Sunday, December 30, 2012

Long Running Series

I'm always a little sad whenever I finish a book I really like. Sad that the adventure is over and I have to say goodbye to new friends. The wonderful thing about cozy mysteries is that they're usually series-so when you finish one, you know you'll meet up with everyone again for the next adventure.

Unfortunately, some series are short lived. In some cases, this result is not desired by the author either. The book doesn't sell well and the publisher won't publish further stories in the series. Happily, the advent of e-books and self publishing has allowed some authors to continue their series even when the publisher says no. Sometimes the series ends because, tragically, the author died. Barbara Burnett Smith wrote the Purple Sage Mysteries and had just started a new beading series, Bead on Trouble when she died. A second book in that series, Beads of Doubt, was published, finished by another author. 

Some series have a set ending by the author. Carole Nelson Douglas intends to go through the entire alphabet with her Midnight Louis series. After the first two books, Catnap and Pussyfoot, the titles follow the alphabet-Cat on a Blue Monday. She's currently on W with the 2012 release of Cat in a White Tie and Tales. Kate Kingsbury also had an ending with her Pennyfoot Hotel series; although that's not quite true in that four years after the series ended she began bringing those characters back in Christmas mysteries.

Long running series are great in that you truly get to know the characters. Seeing how the characters change and grow can be amazing and wonderful. At the start of the series by Elizabeth Peters we meet Amelia Peabody, a single lady in Victorian England who is finally free to travel. By the most recent book in the series Amelia is married with grandchildren! We've also seen the political and archeological changes in Egypt. Crocodile on the Sandbank was published in 1975 with A River in the Sky released in 2010. There are currently 19 books in this series.

So what makes a series long running? Although time does count for something (the Amelia Peabody series continued for 35 years and although the author is 85 years old, she's still with us-so there may yet be another book in the series!) to me it's the number of books in the series that makes it long running. For me, a series must have at least 10 published books in order to be considered a long running series.

There are problems with long running series. Unfortunately, I've found a few clunkers in some of my favorite series. I suppose when you write that many books, some are bound to be not as great. When it first started, I adored the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown; every book was great. Then there was a horrible clunker. I didn't give up on it, and Rita Mae Brown got back on track with some wonderful books which I recommend. There are currently 20 books in the series which began with Wish You Were Here in 1990 with the 21st scheduled to be published in June 2013. What's interesting is that the clunker sits half way through the series.

So what are some other long running series? Cleo Coyle currently has 12 books in her Coffeehouse Mysteries. Laura Childs has two long running series. The Tea Shop Mysteries started with Death by Darjeeling in 2001 and the 14th in the series will be released in March 2013. Her Scrapbooking Series just makes the cut with her 10th book in the series, Postcards from the Dead published in 2012. There are 17 books in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swenson series with the 18th to be published in February 2013. Two of these are actually novellas, found in holiday collections with stories with other authors, but still, more than enough to make a long running series. There are 16 books in Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Bear series. Kate Collins started her Flower Shop Mysteries with a 2004 publication. There are now 13 books. There are 17 books in the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton starting with Aunt Dimity's Death back in 1992 with the 18th due in April 2013.

As you can see, there are plenty of long running series out there-and many series which I hope will become long running. Do you have a favorite long running series? Which current series do you hope become long running ones?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Currently Reading...

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I'm currently reading Fox Tracks. This book is the 8th Sister Jane Mystery by Rita Mae Brown. No, I didn't neglect to mention this series in my post-"Have a Little Faith". Sister Jane isn't a nun. This series falls into the animal cozy subgenre. It's about fox hunting-don't worry, they don't kill the fox in the US! Animals speak too!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Have a Little Faith

With Christmas just a few days away, I thought I'd take a look at the Religious subgenre of cozy mysteries. Some cozies have characters of faith, but I don't consider them Religious Cozies. The Reverend Herb Jones is a supporting character (as are his cats Elocution, Cazenovia, and Lucy Fur) in the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown. For me, a Religious Cozy may not necessarily revolve around religion, but the protagonist is a member of faith.

