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, June 19, 2019


Today we sit down for a chat with Merry Summerfield from author Kris Pearson’s Merry Summerfield Cozy Mysteries.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
It was a bit staid, to be honest. I’m forty-four and divorced for a while now. And you might think that has set me free, but soon after the divorce, my lovely parents were killed in an awful traffic accident. This left me and my brother Graham the owners of the family home (right over the road from the ocean in Drizzle Bay, New Zealand.) It’s terrible having no parents. It’s wonderful having a rent-free home. But Graham is a fusty lawyer. He’s a few years older than me. He’s a bachelor, and showing no signs of changing his life in the least. He’s a stickler for detail and not very sociable, so, sigggghhhhh……I’m a freelance book editor, and I’ve decided to take on house-and-pet-sitting gigs so I can have a bit of freedom. Have laptop, will travel!

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I like that I’m optimistic. What’s the point of being continually worried and sad? Now that I’m free of Duncan Skene – my serially-unfaithful husband – I’m going to arrange my life so I can please myself, maybe have a few men-friends, make the most of my future. I don’t want to get tied down to one man again. (Not yet, anyway!) I can see the future opening up, and it looks good.

What do you like least about yourself?
My ex-husband. To my great joy he lost out on inheriting a share of our parents’ house because we were already divorced. No, that’s a terrible answer; I don’t like my hips. Good boobs though.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Discovering I was lusting after the vicar was pretty bad. (Not that he was dressed like a vicar at the time.) Finding a body in the aisle of the church was the all-time worst. But strangest? Maybe finding I’d been cast as someone’s mother in a TV commercial in book 2. Then again, she had me feeding lasagna to the local detective who’s the bane of my life and never nice to me. Why did I have to be nice to him?

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
No – she’s OK. I’d like to weigh a bit less, but if I ate less, I could fix that myself. She’s made me very fond of food, and there’s a great bakery in Drizzle Bay, and ten minutes away, in Burkeville, there’s a bar and cafe that’s a total temptation. Run by two American hunks, and I’m still trying to find out their real background. They’re not gay. They’re not father and son. Can they really be ex-Black Ops and in hiding, way down here at the end of the world?

What is your greatest fear?
That I’ll end up alone. I have one brother, who’s showing no signs of reproducing. No parents any longer. And I’m forty-four, with no current partner. I’m going to seriously consider any man my author provides for me.

What makes you happy?
Food, my new car, cats, dogs, walks on the beach, the view from our house (ocean), and nice underwear.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I did NOT enjoy being tied up for a whole night. I almost peed my pretty panties.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
DS Bruce Carver – the afore-mentioned detective. He’s really not keen on me being any help to him. He bites his fingernails and wears staggering amounts of cologne. He makes me sneeze and wheeze. There’s no way he needs to wear so much.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Bruce Carver’s offsider, DC Marian Wick. She has huge eyes and gorgeous legs. (She probably goes running.) I’m sure she’s having a little thing with John at the Burkeville Bar and CafĂ©. I wouldn’t mind having a little thing with him myself. So she gets to do all the sleuthy things that I really want to do. She has all the inside info while I have to prowl around the edges as a member of the public.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
She’s taking a risk, writing about me! Kris Pearson is the author of sixteen (I think) contemporary romances. They’re sexy and pretty intense. She’s had five of them translated into Spanish. She’s also rewritten five as much sweeter stories. You can find them all at http://www.krispearson.com She wrote the sweeter ones as Kerri Peach. (Peaches and Pears – get it?)

Murder in the Aisle is the first Merry Summerfield book, and she’s more than halfway finished the second, which will be Xmas Marks the Spot. She has at least two more planned. I’ve seen the covers. They’re very different from her romances – that’s why I say she’s taking a risk. But I suspect she wanted a change, and she does have one heck of a sense of the ridiculous, so I think she’s enjoying herself and maybe this is the ‘the real Kris’? She lives in the capital city of New Zealand, and has been married to the same nice man forever. They met working together in TV.

What's next for you?
Finding a quarter of a cow in my brother Graham’s car. With a warning notice for someone I’ve never heard of. A ride in a helicopter. Meeting the vicar’s sister from England. Watching her fall in love with Erik from the Burkeville Bar and Cafe. Being a bit jealous, to be honest. And helping to solve something a lot worse than an old flower arranger dead in the aisle of Saint Agatha’s. Xmas Marks the Spot had us all scratching our heads.

