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, July 29, 2022


Lisa Black is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 suspense novels, including works that have been translated into six languages, optioned for film, and shortlisted for the inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award. She is also a Certified Latent Print Examiner and a Certified Crime Scene Analyst, beginning her forensics career at the Coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and then the police department in Cape Coral, Florida. Learn more about Lisa and her books at her website.

Conflict is Relative 

I’ve been letting an idea for a book percolate in my brain for a bit now, and though at this very early stage it seems totally brilliant, still I recognize my character has yet to fill one gap: a personal stake in the happenings. Gone are the days where Sherlock Holmes and Ellery Queen could solve murders simply because they liked the challenge. (I deeply regret the loss of this plotting option, by the way, but that’s another topic.) No, nowadays every book has to be loaded with characters who have character, characters who love/hate/envy the first characters, riding along on a boatload of angst-ridden baggage. 


And no one can sneak more unregistered firearms into someone’s luggage than family members. 


For proof, or examples, we need only ponder a survey of the most popular fiction—in, say, an extremely unthorough sampling from various Google lists—such as: 


The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz all appear on lists and all have the same family-oriented plot: trying to get home. 


Though if Scarlett in Gone with the Wind had heard the various quotes about ‘it’s the people in it that make a house a home,’ she clearly didn’t agree. Scarlett is willing to betray those people (by stealing her sister’s beau) in order to save her true obsession—the actual house, Tara.  


Most of the Harry Potter books are on every single list. Though Harry was an orphan, the plots revolve around making his peace with the abilities his parents left him and forming a new family with his fellow students. The ‘form your own family’ structure is also found in most superhero movies, hero’s journeys, and my personal favorite, rag-tag band of misfits saves the town/charitable cause/war/universe.


The Hobbit –You could say this is mostly a war tale (and rag-tag band), but there is definitely some family pressure at work as Frodo tries to live up to the history of his uncle Bilbo.


And in The Godfather, of course—those characters don’t even break a sweat evading the cops. It’s the people at Sunday dinner who may cause you to sleep with the fishes. 


Song of Solomon, which won a Nobel prize, is so rife with the sibling rivalries, parent-child disagreements, and the complex, intertwined and not-always-healthy relationships of extended family members that it makes The Godfather look like a middle-school drama camp project. 


The DaVinci Code. On the face of it this one wouldn’t fit the pattern since Robert Langdon isn’t fighting with his sister while running from the albino, until you remember it’s about one heck of a woman’s genetic inheritance. Talk about family issues!


But I protest, most lists also contain And Then There Were None, where the ten were unrelated (other than the married cook and butler), and it still worked out just fine for Dame Christie. But that’s that Golden Age of Detective vs. Now dichotomy again. 


What do you think? Does genealogy alone provide that extra energy to propel average angst into profound angst?  


Red Flags

A Locard Institute Thriller, Book 

When DC crime scene analyst Dr. Ellie Carr is called to investigate the heartrending case of a missing baby, she's shocked to discover that the child's mother is her own cousin. Close during their impoverished childhoods, now Rebecca and her lobbyist husband Hunter have been living a charmed life in an opulent mansion—until their infant son is taken.  

A reluctant Ellie is teamed with Rachael Davies of the prestigious Locard Forensic Institute, employed by Hunter to help with the investigation. 

What seemed like a simple ransom grab reveals links to a lobbying effort to loosen regulations on a billion-dollar gaming empire. At first antagonists, then allies, Ellie and Rachael race to piece together the evidence before Rebecca's son—and others like him—face an unthinkable fate.... 

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022


C.N. Hill is a married mom of five living in Georgia where she get much of her inspiration for her stories. Although relatively new to mystery, she’s published science fiction romance and Regency romance under other pen names. Learn more about her and her books at her website

Although I am a writer first and foremost, I also spend my time as a fiber artist. I take fleece from sheep or alpaca, clean and card them, then spin them on my spinning wheel to make yarn. With the yarn, I knit or crochet sweaters, hats, blankets…you name it. The process is soothing and stimulating at the same time, and I find that if I am stuck in a story, a little fiber art does wonders to help me work it out. I can’t imagine writing without spinning or knitting, and there is always something on my wheel or on my needles. It makes sense, then, that I would incorporate these skills into my books somehow. 


