Sunday, September 26, 2021

One of Us - An Interview, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Lorie Lewis Ham to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Lorie writes the Tower District Mystery series. ONE OF US is the first book in the series and was released last month.

Kathy: In ONE OF US we meet Roxi Carlucci. Roxi is a children’s book author whose publisher just dropped her. Was there a particular reason to have her write this genre? Do you periodically read children's books?

LLH: When I first created Roxi, I was going to have her run a small animal rescue and write children’s books featuring a pet rat, instead that ended up being in her past. The reason for the children’s books is it was another way to introduce the idea of how awesome pet rats are. I do also collect children’s picture books featuring rats.


Kathy: In ONE OF US Roxi gets talked into helping with a community theatre production. I have an undergraduate degree in theatre and have done some community theatre many moons ago. Have you ever been involved in theatre?

LLH: Yes in many different ways. I am a big fan of live theatre. My children were involved in theatre in high school and I was the theatre mom—I helped with props, marketing, you name it. I also publish an online magazine called Kings River Life and we review local community theatre productions. I also produce and direct a podcast called Mysteryrat’s Maze where we feature mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors.

As for being in a production, I was once talked into a very tiny role of the pastor performing a wedding in one of my kid’s high school productions. Both of my kids are still involved in local theatre as well.

I love that the threatre production is a fundraiser for a local animal rescue. Do you help out with any rescue organizations yourself?

I ran a small pet rescue for about ten years (mostly pet rats, but some hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits too). Also, back to Kings River Life, we publish monthly columns for several local animal rescues to help spread the word on what they do and help get pets adopted.

Kathy: I was so thrilled to see that your protagonist has a pet rat! I love rats and had pet rats for many years, even showing them. How did you get into pet rats and what led you to choose this wonderful pet for Roxi?

LLH: How fun! My oldest son’s fourth grade class had a pet rat and then he begged to get one. At that time, I was scared of them and said only if I never have to take care of it. Well, she got sick and I ended up being the one to take care of her, and I fell in love. As I mentioned above, I went on to do rat rescue for several years. I wanted Roxi to have one because I wanted to show people how awesome they are.  

 

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

LLH: I actually didn’t set out to write a cozy, I just set out to write a mystery. Being someone who isn’t big on graphic violence, and I don’t feel a need for sex scenes in my books, it just naturally ended up that way lol. I also really like the small town cozy feel—even though mine isn’t “technically” a small town, focusing on this particular area of the town it has a similar feel.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

LLH: My books have always been mysteries—I had a writing teacher who kept wanting me to write romances, but it never worked because I always ended up killing someone lol. I do write a lot of non-fiction though for Kings River Life, and in magazines and for our local newspaper in the past.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

LLH: I think my elevator pitch says it best for a short description-

A woman starting over. A gossip website. A handsome playwright with a dark side. A director with an explosive temper. And a murder without a motive. It’s a mystery set in the historic Tower District—Fresno's dining, arts, and entertainment hub.


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

LLH: I like all of my characters, but Roxi’s cousin Stephen is a favorite, largely because he has been with me a long time. I created him in my late teens when my brother and I wrote several mystery parties for our friends. He then followed me to my past series which features a gospel singing amateur sleuth, and then into the new one. He is charming, sweet, smart, a musician, and has a bit of darkness in him due to his family connections to the Mafia.

If you mean a favorite character to read, Sherlock Holmes will always be my number one! I just love everything about him.


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

LLH: I think I would have to say that the setting was my inspiration. The Tower District in Fresno is a real place (even though it is somewhat fictionalized in the book for the sake of the story). It is a cultural oasis where the majority of theatre and art take place, along with some music and great food. It is also a very inclusive and safe place.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

LLH: I have always wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember. I want to share my stories with others, and hopefully bring some joy to their lives, and an escape. We all need that. Entertainment has always sustained me through difficult times, I like giving that back to others. I have been publishing since I was 13 so I guess if I write something my goal is always to publish it and share it with others if possible.

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

LLH: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Anthony Horowitz, Agatha Christie, and C.S. Lewis.
 

