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, December 27, 2023

AUTHOR MICHELLE CORBIER ON BIKING FOR MENTAL HEALTH

After over twenty years in clinical medicine, Michelle Corbier now works as a medical consultant. Her writing interests cover many genres—mystery, paranormal, and thrillers. When not writing, you can find her outside gardening or bicycling. Learn more about Michelle and her books at her website.

Bike for your mental health

One of the earliest skills I taught my son was to ride a bike. The first bike—only bike—I owned during childhood had orange handle grips with multicolored streamers. It had tall handlebars with a long narrow seat which accommodated me and my baby sister. Because my father served in the Navy, we moved frequently, and I lost that bike. But the desire to speed down a road on two wheels continues. 

 

Bicycling gives me the sensation of flying like a bird. Free, floating above all life’s concerns and complications. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “Health benefits include improved cardiovascular fitness, stronger muscles, greater coordination and general mobility, and reduced body fat. As with other types of exercise, it can also help improve mental health by lowering stress levels and stimulating feel-good endorphins.” Well said.

 

In Hollow Voices the protagonist, Dr. Julia Toussaint, bicycles to release stress and remain fit. An activity she shared with her son before his death. While my son never appreciated bicycling, it’s something I still enjoy and wanted to include in my novel.

 

Medicine is a stressful occupation. While the benefits are many, it wears on medical professionals physically and mentally. The idea for the novel began during one of the most stressful moments in my career. I contemplated leaving medicine, a job to which I devoted most of my life. Caring for people gave me purpose. Medicine provided personal satisfaction, job security, and a stable income. Unfortunately, the work environment became hostile. When things became tense, I resorted to writing. 

 

In the novel, Julia suffers a total mental collapse following the death of her son. Disconnected from reality, she seeks treatment for her mental health. In time, she recovers and discovers a new purpose. But when the people she loves become threatened, she takes drastic action with fatal consequences.

 

Change is a fundamental component of life. While some changes are more traumatic than others, how we cope with those events defines our lives. In Hollow Voices, Julia experiences situations familiar to many people, from office politics, personal loss, to a mental health crisis. Books may transform readers to new vistas or reflect current circumstances. In this novel, a mystery collides with reality. 

 

If I’m having a hectic day, nothing satisfies like biking. Trudging up a hill admiring the scenery, matching my strength against nature, or soaring down a trail with the wind whistling in my ears. Join me. Hop on a bike and drift away on a cloud of endorphins. And when you finish, relax with a good book. 

 

Hollow Voices

Recovering after the death of her son, Dr. Julia Toussaint starts over at a new job with a narcissistic boss. Suddenly, the past catches up with her when a police officer blackmails her. In a fight for her sanity, Julia struggles to protect the people she loves. 

Time is crucial and she must remember what happened after Evens died because the decisions she makes will have fatal consequences. 

 

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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--LISTEN WHILE YOU BAKE CHRISTMAS BAR COOKIES!


If you’re like me (and probably most of us) right now, you’re up to your eyeballs in holiday prep. Especially if certain family members have been raiding the Christmas cookie jar, and you suddenly find yourself in need of some last-minute baking! Frazzled? Stressed? Already tired of the same old/same old Christmas music that’s been playing since before Halloween? Instead of listening to Grandma getting run over by a reindeer for the umpteenth time, why not multitask and tick a few books off your reading TBR pile while you’re elbow deep in gingerbread dough and sprinkles?

The first eight books of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series are now available in audiobook format. Put Anastasia on the case, and she’ll figure out which reindeer was the culprit in grandma’s demise as she reluctantly stumbles her way through murder and mayhem but always figures out whodunit in the end.


And speaking of last minute baking, here’s a bar cookie you can whip up in no time. You don’t even need to lug out the stand mixer!

 

Quick ‘n Easy Bar Cookies

Yield: 24 bars

 

Ingredients:

2-3/4 cups spooned and leveled all-purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup packed brown sugar, either light or dark

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 room temperature lg. eggs

2 tsp.  vanilla extract

1/2 cup each mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and butterscotch or caramel chips

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts.

