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, October 16, 2019

THE NEXT BEST THING TO TELEPORTING

What she really wanted to do was teleport. She settled for the next best thing.
Every so often a guest blogger bails, usually for a legitimate reason. Life gets in the way, and that’s understandable. Such was the case with today’s scheduled guest. So I turned to my author. I figure, given all the dead bodies Lois Winston throws in my path, the least she can do is take over occasionally when I have a blog hole to fill. Right?

As luck would have it, Lois and her husband recently returned from a cruise up to New England and Canada, and Lois was able to fulfill a lifelong dream. No, she didn’t teleport (after all, the signs on the ship forbade it), but she did get to do the next best thing. She got to fly.
Lois Winston flying like Superman. 
The ship they were on featured iFly, which is billed as indoor skydiving, but according to Lois, really isn’t. You don’t jump and plummet several thousand feet. Instead, you soar on a cushion of controlled air. According to Lois, it really does feel like you’re flying.

Lois said the experience was totally amazing. The one downside? It only lasted a little more than a minute before it was the next person’s turn to fly.

Now I'm wondering if she's going to have me flying in my next adventure--or perhaps teleporting? You never know what trouble she'll get me into.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

JOIN LOIS AND ANASTASIA ON THE GREAT ESCAPES BOOK TOUR!

Today marks the kick-off of the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, the eighth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. Over the next two weeks Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide will be featured at twenty-two different blog and review sites. Stop by these sites each day for guest posts and interviews with author Lois Winston and me, her reluctant amateur sleuth. You’ll also find a few craft projects, reviews, and a Rafflecopter to enter for a chance to win one of five e-copies of Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide that will be given away at the end of the tour. Hope to see you on the tour!

Book Tour Schedule
October 15 – A Chick WhoReads – (review)
October 15 – Reading is My Superpower – (craft post)
October 16 – Brooke Blogs – (craft post) 
October 16 – I'm All About Books – (spotlight) 
October 17 – The Book Decoder– (review) 
October 18 – Hearts &Scribbles – (author guest post) 
October 18 – LibriAmoriMiei – (review) 
October 19 – FUONLYKNEW – (spotlight) 
October 20 – Cozy Up WithKathy – (author interview) 
October 21  Here's How ItHappened – (character guest post)
October 22 – Mysteries withCharacter – (author interview) 
October 22 – StoreyBook Reviews – (author guest post) 
October 23 – Laura'sInterests – (spotlight)   
October 23 – Baroness' BookTrove – (review) 
October 23 – EskimoPrincess Book Reviews – (spotlight)
October 24 – Celticlady'sReviews – (spotlight) 
October 24 – My ReadingJourneys – (review) 
October 25 – I Read WhatYou Write – (spotlight) 
October 26 – Literary Gold – (spotlight) 
October 26 – Escape WithDollycas Into A Good Book – (author interview) 
October 27 – ElizabethMcKenna - Author – (spotlight)
October 28 – My Journey Back – (character guest post) 

Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide
Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend (and possible spy) Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.

In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?

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Monday, October 14, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--AUTHOR CONNIE BERRY ON CRAFTS FROM THE PAST

Hoxne Hoard Bracelet
Today we take a look at crafts from the past with author Connie Berry. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques collectors in a home filled with objects from the past. Connie loves history, cute animals, travel with a hint of adventure, and all things British. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

Digging Up the Past
Writing about antiques comes naturally to me. My parents were dealers with a national reputation for high-quality objects, sound research, and fair prices. Like me, my protagonist, Kate, grew up in the antiques trade. Each of the novels in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series revolves around a valuable object that proves central to the resolution of the crime. 

In my series debut, A Dream of Death, the object was an eighteenth-century marquetry casket containing clues to both an historic and a current-day murder. In book two, A Legacy of Murder, that object is a blood-red ruby ring, part of a trove known as The Finchley Hoard, discovered in 1818 by an enterprising but ultimately hapless descendant of the man who buried it. 

