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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Friday, December 30, 2022

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--AUTHOR JACQUELINE VICK'S LATEST MYSTERY, CHEATER BISCOTTI & BOOK GIVEAWAY

Jacqueline Vick writes mysteries that include farcical situations and satirical humor and characters who are reluctant to accept their greatest (and often embarrassing) gifts. She is the author of The Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic Mysteries about a woman who has faked her psychic abilities for years, then discovers animals can communicate with her. When she isn’t writing, Jacqueline enjoys acting as the neighborhood dog sitter and testing new recipes on her long-suffering husband. Learn more about Jacqueline and her books at her website.

Happy Christmas! I can see you roll your eyes as you tell me Christmas is over, but the Christmas Season lasts until January 6, The Epiphany. You know that song “The Twelve Days of Christmas?” Day One is Christmas Day! So, we’re just getting started. 

 

I sense your frustration. (Breathe deeply. It’s going to be okay.) You’ve baked and decorated and crafted your hearts out—some of you starting in July—and here I am telling you there’s more. But really, except for a few Epiphany cakes and Wise Men crafts, expectations are low for the rest of the season. 

 

Now, I want you to go back to that horrified feeling when I first broke the news. That’s how my protagonist, Frankie Chandler, feels all the time. She’s surrounded by cozy mysteries filled with clever crafts and delicious recipes, yet Frankie—how shall I put it—is cozy impaired. 

 

I have a feeling that Anastasia Pollack could whip up a Christmas tree from leftover egg cartons. In my short story, The Kitty Christmas Caper, Frankie decorated her Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree with holiday-themed socks. The kind you wear on your feet. She’s hopeless. 

 

And she’s notoriously inept in the kitchen, too. Joanne Fluke books, with their incredible indexes of recipes, give Frankie the willies. (I love them.) Even non-baking protagonists in cozies have some savvy, like Ellen Byron’s Ricki James-Diaz who loves vintage cookbooks. (And the author includes recipes in the back of the books.) 

 

Frankie doesn’t fall far from the writer. While I don’t consider myself a complete failure in the kitchen, I have had a few botched batches in my time, starting in my childhood. I think I set my goals too high. 

 

There was the time I wanted to make divinity fudge. My parents warned me it was difficult, at least for an eleven-year-old. I can’t quite describe the outcome, but my parents made me eat it. No wasting food in our house. The green brownies were more palatable. Green brownies are what you get when you accidentally substitute green food coloring for vanilla. I ate those, too. 

 

Does Frankie’s lack of culinary smarts and crafting prowess make her feel like an outcast in the cozy world? A bit. But she’s trying. Her sister-in-law June is helping her in the kitchen, and now that she’s a married woman, Frankie just might try her hand at decorating her neglected home. (The happy couple haven’t decided where they will live, but let’s face it. Frankie is going to win that argument because placing the neat Detective Bowers in Frankie’s mess of a home is funnier.)

 

So, how does Frankie cope? Short cuts. Like making biscotti cookies with cake mix. I’ve included the recipe in case you’re now scrambling to prepare goodies for the Twelfth Day of Christmas. 

 

I’m curious. Would readers enjoy seeing recipes for Frankie’s shortcuts in the back of the books? Let me know in the comments. Everyone who comments on this post by Sunday, January 1, 11:59 PM PST will have their names entered into a hat. The winner chosen will receive their choice of an ebook or paperback copy of A Scape Goat for Murder. The winner will be announced Monday, January 2, in the comment section of this blog!

 

As for Frankie’s efforts at crafts, I think she’ll leave that to Anastasia. 

 

Frankie Chandler’s Cheater McCheaterpants Biscotti

 

Ingredients:

1 box of cake mix (Any flavor will do. Frankie played it safe with vanilla.)

1 cup of melted butter

2 eggs, beaten

1-1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of any accents like chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

 

Mix all ingredients. Shape into two logs 1/2” tall. (don’t make them too wide as they will spread out.) Place logs on the paper. Bake for 35 minutes. 

 

Remove from the oven. Cut diagonally about every ½ inch. (I highly recommend an electric knife with a serrated edge for this task.) 

 

Lay out the cookies on the parchment paper. Bake for ten minutes more. 