Christmas sprinkles

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides for lifting bars from the pan. 

 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt together. 

 

Melt the butter and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

 

In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. 

 

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix together with large spoon or spatula.  Fold in the chips and nuts. 

 

Transfer dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer. Add sprinkles, pressing lightly onto dough.

 

Bake for 25–30 minutes or until lightly browned on sides and top. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out mostly clean. Don’t over-bake. 

 

Place pan on wire rack and allow bars to cool at least an hour. Lift bars from pan and cut into squares. (Note: a pizza cutter works well for cutting.)

 

Remember, along with cookies, if you’re pressed for last minute gifts, don’t forget that an audiobook subscription or a gift card for ebooks or print make great gifts.


Happy holidays from author Lois Winston, her reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, and all the other characters swimming around in Lois's brain.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

MYSTERY AUTHOR LESLEY A. DIEHL ON GROWING OLDER AND WRITING OLDER

Mystery author Lesley A. Diehl learned early on that cows have a twisted sense of humor. While growing up on a farm, they chased while she tried to herd them in for milking, and one even ate the red mitten her grandmother had knitted for her. Realizing agriculture wasn’t a good career choice, Lesley has she uses her country roots and her training as a psychologist to create stories designed to make people laugh in the face of murder. Learn more about Lesley and her books at her website. 

 

Growing Older, Writing Older

I can tell I’m getting older. Not only do birthdays begin with higher numbers, but the body has a way of informing me with aches and pains that the years are going by. For authors who write series books, aging of a protagonist faces the same issue. How does the writer age the main character? Slowly by months, less slowly by years, or not at all. The latter is difficult especially with the intrusiveness of technology changes and world events. For example, does the writer ignore the pandemic or insert it into the book? Cozy writers like me prefer to keep our work light—mine includes quite a bit of humor. I’m not quite up to the task of making the pandemic funny. I don’t really know how to do that, and I really don’t think I want to.

 

One author who managed the aging protagonist issue was Sue Grafton who didn’t age Kinsey. However, characters’ arcs found in most cozy mysteries often include experiences that take place over time such as a divorce, marriage, changes in relationships, births, deaths, or just the daily happenings humans confront. So our characters age. It’s just a matter of how fast.

 

I have begun a new cozy mystery series. My last one (the Eve Appel mysteries) featured a protagonist who, at the end of the series, was in her late thirties. That was several years ago. My new series (the Maddie Sparks series) features a woman who is on the far side of seventy, closer in age to me. Maddie and I may not survive a ten-book series because I only write one book a year (like I said, I’m old!), but I’ve decided to set each book in a season. The first of the series, Spiked Punch, takes place during a typical Upstate New York summer. The weather is, as usual, changeable with hot humid days and nights, periods of torrential downpour and massive thunderstorms. The fall to come is the setting for the second book. Six books or so in, Maddie will only be a year and a half older, and I think she and I can manage that.

 

One might think that with an older protagonist, the action would be slower, but I’ve discovered it gets speeded up. Maddie meets a retired county sheriff, and they quickly fall in love. I make that happen in a few weeks. Too fast? Perhaps. We shall see in the second book, but as Maddie suggests, there’s not a lot of time available for putting off action. By the end of the book Maddie and her sheriff have moved in together, Maddie has adopted a rescue cat, one son has been accused of murder, Maddie has begun a new writing project in a new genre and developed a new friendship. It leaves you breathless to see how much ground Maddie has covered. I hope it leaves the reader breathless and yearning for more also.

 

Because I write cozy mysteries with humor in them, I set myself the task of not only developing a good mystery with intricate plotting and complex characters, but I have the additional undertaking of providing laughs along the way. Humor is not easy to write. Sometimes it seems to simply emerge from the situation, or I use it as a tension reducer where needed. In other cases, it’s really work. What I find easier with Maddie is that I know her well, understand her experiences because I’ve lived many of them myself, and instinctively know a humorous quip I might engage in would be what Maddie might also say. As with humor, Maddie and I are on the same wavelength with respect to what we like. We’ve lived the same social, political and, oftentimes, emotional history. You could call the humor in the book, “seasoned humor.” As such, it should appeal to any age.

