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 29, 2022


Today we welcome back Justin Murphy. In both his fiction and nonfiction, Justin explores many themes in his work, including probing into the darkness of pure evil and exploring obscure figures often forgotten in entertainment. Today he talks about the relationship between readers and the characters they’re drawn to. Learn more about Justin and his books at his Facebook Author Page.  

Readers Want Characters Who Are Both Personal and Universal

There are old adages many of us have heard time and time again, that we want to read about characters we can ’’relate to’’ or ’’identify with.’’ Yet psychoanalyst Carl Jung also once said, ’’What is most personal is most universal,’’ and this adds a deeper layer. In such cases, it refers to those of us who read books and explore characters who remind us of who we are inside, or someone we know. This works two ways, as writers project something from their personal lives into their fiction, and readers find even the smallest detail connects with an aspect of their ordeals. Five examples of these come to mind.


Jean Louise ’’Scout’’ Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird is a little girl in 1930’s Alabama where racial tensions are no secret. Her father Atticus is an attorney who must defend Tom Robinson, an African American, accused of raping and beating eighteen-year-old Mayella Ewell. It’s based on author Harper Lee’s childhood and her relationship with her father, a real-life lawyer defending a man in a similar case, in the same period and region. Yet the book resonated with readers due to the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement and worsening racial tensions down South.


Another is Douglas Spaulding from Dandelion Wine, who sees his native Green Town, Illinois as a very magical place. Despite being lumped into the genre of science fiction, many young boys of the 1950’s who read this also viewed their upbringing in this way. A wistful nostalgia, if not an imaginative place, in contrast to the harsh realities they later discovered in adulthood. Author Ray Bradbury himself felt this way about his birthplace Waukeagan, Illnois where he spent his formative years. 


Despite his reputation in the horror genre, Stephen King also provides a few examples of these. In his novella, The Body, he focuses on the journey of four adolescent boys as they set out to find, you guessed it, a dead body. Many readers had the same ordeals as these kids, such as having similar friends or confronting bullies. With their adult lives taking very different directions. His epic novel IT and the story “Sometimes They Come Back” are more extreme examples of this. 


Keep in mind, these characters were from 1950’s Maine towns, such as Castle Rock and Derry. So was Stephen King. In fact the incident with the dead body being hit by a train turned out to be based on one he witnessed as a small child. It is believed the future horror author came home so traumatized he remembered nothing, and his mother relayed to him what someone explained to her. 


As for adulthood, King provides a couple examples of this as well. The characters Jack Torrance from The Shining and Dr. Louis Creed of Pet Sematary prove to be symbols of this latter stage in life. The former is a recovering alcoholic reeling from an abusive childhood at the hands of his father. Later projecting said abuse onto his son Danny and becomes the seasonal caretaker at The Overlook Hotel. The supernatural happenings at this locale submerge him once more in the alcoholism and abuse he tried to steer himself and his family away from. What readers haven’t gone through some sort of family dysfunction or got absorbed into their own personal hell? Stephen King later admitted his own alcohol and drug issues and at one point being a little too “hands on’’ with his kids.


Dr. Louis Creed, of the latter novel, faces death in three ways. The hit and run accident involving his daughter Ellie’s cat Church, a similar incident killing his baby son Gage, and his wife Rachel’s murder at the end. He buries each of them in an Indian burial ground, but they return with disastrous and zombifying results. 


Readers deal with this every day. Who hasn’t lost a beloved pet, a child too young, or a spouse after so many years? There are moments they wish to bring them back but realize this is living in the past and are better off moving on.


I’ve drafted, revised, and edited a yet to be released series of novellas entitled The Alana Harrell Mysteries about a single mother investigating missing child cases while dealing with her two special needs sons. Writing these to show how single mothers struggle balancing work and family, letting both them and disabled readers know they are not alone. I was raised by a single mother caring for me with my mild case of Cerebral Palsy and my autistic brother.

Monday, June 27, 2022


Cherie Claire is a native of New Orleans who thinks coffee and chicory and a hot bowl of gumbo make everything right in the world. Cherie is the author of two Cajun romance series and the Viola Valentine paranormal mystery series featuring a New Orleans travel writer who finds ghost mysteries to solve everywhere she travels. Learn more about Cherie at her website and her two blogs, Weird, Wacky & Wild South and Travel the South Bloggers

The Real New Orleans

My hometown of New Orleans is one of the most written about cities while also being one of the most misunderstood. All I have to do is mention the city of my birth and I’m bombarded with a host of comments, almost all of them false. 


“Where’s your Southern accent?”

“You mean you’re from N’awlins?”

“I love that Cajun food!”


