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

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

AUTHOR DEBRA H. GOLDSTEIN'S AMATEUR SLEUTH INTERVIEWS HER CAT

Today we offer up a different sort of interview for our readers. RahRah, the Siamese cat, is being interviewed by Sarah Blair, his owner and the protagonist of author Debra H. Goldstein’s Sarah Blair Mysteries. 

Sarah: RahRah, periodically, I think you’ve already lived some of the proverbial cat’s nine lives. What was your life like before you moved in with me?

 

RahRah: The first thing I remember was being plucked from Hurricane Katrina’s swirling waters by Mother Blair, your ex-husband’s late mother. As you know from when we came to live in the carriage house behind where you and the rat then lived, she was a saint. Until she died, my life was wonderful – she pampered me and let me run the show. After her death, I was afraid your ex would send me to a shelter, but he convinced you to let me live in your efficiency apartment.

 

Sarah: That wasn’t a hard sell. I loved you and Mother Blair. And now, thanks to her, and to you, we both live in the carriage house. Tell me, what’s the one trait you like most about yourself?

 

RahRah: I like that I’m a confident leader. Both you and Fluffy, the rescue dog you added to our home, usually do exactly what I want. Tell me, Sarah, what one trait do you like least about yourself?

 

Sarah: Having married at eighteen and been divorced by twenty-eight, when the rat fell in love with that bimbo, Jane, I lost my sense of confidence or direction. Unlike my twin sister, Emily, who always knew she wanted to be a chef, I was scared right after my divorce. I’ve been working hard to be more confident and not to second guess myself, and definitely have seen growth in myself.

 

RahRah: I have, too., but I’m still not going to let you have full control of the house.

 

Sarah (gives RahRah a hug): I wouldn’t want it any other way. You’ve been my best sounding board and comfort. I can’t imagine my life without you.

 

RahRah: Or Fluffy, either?

 

Sarah (laughing but not denying the truth): Don’t worry – you’ll always be number one. Besides, you adore having Fluffy worship you. Tell me, of everyone we know, who bugs you the most?

 

RahRah: The same person as you: Jane Clark. She’s our greatest nemesis, always thinking of ways to complicate our lives. From trying to steal me away from you to opening a restaurant right across the street from Emily’s, she’s more than a mere nuisance.

 

Sarah: I can’t disagree with you. Who bugs you the least? Me?

 

RahRah: No, your mother, Maybelle. She may think she’s allergic to me, but she’s a hoot. If you thought she was something to contend with in Two Bites Too Many, wait until next year’s Five Belles Too Many.

 

Sarah: I’ll look forward to it. In the meantime, we’re just about out of time for our interview. Much as I hate to admit you’re only a creation from Debra H. Goldstein’s mind, after four books, you feel very real to me.

 

RahRah: That’s because I am. By the way, people can learn more about our author and her books at her website.

 

Four Cuts Too Many

A Sarah Blair Mystery, Book 4

 

Sarah Blair gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in her friend’s culinary school serves up a main corpse in Wheaton, Alabama . . .

Between working as a law firm receptionist, reluctantly pitching in as co-owner of her twin sister’s restaurant, and caretaking for her regal Siamese RahRah and rescue dog Fluffy, Sarah has no time to enjoy life’s finer things. Divorced and sort-of dating, she’s considering going back to school. But as a somewhat competent sleuth, Sarah’s more suited for criminal justice than learning how many ways she can burn a meal.

Although she wouldn’t mind learning some knife skills from her sous chef, Grace Winston. An adjunct instructor who teaches cutlery expertise in cooking college, Grace is considering accepting an executive chef’s position offered by Jane Clark, Sarah’s business rival—and her late ex-husband’s lover. But Grace’s future lands in hot water when the school’s director is found dead with one of her knives in his back. To clear her friend’s name, there’s no time to mince words. Sarah must sharpen her own skills at uncovering an elusive killer . . .

Includes quick and easy recipes!

 

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Monday, June 14, 2021

MYSTERY AUTHOR LESLEY A. DIEHL GAVE HER SLEUTH A GUN...

Lesley A. Diehl relies on her country roots and her training as a psychologist to concoct stories designed to make people laugh in the face of murder. “A good chuckle,” says Lesley,” keeps us emotionally well-oiled long into our old age.” She is the author of several cozy mystery series and numerous short stories. Learn more about her and her books and stories at her website.  

Character Development in a Cozy Series: I gave her a gun, but she can’t shoot.