 

The question that arises is will younger readers find Maddie interesting? Will they want to follow her through the series? One reviewer of Spiked Punch mentioned that the book would be for those readers who enjoyed a mature sleuth. Frankly, I like all my sleuths to be mature, up to using their life experiences to sort through clues and solve the crime. Flighty protagonists do not appeal, and I assume readers will love Maddie’s nosy and adventuresome nature and respect what aging brings to the sleuthing process. I hope you enjoy Maddie and her sleuthing team of Zack, the retired sheriff, and Spike, the brilliant rescue cat.

 

Spiked Punch

A Maddie Sparks Mystery, Book 1

 

On the other side of seventy, Maddie Sparks decides to spice up her life by changing her writing interests from cozy mysteries to romance. She also determines her appearance should reflect this transformation in her writing career. A sassy new haircut and more fashionable clothes complete the newer Maddie Sparks. Before she can begin this new chapter in her life, a stabbing death in the quiet country village she has made her home shocks the town's residents. 

 

When her son is accused of the murder, Maddie and the acting county sheriff come together to find the real killer. Their relationship soon blooms into more than one of shared determination to solve the murder. As they enjoy a hike in a nearby park, someone shoots the sheriff, barely missing Maddie. Another killer could be loose in the area, and the person may be closer to Maddie than she realizes. Maddie discovers parts of herself she didn't know existed: real life romance with the sheriff, a talent for sleuthing and room in her life for a fuzzy, orange cat named "Spike." This recent lease on life may be more exciting and more dangerous than Maddie expects.

 

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

JUDY L. MURRAY'S HELEN MORRISSEY HOSTS A TEA WITH THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS FEMALE SLEUTHS

Multi-award-winning author Judy L. Murray writes the Chesapeake Bay Mystery series. Learn more about her and her books and find links to connect with her on social media at her website.

Why Women Make Great Detectives

If you are familiar with the award-winning Chesapeake Bay Mystery Series, you know my heroine, real estate agent Helen Morrissey, calls upon the individual talents and varied personalities of her own self-made Detection Club to help defend the innocent and seek out justice.

 

Today, I thought you would enjoy getting to know these women a bit better. Helen is serving as host at her house on a cliff overlooking the Maryland Chesapeake Bay. Nancy Drew, Jessica Fletcher, Nora Charles, and Agatha Raisin join her for tea, scones, and cocktails.

 

Helen Morrisey is leading the discussion. Let’s listen in…“Nancy Drew, are you willing to start? Tell us why helping me is important and what you think you bring to this group of sleuths? Aren’t you a bit young to be fighting crime?”

 

Nancy’s blue eyes flashed. “Since I’ve been involved in hundreds of crimes over my perpetual teen years, I don’t think so. I love working with smart women, but there are times when a young person comes in handy, especially if we’re chasing criminals through the woods or up three flights of stairs. I don’t think you would have survived in Murder in the Master without me.”

 

Helen: “That’s a good point. I am surprised you never seem intimidated by the adults around you.”

 

Nancy laughed, “Fortunately, I was raised by a father who encouraged me to think for myself. I’m definitely not afraid to speak up, even in the company of law enforcement.”

 

“Agatha Raisin, you seem to step on the toes of law enforcement, too. Tell us more about your background. How did you get involved in detection?”

 

“I grew up in a poor section of London and was determined to succeed on my own. Now, I live in the Cotswold’s when I’m not helping you. Sometimes people accuse me of speaking my opinion when it’s not wanted.” She shrugs. “But, there are times when being polite won’t help us capture a killer.”

 

Helen smiles. “I’m not very good at biting my tongue, either. Is it true you don’t like to cook?”