So, for all of you who wish to set your story in one of America’s most interesting cities, let me offer a few details to set the record straight.



Arguably, New Orleans was the country’s first melting pot. Founded by the French for Louis the 14th in 1699, the Louisiana colony and its capital city of New Orleans were later owned by Spain for about 70 years, then France again briefly, then the United States. Once the Louisiana territory became part of the country, it saw immigrations of Germans, Irish, and Sicilians. Today, visitors will find a host of nationalities, including Vietnamese, who settled in New Orleans East.


Which is why, most New Orleans residents don’t have a Southern accent! The city has a cadence and style all its own, with unique expressions such as “How’s yo momma and dem?” You’ll hear different types of accents and sayings depending on where “you got your feet.” (That’s a scam they play on tourists – don’t answer that if someone asks you!!) 


One of the city accents is what we locals call a “Y’at” accent, as in our familiar greeting, “Hey Dawl, where y’at?” This accent’s similar to a Brooklyn accent, only slower and peppered with Southern expressions like y’all. We say things like “Gawd,” “Earl” for oil and “Warta” for water. Saints fans chant, “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”


Still don’t believe me? View here for a video that showcases the city’s various accents. And if you want to see some of the city’s musicians chanting for their favorite football team, click here


Mind you, you may hear a Southern accent on the streets of New Orleans, but chances are they relocated here.


Say My Name

Which brings me to the name. Think of someone from Brooklyn saying New Orleans, running the syllables together. That’s how a lot of us pronounce the name: Newawlins. Not N’awlins!! Someone heard us talking fast and came up with that moniker and spread it around but Dawl, we don’t say dat.


Cajun vs. Creole

This one’s harder, because Creole means a lot of different things, depending on who you speak to and where they’re from. In New Orleans, it can mean a white person of European descent, primarily French and Spanish, or an African American, or an African American with mixed blood. I won’t make a statement here, less I get a Creole tomato thrown my way, but Creole cuisine is the style of New Orleans cooking that incorporates French, Spanish, African, Native American and other regional influences.


The Cajuns, on the other hand, are a group of people who arrived in Louisiana after the settlement by the French and Spanish. They were thrown out of Nova Scotia in waves of exile beginning in 1755 and many made their way to Louisiana where likeminded Catholics resided. The Cajuns mainly settled in the countryside so Cajun cuisine resembles one-pot cooking and country-style cooking techniques. 


There’s much more to both of those unique American cuisines but that’s the difference in a nutshell. So, you may enjoy Cajun food in New Orleans, but know that it’s not indigenous. Creole cuisine is. If you leave the city and head into Cajun Country, you’ll find more authentic dishes there, plus it’s a whole other world, cher.



There’s much more to explain about my hometown. We don’t have rocks, for instance, since South Louisiana was formed by the muddy Mississippi. We have bugs and lots of them. Alligators. Nutria. It rains. A lot. And it’s brutally hot and humid in the summer and we sweat like pigs so if you’re setting a romance in August, you might reconsider having them stroll around town looking fresh as a flower. 


Instead, let me leave you with some lagniappe (lan-yap), which means “a little something extra.” It’s a recipe my momma and dem taught me. 


My Momma’s Shrimp Creole 



4 tablespoons butter 

1 cup onions, chopped, about one medium onion

1 cup celery, chopped 

1 small green pepper, chopped

2 cloves of minced garlic 

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

2 cups of chopped tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes with juice

1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined or 2 cups frozen shrimp

1 cup water 

Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste


Melt butter in saucepan on medium to medium-high heat. Sauté onions, celery, and green pepper until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and sauté another 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, dried basil, and a can of diced tomatoes and stir. Next add shrimp. If using frozen shrimp, add 1/2 cup of water and simmer for 10 minutes. If using fresh shrimp, add shrimp and 1 cup of water and simmer until shrimp turns bright pink, about 15 to 20 minutes. Do not overcook. Add Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste. Serve over cooked Louisiana rice. 


A Ghost of a Chance

A Viola Valentine Mystery, Book 1


The ghosts are stalking!


The hurricane gave Viola Valentine the chance she needed to leave her dead-end job and loveless marriage. But the storm also blew open a psychic door, one that Viola had worked hard to keep closed.

Her first day as a travel writer and ghosts who have died by water are demanding attention, asking her to solve their mysteries.


On top of it all, her goofy ex-husband isn’t about to let her go.


Can Viola Valentine insist on a clean slate while busy communicating with those on the Other Side? And will her new talent allow her to reach her daughter who died of leukemia years before?


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ebook (free!) 

Friday, June 24, 2022


Today we sit down for a chat with Claudia Simcoe from author Daisy Bateman’s Marketplace Mysteries.

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

Once upon a time, I was nothing but a tech drone, writing code to make other people’s ideas a reality. Then one day it all fell apart, and for once I found myself asking what I really wanted out of my life. And it turned out the answer was: a lot of cheese. So, to make a long story unreasonably short, I moved to a small town on the Northern California coast to open an artisan foods marketplace, and I’ve never looked back. (Except about twice a week, when I wonder what on earth I was thinking.)


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

I guess I would have to say it’s my determination. There have been some situations I’ve faced where a normal (some would say sane) person would have thrown in the towel, when I have kept going, and surprisingly they have ended up turning out all right. Not saying things wouldn’t have been better if I had left well enough alone, but I’ll take what I can get.


What do you like least about yourself?

That would be my impetuousness. Sometimes it works out well, like when I decided almost on a whim to buy the marketplace, which for all my doubts has been the best decision I ever made. But at other times, like when I find myself telling my friend that I am going to solve a murder to clear her name, it has some clear downsides.


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

Well, the time I got into a low-speed tractor chase was definitely unusual. And I don’t think many people have encountered frog colonies in their workplace. But the weirdest thing is probably all the murders she has me solve. I mean, who does that?


What is your greatest fear?

Letting people down. When I opened the marketplace, I was only thinking about it as a place that would sell the kinds of things I love, and my biggest worry was making it a going business concern. It didn’t occur to me that my tenants would be so dependent on it for their livelihoods, or that they would become my friends. Which is why, when there have been times when the marketplace has been threatened, I’ve made some choices that other people might not have made.


What makes you happy?

Cheese, mostly. Also my dog, who is a lot of trouble but so sweet it’s impossible to stay mad at her. Which probably explains how many treats she manages to scam when she doesn’t deserve them.


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

I wouldn’t mind a do-over on how I met my nearest neighbor, Nathan Rodgers. When I first opened the marketplace, he was an unseen thorn in my side, always making complaints about what my business was doing to his neighborhood. I ended up with a certain impression of him, without us ever meeting, and, let’s just say, it wasn’t exactly accurate.


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

I do try to get on well with everyone, but even I have to admit that I haven’t had the best relationship with our local law enforcement. The previous chief of the San Elmo Bay force was a real piece of work, and I have zero regrets about the trouble I caused him. But his replacement is something else entirely, and the thing that worries me the most about her is that I’m pretty sure she can see through all my nonsense.


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

Probably my friend Betty. Not so much for the details of her life—I like her husband well enough, but I think I’m looking for a guy who says more than five words per day, and three kids is at least two and a half more than I can handle—but for the way she is able to meet every challenge head-on and always seems to come out on top, with her hair looking great. I know she has problems of her own, but just for a day, I’d like to project that kind of confidence.


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

Daisy Bateman definitely spends too much time on the internet, so that’s a good place to look for her. On her website you can find a place to sign up for her newsletter and links to her other social media accounts.


What's next for you?

My last adventure ended up with me making a surprising discovery related to my marketplace, so I think I’m going to be dealing with that for the foreseeable future! The details are still under wraps, but I’ll be sure to let you know.



A Dismal Harvest

A Marketplace Mystery, Book 2


It’s autumn on the Sonoma Coast, and Claudia Simcoe is sure that the gourmet harvest dinner being held at her artisan marketplace will wipe away any memories of the unpleasantness last summer. But then the newly installed video surveillance system shows local lawyer Clark Gowan removing something from a hidden compartment in the marketplace walls… and Claudia’s visit to his office the next day reveals that he’s dead, shot with one of his own vintage guns.


The town’s new no-nonsense police chief wants to know about the compartment, but she’s more interested in the fact that Julie Muller, famed cheesemaker and one of Claudia’s tenants, broke in to Gowan’s office the night before he was killed. Concerned for her friend, and also about the revelation that Gowan, who was involved in the sale of the marketplace building, was not entirely on the up and up, Claudia is determined to learn more.


The building’s Prohibition-era history offers some clues, and the victim’s illegal legal work turns out to have affected a number of people in town, from Julie to the farm museum he cheated out of a significant amount of land. Meanwhile, Claudia still has a marketplace to run, and she is more confused than anyone when it comes to her relationship, or lack-thereof, with her craft-beer-making neighbor.

Still, Claudia thinks she’s getting a hand on this investigating thing, until another gruesome death, secrets from her building’s past, and a low-speed tractor chase make her wonder if she’s really ready to reap what she’s sown.


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Wednesday, June 22, 2022


Today we sit down for a chat with RahRah, Sarah Blair’s Siamese cat from cozy mystery author Debra H. Goldstein’s Sarah Blair Mysteries.

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

Although I almost died during the first weeks of my life when I was caught up in the swirling waters of Hurricane Katrina, I was fortunate to be rescued by Mother Blair. Unlike her son, the rat who Sarah was married to, Mother Blair doted on me. Thanks to her, I lived a life of luxury. When she died and her son had to take care of me, I feared for my safety and well-being, but the rat did one decent thing in his life – he conned Sarah into taking me in. Although she had no experience with Siamese cats, or pets of any kind, she immediately gave me love and security. That’s why it was a joy, when we found out about them, to be able to share with Sarah the good things Mother Blair’s will provided for my well-being.


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

Isn’t it obvious? I love the fact that I’m confident and therefore have no fear of being in control of any situation.


What do you like least about yourself?

Nothing. I’m simply purr-fect.


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

The strangest thing happened in the first book, One Taste Too Many, when my author had Sarah and me pretend that I was a different cat. My author was only trying to protect me, but it was weird being called a different name, given a physical description that obviously didn’t match my natural beauty in terms of color or characteristics, and being described as dependent on Sarah and my “real owner” for everything rather than being my natural independent self.


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

From day one, my author and I agreed that I would be a “real” cat. Consequently, I don’t talk, have mental thoughts, or do anything a Siamese cat wouldn’t do. However, I’m the alpha character in our house. Occasionally, my author thinks Sarah should control a situation rather than deferring to me. When that happens, I dig in until my author, and of course, Sarah, come around to seeing things my way.


What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is that my author won’t continue chronicling my escapades. I love being in a bookstore and having people fall in love with me after seeing my picture on the cover of one of the books in the series (Five Belles Too Many, Four Cuts Too Many, Three Treats Too Many, Two Bites Too Many, and One Taste Too Many). At the moment, I’m excited about the cover for Five Belles because it not only showcases me, but it let’s people know about the chaos that occurs when a New York TV show comes to Wheaton, Alabama to film Southern belles competing to win a perfect Southern wedding. 


What makes you happy?

Although I have everything I could want, I’m particularly happy at night when I cuddle up next to Sarah. My warm body nestled into her legs or the small of her back comforts her, but being truthful, it makes me happy, too.


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

This is a hard question. Obviously, it was frightening to be caught in the swirling waters of Hurricane Katrina, but if that hadn’t happened, I would never have ended up in Mother Blair and eventually Sarah’s lives. There was a period of time in One Taste Too Many when Sarah had to give me up to her greatest nemesis, Jane, but as bad as that was, I got a lot of satisfaction out of tormenting Jane and of course, eventually coming back to live with Sarah. Perhaps, if I could rewrite a part of my story, it would be the times I’m unable to protect Sarah from the repercussions of her amateur sleuthing. Unfortunately, I’m not always with her when she gets into a pickle. I have nine lives, but I’m not sure if she does.


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

At times, the character that bugs me most is Fluffy, the dog Sarah rescued. He follows me everywhere and constantly defers to me, all of which makes me very happy to be the alpha animal in our household, but there are times I’d rather not share Sarah’s time with her. For example, in Five Belles Too Many, while Sarah spends a week chaperoning her mother as a Southern Belle contestant, we’re forced to spend a lot of time home alone or with Sarah’s twin, Chef Emily. The small periods of time Sarah is able to spend with us would be nicer if she didn’t have to pay attention to Fluffy, too. 


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

There is no character that I’d like to trade places with. I have wealth, comfort, love, and confidence. All the other characters are scrounging for something – a new restaurant, job security, true love, or simple happiness. Nope, wouldn’t want to be any of them for even a moment. 


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

I love Debra H. Goldstein. She’s a little shy but has a great sense of humor. She’s done a good job of bringing Sarah, a woman who finds being in the kitchen more frightening than murder, and me alive. You can learn about Sarah and me through the five books in the series, and about Debra by going to her website. Her personal blog, It’s Not Always a Mystery, features Debra and various friends every other Monday. She also blogs for The Stiletto Gang, Writers Who Kill, and Booklovers Bench.


What's next for you?

Next Tuesday, I’m excited to announce that Five Belles Too Many, which is available for pre-order, will be formally released. It is one of my author’s favorite books in the series, and I’m partial to it, too.


Five Belles Too Many

A Sarah Blair Mystery, Book 5


Whoever thought a sixty plus year old bride-to-be competing for the perfect Southern wedding would need a chaperone? But no, the television show’s rules require all five of the Southern Belle finalists to be chaperoned at night. Because Sarah Blair’s twin works nights at her restaurant and Mother Maybelle doesn’t want to inconvenience any of her friends, Sarah is “stuck” with the task.


