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, September 30, 2022


Today we sit down for a chat with cozy mystery author S.A. Kazlo, aka Syrl Kazlo. Learn more about her and her books at her website.  

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

Years ago, I wrote articles for kids' magazines and a couple of young adult and middle grade novels, but after papering my room with rejection notices, I set my writing ambitions aside. About five years ago, I got hooked on cozy mysteries and wanted to give them a try. Thankfully, I found my writing niche.


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

From putting fingers on the keyboard to getting a contract, about five years.


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



Where do you write? 

I write at a small desk in a small spare bedroom with my dachshund at my feet. 


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

I get too easily distracted. I need silence, but I also need my ever-faithful dachshund at my feet.


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

My plots and characters are definitely drawn from real life. I want my readers to be able to relate to my stories.


Describe your process for naming your character?

I've drawn a number of my characters' names from my past and present friends. In fact, I have a friend who wants me to use her name as a murderer in an upcoming book.


Real settings or fictional towns? 

I live in upstate New York which is dotted with great small-town settings, so I use those as settings in my books.


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

My protagonist, Sam, is a hooker, rug hooker that is, and as such she has a tendency to hoard wool fabric for the rugs she creates.


What’s your quirkiest quirk?

Like Sam, I am also a rug hooker and a hoarder of wool. But I am an organized hoarder. My wool is stacked and color themed.


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

The Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowlings transformed reading for kids. I'll never forget standing in a bookstore next to a young boy who was proclaiming how proud he was that he had read such a "big" book.


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

I can't think of a thing I would change. I am blessed with a wonderful husband and family. What more could I ask for?


What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

Protagonists who are clueless about how dangerous a situation is that they are walking into.


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

Family, my dachshunds and lots of books to read.


What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

Waitressing at a dinner theater, Trying to serve a busload of people their whiskey sours before showtime was not a fun job.


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

I'd have to say two books that I read my children when they were young- the characters in Charlotte's Web and a book by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree. Such life lessons to learn from those two books


Ocean or mountains? 

Mountains. Their majesty can't be matched, in my humble opinion.


City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

Definitely country where living is so laid back. A person could fall asleep at a red light and have it turn green and no one would beep.


What’s on the horizon for you?

Hopefully, uncovering more murders for Sam to solve.


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

I just found out from my publisher that book 2 in my Samantha Davies Mystery series, A Doggone Death will be released on November 8th. It is available now for preorder on Amazon.


Kibbles And Death

A Samantha Davies Mystery, Book 1


After a nasty divorce, Samantha Davies has finally gotten her life back on track. She enjoys her hobby of hooking—rug hooking, that is—and is fulfilling a lifelong dream by writing her first children’s book, featuring her dachshund, Porkchop. But the pleasant pace of her life in small-town Upstate New York is suddenly shattered when she finds the dead body of the local pet shelter owner—murdered and covered in kibble!


While Calvin Perkins wasn't the most beloved man in town, Samantha's shaken to think there's a killer among them. Even more so when her octogenarian neighbor's boyfriend becomes the police's number one suspect, and her neighbor pleads with Sam to help him. While Sam's research skills have been honed in her pursuit of a publishing career, she's not convinced she won't be in over her head. Calvin may have been great with the animals, but he wasn’t well-liked by people, creating a list of suspects almost as long as Porkchop's favorite bone. But with the help of her Southern belle cousin, Candie Parker, Sam vows to find the truth...even if she has to go toe-to-toe with the handsome new detective in town to do it. Old grudges, new secrets, and danger around every corner means Samantha better find the killer's identity quickly...before they set their sights on another victim!


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Wednesday, September 28, 2022


Chloride, New Mexico
Amber Foxx, author of the award-winning Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series, has worked professionally in theater, dance, fitness, yoga, and academia. She has lived in both the Southeast and the Southwest and calls New Mexico home. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

The Perfect Setting for a Mystery

My first trip to the ghost town of Chloride, New Mexico made me think: I have to set a book here. I had nothing in mind yet other than the setting, and what a setting! A late nineteenth century silver mining boom town, with nothing left but a few streets, some well-preserved buildings, and two graveyards. My books are psychic mysteries without murder, so there was a lot of potential in the place.