A Legacy of Murder is set in Suffolk, England, a gently rolling, rural county, known for its ancient Roman culture as well as for the Anglo-Saxons who settled there in the mid-fifth century A.D. This area, known as East Anglia, is famous for the discovery of buried treasure troves—unearthed by archaeologists, metal detectorists, and sometimes ordinary folk. The wonderful British TV series, The Detectorists, was set in north Essex, just over the Suffolk border.

In past centuries, before banks and safe-deposit boxes, the safest place to conceal your wealth in times of emergency was the ground—as long as you remembered where you'd put it. Often, through death or other disasters, buried treasure was lost and remained undiscovered for centuries. Three of the most famous in Suffolk are The Mildenhall Treasury, The Hoxne Hoard, and the treasures of Sutton Hoo.

The Great Dish
The Mildenhall Treasury, thirty-four pieces of Roman silver tableware from the fourth century A.D., was unearthed in 1942 by a farmer ploughing a field. The pieces were claimed by the landowner, who actually used them at home until 1946 when the existence of the trove was made known to authorities and legally declared "treasure trove." 

In England, valuables found hidden without any knowledge of their owner, belong to the Crown. The Mildenhall Treasure was subsequently acquired by the British Museum. The most famous piece is the Great Dish (also known as the Neptune Dish from the face of a sea-god at its center), measuring about two feet in diameter and weighing just over 18 pounds. An interesting feature of the collection is the decoration, combining traditional pagan themes with a touch of the new Christian faith. Two small dishes bear on their undersides scratched graffiti in Greek: eutheriou, meaning "property of Eutherios." One Roman citizen, dead or alive, left his treasure behind him.

The Hoxne Hoard is the largest hoard of late Roman silver and gold ever found in Britain. Discovered in 1992 by metal detectorist Eric Lawes, the hoard consists of almost 15,000 gold, silver, and bronze coins, and approximately 200 items of silver tableware and gold jewelry, now on permanent display at the British Museum. The hoard was found carefully wrapped and stored in a number of decayed wooden boxes and fabric bags. The coins were all dated after 407 A.D., the end of Roman rule in Britain. A lovely gold bracelet (shown at the top of this post) bears the Latin description Vtre Felix Domina Ivliane, meaning "Use [this] happily, Lady Juliane." That makes me sad. Were Juliane and her family forced to flee for their lives? Sounds like the beginning of a novel to me.

Sutton Hoo Helmet
Sutton Hoo, on an estuary of the North Sea, is the site of twenty or so sixth- and early seventh-century earthen burial mounds. One held an undisturbed ship-burial containing a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artifacts. While the originals reside in the British Museum, my husband and I explored the site a few years ago and took in the wonderful reproductions in the Visitor Centre. Even though no body was found in the tomb (dissolved long ago by the acidic soil?), many scholars believe the tomb belonged to Rædwald, King of East Anglia, who died in 624 A.D. The most famous artifact is the Sutton Hoo helmet made of skillfully embellished panels of tinned bronze. 

Ready to grab your metal detector and head for Suffolk? Good luck!


BREAKING NEWS!!! London's Daily Mail reported that Don Crawley, a Suffolk builder and amateur detectorist, unearthed a stash of 99 immaculately preserved Anglo-Saxon coins worth up to £50,000 dating back to the reign of Ethelred the Unready 1,000 years ago. One expert suggested they were buried by someone fearing a judgment day.

Have you ever made a surprising find? What's the most precious object ever bequeathed to you?

A Legacy of Murder
A Kate Hamilton Mystery, Book 2

What could be lovelier than Christmas in England? American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton arrives in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, dreaming of log fires, steaming wassail, and Tom Mallory, the detective inspector she met during a recent murder investigation in Scotland. Kate also looks forward to spending time with her daughter, Christine, an intern at Finchley Hall, famous for the unearthing in 1818 of a treasure trove known as The Finchley Hoard. But when the body of another intern is found floating in Blackwater Lake, romance takes a back seat. Long Barston is on Tom Mallory’s patch, and the clues to the killer’s identity point backward more than four hundred years to a legacy of murder and a blood-red ruby ring.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

#ADDAMSFEST TAKES OVER ANASTASIA'S HOMETOWN

Replica of the Addams Family house, once located in Westfield, NJ
Sometimes the stars align, and for the town of Westfield, NJ, where the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries (those books author Lois Winston writes about me) take place, such is the case this October. Westfield is the hometown of cartoonist Charles Addams of The Addams Family fame—Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, Pugsly and their extended family. Last year the town decided to celebrate their favorite son by holding Addamsfest. This year’s Addamsfest also coincides with the release of the new Addams Family movie. Perfect timing, right?