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

LLH: A lot of my reading is for reviewing in Kings River Life, but I always choose books to review that I would want to read anyway. I usually have a couple books going that I’m not reviewing as well.

GATED PREY by Lee Goldberg

THE ANTHROPOCENE Reviewed by John Green

THE LOST BOOK OF THE WHILE by Cassandra Clare

ARSENIC AND ADOBO by Mia P. Manansala
 

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

LLH: Reading, watching TV, and listening to podcasts. I have always been a huge TV fan. I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Star Trek, and mysteries of all kinds. During the pandemic, I discovered anime and manga—there is some amazing storytelling there that I never knew about before. I also love animals as you may have guessed, and spending time with my kids.
 

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

LLH: Pepsi, cheese, bread, and milk.

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

LLH: I hope to write many more books in the Tower District Mystery series. I have the settings for the next two already picked out. The next one will be at a book festival, and the third one at a fringe festival that takes place every year in the Tower.
 

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

LLH: I love creating the story, and being able to share that with others. 

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Review


ONE OF US by Lorie Lewis Ham
The First Tower District Mystery 

At 35, Roxi Carlucci is forced to start over. Her publisher dropped her and her roommate got married leaving her unable to afford the mortgage on her coastal home. She's moved to Fresno to live with her cousin, Steven, while she considers her options. He's made her an offer to join the family business, though not the Family business; rejecting the Mafia life, Stephen runs a private investigations agency. While not immediately taking him up on his job offer, she does agree to get involved in the theatre he supports. When the mousy stage manager is murdered, however, Roxie's curiosity is piqued and she joins Stephen's investigation.

Animal rescue, a pet rat, and theatre! That's a combination I can't resist. Three things dear to my heart combine in a smart and fun mystery. I was so thrilled to finally discover a mystery whose protagonist had a pet rat. Rats are wonderful companions, although generally best kept with other rattie buddies not alone, and I hope we see even more of Merlin in future books. I love that often maligned animals such as rats, black cats, and pit bulls are showed in a positive light, hopefully changing perceptions of some readers. The same goes for mental illness which is also touched on and is another topic dear to my heart. I also love that so many of the characters' interests are aligned with mine (can we say Camelot and Star Trek, and although I dislike Rent, like Stephen, love opera!).

I love that fact that while Roxi is technically an amateur sleuth, she has a savvy background, being the daughter of a Mafia Don, and is working in conjunction with a legitimate PI business. She's not your typical shop owner who inserts herself in a murder investigation. There's also a positive working relationship with the local police, which is nice to see. The mystery itself is complex. A mousy stage manager is a bit of an oxymoron (I know, I was one.) but vital since no one can imagine a motive. Why kill an invisible person? There are also plenty of surprises.

An utter delight, ONE OF US captures a unique neighborhood and introduces us to interesting well developed characters while providing an eminently intelligent and enjoyable mystery.

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 One of Us: A Tower District Mystery by Lorie Lewis Ham

About One of Us

 


One of Us: A Tower District Mystery
Mystery 1st in Series
Publisher: ‎ King's River Life (August 1, 2021)
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 306 pages

At 35, children’s book author Roxi Carlucci finds herself starting over again after her publisher drops her book series. With no income, she has to pack up her life on the California Coast, along with her pet rat Merlin, and move in with her cousin, P.I. Stephen Carlucci, who lives in Fresno, CA. The one redeeming factor is that Stephen lives in the Tower District—the cultural oasis of Fresno.

Stephen talks Roxi into helping out with a community theatre production, which is also a fundraiser for a local animal rescue. Little did she know that someone would be murdered during a rehearsal, and that she and Stephen would be hired to find the killer. The killer has to be one of Roxi’s new acquaintances since the theatre was locked at the time of the murder, but no one seems to have a motive. How can they solve a murder without a motive? Could the local gossip website hold any clues? Can they stop the killer before they strike again?

