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Friday, April 29, 2022


Today we sit down with cozy mystery and inspirational romance author Allie Pleiter who also writes writing craft nonfiction. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

I have always been a storyteller and started life as an actor. When a friend dared me in my thirties to try writing a novel, I discovered the knack for how a story should go was within me and ready to come out. All the instincts I had as an actor, but never really had the acting talent to realize, now play into my novels and characters.


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

I am very prolific now (I have more than fifty titles published), but that first book took me more than three years to write. It was about five years from that first dare until I saw my name on a book cover.


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

All my fiction—with the exception of the Sweet City Hearts series—is traditionally published. My nonfiction is both traditionally and indie published. I continue to pursue both and love the myriad of options available to authors today.


Where do you write?

HA! Just about everywhere. In my office I have a traditional desk and a treadmill desk, but I can also be found on the couch or my kitchen counter or on nice days my deck. I also travel frequently for my speaking career, so I’m fortunate that I can write on airplanes, in coffeeshops, and lots of other places.


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

I prefer to work with music, but not with lyrics. Spotify’s “Deep Focus” channel is a personal favorite. Movie soundtracks are great for that, too.


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

I get asked this ALL THE TIME. Of course, now that I’m writing murder mysteries, I feel like the answer is a bit more complicated :) Mostly, I just pick out bits and pieces of real life—what someone said, a story I heard, an object I saw, or in the case of the Riverbank Knitting Mysteries, an aspect of fiber arts that I want to explore. The same is true of characters. It’s never someone from my real life, but a combination of all sorts of people in my life.


Describe your process for naming your character?

Usually, they just come to me. Although with a series, you’ve got to be more scientific about it—you can’t have six Peters or four Carols or even a dozen people whose name all starts with “T.” So I keep track. Scrivener (a writing software program) has a name generator, and I’ll often wander through baby name websites if I’m stuck. And I try never to murder anyone with the same name as someone I know (and like….).


Real settings or fictional towns?

I create fictional towns based on real settings. Collinstown is a combination of a handful of Maryland towns—and no, I won’t tell you which.


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

Oh, that’s a great question. I think my favorite quirk—not sure if it’s the quirkiest—is how Rhonda views her memory hiccups as just “how things were meant to be.” If she forgot her lunch date was on Tuesday and shows up on Monday, it must be lunch was supposed to happened on Monday. Pretty good way to look at life, if you ask me.


What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I talk…a lot. And I take notes handwritten with a very specific notebook and pens. It’s also important what I’m drinking my coffee out of—I like pretty mugs and cups that mean something to me…not just tableware from the department store.


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

I’d have to say Outlander. I love the series, am so pleased that it’s found such success, and have great respect for how Diana Gabaldon has followed the characters through such a huge story arc. I’m often asked what my favorite novel is, and my answer is always Outlander. A close second, however, is The Night Circusby Erin Morgenstern. A stunner of a debut!


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

I’d have been more confident taking my own path in high school and college. I did, to some respect, but I let the expectations of others color some choices I would have made differently in hindsight.


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

As a writing productivity expert (my other side from my novelist self), it drives me absolutely nuts when people don’t deliver on their promises.


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

Yarn, of course! And very good coffee, and my husband. He’s an engineer, so between the two of us I feel like we could solve most of the problems we’d encounter.


What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

I worked in high school for a dry cleaner. Mercy, the fumes could knock you over. And it was beyond boring. But it did teach me that I wanted a career, not just a job.


Ocean or mountains?

I grew up on the water in Connecticut, so most definitely beach and ocean.


City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

I’m happy just about anywhere except a very rural situation. As long as there’s a Target or a Starbucks within a 15-minute drive, I’m good. So, maybe “suburb” would be the happy medium option?


What’s on the horizon for you?

I hope to run with the Riverbank Knitting Mysteries for a good long while. The third book, It Came Upon a Midnight Shear, will hit the shelves in November. And I still have two more inspirational romance works coming out in 2022 as well. I don’t like to do just one thing, so I’ll be continuing my writing as well as my speaking and coaching practices. I love having a diversified career.


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

Knit or Dye Trying is about knitting, yes, but it’s not all about knitting. It’s simply a good mystery with a fair amount of yarn involved. So you don’t need to be a knitter to enjoy it. But if I inspire you to start, I wouldn’t mind.