Chloride was founded because of Harry Pye, the first to discover silver in the canyon. The area went from wild open space, Apache land, to a town of three thousand in a few short years, with a bank, an armory, a Chinese laundry, saloons, and brothels—and no church. Pye didn’t live to enjoy it. While out prospecting a few months after staking his silver claim in 1879, he was killed by Apaches who fought against this encroachment on their land. Chloride thrived for only about twenty years, declining as rapidly as the price of silver did by the end of the nineteenth century.


The general store still stands, as do many of the old stone and adobe buildings on the main street. There’s an abandoned mine in the canyon at the far end of the town beyond one of the graveyards. The ghost town has a few residents, primarily artists and craftspeople.

How did I get my characters involved in this place? My psychic protagonist is asked to participate in a ghost hunt. I don’t write historical novels, but one of my secondary characters does. Another secondary character, a country singer, is a history buff. He buys an old house in Chloride as a refuge from celebrity and brings my protagonist’s boyfriend, a singer-songwriter, to Chloride for a creative retreat—a much needed fresh start for them both. 


An antagonist character I’d had lurking in the back of my mind for years fit well into the setting as another person seeking a creative retreat, and she was the perfect foil for my main characters. Inspired by some astounding art quilts in the gallery housed in a former saloon, I added a mysterious quilter as a Chloride resident. 


Places like Chloride in its heyday attracted men and women who wanted to disappear from their old lives and start anew, and that evolved as an important undercurrent in the story. 


My second trip to Chloride was a research trip. The gentleman who helped rescue Chloride and turn parts of it into a museum gave me an in-depth tour. Details he told me helped build the plot, including the lack of cell phone service in town and for ten miles outside of town. There’s nothing like getting in trouble in the middle of nowhere when you can’t call for help. 


Chloride Canyon

A Mae Martin Psychic Mystery, Book 8


Could a faked haunting in a ghost town stir up a real one? 


Mae Martin’s college summer session is off to a rough start. A classmate is out to make her life miserable. Her English professor is avoiding her. And the Paranormal Activities Club plans to investigate her psychic abilities. Her boyfriend, Jamie, is on a song-writing retreat in the ghost town of Chloride, New Mexico, population fourteen humans, twenty-three cats, and—supposedly—zero ghosts. He’s working with a famous friend who doesn’t want Mae, or anyone, to visit. But then Jamie’s neighbor claims her house is haunted, and Mae has to learn who’s behind the frightening events—the living, or the dead.


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Monday, September 26, 2022


The remains of the Bella Coola cannery
Karen L. Abrahamson writes fantasy, romance, and mystery novels and award-nominated short stories. When not writing, she can be found with a camera and backpack in fabulous locations around the world. Learn more about Karen and her books and her website.

The Inspiration Behind the Story

I tend to set my stories in unusual locations that inspire me. The Phoebe Clay Mysteries take place on the stormy waters of Johnstone Strait on the east coast of Vancouver Island, in the sweltering Arabian Sea heat of Kochi, India, and the also sweltering heat of Angkor, Cambodia. I’ve been fortunate to visit all of them. The latest book, Trapped on Cedar Trails, (releasing September 30, 2022), returns Phoebe Clay to British Columbia, Canada, this time to the rainy Great Bear Rainforest of the B.C. Central Coast.


The novel centers on Bella Vista, a fictional town that is a poor relation to the real-life Bella Coola. Like Bella Coola, Bella Vista has its own derelict fish cannery. These places are left over from the days when the Pacific Northwest ran thick with salmon and the fishing boats couldn’t possibly get their catch back to Vancouver for canning before the fish spoiled. As a result, in remote locations along the central coast you’ll find these huge old L-shaped buildings built over the water where the boats could pull in and transfer their haul. Inside these remote canneries, men and women, often First Nations or Chinese, would can the fish that would then be transported to the cities.


At the time, people could live in dormitories, or claim a bit of land and build a cabin. Typical of the day, the communities were segregated into sub-communities of First Nations, Chinese and European. The canneries had stores that catered to the fishermen and the cannery staff. All this changed early in the 20th century with the advent of the huge cannery ships. As a result, the canneries and this iconic west coast life faded away. 


