13 Books of Halloween: Day 2 – Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney (Including an interview!)

broken heart attack

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Braxton Campus Mystery Book 2! If you missed Book 1 (Academic Curveball), check out my review HERE!


When an extra ticket becomes available to see the dress rehearsal of King Lear, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies. When one of them dies of an apparent heart attack in the middle of second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate the death. With family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns that the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks. But can Kellan find the killer, or will he get caught up his own stage fright?

My Thoughts

ANOTHER TRIUMPH!! The laughs and shock continue with this installment in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series!

It makes me so happy to see the continued growth in all of my favourite characters. Will Kellan ever find love?

“”Does that mean you have a love life to speak of? Because last time we chatted, your ability to flirt and any awkward sex appeal you still clung to had disappeared the way of the pony express,” she replied while kissing her finger, touching her deriere, and making a sizzle sound.”

Will Nana D find her political footing?

“Don’t we need to start preparing for your debate with Councilman Silly Man on Thursday?”

And, of course she keeps her token Nana D style,

“”We’re as confused as a fart in a fan factory on a humid day.”

The woman always has me in stitches!!

The mystery had me guessing at every turn with James bringing forth many plausible villains. The best thing is that I found myself hoping that most of these “villains” would pull through and turn out to be innocent! James made you feel for all of these characters, and…. OH, THE SECRETS!! Be prepared for some MIND BLOWING revelations! I can’t wait to continue and see what will happen next.

Pick up your copy of Broken Heart Attack Now!!

Amazon U.S.

Amazon Canada

Amazon U.K.

An Interview with James J. Cudney


This book left me with so many burning questions, I had to go straight to the source!!

Bertha, Eustacia, Seraphina… Where did you come up with these names?

They do seem to come from a different era, huh? I actually pick names from my family. Since I’m a genealogist, I love this kind of detail. I figure out the personality for a character, think about names that echo a few key characteristics, and then I settle on something from at least a hundred years ago. Bertha was a great aunt. Eustacia was a distant cousin three times removed. Seraphina actually came from the concept of angels, and I still think of Nana D as a bit of an angel and a devil. There are a few doozies coming up in the next book too.

How do you start a character that you plan to have a whole series based off of? Do you plan the progression out, or do you let them grow organically as the story unfolds to you?

It’s a bit of both. I begin with the core characters and families. I have a rough outline of family trees and key roles. From there, it’s about knowing the primary mysteries for each of the books I’ve planned. I began with 10 plots in mind, then added 2 more for Halloween and Christmas themes. In each one, I know the major characters, the murder victim, and the 2 or 3 likely killers. If I know the reasons or the setting, I will purposely include hints in earlier books… but I also intentionally mention names or places in a book before it becomes prominent, as I want readers to have a sense of familiarity with everything. At that point, when I’m outlining chapters before I begin writing, I decide how to grow each character and ensure they have memorable and tangible traits that make readers think about the five senses, people in their own lives, and famous people they might be reminiscent of. I think that helps create a more rounded character and the series becomes believable, despite the frequency of murder occurring in such a relatively small location.

I know you love cozy mysteries, and I feel as though you made fun of this a little in your own series. Do you ever get to the point in the series where you feel people must be going “come on. Someone can’t run across THIS many dead people themselves!!”

Ha! I didn’t look at the questions ahead of time, and I touched on this one just before. You’re totally right. For me, books are meant to be an escape from reality. They need to be as real as possible, but you also need drama and shocking moments. If not, the story seems a little mundane and lackluster. Would a single guy like Kellan ever stumble upon this many bodies? Would a single small town have this many killers? No, definitely not… but by changing characters from book to book, bringing in new locations, talking about travel around the world, and showing growth both emotionally and physically with the core cast, it feels like reality enough that (I think) we can overlook some of the things that just couldn’t be real. There’s also that whole ‘suspension of disbelief’ in a book series. In a single novel, anything can happen. It does in real life. In a series, you’ve got a few things where just say “yep not likely, but it makes the book better.”

Now, not to spoil it for us folk who are behind… But, does Kellan ever grow a pair with the ladies?? From Nana D to Maggie, to Francesca, to the sherrif, to Miriam… I feel like he’s just pussy whipped! He has these great inner monologues about what he WOULD do… Does he ever just go on and DO IT??

Oh, yes! I have struggled with this since the beginning. For one thing, the books are told in first person. It’s impossible to make anyone sexy in first person. They either come across as arrogant or foolish. Imagine Kellan standing in front of a mirror saying “Wow, I’m so sexy, women will drop to floor in front of me.” I’ve also got to stay within the ‘cozy mystery’ boundaries, so there’s minimal sexual content. Do you know how difficult that is for a male lead in his early 30s? In reality, all he thinks about is sex. The poor guy’s wife died 7 years ago. Are we to believe he has been celibate the entire time? Sure, it definitely happens in reality, but if I want him to come across sexy and confident, he also has to be sexy… so I try to increase it with each book. At first, we toyed with him and Maggie. Then we had some Francesca stuff. Then, we had 2 or 3 women he was interviewing who flirted with him. Finally, he opens up to April. I push as much as I can with long looks, witty comments, inner thoughts and suggestive dialog. His sexiness comes from his personality, that he can do almost anything, that he knows how to laugh at himself, that he works out and looks hot, etc. Other than him commenting about how he feels better about himself when he works out, it’s the women in his life who tell us that he is in incredible shape and very attractive, not him. From there, we have to use our imagination… but in Haunted House Ghost, he absolutely stands up for himself, and there will be a very different side of him in his dalliances with a certain female friend. He gets a little alpha in a few scenes.

Kellan has some interesting thoughts on death and funerals. Do they reflect your own thoughts?