Knit or Dye Trying

A Riverbank Knitting Mystery, Book 2


Business is booming for Libby Beckett and her fabulous Maryland shop, aptly named Y.A.R.N., but when a town festival brings a fatality with it, Libby gets all tangled up in murder.


As spring comes to Collinstown, the village launches a food festival to draw a new group of tourists. Libby, proud owner of Y.A.R.N., has planned a yarn event to provide an alternative option to a foodie weekend. Artisan fiber dyer Julie Wilson—known for her work with animal-friendly, plant-based knitting fibers such as bamboo and hemp as well as her brilliant use of color—will hopefully draw a crowd with a special dyeing workshop.


The festival begins, but it draws more than crowds. First a flock of sheep parades down the street, herded by farmers protesting Julie’s antiwool stance. Then Julie’s celebrity chef sister appears, and the siblings resume a long-standing rivalry. Despite all this, Julie’s workshop has sold out. Libby is thrilled, and they’re preparing for a full house. But the night before the event, Julie is found alone in the warehouse event space—dead. The witty “Watch Julie Wilson Dye” workshop title now has a terrible new meaning—and it’s up to Libby to catch a crafty killer.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2022


Emmeline Duncan (AKA award-finalist YA thriller author Kelly Garrett) writes the hipster Ground Rules Mystery Series. Learn more about her and her books online at her website or frequently in person in one of Portland's coffee shops or on a hiking trail somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. As you can see from this post, she also enjoys knitting, especially hats, and has been working on her fair isle skills. 

DIY: Ground Rules Coffee Sleeve for your to-go hot drinks!

While I was writing Double Shot Death, during the production of the first book in my Ground Rules series, I realized series narrator Sage Caplin would love to offer handknit coffee sleeves in her coffee cart. So I created a campaign and gave away handknit coffee sleeves to everyone who pre-ordered Fresh Brewed Murder from my local book store, Annie Bloom’s Books. The sleeves have become a popular giveaway item at events and bookstores. Just know your friends might want you to make them a coffee sleeve once they see yours!


These sleeves are a little over 3 inches (about 3¼), which is slightly wider than the specs on commercial cardboard sleeves. But I like the feel of the extra fabric of the sleeve. You can adjust the width of the sleeve by adding or decreasing stitches. 


Stitch-wise, I knit most of the sleeves in a basic garter stitch. This allowed me to do something (like watch crime shows, including foreign shows with subtitles) while knitting. But if you want to play around with a new stitch, a coffee sleeve is a great, low-stakes way to practice. Fisherman’s rib, for example, makes a fun coffee koozie. Keep in mind that if you use a stitch that isn’t stretchy, you’ll want to make the sleeve a bit longer. 



For my pre-order campaigns, I used Lily's Sugar 'n Cream cotton yarn. It's affordable and comes in a large selection of colors, including a fantastic sage and a teal. It’s frequently used for household items (like dishcloths), so it holds up well to potential coffee spills. One skein makes multiple coffee sleeves. If you have leftover yarn from previous projects, it’s a great way to use up random leftovers. 


Tools needed:

Size 7 Knitting Needles, including an extra needle for the three-needle bind off

Worsted Weight Yarn 

Yarn needle to weave in ends

Using whichever method you're most comfortable with, cast on 14 stitches using scrap yarn. If you know provisional cast on, it's an excellent choice. Break yarn. 


Switch to primary yarn and knit. Be sure to choose a scrap yarn that contrasts with your primary color.

Knit until you reach seven inches from the first row of your main yarn. Make sure you don't stretch out the sleeve when measuring, else it'll be too short.

Now for the fun part: carefully remove the scrap yarn from the beginning, taking care to pick up the live stitches in your primary color.

You'll end up with live stitches at either end of the coffee sleeve. Make sure your needles both point in the same direction.

Bind off using a three-needle bind-off (what I did), or, if you want to get really fancy, use Kitchener stitch. The bind off edge fits in with the ridges of the garter stitch.


Weave in ends.


Add a button, and you're ready to go!


Note: if you don't want to use a three-needle bind-off or cast on with scrap yarn, you can also knit this in one color, bind off like usual, so you'll knit a rectangle, and then sew the two ends together using a mattress stitch. Or, if you want to practice picking up stitches, you can cast on with your primary yarn, knit seven inches, and then pick up stitches on the cast-on edge and then bind them off with the live stitches. 