Murder in the Aisle
A Merry Summerfield Cozy Mystery, Book 1

Hi – I’m freelance editor Merry Summerfield, and it’s another fantastic day in drowsy Drizzle Bay. That’s until Vicar Paul and I find Isobel Crombie lying dead in a sea of flowers in the aisle of Saint Agatha’s church. Who’d kill a harmless old girl like her?

In no time flat I’ve scored a house-and-pet sitting gig – Isobel’s remote seaside cottage and her two darling dogs. It comes complete with hollyhocks and seagulls and a SEAL from California who looks a lot like a younger Jon Bon Jovi. He's certainly cute, but aren’t his questions about Isobel's house a bit – well, suspicious?

Then I find a secret office stuffed with alarming files about car thefts and Black Ops assassins. Maybe Isobel wasn't as harmless as we all thought?

Sleuthing’s more fun than I’ve had in ages, but how safe am I on my own now things are unraveling? Little white Bichons are hopeless attack dogs.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Going blueberry picking? It’s that time of year. Here’s an easy blueberry ricotta cake recipe I came up with after realizing I’d bought twice as much ricotta as I needed for a dinner recipe. This cake can also be made with frozen blueberries if you don’t have fresh ones on hand.

Blueberry Ricotta Cake
Serves 8

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1-1/2 cups ricotta
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh blueberries, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9"-diameter cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick spray.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in butter, then 3/4 cup blueberries.

Pour batter into pan. Scatter remaining blueberries over top.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding.

Monday, June 17, 2019


People have been crafting dolls for thousands and thousands of years. In ancient times they were made of any available materials, including clay, stone, bone, ivory, rags, leather, wax, and wood. Dolls have even been made from paper. Dolls were used as playthings for children and in various mystical and religious rituals and ceremonies.

The handcrafted doll featured above was a gift from a relative who brought it back from a trip to Hawaii. It’s crafted from many natural materials such as straw, shells, nuts, and spices.

In Death By Killer Mop Doll Anastasia creates dolls from string mop heads.

Death By Killer Mop Doll
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 2

Overdue bills and constant mother vs. mother-in-law battles at home are bad enough. But crafts editor Anastasia Pollack's stress level is maxed out when she and her fellow American Woman editors get roped into unpaid gigs for a revamped morning TV show. Before the glue is dry on Anastasia's mop dolls, morning TV turns crime drama when the studio is trashed and the producer is murdered. Former co-hosts Vince and Monica—sleazy D-list celebrities—stand out among a lengthy lineup of suspects, all furious over the show's new format. And Anastasia has no clue her snooping has landed her directly in the killer's unforgiving spotlight.

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Friday, June 14, 2019


Today we sit down for a chat with mystery and suspense author Lynn Chandler Willis. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
In the 7th grade. Treasure Island was required reading that year, and I was totally mesmerized by an author’s ability to transport a reader to an entirely different world.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
About ten years from when I got serious about it to the year my first book was published.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Traditionally, but open to all means.

Where do you write?
My kitchen table or at the local coffee shop when I need to get out of the house.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I need chaos or at least a soundtrack. I can’t concentrate in silence. I’ve found my calling writing about the Appalachian region and the people who call it home. Part of their culture is Bluegrass and good ol’ mountain music with a lot of banjo and fiddle. Even when I’m not writing, that’s the music I’m usually listening to.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
With the Ava Logan series, a good portion of the character and small town newspaper business is very true-to-life. I owned and published a small-town paper for 13 years. Granted, I didn’t have near as many murder investigations as Ava has, but I can vouch that the small-town politics are just as a ruthless in real life!

Describe your process for naming your character?
The name has to fit the character’s personality and the time frame, although old-fashioned names are becoming popular again. I’m big on the meaning behind names and try to match the name to the character trait I’m hoping for.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Both. In the Ava Logan series, I use real settings and regions, even some of the towns. I make up street names, store names, etc…

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Mary McCarter is an Appalachian Granny Healer. In her early 70s, if you saw her today you’d think of a 1960’s hippie. She’s quiet by nature, spiritual, and deeply in tune with her surroundings. She and her son, Keeper, are introduced in Tell Me No Secrets and their story continues into book three, Tell Me You Love Me.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Probably that I work best with a lot of activity around me. Silence disrupts my concentration!

