (or better) than the best restaurants of Sacramento or the San Francisco Bay area. The style was a fusion of Uruguayan and Thai flavors that really, really worked well. High points of my meal were Mollejas al jerez (Sweetbreads with mushrooms in a sherry-based gravy) and Red Naam Pescado (fish) coated with coconut and lemongrass, with a risotto of banana and cilantro. This went very well with a nice bottle of a red Tannat wine from the menu.

We went to another dinner a few nights later at a restaurant two blocks north from our old apartment. I didn’t recognize anything we saw---trendy restaurants, a new parking garage, banks, and a new shopping mall. Everything was new since 1999. We drove two blocks south and everything was the same---the same apartment building, the same small park where the Saturday morning Feria described in my novel “The Ambivalent Corpse” was held, the same buildings all around the park. The new construction at random in the better neighborhoods speaks well for the current state of the economy and the strength of the Uruguayan peso compared to the U.S. dollar. At the airport, I got 18+ pesos for my dollars when I exchanged currency. The last time I’d visited, just a few years earlier, the exchange rate was 28 pesos to the dollar.

The course on toxins produced by blue-green algae I helped teach at the University of the Republic went very well. There were about 60 registered attendees from Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Colombia, 46 scheduled contact hours (but a lot longer for the students taking the laboratory practical portion of the course), over a 5-day period from Monday to Friday. My lectures (presented in English with slides I prepared in Spanish) were well attended and went smoothly. Thanks to the improved version of Google Translator now available, it was easy to do the bulk of translating by computer followed by very careful proofreading.

The other guest faculty member was from Rio de Janiero. She lectured in Portuguese. It was the first time I ever listened to several hours of classes back to back in Portuguese, and I was pleased to find myself understanding a lot more than I expected to. A highlight was a “for-fun final exam”, played after the real exam, set up as a three-team competition in “Jeopardy” format. The students really got into that part of the course.

Saturday afternoon the world was put on hold for 3.5 hours to watch the under-20 FIFA World Cup Football (Soccer) Championship match between France and Uruguay from Istanbul, Turkey. I refereed youth soccer for about ten years here in Northern California while my sons were growing up, so I know the rules, which impressed my hosts quite a bit. France finally won a 0-0 match (two overtimes) by a score of 4-1 on penalty kicks (“penals” in Spanish). It was an exciting event for the Uruguayans, who had never done better than fourth place in previous World Cup under-20 competitions.
*********************************************************************************

The author is generously giving one reader an e-copy of his short story The Dog With No Name. Simply leave a comment on this post no later than Monday, April 27th at 11:59pm EST telling us if you've traveled to South America or have attended a dog show. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I may contact you should you win, along with your preferred e-reader format!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Brilliant Interview & Giveaway!

I'm pleased to welcome Mary Anne Edwards to Cozy Up With Kathy. Mary Anne writes the Charlie McClung Mystery series. The first book in the series, Brilliant Disguise, was released in February 2014 followed by A Good Girl. The third in the series, Criminal Kind will be released June 30th. So, if you haven't started the series yet you have time to catch up!


Kathy: In Brilliant Disguise, Charlie McClung leaves the big city for a small one when he isn't able to find fulfillment in his career or personal life. Have you ever made a similar change?

MAE: My husband and I moved about three years ago to be closer to his work. I retired from my job as branch manager at a small credit union and began writing full-time. Not quite as drastic as Detective Charlie McClung but was quite a change for me, leaving our home of 26 years.


Kathy: The Charlie McClung Mystery series is set in the 1980s. What made you choose this time period?

MAE: This was a time when technology was just emerging, computers and cellphones were not common place. I feel that detectives had to rely more on their interview techniques, observations, and deduction of clues.


Kathy: You are very active in social media. What are your favorite aspects of it? What don't you like about it?

MAE: I love being able to connect with my readers. I enjoy seeing their pictures, I laugh when they laugh, and I cry when they are suffering. I feel their prayers and I hope they feel mine. I feel like we are close friends and family. There really isn’t much that I don’t like about it.


Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?

MAE:I love solving puzzles, connecting the dots. I guess I’m curious, nosy, so to speak


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

MAE: I have written Christian short stories, few have been published. My first manuscript, “Useless Beauty,” is Women’s fiction. One day, I will dust if off and publish it.


Kathy: Tell us about your series. 

MAE:  Oh, that’s hard for me to do. The Charlie McClung series are mysteries with a touch of romance. That’s it in a nutshell. My characters are different from most mysteries. They are mature, respectful, and believable. They are based on people I know. I hope readers will fall in love with them and will want to get to know them more intimately.


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

MAE: Right now, I would have to say, Ma, Charlie’s mother. She is funny, lovable, a great cook, loves everyone, and everyone loves her. She was going to be in just one book but I’ve had so many readers asking me to bring her back. So she will be in the fourth and fifth book. Who knows where she’ll pop up?


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

MAE: The first book was based on a true story. I get inspiration from news stories and Tom Petty songs, note the book titles.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

MAE: My husband. He is my champion and cheerleader. With his support and encouragement, I followed my dream.


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

MAE: Just four? Fine, I’ll do my best to limit my party to four. Elizabeth Peters, Agatha Christie, Caroline Graham, and Wilbur Smith. If I can have one more, Gretchen Archer.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

MAE: A must read! Expedition Indigo by Stacy Allen.


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

MAE: I’m rather boring. I collect shot glasses. Whenever I travel, I like to find a Christmas ornament for my ornament tree. My hobbies are reading, watching mysteries and historical fiction. I love anything Egyptian. I tried to teach myself to read hieroglyphics but my eyes crossed. I’ll try again, one day.


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

MAE: Eggs, cereal, Almond milk, and Diet Dr Pepper.


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

MAE: Right now, I have ten planned for the Charlie McClung Mysteries, who knows there may be more. I will publish Useless Beauty, my first manuscript and republish my collection of short stories.


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

MAE: I get to create my own world. I’m a puppeteer making my characters do and say whatever I want. Well, sometimes, they tell me “no” and do what they want to do. Plus, I get to set my own hours.


******************************************************************************

Mary Anne Edwards has graciously offered a Kindle edition of  Brilliant Disguise and A Good Girl to Cozy Up With Kathy readers. To qualify all you have to do is comment on this blog post telling us what you like about mysteries set in the not too distant past. Also be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I can contact you, should you win. Leave your comment no later than Sunday night at 11:59 pm EST. I'll use Random.org to pick 2 winners, one for each book!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs. This book is the 16th book in her Tea Shop Mystery series.

Theodosia and the gang are back. Theo is attending the exclusive black tie opening gala for the Gibbes Museum. It's not quite her cup of tea, even though the museum is exhibiting an 18th century Chinese tea house. But she's there to support her boyfriend, Max the public relations director for the museum. Festivities grind to a halt when Theo discovers the murdered body of a major museum donor. Things get even stickier when Max gets fired! Theo is determined to set things right and prove Max isn't the killer-even if he did publicly fight with the dead man, days, then minutes, before the murder. There are plenty of other suspects though-the wife, the girlfriend, the business partner...Theodosia is sure to explore all the possibilities, while brewing up tea and serving the delightful delicacies of the Indigo Tea Shop.

Recipes and Tea Time Tips included.

I'm reading an ARC of the book-it will be published May 5th, but you can pre-order it now!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dead Girl Interview Plus a Review and Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Joyce and Jim Lavene back to the blog. Today we're talking about Dead Girl Blues, the second in their Taxi for the Dead series.


Kathy: In the Taxi for the Dead series we see a wide variety of paranormal characters. In addition to zombies, we also have a ghost and sorcerers. Why the variety?

J&JL: We really wanted to have the idea in the story that if zombies are possible, anything is. We chose Skye as a police officer to be one of the least likely people to believe this could happen and gave her an ‘I’ve seen everything’ attitude for this reason. We’re all so sure about the world we think we live it. But what if that world is turned upside down?