Double Shot Death

A Ground Rules Mystery, Book 2


Sage Caplin is taking her Portland coffee cart on the road to a sustainable music festival, but murder is an unwanted special guest…


At Campathon, an annual eco-friendly festival held on a farm outside of Portland, fans celebrate the Pacific Northwest’s music scene in quintessential PDX style—with gourmet food carts, reusable utensils…and lots of coffee. How else to get through three days of nonstop entertainment? Sage has scored a coveted place for her Ground Rules coffee cart thanks to her new-ish boyfriend, Bax, who’s friendly with Maya, one of the musicians performing.
The festivities begin with a stream of customers, friends, and acquaintances stopping by for Ground Rules’ world-class blends, expertly brewed by Sage and her newest barista. But there are tensions between Maya and her former bandmates, who are on the cusp of making it big, and with Ian, the band’s manager. When Sage stumbles upon Ian’s dead body in the nearby woods—his hand still clutching one of her coffee mugs—it’s clear that someone’s grudge boiled over into murder. Can Sage work out who’s responsible before another innocent life fades out, and the curtain falls on Campathon, and maybe her own future, for good?


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Monday, April 25, 2022


Sharon Marchisello is the author of two mysteries, short stories, nonfiction, training manuals, and screenplays (as well as a blog and book reviews.) Learn more about Sharon and her books at her website.  

Setting a Mystery in the Galapagos

For an animal lover like me, visiting the Galapagos was a bucket-list trip. And in 2014, I got to fulfill that dream when my husband and I took a cruise around the islands.


Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos archipelago is 97% national park; humans inhabit only four of its twenty-one volcanic islands. Straddling the equator, the UNESCO site is situated at a point in the Pacific Ocean where three ocean currents collide, which contributes to the diversity of wildlife found nowhere else. And because they’re so isolated, most of the animals have no natural fear of people.


If I’d known I was going to set a book in the Galapagos, I might have been able to write the trip off on my taxes. But I didn’t get the idea until about six months later, when I was driving back from a conference late at night with another author.


As I related an experience that happened to my husband and me on our cruise, she suggested it would make a great opening scene for a mystery. Normally, the guides on our cruise were conscientious about counting heads and watching over all the passengers in their charge whenever we were away from the ship. But on this day, my husband and I left another activity to join a snorkeling excursion already in progress, so neither of the guides assumed responsibility for us.


We were swimming along, marveling at the vast array of underwater life, when I surfaced to see both Zodiac boats motoring back to the ship—without us! I can still feel the panic of being left alone in the middle of the ocean, treading water off the coast of a deserted island.


I waved and screamed, and fortunately, someone spotted me, and one of the boats turned around to pick me up. I didn’t see my husband right away, but I told the guide he was still out there. In a moment, he’d swum up and climbed aboard. All was well.


But what if.... I thought. What if the protagonist’s companion didn’t get picked up? And what if the person was left behind on purpose?


When Secrets of the Galapagos begins, my protagonist, Giovanna Rogers, is snorkeling with her new friend, tortoise researcher Laurel Pardo. The two get separated from the group, and Laurel disappears. And then no one on the ship will acknowledge that Laurel didn’t make it back.


While trying to determine a motive, I recalled a conversation I’d had with one of our guides during a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, the largest town on Santa Cruz Island. “I know a secret about Lonesome George,” he said. “But if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.” Lonesome George was a Galapagos giant tortoise made famous for being the sole survivor of the Pinta Island species. Unfortunately, efforts to breed George were unsuccessful, and the ancient tortoise passed away in 2012.


But what if someone discovered another giant tortoise from a different subspecies also thought to be extinct? And then a tortoise researcher unearthed some information about the animal that certain individuals in the tourist industry didn’t want released?


You’ll have to read Secrets of the Galapagos to find out what happens next.


Secrets of the Galapagos

Shattered by a broken engagement and a business venture derailed by Jerome Haddad, her unscrupulous partner, Giovanna Rogers goes on a luxury Galapagos cruise with her grandmother to decompress. At least that's what her grandmother thinks. Giovanna is determined to make Jerome pay for what he's done, and she has a tip he's headed for the Galapagos.


