Friday, September 22, 2017

Gone With the Wings - An Interview & Giveaway

I'm happy to welcome Leena Clover to the blog today. Leena writes the Meera Patel Cozy Mystery series. GONE WITH THE WINGS, the first book in the series, was released earlier this summer.

Kathy: In GONE WITH THE WINGS we meet Meera Patel who has moved back with her family after dropping our of graduate school. What makes a small college town in Oklahoma the perfect setting for your mystery series?

LC: College towns have a vibe of their own. Even tucked away in the heartland, they are a melting pot of different cultures and influences. There is a variety of people from across the world interacting with each other. This provides plenty of possibilities for a mystery setting. Anything can happen, and it does!

Kathy: Meera mixes up fusion recipes at Sylvie’s Cafe & Diner in Oklahoma. My mouth watered when I read the words Masala Fried Chicken. What do you love most about South Asian food?

LC: South Asian food is so versatile. All the aromatic spices and rich flavors give a cook plenty of ways to experiment. I love mixing and matching various spices to create unique dishes.

Kathy: Do you enjoy cooking or do you prefer to just write about it?

LC: I love cooking! I’ve been trying out recipes in the kitchen since I was very young. Writing about it allows me to share my creations with my readers. I really hope they try out the recipes given in the books. Some of the recipes like the Masala Fried Chicken are just an extension of the basic recipe and not too intimidating, I hope.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

LC: I always enjoyed reading mystery books. I rediscovered the ‘cozy mystery’ genre as it is called today when I started reading on my Kindle. I have always liked a good puzzle. Writing a cozy mystery allowed me to focus on clues without dealing with any guts or gore or profanity. Meera and her friends talk to people and do some old fashioned analysis. Readers can follow the clues and often figure out who the culprit is.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

LC: Not yet. I want to write more cozy mysteries. Look out for a new series next year.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

LC: The Meera Patel Cozy Mystery Series centers around Meera and her family. Meera finds herself at a crossroads in life. She gets pulled into solving mysteries to help her friends and family. But what does the future hold for her?

All books can be read as a standalone. But there is also an overarching plot about Meera and what is happening in her life.

The series offers a glimpse into South Asian or Indian culture, highlighting food and festivals and certain aspects like the joint family with many generations living in the same house, stress on higher education etc.

Translations are included inline wherever ethnic terms are used and a glossary is also included at the back. Every book contains both fusion and Indian recipes for adventurous cooks.

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

LC: Motee Ba or Meera’s grandma. She raised her own kids, moved to a foreign country and then raised her grand kids. She’s elegant and lady like with a strong loyalty toward friends and family. She is the one Meera always goes to in times of crisis. And she’s an active senior. I hope I have half her energy when I cross 70.

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

LC: As a mystery writer, Agatha Christie is my greatest inspiration. With the Meera Patel series, I wanted to depict diversity against a familiar backdrop.

Life in a college town has always fascinated me. The setting is inspired by my own college days. The Patels are immigrants who have almost completely assimilated themselves into the American way of life, although they retain their own customs and culture. Individual characters are partially inspired by people I have known or read about.

I hope readers find the series as enticing as I do.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

LC: Writing a book was part of my life plan. But I had never assigned a timeline to it. I took up the NaNoWriMo challenge one year, where writers pledge to produce fifty thousand words in the month of November. Meera Patel was born and I never looked back.

So publishing a book wasn’t a conscious decision. But now that I have written almost four books in the series, I can’t imagine not being a writer.

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

LC: That’s a hard one. M C Beaton, Donna Andrews, Janet Evanovich and Debbie Macomber.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?


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

LC: Reading and cooking, and eating of course! I love to try out different cuisines.

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

LC: Tomatoes, rice, pepper and ice cream

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

LC: The fourth book in the Meera Patel series, BACK YO THE FAJITAS is coming on October 11. Join the Patels on an epic road trip to California. There’s more than one mystery with amazing Route 66 experiences.

I am planning a new series for next year. Join my newsletter to be the first to know about it.

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

LC: Being an author allows me to reach people across the world. I hope my books give them some respite from their daily drudgery and bring a smile to their face. I love connecting with readers and hearing what they think about my books.

Links –


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Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Bell Tolls Interview

I'm pleased to welcome R. Franklin James to the blog today. R. Franklin writes the Hollis Morgan Mystery series. THE BELL TOLLS, the fifth book in the series, was released earlier this summer.

Kathy: Hollis Morgan knows a liar when she sees one. Are you adept at spotting a lie?

RFJ: I’m getting better at it as I get older, but no, not particularly adept. The obvious liar body language (sweating, rapid eye blinking, no eye contact) I can nail, but the really good liars, I’d have to leave to Hollis.

Kathy: Work is Hollis' salvation. Is work a fundamental part of your existence, or do you work more so that you are able to do other things you enjoy?

