featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

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Friday, May 27, 2022

A MASHUP OF REAL-LIFE CRIME AND FICTION

My author Lois Winston has been busy the last few months finding new ways to thrust me into the middle of murder and mayhem. She’s succeeded—as usual—because as a fictional character, I’m at her mercy. The ebook edition of the newest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Guilty as Framed, is now up for pre-order at the usual online bookstores. The paperback will be available on September 6th when the book releases. 

For this latest book, Lois has veered from being inspired by actual crimes and human-interest stories, to creating a plot that actually revolves around a yet unsolved real-life crime that took place in Boston in 1990. Like most crime junkies, Lois has been fascinated for years with the burglary that took place at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on St. Patrick’s Day of that year. It’s still considered the largest art heist in history. To this day, not only haven’t the perpetrators been caught, but none of the artworks have ever been recovered. Hampering the ongoing investigation is that many of the suspects have since died.

 

When Lois was mulling ideas for this next book in the series, she decided to focus the plot on the museum heist. But how do you tie a factual thirty-two-year-old crime in Boston into the plot of a contemporary cozy mystery series that takes place in New Jersey?

 

That’s the beauty of writing fiction rather than true crime. Lois invented some new characters, changed the names of others (to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent), and wove various events from the actual crime into the plot that became Guilty as Framed.

 

Too bad along the way she couldn’t have also solved the actual mystery of the missing paintings. There’s still a huge outstanding award for information leading to their recovery.

 

Guilty as Framed

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11

 

When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history. 

 

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancĂ© Zack Barnes. 

 

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

 

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

 

Guilty as Framed is currently available for pre-order.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

EXPLORING OTTAWA WITH CRIME FICTION AUTHOR BRENDA CHAPMAN

Multi-award nominee Brenda Chapman is a Canadian crime fiction author with more than twenty published novels. In addition to short stories and standalones, she has written the lauded Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural series, the Anna Sweet mystery novellas, and the Jennifer Bannon mysteries for middle grade. Blind Date is the first in a new thriller/mystery series set in Ottawa, Ontario. Learn more about Brenda and her books at her website.

Exploring Ottawa — the Spectacular Setting in Blind Date

Blind Date: A Hunter and Tate Mystery is set in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, a city flanked by the Ottawa River to the north and bisected by the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal. These three distinct waterways run through neighbourhoods, sustain forests and wild life, and bring green space to our back doors. Bike paths, parks, gardens and beaches are lovingly maintained throughout the metropolis, offering outdoor experiences year-round. This is a city of distinct neighbourhoods: Chinatown, Little Italy, Westboro, Hintonburg to name but a few, each with its own culture and vibe in this town of a million people. Sprinkled throughout the communities are old limestone and brick buildings that have been converted into restaurants and shops with modern high rises and condominiums increasingly dotting the horizon. 

 

This is my fictional, true crime podcaster Ella Tate’s world.

 

Ella lives in a trendy, well-to-do neighbourhood called the Glebe in the same apartment I lived in before I got married. In my day, the three-storey, red brick house was owned by a rough but kind-hearted Polish man who, like the landlord in Blind Date, rented out the second and third floors for low rates to the chagrin of his neighbours. The third floor is a cramped space in the eaves, the place where I lived for the first year before moving to the larger apartment a floor below. 

 

Ella gets around the city on a bicycle as I did back then, often cutting across the Glebe to the bike path that parallels the canal and leads into the downtown — the heart of the city with the majestic Parliament Buildings, the vibrant Byward Market, and stunning views of the Ottawa River and the Quebec shoreline. Taking the bike path in the opposite direction leads past Dow’s Lake where boats can be rented in the summer and people gather in the winter to skate the length of the this longest frozen waterway in the world. Going up the hill, takes one into the Experimental Farm, an actual working farm in the middle of the city, but one with gardens and trees and bushes from all over the world. The spring is a time of particular beauty with magnolia, lilac, and apple trees in full bloom.

