Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading The Cambodian Curse and Other Stories: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Collection by Gigi Pandian.

This anthology is a treasure trove of locked room mysteries. Each is an ingenious morsel, fully contained within itself, yet leaving readers wanting to read more about the intriguing characters found within. The first story in the book, The Cambodian Curse, is the only brand new story. The others have been featured previously in various anthologies, but anthologies not readily available. You can check out my review of The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn, also included in this anthology here. Most of these stories are new to me, but featuring characters I know and love from the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series. If you're looking for a series of short puzzling reads, this is the perfect book for you! I'm loving each story.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The What If Game - A Guest Post & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Sybil Johnson to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Sybil writes the Aurora Anderson Mystery series. Designed For Haunting, the fourth book in the series, was released last week.

The What If Game

by Sybil Johnson

Probably one of the most asked questions of writers is where do you get your ideas from? I’m sure you’ve heard this answer before: They come from all over the place. You never know when a chance comment or something you see will trigger something in your brain that becomes the idea for a story.

What typically happens with me is I see or hear something interesting and I start playing the “What if” game. For example, I once saw a scale advertised in a catalog that not only told you your weight, but also gave you your body fat percentage using a mild electrical current. My immediate reaction was “What if such a scale was modified to electrocute someone?” I haven’t used this idea in a story and don’t even know if it’s possible to make such a modification, but you get my drift.

In this post, I’m going to talk about how I used the What if game to come up with the idea for Designed For Haunting.

When I started the book, all I really knew was that it was going to be the fourth book in my Aurora Anderson mystery series and that the story would happen around Halloween. That was pretty much it. A number of visions of possible locations for scenes popped into my head, but no real idea of what the story would be about. So I looked in the cache of newspaper clippings I've collected over the years to see if there was anything that might serve as a springboard for an idea. Something that I could play the What If game with.

That's when I found it. An article from 2003 about a British company called that provided a subscription service that did postmortem delivery of farewell emails. I needed an incident that starts the story and this seemed to fit the bill. It also was a little spooky so that went well with the Halloween setting.

That’s when the What if game started in my brain. What if Rory received an email from a friend from a similar service? And what if that email wasn’t an ordinary farewell email, but contained a request to solve the friend’s murder or disappearance? That sounded to me like an interesting beginning to a story.

I needed to know more about how such companies work so I pointed my trusty browser in Google's direction and looked into some of these companies, many of which have come and gone over the years. I needed to know how they decided someone was dead so the messages would be sent out. Did a relative or friend of the deceased call and tell them? That didn’t seem very efficient for a technology company. How would anyone know that someone they knew subscribed to the service in the first place?

What I discovered was several of the companies sent out periodic “heartbeat” messages. The user was required to reply or somehow indicate they were still around. If they missed some number of heartbeat messages in a row, that would trigger the automatic delivery of the farewell messages.

So in my story, Rory receives an email from her friend, Zelena Alvarez, after Zelena missed three heartbeat messages in a row. “I think I have a stalker,” the message read. “If you’re reading this I’m either missing or dead. My life may depend on what you do. Please find out what happened to me. You’re the only one I can trust.” Below those words were a list of Zelena’s social media and email accounts with their corresponding passwords.

There’s still a lot of work to write a mystery beyond coming up with the initial idea, of course. I had to decide who Zelena was as well as what other characters would inhabit the book, what subplots I would have, etc. But I knew I had an interesting basis for a story and a great way to get the mystery rolling.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into the What if game I played to come up with the beginning of the story in Designed For Haunting.


Designed for Haunting (Aurora Anderson Mystery) by Sybil Johnson

About the Book

Cozy Mystery 4th in Series  
Henery Press (October 9, 2018) 
Hardcover: 276 pages 
Paperback: 276 pages 

October brings a message from Beyond The Grave...
Halloween is fast approaching in the quiet Los Angeles County city of Vista Beach, home of computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Rory Anderson. While her painting chapter prepares to open its annual boutique house, Rory receives an unexpected email from Beyond The Grave, a company that automatically sends out messages when someone dies.
“I think I have a stalker,” the message reads. “If you’re reading this I’m either missing or dead. My life may depend on what you do. Please find out what happened to me.”
Haunted by her friend’s disappearance and possible death, Rory begins her search with the help of best friend and fellow painter, Liz Dexter. Can they discover who has designs on the missing woman and uncover the truth before one of them becomes the stalker’s next victim?

About the Author

Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Crafter Knits a Clue Interview & Giveaway

I'm happy to welcome Holly Quinn to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Holly writes the Handcrafted Mystery series. A Crafter Knits a Clue, the first book in the series, was released last week.

Kathy: A Crafter Knits a Clue finds Sammy Kane moving back to her hometown and changing her expectations about her life. Have you ever made a drastic change in your own life path?

HQ: Writing this Handcrafted Mystery series was not initially on my radar. My agent suggested I write one, and here we are!

Kathy: In this first Handcrafted Mystery Sammy takes over her friend's craft store. Are you a crafty person yourself? What crafts do you enjoy, either to make or look at?

HQ: I’m a very crafty person—mostly out of necessity. I live in a very cold climate and wouldn’t survive without numerous projects to keep me occupied. I sell painted glasses at a nearby gift shop (especially during the holiday season). I’ve quilted in the past, sewn and tied blankets, but haven’t recently, due to lack of time. My husband bought me a burn wood kit last year for Christmas, so I’ve tried my hand at that. I tend to master a craft, become bored, and then move on to something else to challenge me. I love perusing craft fairs and specialty stores to see what new things people are creating with their own two hands. I’d rather purchase something unique and handmade rather than something off the internet or a store as I know it’s made with love.

