Sunday, October 31, 2021

A Brush with Murder - A Review


A BRUSH WITH MURDER by Bailee Abbott
The First Paint by Murder Mystery

Chloe Abbington left a boyfriend and an unsuccessful life as an artist in New York City to return to her hometown in Western New York. Living with her parents and sister she's agreed to help her sister's new painting event business. Life on scenic Chautauqua Lake isn't a peaceful idyll, however. Fiona, a newcomer to town, is working as a reporter and dispensing bad reviews and nastiness with aplomb. After Paint with a View's soft opening Chloe finds Fiona's body with a palette knife in her neck. With a sister keeping secrets, a town full of shopkeepers with motive, and her ex come to visit, Chloe will have to keep her wits about her as she navigates her new life while searching for a killer.

Living in Western New York I was so excited to discover a mystery set in my corner of the world. I love the setting and premise for the series. However, I have several issues with the book. The first relates to police procedure. A murdered body is found behind a business. No police investigator waits six days for the shop owner to contact him, a shop owner who is obviously dodging him, especially since he knows where she lives. He doesn't even stop by? Then there is a lack of description. Chloe has a dog, Max. He's a small dog. That's it. That's all we know. Chloe later encounters another dog. A big dog. Again, that's all we know, aside that she prefers small dogs. It's as if the author knew dogs make cozies more popular, so she added them. Descriptions on the whole seem to be lacking. The characters themselves aren't very likable. They're secretive, snarky, and not in a good way, and not very nice. Izzie, Chloe's sister hiccups. A lot. I don't know if it's meant to be a quirky trait the author put in because she was told cozy characters should have quirks, but it doesn't add anything. It's just annoying. The mystery is convoluted with too many possible subplots. Instead of being red herrings, they just create a muddle. And of course, the killer is described as crazy; one of my biggest pet peeves when the killer is rational and the crime well planned.

A BRUSH WITH MURDER is primed with possibilities. Hopefully, the next Paint by Murder Mystery will take advantage of them.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide - A Review


The Second Mrs. Claus Mystery
April Claus never thought she'd bring havoc to Christmastown when she mentioned the fun of Halloween. Half of the population is eager to celebrate a new holiday, and take advantage of new marketing and booming sales, while the other half thinks it's an abomination. Violence against pumpkins turns into violence against the new Mrs. Claus when April discovers the accident that nearly killed her was no accident. Certain she knows the Halloween hating elf behind it, she's shocked to find him dead-apparently trampled by a snow monster. Now the town is in a panic believing an attack of Abominables is nigh, but April and her husband, the current Santa, are doubtful. Will April be able to prove that the irascible elf was murdered by another elf, or even a human? Or will the killer get to her first? 

I absolutely love this series and enjoyed this second book as much as the first! April is a lovable protagonist and even if she is Mrs. Claus, she's still completely relatable! She's an outsider, trying to fit in and prove her worthiness. She's smart and plucky, yet emotionally vulnerable too. She's also very funny. The thought of reindeer cookies still has me laughing. In fact there are so many funny scenes from raffle ticket selling police, debating cell wallpaper, and those reindeer cookies-I still can't get over the cookies. But there is depth behind the humor too. Friendship is at the core of the second Mrs. Claus mystery; speaking the truth and looking out for your friends, even if it risks ruining the friendship.

Utterly unique MRS. CLAUS AND THE HALLOWEEN HOMICIDE is a finely crafted mystery filled with surprises and plenty of laughs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide by  Liz Ireland. This book is the second in the Mrs. Claus Mystery series and was released last month.

April Claus never thought she'd bring havoc to Christmastown when she mentioned the fun of Halloween. Half of the population is eager to celebrate a new holiday, and take advantage of new marketing and booming sales, while the other half thinks it's an abomination. Violence against pumpkins turns into violence against the new Mrs. Claus when April discovers the accident that nearly killed her was no accident. Certain she knows the Halloween hating elf behind it, she's shocked to find him dead-apparently trampled by a snow monster. Now the town is in a panic believing an attack of Abominables is nigh, but April and her husband, the current Santa are doubtful. Will April be able to prove that the irascible elf was murdered by another elf, or human? Or will the killer get to her first?

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst - A Guest Post & Excerpt

I'm pleased to welcome Polhemus and Fiske to Cozy Up With Kathy today. You can find these dashing dogs in the short story "Polhemus and Fiske and Maude (and the Mayor)" by Randee Dawn, part of New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst, photography and editing by Elizabeth Crowens.