 

“It’s another trait you and I share. We’re both terrible cooks but love to eat. It makes the microwave our favorite kitchen appliance. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc helps, too, although I lean toward gin and tonic. I do draw the line at hiding Twizzlers everywhere like you do. That’s your problem, not mine.”

 

Helen grimaces. “I admit, Twizzlers are not the best dietary habit. I notice you’re wearing your favorite four-inch heels today. Don’t they hold you back?”

 

Agatha glanced down at her feet and winced. “I depend on Nancy to be our runner.” 

 

Nancy rolls her eyes.

 

“Nora,” Helen turns, “What do you think you contribute to my Detection Club?”

 

Nora tosses her short 1930’s waved hair. “Living with a private detective has its influence.” She straightens her satin robe and wiggles her feather topped, blue satin slippers. “I like to think my smarts come in handy for you. I also know how to make a wicked martini served in my coupe glass, of course.”

 

Helen grins. “That you certainly do. And, I’ve followed your advice more than once.”

 

Jessica Fletcher clears her throat. Helen nods. “Jessica, your talent for writing mysteries has helped us get to the truth. We had a few close calls solving Killer in the Kitchen. Have you ever thought to be a real estate agent? I think you would be fantastic.”

 

Jessica smiles. “We both have a lot of experience asking questions and piecing together clues, don’t we? Sometimes we find out things about people we weren’t expecting.”

 

“Or prefer not to know.” Helen glances across the room to the sedate, fluffy-haired old woman closest to the fire. “Miss Marple, as our senior sleuth, why do you think we work so well together? Is it just coincidence?”

 

Jane sets down her needlework, studying Nancy, Agatha, Nora, Jessica, and Helen with fondness. Clear, blue eyes twinkle behind her wire rims. “My dear Helen. You know very well I never believe in coincidence. Just think what we discovered when solving Peril in the Pool House.”

 

“But Jane, how have we been so successful when other sleuths fail,” Helen asks.

 

“We’re very clever women. We read body language. We watch and listen. We know the importance of keeping an absolutely open mind.” The senior offers a little wink. “Most crimes, you see, are so absurdly simple.”

 

Happy Holidays from Helen Morrisey and her Detection Club. May we solve many more mysteries in 2024! 

 

Peril in the Pool House

A Chesapeake Bay Mystery, Book 3

 

The grand opening of Captain’s Watch Bed and Breakfast in one of Chesapeake Bay’s historic mansions, is ruined when the body of Kerry Lightner, a high-powered political campaign manager, is found in the pool house with fishing shears in her back. Is the killer a rival politician, an ex-lover, a jealous co-worker, or the ghost of missing harbor pilot Isaac Hollowell? When state senate candidate and B&B owner Eliot Davies becomes the prime suspect, his friend real-estate-agent-turned-amateur-investigator Helen Morrisey and her Detection Club of fictional women sleuths vow to solve the case—even if it means the end of Helen’s romance with Detective Joe McAlister.

 

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

AN INTERVIEW WITH ANNALEISE THE GHOST

Today we sit down for a chat with Annaleise, who happens to be a ghost in author Jessica Dale’s (aka mystery author Kassandra Lamb) The Unintended Consequences Romantic Suspense trilogy. 

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

Well for one thing, I was still alive! And it was a good life. I was happily married, and I had a tight group of good friends. My best friend, going way back to our college days, was and is James Fitzgerald.

 

We all lived in Washington, DC, but James also owns a house in the Virginia backwoods, which he inherited from his parents. It is, or rather was, the getaway haven for our group of friends.

 

Until one fateful autumn evening when my husband Charles and I got to the house before James. We’d left DC early so we could be the ones, for a change, to open up the house and get things set up for a relaxing Friday evening.

 

Only Ms. Dale had other plans. Someone was waiting in the house. I think they had planned to kill James, but we showed up first.

 

And that’s how I ended up being a ghost residing in James’s house.

 

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

That I can sense danger now and warn those who are in its path. I can spread out this sort of energy radar, if you will, and there’s like an energy shift in the air when evil is nearby. 

