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, 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: For more information about Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem contest:



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

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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.

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.

Another Mysterious Collaboration: A Look at The Floating Admiral

Cozy Cat Press recently celebrated the publication of its 100th book, Chasing the Codex, which came out on November 19, 2015. Chasing is a collaboration between an astonishing twenty-four authors. Its chapters are filled with the adventures of a book-loving amateur sleuth, kidnappings, confusing characters, and bewildering clues—in short, all of the “coziness” that fans of Cozy Cat Press and its authors have come to love and expect.

Chasing is not, however, the first time authors have come together to write a mystery. One of the more famous examples (more famous for the prestige of some of its contributors) is The Floating Admiral, published in 1931 and written in the same round-robin style as Chasing by fourteen members of the Detection Club, of which G.K. Chesterton, writer of the prologue, was first president.    

Each author was required to write consistently with the chapters before as well as write with a definite solution in mind to prevent adding needless complications. Published during the Golden Age of detective fiction, its central mystery surrounds the discovery of a body that may or may not be a local admiral’s, and, similar to Chasing, misunderstandings and secrets abound. At the end of the book, readers are presented with each author’s solution and invited to look back for themselves to put the pieces together.

It’s an interesting and challenging read, and the authors of Chasing followed The Floating Admiral’s own guidelines fairly closely. Find Chasing the Codex on Amazon to read for yourself!

 Order your copy now, as 50% of all pre-Christmas sales will go to Pets for the Elderly, a national charitable organization devoted to helping senior citizens acquire and pay for animal companions.

Author of the Week: Diane Weiner

This week we have a series of cozy mysteries by Diane Weiner! The first book of the series is Murder Is Elementary: A Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mystery. The most recent one in the series is Murder Is Private: A Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mystery!

Click the picture to read more about Diane! 

Click the picture to read more about Diane! 

In Murder Is Elementary, Susan Wiles is a retired teacher who used to teach at Westbrook Elementary School. Susan attends the holiday concert without the worry of how her chorus students will do. But, where is the principal, Vicky Rogers? The concert cannot go on unless she greets the parents and guests. Susan offers to check the main office, only to find the missing administrator dead on the office floor. Nothing like this ever happened while Susan worked there! Now that Susan has retired, she has time to help with local police (one of whom is her daughter Lynette) investigate the mysterious crime. Susan has just found the perfect retirement activity—much to her daughter’s chagrin. When the dead woman’s teenage daughter, on of Susan’s former top students, begs for Susan’s help how can she say no? Susan doesn’t realize, however, that this crime will take her far from the schoolhouse doors and into the painful past of a family. 

Check out this excerpt!

Her thoughts were interrupted by the inevitable feedback from the microphone on the stage. Amidst the buzz in the cafeteria, the assistant principal called the audience back to their sears. Susan knew what would follow. Vicky Rogers was about to take the stage to give her usual speech—how AWESOME the chorus was, how AWESOME the parents were for supporting their children, how AWESOME the music teacher was, and how PROUD she was to be principal of Westbrook Elementary. Like a ceiling fan winding down, the audience gradually quieted. When Mrs. Rogers didn’t immediately appear, Susan noticed Mr. Ford, the assistant principal, beginning to clumsily improvise. He’s trying to buy some time, thought Susan. It looks like he could use a bit of help. Susan approached the stage and whispered in Mr. Ford’s ear that she’d go find Vicky. She had remembered seeing her head toward her office. Susan hurried down the hall, pushed open the heavy glass door to the administrative suite, and passed the secretary’s desk en route to the principal’s office. She knocked again. Then she turned the knob, opened the door, and screamed. 

Click the picture to read more! 

Click the picture to read more! 

Murder Is Secondary is the second edition to the series. Susan Wiles thought she’d be content spending her time knitting baby blankets and volunteering at the local high school, but the retired teacher was dead wrong. Her husband’s best friend, Tank, is accused of sexually harassing one of his students, so Susan puts her sleuthing skills into action. Her husband and police detective daughter aren’t too happy about it, but when a dead body is discovered in a construction site behind the school, the stakes escalate quickly. Before Susan can solve this new mystery and exonerate Tank, she finds herself dealing with family and personal issues that force her to realize that murder is secondary.  

Check out this excerpt!

“Oh, no you don’t. Don’t get mixed up in this. I know you want to help, so do I. I think we need to let the police handle this. If you want to help ask around for lawyer recommendations or bake Tank some lasagna. Wait, on second thought, nix the lasagna.” Susan knew Mike hadn’t married her for her cooking ability.

“Sure. I can do that.” Susan hoped she sounded enthusiastic enough to appease Mike.

He gave her a kiss and locked the front door on his way out.

Susan cleared the table, filled up the cat food bowls, and ran upstairs to get ready. She was going to find out what they had on Tank one way or another. She jumped into her Prius and headed to the school. I’m going to get to the bottom of this, she thought, feeling a twinge of excitement in her stomach. 

Click the picture to be taken to the book's Amazon page! 

Click the picture to be taken to the book's Amazon page! 

