Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ellen Byron & the Mardi Gras Murder Interview

I'm pleased to welcome Ellen Byron to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Ellen writes the Cajun Country Mystery series.  MARDI GRAS MURDER is the fourth book in the series and will be released October 9, 2018.

Kathy: It's Mardi Gras season in the fourth Cajun Country Mystery. Do you celebrate Mardi Gras? Have you ever spent it in New Orleans?

EB: I love Mardi Gras. I don’t usually celebrate it in Los Angeles, but in 2019 I think I’m going to have a party that’s also a belated launch for this book. I did get to experience three Mardi Gras celebrations when I was a student at Tulane. (I was a transfer, so I missed freshman year.) It’s an amazing experience. A close friend was a debutante junior year, and in NOLA the debs come out via Mardi Gras balls. Since my friend was anointed Queen of Proteus and a maid in the court of Rex, so I got to go to both those balls.

Kathy: What is your favorite aspect of this holiday?

EB: It’s just so wonderfully joyous. In NOLA – and I think pretty much all of Louisiana – it’s actually a holiday, so you get Monday and Fat Tuesday off from work or school. The energy is infectious and the parades are fantastic. I have a bag of throw beads I saved from college and at Christmas, I use them as extra ornamentation on our Christmas tree. As I hang them, I remember how much fun it was to catch them from the krewe members tossing beads and doubloons from the floats.

Kathy: It's possible that the current murders in MARDI GRAS MURDER are related to the Orphan Train. How did you learn about the Orphan Train and what made you decide to add it to your mystery?

EB: It such a case of serendipity. A neighbor was doing genealogy research regarding a Jewish relative who might have been transported to Louisiana via the Orphan Train. She bought the book, From Cradle to Grave: Journey of the Louisiana Orphan Train Riders, and the one day said, “I know your series takes place in Louisiana. I thought you’d like this book.” I had no idea that there was an orphan train that rain specifically to Louisiana – and an Orphan Train museum in Opelousas, where I’ve been, no less – and was fascinated. That book was such a gift – it inspired a large part of the MARDI GRAS MURDER plot.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

EB: I never intended to write cozies. I’d never even heard of the genre before my first manuscript, YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO THINK OR TOO DEAD (formerly REALITY CHECKED) won a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic grant from the Malice Domestic convention. (I didn’t even know mystery conventions existed. I found the grant through a website search.) By the time I was fifteen, I’d read almost everything Agatha Christie ever wrote, so I gravitated more toward cozy and traditional mysteries without even knowing it. When I began writing mysteries, I found it impossible to write sex scenes. I’m terrible at them! Between that and the fact I hate reading graphic violence, I found myself writing a cozy series.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

EB: I just wrote a stand-alone that’s a combination of traditional and suspense. I don’t know if this counts, but I’m a TV writer by trade. I mostly write comedy – Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly Odd Parents. I transitioned from writing plays to TV for financial reasons. I’m also a freelance entertainment journalist.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

EB: The Cajun Country Mysteries revolve around Magnolia Marie “Maggie” Crozat, a thirty-two-year-old artist who left New York and returned to her hometown of Pelican, Louisiana – town motto, “Yes, We Peli-CAN!” – after a serious relationship fell apart. She’s trying to find her way as an artist as she helps out at her father’s family’s plantation-turned-B&B. She’s also working as a tour guide at a plantation her mother’s family once owned and is now an historical site. The series is laced with real Cajun traditions and includes recipes, as well a Lagniappe chapter where I share about some of the real people and place that inspired the fictional ones. Oh, and there are murders!

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

EB: Of course, I love my protagonist Maggie, who’s a bit of a fish out of water in Pelican, even though her family’s roots go back hundreds of years. But I’m also super fond of her grand-mere, Charlotte Crozat. Charlotte gives off the appearance of being a southern grand dame, but it’s tongue in cheek on her party. She funny, wise, and quite fond of Sazeracs. My readers adore her, bless them.

