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, August 17, 2022

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--DEBUT THRILLER AUTHOR ANGELA GREENMAN ON HOW ORIGAMI HELPED SAVE THE WORLD

Angela Greenman is an internationally recognized communications professional. She has been an expert and lecturer with the International Atomic Energy Agency for over a decade, a spokesperson for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and a press officer for the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, the City’s civil rights department. She has traveled the world (21 countries and counting) and now her imagination is devising plots for future novels that will feature more of the exciting places she has been. Learn more about Angela and her books at her website. 

 

In my thriller, The Child Riddler, recently orphaned nine-year-old Leah, is the only one who knows the riddle holding the code to unleash the most lethal weapon on earth—the first-ever “invisibility” nanoweapon, a cloaking spider bot. Elite operative Zoe (a female James Bond) is sent to abduct Leah and coax the code from her, but soon finds herself racing to save the child from terrorists who also want the code.

 

Zoe is single and childless, so she is perplexed as to how to bond with the bright, frightened child. Knowing Leah likes riddles, Zoe memorizes some and through their riddle exchange is able to get the child to talk to her. But then Leah shuts down and Zoe must find something else they can share and discuss. 

 

Detail-oriented Leah likes things organized and neat. Zoe realizes these personality traits are perfect for origami, the Japanese paper-folding art. Zoe is skilled at this craft and suggests they make a star in honor of the child’s deceased mother. They go on to make a flapping bird for Leah’s father, and a dragon. I don’t want to tell you more for fear of spoiling the story for you. But I can share that origami plays a role in revealing the code and keeping the weapon out of terrorists’ hands—thus saving the world!

 

Origami also helped heal some of the heartache that poor Leah was suffering. The star and flapping bird, real objects she could keep with her and look at before falling asleep, became Leah’s link to her dead parents. It was as if her parents were beside her, tucking her in. It’s not surprising that a child would find something so personal in this craft: children and origami are linked in its history. 

 

About 1880, Japan started teaching origami in kindergartens and elementary schools and the craft grew in popularity. Paper folding had been used in various cultures for different purposes, but the Japanese made it an art. The word origami—from the Japanese words oru (to fold) and kami (paper)—came to describe the paper-folding craft. 

 

Although I’m impressed by those who have mastered this art, and while I gave it an important role in the story, I have never done origami! As an author I normally try the activities that my characters do so I can better describe their subtleties and make the scenes more vivid and real, but I didn’t do this with origami. I knew about the craft as my brother did quite a bit of origami when we were growing up. I was in awe of his patience, his precision, and his creations, but for some reason I never tried to learn it. I’m detail-oriented and precise with words, but I know myself too well. I can’t draw a straight line, literally—I can’t cut straight with scissors, or hang pictures that aren’t crooked. Origami and I were not made for each other. But I admire the delicate, exquisite forms that result from this art. 

 

I can’t explain how my mind pulled up that childhood memory of my brother’s origami, but I am grateful that it did. Art—in whatever shape or form—unites and heals. And the world needs this so much. Even though The Child Riddler is an action-packed thriller, I’m happy that the muse guided me to write heartfelt scenes of a grief-stricken child finding solace through this art. Sometimes what is meaningful is something small and fragile, designed to be held gently in your hands—like a paper bird.

 

The Child Riddler

Despite the angry scars she carries from her childhood training, Zoe Lorel has reached a good place in her life. She has her dream job as an elite operative in an international spy agency and she’s found her one true love. Her world is mostly perfect—until she is sent to abduct a nine-year-old girl.

 

The girl is the only one who knows the riddle that holds the code to unleash the most lethal weapon on earth—the first ever “invisibility” nanoweapon, a cloaking spider bot. But Zoe’s agency isn’t the only one after the child. And when enemies reveal the invisibility weapon’s existence to underground arms dealers, every government and terrorist organization in the world want to find that little girl.

