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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Mystery author Judy Penz Sheluk stops by for a return visit and to share a recipe today. Judy is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short stories appear in several collections. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

Following her adventures in Skeletons in the Attic, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is back in Past & Present, this time as the co-owner of Past & Present Investigations, where she hopes to earn a living investigating cold cases long abandoned by police. Potential love interest Royce Ashford is also back, and Callie hopes to encourage that relationship by having him over to her house for a dinner of lasagna with salad, complete with homemade croutons. Unfortunately, the evening doesn’t end as romantically as planned, but it had nothing to do with the croutons. Here’s the recipe. You can also find a printable PDF copy on my website’s Food & Drink page: http://www.judypenzsheluk.com/recipes/

Garlic Butter Croutons

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 loaf French stick and/or pumpernickel loaf cut into cubes (slightly stale bread is best)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add garlic and sea salt when butter is melted; cook and stir for 1 minute.

Add bread cubes and toss to coat, making sure the cubes are coated on all sides.

Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until crisp and dry, turning once. Check frequently to prevent burning.

Let cool before serving.

Past & Present will be available in trade paperback at all the usual suspects and on Amazon Kindle on September 21, 2018, where it is currently available on pre-order for the promotional price of $2.99 (reg. $5.99).

Past & Present
Sometimes the past reaches out to the present...

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto? 

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted. 

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Monday, September 17, 2018


The stores are filled with pumpkin-flavored everything lately, as well as candy corn and costumes, but Christmas is not that far away. Have you begun your Christmas crafting yet? Today we’re featuring another ornament from Drop DeadOrnaments, the newest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, now available for pre-order. This is a perfect craft for using up your kids’ broken crayons instead of tossing them in the trash. And as with all the other ornaments featured in the book, absolutely no special crafting talent is required.

Melted Crayon Ornament

clear glass ball ornament
2-3 crayons in the same color family or opposites (examples: pinks and red, yellows and orange, blues and yellow, blues and pink, etc.)
crayon sharpener or craft knife
hair dryer
9”-12” of 1/4”-1/2” wide satin or grosgrain ribbon in complementary color*

Use the crayon sharpener or craft knife to shave pieces from the crayons.

Carefully remove the metal cap from the glass ball.

Working with one color at a time, place a small amount of the shavings into the glass ball. Hold the hair dryer close to the area of the ornament where the shavings are and heat the ornament to melt the crayons. Be careful you don’t touch the ornament with the hair dryer.

If the ornament becomes too hot as you’re working, take a break to allow it to cool. You may also want to use an oven mitt or glove to protect your hand from the heat. As the crayon shavings begin to melt, rotate the ornament to spread the color.

Alternate colors, continuing until the desired look is achieved.

Reattach the metal cap. Tie ribbon through the loop for hanging.

* You can also substitute yarn, twine, thin braid, or a thin strip of fabric for the ribbon used for the hanging loop.

Drop Dead Ornaments
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

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Friday, September 14, 2018


Today we sit down with Holly Donnelly from author Sally Handley’s Holly and Ivy Mysteries.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
Before Second Bloom, the first Holly and Ivy adventure, my life was very serene and peaceful. I spent most of my time reading and teaching English as an adjunct faculty member at a local college. In my spare time, I gardened. Some may think of it as a dull life, but it was very pleasant -- until my author started involving me in murder investigations. I never wanted to get involved, but she always made it impossible for me to walk away from the situations she threw me into. Of course, my life was also just a tad lonely. I have to admit I’m glad she introduced me to Detective Nick Manelli.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I suppose it is my loyalty to friends and family.  Naturally, that’s the very thing that gets me involved in murder investigations. Also, since my author started pulling my strings, I’ve learned that I’m braver than I thought I was. Even when I’d rather pull the covers over my head, I will face danger in order to help or protect the people I love. I do feel proud of that.

What do you like least about yourself?
Well, I have been told that I’m a bit of a know-it-all and seem to always think I know the best way to handle any situation. Quite honestly, I don’t see it. Can I help it if I’m always right?