In The River House, the hero (Rob’s) mother, Helen, is also a fiber artist. She shows Jenna around her workroom and Jenna becomes enamored with it as well. In the book, Helen has gone so far as to acquire her own flock of sheep! Although not a primary character, she is important to the series and makes an appearance in all the books so far. In future books, Jenna will learn knitting and may delve deeper into fiber as the series goes along.


The River House begins with a murder, decades old and a haunted cabin on the edge of a river in the deep South. Jenna is a born medium who has restricted her talents to occasional ghost-hunting trips with her friend Rob and his spirit-seeking troop. When Rob’s cousin suspects a ghost in her newly acquired cabin, Rob brings Jenna on to investigate. What they find takes them on a wild ride to uncover the secrets of the River House and bring a killer to justice before they strike again.


The River House

A Jenna Rayne Mystery, Book


A reluctant medium, 

a haunted cabin, 

and a hidden killer.


The spirit world has always called to Jenna, despite her attempts to escape. College, career, these were the things that she had worked for…until the day an old friend asks for help. 


Hidden in a stilted cabin on the river is a decades old murder with a ghost. Who it is and why it is there are secrets Jenna needs to uncover. With her friends Rob and Kerrie, Jenna begins to untangle the clues that will lead to a killer’s identity. But someone doesn’t want her talking to the spirits on the river, and accidents start to dog her heels. It soon becomes clear that the more she explores her talents, the more she endangers herself and those around her. Somehow they need to find the murderer before the murderer finds them. 


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Monday, July 25, 2022


Today we sit down for a chat with cozy mystery, domestic suspense, and women’s fiction author Suzanne TrauthLearn more about Suzanne and her books at her website.  

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I started out writing plays in grade school and high school and many years later decided to begin work on a novel…maybe twenty-five years ago. But in between then and now I wrote more plays and began a cozy mystery series – the Dodie O’Dell Mysteries.


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

I started writing my first cozy mystery in 2013 and found a publisher in 2015. I also started drafting a novel twenty years ago, and it is finally being published this summer! 


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

Traditionally published.


Where do you write?

Usually in my home office on the basement level, but I have been known to work on planes, in airports, coffee shops, and hotels.


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

Usually I write in silence.


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

My cozy series has a restaurant manager as the protagonist but next door to the restaurant is a community theatre, so productions play an important role in both the murders and in solving the mysteries. (There’s also theme food on the restaurant menu to parallel the nature of the play.)


I spent 40 years in theatre—academic, professional, and community—so I have lots of material to draw from! Some characters have come right out of my theatrical experiences.


Describe your process for naming your character?

Usually I play around with ideas—trying to avoid using similar sounding names to differentiate characters. But with my latest mystery, Killing Time, I held a Facebook contest to name characters, and I worked four winners into the book!


Real settings or fictional towns?

The town, Etonville, is fictional—located in northern New Jersey—but it is based on a couple of real towns.


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

Lots of folks in Etonville are quirky—it’s a cozy mystery!—but in Killing Time, there are a pair of elderly sisters who wear garlic necklaces just in case the actor playing Dracula turns out to be a real vampire! There is also Edna, the local law enforcement dispatcher, who is forever using police codes in conversation to explain everything from a broken streetlight or traffic jam to a murder victim. She drives the town crazy.


What’s your quirkiest quirk?

My quirk? I have to write with a certain kind of pen and I need legal pads for keeping my schedule and to-do list…no iPhone calendar for me! 


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

All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It is a beautiful story of a father and daughter caught in the dangers and chaos of wartime Europe and includes two of my favorite things: the time period is World War II and the setting is France.


