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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Monday, October 31, 2022


Mystery author Judith Copek has discovered that bad guys and scary situations are not limited to mystery fiction. In her latest novel, she leaps into another genre with an historical novel set in the nineteen twenties. Learn more about her and her books at her blog. 

Did the Twenties Really Roar? 

In 1928, my late mother took the Santa Fe Super Chief from Newton Kansas to Pasadena California. She would spend the summer with some girlhood friends who once lived in her hometown. She left a scrapbook, now in tatters, and a photo album, as well as a couple letters. The letters hinted at something darker, but photos and souvenirs just show everyone having a good time. 


My mother’s scrapbook opened my eyes to life with a nice middle-class family in 1928 Southern California. These were not the nineteen-twenties I had expected. Where were speakeasies? The skinny girls in short dresses? Did my mom or her friends, all in their early twenties, do any roaring at all? They knew how to have fun. 

And single people partied a lot. At home, at country clubs, at the dance hall on the mountain. Sometimes girls drank, but often they didn’t. At lease not this bunch. They were not averse to being around parents. Most of the girls didn’t drive, and parents were available for trips to Yosemite and other landmarks. I discovered that clothing for such excursions consisted of sweater, jodhpurs, striped socks, and boots or sturdy shoes. Rather fetching, actually. Women’s hair was worn short, some bobbed, some curly. Dresses were often fancy with lace and lots of ruffles.


My research found much sleeker women with shorter skirts and definitely bobbed hair. Seductive, vamping, dancing wildly. The image we all have of the twenties. Where did the truth lie? As usual, somewhere in between.


I couldn’t write a novel about young people swanning around and having a wonderful time all summer. It would have been dullsville. But on the other hand, I wanted some semblance of reality. I finally found a middle ground. And characters I could love. In a million years my mother would not recognize herself. But that’s okay, because her life-long friendship with these girlhood pals, and the inspiration she left-behind helped write Such Stuff As Dreams.

Some women of the time were serious about business careers and had their own organizations with meetings and what we would now call networking. 

Bridge was a popular came both for women and men. Colorful placecards and bridge tallies echo the times. Life was more formal then, often with cards for seating as in the sample above. 


Such Stuff As Dreams

Carla Curby, a young teacher and photographer, arrives in Southern California from rural Kansas to visit girlhood friends. Carla anticipates an exciting summer away from her staid Mennonite town, a summer where lipstick, bobbed hair, and dancing the Charleston are normal. She doesn’t anticipate the graft and corruption that permeate life in the Golden State where many dream of finding gold or striking oil.


Carla is pulled into the local art scene and is smitten with a Bohemian artist who admires her photography, but he has a huge strike against him. When her mother demands that Carla return home to help with summer chores, Carla, in an act of uncharacteristic defiance, sells her return ticket, sends her mother the money, and determines to stay in California.


Her choice haunts her, but love beckons as she becomes involved with two men: the artist and a get-rich-quick dreamer. On the uncertain road ahead, Carla travels far from her safe Kansas life. A young woman with gumption and perseverance, she will be required to make hard decisions and to face challenges that were never part of her dreams.


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Saturday, October 29, 2022


This weekend only, October 29th and 30th, the Blackbird Writers and some of their friends are having an amazing Flash Sale featuring more than 50 free and deeply discounted books. Genres include mystery, suspense, thrillers, paranormal, cozies, amateur sleuth, crime fiction, police procedurals and more--including middle grade and young adult books! Click here to scare yourself silly this weekend on amazing deals from award-winning and bestselling authors.

One of the books featured in this sale is A Stitch to Die For, the fifth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. The Kindle version, regularly $4.99, is available for only $1.99.

A Stitch to Die For

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 5


Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message.


Flash Sale Buy Link

Friday, October 28, 2022


Today we welcome the writing team of Sue Videos and Becky Martinez to tell us about their working partnership. Learn more about them and their books at their website.


H.G.Wells said it perfectly…and I use his words in reference to co-authoring ….


No passion in the world is equal 

to the passion 

to alter someone else’s draft.


Which of course is what co-authors do on a daily basis, or should I say on a critique basis.