It's bad enough juggling her day job and taking care of her own furry pets, RahRah and Fluffy, while on chaperone duty, but the show contracted for rooms for the Belles and their chaperones at her all-time nemesis, Jane Clark’s, bed and breakfast. Mother Maybelle assured Sarah that she could survive the few hours a night she’d have to be at Jane’s Place, especially since she’d be sleeping, but Maybelle didn’t take into account she and Sarah finding the show’s producer lying dead in the front hall with Jane, blood on her hands, bending over his body on the first night of their stay.


In the last year, Sarah unraveled several murders in Wheaton, Alabama, but she has a dilemma. Sarah hates Jane. Jane is the bimbo who broke up Sarah’s marriage, forced her to go from a life of luxury to an efficiency apartment, tried to steal RahRah, the Siamese cat that was the only thing she got out of her marriage, and has been a consistent thorn in her side, but Sarah doesn’t think Jane is a murderer. One part of Sarah wants to ignore Jane’s plea for help, but her loyalty and fears for her mother’s well-being prompt her to get involved before Mother Maybelle or any of the other contestants are permanently eliminated from the competition. 


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Monday, June 20, 2022


Devon Delaney is a former computer educator, grandma and longtime cooking competitor with many wins under her apron. Learn more about her and her books at her website

The Recipe Behind Murder Mysteries 

Recently I was invited to speak to seventh and eighth graders at the school I attended from kindergarten through ninth grade. Their book fair week hosted authors as well as parents, who spoke about their interesting career choices. The school librarian who arranged the talk was very interested to have me share the role recipe contests played in inspiring my plots. I eagerly accepted the invitation. 


As I delivered my talk, I feared losing the interest of the young minds as soon as I launched into how writing a winning recipe closely resembled writing a good mystery. On one hand, I was the students’ hall pass from math class or social studies, as a specially scheduled assembly. A plus for their willingness to attend. On the other hand, I have a teaching background, so I interjected a lesson in proper writing techniques. As I spoke, over my head was a huge screen projecting photos of me with various celebrities, such as Guy Fieri and Kelly Ripa. The kids liked that – a lot. When I was sure I had their attention with visual stimuli, I sought the teachers’ blessing that my talk would benefit the kid’s brains, so I went through the number of ways recipes and mysteries complimented one another.


This age group loves jolts of immediate exhilaration, so I focused on my cooking win highlights. I wanted to get my main point across, how writing recipes, something I’d done successfully for years, is a lot like writing a book, while keeping the entertainment factor steady. I hit my young audience with points to ponder. A book with a catchy title is like a well-named recipe. A winning recipe that catches the judge’s eye must have a tasty title to peak initial interest. For example, I won $40,000 with a recipe titled Ranch Steak Bruschetta Salad. Four words that gave the judges a very good idea what my recipe was about, how it was going to taste and why it was different and more interesting than all the other recipes in the contest. Timing the projected photos of the printed recipe, book cover, and winning recipe overhead punctuated my words. 


Relieved the faces in the audience were beaming with curiosity, I continued. Like a good book, a winning recipe has a clear beginning that draws you in, a middle that keeps you turning the pages, and an exciting end that satisfies and keeps you thinking about it long after the last word is read. Also like a good book, a good recipe has twists and turns along the way to set them apart. Clear writing and easy to follow sequence of steps are a must in both a recipe and a mystery. In both, you lose the reader with too much extraneous detail. Too many ingredients and the steak is no longer the star ingredient. Overdone wordiness and the mystery is lost in the sauce. Writing doesn’t have to be an abundance of words to get the point across. Word choice like ingredient choice is such an important part of the process. 


I gave them an insight into what it took to get an agent and a publishing contract, which may have glazed over a few eyes, but I wanted them to appreciate the process. To draw the lost back in, I emphasized my love of writing picked up in first grade when we were asked to put together a captioned picture book of our families. Many nodding heads let me know I wasn’t alone with the sentiment. I wrapped up my talk by sharing my cooking competition series hook which they thought was amusing. Cooking competitions can bring out the best and worst in their participants. If the components get too heated, too spicy, or too overdone, bad behavior may be the only thing served up, and that is never an easy thing to swallow.  


Success! I had more to share, so I hope I’m invited back next year. Share your wisdom, authors. Turns out the next gen are eager listeners!


