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.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

INTERVIEW WITH #ROMANCE AND #MYSTERY AUTHOR L.A. KELLER

Today we sit down for a chat with mystery and romance author. L. A. Keller. Learn more about her at her website and blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I’ve written short stories since I was twelve and always dreamed of writing a novel. As the years went by I put writing aside to focus on my career as a project manager and technical writer. My goal was always dancing just out of reach due to my other commitments. My first book was written mostly after eleven pm on weekends but now I set aside time to write.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
It took me two years to write and publish the first book. I wrote a first draft of the novel, threw it out and started completely from scratch. During the re-write I sought a large publishing house but after much research opted to create my own publishing company.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I am indie published.

Where do you write?
I have an office in my home in which I do much of my writing. However, there are days when I prefer to sit at the kitchen table or on the sofa with the television playing a reality show.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I generally write without any distraction, mostly because I write early in the morning when others in my household are asleep. If I am listening to music, it is old school country because that is what my character loves the most.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Since I write murder mysteries, my plots are not drawn from real life but my characters are. I once created a character based on a woman I stood in line behind at Office Max because her outfit was so colorful she made me want to write her into a story. Anyone I come in contact with may wind up as a character or some element of that person may be incorporated into a character. Events that make me laugh in my own life frequently appear in my work. Watch for a scene in the next book where my character accidentally loses her press-on fingernail in a dish she serves to a guest.

Describe your process for naming your character?
This is one of the most difficult tasks for me. I do lengthy research on character names to understand the meaning of names. It’s important to me to not have characters with similar names in the same book because, as a reader, I find that can be confusing. I also want to feel some connection to a name if the character is recurring. My main character, Jayne, is named after my mom but I changed the spelling.

Real settings or fictional towns?
I base my books on the real town of Cave Creek, Arizona but change the names of streets and businesses. In Cocktails at Sunset, I created a fictional assisted living facility and drew a floorplan so that I could map my character’s movements accurately. I drive to a spot I want to include in a scene and take photos for my reference.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Jayne has a unique memory for whatever one of her restaurant guests has ordered. I based this on a friend who actually does have this strange ability.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I carry on long conversations with my cats. They don’t answer me, but I’m sure they understand every single word.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde - I love all of her books but this one touches my heart more than others. Her characters are so real and her story so poignant you are sad when you reach the last page.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I had gone to college immediately after high school rather than taking years to complete my degree.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Shopping carts not returned to their place! I know that is completely unrelated to writing but it makes me crazy.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? Sunscreen, water and a satellite phone.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I was a hotel housekeeper for two weeks. It gave me an appreciation for how hard they work and how inconsiderate some guests can be. I always leave a tip when I check out.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Gone with the Wind because it is an epic love story.

Ocean or mountains?
Definitely, mountains. I live in the desert and hike as much as I can. However, a beach vacation is always at the top of my list.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I’m a city girl who grew up in the country with chickens, cows and horses.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m excited to finish the third book in the series and start on a different writing path. I enjoy writing romance as short stories on my blog and hope to create a new series in that genre. I will also be doing some speaking engagements later in the year.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I hope reading my books brings the reader some joy and suspense. Ultimately my goal is to carry the reader away from the day to day stress and struggle. On the more personal side, I’m a breast cancer survivor. My sister-in-law is a two time breast cancer survivor, and my sister is now a two time survivor. I am a strong proponent of performing self-exams and patient advocacy.

Menu for Murder
A Jayne Stanford Mystery, Book 1

A tete-a-tete with the wait staff wasn’t listed on the menu, but that never stopped Mayor Franklin McArthur from ordering ala carte. Jayne Stanford is just one of the many desserts he’s tried to sample. When he turns up dead, after a private party Jayne worked, all the evidence points to Jayne as the murderer. Her life begins to unravel faster than you can say “Order up”.

As clumsy as a cowboy on a three-day drunk, Jayne has never been the perfect waitress. But her knack for remembering quirky details about the guests she serves has kept her a few tips away from the unemployment line. Now she has to put those skills to use or wind up spending her days waiting tables in prison.

As Jayne embarks on a hunt for the person who set her up she must rely on her best friend, Bailey, to painstakingly piece together the clues. Who was in the black Hummer? Why would someone want to kill a lecherous old fool like the Mayor? What does the key open? Should Jayne take a chance with her heart and trust, Jonas? The closer she gets to the truth, the more determined the killer is to make Jayne the “Catch of the Day.”