Today, the old fishing fleets are gone and few of the canneries remain. Fires and west coast rains have largely destroyed the huge old buildings. I stayed at the Tallheo Cannery Guesthouse across the water from Bella Coola. Here, half of the old structure remains standing stately on its pilings along the shore. The other half collapsed long ago and now the owner of the cannery works long hours trying to preserve this bit of west coast history. We stayed in the old (supposedly haunted) dormitory house that was once reserved for the European employees. The old store and the communications buildings still stand as well, though the First Nations and Chinese communities have been consumed by time and the dense vegetation of the rainforest. 


Standing on the pebbled shore in the shadow of the west coast mountains, with the wind off the ocean tugging at your hair and the sun disappearing behind the peaks, I could imagine the trials of living in those very isolated communities. As the shadows lengthened, I could conjure the ghosts who probably inhabit the area. Of course, while ghosts might seem dangerous, more realistically the danger to visitors is the chance encounter with one of the rainforest’s huge grizzly bears.

From these thoughts and this beautiful place came the inspiration for the story which grew into Trapped on Cedar Trails.


Trapped on Cedar Trails

Phoebe Clay Mystery, Book 4


The discovery of a woman’s body trapped in driftwood off a small, west coast town turns a five-day photography class into a nightmare for Phoebe Clay, her sister Becca, and Phoebe’s niece Alice. Did the woman fall off a boat or has something worse happened? Either way, Becca wants to return home immediately, but Alice, a student in the class, won’t hear of it. Phoebe just wants to stay out of the mother-daughter drama.


The specter of murder hangs over the family as they join the other students at an isolated fish cannery guesthouse on the coast of British Columbia. Then on their first night, Alice spots ghostly figures outside and on the first morning, Phoebe finds a dead grizzly bear on the cannery’s shore. She doesn’t want to get involved, but there’s something wrong at the Bella Vista Cannery Guesthouse, and someone is not who they say they are.


Against her better judgment, she begins quiet enquiries while trying to keep her sister and Alice safely uninvolved. But not knowing who to trust means answers come at a price. When Alice decides to pursue her own risky investigation, events take a sharp turn, revealing an insidious plot that threatens the lives of everyone Phoebe holds dear. 


On the run on the cannery’s treacherous, rain-soaked, night-shrouded cedar trails, Phoebe and her family will face the greatest danger they’ve ever met—brutal foes determined to ensure the family doesn’t survive to reveal the cannery’s secrets.


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Friday, September 23, 2022


Today we sit down for a chat with Buddy Banks, a Black Labrador/Rottweiler mix, from author Kassandra Lamb’s Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy Mystery Series.

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

I was a happy puppy. My dog mom was a bit promiscuous. She was supposed to be producing only purebred Black Labradors. Her breeder was quite shocked when my siblings and I were born. Apparently, the neighbor’s Rottweiler had come visiting one night.


The breeder gave our litter to an agency that trains service dogs for veterans. My first human mom was the woman who fostered us and taught us our manners, until we were old enough to be trained as service dogs. That’s when I met Marcia Banks.


Life was good. Marcia’s very loving and it was fun to learn new things. But I was a little shocked when she took me to meet my veteran. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t going to live with her forever.


But my Marine was a good guy. I liked being useful, helping him deal with his PTSD. And his wife was very sweet, until she got herself killed. When my Marine was accused of her murder, I had to go live with Marcia again.


And as it turned out, I did end up living with her forever, and helping her solve mysteries and train more service dogs.  


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

I’m pretty brave. I don’t bite but I will do most anything else to protect Marcia. Will, Marcia’s love interest, taught me some things that police dogs do. Like grabbing the arm of someone who’s holding a gun. I’ve had to do that way too often! 


What do you like least about yourself?

I’m getting old. I have gray hairs on my snout now! And I don’t have as much energy as I once did. It’s hard for me to keep up when helping Marcia train. She’s talking about training a new mentor dog to take my place, so I can retire. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

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

Well, this is a little strange, but it’s also fun. Our author had Marcia train me to act like someone’s out-of-control pet. When Marcia spins her finger around in a circle, I run up to the dog we’re training and try to get them to play with me.


