Eating and Reading: Diane Weiner's Vegetarian Squash Bake and "Murder is Collegiate"

Though cozy mysteries can and should be read at all times of the year, winter brings with it the perfect weather for curling up inside and reading mysteries by the fire. That same weather also makes it the perfect time of year to fire up the oven and experiment in the kitchen, and Cozy Cat’s cookbook, Cozy Cat Cooks: Over 20 Authors Share Recipes, will help you expand your repertoire with enticing recipes from your favourite Cozy Cat Authors. The cookbook can be purchased from Amazon.

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This winter, Cozy Cat will be publishing four installments of an “Eating and Reading” blog series where recipes from Cozy Cat Cooks will be paired with one of Cozy Cat’s mysteries.

 

This week, we’re cooking Diane Weiner’s Vegetarian Squash Bake, a hearty meal that is a cinch to make, leaving plenty of time to devour her Susan Wiles Schoolhouse mystery, Murder is Collegiate, available from Amazon.

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Ingredients

One medium-size spaghetti squash

1 ½ cups frozen soy crumbles

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves minced garlic

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (for dairy-free or vegan, sub with vegan mozzarella cheese)

¾ tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

¼ cup parmesan cheese (for dairy-free or vegan, sub with vegan parmesan cheese, or omit)

1 thinly sliced tomato 

 

1.     Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2.     Pierce the squash a few times with a fork, put in the microwave for 8 minutes or until it’s easy to cut.

3.     Cut the squash in half lengthwise, take out seeds and dark strands.

4.     Microwave soy crumbles so they are defrosted (1-2 minutes).

5.     Heat oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Sauté the garlic, then add soy crumbles and water.

6.     Scrape the squash flesh using a fork until it separates and looks like spaghetti. Put in a bowl. Add soy crumbles, ¾ cups mozzarella, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, stir together.

7.     Fill the squash halves with the mixture, top with tomato slices. Place on a baking sheet or in a baking pan, bake on lower oven rack for 10 minutes.

8.     Top with remaining cheese, move to top rack and broil until cheese starts to brown, about 2 minutes.   

The finished product.

The finished product.

Stay tuned next week for a sweet finish to our Eating and Reading series.

An Interview with Alice K. Boatwright

 Alice K. Boatwright is a full-time author living in the Pacific Northwest. Although she now devotes her time entirely to fiction, her career as a writer has ranged from university teaching to handling communications for non-profit organizations serving the arts, education, and public health sectors.  Her writing has taken her around the world, and she has lived in England and France, experiences that have hugely influenced her fiction. Her Ellie Kent mysteries, set in England, are published by Cozy Cat Press, with the second one, What Child Is This?, released on November 15th. I sat down to talk with Alice about her writing influences, how being abroad inspired her, and her advice on beating writer’s block.

 

1. What inspired you to start writing cozy mystery novels?

I have loved mysteries ever since I was a young reader, and the first adult book I read was Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I think I was about 11, and I still remember being captivated, terrified, and shocked by that story. It opened my eyes to what fiction can do. . . and I wanted to do it myself.  The “cozy mystery” as a genre has evolved away from its roots with the classic mystery writers, such as Agatha Christie, so I think my books are closer to what is now called “traditional.”

 

2. What books and other authors inspire you? Have you taken any inspiration from other cozy mystery authors or other kinds of writing?

In addition to Du Maurier, I am most inspired by classic mystery writers such as Ngaio Marsh, Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, and Margery Allingham. Their prose is always clear and simple, and their stories are intelligent, though they represent a range of seriousness and complexity. I also love European writers, such as Georges Simenon (Inspector Maigret), Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahloo (Martin Beck), Karin Fossum (Inspector Sejer), and Äsa Larsson (Rebecka Martinsson). And these are just the mystery writers! 

 

3. How do your writing ideas come to you? Do you get an idea for a character first, then the plot, or visa versa?

For me, character comes first. The idea of writing about an American living in England came out of my own experiences as an ex-pat. Also, Americans are usually portrayed very unsympathetically in English literature. They are boorish, loud, uncultured, greedy, etc. The challenge of writing an American character that English readers would enjoy appealed to me. The vicar is also almost universally portrayed negatively. . . so Graham Kent goes very much against the stereotype. The relationship between Ellie and Graham is an important through-line for the series. . . and then there are the murders. Creating the puzzle and the investigation is a lot fun and also very challenging.

 

4. Has your experience living in the UK helped you write the setting and characters for the Ellie Kent mysteries set in England?

Certainly, it has been essential. However, the longer I live in “Little Beecham,” the more my own fictional villages and towns become real to me. So that’s the England I live in every day when I am writing.

 

5. How has your experience of writing and publishing changed between publication of your first book, Collateral Damage and your new book, What Child Is This?

The writing process is the same, but, even in the very short period of five years, the publishing world has changed a lot with the growth of indie publishing and the increase of online reading. Working with Cozy Cat Press has been a pleasure, because CCP’s business model gives authors more autonomy than most publishers in marketing their books. In traditional publishing, authors have plenty of responsibility to help with promotion, but little authority in the process.

 

6. What is your writing process? Do you have a schedule?

I used to write in the early morning before I commuted to my job. Now I am writing “full-time,” so I write first thing in the morning, in the late afternoon, or all day. . . depending on where I am in a project. I have also learned that my job as a 21st century author involves a lot of other tasks in addition to writing, such as keeping my website up to date and communicating with readers through social media and my newsletter.

 

7. What do you want to communicate to your readers?

I want to entertain them with a good story, but also to engage them in the lives of my characters. In addition to “Whodunit?” the Ellie Kent mysteries look at questions, such as what makes a family and what is home. I heard a writer say that you should remember that your murderer thinks he/she is the hero of the story. That really struck me, and I hope my stories convey that nothing about human beings and their relationships is ever black and white.