 

This is a bilingual (French and English) government city, but growing increasingly multicultural. The cuisine and shops offer fare from first- and second- generation immigrants from around the world, making for varied and rich cultural and dining experiences. Farmers’ markets and festivals of every variety, including the world-famous tulip festival, occupy the warmer months. The city is growing, but many who live here still comment on the small-town feel. People get to know their neighbours and community spirit runs strongly through neighbourhoods. Countryside, towns and villages are within easy driving distance. Only minutes away across the border into Quebec, the Gatineau Hills are a mecca for viewing autumn colours and winter skiing. Ottawa is a bucket-list city, providing an ever-changing, fascinating, and diverse setting for the Hunter and Tate mysteries that I hope readers will experience vicariously and grow to love through these books.

 

Blind Date

A Hunter and Tate Mystery, Book 1

 

True crime podcaster Ella Tate is shaken to her core by the horrific assault and murder of Josie Wheatly, a teacher she has never met … because not only had Josie moved into Ella’s vacated apartment three months earlier, but her Facebook photos reveal a striking resemblance between the two women.

 

Within days, two people close to Ella are harmed, and she fears that she’s become the target of twisted revenge from her crime-reporting days. Reluctantly teaming up with her neighbour Tony, a hairdresser who loves the finer things in life, and Liam Hunter, the persistent detective assigned to the cases, Ella struggles to stay one step ahead before she becomes the target of the final kill.

 

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Monday, May 23, 2022

MYSTERY AUTHOR NANCY NAU SULLIVAN ON CHARACTER INSPIRATION

Nancy Nau Sullivan's Mission Improbable: Vietnam is the third installment in the Blanche Murninghan mystery series—the first, Saving Tuna Street was nominated for best mystery, 2020, at Foreword Reviews. Nancy, a former newspaper journalist, taught English in Mexico, Argentina, and at a boys' prison. Learn more about Nancy and her books at her website where you can also find links to her at various social media sites. 

That Favorite Guy

My characters are a mix of people I've read about or seen on the screen—and know personally—with a great deal of imagination thrown in.

 

This week, I was reminded of how remote this dive into imagination can go—I turned on the television one early morning, and there was The Lone Ranger. I'd watched this show every day as a twelve-year-old, and now here was the masked man with Tonto riding away before my eyes more than fifty years later. Did they have anything to do with my Blanche Murninghan, a do-gooder mystery sleuth, and her sister-cousin, Haasi Hakla, a Miccosukee Indian? Oh well, I'd never thought of it until now. Blanche is on to her third adventure – this time in Vietnam.

 

Creating characters is awfully fun, and strange, and while each book has at least half a dozen saints and troublemakers, there always seems to be one who emerges as my favorite—the one who is allowed to say and do the craziest stuff. 

 

Lately, the flavor du jour is Stick.

 

And he's no “stick.” Walter Winchell “Stick” Dahlkamp is a hulk of an Army vet who stayed behind in Vietnam and opened a bar called “The Follies,” so named for the erstwhile news conferences that falsely reported the casualty of war. It's Blanche Murninghan's great luck to happen upon him in Saigon as she and her friend Jean are on a hunt to find Jean's mother. (Haasi stayed home for this one.) The search is the crux of the third installment in the Blanche Murninghan mystery series, Mission Improbable: Vietnam, now available for preorder.

 

I had a lot of fun inventing Stick. Firstly, I couldn't plop Blanche down in Vietnam without some sort of compass to solve her problem. Enter Stick. Blanche and Jean meet up with him at The Follies one night, and he gamely offers to aid in the search for Jean's mom. And so the adventure ramps up. Stick has a super-duper motorcycle, and he knows his way around Saigon and a rice paddy or two. He's also friends with a cast of Vietnamese—which aids in Blanche and Jean's search. In addition to helping Jean, Blanche is determined to find out the truth about what happened to her father during the Vietnam War. He is MIA.

 

In the invention of Stick, I drew upon my three brothers and four sons. They have college degrees and professions (business owners and managers and salesmen, one's a doctor and some have military backgrounds). And they're funny, profane, and good natured, for the most part. Stick's attention to getting business done and his do-right philosophy are based on my guys. But I have to admit, the real capper on this character comes from my love of Skink and Clete. 