Kathy: Zombies seem to be quite popular nowadays. Why do you think that is?

J&JL: Probably the out of control fear many people feel today with world crisis after world crisis. I think many people really believe the end of the world is coming – why not zombies?


Kathy If you were on your deathbed and approached by Abe (or someone similar) would you take his deal and work with him in order to live another 25 years?

J&JL: I honestly don’t know. Skye has a powerful motivation. My kids are grown. That being said, most people would cheat death if they could, I think.


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

J&JL: When we were kids, we read all kinds of crazy stories about zombies, ghouls, and ghosts. But they weren’t brain eating zombies. They were people who crossed the wrong person or took the wrong turn. We wanted to get away from the brain-eating and back to the idea that people could be granted extended lives with magic.


Kathy: This series is a little darker and a little grittier than your other series. Was there a reason to write a not so cozy cozy?

J&JL: The characters come to you and you find a vehicle for them. I can’t imagine Skye being different than she is – gritty and a little sad. But she has a story to tell and we’ve enjoyed telling it. We never set out to write cozy mysteries, they kind of came to us. Sometimes other stories come too.


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

J&JL: Skye meets her father in Dead Girl Blues. She believed she was an orphan so this is a new shock for her. In the next book, she’ll meet her mother and learn the secrets to why they abandoned her and who she is.


Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

J&JL: Gladly! We have a new Peggy Lee Garden Mystery, Killing Weeds, coming out in May. It’s the tenth anniversary of that series. We also have a new Missing Pieces book out in June, A Watery Death – and book 8 in the Ren Faire Mysteries in July – Fatal Fairies! Thanks for asking.


*********************************************************************************

Review

Dead Girl Blues by Joyce and Jim Lavene
The Second Taxi for the Dead Mystery

Three years in to her contract with Abe, the Zombie Master, things aren't going well for Skye Mertz in this second Taxi for the Dead Mystery. Abe's sorcerer has been killed and someone is somehow turning zombies into ghosts and making them disappear. In addition, Debbie's husband's "condition" is getting worse and Skye discovers other "accidents" are occurring just as the one that killed her husband and almost killed her. Lucas has been helping her, but could he really be an evil sorcerer instead of a helpful housemate? Remaining alive for her daughter's sake is much more difficult that she thought!

Dead Girl Blues is a book of discoveries. When the body of Harold the Great, Abe's sorcerer, is discovered Skye is called in to investigate his murder. That task leads Skye to Harold's replacement, Artemis. What she discovers then is death changing. The discovery of not only what Artemis is doing, but who he really is, leads to a revelation about who she really is. Skye also discovers more about the death of her husband and the truth of her feelings towards Lucas.

While the Taxi for the Dead series fits the definition of a cozy mystery (amateur sleuth, no graphic sex or violence) I don't consider it a true cozy. I called the first in the series a "not so cozy cozy" and that remains true in Dead Girl Blues. A cozy mystery has a cozy vibe; its location and atmosphere make it a comforting place where you want to spend time, despite the abundance of murders. While I'd like to visit this part of Tennessee via the books, it certainly isn't warm and inviting. That's not to say Dead Girl Blues and the Taxi for the Dead series is all dark, dangerous, and gritty. There's plenty of humour too. I still giggle as I picture Lucas running from the hedge clippers!

While I don't consider Dead Girl Blues a cozy, I believe that cozy readers will appreciate its family values and the universal truths found within. It's a unique series with unconventional characters that tells a great story. I read and enjoy all types of books and I certainly enjoyed this one. I look forward to discovering more about the characters along with what happens next.


  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spotlight - Marked fur Murder

Today I'd like to shine a spotlight on a recently released book. Marked fur Murder by Dixie Lyle is the third in the Whiskey, Tango & Foxtrot Mystery series.

From the back cover:

Deirdre "Foxtrot" Lancaster returns-with her animal companions-for-life Whiskey and Tango-to fish for clues on the other side of death...

