Interview With the Author: Stephen Kaminski’s Dabbling Detective

In today’s Interview With the Author, we are talking to Stephen Kaminski, another of my fellow Cozy Cat friends.

Stephen Kaminski
Stephen Kaminski

STEPHEN KAMINSKI is the author of the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective series published by Cozy Cat Press. The first cozy mystery in the series, IT TAKES TWO TO STRANGLE, was the winner of the 2012 Reader Views Literary Award for the Mid-Atlantic region. He has just released the second offering in the series, DON’T CRY OVER KILLED MILK.  Stephen is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School. He has practiced law for over a decade and currently serves as General Counsel to a national non-profit organization. He is a lifelong lover of all types of mysteries and lives with his wife and daughter in Arlington, Virginia.

DON’T CRY OVER KILLED MILK brings Damon Lassard back into action.  Jeremiah Milk lived a life filled with emotional extremes. Amniotic band syndrome—a congenital condition—left his fingers and toes malformed. Ridiculed as a child, he became an adolescent hermit. As an adult, Jeremiah’s wounds healed when he landed a position as a park ranger and married a woman who loved him despite his physical appearance. But fate ripped his life to shreds when his wife and infant son died on the same night in separate calamities. Shortly thereafter, the tides turned once more as an act of Jeremiah’s ostensible benevolence translates into a financial boon. The book on Jeremiah’s life closes without mercy when he’s found murdered at Tripping Falls State Park.

Damon Lassard—Hollydale’s loveable civic leader, amateur sleuth, and Jeremiah’s neighbor—springs into action. He’s obstructed by a prickly lieutenant, but wriggles information unknown to the police from a colorful bevy of suspects. Aided by his best friend Rebecca and his reluctant ally Detective Gerry Sloman, Damon engineers a deep dive into Jeremiah’s past to solve the crime. Along the way, Damon strengthens his relationship with the breathtaking Bethany Krims, cracks a local horticultural mystery, and tries in vain to tame his wickedly sarcastic mother.


The Outside Lane:  How did you get started writing:

 Stephen Kaminski:  I began writing in earnest when my wife decided to go back to school in the evenings for her PhD. After we put our daughter to bed, she spends several hours on her school work. So I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and write mystery novels so we could spend those evening hours together (like nerds on our computers side-by-side).


TOL:  Where do your ideas/main character come from? 

SK:  The ideas for my books come in large part from my life. While the stories are not tied directly to life events, the characters and settings are those with which I’m familiar. For example, in my first cozy mystery, It Takes Two to Strangle, a large part of the book takes place at a traveling carnival. I spent several summers during my youth working at such places (from manning the balloon darts to hawking corn dogs).  In my second book, the victim is afflicted with a congenital condition similar to my own.


TOL:  What’s been the biggest learning experience of your first release?

SK:  The most significant learning experience from my first release took place in the writing phase. My first manuscript was far too long and the pace of the book too slow. Working with Cozy Cat Press, I whittled it down about 30,000 words and sped up the pace. While writing the second book in the series, I found my plot moving along much more quickly.  In addition, I learned a lot about writing snappy dialogue and post-release marketing.
TOL:  What are your plans for your next novel?
SK:  The second book in my Damon Lassard series has just been released. I have begun plotting a third – hopefully for release in the fall of 2014.


TOL:  Any advice for writers?

SK:  My advice for new writers is to keep pressing forward.  Finish a draft, have others review it, edit it repeatedly, then submit it with a very thick skin (even the best of manuscripts will be rejected repeatedly). But most of all, write because you love creative writing. If others eventually read and enjoy what you’ve written, that’s just gravy.


TOL:  How did you come to Cozy Cat Press?

SK:  Through perseverance. After I finished the original manuscript for It Takes Two to Strangle, I submitted it to numerous agents and publishing houses as a general mystery.  It was Patricia Rockwell — the head of Cozy Cat Press – who recognized that my manuscript had a cozy mystery trapped inside. Working with her, I transformed the book (and now the series) into a true cozy.


