Saturday, September 12, 2020

How Cozy Does It Have to Be?

((Breaking news: And the winner of DON'T LOOK FOR ME  is Tracy Wirick!


And the winner of SISTER DEAR is Itsjustjenni

Email me your address to hryan at whdh dot com!

And now to our usual programming.))






HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What are you reading these days? Every time I do an event, people ask me that—and after I answer, I ask them right back. How about you?

 Some people are reading suspense, of course, it’s distracting to have to deal with only fictional disasters. And now that summer is over (yeesh) there’s the last of the pretend-you-are-at-the-beach reads. Political books, some of them, are instant bestsellers.

 But so many readers tell me—cozies.

 So let’s talk about that today with a writer who truly knows her cozy stuff. And equally knows her own cozy limitations.

 Welcome, this end of summer Saturday, to the queen of  Jell-o in a can, our dear pal Debra Goldstein.

 AND, as you’ll see below, she has a giveaway!

Atypical Cozy Mystery Thinking

     by Debra H. Goldstein

 Cozy mysteries typically feature amateur sleuths, small towns, crafts, cooking, or baking. They also include recipes and often have a cat on the cover. As one who wanted to write a cozy, I knew I could adhere to the recommended protocol, but only so far.

 I have a personal aversion to the kitchen and crafts.

 Consequently, when I compared my skill sets with the traditional elements of a cozy mystery, there was no question they didn’t match up.

 This was a dilemma until it dawned on me that there had to be readers out there who could identify with a protagonist inept at crafts and who found being in the kitchen more frightening than murder. As Sarah Blair formulated in my head, the heavy weight on my shoulders lessened.



In fact, once I started writing One Taste Too Many, I realized being able to devote less pages to being in the kitchen or doing a craft meant there was more room for me to mix and match characters, social issues, and any idea that flitted across my brain. It made it possible for me to keep the emphasis of the Sarah Blair series on being fun, while subtly including substantive topics like economic development, ageism, and the need to support animal shelters.

 In Three Treats Too Many, the recently released third book in the Sarah Blair series, I balance veterinarian practices, PTSD in dogs, motorcycle groups, and vegan dishes with continuing to build on the family dynamics between Sarah, her twin sister, and their mother. Does this make my cozies, as one reviewer mentioned, edgier? I don’t know.

What I am sure of is that neither the requisite cat nor the recipes are short-changed. In fact, Three Treats Too Many, which includes cook of convenience easy recipes, vegan dishes, and one true chef’s recipe, offers more recipes than One Taste Too Many and Two Bites Too Many combined. As much as my favorite recipe in the series remains Jell-O in a Can, E’s Crock-Pot Butternut Squash Soup is running a close second.As much as my favorite recipe in the series remains Jell-O in a Can, E’s Crock-Pot Butternut Squash Soup is running a close second.


To win a free print copy of Three Treats Too Many, why don’t you tell me if and why you read cozy mysteries and if, whether reading or just hanging out in your own life, you’d rather spend more time in the kitchen or doing a craft?

HANK: Doing a craft? Um. Do crossword puzzles count? Or --oh! Laundry folding? That's about as crafty as I get.  How about you, Reds and readers?

 


THREE TREATS TOO MANY

When a romantic rival opens a competing restaurant in small-town Wheaton, Alabama, Sarah Blair discovers murder is the specialty of the house . . . 

 
For someone whose greatest culinary skill is ordering takeout, Sarah never expected to be co-owner of a restaurant. Even her Siamese cat, RahRah, seems to be looking at her differently. But while Sarah and her twin sister, Chef Emily, are tangled up in red tape waiting for the building inspector to get around to them, an attention-stealing new establishment—run by none other than Sarah's late ex-husband's mistress, Jane—is having its grand opening across the street. 
Jane's new sous chef, Riley Miller, is the talk of Wheaton with her delicious vegan specialties. When Riley is found dead outside the restaurant with Sarah's friend, Jacob, kneeling over her, the former line cook—whose infatuation with Riley was no secret—becomes the prime suspect. Now Sarah must turn up the heat on the real culprit, who has no reservations about committing cold-blooded murder . . .
 