In Which French Poodles Polhemus and Fiske Interview Author Randee Dawn at Length or Until It's Time For Walkies 
By Polhemus and Fiske  
With Help From: Randee Dawn (typist)

The scene: French Poodles Polhemus and Fiske have demanded suggested invited author Randee Dawn to their shared apartment in Brooklyn, owned by one Maude Allocard (who is reading quietly in the other room). All settle in to discuss important matters, none of which appear in "Polhemus and Fiske and Maude (and the Mayor) in Elizabeth Crowens' New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst, out October 25, 2021. Polhemus is gnawing on a rawhide chew as Fiske turns to their so-called "author."

Fiske: Is it true you can't hardly smell anything?

Randee Dawn: Way to get to the important questions first. My nose is as good as any human's, but compared to yours I don't get a whole lot of information, it's true. But if I don't bathe for a few days I smell in a whole different way.

Polhemus (looking up): What's she babblin' on about, Fiske?

Fiske: I have no good idea. Moving on: I understand you are what is called a "writer." What does this mean?

Randee: I'm two kinds of writer: the one who makes stuff up, and one who writes non-fiction. The non-fiction is in the form of articles for online and print outlets like Variety and The Los Angeles Times and I understand you can read so –

Polhemus: Yeah! I read that stuff you said about whether Benson and Stabler would get together on Law & Order: SVU and –

Fiske: Try to stay focused, Polly; we both know Randee co-authored a book called The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion. Ms. Dawn, what is this "making stuff up" you refer to?

Randee: I use my imagination, or – in the case of your story – inspiration from a photo to come up with a tale that –

Polhemus: A tail?

Fiske: I believe she is using a homophone. Do continue.

Randee: A tale that is often fantastical, sometimes downright scary. Plus, I've got this funny fantasy novel that marries TV shows with mythical creatures coming out in 2022 called Tune in Tomorrow. I've had stories published as podcasts in Well-Told Tales, and in anthologies like Dim Shores and Horror for the Throne: One-Sitting Reads. In that last one I had a story called "Cat Person."

Fiske sniffs. Polly stops gnawing.

Randee: If it helps, things don't go well for the cat.

Fiske straightens and nods once in approval.

Fiske: Yes. Well. I see there is a list of potential questions to ask you, so – what sort of dogs do you allow to own you, the way we own Maude?

Randee: I'm Birdie's pet. She's a West Highland Terrier, age about 9 – we got her as a rescue – and she came with that name. She's more of a throw rug than a crazed barking high-strung Westie.

Polhemus: Sounds boring.

Randee: Well, she gets away with a lot for being cute. There's a photo of her with me in the upcoming book. I grew up with terriers – two Cairns, and now a Westie. They're just the right size for me and my husband, and you cannot deny that they have the cutest faces.

Polhemus: I deny it! I have the cutest face.

Fiske chuckles beneath a paw.

Randee: Er, yes. You have the cutest poodle face.

Polhemus grumps.

Fiske: I understand that in addition to writing, you know how to read. We are also literate – we were self-taught.

Randee: I know. I put that in the story.

Polhemus: So whatcha readin' lately?

Randee: Let's see. Right now I'm in the middle of Chuck Wendig's The Book of Accidents and recently I finished Derek DelGaudio's Amoralman. I'm a big fan of Jonathan Carroll, Shirley Jackson and John Wyndham, who always take me to unexpected places. DelGaudio's actually a performer and magician, and created the In and Of Itself one-man show that was filmed for Hulu. Overall, I tend to prefer plot-driven stories – character is important, of course, but I want the story to go somewhere and take me with it. I tend not to read a lot of so-called literary fiction, which often gives me the sensation of sitting in an idling car.

Polhemus: Chasing cars is amazing. Ones that don't go nowhere are useless.

Stirrings from the other room; Maude has put down her book and is puttering around with shoes and her purse.

Fiske: Alas, we are running short on time. The call of the Walkie will not be denied. What advice do you have for writers who'd like to be published?

Randee: Well, keep at it. Seriously. You will write far more than you will ever publish, and you'll have to usually write it over and over and over again. Don't be afraid to share the work, and learn (through trial and error) what kinds of constructive criticism is right for your story. I'm very fond of Neil Gaiman's words: When people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. Flex your muscles, keep writing, and try to separate your ego from the final work – easier said than done. I've been writing since I was about eight, and it's taken decades to really get anything published. That said, everyone's story is different.

Polhemus: I wrote something! A Poem!

Fiske: You did not. You cannot hold a pen and your paws are too clumsy for keyboards.

Polhemus (pouting): Well, I did. It's in my head.

Randee: Will you share it?