Store windows all over town are painted for Addamsfest. 
If you live within driving distance of Westfield, NJ and love Halloween and The Addams Family, you won’t want to miss Addamsfest. You can check out the schedule here. Unfortunately, Charles Addams’ house burned down many years ago. So don’t expect to find a tour of the Victorian he used as a model for the home in his cartoons, but in honor of Addamsfest, there’s a replica (shown above) on a small patch of land in the middle of the lake in the center of town.

And if you do come for some of the events, who knows? You just might bump into me. I’ll be out and about tracking down a killer terrorizing my neighborhood. You can read all about it in A Stitch To Die For, currently on sale through the end of October.

A Stitch to Die For
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 5

Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

MYSTERY AUTHOR MARILYN LEVINSON/ALLISON BROOKS ON THE ORIGINS OF HALLOWEEN

A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. As Allison Brook she writes the Haunted Library mystery series. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series and the Twin Lakes series. Today Marilyn joins us to discuss the origins of Halloween. Learn more about Marilyn and her books at her website. 

The Haunted Library Mystery Series takes place in Clover Ridge, Connecticut, where Carrie Singleton is the head of programs and events. She is the only person, besides her four-year-old cousin, who can see and talk to Evelyn Havers, a former library aide who haunts the library. Carrie’s feline Smoky Joe is the library’s popular resident cat. Her boyfriend, Dylan Avery, is an insurance investigator. Carrie finds herself embroiled in solving mysteries and murders. Evelyn often helps her, except when the suspects happen to be her relatives.

Halloween has become one of our most popular holidays. It certainly wasn't the case when I was growing up in Brooklyn. Then we did our best to avoid the boys running around with chalk in their hands intent on drawing a line down the back of our jackets while they shouted "Halloween!" These days it's the second most popular holiday regarding sales and decorations. Pumpkins abound on doorsteps and in windows, the colorful fruit of autumn. (Yes, it's technically a fruit because it has seeds though we think of it as a vegetable.)

Halloween began with the Celtic celebration of Samhain—the midway point between the fall equinox and the winter solstice—the end of harvest and a time of increasing darkness and the advent of winter.  For those of us in the U.S., it's the start of our holiday season: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa, which occur around the Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year. No big surprise that all three are holidays of light.

The ancient Celts celebrated Samhain with bonfires, many of which burned sacrifices. They feared that the dead might return at this time of the year and wore costumes to scare away the ghosts of the dead. When the Christian reign began, Pope Gregory the Third instituted All Saints Day on November First; the eve before became All Hallows Eve and evolved into Halloween. Countries created their own unique way of celebrating the holiday. In Mexico, November First became El Día de los Muertos. Instead of fearing the dead, Mexicans picnic in cemeteries and share the day with their departed.

Holidays evolve as society changes. We in the United States celebrate Halloween with decorations, parties, and costumes. The dark side of the unknown aspect of Halloween still intrigues us, but a playfulness has set in as well. For many years now, children have worn costumes to go Trick or Treating. Now many adults dress in costumes. Instead of Trick or Treating, they attend private parties or take part in a parade. There are several popular costume parades such as the one in Greenwich Village in Manhattan every year.

Death Overdue, the first book in my Haunted Library series, starts out in October. My sleuth, Carrie Singleton, has a low-level job in the Clover Ridge Library in Clover Ridge, CT. She's bored and restless and ready to move on. Which is when she is offered the position of head of programs and events at the library. To find out why Carrie decides to stay in Clover Ridge, how she gets involved in a cold case and a recent murder, and how she meets her future boyfriend, you'll have to read Death Overdue.