While snorkeling in Gardner Bay off the coast of Española Island, Giovanna and another cruise passenger, tortoise researcher Laurel Pardo, both become separated from the group, and Laurel is left behind. No one on the ship will acknowledge Laurel is missing, and Giovanna suspects a cover-up.


When the police come on board to investigate a death, Giovanna assumes the victim is Laurel. She's anxious to give her testimony to the attractive local detective assigned to the case. Instead, she learns someone else is dead, and she's a person of interest.

Resolved to keep searching for Laurel and make sense of her disappearance, Giovanna finds that several people on board the cruise ship have reasons to want Laurel gone. One is a scam involving Tio Armando, the famous Galapagos giant tortoise and a major tourist attraction in the archipelago. And Jerome Haddad has a hand in it. Thinking she's the cat in this game, Giovanna gets too involved and becomes the mouse, putting her life in jeopardy. But if she doesn't stop him, Jerome will go on to ruin others.

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Friday, April 22, 2022


Take four bestselling humorous mystery authors, stick them together on a Zoom call, and the results are a new series with a unique twist. Read on to learn about the results. 

I’m Arlene McFarlane, USA Today Bestselling Author of the Valentine Beaumont mysteries. As ideas often go, 4 Sleuths & A Bachelorette came to me on an early morning walk, when I usually plot my books. This particular morning, my mind took a detour from my series to ask this question: What if four heroines joined together in solving a mystery? Not just any heroines or any mystery. But four diverse protagonists, each with their own series, teaming up to make a hilarious, entertaining whodunit, much like a superhero movie that includes crossovers between characters and stories.


The next task was to find three authors with great comedic voices, their own cozy series, and an array of eager fans. I didn’t need to look far. Leslie Langtry, Diana Orgain, and Traci Andrighetti were witty authors whom I already respected and admired. They were excited about this prospect and agreed that our first-person narratives and our heroines’ special skill sets would blend well together in forming an unstoppable crime-fighting force.


Traci Andrighetti, USA Today Bestselling Author of the Franki Amato mysteries, taking over! During a lot of hilarious—and sometimes harrowing—Zoom calls, we plotted 4 Sleuths & A Bachelorette together but wrote our chapters individually, borrowing each other’s characters. 


The entire process was so much fun that we decided to make it a series: the Killer Foursome mysteries. Since the first book takes place in Niagara Falls, a neutral location for our 4 sleuths, the next four books (notice a number pattern here?) will be set in the hometowns of our heroines. Next up is 4 Sleuths & A Burlesque Dancer in New Orleans, Louisiana, PI Franki Amato’s stomping (and parading) grounds.


One of the funniest things about this project—besides the books, obviously—is that the first initials of our last names (Langtry, McFarlane, Andrighetti, Orgain) spell LMAO! The acronym was too good not to use, so we created a publishing company called LMAO Press. :D


We hope you enjoy the series as much as we enjoy writing it!


Four Sleuths and a Bachelorette

A Killer Foursome Mystery, Book 1


Tonight is Babette Lang’s bachelorette party. Problem is, there’s no bachelorette, only an unusual group of disgruntled guests—a wannabe hand-model bartender, a chain-smoking talent agent, the bride-to-be’s cheapskate boss, plus the sloshed fiancé and his furious sisters.


It’s not a party until there’s a body!


When one of the guests drops dead, four women with a tendency for trouble join forces to catch a killer.


Valentine Beaumont ~ Boston sleuth and gutsy beautician

Kate Connolly ~ San Francisco part-time crime-solver and sleep-deprived new mom

Merry Wrath ~ Iowa ex-CIA operative turned Girl Scout leader

Franki Amato ~ New Orleans PI and victim of a serial-matchmaking Sicilian nonna


Will these sleuths untangle this double mystery and save the party? Or is it already too late?


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Wednesday, April 20, 2022


Today we sit down for a chat with crime fiction and romantic suspense author Mike Nemeth. Learn more about him and his books at his website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

When I read Boys and Girls Together by William Goldman as an impressionable high school student. 


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

Fifty years. Love, marriage, kids, jobs, the need to support a family, all stood in the way, but happily. I’ve had a life of good fortune with a family that enjoyed the fruits of my labor. But the compulsion to write never waned. It’s never too late to start.


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

My first three novels—including Parker’s Choice—were hybrid published. I’m now looking for a traditional publisher for my fourth novel, The Man with two Names


Where do you write?