 

Turn off the oven and leave the cookies inside for another half hour. These are biscotti. If you forget them and they get extra crunch, well, they’re biscotti! If you don’t want them crunchy, take them out now.

 

At this point, you can melt any kind of chocolate and dip the edges of the cookies to make them pretty. 

 

A Scape Goat for Murder

A Frankie chandler Pet Psychic Mystery, Book 6

 

A gourmand goat. A mysterious woman. A phone call that will change Frankie’s life.

 

Frankie Chandler’s upcoming nuptials suffer a devastating setback when her fiancé, Detective Martin Bowers, is injured on the job. How badly injured? The doctors are mum on his condition, and his colleagues are just as evasive, telling her they don’t know what he was doing on the lonely hillside where he fell.

 

Convinced that the key to Bowers’ recovery lies in finding out what happened, the pet psychic’s only hope for clarity is a gourmand goat who demands payment in pastries before he’ll reveal his secrets. When he does, his responses are confusing…and terrifying.

 

Then Bowers’ very mysterious, possibly dangerous, and definitely skeptical sister, Edith, arrives, and every step forward becomes a battle. As the dysfunctional duo maneuver through suspects, witnesses, and the occasional corpse, the pet psychic decides to go it alone, because Frankie is determined her groom will make it to the church on time…if the killer doesn’t get her first.

 

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

MYSTERY AUTHOR L.C. HAYDEN HONORS HER NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE IN HER LATEST NOVEL

Pyramid Lake, Nevada
L. C. Hayden is the creator of the award-winning and bestselling Harry Bronson and Aimee Brent Mystery Series. Learn more about L.C. and her books at her website 

Funny thing. I’ve always felt a bond to Native Americans. Even as a child when I watched cowboy and Indian movies, I rooted for the Indians. I had no idea why, but now I do. My recent DNA test revealed that I’m mostly Native American.

 

Since November has been designated as National Native American Heritage Month, I wanted to honor all Native Americans. To accomplish this, I set my novel, That Last Ghost Dance, in a reservation.

 

My series character, Aimee Brent, is a reporter for a Lake Tahoe newspaper. Therefore, I needed a reservation that was within her “jurisdiction.”

 

Enter the Paiute’s Pyramid Lake Reservation, located 35 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada, in a remote desert area. Upon examining the location of buildings and other structures in the reservation, I realized that the Pyramid Lake Reservation provided me with the ideal setting. The desert’s vast emptiness offered several places where the bad guys could hide and go undetected.

 

Nixon is the Paiute’s small rural town located within the reservation. Some of their homes are scattered sites, away from neighboring homes, and are generally set up on ranches where people grow alfalfa and tend cattle and horses. I used its remoteness to add suspense to the story.

 

Pyramid Lake stands as the tribes’ most valuable asset and is entirely enclosed within the boundaries of the reservation. The Pyramid rock formation, a sacred place to the natives, stands five stories high and is older and larger than the Egyptian pyramids.

 

The lake’s pyramid comes with its own legends. One, which I mentioned in my story, deals with Water Babies. In an effort to weed out the weak, ill-formed or premature babies were thrown into the lake by the early Paiutes.

 

Over the past centuries, the infants’ souls have gathered, and their angry spirits have taken hold of the lake. As a result, each spring, unlucky fishermen disappear and their bodies are usually not recovered.

 

I mention the Water Babies in my novel to authenticate the book’s setting. However, I mainly focus on the Ghost Dance, a mystical ceremony designed to re-establish the Native Indian Culture, bring a peaceful end to the westward expansion, and return Native Americans their land.

 

It all began around 1870 when a Paiute shaman and prophet named Wodziwob Wovoka created the Ghost Dance. Every tribe—even those from warring tribes—sent representatives to learn the dance.

 

In my novel, the Paiute’s chairman wants the members of his tribe to perform the Ghost Dance in order to bring back the true sense of joy the Paiutes once experienced. Several disputes arise. Some claim that the councilman is moving them backward and in order to succeed as a tribe, they must embrace the modern ways. Other natives want him to revive the dance and bring back the old traditions.

 

The councilman proceeds with his plans and gets killed while performing the dance. Nevada reporter Aimee Brent is granted an exclusive to report on the murder. Upon arriving at Nixon, Aimee finds that not everyone or everything is as should be. She stumbles upon secrets—secrets that could lead to her death. It's up to Aimee to unravel them before more people fall victim to the grand scheme of That Last Ghost Dance.