Here’s what I know about Eve Appel Egret’s character: She is the same spunky, in-your-face protagonist we met in the first of the Eve Apple Mysteries. Transplants from the Northeast and referred to as “Yankee gals” by the community, Eve and her friend Madeleine had opened a high fashion secondhand store in rural Florida when, on opening day, Eve found a dead body on their dressing room floor. 

 

From that point (A Secondhand Murder) until the most recent episode of the series (Murder in the Family) Eve has snooped her way through illegal game hunters, members of the Russian mob, drug and human traffickers and just plain bad guys in the swamps of Florida. Along the way she’s eaten her skinny weight in barbeque ribs and cole slaw, drunk a lot of sweet tea and a bit of scotch and found the love of her life. And then in the middle of her exploits she became a private detective, a choice I never saw coming, but now see as the right thing for me to have done as the creator of this series.

 

Protagonists in my other series have been snoopy gals, but never as snoopy or as filled with bravado as Eve. So why morph her into a private eve? Because, simply put, she deserved it. Her favorite weapon against bad guys (and gals) was her stiletto heels, but how long could Eve use her mouth (also a lethal weapon) and footwear to fight off mobsters and killers, not to mention a few alligators along the way?

 

Eve’s mobster friend Nappi Napolitani (is he really a Family man or simply a family man?) has been impressed for years with Eve’s sharp mind and her ability to put together disparate clues to track down criminals. She’s depended upon him and her police detective friend Frida Martinez as back-up for her sometimes impulsive schemes to take out killers, perhaps counting on them to produce the firepower to overwhelm armed opponents. Lately Eve’s enemies have gone from evil guys trying to escape the law to evil guys wanting to take down the law. And her. And her family. And that makes Eve mad, really mad.

 

In addition, for a cozy writer like me, I have grown impatient with amateur sleuths who through the series, always run across dead bodies. How many corpses can one woman stumble over in her line of work as a consignment shop owner? I needed others in the community to encounter dead bodies and for Eve to intervene, as when she took her Yankee environmental stance against mud bog racing (for those unfamiliar with it, it tears up natural habitat and breeding grounds for many native species) or in Old Bones Never Die in which Eve challenges a land developer. Most of Eve’s cases don’t need her to find the bodies. The deaths have emerged from events in the community.

 

Because I kept throwing more and more dangers her way, I decided Eve needed more than a pair of stilettos and a smart mouth to get her out of jams. So, I apprenticed her (with the permission of her loving husband Sammie, her grandmother and other family members, somewhat reluctantly her best friend Madeleine, and half-heartedly police detective Frida Martinez) to the town’s only private detective, Crusty McNabb. 

 

Due to retire soon, Crusty agreed to take on Eve, thinking he could assign her to sit surveillance on insurance fraud cases and keep her out of serious detective work, but he soon found Eve’s brilliance in solving cases an asset. And if her friends and family thought detective work would keep her out of trouble, they were, predictably, wrong. Eve still had her snoopy nature and her crime-solving nature, but she was missing one thing in her detective work: she needed a gun. A dangerous proposition for one as impetuous as our Eve. And, besides, Eve couldn’t hit a broad side of one of Florida’s famous mountains (translation, garbage dump hills).

 

“Open your eyes when you pull the trigger,” Crusty told her, but Eve couldn’t bring herself to shoot without closing her eyes.

 

So, I armed her, gave her detective training, and sent her to the shooting range, but I fear Eve is still the same gal she was when she moved to rural Florida. She has grown, of course, the kind of development a reader expects in a cozy heroine. No better at wielding lethal weapons, Eve now is mother to several children, which has taught her patience. She’s become a bit less in-your-face when confronting the people in her newly adopted rural Florida home, and she sometimes calls for help instead of going off like the Lone Ranger when she chases down criminals. 

 

But she still remains the Eve who is fiercely loyal to friends, old or newly acquired, an attitude she expects others to exhibit. Woe to the person who violates that code of ethics. And, of course, she still wears her stiletto heels and her gelled, punked hair. Eve still doesn’t quite fit into the swamps of rural Florida. We don’t expect her to. And she still can’t shoot.

 

Murder in the Family

An Eve Appel Mystery, Book 8

 

The past comes back seeking vengeance. To save her family and friends, Novice PI Eve Appel, pregnant with her second child, must outwit the bad guys in a final act of desperation, risking her life and that of the man she's asked to help her, her mob boss friend, Nappi.

