Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo. This delightful little book was published in 1906 and talks about the history and philosophy of the beverage developing into Teaism. The book is divided into sections such as The Cup of Humanity, The Schools of Tea, Taoism and Zennism, The Tea-Room, Art Appreciation, Flowers, and Tea-Masters. Kakuzo imparts such vast knowledge, but does so in an utterly charming and witty way. He had me laughing out loud several times already.

Okakura (his surname) discusses tea as an art form and a religion. What's interesting to note is that he wrote this book in English for a Western audience. If you're at all interested in tea, culture, and philosophy this is a book that should not be missed!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

TWO DOWN, BUN TO GO: Spotlight, Review, & Giveaway

Two Down, Bun To Go
Oxford Tearoom Mysteries ~ Book 3
H.Y. Hanna

A sinister phone call in the middle of the night throws tearoom owner, Gemma Rose, straight into the heart of a new murder mystery--this time with her friend, Seth, arrested as the key suspect! The grisly killing in the cloisters of an old Oxford college points to a bitter feud within the University--but Gemma finds unexpected clues popping up in her tiny Cotswolds village.

Meanwhile, her love life is in turmoil as Gemma struggles to decide between eminent doctor, Lincoln Green, and sexy CID detective, Devlin O'Connor... whilst her quaint English tearoom is in hot water as she struggles to find a new baking chef.

With her exasperating mother and her mischievous little tabby cat, Muesli, driving her nutty as a fruitcake--and the nosy Old Biddies at her heels--Gemma must crack her toughest case yet if she is to save her friend from a life behind bars.

** Traditional English Chelsea Bun recipe at the end of the story!

Available from:



The Third Oxford Tearoom Mystery

 A phone call in the middle of the night is never a good thing. Gemma is concerned when Seth calls and not only asks her to retrieve a letter, but to make sure she remains unseen by the police as she does so. What she wasn't expecting was that the police were at Oxford to investigate a murder...and she certainly never imagined that Seth had been arrested as the murderer! Cassie insists that Gemma investigate and the Old Biddies are already on the case. Will Gemma be able to help clear Seth? Will her argument with Devlin over information regarding the case push her closer to Lincoln? Will her mum survive a travel adventure to Jakarta? And will she be able to find a new cook for her tearoom?

H.Y. Hanna has once again pulled me into village life in the Cotswolds. Gemma is dealing with change as she looks to find a new baker for her tearoom and tries to see if a relationship with Lincoln would be better than with Devlin...all while trying to clear Seth of murder charges. Hanna also looks at the not so pleasant aspect of this bucolic countryside; the issue of homelessness plays a major part of  TWO DOWN, BUN TO GO. The homeless are treated with respect, yet not romanticized, nor villianized. Hanna paints a realistic picture of some people who happen to be sleeping rough.

When I read Hanna's books I get caught up and swept away in her words. One of the final scenes in TWO DOWN, BUN TO GO was an exhilarating rush that left me gasping for breath! Full of humor, there's always a well plotted modern take to the traditional British mystery. The Oxford Tearoom Mystery series is a fantastic series with warm and witty characters. There's the right amount of  quirkiness and fun to make you care as well as laugh. The Old Biddies and Meusli are each a force unto themselves, not to mention Gemma's mum! I can't wait to see what's in store for Gemma, Meusli, and the rest of the gang.

Recipe Included.