Ranch Steak Bruschetta Salad

Serves 6



1-1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

6 tablespoons Ranch Dressing

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1-1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder

1-1/2 teaspoons coffee beans, finely ground

1 tablespoon black pepper

4 (6-ounce) tenderloin beef steaks – 1-inch thick, any fat trimmed

1 tablespoon cooking oil for skillet or grill pan

1 French crusty bread, cut in 1-inch thick slices at a 45 degree angle

1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped

1/4 cup chopped basil leaves

1/4 cup chopped shallots

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

6 cups arugula leaves

Prepare horseradish Ranch dressing by combining horseradish and Ranch dressing in a serving bowl. Cover and set aside.


In a small bowl combine the sea salt, cumin, chili powder, coffee and black pepper. Rub both sides of steaks with the spice blend. Let steaks rest on a plate for 10 minutes.


Preheat skillet or grill pan to medium heat. Heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil and place steaks in pan. Cook steaks for 3-5 minutes on each side, until desired doneness. Remove steaks to a plate to rest for 7 minutes.


Broil bread slices until golden, flipping once. In a bowl combine the red peppers, basil, shallots, tomatoes and fresh lemon juice.


Slice steaks against the grain into 1/4-inch thick strips.


Assemble salad by giving each of 6 dinner plates a bed of arugula. Lay 2 grilled bread pieces on top of each arugula bed and lay a layer of steak strips across toast. Place a spoonful of tomato blend on top of steak and drizzle with horseradish Ranch dressing. So delicious!


Half Baked Alibi

A Cook-Off Mystery, Book 6


When the prize package for a cook-off comes with a dead body, it’s up to Sherry Oliveri to figure out who cooked the victim’s goose . . .


Sidelined by an injury, longtime cook-off contestant Sherry Oliveri has agreed to offer her wisdom and moral support to a friend who’s entering the Kitchen Royalty Cook-Off. She knows the key is to plan ahead for anything that could go wrong, but nothing prepared Sherry for discovering the event sponsor’s dead body hidden behind one of the appliances—or having her friend singled out as the most likely suspect.


Determined to get her friend out of hot water, Sherry sets her sights on the victim’s disgruntled wife and a vindictive rival sponsor. But her friend’s shaky alibi and the revelation that she may have been nursing an old grudge against the victim leave Sherry in a stew. Desperate to figure out who framed her friend, Sherry will have to sift through the clues and grill the suspects to bring a killer to justice . . .


Includes recipes from Sherry’s kitchen!


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Friday, June 17, 2022


Today we welcome back Kris Bock who writes novels of mystery, suspense, and romance, many with outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Learn more about Kris and her books at her blog and website, where you can find links to her on other social media and also sign up for her newsletter to receive a short mystery story set in the world of her Accidental Detective Series and three short stories originally written for children. 

What Makes The Accidental Detective Series a Cozy Mystery?

In the Accidental Detective series, a witty journalist solves mysteries in Arizona and tackles the challenges of turning fifty. The first book in the series, Something Shady at Sunshine Haven, is available now. Book Two, Something Deadly on Desert Drive, will be out June 21st. The ebook is currently available for pre-order.


People have varying ideas of what makes a mystery cozy. There’s little to no graphic violence, sex, or swearing. My series certainly fits. Cozies star amateur detectives rather than police officers or professional private detectives. Many feature a woman who is somehow involved in cooking or crafting, such as in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.


Kate is a war correspondent, and a journalist could be considered a professional investigator of a sort. She’s not investigating these mysteries for a newspaper though. She’s helping friends and family who have a problem they can’t or don’t want to take to the police. This means the Accidental Detective series could be considered a cozy mystery, a traditional mystery, or something in between.


Another feature of cozy mysteries is often humor. Kate’s witty observations often elicit chuckles in readers. Readers have also said they love Kate’s family and friends. Kate’s helpers range from teenagers to people in their eighties. I try to avoid stereotypes and treat everyone with respect. I want readers to laugh with these characters, not at them.


Kate doesn’t cook or craft, but I have a secondary character who does. Joe Washington, an old friend of Kate’s father, got interested in baking in his retirement. He supplies the investigative crew with muffins, cupcakes, and cookies. You want someone like Joe in your Scooby gang!


The books don’t include recipes, but I do feature some of the treats mentioned in the books on my blog. Readers who sign up for my newsletter will also get a download of “22 Recipes from The Cat Café.” Meanwhile, here’s a great treat for parties (or yourself!):


Cookie Dough Cupcakes 

If you love chocolate chip cookies, these are for you. A chocolate chip cupcake has a ball of chocolate chip cookie dough in the center. The cookie dough ball bakes less than the outer cupcake, leaving it gooey. Cookie dough frosting adds even more great cookie dough taste!



