by Kathleen Costa
This week we have a trio of fun Halloween mysteries from Kathi Daley, and an interview with her. We have Costume Catastrophe, Murder At the Witching Hour & Count Catula. Details at the end of this post on how to win copies of all 3, and links to purchase them.
Costume Catastrophe: A Zoe Donovan Mystery by Kathi Daley
Review by Kathleen Costa
Halloween in Ashton Falls brings about cooler weather, changing colors of the deciduous trees, and hopes that the past problems (OK, murders) with the annual haunted house are just that…in the past. But a mysterious note meant for Zoe indicates there may be trouble again in Ashton Falls, “One has died; others will follow unless you can stop it.” Is it a prank by an anxious high schooler who knows Zoe has a penchant for murder investigations? Or is there another ‘dead’ end to the annual Halloween Hamlet?
Well, the note seems to be more of a statement of fact than a prank when a dead body shows up at the site of the haunted house…again. Zoe is once more compelled to take up the investigation citing the note did say, “…YOU can stop it.” Many of the suspects, friends with the victim back in high school, are in town for the big football game, and with no real motives Zoe sets out to talk to (OK, interrogate) those on her list. There are old time grudges with the ‘unstoppable trio,’ a witch across the river, several cryptic notes, and a victim who several said was angry and paranoid about being followed. However, everyone seems to have a legitimate alibi, and Zoe’s ‘Zodar’ is on overload.
Zak, Zoe’s husband, lends his support helping to gather information on alibis and possible motives and communicate with the local law enforcement, young Alex is worried about her first school dance, and Scooter just wants a great Halloween. But, as Zoe tends to her Animal Rescue Center and Zak to the Zimmerman Academy making plans for a Halloween Bash, alibis are called into question. What about the widow, the former high school girlfriend, friends, and enemies now and then?
This is the twenty-first installment in the Zoe Donovan Mystery series, and with so many adventures, this one still maintains the signature cleverness and engaging story for which Kathi Daley is known. You don’t need to be a regular visitor into Zoe Donovan’s world to enjoy this Halloween adventure. You will be met with wonderful characters and an another intriguing mystery. Zoe and Zak have been through a lot through the series, and enjoying married life and the hopes to have children of their own is a nice side to the story. It is like visiting with friends over a cup of coffee. So, Zoe, what have you been up to?
“Costume Catastrophe” by Kathi Daley has earned 5/5 Haunted House tickets! Enjoy!
Recipes included by Kathi Daley and Readers
Pumpkin muffins, Pumpkin Snickerdoodles, Chicken Casserole, Mexican Lasagna
Aunt Pearlie’s Fresh Apple Cake, Pumpkin Rolls, Pumpkin Custard Crunch, Aunt Lena’s Apple Crunch
Other Zoe Donovan Halloween Mysteries
Halloween Hijinks (2013)
Haunted Hamlet (2014)
Ghostly Graveyard (2015)
Murder at the Witching Hour: A Sand and Sea Mystery by Kathi Daley
Review by Kathleen Costa
What could be more romantic than a wedding on a private Hawaiian island? Not much, unless you consider the Goth theme, the Dracula inspired castle, and the Halloween nuptials. It wasn’t going to be your typical affair with an array of guests ranging from estranged family, old high school classmates, Goth enthusiasts, and a staff dressed as undertakers, vampires, and mummies. But, Kailani Pope, Lani to her friends, has more than an uneasy feeling about having been invited to the wedding. Her uneasiness is made worse when given a cryptic reading by the psychic Dharma. “This is the one we’ve been waiting for—a guest with a specific purpose will attend the festivities.” She decides to be prepared for whatever might happen…like missing friends, suspicious arguments, and a gunshot.
‘Trish’ Cromwell has been trying to find her ‘niche’ in the world experimenting with a hippie lifestyle in a commune to starving artist in Paris to a questionable convent, but this latest incarnation has her changing her name to ‘Morticia’ and adopting a Goth personae. The announcement of her upcoming nuptials came as a surprise to her half-sister who shares her suspicions of the groom, Ivan. Who is he? A cold-case provides more curious suspicions.