 

8. Has teaching writing at the university level affected the way that you approach your own writing?

I have taught English composition (essay writing for college students) and all levels of fiction writing. Teaching helps enormously because you have to try to articulate what you do and why.  I also love helping other people to discover the pleasure (and pain. . . ) of writing about their thoughts, experiences, and imaginings.

 

9. Why do you think the fictional setting of Little Beecham lends itself well to a cozy mystery?

Traditional mysteries often rely on a “closed room” – meaning that the range of possible killers and victims is physically limited by virtue of the characters all being in a remote country house, on a train or boat, or. . . living in a village.  In my books, Little Beecham offers a base for the ensemble of recurring characters to which I can add new and different elements each time. I think cozy mystery readers like the “cozy” feeling of returning to a familiar setting.

 

10. What are you working on now? Can we expect more from Ellie Kent?

I am planning the third and fourth books in the Ellie Kent series, which will be set in the spring and summer of her first year in England. (The first two books are about autumn and winter.)

 

11. From where do you take inspiration?

Everywhere. My whole life. That’s one of the things I love about writing fiction. It’s all made up, but it’s draws on so many things you’ve done, read, felt, imagined, dreamed of. Just to cite one example, I loved writing about Hamlet in my new book. The first job I ever had was as a minstrel at a Shakespeare theatre in Connecticut, and I used to sing Ophelia’s songs, so I was delighted to have them find their way into What Child Is This?

 

12. How do you deal with writer’s block?

I am fortunate to have several writer/artist friends, and we talk each other through our times of fear and insecurity. Sometimes it’s best just to change focus, write something fun, rather than what you are stuck on, or do something completely different. Go for a walk. Bake a cake. Talk to the cat. And then come back to your writing. I’m a great believer in never giving up.

 

 

Eating and Reading: Barbara Jean Coast's Caramel Apple Pecan Scones and "Strangled in Silk"

Though cozy mysteries can and should be read at all times of the year, winter brings with it the perfect weather for curling up inside and reading mysteries by the fire. That same weather also makes it the perfect time of year to fire up the oven and experiment in the kitchen, and Cozy Cat’s cookbook, Cozy Cat Cooks: Over 20 Authors Share Recipes, will help you expand your repertoire with enticing recipes from your favorite Cozy Cat Authors. The cookbook can be purchased from Amazon.

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This winter, Cozy Cat will be publishing four installments of an “Eating and Reading” blog series where recipes from Cozy Cat Cooks will be paired with one of Cozy Cat’s mysteries.

The authors, Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff, who make up Barbara Jean Coast

The authors, Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff, who make up Barbara Jean Coast

This week, we’re cooking Barbara Jean Coast’s Caramel Apple Pecan Scones, the perfect sweet treat to snack on while perusing her mystery, Strangled by Silk, available for purchase from Amazon. Below you’ll find the recipe, which makes between 8-15 scones, depending on what size you cut the dough.

 

Ingredients

For the scones:

2 cups of peeled and diced apples (roughly two large apples)

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps. vanilla extract                          

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup light cream  (for dairy-free/vegan, sub 1 cup vegan creamer)                                     

2 Tbsps. baking powder     

1 tsp salt

12 Tbsps. unsalted butter (for dairy-free/vegan, sub 12 Tbsps. vegan buttery spread)

1 cup of pecan halves, toasted

 

For the caramel sauce:

2 cups packed brown sugar            

½ cup cream (for dairy-free/vegan, sub ½ cup vegan creamer)                                     

8 Tbsps. butter, cut into pieces (for dairy-free/vegan, sub 8 Tbsps. vegan buttery spread)

1 tsp vanilla (optional)

 

1.     Make the caramel sauce by adding brown sugar and cream to a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir to combine well with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add the butter and allow it to melt completely.

2.     Bring mixture to a rolling boil, and then cook until mixture is thickened, about 5-7 minutes. If adding vanilla, allow the sauce to cool 5 minutes before adding.

3.     Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (220 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment.

4.     Dice the apples, and toast the pecans in a small frying pan over medium heat or in the oven at 350 degrees F (176 C) for 5 minutes or until just fragrant.

5.     Mix the cream with the vanilla extract and set aside.

6.     Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.

7.     Cut the cold butter into chunks and add to the flour mixture. Using your hands, a pastry cutter, or two knives, mix until it resembles pea-sized crumbs. Stir in the diced apple, gently tossing.

8.     Make a hole in the middle of the flour mixture; pour cream mixture into the hole. Add half of the caramel mixture in as well. Quickly stir it together until it’s blended.

**It’s important to stir quickly here because the caramel can start to harden once it is poured into the cream.

9.     Allow dough to rest for 2 minutes. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and satiny (4-5 minutes) and roll in the pecans while kneading. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and pat into a round.

10. At this point you can choose to cut into wedged pieces or to create smaller rounds. Whatever you choose, be sure to leave space between your scones at least ½ an inch.

11. Bake in the preheated oven 18-20 minutes. Half way through baking, put the remaining caramel sauce on top of each one to glaze. The tops of the scones will be light brown and caramel-covered. Transfer to a wire rack and cool 20 minutes before serving.

 

A few of the scrumptious batch of Caramel Apple Pecan Scones!

A few of the scrumptious batch of Caramel Apple Pecan Scones!

 

Stay tuned next week, when we’ll be cooking up some saucy squash to go with a collegiate mystery.

Eating and Reading: D. Ray Pauwels' Veggie Chili and "Who Iced the Snowman?"

Though cozy mysteries can and should be read at all times of the year, winter brings with it the perfect weather for curling up inside and reading mysteries by the fire. That same weather also makes it the perfect time of year to fire up the stove and experiment in the kitchen, and Cozy Cat’s cookbook, Cozy Cats Cook: Over 20 Authors Share Recipes, will help you expand your repertoire with enticing recipes from your favorite Cozy Cat authors. The cookbook can be purchased from Amazon.

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This winter, the Cozy Cat Blog will be publishing four installments of an “Eating and Reading” blog series where recipes from Cozy Cats Cook will be paired with one of Cozy Cat’s mysteries.

