Sunday, February 28, 2021

Smothered - An Interview & Review

I'm pleased to welcome G. P. Gottleib to Cozy Up With Kathy today. G. P. writes the Whipped and Sipped Mystery series. Smothered is the second book in the series and was released earlier this month.

Kathy: Alene Baron runs the Whipped and Sipped Cafe. Would you ever want to own a cafe?

GPG: No, but I have this dream of working one day a week in the kitchen of a café, or in a bakery. I’d taste everything, but I’d also learn tricks of the trade! They probably wouldn’t approve of how often I’d need to rest. 


Kathy: Alene creates vegan dishes for the cafe. Do you enjoy cooking? Do you create recipes, vegan or otherwise?

GPG: I love cooking and baking – my favorite thing is noodling around the kitchen, creating something out of nothing. And I’ve been creating recipes since I first learned my grandmother’s recipes – she liked doing things the same way every time, but I liked shaking things up. Not all my creations have been stellar successes – my children enjoy remembering some of the more horrendous failed experiments. 


Kathy: In Smothered, Alene's disliked business neighbor is murdered. Have you ever had issues with a neighbor?

GPG: Absolutely! My first year of grad school in Boston, I lived with a roommate in a second floor apartment. One day, we got robbed, and they took all my grandmother’s jewelry (mostly costume – but special to me!) plus my opal ring. When the police asked the neighbors if they saw anything, this woman on the first floor explained that she’d seen two men break the front door lock, run up the stairs and bash my door open, then run back down about 10 minutes later. The policeman asked her why she hadn’t called them immediately. She answered that she didn’t want to get involved! I had bad dreams about that woman for years.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

GPG: I adored reading them! The first book in the Whipped and Sipped series took me nearly three years. It was way harder than I thought it would be!


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

GPG: When I was a working musician, I used to write songs, and when I was battling cancer, I wrote a blog for friends and family called, “Shut your Piehole” (because everyone kept giving me silly advice, and also, I love pie). Nowadays, when I’m not working on the third book in the Whipped and Sipped Mystery series, I write essays and short stories with hopes that one day they will also get published.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

GPG: The Whipped and Sipped Mystery series is based on an imaginary Chicago café, the kind I used to love spending time in before the pandemic. I loved meeting friends, trying different pastries, talking about our families, the books we are reading, news of the day, etc. I wanted to create a café where everyone felt welcome and comfortable, where the food is completely healthful (unlike most places) and where people are passionate about what they do. The pastry chef is vegan because she is passionate about animals.

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

GAH- that’s like asking me if I have a favorite child (of course my girls will tell you that their younger brother is the favorite). I love all my characters, even cranky Edith, who like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, always thinks the worse possible scenario is going to happen.

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

GPG: Yes, if reading about a hundred cozy mysteries and wanting to try my hand at writing something completely different can be counted as an inspiration…..

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work? 

GPG: I’d dreamed for years about being a published author, and have written several really terrible, winding, overblown novels that were either completely destroyed or live on in some long-gone computer hard drive. This time, I found an editor who was like a writing teacher to me. I learned how to drive straight ahead instead of meandering onto side roads and countless dead ends. This time, I focused on the arc of the story, slowly revealing what happened, throwing red herrings along the way, and hopefully, reaching a satisfying conclusion.

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

GPG: I LOVE this question – and answer it differently each time it is asked. This time I’m thinking of a dinner with a favorite group of mystery authors: Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Georgette Heyer, and Arthur Conan Doyle (but we’d need a 6th person to even out the table, and would feel compelled to include Dashiell Hammet. 


Kathy: What are you currently reading? 

GPG: I’m enjoying the mysteries of Attica Locke (contemporary – really well-written), and as host for New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network, I interview authors of literary fiction. This month I’ve loved every book and enjoyed talking to authors: Yxta Maya Murray, Catherine Chung, CP Lesley, and Jon Seely.

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

GPG: I do yoga and ballet, love taking walks and hiking, I cook or bake nearly every day, play piano (I’m a big Chopin fan) and guitar, and read. 

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

GPG: Oranges, Apples, Mustard, Oat Milk

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

GPG: YES! I started writing the third book in the series, and I think it’s going to be called CRUSHED: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery.

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

GPG: I love sitting at my desk and letting my inagination run wild, and when readers contact me to say they never figured out who did it!


 Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery by G. P. Gottlieb

About Smothered

Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Publisher: D. X. Varos, Ltd. (February 16, 2021)
Paperback: 258 pages

Alene Baron doesn’t go looking for mysteries, they find her. When the highly disliked owner of a business neighboring the Whipped and Sipped Cafe turns up dead, the list of potential suspects is pretty long, including all of the members of his quarrelsome family. Missing wills, convenient accidents, and enough red herring to feed the lunch crowd spice up this tantalizing tale. As always, while pondering the evidence, Alene also comes up with creative vegan dishes to serve her customers and share with you.