 

Zoe races to save not only the child she has grown to care about, but also herself. The agency prescribed pills—the ones that transform her into the icy killer she must become to survive—are beginning to threaten her engagement to the one person who brings her happiness. Can she protect the young girl and still protect the one thing she cares more about than anything else?

 

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Monday, August 15, 2022

MYSTERY AUTHOR JANE TESH ON STARTING OVER AND MOVING FROM SERIES TO A STANDALONE NOVEL

Jane Tesh is the author of two mystery series. The Madeline Maclin Mysteries feature former beauty queen Madeline “Mac” Maclin and her reformed con man husband Jerry Fairweather. The Grace Street Mystery Series features struggling PI David Randall, his psychic friend Camden, and an array of tenants who move in and out of Cam’s boarding house at 302 Grace Street. Ghost Light is her first standalone mystery. Learn more about Jane and her books at her website.

Starting Over – Again!

I had been with Poisoned Pen Press since 2004. When the company was bought by Sourcebooks, Sourcebooks did not want to continue either of my two series even though I had many more books to go. As you can imagine, this was a blow, but I was still a Poisoned Pen author, and they would accept a standalone. So I had to start over.

 

This was more of a challenge than I thought. I had been writing the Madeline Maclin Mysteries and the Grace Street Mystery Series since 1995 and loved all those characters. To start over with a new cast was daunting. What would I write about? Where could I set this story? What was something I knew about that I could have fun with?

 

The answer to that was community theater. I’d been in community theater productions for over forty years, so I had a lot of experience to drawn upon. Talk about drama. It is definitely in the theater, especially amateur theater with long-standing feuds and clashing egos. Not only that, there are a boatload of theater superstitions to play with. Now I just needed some characters.

 

When I’m writing, as soon as I have the right name, I have a character. This happens all the time, and I can’t explain it. I name them, and there they are. So I came up with the name Theodosia “Teddy” Ballard. Teddy stepped right up and began to tell me her story. Her neighbor’s cat accidentally burned down her apartment building. She missed her latest job interview, a job she really didn’t want. Her dear grandmother who raised her was going into a retirement facility, and her scheming cousin had taken grandmother’s house. She didn’t have a job or a place to live.

 

So I thought of the name of her best friend and actor, Will Selms. When Will arrived, he had the perfect solution. Paula Norwood, stage manager at the local community theater, had recently fallen down the costume loft stairs and died from her injuries. The show desperately needed a stage manager. Teddy could have the job and live in the cottage behind the theater. Problem solved.

 

Only Teddy didn’t know the first thing about being a stage manager. But with Will’s help, she learned all the terms and the superstitions. And of course, every theater is haunted, and before long, Teddy made the acquaintance of George, the theater ghost. George saw Paula fall and tells Teddy it was not an accident. She decided to solve the mystery. George says he will help, but he has his own agenda.

 

Something very unexpected happened during the writing of this book. Teddy and Will started to have a typical love scene when Teddy said to me, “I don’t really want this.” To my surprise, I didn’t want it, either. That’s when I realized I had never wanted it. And then, like Teddy, I found a word for this feeling. Asexual. This opened a whole new part of Teddy’s character and gave me a chance to work through what had puzzled me about relationships practically my whole life. Like any other sexual orientation, there is a vast spectrum of feelings. In Teddy’s case, she is still romantically attracted to Will and fears revealing her secret might ruin their relationship.

 

A ghost light is the one light left on in the theater at night. Superstition says it keeps the harmful ghosts away and lets the friendly spirits come onto the stage to act once again. When I turned on the ghost light for this book, I turned on the light for Teddy and for me. Yes, I was starting over, but it was a brand-new act and a chance to discover more about myself and my characters. 

 

Ghost Light

Theodosia "Teddy" Ballard knows nothing about community theater, but when the stage manager for “Little Shop of Horrors” takes a tragic header down the costume-loft stairs, she agrees to fill in for the sake of her actor friend, Will. Teddy takes the superstitions and swelled heads of The Stage in stride—till she meets George Clancy Everhart, the theater ghost, who informs her that the previous stage manager was murdered and demands that she find the killer. Both investigation and rehearsals are complicated when she makes a surprising discovery about her relationship with Will—and learns that George has his own dramatic agenda.