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

Though I enjoy the pace of my writing career, if I had a do-over I’d start writing earlier in my life, and maybe cut back on the theatre and replace the time with drafting the novels. But then again, I needed the theatre as inspiration for the mystery series…so maybe I wouldn’t do it over!!


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People who are consistently negative, though I must admit these last two years have really, understandably, challenged folks.


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

Books! Ginger and turmeric tea! Sunscreen – I burn easily!


What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

Selling magazines over the phone. I was 18 and lasted two hours.


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

There are so many…but right now what comes to mind is Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I so love his integrity and compassion…so necessary in any time. 


I also love Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich) because she’s a Jersey girl extraordinaire with great hair and a sense of humor!


Ocean or mountains? 

Definitely ocean. I love the water, sand, waves, and smells. I’ve become a transplanted Jersey Shore girl! 


City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

A little of both. I was raised in a suburb in Ohio, worked in rural Kansas, then moved to New York City. I moved from one extreme to the other.


What’s on the horizon for you?

I have a contemporary women’s fiction book coming out this summer (What Remains of Love) and a standalone domestic suspense novel in the works.


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

I think you covered it! Thanks for inviting me to join the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog!


Killing Time

A Dodie O’Dell Mystery, Book 6


With Halloween just around the corner, Dodie O’Dell is making preparations for the town costume party while the Etonville Little Theatre is staging Dracula. But casting the titular Transylvanian is proving challenging. The amateur actors in the company are not shy about chewing the scenery, but who among them can convincingly sink their fangs into a victim's neck? When a mysterious newcomer with a transfixing Eastern European accent lands the part, rumors that he might be an actual vampire start to take flight—not unlike the bat who's recently been spotted in the town park. But everyone’s blood really runs cold when a stranger is found in the cemetery with a real stake in his heart. Dodie decides to stick her neck out to bring the killer into the light of day. She'd better keep her wits about her, though—or Dodie may be the next one to go down for the Count.

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Friday, July 22, 2022


Today we are making a Mermaid Frame with Deb Rogers. She is the author of the new literary thriller Florida Woman which is teeming with off-beat crimes and mysteries to solve. Deb lives in the coastal town of St. Augustine, Florida where it’s easy to comb the Atlantic shore for driftwood, shells, and sea glass. Her mom Diane, who painted the seascape in the frame, taught her how to craft with the shells that she finds, but you can also buy bags of shells from craft supply outlets. Learn more about Deb and books at her website where you can also find links for her other social media. 

Mermaid Frame



Small unpainted wood frame

Acrylic paint (white and an additional color—I used gold)

Sponge paint brushes

Crackle medium

Spray acrylic

Hot glue gun and glue

Assorted seashells

Assorted bits of sea glass, acrylic chips, colored stones, beads, or baubles


To create the faux driftwood frame, apply three layers of paint to the frame, allowing each to thoroughly dry. The first coat of paint is the color that will peek through the crackle. It can be any color you choose. I used gold for the example, but a gray tone, black or brown will look natural too. Or for fun, you could use purple or teal for a fantasy look—it’s up to you!


Apply a layer of Crackle medium. Allow to dry.


Apply your contrasting acrylic paint layer. I prefer white to achieve a bleached driftwood look. Tip: avoid overlapping your brushstrokes because doing so will diminish the cracks. Allow to dry.


Give the frame a coat of spray acrylic to protect your layers. Allow to dry as well.


Fire up your glue gun for the adornments. This is the fun part! Think about creating a cluster that feels like a collection of a mermaid’s favorite things. I usually start with three larger shells to form the basic shape. Then when they are settled in place with enough glue to create a firm bond, I add smaller shells between them to fill the gaps, then tuck in contrasting bits for a pop of color or more texture.


You can use anything in your craft bins or find objects in the floral or hobby departments of your favorite store—including colorful aquarium gravel, pearl buttons, mosaic bits, and jewelry findings. You can even sprinkle in a little glitter or sand while the glue is still wet. I love to center one bead in the cluster as though the mermaid is showing off her prize possession.