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

EB: I fell in love with south Louisiana when I attended Tulane. My parents would come visit and we’d rent a car and meander through Cajun Country. I later introduced my husband to the area and did more meanderings. I dream of living in NOLA someday.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

EB: A publisher – Crooked Lane Books – bought it!

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

EB: Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Agatha Christie, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

EB: “The Sins of My Father,” a non-fiction book about a man whose father was a Mob hit man.

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

EB: Reading, of course! I also love needlepointing. I’ve made ornaments, framed wall hangings, pillows, and more. I’ve had to cut back because finishing is so expensive, but I adore doing it. I also love dancing. DanceBod, the dance program in A CAJUN CHRISTMAS KILLING, was inspired by Dance It Out, a real dance fitness program I do at my local gym.

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

EB: Sliced turkey, Babybel cheese, eggs, and wine.

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

EB: I’m contracted for books 5 and 6 in my series, and I hope I get to do even more. Book five, tentatively titled FATAL CAJUN FESTIVAL, comes out in 2019, revolves around the first annual Cajun Country Live! music festival and a local girl who won an American Idol-type show and returns to town as a total diva. #6 will involve Halloween. AND I’ll have a new series coming out in 2020 from Kensington: The Catering Hall Mysteries. It’s about a mob family trying to go straight and run a catering hall in Queens, New York. I grew up there, and cousins ran a couple of catering halls. They weren’t mobbed up! As far as I know…

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

EB: I love the satisfaction of knowing a book I wrote not only made people laugh, it also made them tear up a little. I also adore being part of the mystery community, which is phenomenally accepting and supportive. And I love getting to know readers, virtually and in person. They are such fantastic, smart, caring people. Bless each and every one of them.


Ellen Byron authors the Cajun Country Mystery series. A Cajun Christmas Killing and Body on the Bayou both won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery and were nominated for Agatha awards in the category of Best Contemporary Novel. Plantation Shudders, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Mardi Gras Murder was deemed “a winner” by Publishers Weekly. Ellen’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly OddParents. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. She also worked as a cater-waiter for the legendary Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Crafting with Cora - A Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Cora Chevalier to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Cora exists on the pages of the Cora Crafts mystery series by Mollie Cox Bryan. ASSAULT AND BEADERY is the fourth book in the series and was released this week.

Hi there! Cora Chevalier here.

We’re getting ready for our next crafting retreat. It will be the third one since we’ve opened our doors. We’re focusing on one craft this time: beading. We have a famous beader coming to show us how it’s done. So exciting!

We are also trying to reach out to moms with this retreat—it’s geared for the moms who stayed at home all summer long with their children. We all love kids, but after a summer of being home with them, we know these women might need a break from home. So along with all of the beading projects we have lined up, we have some other little surprises for them—manicures, and so on.

Of course, when we have our retreats, we never know what crafting we’ll actually get up to. We allow our guests to explore in our paper crafting room and our fiber arts room. I have to tell you no matter the focus, knitters always come and bring along their projects. All crafting is welcome at our retreat house in Indigo Gap, North Carolina.

We’ve had some problems in the past—dare I even think about them? But this retreat promises to be so much better.



The Fourth Cora Crafts Mystery

Cora Chevalier and her business partner Jane are thrilled that their time at IndigoArts is almost over. Corralled to help design and paint the scenery by their friend Zee, the duo have had enough of the egotistical director and the stage mothers. Plus, a new retreat is about to start. This time they decided to create a retreat for moms featuring a big name beader. When one guest shows up early, Cora is thrown a tad off schedule, but she's thrown even more when she receives a phone call from Zee. Zee won't be bringing the floral arrangements she promised-she's in jail, suspected of murdering the IndigoArts director!

Mothers are the thread that bind this crafting mystery. We see mothers taking time for themselves, mothers putting their children first, mothers on the warpath, mothers desperately missing their children, and more. For someone who has no desire to be a mother, some of it was a bit much, but I'm sure anyone with kids will love this theme and commiserate with several of the mothers found in these pages.

The mystery itself was quite interesting, most people disliked the egotistical director, but who would actually want to kill him? Cora deals with trying to shelter her retreat participants from the murder, only to discover one of them could be the killer!