 Includes quick and easy recipes!

  

 

Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (Three Treats Too Many, Two Bites Too Many, One Taste Too Many). She also authored Should Have Played Poker and IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, which have been named Agatha, Anthony, Derringer finalists, have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra serves on the national boards of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and is president of SEMWA and past president of SinC’s Guppy Chapter. Find out more about Debra at www.DebraHGoldstein.com


Website – www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/       

Twitter - @DebraHGoldstein

Instagram – debra.h.goldstein

Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-h-goldstein

 

 

Buy Links:

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Three-Treats-Sarah-Blair-Mystery/dp/1496719492

Barnes & Noble - https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/three-treats-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1135275342?ean=9781496719492

66 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your newest book, Debra . . “Three Treats Too Many” is definitely on my must-read list . . .

    I enjoy well-written cozy mysteries [or thrillers, or romances, or . . . .]
    It’s the characters and the mystery that intrigue me . . . .

    I’m not so skilled at the craft things, but I definitely enjoy cooking and like checking out all the recipes.

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    1. Joan,
      Thanks for the congrats and for putting Three Treats Too Many on your MRL. To me, characters and fun are key.... you'll find recipes like Jell-O in a Can (simple - can opener, pineapple, Jell-O) to more complicated ones in my books

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  2. I always wonder – – have you ever tried any of the recipes? I never have :-) but they are tempting!

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    1. I've tried them all, and they work. In terms of display, many of my readers have posted far nicer arrangements of them than I can.

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  3. Sometimes . . . but occasionally I'm tempted to do a little recipe-altering!

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    1. Agree -- as my true chef, Sarah's twin sister, Emily, says: what makes a recipe special is love... and knowing how to doctor it perfectly.

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  4. I read all sorts of fiction including cozies. A series will hook me if I like the characters snd relationships. As time goes by I find myself less enchanted with cooking and baking although I’m still collecting interesting recipes. My crafty urges have also been dwindling in recent years. I do make Frank a valentine card each year. That started three or so years ago when I forgot to buy him one and felt bad since he had one for me. I have fun with it.

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    1. I bet he appreciates those cards so much! Our Hallie's Jerry draws amazing cards for every occasion and they are keepers.

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    2. Oh, I cut out recipes, too! Then I stash them. Then I never look at them again.

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    3. Pat,
      I also read everything and think the characters and relationships draw me into books. I bet Frank loves his cards. As for recipes, I'm like Hank. I cut them out and stash them. I also collect cookbooks -- for their stories more than their recipes. We moved last week and I gave away most of my library, but I kept the cookbooks and a file of loose recipes (that I haven't looked at in years). Go figure ...

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  5. I enjoy cozies when they are good at creating communities, which I think the best of them do really well. As for kitchen v. crafting, in my life it's no contest. I am a quilter, not a cook.

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    1. I think you've put your finger on exactly what's important to me too Beth--the community of interesting characters

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    2. Community is key. When I'm asked, I always say most books that intrigue me have relationships between characters that make them seem real to me. I envy you the ability to quilt. The patterns and stories a quilt can tell rivals that of a book.

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  6. I don’t read a lot of cozies, but I think I’m starting to read more. I think the pandemic has created a need for a familiarity of character and community that come together. And, I need the humor some are so clever with. I probably will continue to read more psychological thrillers and such, but the cozy does now have a place on my reading schedule.

    Crafty I’m not. My daughter and eleven-year-old granddaughter are quite excellent at crafts, but I didn’t get the craft gene. Cooking I’m better at, so I do love reading about the food in cozies. I was honored by our Edith Maxwell using my mother’s jam cake recipe in one of her cozies, and I was so thrilled about it.