 

This week, we’re cooking D. Ray Pauwels’ “No Fire Without Smoke” Veggie Chili sin Carne, a delectable vegetarian chili bursting with rib-sticking flavor. Pauwels’ dish is an easy one-pot meal that goes well when paired with his funny, wintry mystery, Who Iced the Snowman?, available for purchase from Amazon. Below you’ll find the recipe.

D. Ray Pauwels enjoying his chili. 

D. Ray Pauwels enjoying his chili. 

Ingredients:

2-3 cloves garlic or more     

1 large white or red onion 

2 Tbsp. chili powder             

1 Tbsp. cumin powder 

1 Tbsp. cocoa powder or mole sauce     

1 dash liquid smoke   

1 cup textured vegetable protein (hydrated) 

Vegetables: any combination of…  1 large carrot, peeled              

1 stalk of celery   

2-3 small bell peppers (any combination of yellow, green, red or orange)   

1 jalapeno or chipotle pepper (from a can, e.g. Herdez brand) 

1 large white potato, sweet potato or yam    

½  pound of mushrooms 

½ cup water

1 large can of diced tomatoes (or whole tomatoes, chopped or equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes) 

2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce                            

1 cup of corn kernels 

2 cans of kidney, pinto, or black beans 

optional toppings: chopped red onion, grated old cheddar/Monterey jack/queso, guacamole, sour cream/yoghurt, or hot sauce   

 

Directions:

1.     Chop the vegetables to your preferred level of  “chunkiness” (smaller or larger).  Set aside in a bowl. 

2.     Heat the oil in a large pot just below medium heat on a large burner. Add diced onions and crushed garlic, sauté. 

3.     Add powdered spices, liquid smoke, and cocoa/mole.    Stir a few minutes until onions are translucent .

4.     Add TVP or tofu (if using). Stir another few minutes to blend with spices.

5.     Add all vegetables and the ½ cup of water. Raise heat to medium-high and cook for 5-10 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

6.     Add tamari sauce, tomatoes, corn and beans. 

7.     Stir well and cover. Bring to a boil and turn head down to low.    Let simmer at least a ½ hour, but longer is better. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add a can of tomato paste. If you have a slow cooker, you can transfer the chili to it and keep it warm at low heat.

8.     Optional: Serve in shallow bowls and sprinkle cheese on top so it melts. Put a dollop of guacamole in the middle followed by a smaller dollop of sour cream or yoghurt, making a multi-colored target. Dash a bit of  hot sauce in the very center for a dramatic bull’s eye and garnish with red onion. 

 

*This recipe goes great with some zucchini bread on the side, a favorite of the Easter Bunny in Who Iced the Snowman?.

The finished veggie chili with a slice of homemade zucchini bread. 

The finished veggie chili with a slice of homemade zucchini bread. 

 

Stay tuned for next week’s post, where we’ll be exploring a sweet recipe paired with a fashionably cozy mystery.

Sitting down with Teresa LaRue

 

Teresa LaRue has held many professions, but currently she works as the author of cozy mysteries. Her first novel with Cozy Cat Press, Fatal Fall, explores an unexpected death in a small town along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, scenery with which she is intimately familiar from her upbringing.  I sat down to ask her how she got into writing, what influences her, and what she’s working on now.

 

Q: What inspired you to start writing cozy mystery novels?

A: I started writing cozy mysteries mainly because I love to read them. I love the small-town atmosphere and all the quirky characters. Plus, the sleuth has to piece together who the killer is using her knowledge of the town and its inhabitants. 

  

Q: What books and other authors inspire you? Have you taken any inspiration from other cozy mystery authors or other kinds of writing?

A: I fell in love with reading in the fourth grade, so I’ve consumed a lot of books. Each author has strengths and weakness that I try to learn from. But my biggest inspiration came from Phyllis A. Whitney. I’ve read her books since I was a kid. I even wrote her a fan letter once and received a hand-written reply.  

 

Q: Your website says that you’ve worked in a variety of fields over the years. Has interacting with people from different backgrounds in different settings helped you better understand how to develop your characters?

A: I’ve run into all types of people working with the public and I find them endlessly fascinating. I enjoy hearing about their lives and trying to figure out what makes them tick. Of course, the downside is I’ve also had to deal with a few nasty characters, which helps me understand why someone might want to murder them.   

 

Q: How do your writing ideas come to you? Do you get an idea for a character first, then the plot, or visa versa?

A: I usually start with a character. What they like, and dislike. What caused them to be the way they are. Only then do I tackle plot. After I figure out who gets killed, I work out who had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit the crime.

 

Q: What is your writing process? Do you have a schedule?

A: I usually devote mornings to housework and errands, then write in the afternoons. After I lay out the plot, I take one scene at a time, close my eyes, and imagine what’s going on. At some point, inspiration hits and I sit down and begin to write.

 

Q: Has your writing process changed for Fatal Fall versus your first book, A Talent for Murder?

A: Actually, I wrote Fatal Fall before I wrote A Talent for Murder, but my process has remained consistent. I keep a notebook with all my character sketches, plot notes, etc. Unlike some, I enjoy the rewriting process. Once I have something to work with, it’s so much easier to add details that make the scene come alive.

 

Q: The scenery of Fatal Fall is deeply rooted in the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where you yourself are from. Did having a personal connection to the setting of the story making writing easier?

A: Since I knew the landscape and history of the area, it definitely made the writing easier. While some people are at home in the mountains, others, in the desert, I feel most at home near the water. I love the tang of salty sea air, the warm sand beneath my feet, and the sound of waves rolling into shore.   

  

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I just finished the second book in the Flower Patch series and have sketched out characters and the basic plot for another book about a woman who has to solve the murder of the business partner of her best friend’s boyfriend, while also dealing with the grief of losing her husband.

    

Q: What do you want to communicate to your readers?

A: That family and community are important, and sometimes you have to work a little harder to get along with difficult people.