It’s a test to see if they stay on task or do they let me distract them. We do it again a few times when we’re training the veteran who’s getting the dog, to see if the vet can keep the dog focused.


It’s fun because I get to act as crazy as I want, until Marcia claps her hands, and then I trot away, as calm as can be. The veterans often laugh when they see me shift gears so fast.


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

I don’t, but Marcia does sometimes. Lately they’ve been “discussing” whether or not it’s time to wind down our series (we have 12 books out now).


Marcia’s got mixed emotions about it. She loves investigating—that’s why she and Will are starting their own private detective agency—but she is getting tired of dealing with killers. She’s ready for tamer things, like insurance fraud cases. But she’s also a little afraid she’ll get bored with “tame” after a while.


What is your greatest fear?

Losing Marcia...and now she’s having a baby. I know she’ll want me to protect the baby, like I do her. But I’m not sure how to keep a tiny baby safe. What if I screw up and something happens? 


What makes you happy?

A good nap after a training session.


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

Maybe the time with my Marine. Not the whole time, but toward the end. It was so sad. I try not to think about what happened.


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

Well, it used to be the lady who delivers our mail. She was afraid of dogs, but Dolly, the border collie we recently trained—she’s so sweet that she won the postmistress over. Now she even pets me sometimes. The postmistress, not Dolly...


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

That’s easy. The new puppy Marcia’s raising, who will eventually replace me as her mentor dog. If I were the pup, I’d get to live another whole dog-years lifetime with Marcia and her family.


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

Kassandra just celebrated her 70th birthday and her 10th anniversary as a published author. She says it’s time to slow down just a bit (I guess we’re both dealing with this getting-old business). It’s one of the reasons she’s winding down our series. She has started another one—a police procedural series about a female Chief of Police—and she says it’s a little much trying to produce at least one book per series each year.


Readers can learn more about her and her books at her website where there are also links to her social media. She also blogs at Misteriopress

What's next for you?

We have one more novella coming out, around the first of the year, called Auld Lang Mayfair. Kassandra says there’s going to be some drama regarding our friend Carla. She used to help Marcia and me train the dogs, but now she trains on her own and also works at the Mayfair Diner (and gives me meat scraps sometimes).


Our other friend, Edna Mayfair (she’s really old, in her 80s) is always trying to bring in more business, and especially tourists, to our small town. She’s building some new shops along Main Street, but this time her scheme to promote Mayfair may backfire.


We already have a cover for that last book. Isn't it cute?


To Bark or Not to Bark

A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #12


Service dog trainer Marcia Banks tackles a locked room mystery in a haunted house, while training the recipient of her latest dog.


The border collie, Dolly has been trained to clear rooms for an agoraphobic Marine who was ambushed in a bombed-out building. But the phantom attackers in his psyche become the least of his troubles when Marcia finds his ex-wife’s corpse in his master bedroom, with the door bolted from the inside.


Was it suicide or murder? Marcia can’t see her client as a killer, but the local sheriff can.


Then the Marine reports hearing his ex calling for him to join her on the other side of the grave. Is his house really haunted, or is he hallucinating?


Bottom line: Marcia has lost a client to suicide before. She’s not going to lose another!


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Wednesday, September 21, 2022


Jennifer Hawkins is the author of the Chatty Corgi mystery series.  She lives, writes, and bakes in the great state of Michigan. She can be found at @allmycozies on both Twitter and Instagram.

Jennifer Bakes and Writes

When people ask me “where do you get your ideas from?” usually I tell them everywhere. Inspiration can come from anyplace.  As a writer, you learn to keep your eyes and your mind open.


Occasionally, inspiration comes from an editor calling on the phone, saying “We’d like to do a story about…” and “Would you be interested?”


That’s how I ended up writing a cozy mystery about Emma who left her life in London’s financial industry to open a cake shop in Cornwall. Oh, and did I mention her best friend is her talking corgi, Oliver? 


It might not have been my own idea, but I have an absolute ball writing the Chatty Corgi books. First, who doesn’t love a corgi?  Secondly, I have always loved to cook and bake. I’ve baked my own cakes and breads since I was little. For me, making a new recipe — whether it’s simple or complex — is a process of discovery. I always learn something new, even if I’ve made it a hundred times.