 

What do you like least about yourself?

That it’s so hard for me to talk. I can move objects, although that takes some effort, too. So I can type out the answers to your questions for this interview.

 

But mostly I can only communicate through my laughter. Somehow, it’s easy for me to laugh, but to form words out loud, that’s a real strain.

 

James always said my laughter sounded like wind chimes in a gentle breeze. And that’s how I sound now when I’m just trying to say, “Hey, I’m here,” or if I’m amused by whatever’s going on. 

 

But if I’m trying to warn people, I imagine a strong wind like in a storm, and then the wind chimes kind of clatter.

 

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

Well, I think making me dead and then turning me into a ghost was mighty strange.

 

But there was another thing that happened because of my death. Not really strange but ironic. You see, James and his next-door neighbor, Carrie, they had been dancing around each other for a while. It was obvious to me and all of our friends that they liked each other, but they both had a lot of baggage from the past.

 

But when this horrible thing happen—Charles’s and my murders—it broke down some of those barriers. James needed Carrie emotionally, and I think that she just couldn’t resist that.

 

Then later, when her abusive husband tracked her down (that’s why she was in the Virginia backwoods to begin with, to hide from him), James helped her deal with that situation.

 

Sometimes facing adversity together can become the glue in a relationship, and facing down killers together did that for them. 

 

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

Well, if I’d had a clue what was coming, I would have definitely argued against being killed.

 

But with that as given, I’d say the only other time I really objected to what Jessica was doing was when she sicced a stalker/rapist on poor Mary, who’s a friend of mine and James.

 

I really objected to that idea! Mary’s so sweet and gentle that we all assumed she was fragile. But turns out she’s got more backbone than we gave her credit for. She’s a survivor, like James and Carrie.

 

What is your greatest fear?

That something will happen to James. I’ve loved him for decades; not the same way I loved Charles, of course. But he was the brother I never had.

 

I couldn’t stop what happened to Charles, and it’s haunted me ever since (no pun intended). I’ve been terrified that James might end up having a similar fate. But now that he has Carrie, and they are so strong together, I’m not as afraid for him.

 

What makes you happy?

Seeing James and Carrie together; they’ve been through so much. I mean, I know from my own marriage that love isn’t always easy, but I think they’ll make it for the long haul. I sure hope so.

 

And now Mary has found someone, or at least it looks promising—that is if it turns out that he’s not the guy who assaulted her and is now stalking her. Every time she thinks it’s not him, something else happens that makes her doubt again.

 

You don’t know if it was him?

No, I wasn’t there. It happened in DC, and I can only go about a half mile from James’s house. James is trying to help Mary figured it all out.

 

And I help when I can, when I sense the guy is nearby, but he’s always wearing a ski mask, so no, I can’t tell who it is. I don’t have superpowers, after all.

 

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

Ha! Maybe I’d give myself superpowers, so I would not just know when danger was near but who was behind it.

 

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

Hmm, I guess I’d have to say the local sheriff. I mean, I have a lot of respect for him, too. He pretends he’s this good ol’ boy hick sheriff, but he’s actually quite bright.

 

However, he initially thought James was my killer, which was ridiculous. And then he thought Carrie had committed a horrible crime, when she hadn’t.

 

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

I guess it would be Carrie. She’s a strong woman, and yet loving. I think if I’d lived, she and I would have become close friends.

 

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

Well, Jessica Dale is the alter ego of a mystery writer named Kassandra Lamb. She was first conceived when Kassandra woke up one morning and the entire story of my murder and James’s subsequent struggle to clear himself of it was laid out in her head.

 

And then a few months later, she woke up again with another entire story laid out in her head, this time a steamy romantic thriller. And that was the point when Kassandra knew she needed a pen name for these romantic suspense stories, because they were so different from the mysteries she usually writes.

 

All of Jessica’s books can be found on a special page on Kassandra’s website

 

What's next for you?

Well, Jessica says the trilogy is finished, but we’ll see. She also says she’s not planning on writing any romantic suspense in the near future. She’s said that before, however.