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Saturday, August 13, 2022

KILLER NASHVILLE FOR READERS AND WRITERS

If you’re in or around Middle Tennessee next Thursday through Sunday and love mystery, suspense, and thrillers, you’re not going to want to miss Killer Nashville at the Embassy Suites South Nashville in Franklin, TN, minutes from downtown Nashville. This annual writing conference for both published and unpublished writers offers several events that are free and open to the general public, including book signings by dozens of authors.  

Lois Winston, she who writes about me, will be one of those participating authors. As I mentioned in Monday’s post, Lois is up for two awards for Stitch, Bake, Die!, the tenth Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, one for a Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery and also the Readers’ Choice Award. (Have you voted yet? Click here to do so.

Lois will be on two panels, “Description: Too Much or Not Enough” on Friday at 1:50pm and “Destination Murder: Incorporating Setting” on Saturday at 9:00am. She’ll be signing books at various times on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Click here for a complete list of authors and times. She’ll also be one of the authors helping unpublished writers polish their pitches at Ready. Set. Pitch at 5:00pm on Thursday.

 

If you’re an aspiring author, there’s still time to register to attend, either the full conference or individual days. If you’re an avid reader and fan of mysteries, thrillers, and suspense, stop by to meet Lois and other others at the book signings. They’d love to see you.

Friday, August 12, 2022

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--FIVE AMATEUR SLEUTHS CHAT ABOUT AUTHOR CAMILLE MINICHINO

Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned mystery writer. She’s written twenty-eight novels in five different series under her own name and several pen names. She’s also written short stories and articles and is on the faculty of Golden Gate U. in San Francisco. Learn more about Camille and her books at her website and blog. blog.

Five Series, Five Women

By Camille Minichino

 

The scene: a diner in Alaska, fairly crowded. Five women in a red vinyl booth are chatting over a lunch of fried clams and a special coleslaw made by one of them, Charlotte “Charlie” Cooke, the diner’s owner.

 

Three of the women have flown all the way from Massachusetts: Gloria Lamerino, retired physicist; Sophie Knowles, college math teacher; and Cassie Miller, postmistress in a small town in the Berkshires. The fifth, Gerry Porter, retired English teacher and miniaturist, had a shorter trip, from the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

"We'd probably never be friends if it weren't for Camille," Gerry says. "Although I know her as Margaret Grace." 

 

"Remember when she was Ada Madison?" Sophie asks. “I was so happy when she let me tell the world about Ada Lovelace, the world’s first programmer, and all the great female mathematicians throughout history.”

 

“By the way, her name is Jean Flowers,” Cassie says, in her blue USPS uniform since she’s just come from work. “I told her I didn’t want to leave Boston for a small town, but she put me in one anyway, and now I’m pretty happy in North Ashcot.”

 

“I know her as Elizabeth Logan,” Charlie says. “And she put me in the smallest, coldest, least populated, and most isolated part of the country. I’d trade places with any one of you, though I have to pretend to love Alaska.” Charlie shuddered to make her point, though her Bear Claw Diner was very comfortable this August day. As if to support her argument, just then a moose wandered right up to the diner window.

 

“Obviously, she loves me best,” says Gloria. “That’s why she named me after her real dear cousin and set the stories in her real hometown, Revere, Massachusetts, and wrote under her real name, Camille Minichino.” 

 

“But remember, her most embarrassing moments occurred in those books,” Sophie says. “She had you go to a Starbuck’s and there was no Starbuck’s in Revere.”

 

“That’s when she decided to make up a town,” Gerry says. “And, lucky me, she made me a crafter. I’m just glad she gave me a granddaughter to help.”