Stephen, thank you so much for taking time to be with us today!  To learn more about Stephen and his books, follow these links.

Amazon link to Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk

Amazon link to It Takes Two to Strangle

Author’s website:

Interview with the Author: Everybody Wants to be a Cat

So it’s not an interview today, but a whole slew of authors to get to know.  My new friend and fellow author under the Cozy Cat Press umbrella, Blanche Day Manos, did all us kittens a solid by putting together a listing of our blogs and book links on her own truly delightful blog.  Since she did all the heavy lifting, I am simply stealing her work and pasting it below for you.   Check out these cats.  Cats are cool.

First, there is the editor and publisher of Cozy Cat Press, Patricia Rockwell. Patricia authors the Essie Cobb senior sleuth series and Pamela Barnes acoustic mysteries. Her website

If you go to Lee Stansfield’s Facebook page, you will be met with a dazzling array of teacups, illustrating her Mr. T and The Traveling Teacup books. Her Facebook handle is Leslie Matthews Stansfield.

Writer Dreama Reed has a brand new website called Check this out and meet Dreama.

And then there are the Poppy Cove mysteries of Barbara Jean Coast. This is actually a writing duo of two friends, Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff. Their book is Strangled By SilkBarbara Jean also interviewed me a while back and was this writer thrilled!! Their blog site is:

Julie Seedorf  has a beautiful website and blog and is author of Granny Hooks a Crook and Whachamacallit ThingamajigGo to and you’ll see what I mean.

Nanci Rathbun’s latest book is Truth Kills.  This talented writer’s interesting website is: The eye-catching backdrop is a cityscape.

It would be hard to beat B. J. Gilbertson’s title or picture for his book, Deathbed and Breakfast.  His website has atmosphere and to spare.

Another fellow Cozy Catter is Joyce Oroz. I have been privileged to be included in one of her interviews. Her website lists her latest book, Cuckoo Clock Caper.

Steve Kaminski writes the Dabbling Detective series, It Takes Two to Strangle and Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk. Visit his website at

Amy Beth Arkawy is radio host, author, and creativity coach. Imagine my excitement when she interviewed me on live radio! What a thrill. Amy authors the Eliza Gordon books, Dead Silent and Killing TimeYou will find more fascinating facts on her website.

Lane Stone brings us mysteries set in the beautiful state of Georgia. Two of her books are Domestic Affairs and Current Affairs.  For more about this talented author, go to herwebsite.

Timya Owen’s author page is on Facebook: Timya Owen. She is writing the Fernbridge Mysteries.

Marlo Hollinger has an eye-catching blog. Really neat and entertaining thoughts.

And then, of course, there’s the Darcy Campbell/Flora Tucker mother/daughter sleuth series written by co-authors Barbara Burgess and Blanche Day Manos (that would be me). Our latest is Grave Shift. My website and daily blog can be found at  (Oh! You’re on it!) The latch string is always out and I invite you to come back and visit tomorrow and the next day and the next… In fact, all of us Cozy Catters invite you to visit and look up our books. We think you’ll be glad you did.

Interview with the Author: Blanche Day Manos

Now that I am part of the Cozy Cat Press family, I thought it would be nice to introduce you to some of the other fabulous felines making their homes there.  Today, you get to meet Blanche Manos.

The Outside Lane:  Blanche, how did you become a writer?

Blanche Day Manos:  I started writing when I was a youngster, inspired by Nancy Drew and by not having any friends nearby to play with. I created my own world with my words. As a child and later as an adult, I started writing poetry for children. I also wrote short articles on the importance of reading to children, books as a good baby shower gift, and my experience as an elementary school teacher.  

I wrote fiction for children and was published by several children’s magazines, including Cricket, Humpty Dumpty, Turtle, Guide, The Friend, Wee Wisdom, and others. I’ve also been published by confession magazines and Christian periodicals. I’ve written on assignment for many years for a Christian publication.