 

Skink is a Florida ex-governor who runs away and lives in the Everglades, subsisting on roadkill and righteousness. He's the invention of Carl Hiaasen, my go-to, all-time favorite Florida writer. Clete is James Lee Burke's crazed NOLA character, an ex-con who doesn't stand for the shenanigans of lowlifes, especially when they meddle with his bestie, Dave Robicheaux, an ex-cop, recovering-alcoholic good guy. Clete is not above putting sugar in the fuel tank of a bad man's airplane to exact revenge and save the day. There is something compelling in honor among thieves and rascals.

 

I will not say good-bye to Stick with “The End” of Mission Improbable: Vietnam. I like him too much. I will have to figure out a way to bring him back into Blanche's life on Santa Maria Island. Stick loves the water, beer, and surfing. Good-bye, Saigon—at least for a while—and, hello, Florida? Here comes Stick.

 

Mission Improbable: Vietnam

A Blanche Murningham Mystery, Book 3

 

It’s 2003, nearly 30 years after the Vietnam War…

 

Blanche “Bang” Murninghan is sitting on the dock of the Peel ‘n Eat Pier on Santa Maria Island, sipping an excellent draft. She doesn’t see the woman eyeing her—not until she appears at Blanche’s side and forever disrupts Blanche’s peaceful idyll in this quiet Gulf coast town. Blanche's reputation as an amateur sleuth has gotten around...

 

The woman is Jean McMahon, the daughter of an American soldier and a wealthy Vietnamese beauty. Jean needs Blanche's “determination.” Will Blanche go to Vietnam and help Jean look for her mother? The request hits Blanche hard. Her father was killed in Vietnam, and she’s never gotten over it.

 

In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Blanche and Jean meet ex-pat “Stick” Dahlkamp. The adventure ramps up. They board Stick's motorcycle and cross rice paddies, the old stomping grounds for Stick, a former Ninth Infantry Division Riverine and now owner of The Follies, a popular bar in Saigon. He’s got friends in jungle towns who might help, and indeed they do. And don’t. Shady characters keep hampering the search, and Blanche can't figure why. 

 

They race on—to all the places Jean's mother met Hank McMahon, a former infantryman. Blanche is wondering if things will get better – now that they've gotten worse. But her stubbornness beats down the door. She is helping Jean, and she's following her father’s trail. He left without a trace. Or did he?

 

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Friday, May 20, 2022

#COOKING WITH CLORIS - GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD AND A NEW COZY MYSTERY FROM AUTHOR TERRY AMBROSE

A onetime bill collector and skip tracer who sometimes stole cars (legally!), Terry Ambrose is now the award-winning author of twenty mysteries. His three series include the License to Lie Thrillers, the McKenna Trouble in Paradise Mysteries, and the Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mysteries. Learn more about Terry and his books at his website. Meanwhile, continue reading for a chance to win a $35 Amazon gift card in celebration of Terry’s Book Birthday.   

It had been a few months since Id made a loaf of my Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, so when we ended up with a couple of overripe bananas, I volunteered to mash those suckers and make a loaf of bread. 

 

Before we get to the debacle, you need a little background. So, here goes. Our old loaf pans were nonstick and not that old, but already flaking (we also used them for meatloaf). So, I decided that since everything else in the kitchen was now stainless steel, I wanted stainless steel loaf pans. We bought them and they were gorgeous! While they looked a little small, they handled a meatloaf with no problem and the batter for the banana bread recipe fit in perfectly. Now, about that debacle.

 

I made banana bread while we were also doing some other cooking. (You know where this is going, right?) I was busy when the loaf finished its time in the oven. My wife took the loaf out of the oven and asked me what I thought. (In my defense, I was in the middle of chopping something else at the time). However, I stopped, poked the bread with a tester, and pronounced it done.

 

After the bread had cooled for ten minutes and was ready to be removed from the pan, I loosened the edges and flipped the loaf over onto a rack. It popped right out without even the chocolate chips sticking. Pat on back, job well done—until I turned it over to finish cooling.