Florida Woman

Jamie is a Florida Woman. She grew up on the beach, thrives in humidity, has weathered more hurricanes than she can count, and now, after going viral for an outrageous crime she never meant to commit in the first place, she has the requisite headline to her name. But when the chance comes for her to escape viral infamy and imminent jail time by taking a community service placement at Atlas, a shelter for rescued monkeys, it seems like just the fresh start Jamie needs to finally get her life back on track — until it’s not.


Something sinister stirs in the palmetto woods surrounding her cabin, and secrets lurk among the three beguiling women who run the shelter and affectionately take Jamie under their wing for the summer. As Jamie ventures deeper into the offbeat world and rituals of Atlas, her summer is soon set to inspire an even stranger Florida headline than she ever could’ve imagined.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022


The Wallowa Mountains
Paty Jager is an award-winning author of fifty-three novels, eight novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work have Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. Learn more about Paty and her books at her Blog and Website where you’ll also find links to her other social media accounts.

When readers asked for more outdoor adventures in my Gabriel Hawke novels, I let my mind wander with how I could have my character out in the wilderness more and still be working on a murder mystery. 


Since Gabriel Hawke is an Oregon State Trooper with the Fish and Wildlife Division, basically what used to be called a game warden, he does spend a lot of time outdoors. But when he is following leads on a homicide, he needs to be closer to communications and labs to gather the information he needs to find the killer. 


In the latest book, Owl’s Silent Strike, I start off with Hawke on a week’s vacation, helping his friend Dani Singer travel into the mountains by horseback in early December to fly out her helicopter. Dani owns Charlie’s Lodge a minimalist resort in the Wallowa Mountains that can only be accessed by foot, horseback, or air. She had already flown her small airplane out and wanted her helicopter in the “valley” over the winter to work on it.


When a snowstorm hits the mountain before they arrive at the lodge, Hawke has to use all of his winter skills to not only keep them alive but to discover the identity of a body he finds in the barn. While reading books about avalanches and winter tracking and conducting my own study of blood droplets in snow, I tried putting myself in Hawke’s snowshoes as he searched for a missing person and ventured up into the mountains more than once to find the evidence needed to bring justice to the body in the barn.


Yes, I said my own study of blood droplets. Using blood saved from homegrown beef I had thawed to cook, I made droplets in the snow and watched them for several days to see how they reacted to the snow and cold. It was a fun experiment, and it gave me insight into what my character would see while tracking a person with a gunshot wound. 


Growing up at the base of the Wallowa Mountains, I have experienced deep snow, riding horses, and snowshoeing. Luckily, I haven’t had frostbite, but I’ve had some extremities that have felt like ice. Warming them up isn’t fun. Using some of my experiences, I hope I was able to make the trials that Hawke and Dani go through feel real. 


What I didn’t know from experience, I read up on, Googled, and asked people for help. I have a pretty long line of thank-yous for this book. From beta readers who picked up on law enforcement and medical actions that weren’t correct to a critique partner who highlighted multiple uses of some of my favorite words. And a wonderful pilot reader/fan who answers all my aircraft questions.


It’s this community of readers/fans and specialists who help me do the best I can to be accurate while writing fiction stories. 


The next book in this series will begin in Montana. I spent a week there recently driving dirt roads and taking photos to help me better see the story that will take Hawke to Salmon Lake and the surrounding area. In this book, he will again be outside a lot as he tries to find his sister who is running from a murderer. 


Owl’s Silent Strike

A Gabriel Hawke Novel, Book 9


Unexpected snowstorm…

Unfortunate accident… 

And a body…


What started out as a favor and a leisurely trip into the mountains, soon turns State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s life upside down. The snowstorm they were trying to beat comes early, a horse accident breaks Dani Singer’s leg, and Hawke finds a body in the barn at Charlie’s Lodge. 