 

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Friday, June 11, 2021

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR LORI ROBERTS HERBST

Lori Roberts Herbst spent much of her life writing, editing, and psychoanalyzing. Through thirty years of teaching journalism, advising newspaper and yearbook staffs, instructing budding photographers, and counseling teenagers, she still managed to hang on to a modicum of sanity. Then she abandoned all hope and began writing mysteries. Learn more about Lori and her books at her website.

Before becoming a cozy mystery author, I spent twenty-plus years teaching high school journalism. Hanging out in the photo lab with budding photographers occupied a big part of each day back then. I remember those hours fondly—so much so that a darkroom serves as a primary setting in my new release, Double Exposure, Book 2 in the Callie Cassidy Mystery series.

 

It is my opinion that as we age, the “nostalgia” lobe in our brain expands, so I realize I might be viewing those long-past darkroom days through rose-colored glasses (or crimson-colored safelights). Still, I recall that smelly, sticky, shadowy photo lab with affection. It was there I bestowed upon hundreds of teenagers the joy of watching images they had created come to life in a tray of developing fluid—a heady, almost spiritual event that lingers with most of us photographer-types forever. The experience is akin to giving birth—but without the contractions.

 

What a unique place a darkroom is. For a new photographer, it is a place to unearth your creative passions. No matter how many people are crammed inside, you encounter a warm sense of isolation and intimacy, as if you’re in a bunker, protected from the whirling chaos outside. The red glow softens the world’s hard edges. The odor of chemicals permeates every surface—including, after a time, you yourself—but you come to think of it as a pleasant aroma, much like your grandmother’s favorite perfume.

 

Even the terminology associated with a darkroom hints at comfort and enlightenment. You “enlarge” images. You “develop” pictures. You work beneath the gleam of “safelights.” You turn negatives into positives.

 

For a photographer who is also a control freak (and experience tells me that’s most of us), the darkroom furnishes the ultimate high. You determine every aspect of your finished product, from the photo’s size to the cropping to the tones. It’s a powerful marriage of art and craft, similar to writing a book.

 

We’ve all gone digital these days, and while I realize there are many advantages to that, the “old fogey” lobe in my brain (housed next to the nostalgia lobe) laments the darkroom’s decline. When I started writing the Callie Cassidy Mystery series, I saw a chance to remedy that, at least on a fictional scale. From her birth in my imagination, Callie was predestined to have a darkroom of her own, a spot where she could create and heal and grow. 

 

And ultimately (spoiler alert), a place where she discovers a body. 

 

Obviously, right? Because along with all its other features, a darkroom is a place where mystery lurks.

 

Double Exposure

A Callie Cassidy Mystery, Book 2

 

It’s summertime in Rock Creek Village, Colorado, where the blooming wildflowers and colorful sunsets make life feel picture perfect. But inside Sundance Studio, a murder has developed…

 

Former big-city photojournalist Callie Cassidy is finally feeling at home again in the mountainside village where she grew up. She’s bought her own townhouse, made friends, and rebooted a romantic relationship with her long-ago boyfriend. She even entered her lovable golden retriever and cantankerous tabby cat into the upcoming Fireweed Festival pet pageant. Best of all, her new photography business is poised on the precipice of success. So when a group of journalists from her old newspaper come to town for a retreat, she can’t wait to show off the gallery. The happy hour she throws goes off without a hitch—at least, that’s what Callie believes.

 

Then one of the reporters turns up dead—in Callie’s darkroom. Callie is certain she locked the place tight, especially in light of the recent vandalism. The murder thrusts the village’s shop owners into a tizzy. How can this be happening…again? They want the crime solved pronto—before the Chamber of Commerce cancels the festival and deprives them of a big chunk of seasonal income. Detective Raul Sanchez is on the case, but that doesn’t mean Callie won’t do a little snooping of her own. Meanwhile, she can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching her…Will Callie be able to expose the true killer—before time runs out?

 

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

AN INTERVIEW WITH SULLY (SULLIVAN) BARLOW FROM AUTHOR JOSIE MALONE'S BAKER CITY: HEARTS & HAUNTS SERIES

Today we sit down for a chat with Sully (Sullivan) Barlow from author Josie Malone’s Baker City: Hearts & Haunts Series. 

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

My best friend since childhood and I were in graduate school studying to be secondary school teachers. We’d joined the Army Reserve for the education benefits and found ourselves embroiled in America’s longest war. I came home alive from our third combat tour. She didn’t.

 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? 

I’m a survivor.

 

What do you like least about yourself? 

I’m a survivor.

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?

I have plans and none of them include the guy I slept with to forget the devastation of losing Raven, my best friend in Afghanistan. A career soldier, Tate Murphy has three more years until he’s eligible for retirement. Then we discovered our night together resulted in something unexpected. I’m pregnant. A moment of magic becomes a commitment, but is it one either of us want to keep?