Mollie Cox Bryan creates a wonderful atmosphere for her retreats. It's an insulated world of creativity and acceptance...and in this case some mothers gone wild! Cora better watch her liquor cabinet more carefully. I love the variety of crafts that are showcased and enjoy learning more about them. I actually make Artist Trading Cards, so it was fun reading about that.

ASSAULT AND BEADERY is an engaging mystery that empowers women while comforting them. 

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

When Old is New - A Guest Post & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Sam Cheever back to the blog today. Sam writes the Yesterday's Mysteries. Yesterday's Tears is the fifth book in the series and will be released tomorrow.

When Old is New

I’m going to tell you a guilty secret…I love HGTV. Shhhhh! Don’t tell anybody. *grin* My favorite show is Fixer Upper because I absolutely love the way Joanna Gaines decorates a home. She uses a pleasing mix of old and new that speaks to my soul.

Antiques and retro pieces mixed with spankin’ new furnishings. I love this mix. It’s like today and yesterday holding hands.

That’s kind of how I decorate my house. Not, of course, with Joanna’s flare. But my taste runs the same. I intersperse shabby chic and well-worn antiques with a new(ish) leather couch and contemporary tables. Am I confused? LOL Maybe. In fact, it’s very likely. But that’s not why I do it.

I truly believe that antiques carry with them an energy from the times they lived through. There’s a special magic infused in their aged cells…a history that makes me want to take them under my wing and treat them with care.

At the same time, I love clean, contemporary lines and modern amenities. And I think it’s okay to meld the two. I think it works. Yin and Yang, happy Feng shui and all that.

This is the thinking that spawned my Yesterday’s Mysteries series. Anna Yesterday’s antiques shop is ground zero for so much from the past. But the shop has its feet firmly planted in the present. Anna and her employee Pratt Davies find and solve mysteries tucked within the antiques, and they use an entertaining mix of spirits from the past to help them. These mysteries might be straight out of the pages of history, but like Yesterday’s Antiques, they also exist in the present.

Yesterday and today holding hands. Maybe smacking each other around a little

Now doesn’t that sound like a recipe for pure entertainment!




Yesterday's Tears (Yesterday's Paranormal Mysteries) by Sam Cheever

About the Book

Paranormal Mystery/Women Sleuths  
5th in Series 
Electric Prose Publications (September 28, 2018)  
Print Length - Approximately 200 pages 
It might be a murder from decades ago, but it still has its claws in the present…and someone seems determined to drag Anna into it.
It’s way too soon to be returning to a haunted mansion, and Anna’s favorite cowboy ghost does his best to talk her out of it. But the opportunity to pick from the beautiful antiques left to her in a Crocker resident’s will is just too tempting for Anna and Pratt to pass up. So they’re going in…
They’re prepared to deal with a few cold spots. Maybe the occasional flickering light. But what Anna and the boys weren’t counting on was bumping up against the ghost of Josiah Bumgartner, a contemporary of Joss’ from the 1800s. And when Josiah claims the old woman who lived in the house hid his bones around the place, Anna agrees to help him find them. But something much darker is at work there. And, unfortunately for our happy little gang of antique hunters…Anna seems to have unwittingly stepped right into the middle of it.

About the Author

Let’s face it, nobody really cares that Sam Cheever is a USA Today Bestselling Author. Nobody cares that she’s written a whole ton of fun and snappy books. Let’s face it, the most interesting thing about Sam is the fact that she’s a dogaholic. Yeah, there’s no Dogaholic’s Anonymous chapter that can help her. Believe me, she’s looked. So Sam deals with her problem the best way she knows how. She digs into the mountains of personal experiences (mostly involving dog poo) to write GREAT dog characters.

Oh, and there are some people in her books too. She’s also pretty good at those.
Want to ask Sam about her dogs…erm…books? You can connect with her at one of the following places. Just don’t ask her why she has 15 dogs. Nobody in the whole wide world can answer that.

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Author Links:
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