 

That Last Ghost Dance

An Aimee Brent Mystery, Book 3

 

Kuyuidokado, Nevada's Paiute's chief councilman, is murdered while performing the Ghost Dance, a dance created by the Native Americans to bring peace and restore their land to the way it used to be.

 

Nevada reporter Aimee Brent is granted an exclusive to investigate the crime and report to the world what Kuyuidokado was really like. Aimee is eager to travel to Nixon to investigate the murder. She needs to be away from her editor/fiancé with whom she has just broken up with.

 

Upon arriving at Nixon, Aimee finds that not everyone or everything is as should be. She stumbles upon secrets—secrets that could lead to her death. It's up to Aimee to unravel them before more people fall victim to the grand scheme of That Last Ghost Dance.

 

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Monday, December 26, 2022

MYSTERY AUTHOR ANNE LOUISE BANNON'S NEWEST RELEASE HAS A HOLIDAY TWIST

Mystery author Anne Louise Bannon has worked as a freelance journalist for magazines and newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Her mystery series include the Old Los Angeles Series, the Freddie and Kathy Series, and the Operation Quickline Series. With her husband Michael Holland she created the OddBallGrape.com wine education blog and is also the co-author (with Serita Stevens) of a book on poisons for writers. Learn more about Anne Louise and her books at her website.

Re-Visiting Christmas

Happy Boxing Day, everyone!

 

Yes, I am one of those who enjoys keeping Christmas going all the way through January 6 (aka Twelfth Night or the Feast of the Epiphany). So, it’s no surprise that Christmas figures into a few of my novels, particularly the Operation Quickline Series. That’s the one featuring Lisa Wycherly and Sid Hackbirn as a pair of spies who fall for each other. In short, the books are essentially cozy spy novels. Or romances with espionage intrusions.

 

I’ve been publishing them first as serials on my blogs, which is a lot of fun, and the most recent, Just Because You’re Paranoid, finished up the week before Christmas. I hadn’t planned it that way, but it worked out especially well since the novel ends with the holiday. Even more fun, there’s a scene sort of near the end that echoes a scene in the first Quickline novel, That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine.

 

The series is set in the 1980s. In the first novel, Lisa comes to live at Sid’s house and gets recruited into the spy business as Sid’s partner. By the time December rolls around, Sid and Lisa are just beginning their friendship and the focus is on how different they are in terms of their values. Sid is a playboy, spending four to six nights a week trying to get laid, and he is more successful than not. Lisa is a nice, church-going woman and a virgin. Sid was also raised as an atheist by an aunt who was a Communist, and they lived among a bunch of bohemians, beatniks, and later hippies, which accounts for Sid’s belief in free love.

 

In fact, we find out that Sid has never celebrated holidays, including Thanksgiving (“A part of Capitalistic propaganda to convince the people they are not oppressed and dedicated to a god that doesn’t exist.”) or Christmas.

 

Lisa, on the other hand, loves Christmas, loves decorating the house, loves eggnog, and the annual Christmas pajamas from her mom. And, yes, Sid gets swept into it. In particular, there’s the scene where Lisa has borrowed Sid’s car to get the Christmas tree. Lisa comes back from the errand bubbling over. She has, once again, found the perfect tree. Sid is a little perturbed to find a tree tied to the top of his beloved Mercedes 450SL, but helps Lisa get it off the car, and hefts the tree into the house, as Lisa shouts out directions to bring it in foot-first. She’s already shifted some of the furniture in the living room to make room in the front window. The tree is gorgeous, but exactly five inches too tall.

 

Fast forward three years to the holiday season in Just Because You’re Paranoid.

Sid and Lisa are engaged to be married. The two jointly own what had been Sid’s house and it has been completely remodeled. Lisa’s parents, who have in the past stayed with her sister Mae and her family, are spending the holiday at Sid and Lisa’s place. Sid has taken custody of his 12-year-old son, and it’s Nick’s first Christmas with Sid and Lisa and her family.

 

The bringing home of the tree remains the same. Lisa arrives home with Nick, shouting and bubbling over. Sid gets called on, along with Bill, Lisa’s father, to get the even larger tree out of her truck. Lisa shouts instructions on how to remove the tree and get it into the house as Sid reminds her repeatedly that they’ve done this before. And the tree is five inches too tall. Again.