 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about? 

Tate Murphy, an Army Master Sergeant who thinks he’s in charge of the world and of me. I’m glad he wants to “daddy up”, but I’m not ready for a guy who constantly lectures me about “embracing the suck” and that I don’t have to give up my best friend even if Raven isn’t what could be considered “real” any longer. Then again, what is “real”?

 

What is your greatest fear? 

Living every day, oh and my family who blame me for coming back alive when Raven didn’t.

 

What makes you happy? 

Coffee and snickerdoodle cookies, especially the way Raven’s grandma makes them. Now, it’s decaf raspberry tea because coffee makes me hurl.

 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? 

I’d have Raven survive and come home with me this time. She married my older stepbrother and the two of us always planned to raise our kids together, but now we can’t. I miss my bestie.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?

Tate Murphy. He lives to boss me around and tell me what I can and can’t do. I’m a grown woman. The last thing I need is an arrogant know-it-all trying to run my world. Granted, he’s super sexy, smart, and compassionate and rocks my world, but sometimes that bugs me even more.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? 

My mother-in-law, Bronwyn Murphy. She’s wonderful, intelligent, compassionate, kind and treated me like a daughter from the time we met. She’s everything my own mother isn’t, and when she discovered Tate and I are having a baby, she announced her plans to spoil our child rotten and totally got into being a grandma. Again, something my mother didn’t. 

 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?

Josie Malone lives and works at her family business, a riding stable in Washington State. Teaching kids to ride and know about horses, she finds in many cases, she's taught three generations of families. Her life experiences span adventures from dealing cards in a casino, attending graduate school to get her master’s in teaching degree, being a substitute teacher, and serving in the Army Reserve - all leading to her second career as a published author. Visit her at her website to learn about her books.

 

What's next for you?

Telling Tate to back off and let me breathe. I’ll wash my own car, a classic ’68 Mustang that Raven and I restored. Fixing up our new house, training my rescue puppies, preparing for our baby’s arrival, and jumping his bones to keep him from smirking at me like no other guy ever was a dad. I told you that he rocks my world.

 

Family Skeletons

A Baker City: Hearts & Haunts Novel, Book 3

 

Sergeant First Class Sullivan Barlow has plans for her future and none of them include the guy she slept with in a night of weakness. Intending to forget the devastation of losing her best friend in Afghanistan, Sully woke the next morning still alone. Her only solace -- she hadn’t told the man her real name. 

 

A career soldier, Tate Murphy has three more years in the Army until he’s eligible for retirement. Seven weeks ago, he met a woman in a hotel bar and spent the night with her. He hasn’t been able to get her out of his mind and can’t believe his luck when he finds her again.

 

Then they discover their first night together resulted in something they never expected. She’s pregnant, and Tate immediately proposes. Pregnant, struggling with survivor guilt, the last thing Sully needs is to learn her best friend may have died, but hasn’t left yet. 

 

Tate says, ‘sometimes courage is an act of survival’. Sully fears trust is a casualty of war. Will she and Tate ever find it again either by themselves or with the help of those who have passed on before? 

 

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Monday, June 7, 2021

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--MYSTERY AUTHOR ALLIE PLEITER'S NEW KNITTING SHOP MYSTERY SERIES

Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and nonfiction. The bestselling author of over fifty books, Allie has enjoyed a twenty-year career with over 1.5 million books sold.  Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

The great thing about books is that we get to step into other people’s lives. The really wonderful ones let us slip into a life we’ve always dreamed of living. Being the passionate knitter that I am, I have always day-dreamed about what it would be like to own my own shop, surrounded all day by color and texture and yarn and other people who knit and crochet. 

 

So it should come as no surprise that when the opportunity to write a mystery came to me, I chose to write a series set in a yarn shop. With a pie shop across the street. Bliss!

 

Whether or not you’re the crafty type, cozy mysteries seem to tic all the boxes for us. On the one hand, we get the warm emotional fuzzies of a quirky and close-knit community, a cast of characters we’d love to have as friends (plus one or two we’re glad we don’t), a touch of romance, and a dash of adventure. On the other hand, we get the satisfying intellectual puzzle of deducing the killer right alongside the sleuth. Who doesn’t love the victory of “I knew it” or the shock of “I never saw that coming”?