 

“I loved when she did research,” Cassie says. “So many fun facts about the post office came up, like when children would be sent by mail in the early 20th century.”

 

“You mean they’d put a stamp on a kid and send her through the mail?” Charlie asks, signaling her kitchen staff to bring another batch of cookies.

 

Everyone laughs, but Cassie is serious. “Yes! There are documents to prove it, like a 2-year-old boy who was sent from Oklahoma to Kansas for 18 cents.”

 

“Only one thing bugs me,” Gloria says. “And that’s when Camille insisted on bringing back Peter, a boyfriend of mine from thirty years ago. No one could annoy me like Peter Mastrone, and he still does, living a fantasy world that I moved back to Revere to be with him!”

 

“You know, there are many murder investigations in our lives,” Sophie says, “but I never get depressed over it. Do any of you?”

 

They all shake their heads.

 

“I think it’s because Camille/Jean/Elizabeth always manages to put a little humor in the books.”

 

The women begin to share jokes.

 

"What does the little mermaid wear? An algae bra," comes from Sophie.

 

"Does a radioactive cat have 18 half-lives?" from Gloria.

 

"Miniaturists work as little as possible," Gerry says.

 

“The problem with telling jokes about the post office,” Cassie says, “is that it will be days before people get it.”

 

“A detective asks a suspect in Alaska: where were you during the night of November 14th to February 12th?”

 

The friends can barely contain their laughter. 

 

At the next table two older women scan their menus, eavesdropping on Gloria, Gerry, Sophie, Cassie, and Charlie, who continue to joke and laugh like schoolgirls.

 

One of the women addresses the waiter. She points to the fivesome. "I'll have what they're having."  

 

Low Down Dirty Vote

A Crime Fiction Anthology, Volume 2

 

This charity anthology includes 22 stories of crime and suspense by 22 authors, many award-winning. 100% of the the proceeds will be donated to Democracy Docket, an organization that is successfully fighting against voter suppression in the United States.

 

In “Vote Early,” author Camille Minichino spins the yarn of a two-month-old baby who takes action to get out the vote. Yes, elements of sci-fi as well as crime fiction!

 

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

AN INTERVIEW WITH HISTORICAL/REGENCY MYSTERY AUTHOR J.L. BUCK

The author's office
Today we sit down for a chat with historical/Regency mystery author J.L. Buck, who also writes fantasy as Ally Shields. Learn more about J.L. at her website and blog and Ally at her website and blog. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

When I was nine. I loved Walter Farley’s horse books. When I had read them all, I decided to write mine own, a 150-page, handwritten story entitled Golden King. From that point on, I always thought I’d be a writer somebody. In college, I planned to be a journalist, then marriage and kids came along, and I began teaching to help support the household. Life intervened again, and I headed to law school. When I finally retired, I began to write my first true novel.

 

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

A:  In years, it wasn’t a lengthy process. I began writing what became my first published novel in 2009, and it was published in 2012. In between, were 160 rejections from agents and publishers. It took a lot of persistence, re-writing, and belief in my story.

 

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

I have been published by two small presses. My sixteen fantasy novels were published under a pen name by one publisher, but when I switched to mysteries, I had to find a new publisher. Fortunately, it didn’t take so many rejections the second time. đŸ˜Š

 

Where do you write?  

Since I knew what I wanted to do in retirement, I set up a small office in my home just for writing. I much prefer writing on a desktop, so I have it set up with a sturdy desk, printer stand, credenza, shelves, and cabinets to store info, and a rolling storage bin that houses most of my historical books.

 

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

Actually, neither. Silence drives me nuts, and I end up singing to music. I prefer a TV running in the background to provide white noise – even better if it’s showing a series I’ve already watched.

 

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

None of the plots are drawn from real life, although I have woven some historical events into my Regency mysteries. Character traits are frequency pulled from people I know or people I have observed. When I spend time in waiting rooms, long lines, or places like airplanes, I frequently watch the people round me for new traits that may appear in the next novel. So far, no one has said, “Oh, I know who that is.”