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--MYSTERY AUTHOR KELLY BRAKENHOFF'S BIEROCK RECIPE

Debut mystery author Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language interpreter, scone baker, half-marathon runner, chocolate lover, Hufflepuff, wife & mom, dog petter, and Husker fan. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

When Cassandra Sato, the main character in Death by Dissertation, moves from big city Hawai'i to rural Nebraska, she expects the food to taste foreign. After all, growing up on an island, she was used to fresh seafood, sushi, and Spam— the comfort food in a can. The only fish she's likely to find in Nebraska comes from a stream or the freezer.

One of the first unusual meals she encounters is a German concoction called a Bierock. They're meat and cabbage stuffed in yeast bread hand-pies. Cassandra is surprised to discover there's a Midwest-famous restaurant chain with a devoted fan base of Bierock-loving Nebraskans called Runza. (Definitely stop there if you're ever driving I-80 through Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, or Colorado.) Cassandra's hesitant at first, but soon grows to like them, especially when she realizes one can double as a hand-warmer during chilly fall football Saturdays.

If you're not from the Midwest, likely you've never heard of Bierocks either, but I promise they are delicious. They also freeze well and make for easy picnic or potluck food. No fork required.

When my family didn’t live in Nebraska, our first stop after arriving at the airport was always the Runza restaurant drive-thru for a hometown meal of delicious, hot Runza and Frings (a genius combination of fries and onion rings).

Occasionally, we hosted a football watch party or got a craving for them when we couldn't buy the real thing. Over the years, I’ve tried many different Bierock recipes. This one incorporates whole-wheat flour and Greek yogurt to make a quick, healthy breaded crust for a traditional, Nebraska Bierock. My favorite are the Swiss Mushroom Bierocks, but you can change up the cheese if you want a different twist using American, Provolone & peppers for a Philly Bierock, or Pepperjack for a more southwest flavor.

Quick & Healthy Bierocks (homemade Nebraska Runzas)
Featuring a whole-wheat, no-yeast dough, these Swiss Mushroom Bierocks take less than an hour start to finish. They are great for football tailgate parties, potlucks, or Husker ex-pats who miss eating our beloved Runzas.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
Dough
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups plain Greek yogurt
1-1/2 T. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. salt

Filling
1 lb. ground beef
1 med. onion, chopped
1 bag coleslaw mix
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. seasoned salt
8 slices Swiss cheese (optional)
8 small baby Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare a large baking sheet with foil and cooking spray or parchment paper. (Less clean-up later, you’re welcome.)

Brown the hamburger and onions in the largest frying pan you own. You might need 2 medium pans if you don’t have one large enough. If you decide to add the mushrooms, throw them in with the meat and onions.

In a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder and salt, and mix well. Add the yogurt and mix until all of the flour is incorporated into a batter. Knead the dough until it’s dry and elastic (this will take about 1 minute—if it’s super-sticky, you can always add some extra flour). Then, divide the dough into 8 equal size balls. Using your hands or a rolling pin, spread the dough rounds into 6”x4” rectangles. 

Once the meet is browned and the onions and mushrooms are soft, add Worcestershire, oregano, seasoned salt, and pepper to taste. Now add the whole package of cabbage to the skillet. It might not all fit at once, but stir the bottom bits to the top frequently until the whole thing is lightly stir-fried. Do not overcook the cabbage. 

Place one slice of Swiss cheese on each of the rolled dough pieces. Some people like American, Provolone, or Pepper Jack cheese instead. Spoon 2 generous spoonfuls of meat on each dough. Roll up the longer sides of the rectangle and pinch them together, then gather the short sides and pinch together. Flip the pinched seams to the bottom. The finished Bierocks should be fairly large and rectangle shaped. 

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving. They are good plain or with ketchup.

Death By Dissertation
Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position at Morton College in rural Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare.

A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement.

Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--EARTH DAY REPURPOSING

Happy Earth Day!

Authors are often told to “write what you know.” Lois Winston, she who writes about me, did just that when she created me. Lois worked for many years as a designer and editor in the crafts industry, working for craft book publishers, craft kit manufacturers, and both craft and women’s magazines. Sound familiar?