Polhemus: You bet! (Cocks head at leash rattle.) Goes like this: There once was a dog from Nantucket, with a tail so long he could –

Fiske: Polhemus Q. Poodle!

Polhemus: What? What?

Fiske: We will adjourn for the day. Thank you, Ms. Dawn. Where can dogs and their pets find out more about you?

Randee: I'm at, and on both Twitter and Instagram at @RandeeDawn. And if you sign up for my newsletter, you'll get a free e-book of short stories! Thanks, you two! Now, who wants a belly rub?


New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst Banner

New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst

Presented by: Elizabeth Crowens

October 25 - November 19, 2021 Virtual Book Tour


New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst

An Anthology and Celebration of the Big Apple

I'm an unabashed, unapologetic lover of New York City, my hometown, and New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst is right up my dark, deserted alley. New York's at its best when you sneak up on it, glance at its sideways, or let it glance sideways at you. The pros and photos in this collection all show New York's best, even when they purport to be showing its worst; in NYC, that's how we roll. A fine addition to your New York bookshelf, a collection to savor.
~ SJ Rozen, best-selling author of The Art of Violence

Book Details:

Genre: Coffee Table book of Photography with Short Stories
Published by: Atomic Alchemist Productions, LLC
Publication Date: Oct 25, 2021
Number of Pages: 150
ISBN: 1950384136, 9781950384136
Purchase Links: Amazon | BookBaby | The Mysterious Bookshop | Goodeareads


Read the Intro:

It is daunting to be asked to say something about New York City that hasn’t already been said with more eloquence than I could muster. As with many of the writing gigs I’ve accepted without carefully considering the consequences, I suppose I would have been better off letting someone else tilt at this windmill. With all due respect to Don Quixote, here goes.

My initial inclination was to do something about how New York City, because of its geography, is fated to be a place of stark contradictions: of churning and yearning, of inclusion and exclusion, of acceptance and denial. Unlike other cities, New York cannot expand outwards, only upwards. While that sounds great and may make for glorious postcards of a majestic, everchanging skyline to send to the folks back home, it leaves out New York City’s most valuable commodity—its people.

I could have written about the unknown or unseen New York, the scores of little islands—some populated, some not—in Jamaica Bay, in the harbor, in the East River, in the Hudson. Places like Ruffle Bar. Ruffle Bar? Google it. Places once home to psychiatric and typhoid quarantine hospitals. Buildings abandoned or demolished. Islands whose only residents are the dead buried there and forgotten. Interesting, certainly, but again it would have left out the thing that makes New York City what it is.

As a crime fiction author who sets much of his work in New York—largely in Brooklyn and Manhattan—I have done countless panels and interviews about the city. My friend and award-winning colleague, Peter Spiegelman, says that setting is the soil in which you grow your characters. He is so right. Ask any author worth his, her, or their salt, and they will tell you that a book that can be set anywhere isn’t much of a book at all. A book must be of its place. So too must a person.

New York City isn’t one place. It is a thousand places, ten thousand places. And because it is all those places, its people are different neighborhood to neighborhood, sometimes street to street. Certainly, house to house, apartment to apartment. Do we shape the place or does the place shape us? Instead of doing an overview, a sort of general discussion of this question, I think it better to talk about one place—Coney Island—and how it shaped one person—me.

I grew up in the shadow of Coney Island Hospital, about a mile or so away from the amusement park. I was right on the border of Brighton Beach, Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay, and Coney Island. I could explain how each of these neighborhoods differ, how, for instance, Sheepshead Bay is, for all intents and purposes, a fishing village. But no, not here, not now. At one point in my life or other, I have claimed to be from all these places. Yet it is Coney Island that resonates.

When I was four, my dad—a bitter, blustery, and angry man—was diagnosed with an aggressive bone sarcoma which he battled to a standstill for thirty plus more years. After his initial round of surgery and treatment, he was instructed to not do any activities that might jar or adversely affect his leg. Yet on summer Sundays, he would tell my mom that he was taking me for a car ride. We took car rides, alright, straight into Coney Island.

He would put me on the kiddy rides, take me to Nathan’s Famous, buy me pistachio soft serve. Then, in one of the few acts of true defiance I ever saw from him, he would get on the carousel and grab for the brass rings. On one of these Sundays, he pointed to the Parachute Jump. The “Jump” rose into the air two hundred and sixty feet. All orange steel, it looked like a cross between the Eiffel Tower and the skeleton of a giant umbrella.

“When that ride opened up,” he said, “my best pal Charlie and me got on it. The parachute dropped a few feet and then … nothing. We were stuck up there for forty-five minutes just hanging in the air. It was great.”

