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, June 24, 2022

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH CLAUDIA SIMCOE FROM AUTHOR DAISY BATEMAN'S MARKETPLACE MYSTERIES

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

AN INTERVIEW WITH RAHRAH FROM AUTHOR DEBRA H. GOLDSTEIN'S SARAH BLAIR MYSTERIES

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

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--AUTHOR DEVON DELANEY ON THE RECIPE BEHIND MURDER MYSTERIES

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

 

Ingredients:

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

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--COOKIE DOUGH CUPCAKES AND A NEW ACCIDENTAL DETECTIVE FROM MYSTERY AUTHOR KRIS BOCK

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!

 

Ingredients:

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 

 

Frosting:

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

YA MYSTERY AUTHOR LYNN SLAUGHTER CONFESSES SHE'S A NOSY WRITER

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

JUST IN TIME FOR NATIONAL FUDGE DAY (ON JUNE 16TH)--AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINE DESMET'S FUDGE SHOP SLEUTH AVA MATHILDE OOSTERLING

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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Friday, June 10, 2022

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--THE WRITING LIFE WITH AUTHOR DONNARAE MENARD

DonnaRae Menard started her writing career in seventh grade with a back-firing slanderous account of the jet set kids. Even though it took a while to develop the nerve to try again, she is out there plying her trade. Her second book in the It's Never Too Late series, Murder on Eagle Drop Ridge, releases in mid-June. Learn more about DonnaRae and her books at her website

Being a Team Player

 

Every one of us, every writer, reader, fan, we all started out the same way. With a spark of interest. For some, it may have matured to where we live voraciously through the written word. Our eyes dictating what all our senses are going to feel. There's no problem with that. Maybe we love all things printed, maybe a select style and specific authors. Again, no foul. For others, it goes further.

 

It's amazing how many fans will invest the same money and time as an author to attend a function where authors run amuck, like damsels at a renaissance fair. Myself, I've been writing for more than fifty years, but other than my family, I never shared. 

 

It took years for me to even enter the room where an author held court with the public. I went once. I was hooked. If an author was having a library talk, an open book event, or a meeting in the park, I wanted to be sitting in the back row hearing what she or he had to say. I listened to the how-I-got-here stories, or where the inspiration came from. There were authors who spoke of accolades I'd never heard of. I could see their pride in achievement, and I silently applauded them. I met gushing fans, other wannabees; I stayed silent holding my council.

 

In every talk, I searched for the kernel. As a general rule, it was there. I listened to lawyers, judges, journalist with stories to tell. Then there were others who just had an overpowering drive. It was all awe-inspiring. 

 

The first writer's convention I attended was at Westbrook College in Portland, Maine. It was a single day event. I was hired to drive an elderly author who attended my writers' group. Being familiar with the area, I knew I could keep myself busy for the day. Then, I changed my mind. When the rush got thick, I walked in. I didn't have a ticket for the lunch, but no one asked me. 

 

When Joanne Clarey, my author friend, was ready to leave, I couldn't wait to tell her all I had learned. Joanne didn't berate me for crashing the function. Instead, she offered me the same advice Julia Spencer-Fleming did at Malice. Learn it all, open your mind, and when you have it, share it with someone who doesn't.

 

It's a good thing to remember, and it softens the blow when you attend a function where an author/agent/publisher is presenting, and some newbie asks a question, only to be ignored. I've been the newbie. I felt the chill and the shame of opening my mouth. But times for me have changed. I've met a lot of authors in the past couple of weeks, wonderful people who filled my heart. I want to be like them. To be patient and sharing. That's the team player. 

 

In a business where, mostly we work alone with maybe a cat to share our coffee breaks, when you get to a place where someone is searching for the next step, reach out and pull them aboard.

 

Murder on the Eagle Drop Ridge (Available July 19th)

An It’s Never Too Late Mystery, Book 2

 

Things are looking up for Katelyn Took, she has a job, a roof over her head, a new love, and she's down to fourteen cats. If it weren't for the human remains, she fell into on Eagle Drop Ridge, she'd be over the moon. Then things start to slide. Before she recovers from falling into the first set of bones, a second set of remains are discovered fifty feet down at the bottom of the ledge. She knows there has a connection, even though the father of the male victim, says no. His tunnel vision is mirrored by the sheriff, who's main focus is the woman. Katelyn just wants it all cleared up before the climbing company that's considering renting the ledges drops out. It's a balancing act with the media thrown in for added confusion, and somehow the fate of her new love is jeopardized. Then Katelyn finds a small, shiny clue. What is she going to give up for peace of mind, or rather, what is going to be taken from her?

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

GRANDMOTHERLY CONFESSIONS AND A NEW SUSPENSE FROM AUTHOR DONNELL ANN BELL

Today we’re happy to welcome back suspense author Donnell Ann Bell, who when she’s not obsessing about plots and characters, she’s spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more about Donnell and her books at her website. 

Grandmotherly Confessions, Part Deux

The last time I visited Lois’s blog to confess my grandmotherly inadequacies was March 24, 2020. If you read the blog back then, you realized I was a mess around newborns through the infant stage. Perhaps then you’ve wondered if I’ve gotten used to the little tyke and have at least grown a grandmother gene. 

 

Alas, that might have been feasible had my daughter and her wife cooperated, and said little tyke remained an only child. What’s happened since 2020? Twins!


Naturally, my son and his wife couldn’t be bested in the offspring department, and they added one more.  

The twins and their cousin

So, as of this writing, I now have . . . . Wait for it. SIX GRANDCHILDREN! 


The three older grandchildren

Although these children are among the cutest on the face of the planet, Grandmotherly Confessions, Part Deux has required more adjusting. After all, how can I have six grandchildren when I haven’t even applied for Medicare yet?

 

All right my question is rhetorical; I do remember the birds and the bees’ lectures and know for a fact the stork delivers them! 

 

In my last grandmotherly confession, I complained that so much has changed in the last forty years. Baby monitors, sleep slacks, no sleeping on their tummies, and more. 

 

My children grew up by my admitted wayward instinct and by me spending a lot of time rocking, holding, and, of course, reading to them. Was it time-consuming? Always. Still, the time that they’re infants is so fleeting in the grand scheme of things, I’ll take all the cuddles I can get. 

 

Studies have shown there really is a “love” hormone and the positive correlation between parent-infant contact and oxytocin levels during the infancy period. I’m going with the theory I had enough residual left over from the raising of my own children. It must be so. The bond I feel for my grandchildren is nothing short of amazing.

 

Until Dead

A Cold Case Suspense, Book 2

 

This killer won't stop . . . until she’s dead

 

When Lt. Everett T. Pope is notified of an explosion in downtown Denver close to the judicial buildings, his first instinct is gas leak. No such luck. As Incident Command and Pope's own Major Crimes unit move in, he discovers he knows the intended victims—an Assistant U. S. Attorney—and Pope’s former partner, now a private investigator, has died shielding the injured AUSA with his body.

 

As ATF and the FBI take over investigating the bombing and unraveling motives behind the murder attempt, Pope is relegated to a peripheral role. But the injured AUSA's aunt is a United States senator used to getting results. She turns to the team that solved the Black Pearl Killer murders with a very big ask—find her answers and locate the bomber.

 

FBI Special Agent Brian DiPietro must recall his entire cold case team from their far-flung assignments knowing he's being asked to do the impossible. The senator, however, doesn’t know the meaning of the word. All too soon, DiPietro finds his team working alongside ATF on a red-hot mission.  One that uncovers a decades' old cold case.


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