About Lorie Lewis Ham

Lorie Lewis Ham lives in Reedley, California and has been writing ever since she was a child—her first stories were about her stuffed animals. Her first song and poem were published when she was 13, and she has gone on to publish many articles, short stories, and poems throughout the years, as well as write for a local newspaper. Four out of 5 of her previously published mystery novels feature gospel singer Alexandra Walters and are set in the San Joaquin Valley. Those books were inspired by the many years she spent traveling and singing gospel music with her family. One Of Us is the first in a brand new mystery series set in the Tower District of Fresno, California featuring podcaster and part-time detective Roxi Carlucci. Lorie has also been the publisher of the online magazine Kings River Life for the past 11 years (kingsriverlife.com), and of its sister website KRL News & Reviews (krlnews.com). She also launched a mystery podcast called Mysteryrat’s Maze (mysteryratsmaze.podbean.com) 3 years ago which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors, including the first chapter of this book. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, and all of the other usual places. You can learn more about Lorie on her website mysteryrat.com and find her on Twitter @mysteryrat and Facebook. Another way to keep up with Lorie’s writing is to subscribe to her newsletter—you can find info on doing that on her website.

Lorie has been married to Larry for 30 years and they have 2 grown children—Jayce and Joseph Ham. She currently has 5 cats (Merlin, Sam, Dean, Sidney, and Willow), 4 dogs (Lestat, Huey, Xander, and Phoebe), and a pet dwarf rabbit (Sherlock). For many years, she worked in pet rat rescue and has had many pet rats of her own over the years. 

Author Links:  

Website - https://www.mysteryrat.com/  

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/lorie.ham/  

Twitter - https://twitter.com/mysteryrat  

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

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The author has graciously offered an e-book of ONE OF USE to one of my readers. Simply leaving a comment on this blog post no later than Monday, September 27th at 11:59pm telling us what most interests you about this book along with your e-mail.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Death Rang the Bell - A Review

 Review

 

DEATH RANG THE BELL by Carol Pouliot
The Third Blackwell & Watson Mystery

Olivia Watson is excited to spend her first Halloween in 1934. It's fun for the 21st century woman to see the differences as well as the similarities in the way people celebrate the holiday. Her friend, 20th century Detective Steven Blackwell, though happy to attend a Halloween party with her in his time, is waiting for the other shoe to drop. For him, something bad always happens on Halloween. Sure enough, while they are in his house, the duo hear a gunshot. The man across the street has been shot dead in his doorway and Olivia saw the whole thing from the upstairs window. The hunt is now on for the slender man Olivia saw. The question is, did he see her? The biggest fear for both Steven and Olivia, however, is that with Olivia as a material witness, will their time traveling secret be exposed?

This third Blackwell & Watson Mystery finds Olivia spending more time in 1934. No longer a quiet bystander she's making friends and even writing news articles. Lines are becoming blurred and I'm curious as to the ramifications of her actions.

I like that Olivia doesn't actively investigate the murder. She's a sounding board for Steven and even accompanies him and assists with some interviews, but the pursuit of a killer is left to law enforcement. The mystery is deftly crafted with plenty of misdirection and multiple timelines laid out the story, giving both background and motive.

DEATH RANG THE BELL is a Halloween treat with a devil for a villain as a victim, disguises, and a spark of romance.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Currently Reading...

I just started reading Death Rang the Bell by Carol Pouliot. This book is the third in the Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mystery series and was released yesterday. 

Olivia Watson is excited to spend her first Halloween in 1934. It's fun for the 21st century woman to see the differences as well as the similarities in the way people celebrate the holiday. Her friend, 20th century Detective Steven Blackwell, though happy to attend a Halloween party with her in his time, is waiting for the other shoe to drop. For him, something bad always happens on Halloween. Sure enough, while they are in his house, the duo hear a gunshot. The man across the street has been shot dead in his doorway and Olivia saw the whole thing from the upstairs window. The hunt is now on for the slender man Olivia saw. The question is, did he see her? The biggest fear for both Steven and Olivia, however, is that with Olivia as a material witness, will their time traveling secret be exposed?

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A Calculated Whisk - A Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to turn over the blog to Victoria Hamilton today. Victoria pens the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series. A CALCULATED WHISK is the tenth book in the series and today is its release day!