Becky and I have worked together for many, many years, first as just friends in the same writing groups, and then as teachers. We taught on-line writing classes together all over the county.  Then suddenly, about two years ago, Becky emailed me one day and asked if I would like to write a book with her.  My answer, “Oh, yes!” I was thrilled, because we both brought to the table different, unique skills based on how we write. 


Becky is definitely a fly-by-the-seat type of writer--that is, she comes up with an idea for a plot and characters and simply starts writing. Her characters and scenes come to life as she writes the story. 


On the other hand, I am a planner. I don’t even begin to write until I have the whole idea planned out and the ending written down.


So how do these two different ways of writing blend so well? First of all, when writing with another writer, ground rules need to be determined before the first word is typed.


Our ground rules were:


1- Decide on the type of story to write. 

We agreed on a light cozy mystery.


2 - Create the plot and the main characters.

We wanted an artist as one protagonist and a small boutique owners as the other, and we wanted to set the story in a small Colorado town (since we both know the area.)


3 - Decide who would do what.

We had meetings to loosely plot the story. I would write the first draft of each chapter. Becky would heavily critique it and add any additional information. I would then critique what she changed. Then together, on the phone, we would critique the chapter, line by line, word by word until we were satisfied. We set deadlines and did this once a week. 


The reason this worked so well for us, is that I am dyslexic and cannot spell very well and have absolutely no idea where the damn commas go. Becky, on the other hand, as a retired journalist, spells exceptionally well, and is a comma queen. 


I kid her a lot because she is also the world’s best editor. She takes my short, sometimes unfinished sentences and often in the wrong tense, and smooths them out. She has, hidden on her keyboard a “delete” key which she uses all the time. And this makes the writing flow smoother and better.


If I were to give any advice to a writer who is contemplating co-authoring any genre, I would state that before writing anything agree on these ground rules:


1 - Lose the ego.

2 - Learn how to critique constructively.

3 - Set deadlines.

4 - Learn how to disagree.

5 - Be honest in your comments.

6 - Bottom line, all that really matters is how to make the book a great read. 



…and that’s the way it is…--Walter Cronkite at the end of  every CBS news broadcast


Sue and I have been able to make co-authoring work because of our constant desire to collaborate and to join together to make our books as entertaining and correct as possible. Sue is well known for her nonfiction books on writing, and we have worked together both on nonfiction and fiction over the years. She excels in creating characters from the very beginning, while I often let my characters come to life on the pages as I write them. She fills out character charts in advance, while I have character charts that I fill out as I write the story. I usually know the beginning of my story and the ending, but everything in the middle comes out as I write. It’s not that I can’t plan—I just know that things will change along the way. So I like to be prepared for when that happens and a character gets out of line and starts acting differently.


As a television news producer, who had to plan a newscast every day but never saw one go in the exact order I planned it, I have learned to be flexible over the years, and I do that with my fiction writing. One thing I always knew as a TV news producer—the network news was coming on the air at 6:00pm no matter what I did, so my newscast better be done at that exact second! 


I do that with my writing too. I know how I am going to begin and end my books and everything else in the middle might change, but I need that beginning to make my readers want to keep turning the pages, and I want to end the story with them feeling as though they got everything they needed to know and ready to “tune in” (or buy my book) the next time they see my name as an author.  


As co-authors Sue and I have had to combine our distinctive styles, and it can be quite rewarding even though it can also be challenging. She considers me the queen of commas, but I consider her the queen of character building, and she is also very dedicated to the writing process itself. Together we work hard to make our characters, our locations, and our plots come to life. We both also love to talk about writing and learn from and about other writers, which is why we began co-authoring books on writing and teaching classes many years ago. We’ve learned everyone has a different style, so we recommend, find what works for you and your writing co-author, and then team up and enjoy the process.


Together we have managed to write not only not only nonfiction but fiction books together.  Our newest co-authored novel, Secrets and Swindles, is a cozy mystery that was published this month.  It took months of working together, both formulating the plot and then writing and editing it, but it was a fun book to do, and we are now working on a second installment even while we both work on individual fiction. 


Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, the writing process may be challenging, but neither one of us intends giving it up any time in the future, continuing to work together as well as write our own suspense books. 


Secrets and Swindles

A Sleuthing Sisters Mystery, Book 1


All Josephine and her sister want to do is enjoy their senior years in a small community in the Rocky Mountain foothills, but when Josephine discovers that someone has made prints of her artwork without her permission and is profiting off them, she is determined to track down the thief. She knows the person must be nearby, but who could it be?

