featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

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Monday, July 31, 2023


My Genetically Predisposed to Murder (Mysteries) Author

My author, Lois Winston, was recently asked why she loves to write murder mysteries. It’s a question I’ve often asked her, given that I bear the brunt of all the mayhem involved in sleuthing around dead bodies.


Unlike many mystery authors, Lois didn’t grow up devouring Nancy Drew books. I have it under good authority that she never read a single one. She was a Cherry Ames girl, mostly because an older neighbor gave her a vast collection she’d outgrown. Because of Cherry Ames, Lois once dreamed of becoming a nurse—until her grandmother stated that no granddaughter of hers was ever going to empty bedpans. However, Lois was young enough that other career pursuits eventually took hold of her imagination. For a time, she even wanted to be an astronaut. Then she learned NASA wasn’t interested in vertically challenged candidates prone to motion sickness.


Eventually, Lois aged out of Cherry Ames and discovered Leon Uris. (Yes, she was an extremely precocious reader.) However, none of those novels sparked career interests in her, even though she did learn far more history than any of her teachers ever imparted.


Lois was also not one of those writers who grew up dreaming about becoming a novelist. She came to writing much later in life, but not by writing mysteries. Her first novels were romances and romantic suspense. She segued into writing mysteries years later. Her agent knew an editor looking for a crafting-themed mystery series and suggested Lois try writing one.


The rest, as they say, is history. It was the proverbial match made in heaven, at least for her. I’m still upset she didn’t write me into one of those earlier romances. My life would have been far less stressful. But why did the mystery genre turn out to be such a perfect fit for her?


Lois tells me she’s always had a knack for figuring out whodunit early into most movies and TV shows. But where did that talent come from? She was trained as a graphic designer and illustrator, not as a forensics investigator.


The only explanation she’s ever been able to come up with is that she was genetically predisposed to solving crimes, thanks to her maternal grandfather. His career in law enforcement spanned nearly forty-plus years and culminated as the captain of a major metropolitan-area New York police force. During his long career, he was instrumental in bringing many mobsters to justice, including some famous ones.


Fate didn’t see fit for Lois to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. It never crossed her mind that she could. But that crime-solving gene sat dormant inside her. Would she have started writing mysteries if her agent hadn’t suggested she try writing one? I suppose it would’ve depended on whether something else triggered that gene to wake up and take over her imagination.


Meanwhile, I’m still forced to deal with all those dead bodies. In A Crafty Collage of Crime, the twelfth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries Series, Lois tempts me with a trip to Tennessee wine country. You probably don’t have to strain your brain cells to figure out what I discover within minutes of arriving at the winery.

Friday, July 28, 2023


Cathy Tully is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Chiro Cozy Mystery Series. She studied foreign languages and linguistics before changing gears and graduating from Chiropractic School. Her award nominated novels feature a chiropractor practicing in small town Georgia. Learn more about Cathy and her books at her website.  

From the Big Apple to the Peach State: My Journey to a Cozy State of Mind

At the age of twenty-eight, I began the transition from working in New York City, commuting via train with thousands of others, — all in a hurry to get somewhere — to running a chiropractic practice in a sleepy Georgia town of three thousand souls. 


As an active and athletic woman, I made the decision to become a chiropractor because I had found the need to use one myself. Choosing one of my best friends from high school as my chiropractor seemed like an easy decision. Little did I know that choice, and her encouragement, would send me on my way out of the Big Apple into the land of Georgia peaches. 


It should come as no surprise to anyone, that one of the most glaring differences between New York and Georgia, is language. Gone were the raucous calls of the subway commuter: “Move it. I’m in a rush!” “We’re all in a rush, lady.” In its place, the soft Georgia drawl that I soon fell in love with. 


As a chiropractic student, I was ill at ease any time I had to speak, recognizing the roughness of my Yankee accent. Once I was a practicing chiropractor, I had occasion to listen to people from different backgrounds with varying accents. As someone who had previously studied foreign languages and linguistics, I was delighted! As a budding writer, I was soaking it all in.


My desire to write and love of words had always been with me. For many years, I wrote our office newsletter and the copy for any ads. As the digital age approached, our newsletter became an automated part of our website, and we didn’t need the ads anymore. Suddenly, my creative side wasn’t being fulfilled and oddly enough, my dreams became more vivid and filled with lingering images. One day, as I was sharing one such dream with my husband, he replied, “Why don’t you write a book?” He had made this comment before, but this time I took it to heart.


My love of mysteries drew me to the cozy. My life in a small town made it natural that I should write about the world seen through the eyes of a chiropractor in a small town. Thus, my alter ego, Dr. Susannah Shine, was born. Of course, she, like me, is a bit of a fish out of water. 


My first book in the series, Dr. Shine Cracks the Case, reflects Dr. Susannah’s reliance on her staff and their deep roots in the community to help her navigate small town relationships and dig up clues. She depends on them so much that I dubbed them the Ladies Crime Solving Club, and they appear in most of the books.


The Ladies Crime Solving Club get busy digging up dirt and then get together to discuss clues, which pile up along with helpings of gluten-free peach cobbler. Gluten-free, because Dr. Susannah, like me, has some food sensitivities. My books come with gluten-free recipes, which can be easily converted to gluten-full (as the Ladies call it) by substituting regular flour for gluten-free flour or baking mix.


A few of the things in my fictitious town of Peach Grove, Georgia,reflect things I saw in my actual town. All things that fit nicely into a small town culinary-cozy blueprint. From the town fair where we had a booth representing my chiropractic practice, to the patients I treated who worked with horses, to the orchard where I picked peaches for cobbler — they all contribute to my cozy state of mind. A state that I love to share. 


So take a bite of Dr. Susannah’s favorite Gluten-Free Peach Cobbler and meet me in Peach Grove. 


Gluten-Free Peach Cobbler

Batter Ingredients:

4 tablespoons butter, cold

1 cup gluten-free baking flour mix

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup milk, at room temperature

1 large egg, at room temperature


Fruit Ingredients:

4 cups fresh Georgia peaches (about 6-8 medium peaches) or 40 ounces frozen peaches

1/2 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 


Preheat the oven to 375°F.


To prepare the pan, melt 4 tablespoons butter in the bottom of an 8" square or 9" round pan; set the pan aside while you make the batter.


Mix the baking mix and sugar. Blend in the milk and egg; pour the batter over the melted butter in the pan.


Peel, pit and slice fresh peaches. If using frozen, thaw them. Mix the sugar, salt, and cinnamon into the peaches.


Spoon the peach mixture over the top of the batter. Bake until the top is lightly browned, and the fruit is bubbling, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the cobbler from the oven and allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Dr. Shine Cracks the Case

A Chiro Cozy Mystery, Book 1


When Susannah Shine quits her job with the NYPD and follows her dream to become a Chiropractor, she moves to the quaint small town of Peach Grove, Georgia.

After Dr. Shine discovers the body of a local restaurateur on her doorstep, she must deal with the unjust accusations leveled by the new detective in town. Muddling through memories of the emotional trauma of her former life on the police force, she follows the clues, unravels motives, and unearths secrets.


Forming the Ladies’ Crime Solving Club with her BFF, her office manager and her chiropractic assistant, the Ladies use their contacts to delve deep into the community for clues. But when pregnant chiropractic assistant, Tina, is found unconscious in the parking lot, Dr. Shine must put aside long-held fears and revisit her investigating skills to help her injured friend.

At the Peach Grove Independence Day Festival, Dr. Susannah discovers a long-hidden secret, which lures her into danger. Caught in an unexpected trap, can this chiropractic sleuth escape the killer's deadly twist?

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Wednesday, July 26, 2023


Award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen writes the long-running Bad Hair Day Mysteries, featuring South Florida hairstylist and sleuth Marla Vail. However, when Nancy drops by for a visit to Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, she often shares a recipe rather than tips from Marla’s salon. And those recipes are often the best kind—desserts! Such is the case today with her recipe for strawberry cobbler.