 

There was supposed to be a second book in a duet with Bartered Innocence (currently a stand-alone thriller). I was looking over Jessica’s shoulder while she was writing the book, and I really loved it. So I hope she gets inspired someday soon to write that second story.

 

In the meantime, Kassandra has started a new police procedural mystery series called the C.o.P. on the Scene Mysteries. I love that series too, especially the main character, a female Chief of Police who likes to be hands-on at crime scenes. I guess I’m just a sucker for strong female characters!  

 

Hey, thanks so much for having me on your blog to do this interview. It feels so good to have a “voice” again, other than just wind chimes!

 

Backfire

An Unintended Consequences Romantic Suspense, Book 3

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. ~ DivorcĂ©e Mary Hanson’s first date in years culminates with a toe-curling kiss that fills her with hope...until the middle of the night when a masked rapist, smelling of her date’s aftershave, breaks into her apartment. Frantic, she flees to the home of friends in the Virginia woods, not realizing she’s putting them in harm’s way—for her stalker is intent on possessing her, no matter what it takes. And even her best friend’s ghost may not be able to stop him...


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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

AN INTERVIEW WITH COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR JACKIE LAYTON

Today we sit down for a chat with cozy mystery author Jackie Layton. Learn more about Jackie and her books at her website, where you’ll also find links to her other social media. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I’ve dreamed of writing most of my life. A couple of times, I began writing, but when my youngest son was in high school, I decided it was time to try, or I’d always regret it.

 

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

At my first conference, a speaker said it takes the average person ten years to get published, and that’s what happened for me. 

 

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

I’m traditionally published.

 

Where do you write? 

I mostly write in my home office. When our house was being built, my husband asked if the builder could make the porch an office, and that’s where I write. My husband always thinks of special ways to support my writing.

 

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

I like music in the background. When it comes to writing, I usually listen to blues or instrumental music. I even created a playlist for NaNoWriMo.

 

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

I draw bits and pieces from real life, but I do a lot of research for my stories.

 

Describe your process for naming your character?

I try to come up with interesting names and I often study what they mean. For instance, Kate means pure. Sloan is of Irish origin and means warrior. Kate is a professional organizer, and she likes things nice, orderly, and clean. But Kate will stand up for her family and loved ones, no matter what it takes. She learns to become a warrior for the sake of her brother, Paul Wright, in Clutter Free.

 

Real settings or fictional towns? 

I love fictional towns loosely based on some of my favorite places. I enjoy planning my settings. 

 

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

Kate keeps her purse neat and organized with pouches. One pouch is for makeup, one is for receipts, and one is for pens and paper. 

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

Because of allergies, I always take Kleenex and Tic Tacs with me. If you ever need a tissue, feel free to ask me. 

 

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

The Firm by John Grisham. It was one of the first twisty crime thriller I ever read. I felt the panic Mitch McDeere felt. I write cozies, but I hope they make readers feel.

 

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

I wish I had begun writing earlier in my life. 

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?  

I have worked with the public most of my life, and some people start the conversation by complaining about something ‘you’ did, and you had no part of the incident. So, you can’t throw someone else under the bus, and you don’t want the situation to escalate, and you quickly need to find a solution. Most people are nice, but getting attacked like that is my pet peeve. And it doesn’t just have to happen to me. If I see it happen to someone at another store, it also upsets me. 

 

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

A floppy hat, my favorite pillow, and my Bible.

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

Without naming names, I had a boss lie to me about a serious issue. When I discovered there were a lot of lies, I quit. 

 

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

I thought about this question a lot and chose A Garden in Paris by Stephanie Grace Whitson. It’s one of the books I’ve packed and moved with me at least three times. When you downsize, you have to make some hard decisions. This book touched my heart, and I’ve read it multiple times. It’s about hope, love, and living. 

 

Ocean or mountains? 

Ocean.

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

City girl.

 

What’s on the horizon for you? 