Writing the Series:

A Calculated Whisk - Vintage Kitchen Mystery #10

By: Victoria Hamilton

It snuck up on me, did #10 of my Vintage Kitchen Mysteries. I hadn’t thought of A Calculated Whisk as a milestone while writing it. I was just engaged in the writing, in the story and the people and my familiar Queensville, Michigan world. It was like slipping on a cozy robe. I knew how Jaymie would think about an event. I knew who she’d go to for words of advice, what she’d do next.

And I guess that’s the lesson I take from writing #10 of the series… it’s enjoyable because it is familiar. Even as I’m struggling with the plot, or trying to work out the clues, at least the people are familiar. When I introduce a complication I know exactly how Jaymie would react, what she would do next, who she would go to.

But what else have I learned from writing ten books in a series?

1 – I have learned how to find ways to introduce a subset of victim/possible killer characters to each book, because obviously Valetta isn’t going to go off her rocker and start poisoning people, and no one is going to bonk Mrs. Martha Stubbs over the head. (I won’t allow it.) It isn’t as hard as it sounds… we all have so many circles of acquaintances. To whit… Jaymie works at the Emporium, and sometimes at the other stores in town. Her family has a cottage on Heartbreak Island, and she spends time there. She has friends she went to college with that she sees every summer. She has a stepdaughter in school, is a historical reenactor at the historic house, and serves tea at the Tea with the Queen event every May. All of these occupations and events involve different circles of people, and in all of them she is exposed to their circles of friends and acquaintances, so I can introduce a fresh pool of victims and suspects each time. And now, because of the publicity surrounding her, people even come to Jaymie for help.

2 – And following up on that, I learned a few books back that I needed to start a spreadsheet of character names, descriptions, and life details. I have a section for recurring characters, and a fresh section for each new novel. I didn’t do it soon enough and named two characters in two separate books virtually the same name… and no, I’m not going to tell you which character and where else she appears, but one of the Vintage Kitchen Mystery recurring characters has a doppelganger in another mystery I wrote. I’ve settled my mind that the two women are cousins and so their names are similar. You know how names run in families? Anyway, now I keep spreadsheets of characters for every series so I don’t do that again. I rarely make the same mistake twice. Why would I, when there are so many fresh mistakes to make?

3 - People are invested in the characters!! This is a good thing; it means that my readers see these people as more than characters, like acquaintances they get to catch up on every year or so (It’s been 2 years since Cast Iron Alibi came out! Wow… but to be fair, it’s been a pretty complicated two years for everyone, hasn’t it?) What that means also, though, is that my readers have their own set of hopes and dreams for my characters. I often get the question/suggestion from readers about Jaymie and pregnancy; is she ever going to have a baby? As much as I hate to dash hopes, I will say unequivocally that no, Jaymie is not planning to add to their family. It’s my decision, made for a number of reasons, but coming from my knowledge, also, of Jaymie’s character. Suffice it to say, she is very happy as wife to Jakob and mom to Jocie.

4 – I can always think of another story. Truly. You’d think after so many books – and ten in one series! – that I’d run out, but it’s not going to happen. Life throws ideas at me willy nilly. Read to the end of A Calculated Whisk and you will find not only a recipe (Yes, I included one at the end!!) but also a bit about the inspiration behind A Calculated Whisk. Life is too strange not to give me ideas.

So… I’m sure I’ll think of many more things I’ve learned from writing #10 in a series, but that will be for another day!

Thanks for having me, Kathy!

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About the Author:

Victoria Hamilton is the pseudonym of nationally bestselling romance author Donna Lea Simpson. Victoria is the bestselling author of three mystery series, the Lady Anne Addison Mysteries, the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, and the Merry Muffin Mysteries. She also writes a Regency-set historical mystery series, starting with A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Murder. Visit her website at victoriahamiltonmysteries.com.

Social Details:

Website: http://www.VictoriaHamiltonMysteries.com (Sign up for her newsletter for all the latest!)