     When you’re jolted awake by the shrill ringing of the phone at two in the morning, somehow you always know it’s going to be bad news.
     Groaning, I dragged myself out of the depths of sleep and heaved up on one elbow, reaching for my phone on the bedside table. It slipped from my fingers and fell to the floor. Argh! I leaned over the side of the bed, groping frantically in the dark until my hand found something flat and hard. I scooped it up, fumbling to answer.
     It was my friend, Seth Browning, and the fear in his voice jarred me instantly wide awake.
     “Seth? What’s the matter?” I sat up in bed.
     “Gemma—” His voice was low and strained. “I need you to do something for me.”
     “What? What’s happened?”
     “You need to go to Wadsworth College. Now. And—”
     “Wadsworth? But it’s the middle of the night!”
     He ignored me and kept on speaking, “Go to the Porter’s Lodge and look in Professor Barrow’s pigeonhole. There’s a note from me in there—God, I hope it’s still there!—I need you to remove it.” He paused, then added urgently, “And don’t let the police see you.”
     “The police?” Seth, what on earth is going on?”
     “I can’t explain now, Gemma,” he said desperately. “Just trust me and do what I say, please?”
     He was scaring me. “But Seth—”
     “Okay, okay, but how am I going to get in? The college gates will be locked at this time of the night and I’m not one of the students. I don’t have the keys.”
     “You can get in from my side. There’s a connecting gate through from Gloucester.”
     “There is? I never knew about that.”
     “It’s not public knowledge, but those of us in the two colleges know about the shortcut. There’s a wooden door leading from the rear wall by the Master’s House in Gloucester into the Walled Garden on Wadsworth’s side. You’ve still got my spare keys, right?”
     I did. Like the typical absent-minded academic, Seth had a tendency to be so wrapped up in his books and research that he forgot practical everyday things. After yet another expensive visit to the locksmith for a new set of keys, Seth had finally asked me to keep a spare set for him.
     “Yeah, I’ve got them. But aren’t you at Gloucester yourself? Seth, you’ve got to tell me what’s going on! Where are you? And why are the police involved?”
     “Just get the note quickly. Please.”
     Then the line went dead.
     I lowered the phone and stared at the screen glowing blankly in the dark, as if it would give me the answers. I brought up the call register and noticed that it didn’t show Seth’s name. It was an unregistered number. So he hadn’t been calling from his own phone. What on earth was going on?
I can’t explain… trust me… please. Seth’s desperate voice echoed in my mind. I’d never known him to sound like that. Brilliantly clever but very shy, Seth had chosen a life of academia and remained at Oxford after he’d completed his Chemistry degree and graduate studies. He had been one of the youngest post-doctoral scientists to get the Senior Research Fellow position at Gloucester College, and divided his days between research and giving lectures and tutorials to students. He was usually the calmest, most precise and methodical person you could meet. What on earth could have happened to make him so rattled?
     I pushed back my duvet. It didn’t matter. Seth was one of my oldest friends—we’d known each other since that first week when we’d started as Freshers in Oxford together. I didn’t know what was going on but just the fact that he was asking for my help was enough.
     I switched on the bedside lamp and scrambled out of bed, shivering in the chill of the room. I dressed quickly, putting on several layers for warmth. It was mid-January and Oxford was deep in the grip of a harsh winter, with icy winds and ominous grey skies dominating the days. Going out now, in the middle of the night, would be freezing. I pulled a woolly sweater over my head, then added an extra fleece top for warmth, zipping it snugly up to my chin.
     I glanced back at the bed where my little tabby cat, Muesli, was sitting amongst the rumpled blankets. She tilted her head to one side as she regarded me with her bright green eyes, then she jumped off the bed and trotted to the bedroom door.
     “Meorrw?” She looked over her shoulder at me expectantly.
     “No, Muesli,” I whispered. “It’s still the middle of the night. You can’t go out now.”
     “Meorrw!” Muesli gave a petulant twitch of her tail.
     “Sorry…” I muttered, easing her gently away from the door.
     I opened it and slipped out, shutting it quickly behind me before Muesli could follow. Then I tiptoed downstairs, going slowly as I didn’t dare switch on any lights. In the hallway, I hesitated, wondering if I should leave my parents a note. They’d be worried if they awoke and found my bed empty, with no idea where I’d gone. On the other hand, I didn’t know what I should say; how could I explain why I was going out to Wadsworth College at this time of the night? Not without mentioning Seth’s phone call and something—some instinct—held me back from doing that.
     I sighed. This was another problem with moving back to live with your parents. I wasn’t used to having to account for myself to anybody anymore—after eight years of living and working in Sydney, freedom and independence were things I took for granted. Now it was weird to be back in a position where you had somebody worrying about you.
     I’ll be back in less than an hour, I thought. No need to leave a note. Least said, soonest mended. Not exactly the right proverb for the situation but close enough.
     I let myself out of the house and inhaled sharply as the cold hit me. It was frigid and a light fog lay on the street, turning the glow of the streetlights into pale halos in the night sky. I pulled my scarf up to cover my mouth, then unchained my bike from the railing at the front of my parents’ house, climbed astride, and pushed off.
     At least the streets were empty at this time of the night. I pedalled as fast as I could, the cold air biting my cheeks as I peered ahead into the mist. My parents lived in the leafy suburb of North Oxford and I followed the main artery of Banbury Road into the centre of the city. The bike sailed silently past rows of elegant Victorian townhouses, past the various University departments and colleges, until it merged into the junction at St Giles’. Normally swarming with hordes of tourists in the day, it was now eerily empty and silent. The Martyrs’ Memorial loomed out of the mist ahead of me and I let the bicycle freewheel past, skimming down Magdalen Street and then curving around into the wide boulevard of Broad Street.
     Filled with many of Oxford’s most iconic buildings—those “dreaming spires”, Gothic towers and grand college quadrangles that you saw on all the postcards—Broad Street was the symbolic heart of the University, the closest thing to the “campus” that tourists were always searching in bewilderment for. It was difficult for them to understand the collegiate system and that “Oxford University” was really spread out across the whole city, made up of nearly forty colleges and an assortment of department buildings, research laboratories, and libraries—all interspersed with the original houses, markets, and buildings of the historic town of Oxford itself. There was no campus—the entire city was the campus.
     Wadsworth College was one of the member colleges, tucked in amongst the cluster of ancient buildings that occupied the end of Broad Street. I cycled down the lane, past Wadsworth itself, and pulled up in front of Gloucester College next door. At least the brisk pedalling had warmed me up. Clouds of steam billowed from my lips as I got off the bike and paused to catch my breath.
     Like many Oxford colleges, Gloucester had a pair of giant medieval wooden doors guarding its entrance, their thick surface reinforced with iron bands and studs. College gates were usually shut in the evenings but all students (and college staff) were given keys to the wicket door—a small, narrow door cut into the wooden surface of the gate—so that they could come and go at any time.
     Seth’s keys worked easily and I swung the wicket inwards, stepping into the main quadrangle. It was deathly quiet. Quickly, I began to make my way across the college grounds to the south side, where its wall abutted that of Wadsworth’s. I was fairly familiar with Gloucester—not only had I been here several times in my undergraduate days but it was now Seth’s affiliated college, and it had also been involved in a murder case which I got embroiled in recently. I located the Master’s residence and, after a bit of searching, found the small wooden door embedded in the stone wall alongside. Funny how I had walked past it so many times without even noticing.
     A few minutes later, I was stepping noiselessly into the Walled Garden of Wadsworth College. Wadsworth was one of the slightly smaller Oxford colleges (though what’s considered “small” in Oxford is still spectacular everywhere else) and one I wasn’t so familiar with. If I remembered rightly, the Walled Garden was at the rear of the college. To get to the Porter’s Lodge, where the pigeonholes were located, I would have to find my way to the front gate. I looked around, trying to decide which was the quickest way there.
     Facing the Walled Garden was a large imposing Georgian building, all tall grid windows and classical columns, which I guessed was the college library. To the left of the library building was an archway. I walked over and peered in. A long, narrow passageway—almost like a tunnel—cut through to a courtyard beyond the library. No, wait, it wasn’t a courtyard, I realised, as I caught a glimpse of multiple Gothic arches and ornately carved pillars at the end of the tunnel. I remembered now—this was the Wadsworth College Cloisters. Many Oxford colleges had cloisters, a remnant of their monastic roots, usually situated around the college chapel.
     To my surprise, I saw lights at the other end of the tunnel. And movement. Lots of movement. Why all the activity? The Cloisters were in an isolated corner of the college, away from the student dormitory quads, the dining hall, and the main quads. It should have been dark and empty at this time of night but I could see beams of torchlight scanning the area, the powerful flashes of a camera, and the crackle of a radio… a police radio?
     Suddenly I remembered Seth’s warning about not letting the police see me. What was going on? Why were the police here? I hesitated, fighting my natural instinct to go towards the activity and ask someone for an explanation. I remembered the urgency in Seth’s voice and turned instead in the other direction.
     On the other side of the library building, the Walled Garden opened up into a wide path which led towards the front of the college. I hurried down this now, passing through a smaller quad and then the main quadrangle of Wadsworth College. I quickened my steps, crossing the flagstones of the quad as fast as I could without actually running; I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself.
     A high medieval gate tower was situated at the far corner of the main quad. The front gate of Wadsworth College led into the tower, so that all visitors had to pass through the tower to enter the college. Situated next to the front gate was the traditional Porter’s Lodge, where the college porters—who provided a combination of security and concierge services—had their desk and office. It was also where the pigeonholes were located.
     I slowed as I approached the tower. A group of students were gathered around the doorway to the Lodge and, from their drunken laughter and rowdy behaviour, I guessed that they’d probably just left a party. Most parties in college rooms were usually shut down after midnight and these were probably the last stragglers who had been kicked out. They were still in high spirits, monkeying around, laughing and teasing each other. The girls were wearing short dresses with flimsy cardigans for warmth and many of the boys had only a shirt, with no jacket or coat.
     My God, aren’t they cold? Then I felt a wry smile tug my lips. I’m sounding like an old granny. It wasn’t that long ago that I had been part of a crowd like that, with nothing more than a skimpy dress and high spirits to keep me warm. It seemed like a lifetime away. In a way, it was a lifetime away. Though it had only been eight years since I’d left Oxford for that graduate fast-track executive position in Australia, it felt much longer. Maybe it was because I’d changed so much since then and come to realise that all the things which had seemed so important to me, meant so little now. For one thing, I’d never thought I would give up that prestigious high-flying career to come back to Oxford and open a village tearoom…
     Then a figure stepped out of the Lodge into the quad and cut short my reminiscing instantly. I saw the black uniform, the peaked cap.
     Quickly, I ducked my head and shoved my hands into my pockets, assuming the slouching gait of a typical student. I sidled over and joined the edge of the rowdy group, hoping desperately that the constable wouldn’t look this way. Wrapped up in my multiple layers of wool and fleece, it would be obvious that I didn’t belong to the group if he really looked.
     I risked a glance in his direction. He wasn’t looking. In fact, he had his head down, talking into a radio. He drifted past the group, walking down the quad towards the rear of the college.
     I breathed a sigh of relief. I waited until he was a good distance away, then turned hesitantly towards the Lodge entrance. Would there be another constable inside? Did I dare risk it? The memory of Seth’s voice flashed through my mind and, taking a deep breath, I went up the steps into the Porter’s Lodge.
     To my surprise, it was empty. Even the porter’s desk was unmanned. I frowned but didn’t waste time trying to figure it out. That constable could return any moment.
     I hurried across to the far wall, which was covered by rows upon rows of wooden cubbyholes. These were the pigeonholes, the University’s internal mail system and yet another charming quirk of Oxford life. It might seem an archaic way to communicate but it was surprisingly effective. Each morning, the porters received mail for the students at their college address and carefully distributed the items into the correct pigeonholes. You could also leave messages for a fellow student or college tutor in their pigeonholes, as well as small items that were borrowed and returned. If you wanted to send a message to someone at another college or one of the University departments, there was the handy “pigeon post”—a free service which operated between all University buildings. Just label your envelope “By internal mail”, drop it into the wooden post box in the Porter’s Lodge, and it would be delivered by the next day.
     In the “old days”, notes left in people’s pigeonholes were the quickest ways of reaching them, better even than leaving a note under their bedroom door. After all, you might not return to your room during the day, especially if it was situated at the top of four flights of stairs at the far end of college, but you always passed by the front entrance several times a day and it became routine to pop into the Porter’s Lodge and check your pigeonhole regularly.
     I’d always thought that this quaint old system would be killed off—what with instant messaging apps and emails—but looking at the wads of paper and envelopes bursting from several pigeonholes, I was pleased to see that it hadn’t been abandoned. I scanned the wooden compartments, reading the names on each label. They were arranged in alphabetical order and I found “Prof Q. Barrow” easily—one of the pigeonholes on the top row. I glanced quickly around, then stretched up on tiptoe and pulled the sheaf of papers out of the compartment.
     There were two stamped envelopes, a photocopy of a journal article, a flyer from the Oxford Past Times Society, and a folded piece of notepaper. I unfolded the latter and instantly recognised Seth’s illegible scrawl. I shoved it into my pocket, returned the rest to the pigeonhole, and hurried back out of the Lodge.
     And not a moment too soon. I saw that familiar figure in the peaked cap coming back across the quad. Quickly, I stepped behind the group of students, keeping them between me and the policeman as he walked past. I slipped around to the other side and began to walk away as nonchalantly as I could. I had just begun to relax when I heard the voice behind me.
     “Excuse me, miss…”
     I faltered and turned slowly around to find the constable walking towards me.
     “Yes?” My voice came out in a squeak and I hastily cleared my throat.
     “You a student here?” he said, coming closer.
     I swallowed. Should I lie to the police? The answer was out before I realised it.
     “Yes, I am.”
     I held my breath. If he asked me to produce my university card, I was stuffed. I did actually have my old university card in my wallet but a quick glance would show that I wasn’t a member of Wadsworth and even wishful thinking couldn’t make me look like the photo of my fresh-faced, eighteen-year-old self.
     “Can you tell me if there’s another way into the Cloisters from here?”
     I relaxed slightly. “No, there’s only one way in and out of the Cloisters. You have to go through this quad and the smaller Yardley Quad, around the Walled Garden and then through a tunnel at the back of the library.”
     The constable scratched his head and gestured to the side of the quad we were standing in. “But… aren’t the Cloisters just on the other side of this wall here? So aren’t you doubling back on yourself? Isn’t there a cut through?”
     I shrugged. “Not that I know of. It is a bit of a roundabout route but that’s the way the college was built.”
     “Righto,” he said, making some notes on his pad. “And aside from the back gate by the student staircases, is there another way out of the college?”
     I hesitated. I couldn’t lie about this. “Yes, there is another gate. It’s in the Walled Garden. It’s a wooden door that leads into Gloucester College.”
     “Ah…” He wrote busily in his notebook, then gave me a nod. “Cheers.”
     He turned away and headed back into the Lodge. I hesitated. I should have taken this opportunity to escape, but curiosity was killing me now. What on earth had happened?
     I drifted towards the student group again and gently tapped the arm of a freckle-faced youth.
     “What’s going on? Why are the police here?” I asked.
     “Oh, hadn’t you heard?” He giggled drunkenly. “There’s been a murder in the Cloisters!”
     I stared at him incredulously. “A what?”
     “Old Barrow’s come to a sticky end,” said another boy next to him, with more glee than sorrow. I guess Professor Barrow hadn’t been particularly popular with the students.
     The first boy nodded, his eyes bright with excitement. “And they got the killer too! Caught him red-handed, apparently. Some young don over from Gloucester—”
     “No…” I said faintly, a horrible suspicion beginning to dawn on me.
     “Oh, there’s no doubt,” said the boy with relish. “The head porter found him standing over the prof’s body, holding the knife and covered in blood.”
     A girl squealed in the group and leaned over to join the conversation. “Is it true? Is it Dr Browning over at Gloucester? Fancy that! I’ve had tutorials with him. I never thought he’d be the type.”
     “Wait… No… this can’t be right,” I said desperately. “There must have been some mistake.”
     The freckle-faced boy looked at me solemnly. “There’s no mistake. Professor Barrow was stabbed through the neck and killed. The police have arrested Seth Browning for murder.”