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    1. Edith is a wonderful cook in her own right, so if she used your mother's jam cake recipe, it has to be a doozy. Much as I enjoy psychological thrillers, I've always turned to cozies for a good whodunit with which I could simply relax - something we all need to do during the pandemic.

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  7. I meant to tell the name of Edith’s book. It was Strangled Eggs and Ham in her Country Store series written under Maddie Day. I loved the book.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! I loved putting that recipe in the book - and test-baking (and tasting) it, too.

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  8. Shalom Friends,
    I have three days off, in a row. So, I can stay up or get up at the crack of dawn, with time to participate here. And thank you, Hank for introducing us to Debra. There are so many genres and sub-genres, that I can no longer keep up. It’s like the menu at Starbucks.
    I have read two of the books in Jenn’s library series. I read them because, slow reader as I am, I want to catch up with all the books by Reds, mostly on Kindle, sometimes with audiobook productions.
    They are not quite “cozies”, but about 6 years ago, when I started reading mysteries in earnest, I read all the books in the “Whatever Day, the Rabbi…” series. Rabbi Small’s profession yields the opportunity to be intimately involved in his congregant’s domestic lives. And the books have a gentle humor about that them which keeps the reading light for the most part. His books are among the only series that I’ve read the entirety of the canon.
    I don’t have the stick-to-a-tiveness for most of the crafts which appeal to me. I keep telling myself every now and then, that I would like to search in the You Tube flicks and see if I can learn the art of origami, but I never find the time.
    The kitchen is different. I cook and eat like a bachelor that I am. My eating choices are abominable and if I don’t change them, I will probably only see one more decade. I have a little more pin money right now, and so I plan to go to the market twice a week and cook dinner 2 or 3 times a week. I am a great fan of the New York Times cooking app. I collect digital recipes from all over as if I had to feed an army. They say that the restaurants are still dangerous. So maybe, this will be the season, in which I turn over “a new leaf” at least two or three times a week. I’ll eat leftovers for breakfast for the rest of the days.

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    1. Glad to see you here David! I too love the NY Times cooking app and have more recipes saved than I could ever prepare. I find reading through them both relaxing and inspirational.

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    2. Yes, agreed! I love that app. So great to see you today!

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    3. It's hard to follow published recipes when you're cooking for one, isn't it, David? They always seem be intended to serve four or six or eight people, and I get pretty tired of the leftovers by the time I get through eight servings. I think I have to get better at math, and cutting recipes down to size. But I do hope you will keep trying to improve your diet. We'd like you to hang around a long time.

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    4. Shalom, David.
      I devoured the Rabbi series several years ago. Each one had a great tie-in to the congregants in a very realistic manner. There's also an amusing one (the first book especially) about Chaplain Cohen. There was a time, pre-pandemic, that my husband and I probably ate out 18-21 meals a week, but since March, I've cooked more than I've cooked in all the years we've been married.

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  9. Debra knows how much I love this series. I occasionally make a quilt, although not much recently, but I do cook, a lot.

    I'm glad you brought up subtly weaving social issues into our cozies. Societal conflicts are part of life, and while we don't want to beat readers over the head with them, it's important for them to be backdrop.

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    1. Oh, and leave me out of the giveaway - I have a copy and am halfway through it!

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    2. Glad to know you are reading the book --- thank you. And, for anyone reading this comment, my appreciation of all of Edith/Maddie's series is unbound. In the space of a few years, she's produced 22-24 books (depending upon what day it is this month) - and the best thing is that they are all good. Social issues to me are important. No matter what we do in life, they influence us, so they belong in my books, but as you indicate, not as something to beat readers over the head with. More subliminal to provoke thoughts...sometimes not even associated with the words on the page.

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  10. For some reason i really can't put my finger on, I don't seem to read cozies like I used to. Maybe I've just not been reading the good ones, but this series sounds like something I would like so I think I'll give it a try.