 

Yes, there are significant differences, which is part of the fun. But there is also a connection to the past Christmases that was so much fun to play with. It’s how real life happens, and it’s one of those things that makes Christmas and other such holidays so very special. Every year we celebrate Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or whatever we celebrate, is utterly new. We’re different people than we were before. But it’s also a connection to the past, as well. Not only the history that gave us the holidays, but our personal histories as well. And it’s fun to celebrate that, even fictionally.

 

Just Because You’re Paranoid

Operation Quickline, Book 9

 

It doesn't mean they're not out to get you

 

Lisa Wycherly and Sid Hackbirn find themselves up against a relentless enemy and about to get the shock of their lives in book nine of the Operation Quickline Series. First, there's the wedding. Not Sid and Lisa's, but her cousin Maggie's, where Sid and his son, Nick, raise all sorts of eyebrows. 

 

Then there's the attempt on Sid's life. Then Sid and Lisa's good friends are recruited into their top-secret organization. Then there's Lisa's sister being jealous, and a new house getting close to being ready, and Sid and Lisa's own wedding to work on, and Nick bringing home every bug there is at his new school and sharing it with his parents.

 

Being highly trained top-secret counter-intelligence agents will only help so far as the circles of family complications ripple outward. Sid and Lisa try to cope with the multiple surprises as they train their two friends and track down a ruthless killer determined to take both of them out.

 

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Friday, December 23, 2022

#COOKING WITH CLORIS - AUTHOR KRIS BOCK’S ROCKY ROAD FUDGE BARS AND A BILLIONAIRE COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS

Kris Bock writes novels of romance, mystery, and suspense. Learn more about Kris and her books at her website where you'll find links to her other social media and also sign up for her newsletter to receive a free 10,000-word story set in the world of her Furrever Friends cat cafe, a printable copy of the recipes mentioned in the novels, and an Accidental Detective short story and bonus material. 

Who wouldn't want to be a billionaire? Turns out winning the lottery causes as many problems as it solves.

 

How did you get the idea for this series?

When browsing the top sellers in Kindle romance, I saw lots of billionaires and cowboys, and a few billionaire cowboys. I wondered, how might a cowboy (or rancher anyway) realistically become a billionaire? They’d hardly have enough free time to develop and promote an app that would become the next Tik-Tok and get a billion dollars. 

 

I came up with a family of four brothers and their mother. She plays the lottery, not expecting to win, but simply so she can spend an hour dreaming about being rich. And then she wins. Everything changes, and not necessarily for the better. Friends and family demand a share of the winnings. Strangers come up with scams and sob stories. 

 

People who win huge lotteries are advised to go into hiding, which you can’t really do when you have to take care of animals. This setup allows me to play with questions of dreams, choices, and responsibilities.

 

This is the first book in the Accidental Billionaire Cowboys series. The family tries to stick to some Christmas traditions in order to relieve stress – such as the annual cookie exchange. Here’s one of the sweet treats they make.

 

Rocky Road Fudge Bars

NOTE: Carefully read the entire recipe before starting this one; notice that frosting has to be ready when bars come out of oven. Makes 3 to 4 dozen bars.

 

Bar

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate 

1 cup sugar 

1 cup flour 

1/2 - 1 cup chopped nuts 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs 

 

Filling:

6 oz. cream cheese, softened (one box, but reserve 2 oz. for frosting)

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 c. butter or margarine, softened

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup chopped nuts

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 

 

Frosting:

2 cups miniature marshmallows

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate

2 oz. reserved cream cheese

1/4 cup milk

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Heat oven to 350°. Butter and flour 13 x 9-inch pan.

 

In large saucepan over low heat, melt 1/2 cup butter and 1 square chocolate. Add remaining bar ingredients and mix well. Spread in prepared pan. 

 

In small bowl, combine 6 ounces cream cheese with next five filling ingredients. Beat 1 minute at medium speed until smooth and fluffy; stir in nuts. 

 

Spread filling over bar mixture in pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake for 25 - 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

 

While bars are baking, make frosting.

In large saucepan, over low heat, melt 1/4 cup butter, 1 square chocolate, remaining 2 ounces cream cheese, and milk. 