Olivia runs a resale clothing shop in town and has growing problems of her own. The alcoholic husband of her store clerk, Ginny, has just been killed in a suspicious automobile accident. Now police are questioning the cause and Ginny may become a suspect in his mysterious death. Olivia wants to help, but how? And now she has her own doubts about Ginny.

As the two sisters search for answers with the help of an elderly ex-judge and his grandson, they suddenly find themselves caught in a web of deception and danger. Someone is watching them…leaving vague warnings to stop their sleuthing. The next warning could cost them their lives.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2022


A typical trade show
Award-winning author Karen McCullough has written nearly two dozen novels and novellas in the mystery, romance, suspense, and fantasy genres, including the Market Center Mysteries Series and three books in the No Brides Club series of romance novels. Her short fiction has appeared in a wide variety of anthologies. Learn more about Karen and her books at her website where you can also find links to her blog social media.

Mysteries Set at a Trade Show – Wait… What is a Trade Show?

The very first time I went to a trade show, as a newly hired editor at a trade publication, I realized it would be a great setting for a murder mystery. It has so many of the needed elements: a closed environment, a group of people with plenty of history with each other, limited time, and high stakes.


What is a trade show you ask? 


I’m glad you did, since it’s a world that is unfamiliar to many people.


This is how the heroine of my Market Center Mysteries series describes it: "A trade show is...about manufacturers and importers selling their product to the retailers. They show their latest and greatest product to the retail buyers and hope the buyers decide they can sell a zillion of them to the public. A lot rides on this show for the manufacturers. Retailers sell to the public all the time, so a bad day or even a bad weekend isn’t going to kill them. But the retailers only go shopping for the stuff they sell a few times a year, mostly at these shows. They buy their product in huge lots, at the show or soon after. For the exhibitors, this is when they make the bulk of their sales, and there are only a few big shows a year. So the stakes are really high. A good show can make their business. A bad one can break it.”


A trade show is a huge gathering that is part educational conference, part huge marketplace, part fair, and part circus. It’s all about attracting the interest of buyers, and suppliers will go to great lengths to attract attention. Elaborate, eye-catching displays are expected. Contests and giveaways are essential to collect leads, since entry usually involves dropping a business card in bowl. Many exhibitors arrange product demonstrations, musical events, even playlets to attract attention.


Although Covid-19 has put the squash on some of these and more sales now go online and through reps, they are beginning to gear up again and I doubt they’ll ever stop completely.


Playing at Murder

A Market Center Mystery, Book 3


Dolls, constructions sets, stuffed animals, craft kits, and more are the featured displays in the annual Games and Playthings Trade Show at the Washington D.C. Commerce and Market Center, where vendors seek to convince retail buyers to stock their products. Murder and destruction aren’t supposed to be on the program.


The hit-and-run death of an exhibitor overshadows what should be a fun few days of giveaways, games, and demos. A gun hidden in a bin of stuffed animals, a damaged show car, and a drone knocking over the PlayBlox displays are the opening salvos of chaos created by a clever but unhinged vandal.


Settling disputes and fielding complaints are all in a day’s work for Heather McNeil, assistant to the director of the Market Center. Sussing out murder suspects to help the police is way beyond her job description, especially while trying to corner a vandal before the damage gets worse. Keeping the show running despite the mayhem will pit her and her allies, particularly Scott Brandon, the Center’s handsome but enigmatic security officer, against someone playing a deadly game.


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Monday, October 24, 2022


Photo Credit: Green Beans Almondine, photo by Sara, Dinner at the Zoo

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website. 

I have a confession to make. Unlike Calamity (Callie) Barnstable in my Marketville mystery series, I’m a dreadful cook. But Callie, bless her cold case solving heart, finds great solace in cooking. In my latest book, Before There Were Skeletons, Green Beans Almondine play a small, but surprisingly significant, part to the story line. 


The French word amandine, often Anglicised as almondine in American cookbooks, is a culinary term meaning a garnish of almonds. This recipe is both nutritious and easy. In fact, even a dreadful cook like me could make it!


