Sunday, November 29, 2020

Fishing for Trouble - A Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Charlie Cooke to Cozy Up With Kathy today. You can find Charlie on the pages of the Alaskan Diner Mystery series by Elizabeth Logan. FISHING FOR TROUBLE is the second book in the series and was released last week.

I’m Charlotte “Charlie” Cooke stopping to visit from my hometown of Elkview, Alaska, where I own the Bear Claw Diner. Stop in on your way to Denali, whether to climb this highest peak in North America, or to take photos as you drive by on a tour bus.

I’m here to tell you, you can go home again.

That’s what I’ve done.

I grew up doing my homework on a red-vinyl-and-chrome stool at the diner, owned at the time by my mom. I left the small town of Elkview for college and after floating around a bit, including even law school, ended up at a culinary school in San Francisco. Some of us take the long way around, I guess, but eventually the timing worked out perfectly and I came home to take over the Bear Claw when my mom was ready to retire.

Along with the industrial size fridge and ovens, I inherited a wonderful staff in the kitchen, and an amazing companion at home, Eggs Benedict, aka Benny, a beautiful orange tabby. It’s Benny who listens nonjudgmentally when I find myself in a pickle that’s not from the large jar of them in the diner pantry.

Usually the pickle is generated by my unofficial status as deputy to Alaska State Trooper, Cody Graham. I’m lucky to have a cadre of friends who come to my assistance when I’m called on to help Trooper with an investigation. The most recent case involves a group of summer employees who come north to work in the fishing industry. Who knew there were so many secrets under water?

Not to brag, but I live in the most beautiful state in the country—“North to the Future” as our motto states, or “The Frontier State” if you prefer its nickname. Everywhere I look there are beautiful mountains and lakes. And when I’m not helping solve a murder, I can choose among a host of activities—hiking, kayaking, skiing, camping, fishing, rafting, boating, ice climbing. Or I can just gaze upon a giant glacier. Then there’s the aurora borealis. What a sight that is.

I should mention my BFF from first grade is also on the team, plus—ahem—a very cute former army man, Chris, who’s the local newspaperman, and one of the sleuths. Sometimes it’s not clear whether we’re working or on a date. Am I just a pretty new SUV with a heated steering wheel that he likes to drive instead of his beat-up truck, or is a romance budding?

Maybe I’ll have a better idea in the next book!



FISHING FOR TROUBLE by Elizabeth Logan
The Second Alaskan Diner Mystery 

When a young diner collapses at the Bear Claw Diner, owner Charlotte “Charlie” Cooke is concerned. Part of a group of summer workers at the J and M Fish Processing Plant enjoying a break at the diner, Ethan's order hadn't even arrived before his collapse, so Bear Claw food wasn't to blame for his death. Still feeling partially to blame, Charlie takes his distraught female friend under her wing, but once Ethan's death is declared murder the young woman takes off. With her lawyer ex in town, her parents on vacation, and her relationship with a journalist in flux, Charlie is unsettled. Something fishy is going on and Charlie's going to get to the bottom of it.

Friendships, romantic entanglements, and the ramifications of love highlight the second Alaskan Diner Mystery. I appreciate how Charlie and her crew of employees and friends gather together to solve a complex puzzle. Charlie's ex is a great new character to hate. His behavior is so scuzzy I wanted to take a shower after each of his appearances! I adore Benny, but am not a fan Charlie's high tech relationship with him, although as Miko (one of my cats) is so engaged with my keyboard as I try to type, perhaps I should be more open minded.

FISHING FOR TROUBLE had me scratching my head wondering just what was going on and who was to blame. Interesting characters and the Alaskan setting kept me engaged, hungry, and glad I don't work at a fish processing facility.


Fishing for Trouble (An Alaskan Diner Mystery) by Elizabeth Logan

About Fishing For Trouble

Fishing for Trouble (An Alaskan Diner Mystery)
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Publisher: Berkley (November 24, 2020)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Something fishy is going on at a local seafood processing plant, and Charlie Cooke is on the hook to solve the case in this new Alaskan Diner Mystery.

Summer has come to Elkview, Alaska, bringing twenty hours of sunlight every day, not to mention a surge of tourists and seasonal workers. Chef Charlie Cooke is eager for a busy yet relaxing season, but when a young man working a summer job at the local fish processing plant dies moments after walking into the Bear Claw Diner, she’s quickly swept into the investigation.