Everywhere! I read that Stephen King wrote his earliest novels on the clothes washing machine in his laundry room because that was the only uncluttered flat surface in the house. If he can do it, anyone can. I wrote my first novel—Defiled—on airplanes and in hotel rooms. I was still employed full time and flying long haul to Europe and Asia on a regular basis. Now I use a notepad on my cell phone to collect thoughts, ideas, phrases, and segments of prose no matter where I am or what I’m doing when the muse speaks. Most of the work now happens in my home office with my Belgian Malinois lying at my feet.


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

Music keeps the adrenalin flowing. It’s classic rock for me. I nearly always begin with Chicago and run through a playlist of ‘60s anti-establishment songs. 


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

There’s no such thing as fiction. Every novel is a synthesis of life experiences even if only through research. Taken together, my four novels are the story of my life, except for the early years which are fodder for a fifth novel. 


Describe your process for naming your characters.

Phone books used to be handy! I want names for primary characters that are easy to pronounce in a reader’s mind and fit somewhere between too ordinary and too odd. Minor characters get ordinary names so they don’t detract from the protagonist and antagonist. 


Real settings or fictional towns?

I only read books with real settings. When I was younger, I read a lot of novels set in New York City. When I first visited the city, I knew my way around, recognized places where “things’ had happened. Because of Elmore Leonard, I know a lot about Detroit and South Florida. So, I write about real streets and real restaurants and real buildings and real views of the landscape. My novels have been set in my favorite places: St. Pete, Florida, Augusta, Georgia, New Orleans, and now Savannah. 


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

Parker dresses for the Florida beach life no matter the social circumstance. Boat shoes, shabby jeans and a faded T-shirt are his milieu. He lost his taste for suits and ties while incarcerated for a crime he hadn’t committed.


What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I’m a slave to routine. I do the same things, in the same order, every day. Except when on vacation.


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

Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon perfectly expresses moral ambiguity which is a theme I embodied in all my novels. No black and white; only shades of gray. A second choice would be a movie script: Chinatown, the perfectly conceived plot.


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

I wish I hadn’t rounded third base and made out at home plate in my Little League game. We’d have won the championship.


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

TV announcers and commentators who don’t know how to use prepositions. If I hear, “between he and I” one more time I’m going to throw up. 


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

My wife, my daughter, and my dog. Nah, beer, peanuts, and the Internet. 


What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

Summers between college years I worked at a pulp paper mill (good wages). The residue from the papermaking process is a sticky black powder used as a binding agent in asphalt. For eight hours a day I stood in front of a machine with two spigots and filled fifty-pound sacks with the powder and stacked the sacks on a pallet. I ended each shift exhausted and covered in stubborn powder.


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

There may be more than one definition of “best.” As I mentioned earlier, Boys and Girls Together left a lasting impression. So did The Naked and the Dead (Mailer). If the quality of the writing is the standard, it would be anything by Barbara Kingsolver. If it’s fun you want, anything by Elmore Leonard. And an overall winner would probably be The Great Gatsby.


Ocean or mountains?

Both! Fishing for trout in the mountains and eating seafood near the shore would be perfect. 


City guy or country guy?

I’ve transitioned from city to semi-rural life. I guess I’ve mellowed. 


What’s on the horizon for you? 

Grow old enough to shoot my age on the golf course! As I look for a publisher for book no. 4, I’m writing book no. 5, a modern-day version of The Catcher in the Rye that will complete the story of my life. 


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

I hope my books offer fresh perspectives for my readers. 


Parker’s Choice 

A tasty murder mystery served with a dollop of romance and a dash of corporate fraud. 


Parker has been to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and he’s not about to let that happen again. He’s thrilled to land a good job after being paroled, until his boss threatens to fire him if he doesn’t facilitate a fraudulent scheme that will cost thousands of Americans their jobs. To complicate matters, a woman’s body is pulled from the Chattahoochee River and the cops make Parker their prime suspect, but Parker fears his estranged wife, Paula, has committed the murder. His clever and alluring black colleague, Sabrina, shames Parker into helping her expose the fraud and they find themselves romantically attracted to one another as they search for the “smoking gun” that will thwart the fraud and expose the murderer—the identity of Parker’s elusive birth father. On the run from cops and crooks, the last piece of the puzzle falls into place when Parker is ambushed in a frightening New Orleans cemetery. Then Parker has choices to make. 