 

One of the great pleasures of writing On Skein of Death was getting to dream up a knitted dog sweater and then commission the pattern. Just like watching my words come to life in a book, I got to watch my idea come to life under the design talents of Starla Williams. I’m so very happy that the full pattern is included in the back of every book. And you audiobook listeners have access to a downloadable PDF, too. The thought of so many pups keeping warm in Perle’s Norwegian Dog Sweater just makes me grin ear to ear. I’ve included a shot of my own four-legged darling, Paisley, in the version I knit up especially for her.

 

Best of all, this is only my first visit to Libby Beckett’s Y.A.R.N. shop and the fictional town of Collinstown, MD. On Skein of Death launches the Riverbank Knitting Mysteries series, so there will be a whole lot more yarn, friendship, pie, cute dogs…and mystery to come. Who could ask for more?

 

On Skein of Death

A Riverbank Knitting Mystery, Book 1

 

For Libby Beckett, opening her charming yarn shop, and introducing customers to the joys of knitting and crochet, is the work she was meant to do. Until the yarn she loves is used for murder....


Libby has come home to Collinstown, Maryland, to live her dream and open her own yarn shop, aptly named Y.A.R.N., along the Chester River. To Libby, Y.A.R.N. stands for "You're Absolutely Ready Now". But the acronym changes whenever inspiration strikes, and customers add to the list of suggestions that fill the blackboard wall in a shop stuffed with color, fiber, and comfort. 


Libby is thrilled when she lands famous Norwegian knitting celebrity Perle Langager for a series of events at Y.A.R.N. Libby's English bulldog, Hank, has been modeling one of Perle's doggie sweaters, and customers just can't wait to see Perle in action. The mayor of Collinstown even decrees a Collinstown Yarn Day to celebrate. But once Perle arrives in town, she seems distracted and on edge. And when she's found strangled with a skein of red yarn, Libby knows she has to solve a knotty mystery before her new life unravels.

 

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Friday, June 4, 2021

MYSTERY AUTHOR LYNN-STEVEN JOHANSON'S DETECTIVE JOE ERICKSON COOKS UP SOME RAGU TO KILL FOR

Today we’re joined by Detective Joe Erickson, the creation of author Lynn-Steven Johanson. Lynn is an award-winning playwright and novelist who holds an MFA degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is retired from Western Illinois University and lives in Illinois with his wife and has three adult children. Learn more about him and his books at his
 website

Greetings. I’m Detective Joe Erickson, and I work with Chicago PD. You can read all about me in Lynn-Steven Johanson’s new novel, Havana Brown. At age thirty-nine, I decided it was time to get into good physical condition again. When hangovers started lasting two days, and I had to start loosening my belt another notch, I realized I needed to start taking better care of myself. And to do that, I not only needed to go to the gym and work out, but also needed to start eating right. So, I bought some cookbooks and taught myself to cook. And you know what?  I liked it. And I got good at it, too. 

 

I won’t go into details because you can read all about it in Havana Brown, along with how I apprehended a vile serial killer, met the love of my life, and how I drove myself into a nervous breakdown. Yeah, I did that to myself. Spoiler alert: Since Havana Brown is a prequel to Rose’s Thorn, some of you may know I’m feeling better but still on medical leave.

 

Since I love to cook, I’m going to treat you to one of my favorite recipes, one I call, “Ragu to Kill For.” Not literally, of course. But once you try it, you’ll understand the name. It takes some time to prepare, but let me tell you, it’s well worth it. And once you make it, you’ll make it again.

 

Ragu to Kill For

 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces of chorizo sausage

3 cups chopped onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons of smoked paprika

2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper—about 1/8 tsp

3 cups dry white wine

4 cups canned diced tomatoes drained

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup chopped parsley

 

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes. Add onion and garlic. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.

 

Sprinkle smoked paprika over the onion mixture; stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute. Add chicken, salt, and pepper; stir to coat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add wine and increase heat to high; cook until the wine is reduced by about a third, approximately 8 minutes.

 

Stir in tomatoes, broth, and parsley; reduce heat and simmer uncovered until the chicken is tender, and the sauce is beginning to thicken, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

 

Serve it over your choice of pasta.

 

A few of my detective colleagues at Area 3 detective headquarters in Chicago like to give me a hard time about my culinary expertise. “What did you bring today, Joe?” or “When you going to start sharing it?” I’m used to it, and it doesn’t bother me. When I see one of my colleagues sitting at his desk munching on a ham sandwich, I’m tickling my taste buds with leftover Ragu to Kill For over mostaccioli or a salmon arugula salad. I know some of them are envious, but so far, no one has dared to steal my lunch!