Hawke sets Dani’s leg, then follows the bloody trail of a suspect trying to flee the snow-drifted mountains. Hawke is torn between getting the woman he loves medical care and knowing he can’t leave a possible killer on the mountain.


Before the killer is brought to justice, Dani and Hawke will put their relationship to the test and his job on the line. 


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Monday, July 18, 2022


Charlotte Stuart has a passion for writing lighthearted mysteries with a pinch of adventure and a dollop of humor. Her award-winning books feature female protagonists, including a single mom who takes a job with a “discount detective agency” and a consultant who lives aboard her sailboat with her cantankerous cat Macavity. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at her website. 

Story Settings: Why not make it real?

I’m a Donna Leon fan, so when my husband and I took a trip to Venice several years ago, one of the things we did was walk to her “murder sites” and other places mentioned in her books. It was great fun. When I started writing mysteries, I had that model in mind. But although I like to make the settings for my stories as real as possible, I usually end up blending fact and make-believe or simply omitting actual names of places. Why? Partly because I have two series set in Seattle, and the city seems to be in constant flux—one day you’re walking past a vacant lot littered with old campaign signs and the next day it has been transformed into an office complex. In addition, sometimes it doesn’t feel right to have someone murdered in a specific place where people gather. It’s like asking a ghost to haunt your home.


In my Macavity & Me Mysteries, my protagonist lives on a sailboat at a small urban marina that is remarkably like where I lived aboard a similar sailboat for ten years. All of the details were accurate when I was writing the book. But although my series setting may be frozen in time in my books, I can’t guarantee the “real” place won’t change overnight. There are more and more condos replacing long-time marine businesses in the area. It’s just a matter of time before the setting locked in my memory bank disappears forever. In addition, I was concerned for the privacy of the current liveaboards in the marina. 


I’ve also fictionalized or not named a place for other reasons. For instance, in my next Discount Detective book, anyone familiar with a particular park in the Seattle area will recognize where the midnight ritual for a human sacrifice takes place. I personally have walked the trails there so many times that I can visualize every twist and turn. I’ve also researched local policing practices and carefully tracked how much time it takes to drive from place to place. But even though I was careful to be as accurate as possible and there’s no graphic violence in the depiction of the death, I felt uncomfortable associating a place where children play with an ancient barbaric ritual. So I did not reveal the name of the actual park.


As a reader, I love recognizing place. But as a writer, I make the decision about how specific to be on a case-by-case basis. Recently, I was finally able to realize my dream of using real locations when my protagonist takes two friends on a trip up the Inside Passage as far as Bishop Bay Hot Springs. I’ve made the round trip from Seattle to Alaska on a sailboat nine times, but it was some time ago when I was a commercial fisher. Using my old charts of the area, I checked out current satellite coverage and even found virtual tours and YouTubes of some landmarks. I was both surprised and pleased to find how little has changed. Not only did I verify the accuracy of my memories, I was able to momentarily relive many of those wonderful experiences.


Real settings help anchor details and action. At the same time, it can be like writing in sand and may not always be appropriate. That said, if you find yourself in Venice, I highly recommend walks that include following in Commissario Guido Brunetti’s footsteps.


Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite

A Macavity & Me Mystery, Book 2 


A heated argument on a nearby boat followed by a loud splash . . .


Bryn Baczek lives on a sailboat in a small urban Seattle marina with her cat Macavity and a series of short-lived goldfish. When a neighbor she doesn’t like becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation, she reluctantly seeks evidence to prove him innocent. She ends up being threatened by the victim’s abusive boyfriend and betrayed by a close friend. Although Bryn shares what she learns with a charming detective whose manicured mustache she finds off-putting, she is one step ahead of the police in identifying the murderer . . . a step that puts her in a dangerous face-to-face confrontation.


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Friday, July 15, 2022


Mally Becker, a former attorney turned full-time author, combines her love of history and crime fiction in mysteries that feature strong, independent heroines. In August, her award-nominated The Turncoat’s Widow will be followed by The Counterfeit Wife, the next book in her series. Learn more about Mally and her books at her website.

