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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

AN INTERVIEW WITH COZY AND HISTORICAL MYSTERY AUTHOR PATRICIA PENROSE

Today we sit down for a chat with historical and cozy mystery author Patricia Penrose. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

My kids write and have me critique and edit their work. I wanted to know more about the whole process, so I began to study the craft of novel writing. I read Dwight Swain, Stephen King, James Scott Bell, John Truby, and many, many more. My favorite book on writing is The First Fifty Pages by Jeff Gerke. That book gave me the tools to produce a complete piece of fiction. After that, when I turned 60, I began to write my first mystery novel.

 

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? 

Within two years of somewhat consistent writing, I had two novels close to completion and, through Reedsy, heard about Amazon’s new serial reading platform, Kindle Vella. Vella was launched in April of 2021. I posted my novels there, episode by episode, got good feedback, and made some money to boot. So, my novels have gone from Kindle Vella serials to eBooks and paperbacks.

 

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?

Totally DIY indie. I used Canva for my covers, Reedsy for typesetting, and KDP for printing. It’s all basically free, and I am very cheap. 😊

 

Where do you write? 

I write in my living room, which is open to the kitchen and dining room, so there is no privacy. I tried a “room of my own” but produced nary a word.

 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind? 

I do use music occasionally for action scenes. Usually, it's a movie soundtrack. For Death on the Night Riviera, I listened to The Ghost and Mrs. Muir soundtrack by Bernard Herrman. He’s one of my favorites. Also, the soundtrack for Rebecca, by Franz Waxman.

 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular? 

I write about what I would like to do more than what I have done. But the human and quirky bits come from my life if that makes sense. 

 

Describe your process for naming your character? 

Usually, names just pop into my head, but if I’m stuck, I use https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/. It has place names, character names, and everything else you can imagine and is highly searchable. 

 

Real settings or fictional towns? 

Once again, I use a bit of both. Usually, the localities are real, but I invent appropriate names using the Fantasy Name Generator, which generates names for historical locations and just about everything else you can imagine.

 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? 

One of my favorite characters is Cordelia Gedge. She has forgotten that she has quit smoking and pats herself down, looking for a smoke when she is stressed. It makes her quite cranky.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk? 

I am an “oldmovieaholic,” especially film noir. Is that a quirk? I hate mayonnaise to a quirky degree. 😊

 

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why? 

This is a hard question. I tend to focus more on authors than individual works, but I’d say Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It has everything: gothic suspense, romance, mystery, great locations, and a sympathetic main character without a first name. How intriguing is that? 

 

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What is yours?

I kind of wish I had started to write earlier, but I probably would have given up. The technology wasn’t here yet. Now, research and publication are so easy. The writing is the hardest part, but I enjoy it all.

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

Mayonnaise overuse. I always have to say, “Hold the mayo.”

 

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

Water, a seaworthy boat, and my husband.

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

I worked in tailoring at Sears in college and had to start the boiler. That was freaky.

 

Who’s your all-time favorite literary character (any genre)? Why? 

I do love Jane Eyre. I tend to admire the mousey types, like the second Mrs. Dewinter in Rebecca, who rise above their own inclinations and personalities and save the day.

  

Ocean or mountains? 

Ocean, or water anyway. I live a quarter mile from Puget Sound on a pond, and there is something new to see daily.

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

City first, then country. There are two distinct sides to Washington state. On the west side of the Cascade Mountains, you have Seattle, where I was raised. The eastern side, where I raised my family in the Palouse area, is more rural and drier. Now, for retirement, I have returned to the west side but still live on twenty acres. 

 

What’s on the horizon for you? 

I have two new Vella serials in the works, one a cozy mystery, Not Just Another Pretty Lace, and another historical mystery, Seldom What They Seem. Also, my daughter wants me to write a YA mystery about my childhood growing up in a shopping mall. My parents owned the toy store. Lucky me. 😊

 

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? 

This has been monumental oversharing for me already. You can see why marketing and promoting myself is a challenge. But thank you so much for the opportunity. 