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Anything by Megan Abbott – her use of each and every word is mind-blowing. There isn’t a wasted word in her books and even the “a” and “the” serves a purpose. Her words are pure lyrical.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I had stood my ground on my first published novel and went with the opening I originally wrote. The editor and publisher made me change it and years later I still wish I had fought for it more.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who block the grocery store aisle with their carts. Road rage in the grocery store LOL! And the fact McDonald’s ice cream machines never seems to work. Other that those two, I’m pretty easy going.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
My dog Finn, pen and paper, orange-speckled Life Savers.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
A gluer in a foam manufacturing plant. I lasted one shift LOL!

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.

Ocean or mountains?
Oh mountains all the way!

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country to my bones.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m working on a stand-alone in the Crime genre set – where else – in the NC mountains.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’ve been told I write fantastic characters who are so real they could be your neighbors. They aren’t glamorous or rich or have fancy cars – like most people. My books aren’t fantasy trips to exotic locations. They’re more immersive than escapist. They’re down to earth.

Tell Me No Secrets
An Ava Logan Mystery, Book 2

In the heart of Appalachia, newspaper publisher Ava Logan should feel joy and pride as she watches her thirteen-year-old daughter being baptized in the cold water of Jackson Creek—but she can’t rejoice when thoughts of an employee who failed to show for work keep pulling her attention away. 

Ava’s convinced something horrible has happened to Scott. Then his backpack is found floating in the same river her daughter is being baptized in. 

While clue after clue leads her deeper into the hollers of Appalachia—ripe with tradition and folktales, store front religion, and the darkest of secrets, Ava discovers truths about those close to her and about her own beliefs. 

With her own life in jeopardy, how deep will she go to find the truth? What secrets will she expose? What secrets will she keep?

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Thursday, June 13, 2019


Today we’re joined by Luke Murphy, international bestselling author of the Calvin Watters Mysteries and the Charlene Taylor Mysteries, here to discuss where he gets the ideas for his books. Luke played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. He’s also worked as a radio journalist and currently teaches and writes an award-winning sports column. Learn more about Luke and his books at his website.

One of the fun aspects about writing and releasing novels is that you know that once your friends and family read your books, they will never look at you the same again. It’s funny to hear my wife’s friends tell her that she should sleep with one eye open, because I have a really weird mind.

People often ask me where my ideas come from.

My books are complete works of fiction. I don’t base the characters or plots on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictly coincidence.

There is not a single moment in time when my ideas come to be, but circumstances over the years that lead to my stories: personal experiences, observations, news stories, things I hear from friends and family members.

You can say that I’m old school. While many authors probably add their ideas to their iPhones, I always carry a notebook around. If I get an idea, if I hear of something that could potentially turn into a great, entertaining story, I jot it down.

My wife calls me an introvert, because I’m not a big talker. But I enjoy listening and observing, and it’s during those conversations and watching when ideas occur to me. Whether it’s hearing a story that might ignite an idea, or just seeing someone somewhere, watching their mannerisms and physical appearance that could spark a character in my next novel.  

My books become real from mixing these events, taking advantage of experts in their field and adding my wild imagination. The internet also provides a wealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.

I’ve been very fortunate to meet some people who are willing to share their vast knowledge and experience to help in my research purposes. These selfless individuals take time out of their busy careers to answer questions, and also have me wondering about endless possibilities. I’ve worked with police departments, medical experts, city attorneys, etc.

Plot: I get my ideas from stories I hear about, whether through reading (newspapers, magazines, etc.), what I hear (radio) or what I see (TV, movies, internet, etc.). The plot is completely fictional. I wouldn’t say that one thing or person influences my writing, but a variety of my life experiences all have led to my passion in the written word.

Setting: I usually set my stories in cities I’ve visited and fell in love with, and if I haven’t visited, the internet basically puts me right there.

Main Characters: I think that every main character created by an author has a touch of themselves in there somewhere. I’ve used much of my athletic background when creating my protagonist Charlene Taylor. Even though Taylor is female, I’ve created a tomboy, a “son her father never had”, in making her athletic and tough.

Rock-A-Bye Baby
A Charlene Taylor Mystery, Book 2

An aunt’s worst nightmare…
In the city of Denver, a series of baby kidnappings has the town devastated.  With no ransom demands and no contact from the perpetrators, local law enforcement is at a dead end. No motive equals no answers.