Soon, through her best friend Annie Jensen, Charlie learns that another student worker at J and M Processing has disappeared, leaving more questions and fewer answers. The near-endless sunlight gives plenty of time to search for clues, but Charlie will have to work with Annie and local reporter Chris Doucette to net the killer before anyone else gets hurt.


About Elizabeth Logan

Camille Minichino is turning every aspect of her life into a mystery series. A retired physicist, she’s the author of 28 mystery novels in 5 series, with different pen names. Her next book is “Mousse and Murder,” May 2020, by Elizabeth Logan. She's also written many short stories and articles. She teaches science at Golden Gate U. in San Francisco and writing workshops around the SF Bay Area. Details are at

Author Links:  

Website -  

Facebook -  

GoodReads - 

 Purchase Links - Amazon - B&N - Kobo- IndieBound  


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Friday, November 27, 2020

Open for Murder - A Review & Giveaway


OPEN FOR MURDER by Mary Angela
The First Happy Camper Mystery

Zo Jones, owner of The Happy Camper, is happy. She has a wonderful store, she takes time to be thankful, and her childhood friend is moving back to Spirit Canyon. Beth has inherited Spirit Canyon Lodge and is having a grand reopening of the rustic, yet chic accommodation. Zo is impressed with her friend's new venture and with press in attendance the opening looks to be a great success, until Enid Barrett comes on scene. Owner of a nearby resort, Enid spoils the mood by picking a fight with just about everyone. Why would a wealthy woman with her own resort and mansion be staying at the lodge? As reasons for this unpleasant woman's presence become known, more than one person has good reason to be upset. It's bound to be a long night when a major thunderstorm knocks the power out and traps everyone inside. Will everyone survive the night?

Tough, resilient, and independent are the hallmarks of Zo Jones. Growing up in the foster system has instilled these traits in her, yet she's also grateful and happy. Zo can also be opinionated and prickly with a chip on her shoulder. She's been able to face adversity and survive. I don't care for her behavior and attitude towards Max at the start of the book. But she's loyal and when her good friend is threatened with a murder charge Zo rushes to her defense. 

The majority of the secondary characters got short shrift in the first Happy Camper Mystery. They each have such interesting backgrounds I hope we get to learn more about them soon. I especially want to learn more about Jules and Hattie seems a hoot.

With a crisply plotted mystery, a unique shop, strong characters, and a beautiful setting OPEN FOR MURDER is a solid start to a new series. 


Open for Murder (A Happy Camper Mystery) by Mary Angela

About Open For Murder


Open for Murder (A Happy Camper Mystery)
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Publisher: Lyrical Press (November 24, 2020)
Paperback: 207 pages

Deep in the heart of touristy small-town Spirit Canyon, South Dakota, former journalist Zo Jones runs the Happy Camper gift shop, where she sells everything from locally made souvenirs to memorabilia. She even rents out mountain bikes, and dabbles in the adventure industry—and sleuthing . . .

It’s Memorial Day weekend in Spirit Canyon, and for Zo that means the return of summer shoppers. It also means the return of her good friend Beth, who’s moved back to the area to reopen her family’s premier hotel, Spirit Canyon Lodge. Beth and Zo spent many childhood summers there and Zo can’t wait to reconnect and celebrate the Grand Opening. But the festivities go from bad to worse when a power outage knocks out the lights—and morning reveals a competitor’s dead body found on the premises . . .

Soon enough, Beth is the prime suspect in the suspicious death. Fortunately, Zo isn’t afraid to put her investigative skills to work and prove her friend’s innocence. To start digging for information, she appeals to Max Harrington, a local Forest Ranger and unlikely ally. Though they’ve argued about Happy Camper’s tours, in this case they agree on one thing: Beth isn’t a murderer. Stranger things have happened than their collaboration. After all, this is Spirit Canyon. But as the list of suspects grows, Zo will have to keep her guard up if she doesn’t want to be the next lodge guest to check out . . .

About Mary Angela


Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather and Happy Camper cozy mystery series. When Mary isn’t penning heartwarming whodunits, she’s teaching, reading, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, daughters, and spoiled pets. You can find out more about her loves, including her writing, at  

Author Links: 

Twitter: @maryangelabooks

Purchase Links - Amazon - Apple - Google - Kobo - B&N

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Currently Reading...

I just started reading Open for Murder by Mary Angela. This book is the first in the Happy Camper Mystery series and was released yesterday!