In 2024, the sixth book of A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series will release. Also, the second book in A Texas Flower Farmer Cozy Mystery series and the second book in An Organized Crime Cozy Mystery series will release. 

 

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

It’s never too late to start writing. If that’s your dream, give it a try. 

 

Clutter Free 

An Organized Crime Cozy Mystery, Book 1

 

Returning to Fox Island where she grew up, Kate Sloan begins her career as a professional organizer. When a woman accuses Kate’s police chief brother of having an affair, Kate’s priority shifts from organizing to proving her brother’s innocence. Kate visits the woman, hoping for a confession. The woman won’t admit she lied, and to make the situation worse, the accuser is found dead the next day by Kate and her business partner.

 

Kate has an eye for seeing what’s out of place, and she knows how to fix problems. Can she utilize her organizational skills to toss red herrings and focus on legitimate clues? Emma’s business is at risk as well as her brother’s career. The clock is ticking, and this could be the deadliest deadline of Kate’s life. She must discover the truth behind the victim’s vicious lies, but most of all, she needs to solve the murder before she becomes the next victim.

 

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Wednesday, November 15, 2023

GRUMBLING AND GROUSING WITH ANASTASIA AND SAM

Sometimes not long after the initial introduction and pleasantries of meeting someone new, you discover the two of you have much in common. You quickly become fast friends. It happens often among authors, but wouldn’t they be surprised to learn that’s also the case when their characters meet each other? It certainly was for me and Samantha Newman. 

Samantha is the amateur sleuth protagonist in the Samantha Newman MysteriesLike me, the reluctant amateur sleuth of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, she often finds herself reluctantly dealing with dead bodies (Neither of us is a cop, coroner, or mortician. So dead bodies shouldn’t be part of our normal lives!) In addition, we both often lock horns with law enforcement because they rarely value our sleuthing skills. We also both have men in our lives who may possibly be involved with clandestine government operations. Talk about coincidences!

 

Anyway, while Lois Winston, my author, and Gay Yellen, Sam’s author, were at a recent writers’ conference, Sam and I met up for coffee and conversation where we spent much of our time grousing about those two writers who have turned our lives upside-down. 

 

So, Sam, any theories on why Lois and Gay yanked us out of our quiet lives and dropkicked us into a fictional world of constant murder and mayhem?

 

Samantha: I wish I knew, Anastasia. There I was, working my way up the ladder at a global corporation, when Gay took over and made the story about corporate greed and murder. The people at the top were arrested, the company cratered, and my life spiraled down from there. Lost my job, my house, and my reputation. Only bright spot was meeting Carter Chapman.

 

Anastasia: She’s done this to you in three books so far, right? How much longer do you think she’ll continue to drop dead bodies in your path? Lois is up to twelve already in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, and once she returns from this conference, she’ll start pecking away at number thirteen.

 

Sam: Twelve? Yikes! She’s really run you ragged. Solving murders is exhausting, especially when the police think I’m a suspect, too. I know Gay is thinking about putting me through the wringer in two more books. The next one’s supposed to be at a winery. 

 

Anastasia: See if you can talk her out of it. Wineries are nothing but trouble. Zack and I recently returned from vacationing at one. Some vacation! Not only did we encounter more dead bodies in A Crafty Collage of Crime, but this time we nearly became victims ourselves.

 

Sam: Been there. Frankly, I’d rather go to the beach. Right now, I’ve landed in a better place than I’ve been in years, and I want to keep the good vibes coming.

 

Anastasia: Same here. My life is finally on the road back to normal after the fallout I dealt with after my first husband’s death. If only the dead bodies would stop finding me. And there’s also my pain in the patootie communist mother-in-law. At least you’re not stuck with someone like Lucille living with you. On second thought, I guess I still have a way to go before I see normal again.

 

Sam: Maybe we could revolt somehow. Go on strike, like the actors and writers did in Hollywood.

 

Anastasia: My commie mother-in-law would be in protest heaven if it weren’t for the fact that she’s become a reality TV junkie. I don’t think she cares about either the writers or the actors.