When zillionairess Zelda Zoransky decides to throw one of her famous parties-with a guest list as colorful and diverse as her private zoo-it's up to Dierdre "Foxtrot" Lancaster, assistant extraordinaire, to pull the whole thing off. But even with the help of her telepathic cat Tango and ectoplasmic pooch Whiskey, it's one killer assignment. Especially when she finds a corpse in the pool...

Marked fur Murder

The victim is the sister of Dierdre's boyfriend, Ben. The cause of death appears to be a plugged-in hair dryer that fell in the water. Ben, however, insists that a few volts couldn't have killed Anna. Like him, she's a descendant of the Cowichan tribe who, according to legend, has a way with lightening. One of the guests must have marked her for murder! But when the suspects include a Russian pet psychic, a schizophrenic writer, and a random rock star, it's more than puzzling to Whiskey, Tango, and Foxtrot. It's electrifying...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Secondary Characters - Guest Post & Review


Secondary Characters by Dawn Eastman 


I love secondary characters. As a writer, I can use them to add some humor, or wackiness, or excess of emotion. They can offer advice, or act as a sounding board. The best secondary characters have full lives of their own, and step into the action during a break in their own story. Some of my favorite secondary characters include the Weasley family in the Harry Potter books. Mrs. Weasley acted as a surrogate mother to Harry and provided a solid, nurturing safety net for all three main characters. Ruth from Louise Penny’s Gamache novels provides comic relief. Ruth’s duck, Rosa, helps to show a softer side to the cranky poet. Grandma Mazur and Lula from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels are often the main attraction as they get Stephanie embroiled in trouble and she finds herself trying to control their antics.

Often in letters from readers it is the secondary characters that get a mention. I think it’s assumed that the main characters are liked, but readers identify with certain secondary characters and begin to root for them to have a greater role, to solve their problems, or just to continue to be funny. Aside from the dogs, the three I hear about the most are Aunt Vi, Seth, and Frank (Dad). Each one of them shows us a different side of the protagonist, Clyde.

Aunt Vi definitely livens things up. If I feel like a scene is dragging, or it needs more action, I’ll add Vi and see what happens. She usually comes through for me with a crazy idea, an inappropriate comment, or a skewed worldview. Her matter-of-fact approach to many of the situations in the books coupled with her absolute faith in all things psychic provide such a fun viewpoint that I never tire of watching her wreak havoc.

Seth is a great sidekick for Clyde. He is wise beyond his years, but still young enough to be na├»ve about the harsher realities. As he is her nephew, she feels a responsibility toward him that is almost maternal while at the same time they are close enough in age that sometimes he is the reasonable one. He also injects a different viewpoint that is often at odds with Aunt Vi. His tolerance and acceptance of people acts as a great counter to Vi’s free-wheeling biases.

Finally, there is Frank. A retired dentist and the only one in the family with no psychic ability, he fills his time tinkering around the house and listening to his police scanner. He is Clyde’s rock. Even though she might not trust him with her next home improvement project, she trusts that he always has her best interests at heart. Something she doesn’t always feel about her mother or aunt.

As the writer, I have to negotiate with these characters to be sure none of them take over, or get lost. Some characters try to monopolize every scene they are in (Vi), and others fade into the background and have to be coached forward (Frank). But each one has his or her storyline and character arc. Sometimes that role is to help, sometimes to hinder, the forward motion of the plot. I’ve gotten attached to them and root for them as much as I root for Clyde.

Who are some of your favorite secondary characters? What kind of a secondary character are you in the lives of your friends or relatives?


*********************************************************************************

Review

A Fright to the Death by Dawn Eastman
The Third Family Fortune Mystery


Rule # 1, Don’t tempt the fates.