Zo Jones, owner of The Happy Camper, is happy. She has a wonderful store, she takes time to be thankful, and her childhood friend is moving back to Spirit Canyon. Beth has inherited Spirit Canyon Lodge and is having a grand reopening of the rustic, yet chic accommodation. Zo is impressed with her friend's new venture and with press on scene the opening looks to be a great success, until Enid Barrett comes on scene. Owner of a nearby resort, Enid spoils the mood by picking a fight with just about everyone. Why would a wealthy woman with her own resort and mansion be staying at the lodge? As reasons for this unpleasant woman's presence become known, more than one person has good reason to be upset. It's bound to be a long night when a major thunderstorm knocks the power out and traps everyone inside.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Malt in Our Stars - A Review


The Third Literary Pub Mystery

The Inkwell is about to host its first author appearance and owner Sadie Coleman is thrilled and anxious. Fortunately, romantic suspense author Linnea Bliss and her assistant, Marcie, provide an entertaining event that is hugely successful. Sadie takes up Linnea's offer for lunch at the historic Shady Creek Manor and has a delightful time, despite an intrusion by the town's curmudgeon. A woman's scream stops Sadie's departure and she discovers Marcie's body which apparently has fallen out of a third story window. What was Marcie doing in an unoccupied room? Does it have anything to do with the rumor of the manor's hidden treasure? Or Eleanor's insinuation about the young woman? And what about the problems plaguing the film crew trying to film an episode for their craft beer show? Sadie is unable to contain her curiosity and delves into the investigation herself. But will her curiosity kill her?

Between the vandalism of the film crew, and the murder of the author's assistant, as well as the upcoming Masquerade Ball and her growing relationship with Grayson, Sadie has a lot to deal with in this third Literary Pub Mystery. But she does it all with grace and pluck. Well, she's not always graceful around Grayson, but that's fun for readers, if not for Sadie.

I love the Inkwell and delight in the descriptions of the literary themed food and beverages served there. I'd be enjoying a Yellow Brick Road...or two. Sarah Fox is able to capture the coziness of this Vermont town with it's historic buildings and multifaceted characters while providing an intriguing puzzle. 

THE MALT IN OUR STARS is a captivating mystery bringing the past and present together amid the literary cocktails and craft brews of a charming Vermont village.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Can I Borrow a Snowblower? - A Dead of Winter Break Guest Post & Giveaway

I'm happy to welcome Cassandra Sato to Cozy Up With Kathy today. You can find Cassandra on the pages of the Cassnbdra Soto Mystery series. DEAD OF WINTER BREAK is the third book in the series and was released last week.

Can I Borrow a Snowblower? by Cassandra Sato

What was I thinking?

I’m young and adventurous. Moving from Waipahu on the island of Oahu, Hawai’i, to Carson, Nebraska, sounded like a great opportunity to further my career. When I arrived in July, the flowers bloomed, the temperatures were only a little higher than I was used to at home, and I had big dreams for the first semester in my new college administrator job.

Aloha everyone, I’m Cassandra Sato, writing to you from the sunroom of my Craftsman style bungalow, where I’m currently snowed in by a blizzard. Less than a week before Christmas, and up and down my street it looks like a Hollywood studio constructed a fairytale holiday set overnight complete with a foot of realistic snow. Don’t get me wrong—the snowy tree branches are beautiful, but how am I ever going to get to work?

I’ve seen snow before in my travels.

I researched the climate differences between my tropical paradise and the Midwest before accepting the position at Morton College. My friend Meg O’Brien took me shopping a couple of months ago for heavy duty snow gear. But this . . . this, whatever you call this snowy nightmare is worse than I ever imagined.

Like my mother always says, whining never makes anything better.

But if I’m completely honest with you, this semester has not gone as planned. Everything started off great. I bought my first house, reunited with my bestie Meg, and made a few new friends while settling into small town life. The men my age here are surprisingly good looking and down to earth, but who knows when I’ll be ready for a relationship again.

I’m big on making a life plan and sticking to it.

Whoever this Kelly Brakenhoff person is, once she got involved in October things quickly went downhill. A student died, some creeper stalked me, students protested the campus administration building, and my boss retired. His replacement was difficult on a good day and now she’s gone too. I’ve never owned a pet before—not even a goldfish— but now there’s a foster dog named Murphy staying at my house. No one told me Murphy wasn’t housebroken when I agreed to watch him.

Growing up the third of four children with an annoying big brother and two sisters, determination is my middle child thing. It takes a lot to move me from my goals.