Five-Step Green Beans Almondine



1-1/2 lb fresh green beans, stems trimmed

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp minced shallot or garlic (whatever you prefer or have on hand)

Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste, but a pinch of each is plenty)

Juice from 1 lemon


Place trimmed green beans in salted, boiling water and blanch until bright green and tender-crisp about 3-4 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water.


Toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden. Remove from the skillet and set aside.


Add butter and olive oil to the skillet, then add garlic or shallot and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until garlic or shallot is softened and fragrant. Add lemon juice and continue cooking until slightly thickened.


Add the green beans back into the skillet. Continue cooking until beans are heated through.


Place in a serving dish and top with toasted almonds.


Click here for a PDF of the recipe. 


Before There Were Skeletons

A Marketplace Mystery, Book 4


The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night. 

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons. Universal Book 


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Friday, October 21, 2022


Today we sit down for a chat with former Metropolitan Opera violinist and current award-winning mystery/thriller author, lecturer, screenwriter, and arts journalist Erica Miner. Learn more about her and her books and find ways to connect with her at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

It was when I was studying screenwriting in Los Angeles in the early 2000s. After writing a few screenplays, I suddenly was besieged with an idea for a novel, based on some of my rather steamy experiences traveling in Europe, and a title: Travels with my Lovers. My mentor told me to go for it and guided me into creating the book. After that, I became completely hooked on novel writing.


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

I was a bit impatient to see the book published, so I explored the world of POD and published Travels with my Lovers in 2003. 


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

My next novel, Fourever Friends, was published by an Indie publisher in 2009. Then I got the idea of adapting my murder mystery screenplay into a novel, was signed by a traditional publisher, and my Opera Mystery series was born. The two sequels were published by the same publisher, but the third one released in the middle of the pandemic and only in digital version. I then found another publisher that offered me a contract to re-publish all three novels in all formats.


Where do you write?

I have a super quiet, private home office at the far end of my house with a picture window overlooking a hill with a view of lush Washington state greenery that’s inspiring. My desk is set up with a Mac desktop computer and the atmosphere is conducive to creativity: all my favorite books, photos and other accoutrements sit on the shelves above and surrounding my desk. That is my workplace, and as soon as I sit down at the desk the ideas start to flow—at least most of the time!


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

I am first and foremost a musician, so I have music in my head constantly. But I cannot concentrate on filling blank pages unless I have absolute silence outside of my head. The only time I have music playing is when I’m creating my opera lectures and I need to listen to the specific music I’m including in the lectures.


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

A large percentage of my plots and characters are based on people I’ve known and worked with, and the places associated with them. Certainly, Aria for Murder (formerly Murder in the Pit) is very much based on my own experiences at the Metropolitan Opera. Its characters, for the most part, are combinations of the different people I worked with closely at the Met. The protagonist, Julia, is based on myself when I was first starting out with the company. It was a bit different with Travels with my Lovers. Since it was written in first person and is quite spicy, I was often asked at my book events how much of it was real. I generally answered, “Only the author knows for sure.” But my publicist suggested changing my reply to, “Every word!”


Describe your process for naming your character?

Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of the process. I like to use either favorite names that I’ve always loved or names that are somewhat related to the real names of the people on whom I base a certain character. Julia is named after the daughter of my best friend at the Met. Another character who reminded me of my late brother got his name. One opera singer in the sequel was named for a famous female conductor with whom I have a bit of a history. And so it goes. 


Real settings or fictional towns?

As you can tell, my settings are very real. Both sequels in the series take place in other renowned opera houses. There are so many real theatres and great cities in which to set murder mysteries, I don’t have to make one up!


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

Julia’s best female friend and colleague, Katie, is obsessed with food and is always munching on some snack or other. She has a habit of trying to foist them on Julia, which is both annoying and charming.


What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I’m a bit OCD, but in some weird ways. I’m always adjusting things to look symmetrical and in place. But I have a funny way of raising each window shade to a different level for reasons that only I can understand. It drives my friends crazy.


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

Fear of Flying, by Erica Jong. It was groundbreaking and expressed what women of a certain generation wished they could be free to explore in their best, most liberated lives. The book was instrumental in the Women’s Liberation movement.


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

Too many to name!


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People who don’t know the proper way to use its and it’s. There are other grammatical sins that drive me crazy, but that’s number one.