Clyde and Mac are together at last and driving to Chicago for a flight to Mexico to escape their well meaning, but always there families, as well as Michigan's winter weather, for some alone time. Fate has other plans, however, as an incoming storm has closed the airport. Fortunately, Mac knows of a romantic castle nearby. It's no warm getaway, but it's still a getaway. Until they discover the castle, which is supposedly haunted, is booked solid for members of a knitting retreat-and that both of their mothers, along with Aunt Vi, are in attendance! With no extra rooms it's decided they'll share-Mac with his mother and Clyde with hers. So much for that romantic getaway. They meet the other guests, including Clarissa, one of the not so liked owners. As the blizzard hits, the power goes out, and Clarissa is found dead. With the phone lines also dead, Mac and Clyde take charge of the investigation as they believe her death was no accident! 

A Fright to the Death is a slight departure from the previous books in the Family Fortune Mystery series. Gone is the psychic town of Crystal Haven, replaced with a reputably haunted mansion. Although present, I didn’t feel as much of the paranormal in this entry to the series.

We welcome new characters here, the owners and employees of Carlisle Castle as well as the knitters staying there for a conference, and learn the joy of yarn bombing. Unfortunately for Clyde and Mac we also get their families. Their appearance turns out to be fortuitous as well as fun for us readers. Dawn Eastman shows us the importance of families, however aggravating they might be. Aunt Vi’s meddling may just have shown Clyde her purpose in life and given her a reason to remain in Crystal Haven. Their partnership in the events at the castle coupled with an increased understanding of each other cement Clyde and Mac’s relationship even further.

With a healthy dose of humor and an intriguing puzzle A Fright to the Death is a great read. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Dead Girl Blues by Joyce and Jim Lavene. Three years in to her contract with Abe, the Zombie Master, things aren't going well for Skye Mertz in this second Taxi for the Dead Mystery. Abe's sorcerer has been killed and someone is somehow turning zombies into ghosts and making them disappear. In addition, Debbie's husband's "condition" is getting worse and Skye discovers other "accidents" are occurring just as the one that killed her husband and almost killed her. Lucas has been helping her, but could he really be an evil sorcerer instead of a helpful housemate? Remaining alive for her daughter's sake is much more difficult that she thought!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Wicked Interview

I'm pleased to welcome Amanda Lee to the blog today. Amanda writes the Embroidery Mystery series. Wicked Stitch, the eighth book in the series, was released last week.


Kathy: Marcy owns the Seven-Year Stitch. How did you decide upon a embroidery specialty shop?

AL: Actually, my editor Jessica suggested the embroidery specialty shop. She was, in fact, looking for someone to write a series involving the proprietress of this embroidery specialty shop. And here I was, way down here in Virginia, waving my arms and yelling, "Me! Me!" :)

Kathy: I love Irish wolfhounds. How did you choose that breed as a companion for your series?

AL: When I made Marcy such a small person, I knew I wanted her to have a huge dog. I've always loved big dogs. I currently have a Great Pyrenees. When I was a little girl, I had a Saint Bernard.

Kathy: Is Angus O’Ruff based on a specific dog, or blend of dogs, or is he completely fictional?

AL: I base a lot of Angus's antics on my dog Cooper. Cooper is very sensitive--like Angus--and when I'm upset about something, he hurries over to put his huge head on my lap.

Kathy: In Wicked Stitch Marcy has a booth at a Renaissance Faire. I love Ren Faires. Shopping and watching jousting and are my favorite activities. Do you get to attend Renaissance Faires? If so, what are your favorite bits?

AL: I've attended one and would love to go to more if I can only find them closer to home! Like you, shopping is one of my favorite activities. I also love looking at the costumes. At the one I attended, someone had a baby dressed as a fairy and I took a photo of her. She was so beautiful. She was, in fact, the inspiration for Laura's costume in Wicked Stitch.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

AL: I really enjoy reading cozy mysteries. Readers are able to enjoy the whodunits without the violence being so graphic. I also enjoy the sense of community. Some of my readers know Marcy and the other residents of Tallulah Falls as well as I do, and I'm constantly looking for ways to bring them something new and unexpected.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