Of course, by then, the Parachute Jump, once part of Steeplechase Park, had been closed for years, its parachutes and rigging long gone. That day, those days, have stayed with me ever since. And when, as a teenager, I would go back to Coney Island with my friends, get high and ride the Cyclone, I would always look up at the Parachute Jump. It came to symbolize my dad to me. Mighty, impressive, but abandoned, and powerless. I loved my dad because I could see past his bluster. He let me see past it. All because of those few Sundays in Coney Island.

As if by osmosis, Coney Island began imposing itself in my work. My series character, Moe Prager, worked in the Six-O precinct in Coney Island. Scene after scene in the nine Moe books take place there. Even twenty-plus books later, in my new series, I cannot escape the gravity of Coney Island. It calls to me in a way I cannot explain other than to say it is romance in the way the Romantic poets understood it.

In my Edgar Award–nominated short story “The Terminal,” I wrote this:

“…He liked how Coney Island displayed its decay as a badge of honor. It didn’t try to hide the scars where pieces of its once-glorious self had been cut off. Stillwell Avenue west was like a showroom of abandonment, the empty buildings wearing their disuse like bankrupted nobility in frayed and fancy suits. He had come to the edge of the sea with the other last dinosaurs: the looming and impotent Parachute Jump, the Wonder Wheel, Nathan’s, the Cyclone.”

I could never have written those words in that way had I grown up in Washington Heights or Rego Park. New York City poets and writers are shaped by their families, yes, but shaped as much by where as by who. That is the magic of New York. This book will shine a light on the rest of that magic. By the way, my children and I have slightly different tattoos of the Parachute Jump: My son and I on our forearms; my daughter on her triceps. In those tats my dad and the Coney Island that was will live on.


Introduction from New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst by Reed Farrel Coleman. Copyright 2021 by Elizabeth Crowens. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Crowens. All rights reserved.



About New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst:

Elizabeth Crowens with Author photo with Reed Farrel Coleman

Writer and photographer, Elizabeth Crowens is one of 500 New York City-based artists to receive funding through the City Artist Corps Grants program, presented by The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), with support from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) as well as Queens Theatre.

She was recognized for New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst, her photo-illustrated anthology, which brought her published book along with ten other authors to Mysterious Bookshop in Lower Manhattan at 58 Warren Street on Monday, October 25, 2021 at 6:30 p.m. for an in-store event and author signing along with a simultaneous Facebook Live presentation and recording for Jim Freund’s WBAI program Hour of the Wolf.

Author contributors include:

  • Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of over 31 award-winning mystery and thriller novels, including the Jesse Stone series for the estate of Robert B. Parker. Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan.
  • Charles Salzberg, former magazine journalist, crime novelist of the Shamus Award-nominated Henry Swann series, founding member of the New York Writers Workshop.
  • Tom Straw, Emmy and WGA-nominated writer-producer, credits include Nurse Jackie, Night Court, Grace Under Fire, Whoopie, and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Crime novelist under the pen name of Richard Castle.
  • Randee Dawn, Entertainment journalist for, Variety, and the Los Angeles Times. Co-editor of Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles and The Law & Order: SUV Companion, and speculative fiction writer of the upcoming Tune in Tomorrow.
  • Barbara Krasnoff, Reviews Editor at The Verge, over 45 published short stories, Nebula Award finalist, author of the “mosaic” novel The History of Soul 2065.
  • Steven Van Patten, TV stage manager by day, horror writer by night. Co-host of the Beef, Wine and Shenanigans podcast, winner of several African American Literary Awards.
  • Triss Stein writes mysteries that all take place in Brooklyn.
  • Marco Conelli, former NYPD detective, consultant to Mary Higgins Clark, and Silver Falchion award-winner for young adult mysteries and the police procedural Cry For Help, taking place in The Bronx.
  • R.J. Koreto, historical mystery writer focusing on New York during the Gilded Age.
  • Richie Narvaez, award-winning mystery author of Hipster Death Rattle, Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco, and Noiryorican.
  • Elizabeth Crowens, over 25 years in the entertainment industry, member of the International Cinematographers Guild as a Still Photographer ( credited: Sheri Lane), award-winning writer of novels in the Hollywood mystery and alternate history genres. Recipient of the Leo B. Burstein Scholarship by the NY Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Editor and photographer for New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst based on her Facebook Caption Contests., @Ecrowens on Twitter, and Elizabeth Crowens on Facebook!



Tour Participants:

Visit the stops on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, and guest posts from our hosts and authors!