1 package refrigerated  cookie dough (or 1 cup homemade)

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 cup butter, softened

3⁄4 cup sugar 

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup milk

1 cup mini chocolate chips 



1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup confectioners sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 to 6 tablespoons milk, as needed

1 cup mini or regular chocolate chips 


Roll a tablespoon of cookie dough into a ball. Repeat until you have 12 balls. Chill them while you work.


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place cupcake liners in the cupcake pan and spray them with cooking spray.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.


In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Blend in the vanilla.


Slowly add half of the dry mixture while mixing. Keep mixing as you add the milk. Blend in the remaining flour mixture. Stir in 1 cup mini or regular chocolate chips.


Spoon the batter into the cupcake pan, filling each cup about 3/4 full. 


Place a ball of cookie dough on each cupcake and gently press it down until the cupcake batter almost covers the ball of dough.


Bake for 18-20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the edge of the cupcakes should come out clean. The central dough balls will still be sticky. Cool while you make the frosting.


For the frosting, place the brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, butter, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Mix on low until combined and creamy. 


Add the flour. Mix on medium speed until blended and creamy. Slowly add milk until the frosting is a good thickness for spreading. Use a spoon to blend in the mini or regular chocolate chips.


Spread or pipe the frosting on the cooled cupcakes.


Something Deadly on Desert Drive

The Accidental Detective, Book 2


Starting over at fifty might be hard, but it shouldn’t be deadly…


Still recovering from an injury that might have permanently derailed her career as an international war correspondent, Kate Tessler is living in her childhood bedroom and pondering her second act when another case lands in her lap. Kate’s father and his coffee group are worried. Their friend Larry married a younger woman who now insists he has dementia and won’t let any of his friends visit. They’re convinced that Larry’s wife and her two adult, dead-beat kids are out to steal his money. Can Kate help?


Soon Kate and her unusual gang of sidekicks are unofficially, officially investigating. But before they can dig out the truth, a murder raises the stakes. Now they need to prove Larry is both mentally competent and not a killer. They’ll have to find the real murderer—without risking their own lives in the process.


Pre-order Link 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022


After a long career in dance, Lynn Slaughter earned her MFA in Writing from Seton Hill University. She’s the author of four coming-of-age romantic mysteries, including the forthcoming Deadly Setup and the award-winning Leisha’s Song. Learn more about Lynn and her books at her website. 

Confessions of a Nosy Writer

The other night, I participated in a writers’ panel on Big Blend Radio. One of the questions the moderators asked us to think about ahead of time was: What inspires you?


What immediately came to my mind was people’s stories. I am absolutely fascinated by the folks I encounter. Which is a nice way of saying I am incredibly nosy! What I observe, what folks share with me, and even what I overhear or read about people has a way of sparking ideas for characters and plots in my coming-of-age romantic mysteries.


Take Deadly Setup, for example, my YA novel due out July 5th. The protagonist, seventeen-year-old Samantha (Sam), is the daughter of a widowed, fabulously wealthy New England heiress. Sam has a strained relationship with her mother who is incredibly self-absorbed and preoccupied, both with her writing career and her serial romances. Sam is more or less the forgotten daughter.


Where did these characters come from? Well, when I was in sixth grade, my dad moved our family to an apartment in Greenwich, Connecticut. While our apartment was a modest rental in the downtown area, Greenwich was an ultra-wealthy community. Over the years, I developed friendships with kids who lived in mansions and enjoyed every possible financial advantage. While a handful were close to their parents, I was amazed at how many were basically neglected, growing up with parents who were so involved in their social, charity, and professional lives that they had remarkably little time for their children. Often, my friends were closer to their nannies and other household help than they were to their own parents. This is certainly true for Sam who is devoted to Hilda, the family’s longtime housekeeper.


There is an additional complication in Sam’s relationship with her mother in that to some extent, she is a parentified child, meaning she is trying to parent her mother, who tends to be wildly impulsive in her private life. When Sam’s dad was dying of cancer, he asked twelve-year-old Sam to “take care of your mother for me,” a role that Sam should never have been asked to play and which her mother resents. I witnessed a number of friends trying their best to take care of alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional parents, and to some extent, their stories inspired Sam’s as well.


Fortunately for Sam, she has close friends and is passionate about music. She loves playing piano, especially standards from the American Songbook (her paternal grandfather played in the orchestra pit for Broadway musicals, and her late father was a huge fan). Where did the idea of making Sam a pianist crazy about old-time music come from? My own life! My dad’s cousins were jazz musicians, and I grew up listening to Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter. 