 

Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. 

 

Remove bars from oven and sprinkle with marshmallows. Bake 2 minutes longer.

 

Immediately pour frosting over marshmallows. Use a knife to swirl toppings together. 

 

Cool. Cut into bars. Store in refrigerator. 

 

The Billionaire Cowboy’s Christmas

The Accidental Billionaire Cowboys, Book 1

 

He has everything this Christmas, but all he wants is the quiet ranch life he’s losing…

 

When Josh Tomlinson’s Texas ranching family wins a fortune in the lottery, the formerly tight-knit family is suddenly on edge. Seeking advice, Josh reluctantly contacts family friend and now attorney, Carly Garza. His business is serious, yet he can’t believe Carly’s morphed from a long-legged colt of a girl to a sophisticated woman. Besides, he knows the intelligent Carly has no interest in a quiet, rugged cowboy like him.

 

Carly’s crushed on Josh for years, and she plans to ask him out now that she’s back in Last Stand. She’s hoping he’ll finally see her as someone other than his younger brother’s middle school girlfriend. But when Josh needs advice on how to handle his family’s lottery win, his client and billionaire statuses put him firmly out of reach. If only her heart could ignore the sparks that flare between them.

 

They’re already keeping the family’s lottery win a secret from the town. Can they also hide their budding romance during the most magical time of year?

 

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

AN INTERVIEW WITH COZY MYSTERY, ROMANCE & ROMANTIC SUSPENSE AUTHOR SHARON MICHALOVE

Today we sit down for a chat with cozy mystery, romance, and romantic suspense author Sharon Michalove. Learn more about Sharon and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

As soon as I started to read “adult” novel, so around ten years old.

 

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

For history (I am a historian), in my forties. For fiction, I had two short stories published in 2019 and my first novel in 2021 on my seventieth birthday.

 

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

I’m Indie published, but I’m working on a project now that I hope to have traditionally published.

 

Where do you write? 

I write in my study, which is the second bedroom of my 1917 condo—and I look out onto a brick wall.

 

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

I listen to music all the time—classical from a station out of London.

 

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

My characters all have aspects of me. My plots, on the other hand, are inspired by other peoples’ comments, newspaper and magazine articles, and sometimes just magically appear. That’s what happened in Dead in the Alley.

 

Describe your process for naming your character? 

That depends on the book. Sometimes the characters just tell me their names. Sometimes they are riffs on characters from other authors’ books. I might look up a list of names if I have a foreign character. 

 

Real settings or fictional towns? 

Both. In this book, the town is fictional but based on a real town.

 

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

One of my characters refuses to laugh at bad jokes, no matter how funny they are.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk? 

I never laughed at my husband’s bad jokes. It became a joke between us.

 

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why? 

There are probably a lot of them. But I think I’ll go with Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. It appeals to my love of mysteries, my academic soul, as well as the culmination of Peter Wimsey’ pursuit of Harriet Vane. It takes place at Oxford, has murder, academic rivalries, a strong female character, and romance. What more could you ask for?

 

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

I wish I had told my husband every day how much I loved him. (Sorry to be so maudlin.)

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

People who are late, and then just tell me that’s the way they are.

 

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

Books, music, and food. (I think having cats would be too difficult in that situation.)

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

Working on the assembly line in a model-making factory. I lasted three weeks.

 

Who’s your all-time favorite literary character (any genre)? Why? 

Nicholas vander Poele, aka Nicholas Fleury in Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolò series. He’s got an eight-book character arc, is brilliant, devious, kinder than he sometimes appears, altogether a fascinating character in the historical period I study, the late fifteenth century. He also gets to travel over most of the known world, which I’d love to do, and at one point owns a house in Venice, which I envy.

 

Ocean or mountains? 

Mountains.

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

City girl

 

What’s on the horizon for you? 

Right now, I’m writing the third book in the Global Security Unlimited series and the first in a new cozy culinary mystery series. I have two short stories coming out in anthologies next year, a new free holiday short story available on my website, and I’m planning the next book in the Death in the North Country series to follow my detective couple from Dead in the Alley.

 

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

My books are filled with food, cats and dogs, urban settings, humor, history, and romance. Somehow, even with murder on the table, my characters can’t help falling in love!