It’s kind of like writing, in that way. No matter what it is, I’m always exploring something new — whether it’s a dead body in a prize-winning rose garden, or how to get the character of the talking dog just right.


That’s probably why I like this shortbread recipe so much. It’s a really basic cookie and delicious as it is. But there’s also a dozen things you can add — citrus zest, ginger, candy chips, nuts — the list goes on. You really can make it different every time.  Just make sure whatever you add doesn’t add moisture to the mix.  


Shortbread Cookie



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


Optional: 1 tsp. lemon or orange zest, chopped toasted almonds or pecans, candied ginger, dried cranberries, etc.


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, and salt in a food processor, pulse a few times to mix.


Add cubed butter to food processor, pulse in 10 second bursts until the mixture is sandy and 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 baking 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. Let cool for 10 minutes before turning the shortbread out of the pan. While the shortbread is still warm, cut into preferred shape.  


To Fetch a Felon

A Chatty Corgi Mystery, Book 1


Emma Reed and her beloved Corgi move from London to Cornwall with the dream of opening a tea shop—but first they’ll have to collar a criminal in the first book in a charming new series.


Emma leaves London and her life in high finance behind her and moves to an idyllic village in Cornwall, with its cobblestone streets and twisting byways. She plans to open a village tea shop and bake the recipes handed down to her from her beloved grandmother, and of course there’ll be plenty of space for her talking corgi, Oliver, to explore. Yes...talking. Emma has always been able to understand Oliver, even though no one else can.


As soon as Emma arrives in the village she discovers that the curmudgeonly owner of the building she wants to rent for her shop hates dogs and gets off on the wrong foot with Oliver. Although some might turn tail and run, Emma is determined to win her over. But when she delivers some of her homemade scones as a peace offering, she finds the woman dead. Together, Emma and Oliver will need to unleash their detective skills to catch a killer.


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Monday, September 19, 2022


Award-winning author Lori Roberts Herbst writes the Callie Cassidy Mystery series. Lori is a former journalism teacher and counselor who now writes, indie publishes, and markets her books. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

Just as I always wished to be more athletic, I've always wanted to be "crafty." Sadly, both those talents seem to require more coordination than I possess. (Case in point: not too long ago, I broke my wrist while strolling down a sidewalk.)


But let's put the lack of athleticism aside and focus on crafts. We'll start with painting. The two times I tried Painting with a Twist, the effort resulted in what could best be classified as abstract art. (That would all be well and good, but I was going for realism.) Then, when I took up knitting, my mini-afghan contained so many dropped stitches it looked more like a doily. (The knitting phase provided me with some thoughts about possible fictional methods of murder, so all was not lost.) And let's not even talk about cake decorating. (I'll just mention the Leaning Tower of Pisa and leave it at that.)


The one crafting skill I seem to possess is an aptitude for cross stitching. Since cross stitching is a bit like color-by-numbers, it doesn't require a great deal of innate talent on my part—just the ability to discern colors, to organize threads, and to count. Once I complete all the prep work, there's not even a lot of thinking required. It's an excellent way to keep my hands busy while I'm watching TV, and the dozen or so Christmas stockings I've created for family members fill me with a sense of accomplishment.


Still, I see people who possess so much crafting talent, and I sometimes long for more skills of my own. Perhaps that's why I created a character who leaps with unfettered abandon into so many activities. Maggie Cassidy—the kind, loving, funny mom of the main character in the Callie Cassidy Mystery series—tries out a new craft in almost every book. In fact, her family calls her a "hobby jumper," because she bounces from one pastime to another in the quest for an artistic endeavor that scratches her creative itch.


For example, in Suitable for Framing, Maggie proves she's a much better knitter than I, especially when it comes to creating sweaters for Callie's dog Woody and cat Carl. When she takes up cake decorating in Double Exposure, she even wins an award at the local Fireweed Festival. In book three, Frozen in Motion, scrapbooking snags Maggie's interest, resulting in a sentimental Valentine's album for her devoted hubby Butch.