 

The Mermaid Pool

A Lucky Librarian Mystery, Book 1

 

When Rory, a reclusive librarian at the Firdrona Branch, wins a writing contest she didn't enter, everyone tells her she's so lucky. But when her sedate life spins out of control, Rory's not so sure. A haunted mansion, a seaplane flight, and a knife-throwing, tattooed woman with purple hair are all part of a prize package Rowena Albright may regret accepting.

 


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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

AN INTERVIEW WITH COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR S. A. KAZLO

Today we sit down for a chat with cozy mystery author S.A. Kazlo. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

Many years ago, at least twenty, I started to write for children, back when an author submitted work via snail mail. I was published in a few children's magazines but had no luck with my novels. After a few years, my interest turned to reading cozy mysteries. They were fun and quirky, so I tried my hand writing them.

 

How long did it take to realize your dream of publication? 

It took about 5 years to write my first cozy, Kibbles and Death. Then I got lucky. I submitted it to Gemma Halliday Publishing and within three weeks I had an offer from her. I was really fortunate. Gemma is what is called a boutique publisher. She specializes in cozy mysteries. I'm lucky to be counted amongst her many authors.

 

Where do you write? 

In a small bedroom at a small desk. The operative word here is small, but it works for me.

 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind? 

For me silence is golden. My characters are creating enough noise in my head when I sit down to write.

 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular? 

I'm fortunate in that my hubby is a retired Pennsylvania State Policeman and I often pick his brain about the cases he handled over his 26-year law enforcement career. I often incorporate people I know in my characters. I'll ask them if they want to be a victim or murderer. They've always said murderer. Go figure.

 

Describe your process of naming your character. 

I derive a number of my characters names from people I know. If I go to a function and there is a program, I may lift one or two from it, just changing it a bit to keep me from getting into trouble.

 

Real settings of fictional? 

The settings of my cozies are based on real towns in upstate New York. They are so unique that I couldn't improve on them if I tried.

 

What is the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? 

Well, I guess it isn't so quirky in today's world anymore, but my eightyish character Gladys O'Malley dyes her hair to match the change of seasons or various holidays or events—red for Valentine's Day, orange for autumn, and so on.

 

What is your quirkiest quirk? 

Oh, my I am very dull. I can't say I have a quirky bone in my body. I was raised back in the day when kids towed the line and didn't dare step out of it.

 

If you could have written any book which one would it be? 

Hmmm, good question? I really love Catherine Bruns Cookies and Chance series. Talk about quirky characters! The books may be murder mysteries, but you laugh out loud reading them.

 

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What's yours? 

My do-over would probably have started writing cozy mysteries, but then I did learn a lot writing my children's stories. I grew from all of it.

 

What's your biggest peeve? 

I guess my biggest peeve is lack of manners. It only takes a second for a person to be polite and kind, and it doesn't cost a thing.

 

You're stranded on a desert island. What are three must- haves? 

My family, dachshunds, and chocolate. With those three, I have it all.

 

What was the worst job you've ever had? 

Locker room attendant at a swim club when I was sixteen. Being stuck in the locker room when everyone was outside enjoying the sun and swimming was not my idea of a fun way to spend a summer.

 

What's your all-time favorite literary character? Why? 

I can't say I have one all time favorite. I love it when I fall in love with a series and its characters. I can't get enough of them and am anxious for their next book to come out. Like yours, Lois.

 

Ocean or mountains? 

I guess I'd better say mountains since I live at the base of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. They're beautiful every season of the year.

 

City girl or country? 

Country, definitely. Don't care for the hustle and bustle of city life. In fact, I love it when all the "downstaters" who flock up to this area in the summer go back home. Yeah, I know, I'm being a curmudgeon. 

 

What's on the horizon for you? 

Hopefully, to continue enjoying writing my Samantha Davies Mystery series and having my readers enjoy them.

 

Anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself and your books? 

Right now, I'm busy working on book 6, Mistletoe, Mutts and Murder, in my Samantha Davies Mystery series. I hope to have it released around November of 2024. Sam's parents are coming to visit from sunny Florida for Christmas. Unfortunately, murder follows them north.