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Trouble Brewing - A Review & Giveaway


TROUBLE BREWING by Heather Day Gilbert
The Fifth Barks & Beans Cafe Mystery 

With her brother, Bo, back in town, Macy Hatfield is free to have a girls' weekend with her friend, Della. It's not merely a Halloween themed getaway, however. Della is concerned that the woman she was caring for didn't die from natural causes. The woman's money grubbing relatives are all in town, staying at the daughter's inn. The same inn Macy and Della checked in to. The pair are keeping their eyes and ears open while they also enjoy spooky activities such as a ghost tour and hay ride. The screams of the Spooks and Screams weekend become all too real when one of the guests is found murdered. Was the murder a copycat of a historical event? Or could it have something to do with Della's suspicions about her client? Macy and Della will have to keep their wits about them or the next murder could be theirs.

The Spooks and Screams weekend is right up my alley. I love true hauntings as well as ghostly lore and legends so I was immediately drawn in to the story of the Greenbrier ghost, as well as the treasure hunt. I also appreciate how Macy tackles a murder, by keeping in touch with the authorities and taking precautions when hunting down spooks...and bad guys.

The mystery was multilayered with lots of great suspects behaving badly. I love Macy, adore Coal, and wish the Barks and Beans Cafe was in my town! I also really like the series wide story arc about Leo Moreau...and I'm fairly sure we haven't seen the last of him or his wife.

Smart and loving characters make you care and a tightly woven, keenly plotted story keep you engrossed in this fifth Barks and Beans Cafe Mystery. TROUBLE BREWING is a spooky Halloween treat with a chilling legend, a diabolical killer, and no calories!


 Trouble Brewing (Barks & Beans Cafe Cozy Mystery) by Heather Day Gilbert

About Trouble Brewing 

Trouble Brewing (Barks & Beans Cafe Cozy Mystery)
Cozy Mystery 5th in Series
Publisher: ‎ WoodHaven Press (October 18, 2021)

Convinced that the elderly lady in her care didn't die of natural causes, Macy's friend Della determines to look into the broken relationships surrounding the woman. She books a Halloween-themed getaway at a local inn and talks Macy into coming along with her to spy on her prime suspect.

As they join a ghost tour of the candlelit town, Macy and Della feel their guide is a little too fanatical as he shares his spooky tales. He tells the story of the Greenbrier ghost, a newlywed who supposedly came back from the grave to tell her family that her husband murdered her.

When a disturbing apparition makes its presence known, guests at the inn become apprehensive...and for good reason, because soon after, a young bride turns up dead. Although everything points to a copycat killer replicating the historical Greenbrier murder, Macy has her doubts. She's discovered that the inn harbors secrets of its own, and when she pokes into one darkened corner too many, she might not stand a ghost of a chance.

Join siblings Macy and Bo Hatfield as they sniff out crimes in their hometown...with plenty of dogs along for the ride! The Barks & Beans Cafe cozy mystery series features a small town, an amateur sleuth, and no swearing or graphic scenes.

The Barks & Beans Cafe cozy mystery series in order: Book 1: No Filter Book 2: Iced Over Book 3: Fair Trade Book 4: Spilled Milk Book 5: Trouble Brewing

About Heather Day Gilbert

Award-winning novelist Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing mysteries and Viking historicals. She brings authentic family relationships to the page, and she particularly delights in heroines who take a stand to protect those they love. Avid readers say Heather's realistic characters—no matter what century—feel like best friends. When she's not plotting stories, this native West Virginia gal can often be found hanging out with her husband and four children, playing video games, or reading Agatha Christie novels.

Author Links: 
Purchase Link: Amazon  

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Accident - An Interview & Giveaway

I'm happy to welcome Stan Charnofsky to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Stan write the Charlotte Smart Mystery series. ACCIDENT is the second book in the series and was released last month.

Kathy: In ACCIDENT Charlotte's brother, Greg, flies in from California to celebrate her 70th birthday. Have you ever done something special for a "big" birthday? 

SC: Ah, a big birthday! When my twin and I turned seventy, my daughter, Kim, planned a birthday party for us at her home in Ventura, and surprised us by inviting our old baseball coach at USC who had a chauffeur drive him there. He was once voted College Baseball Coach of the Century!

Kathy: Charlotte is asked to look into a hit-and-run accident, that may not be so accidental. Have you ever discovered something was actually planned when you thought it was just happenstance? 

SC: What I think of is when African American students at CSUN marched over to the administration building to insist that the football coach be fired for mistreating a "brother." It turned out to be a planned confrontation.

Kathy: Greg continues to have an interesting love life. Why do you think it's important to show that older people can enjoy romantic encounters and indeed have interesting lives? 