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

What a great question. I’m usually asked for one thing, but for three I really had to think hard. 1) an unlimited supply of drinking water 2) a device that plays music 3) an outlet to charge the device.


What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

Having to clean my house during the pandemic. I generally do the lighter stuff on my own, but I had hired help every other week for the heavier duties. My husband and I teamed up to do the big clean, but we’re not professionals, and it was exhausting. 


What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

David Copperfield by Dickens. It’s absolute perfection in every way. Dickens has always been my favorite author, closely followed by Charlotte Brontë.


Ocean or mountains?

I love mountains, and we have more than our share here in Washington. But the ocean is my true love. I grew up in the Midwest, and the first time I saw the Atlantic Ocean (Coney Island, of all places), I was smitten and vowed I would never live far away from a coast. I’ve kept to that vow ever since.


City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

I grew up in a big city, Detroit, and have always lived in or near one. I love visiting the countryside, but I can’t imagine living there full time.


What’s on the horizon for you?

Hopefully more opera mysteries, more lectures, and more connecting with book and music lovers.


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

I became passionate about writing even before I started to play the violin, since elementary school when I was placed in an afterschool program for Creative Writing. Creating plots and characters and weaving them together to tell stories is one of the most satisfying pursuits for me. My books not only reflect my life experiences but also my perspectives on the unique joys that music has to offer. Music was my first love; it was playing constantly in my household when I was growing up. Writing about music, whether fiction or nonfiction, is one of my greatest pleasures, and I love sharing that passion with my readers. 


Aria for Murder

A Julia Kogan Opera Mystery, Book 1


Excitement mounts as the moment arrives for brilliant young violinist Julia Kogan’s debut in the orchestra of the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera. But the high-stakes milieu of this musical mecca is rocked to its core when, during an onstage murder scene, Julia’s mentor, a famous conductor, is assassinated on the podium. Thrust into the investigation when her closest colleague in the orchestra is named chief suspect, Julia teams up with opera-loving NYPD detective Larry Somers to solve the murder. In the process, they are shocked to discover the venerable opera house is rife with a web of secrets, intrigue, and lethal rivalries. But all bets are off when Julia suddenly finds herself the real killer’s prime target.


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Wednesday, October 19, 2022


Today we sit down for a chat with Helen Morrisey from author Judy L. Murray’s Chesapeake Bay Mystery Series.

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

I’ve been a real estate agent in a small Maryland water town at the very top of the Chesapeake Bay since my twenties. I’m in my early fifties now. Believe me, selling real estate isn’t anything like HGTV. My husband Andy died in an accident at a housing construction site about three years ago, and I miss him. I’ve never felt a need to leave home - other than during my college years. I’ve never inherited a B&B, a book shop, or a café, not that I would have minded. I’m a get-up-in-the morning, down a coffee, bolt for my first appointment kind of woman! I hate to cook but love to eat. I depend on the microwave, granola, and Sauvignon Blanc. Don’t expect to find a stash of cookbooks in my kitchen. My daughter Lizzie is a fabulous cook. Don’t ask me where she inherited that gene. I’m addicted to eating Twizzlers. You’ll find them in my desk drawer, my work tote, and my glove compartment. 


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

That probably depends upon who you ask. I’m a fixer upper. Not just with houses, but people’s problems. I've always been a good observer of people, which comes in handy when solving mysteries. It also means I may get involved in situations that are over my head – like murder. I know Detective Joe McAlister thinks so. I’m the person who strikes up a conversation while I wait in line at the grocery store. 


What do you like least about yourself?

I struggle to bite my tongue and not intrude in my children’s decisions. I tend to put my foot in my mouth. I also tend to talk out loud to myself. As confident and competent as I am, I’m lousy at navigating through romance. I don’t even know if I want to. So, I’m a very slow mover. 


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

In her first mystery, I walk into a bedroom and find a dead naked builder sprawled across the bed. Since my childhood friend quickly is accused of his murder, my instinct is to defend her. In my author’s second mystery of the series, I need to help my daughter who narrowly escapes being poisoned in a home shopping network kitchen.


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

We get along fairly well. I tend to argue with Detective Joe McAlister and my prosecuting attorney son Shawn. They both think I need to get out of the mystery-solving business and back to selling real estate. My author doesn’t agree. So together, we’ve created my own Detection Club of famous sleuths to help me get into trouble or out of it. Depends upon your viewpoint. Joe thinks I might be losing my mind but admits my method seems to be working. He can’t argue with the best sleuths in the murder business!


