Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Historical Cozy

     Ever wish you could travel in a time machine? While we may not have a Tardis at our disposal, we do have books. It's not only history books that can teach us about the past; cozy mysteries open all different time periods up for our exploration-and we don't have to worry about giving up indoor plumbing!
     Probably one of the first cozies I read was a historical cozy-Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, the first Amelia Peabody mystery. To this day it is one of my favorite series, and fortunately for everyone, it's a long running one. The series starts in the "supposedly enlightened decade of 1880" (Peters Crocodile on the Sandbank) and introduces us to Amelia Peabody, an Englishwoman who has just inherited a tidy sum and decides to travel to Egypt. This series gives us a great picture of Victorian Egypt, humor, and a bit of romance. The first book was published in 1975 with the most recent addition, the 19th book in the series, published in 2010! Elizabeth Peters imbues these books with historical accuracy as well, she actually is an Egyptologist!
     I love when I discover non fictional characters in fictional works. Amelia Peabody meets up with several "real" people, Howard Carter, for instance. This feat is also accomplished in Robin Paige's Victorian/Edwardian Mysteries. While the main characters are fictional, every book has them meet a notable figure of the time; Rudyard Kipling, and Lillie Langtry, for example. The series takes place in England from the mid 1890's to 1903.
     Sometimes the main character is a true historical person. Beatrix Potter stars in the The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert.
     Although the Victorian time period is one of my favorites, never fear, there are lots of other eras to be found in cozy mysteries. What about the Great Depression in the United States? Check out The Grace and Favor Series by Jill Churchill. Fancy a look at WWII England? Try The Manor House Mysteries by Kate Kingsbury. Rhys Bowen writes two of my favorite historicals-Molly Murphy is an Irish immigrant who becomes a private investigator in turn of the century (20th century that is) New York City in the Molly Murphy Mysteries while Lady Georgiana is a member of the royal family (she's 34th in line for the throne!) in 1930's England in the Royal Spyness series.
     Perhaps you'd prefer something a little more recent. What about the Murder a Go-Go series by Rosemary Martin? This series features Bebe Bennett in 1960's New York City. Something a little further back? Try Margaret Frazer's Dame Frevisse series; she's a medieval nun in England (Dame Frevisse is the medieval nun, not Margaret Frazier).
     Whatever time period you decide to explore-I know you'll have fun, and you just may learn something as well! 


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Peril in Paperback, the 5th book in the Bibliophile Mysteries by Kate Carlisle. Rare book restorer Brooklyn Wainwright is attending a week long house party honoring the 50th birthday of her friend's aunt. Brooklyn soon discovers some nasty guests, a good looking archivist, and a house filled with surprises.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How Readers Can Help Writers

Authors don’t earn a lot of money for their work. Only the very few and the very famous are rich. (Can we say J.K. Rowling and Nora Roberts?) While some are able to earn a comfortable living, many keep a “regular” job in order to truly make a living.
What would we do without our favorite authors? How can we make sure books we enjoy reading not only continue to get published, but continue to get written? I’ve read a few articles from authors themselves and I’d like to share the information with you.
How can we readers help authors?
The first way is the most obvious-buy their books! Buy books for you. Buy books for gifts. Paperbacks are still under $10 (mass market paperbacks, at any rate); the perfect price for that office gift exchange! While you're shopping be sure to keep in mind, when you buy used books the authors get nothing. While it may be nice to score a great deal on a book, you’re supporting the bookstore or seller, not the author.
Here’s an interesting fact, of which I was unaware until recently, if a book does well on its release day and its first week the publisher is more likely to contract for more books. If the book doesn’t take off right away, the publisher may cancel the series! Therefore, it’s very important to buy books as soon as they’re published. Personally, I think this stinks! There are so many wonderful books out there, with new series coming out all the time. Sadly, I don’t have the money, or the time, to buy them all, let alone read them all. I can’t keep up! How disappointing to discover an author late, only to discover there will be no future books as release day sales weren’t high enough.
If you’re a voracious reader like me, you simply can’t afford to buy all the books you read. That’s OK. Go to the library and check out books there. Libraries buy books and thus support authors. If they don’t have a book you’re looking for, request it. More requests increase the likelihood of the library buying the book in question and perhaps they’ll be more likely to buy books by the same author, or similar books.
Another tip I didn’t realize is to simply “like” books on Simply search for the book you’d like to support. On that books page, right under the title and author you’ll see “reviews” and a little “like” button. Click on the “like” and you’re done. Easy Peasy! Amazon, and sites like it, has rankings which authors and publishers study. The more you like, the better! If you want to put a tad more effort you could actually write a review of the books, hopefully positive, and post it on,,, or similar sites.
Social media can be a powerful tool-use it! Talk up authors and their works on Facebook and Twitter.  Enjoy a book? Recommend it on your page. Follow your favorite authors on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest. Check out the blogs and websites of authors you like. Read book blogs (like this one). Perhaps you’d like to start your own.
Spread the word. Invite reading into your home as well as the homes of friends and family. The more we share the more likely authors will be able to continue to write the books we love.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Currently Reading...