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
The strangest thing is that all of a sudden people I know and care about keep getting accused of murder. I’m a fifty-five year old, adjunct English professor, for heaven’s sake.  All I want to do is read, garden and go sightseeing with my sister Ivy. What business do I have investigating murders? Why couldn’t my author just have written a romance novel? Why couldn’t I have just been a middle-aged woman, trying to decide which of two, maybe three men who desire me, I should marry? That’s a good plot, isn’t it? Why, oh why, do I have to get involved helping people accused of murder? Believe me, I often think about how strange it is that my sister and I are helping the police solve crimes at this stage in our lives.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Not really. We have a rather symbiotic relationship, even though I’m actually a lot gutsier than she is. I think she actually lives vicariously through me. Though after that last question you asked me, I think I’m going to argue that she should quit Sisters in Crime and join Romance Writers of America. She can change my name and start featuring me in epic love stories.

What is your greatest fear?
I’m ever fearful that what I do may cause harm to my sister Ivy. In the instances where I’ve thrown caution to the wind, I usually endanger her. Of course, I always realize I’ve put her in harm’s way a little too late.

What makes you happy?
The ability to make things grow really makes my heart sing. Every spring, when I plant seeds, I get absolutely giddy when they begin to sprout. I used to think everyone could make things grow, but I’ve learned that it’s a gift not to be taken for granted.

Good food also makes me happy. I love to cook. Italian food is my favorite. (I guess that’s part of what Nick finds appealing about me.) And, I completely agree with the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Then, of course, there’s Nick Manelli. He can make me crazy sometimes, but overall, he makes me very, very happy.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
The snake scene--absolutely the snake scene. That’s in the next book, Full Bloom. I hate snakes! I mean, really, I’d rather face a grizzly bear or a wolf, for heaven sakes. But no, my author had to have me face my greatest phobia.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Ironically, Nick Manelli bugs me the most. He’s very possessive and overly protective, which has its appeal on occasion, but it can also be maddening. I’ve been independent my whole life, so I don’t like being told what to do. I’d like it better if he agreed with me more when I make a decision. I mean, just because what I want to do is a little dangerous, I should still be able to do it without interference from him.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
I think I might like to trade places with Yolanda Rivera. She’s Nick’s assistant in the police department. She gets to work with him solving crimes. It’s her job. If I worked for Nick, he’d have to share information with me and protecting me would not be a priority. Danger would simply be part of the job. But, then, of course, he and I couldn’t have a relationship, or -- well, you know… So maybe I really wouldn’t want to be Yolanda, after all.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Sally has been a mystery lover ever since she first discovered Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. She majored in English, then earned her Master’s Degree with a concentration in Shakespearean studies in England. After teaching public school for six years, she moved on to a business career, returning to academia as a professor of English before retiring in 2015. In addition to writing the Holly and Ivy mystery series, Sally also writes the “On Writing, Reading and Retirement” blog, which can be found at her website.

What's next for you?
In our next book, Full Bloom, Ivy and I are looking forward to a relaxing stay in the Catskills after my break-up with Nick Manelli. As luck would have it, our plans are thwarted. The day we arrive at my friend Kate Farmer’s house in rustic Reddington Manor, we discover the body of Kate’s next-door neighbor, Chuck Dwyer, in a pool of blood on his kitchen floor. In a rush to judgment, the local sheriff sets his sights on 17-year old Tommy Cranston, but Kate insists Tommy is innocent. The big question is can we prove that a shifty neighbor, Chuck’s widow and local drug dealers all have better motives for the murder? And, of course, can Ivy and Kate unravel another mystery -- the cause of my break-up with Nick and the chances of our getting back together.

Second Bloom
Holly Donnelly and her sister, Ivy, are reluctantly drawn into the investigation of a neighbor’s murder when Holly’s trusted gardener is accused of the crime.  Holly fears police detective, Nick Manelli, won’t conduct a proper investigation, while Ivy feels the “hunky” Manelli is not only a good cop, but also a possible romantic match for her sister. Can the clues the sisters unearth from neighborhood gossip about the victim’s family, a politically connected neighbor and a powerful real estate developer help save an innocent man, or will the gardening duo dig up more than they bargain for?