 

Describe your process for naming your character?

I have several lists of names that were popular during the Regency-era. When I have to name a new character, I run my finger down those lists until something strikes my fancy.

 

Real settings or fictional towns? 

I use both.

 

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

Lady Anne Ashburn has the ability of total recall.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I do my best writing late at night in gown or pjs.

 

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

As long as we’re dreaming, I would love to have written The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is so beautifully written, tremendously re-readable, and I believe will still be read 100 years from now for its relatable characters and engaging plot.

 

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

Many years ago, I had an opportunity to teach in Australia. I’d love to know where that would have led.

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Just one??? Tech support based in another country that does not speak my language.

 

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

My kindle, my notebook, and a bottle of wine.

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

Collection agent for Boston Law Book Co. Getting money from lawyers is nearly impossible.

 

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

If I can only choose one, it would be Sherlock Holmes who introduced me to the mystery genre that has given me thousands of hours of reading pleasure.

 

Ocean or mountains? 

Oceans

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

Country girl

 

What’s on the horizon for you? 

I’m currently writing the Viscount Ware mysteries under a four-book contract (they are all drafted), and I hope to have them available to readers within the next eighteen months. After that…I love these characters and have my fingers crossed that the contract will be extended.

 

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

I want to thank you for hosting me. I’m delighted to visit your blog.

 

The Dead Betray None

A Viscount Ware Mystery, Book 1

 

An aristocratic spy and a highborn lady cross paths over a dead body.

 

1811 England seethes with discontent. A self-indulgent prince regent sits on the throne of a country at war with France, on the brink of war with America, and facing growing rebellion at home. 

 

Lucien, Viscount Ware, recently home after four years on the Continent as a spy for England, finds life in the haute ton tedious. He secretly agrees to handle a few delicate matters for the Crown's private spy unit at Whitehall. A housebreaking at a country house party seems a strange assignment until he discovers that a French cipher, the key to Napoleon's war codes, was among the stolen items. As he follows its trail to London's notorious rookeries and into its glittering ballrooms, he faces a growing threat of treachery from more than one direction.

 

Lady Anne Ashburn missed her London season while caring for her invalid mother in the north country. A new nurse allows her to visit relatives, where she becomes embroiled in a blackmail plot. To avoid a terrible scandal, she goes to London to face down the scoundrel threatening her family.

 

The night of the elegant Christmastide Ball, Lucien finds Lady Anne standing over a corpse. What happens after that—the risks they take, the intrusion of a notorious crime lord, society gossip, and good intentions gone awry—sends them spiraling into danger and potential disaster for England’s war effort.

 

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Monday, August 8, 2022

VOTE FOR ANASTASIA!

I'll admit, there are some perks to being a reluctant amateur sleuth. Today I'm thrilled to announce that Stitch, Bake, Die!, the 10th Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, has been nominated for a Silver Falchion Award for Best Cozy Mystery of 2022 and also for a Readers Choice Award. The Readers Choice Award is open to voting by the public. Click here for the ballot. You'll need to scroll all the way down the list to the second from the bottom title because the list is alphabetical by author last name. Winners will be announced on August 20th at the Killer Nashville Conference. Lois and I would really appreciate your vote.

Guilty as Framed, the next Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, will be released four weeks from tomorrow. It’s currently available for pre-order. Meanwhile, Lois Winston, the author who has turned my life upside-down since she first began writing about me, is mulling over ideas for how she’s going to drop another dead body or two or three into my life in the next book. 

Yes, there will be a next book. Lois assures me there will always be a next book as long as readers continue to want to read about me and the adventures she creates for me. I suppose I should feel honored, but honestly, life as an amateur sleuth is exhausting!

 

Take this latest book, for example. You wouldn’t believe what happens to me! Of course, everything turns out okay in the end because in cozy mysteries the sleuth always prevails. However, getting from crime to solution involves quite a few twists and turns, especially in this latest book. No spoilers here, though. You’ll just have to read Guilty as Framed for yourself to discover what happens.