 

Dead in the Alley

A Murder in the North Country Novel

 

Where do you turn when you’ve lost it all?

 

When Bay Bishop’s husband was found in the alley behind their Northern Michigan restaurant, she lost not only the partner in her dreams of establishing the best fine-dining establishment in the area but the man she thought was the love of her life. Then she finds out how he had betrayed her. Now she’s a suspect.

 

The detective who shows up on her doorstep turns out to be the high-school boyfriend who broke her heart. Faced with uncomfortable truths and new beginnings, Bay must chart a course to prove her innocence and create a new future while she also tries to unravel a family secret that may give her the key to who she really is.

 

The story features a twisty mystery set in a small city in Northern Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan in wine and cherry growing country, a charming inn, plenty of food, a former bike racer hero, and a lovable Portuguese Water Dog.

 

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Monday, December 19, 2022

AUTHOR E.L. REED TALKS ABOUT KIDS AND CHRISTMASES PAST AND PRESENT

E.L. Reed, originally from New Hampshire, now resides in Tennessee. She has fond memories of the Maine coastline and incorporates the ocean into all her books. Growing up as an avid reader, it was only natural for her to turn to creating stories for others to enjoy. She continues to learn through her children's strength and abilities that pushes her to go outside her comfort zone on a regular basis. Learn more about E.L. and her books at her website. 

Christmas is a time for love. I see love during the Christmas season every time I look at my children, or grandchildren’s faces. I see the wonder in their eyes as they see the Christmas lights on the tree turning on for the first time. Christmas has always held a special place in my heart. 

 

When my kids were younger, I was a single mom and times were tough. One year, I had to put my kids’ names into the local Christmas Angel program. It was the hardest thing I had to do—I felt like a failure for not being able to provide for my kids at Christmas. Yet, that was one of the best Christmas the children and I had. 

 

One family adopted all three of my kids, and they received everything they had asked for. Not only that, but they also provide me with a new winter jacket and gift cards to McDonalds and the movies so the kids and I could go out and have a little fun. 

 

When my kids got a little older, and things were better financially for us, I told them about that year. From that point on, we adopted a child or two from the Angel tree in our town so we could give back. Nothing warms my heart more than to know my children still do this, even though they are grown and have families of their own. The need for them to continue giving back, giving thanks every year for the year that someone took care of them at Christmas, is the best gift I could receive from my children. The love my children have for Christmas, and the opportunity to do for others, warms my heart.

 

Love is a powerful thing, and something I look forward to seeing not only at Christmas, but every day through the eyes of my children and grandchildren. Look around you this Christmas season and see where the loves shines through.


Spikes

Memoirs of Murder, Book 2

 

Connecticut State Police Detective Wesley Dawson doesn't rest if the streets aren't safe. And right now, safety is paramount with a serial killer spiking fear in the men of the city as each new body surfaces. But something is eerily off. 

 

Once again, enlisting the help of medical examiner Ali Jensen is Wes' only option. But when all evidence points to the past, Wes and Ali are forced to delve into unsolved cases while teaming up with an unlikely ally to solve the crimes.

 

With danger lurking at every turn, can Ali and Wes take down the serial killer before history repeats itself?

 

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Friday, December 16, 2022

MYSTERY AUTHOR KATHLEEN KASKA AND HER LOING-RUNNING ARGUMENT WITH HER SLEUTH


Kathleen Kaska writes three awarding-winning mystery series: the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series, the Kate Caraway Animal-Rights Mystery Series, and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. She also teaches writing and coaches new writers
Her blog, “Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town,” can be found on her website, along with more about her and her books. 

What Came First, the Stories or the Hotels?

My husband and I love to take road trips, the kind where we avoid interstate highways and stick to the back roads. We take our time, stopping along the way to enjoy the scenery and the surprises we encounter. When it’s time to find a bed for the night, we search for historic hotels, inns, or lodges. If we like the place, we put them on our return list, and they become our travel homes. When we check in, we always stay in the same room, which makes the hotel feel more like home.

 

So, it was only natural that I would come to set my mysteries in historic hotels. These old places have their own stories to tell, and as you may suspect, become characters in their own right. 

 

But what came first? My idea to write a historical mystery set in 1952, or the hotels themselves? Sydney and I disagree on the answer.