At one point Lois worked as the editorial director and head designer for a company that produced craft kits and leaflets. One of the leaflets she designed was for crafts with an ecology theme. So today, in honor of Earth Day, we thought we’d show that leaflet and feature one of the crafts from it.

So much of our food these days comes in plastic containers. For years we’ve recycled tons of plastic, much of which is shipped to China for repurposing into new plastic items. However, China now has more plastic than they can handle, and has decided they will no longer accept many forms of plastic. Communities across the U.S. are either halting their plastics recycling programs or limiting them only to #1 and #2 plastics.

Rather than adding these plastics that are no longer recyclable to our landfills, why not repurpose them into decorative containers for gardening and storage?

Decorated Plastic Containers

Materials:
Assorted plastic containers in various shapes and sizes
Assorted scraps of fabrics
Assorted yarns
Scissors
Pinking shears (optional)
decoupage
brushes
sealer (matte, satin, or glossy finish)

1. Cut fabric into desired shapes. You can use pinking shears to cut out squares and rectangles of patterned fabrics or use scissors to cut out objects, such as flowers, from print fabrics.

2. Using decoupage and following the manufacturer’s directions, adhere fabric to plastic container, overlapping fabric as desired.

3. When decoupage is dry, apply two coats of sealer, allowing sealer to dry between coats.

Friday, April 19, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR SUSAN CORY ON THE INSPIRATION BEHIND DOPPELGÃNGER

Susan Cory, an award-winning Cambridge architect, is the author of the Iris Reid Mystery Series, featuring Cambridge amateur sleuth Iris Reid. Today she joins us to speak about the inspiration behind the third book in the series. Learn more about Susan and her books at her website.

Have you ever wondered what could happen if you didn't totally wipe your hard drive before getting rid of your old computer? Or what could happen if any of the blank checks sent by credit cards fell into the wrong hands?

I live in a close-knit community in Cambridge, Ma. Most of us know Joe, our long-time mail deliverer, and he knows us. So when Joe was instructed to forward a certain household's mail to an address in a neighboring town, he knew that the family hadn't moved. He alerted the police who discovered a ring of con artists who were diverting people's mail in order to steal identities and cash any checks from their mail.

While this scam was coming to light, I was busy trying to figure out how to get rid of my old computer.  Some computer stores and charities advertise that they'll remove your personal information before recycling your old equipment, but what if one of their employees is less than honest?

These two ideas came together to suggest a plot for Doppelgänger, my third book in the Iris Reid mystery series. A family of grifters uses Iris Reid's stolen identity to commit a crime. While stripping Iris' data off her old computer, Rosica Bakalov, notices her own striking resemblance to this new “mark”. She becomes fascinated with Iris and starts to stalk her. Meanwhile, Iris, out on bail, is desperate to pick up her doppellgänger's trail before her case goes to trial.

By the way, my husband smashed my hard drive with a hammer before I took my last computer to be recycled. I wasn't taking any chances... 

I'd love to know how you get rid of your old computers by posting a comment here.

Doppelgänger
An Iris Reid Mystery, Book 3

During a robbery, a bank guard is shot. The license of the getaway car is traced to Architect Iris Reid. When the police arrest Iris and show her security footage of the robbery, she sees her own face looking back.

Scrambling to defend herself against an airtight case, Iris discovers that her mail's been diverted to an abandoned apartment in the next town. She's able to find a clue there that allows her to pick up her doppelganger’s trail.

But someone is watching her every move.

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

HOW THE MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN BECAME THE INSPIRATION FOR NJ LITZ'S ROMANTIC MYSTERY

NJ Litz is a former journalist and communications director. Her books combine mystery with romance and feature strong women who get justice for those who can’t get it for themselves. No Bed of Roses, her second novel, launches April 23. Learn more about NJ and her books at her website. 

The Inspiration for No Bed of Roses
When I started writing fiction rather than news stories and corporate communications, which were my career, I followed the adage, “Write what you know.” Having spent two-thirds of my life in the St. Louis area, I tapped into one of its revered institutions—the Missouri Botanical Garden—for my second romantic mystery.

You might be surprised to know that the Missouri Botanical Garden, or MOBOT, is the oldest botanical garden in the United States. (I was expecting that honor to go to some place on the east coast since it was settled earlier.)