Flipping Eggs With Martha Washington

Thank you, Lois, for inviting me to join you and your readers. I’m thrilled to be here! For those who don’t know me, I’m the author of the Agatha Award-nominated mystery The Turncoat’s Widow and its soon-to-be-released sequel, The Counterfeit Wife


I loved writing these stories. They feature George Washington’s two least likely spies, young widow Becca Parcell and former British POW Daniel Alloway, along with real-life heroes and villains of the time. 


In The Turncoat’s Widow, Becca and Daniel uncover a plot in British-held New York City that threatens the new nation. In The Counterfeit Wife, this duo masquerade as a married couple to stop a ring of forgers in revolutionary Philadelphia. But the pursuit grows deadly when a woman from Becca’s past becomes the main suspect in the murder of one of the suspected counterfeiters.


I have to stop here for a confession. Bringing the 18th century to life intimidated me. The distant past felt like a foreign country with its own language, expectations, and confusing customs. And those flat, grim 18th century portraits of our founding fathers and mothers didn’t make the task feel any easier. Did those people ever crack a smile? (In my stories, they do.) 


I read books, talked to historians and visited museums searching for ways to make readers feel as if they were there in the past with my characters. At the end of the day, though, I relied on two simple facts. 


First, human emotions haven’t changed much over time. I’m counting on readers to empathize with Daniel’s grief over the past loss of loved ones, Becca’s anger at unfair accusations leveled against her, and the growing attraction they share. We’ve all been there. We know those emotions. We’ve felt them.


Second, I took advantage of the fact that sensory memories are some of the strongest recollections we have. In my books, I write of the smell of dirt drying in the summer sun after a sudden rainstorm, the meltingly sweet taste of hot chocolate dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg on a cold day, and the way that icicles sound like chimes when they crack and fall from trees on a quiet frigid night. Readers’ lifetime memories of these scents, tastes, and sounds will bring the scene to life, I hope, and make the past feel very present. 


Which explains – more or less – how Martha Washington and I began to cook together. 


I was searching for recipes from the 1700s to include in my stories, recipes that would make modern readers feel right at home in my historical mystery. That’s when I found Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery(transcribed by Karen Hess). It’s filled with curious recipes like “white maramalet [marmalade] of Quinces,” “green Apricock chips,” and “plague water.” 


But it also includes more familiar recipes. And those were the ones I began to tentatively try out to include in future stories. Today I’m sharing my version of Mrs. Washington’s apple tansie, a flat breakfast or dessert egg pancake that falls somewhere between an omelet and a crustless quiche. 


My version cuts the number of eggs from 12 to six, since the recipe calls for flipping eggs. I also use less cream than the original, and add vanilla extract instead of rosewater. 


I made my version at the end of a stressful day and felt my shoulders relax with each bite. The combination of apples, sugar, cream and eggs makes a great comfort food.


Apple Tansie

(serves two)


3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/2 teaspoons sugar

A pinch of nutmeg

A pinch of salt

3 apples peeled & shredded (I used a grater)

2 apples sliced

Powdered sugar 


Saute the sliced apples in butter in a flat pan (or omelet pan). I like to sprinkle a pinch of sugar and cinnamon over the apples as they cook, because why not? Remove from the pan when done.


Mix the eggs, heavy cream, vanilla, sugar, nutmeg, salt and shredded apples. Add fresh butter to the same flat pan you used to saute the apple and pour the egg mix into it, cooking gently. When firm, flip the tansie and cook the second side. 


“Serve it up hot,” the cookbook directs, and add the sautéed apples and powdered sugar, “on ye side you fryde last.”


I hope you’ll try my version of Martha Washington’s applie tansie, and, if you pick up one of my books, that you’ll enjoy it!