Nuns seem to get involved in murder a lot! Two of my favorite series have nuns in the leading role. Sr. Mary Helen is an elderly, but very spry, nun who always carries around a mystery novel to read. What gives the Sr. Mary Helen Mysteries such verisimilitude, at least as it relates to the life of a religious, is that the author, Carol Anne O'Marie was herself, a nun. Both she and Sr. Helen belonged to the Sisters of St. Joseph, a Roman Catholic order. The series starts with A Novena for Murder and ended with the 11th book, Murder at the Monk's Table.

While the Sisters of St. Joseph work closely with people, some nuns are still cloistered, even nuns who face mysteries. Our Lady of Hope Monastery is a cloistered convent in New Mexico in the series by Aimee and David Thurlo. Sister Agatha serves as an extern sister, one who deals with the outside world. A former investigative reporter, Sister Agatha rides a motorcycle and has the help of a former police dog named Pax, who now lives at the convent.

If you want to go back in time, be sure to read the Sister Frevisse mysteries by Margaret Frazier. These books give a great look at the Medieval times, from a nun's perspective. They also give a jolly good mystery! The first in this series is The Novice's Tale.

Another of my favorite series sheds light on a whole religion, the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, also known as the Shakers. Deborah Woodworth takes us back to the 1930's and introduces us to Sister Rose Callahan in her series.

Nuns aren't the only clergy to be featured in mysteries, priests get involved as well. G.K. Chesterton wrote the Father Brown Mysteries in the first half of the twentieth century. Ralph M. McInerny wrote the Father Dowling Mysteries; remember the TV series with Tom Bosley? Ralph McInerny starred a nun in another series. He wrote the Sr. Mary Teresa Mysteries under the name Monica Quill. Who can forget Brother Cadfael, the 12th century monk and herbalist in the series by Ellis Peters?

It's not just those of Christian faiths who find murder. Ruby Rothman is a rabbi's widow in Eternal, Texas in the humorous Ruby the Rabbi's Wife Mysteries by Sharon Kahn. Harry Kemelman gave us the Rabbi Mystery series, following Rabbi David Small.

If you want to add a little religion to your reading, give one of these series a try!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading The Big Cat Nap by Rita Mae Brown and Sneakie Pie Brown. This book is the 20th anniversary Mrs. Murphy Mystery. Mrs. Murphy is a tiger cat who lives with animal friends Tee Tucker, a corgi, and Pewter, a cat, and her human-Harry (Mary Minor Haristeen). Harry is more curious than any cat and invariably finds trouble-from which her animal friends help her escape!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Who Has Time to Write?

Picture it: the author sitting alone in a garret writing. Brief dealings with editor and publisher are the only contact the author has with the outside world. The goal is to write and that's all the author does.

That description no longer exists for authors in today's publishing world. Not only must the author write the book, she must promote it. While this trend has been going on for decades (probably longer in some cases), social media has caused it to explode.

It's more than the occasional book tour and the odd newspaper review. Most authors today not only have their own websites, they have Facebook pages and blogs. You can follow them on Twitter and Pinterest. What about those authors who use different pen names? They often have all of these accounts for each of their names!

Some people may think that such promotion is only necessary for authors that self publish or perhaps work with small publishing companies. Not true. Authors published by the Big Boys of the publishing world promote themselves just as much. It doesn't matter if the book is the author's first or she's already a New York Times Bestseller.

With all the blogging, tweeting, and posting all over I don't know how authors find the time to actually write the books. I'm just grateful that they do!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Time Untime by Sherrilyn Kenyon. I don't always read mysteries. For a change of pace I started this paranormal romance. It's a Dark-Hunter novel, a unique world created by the author which I love to visit.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Diva Stops By For a Visit

Do you stay up late pinning recipes and decorating tips on Pinterest? Are you addicted to HGTV? Have you stockpiled articles on homemaking techniques? Do you consider yourself a domestic diva?

If you answered yes to any of the above mentioned questions then do I have the perfect cozy mystery series for you-The Domestic Diva Mysteries by Krista Davis. The Diva Runs Out of Thyme introduces us to Sophie Winston, an event planner who lives in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. Recipes and decorating tips are included in each book. Krista stopped by the blog for an interview.