 

Havana Brown

A Joe Erickson Mystery

 

In this prequel to Rose’s Thorn, Detective Joe Erickson discovers a clever and vile serial killer preying on women in Chicago. Only a few cat hairs provide a clue to the perpetrator of six mutilation murders. Joe’s razor-sharp intuition and unorthodox methods ultimately lead him on a trail fraught with twists, turns, and dead ends. But pushing himself day and night begins taking its toll, and his obsession with apprehending the killer could be his undoing.

 

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

MYSTERY AUTHOR ELIZABETH LOGAN (AKA CAMILLE MINICHINO) WHIPS UP BOSTON CREAM PIE AND A NEW ALASKA DINER MYSTERY

Camille Minichino aka Ada Madison aka Margaret Grace aka Jean Flowers aka Elizabeth Logan is the author of twenty-eight mystery novels in five series, plus many short stories and articles. Learn more about her, her various pseudonyms, her books and check out her blogs at her website. 

The Bear Claw Diner sits on a road that’s as busy as it ever gets in Alaska, on the highway between Anchorage and Denali National Park. While its owner, Charlie Cooke is often busy investigating homicides, Victor, her young Chef, takes advantage of the occasions by changing up the menu.

 

In “Murphy’s Slaw,” the third book in the Alaskan Diner Mysteries by Elizabeth Logan (me again), Victor has taken an interest in regional foods outside of Alaska. He’s come up with offerings such as Philadelphia cheese steak, Denver omelet, Maryland crab cakes, and various Florida pies with key limes. Charlie and the rest of the Bear Claw staff were resisting spam, apparently still a hit in Hawaii. Victor defended the dish by noting that he’d found a recipe for a spam and rice combo wrapped in seaweed.

 

Coincidentally, Victor landed on one of my favorites: Boston Cream Pie, the official Massachusetts State Dessert. The not-quite-a-pie but more-than-a-cake treat originated at a famous Boston hotel nearly two hundred years ago. A native of Boston, I like to spout trivia about it now and then. I often put words in Victor’s mouth, like the fact that the world’s largest BCP was displayed at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in 2005: 16 feet in diameter, including 1,300 pounds of cake, 800 pounds of filling, and 500 pounds of chocolate frosting. 

 

That could keep me happy for approximately the rest of my life.

 

“It weighed more than a ton,” Victor tells us, doing the math. 

 

Here’s the recipe for a more normal size BCP. This is a three-part dessert, but well worth the time and effort. 

 

Boston Cream Pie

 

Ingredients:

 

Cake Layers

2 eggs

2 cup cake flour

1 cup sugar

2-1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

Cream Filling

1-1/2 cup milk

2 tsp cornstarch

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 egg

1 T vanilla extract

 

Chocolate Frosting

1/4cup water

2 T sugar

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

 

Cake Layers Directions

 Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9" round cake pans or line bottoms with waxed paper.

 

For the cake layers: Separate eggs; place whites in a small bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

 

In a small bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Very gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Add egg yolks, oil and 1/2 cup milk to flour mixture. With electric mixer, beat until smooth, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add remaining 1/2 cup milk and vanilla. Beat just until combined. Fold beaten egg whites into batter. Divide batter into prepared pans.

 

Bake cake 20 to 25 minutes or until centers spring back when gently pressed. Cool in pans on wire rack for 5 minutes. Loosen cakes around edges and turn out onto racks. Cool completely. 

 

Cream Filling Directions

In a 1-quart saucepan, heat 1 cup milk to boiling. In cup or small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup milk, cornstarch, sugar, pinch of salt, egg and vanilla until blended.

When milk comes to boiling, gradually stir in cornstarch mixture with wire whisk. Return to boiling, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute or until thickened to pudding consistency. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

 

Chocolate Frosting Directions

In 1-quart saucepan, heat water and sugar to boiling. 

Add chocolate chips. Stir until glaze is smooth. 

Remove from heat. Cool 5 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.

 

Assemble

To assemble, place one cake layer, upside down, on a serving plate. 

Spread with cream filling. 

Top with remaining cake layer, right side up. 

Spoon glaze over top; spread to edges of cake. 

Refrigerate until frosting appears set.

This recipe serves 8, generously. Enjoy!

 

Murphy’s Slaw

An Alaska Diner Mystery, Book 3

 

Charlie Cooke loves many things, like the Bear Claw Diner, the heated steering wheel of her car, and her orange tabby cat Eggs Benedict. Something she has never loved is the state fair. So when her best friend Annie Jensen begs her for a fair day, she’s reluctant.  But Annie isn’t the only one who wants her to spend a day among farm animals and deep fried food. A vendor has been murdered, and Trooper Graham needs his favorite part-time sleuth to dig up the truth, and Charlie is happy to oblige. 