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Monday, April 18, 2022


M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind the cozy mystery series, The Painted Lady Inn MysteriesThe Talking Dog Detective AgencyThe Way Over the Hill Gang, and Cupid’s Catering Company.Writing is a family affair with hubby serving as first editor and webmaster, while daughter, Sarah, operates the social media and Jane the lab handles the gardening. Learn more about M.K. and their books at their website.

The Dog Gardener

Many cozy mysteries feature a main character who feels at home in garden clogs and with a trowel in one hand and a pack of seeds in the other. A few antagonists may even grow some deadly poisons for nefarious purposes. As for myself, I try to combine gardening with dog ownership without anyone getting hurt.


Despite decades of being both a dog owner and gardener, I never knew my yard contained toxic items for my canine companions. Fortunately, my previous dogs confined themselves to biting the head off the occasional flower and chasing out an abundance of wild rabbits. Any blooming, yellow flower became a treat for both dogs and finches. I really never saw my yellow rose bush in full bloom since dog and friends kept a close eye on the buds, too. 


When I started to work for the Humane Society, I discovered many plants I grew in my yard were toxic to dogs. The second most poisonous plant is the humble tomato plant. Who knew? Not me! Now, some plants will just make dogs sick while others could be fatal. Here’s a list from the ASPCA of plants you might want to avoid in your back yard. The list is extensive, so I decided with having a curious Labrador puppy, that it might be easier to find what wouldn’t hurt my four-legged friend.


Safe Plants for Your Yard and Dog







Gerber Daisies



African Violets


Of course, after you plant your safe flowers, remember it might become a nibble for your pet. Pesticides are dangerous to your pet. Bugs aren’t an issue in our yard because we have dozens of birds who like to help me maintain my vegetable garden and flowers. 


Another way to discourage insects is by spraying the plants with a mixture of water and peppermint oil. While peppermint smells good to most humans, pests aren’t a fan. Lavender, lemon balm, and oregano are also good at keeping insects away. Basil works for flies. Cooled raspberry tea sprayed on the plant discourages insects. Insecticidal soap won’t hurt your pet, either.


Before I can enjoy my plants, I have to protect them from a curious pet who investigates with both paws and mouth.  Labradors enjoy gardening a bit too much, which encourages creativity in plant placement. Very raised gardens, planters placed up high, hanging containers, and sturdy fences all work. Older dogs tend not to care for investigating plants, or they can be like my old dog, who only ate yellow flowers.


It is possible to have flowers and puppies. Sometimes, those flowers might have to exist in the front or side yard. For those book lovers who enjoy house plants, here’s a list of safe houseplants.


Happy gardening with your canine friends.


Late for the Wedding

The Way Over the Hill Gang, Book 6


The Senior Sleuths don’t mind a little peace now and then, but after a long bout of nothing out of the ordinary, they’re eager for some excitement.

No one could’ve imagined it would arrive with such a bang.

A mysterious explosion has rocked the assisted living community, disrupting life for everyone.

Despite the stern warnings from authorities, one of the Senior Sleuths can’t help but get involved. This is their home, after all.
Herman, always eager to root out the truth, ignores the warnings and hunts for answers. He’s convinced the explosion was a ruse to cover up something far more sinister. But the other seniors aren’t as eager to get involved. They’re focused on Marcy and Lance’s upcoming wedding.

Without his usual sidekicks, can Herman track down the bomber and a missing veteran who no one else remembers?


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Friday, April 15, 2022


Peppered honey cakes photo from Wikimedia Commons
by Carole Raddato, Frankfurt, Germany
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer's Byzantine mystery series relates the investigations of John, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian. They also write the Grace Baxter series set in WWII England. Learn more about Mary and Eric at their website and blog.

Adventures in Ancient Roman Cuisine

In our Byzantine mystery Six for Gold self-proclaimed epicure Francio nurses an ambition of recreating Trimalchio's Feast, which according to Petronius' Satyricon featured such gustatory delights as dormice sprinkled with honey and poppy-seeds and a wild boar from which thrushes flew out as it was carved.