To top it off, I really want to get to the office today because something strange is going on. Last Saturday, the college celebrated Fall Commencement in the gorgeous Performing Arts Center. Just when I was enjoying the pomp and circumstance of the moment, soaking in the joy on the graduates’ faces, I saw my former boss in the audience. Considering he retired in November, that was a big shocker. Worse, when I tried talking to him after the ceremony, he dodged me for a few hours then showed up later at my house looking upset.

I thought during winter break I’d take it easy, organize my closets, bond with my new dog, and catch up on Netflix.

Mother Nature had other plans for me this week.

First, I’m breaking out my brand-new snow shovel. I won’t be able to relax until I meet with Dr. Nielson and get the full story about why he came back to town. Hmmm… I wonder why the sheriff’s car just pulled into my driveway.


Dead of Winter Break (A Cassandra Sato Mystery) by Kelly Brakenhoff

About Dead of Winter Break

Dead of Winter Break (A Cassandra Sato Mystery)
Cozy Mystery 3rd in Series
Publisher: Emerald Prairie Press (November 17, 2020)
~340 Pages Digital

It's beginning to look a lot like murder . . . And Cassandra is knee deep in . . .

Suspects. Her boss is dead, and the police are calling it burglary gone wrong. But when the killer comes after her, it's going to take more than a pair of furry boots to keep the smart, witty Morton College administrator, Cassandra Sato, out of the deep. . .

Snow. Her first Christmas in Nebraska could be her last unless her friends help unravel the mystery and housebreak her dog.

Buy now for a fast-paced, holiday themed whodunit.

Dead of Winter Break is the third book in Kelly Brakenhoff's popular Cassandra Sato Mystery Series. Death by Dissertation was a 2020 RONE Award Finalist. Publishers Weekly called Dead Week, "a diverting whodunit."

About Kelly Brakenhoff

KELLY BRAKENHOFF writes the Cassandra Sato Mystery series including DEATH BY DISSERTATION, a 2020 RONE Award Mystery Finalist, DEAD WEEK, "a diverting whodunit," (Publishers Weekly), and DEAD OF WINTER BREAK available in November 2020.   Kelly is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. NEVER MIND and FARTS MAKE NOISE, her children’s picture books featuring Duke the Deaf Dog and illustrated by her sister, Theresa Murray, have quickly become popular with children, parents, and educators for promoting inclusive conversations about children with differences.   The mother of four young adults and a German Wirehair Pointer, Kelly and her husband call Nebraska home.  
Author Links: 
Purchase Link - Amazon  

Friday, November 20, 2020

Falling into Magic - A Review


FALLING INTO MAGIC by Elizabeth Pantley
The First Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic Book

Since she was a child Hayden has been aware that there was more to the world than could be seen, from the disappearance of her childhood cat to the boy in the mirror she'd glimpse out of the corner of her eye. All grown up, Hayden is walking home from the groomer with her cat when she's chased by a bearded man, a man just like the one her grandmothers described as wreaking havoc in their beauty parlor the day before. Hayden tumbles into a new world and discovers a family she never knew and the fact that magic does exist. But not all is well in Destiny Falls. Someone is looking for a better life and will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means destroying Hayden and her family.

I really enjoyed the storyline of the first Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic book. A play on a fish out of water, here the author takes our protagonist out of her element, but brings her home, where she can truly be who she was born to be. I love the concept of the town as a character, not only because of its setting and ambiance, but because it changes and seems to have a mind and purpose of its own.

It took me a while to get into FALLING INTO MAGIC for although I found the story intriguing I found the writing somewhat stilted. As the story progressed, however, it found its groove and the writing got tighter and more natural. Hayden is a bit immature, in her phrasing and actions, but she is likable. Her connection with her cat, Sassy, er Latifa, is heartfelt and fun. 

FALLING INTO MAGIC creates a new world wherein the town dictates the action and the players involved. It's a story with a youthful slant, a story of family and finding your place in the world. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Best Writing Advice from the Mutt Mystery Authors - A Guest Post

I'm pleased to welcome the Mutt Mystery authors to Cozy Up With Kathy today. To Fetch a Villain is their latest anthology and it was released.

 The Best Writing Advice from the Mutt Mystery Authors

Heather: Don’t give up. Writing and getting published are hard work. You need to be persistent and willing to learn along the journey. This is a business, and writers need to treat their careers that way. They need to constantly improve their craft, learn new ways to market their work, and find ways to build their social media platforms.

Another piece of advice is that everyone needs an editor. No matter how good your writing is, we can all use a professional set of eyes to review our manuscript for plotholes, inconsistencies, and nasty typos. Often, you have one chance to pitch to a publisher or agent, and your manuscript has to be in the best shape possible.