 

Chilled to the Dog Bone

A Samantha Davies Mystery, Book 5

 

It's Saint Patrick's Day weekend in upstate New York, and Samantha Davies is excited about the annual outdoor games put on by the local fire company...that is until the grumpy rival fire chief is found dead on the ice! To make matters worse, Sam's fingerprints are all over the evidence at the murder scene. Can Sam find the killer and clear her name before the Luck of the Irish runs out for her?

 

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

LUCILLE UNMASKED

An interviewer once told my author Lois Winston that she loved me, the reluctant amateur sleuth of herAnastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. However, the character she really, really loved was my communist mother-in-law. “You write the best antagonists!” she said, then asked Lois where she came up with the idea of giving me a communist mother-in-law. 

Ever since Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, debuted in 2011, Lucille Pollack has been the character readers love to hate. Maybe it’s because so many of them have their own mother-in-law issues.

 

Or maybe it’s because Lucille is such an over-the-top unbelievable character. I’m sure there are many readers who think so, but here’s a little secret: Unlike all the other characters in the series, Lucille didn’t spring from my author’s imagination. The woman who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is based almost entirely on Lois’s own communist mother-in-law.

 

Yes, you read that correctly. Lois’s mother-in-law was a card-carrying commie. Beyond that, though, she was nasty—really nasty—especially if you dared to have an opinion that differed from hers. According to Lois, her mother-in-law was a self-proclaimed expert on every subject. And she was always right—about everything. No one else’s opinions mattered because everyone else was always wrong. You didn’t have conversations with her; you were lectured—on every subject under the sun. Moreover, on the rare occasions when she failed at something, it was always someone or something else’s fault. Never hers.

 

A couple Lois knew and whom her father-in-law had befriended, once called her the day after they had dinner with her in-laws. They wanted to know how she put up with “that woman.”

 

Even Lois’s father-in-law, who had always seen his wife through rose-colored glasses, eventually woke up to her true nature. Toward the end of his life, when he needed her most, she was too selfish and too self-centered to be bothered.

 

The thing about antagonistic people, though, is that, although they’re insufferable in real life, they make great antagonists on the page. Lois’s mother-in-law grew increasingly nastier the older she got. Lois dealt by bringing her doppelganger to life in the form of Lucille Pollack, my communist mother-in-law. 

 

Of course, I have to ask, what did I ever do to Lois that she’d stick me with the fictional communist mother-in-law from Hades? I’m still waiting for an answer.

Do you know someone who would make a great antagonist? Post a comment for a chance to win a promo code for a free audiobook (US or UK only) of A Sew Deadly Cruise, the ninth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, or any one of the other eight titles now available as audiobooks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

AN INTERVIEW WITH HISTORICAL COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR JENNY ADAMS

Joseph Pennell, Second Street Market, Philadelphia, 1920

Today we sit down for a chat with historical mystery author Jenny Adams. Learn more about her and her books at her 
website and blog. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

I’ve always written! I have stacks of notebook-length “novels” that I wrote starting at about age eight. I started writing seriously toward publication in 2010, about a week after I graduated from college.

 

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? 

A LONG time! I sent my first query letter in 2011. I signed with my agent, Amy Giuffrida, with my sixth novel, a YA fantasy, in 2021, almost ten years to the week after sending that first query. We went on submission with A Deadly Endeavor in the summer of 2022, and it sold in January 2023. All told, it took thirteen years and seven books.

 

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?

I am traditionally published with Crooked Lane Books!

 

Where do you write?

I’m a mom to a now-five-year-old and have a full-time job. I write in the margins of life. I wrote six novels on the sofa before I managed to find space for a desk. I’ve written on the bus and the metro, dictated via voice app on my driving commute, on my lunch breaks, in coffee shops, in my mother-in-law’s basement, and at the playground. Now, I tend to do most of my writing in my tiny office at home, from about 4:30-6:00am, before I have to get everyone else ready for the day and head to work.

 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

I make playlists. They always have a lot of Taylor Swift, Florence + the Machine, Noah Kahan, and Hozier. 

 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular? 

Not many. But I do tend to draw on settings from real life, and I like to think of my setting as a character in and of itself. We lived in Philadelphia for seven years while my husband completed his PhD in History, and so much of my love for the neighborhoods where I lived and worked found their way into A Deadly Endeavor. It’s a very Philadelphia book.