Lani, her plus one Luke, and the non-Goth wedding guests set out to weather the storm both outside and inside to figure out what’s going on. Lani remembers the psychic Dharma had said, “Do not trust what you see,” but with more than one guest gone (possibly dead), locked rooms, an absent bride and groom, and the Goth guests acting strangely, Lani worries answers may not come soon enough. Is that a coffin?
This third book in the Sand and Sea Mystery series does not disappoint. Kathi Daley’s signature humor, quirky characters, and unique mysteries is one to enjoy by long time fans and newbies. The setting well described and the conversation exhilarating—you can feel the humidity and smell the tropical perfume; you can almost hear the voices of the characters as they argue, worry, and fear their predicament. I even found myself cringing, and yelling, “No, don’t go in there!” Halloween could not be more exciting!
Kathi Daley’s “Murder at the Witching Hour” earns 5/5 bouquets of black roses!
Recipes Included by Kathi Daley and Readers
Apple Pie Biscuits, Pumpkin Cookies, Carrot Cake, Cranberry Muffins
Apple Cake, Creeping Crust Cobbler, Pumpkin Crumb Cake, Banana Peach Bar Cookies
Other Sand and Sea Mystery Books
Murder at Dolphin Bay
Murder at Sunrise
Count Catula: Whales and Tails Cozy Mystery by Kathi Daley
Review by Kathleen Costa
You’re so excited to attend your book club and meet your favorite mystery writer. You get to ask her questions, get your book autographed, and get inside information on her new book project. But, when the author ends up dead in the same manner as the victims in the case she’s been researching, you know there has to be a connection. A connection that could solve her murder and a long-time ‘cold case.’
Caitlin Hart, owner of Coffee Cat Books, invites Amanda Lowman to speak to her Monday Night Book Club about her upcoming project. Known for fictionalizing real-life cold cases, Amanda has come to Madrona Island to research the fifteen-year old murder of two local teenage girls, with no obvious connection beyond age and attending the same high school, found on Halloween night drained of all of their blood and odd puncture marks on their necks. An obvious suspect and recluse had disappeared after the murders when his secluded house intentionally burnt down. No other suspects were discovered putting this case in the ‘cold’ file. Cait goes to see Amanda and return the notebook she left behind, but instead discovers her body, dead, and drained of all her blood. Are there puncture marks on her neck?
Caitlin, her boyfriend/reporter Cody, sister Siobhan (shi-VAWN), brother Danny, BFF Tara, and soon-to-be brother-in-law and local detective Finn join together with their ‘Murder Board’ to compile all the facts, decipher Amanda’s notebook, and interview a long list of ‘persons of interest.’ Fortunately, the original investigator is available to provide information along with several former classmates of the victims, and a cat…a fluffy Halloween orange kitty found outside the bookstore. A cat the town’s unofficial witch Tansy informs Cait was sent to help her uncover hidden clues, old cold cases, and surprising connections. Can you speak ‘cat’?
I was held captive by this ninth book in the Whales and Tails Mystery series finishing it in just two days. This book will be a favorite of long-time fans and newbies alike, and maybe a traditional read at the Halloween season. The characters, especially Cait, were delightful with real-life interactions, and even the twinge of the ‘paranormal’ with the mysterious cat appearing and becoming a key asset didn’t seem out of place. The visual descriptions made the environment real from the woods you don’t want to enter after dark to the cliffs that would spark vertigo to the little vacation hamlets you hope one day to visit. And the mystery…oh, my! It was exciting with more than enough ‘oh, nooo’ and ‘aghhhh’ reactions to be exhilarating.
Kathi Daley’s “Count Catula” earns 5/5 Mysterious Felines!
Come for the Murder, Stay for the Romance-Welcome, Kathi Daley!
KRL: It is great to have Kathi Daley with us, so how long have you been writing?
Kathi Daley: I’ve been writing for three years. My first book was published in September, 2013, and now I am proud to have eight series and fifty books.
KRL: Wow! Fifty books. Can you give us a little bit about the first book that started it all?
