Sunday, April 23, 2017

What Makes a Cozy Mystery Cozy, Anyway? - Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway


What Makes a Cozy Mystery Cozy, Anyway? 
By Julie Chase


Popular as the cozy subgenre of mystery is, and as fast as the love is growing, there are still plenty of readers who have no idea what I’m talking about when I tell them I write cozies. I imagine they think the little word is thrown in there to describe something else like an emotion I’m feeling as I write. Maybe they just think that I think mysteries in general are warm and comfy. I’m not sure. But I get that wrinkled nose or slow blink, and I know they’re hearing the term for the first time. Hopefully not for the last.

Cozies are making stride in popularity these days, reaching lots of new readers, and sometimes breaking away from the mold, but at the heart of every cozy, we will always find these six things:

1. Murder. There will always be a central murder to catapult the heroine into action. After all, this is a mystery. In Cat Got Your Cash, my heroine, Lacy, is excited to meet her hero, a local fashion designer who made it BIG, but when she arrives at the appointment, her hero is dead, and she’s accidentally picked up the murder weapon. Yikes!

2. An amateur sleuth. It used to be that the sleuth was always a woman. That’s no longer true, and honestly, I’m seeing some former PIs and not-so-amateurs slipping into the list, but traditionally, the heroine is busy living her life until the body drops.

3. The heroine has a fun job or hobby. Cozy heroines do fun things, either for work or play, and the story centers around them. Maybe she owns a bead shop, a tea shop or yoga studio. Maybe her dog helps her solve the crimes, or her bakery is enchanted. Whatever it is that is unique to the heroine, readers love coming back for more. In Cat Got Your Cash, Lacy runs Furry Godmother, a pet boutique and organic treat bakery in New Orleans. A cozy heroine’s pastime is guaranteed to be fun and original. Something the reader enjoys learning about as much as the murder. My cozies include Lacy’s recipes for homemade pet treats!

4. The setting is delightful. Cozies are set in closed communities. A small town, or neighborhood, so that readers can get to know your heroine’s people. Regular reoccurring characters often become reader favorites. They might frequent the heroine’s shop, be related to her, a neighbor of hers or the instructor at her favorite art class. Regardless of how often the heroine leaves the area on business or pleasure, we can count on the local cast to pop up and make us smile.

5. Humor. Humor is the thread that pulls it all together and ties the adorable bow. Cozies aren’t focused on police procedure or the down and dirty of crime. They follow an amateur sleuth, someone like you or me, through the chaos of her life while also trying to clear her name (or a loved one’s – or trying to bring justice to a murdered friend etc) by solving a murder. Imagine yourself attempting this task in your spare time…..funny, right?

6. A PG-rating. Despite the central story line of murder, cozy mysteries can be trusted to keep it clean. There is no blood, guts or gore. The language is kept to church standards (I was recently asked to change the word ‘crap’ in a cozy because it could be perceived as distasteful). You might read about how a character swore under his breath or uttered an oath, but you’ll have to use your imagination on what that was exactly. Also, cozies often have romantic chemistry brewing between the heroine and a local detective or other reoccurring character, but you won’t see them being romantic. Maybe some squeezing of their hands, a hug goodbye or cheek-kiss hello, but anything unbecoming will be off the page or simply not present. The relationship, after all, is a side dish to the main course. And the main course is Mystery!

If you’re in the mood for a new cozy series, I hope you’ll give my Kitty Couture Mysteries a try. Lacy and her gang in New Orleans are just waiting to draw you in, pour you a cup of sweet tea and fill you with crawfish and beignets. See you there!

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Cat Got Your Cash: A Kitty Couture Mystery

Lacy Marie Crocker’s whimsical pet couture has gained a following in New Orleans’s cozy Garden District, and word of mouth has traveled all the way to her favorite fashion designer, Annie Lane. Lacy’s thrilled when Annie schedules a private session at her home to discuss a companion line for her evening wear, but when Lacy arrives for the appointment, she enters the kitchen to two mewling Siamese cats--and one very dead Annie.