AL: A small press recently published my standalone psychological thriller called In Her Blood under the name G. V. Trent. In the book, Alexandra McCormick’s great-grandmother was a brutal serial killer in the early 1900’s. With her mother currently serving time in prison for murdering Alexandra’s stepfather, Alexandra decides to do her college research paper on whether or not the tendency to commit murder or other violent crimes may be passed on genetically. Her research takes her to Savannah, Georgia, a city built upon its dead. There, she meets Chad Greenway, whose ancestor is Alice Riley, the first woman hanged in the state of Georgia. Alice was put to death for killing her abusive master. As a freelance writer, Chad agrees to help Alexandra with her research provided he can write a story about her quest. Soon it seems everyone Alexandra meets winds up murdered. It's a departure from the cozies, but the book is receiving some great reviews.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

AL: The Embroidery Mystery series features a heroine who recently moved to the Oregon coast to open an embroidery specialty shop. She takes along her faithful companion, a one-year-old Irish wolfhound named Angus O’Ruff. She makes many new friends in Tallulah Falls, but she also makes a few enemies. Thankfully, her best friend Sadie MacKenzie and her husband Blake run the coffeehouse right down the street from Marcy’s shop, the Seven-Year Stitch; and Detective Ted Nash always has her back.

The cake decorating series features a heroine who is starting her life over in Southwest Virginia after a nasty divorce. The heroine, Daphne, has returned to her hometown of Brea Ridge to open a cake baking and decorating business and is wrestling with the question of whether or not one can go home again. Daphne has reconnected with her high school sweetheart and is pursuing a rekindled romance while desperately trying to put her past behind her.


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

AL: Gee, that's a toughie. I love so many of my characters! I love Marcy because she's young and fun and quirky. I love Angus because he's Angus. And what woman wouldn't love Ted?


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

AL: I think the inspiration would be that intrepid sense of adventure down deep inside each of us that urges us to take a chance on whatever it is that will make us happy. With Marcy, it was opening her own shop and making a life for herself in a new place.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

AL: I hope it will entertain and maybe even inspire readers.


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

AL: Only four? Hmmm.... Mary Higgins Clark, Edgar Allan Poe, Dean Koontz, and William Shakespeare.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

AL: I just finished reading Anne Lamont's Bird by Bird, and I highly recommend it.


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

AL: I love reading, of course; and I enjoy embroidery and cake decorating on occasion. I Netflix binge. I'm currently watching Gilmore Girls and The Fall.


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

AL: Milk, Diet Coke, tuna, peanut butter.


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

AL: I'm working on a new series centered around a cafe. The first book is due to my editor in June, and I'll be using the pen name Gayle Leeson. I'm really looking forward to introducing readers to the residents of Plantation Valley! Also, I have an additional embroidery book and a cake decorating book coming out later this year.


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

AL: I love meeting readers. When people email me or come up to me at events and say they enjoyed my book, it makes my day.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Cup of Tea with Amanda Cooper

I'm so pleased to welcome Amanda Cooper to the blog today. Amanda writes the Teapot Collectors Mystery series, as well as the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series and the Merry Muffin Mystery series which she writes under the name Victoria Hamilton. Shadow of a Spout, the second in the Teapot Collector's Mystery series was just released last week!


 Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for Shadow of a Spout?

AC: I came across a beautiful copper and metal ‘teapot’ when I was doing research, and the more I looked at it, the more fascinating I found it. It became the ‘teapot’ that Rose takes to the convention to get authenticated. I guess you could say that was the inspiration.


Kathy: In Shadow of a Spout Rose goes to the annual convention of the International Teapot Collector’s Society. Have you ever been to a convention of any sort?

AC:  I am most definitely not a convention-al kind of gal, pardon the pun. No, I’ve never been to a convention, and may never. I think it would be cool to go to a mystery writer’s convention, but I’m a bit of an introvert. The thought of being ‘on’ for days just exhausts me.


Kathy: If there was an International Teapot Collector’s Society, would you join and attend meetings and conventions?

AC: No, can’t say I would. I’m not much of a joiner. However… if there was a teapot exhibit at a museum, I would just love to attend! I adore teapots, so research is a breeze. I don’t have much room in my home, though, so I collect pictures of teapots more than teapots themselves.