SC: Older age does not mean a loss of passion. One novel I wrote is called Old, and the protagonist is in love with a much younger woman.

Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries? 

SC: Well, my elderly sister, Charlotte, lived in a retirement village in PA and I decided to make her a heroine in my novel, Charlotte, when a fictional friend dies mysteriously. My heroine was about seventy, and my sister, Charlotte was ninety-nine.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres? 

SC: I published another novel called Religion, where a man, who considers himself an atheist, meets a woman who teaches religion at a community college. They care about each other, but the woman has a secret that keeps her from committing.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

SC: Charotte solves a mystery at her village when a woman dies, and the doctors decide it was simply old age. No one dies of old age! Charlotte helps the local detective solve what turns out to be a murder. Then in my second in the series, called Accident, Charlotte is invited to cross the Delaware into New Jersey to help discover if the hit and run death of a child was an accident or not. The third in the series, Broadway, is when Charlotte is invited to NY City by the family of a woman who is shoved down some stairs and badly injured, the police claiming she slipped and fell.

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

SC: This is easy. Charlotte is my favorite character. She is a modern-day Ms. Marple, amazed at her own ability with technology.

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

SC: My sister, who never solved any crimes, was my inspiration. She was active in helping people of all ethnicities as she lived into her nineties.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work? 

SC: The answer to that is historical and I don't think I can answer it with a decision. Having written novels for the last forty years, I believe I figured it would be nice if people could read them.

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

SC: One of my favorite authors was Howard Fast, who wrote over forty novels, several made into movies: Spartacus, Freedom Road, Citizen Tom Paine, et al. I also would invite Hemingway, though his personal life was awful. Another author I admire and wish I might have spent time with was Mya Angelou. She was a brilliant woman and poet. Her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a classic. I believe I would have enjoyed spending time with Frank Loesser, who wrote the brilliant musical Guys and Dolls. He was known as a tyrant, but a genius.

Kathy: What are you currently reading? 

SC: I just finished The Law of Innocence, by Michael Connolly. It was somewhat repetitive but a grand courtroom drama. Prior to that I read Julie Andrews' autobiography, called Homework. What a remarkable entertainer!

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

SC: I enjoy Scrabble, and believe it or not, often have played by myself, right hand against left hand. I subscribe to The Week magazine, and love doing their crossword puzzle. I am proud of myself when I actually finish the puzzle!

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

SC: Ice cream, angel hair pasta, Prego sauce, crumbled Feta cheese, onion bagels, decaf coffee, etc.

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

SC: I am just about finished with a novel I call Going, Going, Gone. It is a baseball/mystery/romance story. I combine a young man's passion for athletics with his interest in a romance with a woman whose father has been murdered.

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

SC: I love being creative. I still attend a writers' group once every two weeks where we critique each other's work. At my age, being able to be active by inventing new tales keeps me young!!!


 Accident (The Charlotte Smart Mystery Series) by Stan Charnofsky

About Accident 

Accident (The Charlotte Smart Mystery Series) 
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Setting - Pennsylvania
Publisher: ‎ Hawkshaw Press (September 22, 2021)
Print length: ‎ 174 pages

Charlotte returns to solve another case in the second installment of the Charlotte Smart Mystery Series.

Greg Smart, Charlotte's brother, has flown in from California for his big sister Charlotte’s 70th birthday. Charlotte, the previous year, solved a murder when Greg visited her at her retirement village.

The police officer who took a shine to her during the prior case has just asked Charlotte to take a look at a baffling hit and run “accident” that has left one victim dead. Charlotte weeps to discover that the victim is a child, and the second victim, the child's older sister, is injured. Charlotte agrees to help immediately, and as soon as the two meet the child bonds with Charlotte who takes her under her wing. Charlotte will not let this child be hurt again. Meanwhile Greg continues to have an unexpectedly interesting love life while he and Charlotte work together to help to piece the child’s life and family back together by bringing a murderer to justice.

About Stan Charnofsky

Stan is a wonderful man. He just turned 90, and he just retired from teaching at Cal State Northridge (CSUN), and was their oldest and longest-serving faculty ever. He taught marriage and family counseling, and was once, briefly, a Yankee, and was also, for about 10 years, the baseball coach at CSUN. He is a lovely man with many students indebted to him. He also wears butterflies. Many decades ago students started gifting him with butterfly pins; he has hundreds, and every day he pins one on. I know he is older but he is still writing and is a vital and lovely person.

Website -  

Purchase Links - Devils Party Press - Amazon 

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Key to Murder - An Interview, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Jen Pitts to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Jen writes the French Quarter Mystery series. THE KEY TO MURDER is the first book in the series and was released last year.