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Thursday, September 13, 2018


Bestselling and award-winning author Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations, and secret societies back to life in her novels and short stories. Learn more about Theresa and her books at her website.

The Power Places series is all about setting. Certain sites in the world have caught the imagination of humans throughout the ages. Myths and legends have sprung up about them. I like to take those stories and bring them into the present day. I try to visit these sites as often as I can, although I can’t always get to each place.

Under the Stone Paw is set in Egypt. After inheriting a crystal necklace from a mysterious aunt, Anne le Clair begins to have dreams and visions related to the stone. Turns out, it’s one of six keys to the Hall of Records. Many legends have it that there are ancient artifacts beneath the paw of the Sphinx. Some say they’re from the ancient civilization of Atlantis. Others that they’re from a pre-dynastic civilization that built the pyramids and communed with the stars. Tantalizing. So I used a lot of those ideas and opened the Hall of Records in this book. But Anne and her new love Michael do not find what they expect.

My husband leads tours to Egypt, and I’ve gone with him four times. I loved sailing the Nile and visiting the ancient temples, eating exotic foods, shopping in the shouk. Here’s a link to the Souk al Fustat, which is in Cairo and is quite an adventure to walk through. Yes, I even rode a camel near the pyramids. All those sights, sounds, smells, and tastes went into this book.

The second book in the series, Beneath the Hallowed Hill, is set in Glastonbury, the site of ancient Avalon. Avalon has so many myths and stories attached to it that I couldn’t possibly fit it all into one book. The famous Tor is the home of Gwyn ap Nup, king of the fairies. From the Tor run the twin springs, famous for their color, the Red and White Spring. Each has a goddess attached to it, plus more stories. The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, torn down by the infamous Henry VIII, is said to be the burial site of King Arthur and Guinevere. Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of Jesus, stuck his staff in the ground when he landed on Wearyall Hill, and it sprouted over night. Descendants of that tree still grow around the town. It blooms twice, a year and a blossom is delivered to the queen. William Blake’s famous poem “Jerusalem” is based on the story that Christ himself accompanied his uncle to Avalon and studied with the Druids and priestesses there. The lines go like this:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

It’s England’s second national anthem. Click here to listen.

I’ve visited Glastonbury three times now, and although it’s not as different from American culture as Egypt is, it still has quite a lot of charm. The sites in Glastonbury are filled with peace, and it’s easy to wile away an afternoon wandering Chalice Gardens or climbing the Tor and sitting on the side, watching the green countryside or enjoying a sunset. And then there’s cream tea. Yum.

My next Power Places novel, Return of the Grail King, explores Arthurian legends in a unique way. Then, I’m writing about Cambodia’s ancient sites. I went there last December to experience the beauty and mystery of Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, the South Gate into Angkor Tom known as the Bridge of Heaven and Earth, and the literally hundreds of temples near Siem Reap. Plus, there was the Buddhist monk photographing the monkeys. Wonderful. And the coconuts. Just cut off the top, insert a straw, and enjoy.

When I discovered my ancestors taught sexual equality and sacred sexuality in the 1740s, well, I had to research that. The Moravians are a small Protestant group that started one hundred years before Luther in Prague. They were followers of John Hus, who is famous in Prague. Then, after the Hundred Years War, they resettled in a tiny town they founded, Hernhutt, Germany. After hearing about it all my life, I finally got to go. Then I wrote The Star Family, pretending that those teachings that I found very contemporary and liberating, had been continued into the current time.

Come travel with Anne and Michael as they uncover arcane secrets and combat sinister occult forces.

Under the Stone Paw
A forgotten family legacy.
Six crystal keys.
One shot at unlocking the secrets beneath the Sphinx.

Anne Le Clair, a successful, young attorney, has always managed to remain free from her family’s gothic past—until now. When she inherits her eccentric aunt’s antique necklace though, she finds no escape from its secrets. Anne is immersed in a crash course of forbidden wisdom, secret societies, and her family’s own legacy. She soon discovers that her aunt’s necklace is one of just six powerful “keys” that, when combined with the other five at the appointed time, unlocks the legendary Hall of Records. However, another group, the shadowy Illuminati, is working behind the scenes to uncover the same powerful secrets—and make them their own.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Today we sit down for a chat with Carol Andrews from author Susan Santangelo’s Baby Boomer Mystery series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
Peaceful and quiet!