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    1. Thank you. I hope you do. Although it is shelved as a cozy, I think of it as a combination of traditional/cozy elements. Hope Sarah Blair and her family and friends catch your attention.

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  11. I will go on a cozy binge-read if I find a series that has great characters. Usually that means a community of regulars, with enough new characters added in occasionally to keep things interesting. Setting matters too--go ahead and create a quirky little town, but please ground it in a thorough knowledge of the general location. I'll be searching for One Taste Too Many to get me started!

    I do like to cook and bake as the mood seizes me. As for crafts, I enjoy quilting and knitting and crocheting in the colder months. Warmer times I like to spend outside. Reading wraps around everything I do.

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    1. Yes, my grandmother taught me how to crochet, and I remember loving that ...

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    2. I think setting is important, but the characters are who you will embrace. Hopefully, you'll enjoy the series - either by purchasing a copy or simply asking your library to get it for you, if they don't already have One Taste Too Many (btw, they can get it in big print and audio, too). Sounds like you have a lot of handwork that keeps you busy in the colder months. Bet some of what you've made is beautiful.

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  12. I have been reading more cozies. As Beth mentioned, it's the community that attracts me. A dive into a cozy series is similar to a visit home.

    I'm a crafter and a cook, and many of my favorite recipes have come from the pages of cozy novels. Lucy, I don't know if your blueberry coffee cake was one of Halley's recipes as it caught my eye in the Reds blog, but it's on my list to bake today!

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    1. Kait, I baked that cake last weekend and it is terrific. It is going to be one of my blueberry-go-to- recipes from now on! Thanks again, Roberta!

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    2. Kait.. let us know how it comes out. glad you stopped by today

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  13. I have loved reading cookbooks since I was very young, so when I discovered Diane Mott Davidson's books, I thought it was genius to include recipes for the mouth-watering dishes Goldie makes throughout the books. Good mysteries and good food are a great formula for cozy mysteries and are even better if the recipes are simple.

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    1. Diane Mott Davidson may not have been the first one to include recipes, but she did one of the best jobs of integrating her character, Goldie, with the food she made. Anger or fear, often led to pounding dough. I always liked how she brought the cooking activity into the book without stopping the action to make the recipe. That style and her humor are things I hope I've captured in the Sarah Blair series -- because I admired DMD's work so much. (I also collect cookbooks - one of my favorite ones, tells the story behind The Biltmore while illustrating it with dishes made for the different holidays or events.

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  14. Debra, congratulations on your newest book and welcome, welcome, welcome to JRW, the home of fabulous writers and stellar guests! Your books sound super and they are going on my TBR list right away.

    I am fairly new to being an avid mystery reader, and now also a cozy reader. As Flora said so well, if I love the characters and the stories around them, then I am in with both feet. So far I have binged all of Jenn's series since the start of the pandemic and am all caught up with Lucy/Roberta and with many of the authors who've been guests here. I do not consider Rhys's books to be cozies, but if they are, I am all caught up with Georgie and now furiously reading her previous series. So divine! Although cozy mysteries and romance/women's lit books would not have ever been on my list before, I must confess to fandom at this point. Every day I thank Debs for showing me the way to this blog because it is a great community of writers and readers.

    As for crafts, not so much any more. I can knit and create quilts and used to make my own clothes, but not lately. I bake often and use recipes from some of the books if they appeal to me. Like Joan, I'll tweak them to suit. I've used more of the recipes in Lucy's books than in anyone else's and find them to be both delicious and reliable. Yay, Lucy!

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    1. I'm with you, Debra - I used to call myself the Anti-Crafts when my kids were small, since my idea of making something out of odds and ends was to toss the mismatched socks into a box and tell the children it was a matching game. As for cooking, I cook because I like to eat well, not because it's my passion. A housekeeper-cook is right at the top of my If-I-Ever-Sell-My-Series-To-HBO list.