I should also mention that Sam has a lovely boyfriend who’s into musical theater and loves serenading her. He was partially inspired by a boy I dated the summer after my senior year of high school. He’d had the lead in a local production of the Bells are Ringing and unannounced, regularly broke into songs from the show!


The major premise of Deadly Setup is that Sam goes on trial for the murder of her mother’s fiancée. I’ve always loved courtroom dramas and wanted to write one, but I think the specific idea of Sam getting accused of shooting her mother’s love interest actually stems from a case that transfixed the nation in the late 1950s. The daughter of the movie star Lana Turner stabbed her mother’s boyfriend to death.


So, there you have it, bits and pieces of Deadly Setup inspired by my overall fascination with people, otherwise known as my acute nosiness. In my defense, it’s not such a bad quality to have for a storyteller.


Deadly Setup (available July 5th)

Seventeen-year-old Samantha (Sam) is horrified when her New England heiress mom announces she’s marrying a younger man whose last heiress wife died under suspicious circumstances.


And then Sam’s life implodes. Her mom’s fiancé turns up dead, and a mountain of circumstantial evidence points to Sam as the killer. On trial for murder, she fights to prove her innocence with the help of her boyfriend’s dad, an ex-homicide cop.

Monday, June 13, 2022


Today we sit down for a chat with Ava Mathilde Oosterling from author Christine DeSmet’s Fudge Shop Mystery Series.

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

I was working in Los Angeles as a writer on a boring TV series. I wasn’t making much money and lived in a renovated old motel, which is common enough there. Not glamorous. To supplement my income, I began making fudge and selling it at the studio. The fudge was certainly more of a hit than the TV show ever was.


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

Tenacity. My life can get complicated because I run the Blue Heron Inn as well as the fudge shop, and there’s always a murder happening at the most inconvenient time.


What do you like least about yourself? 

My impulsive nature, but I also over-compensate for that and feel obligated to do right by everybody, most especially my grandparents and my best friend Pauline. My grandparents helped set up the fudge shop for me in Door County. Grandpa had a bait shop, and he moved half his fishing goods over so that I could start a fudge shop. I wish I could repay Grandpa and Grandma somehow, but I’m always short on time it seems.


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

She almost set me on fire once. I was with my best friend Pauline, and we were in the clutches of a killer who’d lured us into the woods. That happened in Five-Alarm Fudge.


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

I argue about how much to let Sheriff Jordy Tollefson interrupt my life or try to flirt with me. I sometimes know a lot more about a crime or criminal than Jordy, and he’s not fond of that. My author is always reminding me that romance got me in trouble in the past.


What is your greatest fear? 

Anything happening to Grandpa or my best friend Pauline would destroy me. Grandpa and I are a lot alike—always in the middle of trouble, which can be fun and funny! Pauline is always trying to keep me out of trouble. 


What makes you happy? 

Seeing people smile in my shop or inn, and the beauty of Door County. This place has so many unique qualities. It has the most lighthouses of any county in the United States—11. At night, there’s not a sound. Truly, not a peep. No traffic, nothing. That peacefulness elicits smiles on the rested faces that come to my shop.


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

Oh, that silly embarrassing past episode with me leaving one man and eloping with another that I divorced soon after. I had just graduated from college and my impulsiveness took hold of me in a bad way. I still dive into solving crimes too fast! But I admit I don’t mind being wedded to crime-solving.


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

Mercy Fogg! She’s always trying to get my goat, as we say here. Mercy uses my impulsive nature against me. Mercy can drive any machinery—road graders, dump trucks, snowplows—you name it and she’s darn good at it, which I’m not. I’ve totaled or lost several vehicles. Right now, I’m driving a junker pickup truck. (By the way, we have a goat cam online for real from Door County. Goats stay on a grass roof of a local restaurant during the day.) 


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

My bestie Pauline Mertens. She’s a well-respected and beloved kindergarten teacher in Fishers’ Harbor. Pauline is organized, wise, and not impulsive. 


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

My author is at www.ChristineDeSmet.com where you can also find links to her other social media accounts and the Blackbird Writers.


What's next for you?

My author and Pauline have me in a long, red velveteen period dress (not my style!) and solving a Christmas murder mystery occurring days before Pauline’s Victorian-themed wedding. The murder happens on Main Street—where the wedding parade is supposed to occur. My author calls this adventure Holly Jolly Fudge Folly, coming out in November 2022. 


Undercover Fudge

A Fudge Shop Mystery, Book 2


Being asked by the sheriff to go undercover at a friend's wedding is just the beginning of Ava Oosterling's sweet troubles. Unexpected high-action danger may be great for movies and fairy tales, but it could cost best friends Ava and Pauline everything including their lives as the climax unfolds.


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