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
Multi-tasking under the impossible circumstances Susan thinks up for me to deal with.

What do you like least about yourself?
I cry much too easily.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? They’re all weird. And some of them are very scary. Especially when my life is threatened, like the time in Second Honeymoons Can Be Murder (Book 6) when she had me facing a deranged killer with no warning whatsoever. 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Susan always has an idea in her head about which way she wants her plots to go. Her plots! Can you imagine? She’d be nothing without me. When she really won’t listen to my suggestions, I just go on strike. Some authors have writer’s block. She has Carol block. But she has yet to figure that out.

What is your greatest fear?
That she may decide to end the series by killing me off.

What makes you happy?
When she finally writes “The End” and sends off the completed book to her publisher. Then I can finally take a nap.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I’d want to be thinner, so I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
My husband, Jim, drives me completely bonkers a lot of the time. Since he retired, he’s become obsessed with saving money and has me on a very tight budget. And he always wants to know where I’m going, when I’ll be home, and what I’m making for dinner. Oh, and he re-does a lot of the household tasks, like re-loading the dishwasher before I start it. I mean, really! 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
I’d like to trade places with Lucy and Ethel, our two English cocker spaniels. They have the best life of all!

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Susan’s the author of eight Baby Boomer mysteries, and is currently working (but not too hard) on Book 9, tentatively titled, Politics Can Be Murder. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and the Cape Cod Writers Center. She hangs out with her long-suffering husband Joe on Cape Cod in the summer, and goes to Clearwater, Florida, for the winter. (Fortunately, I get to travel with her.) She and Joe also have two English cocker spaniels, Boomer and Lilly. You can find more about her and her books at her website. She doesn’t have her own blog, but she likes to do guest appearances on others.   

What's next for you?
I’m lying in wait in Susan’s mind right now while she figures out which way she wants the plot for “Politics” to go. And then I’ll step in, have my way, and we’ll go on from there.

In-Laws Can Be Murder
A Baby Boomer Mystery, Book 8

Carol Andrews doesn't share well. Especially when it comes to her precious, long-awaited first grandchild, CJ. So when her son-in-law's pushy mother, Margo, arrives in town and horns in on Carol's happiness, it's hate at first sight. But when Margo thinks she's committed a murder and reaches out to Carol for help, then vanishes without a trace, it's up to Carol to put aside her petty jealousy and crack the case before the police get involved.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Twin Towers Memorial Lights
Here at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers we always pause each year on this day to remember and pay our respects to those brave men and women and innocent souls who lost their lives during the horrific terrorist attacks of that day.

Monday, September 10, 2018


We're always happy to have author Camille Minichino stop by for a visit. A retired physicist turned writer, Camille is the author of twenty-five mystery novels in four series. She currently serves on the board of NorCal Mystery Writers of America, is on the faculty of Golden Gate U. in SF, and teaches writing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about her at her website and blog.

Who hasn't thought of time travel? Reliving glory days, redoing a life-changing decision, or simply hanging around with your favorite historical figure. I might make a date with Abraham Lincoln, find out if he really did wear size 14 shoes.

Recently, I was offered the chance to go back in time – to 2008. Not as dramatic a trip as one requiring a whole new wardrobe, maybe even a bustle and a parasol. Its claim to fame: My first Miniature Mystery, cover shown here, was released in 2008. Murder in Miniature introduced miniaturist Gerry Porter and her precocious 10-year-old granddaughter Maddie. The book also includes a section of Tips for Miniatures, with ideas such as using rounded buttons as the feet on an upholstered chair; or the fluted metal top of a soda bottle as a mini pie plate.

I'm now cleared (long story) to reissue that book and 4 others in the series. The new cover will include a photo of my latest dollhouse project, shown above as a work in progress, with interior and exterior views. Once completely cleaned up and furnished, the house will be donated to a local school for its holiday raffle. Giving crafts projects away serves a dual purpose: raising money for a worthy cause, and making room for another project. Not to mention an excuse to shop for more supplies.