Though a trip to a dude ranch in Photo Finished means a hiatus in Maggie's crafting journey, she'll rededicate herself in book 5, tentatively titled Negative Reaction. (I'm thinking origami might be right up her alley.) And I can already foresee her undertaking in book 6: genealogy—more specifically, grave rubbing. (Who knew that was even a thing? I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to researching it.)


And therein lies the beauty of being a writer: I can live vicariously through my characters. Will I ever be a grave rubber in real life? Seems unlikely (though now that I think about it, I do live within walking distance of a cemetery...) But Maggie can pursue it. She can invest the time and money in whatever craft captures my interest, and she'll be successful in a way I likely wouldn't.


But that's just the tip of the iceberg. When a specific mode of murder piques my curiosity, I can let it play out on paper. When certain people irritate me, I can use their annoying traits to manufacture characters I can finish off in unsavory fashion—and I'll never face a consequence. This author gig is the next best thing to counseling. (Or maybe all this only goes to show that I need more counseling...)


Maggie and I are always looking for new and interesting crafts to entertain us—and our readers. What are some of your favorites?


Photo Finished

A Callie Cassidy Mystery, Book 4


When a visit to a Colorado dude ranch turns deadly, it's up to photographer Callie Cassidy to corral the killer...


Callie thinks she has planned the perfect bridal shower for her best friend Tonya: a week-long girls' trip to Moonglow Ranch, where they can all bask in nature and enjoy each other's company. Then, a conniving local woman publicly threatens the ranch's owners, and Callie worries the trip may be destined for disaster. The next morning, she and her golden retriever Woody and tabby cat Carl discover the woman's body in the stable, trampled by a horse. Or did the woman die from a snakebite? Or—as Callie suspects—could something even more sinister be at play? Answers are as difficult to find as a needle in a haystack. And when the town's police chief accuses the ranch owners of murder, Callie realizes she'll need to lasso the real outlaw—before the wrong people end up in the pokey.


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Friday, September 16, 2022


By Lois Winston


Authors find inspiration everywhere, sometimes in the strangest of places. On a trip to northern California a few months ago, I found myself walking through a quaint Victorian town one gloomy afternoon. After a rainy morning, my sister-in-law suggested it as a good place to stretch our legs.

The town didn’t disappoint. I particularly enjoyed strolling around some of the antique shops and an old-fashioned general store. However, the pi├Ęce de resistance was that hillside cemetery. Cemeteries, especially old ones, fascinate me. Several years ago, I spent hours wandering around one in Key West.

I know many people purchase their cemetery plots in advance, and some even have their headstones carved, minus their death date, which gets added after their demise. I suppose it makes life easier for those they leave behind. Sometimes people include quotes, often from the Bible or a favorite poem. Some headstones are inscribed with tongue-in-cheek sayings. However, this cemetery was the first I’ve ever come across that contained a grave with a complete recipe etched into the stone!

And it apparently isn’t even a fabulous, prize-winning recipe. According to the title, it’s only A Good Carrot Cake recipe. A look at the front of the tombstone and its companion, shows that it’s obvious this couple has quite a sense of humor. It makes me wonder about the backstory of the carrot cake recipe. 

I suppose I could have looked up the couple and asked. According to the markers, they’re both still alive, but I lacked the courage. It’s possible everyone in town knows the story behind the gravestone recipe, but I didn’t ask anyone. 
Instead, I took some photos and filed this bit of trivia away for future reference. Someday it just might show up in one of my books. I’ve already warned Anastasia.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


Today we're privy to a chat between a reporter and Kubu, a detective in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. Kubu is the creation of authors Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, writing as Michael Stanley. Michael has lived in South Africa, Kenya, Australia, and the US. He now lives on the Cape south coast of South Africa. Stanley splits his time between Minneapolis, Cape Town, and Denmark. Discover more about Michael Stanley and their books at their website 

Tea with Kubu

By a Reporter


David Bengu is a detective in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department in Gaborone. His large size, impressive appetite, and dedication to achieving his objective have won him the nickname Kubu, which means hippopotamus in the local language. He features in the Botswana mysteries by Michael Stanley, who is actually two people, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. I invited Kubu to tea to ask him about his take on killer crafts and crafty killers.


“Are you interested in crafts, Assistant Superintendent Bengu?’