RFJ: I am a recovering workaholic. I enjoy “projects” and the planning, the more complex the better. I was born to coordinate. Right now I write full-time, so it’s the best of both worlds: writing is my work that I enjoy all the time.

Kathy: In THE BELL TOLLS Hollis is to return damaging documents to people being blackmailed only to discover the blackmailer was murdered. What makes blackmail such an intriguing crime?

RFJ: That’s a great question!

For me, blackmail says more about the blackmailer than the person who is trying to hide their past. An individual who would profit from another’s misery is beyond my comprehension—so I needed to write about it. Blackmail in many cases is a double-crime: the blackmailer and the person with something to hide. I can pursue two dramatic storylines at one time.

Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?

RFJ: From my earliest years I’ve loved puzzles and books. Mysteries combine the best of both. I used to watch detective TV shows with the sole purpose of detecting who did it.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

RFJ: I have dabbled in thrillers/suspense, but my heart belongs to the traditional mystery.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

RFJ: Hollis Morgan has survived imprisonment, received a pardon and persevered to finally become a probate attorney. The six-book, Hollis Morgan Mystery Series, follows Hollis through her determination to overcome society’s judgment and her own struggle with self-forgiveness. The series’ story lines highlight her keen survival instincts as she tackles cases and life situations that test her grit and mettle.

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

RFJ: It depends on the book in the series. In THE BELL TOLLS each character brings out another side of Hollis. I’m struggling with an answer to this question, it’s like picking out your favorite child—it depends on the day.

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

RFJ: I discovered, after I had written the first book in the Hollis Morgan series (THE FALLEN ANGELS BOOK CLUB), that I was guided by people in real life who deserved—and didn’t deserve, second chances.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

RFJ: I’m a glutton for a challenge. Traditional publishing isn’t easy, but I wanted to go that route. I wanted to get my book into the hands of as many readers as possible. As an introvert, I was looking for a broad reaching distribution model.

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

RFJ: Louise Penny, Harlan Coben, Lee Child and Sue Grafton.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

RFJ: GLASS HOUSES by Louise Penny

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

RFJ: I’m a voracious reader—I read anything written well. It’s the story that captivates me. I also love needlepoint and gardening.

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

RFJ: Kombucha, Shrimp, Spaghetti, Greek yogurt and jelly beans (I know that’s five items, but it’s candy).

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

RFJ: Book six, THE IDENTITY THIEF, in the Hollis Morgan series will be released by Camel Press next June. Right now, I’m actually churning on two new series possibilities, both mysteries.

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

RFJ: I love to write and I love being a member of the mystery writers’ community.


The Bell Tolls (A Hollis Morgan Mystery) by R. Franklin James

Traditional Mystery 5th in Series  
Camel Press (June 1, 2017) Paperback: 256 pages
Hollis Morgan has survived imprisonment, received a pardon and persevered to finally become a probate attorney. Tough as she is, her newest case will further test her mettle. She discovers her client, Matthias Bell, is a deceased blackmailer whose last wish was to return the damaging documents letting his victims off the hook. It falls to Hollis to give them the good news. But it becomes apparent that Bell was murdered, and the victims of “Bell’s tolls” are now suspects.
Hollis’ white-collar criminal past has left her with keen survival instincts. A gifted liar, she knows a liar when she sees one. A lot of people in this case are lying and one is a killer.
On top of that, she’s also representing a dying stripper, a wealthy widow whose estranged daughter spurns her attempts at reconciliation, but whose husband sees the potential inheritance as mending all wounds.
Clients aside, Hollis is defensive and wary. Her mother, who hasn’t spoken to her for years, needs a kidney, and Hollis is a match, but neither are ready to put away the past. With Hollis’ fiancĂ© and emotional support off on an undercover mission for Homeland Security, she must count on her own survival instincts. She is swept along on an emotional roller coaster as her absent love and her family’s coldness take their own toll.
Work is her salvation. The specter of a killer keeps her focused. Hollis has always had to rely on her wits, but now she finds that others who don’t have her well-being in mind are relying on them as well.
Book 5 in the Hollis Morgan Mystery series, which began with The Fallen Angels Book Club.

About The Author

R. Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. From there she cultivated a different type of writing—legislation and public policy. After serving as Deputy Mayor for the City of Los Angeles, under millionaire Richard Riordan, she went back to her first love—writing, and in 2013 her debut novel, THE FALLEN ANGELS BOOK CLUB was published by Camel Press. Her second book in The Hollis Morgan Mystery Series, STICKS & STONES, was followed by THE RETURN OF THE FALLEN ANGELS BOOK CLUB, and THE TRADE LIST. THE BELL TOLLS, book five was released in June 2017. R. Franklin James lives in Northern California with her husband.


Author Links:
Goodreads: Twitter: @RFJBooks  
Purchase Links Amazon B&N kobo  

Books in This Series:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany. This book is the second in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series and was released last week.

Gemma Doyle is about to tell a hapless personal assistant that the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium couldn't possible host a book signing on such short notice, until she discovers the author is none other than Renalta Van Markoff. This bestselling author has been taking the world by storm with her controversial version of Sherlock Holmes stories and Gemma agrees to host the signing. Upon meeting her, however, Gemma glimpses a nasty side to the woman, although fans are oblivious. After her brief talk, Renalta starts to sign books, but after a gulp of water she collapses-and Gemma smells murder, literally. Who could have done the deed? The mousy and put upon PA, the smarmy publicist, the stalker fan? Surely it couldn't be Donald, the local Holmes scholar, even if he did threaten the author...could it?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chocolate - Healthy or Harmful - Guest Post & Giveaway

I'm happy to let Nancy J. Cohen take over Cozy Up With Kathy today. Nancy pens the Bad Hair Day Mystery series. HAIR BRAINED, the fourteenth book in the series, was released last week.

Chocolate—Healthy or Harmful? 

We’ve all heard that dark chocolate is good for you. It’s certainly a treat we crave when we need a mood boost or wish to reward ourselves. Why is it considered a healthful addition to your diet? And how can chocolate be harmful to dogs?

Flavonoids help protect plants from environmental toxins. In humans, these antioxidants help our body's cells resist damage from free radicals. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, flavanols can lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain, and make blood platelets less sticky.

Chocolate lore dates back in history. Early South American natives would harvest cacao beans and grind them with water and spices to create a beverage. Spanish conquerors brought the plants home to Spain, where the drink became a treat enjoyed by royalty. From there, it made its way to France. At some point, somebody added sugar to the mix. Cacao eventually entered the United States, and Hershey noticed it. Now chocolate is a treat enjoyed around the world.

Here’s a conversation between Marla, my hairstylist sleuth in The Bad Hair Day Mysteries, and Teri the chocolatier who operates an artisan chocolate factory. Marla is investigating an accident that landed her best friend in the hospital. One of the last places this friend had visited was a chocolate shop. Teri is answering Marla’s question about the health benefits of chocolate.

“Cocoa contains flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants. These prevent cellular damage due to free radicals and help to lower your risk for heart disease. Flavonoids also improve blood flow to your brain and cause your body to release endorphins. Dark chocolate has a higher content than milk chocolate. You’ll want to avoid cocoa powder that has undergone Dutch processing. It’s been treated with alkali agents that reduce the flavonoid value.”

“How about caffeine? Like, if I eat too much chocolate, won’t it make my heart race?”

“Cocoa contains some caffeine, but it also has theobromine. Both of these compounds can increase your heart rate. Again, dark chocolate has a higher concentration than milk chocolate. And these chemicals are usually not present in white chocolate.”

Marla thought of her pets back home. She’d heard cautionary tales about canines and sweets. “Why is chocolate so dangerous to dogs?”

“They metabolize theobromine more slowly. Dogs can get theobromine poisoning from even a small amount of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is even more toxic to them. It can lead to seizures and death. The same risk is reported for cats, but they’re less likely to eat anything sweet.”

“When my friends were here, did they try your desserts?” Marla pointed to the other tour guests sitting at various tables and indulging in treats.

Teri chuckled. “Yes, they made an afternoon of it and seemed to enjoy their visit. Your tall blonde and I got into a discussion on recipes. Sometimes you can discover hidden treasures in old recipe books. She’d found a love letter inside one of her mother’s cookbooks. It was addressed to her mom and predated her marriage.”

“Oh?” This was news. Tally hadn’t mentioned anything to Marla about it, but that seemed to be the norm for their relationship lately. “Did she say any more on the subject?”

“Yes, it led her to an unexpected, and unnerving, discovery.”

Oh my. What did Marla’s friend Tally discover in her mother’s vintage cookbook? Will this revelation help Marla in her quest to track down a murderer?

Chocolate is a sweeter topic. Which kind do you fancy—dark or milk chocolate? What’s your favorite treat?

Follow Nancy Online


When hairstylist Marla Vail’s best friend is hurt in a suspicious car accident, Marla assumes guardianship of her infant son. No sooner does Marla say, “Baby want a bottle?” than she’s embroiled in another murder investigation. Her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, determines the crash may not have been an accident after all. But then, who would want Tally—or Ken in the car with her—out of the way? As Marla digs deeper into her friends’ lives, she realizes she didn’t know them as well as she’d thought. Nonetheless, it’s her duty as their son’s guardian to ensure his safety, even if it means putting her own life at risk. Can she protect the baby and find the culprit before someone else ends up as roadkill?

Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, been selected by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery, and won third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy has also written the instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery. Her imaginative romances, including the Drift Lords series, have proven popular with fans as well. Her first book in this genre won the HOLT Medallion Award. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, she is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and shopping.

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