Kathy: In THE KEY TO MURDER Samantha Richardson follows a diary around the French Quarter of New Orleans. Do you keep a diary?

JP: I actually don’t keep a diary. I spend so much time writing fiction that I don’t write facts. Although I must admit I use some details from my own life in my books.

Kathy: Setting plays such an important role in a mystery and that is certainly the case in this book. New Orleans is almost a character unto herself. What draws you most to this city?

JP: On my first visit to the city twenty-five years ago, I fell in love. New Orleans is full of such unique neighborhoods, but I felt at home in the French Quarter. Walking down the streets, I admired the mix of the old and the new, the quiet spots juxtaposed with the party-like atmosphere. I loved the food rich with history and flavor; the musicians playing on street corners along with artists showcasing their work. Every time I visit, I find new people, places, food, music, and art to fall in love with.

Kathy: In the first French Quarter Mystery Samantha is hopeful she’ll discover about her past, as she was orphaned as a toddler due to a hurricane. Have you ever been in a hurricane or experienced other major weather events?

JP: The first time my husband and I went to New Orleans together was in September 2002. We were there for Hurricane Isidore. We had lunch at Redfish Grille and when we came out of the restaurant, we couldn’t see across the street because of the sheets of rain. Our hotel took care of us with dinner and extra towels for leaking windows and we slept through the storm. The next morning, we headed to the French Quarter where everything was open like nothing had happened.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

JP: The deep sense of community drew me in to cozy mysteries. I love that no matter if the community is a neighborhood or a small town, the relationships between the characters are important. I also like that most cozy mysteries are series, so I get to know the characters and see them grow.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres? 

JP: Not right now. I have a few ideas for a few standalone mysteries, but I really enjoy writing cozies.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

JP: The French Quarter Mysteries finds Samantha Richardson learning about her new hometown while solving mysteries of the past and present. In the first book, THE KEY TO MURDER, Sammy is researching her past and following the clues in a strange diary. THE GATES TO THE AFTERLIFE finds Sammy settling into her new life. When one of her best friends is accused of murder, she needs to prove his innocence and stop a Voodoo ritual that has turned to murder. In book three, A DEADLY CHECK-IN, Sammy now has to prove her own innocence when her cousin is murdered in a haunted hotel.

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

JP: I love them all, but I am fond of Sammy. I love her curiosity, her sense of humor, her love of coffee, and her loyalty to her friends.

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

JP: My love of cozy mysteries and New Orleans was my inspiration. Since I don’t live in the city or solve mysteries in real life, I get to live there and solve mysteries in my books.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

JP: About two years ago, I joined a critique group. Besides my husband, no one else had read my work in progress, THE KEY TO MURDER. My nerves were on edge at our first meeting, but quickly subsided. Our group is supportive, but offers constructive criticism. When I finished my revisions, my fellow writers told me I was ready to either send it to agents or self-publish. I took their advice and published it on my own.

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

JP: Agatha Christie is first on the list as she is still my inspiration as a mystery writer. I would also love to have Anne Rice join us to discuss New Orleans. I’d also love Julie Smith to come as I love her Skip Langdon and Talba Wallis series. Another idol of mine is Louise Penny. While I’m not a big fan of cold weather, I’d live in her town of Three Pines.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

JP: I’m reading the Dr. Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. I love reading books set in England and I’m fascinated by archeology. This series is a bit cozy, a bit police procedural, and definitely interesting.

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

JP: Right now my hobbies are unpacking boxes. We just moved to a new home and unpacking never seems to end. But when I’m settled, I enjoy reading, watching mysteries, traveling, and spending time with my husband and two teenagers.

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

JP: Coffee, coffee creamer, peanut butter and jelly.

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

JP: I’m writing book four of The French Quarter Mysteries, BURY THE PAST. I have at least two more books planned. I’m researching for a new series that will also take place in New Orleans. It’s a paranormal cozy series.

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

JP: I love I get to create character, worlds, and stories that are my own. And I love connecting with other readers and writers who enjoy mysteries as much.



The First French Quarter Mystery

Turning 30 seemed an appropriate time to make a new start so Samantha Richardson packed her bags and moved to New Orleans. Renting an apartment in the Thibodeaux Mansion in the French Quarter, Sammy quickly makes friends with the other residents. She's discovered a unique book in her apartment, a diary that acts as part romance novel and part scavenger hunt. None of her new friends know anything about the book and all deny the unique gift left subsequently at her door. Deciding the book would be a great way to get to know her new city, Sammy starts following clues...until they lead her to a dead body. Is someone setting her up? Sammy is sure one of her new "friends" is lying, but who?