Kathi: Halloween Hijinks was my first book to be published. It features an animal shelter employee, Zoe Donovan, who is called out to an abandoned house on a barking dog complaint. When she arrives at the house, she finds a body in the basement. It turns out that the house is reportedly haunted and has been abandoned for years. She, along with her friends, become involved in the investigation of the murder once they begin to discover facts behind the strange occurrence. The book takes place at Halloween and has a warm and cozy Halloween feel to go along with the not so warm and cozy murder. I am now writing book 22 in this series, and it has been a huge success.
I guess I couldn’t stay with ‘just one.’ I also write the TJ Jensen Paradise Lake Mystery, TJ Jensen Southern Seashore Mystery, Whales and Tails Mystery, Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mystery, Zimmerman Academy, a young adult series called Seacliff High Mystery, and a romance book in the Road to Christmas series.
KRL: So, you’ve written romance stories, too?
Kathi: Yes, the first book I wrote, but not the first I published, was a romance called “Road to Christmas Past.” I like romance, and all my cozies have a strong romance element. My tag line is “Come for the Murder, Stay for the Romance.”
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest books/series?
Kathi: Since I publish a book about every three weeks asking for my most recent now may not be my most recent by the time this comes out, but I think you are asking about Costume Catastrophe. This is also a Halloween Zoe—the fourth Halloween Zoe, after Halloween Hijinks, Haunted Hamlet, and Ghostly Graveyard. The town of Ashton Falls, where Zoe and the gang live, puts on a Haunted Hamlet event each year which features, among other things, a haunted house. It seems that every year, in spite of Zoe’s resolve not to be in a murder investigation, she somehow ends up in the thick of things. I love the holidays and usually set my mysteries against the backdrop of a holiday or some sort of special event.
But also released for Halloween is Murder at the Witching Hour, a Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mystery, normally set at Dolphin Bay Resort in Honolulu, but for Halloween, it is a private “how do we get off” island. We follow the adventures of lifeguard and ‘wanna’ be police officer Kailani Pope as she attends a friend’s costumed wedding.
Another release is Count Catula, a Whales and Tails Mystery, set on Madrona Island, a fictional island in the San Juan Islands off Washington State. This story follows Caitlin Hart, the owner of the Coffee Cat Books, who finds herself and her close friends and family tangled in ‘cold and hot’ cases.
KRL: I notice a lot of your books are Halloween themed, how did that come about?
Kathi: I always try to set my cozies against the backdrop of a holiday or special event. Halloween is my favorite with all the spooky ghosts and goblins.
KRL: I love Halloween too! Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Kathi: I write to entertain, so I find it surprising that I get so many emails from readers who tell me that my books have made a huge impact on their lives. My series are really about the characters living out their lives, facing love and loss, everyday challenges, families and friendships. I guess that a lot of readers can relate to what one or more of the characters are going through and in some way find comfort in their struggles and victories. My series are about people. The mystery sort of comes second in the overall scheme of things.
KRL: With so many books, and it looks like many more to come, do you follow a writing schedule or use a specific writing technique or time of day?
Kathi: For me, mornings are best when my brain is fresh, but I write all the time when I’m not traveling. I publish between 16-18 books a year, so it takes a daily commitment to the craft.
I don’t outline, I let the characters write the story. When I begin a book, I have a general idea of the backdrop. If it is Halloween, I begin the book in a costume shop, haunted house, decoration store, etc. Once I have that first paragraph, I just keep typing until it is done. Once I finish, I go back and do a cleanup so it makes sense. I have said in the past that my style of writing is like driving in the fog. You can only see a few feet in front of you, but if you keep going, you can make the entire journey that way.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Kathi: Most of my series are set in locations other than where I live, so I travel a lot. I always set my books in locations I want to visit anyway.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning? Any rejection, critiques, or acceptance stories to share?
Kathi: Sorry, I don’t have any to share since I started by self-publishing. I just uploaded my story and off we went. I sold 100,000 books that first year and twice as many the next year. In 2014, I was very proud to receive a Facebook award for Best Cozy Mystery Series for my Zoe Donovan books.