Jayne: I woke up in 1998 with a book in my head. I honestly thought writing would be as simple as sitting down to the keyboard and letting the words flow in the exact order they needed to tell the story. Soon found out writing a book is much more work than just “reading” a book. Oh, so much, much more. I realized after my first rejection letter (a badge of honor) that I needed help, so I joined a writer’s group. They offered plenty of advice. Most of it good, but some, well, not so much. The worst advice I ever heard is “You can fix crap, but you can’t fix nothing.” In other words, just sit down and get the story out, and go back and fix it later.

I consider that the worst advice because it did not work for me. My process requires me to write one sentence at a time, be happy with it before moving on. Yes, it is a painfully slow process, but when I’m done, my novel/novella/story/blog post needs minor editing, not a complete overhaul. I truly thought I was doing something wrong, that I was a bad writer and would never reap the rewards as a published author.

I almost gave up on my dream, until I attended an author event at my local Barnes and Noble. Susan Elizabeth Phillips was on a book tour! (This was back in the days of in-person book tours, not the virtual ones of today.) Oh, what a gracious and kind lady. And when asked about her writing process, she said she writes slowly, just like me! But the best advice she gave was, “Do what works best for you.” Such a relief to learn I wasn’t a failure before even starting my writing career. So now any advice I receive must pass the SEP-sniff test. Does it work for me? If not, I go back to doing things my way.


Maria: The best writing advice I have been given came from Cynthia Riggs, author of the Martha's Vineyard Mysteries and starring 92 year old Victoria Trumbull. Cynthia and I were riding from Oxford to London in a pre-dawn airport shuttle after an instructive conference at St. Hilda's College. At this time, I had written my first mystery, and Cynthia had read it, but I had not yet submitted it to any agent or publisher. Her advice? Think series. Standalones don't lead to anything, usually, but a series featuring a great character or two can go on and on. After that, I wrote my first Travel Mystery starring Dotsy Lamb, retired history professor. Cynthia was right. With a good character and a reusable premise, you can go on and on.

But I wish I had followed Cynthia's other idea; In her books, time passes on Martha's Vineyard, but Victoria Trumbull is always 92 years old. I know this is impossible, but readers can accept things like this easily. But I let Dotsy age through six books and, as a result, she's now living with her second husband on his vineyard in Italy. No travel, no murders, no fellow travelers, no mystery,

The other best advice I have received came from Deni Dietz, my editor at Five Star. "Don't write from a man's point of view, Maria. You can't do it. You sound like a woman trying to figure out how a man thinks."


Teresa: The best writing advice I've ever received was to allow my work to be edited. Once I finish a story, I send to my writing partners to edit then send round two edits to a proof-reader. It makes my writing stronger, the story better, and catches grammar and other issues I may have missed.  


About the Mutt Mysteries:

Old dogs and new tricks abound in To Fetch a Villain, the third installment in the Mutt Mysteries series. This collection of four novellas illustrates why dogs are our best friends and the perfect companions for digging up clues, solving crimes, and bringing villains to justice. Let sleeping dogs lie? Not when the MUTTS are on the case!

RUFF DAY by Jayne Ormerod
Store owner Darby Moore suffers through a “ruff” day when a dead body is discovered in her custom dog house. With her best friend topping the suspect’s list, Darby knows the police are barking up the wrong tree. It’s up to Darby’s Great Dane Mr. Belvedere to channel his inner Scooby-Doo and save the day.

AT YOUR SERVICE by Maria Hudgins
Mystery writer Jessica Chastain is deaf and relies on her service dog Trey who acts as Jessica’s ears. Kim, a Bichon like Trey, is the latest addition to their family. But life is not a walk in the park when someone threatens all they hold dear. Together they take on an unethical breeder and dog-napper, whose bite is worse than his bark.

A SHOT IN THE BARK by Teresa Inge
Dog-loving Catt Ramsey hires an ex-con as her handyman to help with her dog-walking business at the same time a crime wave hits the neighborhood. But it’s Catt who is accused of murder. She enlists the help of family, friends, and her dogs Cagney and Lacey to prove man’s best friend can be crime’s worst enemy.

STRUT YOUR MUTT by Heather Weidner
Sassy PI Delanie Fitzgerald attends the Strut Your Mutt festival, where her business partner’s English bulldog is a finalist in a pampered doggie pageant. The dog’s new-found fame leads to a client with a missing poodle. Delanie and her team put paws to the pavement, sniff out clues, and show the villain that when you lie with the dogs, you wake up with fleas.


Let’s Be Social:

Mutt Mysteries





To Fetch a Villain - Four Fun "Tails" of Scandal and Murder A Mutt Mystery by Jayne Ormerod, Maria Hudgins, Teresa Inge, & Heather Weidner

About To Fetch A Villain


To Fetch a Villain - Four Fun "Tails" of Scandal and Murder A Mutt Mystery
Cozy Mysteries 3rd in Series
Publisher: Bay Breeze Books Paperback: 244 pages

Old dogs and new tricks abound in TO FETCH A VILLAIN, the third installment in the Mutt Mysteries series. This collection of four novellas illustrates why dogs are our best friends and the perfect companions for digging up clues, solving crimes, and bringing villains to justice. Let sleeping dogs lie? Not when the MUTTS are on the case.

About the Authors


Heather Weidner Heather Weidner writes the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series (Secret Lives and Private Eyes, The Tulip Shirt Murders, and Glitter, Glam, and Contraband). Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and Deadly Southern Charm. Her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series (To Fetch a Thief, To Fetch a Scoundrel, and To Fetch a Villain). Her new cozy series, the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, launches October 2021. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Sisters in Crime – Chessie, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers. Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers. Through the years, she has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.


Maria Hudgins Maria Hudgins is a mystery writer and a former high school science teacher. She is the author of the Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries, the Lacy Glass Archaeology Mysteries and several published short stories. Her favorite things are traveling, reading, dogs, and cats. She lives in Hampton, Virginia with her cat, Lulu.


Jayne Ormerod Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town and attended a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her accountancy degree, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor). She married a naval officer, and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, settled in a cottage by the Chesapeake Bay. Jayne writes cozy mysteries about small towns with beach settings. You can read more about Jayne and her many publications at


Teresa Inge Teresa Inge grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today, she doesn’t carry a rod like her idol, but she hotrods. She is president of Sisters in Crime Mystery by the Sea Chapter and author of short mysteries in Virginia is for Mysteries, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Coastal Crimes: Mysteries by the Sea, and Murder by the Glass. She resides in Southeastern Virginia with her husband and two dogs, Luke and Lena.

MUTT MYSTERIES Purchase Links - Amazon

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Falling into Magic by Elizabeth Pantley. This book is the first in the Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic series and was released last week.

Since she was a child Hayden has been aware that there was more to the world than could be seen, from the disappearance of her childhood cat to the boy in the mirror she'd glimpse out of the corner of her eye. All grown up, Hayden is walking home from the groomer with her cat when she's chased by a bearded man, a man just like the one her grandmothers described as wreaking havoc in their beauty parlor the day before. Hayden tumbles into a new world and discovers a family she never knew and the fact that magick does exist. But not all is well in Destiny Falls. Someone is looking for a better life and will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means destroying Hayden and her family.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Madness of Mercury - An Interview, Review, & Giveaway

I'm so happy to welcome Connie di Marco back to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Connie writes the Zodiac Mystery series. THE MADNESS OF MERCURY is the first book in the series and is being rereleased.

Kathy: Julia Bonatti is an astrologer. What are the misperceptions many people have about astrology and astrologers? Do you address any of these in THE MADNESS OF MERCURY?

CDM: Hi Kathy ~ it’s great to be visiting with you again! And thanks for hosting me today.

I certainly hope I’ve been doing a good job of portraying Julia’s working life as an astrologer, and all the various personalities she deals with. Her clients already have an open mind about astrology, otherwise they wouldn’t be sitting in her client chair. But occasionally, she runs into resistance or complete disbelief from a client, and sometimes anger, when Julia has to convey something they don’t want to hear. No matter what, Julia does her best to tread carefully and give the best advice and predictions she can.

I think a lot of people view astrology as either fortune telling or complete nonsense -- a woo-woo occupation. It’s an intense study and it works, although a lot depends on the skill of the astrologer. For example, an astrologer can’t say “You’ll meet a tall, dark and handsome stranger,” but he or she can tell you when a new relationship is likely to occur, and make an educated guess as to the type of person you’d be attracted to.

Astrology offers a frame of reference, like psychology, that an individual can use throughout life. Your natal chart is a map of the heavens at the time of your birth. It indicates the talents you are born with and the difficulties and challenges you’ll face in your life, as well as all the important cycles you’ll experience. It’s an endlessly fascinating study!

Kathy: While I certainly don't look forward to mercury retrograde and will postpone doing certain things if possible (I decided to wait until this last one passed in order to set up a new webpage) I don't panic. Of course, I never had to deal with what Julia does in this first Zodiac Mystery. What advice would you give people when mercury comes in retrograde again?

CDM: Well, I have to say that Mercury retrograde has gotten a really bad reputation. It’s honestly not terrible. Mercury rules communications – written and electronic. Mercury in a natal chart will indicate a person’s mental processes, how he or she thinks and speaks.

During a Mercury retrograde period (in other words, when Mercury appears to be moving backward from the perspective of the earth) you’ll often find that an email doesn’t go through, or your password won’t work on a certain site, or you miss a phone call. It is better not to sign contracts or agreements when Mercury’s retrograde, because the document might have a mistake or have to be revised, but it’s not disastrous. You can prepare during a retrograde period but it’s probably better to press the button on your new website when the time period is over.

It just seemed right to give Julia a Mercury retrograde period in her story, because THE MADNESS OF MERCURY is all about the planet Mercury, particularly a silver-tongued Mercury-ruled evil preacher who preys on the vulnerable.

Kathy: Setting is so important when it comes to traditional mysteries. San Francisco is so distinctive, it can almost be considered another character. What made you decide to set your series here?

CDM: I lived in the city for many years and still miss it a lot, although I do manage to visit a few times each year – research of course for the Zodiac Mysteries!

I had no doubt when I started this series that it had to take place in San Francisco. And I wanted my protagonist to have an unusual occupation. San Francisco is a beautiful city, but one of the things I love about it is its many moods. One day might be sunny, bright and windy. But let the sun set and it’s a foggy dank mysterious place. There’s lots of history to draw upon and a very eclectic population to offer Julia lots of crime. And I’m not alone. So many writers have set their stories in San Francisco. I wrote a post about San Francisco Detectives ( a few years ago and as I researched, I was blown away by all the mysteries set there.

Kathy: THE MADNESS OF MERCURY was previously published by a no longer existing publishing house. How has it come to be rereleased? Are there plans for the other books in the series to be released as well?

CDM: I was really thrilled when Midnight Ink wanted the Zodiac Mysteries. It seemed the perfect fit because Midnight Ink is the fiction imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide, famous for publishing occult and spiritual books. I had fulfilled my contract for the first three books when I learned they’d be closing their doors. Many other authors were dropped in the middle of their contract and no other publisher would pick them up. It was much tougher for them. I had always planned to continue the series, no matter what, and since the publishing world was in such flux, I figured why not self-publish? Many authors have had great success and many are hybrid authors, traditionally published and self-published. As it turned out, a friend recommended me to Suspense Publishing and that was a wonderful gift. The people at Suspense have been terrific and I’m very happy to be part of their group.

Kathy: I love this series and was shocked when its publishing house closed its doors. I've been hoping the series will continue. Can we expect new books in the Zodiac series?

CDM: Absolutely! Suspense wanted to re-release the first three books with much more appropriate cover designs. (I wasn’t at all happy with my earlier covers. I didn’t feel they truly represented these stories.) Zodiac #2, ALL SIGNS POINT TO MURDER, will be out on December 1st and shortly after, TAIL OF THE DRAGON (Book 3), will be re-published.

After that, there’s a novella planned -- ENTER A WIZARD, STAGE LEFT, which is set before the series begins. Then Book 4, SERPENT'S DOOM. I’m just finishing up Book 5 now but haven’t definitely decided on a title yet.

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?

CDM: I’m definitely a plotter. I like to know exactly where I’m going. Now, that doesn’t mean the story is carved in stone. It can be molded differently if something new comes to me, but I feel much more secure if I have a road map.

When I was writing my first series, the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries for Penguin (as Connie Archer), my editor required a detailed outline for each book. She didn’t want to see a synopsis, which is usually what editors require. This forced me to be very specific with the story line, to know where each clue would be dropped, how the action would unfold. It was a very valuable lesson and saved an enormous amount of time. I had only eight months to submit each book. I wanted to finish each one in six months to give myself time to offer it to beta readers for comments and extra time for revisions. Mysteries require a definite format – a strong plot, red herrings and camouflaged clues to be fair to readers. A really good outline is invaluable.

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?

CDM: The most difficult part of marketing is trying to figure out the best way to reach readers and where to invest my marketing budget, which certainly isn’t huge. But the most rewarding part is connecting one on one with readers who love good stories! Sadly, we can’t do in person events right now, but at least we can connect online. Hopefully the day will come sooner rather than later when we can return to more normal social interaction. I love meeting readers and signing books in person!

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

CDM: After Zodiac #3, TAIL OF THE DRAGON, will be the novella -- ENTER A WIZARD, STAGE LEFT. This was really fun to write. The action takes place at a theater production of an Agatha Christie play – Appointment with Death -- and this story has turned out to be a bit of a nod to Golden Age classics. I hadn’t planned on writing a novella but I received lots of messages from readers asking how Julia first became interested in astrology, wanting more stories featuring Gloria, Julia’s grandmother, and even asking how Julia first found her cat Wizard. So that’s how Enter a Wizard came to be.

After that Book #4 will be released – SERPENT'S DOOM. I’m finishing up Zodiac #5 right now but still haven’t decided on a title. I’m looking forward to writing more mysteries to challenge Julia’s sleuthing and astrological skills!



The First Zodiac Mystery

Julia Bonatti is a professional astrologer in San Francisco. In addition to private clients, she also writes the Ask Zodia newspaper feature anonymously. However, somehow not only her name, but e-mail, phone number and address have been leaked out and she's getting protests, threats, and more from people associated with the Prophet's Tabernacle. In addition, some of her private clients are making surprising claims and making poor life choices. Already one person has died, although it appears to be accidental. Violence is increasing by these religious extremists and this period of mercury in retrograde could be Julia's worst one ever...if not her last!

The first few sentences into this book I thought I would love it. The writing was just my style, the theme was right up my alley, and I thought I'd just discovered a favorite new series. As I continued, however, I became more and more nervous. While the writing was excellent, the story was reading as more of a thriller. Threats and violence escalated and one act of violence nearly made me put down the book for good. At this point while I considered this book a very good thriller, it was not what I was expecting. I was led astray by the cover. The cover is an absolute gorgeous work of art, a warm inviting room with a cat that screams "cozy mystery". It is not a cozy mystery. I continued the book, which slowed its thriller pace and became what I would call a traditional mystery.

As a traditional mystery the book is stellar. The Madness of Mercury takes a fascinating look at people and their inner workings, their motivations. It is a complex mystery which combines astrology and cult mentality, showing what can happen when divergent beliefs cross paths and intolerance rears its ugly head. This book struck some very personal chords with me. When I read about people who believe they should "not suffer a witch to live". I get nervous for me and my cats. In the book di Marco took a step across a line to show just how far the cult would go. I don't think that step was necessary, but it most certainly amped up the adrenaline and made issues much more serious, although the characters used a serious lack of judgement in how they handled this heinous situation.

The Madness of Mercury is a fast paced thrill ride of a psychological mystery. Darker with more risks and violence, there is more at stake here than in a cozy mystery. As such, it is more gripping and more disturbing, making you think more and contemplate society as a whole.


The Madness of Mercury (Zodiac Mystery) by Connie Di Marco

About The Madness of Mercury

The Madness of Mercury (Zodiac Mystery)
Traditional Mystery 1st in Series
Publisher: Suspense Publishing (October 8, 2020)
Paperback: 268 pages

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice. But when a disastrous Mercury retrograde period hits, her life and practice is turned upside down, along with that of many of her colleagues who practice in the city. San Francisco has fallen under the spell of the Prophet’s Tabernacle, a religious cult that has descended upon the city. Reverend Roy, a Mercury-ruled, silver-tongued preacher offers a message of love and charity to the less fortunate, but Julia soon learns that the Reverend’s charity doesn’t extend to anyone who stands in his way. The Reverend is waging war on sin as he perceives it, targeting psychics, Wiccans, mediums, astrologers, gays, and anyone else he considers an abomination unto the Lord. 

Driven from her apartment, Julia seeks shelter with her client and friend, Dorothy. Dorothy has separated from her spouse and is caring for her two elderly aunts at their home on Telegraph Hill. Dorothy’s aunt, Evandra, appears stricken with dementia and her other aunt, Eunice, has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. When Eunice disappears, Julia’s sure that she is headed for Prophet’s Paradise, a supposedly idyllic community north of the city. Julia fears that Eunice is being misled and will be in danger. She determines to rescue Eunice and take on the Army of the Prophet.

Julia learns once more what she already knew –that Mercury wasn’t just the messenger of the gods, he was a trickster and a liar as well.


About Connie di Marco

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the series will be re-released in October 2020.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.

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