Carrie is well aware that Halloween is a huge event and makes sure that the library is decorated accordingly—with cutouts of skeletons, pumpkins and black cats. She also arranges a Halloween costume party for adults, the first in the library's history. All those who attend—including library staff—must dress as a literary or movie character. Carrie comes as a female Sherlock Holmes. Others come as Snow White, Captain Jack Sparrow, Alice in Wonderland, Superman, Scarlett O'Hara, and Santa Claus. She hires a magician to perform and a storyteller who tells ghostly and grizzly tales. After that, the guests parade around the room while a group of judges choose the best and the funniest costumes. A good time is had by all. Except when Carrie leaves, she discovers that someone has broken a window in her car. The dark side of the holiday—and of all mysteries.

Death Overdue
A Haunted Library Mystery

Carrie Singleton is just about done with Clover Ridge, Connecticut until she's offered a job as the head of programs and events at the spooky local library, complete with its own librarian ghost. Her first major event is a program presented by a retired homicide detective, Al Buckley, who claims he knows who murdered Laura Foster, a much-loved part-time library aide who was bludgeoned to death fifteen years earlier. As he invites members of the audience to share stories about Laura, he suddenly keels over and dies.

The medical examiner reveals that poison is what did him in and Carrie feels responsible for having surged forward with the program despite pushback from her director. Driven by guilt, Carrie’s determined to discover who murdered the detective, convinced it’s the same man who killed Laura all those years ago. Luckily for Carrie, she has a friendly, knowledgeable ghost by her side. But as she questions the shadows surrounding Laura's case, disturbing secrets come to light and with each step Carrie takes, she gets closer to ending up like Al.

Now it's due or die for Carrie in Death Overdue the delightful first in a new cozy series by Allison Brook.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

AUTHOR INSPIRATION WITH DEB McCASKEY

The author with a Packard similar to the one her sleuth drove
Before having the time to write fiction, Deb McCaskey’s life was spent mostly as a newspaper editor and reporter in community news, which gave her an appreciation for a good story and a good quote. Writing a novel was always in the back of her mind, and she began this one -- a cozy mystery set in the Golden Age of Hollywood -- during National Novel Writing Month a few years ago. Learn more about Deb at her website.

First, I’m honored to be invited to the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers party to talk about my novel Stardusted and how it came to be set in its particular time and place. It started one October a few years ago, when I was talking to a good friend, Janice Peacock, about her plans to work on a new book in her Glass Bead Mysteries series during NaNoWriMo. When I said I’d always thought that sounded like fun, she encouraged me to participate with her. There was just one problem: I didn’t have an idea.

No, that’s not quite right. Over the years I had toyed with many ideas and settings for a novel, but never had gotten serious about any of them. Too many ideas! I realized I had to pick one, and when I remembered how much I loved movies of the ’30s, with their glamorous clothes, sassy heroines and snappy dialogue, I thought, well, there’s an era I’d like to spend time in. I had read memoirs by people who were there, and had always found them immense fun. Reading more of these, as well as anything else I could get my hands on about that era, seemed like a really enjoyable way to do research. And that turned out to be true.

I immediately liked the idea of the sleuth being a glamorous blonde in the mold of Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, or Marion Davies: someone whose smarts people might underestimate, someone whose bosses at the studio are not happy with her snooping around town asking questions, and who just want her to be content with her very fortunate lot as a movie star. The title, Stardusted, came to me almost immediately and actually helped to shape the plot. And because I’m still basically a horse-crazy girl, I decided it had to have horses in it, too.

It was fun playing around with these ideas for a month, but I didn’t actually finish a first draft and kind of put the whole thing aside with a wistful shrug. I was still working and had a lot of family responsibilities -- you know, like everyone does -- and just didn’t feel like I had the mental or emotional energy or the time to see the story through. 

But a funny thing happened over the next few months and years. Frankie and her friends -- who include a singing cowboy, a reclusive former silent-film star, an alcoholic ex-husband, and a sexy composer boyfriend -- kept appearing on my shoulder, if you will, doing and saying things I found very interesting. When they all just wouldn’t shut up, I figured I’d better start writing it all down.

There were some dark, very dark, things about Hollywood in the ‘30s -- or any time, actually. But there was also a sense of excitement and fun as so many quirky, creative people came together to create the industry some call the dream factory. My aim with Stardusted was to capture, if only for my own amusement, the light-hearted spirit of the movies of that era, and to create characters who were people I would like to meet.  