Kathy: Have you ever had an item you thought was valuable only to discover it was a fake?

AC: No, however, I always have the feeling that the things I value in my home, those items I think are worth something, probably aren’t! I love watching Antiques Roadshow, and it always seems to be the plainest, ugliest clay pots that are worth the most.


Kathy: What's your favorite part of a Victorian tea?

AC: Well, you’d think it would be the tea, right? And I do love tea. But I adore sweets, so the scones are my number one, because they’re not too sweet.


Kathy: Do you have a favorite type of tea?

AC: My go-to tea is just plain, black Tetley, the round teabags. In the US it’s called Tetley British Blend, but here in Canada it’s just… Tetley.


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

AC: The end of Shadow of a Spout indicates a change in the air for Sophie, but you’ll just have to wait and see. However… it’s not the end for her in Gracious Grove. You just know she can’t stay away from Nana and Jason and the rest!


Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

AC: It’s a busy year, as always. As Victoria Hamilton I write two other series, and both have releases upcoming. Book 3 of the Merry Muffin Mysteries, Death of an English Muffin, comes out July 7th, and Book 5 of the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, White Colander Crime, November 3rd.


******************************************************************************

Title: Shadow of a Spout
Series: Teapot Collectors Mysteries Book #2
Author: Amanda Cooper, aka Victoria Hamilton
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub. Date: April 7th, 2015

Shadow of a Spout:

Avid teapot collector Rose Freemont takes a break from her Victorian tea house only to find a new mystery brewing elsewhere...

Leaving her home in Gracious Grove behind her, Rose is off to the annual convention of the International Teapot Collector’s Society. Her granddaughter Sophie is minding the tea house while she’s away. Rose is eager for tough cookie Zunia Pettigrew to appraise a prized antique teapot she believes may be a holy water vessel from China.

But when Zunia declares the pot a fake, Rose is really steamed. After Zunia’s found dead beside Rose’s dinged-in teapot, Sophie must rush to her grandmother’s aid and find the real killer—before Rose is steeped in any more trouble…

********************************************************************************

To learn more about Amanda Cooper and the Teapot Collector Mysteries see these pages:

Website: http://www.victoriahamiltonmysteries.com

Killer Characters – 21st of each month: http://www.killercharacters.com

Victoria Hamilton/Amanda Cooper on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorVictoriaHamilton

Teapot Collector Mysteries on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amanda-Coopers-Teapot-Collector-Mysteries/296605927102353

Teapot Collector Mysteries on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/vintagekitchenm/teapot-collector-mysteries/

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Masque of an Interview Plus a Review & Giveaway

I'm so happy to welcome Susanna Calkins back to Cozy Up With Kathy. I first interviewed Susanna back in 2013 (here's a  link) for her first novel A Murder at Rosamund's Gate (you can see my review here). Now I'd like to welcome her and her third book in the Lucy Campion series.



Kathy: In The Masque of a Murderer Lucy gets involved with Quakers. The history of the Quakers is quite interesting. Were you familiar with the religion, either its current state or its beginnings, before working on this novel?

SC: Although I grew up in Philadelphia, a city which was founded by one of the first Quakers, William Penn, I did not know much about Quakers until I started to research them for my PhD dissertation in history. I was fascinated by this non-conformist sect—as a group, they likened themselves to the Old Testament prophets, running naked as a sign, wearing sackcloth and ashes, and speaking publicly against the king and other authorities. Female Quakers were incredibly vocal for their era, writing hundreds of tracts and communicating their ideas publicly at a time when women were expected to be “chaste, silent and obedient.”


Kathy: I find it so interesting that tracts were printed of people's dying words, and not just famous people. During your research were you able to read any? Do many still exist today?