For a chance to win an e-copy of TWO DOWN, BUN TO GO simply leave a comment on this post no later than 11:59 pm EDT Wednesday, June 29. telling us about your favorite British thing. Be sure to leave an e-mail address, so that I may contact you should you win, as well as the format of your e-reader.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Come, Bitter Interview & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Monica Knightly to the blog today. Monica pens the Stratford Upon Avondale Mystery series. The second book in the series, COME, BITTER POISON, was released earlier this year.

Kathy: Miles Elliot comes to Stratford Upon Avondale to play the title role in the Scottish Play. Is that one of your favorite Shakespearean plays?

MK: I hate to admit this, but no it isn’t. There are scenes in Macbeth that I love, but I tend to gravitate more to Shakespeare’s comedies. I did see a great production of Macbeth once though, that starred one my son’s teachers—a Jesuit priest! He was a fabulous Macbeth, but it was hard to watch him kissing his ‘wife’!

Kathy: I love gardens and it just so happens, several of my favorite plants happen to be poisonous. Do you have any favorite poisonous plants?

MK: My yard is filled with rhododendrons and azaleas and I only recently learned that they are poisonous. I love foxglove, though I don’t currently grow any. Daphne is my nemesis—I love it though I just cannot get it to thrive for me. And I’ve always dreamed of living in a cottage with wisteria growing over the front door.

Kathy: There are "copious amounts of tea" in COME, BITTER POISON. What's your favorite type of tea?

MK: Ah, tea!! I favor a good, strong, dark English Breakfast blend for general purpose drinking, and I have a few favorite brands that I always keep on hand. Recently, I’ve started drinking Darjeeling in the afternoon.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

MK: I’ve read mysteries all of my life, from Nancy Drew as a child, to traditional mysteries, police procedurals, and cozies. Cozies became a favorite when I went through a spell where I could NOT read anything with graphic violence in it. I still prefer my mysteries to skip the graphic parts, and as a writer I knew there was no way I could write graphic violence. Also, the cast of characters in cozy mysteries are always fun, intriguing, and a bit quirky!

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

MK: I do. I’ve written a couple of paranormal/historical romances, and in November I have a contemporary Young Adult book coming out. I’m an eclectic reader and writer.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

MK: Maggie O’Flynn, ex-nun turned steamy romance writer and tea room owner, finds herself solving murders in her new hometown of Stratford Upon Avondale, a faux-English village renowned for its Shakespeare Festival. The Stratford Upon Avondale cozy mysteries come with a bit of Shakespeare, a little romance, copious amounts of tea, and plenty of sass and charm!

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

MK: When I started planning this series, I knew I’d be spending a considerable amount of time with the characters so I set out to make most of them people I would want as friends. Having said that, I have to say my protagonist, Maggie O’Flynn, is my favorite. As a steamy romance writer and tea room owner who used to be a nun, Maggie offers unlimited possibilities for character development. And she’s fun to write! Maggie is confident, intelligent, kind, sassy, charming, and clever. I also adore her sidekick and best friend, Gina Mattucci. Writing Gina, a loud, brash, no-holds-barred character, is a kick and kind of liberating.

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

MK: I’m an unapologetic, lifelong Anglophile, so the faux-English setting, the tea room, the Shakespeare festival, and the copious amounts of tea were all inspired by that fact. Maggie is a combination of people I’ve known, in particular one of my best friends who was a nun for many years. She wouldn’t mind me telling you that the ‘sassy’ part of Maggie came from her. Every British mystery book or television show I’ve ever read or watched also inspired the series, both of which I indulge in maybe a little too much!

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

MK: I wanted to be a writer from the time I was about eleven or twelve, and it took me a number of decades to finally get around to fulfilling that dream. My other books are all traditionally published, but with the cozy mystery series I wanted full control of the process so I decided to go the indie route. I’m loving it and am very happy with my choice for this particular series. So now I’m a hybrid author.

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

MK: I like a lively dinner party with plenty of interesting conversation, so I’d go with Jane Austen, Stephen King, Mark Twain, and Maggie Stiefvater. Yes, that would be an energetic group of authors in one room!

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

MK: Louise Penny’s HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN. Ms. Penny is my greatest discovery of the past year—she is a remarkably talented writer and storyteller. I always tell people unfamiliar with her that reading her books is like wrapping yourself in a warm, soft blanket and drinking your favorite hot beverage. With murder on the side. She writes with a great sense of humanity. I’m also reading THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING by Bill Bryson. His travel narratives are always so amusing and eye-opening.

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

MK: I love to travel, anywhere, anytime. Of course, I’ve been to England numerous times. I used to dabble in genealogy, and when I started writing I didn’t have the time for it anymore. But I recently spoke with a distant cousin who shared some family history with me and now I want to get back into it. My husband and I like to hike and bike. I live in an area of the country that boasts many wineries, and I love to go wine tasting with family and friends.

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

MK: Extra virgin olive oil, tea, whole-wheat pasta, Dubliner cheddar cheese.

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

MK: I’m currently writing book three in the Stratford Upon Avondale mystery series, O HAPPY DAGGER. In this book Maggie will be wrestling with a lot more beyond the murder itself.

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

MK: As a child I had a very active imagination, and now I’m getting to use that imagination in a wonderfully creative way. There is nothing like spending a day in a world of my own creation, with characters I’ve developed and nurtured. And best of all is after the books are published and readers write to tell me that they enjoyed them!

Kathy: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

MK: Thank you, Kathy! These were wonderful questions that made me think!


Be sure to join the Rafflecopter, but I also have an e-copy of COME, BITTER POISON to give away. Simply leave a comment on this blog sharing your favorite Shakespearean play no later than 11:59pm EDT Monday. June 28, 2016. Be sure to leave your e-mail address and what format of e-reader you use. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 24, 2016

Interview on the Menu

I'm pleased to welcome Zanna Mackenzie to the blog today. Murder on the Menu is the first of her Celebrity Mystery Books.

Kathy: Lizzie’s new boss is celebrity chef Armand. Do you enjoy following celebrity chefs? Do you have a favorite?