Diane Weiner has enjoyed reading for as long as she could remember. The veteran school teacher and mother of four has fond memories of reading Nancy Drew and Mary Higgins Clark on snowy weekend afternoons in upstate New York. She yearned to create books that would bring the same kind of enjoyment to her readers as she experienced. The animal lover and vegetarian shares her home with two adorable cats and a bisch-a-poo. In her free time, the author enjoys running, attending community theater productions, and spending time with her family.

Murder Is Elementary is her first cozy mystery about a retired school teacher Susan Wiles, and her latest installment to the series is her fourth cozy mystery: Murder Is Private. 

Author of the Week: Susan Spencer-Smith

This week we introduce Susan Spencer-Smith and her cozy mystery Corpse in the Cookery: A Glory Girls Mystery

In Corpse in the Cookery: A Glory Girls Mystery, dragon lady Gudrun Wince lies dead in Glory Hallelujah Church after being stabbed while concocting Mammy’s Marvelous Biscuit Casserole. When the best suspects and the culprit elude Sherriff Dooley Skiles, his official deputies, and unofficial backroom boys, Edith Fay Smith and the Glory Girls step into the investigation of Gudrun Wince’s murder. Tiny Biddlebourne, West Virginia will be changed forever.

Check out this exerpt! Click the picture to read more!

"Death gave Gudrun Wince a serenity unknown to her in life. Her eyes and knees were closed. Mercifully, so was her mouth. If her murder hadn’t been so messy, most of Biddlebourne would have thanked God for it.

            Matter of fact, Buddy Lee Delbert blasphemed when he stumbled on the body and got blood and broccoli on his steel-toed boots. So roundly did he swear that the eight surviving contestants looked up from their measuring.

            The mess on Buddy Lee’s brogans, which cost a week’s wages for a job that lasted two months, reminded him of the oozing crimson patch on his privates and backside. The rash had appeared after a midnight romp with Lizzie Etta Edge in a pine glade lined with poison ivy. He had not regretted that day until now.

            While Buddy Lee puked his breakfast grits into a colander and scratched his behind, the Glory Girls of Glory Hallelujah Church strode to Cooking Audition Station Nine, at which Gudrun Wince, desirous herself of becoming a Glory Girl, had lately been mixing Mammy’s Marvelous Biscuit Casserole." 

Susan Spencer-Smith draws on her experience as pastor and journalist to write fiction and nonfiction. Susan wrote and edited at the Weirton Daily Times and Wheeling News-Register in her native West Virginia and at daily newspapers in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Dayton. She answered God’s call to pulpit ministry at age 40, earned a master of divinity degree at United Theological Seminary, Dayton, and served 16 years as a United Methodist pastor. She lives and writes in Weirton, West Virginia, with help from her husband, Grant Beamer, and her cat, Thud.

Susan’s inspirational cozy mysteries come to life in Biddlebourne, the literary double of Middlebourne, West Virginia.

Susan, who was born in Sistersville, West Virginia, and whose forebears lived and worked in Middlebourne and the surrounding Tyler County, invites readers to pull up a chair to a corner of Appalachia where corn grows tall in the bottoms, muskies run thick in the creek, and locals do things their own way

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Author of the Week: Leslie Matthews Stansfield

To bring in the month of October, our Author of the Week is Leslie Matthews Stansfield! Her cozy mystery is Mr. Tea and the Traveling Teacup: A Madeline's Teahouse Mystery!

Mr. Tea and the Traveling Teacup: A Madeline’s Teahouse Mystery follows the story of Terry and Karen Sutter. After their mother’s death, they decide to turn their childhood home into a teahouse; a dream come true. The dream becomes a nightmare when teacups begin crashing to the floor in the middle of the night. Is the teahouse haunted? The previous owner—who is rumored to have left behind buried treasure—two neighbors who disappeared over forty years ago, or Terry and Karen’s mother trying to communicate with them are the possible ghostly candidates. Karen finds the idea of running a haunted teahouse fun, until the sisters come home one night to what appears to be blood on the attic stairs. They don’t know whether to take it as a ghost or a warning. The teahouse’s new mascot, a psychic macaw, may provide some unexpected clues, but the sisters will encounter many more surprises before they solve this mystery. 

Check out this excerpt! Click the picture to read more!

“Her stomach flipped as a new wave of fear almost brought her to her knees. Shaking, she debated which way to turn. Her first instinct was to check the tearoom where the shelf holding the ever toppling teacups was. However, that would leave her back exposed to the parlor. She stood still, wanting to listen, but her pounding heart was making such a racket that she could barely hear herself think. Her back against the wall beneath the stairs, she slid herself stealthily along to the broom closet. Carefully cracking open the door, she reached in and grabbed a broom. She inched her way back. Easy, girlie, she told herself. She quickly turned around so she was against the wall next to the doorway of the tea room and she could see into the dark parlor.” 

Leslie Matthews Stansfield also wrote the book for the town Windsor Locks, CT where she currently resides. She has four children and eight grandchildren.

She grew up in Delmar, New York, graduated from the University of Hartford, and recently received her Masters’ degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. When she’s not tutoring in math for a public school, she is at her church as the Christian Education Director. She is currently working on the second book in the Madeline’s Teahouse series, so be sure to read the first one! 

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