I’ve visited MOBOT since I was a child for field trips and summer camps, but really came to appreciate it when I grew older. Having lived in Boston and Chicago as well as St. Louis—all of which have winters that can be both frigid and snowy—I crave color by February every year. Between my need for color and with MOBOT providing a visual feast for the eye and soul, it’s not surprising that I became an avid gardener.

If you’re a gardener, too, you know what it’s like to be seduced by all the choices at your local nursery at this time of year, then realize when you get home that you’ve bought way too many flowers, and it will take you the entire weekend to plant them. And then you go to another nursery the next weekend and do the same thing!

One of the things that made MOBOT perfect for a mystery is that the 79-acre garden has more than 30 specialized or sub-gardens. These include a garden for the visually impaired that relies on plants with texture and scents; a maze; a garden designed to attract birds; a geodesic dome for tropical plants, and a Japanese garden devoted to harmony. Plus, there are numerous gardens devoted only to roses, daylilies or irises.

Think of all the places to hide something!

To solve the mystery surrounding the death of her research assistant, my botanist heroine Bree has to decode the clues the assistant left as part of a treasure hunt in MOBOT she had planned for her lover. Bree suspects he’s the killer.

In addition to the physical beauty of the Garden, Bree’s quest is also complicated by the need to decode the “language of flowers”. The use or arrangement of flowers conveys special meanings. For example, a peony represents good fortune and a happy marriage. Did you know that the pink rose expresses platonic love and friendship? A red rose plays an important part in the romance between Bree and Nick, the slacker journalist who partners with her, in solving the mystery.

No Bed of Roses
Feisty botanist Brianna Kincaid reluctantly teams with hard-partying journalist Nick Mancini to find the killer of her research assistant. Initially, the assistant’s death appears to be an accident. However, she has a unique substance in her body that Bree identifies as a poisonous plant. Bree also learns her assistant, Megan, was pregnant.

Bree discovers Megan planned a treasure hunt for the mysterious father of her child in the lush Missouri Botanical Garden. Bree is convinced the clues identify the father, whom Bree believes murdered Megan.

When Bree and Nick succeed at decoding some of Megan's clues, the hunters become the hunted as the killer tries to stop them.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

#ANTIQUES WITH MYSTERY AUTHOR CONNIE BERRY

Meissen Porcelain Chinese Nodder
Connie Berry was born in Wisconsin to second-generation immigrants from Scandinavia and the British Isles. She loves antiques, cold weather, off-season foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. Connie lives in Ohio with her husband, a champion left-side-of-the-road driver, and her completely adorable Shih Tzu, Millie. Learn more about Connie and her books at her website. 

The Chinese Nodder
"Write what you know" is a well-known cliché in the writing community, but the saying can be excellent advice, especially for new authors. "Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on," Jane Austen famously advised her teenage niece Anna in 1814. That's the world Jane lived in and wrote about—her characters drawn from her perceptions of the people she actually knew.

When I planned the world of my mystery series, I began with what I knew as well. Like my protagonist, Kate Hamilton, I grew up in the world of fine antiques. My parents, like hers, were avid collectors who eventually opened a shop, not because they wanted to sell antiques, but because they needed a plausible excuse to keep buying them. Family vacations were thinly disguised buying trips. One particularly successful trip to the east coast ended with boxes filling not only the car's huge trunk but the floor and backseat as well so that I was forced to travel the final hundred miles or so, head bent, on top of the pile. Today my parents would be arrested for child endangerment. Back then I thought nothing of it.

I also thought nothing of the fact that, unlike my friends, our house was filled with old furniture ("Our things have a history," my mother would say. "So much more interesting.") And unusual objects like a larger-than-life-size marble bust of Marie Antoinette and a giant ivory birdcage on a stand. One object in particular intrigued my friends. Made around 1860 by the Meissen Porcelain factory near Dresden, Germany, it was called a "Chinese Nodder," a seated pagoda figure with articulated head, hands, and tongue that moved. Ours was larger than the one shown in the photograph and had lovely Fu Manchu mustaches. I wish I still had it. Meissen Nodders in good condition today sell for between eight and ten thousand dollars.

Growing up with the artifacts of the past instilled in me a lifelong passion for history. History—the past—plays an important role in my stories. The Kate Hamilton Mystery series is set in the UK and features American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton. In the first book, Kate finds clues to the identity of a killer in an eighteenth-century marquetry casket (a small chest for valuables). In the second book (available October 2019), the crimes are tied to the Finchley Hoard, a treasure trove buried in 1549 and unearthed in 1818.