About G. P. Gottlieb

G.P. Gottlieb has worked as a musician, a teacher, and an administrator, but she’s happiest when writing recipe-laced murder mysteries. Battered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery and Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery take place in the spring and summer of 2019 and a third book in the series will center on a murder that occurs during the city of Chicago’s lockdown in May 2020. G.P. Gottlieb has always experimented in the kitchen and created her delicious vegan cookies and cakes in direct opposition to what she learned in courses at Chicago’s French Pastry School. She is host for New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network, the mother of three grown children, and lives with her husband in a Chicago high-rise that is strikingly similar to the building portrayed in the Whipped and Sipped Mystery series.

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Friday, February 26, 2021

Furbidden Fatality - An Interview & Review

I'm pleased to welcome Deborah Blake to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Deborah writes the Catskill Pet Rescue Mystery series. FURBIDDEN FATALITY is the first book in the series and was released this week.

Kathy: In FURBIDDEN FATALITY Kari Stuart wins the lottery and tries to save a struggling animal shelter. I've always said that it would be wonderful to win the lottery and build an animal sanctuary. What would you do with a few million?

DB: Honestly, I would probably donate quite a bit of it to the Super Heroes in Ripped Jeans, which is the local rescue that inspired this story. Then maybe spend some time on the beach. (And probably get a bigger house, so I could have even more cats!) 


Kathy: Kari's shelter has many hard to adopt animals. It's so difficult with so many animals in need. After adopting a dog who had started biting shelter volunteers when they would bring her back to her kennel, a vet told me to have her put down. I refused and, though she had issues, she led a long and happy life with me and several other animals. I've actually had more than one animal deemed difficult. Have you ever adopted a hard to adopt animal?

DB: Absolutely. My sweet yellow cat Angus, who I just lost this last September, was very timid. When I found him, he was seven months old, and had been at the shelter since he had been seven weeks old. The folks who worked there said he was shy, and wouldn’t come anywhere near me, but I just sat in the middle of the floor and he came up and purred the loudest purr I ever heard. Then when I moved, he ran away. So not shy, timid. He ended up being one of the most loving cats I ever had, although even after he’d lived with me for many years, he was still a scaredy cat if you startled him, and never came out for people he didn’t know. The cats I had when I adopted Angus were black Magic, her gigantic brother Mystic, who was gray, and his look-alike mom Minerva. When I found Magic and Mystic at another shelter when they were kittens, I had only been looking for one kitten. But the shelter people begged me to take their mom too—she was very young, and sickly, and extremely terrified. (They thought she’d probably been abused by the people who’d turned her in because she’d gotten pregnant.) She was unadoptable, in short, so they said they’d throw her in as a “bonus,” with no adoption fee. So one kitten turned into two and a mama. It took me two years to get her to sit on my lap, but after that she never wanted to get off. I like adopting cats who are a bit older, and less likely to be adopted than kittens.

Kathy: I currently live with six cats. Do you have a fur family?

DB: I currently have four. Three that are three years old: Harry Dresden (sleek black shorthair), and brother and sister Koshka (part Maine Coon and very fluffy mostly black boy, and a diffuse tortie girl who is gray with orange patches) that I got within a month of each other after losing Magic and Mystic, and Diana, who is one and a half. She was a foster fail, after I fostered her mom and three brothers. They got adopted, but I had to keep Diana who I’d nursed when she was really sick as a kitten. She’s a holy terror, a striped tiger cat with attitude, but also very sweet. Together the four of them really keep me on my toes!

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

DB: The last couple of years have been kind of stressful (you know, in case you hadn’t noticed) and I was having a hard time reading some of my usual favorites because they were too intense. Cozies were fun and interesting, but sort of like comfort food—not too emotional or scary, and they didn’t make me think too much. So when my agent suggested I try my hand at writing one, I thought, “Why not?” And thankfully, she was right. As usual.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

DB: Ha. Lots of them. I started out writing nonfiction for Llewellyn, and to date I have over a dozen books out on modern Witchcraft, plus a tarot and an oracle deck. In fiction, I have written two paranormal romance and one urban fantasy series for Berkley, plus put out a couple of contemporary romances on my own.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

DB: The Catskill Pet Rescue series is a cozy mystery series. A rundown pet rescue. A woman in need of a purpose. And a feisty little black kitten with a nose for trouble. What could possibly go wrong?

The Baba Yaga series is based on the classic Russian tales of a witch who is neither good nor evil, but might be willing to help a deserving seeker…if she doesn’t have any choice. I took the myth and updated it with three kick-ass heroines, their dragon companions, and the men who have no idea what they’re getting into when they meet them.

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

DB: My first Baba Yaga, Barbara, is probably my favorite. She does a great job of channeling my inner cranky witch.