A cop’s personal obsession…
Charlene Taylor’s niece becomes a victim, and the LAPD detective is thrown headfirst into a whirlwind case with similarities to one from seven years earlier. Out of her jurisdiction, and with no friends or leads, Charlene must walk-the-line between cop and sister.

Who can she trust?
Charlene has to decide who’s an ally, and when an unlikely partner steps forward, they must race against the clock: because that critical 48 hour window has come and gone.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York's Catskill Mountains, the setting for her Hemlock Lake mystery trilogy. She emerged from the University of Arizona with a degree and a tan, and joined Volunteers in Service to America where chance encounters led her to the land of TV news and 25 years as a researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a high school substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington where she reads, swims, walks, gardens, and refrains from cooking. Today she joins us to discuss how a major change in her life led to the creation of a mystery series. Learn more about Carolyn and her books at her website.

Change, Chaos, and Conflict Build Characters
Confession: I’m not a full-blown control freak, but I am the kind of person who prefers to keep both hands on the wheel and my foot in the vicinity of the brake. If I’m heading for unfamiliar territory, I want a map, a GPS, or at least a solid set of directions describing landmarks, hazards, and possible alternate routes.

But if I hadn’t taken a leap beyond my comfort zone—not that TV news producing was all that comfortable a zone—I might never have created substitute teacher Barbara Reed. And without Barb, I wouldn’t have created her scruffy orange dog Cheese Puff, or the quirky residents of fictional Reckless River, Washington.

I didn’t leap by choice. Dreading a mind-numbing commute, I abandoned TV, dug out my teaching degree, and went back to high school. The landing from my leap wasn’t soft. More than thirty years had passed since I did my student teaching. Things had changed. A lot.

Sure, the basic elements were familiar—hallways, rooms, desks, books, principals, teachers, students—but that was about it. Rules had relaxed. Dress codes were a joke Boundaries were blurred. Expectations seemed lower. And conversations I would have had only in a whisper with a close friend were often held in outside voices.

My first day was nearly my last. I kept at it only by reminding myself that 1) I had a mortgage, 2) the old saying that what didn’t kill you made you stronger might actually be true, 3) if I took enough subbing jobs, I could afford to spend the summer writing, and 4) the experience would make me more aware of kids’ problems and more involved in the community.

I kept a journal, recording the outlandish, the humorous, and the heartbreaking. I jotted down details of successes (few) and failures (many). The notes were aimed at making sense of my experiences and finding my way toward better classroom control and less chaos. It wasn’t long, however, before I realized the chaos journal was a gold mine yielding idea nuggets for plot and character. So far I’ve mined ideas for ten books in the Subbing Isn’t for Sissies series, and have an eleventh releasing soon.

Of course, I had to hammer and melt and shape and polish the idea nuggets. I changed names and character details. Because the teen years are filled with drama, and because teens often blow things out of proportion, I did the same. The band at fictional Captain Meriwether High School is not just loud; it’s so loud Barb needs earplugs when she subs. A history teacher dresses as General Grant, complete with a cigar, and sets off the fire alarm. The cooking teacher specializes in bizarre recipes featuring eels.

Keeping chaos in mind, I populated Barb’s life outside of school with characters I’d like to know and others I’d drive miles to avoid. I gave her a wealthy and generous neighbor with a shady background. Mrs. Ballantine believes the bigger the problem, the more strings of pearls she’ll need to wear to deal with it. For a touch of romance with complications, I paired Barb with a drug cop raising a drama queen daughter. For conflict, I gave Barb a philandering ex-husband she can’t seem to shake, a domineering sister with definite ideas about life choices, and an arch enemy in the form of the woman who manages her condo complex.

When I wrote the first book in the series I had two small dogs. Both were cute and cuddly and full of personality. Both were also extremely stubborn and despite months of training, seldom obeyed. I rolled them into one entitled mutt and named him after my favorite snack.

To generate plots and provide crimes for my amateur sleuth to investigate, I populated Reckless River with characters ripped from the headlines—politicians without scruples, drug dealers, the wealthy and entitled, striking teachers, and even Bigfoot.

Why not? The Footster is a Pacific Northwest icon. And, once I went over the top in terms of character development, it was easy to keep going.