I will say, though, that there are some interesting red herrings in this book. I’d like to think I’m experienced enough at this point, given all the dead bodies Lois has dropped into my life, that I’d figure out whodunnit easily enough, but this one had me guessing for the longest time. And believe me when I say that something very exciting happens at the end of this book!


Guilty as Framed

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11

 

When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history. 

 

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancĂ© Zack Barnes. 

 

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

 

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

 

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Friday, August 5, 2022

#COOKING WITH CLORIS - MYSTERY AUTHOR JUDY ALTER'S NEW RELEASE AND THE MYSTERY OF KING RANCH CASSEROLE

Today we welcome back the prolific Judy Alter, author of the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, the Blue Plate CafĂ© Mysteries, the Oak Grove Mysteries, and her latest series, the Irene in Chicago Culinary Mysteries. Judy has also published historical novels, young adult novels, nonfiction, and cookbooks. Learn more about her and her books at her website.   

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

King Ranch casserole is Texas food. Henny learned to fix it in her mom’s kitchen, and she serves it often to Patrick who loves it. Irene disparages it as Texas food, and she’s not alone. Some noted Texas cookbook authors have been scathing in their criticism of this dish. Texas food historian Mary Faulk Koock wrote, “I suppose it could be made palatable,” but caterer Tilford Collins, who serves some of the oldest families in South Texas, was more blunt. “Never, never, never.” In Texas Monthly, journalist Mimi Swartz described it as a study in beige and yellow and criticized it as bland despite the chile-laced Rotel tomatoes. Bland is a quality Texans generally despise in their food. And yet, most Texans consider this dish a staple.

 

Culinary authorities agree that is probably derives from the Mexican chilaquiles which combines tortilla chips, tomatoes, chicken, cheese, and chiles. Swartz suggests it may have been the inspiration of an anonymous King Ranch cook with a preference for chicken, even though he was at a beef ranch. I have been to the King Ranch in far South Texas, largest ranch in the US, even spent the night in their guest quarters. The food was outstanding, but there was no sign of the casserole. 

 

That anonymous cook probably shouldn’t be blamed because the ingredients of today’s casserole are from the fifties when canned soup casseroles hit the heyday of their popularity. Casseroles that could be made quickly and frozen for later use were a big part of freeing housewives from the kitchen in the fifties and sixties. For several years, the casserole stayed a Texas secret, but in the seventies, it began to creep across the country. You may already know it, but if not, here’s an authentic version.

 

There is some version of the recipe—and there are many—in every Junior League cookbook from Texas, and chef Dean Fearing guessed that it is served in almost every family kitchen in Texas. Generations of Texans swear by this dish. 

 

And when Henny finds herself representing Texas is a cookoff against Irene’s French recipes, what does she choose? King Ranch. Here’s her recipe:

 

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Irene would never make this casserole—Texas food, you know—but if she did, she’d do it the old-fashioned way and boil an old hen. Henny believes in shortcuts, and she uses a rotisserie chicken. Henny is also a great advocate of canned soups in casseroles, something many “gourmands” frown on these days.

 

Ingredients:

3-4 cups chicken, diced or shredded

16 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces

2 medium onions, chopped

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1/2-1 can Rotel tomatoes, choose the flavor and heat you like; Henny likes lime/cilantro.

Grated cheddar

 

Layer, in a greased 9 x 13 casserole: tortillas, chicken, onion. Repeat layers. 

 

Pour the soups and tomatoes over the casserole How much tomato you use depends on how hot you want the dish. Cover with grated cheese and bake at 350° until cheese melts and is brown and casserole is bubbly.

 

Note: some people add green bell pepper. Henny despises bell pepper and does not use it.

 

Finding Florence

An Irene in Chicago Culinary Mystery, Book 3

 

Irene is back in town. And Henny’s life is a mess. 