And yet the objects of the past are only one part of my fascination with history. My fictional characters live as we do—on the top layer of a deep and complex history that informs and provides context for their lives. No one really escapes their past. The important thing is how we deal with it. And that provides the tension for the fictional world I write about.

A Dream of Death
A Kate Hamilton Mystery, Book 1

Autumn has come and gone on Scotland's Isle of Glenroth, and the islanders gather for the Tartan Ball, the annual end-of-tourist-season gala. Spirits are high. A recently published novel about island history has brought hordes of tourists to the small Hebridean resort community. On the guest list is American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton. Kate returns reluctantly to the island where her husband died, determined to repair her relationship with his sister, proprietor of the island's luxe country house hotel. The next morning a body is found, murdered in a bizarre reenactment of an infamous crime described in the novel. When the Scottish police discount the historical connection, Kate teams up with a vacationing detective inspector from England to unmask a killer determined to rewrite island history—and Kate's future.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--CHEDDAR MEATLOAF

Cheddar Meatloaf
Yield: 6 servings

The calendar may say April, but you all know how fickle Mother Nature can be this time of year. One day it’s sunny and 70 degrees, the next day it’s cold and rainy and feeling more like November. On those days what’s better than meatloaf?

Ingredients:
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 cup dried minced onion
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lg. egg
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1-1/3 lbs. meatloaf mixture (equal parts ground beef, pork, and veal)
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients.

Whisk the egg. In a large bowl combine the ground meat, the dry ingredients, the egg, and the grated cheddar, mixing by hand until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Shape the meat into a loaf approximately 7” x 4” in a casserole dish.

Combine the BBQ sauce, mustard, and soy sauce. Spread over meatloaf.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remove the meatloaf from pan and allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 15, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--AUTHOR KATHRYN ORZECH'S INSPIRATION FOR HER NOVEL ASYLUM

Author and Connecticut native Kathryn Orzech writes mystery, suspense, and thrillers set in New England “and other exotic locations” where everyday women confront chilling situations, flirt with romance, and brush with the supernatural. Today she joins us to talk about how her first real job out of art school formed the basis for her one of her novels. Learn more about Kathryn and her books at her website. 

Designing Costume Jewelry at The Napier Co.
Before my life as an author, before my graphic design career, and before my ad agency art director job, I designed costume jewelry at The Napier Company in my hometown. Costume Jewelry is defined as jewelry made with inexpensive materials or imitation gems. Napier was once one of the leading brands worn by celebrities like Grace Kelley and Marilyn Monroe. We competed with Monet and Trifari.

A brief history of The Napier Company

Originally The E. A. Bliss Company in Massachusetts, it relocated to Meriden, Connecticut in 1890, was re-named The Napier-Bliss Co. in 1920, and again re-named The Napier Co. in 1922. Newer owners, Victoria & Company, closed the Meriden plant in 1999. However, Napier jewelry continues under the Jones Apparel Group umbrella and can be found at Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Boscov’s department stores. Numerous online retailers offer vintage designs from Napier’s glory days.

Soon after art school, I began work at Napier in 1969. Wowed by the fancy, carpeted executive offices on the second floor, I was directed to my workroom—a different world of drafty windows and creaky wooden floors that seemed closer to circa 1900 yet farther from constant corporate oversight. As I recall, we passed through an Assembly Room where rows of women, 20 to 30 in all, were busy with handwork. I came to learn the women were piece workers, while I was paid an hourly minimum wage of about $1.50.

The fun begins

My new domain was located in the far left corner of that second floor. Small cardboard boxes and bags of beads, filigree stampings, rings and clasps, and spools of chains stored on shelves and in drawers encircled a sturdy wooden worktable in the center of the room. Assembly tools included round and flat-nosed pliers, wire cutters, and a yardstick affixed to the table.

I was free to design what I wanted, sometimes within parameters and always approved by the head designer who hired me.


What fun! Necklaces, bracelets, ring-bracelets, chain belts, and even a Juliet cap. I drew inspiration from an art background and interests in fashion, ancient Egypt, and the hippie era—which pretty much encompassed most of human history. The arrival of new beads, chains, tassels, and stampings, many from Providence, Rhode Island, formerly known as the Jewelry Capital of the World, sparked excitement and new ideas. I would artfully choose beads by size, shape, and color; and select accent beads, and a chain style to match.