Stardusted
A Frankie Franklin Mystery

Meet Frankie Franklin, “America’s Kid Sister,” one of the brightest stars in 1930s Hollywood. Onscreen she’s clever and brave, and always bests the bad guys. But now Frankie is confronted with a real-life mystery and real-life peril, after a young actor is shot and almost dies on the set of her latest film. How did it happen? And are there lives still in danger? Though her studio wants to sweep it all under the rug and move on, Frankie is driven to find out what happened, and with good reason: She was the one who pulled the trigger.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--MYSTERY AUTHOR SARAH E. GLENN ON BOOZY RESEARCH & A BEE'S KNEES COCKTAIL

A very classy Bee’s Knees, courtesy of the Vinoy Hotel
Sarah E. Glenn, a Jane-of-all-trades, has a B.S. in Journalism. She loves reading and writing mystery and horror stories, often with a sidecar of funny. Interesting tidbit: Sarah worked the Reports Desk for her local police department, and she can attest that criminals are dumb. Learn more about Sarah and her books at her website

Boozy Research
By Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo

I have an interesting conundrum: I don’t drink, but I’m writing a confirmed tippler. Teddy Lawless loves her drinks, especially cocktails. When I wrote my trunk novel, I researched gardening. When I wrote my vampire satire, I researched Irvine, California (the setting). Now, I’m exploring some of the older drinking establishments in Saint Petersburg, including one featured in Murder at the Million Dollar Pier.

The Jungle Prada Tavern
The Gangplank, built in 1924, was Saint Petersburg’s first night club, located in the then exclusive Jungle Prada area. It overlooked Boca Ciega Bay and would later have a splendid view of the Don Cesar Hotel. During Prohibition, rumrunners’ boats docked at the small pier a short distance from the building. From there, the booze was taken through a tunnel that opened in the fireplace of the club, keeping the Gangplank well supplied with high quality alcohol from the Caribbean. Al Capone was rumored to be one of the investors.

It was a must for our book. We discovered there was still a bar on the old site, the Jungle Prada Tavern, and we made a pilgrimage to Boca Ciega to see what was left of the club. The original complex has been broken into multiple buildings, but we still found remnants of the bandstand and the dance floor, shaped like the prow of a ship. In the 1920s, bright striped canvas awnings covered the open-air dance floor. 

Entering the bar was like stepping into a time machine. The bar where Babe Ruth was married and countless illegal bottles of rum were consumed, is much the same, though the fireplace is gone. The current drink menu features several cocktails inspired by 1920s recipes. We asked them to make watered-down versions for us, but they curled my hair anyway. I’m not ready to be a full-fledged flapper yet. 

The Bee’s Knees
(featured cocktail in Murder at the Million Dollar Pier)

In the 1920s, “the bee’s knees” was slang that meant “the best.” The Prohibition-era cocktail was a gin sour blend of lemon juice and honey that was created to mask the harsh “bathtub gin” smell. The earliest book to publish the recipe was the 1930 edition of San Francisco bartender and author Bill Boothby’s cocktail compendium World Drinks and How to Mix Them. However, the blend is believed to have originated in post-World War I Paris, where sugar was in short supply. The true origin of the drink is the subject of much debate and so far, there is no definitive answer.

There are several existing versions of The Bee’s Knees, including one that is still served at the Vinoy Park Hotel. They differ in some ways, but all of them agree on three basic ingredients: honey syrup, gin, and lemon juice. I’m partial to the version they serve at the Vinoy: so sweet, you could have it as dessert.

Ingredients:
1 cocktail shaker of crushed ice 
2 oz. gin 
1 oz. honey syrup  
1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice 

Shake the liquids with crushed ice and strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon or orange twist and/or a sprig of fresh basil. 

(Honey syrup is made by thinning honey with hot water. I recommend every 3 ounces of honey be thinned with one ounce of hot water. If you prefer a less sweet drink use honey and hot water in a 1 to 1 ratio.) 