SC: There are many published tracts and pamphlets from the 17th century still in existence today collectively called “Last Dying Speeches,” or “Last Dying Words.” There were different types, but many described sinners’ journeys, telling how they moved from a life of sin to a life of piety, or were the words of condemned criminals, in which they first asserted their crimes and wrongdoings, and then testified to their final rehabilitation and acceptance of their punishment, usually execution. Their intention was to inspire others to a life of godliness and sanctity, or to demonstrate how order was restored by the justice system.


Kathy: Lucy is a sort of printer's apprentice in The Masque of a Murderer. Were women actually able to have such jobs in 17th century England?

SC:Yes, there are many examples of female apprentices in the 17th century, and even more examples of women working alongside their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. There were many female booksellers. While a true apprentice would have had to pay the apprenticeship fee and be put to the guild for acceptance, there was great political and social flux directly after the plague and the Great Fire. With so much social disruption and breakdown of community bonds, there were many unusual opportunities for employment. Several Quaker printers were women, but they were outside the guild as well. So I thought it was completely possible that Lucy could be an apprentice of sorts.


Kathy: When it comes to writing I understand there are 2 general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pansters, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a panster, or do you fall somewhere in between?

SC: That’s a fun question. I definitely fall more in the pantsing category, but I have learned to envision the big picture. With my first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, I wrote most of the story without knowing who the murderer was. That’s a little problematic when writing a mystery, and not recommended! So I plot a little bit, but mostly dream up the story as I go, within some broad perimeters.


Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?

SC: It sounds morbid when I describe it, but when I would read these ‘last dying testimonies,’ I always wondered what it was like to be the person trying to write down these words and capture them for posterity. So an image came to me: A man has been accidentally—or so it is believed—run over by a cart and horse. And as he lays dying of these terrible injuries, he manages to tell one person—Lucy, who has been called to his side—that he was actually pushed and his murderer is likely someone known to them all.


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

SC: After the terrible winter of 1667 has passed, Lucy will find a woman wandering about the ruins of the Great Fire, clad only in a nightgown, but covered with blood that is not her own. She has temporarily lost her memory. There is reason to believe that she might be the missing daughter of a nobleman, and Lucy is asked to look after the woman. When the woman is attacked while in her care, Lucy finds herself pulled into a strange plot with far-reaching social consequences. This story is called A Death Along the River Fleet, and will be released next April 2016.

*********************************************************************************

Review

The Masque of a Murderer by Susanna Calkins
The Third Lucy Campion Mystery

Once again we are transported back in time to 17th century London. I was thoroughly intrigued when I first met Lucy Campion in A Murder at Rosamund's Gate. A uniquley educated ladies' maid whose intelligence was encouraged by her master, Lucy is now an unofficial apprentice to a printer in this, the third book in this historical mystery series.

While London recovers from the Great Fire, Lucy is working as a sort of apprentice to a printer. With Adam as a sort of suitor, she is also friendly with a local constable, a fact that sits none too well with the Magistrate's son. Meanwhile Adam's sister, once a flighty girl, has become a Quaker. Quakers were generally hated and often jailed for seditious behavior at this time, so Sarah's homecoming after traveling to the New World is not a happy one. When word arrives that an old friend, now also a Quaker, is on his deathbed after an accident, Lucy accompanies Sarah to pen his final words (a common practice). Briefly left alone with the man, he tells Lucy that it was no accident-he was murdered, his wife is in danger, and it just may be a fellow Quaker who did the deed!

Susanna Calkins makes the dark and gritty London just recovering from the plague and the Great Fire come to life. Her words make me not only see Lucy's world, but I can almost feel the bitter cold as I read, thankful I'm unable to smell the scents from the time. In The Masque of a Murderer we find not only a compelling mystery, but a historically accurate tale of life in 17th century London. I'm so glad that Lucy's back and I look forward to reading even more about her life and times.

********************************************************************************

Thanks to Susanna Calkins and Minotaur Books I have a hardcover copy of The Masque of a Murderer to giveaway. Leave a comment on this blog post telling us what interests you about historical mysteries no later than 11:59 pm EST Tuesday, April 14, 2015 for a chance to win. Be sure to leave your e-mail address as well so that I may contact you should yours be the lucky comment.