The first French Quarter Mystery lays the groundwork for a fascinating series. I loved the intricate detailing of this very special portion of a unique city. I felt I was walking the streets and discovering both the charm and danger of New Orleans. Sammy is a great character, equally strong and vulnerable. The other characters are just as interesting with deep backstories I hope we get to explore. Most everyone is troubled to a degree, some much more than others. A hint of romance, neighbors as family, and a sense of community deepen the attachment for both Sammy and readers alike.

The mystery was unique and unexpected, as were the bead bodies. There was more than one surprise which was refreshing and kept me quickly turning the pages.

THE KEY TO MURDER is an engaging trip through the French Quarter. Interesting characters, an intriguing diary, and the chance to start again make for a compelling read and a great start to a new series.


 The Key to Murder: A New Orleans Cozy Mystery (The French Quarter Mysteries) by Jen Pitts

About A Key to Murder

The Key to Murder: A New Orleans Cozy Mystery (The French Quarter Mysteries) 
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Publisher: ‎ Independently published (March 4, 2020)
Paperback: ‎ 282 pages

Samantha thought following a mysterious diary around the French Quarter of New Orleans would be a harmless way to learn about her new hometown until it became about murder.

As the newest resident of Thibodeaux Mansion, West Coast transplant Samantha is looking forward to starting her thirties in a new place. Drawn to New Orleans for its music, food and history, she's excited to start her future in this unique city. But Samantha is also hopeful she'll find her past since she was adopted from Louisiana after being orphaned in a hurricane as a toddler.

An anonymous diary, unusual key, and a distinctive doll are left in her furnished apartment and her mostly friendly neighbors all deny leaving the gifts. Samantha, now Sammy to her new friends, can't believe any of them could be a liar. When the diary leads her to a dead body, Sammy needs to find out what these clues mean and what the murderer is trying to tell her.

Although her best friends Sissy and Andrew are happy to help her with this mystery, her other friends aren't sure the murder and diary are about Sammy. Not wanting to lose her newfound friendships and possible love interest, Sammy decides she must uncover the answers on her own.

Sammy moved to New Orleans looking for a new future, but is it her past that found her first?

THE KEY TO MURDER is the first book in the The French Quarter Mysteries featuring West Coast transplant Samantha Richardson settling into her new hometown, New Orleans. Her neighborhood is full of music, food and history as well as interesting people. Join Sammy as she explores the Big Easy by solving the mysteries of the past and present in this new modern, cozy mystery series.

About Jen Pitts


Jen Pitts is a lifelong mystery reader who turned her obsession into writing cozy mysteries of her own. When she isn’t plotting fictional murder and mayhem, she’s chugging coffee, traveling, reading, and enjoying life with her children and husband in the Pacific Northwest.  

Author Links:

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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Festive Mayhem 2 - A Recipe & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Barbara Howard to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Barbara is one of the authors whose short story appears in FESTIVE MAYHEM 2. Today she shares a recipe for Pink Kisses.

Pink Kisses

Related Story: “A Cup of Secrets” by Barbara Howard

Description: Debutante Chelsea Parker’s birthday celebration launched his catering business into an overnight success, but Milo is thrown into the center of a murder investigation before dawn with his business partner and love of his life as the primary suspect.

Recipe provided by Barbara Howard.


· 3 egg whites

· ¼ tsp cream of tartar

· 2 cups powdered sugar

· ¼ tsp almond flavoring

· 2 drops red food coloring

· ½ cups shredded coconut


1. Combine egg whites and cream of tartar; beat until frothy.

2. Add powdered sugar, beating constantly until stiff.

3. Add flavoring and food coloring; beat after each addition.

4. Fold in coconut.

5. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 275 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.


 Festive Mayhem 2 (Seven Holiday Culinary Cozy Mysteries) by Paige Sleuth, Francelia Belton, Angela Henry, Rhoda Berlin, Carolyn Marie Wilkins, Barbara Howard, and Stella Oni

About Festive Mayhem 2

Festive Mayhem 2 (Seven Holiday Culinary Cozy Mysteries)
Culinary Cozy Mystery Anthology
Independently Published (October 1, 2021) 
Number of Pages: 215 
Seven crime writers of color have teamed up for the second year running to offer you the gift of escape this holiday season. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, Halloween to New Year’s, cozy mystery fans are bound to find a favorite holiday represented in this limited-time collection of exclusive, never-before-published seasonal short stories.  
Author Links: 
Angela Henry:  
Rhoda Berlin:  
Carolyn Marie Wilkins: