I'm pleased to welcome Maria DiRico back to Cozy Up With Kathy today. You may know Maria as Ellen Byron, but as Maria she writes the Catering Hall Mystery series. LONG ISLAND ICED TINA is the second book in the series and was released last week.
Kathy: In LONG ISLAND ICED TINA Mia Carina has to deal with baby showers. Personally, I can't stand baby showers, what about you? Have you ever had to host one or have you solely been a guest?
MD: I co-hosted my TV writing partner’s shower in the late 1990s. It was so much work. Having never thrown a shower before, we spent way too much time on activities, to the point where people started bugging us about moving on to opening the presents. Never again!
Kathy: While I hope you've never found a body at a shower, have you had any other bad experiences at one?
MD: The stepmother-in-law at a shower was a total witch who showed up late because she got flummoxed driving from Beverly Hills to the San Fernando Valley. She reamed the hostesses. I give them props for not keying her Mercedes.
Kathy: A long-missing and valuable stolen painting is something else Mia has to deal with. I'm always amazed at various art thefts and wonder if certain pieces will ever be recovered, like Edvard Much's The Scream. Do you enjoy art? Do you have favorite paintings?
MD: I love art! A wide range of it. One of my favorite exhibits was a Guggenheim Museum show of Ross Bleckner’s work. I was inspired to write the one short story I’ve written since high school by a woman’s haunting self-portrait at The New Orleans Historical Collection. I became fascinated by California plein air artists and bought paintings in that style at various flea markets out here in the Los Angeles area. I used to go auctions for them just to breathe in the same air. I do have a lithograph I bought at one when I was a bit – okay, a lot – drunk.
Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this story?
MD: The inspiration for the entire series is my Italian family’s grandiose celebrations at the Queens catering halls that cousins by marriage ran. I married that to an interest in art theft and threw in my dream of one day owning a rainbow tennis bracelet where sapphires or topazes (which are cheaper), stones that come in different colors, are aligned to create a semblance of a rainbow. The subplot is based on a true story my mother told me that she swears she doesn’t remember.
Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Mia?
MD: Next up is a Christmas-themed adventure for her – IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE MURDER. A family secret is revealed that almost destroys the Boldano Family, Mia gets an unexpected visit from her errant mother, and the Elizabeth’s senior crew competes with a geriatric group of mean girls for the best holiday decorations.
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?
MD: I’m a plotter but I create what I call a “fluid outline,” because it grows and morphs as I write. But I find the overall structure and beats generally remain the same.
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?
MD: I really like creating my monthly newsletter (which you can sign up for, shameless plug, at ellenbyron.com). And for every release, I create a month of graphics that I call the Shameless Shilling Campaign. But I get worn out sharing it with all the different Facebook cozy groups. Which is on me, of course. No one’s making me do it. But I get OCD about skipping one of the groups.
Kathy: You write the Catering Hall Mystery series under the name Maria DiRico while the Cajun Country Mystery series as Ellen Byron. Why the different names?
MD: Because Kensington asked me to take pen name. And Maria DiRico is the maiden name of my late nonna.
Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?
MD: I mentioned IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE MURDER, which launches in November 2021. On August 10th, my 7th Cajun Country Mystery will launch – CAJUN KISS OF DEATH. And in 2022, I’ll debut a new series with Berkley Prime Crime, The Vintage Cookbook Mysteries.
The Second Catering Hall Mystery
Mia Carina is thrilled when her friend, Nicole, decides to host her baby shower at Belle View. However, there's family drama in the form of Tina, the step mom...or step monster according to Nicole's grandmother. Tina tries to outshine everyone, but when an infamous stolen painting is unwrapped at the shower no one is more shocked than Tina. The next day Mia finds a body floating in the marina behind Belle View. A body with a very recognizable bracelet. Mia will use her own street smarts along with Family connections to look into the murder. But will Mia be able to prove Nicole's family innocent before the baby arrives?
Like its predecessor, the second book in the Catering Hall Mystery series had me laughing out loud. The antics of Mia's nonna, in particular, still have me chuckling. From getting shoes to a dead man to Mia learning to drive to her new employee who is either incredibly inept or a plant from another crime family, LONG ISLAND ICED TINA had me smiling and laughing.
There's more to LONG ISLAND ICED TINA than just comedy. There are heartfelt moments and realizations about family, and relationships, and purpose in life. There's also a finely crafted mystery that kept me puzzling through the clues along with Mia.
LONG ISLAND ICED TINA is a thoroughly enjoyable laugh out loud mystery that kept me engaged from start to finish. I eagerly await the next installment not only to check in on Mia, but see what her nonna gets up to and see what develops with Mia's newest employee.
Long Island Iced Tina (A Catering Hall Mystery) by Maria DiRico
About Long Island Iced Tina
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Publisher: Kensington (February 23, 2021)
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Mia Carina is back in the borough of Queens—in charge of the family catering hall, Belle View Banquet Manor, and keeping her nonna company. But some events—like murder—are not the kind you can schedule . . .
Mia’s newly pregnant friend Nicole plans to hold a shower at Belle View—but Nicole also has to attend one that her competitive (and mysteriously rich) stepmother, Tina, is throwing at the fanciest place in Queens. It’s a good chance for Mia to snoop on a competitor, especially since doing a search for “how to run a catering hall” can get you only so far.
Mia tags along at the lavish party, but the ambience suffers at Nicole’s Belle View shower when a fight breaks out—and then, oddly, a long-missing and valuable stolen painting is unwrapped by the mom-to-be. Tina is clearly shocked to see it. But not as shocked as Mia is when, soon afterward, she spots the lifeless body of a party guest floating in the marina . . .
Italian recipes included!
About Maria DiRico
Maria DiRico is the pseudonym for Ellen Byron, author of the award winning, USA Today bestselling Cajun Country Mysteries. Born in Queens, New York, she is first-generation Italian-American on her mother's side and the granddaughter of a low-level Jewish mobster on her father's side. She grew up visiting the Astoria Manor and Grand Bay Marina catering halls, which were run by her Italian mother's family in Queens and have become the inspiration for her Catering Hall Mystery Series. DiRico has been a writer-producer for hit television series like Wings and Just Shoot Me, and her first play, Graceland, appears in the Best Short Plays collection. She's a freelance journalist, with over 200 articles published in national magazines, and previously worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. A native New Yorker who attended Tulane University, Ellen lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs.
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