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

DB: The Catskill Pet Rescue series was inspired by a local rescue that was started by one incredible woman out of her apartment with the goal to save as many animals as possible who would otherwise have fallen through the cracks. I adopted two of my four cats through them, did some volunteer work there (not much, but enough to see how incredibly overwhelming the task is), and donate to them whenever I can. The shelter in my series isn’t “based” on them or their founder –it is fiction, after all –but that’s where the idea sprang from, when I thought one day, “Man, what these people need is for someone to win the lottery and give them a ton of money.” A portion of the proceeds from each book will be going to help the shelter.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

DB: I have wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. Getting paid for it is just a bonus. But seriously, it just seemed like who I was and what I should be doing.

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

DB: It would be a pretty eclectic dinner party. LOL. Jennifer Crusie (romantic comedy), Jim Butcher (urban fantasy, the Harry Dresden series), Tamora Pierce (YA fantasy), and William Shakespeare. Because somebody needs to get drunk and stand on the table reciting poetry.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

DB: I just finished the most recent Sofie Ryan cozy mystery, and now I’m reading the Murderbot series (SF) because so many people I know recommended it.

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

DB: I have a huge garden, I like to cook (hence the huge garden). I am a professional jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. And I eat a LOT of chocolate. Is that a hobby?

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

DB: Wine. Soy sauce. Garlic. Chocolate. (No—I don’t have them all together.)

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

DB: I have at least two more books in the current series. DOGGONE DEADLY will be out in October, and the third book will be out in April of next year, probably. Whether or not there are more after that depends on how well this first one sells!

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

DB: Honestly, it is becoming friends with other authors. This was an unexpected bonus I hadn’t been expecting when I started writing. I’ve ended up being friends with so many other authors, some of who were people I admired long before I wrote my own books. Authors are fun, smart, and helpful people and I feel very blessed to have so many in my life.



The First Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery
Kari Stuart has every intention of turning over the stray kitten she caught to the local shelter. When Kari discovers the local shelter is full and a nearby animal sanctuary is floundering, she makes a life changing decision. With her recent lottery winnings, Kari buys the sanctuary and starts making much needed improvements. Kari knows it's going to be a tough job requiring a lot of hard work, made even more difficult by the dog warden who seems to have it out for the shelter and one of its dogs in particular. When Kari finds his dead body on the sanctuary grounds, she becomes a prime suspect, but the town is full of people who despised the warden. Will Kari be able to save the sanctuary, its animals, and herself? 
The first Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery introduces readers to an eclectic group of characters, from the school teacher who taught pretty much everybody in town to the waitress who has finally had it with bullies. They are a diverse group, with the diversity coming naturally. I really like Kari, who after overcoming a lot in her life has found purpose and a no nonsense attitude. She is smart, strong, but willing to accept help. Of course I adore Queenie, but I feel that Kari's other pets were given short shrift. I hope they get a little more action, or at least attention, in future outings.

There are lots of surprises and plenty of twists and turns in FURBIDDEN FATALITY, keeping me engaged and concerned. I thought things were bad enough when the dog warden was alive, but even after death the hits keep coming for Kari, and not just being a suspected murderer. One of my primary worries was the welfare of the animals, not only Buster and the other animals in the shelter, but the fate of other animals during the dog warden's tenure. Anger doesn't begin to cover it and if I was one of those owners, he may not have made it to this book!

Animal rescues are a vital part of this world and I'm delighted to have a mystery series that shows the hard work and determination necessary to provide a decent quality of life and a chance for a home of their own for all animals while also providing a great mystery to read!

FURBIDDEN FATALITY with its tenacious characters, lovable animals, and captivating mystery is a fantastic start to a new series.



A lottery winner uses her good fortune to save a local pet sanctuary, but when a body is discovered on the property, she just might be in the doghouse in this first book in a new, charming cozy mystery series from author Deborah Blake. 

Kari Stuart’s life is going nowhere—until she unexpectedly wins the lottery. The twenty-nine-year-old instant multimillionaire is still mulling plans for her winnings when rescuing a bossy black kitten leads her to a semi-abandoned animal shelter. They need the cash—Kari needs a purpose. 

But the dilapidated rescue is literally going to the dogs with a pending lawsuit, hard to adopt animals, and too much unwanted attention from the town’s dog warden. When the warden turns up dead outside the shelter’s dog kennels, Kari finds herself up a creek without a pooper-scooper. 

With the help of some dedicated volunteers, a cute vet, and a kitten who mysteriously shows up just when she needs it, Kari must prove her innocence all while trying to save a dog on death row. Now she just needs to hope that her string of unexpected luck isn’t about to run out.


Deborah Blake is the author of the Baba Yaga Series from Berkley (Wickedly Dangerous, Wickedly Wonderful, Wickedly Powerful), as well as the Broken Rider Series, and the Veiled Magic series. She has also published eleven books on modern witchcraft with Llewellyn Worldwide, along with a tarot and an oracle deck. When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 130-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with various cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane.