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Monday, January 30, 2023


The Neighborhood
Merrilee Robson’s short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery MagazineAlfred Hitchcock Mystery MagazineThe People’s FriendMystery Magazine, and many other magazines and anthologies. Her traditional mystery, Murder is Uncooperative, is set in a non-profit housing co-op. Along with serving on the boards of several writing organizations, she’s served two years on the Vancouver Police Board, which provides civilian oversight to the Vancouver Police Department. Learn more about Merrilee and her mysteries at her website. 

There Goes the Neighborhood

My neighbors are lovely. I live on a street with block parties, an active neighborhood watch program, and outdoor caroling events each winter. We share gardening tips over the back fence and invite neighbours over for a glass of wine on summer evenings.


So why is my short story, “The Ass-in,” recently published in Hook, Line and Sinker: The Seventh Guppy Anthology, about a very bad neighbor?


Maybe it’s because almost everyone has had experiences with problem neighbors. Maybe the older woman in the apartment who pounded on the ceiling and complained to the landlord whenever the students above walked across the floor in their own home. The people borrowing things they never return. Or the guy learning to play the bagpipes!


Or maybe the idea was prompted by temporary irritation at the electric saws and hammering that are part of the inevitable home renovation projects necessary in my neighborhood of 100-year-old homes.


In any case, although my short stories are often traditional mysteries solved by amateur sleuths, one of the things I love most about writing short stories is the chance to try writing different types of crime fiction. I thought it would be fun (and funny) to write about an apartment building occupied by Wally, a problem neighbor.


But it wasn’t. I wasn’t happy with my first draft. Written from the point of view of Keira, the victim of her criminal neighbor, it was more in line with the traditional mysteries I usually write.


But it didn’t work in the way I wanted. Keira wasn’t really taking action. She was simply reacting to the things Wally was doing. It wasn’t interesting. And it wasn’t funny.


In a writing class I once took, the instructor advised us that, if a scene wasn’t working, try writing it from the perspective of a different character.




Wally’s voice took hold. He was taking action, however haplessly. It was funny. At least I thought so.


So, when I saw the call for submissions for Hook, Line and Sinker, looking for stories of grifters, con artists and their victims, I knew this story had found a home.

In this new anthology, twenty-three authors have taken the common theme and created an array of very different stories, from cozy to noir and from historical to contemporary. Vulnerable seniors or small town innocents turn the tables on slick con artists, and things don't always work out the way the grifters expect.

Of course, as Wally explains in my story, none of this was his fault. It was all because of the dog.


Hook, Line & Sinker

The Seventh Guppy Anthology


Mystery deep inside, in that place you hide from the world, have you ever considered how you would carry off a great con? Or maybe secretly plotted revenge for falling prey to a grifter, liar, or cheat? As these twenty-three authors of devious plot twists show, whether it’s running a con or extracting revenge, it doesn’t always go the way you expected. In this seventh anthology of short stories from the 1,100 - member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the stakes are high: money, power, love, and life itself. The stories range from Tudor England to tomorrow’s headline after another fish takes the bait. Hook, line, and Sinker.


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Friday, January 27, 2023


M. A. Monnin writes the Intrepid Traveler Mystery series. Her latest, Death on the Grand Canal, comes out May 2023. M.A. is one of the contributors to the Hook, Line, & Sinker short story anthology. Her short stories have also appeared in Black Cat Mystery MagazineBlack Cat Weekly, and several other anthologies, including the Anthony Award-winning Mystery Most Edible. Learn more about M.A. and her books at her website.

Who’s Conning Whom?

Who doesn’t love a good con? Or a good con gone wrong? I know I do. Do you root for the con or the mark? For me, it depends. If no one gets hurts, I root for the con, like Robin Hood and The Saint. But then there are others who I’m happy to see get what’s coming to them, those that just play dirty.


Hook, Line & Sinker, the latest crime fiction anthology from the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime has plenty of both, with twenty-three tales of blackmail, double-crosses, forgery, bribery, royal intrigue and scams galore from authors Sandra Benson, C. N. Buchholz, Lida Bushloper, Judith Carlough, Kait Carson, Susan Daly, M. R. Dimond, Mary Dutta, Kate Fellowes, Wrona Gall, Vinnie Hansen, Ann Michelle Harris, Kim Keeline, Jane Limprecht, Sally Milliken, M. A. Monnin, A. W. Powers, Merrilee Robson, KM Rockwood, Lisa Anne Rothstein, Steve Shrott, Frances Stratford, and Shannon Taft.


Just what is it we love about a con? Is it the chance to get one over on the bad guy? The desire to see someone win, when we ourselves haven’t? Could it be our sense of justice, which often isn’t satisfied in real life? Justice doesn’t always lie clearly on the side of law and ethics, but often hides in a moral gray area.


You might say we enjoy reading about clever con artists because they let us vicariously get back at those who have gotten the better of us. We like to see the little guy getting the better of the big bully. Or so we tell ourselves.


Maybe what we admire most is seeing some cheeky devil get away with stuff we’d never be able to get away with ourselves.


If you enjoy a good con, I invite you to check out this collection of grifters, liars, thieves and cheats and decide which side you’d be on.


Here’s a quick and delicious beverage to sip as you read about these ne’er do wells, named after my story, “Just Another Shot in the Dark.”


Just Another Shot in the Dark 


1 cup hot chocolate, the darker the better.


Add to it:

1 shot of Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liqueur.

Whip cream if desired.


Been a victim of a con? Make it bittersweet! Shave a little unsweetened chocolate on top.


Hook, Line, & Sinker

Deep inside, in that place you hide from the world, have you ever considered how you would carry off a great con? Or maybe secretly plotted revenge for falling prey to a grifter, liar, or cheat? As these twenty-three authors of devious plot twists show, whether it’s running a con or extracting revenge, it doesn’t always go the way you expected. In this seventh anthology of short stories from the 1,100 - member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the stakes are high: money, power, love, and life itself. 


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Wednesday, January 25, 2023


As some of you may know, my author Lois Winston cut her writing chops penning romance and romantic suspense novels before deciding to segue into the mystery world. Ever since, she’s been dropping dead bodies at my feet. She’s currently writing the twelfth novel in the eponymous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, and of course, once again, there’s another dead body.

I need a break from all those dead bodies. So I scraped together enough birdseed for Mayzie, Lois’s muse, to fly off to Aruba. Honestly, I’m not mean-spirited, but there’s just so much a reluctant amateur sleuth can take before she reaches her limit. And I’d reached mine. In this latest book, I’m on my honeymoon, but of course, within hours of arriving, Lois has me discovering yet another murder victim.


So now with Mayzie gone, Lois has written herself into a corner because the woman is a consummate “pantser” and never, ever outlines her stories. 


But Lois knows from experience that sometimes all it takes to lure Mayzie back is to ignore her. So she’s turned her attention to a bit of marketing and has decided to package her three romantic suspense novels (from back in the day when she wrote romantic suspense) into one ebook collection. She’s priced the set so readers get three full-length books for the price of two and is calling it A Triple Date with Danger. If you love feisty heroines and daring heroes, won’t be disappointed in these three novels.


Meanwhile, I’m getting back to enjoying my honeymoon while I can. Mayzie is due back soon, and Lois’s fingers will once again be flying across her keyboard. There’s bound to be another dead body coming my way any day now.


A Triple Date with Danger

Three Romantic Suspense Novels


Three Feisty Heroines, Three Daring Heroes...

Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception

Life has delivered one sucker punch after another to Emma Wadsworth. As a matter of fact, you could say the poor little rich girl is the ultimate poster child for Money Can’t Buy Happiness — even if she is no longer a child.


Billionaire real estate stud Logan Crawford is as famous for his less-than-platinum reputation as he is his business empire. In thirty-eight years, he’s never fallen in love, and that’s just fine with him — until he meets Emma.


But Emma’s not buying into Logan’s seductive ways. Well, maybe just a little, but she’s definitely going into the affair with her eyes wide open. She’s no fool. At least not anymore. Her deceased husband saw to that. Besides, she knows Logan will catch the first jet out of Philadelphia once he learns her secrets.


Except things don’t go exactly as Emma has predicted, and when Philadelphia’s most beloved citizen become the city’s most notorious criminal, she needs to do a lot more than clear her name if she wants to save her budding romance with the billionaire hunk someone is willing to kill for.

Lost in Manhattan

One by one members of the Montgomery family have died in tragic accidents. Photographer Sarah Montgomery is the last surviving member of the aeronautics dynasty. After the death of her beloved grandfather, she accepts the fact that her husband never loved her and initiates divorce proceeding. On the way home from the lawyer’s office, Sarah is hit by a cab. Days later she awakens in the hospital and has no idea who she is.


Industrialist Trent Caldwell harbors guilt over his wife’s death. A passenger in the cab that struck Sarah, he now feels responsible for her injuries. When no one steps forth to identify the woman in the hospital, he arranges for Mrs. Kearn, his housekeeper, to care for her in his home. Seeing in Sarah someone who just might draw Trent out of the darkness he’s succumbed to since his wife’s death, Mrs. Kearn sets about playing matchmaker.


But the Montgomery family deaths weren’t accidents. Someone harbors a deadly secret and using skills perfected as a youthful IRA operative, has systematically eliminated the family out of a need for revenge. Realizing Sarah’s true identity, the assassin now has one more kill to make in order to fulfill a promise made long ago.


Someone to Watch Over Me

Dori Johnson is in hiding from the Russian Mafia. Six years ago she committed a series of felonies in order to create new identities for herself and her younger brother and sister. They’ve kept a low profile, living in fear of their lives ever since.


When Niles York, Dori’s boss, offers her the opportunity of a lifetime, she turns down the job, not wanting to risk discovery. However, her brother and sister convince her that after six years, she’s unrecognizable, and she can’t pass up such an opportunity. Reluctantly, Dori agrees to become the face and spokesperson for York’s new retail venture.


Jake Prentiss suspects Dori is hiding a secret, and he’s not going to let her jeopardize his friend’s business. As a former government operative, he calls in some favors and starts digging into Dori’s past. What he finds has him convinced she’s out to sabotage York Enterprises. Too bad he’s falling for her.


Dori is falling in love with Jake, but she doesn’t trust him. He works for the government, and she’s a criminal. But then her life is threatened, and she has to make a decision that could either get her killed or put her behind bars for a very long time.


Buy Links




Apple Books

Monday, January 23, 2023


Today we welcome back Justin Murphy. In both his fiction and nonfiction, Justin explores many themes in his work, including probing into the darkness of pure evil and exploring obscure figures often forgotten in entertainment. Learn more about Justin and his books at his Facebook Author Page.   

Do Readers Prefer Mystery or Suspense?

These are two forms of crime and detective fiction presenting an endless debate. Writing this, I know I’m not the first to discuss nor will this prove me the last. Yet both have their pros and cons with the subjectivity of readers allowing this argument to persist until the end of time. Genre fans and enthusiasts know mystery happens when they uncover the truth of the story alongside the fictional investigator they’re reading about. Whereas suspense enables them to discover such things before the main character. 


The pros of a mystery are how everything remains shrouded in secret until the very end. It keeps the story moving at a neat pace without getting too rushed. Depending on one’s tastes, an old school detective tale can be a well-told one. Yet there are those who don’t agree with this assessment, detractors who see the drawbacks of mystery for what they sometimes are. This brings us the genre or subgenre’s hang ups. Ones younger readers would be happy to point out. They may also be right, despite their dependence on the Internet and social media in the last two decades or so.


There are those who feel the cons of mystery are how such stories come off slow paced and pedestrian. Almost a digital era person’s response to an old black and white film or TV episode from the 1950’s or before. Even though detective and noir work from this era and before were often of excellent quality. Younger generations are used to things at a much faster pace and want instant gratification most of the time. 


This now brings us to the other side of the spectrum, one dealing with suspense, and possibly thrillers. A side of the genre which may provide the opposite tastes and drawbacks.


With suspense, readers and/or viewers are exposed to the criminal goings on of the case long before the detective uncovers the truth. Often, this leads to seesaw or cat and mouse like dynamics in such stories, exploring both the hero and the villain’s viewpoints. As with mystery, there are positives and negatives of this form. In the case of either form, it depends on what said enthusiast is interested in. While suspense may seem harder on the surface than mystery, there are those who remain intrigued once they go down the rabbit hole.


The pros of suspense are the lack of secrets from the audience, who may prefer the push and pull between these two sides of the ordeal. A story that may result in something fast paced and exciting for those who love it. Book sales and box office returns of suspense and thrillers have long surpassed those of mystery in recent decades. Almost to the point where the latter has often been relegated to made-for-TV status and even parodied as cliché. Such might be most true in the 1970’s, when Columbo star Peter Falk played the title role in two comedies, Murder by Death and The Cheap Detective.


However, the cons of this latter genre or subgenre is how older readers and viewers criticize suspense and thrillers as going too fast, emphasizing more sexuality and violence over the detective figuring out the puzzle. While such might be implied or hinted at with a mystery, this could be interpreted as a crybaby statement, or being nostalgic for earlier stories. Yet the question of, “When Does Sexuality and Violence In Media Go Too Far?’’ tends to be a valid one. It should also be noted the works of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain were of an adult nature along these lines. As were pre-Code detective films of the 1930s.


Whether you are an older or younger enthusiast of these genres, and no matter which one you prefer, taste (or distaste) is subjective. Same goes for book vs. film and television equivalents. Everyone has a different opinion of what they prefer and why, whether another person agrees with this or not. 


Maybe it’s the reason mystery and suspense are so great, there doesn’t have to be a right or wrong answer amongst readers. One reader could like a hardboiled mystery, suspense or thrillers. Another could prefer a cozy amateur sleuth story, but I’ve never heard of a cozy suspense or thriller. Since this latter subgenre only implies sexuality or violence. Maybe after reading this article, one can clarify in the comments section over the existence of cozy suspense or thrillers. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023


Today we sit down for a chat with crime and women’s fiction author Damyanti Biswas. Learn more about Damyanti and her books here.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I started writing short stories back in 2008, but it was in 2011 that one of them kept growing and eventually became my first novel, You Beneath Your Skin.


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

For me publication was never a dream. It’s always been part of the writing process. I believe that writing begins in the author’s mind but is completed in the reader’s.


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

I’m traditionally published. You Beneath Your Skin was published by Simon & Schuster India. The Blue Bar is published by Thomas & Mercer, and they have also contracted its sequel.


Where do you write?

It depends on what’s good that day. I always end up writing somewhere other than my writing table, sadly. I also write at cafes if I’m too blocked to write at home.


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

I usually write with white noise in the background, either sounds of rain or forest birdsong.


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

Some of the incidents in my books draw inspiration from newspapers. I’ve not written anything based on my life for the crime novels.


Describe your process for naming your character?

The main characters are always born within my consciousness along with their names. The Blue Bar started with Tara without a conscious thought process, and then I had to figure out why she was named so. 


The supporting cast is named as per their roles, and these names often change in case they sound too similar. They have names befitting their social class, and the part of India they hail from. India is a complex country, and a fair amount can be divined about a person’s background based on their surnames.


Real settings or fictional towns?

So far, all the settings in my novel have been real.


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

I don’t think I could have written any of the books already written by others. My books emerge from my subconscious, and I can’t picture myself having written any others not already within.


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

As a college graduate, I went into fashion design, and lost touch with reading for a few years. I wish I’d understood myself and my calling earlier, and not missed tons of great books. Mortality looms, and on some days, I feel bad I wasted all that time.


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

My own tendency to use certain words in my writing, which I then have to pull teeth finding and replacing in an appropriate fashion!


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

 A good book. A bottle with a water filter. A knife.


What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

The absolute worst was as a model at a car fair. 


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

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. I like her sharp observations and wit, and also her vulnerabilities. She’s one of the earliest heroines of the novel form, and a strong, incredibly wise one.


Ocean or mountains? 



City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 



What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m editing the sequel to The Blue Bar, after which I’ll be polishing up a novel for submission that my agent really likes. Hope to write another novel this year.


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

The Blue Bar is set in Mumbai, a megapolis of 21 million people. It has the most expensive private residence in the world, worth 2 billion USD, with 400,000-square-feet area divided into 27 floors. 


Not far from it stands Dharavi, one of the biggest slums in the world. 2 million people crammed into 0.81 square miles.


Since my work is set in India, the contrasts shown are extreme, and everyday reality is overwhelming to the senses. In terms of color, sounds, scents, and the sheer density of humanity, Indian cities have few equals. 


With The Blue Bar, I’ve tried to take readers to the megacity of Mumbai— its skyscrapers and its underbelly, its stories of love and hate, its beaches and swamps, its movie sets and police stations. I hope readers will come along for the journey. 


The Blue Bar

A Blue Mumbai Thriller, Book 1


On the dark streets of Mumbai, the paths of a missing dancer, a serial killer, and an inspector with a haunted past converge in an evocative thriller about lost love and murderous obsession.


After years of dancing in Mumbai’s bars, Tara Mondal was desperate for a new start. So when a client offered her a life-changing payout to indulge a harmless, if odd, fantasy, she accepted. The setup was simple: wear a blue-sequined saree, enter a crowded railway station, and escape from view in less than three minutes. It was the last time anyone saw Tara.


Thirteen years later, Tara’s lover, Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput, is still grappling with her disappearance as he faces a horrifying new crisis: on the city’s outskirts, women’s dismembered bodies are being unearthed from shallow graves. Very little links the murders, except a scattering of blue sequins and a decade’s worth of missing persons reports that correspond with major festivals.


Past and present blur as Arnav realizes he’s on the trail of a serial killer and that someone wants his investigation buried at any cost. Could the key to finding Tara and solving these murders be hidden in one of his cold cases? Or will the next body they recover be hers?


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Monday, January 16, 2023


Today we sit down for an interview with romantic suspense author Judith Luke. Learn more about Judith and her books at her Amazon author page.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

When I was in fourth grade, I began writing episodes of Lassie.    


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

I wrote the first Hightower Book, Secrets of the Heart, thirty years ago. We lived in New Hampshire for seven years, and my critique partners agreed to read this old manuscript. With their encouragement and help, I published it last year. Return to Hightower is the second book in the series.


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

I am indie published on Amazon.


Where do you write? 

I write in my office. Ideas pop up at any time, so I am often scribbling notes on scraps of paper or receipts. 


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

I like it quiet, but if a scene or additions blast through my mind, I can write anywhere.


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

My first book, Murder on the 4th Tee, came from a golf course where my husband and I played. Some readers recognize the town I used in the story.  


The Hightower novels come from experience. I lived in Colorado for decades. I raised and showed paint horses for over twenty years. And we spent a great deal of time in Wyoming at a relative’s cabin outside of Laramie. So, I have lots of memories and knowledge to create these stories. 


Describe your process for naming your character?

I research names. In Return to Hightower there is a character named Phillipe Marshall. I needed a name that represented his job, a steward and protector of actress Desiree Diamond. Marshall in French means steward. And Phillipe means lover of horses. 


Real settings or fictional towns?

My towns are fictional but may be outside of a major city.


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

Phillipe Marshal is Desiree’s protector from the time she moved to New York. He’s older, good looking, can be stuffy and formal like a stern butler, always well dressed, a professional cook, but at the same time he is caring and giving.   


What’s your quirkiest quirk? 

I tend to be ADHD and I tend to change discussion topics without warning. My husband is used to it, so he reminds me when I do. A busy mind is like that.


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

I love Tami Hoag’s Lucky Lady. It’s fun, dangerous, has mystery, and romance. 


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

I wish I had investigated self-publishing earlier. Thanks to my critique partners, I took their advice and self-published. Readers like the books, and that is a good thing. I guess that’s the fear of any artist—exposure to the world. 


What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

Cliques. I try to stay away from people like that because they often as not turn on each other.  


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

 A flare gun, a machete, my husband. 


What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

I worked at an employment agency. I got paid to do what the client could do on their own. It was so boring. 


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

Jane Eyre. I have read the book numerous times throughout my life, starting in high school. I’ve seen all the movies. I guess the story about someone who has nothing, who can find hope in everyday life and eventually find happiness, inspires me. Two of my characters have that character arc.


Ocean or mountains? 

I do like living near the Florida coast and sitting on the beach or walking in the waves. But, having lived in Colorado for most of my adult life, I do like the seclusion of the Rocky Mountains and nature.


City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

Country girl. I love all animals, horses and dogs especially. 


What’s on the horizon for you?

I have another book in the Hightower Series in the works. I also have two romantic suspense books that take place in Seattle waiting for me to edit.


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

I like to write books that I would like to read. I like to write the “what’s the worst thing that could happen now” in my books. And of course, a happy ending.


Return to Hightower

A Hightower Mountain Novel, Book 2


Steve Tower's curiosity grows when he learns a beautiful woman is the owner of Diamond Ranch. But his interest intensifies when he discovers that some of the employees are former ranch hands of his family's Hightower Ranch, the relatives of Desiree Lorde--the woman who shattered his heart and dreams, a woman he never forgot.


When soap opera star, Desiree Diamond acquires the ranch of a distant relative, she has one goal--revenge on family and ex-friends who abandoned her when she needed them most. First she sets her sights on Hightower Ranch and Steve Tower who jilted her when she was pregnant and destitute. But, she's not destitute any longer. She is building a premier horse ranch to challenge their prominence in the horse industry and will soon move there.


But before she can make the move, Desiree is pressured by her producer to bring attention to the lagging soap-opera by doing a cross-country tour and attending her high school reunion. And there he is, handsome as ever. Even after fifteen years, Desiree and Steve cannot deny the smoldering flames of the past, and the heart-breaking events of their youth arouse old fears and uncertainties.


Steve realizes that he cannot lose her again. As lies of the past peel away, they delve into what happened so many years ago and uncover a conspiracy to keep them apart. After a suspicious accident threatens Desiree's life, Steve knows someone will do anything to keep those dark, evil secrets hidden and separate them this time forever.


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Friday, January 13, 2023


Today we sit down for a chat with Ben Tucker from author George Cramer’s newest crime novel. 

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

I was Ben Tucker, a reasonably happy teenager working on a 1930s sharecropper farm in rural Georgia. There were a bunch of us youngsters and my Ma and Pa. We didn’t have much, but we were happy. Then George kills off my Pa. I don’t much blame George because his Grandpa Cramer died much the same time and way, only in the northern part of California.


It wasn’t long before Ma remarried, adding even more mouths to feed. My big brother Jim decided to hit the road. I went along. We didn’t know much and were soon serving time in prison, where I was sexually assaulted.


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

You’ll find it hard to believe, but next to reading, I most loved dogs my whole life.


What do you like least about yourself?

Having the ability to kill another human being, even if they deserved killing or in war.


What is the strangest thing that has happened to you? 

Few folks around can say they worked as a slave in a Japanese mine.


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

We didn’t differ much, but he had a couple of curious ideas about how to rob a bank. What’s he know? I forced him to do a bit more research than he wanted. Jim and I did the robbing the way we wanted.


What is your greatest fear?

Dying alone away from my brother.


What makes you happy? 

I love playing cribbage, especially with Jim. My Pa began teaching me the game when I was ten years old.


What would it be if you could rewrite a part of your story? Why? 

I know, George keeps reminding me there would be no story without a life of crime, but I was happy farming and wished that had been the life we led.


Which of the other characters in your book bugs you the most? Why? 

The lieutenant that Detective Smith worked for was lazy and useless. Even though Smith was after me, he deserved a better leader.  


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

It would be Noah. He’s not much to look at or brag about, but he is in the early days of his police career. Honest and hardworking, he could have a great career. I also liked Detective Collins. I wish her story could have been real in the 1970s.


Tell us a little something about your author.

George Cramer is an enrolled descendant of the Karuk Tribe of California. He enjoyed a forty-year investigative career in law enforcement and private and corporate investigations. He attended the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts / Creative Writing – Fiction.


As a licensed Private Investigator, George conducted thousands of successful investigations throughout the Americas and Asia. He kept his investigative skills honed by volunteering as an investigator with the San Leandro Police.


George’s short stories and poems have been published in numerous online and printed anthologies. His debut novel, The Mona Lisa Sisters, was released in 2020. This was followed recently by Robbers and Cops. Book 1 in the Hector Miguel Navarro crime series, New Liberty, is scheduled for release in late spring 2023.


When he isn’t riding the backroads of the U.S.A., George can be found working on the blog he’s devoted to the promotion of authors and their work. If you are an author, published or not, he invites you to write a guest post. Learn more about George and his books at his website.


Robbers and Cops

Robbers and Cops is the interwoven story of two criminals and detectives’ forty-year struggle to bring them to justice.


Brothers Jim and Ben Tucker embark on a life of crime that takes them from the swamps of Georgia to Oregon and beyond. Along the way, they brush against prohibition-era gangsters.


Working as a team, it isn’t long before they are on the run. Under assumed names, they enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps only to wind up on Corregidor as World War II begins. Wounded, captured, and surviving the Bataan Death March, they ended the war as forced labor in a mainland Japanese POW Camp.


Discharged and soon out of money, they return to what they know, robbing banks. Soon after, they are arrested, convicted, and sentenced to separate federal prisons for the next two decades. When released, the Tuckers having no other trade, immediately return to robbing banks. Release means nothing. Multiple police agencies join forces to bring them to justice.


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Wednesday, January 11, 2023


Lisa E. Betz is a foodie, ancient history buff, and chocoholic. When not working on her next Livia Aemilia mystery or writing articles on intentional living, she can be found experimenting with food, weaving baskets, or playing with her grandson. Learn more about Lisa and her award-winning novels at lisaebetz.com.

Although my heroine, Livia, lives in Rome, she has never tasted spaghetti with a tomatoey sauce redolent with oregano, or a foamy cappuccino, or a smooth, luscious chocolate gelato. Why? Because my books are set in the first century. Ingredients like tomatoes, coffee and chocolate were not yet known in Europe. Herbs we associate with Italian cooking, such as oregano and basil were not commonly used in ancient Roman kitchens (although they were known).


So, what did my ancient Roman heroine eat?


Lot of delicious dishes, along with some odd ones like dormice and flamingo tongues. Researching these foods has become a hobby. I own several cookbooks based on ancient writings and I’ve tried dozens of recipes. 


The primary source for ancient recipes is The Art of Cooking, attributed to a first-century gourmand named Marcus Gavius Apicius. His recipes leave some guesswork, since they are primarily a list of ingredients with occasional comments regarding quantities or methods. However, the book’s four-hundred and seventy recipes provide us with a pretty good notion of the foods and flavors the ancient Romans enjoyed. To fill out the picture, recipes or descriptions of food crop up in a variety of other ancient sources, from plays and comedic stories to treatises on medicine. 


Thanks to Apicius and other writers, we know some of the most common flavors used in ancient Roman cooking are cumin, black pepper, vinegar, honey, and garum—a salty condiment made from fermented fish, probably similar to an Asian fish sauce. Many recipes include a combination of honey, vinegar, and garum in sauces for both meat and vegetable dishes. Livia and her household share this fondness for sweet and sour notes in their savory dishes. Two favorites are pork in raisin sauce and zucchini gratin with a sauce made from herbs, dates, and pine nuts. 

The pantry in Livia’s kitchen would be stocked with many herbs, including several not common in modern kitchen, like lovage and rue. Happily, I discovered these plants at a local greenhouse last spring. Both add a bitter herbiness that deepens savory dishes. 


While honey was the primary sweetener, Livia’s cook would also use must, or freshly crushed grape juice. This brings me to one of the foods I mention in my novels—must cakes. Pansa’s bakery, which Livia frequents, sells delicious must cakes (the best in Rome, according to her aunt). Obviously, I needed to try these interesting little morsels for myself. 


Although I imagine Pansa’s must cakes to be sweeter and have a more delicate crumb, I have become fond of my version, based on a recipe found in the writings of Cato the Elder. Mine are savory biscuits with just a hint of sweetness. They are delicious as an accompaniment to a hearty soup or stew. They also make a good snack, when toasted and topped with melted cheddar cheese. 


Livia’s Must Cakes

Since butter wasn’t a common ingredient in Roman cooking, dough recipes often contained cheese as a shortening. Ancient cooks didn’t have access to baking powder or dried yeast, either. They must have leavened their doughs with sourdough or possibly with slightly fermented grape must, (neither of which I have on hand). Thus, I’ve made this recipe easier for modern cooks by utilizing baking powder. I hope Pansa and Livia forgive me. 


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground anise or fennel 

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup grated cheddar cheese 

1/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup white grape juice (or make your own must by pureeing seedless grapes) 

Bay leaves, preferably fresh


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients. Cut the cheese into the flour until crumbly. Stir in the olive oil and grape juice. Mix the dough just until combined. 


Lay the bay leaves on a cookie sheet. (You can cut large bay leaves into halves or thirds.) Place a scoop of biscuit dough on top of each bay leaf. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges are browned. 


Remove the must cakes from the cookie sheet and cool on a rack. Peel the bay leaf from the bottom of the cakes before eating. These are delicious served warm or at room temperature. 



·   Cheddar cheese works well because it’s not too sticky or too hard to cut into the flour. You could experiment with other types.

·   You can use dried bay leaves, but fresh ones give a better result. Look for fresh bay leaves in the produce section. 

·   Confession: When I make these, I skip the anise or fennel because my household doesn’t care for it. I included it for authenticity’s sake. 


Adapted from a recipe found in Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens by Mark Grant


Fountains and Secrets

A Livia Aemilia Mystery, Book 2


Nancy Drew meets ancient Rome. While seeking clues to find her husband, Avitus’s, missing friend, spunky Livia Aemilia uncovers more than she bargained for, and now Avitus’s old enemy is out to get them. Worse, Avitus forbids her from investigating further because he doesn’t trust her to stay out of danger. Annoyed, Livia seeks out one more clue, and barely escapes being kidnapped. Can Livia and Avitus learn to trust one another before their enemy strikes again? 


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