Chatting with Laura Shea

Laura Shea, a professor of English at Iona College, has her first cozy mystery with Cozy Cat Press coming out this fall. The story is the second in a series featuring detective Erica Duncan, a smart, honest woman transitioning from a career in academia into the world of theater. I caught up with Laura Shea to learn more about her reading influences, her favorite books, and what we can expect from her new novel.

 

Q: What inspired you to start writing mystery novels?

A: I grew up reading Nancy Drew, and I loved those kinds of books. And I read some mysteries along the way--I liked Amanda Cross, that kind of mystery. But it wasn’t until I was in graduate school and I was a TA in a course on mystery (it was a course that began with Oedipus Rex and then went on to Dickens’ Bleak House and then hard-boiled detectives and cozies) that I actually got interested in the idea of writing a mystery and one in an academic setting.

 

Q: How do you feel like your experience in academia have helped you write cozy mysteries? Did you draw on your own experiences when writing?

A: In some ways yes, though not literally. The people you meet who are faculty, the range of personalities, and also the types of issues that they have that maybe aren’t issues to other people, the whole publish-or-perish thing, influenced me, but the first book is definitely not a literal translation of my experience. I started teaching full-time in 1983 and before that I was in graduate school, so it reflects a lot of that [experience].

 

Q: What is your writing process? Do you have a schedule or a time of day you like to do your writing?

A: I don’t have a schedule. Most of the writing I do gets done in the summer. I think about it for a while and then sit down and write and I revise as I go. I’m not one of those people who writes a full draft. I revise as I go rather than writing the whole draft and going back.

 

Q: What books and authors inspire you? Have you taken any inspiration from other cozy mystery authors or other kinds of writing?

A: I don’t know that I have. One of the books I read recently is Sycamore, by Bryn Chancellor, and I was really impressed by that. I think it was one of the best books I’ve read in a while, and what I liked about it was not just the fact that it’s a mystery, but it really shows the consequences of the death, and then you find out how the death happened at the end. I’m always more interested in why people do what they do. My novels are much more character-driven, although I would say that the way my writing has evolved, I’m more aware of plot, I mean, in mystery there has to be one, but I’m more interested in what people do, why they do it, what brought them to this point in their lives.

 

Q: How did you get the original idea for your last book? Was the process of writing that book different than your upcoming book?

A: For the first book, I’d definitely been ruminating on it for a while, slowly but surely. It didn’t come all at one time. I didn’t necessarily know where it was going to end up. With Murder at the People’s Theatre I knew the scene I wanted to write at the end. But with A Dying Fall, I knew the death, but I wasn’t sure how it would go and I did it piece by piece, putting it all together.

 

Q: When does the Murder at the People’s Theater come out?

A: Later his fall, but I’m not exactly sure what the date is.

 

Q: What else do you want to communicate to your readers?

A: The theatrical setting of the second book is interesting to people because it’s different from the first book, which is the world in which I live currently, but it’s interesting to see the detective in a different setting, one [academia] in which she’s really comfortable in that world, and one [theater] in which she’s not part of this world. Even in the first book she was an outsider looking in, whereas in this, she’s one step removed but still an outsider looking in.

 

Q: Did you write Erica’s character knowing she would be a strong female?

A: I don’t know that I was conscious of that, but I certainly wanted to make her that. She’s smart and she’s clever and she has a moral compass. She’s the moral compass in a place [academia] where they’re supposed to have and teach values.

 

Look out for Erica’s newest novel, Murder at the People’s Theater, this Fall.

 

 

 

Automobiles in Booker Falls, ca 1920

This is the third in a series of monthly blogs about the places, people and events that appear in my novel, Strangled in the Stacks, the first book in the Booker Falls Mystery Series. This month’s topic is “Automobiles in Booker Falls, ca 1920.”

Numerous automobiles passed through Booker Falls during the first two decades of the twentieth century on their way from somewhere to somewhere else. But it was not until Myrtle Tully’s arrival in town in the fall of 1919 in a twelve-year-old Model N Ford that any had taken up permanent residence.

The most well-known of Ford’s vehicles was the popular Model T. But for five years before that model hit the road in 1908, The Ford Motor Company had produced eight previous models: A, B, C, F, K, N, R and S.

 The Model N—Myrtle’s car—built at Ford’s Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, was introduced in 1906 as Ford’s entry into the inexpensive car market, and was priced at five hundred dollars. During its two years of production seven thousand cars were built. This included two other upgraded models of the Model N, the Model R, which was a more expensive version of the N with a larger body and other perks such asrunning boards and oil lamps; and the Model S, with even more unique features such as an optional extra, third, mother-in-law seat (and what red blooded American husband wouldn’t want that?).

The Model N came only in maroon, the Model R only in red. I have seen pictures of the Model S in both colors. And that quote by Henry Ford regarding the Model T? “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Not only did he probably not say it, but the Model T was available in a wide range of colors, including hunter green and fire-engine red—and black.

These three models were the last ones produced by Ford for sale in the United States with right-hand drive (such as is now used in Europe).

 In 1920, motivated by his desire not to rely on Myrtle to have to drive when they went on a date out of town, George Salmon, the town mayor, purchased a new Briscoe, manufactured by the Briscoe Company located in Jackson, Michigan. The touring model, priced at eleven hundred and eighty five dollars, was elegant. 
 

Like Myrtle’s Model N, the Briscoe boasted a convertible top, leather covered seats, headlights and a horn, and came in a variety of colors: George chose robin-egg blue, which matched the color of the bow tie he wore when he came to pick up Myrtle to go to Red Jacket. He’d purchased the car at the plant, but to get it to Booker Falls, he had to cross the Straits of Mackinac at Mackinaw City. Since there was no bridge there at the time, the crossing was made by ferry, a sometimes dicey ride.