On  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorVictoriaHamilton

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/MysteryVictoria

On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mysteryauthorvictoriahamilton/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/598635.Victoria_Hamilton

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/vintagekitchenm/_saved/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Hamilton/e/B007T7LGAU

 

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Review

 


A CALCULATED WHISK by Victoria Hamilton
The Tenth Vintage Kitchen Mystery


Alicia Vance and her family have had their fair share of tragedies, including the accident that killed her husband. But was it an accident? Alicia seems to know something and Detective Vestry is keen to get Jaymie involved, thinking the women are friends, just like their daughters. Jaymie is hesitant, but seems to be making slow progress with the wary Alicia. Just when it seems that she's on the verge of confiding in Jaymie Alicia is murdered. Jaymie fears that her own family will now become a target, but her curious nature and a desire for justice means that she'll keep searching for the truth.

 

A CALCULATED WHISK is a story about family, both functional and dysfunctional. It's about the past encroaching on the present and never knowing what truly goes on behind closed doors. It's also about fitting in when you're different and learning and doing your best. 

 

There's quite a difference between the whole Vance clan and the almost too good to be true Müllers. The Vance and Hansen families have enough intermingling backstory to be a soap opera, or sadly an episode of 20/20. Jaymie has a lot to sort through while also writing her newspaper articles, working at her husband's junk store as well as the Queenseville Historic manor, and helping with domestic duties at home. I may be in the minority, but I'm not a huge fan of Jocie and felt too much time was spent dealing with children and not really moving the story along. I must admit though that part of their presence is integral to the plot. If you love children you'll be very happy with the way the series has progressed.


I like how Jaymie has friends of all ages, which also makes it easier to not only make more connections, but see various perspectives. I have always loved the idea of vintage kitchen items and can easily picture my own grandmother's items as the items in boxes, whisks and potato mashers, red wooden handles and all. They give a sense of nostalgia that warms the heart.


A CALCULATED WHISK is a multilayered mystery enveloped in family drama. In the end, friends and family come together bringing comfort and coziness in a world that isn't always kind.

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 A Calculated Whisk (A Vintage Kitchen Mystery) by Victoria Hamilton

About A Calculated Whisk

 
A Calculated Whisk (A Vintage Kitchen Mystery)
Cozy Mystery 10th in Series
Publisher: ‎ Beyond the Page (September 21, 2021)
Paperback 212 Pages 

In the new Vintage Kitchen Mystery from the author of Cast Iron Alibi, Jaymie Leighton Müller is confronted with two murders and the threat of danger far too close to home . . .

When a woman living under a cloud of suspicion for her husband’s death comes to vintage kitchen collector Jaymie Leighton Müller with a mysterious request, she’s not sure whether, or how much, to get involved. The police believe they have new evidence of foul play in what was initially ruled an accidental death, and the woman’s terrified they’ll try to pin the crime on her. Before Jaymie can decide whether to help her, though, the woman’s found murdered in the woods near Jaymie’s cabin.

Still unsure whether the woman was truly innocent in her husband’s death, Jaymie decides to get to the bottom of both murders. But as she digs deeper into the couple’s past and discovers a tangled array of long-buried wounds and family secrets, Jaymie begins to sense that danger is still lurking in the woods near her home. With a killer on the loose and her family in danger, Jaymie must uncover the culprit before she loses all she holds dear, including her own life . . .

Includes a vintage recipe!

About Victoria Hamilton

Victoria Hamilton is the bestselling author of several mystery series including the national bestselling Vintage Kitchen Mysteries and Merry Muffin Mysteries. She does, indeed, collect vintage kitchenware and bake muffins. She also writes the Lady Anne Addison Historical Mysteries. She drinks tea and coffee on writing days, and wine other times. She crochets (a little), paints (a little) and reads (a lot). A solitary being, she can be coaxed out of her writing cave for brownies and cat videos.

She started her writing life as Donna Lea Simpson, bestselling author of Regency Romances, paranormal historicals and historical mysteries, and still has a soft spot for the Regency period.  

You can find her online at:  

Website: http://www.VictoriaHamiltonMysteries.com (Sign up for her newsletter for all the latest!)  

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorVictoriaHamilton  

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/MysteryVictoria  

On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mysteryauthorvictoriahamilton/  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/598635.Victoria_Hamilton  

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/vintagekitchenm/_saved/  

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Hamilton/e/B007T7LGAU  

Purchase Links - Amazon - B&N - Kobo -  

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