ZM: I do like cookery programs, yes. I particularly like it when the cooking element is combined with travel and learning about foods and cultures in countries all over the world. The UK cooking duo The Hairy Bikers have done some great series where they travel around Europe, Asia and America on their motorbikes, cooking, eating and seeing the sights. I also like Hugh Fearnley Hittingstall of River Cottage fame.

Kathy: Do you enjoy cooking yourself?

ZM: I like baking cakes and I make my own granola and gluten free muffins but beyond that I’m afraid I’m not very good at cooking, my husband is much better! I tend to get distracted with ideas for plots in my books and end up scribbling down notes and forgetting about the food, so things can be a little burnt at times…

Kathy: Murder on the Menu is described as a "romantic comedy culinary mystery". Why did you choose to combine the genres?

ZM: I started off writing in the romantic comedy genre with a slight mystery subplot and found that I loved the mystery angle in developing a story, so decided to add more mystery into my next books, which is when I started the Amber Reed Mystery series and then the Celebrity Mystery series. With Murder On The Menu I loved the idea of a having a famous and successful chef with a fancy restaurant in the glorious Lake District and wanted to balance that out with the main character of Lizzie at the other end of the spectrum. She’s struggling to turn her life around after leaving London, her boyfriend and her high-powered career behind to live on a farm she’s inherited, working as a waitress to make ends meet and is on a mission to be able to bake like her aunt used to. The book simply grew from there.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

ZM: I love a good mystery but don’t like to read anything scary, nasty or violent. I used to watch the Mystery Woman films on TV where a book shop owner gets drawn into sleuthing and solving various mysteries and decided I wanted to read and write stories like those with some romance, humor and intrigue.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

ZM: Yes, my first few books (The Love Programme, How Do You Spell Love? If You Only Knew) are more contemporary romantic comedies in style. These days though, my books are all very much in the romantic comedy cozy mystery genre.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

ZM: My Amber Reed Mystery series follows Amber who starts out making up the horoscopes for a local newspaper and ends up sleuthing in the world of the rich and famous. She meets a special agent called Charlie, they become romantically involved and the mysteries in terms of various crimes to solve as well as their roller-coaster on-again off-again love life unfolds over the series. There’s currently 4 books and a novella in this series and I’m writing the fifth book at the moment.

My Celebrity Mystery series kicks off with Murder On The Menu where Lizzie’s city life falls apart and she ends up living in the wilds of Cumbria and waitressing to make ends meet. Her celebrity chef boss is murdered and she’s on the list of suspects and teams up with her gorgeous new neighbor Jack to clear her name. There are 2 books and a novella in this series and they follow Lizzie and Jack’s relationship and their crime-fighting adventures.

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

ZM: It’s probably Amber from the Amber Reed Mysteries. She makes me laugh and is great fun to write. I feel like she’s a friend now and love sending her off to solve a new case in each of the books. Amber’s changing a little with each novel and I’m thoroughly enjoying the journey she’s on.

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

ZM: No, I don’t think I do. My ideas for plots, settings and characters come from all over the place. Some are snippets of concepts from newspaper articles, TV programs, films, even other books. Most of the time though, the ideas spring from the characters themselves. That’s the joy of writing in a series, you get to know your characters so well that it’s almost as though they’re pushing ideas into your head!

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

ZM: My husband! My journey to being published is a long story over several years but it was my husband who coaxed me to actually send off two of my completed manuscripts to publishers. I was too scared to do it! He encouraged me and I sent one book to a UK publisher and a different book to a US publisher. I told myself to forget about them because there was no way I’d get offered contracts. Two weeks later, I had a contract offer from the US publisher on that book and a week after that, I had a contract offer from the UK publisher on the other book. I was absolutely stunned and completely delighted!

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

ZM: Hmm… tough question. Let me see… probably the Chick Lit Queen Jill Mansell because she was one of the first authors where I read all of her books as soon as I discovered her. She inspired me to start writing myself. Next, probably Carole Matthews, for a similar reason. Thirdly, the romance author Katie Fforde. When I was starting out on my writing journey, I joined the Romantic Novelist’s Association and was in a forum. Back then she was (and still is) a top-selling author, yet she took the time to help and encourage those taking their first steps on the writing ladder. She really spurred me on with my writing goals. Finally, but by no means least, the American author Caroline Fardig. We have a very similar writing style and write series in the same genre (she writes the Lizzie Hart Mysteries and the Java Jive Mysteries) and I love and read all of her books. We’ve become friends via social media and emails but as she lives in the USA and I’m in the UK, we have never actually met so it would be great to invite her to my dinner party.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

ZM: I read across a few genres but one thing a book definitely needs to have for me to read it is romance woven into the plot. I read cozy mysteries, chick lit, contemporary romance and romantic suspense. I’m currently in a British romantic comedy phase and am reading the fifth book in Jenny Oliver’s Cherry Pie Island series.

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

ZM: I love to pull on wellington boots and get out to do some gardening. We have a small garden but I’ve crammed in a tiny greenhouse to grow some tomatoes and also have a few raised beds for lettuces, cucumbers and beans. We have four dogs which keeps us busy looking after and walking them. Fortunately, I enjoy lots of walks in the countryside!

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

ZM: The fridge is stocked with fruits and salad stuff right now as we’ve just had a rare spell of hot weather in the UK – but now it’s been raining for three days so I don’t fancy salad! Sorry, right, down to specifics, four items to select to tell you about – chocolate mousse, sweet potatoes, some salmon fillets, and sweet fire beetroot.

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

ZM: Yes, I’m working on book 5 in the Amber Reed Mystery series which is set at a summer music festival. I also have a new series coming out which will be three standalone mysteries with some comedy and romance woven in, but they will be linked as a trilogy via the fact each book will focus on the story and amateur sleuthing of one of three sisters.

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

ZM: Getting to create characters, settings and plots – it’s tremendous fun. I also love that I get to work from home – no commute, I get to keep an eye on our dogs, spend more time with my husband (who also works from home part of the week as he’s a self-employed acupuncturist and sports therapist) and I have the luxury of setting up my laptop wherever I like indoors or out, depending on the time of year and the weather.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Scared Witchless Interview

I'm pleased to welcome Amy Boyles to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Amy writes the Bless Your Witch Mystery series.

Kathy: In Scared Witchless Dylan Apel has just learned that she's a witch. Would you like to discover that you have witchy powers?

AB: Oh my gosh, yes. That would be so cool. I mean, if I could do things like make something appear out of thin air, I would be a bazillionaire, right?

Kathy: Did you base the witches in Scared Witchless on those who practice Wicca, or follow a similar path? Did you consult any witches or Wiccans as part of your research?