Murder at the Million Dollar Pier
Three Snowbirds, Book 2

Shortly after Teddy Lawless arrives at the newly opened Vinoy Hotel in Saint Petersburg, she comes face to face with her ex-fiancé, Ansel Stevens, in the dining room. Cue the slap that was thirty years in the making. Her ex-fiancé dies during a yacht race shortly thereafter. Conclusion of the authorities: poison. Teddy is arrested after her hair comb is found on the deck of the vessel. Can Cornelia Pettijohn and Uncle Percival save fun-loving Teddy before she goes from the grand hotel to the big house?


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Monday, October 7, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--A HALLOWEEN CRAFTING COZY SALE


This is the time of year when one holiday bumps up against another, beginning with Halloween and ending with New Year’s Day. So here at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers we’re embracing all these holidays by featuring various holiday-themed books from now through the end of the year. Today we kick things off with A Stitch To Die For, the fifth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series by my very own author Lois Winston. And as a special Halloween treat, A Stitch To Die For is on sale throughout October for only .99 cents.

Those of you familiar with this blog know that Lois is the writer who takes pleasure in tormenting me by dropping dead bodies into my life on a fairly regular basis. So you can imagine how much worse it might get around Halloween. 

I’ve heard it said that authors are told to write what they know. Well, I have it on good authority that Lois had a few harrowing experiences during Halloweens of her youth. As a result, she’s not a huge fan of the holiday. So, of course, she’s transferred those feelings to yours truly. If you want to know what trouble she creates for me as the goblins and ghosts gear up to roam the streets, check out A Stitch To Die For

As with all the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Cozies, crafts are included. A Stitch To Die For includes knitting and crochet patterns for baby blankets.

A Stitch to Die For
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 5

Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message.

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Friday, October 4, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--CHARACTER INTERVIEW WITH E.F. WATKINS' QUINN MATTHEWS


Today we sit down for a chat with Quinn Matthews from The Quinn Matthews Haunting Mysteries by E. F. Watkins.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings? 
Much more grounded in everyday reality! My biggest problems were that my newspaper job, writing about architecture and interior design for the Union County Sentinel, had been downsized to part-time, and my relationship with investigative reporter Tom Greiner also had cooled off. But those issues seem tame to me now, compared with what was to come!

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? 
I never thought I was particularly brave, but I’ve been able to keep my head in some pretty hair-raising situations. And I guess I should mention empathy, too, because I’m now a certified “empath.”

What do you like least about yourself? 
I’m still not totally comfortable with my psychic abilities, since I only developed them over the past couple of years. In certain environments, such as jails or hospitals, I get overwhelmed by the negative impressions that have accumulated there. 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? 
In Dark Music, a ghost actually walked through me, which made me nauseous and dizzy. My mentor Gail said those sensations are normal, though, and next time I should just tell the ghost not to do that.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about? 
I get pretty impatient sometimes with my on-again, off-again boyfriend Tom, but Eileen keeps encouraging me to give him another chance. And he did sort of come to my rescue at the end of Hex, Death & Rock ‘n’ Roll.

What is your greatest fear? 
That I’ll come up against some evil, demonic entity that neither Gail nor I know how to handle, and it will either possess me or drive me crazy!

What makes you happy? 
Being able to use my abilities to benefit other people. In addition to helping some trapped spirits move on, I’ve also solved a couple of earth-bound murders.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? 
I wish I’d gotten to at least have a fling with Alan, the rock singer in Hex. He was gorgeous and so was his condo! At least I got to write about his pad for a shelter magazine that paid me well.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why? Probably Tom. We do have a lot in common, both being inquisitive, persistent journalists. But he’s got a fear of commitment, then gets jealous if I even look at someone else. He needs to make up his mind!

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? 
Sometimes I think if I have to be psychic, I’d like to do it Gail’s way. She’s done a lot of scholarly research, traveled around the world, written books, and has her own weekly cable show. She picks and chooses her cases and generally knows what she’s getting into…much more than I do.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
E. F. (Eileen) Watkins also has written paranormal thrillers. Two involved a centuries-old vampire doing remote viewing for the U.S. government in the late 1990s; the others are all stand-alones. Now she writes The Cat Groomer Mysteries for Kensington, which are a bit “cozier” than my tales—at least, no risk of demonic possession. Her website, where you also can find her blog, is at www.efwatkins.com.  

