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.

Note: This site uses Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Monday, February 27, 2023

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA --AUTHOR ERICA OBEY TALKS ABOUT EGG CARTON CRAFTS, DRAGONS, AND MURDER

Erica Obey is the author of The Brooklyn North Murder, as well as five other award-winning novels. She did scholarly work on early female folklorists before she decided she’d rather write the stories herself. Find out more about her and Morgansburg at her website.

Welcome to Dr. Mary Watson’s fictional home of Morgansburg, N.Y., where women still can their own preserves, the Fire Department hosts annual visits from Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ Pipe and Drum Band leads the annual Memorial Day parade. A village out of time, yes, but not all that different from growing up Lutheran in Brooklyn.

 

I was hardly raised in Lake Wobegon, but I do possess some arcane skills, such as crafting angels out of old copies of the Reader’s Digest. I freely admit I never mastered the art of crocheting covers for wooden coat hangers, but I bought them eagerly at fundraisers such as the Mother’s Day Plant Sale, the Strawberry Festival, the Penny Social, the Harvest Festival Dinner and the Christmas Craft Fair.

 

The real-life hipsters have discovered the Hudson Valley. The parades and crafts are being edged out by goat yoga, wine bars, art house movie theaters, and “destination hamburgers.” Change is of course good, and I’d be the first to admit there were problems in my remembered paradise. However, I never realized how much I missed that life until I moved to the Hudson Valley. My first sight of a Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary aroused in me a quite possibly ill-advised urge to make a Christmas ornament out of an egg carton.

 

To do this, you need a cardboard egg carton. You cut out two pyramidical dividers that hold the eggs and glue them end to end to make a diamond-shaped ornament.


However, I’m a little late for Christmas this year. So I scoured the internet for inspiration and soon discovered a new twist: egg carton Easter chicks. For these, you need a Styrofoam egg carton, rather than a cardboard one. And you cut out the cups that hold the eggs, rather than the dividers between them.

 

The rest is the same. You place the two egg cups end to end (this does take some trimming) and either glue them together or hinge them with a bit of tape. Then paint the body a suitable color. Use cardstock to create beaks, wings, and feet, and you’ve got yourself an adorable table ornament for the family Easter dinner table.


But for those of us whose idea of a family holiday is closer to butchering each other at a Westeros wedding feast….

 

How about adding horns twisted out of tin foil instead of a beak, and crafting fangs and a fire-breathing tongue out of dragonishly glittering cardstock? A little metallic green paint, greener eyes, and a red snout, and you’ve got yourself a dragon.

 

But why stop at just the head? There are twelve cups in an egg carton after all, and they make quite the dragon’s body when painted to match its head. Add spines, feet, and a tail cut out of glittering cardstock and… behold your special dinner guest. (We named ours Puff, of course. Hey, face it. We’re from Woodstock.)


Remember: St. David’s Day, the national holiday of Wales, is March 1. St. George’s Day, the national holiday of England, is April 23. Both revolve around dragons. And you don’t need to be from Westeros (or even Woodstock) to think creating a dragon is the perfect way to welcome the spring.

 

(With special thanks to my husband, George Baird, whose patience and crafting abilities far exceed my own.)

 

Brooklyn North Murder

A hi-flying investor determined to make sleepy Morgansburg NY a tech hub, vanishes from the middle of a lake during a triathlon. Mary Watson, a university librarian and computer genius, has to solve the mystery with the help of her Artificial Intelligence program “Doyle.”

 

Buy Links

Friday, February 24, 2023

MYSTERY AUTHOR CYNTHIA BAXTER'S LOVE OF ICE CREAM LEADS TO A COZY SERIES

Cynthia Baxter is the author of The Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mysteries, the Reigning Cats & Dogs Mysteries, and the Murder Packs a Suitcase Mysteries. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

It’s No Mystery That We All Love Ice Cream! 

Is there anyone who doesn’t love ice cream?

 

The average American eats about 20 pounds of ice cream each year, according to the U.S Census Bureau. So I guess I’m not alone!

 

My interest in ice cream—obsession might be a better word—began as a kid. I grew up in a family that loved desserts. Cakes, pies, cookies, pudding…but ice cream was always the star. In fact, it remains woven into every cherished memory I have of my childhood. Banana splits for birthdays, red-white-and-blue ice cream for the Fourth of July, melty soft serve on family car trips, toasted coconut Good Humor bars that required chasing the ice cream man halfway down the block on hot summer days.

 

So it’s not surprising that once I was a grown-up writer looking for a theme for my third mystery series, I came up with the idea of ice cream.

 

My amateur sleuth, Kate McKay, needed to have more going on in her life than solving mysteries. And peeking over her shoulder as she lived out her lifelong dream of opening her own ice cream shop felt as perfect as—well, as perfect as a cherry on top.

 

Once I came up with the idea, it was easy to picture what I considered the ideal ice cream shop. First of all, it needed to be in an idyllic setting, so I dreamed up a charming small town on the Hudson River that I named Wolfert’s Roost. Second, the shop’s design had to include pastel pink walls, giant paintings of tempting ice cream concoctions, and charming marble-topped tables with pink vinyl-covered wrought iron chairs.

 

The Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe was born!

 

When it came to the flavors that my heroine would serve at her shop, that was where the real fun began. The classic chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry would be on the menu, of course, but oh, the possibilities! Gourmet ice creams have become more and more available, not only in specialty shops but even in my local supermarket. (Right now, there are pints of Whiskey Cake, Lavender Mascarpone, and Pumpkin Pie ice cream in my freezer!) So there is inspiration everywhere. 

 

Not surprisingly, I’ve used my ice cream mystery series as an excuse to visit every ice cream shop I come across. (I do admit to going out of my way to check out a few, as well!). I take photos of the menus, doing my best not to drool on my iPhone. I’ve found some of my best ideas for unusual ice cream flavors that way. 

 

And of course, I have to try some of them! What kind of researcher would I be otherwise?

 

True, not all of them are appealing. I confess that I have yet to try Pear and Blue Cheese, even though my heroine Kate sells that one at her shop. And not being a fan of raisins, to this day I remain a stranger to Rum Raisin. 

 

But I’ve definitely found more winners than losers!

 

Another fun part of the writing process is finding or developing recipes to include at the back of each book and trying them out. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it! Some of the recipes I’ve chosen are ice cream-based desserts, like Affogato, which is ice cream made even more divine by topping it with espresso, and Baked Alaska, which is ice cream covered in a luscious layer of baked meringue. 

 

But I also came up with a Brown Sugar-Bourbon Ice Cream, a recipe that’s in the first book in the series, Murder with a Cherry on Top, that turned out to be pretty phenomenal. (In fact, one reader wrote me that the members of her book group had enjoyed my book so much that they made the ice cream recipe at the back—and that they all loved it! I’m so happy to have been the inspiration for that experience!)

 

There’s an old saying in the writing world: write what you know. That’s true, but it’s also a good idea to write what you love. I like to think that sharing my love of ice cream with my readers makes reading my books even more enjoyable for them. And hopefully it inspires them to indulge more often in a treat that never disappoints. 

 

Murder with a Cherry on Top

A Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mystery, Book 1

 

Kate McKay had doubts about swapping her high-powered life in Manhattan for Wolfert’s Roost, the quaint Hudson Valley village where she grew up. But when she moves back to care for her ailing grandmother, Kate decides to start fresh and indulge her dream of running an ice cream shop. All goes smoothly—until she’s reunited with old acquaintances nuttier than a vat of rocky road. 

 

Kate should be thrilled about opening Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe in the heart of town. Instead her spirits melt like soft serve in the summer when she learns that her childhood frenemy, Ashley Winthrop, has started selling frozen treats in the bakery across the street. Turns out, Ashley hasn’t sweetened since high school. And once again, she’s game for some very unfriendly competition. 

 

But before Ashley can kill Kate’s new business, someone kills Ashley—stabbing her to death inside the bakery. Worse, the murder occurs right after the two rivals drew crowds with a heated argument, leaving half of Wolfert’s Roost speculating that Kate was finally pushed over the edge. 

 

With rumors swirling and her reputation in serious trouble, Kate is determined to get the real scoop on the crime—even if it means joining forces with a former flame. As she pieces together clues to a chilling scandal, Kate soon realizes that she’ll need way more than a sprinkle of wit if she wants to expose the killer and live to see another sundae . . .

 

Buy Links

hardcover 

paperback 

ebook 

audiobook 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

WHO DOESN'T LOVE A GOOD VILLAIN?

My author Lois Winston has been told that she writes villains readers love to hate. She gets more fan mail about my communist mother-in-law than she does about me. (I’m not sure how I feel about that!)  

Most readers love heroes and heroines because they yearn to associate with the good guys. They want to see good triumph over evil. They want the vicarious thrill of a happily-ever-ending. Little girls want to grow up to be Princess Leia. Little boys want to grow up to be Luke Skywalker. No one wants to grow up to be the Wicked Witch of the West or Darth Vader.

 

Yet, readers remain fascinated by villains. They often drive the story with their complex natures. Why would someone do such evil things? We want to know what drives these madmen and madwomen to commit the crimes they do. Who wasn’t totally intrigued by Voldemort’s back-story? Or Darth Vader’s? Or Cruella De Vil? Or the Wicked Witch of the West?

 

However, too often authors succumb to writing stereotypical villains. Lois has told me that even the vilest of vile villains has to have a reason for his or her vileness. Snidely Whiplash is one-dimensional. We want to read about 3-dimensional characters, and that’s not limited just to the protagonists of a story. Villains count. They drive plots forward. Without them, the story has no conflict.

Who are some of your favorite fictional villains? Post a comment for a chance to win an audiobook of your choice of either Death by Killer Mop Doll or Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the second and third books in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series about yours truly.

Monday, February 20, 2023

AN INTERVIEW AND MEXICAN STREET CORN FROM BEN KINSEAR OF AUTHOR HELEN CURRIE FOSTER'S ALICE MACDONALD GREER MYSTERIES

Today we sit down for a chat with Ben Kinsear from the Alice MacDonald Greer Mysteries by Helen Currie Foster. Ben has also graciously included his recipe for Mexican Street Corn.

Ben, thanks for sitting in. Apparently Alice is tied up in a mediation today but said we could interview you. So you’re Alice’s romantic interest in Ghosted? How did you two meet?

I spotted Alice the first day of civil procedure class at law school. I chased her hard but she threw me over for that Scottish engineer she married. I licked my wounds, got married, worked for a hedge fund, then retired early to Fredericksburg, Texas. My wife died. I started a bookstore, started raising cattle, kept raising two daughters. I’ll admit Alice often crossed my mind.

 

When did you two reconnect? 

I was walking past a beer garden in Fredericksburg and there she was, sitting under the pecan trees with another classmate. I tried to look calm as I sauntered up to the table. By then I was a widower and I’d heard her husband’s helicopter had disappeared off Scotland.

 

So did you two take another romantic trip to Big Bend?

I’m not allowed to talk about that. 

 

Let’s talk about Alice, then. What first attracted you?

Besides that smile and the big brown eyes? I liked how she stood up to the profs. She had a nose for key facts. She put up with my guitar playing. Then there was her kiss.

 

What do we not know about her?

We don’t know why she’s scared of horses, even though she’s had to ride some. Or why she’s so scared of handguns, though long guns don’t seem to bother her. We don’t understand why she thinks she’s adequately armed if she has her flare gun under the car seat. Also, in my opinion, she’s insufficiently scared of snakes. 

 

What’s the strangest thing that your author has had you do since you reencountered Alice? 

Maybe trying to tackle a burglar in front of a retired NFL player. I admit I was showing off. He did compliment me, though. 

 

Of the other characters you’ve met in the series, who do you like best?

Besides Alice? Silla, Alice’s red-headed assistant. That woman’s smart as a whip. I still haven’t seen her barrel-racing at the rodeo, but I hear she’s a ferocious competitor.

 

What do you like least about your role in the series?

I haven’t gotten to take Alice to the South Seas. Or the South of France. Could you put in a word with the author?

 

Tell us something about your author.

Helen Currie Foster lives and on a creek in Texas Hill Country, loosely supervised by three burros. After practicing environmental law and regulatory litigation for thirty years, Alice MacDonald Greer suddenly appeared in her life and she began writing a mystery series about her. Readers can learn more about her at her website

 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

In the Alice MacDonald Greer Mystery series, Alice has rebuilt her life and law practice in the colorful town of Coffee Creek, Texas, five years after her husband’s helicopter vanished over the North Sea. 

 

As Thanksgiving nears, to Alice’s relief I take charge of the food. At my ranch, I’m protecting Alice’s husband’s cousin from harm, while Alice juggles legal tasks for her clients and good friends at the local roadhouse, about to host the first Beer Barn Holiday Bazaar. One meal features my carnitas with Mexican street corn. 