Ugh! They might… I have a large extended family. My grandparents had tons of siblings, so I had lots of great aunts and uncles. Everyone seemed to pass away when I was a child, so I spent a lot of time at the funeral home for wakes and funerals. I knew several by name and loved going to the cemetery. I believe it was a good thing to learn about it at a young age, but at the same time, I have a complex perspective on death that sometimes makes me seem a little cold-natured. I avoid talking about people getting sick and dying, or that type of conversation, because it brings up too much emotion. With Kellan, he hides it with humor. I just pretend it’s not happening.

As someone who (I know) has read MANY cozy mysteries in their years, how hard was it to try to set yourself apart? Was it difficult to find your own voice and not just mash a bunch of respected cozy authors together and call it a day?

Phew! Tough one… I read about 200 books per year. Fifty percent are cozies, and the rest come from other genres, so my style is a mix-and-match from all of it. I always write as if I’m talking to the person myself, telling the story as if I’m relaying a memory to a friend. Then I go back to layer in the character voices and styles to ensure that everyone sounds and acts different, in case I merged too much together in a bad way. I purposely chose a male lead in his 30s because there are hardly any of those around in the cozy mystery world. Most are also written in the third person, so I chose to write in first person. I also chose not to force my writing style to be light and simple like so many of them are done. My plots are a bit more complex, my language and vocabulary (including sentence length and style) are longer or deeper — not because I don’t like the lighter stuff, and not because I’m trying to be stuck up in any way… it’s truly just a way to push the boundaries of the books to have a wider audience and constantly evolve and improve the genre. To me, cozy means: No sex, no violence, no graphic scenes, and a cozy little town where everything isn’t what it seems under the surface. Beyond that, everything is up for grabs. 

Do you always write this series knowing who the killer/villain/perpetrator will be, or have you ever got to a later point in your novel and thought…. No way, this other character totally did it!

I’ve always started out knowing who it would be. However, in 1 of the 7 published books, the killer changed midway through the writing process. I was certain a character I had introduced would be a throwaway character, but as I developed his/her personality, the possibilities for the future seemed to open a new thread. As a result, I added a second story-line to the overall mystery, made this person guilty of something but not irredeemable. (S)he would be punished but will still show up without having gone to jail. When I made this change, I was uncertain for a few weeks… I had to change dialog, scene order, and drop new red herrings. Even up until the final proofreading stage, I was still finding things that had to be altered slightly to ensure I tied everything together perfectly.

Do you have any wacky characters in your real life like Kellan has in his? 
Nope! I did, but I ran away so fast I’ve forgotten all about them. In all sincerity, I really don’t. I might take a trait or mannerism from someone and use it in the book, but there is no one in my life like Nana D, Myriam, Helena, Eustacia, Wesley, or April. Those are the 6 who are the most vibrant, at least to me in terms of ‘this person can’t be real, can they?’ Certain expressions people say have come from real life people, but no one is based on a friend or acquaintance. For example, Nana D is a combination of several characters from other books or tv shows in terms of her spunk, but she’s an offshoot of a short story I wrote back in 1999 in college about an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s who went to a grocery store and had quite a rocking time flirting with and sassing everyone she met. Nana D evolved from her, but she became a smart and serious backbone to the Ayrwick family as opposed to a woman whose health issues or loony personality made her stand out.

Be sure to check out James J. Cudney’s “Braxton’s Fall Festival” on his Blog “This is my Truth” 

Broken Heart Attack is Best Served with Nana D’s Margarita!!


If Nana D was actually making us margaritas, what do you think her recipe would be??

Double the tequila. Less ice so they can’t be watered down in any way. Extra lime because she likes to be sweet and sour at the same time. And nothing fancy…. while I love a good hibiscus margarita at a Mexican restaurant, she’s gonna stick to the basics… only the things she could get when she started drinking them at 10 or 11 in the 1950s.


  • 4 parts Jose Cuervo Silver
  • 2 Parts Cointreau
  • 2 Parts Lime Juice
  • ice
  • Salt
  • Optional Agave Syrup


  1. Rim Glass with either Lime wedge or agave syrup
  2. Twist rim of glass in salt and set aside
  3. Add Tequila, Cointreau and Lime juice to shaker of ice and shake until chilled
  4. Add a couple cubes of ice to cocktail glass (NOT TOO MANY, WE DON’T WANT TO WATER IT DOWN!)
  5. Strain mixture into glass
  6. Don’t even bother garnish because it’s BOTTOMS UP TIME!
  7. CHEERS!

21 thoughts on “13 Books of Halloween: Day 2 – Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney (Including an interview!)

Add yours

  1. AAaaaaHhahahaa! He screams in a fun way with bad grammar and spelling. I love it. Our interview turned out phenomenal, but between the drinks, quotes, and your witty insertions, this post is such a thrill. I couldn’t stop smiling. Thank you so much for including me in your 13 days! I love it (to repeat myself)… and I am sharing it everywhere. I am having Mexican for dinner tomorrow night too, so there will be Margaritas… come on by!:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, luckily I didn’t have Nana D here to regulate whathow many and what toxicity level my margaritas were…. They were POTENT!! So, I’m still standing.. For now!! Feel free to message me for a cheers when you have yours! 😁🍻 I honestly can’t wait to read more of this series. It gets better and better, and I’m so attached to the characters!! Even ones that just pop up! You have such a way with getting your audience attached to everyone you introduce them to. It’s a series that everyone will enjoy!! 👍

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There is a narrow line between where I’m feeling it slightly and when I’m nauseous. That’s my tipsy zone. It is a very delicate balance. Maybe only one drink between beginning to feel it and wanting to dance naked and then just one more to feeling sick.

        Liked by 2 people

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