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.  

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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.  
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Angela Henry:  
Rhoda Berlin:  
Carolyn Marie Wilkins:  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading The Key to Murder by Jen Pitts. This is the first book in the French Quarter Mystery series and was released last year.

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 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?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A Brush with Murder - An Excerpt, Spotlight, & Giveaway

Today I'd like to share an excerpt from A Brush with Murder by Bailee Abbott. This book is the first in the Paint by Murder Mystery series and was released last week.

I groaned and mumbled as she explained her idea, which involved costumes and human billboards. “Let me get this straight. You want me to stand on a corner, in front of traffic and people, wearing a costume of a cartoon character, with a sandwich billboard shaped like an easel hanging from my shoulders, while I hand out flyers for our event? That’s your best idea to sell admission?” My forehead hit the counter with a thud.

“What happened to the daring and impulsive sister I know? I come up with this crazy idea, which, by the way, isn’t in my comfort zone, and you sit there all grumpy and critical. I’m trying to save my business the best way I can.”


 A Brush with Murder: A Paint by Murder Mystery by Bailee Abbott

About A Brush With Murder

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crooked Lane Books (October 12, 2021)
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages

A quiet lakeside town in western New York state is the new home of Manhattan artist Chloe Abbington and the backdrop for murder in this series debut by Bailee Abbott.

For Chloe Abbington, the transition from fine art painter in New York City to painting-event business owner in charming Whisper Cove is more than a little jarring. But when poison-pen journalist Fiona Gimble writes a viciously negative review of the newly opened Paint with a View, Chloe learns that critics are the same everywhere. And when she finds Fiona's body behind her shop with a painting knife in her neck, Chloe realizes that this picture-perfect town offers anything but peace and quiet.

Suddenly, bustling Artisan Alley is a crime scene, and Chloe is the prime suspect. Her sister and business partner, Izzie, isn't much help--she's busy running the shop, and besides, she has secrets of her own. As shrewd Detective Barrett tries to paint her into a corner, Chloe soon finds that Fiona had plenty of enemies. The Whisper Cove Gazette columnist wielded her pen like a sword, slicing and dicing just about every shop owner in the lakeside town.

Chloe sets out to prove that she's been framed for Fiona's murder. But she'd better learn the fine art of detection quickly, before the real killer paints the town red again. Otherwise, she may end up trading in her paint smock for an orange jumpsuit...or a green burial plot.


About Bailee Abbott

Bailee Abbott is a native Ohioan who spends her days plotting murder and writing mysteries. She's a member of Sisters in Crime as well as of International Thriller Writers. Bailee lives with her husband and furry friend Max in the quiet suburbs of Green, Ohio. Visits to Bemus Point, a town along the Chautauqua Lake in southwest New York inspired the setting for the PAINT BY MURDER mystery series. She also writes the SIERRA PINES B&B mystery series under the name Kathryn Long.

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