 

Have you ever seen a loaf of banana bread split open like the earths crust in an eco-thriller movie? Let me tell you, it gets ugly. Batter oozing. Chocolate chips melting. Oh, and then there was my ego having its own meltdown on the countertop. I salvaged the bread by getting it into a pan and baking the crap out of it. (Okay, not actually, but it sure felt like it at the time!) The banana bread was delicious, it just looked…well, like a toppled skyscraper in that eco-thriller. Lessons learned—dont rush the baking process and NEVER multitask while baking!

 

One thing I can guarantee you is that Marquetta, Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfasts cook (and soon-to-be wife of owner Rick Atwood) would never have this kind of baking disaster. Shes way too organized and a much better multitasker. But how about you? Have you got a baking disaster story youd like to share? Leave a comment and let me know. And while youre at it, click here to enter my Book Birthday Contest. The winner receives a $35 Amazon gift card. Use the bonus code #KraftyKillers and youll get three bonus entries!

 

Lies, Spies, and the Baker’s Surprise

A Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery, Book 6

 

The wedding of Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast owner Rick Atwood and Marquetta Weiss is only days away and the B&B is abuzz with excitement. But the mood changes when Rick’s daughter Alex does a little snooping. She overhears Henry Nicholas on his cellphone with his wife, and it’s not Tara, the woman who checked in as Mrs. Nicholas.

 

When Alex outs Henry at breakfast, Tara explodes. She demands Henry leave immediately. He checks into the town’s motel. But the next morning, Henry is found dead in his room. Rick and Police Chief Adam Cunningham investigate the death, focusing on Tara, who was seen outside the room at the time of the murder.

 

Alex is convinced Tara is innocent and starts investigating. The trail leads her to a rocky bluff over the ocean and a deadly showdown with a sociopath. There, the truth, and Alex’s life, hang in the balance.

 

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

INTERVIEW WITH COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR ROSALIE SPIELMAN

Today we sit down for a chat with cozy mystery author Rosalie Spielman. Originally from a tiny town in the Palouse region of Idaho, as a military brat, veteran, and military spouse, Rosalie has moved more times than she has fingers to count on! She enjoys reading to escape from the real world and hopes to give you the same sense of escape with her stories. Learn more about Rosalie and her books at her website and the Writers Who Kill blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

I had toyed with the idea of writing for many years, but never felt like I would be capable. Then entered my forties and figured if not now, then when? What was I waiting for?

 

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?

I started seriously writing with the goal of publication in 2016. My first book was published in 2021, but it was the fifth one written.

 

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? 

Traditionally.

 

Where do you write? 

Mostly in my office, but sometimes in cafes, the car, in bed (in the middle of the night on my phone!)…pretty much anywhere that the words demand themselves to be written.

 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind? 

I don’t have a preference for silence or not, but I don’t listen to music. I usually have the TV on for “noise” even if it’s just the weather channel. It’s one reason I used to write in coffee shops—the noise. One side of my mind is occupied by whatever is going on around me, leaving the creative side to do its thing.

 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular? 

Since I write murder mysteries, I will not confirm nor deny that I pull my plots from my real life. My characters are usually not based on any specific individual I am acquainted with. Maybe.

 

Describe your process for naming your character? 

I love etymology and I like to have fun with names. I tend to look at foreign roots or names that have other meanings. Like in this book, the murdered man’s name is Auggie Toat. “Tot” in German means “dead.” (And is pronounced toat, not like a tater tot.) Aunt Edna is a Harridan, which is a “strict, bossy or belligerent old woman.” 

 

Just for fun, my old curmudgeonly ladies are The Prunn Sisters—like prunes. And there’s a character named Forrest Sherwood. My editor didn’t comment on that. Lol

On the other hand, my main character is Tessa Treslow—Treslow is a street name I drove past one day. So hers is completely random, but I liked the flow. 

 

Real settings or fictional towns? 

My fictional town of New Oslo is based on a real one that was originally settled by Scandinavians, as New Oslo obviously was. My hometown, in fact, and some of my description of the town is accurate to the real place.

 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? 

Tessa’s grandma, who is deceased, probably has the biggest quirk…she liked to create taxidermy creatures by mixing different ones together and posing them in unlikely poses. Like a raccoon eating Jif or a squirrel in a canoe. A favorite of Tessa’s is Bundeersquirrella, a bunny/squirrel with deer antlers, in a Cinderella dress. Grandma’s creations are all over the Harridan house.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk? 

I like…moving. It makes me break out in a cold sweat to imagine living in one house for five years. That’s weird, right?

 

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?

The Harry Potter books, because I would love to have created a world as immersive and thorough as Rowling did. She didn't just write magic—she made magic.

 

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?

I wouldn’t mind doing college over again. Study something a little more useful, and study harder but also have more fun… And stay in the dorms. Now I feel like I'm lecturing my college kid!

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People being hypocrites. 

 

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

Books, reading glasses, and a hammock. I cringe to say reading glasses but unfortunately the books would be useless without them…

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

I worked at a military library once in Germany. The supervisor didn’t like that I was an officer’s wife and made it solely my job to “shelf check” the entire library. Shelf checking is going book by book, making sure they are in order…and in an open and active library, it is literally never ending. Day after day…book after book. Despite it being books, I started applying for other jobs after two weeks.

 

What’s the best book you’ve ever read? 

That’s so hard! That’s like asking which of my kids I love more! I have very fond childhood memories of Little Women and Island of the Blue Dolphins. I love the Harry Potter series. My most recent “book that stuck with me” was 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I mean, how do you even plot that? How?!

 

Ocean or mountains? 

Mountains. Definitely. Preferable the Alps. 

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

Country girl at heart. City girl by address. Unfortunately. 

 

What’s on the horizon for you? 

There are two more books coming in the Hometown Mysteries series, and I also write for the multi-author Aloha Lagoon series. I wrote #16, Death Under the Sea, and #18, Death on a Cliff, will be coming in August, and I will be doing two more after that! At least once I figure out more prepositional places for murder.

 

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? 

My publisher, Gemma Halliday Publishing, generously offered to donate a portion of the proceeds of all sales during the release month of Welcome Home to Murder to the veterans charity of my choice. So please buy the book in June and support the Disabled American Veterans, or DAV!


Welcome Home to Murder

A Hometown Mystery, Book 1

 

Tessa Treslow never wanted a small-town life. As soon as she graduated high school, she happily escaped her tiny town to join the U.S. Army, leaving New Oslo, Idaho, population 852, firmly behind her. Twenty years later, the hometown hero is finally ready to come back—even if she has just a visit with loved ones in mind while her family is hoping to convince her to stay for good.   

 

With her fawn Boxer dog, Vince, in tow, Tessa falls into the unsettlingly familiar small-town life, helping out in her family's general store and her feisty Aunt Edna's auto body shop. But her peaceful homecoming is suddenly shattered when the dead body of a crooked con man turns up in her aunt's shop, and the police have some serious questions for the family. To make matters worse, the sheriff in charge just happens to be Tessa's ex-boyfriend... and things did not end well between them all those years ago. When it comes out that the con man was trying to get his hands on the family business, Tessa knows they're in trouble. 

 

With her family in danger of being dragged away in handcuffs, Tessa becomes a woman on a mission to find the con man's killer. Between a slew of suspects, a meandering moose, and a handsome newcomer with his eye on Tessa, she has her work cut out for her. But when the killer changes tactics—putting everything her family holds dear in jeopardy—Tessa begins to realize what home really means to her. Can she be the hero for her hometown once again... before it's too late? 


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Monday, May 16, 2022

AN INTERVIEW WITH VICTORIAN MYSTERY AUTHOR LISA M. LANE

Today we sit down for a chat with Victorian mystery and literary author Lisa M. Lane. Learn more about her and her books at her website.  

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I think it was after I was turned down for a third time applying for a historical research grant. I had done all this work on H.G. Wells, and the project couldn’t be finished. So I wrote a novella about him and a historian: Before the Time Machine. I loved the writing process, because I’d never thought of myself as particularly creative, had never gone around with plots in my head. Then, I was visiting the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret in London, and stood there thinking, “This looks like a good place for a murder”. 

 

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?

As many authors do, I’ve dreamed of this since I was a kid, with my manual typewriter and so many stories . . . So about half a century.