A little more about furnishing the house shown, which arrived as a fixer-upper from a writer friend. I rummage through my many drawers, shelves, and messy boxes of stuff, as usual, before I buy or make anything new. I found one of those pieces of fabric that come with an easy chair, the intended use being to protect the arm or the headrest of the chair from wear. Since I'm not that fussy about my life-size furniture, but I do always keep scraps, this meant-to-be carpet was a perfect fit for the living room (lower right). The paintbrushes are there for scale, lest you think this is where I live.

I've also scattered other items: a folding chair and a coaster-cum-scatter rug in the bedroom (middle right); cans of food, barely distinguishable on the kitchen floor (lower left); and a mini slinky and kid's chair in the attic.

This method of positioning pieces—here a stool, there a stool—is similar to the way I write a novel. Test out a word, a phrase, a plot twist and live with it for a while before committing. 

Which is to say, I like crafts with moveable pieces and room for correctible errors!

Thursday, September 6, 2018


Sunset Over Long Beach, NY
A.R. Kennedy lives and works on Long Island, New York (and no, she does not have that Long Island accent). Her debut series, The Nathan Miccoli mystery series, is set in New York. Learn more about A.R. and her books at her website.

My Nathan Miccoli Mystery series starts in Long Beach, NY. One of the main characters, Lily Brannon, lives there. Why Long Beach? Because I live in Long Beach. And they say write what you know.

Long Beach, New York, ‘The city by the sea’, is located on a barrier island off the south shore of Long Island, NY. It’s about a 50-minute train ride from Penn Station in New York City.

Long Beach in the summer is a bustling place (and I’m not just talking about the parking situation. Remember how excited George Costanza from Seinfeld got when he found a prime parking space? The same goes here in the summer!)

Each summer, the City of Long Beach entertains residents and visitors with concerts and movies on the beach—my favorite is Jaws, oh the irony!—arts and crafts festivals on the boardwalk and fireworks. The first Friday after the 4th of July hosts a ‘Fireworks Extravaganza’. I can watch the fireworks, shot off from a barge in the ocean, from my balcony!

There’s something for everyone during Long Beach summers.

Foodies will enjoy the Shoregasboard, an array of food trucks from local eateries, parked beachside. (Plus there are other concessions on the boardwalk).

Film buffs will enjoy Long Beach International Film Festival, now in iths 7th year.

Long Beach also organizes adult summer volleyball leagues on the beach. (Lily has demonstrated her lack of athletic ability on the sandy court. Fortunately, I have not. I’m strictly a cheerleader.)

Plus, of course, the water activities! The 9th annual NY Surf week was held in July.

If you’re more like me and just want to sit on the beach and read a book, Long Beach is a great spot. According to an article on timeout.com in May 2018, ‘the National Resources Defense Council ranked Long Beach among the cleanest beaches in the U.S. (and the spiffiest in New York)’.

But, please don’t think Long Beach is only to be enjoyed in the summer! It is great all year round. The Polar Bear Splash, benefiting Make-A-Wish, is held annually on Super Bowl Sunday. It is fun for all—the ones who plunge into the cold waters and those watching, while huddled in their parkas. The Irish Festival and Fall festival are held in October. The Turkey Trot is run on the boardwalk in November.

Surf’s up all year. I see surfers riding the waves during all the seasons (while wondering how they endure the cold water and even colder temperatures). The 2.2-mile boardwalk has been replaced (after being destroyed in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy) and is used by bicyclists, walkers and runners throughout the year.

As the Nathan Miccoli mystery series has progressed, the main characters, Lily and Nathan, a NYPD detective, have moved to Queens, New York. But at least one scene in each of the six books occurs in Long Beach. Volleyball on the beach. Walking on the boardwalk. Dining at one of the many restaurants. Gone But Not Calm, book six in the series, finds Lily stranded in Long Beach as Hurricane Sandy hits. (Superstorm Sandy for those who want to be technical. However, I’ve never heard a Long Islander ask how I managed through the ‘Superstorm’. It’s always ‘Sandy’ or ‘the Hurricane.’)