What's next for you? 
I’m delighted that the Quinn Matthews Haunting Mysteries have just been re-published by Crossroad Press, as both ebooks and trade paperbacks. It remains to be seen whether I will have any more paranormal adventures in the future, or whether I’ll finally get a chance to settle back into a “normal” life. And whether or not I’ll be with Tom in the end!

Dark Music
A Quinn Matthews Haunting Mystery, Book 1

After single journalist Quinn Matthews buys a Victorian house in the suburbs, her efforts to restore the place in true 19th-century style are hampered by strange accidents. She also hears classical piano music and gunshots from no earthly source, and an unstable next-door neighbor accuses her of “stirring up trouble” with her renovations. Finally, Quinn accepts that her dream house is haunted, and to lay the ghosts to rest she must re-investigate the murder of its first owner—a dashing classical pianist whose love life was far from “Victorian.”

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Thursday, October 3, 2019

AUTHOR ELLEN BYRON'S LOUISIANA BAYOU INSPIRATION

Today we’re happy to have award-winning mystery author Ellen Byron make a return visit. Ellen writes the Cajun Country Mystery Series and writing as Maria DiRico, she’ll debut a second series, The Catering Hall Mysteries, in 2020. Her TV credits include writing for Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly OddParents.  She’s also had her award-winning plays performed throughout the world. Fun fact: she worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. Learn more about Ellen and her books at her website.

Swamp Thing
I grew up in a suburb of New York City. Family vacations generally revolved around trips to New England, where we hiked Vermont’s mountains and explored Cape Cod’s dunes. Northeasterner that I was, if anyone had told me I’d fall in love with the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, I would have told them they were nuts. 

And yet I have.

There’s just something so magically mysterious about Louisiana’s waterways. Bayous are defined as “slow-moving streams,” and watching the languid path of a bayou like Bayou Teche, its banks filled with trees draped in Spanish moss, never ceases to entrance me. 

I’ve lost count of how many swamp tours I’ve taken in the years since I graduated from Tulane University and embarked on a writing career. The most memorable might be the one where a couple built a raised boardwalk through the swamp that was in the backyard of their convenience store. I’ll never forget wandering that wet wilderness, the only sounds coming from the frogs and other creatures who inhabited the environs. One of those creatures has become the “spirit animal” of my Cajun Country Mystery series.
Alligators might as well be the official state reptile of Louisiana. It’s almost impossible not to see one on a swamp tour. A few years ago, when we took our teenage daughter on her first trip to Louisiana, I signed us up for a tour of Lake Martin, a body of water created – like so many in the state – when the Mississippi changed course and cut it off from the river. We piled into a small motorboat along with a half-dozen others, and our guide motored us through the cypress trees and knees – that’s what the cypress stumps are called – of the lake. 

Our guide cut the engine when we came upon these two gators perched on a log. 
We watched in silence as the animals faced off. Suddenly, the gator on the right sprung on the other gator, knocking it off the log. “I’ve been doing this for thirty-five years and I’ve never seen anything like that,” the excited guide said in his thick Cajun accent. For the rest of the tour, he stopped at every boat we passed to regale them of this unprecedented sighting.

Our daughter just began her sophomore year at Loyola University in New Orleans. She fell in love with Louisiana, just like her mom. Her college stint gives me four years of excuses to visit the state—and each year will bring another exploration of the state’s otherworldly waters.

Fatal Cajun Festival

In the newest addition to Ellen Byron’s Agatha Award-winning Cajun Country Mystery series, country star Tammy Barker, a Pelican native who won an American Idol-styled TV singing contest, returns home to headline the town's first music festival. But Maggie Crozat discovers that Tammy is a full-fledged diva, a tiny terror in six-inch platform-heeled boots and a thick head of hair extensions. Worse, she carries a grudge against Maggie’s best friend, Gaynell Bourgeois. When a member of Tammy’s entourage is murdered, Tammy sees to it that Gaynell is the prime suspect, and Maggie must cozy up to Tammy's sketchy bandmates to prevent her friend from being charged with murder.

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