AB: I did not base this on Wicca at all. Though I have known Wiccans in the past and am familiar with some of the very basics of practice, I did not at all base Dylan's powers on the practice. I think in not having rules based in reality, it gave me much more freedom to do as I pleased.

Kathy: Dylan creates hand-made clothing. Are you a seamstress too? Do enjoy fashion design?

AB: Ha-ha, no I am not a seamstress, though I can sew a button on a blouse so tight you'd think it was attached with cement. I wish I could sew and love the idea but I've got two small girls and I can barely keep up with them and write, and do the dishes, and make supper, and put clothes away. Hey, I need some witchy powers to help me out, here!

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

AB: Well, if you don't count reading Christopher Pike when I was in junior high, Juliet Blackwell's Hexes and Hemlines series got me interested, but it was Amanda Lee's Wicked Witches of the Midwest that sold me on them. They're so much fun and have such great characters. Cozies have a bit of everything—romance, mystery, intrigue—I simply love them.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

AB: Yes, I also have a dystopian romance series available—The Dark Revolution series—lots of steamy love scenes in a mad, mad world.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

AB: The Bless Your Witch series is about three sisters who discover they're witches—well, really two of the sisters because the third one is talentless, as she's told by other witches. What they also find, however, is that they're not very good at being witches, which makes for some funny scenes (at least I hope so). When a client of Dylan's is murdered, Dylan realizes that someone is trying to kill her in order to steal her powers, apparently a not-too-uncommon occurrence when it comes to witches.

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

AB: Oh, I love Dylan. She's so snarky and says things that I would never imagine telling anyone. She speaks the truth—sometimes a bit too much in the ever so polite South.

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

AB: I'd actually written this book basically as a romantic comedy, but it didn't quite work, so I rewrote as a cozy and loved how it turned out.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

AB: Cozy readers are voracious, always looking for more books. I'm just trying to give them one other option to enjoy.

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

AB: Lee Child of course. I love him. Love him. Did I mention I love him? William Faulkner, just cause it's one Southern Writer to another, and let's add Eudora Welty cause I love her too. Lastly, JK Rowling because she scraped herself up from the pit of despair and created a phenomenon simply because she believed in herself.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

AB: Lee Hollis—Death of a Kitchen Diva. After that, it's off to do some damage with Jack Reacher.

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

AB: My hobbies are reading, drinking coffee and tea, and eating chocolate! Well, trying not to because it breaks me out and makes me fat, but who cares?

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

AB: I always have salted cashews because they’re a delicious snack, a can of diced tomatoes because I can do anything with them, coffee because the world would hate me if I didn’t have it, and frozen pacifiers for my teething child.

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

AB: Yes, working on book two in the Bless Your Witch series right now!

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

AB: That I can escape into the lives of other people. Ahhh. And every story has a happy ending. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Two Down, Bun to Go by H.Y. Hanna. This book is the third entry in the Oxford Tearoom Mystery series and was released this past April.

A phone call in the middle of the night is never a good thing. Gemma is concerned when Seth calls and not only asks her to retrieve a letter, but to make sure she remains unseen by the police as she does so. What she wasn't expecting was that the police were at Oxford to investigate a murder...and she certainly never imagined that Seth had been arrested as the murderer! Cassie insists that Gemma investigate and the Old Biddies are already on the case. Will Gemma be able to help clear Seth? Will her argument with Devlin over information regarding the case push her closer to Lincoln? Will her mum survive a travel adventure to Jakarta? And will she be able to find a new cook for her tearoom? I'll just have to read on to find out!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review & Giveaway - The Calamity Cafe


The First Down South Cafe Mystery

Amy Flowers has had enough of Lou Lou, her boss and the insufferable owner of Lou's Joint. Amy turns in her two week notice, along with an offer to buy the cafe but is flatly turned down. Amy is skeptical when Lou Lou's son calls to say that he got his mother to change his mind about selling, but decides to give it a shot. If Lou Lou won't sell, Amy will just build her own cafe from the ground up. Amy arrives only to find neither Pete nor the lawyer there, but she does find Lou Lou...dead. Plenty of people had reason to kill the irascible victim, from the 40 year old son who wanted to sell the cafe, and make his relationship with his girlfriend public, to the tenant whose repairs weren't fixed, and several in between. But Amy wants to make sure she's not really a viable suspect, even though she found the body and had a motive. So while she begins to convert Lou's Joint into the Down South Cafe, she also begins to look into the murder and keeping the hunky new deputy apprised is just an added benefit.

THE CALAMITY CAFE is an inviting welcome to a new series with unique characters and Southern charm. Homer, a regular at the Joint, has a new hero every day and Aunt Bess is continually adding new Pinterest boards. I'd be sure to follow her small-town crime board if she ever gets it going! An old mystery mingles with the new murder adding an extra layer of intrigue while Deputy Ryan Hall adds a touch of romance.

There's a lot going on in the first Down South Cafe mystery, but Gayle Leeson manages to tie everything together without it becoming too cumbersome. The multiple storylines are easy to follow and the book itself is a fast paced quick read. I enjoyed my first visit to Winter Garden, Virginia and look forward to my next.

Recipes Included.

FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of this book in the hopes I would review it.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tonya Kappes & the Fixin' to Die Tour

I'm pleased to welcome Tonya Kappes back to Cozy Up With Kathy. Tonya has a new series, which just debuted last week! FIXIN' TO DIE is the first of the Kenni Lowry Mystery series.

Kathy: You start a new series, the Kenni Lowry Mystery series, with FIXIN' TO DIE. Was there a specific inspiration for this series?

TK: I knew I wanted to do another series with a ghost in it because I've had so much fun writing the Ghostly Southern Mysteries with HarperCollins. I grew up in a small town and it was definitely my inspiration for the book. As a matter of fact the book is dedicated to my hometown of Nicholasville, KY because of all the fond and fun memories.

Kathy: The ghost of her grandfather has come back to become Sheriff Kenni Lowry's deputy. Do you ever wish a deceased relative would come back to help you?

TK: YES! My own granny. She taught me a lot and if I could just spend a few more minutes with her....

Kathy: Instead of an amateur sleuth, Kenni is a law enforcement professional. Has that changed how you approach the story?

TK: I've had to really dig into the Kentucky law where most amateur sleuths are a craft. It's a bit more research but I'm having a good time doing it. Plus she has to be a little bit smarter than the average sleuth when it comes to solving crimes. She just can't stumble upon most clues/evidence.

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?

TK: This is a great question for right now! I have always been a panster. ALWAYS! Until....the last three books I've written and FIXIN' TO DIE isn't one of them. I write so many different series, I had to find something to keep me from straying along the way while writing. As a panster, I was finding that I was using names from different series and just completely messing up. Now I do a chapter outline for each book. It takes me about three days to do, but then I can sit down and pants my way to the end. BUT there is a clear plot outline now.

Kathy: This series is your first with Henery Press. Does writing for a different publisher change anything for you?

TK: So different! HarperCollins LOVES the cliche southern speak that is so normal to me and my dialect and they only want my novels to be around 50,000 words. Henery Press doesn't really like all the cliches, so I had to cut many of those out, which is strange to me because we really do talk like that and use those cliches everyday, all day long. And they want a lot longer books.

Kathy: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing, especially for a new release. You seem to have such fun marketing your work. What's your favorite part of marketing? Is there anything you dislike about marketing?

TK: My favorite part is connecting directly with the readers. I love doing in person author events and I love meeting readers I've seen on social media for years. The only thing about marketing I dislike is the cost. Since I pay for everything, it's hard to do a lot of those reader events I love so much.

Kathy: I'm not sure how I missed it, but I did, and now I'm disappointed. You had a coloring book available! Do you enjoy coloring? Do you prefer markers, colored pencils, crayons, or some other method? I love coloring and hope you decide to sell more copies of your coloring book!

TK: I do NOT like to color. I never have. BUT I had so many readers emailing me about coloring pages that my assistant, Jayme, came up with the coloring book and we did a limited run of only 50 with only 8 pages. We might do more :)

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

TK: Sure! I currently finished writing the sixth book in the Ghostly Southern Mysteries. The fifth one, A GHOSTLY REUNION, will be released in December and is up for preorder. I'm currently writing the second Kenni Lowry Mystery, SOUTHERN FRIED as well as writing the ninth Magical Cures Mystery, A CHARMING HEX. I'm a busy gal.  

FIXIN' TO DIE by Tonya Kappes
The First Kenni Lowry Mystery

A female sheriff, especially in a small town in the South, has lots of challenges, but Sheriff Kenni Lowry hasn't had too many challenges until the morning Old Doc Walton is found murdered. With her deputy out of town, and the fact that she isn't fully equipped to deal with a murder investigation, she calls on the state reserves for assistance as well as her good ole boy jailer. She may also be getting help from someone that voice she's hearing just her own subconscious, or could it actually be someone else?

Between small town Southern gossip, an annoying attraction, and the appearance of her grandfather's ghost, Kenni must solve her first murder as sheriff of Cottonwood, Kentucky. Kenni Lowry is a likable protagonist. She's smart and tough, with feminine charm and a lovable dog named Duke. I love he addition of Poppa, or Poppa's ghost to be more accurate. Who better to support Kenni than her beloved grandfather who was also the previous Sheriff? He's the perfect partner to help solve crimes; he knows the job, can investigate unseen, and is just a fun person with a good sense of humor. I also appreciate the way Kappes introduced the ghost to Kenni, but I'll let you read about that.

FIXIN' TO DIE is a rock solid start to a new series. Fresh characters, small town secrets, and an engaging mystery combine to create a satisfying read. Plus there's a ghost!


For a chance to win your own e-copy of FIXIN' TO DIE simply leave a comment on this blog post telling us if you'd like to have a deceased relative come back and help you. And if so, who would return? Leave your comment along with an e-mail address no later than 11:59 pm EDT Tuesday, June 21, 2016 in order to qualify.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Return to Goose Pimple Junction: An Interview & Giveaway

I'm happy to welcome Amy Metz back to the blog today. Amy writes the Goose Pimple Junction Mystery series.  Rogues and Rascals in Goose Pimple Junction is the fourth in the series and was released last month.

Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for Rogues and Rascals in Goose Pimple Junction?

AM: Actually, my ex-husband’s divorce attorney was inspiration for this story. And yes, my ex-husband provided a little inspiration too. I went through a divorce last year, and the storyline changed as things happened in real life.

Kathy: Wynona enjoys drinking sweet tea. What makes this beverage so popular in the South?

AM: Because it’s delicious! And no, you can’t just add sugar to regular tea and get sweet tea. You have to boil the water and sugar together (lots and lots of sugar) and then steep the tea. The South definitely makes the best sweet tea in the world. It’s my favorite beverage.

Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for the folks of Goose Pimple Junction?

AM: I think all I should say right now is that Wynona and Caledonia will be back in the next book! That’s pretty much all I can say, since I’ve just started writing it.

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?

AM: I fall in between. I start out with a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end. I start writing and just write. As I get to the last chapters, I map out a little more carefully, but only generally. I like to let my characters tell me what’s next.

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

AM: Marketing is tough. I like to do blog tours like this one, but I don't like to try to organize one myself. It’s so depressing to send out fifty queries asking for a spot on a blog and only get maybe ten replies. And of those ten replies, there will be one or two no’s. I appreciate the response versus no response at all, but it’s still depressing!

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

AM:  The only one I’m working on right now is the fifth book. As I said, Wynona and Caledonia will be back. Most of the story is a mystery to me right now. Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Fixin' to Die by Tonya Kappes. This book is the first in the Kenni Lowry Mystery series and was just released yesterday!

A female sheriff, especially in a small town in the South, has lots of challenges, but Sheriff Kenni Lowry hasn't had too many challenges until the morning Old Doc Walton is found murdered. With her deputy out of town, and the fact that she isn't fully equipped to deal with a murder investigation, she calls on the state reserves for assistance as well as her good ole boy jailer. She may also be getting help from someone that voice she's hearing just her own subconscious, or could it be someone else?

Be sure to visit the blog this coming Sunday, June 19, when author Tonya Kappes comes for a visit!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Meet Maggie Dove

I'm happy to welcome Susan Breen to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Susan writes the Maggie Dove Mystery series. Today is the release day for Maggie Dove.

Kathy: Maggie's neighbor demands she cut down her beloved oak tree. When I bought my current house I planted several trees. I can't stand when people cut down healthy trees! Are you a tree lover too?

SB: I do love trees! I have several favorites near where I live. There’s a very gracious oak tree that I walk by every morning. Then there’s a tulip tree that looks religious to me because its branches are reaching toward the sky. I’ve got a maple tree on my front lawn that I don’t quite trust because it always looks like it’s about to die and then it erupts in leaves. And don’t get me started on the birch.

Kathy: Have you gotten into any arguments with neighbors over property issues? I admit, I have!