I just started reading Death of a Kitchen Diva by Lee Hollis. This book is the first Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery. In Bar Harbor, Maine, Hayley Powell is struggling to make ends meet as an office manager for one of the town's newspapers. Her boss won't give her a raise, but allows her to become the paper's new food columnist in order to earn a bit more cash. Not everyone is happy, however.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Let's Play!

     It's all fun and games 'til someone gets murdered. Friends get together all over the world to play cards or other games. It wasn't so long ago that professional poker playing became so popular that major events were televised and big name players became household names; Johnny Chan, anyone? Take a popular game, add a murder, and you get a fun cozy series.
     If you are interested in poker, Texas Hold'em in particular, try A Poker Mystery by Jackie Chance. Another card game that has its own series is bridge. Susan Moody writes about Cassie Swan, a professional bridge player in the United Kingdom. Prefer something a little less formal? What about the Bridge Club Mysteries by Honor Hartman?
     Cards aren't the only games out there-don't forget dice games. Join Kate McCall and her friends as they play bunco and solve murders in the Bunco Babes Mysteries by Gail Oust.
     If you're more of a puzzle person, never fret, there are several cozies for you. The Kate McDonald Mysteries by Shelley Freydont feature a mathematician who returns to her home town and a puzzle museum...and murder. If you enjoy crossword puzzles, Parnell Hall writes the wickedly funny Puzzle Lady Series where things, and people, aren't exactly what they seem. Nero Blanc also writes a series featuring crossword puzzles with the duo of crossword editor Annabella Graham and private investigator Rosco Polyctrates. There's also the Mystery by the Numbers Series by Casey Mayes featuring Savannah Store a math puzzle creator, and her husband, a retired police chief.
     Whatever your puzzle or game predilection, I'm sure you'll find a cozy mystery to suit.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Ed Undead: The Chronicles of a Teenage Zombie by Edward Kent. Not a cozy mystery, this book is a bit of a departure from my usual reading, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. There is mystery to be found, as well as humor, in this young adult novel.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Meet Lorraine Bartlett, Lorna Barrett, & LL Bartlett

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview NY Times Bestseller Lorna Barrett, author of the Booktown Series, Lorraine Bartlett, who writes the Victoria Square Mysteries, and L.L. Bartlett, creator of the Jeff Resnick Mysteries. While the Jeff Resnick series may not be considered a cozy I had to include its author because she, along with the other two, are actually one woman-Lorraine Bartlett!

Kathy:  What made you decide to publish your different series under 3 different names?

LB:  When I was offered the contract for the Booktown Mysteries, my publisher asked me to take a pseudonym.  The Jeff Resnick Mysteries are darker than a cozy mystery series (which describes the Booktown books).  The thought was to keep them separate, but I believe there’s a crossover reading audience, and I want everyone to know about all the series I write.

Kathy:  You grew up and currently live in Western New York. Your Jeff Resnick series is set in Buffalo, NY, the Victoria Square series takes place in a fictional small town in WNY; however, your Booktown series is set in New Hampshire. What made you decide on that setting?

LB:  My editor chose New Hampshire as the setting for the Booktown Mysteries.  If the choice had been mine, I would have set it in Western New York.  I know the weather here.  The weather in southern New Hampshire is different, which is why I don’t write much about winter there. 

Kathy:  You include wonderful recipes in both of your cozy series. Why did you choose to do that and where do you get your recipes?

LB:  Again, my publisher likes to include bonus material in the books they publish.  They asked for recipes, and I was happy to oblige. I get my recipes from all over the place; cookbooks, sides of jars, online. But I try to make each one I publish my own by changing the ingredients and measurements. Sometimes I try to recreate food I've eaten in restaurants. I guess I like to play with my food!

Kathy:  What first drew you to the cozy mystery?

LB:  To be honest, I hadn’t read very many cozy mysteries before I decided to try my hand at writing one.  At the time, I wasn’t able to sell my Jeff Resnick books and was frustrated.  It was time to try something else.  I had tried to write (and quite unsuccessfully) romance, although my first sales were romance short stories. A lot of readers think that romances are easy to write and sell--that they’re just formulaic, but that’s not true.  Nor is it true of writing a cozy mystery.  From the time I wrote my first cozy mystery until the time the first Booktown Mystery was published was a full nine years. I wrote and edited and rewrote countless times before I learned how to do it well.