The Turncoat’s Widow

A Revolutionary War Mystery, Book 1

Set during the darkest days of the American Revolution, The Turncoat's Widow tells the story of General Washington’s most reluctant spy, a fiercely independent young woman who races time and traitors to uncover a plot that threatens the new nation.


Recently widowed, Rebecca Parcell is too busy struggling to maintain her farm in Morristown to give a fig who wins the War for Independence. But rumors are spreading that she’s a Loyalist sympathizer who betrayed her husband to the British—quite a tidy way to end her disastrous marriage, the village gossips whisper.


General Washington – who is camped in Morristown for the winter -- swears he’ll safeguard Becca’s farm if she unravels her husband’s secrets. With a mob ready to exile her or worse, it’s an offer she can’t refuse.


Escaped British prisoner Daniel Alloway was the last person to see Becca’s husband alive, and Washington throws him and Becca together on an espionage mission through British-occupied New York City. Moving from glittering balls to an underworld of brothels and prisons, Becca and Daniel uncover more than General Washington anticipated. But will they move quickly enough to warn him of the danger? And can Becca, who’s lost almost everyone she loves, fight her growing attraction to Daniel, a man who always moves on?


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Wednesday, July 13, 2022


Nancy Lynn Jarvis left the real estate profession after she started having so much fun writing the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series that she let her license lapse. But after seven books, she was ready for a new adventure and is currently working on the fourth book in her PIP Inc. series which features protagonist not-quite-licensed private investigator and downsized law librarian Pat Pirard. She has also edited crowd pleasers Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes and Santa Cruz Weird. Learn more about Nancy and her books at her website.  

After a dozen books, something has happening to me that never happened before: Syda Gonzales, my main character’s best friend, has forced me into becoming an earring crafter. 


I’m not saying Syda’s talked to me as I wrote about her. If she did, that wouldn’t be unusual because characters talk to their writers all the time. When I was finishing up The Widow’s Walk League, a female voice told me to write faster because she was 83, didn’t know how much time she had left, and had a story to tell. That was how I met Mags from Mags and the AARP Gang. Dave, the one-eyed police ombudsman from my Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series told me he could make a necessary call to a military base in Germany because he spoke German. (I didn’t know he spoke German.)


No, Syda’s control over me has been nothing like either of those experiences. She has me crafting earrings for her “Syda’s Garden Gems” collection, her artistic venture in The Corpse’s Secret Life.


Syda is a totally made up being.  I saw her name on a lawn sign asking locals to vote for a judge and knew at once that was the name of Pat Pirard’s, the protagonist in my PIP Inc. Mysteries series, best friend. Syda is up for anything Pat wants to try as she investigates and solves murder. She loves role playing, especially if there are disguises involved, and she’s always trying to get Pat married off. But at her core, Syda is an artist, just not necessarily a very good one, although she’s confident that’s just because she hasn’t found her medium.


Pat has one of Syda’s paintings in her office. It was painted before the series started when Syda thought oil painting might be her thing. When the series began, Syda dragged Pat to a glass fabrication class where a murder took place, hoping she’d learn how to work with glass and become the next Annie Glass. Syda tried writing for awhile, and I had lots of fun writing cheesy lines Syda’s ever-name-changing noir protagonist could say. Syda finally acknowledged that wring a mystery was harder than she thought it would be and she’d developed writer’s block. 


Which brings her to her latest venture: making jewelry, earrings to be specific.

In the past, I’ve painted with oil, terribly I must say. I’ve made stained glass. It’s not the same as glass fabrication, but at least I understand cutting glass and a few other basics. And, of course, I write mysteries, hopefully well-crafted ones with believable dialog unlike the ones Syda produced. But making jewelry? I’ve never tried that, at least not until Syda demanded I take it up and learn some basics so her endeavors would be believable. 


So now I’ve scoured Facebook Marketplace searching for jewelry to be repurposed, bought wire to be manipulated with newly purchased special tools, and even purchased little drawstring bags to put my―I mean Syda’s―earrings in for buyers. 