SB: My neighbors are lovely people and it’s possible that I did have an argument with one of them over something, but best not to think about that now. ;)

Kathy: Maggie Dove is called a "mystery with a bite". Are you able to tell us what gives it that bite and why you chose to have an edge?

SB: Part of why I like mysteries is that they deal with death, which sounds morbid and it is. Characters in a mystery are struggling with the most difficult thing you can. In Maggie Dove, the protagonist is not only dealing with the death of the murdered person on her front lawn, but also with the death of her daughter, who she lost 20 years earlier. I think Maggie Dove is basically a warm and happy person, but she’s been hammered by life and it’s made her angry. So that, I believe, is where the bite comes from.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

SB: Cozy mysteries are about so-called normal people who are thrust into an extraordinary situation, and I like that. I’m not so much concerned about blood and gore as I am about what happens to a nice lady when she discovers a body on her lawn. What do you do when all the suspects are your friends?

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

SB: I do go back and forth between mystery and mainstream novels. My first novel, The Fiction Class, was about a writing teacher, and I’ve been working on another one about a memoir coach.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

SB: Maggie Dove is a fabulous 62-year-old Sunday School teacher who runs a detective agency with two friends in a small village in the Hudson Valley.

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

SB: I like all the characters, even the killer, but I am partial to Edgar Blake, who is one of Maggie Dove’s Sunday School students, and is the son of a young woman she befriends. Maybe because I was always the good little girl sitting and reading in the corner, I’m intrigued by people who get into trouble. Edgar’s a handful. He forces Maggie to be creative in her teaching. But she knows he needs her, and she needs him too, and there’s a moment when he puts his arms around her and tells her that he loves her that’s one of my favorite scenes in the book.

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

SB: My first novel was about a fiction teacher. After that was published, I thought it would be fun to write a series of books, each one about a different type of writing teacher: mystery, science fiction, romance, etc. So when I started writing Maggie Dove, I expected her to have a class, but then I got swept up in her story and it turned out she really didn’t want to teach. So I said, okay, what do you want to do? We went from there.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

SB: When you publish your work, you share your story with other people. That can be scary, but it’s also exciting. There’s no better feeling than connecting with people over a story you wrote.

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

SB: I love listening to people who are storytellers, so I’d choose: Garrison Keillor, Alison Weir, Vikram Seth and Charles Dickens.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

SB: So many books! Simon Sebag Montefiore has a new history of The Romanovs, which is fascinating. I’m also reading Christine Trent’s book about a Victorian undertaker, Lady of Ashes; Vikram Seth’s book, A Suitable Boy; Best American Mystery Stories 2015 and an Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None.

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

SB: I’m fascinated by Tudor England. My husband and I went to Hever Castle last year, which is where Anne Boleyn grew up. I’m a fairly active member of various Anne Boleyn facebook pages and I’m working on a novel in which she’s a character.

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

SB: Milk, wine, yogurt and a bottle of champagne that I’m saving for some occasion, though you’d think I’d have opened it by now.

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

SB: Absolutely! I’ve written the second book in the Maggie Dove series and I’m hoping for many more. I’m also thinking about a Tudor-oriented series. We’ll see.

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

SB: I’ve always loved reading and it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of the world of books.
I also like being interviewed!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Paddling - Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway

Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Paddling
By Frankie Bow

The Cursed Canoe takes readers into the world of Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddling. (An outrigger is an appendage on the canoe that stabilizes it and keeps it from tipping over.)

The discerning reader might wish to know whether I, your humble author, have ever tried canoe paddling. 

Yes. Yes, I have. And I was able to use my experience to write about my protagonist, Professor Molly Barda, trying out canoe paddling for the first time. This is my barely- fictionalized account:

My first challenge was to keep my borrowed swim shorts from falling down, which I accomplished by combining intermittent waistband-hitching with a John Wayne stride. I stepped into the foaming waves with knees akimbo, as five other women and I pushed the four-hundred-pound, six-seat fiberglass canoe out into the bay. I was immediately submerged to my knees, then to my waist, and soon we were hanging onto the sides of the canoe and treading water. I tried not to think about the contents of Mahina Bay churning around inside my shorts.

The next task was to get myself inside the boat. I grasped the undulating canoe and hooked one leg over the side of the boat. This brief triumph was followed by several minutes of me clinging to the side, one leg still dangling in the water. 

“Just roll in,” Emma shouted at me. “Roll!” Powerful hands gripped my upper arms and I felt myself being hoisted up into the canoe. Someone handed me a paddle.

My foray into canoe paddling also included a nasty cut that wouldn’t stop bleeding, and a sprung hamstring sustained during the grueling pre-paddling “warmup.”

But don’t let me put you off; I know people who are practically addicted to paddling. My own husband is among them. He’s out on the water several hours a week. He enjoys it, and it keeps him in amazing physical condition.

One of these days I’ll try it again, if for no other reason than to get those amazing arms. But in the meantime, outrigger paddling will give me plenty to write about.



The Cursed Canoe by Frankie Bow
The Second Molly Barda Mystery

Molly is back and suffering some unusual physical ailments. Is it stress? The result of dealing with the Student Retention Office? While watching her friend Emma put the paddling crew through their paces she complains about Kathy Banks, her liaison to said Retention Office. Before Molly finishes wishing Kathy ill, shouts come out to call 911. Kathy has fallen overboard. And doesn't recover. Is there really such a thing as psychogenic death? Could Molly have somehow caused Kathy's death? And how is it that recent graduates are reportedly earning high incomes? Is Donnie thinking of making Molly's relationship with his son more than that of a former college professor? There's a lot going on at Mahina State, but is is murder? 

The death of paddler Kathy Banks is at the heart of  The Cursed Canoe. We get a glimpse into the world of outrigger canoe paddling and a deeper look at for profit colleges, and the fact that Mahina State appears to be transforming into one! Molly continues to find her way as an nontenured professor, trying to appease the Student Retention Office while still trying to be an effective teacher-something at odds with the current academic climate.

Frankie Bow weaves several threads through The Cursed Canoe and while many issues are resolved, there are still questions left for further exploration. The author gives us the seedier side of Hawaii in her Molly Barda Mystery series. It's not the tropical paradise the tourists see, but rather the harsher reality of island life-high cost of living, high humidity, and the horrors of Academia.

I love the sense of humor Bow brings, that self deprecating, almost fatalistic bite, and I enjoyed the intricate storyline, but am still left with some questions. The Cursed Canoe is made for the thinking reader, but while I appreciated the ending I feel as if I'm missing something. Still in all, it's a good read, especially for those familiar with the world of Academia.

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