Kathy:  Tell us about your series.

LB: The Jeff Resnick Mysteries feature a man who was viciously mugged.  As a consequence, he found he gained a kind of 6th sense when it comes to crime.  The Booktown Mysteries feature a small town with a number of used booksellers.  Tricia Miles owns the mystery bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue and feels compelled to snoop when it comes to solving local crimes.  The Victoria Square mysteries feature a woman who owns and manages an Artisans Arcade in the charming shopping district of Victoria Square.  But crime happens, and usually Katie finds a way to become involved.

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

LB:  Jeff Resnick.  Something about him just appeals to me.  He’s a very private person, and yet because of the visions he sometimes gets, is forced to out himself and his new gift to the world at large. I’m also drawn to the relationship he has with his brother and his sister-in-law.  They are an oddball kind of family, but they’re fiercely loyal to one another.

Kathy:  Did you have specific inspiration for your series?

The Victoria Square Mysteries were inspired by my time as a vendor in an antiques arcade. I wondered what it would be like to run such a place and let my imagination run free.

Kathy:  What made you decide to publish your work?

From the time I decided I wanted to be professionally published until the time my first novel saw print was eleven years.  Since 2009, I’ve been self-publishing my backlist of titles (mostly short stories).  I’ve been very pleased with the results.

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

That’s easy.  Ellery Adams, Leann Sweeney, Julie Hyzy, and Heather Webber -- they’re all members of a group blog I belong to, The Cozy Chicks.  ( )

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

LB:  Horseradish mayo, non-fat milk, eggs, and club soda.

Kathy:  Would you care to share any hobbies your have?

LB:  I like to go junking.  I was once a vendor in an antiques co-op.  You can take the girl out of the business, but you can’t take away the thrill of the hunt.  Only now I don’t buy nearly as much.  It takes discipline to say, “I love it, but I don’t need it, and have no room for it.”  I used to knit and do counted cross-stitch, but carpal tunnel syndrome put an end to that.

Kathy:  What are you currently reading?

LB:  Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams.  She’s a wonderful author and a good friend.

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

LB:  I have plans to write more books in all three series.  And I have ideas for several more series that I hope to write one day.  In fact, I have more ideas than I can possibly ever find time to explore in novel length.

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

LB:  My friendships with other authors. I love talking shop.  People outside the “business” just don’t understand what we encounter in our writing and the business side of publishing.

Thanks so much Lorraine, for taking the time to talk with me.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Lorraine, Lorna, and L.L. Be sure to give all her series a read and check out her various blogs and Facebook pages. In addition, her latest Jeff Resnick mystery will be released tomorrow, September 10, 2012. Look for Room at the Inn at most online retail outlets and get your copy!

If you want to start at the beginning-these are the first titles in each of her series:
Booktown: Murder is Binding
Victoria Square: A Crafty Killing
Jeff Resnick: Murder on the Mind - Victoria Square Mysteries - Booktown Mysteries - Jeff Resnick Mysteries

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Going Organic Can Kill You by Staci McLaughlin. The first in the Blossom Valley Mystery series introduces us to Dana who has just moved back from San Jose to her mom's house in a small California town. Although Dana is hired to help with the marketing of a new organic farm and spa she finds herself involved in much more-from herding pigs to finding dead bodies. I'm really enjoying this humorous book!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Just My Cup of Tea...or Coffee

     While the culinary genre deals with food, it also includes beverages. Coffee, tea, and other libations take center stage in some culinary mysteries.
     The Tea Shop Mysteries by Laura Childs tell us all about tea; the different blends, how to properly brew it, it even gives tips on hosting tea parties! While tea is obviously the star of the series, food plays an integral role too. Theodosia Browning, our protagonist, relies on Haley Parker to create wonderful dishes, both sweet and savory, to compliment the teas of the Indigo Tea Shop. Fortunately for us, recipes are also included in the books!
     Perhaps you're more of a coffee drinker. Try the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle. Clare Cosi is the manager and head barista of her former mother-in-law's coffeehouse, the Village Blend. In this series we learn about coffee, including information on the beans themselves including harvesting from Clare's ex-husband, Matteo, a coffee bean buyer. But, what's an espresso without a biscotti? As with most coffee shops, the Village Blend offers food as well and our author shares some recipes in her books.
     A favorite beverage of mine is wine and there are a few wine mysteries out there. One of my favorite series is the Wine Country Mysteries by Ellen Crosby. Although wine and the vineyard are the mainstay of the series, I don't consider it a culinary mystery. We do learn about wine and grapes, but for some reason, I just don't get the cozy culinary vibe. That being said it's a fantastic series which I highly recommend.
   No matter your preference, food or drink, you're sure to find a culinary cozy mystery that's just right!