 

Describe your process for naming your character? 

Edie’s first name just came to me, before almost anything else about her. Her last name, Shippen, is from an old Philadelphia family (remember Peggy Shippen?). Gilbert is named for Gilbert Blythe, of course, and I borrowed his and Lizzie’s last name from one of my favorite people, my first critique partner. Lizzie is Elizabeth, after a dear aunt. Theo Pepper is named for the founder of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Dr. Pepper, because I thought that was funny, and it stuck. My copy editor suggested we change it, but I refused. 

 

Real settings or fictional towns?

So, this is where things get funny - I consider myself, first and foremost, to be a fantasy writer. Six of my seven books have been fantasy. A Deadly Endeavor is my first mystery, my first historical, and my first book to be set in a real setting that exists (Philadelphia). But it’s not the real 1920s Philadelphia - it’s the version that exists in my head, and I honestly think that historical fiction and fantasy have way more in common than people realize. 

 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? 

Oh dear. I’m not big on quirks.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk? 

I always put the peanut butter on before the jelly.

 

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why? 

Oh, for sure, Daughter of the Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. 

 

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? 

I actually don’t have one! I think everything happens for a reason, and honestly, some of my biggest heartbreaks have turned out to push me in the direction I needed to go at the time. I hate to think of what things I have now that I wouldn’t if any one little thing had worked differently.

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

I’m a librarian, and it drives me BANANAS when people push the books all the way to the back of the shelf. I am constantly pulling books to the front of the shelf. All day. Every day.

 

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? 

My kindle, solar charger, and an SPF blanket. I’d happily wait for rescue. 

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

I worked as a student web developer in college, a job that required fifteen hours a week of coding. I was also working ten hours at the library, taking a full course load, and then got mono. I asked to drop down to 5-10 hours a week while recovering, and my supervisor suggested I drop a class, because there was no shame in graduating in five years instead of four years. I quit on the spot. 

 

Who’s your all-time favorite literary character (any genre)? Why? 

Perrin Aybara from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. I read those books starting at age ten or eleven, and I always loved him. He’s gentle and thoughtful, and also strong and loyal; he’s flawed but braver than anyone around him gives him credit for. 

 

Ocean or mountains? 

Both! I grew up in the Poconos, and I love being in the mountains, but I also love being at the beach. I don’t think I could live at the beach, though - I’d definitely choose to live in the mountains and have a beach within an easy driving distance.

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

This is another both for me. I grew in a rural mountain town, and I currently live just outside Washington, DC. I LOVE being able to walk anywhere I want - my daughter’s school, restaurants, bookstores. But I also love being out in the middle of nowhere. I’d happily be either very rural or very urban - anything but in the suburbs, which tend to be neither remote nor walkable. 

 

What’s on the horizon for you? 

Another Edie and Gil mystery! Book 2 releases in Spring 2025, and I am hopeful that I’ll be writing these two characters for a little while longer. 


Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? 

I am so grateful to be writing these stories, and I really, really hope that readers have fun with them. My entire goal with writing A Deadly Endeavor was to create something that was so much fun that people would ignore their responsibilities for an afternoon while they read it. I’m so honored to get to share them with the world!

 

A Deadly Endeavor

A Deadly Twenties Mystery, Book 1

 

Philadelphia, 1921

 

When Edie Shippen returns home after spending years in California recovering from Influenza, she’s shocked to discover that her childhood sweetheart is engaged to her twin sister. Heartbroken and adrift, Edie vows to begin living her life as a modern woman—and to hell with anyone who gets in her way. But as young women start to disappear from the city, her newfound independence begins to feel dangerous.

 

Gilbert Lawless returned home from the Great War a shell of his former self. He hides away in the office of Philadelphia’s Coroner, content to keep to himself until a gruesome series of corpses come into the morgue. And when his sister, Lizzie, goes missing, he risks his career to beg help from the one person Lizzie seemed to trust: her employer, Edie Shippen.

 

Fearing the worst, Edie and Gilbert desperately search for clues. It soon becomes clear that Lizzie’s disappearance is connected to the deaths rocking the City of Brotherly Love… and it’s only a matter of time until the killer strikes again.

 

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