 

Irene’s “voices” have told her that something is horribly amiss with a person dear to her.  When she arrives, she learns that a death notice for Florence Sherman, her sometime friend, has been published in the Sun-Times. Once Irene discovers her friend’s body is missing, the diva chef refuses to leave Chicago until she solves the mysterious disappearance. But, with Irene in Chicago, Henny’s successful “From My Mother’s Kitchen” TV cooking show and her precious time with Patrick, husband of her dreams, are seriously compromised by Irene’s insistence that finding Florence trumps any other concerns. 

 

There’s a nice bit of Chicago history and lots of food talk An appendix of recipes is attached.

 

 

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

MYSTERY AUTHOR MARY BETH MAGEE'S HUMOROUS SENIOR CITIZEN SLEUTHS TIPTOE THROUGH THE DAYLILIES TO FIND MURDER

Cozy mystery author Mary Beth Magee was born in New Orleans, LA and now live in south Mississippi, the land of her father’s roots. Learn more about her and her books at her website

What do you call a retired divorcĂ©e who comes home after more than four decades away? I call her Mercy McKay. She thinks of herself as a boring, error-prone, flawed woman, but her older sister Hope Appleton welcomes her back with open arms. In company with Hope’s best friend Susannah Bowles, the three senior citizens stumble into crimes in Cypress Point (their south Mississippi community) and do their best to solve them while not getting themselves hurt or killed.

 

They are LOL to the fourth power, The (LOL)–Little Old Ladies, Laughing Out Loud, Living Our Lives with Lots of Love. Amazing cooks, community-minded citizens, and strong Christians, they find themselves in danger more frequently than they would like and call on all their strengths and their fellow citizens to overcome the situations.

 

I am two books into the (LOL)4 Mysteries series (Death in the Daylilies and Ambush at the Arboretum) with Blood on the Bottletree, the third in progress. Each novel includes a recipe for a dish which plays a part in the story because we Southerners include food in everything!

 

Three anthologies of “Cypress Point Chronicles” stories are out: Cypress Point ConfidencesA Cypress Point Christmas, and Cypress Point Spirit. The short stories let other members of the community shine for a moment and allow me to share more about the town and its people.

 

So, what inspired these books? A love of mysteries and puzzles came from my mother. We shared mystery magazines and mystery television shows from the time I was a child. I may well have been Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen’s youngest reader. She got me my own library card as soon as the librarian would grant one, and I was off and running.

 

Another part of the equation comes from my own southern roots. The people, places, foods, and attitudes inspire me with the diversity of life.

 

I served as my mother’s caregiver for the last 4-1/2 years of her life. After she passed away, I was floundering. I had time which had once been devoted to her care. Friends invited me on an outing to a Daylily Driving Tour. Can I help it if I speculated about the possibility of finding a body face down in a flower bed? From there, the (LOL)4 took on a life of their own. 

 

A conversation with the groundskeeper at our local arboretum led to the second novel. An attempt to create a red bottle for my best friend’s bottletree inspired the third. And there are a few more in the pipeline.

 

While I am a senior citizen, I am not Mercy McKay. In some ways, she is a better version of me. She’s smarter (quitting after a single divorce), stayed with one career for her working life and so has a decent retirement income, and she crochets for gift shops as a side income. Mercy has no children of her own. 

 

I’ve been blessed with a terrific son and gained a daughter through his beautiful wife. And they made me a grandmother! I’m an oldest daughter rather than a younger one. I bounced from job to job as my husbands (only one at a time!) moved around the country. While I love to cook and crochet, my biggest creative joy is writing. 

 

If you like cozy mysteries with a southern accent, I hope you’ll check out my books. The ladies would love to welcome you into their homes and lives and of, course, their adventures.

 

Death in the Daylilies 

An (LOL)4 Mystery, Book 1

 

Three senior citizens with big hearts and a passion for flowers find themselves in the middle of murder when they stumble on Death in the Daylilies. Can these ladies solve the crime before they become someone’s garden mulch?