When a piece was finished, six duplicate samples routed through departments for estimates of assembly and production time, component costs, and pricing. Depending on all that, the item was either added to the line or trashed.

From grime to shine

Responsibility for the gold plating process—and the gold—was above my pay grade. But I’d watched the preparation by others often enough as they removed oil and grime, and thought I’d give it a go. When my dirty piece needed its sparkle restored, I took it to a rectangular, industrial-size sink in a production area for an acid bath. Three shallow trays fit side-by-side in the sink: the first tray held acid; the second, a solution of neutralizer; and lastly, rinsing water. I’d loop my item, most often a filigree stamping, with a safe eight to twelve inches of copper wire. A quick acid dip turned grime to shine, then a swish in neutralizer and water. I didn’t realize acid had splashed until I felt my legs burn, smelled an acrid odor, looked down and saw smoke coming off my trousers. I was too embarrassed to seek first aid. Spotty scars have long since faded.

Napier design job inspires fiction

Several years of work experience at The Napier Co. inspired both the protagonist and the fictional family jewelry business in Asylum, a dark suspense saga. The real life acid accident served as the basis for a dramatic scene.

Designing for Napier was my first real job and one of the most fun, but I suspected early on that I’d never get out of that magical room. I seized an opportunity to work at a Hartford advertising agency on Constitution Plaza where carpets were thicker and skyscraper views offered a boundless world to this small town girl.

Asylum
In 1899 while her father travels abroad, twelve-year-old Maggie Delito, daughter of the wealthy industrialist, unwittingly witnesses a shocking scandal. The next day, she's dragged from her family's estate and locked in an asylum to ensure her silence. Beneath the noted asylum's polish of respectability, a wicked villainy hides in dank shadows--and Maggie fears she will be its next victim.

Seventy-five years later Laura Delito inherits more than assets when her prestigious family's mysterious past comes knocking--a strange old woman, cryptic messages, and a rare antique key that might unlock the truth. As she pursues clues from the Northeast to North Africa, she fails to see danger looming close to home.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST CHARACTER AUTHOR DEBBIE DE LOUISE'S ABIGAIL NOSTRAN

Today we sit down for a chat with Abigail (Gilly) Nostran from author Debbie De Louise’s Cobble Cove Mysteries.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I can’t remember that. Sorry.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I like a lot of my traits, so it’s hard to list just one. I’m very modest, as you can tell. I also have a great sense of humor, am as curious as a cat, and will stick with my friends through thick and thin, as I’ve stuck with Alicia, the main character of our series.

What do you like least about yourself?
That’s a tough question, too. I guess I’d have to say I take too many risks. I’ve put myself and Alicia into danger by investigating crimes. I can also be too honest for most people because I speak my mind.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
It wasn’t so strange as it was frightening, but Debbie had my son kidnapped in Book 3 of our series.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
I don’t argue with Debbie. I think she does me justice just the way I am.

What is your greatest fear?
I’m afraid that I might be written out of the books one day. I know that’s unlikely because I’ve become quite a regular character now that I recently moved to Cobble Cove and gotten a job at the library with Alicia.

What makes you happy?
Seeing my sons grow up happy without my crummy ex and being friends with Alicia and John. My new love also makes me happy, but I don’t want to reveal spoilers about him for those who haven’t read the books yet.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I wouldn’t rewrite anything. I feel I’ve grown emotionally with each book, which is important for us characters to do.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
I pretty much get along with all the characters. However, if I had to choose, I might say Donald. He teases me a lot, but then again, so does John. They don’t do it in a mean way. They just like to kid around with me.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
I think most people would love to trade places with Pamela because she has so much money, but money didn’t buy her happiness, so I’d rather trade places with Mac because, although he’s had his share of heartache, he remains very optimistic. I absolutely love his reworded quotes, and he also cooks a lot better than I do. The only drawback is that he's a man, and those who know me will tell you that I enjoy being a woman and using my God-given attributes for harmless flirting. 