      If you think of the original cozies, though, they're really all about the people. Miss Marple doesn't weave baskets or cook gourmet Indian food; she's just a great character observing the goings-on around her with a gimlet eye. There are still plenty of cozies around that do the same, and I love them. And yes, count me as one of the folks who has been reading more of them as an antidote to the overly exciting events of 2020!

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    2. Judy, thrilled to be visiting JRW - and I, too, have read almost all of the books written by the wonderful authors who comprise this blog. Sounds like you might be too busy reading to have time to do the crafts you once did :).

      Julia, love the idea of the matching game. Wish I had thought of that when the kids were younger. I agree about characterization and a particular skill other than cooking in the original cozies and even some that now are shelved both as traditional mysteries or as cozies -- that's what kept us reading them.

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  15. Debra, welcome to Jungle Reds! Is the cat on your cover a Siamese cat? I'm a big fan of cozy mysteries because the stories are about the character development. My favorite cozies are when the characters draw you into the story and the characters are likable. I remember that Miss Marple in Agatha Christie mysteries always was working on a knitting project. Now we see many sub genres like knitting mysteries or quilt mysteries.

    Speaking of crafts, I learned to knit in college. I admire people who are skilled in their craft like custom building furniture or knitting or quilting.

    Hank, I just finished reading your short story All Aboard from an Advanced Copy of a collection of Suspense stories. Brilliant! Loved it!

    Diana

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    1. Oh, I just jumped up and applauded. Thank you! Oh – – – what a joy to hear this. Xxxxx that is from the collection called Nothing Good Happens After Midnight edited by John and Shannon Rabb of Suspense Magazine. So honored to be included! and endlessly pleased that you enjoyed All Aboard! Xxxx

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    2. Diana, thanks for stopping by. The cat on the cover is a Siamese cat. Although it is more stylized on the Three Treats Too Many cover (which btw, one the cover artist an award), the cat I modeled RahRah on looks exactly like the one on the cover of One Taste Too Many.

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  16. This sounds like a good series, Debra. I'll have to look into it. I like the idea of a character who doesn't like to cook getting stuck in cozy-land.

    Cozies are fun. Right now, I'm thoroughly enjoying Julia Buckley's "Death of a Wandering Wolf," because of the interesting Hungarian culture and history she weaves into the stories. There is almost zero hope of me ever trying the recipes, even though I like paprika.

    As others have noted, it's the community that makes a cozy sparkle. I really enjoy the cast of characters in Lucy's Key West mysteries, and Jenn's cupcake and library stories. Maybe that's why we are all reading more cozies these days? We can't be with our closest friends and loved ones, but we can circulate freely through communities of characters we have come to know and love in books.

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    1. I did a panel the other night for Mystery on the Beach Bookstore and that was our theme - the comfort cozies are giving in the pandemic - we are bringing friends into your home that don't have to sit six feet away from you. Friends and family you can touch and identify with. I ended up with a character who is more frightened by the kitchen than by murder because it was true to life (mine). I hope you do look into the series.

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  17. Hi, Debra. I have the first in this series on my Kindle. I haven't gotten to it yet, but after reading your description of the series, I need to catch up! I read all kinds of mysteries and fiction, along with some autobiographies (mostly show biz, I must confess). The cozy series I read are those that I feel are well plotted, with relatable characters (none of them silly). I don't mind some edginess, which can make them more interesting.

    As for pandemic pastimes, of the two you mentioned, I am definitely having a crafting spurt right now. I have been doing counted cross-stitch for years, and I have accomplished some pretty large projects, including "birth announcements" for my two young grandchildren. But when I moved from one city to another to be closer to those aforementioned grandkids, I decided that I would tackle only small cross-stitch projects from now on.