 

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? 

I decided to independently publish because I saw that what I was doing (first a literary novella, then a thoroughly researched historical mystery) would take a lot of twisting to fit into traditional publishing norms. And I loved the idea of learning the whole process.

 

Where do you write?

I’m old-fashioned, so at the kitchen table. I have a desk. It sits there with books and papers piled on it.

 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

Midnight silence. I tried music, but it kept pulling me out of the 19th century.

 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?

For Murder at Old St. Thomas’s, none at all from people I know. Or perhaps combinations of traits, but nothing intentional. But for the historical characters who were real, who lived at the time, I like to read what they’ve written as well as what others have written about them, like obituaries and biographies. I study pictures of them if they’re available, to try to sense how they would have acted and spoken. And plot elements appear all the time, things that happened long ago that no one ever wrote about. 

 

Describe your process for naming your character?

Historical names have to read and sound right for the era, so I have lists of common names, regions, and classes. But I’m also a bit Dickensian: Hannah Fairchild for a lovely actress, Sir Henry Featherstone for a man who’s a social schmoozer with a tough core. My inspector is Cuthbert Slaughter (a northern saint + a common English surname) And then, of course, some of my characters are real people with wonderful names: Sarah Wardroper was matron of St. Thomas’s Hospital, Joseph Bazalgette designed London’s sewer system. 

 

Real settings or fictional towns?

As real as I can get it: London in the 1860s. I research guidebooks, old maps – I want the houses to have been right for the neighborhood at the time, and every walk the characters take to stroll by things that were really there. I’m kind of crazy about it. I’m holding off on a sequel to St. Thomas’s right now because I need a railway timetable from 1870 and can’t find one.

 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?

Constable Jones is very theatrical – he whispers in a conspiratorial hush, serves tea with a flourish. And Geraldine Orson, the stage actress, likes to play everything like a scene. But I think the quirkiest is Jo Harris. To be middle-class and refuse to wear a corset or a crinoline in those days was to be quirky in public.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

My writing habit is so particular: kitchen table, midnight, cup of Guittard cocoa with mini-marshmallows, small bowl of pretzels. 

 

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?

Anything by Rachel Cusk or Sarah Perry. I just finished Perry’s After Me Comes the Flood, and I wished I’d written it. Her ability to hold the reader’s attention when you’re in a character’s head for so long, and an unpleasant character at that, is amazing.

 

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?

I suppose if I had it to do over, I would have pushed on until I got the PhD. But other aspects of life were always more important.

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

All versions of “with all due respect”: “I’m sure I shouldn’t tell you this, but…”, “I wouldn’t say this if you weren’t my friend…”, “I don’t know much about that, but…” – all are followed by something nasty.

 

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

Can I say a library? I suppose that’s not one thing, but let’s go big. A library, an inexhaustible supply of chocolate, and the internet.

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

I did temp work as a grocery store demonstrator, manning a table in the freezer section trying to get people to taste green chile salsa. Not only could I not answer questions because I couldn’t eat chiles, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been so cold.

 

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Not possible to answer, because ever means from the perspective of right now. Different books are best depending on when in your life you encounter them. The best book is the one that answers questions you didn’t know you had, just at the point in your life when you had them. 

 

Ocean or mountains?

Ocean, but next to it, not in it or on it. There are scary things in the mountains. And I prefer nature through a pane of glass, to be honest. Nature is so lovely – over there. 

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

City, depending on the city. Towns are even better.

 

What’s on the horizon for you?

Murder at Old St. Thomas’s has a sequel or two in the works, but I’m not sure it’s really a series in the classic sense. Recurring characters, yes, but the mysteries tend to be solved as a group effort. Inspector Slaughter is not the protagonist in the second book; Jo Harris and her friend Bridget will be on the trail of the killer. 

 

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?

I call my Victorian mysteries “semi-cozies”, but the emphasis is on the history and the setting. My characters reflect the diversity of 1860s London, so there are gay relationships, concerns for public reputation, and disputes about medical advances. And to me, London is not just a place to set the story, but a living, breathing character within it.