Kathy: Sammy has her trusted golden retriever and I had my cat with me when I first moved to another state. Did you have an animal companion with you when you started a new chapter of her life? Do you have any now?

HQ: Actually, no. Unfortunately, I suffer terrible allergies. Bara, the dog in the series, is based on my Aunt and Uncle’s dog and has long since passed. I really want to bring a Golden Retriever into my life, but I’m afraid if I do— and find out my allergies really suffer, I’d be crushed to then give the puppy up. Right now, I have four outdoor chickens! 😊

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

HQ: I watch a lot of Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. I was raised in the library reading Nancy Drew as many other cozy fans can attest to and have loved finding a good mystery since my youth. I have a very busy and curious mind so anything I write seems to always gravitate toward the mystery spectrum. My Agent also suggested the cozy genera for me.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

HQ: Yes, I’ve published two stand-alone novels in another persona. (Both Christian Fiction). Unfortunately, the publishing company is no longer in business. The books are out there, but I have no control nor gain over them.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

HQ: A Crafter Knits a Clue, the first book in the Handcrafted Mystery series, follows Sammy Kane, who a few years prior, took over her beloved best friend’s craft store after her untimely death. The Main Street shop, Community Craft, is situated in a small Midwest town. The store not only sells the locals’ handmade wares, but it’s also the communal hotspot. Craft lessons take place, and members of the community gather to fundraise and support anyone who might have a burden, or to organize events such as the seasonal beautification for the town. With her sister and cousin, Sammy revives their childhood detective club, S.H.E. (S for Sammy, H for Heidi, her cousin, and E for Ellie, her sister, to help solve crimes.

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

HQ: No, I love them all. When you spend as much time as I do with these characters (especially developing a series), they become very real to me, so I love them …quirks, flaws, and all.

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

HQ: As I mentioned earlier, I sell painted glass at a gift store in town called Faith and Giggles. The community spirit I’ve witnessed there was definitely inspirational and is the backdrop for this series.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

HQ: I’ve been writing fulltime since 2009. This is more of who I am than what I do.

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

HQ: Jesus Christ. I couldn’t invite any others to join in as I would want a front seat and all His attention -Ha!

Honestly that is a tough question, one I’d have to ponder for a bit as there are so many talented and amazing authors out there. This I will say, they would be mystery authors.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

HQ: Flowers and Foul Play by Amanda Flower

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (for my library book club)

I’m also reading 296 pages of my own work as I’m in the final edit of the 2nd book in the Handcrafted Mystery Series: A Crafter Hooks a Killer.

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

HQ: WRITE, read, paint, sew, quilt, garden (both veggie and flowers), cook, preserve veg’s and herbs

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

HQ: Vanilla creamer for coffee, butter, cheese (I live in WI) of course I have cheese! And lettuce ha!

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

HQ: I am contracted for 3 books thus far in the Handcrafted Mystery series. The 2nd book: A Crafter Hooks a Killer- pub date June 2019 and the 3rd untitled book pub date Feb 2020.

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

HQ: Working early morning or late hours in my yoga pants. I love that when I’m writing it’s really one of the only times I’m completely present in the moment—the rest of my life I’m a multitasking ninja.


A Crafter Knits a Clue: A Handcrafted Mystery by Holly Quinn

About the Book

Crooked Lane Books (October 9, 2018)
For fans of Betty Hechtman and Maggie Sefton, the latest craft frenzy is Holly Quinn’s Handcrafted series debut.
Sammy Kane just moved back to her hometown to run a craft store. But when the owner of a nearby yarn shop is murdered, Sammy will needle little help finding the killer.
When a heartbroken Samantha “Sammy” Kane returns to her hometown of Heartsford, WI, for her best friend Kate’s funeral, she learns that Kate’s much-loved craft store is in danger of perishing with its owner. Confounding all her expectations of the life she would live, Sammy moves back home with her golden retriever and takes over Community Craft. A few doors down Main Street, fellow new arrival Ingrid Wilson has just opened the Yarn Barn, a real “purl” of a shop. But when Sammy strolls over to see if Ingrid could use a little help, she finds Ingrid’s dead body—with a green aluminum knitting needle lodged in her throat.
Detective Liam Nash is thrown for a loop as every single citizen of Heartsford seems to have a theory about Ingrid’s murder. And nearly everyone in town seems to be a suspect. But the last time Sammy did any sleuthing was as a little moppet. And this is not fun and games. Sammy is eager to help the handsome Liam—who seems to be endlessly inventive in finding reasons to talk with her—and when Liam arrests affable woodworker Miles Danbury, Sammy puts everything on the line to help clear Miles.
As the case comes dangerously close to unraveling, Sammy must stitch the clues together. But the killer has other plans—and if Sammy’s not careful, she may wind up in a perilous knot in A Crafter Knits a Clue, the first warm and woolly yarn of Holly Quinn’s new Handcrafted mysteries.

About the Author

Holly Quinn is both an avid reader and crafter. Holly sells her artistic creations locally and dreamed of one day opening a gift shop to sell local artist’s handiwork. Instead, she began writing about it and thus her journey of the Handcrafted Mystery series was born. Visit her @  
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