The only other character I might consider trading places with would be Sneaky, that cute and intelligent library cat, because everyone gives him treats, and he can sleep all day in the sunny window of the children's room. I also like the fact that he's helped Alicia and me uncover clues and solve mysteries. That's not to put Fido down who has also leant a paw in some of our mysteries, but I'd rather be a cat than a dog. Nonetheless, if I had to be one, it would be my own Ruby who is a sweet girl but hasn't shown any aptitude yet for crime solving.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
You can find Debbie at her website where you’ll also find links to her blog and various social media and can sign up for her newsletter. 

What's next for you?
I have no idea, but I love surprises. I know Debbie has some plans for Cobble Cove #5, and I’m sure I’ll play a big role in it along with Alicia.

Love on the Rocks
A Cobble Cove Mystery, Book 4

When Alicia helps plan a Valentine’s Day Party at the Cobble Cove library that also includes a surprise for her newlywed friend, Gilly, things go wrong when a mysterious box of chocolates addressed to the director turns out laced with poison.

Although Alicia promised John she’ll no longer meddle in crime investigations, she and Gilly set out to find the person threatening Sheila who murdered the courier of the deadly candy. While Alicia and Gilly are trying to solve this new Cobble Cove mystery, Sneaky is introduced to Gilly’s new kitten, Kittykai, a calico she brought home from her honeymoon in Hawaii. It’s not like at first sight, but the two cats eventually become friends. They also both play a part in foiling the killer’s murder attempts, but will Alicia and Sheila survive unscathed?

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

AUTHOR EDITH MAXWELL ON THE INSPIRATION FOR HER QUAKER MIDWIFE MYSTERIES

The Biddle and Smart Building
In our continuing series on where authors get their ideas, today we welcome six-time Agatha Award nominee Edith Maxwell, author of The Quaker Midwife Mysteries and The Local Foods Mysteries, as well as award-winning short crime fiction, under her own name and The Country Store Mysteries and The Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries as Maddie Day. When she isn’t killing people on the page or wasting time on Facebook, she enjoys cooking and gardening. Learn more about her and her books at her website and the Wicked Authors blog. 

Quaker Midwife Mysteries Origin Story
Why do I write a mystery series set in a late nineteenth-century New England mill town with an independent Quaker midwife in her twenties as amateur sleuth? Let me tell you.

I’ve lived north of Boston in the northeast corner of Massachusetts for thirty years. For all that time I’ve been a member of Amesbury Friends Meeting (Quaker) but lived in other towns and drove to church on Sunday mornings.

In the summer of 2012 we downsized and bought a house in Amesbury. I already had friends here and loved the historic town full of brick mill buildings and a river that runs right through downtown. And now I could walk to Meeting, but I didn’t know much about Amesbury’s history before moving here.

The next spring I read a newspaper article about the Great Fire of 1888 in Amesbury. The town was world-famous at that time for its graceful well-built carriages, and the fire on the night before Good Friday burned down most of the factories on Carriage Hill. The disaster was only saved from being worse by rain that fell during the night. The Biddle and Smart building was one of the few saved, and the rest of the factory owners resolved to rebuild.

After I read that article, I was strolling to our lovely simple Meetinghouse built in 1851 one First Day (that is, Sunday) morning when a short story popped into my head about the Quaker mill girl who solves the mystery of the arson. Historically the Great Fire wasn’t from arson, but it could have been. I wrote that story, and “Breaking the Silence” was published in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold (Level Best Books, November 2013).

I didn’t want to let the setting and characters go, so I invented the girl’s midwife aunt Rose Carroll, based on my previous experience teaching childbirth education and helping women through labors, both at home and in the hospital. I wrote Delivering the Truth, and sold the series to Midnight Ink. Each of the first three books have been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel, including Turning the Tide this year.

I’m excited Charity's Burden, Quaker Midwife Mystery #4 is out, and I am happy to announce the series is moving over to Beyond the Page Publishing with book five. Look for Judge Thee Not to release this fall! There will be at least two more in the series after that. Note: A revised version of this post appeared on the Short Mystery Fiction Society blog.

Delivering the Truth
A Quaker Midwife Mystery, Book 1

After an 1888 Massachusetts town’s carriage industry is torched and a man is stabbed to death with Quaker midwife Rose Carroll's knitting needle, she is drawn into solving the mystery. A factory-owner's mistress is also murdered, leaving her one-week-old baby without a mother. While struggling with being less than the perfect Friend, Rose draws on her strengths as a counselor and problem solver to bring two murderers to justice.

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