I’m doing a live event at the end of the month where books and Syda’s earrings will be for sale. I hope people find them interesting and buy them quickly because after The Corpse’s Secret Life, Syda has moved on to other endeavors. 


Thank goodness. Making earrings is a lot harder than Syda and I thought it would be.


The Corpse’s Secret Life

A PIP Inc. Mystery, Book 3


Pat’s fledgling private investigation company, PIP Inc., has a promising new case. Pat is still wearing a wrist cast after breaking her arm in a confrontation with a killer, so when she’s hired by the City of Watsonville to unearth the identity of an older woman who died in her bed, she’s delighted that her next job promises to be a simple computer-based research project.


Why is it that things are never as simple as she thinks they will be? Pat soon discovers nothing is as it seems, beginning with a corpse who had secret identities, murder, and a post-death ritual thought to have last been performed decades ago.


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Monday, July 11, 2022


Is that baking soda, or did I confuse it with the arsenic again?

Molly MacRae is the author of the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. As Margaret Welch, she also writes books for Annie’s Fiction. Learn more about Molly and her books at her website.

Which Came First – the Arsenic or the Book?

Arsenic. That’s the answer to the question posed in this blog’s title, but it’s also a shout-out to a murder weapon about which I simply cannot say enough good things. 


Arsenic, known variously as the King of Poisons, the people’s choice, and inheritor’s powder, is sneaky, wicked stuff. It’s been used in all kinds of commercial goods, from wallpaper and candles to sheep dip, beer, blancmange, book covers, clothing, rat poison, and candy. Yes, candy. The candy was actually a mistake—the confectioner meant to add plaster of Paris to his mix, used arsenic by mistake, and ended up killing more than twenty people and sickening several hundred. This was back in the mid-1800s when it was legal to add plaster of Paris to candy. Yes, plaster of Paris. 


Arsenic is an element. It’s atomic number 33 on the periodic table. Being an element makes it especially sneaky and wicked. It means that arsenic can’t be destroyed. Burn that treated, green-tinged wood from the old deck you tore down (the green is copper chrome arsenic) and you aren’t getting rid of the arsenic at all. It’s wafting toward you and your neighbors in the smoke from your fire and it’s in the ashes (lying in wait, biding it’s time). Arsenic is odorless unless gently heated. Then it smells like garlic. How fun is that? Culinarily useful, too, if you’re making soup for a certain, soon-to-be-late someone. 


But let’s get back to the question in the blog title. What I’m really asking is which came first, the title or the book. The book in question is Argyles and Arsenic, fifth in my Highland Bookshop Mystery series, and the title did come first.


I love coming up with titles for my books and don’t seem to have much trouble doing it. Quite often—mostoften—the title comes first, and I plot the story to bring the title to life. This worked well for my stand-alone books—Lawn Order and Wilder Rumors—as well as for the Highland Bookshop Mysteries and my Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. The first Highland Bookshop title came to me as an alliterative pairing of words—Plaid and Plagiarism. That set the pattern, and to concoct the subsequent titles, I made two lists. In one I put words that evoke the charm of Scotland and, in the other, words for crimes and criminals. The rest of the titles in the series? Scones and ScoundrelsThistles and ThievesHeather and Homicide, and Argyles and Arsenic. With titles like that, the books practically wrote themselves. 


I lie. They didn’t write themselves. I did have fun writing them, though, and hope that readers have fun, too. 

Argyles and Arsenic

A Highland Bookshop Mystery, Book 5


After 93 well-lived years, Violet MacAskill is ready to simplify her life. Her eccentric solution? She’ll throw a decanting and decluttering party at her family home—a Scottish Baronial manor near the seaside town of Inversgail, Scotland. Violet sets aside everything she wants or needs, then she invites her many friends in to sip sherry and help themselves to whatever they want from all that’s left. But a murder during Violet’s party leads to a poisonous game of cat and mouse—with the women of Yon Bonnie Books playing to win. 


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