What is your greatest fear? 

I’m afraid of heights, so house balconies, unfinished open staircases, and lighthouse lantern rooms make me very nervous. 


What makes you happy? 

Consulting my Detection Club of famous women sleuths for advice in tracking down killers. My author calls me a grown-up Nancy Drew. I appreciate the compliment. My bookcases are filled with detective stories and I love to rearrange furniture. I also love to sail my boat Persuasion


Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why? Probably Maryland State’s Attorney Scott Harris. He’s incredibly cocky, wears cowboy boots with his tailored suits to look taller, and thinks he’s God’s gift to women. He likes to flash his overly white teeth and seems surprised I’m not impressed with his oversized custom badge that hangs on his belt. It’s all I can do to keep my eyes from rolling back in my head as I listen to him. Ugh. 


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

My cats, Agatha and Watson. They eat better than I do since I hate to cook, sleep whenever they want, and give me input on my crime-solving when they feel like it. They have a good life.


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

Judy is a former Philadelphia real estate broker who has worked with delusional sellers, jittery buyers, testy contractors, and diva agents. She’s also a restoration addict. She and her husband have restored two Victorians. The first one had a metal table stuck to the kitchen carpet when they moved in.  The second one was such a disaster, it had a coke machine sitting on its front porch next to the front door. They have grown twins, a boy and girl, who grew up watching their parents shovel plaster, strip walls, and pull nails out of woodwork. After their children were launched, they downsized to a sixties contemporary that needed an overhaul but sits atop a cliff on the Chesapeake Bay. Judy often writes long after sunset. They’re buffeted by winds in winter and invaded by family and dogs in summer. The lighthouse in her first mystery, is only about a mile down the road. Judy’s debut novel, Murder in the Master – A Chesapeake Bay Mystery, is an IPPY Silver Medalist, a Silver Falchion Winner, and an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel. Second in the series, Killer in the Kitchen is out now. She began her professional writing career as a newspaper reporter and magazine columnist. You can read more about her and me at her website


What's next for you? My daughter Lizzie, a host on a national home shopping network, introduces me to a celebrity chef who wants to put his mansion on the market. Unfortunately, a killer has other plans. And I’m determined to find out who put my daughter at risk. 


Killer in the Kitchen

A Chesapeake Bay Mystery, Book 2

Real estate rule #2: How to sell a house fast -- offer a drop-dead kitchen.


When real estate pro Helen Morrisey’s bombshell daughter, Lizzie, a popular home shopping network host, invites her to meet an internationally famous chef, Helen jumps at the chance.  What woman doesn’t want to shake hands with a celebrity and do a little shopping at the same time?  Even more intriguing, this culinary superstar is about to sell his waterfront mansion and it’s her chance to get introduced. After all, he couldn’t choose a sharper agent than Helen, could he?  That’s a job that comes to a dead halt when she walks onto the TV kitchen of Cooking with Roberto to find his blood dripping bright red into his signature dish and her daughter collapsed beside him.


Detective Joe McAllister arrives to take charge and is none too pleased to find Helen asking his kind of questions. Their on again, off again, romance might sour when she ignores his warnings.  Undaunted, Helen calls on the personalities and special skills of her Detection Club of famous sleuths to stir this investigation pot. It doesn’t take long before the explosive ingredients of off-camera jealousy, competition, and nasty rumors create a recipe for disaster.  Helen has to solve Roberto’s murder before more tempers boil over and they all get burned. 


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Monday, October 17, 2022


The Lady and the Unicorn (sight)
Beth Camp has been an international banker, a social policy analyst, and a college English instructor. Upon retiring, she turned her attention to writing novels, blending historical fiction with romantic suspense. Learn more about her and her books at her blog.

Can you imagine a month in Paris? Or another month in Edinburgh, exploring castles and museums?


These two trips, nearly a decade apart, led to my first art crimes mystery, The Seventh Tapestry.