 

Mexican Street Corn

Serves 4

 

Time: 30 min. plus onion pickling time

 

Pickled Onions

Ingredients:

1 small red onion, thinly sliced in rounds

1/4 c. red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

 

Mix, add an ice cube, and refrigerate for 1-2 hrs. before assembling corn. 

 

Ingredients:

16-oz pkg frozen roasted corn kernels (or fresh corn, charred on the grill and cut off the cob)

2T butter1/4 c water

1/3 c mayo

1/3 c sour cream

About 4 oz crumbled Queso Fresco (about 1/3 of the round flat cheese) or Cotija. (I use Queso Fresco; Cotija is saltier, so use less and adjust accordingly.)

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp chile powder

One lime, cut in half.

One lime, cut in wedges

Fresh cilantro leaves

Option: add 1/4 c diced fresh poblano pepper to the corn

 

In a heavy skillet melt the butter and add the frozen corn. Stir until corn defrosts and begins to cook. Add 1/4 c water and cook until water is mostly gone and corn is tender. Add optional poblano pepper.

 

In medium bowl mix mayo, sour cream, chile powder and cumin. Stir in crumbled cheese. 

 

On serving plate spread cheese mixture. Spoon the hot corn atop the cold cheese mixture. Squeeze juice of 1/2 lime (if very juicy) or both halves over mixture. Garnish with pickled onion slices and cilantro.

 

Ghosted

An Alice MacDonald Greer Mystery, Book 8

 

Alice flies to Scotland to identify her husband’s possible remains. She returns home with more questions than answers. What happened to the chopper? Who disappeared just before it went down? Why does the trail lead east to Hong Kong and deep-sea operations in the Pacific? Back in Texas, Alice has little time to sort out old mysteries before she’s plunged into helping solve the brutal death of Nanette, a young lawyer and friend. Nanette’s fears that her legal work was being used to hide money laundering may have been proven horribly correct. Alice finds herself torn between the past, with the British Consulate showing up with questions about her dead husband’s family, and the present, as she tries to help unmask Nanette’s killer. 

 

Buy Links

paperback 

ebook 

Friday, February 17, 2023

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--MYSTERY AUTHOR JOLIE TUNNELL'S ANCESTRAL RESEARCH BECOMES AN HISTORICAL MYSTERY SERIES

Today we welcome award-winning and bestselling mystery author Jolie Tunnell, who brings the past to life in her suspenseful historical mysteries. Her books offer readers a historical whodunnit with the flavor of turn-of-the-century Wild West. Learn more about her and her books at her website where you’ll also receive a free book by signing up for her newsletter.

Inspired by the Mysteries in my History

The Great Loveda Brown grew out of a desire to know more about the lives of my pioneering ancestors. As the self-designated keeper of the family trees, I wanted to know more about the people who formed the roots, the branches, the leaves, and yes, the nuts.

 

Passing down generational stories is as old as fire rings, but somehow a few special members in my family remained shrouded in mystery and kept to the shadows. What happened to the couple with the scandalous divorce? Why was that person tried for murder? Who came over on the Mayflower and what were their aspirations?

 

The horse thief. The elopement. The Viking. The Cherokee. Meningitis. The 1918 flu pandemic. Suicide.

 

Why? The question was as tantalizing as it was a tribulation. There was always another why behind the why! The further I dug, the deeper the mysteries grew until I had to write it all out in order. I needed something much bigger than a family tree chart. I needed a novel.

 

The book I wrote is a fascinating look into why people do what they do. For better or worse, we’ve arrived via a network of choices made by people who are no longer here to see how the story ended. The early 1900s were a time full of global juxtapositions, when inventions overtook the old ways, things that were possible became worth fighting for, travel began to be commonplace, and the women on my family tree were doing things you would never have guessed by looking at their sober and sepia-toned photographs.

 

The Idyllwild Mystery Series was born. I wanted to give these strong and ornery ladies a voice in the fictional characters of a novel. What history and society locked away, I coaxed from the shadows and invited to dance. I plant that spirit of optimism and exploration, uncertainty and instability, isolation and imagination, deep into each plot for Loveda Brown.

 

And always, I ask the page, “why?”

 

“Is the wilderness truly an appropriate place for ladies of refinement, such as yourself?” Mr. Peabody asked.

 

Mrs. Keen drew herself up even taller. “Mr. Peabody, it is the exact place for ladies. The American West was tamed with the blood, sweat, and tears of our pioneering foremothers. We are but the sixth state to give women the vote, and we are certainly not going to let them down now. Our daughters will have a voice.”

 

It may take a great many books to do it. But they will.

 

The Great Loveda Brown

An Idyllwild Mystery, Book 1

 

When Loveda Brown arrives in the tiny mountainside town of Idyllwild, California, as yet the Wild West of 1912, she is running from her husband. But when a body turns up the next day, she realizes she might have worse things following her…that cold, clenched fist holds something that forces Loveda to stay in Idyllwild and use all of her wits to stop another murder from happening. Probably her own.

 

Buy Links

paperback 

ebook

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

A CHAT WITH A CAT FROM MYSTERY AUTHOR M.E. BAKOS'S HOME RENOVATION MYSTERIES

Today we sit down for a chat with a cat. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re chatting with Boots, Katelyn’s rescue cat from the Home Renovator Mysteries by author M. E. Bakos.

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

I was a feral street cat. My human, Katelyn, offered me tuna on a rainy night, and I was done running the streets.

 

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

I’m a survivor. I found a cushy warm sofa to sleep on, plenty of treats, and a human I can manage.

 

What do you like least about yourself? 

Not a thing. I’m a Tuxedo cat with a white chest and paws. I look good and I’m pretty cool.

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? She wanted me to hunt mice in the basement of a renovation in Deadly Flip, (Book 2) that had weird vibes. The house was creepy with bad electrical and flooding, not to mention a dead body mystery. She rescued me. The deal is I’m a house cat. Even in my feral days, I wouldn’t have touched the place.

 

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

The closest we came to arguing was the mousing adventure in Deadly Flip. I wouldn’t budge from the carrier. I won out, and she brought me home.

 

What is your greatest fear? 

That Katelyn will renovate another house with a dead body mystery, and I could get taken by an owl, like in Lethal Flip, Book 3, or I’ll have to come to her rescue and attack the bad guy, like in Deadly Flip. I really like just chilling and getting good treats. 

 

What makes you happy? 

I am a male, so I like hanging with the guys. Katelyn’s Ex, Eddy, and her new fiancĂ©, hunky Sheriff Don, pet me and slip me treats.

 

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

I would have found my human earlier and left the streets. What cat doesn’t like a nice warm bed with good chow? Mice are overrated. 

 

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

My author is wrapped around my white paws. She wouldn’t bring in characters that aren’t Boots approved. Any bad guy, I can handle.  

 

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

Sheriff Don and Ex-hubby, Eddy, have more history with my human. I’d like to get inside their heads.

 

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

My author has a varied background, writing a home improvement newsletter and a real estate and insurance sales licenses back in the day. She started by writing romance short stories. Now, she’s plotting cozy mysteries and planning her next home improvement. Check out her website where you can also find links for her social media.

 

What's next for you? 

In Killer Flip (Book 4), the romance with Katelyn and Sheriff Don heated up. They are engaged now and I’ll be along for the next wild ride. 

 

Killer Flip

A Home Renovator Mystery, Book 4

 

Flipping houses can be a KILLER! Before the festive holiday season begins, Katelyn jumps at the chance to renovate a Tudor style home in fictional Crocus Heights, Minnesota. All the home furnishings, fine china, and crystal are part of the sale.

 

The catch? Nearly twenty years earlier, in the aftermath of a famous Halloween blizzard, a woman who lived in the quaint home was found dead in her towed car.

 

Katelyn discovers a cache of cold, hard cash and jewelry in the renovation. Is it finders-keepers or losers-weepers? Who killed the beautiful, young, ambitious resident? 

 

Did hunky Sheriff Don really propose? What is up with Olivia, his old flame’s offspring? Does Eddy really want to marry Katelyn again? Does Katelyn want to marry again?

 

Buy Links

paperback 

ebook 

Monday, February 13, 2023

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--A NEW CRAFTING MYSTERY BY AUTHOR BARBARA EMODI

A Lobster Rope Wreath (example of a typical Gasper's Cove craft
 (image courtesy of www.madeinthemaritimes.com)
Barbara Emodi writes sewing and craft-related cozy mysteries based in Nova Scotia, Canada where she lives. She also travels frequently and writes in Austin, Texas and Berkeley, California in the winters. For many years Barbara led a double life. Publicly she was a journalist, radio commentator, government strategist, and public relations professor. In her private life she wrote, sewed, and published two books about garment construction. Often when Barbara sewed, she thought of the people she’d met and the stories she could tell; of the things she knew, and the things she suspected. Crafting for Murder is the first book in her Gasper’s Cover Mystery Series. Learn more about Barbara and her books at her website. 

Barbara’s Story Behind the Story

I have taught sewing classes for many years, and it has always struck me how interesting crafters and sewists are as people. Those who make things are resourceful, independent, and curious—exactly the kind of folks who would try to solve a crime. So, I felt I had the perfect cast of characters in my head to write cozy mysteries.

 

I write about small communities in Nova Scotia which are, by definition, stranger than fiction, anyway, so are they’re the perfect setting for my writing. Interestingly, some of the people and events my editors thought were the most implausible were based on reality. One even wrote to say that maybe I had too many relatives in my stories. I read her email on the way out the door to the wedding of my niece to my son-in-law’s nephew. I had no idea what she was talking about.


As is clear, Valerie and I have a lot in common. We are both empty-nest mothers of three children and we both teach sewing classes. As a result, the scenes where Valerie gets fed up and retreats to her sewing room to regroup and recharge were particularly easy for me to write. However, the central theme of her personal story, of someone who is resilient and determined to make a life for herself in her second act, is inspired by women I have known in the sewing and crafting communities. In the end she does manage to recreate herself just like so many women do. I’m proud of her.


The real Gasper's Cover

These days sewing is a parallel activity to my writing; I often plot while I sew and have my laptop set up behind my machine. My sewing never stops and my extended family, aged three months to ninety-five, keep me busy. I love sewing for them as much as sewing for myself.

 

I have already written the next in the series and have outlined two more. You’re not going to believe what happens next. I almost don’t myself. The Gasper’s Crafters have a lot going on. Was that a treasure from WW II that washed up on the shore? Who double-booked a wedding at the same venue as a crafter’s retreat? Did the signs the crafters made for a municipal election get one of the candidates killed?

 

My plan is to write two longer novels a year and to release some shorter novellas in between, each written from the point of view of one of the secondary characters. I thought this would help readers get to know the whole community better. 


Crafting for Murder 

A Gasper’s Cover Mystery, Book 1

 

Seamstress, crafter, and empty-nester Valerie Rankin has plans to open a crafter’s co-op that will put Gasper’s Cove, Nova Scotia on the tourist guide map. But one month before the opening day photo shoot, she still has to pin down a venue, patch up the family business, iron out corruption in town council, and unravel why anyone who tries to help her ends up dead. It’s a lot, even for a woman who’s used to making something out of nothing. But with the help of her Golden Retriever, an ex-con who loves cats, and a community of first, second, and third cousins, she just might pull it off.

 

Buy Links

paperback 

ebook 

Friday, February 10, 2023

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--A VISIT WITH LILY DREYFUS FROM AUTHOR DARLENE DZIOMBA'S LILY DREYFUS MYSTERIES

Mystery author Darlene Dziomba volunteers at the Animal Welfare Association, a New Jersey animal shelter, where she chats with the dogs while completing her assignments. She combines her passion for the written word and animals into her Lily Dreyfus Mysteries. Along with a 30-year career in Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, she’s also an avid reader, gardener, and traveler. Learn more about Darlene and her books at her website where you can also find links to her social media. Today her sleuth is taking over the blog to talk about her. 

Thank you for hosting me today, Anastasia. Let me introduce myself to your readers. I’m Lily Dreyfus, and I am the Adoption Coordinator at the Forever Friends Animal Shelter in Bassettville, NJ. Since we’re close to Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d talk about love and relationships.

 

Last year Darlene put me out in public when Clues From The Canines was launched. The book was a great experience for Darlene but not so much for me. As a woman slightly north of forty, I often get referred to in non-polite terms. Words like spinster and loner are whispered behind palms. I would choose words like selective and self-assured. 

 

As it happened, I met another person who was also selective, Pete Russo. Pete adopted a German shepherd named Burrow from our shelter. One day I ran into Pete while he was walking Burrow on the Cooper River trails, and I joined them. That led to other outings, dinners, hikes, and picnics. We bonded over the power dogs have to make our lives better. 

 

We had different backgrounds and upbringings, but Pete and I were great for each other. We could walk for hours without saying a word, just absorbing the brilliance nature brought to the trails we hiked. Each time we saw each other, we were drawn closer.

 

And then Darlene killed him. I met this sweet, thoughtful guy, and she killed him. It was terrible. I was a wreck inside and couldn’t show it. My coworkers didn’t know I’d been dating Pete. Ugh, my supervisor, Martin, is such a gossip. I would’ve endured endless questions. I had my pups Boone and Crockett to help console me. Crockett is a face licker, especially when he knows I’m sad.

 

To add insult to injury, Darlene had Pete murdered. I knew something was off about his sudden death, and I was right. My band of canine companions helped lead me to clues, then I, in turn, led the police to the perpetrator. It was quite the emotional roller coaster.

 

Could Darlene just leave me to grieve and regroup? No, she colluded with my friend Mickey Sterling on a fix-up with, of all people, one of Pete’s friends. Up Close And Pawsonal, which releases March 4, 2023, opens with Jim and me on a date. We go to an outdoor concert at Haddon Glen in Haddon Heights, NJ. There’s a cover band playing, and my coworker Ingrid’s nephew, who is typically the back-up guitarist, gets to play lead guitar.

 

It’s a beautiful night. The temperatures are moderate, and the trees provide shade from the setting sun. Jim holds my hand. I’m tapping my toe along to the music. Then BAM! Someone drives past the park shooting from the back of a black SUV. Jim pulls me from the bench and covers me with his body. Darlene and Mickey’s choice to fix me up with a former Marine pays off that night. Jim’s reflexes are impressive. Then again, a lot of things about Jim are really impressive.

 

Readers will see our relationship evolve in Up Close And Pawsonal. We go on several dates. I struggle with PTSD after the shooting, and he helps me cope. I even meet one of his friends who adopts two dogs from the shelter. 

 

Darlene writes cozies, so thankfully, some parts of my life are private. Off blog maybe you and I can chat over a glass of wine.

 

It was downright mean of Darlene to take Pete from me. However, Pete may have been a conduit to an even better pairing. For now, I’m enjoying Jim’s presence in my life. I feel my toes tingle whenever we’re together.

 

Of course, my dog Boone is not a fan of Jim, but that’s a story for another visit.

 

Up Close and Pawsonal

A Lily Dreyfus Mystery, Book 

 

A casual evening of listening to music by a local cover band turns into a murder investigation when a drive-by shooting destroys the tranquility of the night and critically injures two of the band members. Lily Dreyfus stressed and unsettled from having been at the concert, is informed that one of the dead band members is the nephew of her coworker at the Forever Friends Animal Shelter. Lily will leash together a set of seemingly unrelated events to seek the perpetrator and make them heel.

 

Preorder (available March 3rd

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

AN INTERVIEW WITH HISTORICAL MYSTERY AUTHOR FRANCES McNAMARA

Frances Glessner Lee working on one of her nutshell studies
Today we sit down for a chat with historical mystery author Frances McNamara. Frances is the author of the new Nutshell Murders Series, featuring Frances Glessner Lee, known as the Mother of Forensic Science. Those of you who are longtime readers of this blog might remember a post about Frances Glessner Lee from 2018. Learn more about Frances McNamara and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?  

I was always writing. I worked with an amateur theater group in Columbus Ohio when I lived there, providing scripts for mystery nights to raise money for the local library. Later I wrote some technology-based contemporary mysteries, but boy did that information go out of date quickly. Finally, while working at the University of Chicago Library, I was inspired by the place and the city of Chicago to write an historical mystery set in 1890’s with a girl who was excited to be a graduate student when UofC opened. 

 

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

I had a writing group and went to SleuthFest, NE Crime Bake and a similar Chicago conference. I was active in my local Sisters in Crime Chicagoland. I had an agent from SleuthFest for a contemporary novel that never got published. We agreed to part. I entered the St. Martin’s first novel competition at Malice Domestic. Did not win but got a great email from Ruth Cavin saying I was a finalist, but it wasn’t a mystery. I made more edits and eventually self-published Death at the Fair, but when a friend started Allium Press, a small publishing company, I published 8 books in that series.

 

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

I’m hybrid. I published with Allium until the editor retired. The rights reverted to me so I self-published, reissuing the 8 books and adding a ninth as Rudiyat Press. Then I got a three-book contract from Level Best Books to start the Nutshell Murder Mystery series starring Frances Glessner Lee. 

 

Where do you write?  

In the apartment I share with my sister in Boston, or at our house in Sandwich on Cape Cod or at the Boston Athenaeum, a private library on Beacon Hill where I am very productive. They also provide interlibrary loan and e-resource access for my research for the books.

 

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

Silence.

 

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

I love finding out about people and events in the past that are hugely interesting but often forgotten. Especially women who bucked the system and actually made my life better because of what they did. I loved writing about places in Chicago that I visited when there, like Hull House or the town of Pullman. You get a real flavor for a place and want to imagine what it was like to be there at another time. I grew up in Boston and live there now. In the Molasses Murder, the Florence Hotel where the Italian anarchists meet, is a building where my nephew owns a condo with a roof deck. The Nichols House is on Beacon Hill, and I volunteer as a guide there. The Charles Street Jail is now the Liberty Hotel, near us, where we go for drinks or brunch. I always look for crimes in newspapers of the time.

 

Describe your process for naming your character?  

I’m terrible at this. I rename characters when my writing group or an editor points out that there are too many names that start with “M” or something. For the book I’m working on, the second Nutshell Murder my writing group was so critical that I made a list of names and got their input before renaming them all.

 

Real settings or fictional towns? 

I use real settings for the most part as that is part of the interest in my stories. I occasionally create a street or building. I always try to address what is real and what is fictional in my afterword. In Molasses Murder there really was a tenement swept away in the flood, but there was NOT a dead body in a bathtub in the real building.

 

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

In Molasses Murder, Frances Glessner Lee works with Dr. George Magrath, a real historical character who was a classmate of her brother. Magrath drove a specially modified Model T tricked out with lights, bells and sirens that was called “Suffolk Sue.” It was well known in town as the medical examiner would race to death scenes in it.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?  

Do we know our own quirks? My sister who rooms with me keeps giving me tee shirts and sweatshirts with coffee cups and books on them. Probably being unreachable before coffee, like many people.

 

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

Maybe The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King because I like the voice of the main character. I also love the Steven Saylor mysteries set in Rome because I like the voice of Gordianus.

 

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

Probably book 1 of the Emily Cabot series, Death at the Fair. Everyone wants to start with the first book, and I always feel the books get better as I go along. But I still love the book anyhow!

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?  

Uncivil political discourse

 

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?  Beethoven string quartets, Jane Austen, coffee

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?  

A government library that shall remain unnamed. No air conditioning, not much cleaning by janitorial staff, political interference, unhappy staff. I left. All my other jobs in libraries were lots of fun.

 

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

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. She’s spunky.

 

Ocean or mountains?  

Ocean

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?  

City. I’ve loved living in downtown Chicago and now downtown Boston. Cities are constantly changing but they are alive. Love walking in a great city.

 

What’s on the horizon for you?  

Book 2 of the Nutshell Murder Mystery series will be out in about a year. It is set in East Boston, and since my grandparents on both sides lived there, without knowing each other, I’m using some details from them. It will be based on the Two-Story Porch Nutshell study. There will be a third Nutshell mystery the next year. I also plan two more Emily Cabot mysteries, one set during the Wall Street crash and the last set during the Chicago World’s fair in 1934.

 

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

I used to sail a lot in small one design boats but I’m getting a bit too old for it, so I’ve signed up a nephew at Courageous Sailing in Boston and plan to crew for him.

 

Molasses Murder in a Nutshell 

A Nutshell Murder Mystery, Book 1

 

The purpose of a forensic investigation is said to be "convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.”

 

In January 1919 a tank bursts in Boston’s North End, flooding the neighborhood with molasses. When a woman is found murdered in the wreckage, Frances Glessner Lee asks her old friend, medical examiner Dr. George Magrath to help exonerate a young serviceman. Frustrated by her lack of education and skills, she wants the clear the young man’s name and find the killer. Will creation of a miniature crime scene lead to the truth? It’s the best she can do.

 

This is the first in a series of fictional stories roughly based on the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Over twenty miniature crime scenes were used from the 1940’s to the present to train police detectives. Set in the 1920’s these stories imagine Frances Glessner Lee working with Dr. George Magrath to learn about “legal medicine” as forensic science was known at the time. Working with Magrath provided the foundation for the miniatures for which Frances Glessner Lee has become known as the Mother of Forensic Science.


Buy Links

paperback 

ebook