In spite of his aversion to these new “infernal machines,” Henri de la Cruz, the town constable, decided that if he were to compete with George for Myrtle’s attention, he also needed an automobile. His choice was a 1920 Packard Town Car, which he had shipped from a dealer in Dayton, Ohio. To outfit it as a police car, Henri made several modifications, including the word “POLICE” painted on either side, and a bell mounted on the front of the hood that he could ring using a chain attached to a lever next to the steering wheel.

The Packard Motor Company was regarded as one of the top three automobile manufacturers in America, along with Pierce-Arrow of Buffalo, New York and Peerless of Cleveland, Ohio. Like George’s Briscoe, the Packard Touring Car came in a variety of colors. Not known to be ostentatious, Henri chose black.

In 1920 there were over 200 manufacturers were producing automobiles in the United States (not including truck and motorcycle manufacturers). Today, there are less than 50, including about a dozen major ones, and three dozen minor ones. 7 ½ million vehicles were on the road in this country in 1920, compared to 250 million today.

 Next month’s blog topic is “What’s In A Name – Red Jacket, Calumet, Laurium?”

 I invite you to visit my website at kenngrimesauthor.com, where you can learn more about me and also purchase my books.

From Author Kenn Grimes

This is the second in a series of monthly blogs about the places, people and events that make up the Booker Falls Mystery Series. If you would prefer to no longer receive these blogs, please let me know and I will remove you from the list.

The Booker Falls Mystery Series, including Strangled in the Stacks, is what is known as historical fiction. What that means is that the stories are made up, and set in a time other than the present. It also means that the characters—at least most of them—are fictional—not real.

The main characters in Strangled in the Stacks—Myrtle, Henri, Daisy, Mrs. Darling, Mr. Pfrommer, George—are all fictional characters.But there are also many real people who are mentioned and two who appear as characters. They include: (musicians), (Franz) Schubert, (Felix) Mendelssohn, (Ludwig van) Beethoven, (Johann) Bach, (Wolfgang) Mozart; (religious), St. Patrick, St. Barbara, St. James, Mathias, St. Paul, St. Anne, St. Joseph, Salamon clericus, St. Henry, Alojzije Stepinac, Virgin Mary; (authors) Booth Tarkington, Friedrich Nietzsche, Beatrix Potter; (politicians) Ambrose Burnside, Chase Osborne, Woodrow Wilson, (Kenneth Ingalls) Sawyer; (artists) (Paul) Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Renoir; (performers) Rita Romilly, “Slim” Jim Austin, “Spareribs” Jones, (miscellaneous) General John J. Pershing (military), George Gipp (athlete), Queen of Croatia (royalty).

As I mentioned, two actually appeared as characters in the story. Myrtle tells George of her meeting Renoir at the Louvre in August, 1919, as she was studying his painting, Madame Charpentier and Her Children. Renoir did actually visit the Louvre that month, and that painting was being displayed there. He passed away four months later on December 3rd. Renoir is the only actual person who had dialogue in the book. When George and Myrtle go for dinner in Red Jacket, they spot George Gipp walking down the street. Gipp, a famous football player for Notre Dame, was a native son of Laurium and was actually in the area at that time. Three months later, on December 14th, he died at the early age of twenty-five of a throat infection (remember “Win one for the Gipper”?).

Mention must be made of two other individuals listed above. Myrtle thought Mr. Pfrommer’s muttonchops reminded her of Ambrose Burnside, whose own muttonchops were so famous they became known as burnsides—a term later converted to sideburns. And that Parisian apartment at number eleven, Boulevard de Clichy where Myrtle spent the night with Thomas, who told her the painting on the wall had been done by a previous tenant—Pablo Picasso? Well, Picasso really did live at that address twelve years earlier, in 1905. That’s fact. The painting? Okay, that’s fiction.

Next month I’ll be writing about automobiles in Booker Falls ca 1920.

Tomorrow, Saturday, February 4th, I will be selling my books at the Ancestral Trails Historical Society Book Fair in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, at the Prichard Community Center, 404 S. Mulberry St. from 10 AM to 4 PM. If you’re in that area, stop by my table and say hi—and maybe buy a book!

 

Mystery Writer Goes Trucking

Cozy Cat Press author Joyce Oroz has been writing a book a year for the last eight years, creating her popular Josephine Stuart Mystery Series. Oroz sees no end in sight but has taken a few detours along the way, including her latest project––illustrating a bilingual children’s book written by Nancy Weitzel.

Sammy the Dump Truck is the book just released to the public. The colorful pictures beg to be seen, but the best feature is the sweet story in two languages. The book is geared for English-speaking and Spanish-speaking non-readers and beginning readers. Each page has a paragraph written in English and one in Spanish.

Sammy the Dump Truck is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and will be in libraries soon.

 Eight cozy mysteries by Oroz are available on Amazon: Secure the Ranch, Read My Lipstick, Shaking In Her Flip Flops, Beetles in the Boxcar, and published by Cozy Cat Press: Cuckoo Clock Caper, Roller Rubout, Scent of a $windle, and her newest release, Who Killed Mary Christmas?

Two Cozy Cat Press Authors Nominated for Book Awards

Cozy Cat Press, today announced that two of its authors––Alice K. Boatwright and Vicki Vass––have been announced as finalists in Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem Novel Writing Contest for 2016. Boatwright’s mystery Under an English Heaven and Vass’s Murder by the Spoonful are the books being honored. 

According to Cozy Cat Press publisher, Patricia Rockwell, “We are extremely proud of Alice and Vicki.  The Murder and Mayhem contest is one that is quite meaningful to us because it honors cozy mysteries specifically.  The fact that two of our authors have been selected as finalists for this prize, is especially gratifying.” 

Alice K. Boatwright’s book, Under an English Heaven, is her first Ellie Kent mystery and her first book with Cozy Cat Press. She is also the author of Collateral Damage, three novellas about the long-term impact of the Vietnam War, which won the 2013 Bronze Award for Literary Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. She formerly lived in the Cotswolds for several years, and now divides her time between the U.S. and Paris.