TOL:  Tell us about THE CEMETERY CLUB.
BDM:  Several years ago, a friend introduced me to Barbara Burgess, another northwest Arkansas writer. Since we are both of Cherokee heritage and have heard several legends about northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas, we thought it might be fun to write a mystery incorporating our ideas and experiences and so, our first book, The Cemetery Club was born.
BDM:  And how did you come to Cozy Cat Press?
A:  A funny thing…when we finished our second book, Grave Shift, and queried Patricia Rockwell, she was interested in it but thought it might have a little too much violence for a cozy. We re-wrote and she liked it and took it for Cozy Cat Press.
TOL:  Tell us about Darcy and Flora, the main characters of your series.
BDM:  The main characters in our books are quite a bit like Barbara and me; our likes, our beliefs, and the closeness we shared with our parents. We like Darcy and Flora, our main characters and we like their small and fictional town of Levi, Oklahoma. 
TOL:  What’s next for your intrepid problem solvers?
BDM:  We are finishing our third Darcy/Flora book and I am thinking of maybe branching out on my own with a completely different series and a different protagonist. 
The second book in your series, GRAVE SHIFT, is getting rave reviews on Amazon.  What is it about? 
When Darcy Campbell returned to her home town of Levi, Oklahoma, she longed for peace and healing from the recent loss of her husband. She found much more than she bargained for when two rare Oklahoma earthquakes, a villain with murder in his heart, and a mountain lion threaten her and her mother Flora Tucker. Being an investigative reporter on leave of absence from her Dallas newspaper, Darcy has an active curiosity which leads her into some dangerous places and nearly costs her her life. At last she solves a long-standing mystery in Levi and her grief begins to heal when the sheriff of Ventris County re-kindles an old flame in her heart.
TOL:  I can’t wait to read your books!  Where else can we find you?
BDM:  My website is, on Facebook, and on Google+ as Blanche Manos.
Of course you can find all of Blanche and Barbara’s books on Amazon.
Stay tuned for more Cozy Cat Press authors, and go visit Blanche’s website.  She has a great blog tucked in over there.

Come Cozy Up With Me

I’ve had a lovely whirlwind of activity in the past few days, starting with an offer for TIARA TROUBLE from Cozy Cat Press on Thursday, and winding up with that completed contract in my hot, little hands this morning.  Destinee Faith Miller and her mayhaps/mysteries have found a home, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’ll keep you all posted as things develop, but for now I am just thrilled.  So thrilled, I can barely feel my toe throbbing–I broke it on the coffee table on my way to open email this morning, and promptly forgot about it when I found my completed contract waiting.

Here’s the funny story about how Cozy Cat came to read my submission because you know if it happened to me, it did not happen without some hijinks.

A few days ago, B and I were talking about me publishing under my name.  We were laughing that I wasn’t exactly Jane Smith, having unusual first and last names.  Somewhere else entirely, managing editor, Patricia Rockwell, was opening an email from me.  She was a little confused because her author Lane Stone, writes a series also involving tiaras (the subject line of my query was TIARA TROUBLE, with my name), and because she knew and had worked with someone who shared my last name.  Thankfully, she liked that colleague well enough not to be put off immediately 😉  And, she sent me an offer full of encouraging words about Destinee’s future.

When I wrote back, I asked if her former colleague was called Bob.  Because Bob is my husband’s uncle, who worked in the same field as Patricia.  Not only was it Uncle Bob, but he was remembered quite fondly.  B checked in with Uncle Bob, who had the same impressions of Patricia, and…well, that was that.

I am a Cozy Cat author.

How crazy is that?  Out of all the world (and out of all the publishing companies and agencies I researched,*) from Texas I query a press in Illinois, with a managing editor who has ties to my Uncle-in-Law in Louisiana–unbeknownst to all of us.  That is something that would only happen to me.  I love it!


*While I queried about 20 agents, I only contacted four publishing houses from probably about 200 agents/presses that I researched.