 

They call themselves (LOL)4 – Little Old Ladies, Laughing Out Loud, Living Our Lives with Lots Of Love. If the killer gets to them before the police solve the crime, they may be LOLD – Little Old Ladies Dead!

 

Join them in this cozy mystery as they try to find the culprit behind Death in the Daylilies.

 

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Monday, August 1, 2022

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR JENNIFER HAWKINS ON THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN BAKING AND WRITING, PLUS A SHORTBREAD #RECIPE

Jennifer Hawkins is the author of the Chatty Corgi mysteries, as well as an avid amateur baker who probably spends way too much time watching The Great British Baking Show. She lives, works and bakes in southeast Michigan with her husband and son. Jennifer doesn’t have a website, but you can connect with her and learn more about her and her books on Facebook and find links to her other social media. 

Bake, Write, Repeat

For me, baking and writing have always been linked. Both were something I discovered as a young person.Both were a way for me to stretch and discover, even when I felt marooned in the suburbs. Both have been something I’ve returned to repeatedly when I need solace, or quality time with, well, me. 

 

And, if you think about it, there’s a certain similarity between the two.

 

Both are creative, both are unpredictable, both require patience and an understanding that occasionally it just won’t turn out. 

 

For instance, with both, the initial idea is the easy part. Saying “I’m going to bake a batch of shortbread,” is as simple as “I’m going to write about Emma Reed, who moves to Cornwall with her talking corgi to open a tea shop, but there’s a murder.”

 

Okay, maybe it’s not that simple. After all, baking shortbread generally takes an hour or two. Writing a novel takes a little longer. But you get what I mean. The idea is simple, the actual execution? That’s harder. 

 

Although, when it comes to the perfect shortbread, it’s not actually that much harder.

 

Like a novel, shortbread requires just a few quality ingredients — good butter, flour, sugar, salt and maybe a dash of zest. Zest is required for the novel too, along with character, plot, and setting. Both require patience, and with both, you need to know how not to overwork the dough. 

 

For a delicious and perfectly simple shortbread, this is what you need:

 

Ingredients:

2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour

2/3 cup/150 grams granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt (I use kosher)

2 sticks/1 cup/226 grams cold unsalted butter

1 tsp. lemon or orange zest (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Cut up the butter into small cubes, and put it back in the fridge while you get the rest of your ingredients together. As with biscuits and pie crust, shortbread works best when the butter’s really cold.

 

Combine flour, sugar, salt in a food processor, pulse a few times to mix. Add cubed butter and pulse in 10 second bursts until the mixture is sandy and it holds together when you squeeze a lump in your hand. It’s going to look dryer than the usual cookie dough, but that’s okay. It’s supposed to.

 

Turn mixture into an 8” x 8” baking pan or shortbread pan and press down with your fingers into a smooth, solid layer of dough. Use a fork to prick the surface of the dough all over. This is called “docking” and it will release the steam from the inside and keep the dough from puffing up.

 

Bake at 325 F for 45 - 50 minutes. Now is a good time to read the next few chapters.

 

Let cool for 10 minutes before turning the shortbread out of the pan. While the shortbread is still warm, cut into preferred shape. 

 

A Cold Nose for Murder

A Chatty Corgi Mystery, Book 3

 

When Emma Reed moved to the Cornish village of Trevena, she was looking forward to making new friends, opening up a small tea shop, and taking plenty of brisk walks with her talking dog, Oliver. But when a valuable motorcycle and an old skeleton are found together under the local pub, Emma's antique dealing friends David and Charles become prime suspects in a forty-year-old mystery. The local gossip is soon flowing faster than tea in Emma's shop, and old secrets are being unearthed right along with the old bones.

 

Although David and Charles insist they have nothing to do with the skeleton, they quickly come under police suspicion. To save their friends, Emma and Oliver will need to dig deep....

 

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