Vicki Vass has written more than 1,400 articles for The Chicago Tribune as well as Women’s World, The Daily Herald and Home & Away. Her science fiction novel, The Lexicon, was inspired by her journeys in the jungle of Sudan, Africa, while writing about the ongoing civil war for World Relief. She has also authored Killer Finds, Pickin’ Murder, and Key to a Murder in her Antique Hunters Mystery series with Cozy Cat, as well as a new series Gem Hunter. She lives outside Chicago, with her writer, musician, husband Brian, their 20-year old son Tony, kittens Pixel and Terra, Australian shepherd Bandit, seven koi and Gary the turtle.

For more information about these and other cozy mystery authors, and about Cozy Cat Press, readers may visit the company’s website:  www.cozycatpress.com. For more information about Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem contest: http://www.chantireviews.com/2016/08/18/the-mms-chanticleers-mystery-mayhem-novel-contest-official-finalist-list-for-2016/.

 

 

Having a Chat with Author C.F. Carter

This Cozy Cat intern recently was able to sit down with our newest author C.F. Carter, and get to know him better. We talked about a number of things, such as how he writes, what the best thing about writing is, and when this journey of his started. It was such an enlightening and enjoyable conversation, that I just had to share it with all you Cozy Cat fans!

 When did you realize you wanted to write?

I started writing fantasy back in the eighties in the days of modems and Bulletin Board Systems. In case anyone doesn’t know what a modem is, imagine dialing up a website using a phone number then inserting your telephone handset into a pair of rubber acoustic cups. And in case you younger readers don’t know what a telephone handset is, they’re those huge plastic speaker/microphone devices that hipsters are plugging into their smartphones to be ironic.  Anyway, back on “the boards” is where I started writing.

 

Did you originally want to write cozy mysteries or did you try other types of writing as well?

They say you should write the types of books that you like to read; I only read cozies! Over the years, I dabbled in everything from short stories to greeting cards, but cozies are the most fun.

 

What is your writing process like?

I take a lot of time to plan. With cozies in particular, there is usually a business or hobby that you really need to research in depth. For Death Of A Dummy, I read countless books on Quebec and Canadian history, biographies of Madame Tussaud, and police procedure. Plus I had to research surfing culture, wax modelling techniques, and archaeology. I even consulted a student archaeologist to find out about Munsell soil charts and other archaeological concepts.  So it was a long process.  After the research, I outline all of the scenes in great detail and put them into Scrivener where I can work on them out of sequence.  I usually write when the house is quiet from midnight to 3am, typing and chuckling in the dark and listening to melancholy music on Spotify.

 

How do you get over writer’s block?

I have never experienced serious writer’s block because I have a detailed plan for each scene. But it does take some time for me to lose myself in a scene and enjoy the process. I think the best way to get over writer’s block is to relax and just have fun. I start by promising myself that I won’t do any editing in the first draft of the scene I’m working on: not even typos. Basically, I give myself permission to write really terribly, and simply relate what’s happening in casual language as though I’m describing it to a friend over coffee.  But here is where the magic happens. After a few minutes when things get flowing, I start to edit and rewrite sentences in spite of myself. Before you know it, I’m lost in another world and having a lot of fun!

What would you say is the most difficult and the most enjoyable thing about writing is?

The feeling of creating something is everything. If you’re writing novels to get rich, or even for readers, you’ll probably end up disappointed.  With hundreds of thousands of books published every year, trying to find readers is extremely time consuming, even if you offer your books for free. If someone had asked me this question when I started writing Death Of A Dummy, I would have replied, “I want to entertain people.” But the truth is, I do this to entertain myself.  When I’m writing a scene I can get so absorbed by the world I’ve created that I miss the characters between writing sessions, and I can’t wait to get back to them to see what they do next. It sounds corny, but it’s true!

 

What does it feel like to finish a novel?

A little anticlimactic. I don’t write each scene in order. In Death Of A Dummy, the last scene I wrote was one from the middle of the novel when Paul plays Petanque (a game similar to Bocce ball) in a park.  And the line between an unfinished/finished novel is always blurry, anyway. There are so many rounds of editing after the first draft that it’s never really finished. Every time I read parts of my book I want to make changes, even today.

 

Do you have any plans/ideas for your next novel?

The next novel in the Wax Museum Mysteries series (A Model Murder) takes place during the Christmas season. Christmas is the greatest time of year in Old Quebec City. Charles Dickens himself was enchanted by his visit to the old city, and his famous novel A Christmas Carol plays a prominent part in my exceedingly farcical sequel. That’s all I want to give away right now...

 

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?

I would highly recommend having a plan. A lot of writers feel that novels are living, breathing things, and that their structure should organically reveal itself over time. But I believe that once you start writing it becomes difficult to rearrange the skeleton of your story without killing the patient—just ask any serial killer.  My advice would be to start by describing your novel in one sentence. Then flesh it out and write a whole paragraph. Keep adding details until you have an outline several pages long.  Then, break your book up into scenes (not chapters), and continue to add more details and maybe even interesting facts and bits of dialogue. Now you have a detailed, structurally sound scaffolding to hang your story, and you can write the scenes in any order you like.  

 

Thanks so much for allowing me to talk with you Carter! I can only hope that others enjoyed learning about you, your writing, and your novel, as much as I did, and we all can’t wait until your next mystery is out! We wait anxiously. 

Carter will have an appearance in Quebec on March 16 to discuss his book. Come back Friday when we release exclusive excerpts from Death of a Dummy to find out where! 

Author of the Week: C.F. Carter

Cozy Cat Press presents C.F. Carter as author of the week! His cozy mystery is Death of a Dummy!

Death of a Dummy takes place in Old Quebec City, where nothing bad ever happens until Paul Wainscott comes into town. A surf bum with a goal to make his new building profitable, Paul did not expect dead bodies—including a street mime with a “dummy” act—to be popping up like killer waves. With a derelict wax museum in his basement and the help of his new business partner, a loopy octogenarian named Dottie, Paul must unravel the mystery behind a priceless antique tapestry and two seemingly unrelated murderers.