Want to visit? longbeachny.org is a great resource.

If you like novels involving pets, check out my newest book, Saving Ferris, on pre-order now. https://amzn.to/2PhcEJL In Saving Ferris a woman shoots an intruder to save her dead husband’s golden retriever Ferris. In the eyes of the law, one can use lethal force to protect themselves and others, but not property. Pets are considered property. Will saving Ferris's life cost Cecilia her freedom? And a second chance at love?

Gone But Not Missed
Lillian Brannon wakes up on Valentine's Day in an exact replica of her bedroom but the only item that she believes is authentic is her dog, Laude. She is held captive in her kidnapper's basement apartment, summoned upstairs once a week for a chaste dinner. But will his kindness last, and more importantly, why isn’t anyone looking for her? Lillian’s story is interwoven with that of Nathan, a NYPD officer, who is intrigued by Lillian’s disappearance- how can a young woman be gone for two weeks before a Missing Person Report is filed? Local police believe Lillian has voluntarily abandoned a life she didn’t like. Lillian’s best friend convinces Nathan the authorities are wrong. With no jurisdiction, no resources, and no witnesses, he is compelled by the pictures of Lillian with her sweet smile and sparkling green eyes to obsessively take up the case. Armed with Lillian’s keys and personal information, he spends hours, then days in her home trying to find clues that will lead him to her.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018


Mystery author Camille Minichino has been a guest here many times. She recently sent me a copy of an anthology she contributed to, and it became one of my summer reads. Low Down Dirty: A Crime Fiction Anthology takes on an issue that affects not only all Americans but citizens worldwide.

The stories featured in this anthology were all written around the theme of fighting voter suppression. Our right to vote is one of our most precious rights as a citizen. No matter whether you lean left or right or are firmly entrenched in the middle, no one has the right to suppress or tamper with your right to cast your ballot on Election Day. (Don’t forget to vote on November 6th!)

But aside from their theme, these eleven short stories are also really good reads for anyone who enjoys crime fiction.

Along with Camille Minichino, the other authors who contributed stories to the anthology are Catriona McPherson, Kris Calvin, Ray Daniel, David Hagerty, Ann Parker, Travis Richardson, James Ziskin, Alison Catharine, and Mariah Klein.

Low Down Dirty: A Crime Fiction Anthology
Eleven writers from across the country and across the Atlantic contributed short crime fiction to this anthology, which includes both award winners and brand new voices. Each writer addressed the theme "fighting voter suppression." Proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the ACLU Foundation to help protect the voting rights of all Americans.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Last fall I needed to remove a diseased ornamental plum tree from my front yard. While at the garden center to purchase a replacement tree, the horticulturist asked me about my zucchini crop. “What crop?” I asked with a frown.

Zucchini used to be the one produce I could grow, no matter what. I’d harvest so much from one plant, I’d wind up with a freezer full to use in soups and spaghetti sauce all winter. And that was after all the baking of zucchini bread and muffins, the stuffed zucchini, zucchini fritters, zucchini slaw, zucchini you-name-it.

But the last few years, even though I’d rotated where I placed my plants, my harvest had been zilch. Nada. Nothing. A big fat zero. Lovely looking plants that bore no fruit.

“Cheer up,” said the horticulturist. “You’ll have zucchini next summer. The bees are coming back.”

It turns out the bees had departed from my neck of the New Jersey suburbs the last few years. My zucchini plants weren’t getting pollinated. Thus, no zucchini.

So this year I planted my zucchini and held my breath. Sure enough, the horticulturist was right. The bees came back, and this year I’m harvesting zucchini once again.

I don’t know where the bees went or why they decided to leave. I’m just glad they decided to return. The other day I discovered a ginormous zucchini hiding under some leaves. Somehow I’d missed it when it was at optimum picking stage. And what better way to use a ginormous zucchini than make zucchini bread and muffins? And I still wound up with enough zucchini to make zucchini carrot slaw for dinner that night and freeze six cups for future use! That was one ginormous zucchini!