No Substitute for Murder
Subbing Isn’t for Sissies series, Book 1

Divorced from a philandering con man and downsized from her job as a talk radio show producer, Barbara Reed is desperate. She’s got a mortgage, a college loan, an aging car, and a ten-pound dog named Cheese Puff. But when she signs on as a high school substitute and finds a history teacher strangled with his own outdated tie, her stress level soars.

The list of suspects is a long one, but police put Barb at the top. When she discovers a second body, the noose of circumstantial evidence tightens. With help from the showgirl widow of a reputed mobster, a trash-scavenging derelict, and members of the Cheese Puff Care and Comfort Committee, Barb struggles to keep a grip on her job, her sanity, and her freedom.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Panzanella, sometimes called panmolle, is a Tuscan chopped salad that includes stale bread soaked in olive oil and toasted. It's a perfect meal for a hot summer day. I’ve added mozzarella and salami for a traditional Italian antipasto twist. Buon appetito!

Serves 4 as a meal or 6-8 as an appetizer

1 stale baguette, cut into bite-size cubes
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Swedish dill mustard
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 teaspoon salt
1 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quartered (depending on size)
1 cucumber, diced
1/4 lb. salami, diced
1 cup fresh perlini mozzarella

Preheat over to 375 degrees F. Toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place on cookie sheet. Back 15 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

While bread cubes are baking, blanch broccoli. To blanch, bring pot of water to boil, add salt and florets. Boil for 1-1/2 minutes. While broccoli is boiling, fill bowl with water and ice cubes. Drain broccoli and place in ice water to stop cooking process and cool. Drain cooled broccoli and set aside.

Place vegetables, bread cubes, salami, and mozzarella in large bowl.

Whisk together remaining oil, vinegar, and mustard. Pour into bowl, and toss ingredients to coat. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 10, 2019


Apparently, the yarn-bombing craze is still going strong. I came across this yarn-bombed tree in Lambertville, NJ over Memorial Day weekend. I love the fact that the yarn-bomber used not only a variety of colors but also a variety of patterns.

Thursday, June 6, 2019


In our continuing series on where authors get their ideas, today we feature award-winning author Judythe Morgan. As an Air Force daughter then an Army wife, Judythe has seen a lot of the world. She’s been an antiques dealer, teacher, former mayor's wife, and sometimes-church pianist with some unique experiences to blend into her stories. Learn more about Judythe and her books at her website

The Unusual Birth of a Story…

When Love Blooms, Andrew Fitzpatrick and Darcy Clark’s story, came to life for a story contest.

A very unusual contest.

Submissions had to follow a provided synopsis and hero/heroine specifics. The hero was to be between twenty-five and thirty-five years old, a teacher with a stubble beard, and one of eight children—specifically four brothers and three sisters. The heroine had to be between twenty-two and thirty-two, an only child, and a landscape architect.

There were also certain plot requirements.

Being a pantster, I wasn’t sure about that part. Coming up with storylines is rarely a problem for me. I play “what if?” and listen to my characters. Following an outline, on the other hand, offered a challenge I felt would build my writing skills. So, I entered the contest.

Alas, I didn't win. I wasn’t all that disappointed, though. It wasn’t the way I usually create stories. I was busy on a new project. I stuffed the contest manuscript away.

Fast forward a few years, and my critique group asked about the old manuscript. Like me, they’d liked Andy and Darcy. They encouraged me to do a rewrite, this time listening to how the characters wanted their story told.

When I pulled it out, I discovered Andy and Darcy had been waiting for me.

I know if you’re not a fiction writer, that sounds more than a little strange, but when writing (or reading), story characters do become real people to me.

You'll notice from the cover I kept Andy's beard. He remained a teacher, the special education teacher he wanted to be. Darcy stayed a landscape designer in her family’s garden shop. The story plot became theirs. This time there’s a touch of mystery.

An interesting thing happened during the rewrite process, the seven brothers and sisters began chattering in my head wanted me to tell their stories. That gave birth to The Fitzpatrick Family series about the eight siblings. Each novella is a standalone with brothers and sisters popping in and out of each other’s story.

Book 1, When Love Blooms, is Andy and Darcy's story. In Book 2, twin sisters, Rebecca and Sarah Fitzpatrick, find their soul mates in When Love Returns, a story of second chance love. Brothers Joshua Fitzpatrick (an Army sniper), Samuel Fitzpatrick (a missionary), and, baby sister Faith (a lawyer) will share their stories over the next three novellas.