Henery Press just picked up my TJ Jenson Paradise Lake series, but since it was already established, I didn’t have to go through the normal submission and rejection process. All six of those books have had their covers redone, and a renewed Halloween interest in Halloween in Paradise and Pumpkins in Paradise.
KRL: Do you have an interesting book signing story or other event?
Kathi: I do a lot of Facebook parties but very few book signings in actual book stores. The ones I do are associated with a larger event and usually with other authors. The ‘cozy community’ is a fun and helpful network of author friends who support me, and I support in return.
I just attended the Tonya Kappes Murder Mystery Train 2016. Here we are Me, Duffy Brown, Tonya, and Laura Bradford. We were supposed to dress up in a fancy English Tea Garden type dress. I have been dealing with sciatica from all the sitting associated with writing, so I bought a dress with a tight bodice and full ruffled skirt like one might wear in an English tea garden, but I didn’t think I could handle heels on a moving train so I paired the dress with footless tights and ballet shoes and called it my “English Tea Party meets Brittany Spears” dress.
As for the train itself, there are volunteer actors who put on a murder mystery during dinner. They were really fun and awesome. I have to admit that the people at my table were so busy chatting that we really didn’t pay attention, so the guess from our table as to the identity of the killer was Colonel Mustard in the Library with a candlestick. No, it wasn’t a Clue murder, and no, there wasn’t a Colonel Mustard, a library, or a candlestick in the mystery, but we improvised. We didn’t win, but we did get a laugh.
The four of us also attended a book signing at the Cape Girardeau B&N, and it was totally awesome to have some up close and personal time with some of my very favorite readers. A lot of people drove for ten hours or more to attend. I was humbled and grateful that they would go to all the effort. I feel like I have a really good relationship with a lot of my readers who have become Facebook friends, but having the opportunity to give these very important people a hug and actually speak to them was priceless.
KRL: That sounds like a lot of fun. What are your future writing goals?
Kathi: I’d like to write for Harlequin one day. I read a lot of Harlequin novels, when I was a young mother with babies, so it feels nostalgic.
KRL: Do you have any writing heroes?
Kathi: I don’t really have any writing heroes, but the cozy community is a wonderful group of authors who support me and I support them. There are too many special ones to name.
KRL: We know you write, but what do you read?
Kathi: Before I was a writer, I read romance and women’s literature. Now I read books written by writer friends who I want to support when I have time to read, so it varies.
KRL: Do you have any favorite TV shows or movies?
Kathi: My favorite TV show of all time is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon is a master of word play. Currently I like Castle, or at least I did until it went off the air. I also like Bones and Scorpion. Oh, and Big Bang, I could watch that all day.
KRL: Buffy is my favorite too! Joss Whedon is my hero. Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Kathi: Just do it. If you write a book you would love to read, chances are someone else will love to read it as well. The first book I wrote was Road to Christmas Past. I wrote it during Christmas when I couldn’t find a book that was quite what I wanted to read. I didn’t publish it right away since I had mostly written it for my own enjoyment, but after my cozies took off I decided to publish it, and it has been a very popular book.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Kathi: I began dating my husband when I was fifteen. He is the best person on the planet, and the hero I always write. We have been together for 42 years and married for 38.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Kathi: One of the things I am proud of and a connection I make with my readers, is through the recipes I include in my books. I have a Kathi Daley Books Recipe Exchange which anyone can join. Members are free to post any recipe for others to enjoy. I do not pull recipes from this page for the books, but I have an email where I accept submissions for the books. These must be original recipes or recipes that have been significantly modified from the original. The email address to submit these recipes is recipe@kathidaley[dot]com.
I also published a cookbook with recipes from Zoe Donovan and friends. Ashton Falls Cozy Cookbook is on Amazon in print and eBook format. The cookbook includes more than 50 recipes as well as full color holiday graphics and anecdotes from Zoe on Christmas Eve.
Thank you, KRL, for the awesome interview. Join me on Facebook.
To enter to win either ebook or print copies of all 3 of these mysteries by Kathi (winner’s choice), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “kathi,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 15, 2016. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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