Blueberry Zucchini Bread and Muffins

Yield: one loaf and 6 muffins

3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
3 tsp. vanilla
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 T. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 pt. fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set aside 1/4 cup flour.

Lightly grease one loaf pan and one 6-cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl beat together eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar approximately one minute. Fold in zucchini.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add to wet ingredients, stirring until incorporated. Fold in pecans.

Toss blueberries in reserved flour. Fold into batter.

Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Pour remaining batter into loaf pan. Bake muffins 20-25 minutes, loaf pan 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes on wire rack. Remove from pans and continue cooling.

Monday, September 3, 2018


Happy Labor Day! Anastasia and the gang are enjoying an end-of-summer BBQ. They'll return tomorrow.

Friday, August 31, 2018


Today we sit down for a chat with Olivia Valenti from author Elizabeth Spaur’s Shotgun Romance, the second book in her Gridiron Knights Series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings? 
Quiet. Even my puppy, Kate, was quiet before my author starting poking around my life. As head of the Department of English at Cormac University, my life was predictable, and I was fine with that. I’ve never been a fan of drama outside of the pages of books.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I’m committed. Once I put myself on a path, I will stay on it until I reach my goals.

What do you like least about yourself?
It’s too easy for me to be alone. I wish I let more people into my life.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
I got pregnant with twins after a one-night stand. I’m definitely not a one-night stand type of woman.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
I don’t. I told myself I was content with my life before she started messing with it. It turns out I didn’t know what I was missing. I’m so happy she stepped in and started pulling some strings. Kate’s happy about it, too. She never knew what fun was until Nick came into our lives.

What is your greatest fear?  
Ending up like my mother. She fell for the wrong man and ended up paying with her life.

What makes you happy?
Reading a good book on the couch, curled up with Nick while Kate tries to sneak up on him.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? 
If I were going to re-write my story, I would want to be more aware of the people around me. There are some amazing people who worked hard to be part of my life. If I’d let them in earlier, we could have started making memories that much sooner.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Brian Gill, Junior. He played me for a fool and then deliberately tried to break up my relationship with Nick. He may have had his reasons, but I don’t want him in my life anymore.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? 
I have to agree with my friend Tess on this question. I sometimes want to trade places with my friend Delilah. She’s not afraid to say what she means and tells it like it is. I wish I had her courage.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog? 
Elizabeth Spaur has been reading romance since she was twelve and writing it since she was thirteen. She loves writing stories that bring strong women and men together to make an even stronger team.  Readers who want to know more about her can find her at her website

What's next for you? 
Nick and I are busy preparing for the arrival of our twins. We’re debating on whether we want to find out the gender before I deliver. I’m all for planning, but Nick is definitely more in favor of letting life surprise us. Either way, we can’t wait to expand our family.

Shotgun Romance
Gridiron Knights Series, Book 2

He had no faith in love. She had no faith in men. They’ve got nine months to find faith in each other.

Since the night his life had taken a dramatic left turn, Nick Jacobs had been searching for a chance to prove he was the man he’d always wanted to be. When his old friend calls him and offers him a chance to help rebuild the Cormac University football program, he thinks this is his shot. He didn’t count on falling for Olivia or getting her pregnant. Can he juggle all his responsibilities and prove to himself, once and for all, that he’s worthy of love?

After the traumatic loss of her mother, Olivia Valenti shut herself off from the world. Running the Cormac University English department is a dream come true. She didn’t think she would ever want or need anything else. One night with Nick in Las Vegas and motherhood is on the horizon. Can she open her heart to Nick and build the home she never knew she dreamed of?

An instant attraction and a night of celebration lead to an unexpected pregnancy, which Nick and Olivia are determined to face together. Unfortunately, their pasts and present are about to collide, and old secrets will challenge the foundation they’re trying to build their family on. Can they learn to let go of the past in time to share a future?

Will they realize that love always wins?

Welcome to Shotgun Romance, the second book in the Gridiron Knights series set in King’s Folly South Carolina, where football is king, and the locals have something to say about everything. When you come for a visit, you’ll never want to leave.