When Love Blooms
After a hit-and-run accident leaves her mother confined to a special care facility, Darcy Clark abandons her dream of an art career to focus on the family’s struggling landscape business.

At-risk students from her old high school become the labor force on a city park project, and their teacher, Andy Fitzpatrick shows up to supervise his students. The chemistry between Darcy and Andy is instant.

But will a secret link between Andy and her mother’s accident kill the attraction before love can bloom?

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019


Author Lois Winston, she who writes about me, stops by today to talk about her latest addiction. Maybe she’ll write me an addiction like this and forget about dumping dead bodies at my feet? A reluctant amateur sleuth can only hope…

I’ve recently become hooked on crossword puzzles. With everything else I have to squeeze into the twenty-four hours of each day, this seems rather puzzling to me—pun intended! After all, I have a book to finish writing, and contrary to Anastasia’s hopes, I have no intention of refraining from dumping dead bodies at her feet. My readers would be extremely upset.

I also have a staggering number of unread books piling up on my bookshelves and in my Kindle. At this rate I’ll need to live well past the century mark before I get to them all. And yet, I keep buying more books! Then there’s life in general, including family responsibilities, and of course, the need to sleep at least several hours a night.

So why am I devoting nearly an hour each day to the crossword puzzles in my two daily newspapers? (Yes, I still read newspapers. It’s where I get many of my ideas for my novels and all those dead bodies Anastasia complains about.)

I think my new addiction must be attributed to my dear friend Janice. She passed away recently after an eight-month battle with Stage 4 cancer. I spent much of that time taking her to doctor appointments and chemo and visiting with her during her many hospitalizations. Janice always carried around crossword puzzles with her. As a retired R.N., she knew the importance of keeping her mind sharp, and she did so by exercising her brain in two ways: She was a voracious reader of mysteries and romances and a diehard crossword puzzle fan.

Having sat with her during hours of chemo, I know how difficult it is to concentrate on a book during these sessions, given the constant chatter from fifteen other chemo patients, their accompanying friends or family members, and the nursing staff, all filling one fairly small room. In addition, a TV was always blaring in the background. So Janice passed the time working her crossword puzzles when she tired of conversation.

I sat down to work my first crossword puzzle after returning from her memorial service. It had been an extremely emotional day, especially since, as her oldest friend, I was one of the speakers. Perhaps she was somehow sending me a subliminal message from Heaven that day. She had always believed in angels, ghosts, and premonitions. I’ve always pooh-poohed the supernatural. Was this her way of telling me she was right and I was wrong? Maybe. Because now I’m working crossword puzzles each day to honor her memory and our lifelong friendship. Hopefully, it will help keep my mind sharp. After all, there are more Anastasia books to write and all those books to read, especially if it’s going to take me decades to do so.

How about you? Have you ever had an experience that caused you to rethink how you felt about something?

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


There are some staples I always keep in the freezer for those times when I don’t have time to make a dessert totally from scratch but still want to whip up something special. These include frozen fruit along with frozen pie dough, fillo dough, puff pastry, and pre-baked fillo dough shells.

These raspberry tartlets are made using the pre-baked fillo dough shells and take only a few minutes of prep time and 10 minutes in the toaster oven.

Dessert in a Jiffy Raspberry Tartlets

Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed raspberries*
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup sugar
24 mini pre-baked fillo dough shells (available in freezer section)

Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small saucepan until smooth. Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and fruit. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continually, until thickened. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Spoon fruit filling evenly into tartlet shells. If you have fruit filling left over, refrigerate. You can warm it in the microwave and over vanilla ice cream another night.

Place on baking sheet and bake in toaster oven at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.**

Place on wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

* You can also do a combination of raspberries and blueberries.

** You can skip this step and serve immediately, but I like to crisp up the shells a bit more.

Monday, June 3, 2019


With summer right around the corner, many of you will be heading to the shore, whether at oceanside or lakeside, for vacation. So today I thought I’d share with you this Cool Chick cross stitched tote by Lois Winston (she who writes about me) from the June 2008 issue of The Cross Stitcher.

Maybe someday if she stops depositing dead bodies at my feet and writes me out of the debt she wrote me into, I'll be able to relax at the beach once again. What do you think?

By the way, if you're stuck without vacation plans and dealing with the heat and humidity, you might want to cool off vicariously by reading Drop Dead Ornaments, the latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery. Think mind over matter. Think snow!

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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