 

I remember the first time I saw the Arlington Hotel. We were passing through Hot Springs, Arkansas, on our way north. Driving down Bathhouse Row on Central Avenue, the Arlington loomed majestically before us. I refused to go any further without checking this place out. Walking up the sprawling stairs, I was overcome with a feeling of having been there before, perhaps in another life. Stepping into the lobby felt like stepping back to the 1940s, and the déjà vu took my breath away. We spent a good hour touring the hotel: the lounge, the Venetian Room restaurant, the Fountain Room restaurant, the hot spring spa on the third floor, and the outdoor hot tub built into the hillside. We didn’t stay, but we selected a room on the top floor and made reservations for a four-night stay during Thanksgiving. After that, we returned every year and booked month-long stays once I retired. 

 

I like to say that my idea for protagonist, Sydney Lockhart, was born there. She claims she’d been there for years waiting for me to show up and tell her story, a story which began in 1952 when she was 29 years old. If that’s true, her wait wasn’t a pleasant one. As I was unpacking, Sydney walked out of the bathroom, complaining that there was a dead body in her room in her bathtub. Its throat had been slit. 

 

Rather than running shrieking down the hall in fear, we argued about whose room and bathroom it was. She won the argument by allowing me to stay if I would document the murder. I agreed, and we became friends. And what do friends do? They share their likes, dislikes, and experiences. She was excited to learn that I loved to travel, so she came with me when we checked out. But as it turned out, I had more fun than she did. 

 

On the next trip, I took her to the Luther Hotel in the small coastal town of Palacios, Texas. While I was off enjoying a plate of shrimp fajitas, she went to a New Year’s Eve dance with a man staying at the hotel. Before the clock struck midnight, he was dead, murdered, and she was in jail. 

 

A few months later, I was sitting in the hot tub of the glorious 100-plus-year-old Galvez Hotel in Galveston, Texas, when she came running up to the spa, grabbed my martini, and dumped it into the water. “How can you sit there luxuriating when there’s a dead guy in the trunk of my car? Jees!” she said. “Will I ever get to enjoy a trip without encountering a dead body?” 

 

I raised my hand to summon the waiter. I ordered another drink and said, “Nope.”  

 

Then it was a murder at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, followed by another at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. After that one, she told me that maybe the next time, it would be safer to stay at a Best Western. I asked her if she really wanted to do that. She said, “Hell no. I’m having way too much fun.” 

 

“Mardi Gras’s coming up. How about a trip to New Orleans?” I said. She smiled, and I booked us a room at the Pontchartrain Hotel.

 

If you know of a historic hotel, let me know. I’ve accumulated a long list. 

 

Murder at the Menger

A Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series, Book 5

 

Austin, Texas PI Sydney Lockhart is on the trail of Johnny Pine, a notorious bookie, who has absconded with a client’s payout from a horse race. Pine checks into the Menger Hotel in San Antonio with New Orleans jazz singer Nora Jasper. The next morning Sydney discovers Pine murdered in his bed, and Nora points the guilty finger at Sydney. The situation goes from bad to worse when Sydney is attacked and thrown into the river downtown. Luckily, a passerby rescues her, but her memory before her arrival in San Antonio is gone: no recollection of her partner Dixon, or cousin Ruth, Sydney’s sidekick. With a battered body and faulty memory, Sydney hooks up with an Irish cab driver named Taco and a music-hall bouncer named Rip in an attempt to stay alive and find the killer.

 

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Wednesday, December 14, 2022

AN INTERVIEW WITH MAXIE GWENOCH KANDESKY FROM AUTHOR MICHELE DRIER'S SNAP: THE KANDESKY VAMPIRE CHRONICLES SERIES

We don’t often interview vampires at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, but today we sit down for a chat with Maxie Gwenoch Kandesky from author Michele Drier’s vampire romantic suspense series SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles.

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

Ahhh, it’s been a while. I always thought I had a fulfilling life—a career I loved, loads of friends and acquaintances in Los Angeles and the fringes of celebrity events. I was successful and had worked my way to the top of the gossip magazine world when I was hired as the Managing Editor of SNAP, the world’s largest and most well-known celebrity news organization. Then Ms. Drier found me and…

 

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

Probably my take-charge attitude. I’d always had a clear idea of what was needed to make SNAP a stand-out in a packed magazine and communication field and I pushed my staff to be the best. We worked closely with the broadcast version of SNAP, a daily evening half-hour of celeb dos, don’ts, and changing couples, and did it with taste and a sure hand. We were always careful to steer clear of any misinformation and fact-checked every one of our stories. Even though I’m not in a day-to-day role anymore, every story is checked and cross-checked for accuracy and honesty.