    A couple of days ago a Facebook friend posted some cross-stitch projects she had finished, and suddenly I had the urge to start stitching again. She also posted a link to a Facebook group for embroidery and cross-stitching, and I couldn't stop looking at some of the beautiful creations there. One designer was advertising a chart she had just finished with a Halloween theme, and although I thought the chart was a bit pricey and I worried about whether downloading the chart would make it too small to read easily, I bit the bullet and ordered it. The chart actually turned out to be two pages, taped together, and I was able to immediately order the DMC floss needed--I'll pick it up curbside today from Michael's. I did have some black floss left over so I started with that last night. I am hooked! I might not finish the project by Halloween, but I will have a heck of a lot of fun doing it, and I will frame it for future Halloweens. I just have to remember to stop stitching a couple of hours before I go to bed, or I'll be keyed up and unable to get to sleep. I've learned that the hard way!

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    1. Your Halloween project sounds adorable. I'm sure you will frame and use it for several Halloweens. There was a time, when I was flying a lot and sitting through boring meetings that I did some needlepoint because it felt like I was filling in the picture like we did as children when we painted by number. That hobby went away when planes said no scissors or needles. That's when I returned to reading cozies and biographies (and show biz is at the top of my picks, too) as I criss-crossed the country. Let me know what you think wen you get to One Taste Too Many on your kindle. you can drop me a note via the contact page of my website.

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    2. Oh, wonderful--cannot wait to see it! Where will you post?

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  18. Hi, Debra! Every single time I read that Jell-o in a can recipe I caught - and think it's brilliant. I will read anything with words but cozies have a special place. You can count on certain things and certain types of characters, don't get yourself scared half to death or half to ponder the hidden meaning every couple of chapters, but you can get it all without having to give up good writing and plot development. And cozy series are the best. As for spending time making something in the kitchen or doing a craft - I enjoy cooking as long as it doesn't have to look fancy and I don't have to follow the recipe too closely, but crafts? Ugh. I was that kid in school who would volunteer to write a thousand page report rather than build one smoking volcano (or sew something or make a scrapbook or .....).

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    1. I'm laughing -- i was that kid in school who they made sew and I'd sew whatever I was making to what I was wearing and cut a hole in both separating them. Cozies are comfort...and if written well, give you a whodunit to challenge your brain, a social issue or two to make you think, a setting that you can relate to, and characters who can become like family.

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  19. Loved your assessment Debra! Cozies are comfortable and the best also challenging. I like them to have a protagonist who is relatable..interests of the protagonists are fun to learn about but I am glad to see folks braking away from the knitting, cooking, crafting.

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    1. Anything can work--in the hands of a good writer--that's what makes it fun!

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    2. Whether the person can function in the traditional cozy manner or not, it is the relatability that is key. I know I identify closely with Sarah in terms of her kitchen emotions.

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  20. Congrats on your release, Debra! I'm more about the eating than the baking. I do have three cats, two dogs, and a fish who won't die, so I get the pet thing. Oh, and I knit or I used to before my hobby became yelling at stupid politicians on Twitter. Maybe I should pick up the needles again. Either way, I love cozies along with comfort cupcakes and a good cup of coffee. Can't wait to dive into yours!

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    1. Yelling is valuable these days. Hope you can get back to knotting soon, dear Jenn. xoo

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    2. Yelling has its advantages. You always come out ahead there ... with knitting needles, maybe not.

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  21. Most all of the mysteries that I read are cozies. I like the community, the characters, usually the humor, and sometimes learning about a craft or occupation. No swearing and little violence helps. I enjoy cooking and gardening and also bake sometimes. I read both your other books and look forward to reading this one. Stay safe and well.

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    1. Sally... thank you for reading the other two books in the series and looking forward to the third. (I'll let you in on a secret.... I just learned the cover of the 4th book, Four Cuts Too Many, which doesn't come out until May 25, is already posted on Amazon and up for pre-order. Wow! I agree those things you noted make cozies fun for all.

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