Kathy: What first drew you to the cozy mystery?

Nancy Drew! Agatha Christie! I've been reading cozies as long as I can remember.

Kathy:  Do you write any other genres?

KD: Not at the moment. I like traditional mysteries and thrillers, but I don't see myself writing anything without a mystery in it.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

KD: Starting in 2013, I will have two series!

The Domestic Diva Mysteries take place in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and feature a domestic diva with an advice column.

The new series is set at the Sugar Maple Inn on fictional Wagtail Mountain where a Jack Russell Terrier named Trixie has a nose for trouble.

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

KD: Gosh, which of my children do I like best? I like them all, even Natasha. Some of them grew on me. I never intended Humphrey to go past the first book. But he kept stumbling in, even when I hadn't planned on it. And I have to say that I love Francie. She's funny, sharp, can be biting, and sometimes she's a nut.

In my new series, one character is already stepping forward to be a much bigger player than I expected. Sometimes characters seem to take on a life of their own!

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

KD: I had submitted a different concept to my publisher and my editor asked if it would appeal to readers of Real Simple. I'd never heard of Real Simple so I dashed off to the drugstore to have a look.  It dawned on me that it's sort of the anti-Martha magazine for people who want to have good food and lovely homes without quite as much fuss. Right there, in the drugstore aisle, the concept of two rival domestic divas with very different styles sprang into my head.

Kathy: Sophie and Natasha have had a rivalry since they were young. Did you have a similar rivalry growing up?

KD: No. I don't know if it's good or bad, but I'm not very competitive. I have been friends with people who had some of Natasha's traits. She doesn't think she's being mean. Natasha honestly thinks she's being helpful, and is completely stunned that others wouldn't perceive her comments that way. Of course, when the tables are turned, she's the first to be offended.

Kathy: Sophie always manages to whip up delicious meals for family and friends who pop by. Are you able to do the same?

KD: It's easier for Sophie. I'm not quite as capable as she is, but I do enjoy entertaining, and I love to have friends visit. I'm always trying out recipes on my friends and family for my books and Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. In the beginning, I think they were a little bit afraid to tell me if they didn't care for something, but now they're like restaurant critics!

Kathy: How do you come up with the recipes you share in your books?

KD: Some of them are based on family recipes. Others are recipes that I work on until I get them the way I want them. I thought my poor mother would never eat Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie again. I baked so many of them that we actually got to the point where we would split a teeny little piece to try, and then I'd give the rest of the pie to neighbors.

Kathy: When it comes to decorating your own home do you go all out, or do you keep your decorating fictional and not do much of anything in reality?

KD: I go all out for Christmas. Yes, I'm a Christmas nut. I decorate for Halloween and a little bit for Easter, and I switch out certain wreaths and items on the mantel with the seasons.

Kathy: Is your decorating style more like Sophie or Natasha?

KD: Definitely Sophie! Natasha goes wild.

Kathy: I must ask, is Natasha channeling Martha Stewart?

KD: I don't think she's channeling Martha. Natasha idolizes Martha and thinks she's the Martha of the South. But in her enthusiasm, Natasha often bungles things. Shh, don't tell her I said that. She thinks she's always right.

Kathy:  Do you believe in ghosts?

KD: This is a tough question. For a very long time, I did not believe in them at all. Then I had a couple of strange experiences that were difficult to explain. When I look at the night sky and try to imagine that there is no end to space, a concept that I find very difficult, then I think there must be many, many things we don't understand or know about. By nature I'm a "show me" kind of person but I'm not sure that everything can be seen or quantified so I'm open to the idea.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

KD:It wasn't so much a decision as a quest. Just a few years ago, the only option for writers was to find a publisher. Berkley Prime Crime has been very good to me, and I'm delighted to be one of their authors.

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

KD: This is such a difficult question. I have to say that I would invite all my wonderful writer friends. It would be a huge gathering, though. So I'll answer the question assuming that I can't invite them.

Agatha Christie would top the guest list. Dinner will be on a boat moored on the Nile, probably at Luxor. Cocktails, of course. Giant shrimp as an appetizer. Beef Wellington, asparagus, creamy mashed potatoes, and an exotic salad with mangos in it. Dessert would have to be champagne and triple chocolate mousse torte.

Oh, yes, the other guests. Mark Twain, because he's hilarious and fun. Dr. Seuss because he must be delightful. Lillian Jackson Braun because I loved Qwill, Koko, and Yum Yum.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

KD: SPICE 'N DEADLY by Gail Oust. It's not out yet, but it's a fun book with wonderfully warm witty characters. It takes place in the south. Piper, the protagonist, opens a spice shop to get back on her feet after a divorce, but a murder gets in the way of her plans.

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

KD: I'm a huge lover of dogs and cats. While I haven't traveled much recently, I love to explore new places and visit other countries.

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

KD: Julie's 100 calorie Fudgesicles (I'm addicted), red pepper and tomato soup, 0% milk, and the most gorgeous huge eggs from a local farm.

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

KD: Oh my, yes! I'm very busy. THE DIVA FROSTS A CUPCAKE will be out on June 4th. I'm just starting work on the next book in that series, and I'm under contract for another as well, so the domestic divas will continue for a while.

We don't have a series name yet for the new mysteries. I'm calling them the Wagtail Mysteries, but that will probably be changed. The working title of the first book is THE TROUBLE WITH DOGS. It will be in bookstores this time next year, with a release date of December 3rd.

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

KD: My favorite thing is having a job that I love. I get up in the morning, ready to roll, eager to jump back into my current manuscript. I still can't believe that I'm so lucky.

I'm so thankful that Krista was able to take time to answer my questions, especially during this busy holiday season. Perhaps my readers can now help her. Krista is having a Christmas cookie recipe contest. The winners will have their names and recipes published in the 2014 Domestic Diva Mystery! Preference will be given to family recipes that have been handed down. An impartial group of her family and friends will tasting and choosing the winners.

Please send your recipes to Krista at KristaDavis dot com. If there's a story behind the recipe, she would love to hear it. If the recipe is from a cookbook, please tell her the title and author. If the recipe is from a website, please include a link.
Want more Krista Davis? You can find her on the following websites:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Currently Reading...

I am just about to start Flowerbed of State by Dorothy St. James. This book is the first White House Gardener Mystery.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Mysteries...And Contest Winner

Believe it or not December is here and with it the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. What better way to help get in the spirit than to read a holiday mystery!

Many years ago my cousin in California introduced me to the Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries by Kate Kingsbury. This fabulous series takes place in Edwardian England. Cecily Sinclair is a widow who runs the Pennyfoot Hotel with the help of her hotel manager, Baxter. What drew me in, even more than the mysteries themselves, was the relationship between Cecily and Baxter. There is an undeniable attraction, yet class barriers, among other things stand in their way. I loved how the series progressed and was sad to see it end. Then a Christmas miracle occurred. Cecily, Baxter, and the Pennyfoot crew return each year at Christmastime. Unfortunately for them, fortunately for us, murders keep interrupting their holiday festivities. While the first 12 books in the original series are tighter and more compelling, the following holiday mysteries are an enjoyable Christmas treat! Room with a Clue (1993) is the first in the series, No Clue at the Inn (2003) starts the yearly Christmas mysteries with The Clue is in the Pudding as the most recent, published just last month!

What's Christmas without cookies? Hannah Swensen bakes up cookies for her shop, The Cookie Jar in Lake Eden, Minnesota in the series penned by Joanne Fluke. A few of these take place at Christmastime, including Plum Pudding Murder and the novellas included in Gingerbread Cookie Murder and Candy Cane Murder. The books also include recipes!

You might like a cup of coffee with that Christmas cookie. If so you might like to read Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle or her upcoming Coffeehouse Mystery, Holiday Buzz, which will be released Tuesday. Of course, one lucky reader of this blog has won an autographed copy of that very book.

I used to determine the winner, and the winner is Kimberlee, with comment #1. Congratulations. Thanks to everyone who entered.