Francio's project is unavoidably delayed, however, given plague is currently ravaging Constantinople and food is scarce, so two dinner guests are served a bitter salad composed of weeds, followed by the grandly titled Harbour Chicken in Poseidon’s Special Sauce. Which turns out to be boiled seagull in garum sauce (a fermented fish concoction often compared to modern anchovy sauce). Food may be short but Francio's invention is long, given a later meal he hosts features an offering he terms The Wreck of the Ark, describing its ingredients as "a rather mature octopus, a couple of fig-peckers, and an under-nourished partridge"--  not to mention a weasel caught in his garden.


As biographers of John, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, we are aware that although responsible for organising complicated imperial banquets, he would just as soon have less elaborate dishes than those offered at Justinian and Theodora's jamborees. His meals at home therefore are simple. He likes hard-boiled eggs, bread, olives, cheese, and fish, especially grilled swordfish. If pressed. he'd admit to a liking for honey cakes. Whatever is on his plate, however, it will be washed down with what his friends habitually deride as ghastly Egyptian wine, a fondness for which he developed during his time in that country.


Researching food for the upper crust (no pun intended) led us to a modern translation of Apicius' first century recipe collection On the Subject of Cooking. The work offers all manner of recipes both rich and plain, and with John's tastes in mind, I'll mention a few of its more homely dishes.


It has been observed fine words butter no parsnips. Apicius provides a recipe for boiled parsnips, the recipe for which directs taking "celery seed, rue, honey, ground pepper, mixed with raisin wine, stock and a little oil; bind this with roux [bring to a boiling point, immerse parsnips] sprinkle with pepper and serve."


Then there's a sweeter Roman equivalent to today's French toast, made by soaking large pieces of crustless "fine white bread" in milk and beaten eggs, frying the pieces, and serving after covering them with honey


Discerning diners doubtless insisted on Lucanian sausages, historically renowned as best in class and still popular today. The instructions are to "crush pepper, cumin, savory, rue, parsley, condiment, laurel berries and broth; mix with finely chopped [fresh pork] and pound well with broth. To this mixture, being rich, add whole pepper and nuts." The recipe concludes by advising carefully filling casing before hanging the sausages up to smoke.


Although the amounts of ingredients are never mentioned, some recipes tending to the exotic are simple enough to make. Consider sea urchins, still popular fare in certain countries. Trimalchio's feast included quinces sporting artificial spines to mimic sea-urchins but Apicius addresses the real  type, advising cooks to put them "singly in boiling water, cook, retire, and place on a platter."


A more extravagant dish caught my eye:  ostrich boiled in a stock composed of "pepper, mint, cumin, leeks, celery seed, dates, honey, vinegar, raisin wine, broth, and a little oil", the liquid to be strained when the bird is done and thickened with roux before adding cut-up ostrich meat to it and sprinkling the concoction with pepper.


I cannot close without mentioning a culinary tip likely familiar to John's elderly cook Peter when he plans to make a batch of honey cakes for his master. "To make honey cakes that will keep take what the Greeks call yeast and mix it with the flour and the honey at the time when making the cooky dough." Oddly enough, although honey frequently appears as an ingredient, no recipe for making honey cakes is given in Apicius' work. Perhaps Peter invented his own.


Profusely illustrated and footnoted, the modern translation of Epicius' work is titled Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome. It's fascinating reading. Find it at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/29728/29728-h/29728-h.htm

Six for Gold

A John the Eunuch Mystery, Book 


Why are sheep in the remote Egyptian village of Mehenopolis cutting their own throats? That's the mystery Emperor Justinian inexplicably sends John, his Lord Chamberlain, to Egypt to solve. Mehenopolis is a pilgrim destination, thanks to its ancient shrine to a snake deity.


Among the characters John encounters are a pretentious local landowner battling a self-styled magician for control of the lucrative shrine, an exiled heretical cleric, an itinerant beekeeper, and a disgraced charioteer. Will John uncover what is really happening to these sheep? Are these slayings somehow linked to the murder charge of which John has frantically tried to clear himself?


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Wednesday, April 13, 2022


The road to hell is paved with adverbs. — Stephen King


I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee, WD


If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. — Elmore Leonard


Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing. — Norman Mailer


Writing is its own reward. — Henry Miller


If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. — Toni Morrison


We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. — Anaïs Nin


The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress. — Phillip Roth


Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.— John Steinbeck


I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in. — Robert Louis Stevenson


What's your favorite quote about writing?