Lacy takes the kittens home to care for them until they can be properly claimed by Annie's family or friends, but after a busy day of work, she returns home to find them missing. And when Lacy learns the cats are set to inherit Annie's fortune, she begins to wonder if the killer was after the kittens all along. Now Lacy will stop at nothing to save the Siamese and find justice for Annie--if the killer doesn’t sink his claws into her first.

Luckily, Lacy has the help of handsome NOLA PD homicide detective Jack Oliver to help her catch the cat-napper before its too late in Cat Got Your Cash, the endearing second Kitty Couture mystery from Julie Chase.

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About the Author:

Julie Chase is a mystery-loving pet enthusiast who hopes to make readers smile. She lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three spunky children. Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and Sisters in Crime (SinC). She is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Julie also writes as Julie Anne Lindsey. Learn more about Julie Anne Lindsey here.

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Review


CAT GOT YOUR CASH by Julie Chase
The Second Kitty Couture Mystery

Lacie Crocker, who has declined financial assistance from her family, is making a go of it at her Furry Godmother shop, but barely. She now has a chance get her big break by partnering her pet couture with the famous designer Annie Lane. Yet instead of discovering a new opportunity, Lacie finds Annie's dead body. Unwilling to let Annie's two Siamese kittens be taken to the pound, she assumes responsibility for them until Annie's will is probated. That decision puts her in the cross hairs of angry animal activists, a mad ex-husband, and a mysterious stalker. But nothing can stop this self admittedly nosy designer from trying to figure out the truth and help solve the murder.

Filled with memorable characters, the Kitty Couture Mystery series is a fun, feel good escape. The ongoing battle between the Jazzy Chicks and the Llama Mamas showcase part of the personality that is the New Orleans Garden District. Steeped in tradition and money, its citizens generally try to do good and make the world a better place. Detective Jack Oliver, Chase Hawthorne, and newcomer Henri LaSalle, provide enough testosterone to ignite some swoonworthy moments while Imogene gives a healthy dose of comfort and realism, with a dash of the unknown. Lacie Crocker is an endearing protagonist, even though she made me sigh at her ignorance of proper cat introductions and makes me want to smack her to realize Jack's feelings toward her! But Lacie is real. Trying to make it on her own, yet knowing when she needs to call for help. Admitting her faults, yet accepting them and trying to do better, for herself, her friends and family, and the community itself.

CAT GOT YOUR CASH is an engaging mystery with a heart stopping climactic scene that will leave you breathless. I thoroughly enjoyed my second trip to New Orleans via the Furry Godmother and eagerly await my next visit.

Pet recipes included.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Dial P for an Interview & Giveaway


I'm pleased to welcome Zara Keane to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Zara pens the Movie Club Mystery series. Dial P For Poison, the first book in the series, was released last week.


Kathy: Maggie Doyle has terrible baking "skills". What about you? Could you be a favored contestant on the Great British Bake Off, or are you more likely to burn the tent down?

ZK: I love baking! I’m not good enough for a Bake Off, but I enjoy making cakes. I’m less good with bread, though. Thankfully, my husband likes experimenting with bread recipes and picks up the slack.


Kathy: Maggie has a UFO-enthusiast friend. Do you believe in UFOs? Are you an enthusiast even if you don't quite believe?

ZK: No! I don’t believe in UFOs. I think there probably is life on other planets, perhaps in a form we can’t recognize, but I think most UFO sightings are likely to be man-made aircraft of some description. However, I’m all for people with geeky or unusual hobbies! If Lenny in the Movie Club Mysteries likes to hunt for UFOs in his spare time, then why not?


Kathy: Maggie's aunt owns the Movie Theater Café. Are you a film buff? What types of movies do you favor? Do you have a favorite film?

ZK: I’m a huge fan of old films. I find the classics from the silent era fascinating, as well as films right up to around the mid Sixties. As for favourites, several Hitchcock films spring to mind: Rebecca, To Catch a Thief, and North by Northwest. When I was brainstorming the concept for my cozy mystery series, I wanted the protagonist to share one of my interests. I toyed with the idea of making her a board game geek, but I decided to let that be one of Lenny’s hobbies (the UFO-enthusiast mentioned above), and roll with films as Maggie’s passion. All the titles in the series riff off classic film titles. Dial P For Poison was inspired by Dial M For Murder, and The Postman Always Dies Twice takes its name from The Postman Always Rings Twice.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

ZK: Mysteries are go-to pleasure reads, and cozy mystery is my favourite subgenre. I’m drawn to cozies because they have all the elements I enjoy in fiction: plenty of humour, little to no graphic violence, and character-driven stories. The best cozy series have a cast of characters I care about and can’t wait to revisit in subsequent books. I live slow-burn romantic arcs in cozies, but I don’t have to have them. It totally depends on the protagonist and the premise of the series.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

ZK: Yes! I write small town contemporary romance and romantic suspense set in Ireland. Like the cozies, they’re all heavy on the humour and focus on family and friends as well as the main couple. Love and Shenanigans, the first book in the Ballybeg series, is free on all major ebook stores if anyone wants to try it, but unlike my cozies, my romances do contain some sex and strong language.


Kathy: Tell us about your new cozy mystery series.

ZK: To escape her cheating ex and crumbling career in the San Francisco PD, Maggie Doyle moves to the Wild West…of Ireland. She takes a job in her aunt’s Movie Theater Café and finds her detective skills are required when one of the patrons winds up dead after drinking one of Maggie’s signature cocktails.


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

ZK: Probably Maggie herself. Which is just as well given that the stories are told exclusively from her point of view! She makes me laugh and I see a lot of myself in her. Maggie says stuff that I might think but would never say out loud.


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

ZK: I grew up in Dublin, but I spent my school breaks with my grandparents in a town very like Smuggler’s Cove on Whisper Island. There was an abandoned cinema at the far end of the town and my cousin and I used to sneak in and explore. I always wondered what it had looked like in its heyday, and I loved the idea of Maggie’s aunt renovating a movie theater and turning it into a café.

As for the inspiration for Maggie’s character, my mother is American and has several funny culture shock stories from when she first moved to Ireland. I incorporated some of those into the book. I wanted Maggie to be in the interesting, and at times contradictory, position of being both a fish out of water and accepted by the islanders as one of their own. She has family and old friends to reconnect with on Whisper Island, yet she’s still an outsider in many respects. This puts her in a unique position when it comes to investigating cases.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

ZK: I started writing with a view to publication in late 2009. By the time I had a couple of finished manuscripts out on submission, the indie publishing scene was taking off. I watched and learned from others, and finally decided to take the plunge in April 2013. I can’t remember what the catalyst was. I woke up one morning and decided to turn the three contemporary romances I’d written so far into a series. I worked like a demon for fifteen months and finally published Love and Shenanigans in May 2014. Dial P For Poison is my first cozy mystery, but my sixth published novel and thirteenth published story. Time flies!

I love the freedom of being indie. I can pick the editors and other publishing professionals I work with, and I can set my own schedule. I have three kids, one of whom has special needs, so having the flexibility to set my own deadlines is fantastic.


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

ZK: Agatha Christie, without doubt. I’ve read that she based her mystery novelist character, Ariadne Oliver, on herself. If that’s the case, she’d make a fun dinner guest. I’d also like to meet Irish crime fiction author, Adrian McKinty, who writes the fabulous Sean Duffy series set in Belfast during the Troubles. Nora Roberts is another author I’d like to have dinner with. Like Agatha Christie, she has a fabulous work ethic, and has amassed a legion of loyal fans who love her books. As for a fourth…so hard to narrow it down to just four…I’ll go with cozy historical mystery author, Rhys Bowen. I’ve been reading her work since I discovered the Constable Evan Evans books in my local library and I’ve followed her from Evan to Molly Murphy and, most recently, to Lady Georgie.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

ZK: Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James, the eighth book in her Cat in the Stacks mystery series. It’s a fun read.


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

ZK: Sure! As I mentioned above, I love old films and I’m a total board game geek. We have…a lot. LOL!


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

ZK: Coffee, juice, apples, and dark chocolate. The essentials in life!


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

ZK: Yes! The second book in the Movie Club Mysteries is The Postman Always Dies Twice. It will be published a week after Dial P For Poison on the 20th of April. Book 3 in the series, How to Murder a Millionaire, will be out in June. Meanwhile, I’m writing an exclusive Movie Club Mysteries novella for my mailing list subscribers. The first episode of To Hatch a Thief will go out on the 18th of April. If you’d like to sign up for the episodes, here’s the link: https://zarakeane.com/newsletter2


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

ZK: Having the opportunity to write the sort of books I’d like to read. Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Kathy!

 https://gleam.io/ZItEy/zara-keanes-movie-club-mysteries-launch-giveaway

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Cat Got Your Cash by Julie Chase. This book is the second in the Kitty Couture Mystery series and was released last week.

Lacie Crocker, who has declined financial assistance from her family, is making a go of it at her Furry Godmother shop, but barely. She now has a chance get her big break by partnering her pet couture with the famous designer Annie Lane. Yet instead of discovering a new opportunity, Lacie finds Annie's dead body. Unwilling to let Annie's two Siamese kittens be taken to the pound, she assumes responsibility for them until Annie's will is probated. That decision puts her in the cross hairs of angry animal activists, a mad ex-husband, and a mysterious stalker. But nothing can stop this self admittedly nosy designer from trying to figure out the truth and help solve the murder.

Pet recipes included.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Decorator Who Knew Too Much - Spotlight

I'd like to shine a spotlight on a book being released today, The Decorator Who Knew Too Much, the fourth Madison Night Mystery, by Diane Vallere.

The Decorator Who Knew Too Much features amateur sleuth Madison Night, a mid-century, or "mod," interior decorator who idolizes legendary actress and singer Doris Day. The novel releases on April 18, 2017 by Henery Press in paperback (264 pages) and e-book formats.


About Diane Vallere:
Diane Vallere is a former fashion buyer turned mystery writer, trading fashion accessories for accessories to murder. She is president of Sisters in Crime and writes the Samantha KiddMadison NightCostume Shop, and Lefty-Award Nominated Material Witness Mysteries. She started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Southern Fried - Review

Review


SOUTHERN FRIED by Tonya Kappes
The Second Kenni Lowry Mystery

Prized tomatoes. okra, and a cooking competition have Sheriff Kenni Lowry in a quandary. Who would want Owen Godbey dead? And why dump him barefoot on top of Myrna's prize winning tomatoes? And what's the big deal about Owen's deceased momma's special okra recipe? Kenni will need all the  help she can get from her deputy, her grandfather's ghost, and her dog, Duke as she deals with this puzzling crime, claims of incompetence, and her own growing feelings for Deputy Finn.

SOUTHERN FRIED is a complex mystery wrapped in Southern charm. Intelligent and funny, Sheriff Kenni Lowry is a delight. She's smart, competent, and tough, yet is able to show a slightly vulnerable human side. There's plenty of humor too. Author Tonya Kappes peppers her writing with "Southern Speak" that not only brings a down home warmth, but plenty of chuckles too.

The second Kenni Lowry mystery is another winner with an ending that'll put your heart in your throat!


Friday, April 14, 2017

A Brush With the Paranormal - Guest Post, Giveaway, & Review


A Brush With the Paranormal 
By Lena Gregory



Have you ever had a brush with the paranormal? An experience that you couldn’t explain away, no matter how hard you tried? Have you ever visited a psychic?

In Death at First Sight, Cass Donovan leaves her psychiatric practice in New York City after a series of unfortunate events and returns to her childhood home on Bay Island. Though Cass doesn’t really consider herself psychic in any traditional sense, she’s always been very intuitive. She’s always had a gift for “reading” people.

As a teenager, Cass worked the beach and the boardwalk, approaching tourists and offering a glimpse into their lives. She only charged if her predictions proved accurate. More often than not, they did.

When she returns home, it seems natural to return to giving “readings.” Not because she wants to con anyone, but because she wants to help people. Helping to ease the grief many of her clients suffer helps Cass to heal. She offers individual readings, which tend to be more intimate, and group readings, which have become quite popular on Bay Island.

The idea for Cass’s character began with my own experience visiting a psychic. I’ve always been interested in the supernatural, fascinated with the idea of a world beyond our own. A number of people mentioned a psychic they visited to me. Jay. Supposedly, she was very accurate.

A friend of mine was having a difficult time conceiving and was undergoing treatments but not having any luck. She was starting to give up hope when she went to the psychic. Jay predicted the birth of her second son before she was pregnant and only missed his birth date by two months.

My sister went to see her, and she told her exactly what she’d be doing over the next few years, and she nailed it almost perfectly.

So I figured, why not give it a try?

One of the things I learned during my reading is that spirits don’t just sit down for a chat, at least, not with Jay. Instead, they send symbols and signs, which she then has to interpret. She mentioned my brother, who passed away about six months before I went to see her, but not by name. She said she saw something to do with hair. As silly as it might seem, our hair was always a big joke between my brother and I. When we were kids, I had stringy blonde hair. And he had a headful of thick brown hair with gorgeous natural highlights, you know, the kind women pay a fortune for! And, from the time he was a teenager, he always wore it long. Even after he was grown and working as an air traffic controller, he didn’t cut his hair.

I do have to say, Jay’s predictions about what I’d be doing within the next few years have proven remarkably accurate.

The one thing I found odd was the unexpected sense of peace the reading left me with. I’m kind of a high-strung person, always taking on too much then running around like crazy trying to get it all done. I move fast, I talk fast, and I rarely relax. I don’t sleep much, usually only a few hours a night. I worry about everything. And I do my best work under pressure.

Yet, when I walked out of Jay’s house, a sense of peace and calm I’ve never experienced before settled over me. I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere. I didn’t feel pulled in twenty directions. I just felt calm, peaceful, serene. I would go back to her in a heartbeat, just to recapture that feeling.

So, back to my original question. Have you ever had a brush with the paranormal? Have you ever visited a psychic? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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Review


OCCULT AND BATTERY by Lena Gregory
The Second Bay Island Psychic Mystery

Let's have a seance in a haunted house. What could go wrong?

Looking to boost business during the off season Cass teams up with the Wellington Investment Company to provide a weekend of psychic readings at the Wellington's property before its grand opening as a B&B. Cass is thrown when her former fiancee and his girlfriend (her former best friend) arrive to attend the festivities and is taken aback when a seance is suggested. An unexplained apparition causes the seance to end abruptly, but it's a scream during the night that reveals something worse. The body of one of the Wellingtons has been found hanging in the cupola. Was it suicide or murder? The worsening blizzard has rendered phones useless while trapping everyone in the house. Cass desperately needs the money she was to earn from the weekend and is concerned everyone will want a refund. In order to save herself from the opening night disaster Cass will try to to solve this untimely death.

The more I read this series, the more I enjoy it. The trio of Cass, Bee, and Stephanie are the embodiment of true friendship. Despite differences and disagreements these friends stick together through everything and will run to each other's aid no matter the time or reason. We also see their antithesis in the relationships between Cass and her former fiance and "best friend" as well as the interactions of the Wellington family. My favorite aspects of the book are the glimpses we receive of the paranormal. Despite the fact that Cass doesn't believe she's truly psychic and doesn't believe in ghosts, we see glimmers of the truth behind the denials. I am also in love with Beast and hope that Cass figures out how to train him before something truly dire occurs!

OCCULT AND BATTERY brings the harsh realities of winter to an island community based on summer tourism. A fine mystery makes the past, present, and future collide while deep characterization brings heart to the story.


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