“Please call me Kubu. Well, detection is a craft, of course. It’s not something you can just learn from books. You need to be apprenticed to good detectives and follow what they do and how their minds work. I was lucky to be mentored by Jacob Mabaku. I learned a lot from him in my first few years. I remember a case soon after I joined the CID where the skeleton of a Bushman turned up when they were digging a trench for a water project up near Shakawe, and—”


“I was thinking more of a craft like quilting or working with stained glass.”


“Oh, I’m not really good at that sort of thing. On the other hand, I’m a very good eater! I never leave anything on my plate—at least not when my wife Joy cooks it. And I’m quite knowledgeable about wine. Not that I could afford much in the way of good wine in the days I was just talking about… I don’t think I’d call it a killer craft, although some friends, my wife included, say I should eat less. They’re afraid of me having a heart attack…”


“Do you enjoy cooking then?”


“Me? Cook? Well, Stanley says that if you can read, you can cook. I guess that’s true in general terms, but the special touches that make a dish really enjoyable take talent and experience. My first effort was a sweet and sour pork dish. It wasn’t terrible. At least everyone ate it. But dinner was about an hour late, so maybe they were just so hungry that they would have eaten anything.” 


He laughs. “Still, I’ve got a few dishes I’m quite proud of now that I’ve practiced them a few times. Do you know, I even have my own little cookbook (I call it my KUkBUk!)—it’s titled A Taste of Africa. One of my favorite dishes is tomato bredie. It’s a delicious stew from South Africa with Malay origins, made with lamb or beef and tomatoes and vegetables. It’s a bit spicy and goes well with a strong red like a shiraz. Everyone loves the bredie, including my kids.”


He continues, “I also learned a bit about whisky on that trip to Shakawe I was telling you about. Our pathologist, Ian McGregor, is from Scotland, and he knows his whiskies, especially the ones from Islay. We needed a few shots of those as he discovered more and more skeletons—eventually nine, all Bushmen including those of women and children—and it turned out that they’d been murdered. But we still thought it had happened long ago, so it was history rather than a case. Then, while there, an elder was murdered at his home in the village. The local police thought it was a robbery gone wrong and arrested a Bushman who had suddenly appeared in the area. But it made no sense to me. And then there were problems around the water project. And an international outcry about the massacre. My boss, Assistant Superintendent Mabaku, came out to help—”


“My readers would love the recipe for the tomato bredie dish you were telling me about.”


“Oh sure. I’ll send it to you. And the fun part is you can change things quite a bit and see how it works. It always seems to come out well, anyway. For example, I like to add some ginger because I always add ginger. Except to ice cream. Chocolate sauce works better with that.” 


He laughs again. “Back to that case. With Mabaku’s help, we started piecing together that there was something sinister going on. A covenant from the past was killing people in the present. There was also a strange lady who believed a water spirit was involved … well, it’s a long story. But you’ll never guess who was actually behind it all. Talk about crafty killers.” He shakes his head. “It took me quite a while to work it out, and that was with Mabaku’s help, too.”


He checks his watch. “Well, I have to get going.”


“But what about the crafty killer? You haven’t told us…”


“The crafty killer? Well, it’s all in the latest book, A Deadly Covenant, and much more fun if you read the whole story first, and see if you can work it out as I did. Michael and Stanley would kill me if I gave it away here.” He laughs a third time as he clambers to his feet. “Thanks for having me visit. Those cookies were delicious. Maybe I could take a couple with me? That’s very kind. It’s been fun chatting. All the best and happy reading!”


Tomato Bredie Recipe


2 tablespoons (30 mls) cooking oil

2 pounds (800 gms) mutton knuckles, chopped

1 large onion, sliced

2 pounds (800 gms) ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped

6 cloves garlic

1 dry red chili, chopped

2 tablespoons (30 mls) tomato paste

4 medium potatoes, quartered and softened for 5 minutes in a microwave

Salt to taste

Sugar to taste


In a large pot, fry the onions until brown. Add the meat and simmer 30 minutes.


Crush the tomatoes and garlic. Add to the meat and simmer 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. 


Salt and sugar to taste.


This is best served over yellow rice. Here's a simple recipe.


A Deadly Covenant

A Detective Kubu Mystery, Book 8


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