Check out this excerpt!

“You bought me a house in Quebec?”

“it’s an investment property. A real business, not one of your get-rich-quick schemes. If you get some solid tenants and don’t bungle things up, it’ll provide you with a steady income. There’s a pre-paid credit card in there with enough money to cover your expenses and mortgage for three months. But when the money runs out, that’s it.”

“He’s serious,” Todd chimed in. “Not another cent.”

Another cracking sound came from my pocket.

My dad continued, “Just so we’re clear—if you don’t turn a profit in three months, Todd will fly down and clean up your mess, and you’ll return home to work at the winery.”

I arched an eyebrow. “And if I succeed?”

“Then you’re free to do what you like. Keep the building, sell it to finance another business, I don’t care. But I’d like to see you stick with it for awhile. Who knows? You might even be happy there.”

I stared at the envelope and didn’t move.

C.F. Carter is a graduate of University of Western Ontario. He owns several internet companies and publishes MysteryWeekly magazine. He enjoys badminton, photography, and TV crime shows when he's not creating his own works of crime fiction. He currently lives with his wife and daughter near Hamilton, Ontario. He hopes to retire in Old Quebec, where Death of a Dummy takes place! 

Check out his

Be sure to like, comment, and share! 

A Wonderful Chat with Author Joyce Oroz

Recently I was able to have a chat with Cozy Cat author Joyce Oroz. Together we had a great conversation about her writing career, and how she overcomes things such as writer’s block. Joyce was also kind enough to provide tips for inspiring writers. Below you can read the conversation, and see what makes the Josephine Stuart Mystery Series, and the author behind them, so great.

When did you realize you wanted to write?

People probably think a writer pops out of the womb with a big “W” imprinted on her forehead, and the smell of ink on her baby-breath. Not always true. The first sixty years of my life were spent avoiding reading and writing, probably because I hated school so much, which was probably because I was an introverted dyslectic child. The only exception to the “no-read-no-write” rule was the Nancy Drew series and letters to Mom.

Decades later, thanks to modern technology and spell-check, I am able to appreciate the joys and frustrations of writing. I happened onto writing when my long-time mural painting career suddenly and unexpectedly ended. I had painted my whole life. I thought, dreamed and lived to paint. I felt lost without a brush in my hand and needed a way to express myself. It just happened that my dusty computer was feeling alone and under-used. I settled into my roll-around chair and never looked back. I had discovered a universal truth. Writing is just like painting but without the mess.

Did you originally want to write cozy mysteries or did you try other types of writing as well?

My first timid crack at writing was a series of children’s stories written for my grandchildren. Twenty-seven stories later, I longed to write a real book. Nancy Drew came to mind. She had made a permanent mark on my impressionable little twelve-year-old brain. I took a few college courses in creative writing, and somewhere along the way I had an epiphany. If I wrote a page a day I would have a 350-page book in a year’s time.  Secure the Ranch was born nine months later with 410 pages. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had written my first “cozy” mystery, because I hate ugly language and blood. I create a clean murder and emphasize the shenanigans, adventure and character interaction that go with every mystery.

What inspires you to write? Are there places or jobs have made an impact on your writing?

My previous life of painting murals inspires my new life of writing about a gal who paints murals and solves mysteries on the side. I gave Josephine my red truck and my best brushes. She can handle the work because she’s younger, stronger and smarter than I. I didn’t want my protagonist to be exactly like me, so I left out a husband, children, grandchildren, gardening and gophers. I write in first person which allows me to control Josephine’s brain and her craving for donuts.

What is your writing process like?

My writing style is “by the seat of my pajama pants.” I’m retired so I write when I can find the time—between 10 grandchildren, a husband, a dog, friends, a garden and gophers. I try to write for an hour or two every day. I average six days a week. That’s why it takes the better part of a year to write a book, but that’s OK, because the ideas come slowly.

How do you get over writer’s block?

Sometimes new ideas refuse to come at all. I tell myself to relax and clear my brain- kind of like meditation. Unfortunately, the best ideas come to mind while I’m in the shower or driving in heavy traffic. Sometimes they come from just sitting at the computer, waiting and waiting. One good idea can lead to many pages of adventure. Writing is the greatest adventure of all because through all the excitement the writer is safe at her desk.

How have your characters developed and grown throughout your series?

Josephine is still making mistakes, pre-judging people and chasing bad guys in the wrong direction, but she has a few things in her favor; her boyfriend, her best girlfriend, her very smart dog and luck. I wish I could say that she has evolved, grown, and matured. Actually she is a really good person with a few flaws. Without flaws and bad judgment there could be no story. Josephine would figure out the murder mystery on the first page.

Fortunately, her best friend has all her ores in the water. Alicia is bright and uses common sense. Jo’s boyfriend, David is a solid, steady influence. Even the dog is grounded. It’s Josephine and the new people she meets who keep us entertained.

What does it feel like to finish a novel?

When I finally finish a book, which I have done seven times at this point, I feel like I just kicked the ball over the goal post in front of 50,000 people. But the feeling only lasts a week or two and then I’m driven to start writing all over again. It’s like a box of chocolate—can’t stop at just one.

 Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?

Once you decide to be a writer, put your heart and time into it. Write between classes, on your lunch hour, soaking in the tub. Think about your story and characters in the shower and driving in traffic. You won’t even remember the drive. It’s one thing to talk about being a writer, it’s another thing to jump into the muddy trenches and work your computer into a frenzy.

 How do you try to connect with your readers?

I am taking a break from writing because it’s the book selling season. I have several book signings lined up—lots of people to meet, lots to talk about.

 What would you say is the most difficult and the most enjoyable thing about writing is?

Writing has a tendency to put the writer into the spotlight. I had avoided such things my whole life, now I embrace the opportunity to meet people. There is no sweeter sound than a fan saying, “I loved your last book.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your novel(s) or anything else you’d like readers to know?