In Paris, at the Musée de Cluny (left), now also known as the National Museum of Middle Ages, we opened the gate to what was once a Roman bath and once a retreat for abbots. The ornate door was embellished with symbols to show the abbots had completed pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Inside, the museum featured a most famous medieval collection of many religious statues, illuminated manuscripts, and more. Upstairs, we entered a room with low light to protect the tapestries.

Here, I discovered the six very famous tapestries named the Lady and the Unicorn. Woven in the 15th and early 16th Centuries in the millefleurs style (meaning ‘thousand flowers’) and lost for generations in a dusty attic until the Musée de Cluny purchased them in 1882, scholars have named the first five tapestries after the five senses (touch, taste, hearing, smell, and sight). 


Scholars have argued about the meaning of the sixth tapestry to this day. For this sixth tapestry shows a young woman, flanked on either side by a lion and a unicorn, and an inscription which translates “To my only desire.” Many believe she is renouncing worldly goods as she returns her jewelry to a small casket.

Scholars also argue about the meaning of the many symbols on these tapestries. I will only note that the lion and the unicorn are also key symbols of the Scottish Coat of Arms during the time of James V.

But the germ of an idea for The Seventh Tapestry didn't begin until we visited Stirling Castle in Scotland. We wandered through the castle grounds, docents in period dress answering our questions. The walls were covered with tapestries. I found a mermaid carved in stone on the entry to a basement under the Great Hall which was built in 1501. 


Here’s an artist’s rendering of how the walls were richly decorated with tapestries during this time.

We walked out behind the Great Hall through the North Gate to find a Tapestry Studio set up with four great looms, the weavers busy at work. They were reconstructing the Hunt of the Unicorn, a set of seven tapestries currently held in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The head weaver proudly answered our questions, for we wanted to know why they were working on recreating these tapestries. Today, these gorgeous tapestries are displayed in the Queen’s Bedroom at Stirling Castle.


Here, I learned of James V, his love of tapestries, and of his Summer Queen. According to the terms of the Treaty of Rouen, James V must marry a princess of France. 


Dutifully, he sailed off to the court of Francis I, anticipating his coming nuptials. But he fell in love with Madeleine, another daughter who suffered, according to the records, from tuberculosis. Francis I wanted Madeleine to join a nunnery to protect her health. But, James V convinced Francis he should marry Madeleine, even if he could not speak one word of French. They were married at Notre Dame in Paris on January 1, 1537, and she sailed home with him. Sadly, she died on July 7, 1537, one month shy of her 17th birthday, forever known as his beloved Summer Queen.


Ah, but those tapestries resonate with mystery. What if (the writer’s favorite question), James V had commissioned a special set of seven tapestries to honor his Summer Queen? And, what if, when she died, he could not bear to look at them, and so he refused their delivery? What if there were a seventh tapestry, this one to honor his bride? And so began the story of The Seventh Tapestry, my first art crime mystery, out of the wanderings through several museums, along the winding halls of castles, and between the lines of recorded history.


Click here to read more about the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries at the Musee de Cluny. 


The Seventh Tapestry 

When precious artifacts go missing at the Museum of Medieval Art in Edinburgh, Sandra Robertson, a newly hired curator, is immediately under suspicion. But, when she’s asked to help find out who’s involved, Sandra ignores her attraction to Neil McDonnell, art crimes investigator assigned to the case, and gets to work. After a priceless 16th Century tapestry goes missing, Sandra begins to receive threatening phone calls. Do Sandra and Neil have a future together? What will they risk to recover the missing artifacts, stop the thefts, and find out who’s behind a series of mysterious deaths?

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Friday, October 14, 2022


Amy M. Reade is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of cozy, historical, and Gothic mysteries. She loves to read, cook, and travel. Learn more about Amy and her books at her website. more about Amy and her books at her website where you can also sign up for her newsletter and gain access to The Secret Room on her website where you’ll find . Everyone who signs up for the newsletter gains access to The Secret Room on Amy’s website, where they’ll find a free cookbook of family favorites and lots of other fun and free stuff. 

I love to eat. 


This is quite possibly the reason one of the secondary characters in my Juniper Junction Cozy Holiday Mystery Series is a chef. I didn’t make her the main character because there are so many really good culinary cozies out there, but I couldn’t bring myself to write a cozy series that didn’t include food in some way. 