 

The case grows personal when Charlie learns the victim is Kelly Carson, whom she and Annie were friends in high school. If Charlie wants to find justice for Kelly, she and Annie will have to work together to weed out the killer.

 

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Monday, May 31, 2021

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

 


Anastasia and the gang are taking the day off to remember all of those who have served us and our country in the past and those who are on the front lines today, helping in so many ways. We salute our service members, our medical professionals, and all the support people and volunteers across the country who are working for the greater good. Stay safe, everyone!

Friday, May 28, 2021

BOOKCLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR JUSTIN MURPHY

Today we sit down for a chat with author Justin Murphy who writes Southern crime fiction, true crime, and biographies of often forgotten figures in the entertainment industry. Learn more about Justin and his books from his Facebook page. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

I was always a bit creative, and people told me I had an imagination. But on my fifteenth birthday, the feeling hit me like an ocean wave. It’s the moment I realized this was what I wanted to do. Within a couple months, I began writing short stories in a more serious pursuit. More or less haven’t looked back since.

 

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

About four years from that moment. My first book, Dothan, released by the now defunct Epstein Publishing on December 10, 2004.

 

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

Indie to some extent. My first few books were published through Epstein Publishing and Aspen Mountain Press. But most of my books now are \self-published.

 

Where do you write?

For many years, I wrote on my PC in the family room at my home. Now I write on a laptop at the state and national parks we travel to.

 

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

Fairly quiet, but I have no problem writing with the TV on or listening to my brother’s chatter (he’s autistic) as long as things aren’t too loud. I like classic rock and R&B/Soul/Motown, but I usually don’t associate them with writing.

 

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

Early on, there were characters based on people I knew or stories featuring places I lived. That tapered off for several years. In the last few years, I’ve delved into more material about disability. Writing manuscripts focusing on my ordeals with Cerebral Palsy and my brother’s autism. I’ve even worked the latter into a supernatural horror story.

 

I’ve since combined aspects of these with a short story I wrote for a contes and revised as a series of detective stories. I’ve also revised a heist caper tied to disability and wrote an aftermath story. I haven’t published any of these yet. I’m still working on them. And they’re also very personal.

 

Describe your process for naming your character?

For years, the character’s name was the last thing to come to mind when creating a story.

 

With these recent stories, I’m fascinated with certain last names for characters like ’’Collins’’, ’’Harrell’’, and ’’McClaren’’. I gave a pair of sisters female variants of boy names. I’ve named some of characters after family members and people I knew. But it comes down to the name being right for the character.

 

Real settings or fictional towns?

I have used fictional towns before to avoid any negative reactions, but mostly they’re real.

 

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

In some of my detective stories there’s a character based on my brother. Due to his autism, his family doesn’t understand him. He’s not the most verbal but is kind and slowly learns new things. On some level, his family also learns from him and learns to love him.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

There are times where I’m not the most attentive and am easily distracted.

 

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

I wish I’d learned some things about writing a decade or more sooner.

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People and life in general…lol.

 

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

My brother, Fleetwood Mac’s Mystery To Me, and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

I don’t know about the worst job, but I remember my worst period as a writer, so far. Around 2012-2013, I signed with a Film/TV Agent to get screenwriting work. Was assigned to write five screenplays, which I did. Nothing happened and she was gone within a year. At the same time, I popped out a series of short Kindle books in quick succession.

 

The combination of the two really burned me out and took me a few years to begin coming out of that slump.

 

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

Part of me wants to say Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. After years of reading entertaining stories, this book taught me to pay more attention to wording and sentence structure. Try not to use the same word twice in a paragraph. Along with how developed the characters and settings were. It inspired me to write poems.

 

Ocean or mountains?

For now, I’ve been going to a few lakes and ponds at the state parks we’ve been to. I plan to see some mountains when we get to Yellowstone. Sooner or later, maybe both?

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

A question beaten to death by relatives from my native Dothan, Alabama. City people are stereotyped as being ambitious, extroverted, and more than a tad selfish. While country types are pegged as content and introverted but very dim witted. My reality is the rural contentment with some ambition.

 

What’s on the horizon for you?

There’s still some things I want to work on with heist capers and crime stories involving disability. Also, continuing with photography and visiting the state and national parks. 

 

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

I hope to be creative for as long as possible. I’ve been writing and publishing for a long time. The road has been bumpy and will get more so as time goes on. But it’s worth it. You have to reach within yourself to see what your’re truly capable of.

 

Gene L. Coon: The Unsung Hero of Star Trek:

Gene Roddenberry has long been painted as the visionary who made Star Trek possible. Yet not much has been written on Gene L. Coon, the real workhorse behind the original series. This man built the universe around Roddenberry’s initial concept we all know today. He almost single handedly created the Klingons and had a hand in creating the franchise’s greatest villain…KHAN! Any notion of Starfleet Command, The United Federation of Planets, warp technology, and its fictional creator Zefram Cochrane all belong to him. Coon died from cancer at forty-nine, just as Star Trek got popular through reruns and conventions.

 

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR TERRY AMBROSE'S TWEEN AMATEUR SLEUTH ALEX ATWOOD

Today we sit down for a chat with tween amateur sleuth Alexandra (Alex) Atwood from author Terry Ambrose’s Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mysteries.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

My life was a total disaster before my author came along. He was like, I have this idea for a mystery series, but you and your dad have to move across the country. And I was like, seriously? All my friends are here. I’m in fifth grade and moving is gonna totally ruin my life. But after we got to Seaside Cove I realized he totally did me and my dad a huge favor ‘cause that’s how Daddy met Marquetta and I got to take on my first case.

 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? 

Everybody says I’m super precocious, and I think that’s an awesome trait to have.

 

What do you like least about yourself?

Seriously? I don’t know you very well, but my author says you’re really nice, so I guess it’s okay. What I like least is that some of the little things scare me—like spiders. Ewww. I hate spiders with their little spindly legs.

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?

He totally had to be having a messed up day ‘cause he tried to kill me and Marquetta by having us drive off a cliff on a mountain road. It was super scary and I thought for sure we were gonna die, but Marquetta’s an awesome driver so we survived. Don’t tell my author, but I still haven’t forgiven him for that.

 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?

Lady, I’m like eleven. When I try to argue with him, he grounds me and sends me to my room! It’s so totally unfair. 

 

What is your greatest fear?

Wow, lady. You ask some super personal questions. My real mom wanted to be a big actress on Broadway more than she wanted to be my mom. That’s why my dad divorced her and moved us to Seaside Cove. So my biggest fear was that I’d grow up without a mom. 

 

What makes you happy?

Having Marquetta in my life is what makes me the happiest. She’s the B&B’s cook, but now she’s also gonna marry my dad. The first time we met was like this super cool connection. She’d talked to my dad on the phone before we moved here and painted my room teal and purple ‘cause they’re my favorite colors. She’s always watching out for me and treats me the way I always wished my real mom would.

 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?

That’s easy! I’d rewrite the first years of my life so that Marquetta would have been my mom. My dad’s so much happier with her than he ever was before he met her.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?

None of the other characters has ever been mean to me before like Adela Barone. She showed up in Treasure Most Deadly and I kinda liked her, but then she started lying and I realized she wasn’t trying to be my friend at all. I totally don’t like people like that.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?

I’d love to trade places with Mayor Carter ‘cause she’s an adult and she owns an ice cream shop! I could eat ice cream all day long and never get grounded. It would also be a lot of fun to run the town. That would be pretty awesome!

 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find his website/blog?

My author won’t tell me his age, but I kinda think he’s really old ‘cause he’s been writing for a super long time. Learn more about him and all his books at his website

 

What's next for you?

Right now, my author’s giving everybody in Seaside Cove a vacation while he works on the next Trouble in Paradise Mystery. I’m gonna totally enjoy my summer break and get ready for my dad and Marquetta’s wedding. 

 

Treasure Most Deadly

A Seaside Cove Bed and Breakfast Mystery, Book 5

 

Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast owner Rick Atwood is again called on to assist his friend, Chief of Police Adam Cunningham, with a murder investigation. The case seems straightforward enough. Clive Crabbe, who has a quick temper and a strong jealous streak, was found hunched over the victim after the man made advances toward Clive’s ex-wife. 

 

A murder investigation is the last thing Rick wants right now. The B&B is booked solid. The town is inundated with tourists and news reporters chasing stories about treasure thieves. And Rick’s wedding to Marquetta Weiss is just weeks away. As if that wasn’t enough, Rick’s eleven-year-old daughter Alex is not only itching to help the cops solve another murder, but she’s forming an unhealthy friendship with a B&B guest.

 

As the murder investigation progresses, Rick realizes Alex’s new friend could be at the center of everything. The worst part is that Alex may be the one person capable of cracking the case.

 

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