 

Mystery at Old St. Thomas’s

In 1862 London, the body of a famous surgeon is found, sitting upright, in an old operating theatre. His dead eyes stare at the table at the center of the room, where patients had screamed and cried as medical students looked on. The bookish Inspector Slaughter must discover the killer with the help of his American sergeant Mark Honeycutt and clues from Nightingale nurses, surgeon's dressers, devious apothecaries, and even stage actors. Victorian Southwark becomes the theatre for revealing secrets of the past in a world where anesthesia is new, working-class audiences enjoy Shakespeare, and women reformers solve society's problems.

 

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Friday, May 13, 2022

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--TRAVEL TO THE GREEK ISLES FOR MYSTERY AND DOLMATHES WITH AUTHOR M.A. MONNIN

M. A. Monnin’s debut mystery novel follows private banker Stefanie Adams to the Greek isles where she gets tangled in a web of international intrigue, theft, and murder. Like her heroine, Mary loves to travel, and sampling the foods of other cultures is part of that enjoyment. Learn more about Mary and her books at her website. 

Loving the Greek Life

An Intrepid Traveler Mystery, Book 1

 

In Death in the Aegean, when Stefanie Adams travels to Santorini and Crete on a much-needed vacation, she vows to embrace opportunities as they come. And how can a girl pass up sampling delicious Greek food? I know I can’t. In the city of Heraklion, Crete, Stefanie tries a typical Greek offering of dolmathes, or stuffed grape leaves.

 

Like Stefanie, I love Greek food. I found this recipe years ago, and at first was wary of adding cinnamon to a savory dish, but it blends in nicely and really adds depth to the flavor. I’ve had dolmathes with and without meat, but I prefer them with. I hope you like them, too. They can be served as a snack, side dish or the main event. Enjoy!

 

Dolmathes

Makes 30-35 stuffed grape leaves

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 

Ingredients for rice stuffing:

1/2 lb. ground beef

2T olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 T. chopped dillweed

2 T. chopped parsley

1 cup rice

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 cups water

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

 

Ingredients to Fill:

1/2 of a 16oz jar of grape leaves

Rice Stuffing (recipe below)

1/4 cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Hot water to cover

 

In a large saucepan, brown beef in olive oil, then add everything except lemon juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 20 minutes, or until rice is done. Mix in lemon juice, salt and pepper.

 

Rinse the grape leaves and pat dry. 

 

With grape leaf vein side up, place a generous tablespoon of rice stuffing at the base of leaf. Fold up from the bottom, then fold in sides and roll. Place seam side down in a 1-qt. casserole dish. Fit them in tightly. It’s fine to layer them if you need to. Repeat until you run out of leaves or stuffing. The dolmathes should be tightly packed in the pan. 

 

Pour olive oil and juice of 1 lemon over them, then add just enough hot water to cover.

 

Cover pan with lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 60 minutes. Can be served hot, warm or cold.

 

Death in the Aegean

When private banker Stefanie Adams takes a much-needed vacation to the Greek Isles, vowing to embrace opportunities as they come, instead of finding romance and adventure, she is suspected of murdering a bride who accused her deceased father of artifact theft. Unfortunately, the bride’s accusation also ties Stefanie, a former archaeology student, to the robbery of a newly discovered gold Minoan statue, the Akrotiri Snake Goddess. With two high-profile crimes to solve, Greek police are under pressure, and both crimes lead straight to Stefanie.

 

When her own life is threatened, Stefanie relies on her bank training for spotting potential criminals to identify which of her fellow travelers is the real killer.

 

The now-wealthy bridegroom? The elderly sisters with questionable connections who pop up in the most unexpected places? The popular travel blogger whose career Emma tried to ruin? The light-fingered backpacker with an eye on her valuable jewelry? Or could it be the flirtatious German tourist who is clearly after more than romance?

 

Caught up in a web of international intrigue, theft, and murder, Stefanie doesn’t know who to trust. Not everyone is what they seem, and as charming Thomas Burkhardt warns, Where Greed Leads, Murder Follows….

 

Buy Link (ebook available for pre-order now, on sale everywhere 5/19)