The main character of the series is Lilly Carlsen. Noley, my chef, is Lilly’s best friend and begins the series as honorary aunt to Lilly’s children (you’ll have to read the books if you want to know why she’s no longer the kids’ honorary aunt). It’s because of Noley’s influence in her young life that Lilly’s daughter Laurel is enrolled in a culinary arts program and in my newest release, Fowl Play, is poised to take her studies even further.


With so many cooks in the kitchen, it’s no wonder that the characters in my series eat well. And far be it from me to tempt readers with descriptions of meals without providing at least a few recipes in the back of every book. 


While I’m writing each book, I make a list of all the foods I mention. When it comes time to write the recipes in the back, I have a process that I go through to choose the best recipes to share.


First, they have to be easy to make. Second, the ingredients have to be readily available. And third, they have to be something I’ve tried and liked. 


Even after I’ve taken certain recipes out of the running because they don’t meet my requirements, I’m usually still left with a list of good recipes to share, and since I only share three recipes in each Juniper Junction book, I usually end up choosing them by picking out of a hat. 


What do I do with the ones I don’t use? Well, that’s a good question. So far, nothing. 


And that’s where you come in.


What do you think I should do? I could put the occasional recipe in my newsletter, or I could bundle them into a cookbook to give away to readers, or I could print them on notecards that I give away at signing events, or...what? I’d love to hear your ideas. You could let me know in the comments section below, or you could email or DM me on social media through my website. 


You knew I couldn’t let this post end without sharing a recipe, didn’t you? Interestingly, this one isn’t mentioned in any of my Juniper Junction books—it’s just one I love and it’s perfect for fall.


Maple Crème Brûlée

2 c. heavy cream

1 vanilla bean*

4 large egg yolks

6 T. maple syrup

2 T. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (you can substitute maple extract)

4 tsp. white, brown, or demerara sugar


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 


Place the heavy cream in a medium saucepan.


Set vanilla bean on a flat surface and, using a sharp knife, open the bean by slicing it the long way (lengthwise). Try not to cut all the way through the bean—you only want to cut the top. If you do cut through it’s no big deal, but it’s easier if you don’t.


Using your fingers, gently pull apart the sides of the bean as much as you can so it lies open. Using the knife’s edge, run the knife down the length of the bean to scrape out as many of the seeds as possible. This whole process is much easier than it sounds! If you want a demo, click here.


Add the seeds to the heavy cream. It works best to put the knife in there and stir it around to get the seeds off. Then add the vanilla bean to the saucepan, too.


Bring the heavy cream and the vanilla seeds and pod to a simmer over medium-high heat. This doesn’t take long, so keep an eye on it. Don’t let it boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean pod.


In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, maple syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually add the warm heavy cream to the egg mixture, one-half cup at a time, whisking well between each addition. Strain through a sieve into another bowl.


Place four 6-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan or 13x9” baking dish. Divide custard evenly among ramekins. CAREFULLY pour boiling water into the pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan tightly with foil and CAREFULLY transfer it to the oven.


Bake for 30-40 minutes, until custard is set but still slightly jiggly in the middle. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and allow to come to room temperature, then chill them for 2-8 hours. 


When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the white, brown, or demerara sugar over the top of each custard. Using a kitchen blow torch, which is about the coolest thing I have in my kitchen, caramelize the sugar (this only takes about 10 seconds). If you don’t have a kitchen blow torch, putting the custards under the broiler for a couple minutes does the same job (it’s just not nearly as much fun). Allow the sugar to harden for about 5 minutes. Serve and wait for your guests to swoon. 


Fowl Play

A Juniper Junction Cozy Holiday Mystery, Book 6


Lilly Carlsen hates the idea of anyone spending Thanksgiving alone, so she invites four near-strangers to the feast. But if she’d known two of her guests would later wind up murdered, she would have eaten dinner by herself with all the shades pulled down.


And if she had dreamed she would become a suspect after finding the first body, she might have skipped Thanksgiving altogether.


When the first murder occurs, it’s Lilly who finds the body, and the suspicions of the officer in charge of the case fall squarely on her shoulders. And just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, there’s another murder, this one much closer to home.


Lilly’s got a lot on her plate.


There’s plenty of motive to go around this Thanksgiving, and if Lilly can’t clear her name and figure out who’s responsible for the murders, she risks spending the holidays behind bars … or worse.


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