 

Sam: Actually, I tried protesting once. While Gay was writing The Body Next Door, I could see what was coming and tried to stop her. She had me in the elevator of the high-rise apartment I was borrowing, and I refused to leave. Just stayed in there for two weeks until she figured out how to get me out. It was a little claustrophobic, but I was proud of myself.

 

Anastasia: But what if they ignore us? They could always write new books with new characters. Then we’d be...

 

Sam: We’d disappear!

 

They are silent for a moment.

 

Anastasia: Zack and I would...

 

Sam: Plus, I really like my new job. And Carter. I suppose I could get used to being an amateur sleuth, if that’s my destiny.

 

Anastasia: Maybe this is like the devil you know? We really have no control over our own destinies, do we? I guess we’ll just have to grin and bear it and hope for the best. (And did I just use four cliches in two sentences? Yikes! I guess it’s a good thing I’m the amateur sleuth and Lois is the author. She’d never write four cliches in two sentences.)

 

Anyway, it was great grousing with you. We should stay in touch. Amateur sleuths need to keep together.

 

Sam: You bet!


Today only, click here for a free Kindle download of The Body Business.

The Samantha Newman Mysteries

All Samantha Newman wants is a good job, a place to call her own, and a chance at love. But in her rollercoaster life, things don’t come easy. Just when success seems possible, a dead body show up and Samantha's in the hot seat. If she didn’t have a sense of humor, she’d really go crazy. In the Samantha Newman Mysteries—The Body BusinessThe Body Next Door, and The Body in the Newsyou’ll laugh and maybe shed a tear as she wades through minefields in search of the life she wants to live.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

HISTORICAL MYSTERY AUTHOR D.S. LANG SHARES A FAMILY FAVORITE SUGAR COOKIE RECIPE

D.S. Lang started making up stories to entertain herself as an only child, and she’s still making them up. Her historical mysteries are set in small-town Ohio after the Great War. They feature amateur women sleuths determined to catch the bad guys and gals. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

In The Murdered Matron, the second book in my Doro Banyon Historical Cozy Mystery series, Doro helps plan her hometown’s annual Christmas celebration. A big part of the discussion revolves around refreshments. 

 

When I think of holiday treats, cookies come to mind—especially a family favorite sugar cookie. I do not know the origin of the recipe, but I recently found it handwritten in one of my mom’s old cookbooks. My mouth immediately watered! I have not made this cookie in many years, so I asked a friend who is a superb baker to help me figure how much flour is needed. The recipe, as you will see, calls for “enough to pat cookies out.” My friend has a similar old recipe, and she said about three cups should do the trick. 

 

In the novel, Doro and her best friend bake a batch to share with the town lawmen, who rave about the sweet treat. If you make them, I hope the cookies are just as popular with your family, friends, and neighbors!

 

Family Favorite Soft Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp nutmeg

3 cups white all-purpose flour

 

Cream together the sugars, butter, and eggs. Add the buttermilk, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg.

 

Add enough flour to spoon cookies into your hand and pat out. This is tricky! Have 

3 cups of white all-purpose flour ready.

 

Bake @375-400 degrees for 10 minutes, watching carefully.


The Murdered Matron

A Roaring Twenties Cozy Historical, Book 2

 

As the fall semester ends, Doro’s hands are full as a professor, librarian, and volunteer. She looks forward to planning and celebrating her hometown’s annual Christmas festivities, but her enthusiasm is tested when the chairwoman’s dictatorial ways create dissension among the committee members. Dissension soon turns to malice, and threats fly among the matron and several others. When she is found dead, unsettling questions arise—and so do longstanding grudges. Who caused the woman’s fatal fall from a ladder? After the chairwoman’s handyman disappears, anxiety escalates among townsfolk. Doro and her best friend, Aggie, along with two local lawmen, work together to investigate. Can they catch the killer in time to save the holiday celebration? Or will others fall victim to the perpetrator?

 

Pre-order (available 12/2/23)