All seven books in my Josephine Stuart Mystery Series are available at Amazon and Kindle.

 http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=joyce+oroz

Thanks again Joyce for sitting down with me and talking about your novels! It was a great pleasure, and I hope we can do it again soon in the future! 

Behind the Pen: 14 Writers of "Chasing the Codex" Reflect on their Experience

I had the privilege of email-interviewing several of the authors of Cozy Cat Press’s 100th release, Chasing the Codex. Somewhat in the tradition of Off the Page, they dished on what it was like to collaborate on such a challenging project, offering insights from their own lives.

Here are some of their answers.

1. What was it like to work within the defined limits? Did you feel it strengthened your own creative process?  

Christian Belz—I suppose I drew a bit of luck in being asked to write the first chapter, because I really didn’t have any limits other than the genre and word count. It’s such fun to create a whole new world, protagonist, setting, and begin setting up the breadcrumbs that lead to the evolution of a mystery. Early on, I decided to make the lead character a woman, simply because most of the Cozy Cat authors are female. By the time I had set up the foundation, backstory, character relationships, and so on, I was so engrossed, I wanted to write the entire book! Luckily for me, there were 23 other authors who would lend their creativity and voice to the story.

Sally Carpenter—What I liked about the limits is that I didn’t have to think up the story, characters or setting from scratch. That saved time and allowed me to focus more on carrying the mystery ahead. I had to stretch a bit to work outside my own style but I think I still managed to put my own stamp on my chapter.

Drema Reed—It was hard, for me, to think about working within the limits of this kind of book. However, when it came time to write my chapter, it all came together because the writer before me left me with a perfect way to integrate my style with the characters available.

Joe and Pam Reese—I'm a comp lit person and was fascinated to learn, years ago, about how Greek tragedies always seemed to follow certain rules, or, I guess, defined limits.  Working within the rules only seemed to intensify the emotional power they were able to create.

Jennifer Vido—I approached writing the group mystery as an exercise in creative writing, much like being in a college class. There were defined limits that I was obligated to follow which took me out of my comfort zone. Overall, it was a very positive learning experience. It certainly strengthened my own creative writing process. Plus, I learned how to write a book from the beginning to the end with my fellow CCP authors. That was a treat!

2. Were you surprised at the direction other authors took the book (no spoilers, please :) )?

B.J. Gilbertson—There were a few surprises for sure.  To me, though, that was part of the fun of this experience.  I personally would have taken the novel in a different direction.  I'm not saying my direction would have been better...just different.  I loved the novel's final direction and eventual ending.

Helen Grochmal—Surprised by the direction of my characters? I haven't felt the same since Ingrid Bergman played a loose lady in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. However, I felt all was fair according to the rules of the book—and fun.

Julie Seedorf—I was curious but had no expectations because when you have twenty-four writers you know there will be many twists and turns and surprises as we all have different writing styles and wild imaginations. I also knew the book was in good hands with the authors that were lined up to work on the book. They are all very talented people.

Steve Shrott— I was surprised about where the authors took the book, both before, and after my work. And I think that’s what enabled Chasing the Codex to have so many great twists and turns. None of us knowing where we were going created some really special surprises (even for us.) I think it’s very impressive that twenty-four authors were able to work together to create this wonderful entertaining and cohesive story.  
Lane Stone—VERY!  But I better not say any more….. Wait, I can say that in my chapter I felt it was time to increase the tension so I…. Oh, well, I can’t tell you that either.  Sorry.

3. When did you start writing? Why do you write? What is it about mysteries in particular that fascinates you?

Barbara Jean Coast (Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff)—Andrea has been writing since she could hold a pencil. Heather came at it through writing journals and free writing as a teen. We write because we have stories to tell.

Joyce Oroz— I painted murals like mad my whole life until I turned a corner at sixty and took writing classes and began writing stories. I loved writing children’s stories, but eventually graduated to writing mystery novels which were over the moon fun to write. I am driven to write just like I was driven to paint. Mysteries are especially fun because I figure them out as I go. I usually don’t know who dun it until very late in the book.

Sharon Rose—I started writing quite a few years ago—actually when I hurt my back and couldn't get out of bed for three weeks! That was over thirty years ago. I have always been a reader. I was one of those kids who set their alarm for six so I could wake up and finish a book. Then one day, as I was reading a book, I thought I could have written it better. Very presumptuous of me! After my last child left home, I took a writing course and I was on my way. Mysteries have always fascinated me. I love creating the main character, the crime, the perpetrator, but then weaving my way through the red herrings to solve the mystery.

Lane Stone—When I was a kid I daydreamed.  Probably too much. I would fall asleep at night making up stories.  I didn’t know it at the time but I was developing a creativity muscle. Of course, writing professionally involves so much more.  Getting all the way to The End is something anyone who has ever written a book – whether it’s been published or not – can feel proud of. Like most authors, I write because I can’t help it.  You thought I was going to say money, didn’t you? I love the “order restored” aspect of a good mystery.  At the beginning of the book, all is right with the world; then evil comes to town.  This is usually in the form of a murder. By the end chaos is banished, and order is restored.  I also like that readers are involved.  They are trying to solve the murder right along with our protagonist.  No other genre gives you that fun challenge.

Diane Weiner—I started writing three years ago. Writing is an escape, gives me a sense of accomplishment, and satisfies my need to be creative.

 Special thanks to Christian Belz, Sally Carpenter, Barbara Jean Coast, B.J. Gilbertson, Helen Grochmal, Joyce Oroz, Drema Reed, Jim and Pam Reese, Sharon Rose, Julie Seedorf, Steve Shrott, Lane Stone, Jennifer Vido, and Diane Weiner for their contributions to this post! And don’t forget, you only have four more days to grab your copy of Chasing the Codex while Cozy Cat Press donates 50% of their pre-Christmas profits to help Pets for the Elderlya national charitable organization devoted to helping senior citizens acquire and pay for animal companions.