 

What do you like least about yourself?

My initial fears of being left out of my husband’s life. 

 

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

It was my own doing, but I pestered my husband, Jean-Louis, to take me with him on a raid on the Huzars compound. The Kandeskys and the Huzars were centuries-old enemy vampire clans and Jean-Louis wanted to wipe the Huzars out absolutely. I bugged him until he gave in and let me go along on the raid, but I was captured by the head of the Huzars and subjected to rape and torture.

 

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

Not actually argue, but I do wonder how and why she puts me in some positions. Now that I‘m a vampire (yes, I let Jean-Louis change me), I’d like to use my strengths, but she keeps me in Jean-Louis’ shadow. I’m capable of action on my own, but she takes Jean-Louis’ side as he needs to feel he’s in charge.

 

What is your greatest fear? 

Losing Jean-Louis and the Kandeskys. Jean-Louis seems to have no fear and gets into physical situations where I feel he’ll be killed. Then the old vampire blood takes over and he heals, almost overnight. But I’m afraid that one day he’s going to run into someone using silver ammunition.

 

What makes you happy?

Working with Jean-Louis on schemes to strengthen and expand the Kandesky’s hold on the business reach of Kandesky Enterprises. SNAP is the flagship entity, but they also own munitions factories in the Czech Republic, vast cattle ranches in Argentina, textile design and production companies in Eastern Europe. The former USSR is a huge untapped market for SNAP and the Kandesky Enterprises businesses.

 

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

I’d say “yes” to Jean-Louis faster. I was afraid of marrying and changing into a vampire. Giving up Southern California and the sunshine? Giving up food I loved? Going to live in Ukraine? When Jean-Louis told me he’d marry me even if I didn’t change, I knew he was a forever choice. And of course, if I didn’t change, I’d age and he wouldn’t. After all, he’s more than 500 years old already. Turns out my fears were groundless, becoming a vampire only added to my joy in life.

 

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

I do get irritated at some of the demons. These are otherworld entities who are a mixture of paranormal shape-shifters and human genes. They’ve been with and served the Kandeskys for centuries and sometimes forget that I’m now a senior Kandesky. When I give them an order, occasionally they say, “Let me check with Jean-Louis,” and that frosts me but we’re working it out. Sandor, the head of the demons, has looked after Jean-Louis for almost 500 years and he’s now beginning to accept me as a Kandesky.

 

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

I don’t know about trading places, but I’d love to take on some of Pen Kandesky, the Baroness’, traits. She let Stefan, a minor trader in Hungary, change her almost 450 years ago and is now so safe and so serene in her role that she allowed him to take on her father’s title. She exudes calmness and grace and makes everything around her seem effortless.

 

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

She was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series. She is the past president of Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime; currently serves as president of the NorCal chapter, and co-chaired Bouchercon 2020 the world’s oldest and largest convention for mystery writers and fans.

 

Her seventeen published books include the Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mysteries, her eleven-volume paranormal romance series SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, and her Stained Glass Mysteries. Readers can learn more about her and her books at her website.

 

What's next for you?

The Kandeskys have moved into geopolitical waters after Russia attacked Ukraine and they’ve decided that a move to Los Angeles will allow them to shift the focus of SNAP more on political issues and understanding how false information can shift the balances of power in the world. Besides, I miss SoCal, there’s a brashness and immediacy, and change is always just around the corner.

 

SNAP: Pandemic Games

A Kandesky Vampire Chronicle, Book 11


Tension mounts around the world as the Covid pandemic takes hold, pitting nations against each other for vaccines and lockdowns. And against a misinformation campaign designed by Jazz, the Kandeskys begin to take on Russia, not realizing that Putin has plans of his own. Maxie and Jean-Louis do shuttle diplomacy between NATO and the EU, Brussels and Kyiv, working to stalemate any Russian incursions into Ukraine and bolstering the West’s stance against Putin’s dreams of empire.


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