Learn more about Nancy and her books, including her paranormal/fantasy and sci-fi romances, a nonfiction book on writing cozy mysteries, and a recipe book, at her website and blog


Strawberry Cobbler

(serves 8)


Strawberries are popular any time of year, but in summer, fruity desserts are especially welcome. This dish makes a festive and appetizing presentation for a party or family dinner. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream for a special treat.


Filling Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup water

32 oz. strawberries

2 Tbsp. unsweetened butter


Topping Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. sugar

1-1/2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. unsweetened butter

¾ cup heavy whipping cream


Hull, clean, and quarter the strawberries and set aside. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, and water in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in strawberries and remove from heat. Pour mixture into greased 2-quart baking dish. 


Cut 2 Tbsp. butter into small pieces and dot butter on top of fruit.


For the topping, sift together the flour, 1 Tbsp. sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in 3 Tbsp. butter. Stir in whipping cream. Mixture will be lumpy. Drop by the teaspoonful onto top of berries. 


Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. 


Star Tangled Murder

A Bad Hair Day Mystery, Book 18 

Hairstylist Marla Vail is having a blast visiting a Florida living history village over Fourth of July weekend. But when a battle reenactment turns up a real dead body, it sets off fireworks among the villagers. One of the cast members has gone off script to murder the town marshal. Instead of spending the holiday chilling and grilling, somebody’s mind is on killing. Marla determines to find the culprit before she becomes the next victim. 


Recipes Included!


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Monday, July 24, 2023


Image by Luisella Planeta from Pixabay

Do you enjoy listening to audiobooks? They’re great for long car trips, commuting to work on the train or bus, getting your steps in while out walking or on the treadmill, doing housework, preparing meals, or even relaxing with a good book when you want to read with your eyes closed.  

A year ago, my author Lois Winston entered into a partnership with narrator/producer Alex Bitton-Bailey to put the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries (those books Lois writes about me) out as audiobooks. Ever since, they’ve been making steady progress. A Stitch to Die For, the fifth book in the series, is the latest audiobook available through Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. Scrapbook of Murder, the sixth book in the series, is currently in production.

When Lois was searching for a narrator, she wanted to find someone with the voice she heard in her head—my voice. We both wanted Tina Fey because…well, she’s Tina Fey, and if Lois ever options the TV or movie rights to the series, we both think Tina Fey should play me. (It’s one of the few things Lois and I agree on.)


However, since Tina Fey wasn’t an option, Alex came the closest to the voice in Lois’s head, and as it turns out, Alex loves me and agreed to voice the entire series. Lois and I were both thrilled. Alex is a great narrator and wonderful to work with.


And if your answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this piece was yes, you’re in luck. Lois has a limited number of US and UK promo codes for free downloads of the audiobook of A Stitch to Die For. Post a comment to the blog for a chance to receive one.


A Stitch to Die For

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 5


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


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Friday, July 21, 2023


An adventuress at heart, Nannette Potter lives vicariously through her fearless and impetuous characters, inventing lives balanced on a knife’s edge. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

I've often wondered what sparks the imagination. Inspiration is all around us through life experiences, nature, and the arts, to name a few. During my research on the historical backdrop of San Francisco for a short story I was writing, I stumbled upon a striking poster featuring The Gibsons, renowned for their awe-inspiring knife-throwing act. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. As I laid my eyes upon the mesmerizing Veiled Wheel of Death, I instantly recognized its potential to shape the identity of my protagonist, Genevieve "Blade" Broussard.


Possibly more fortuitous, throughout my life, I've been captivated by the allure of knives. I vividly recall a childhood memory when a neighborhood friend dared me to engage in a risky game of skill, throwing knives at the ground with the goal of avoiding injury. Needless to say, my nerve failed me, and I withdrew from the challenge. Reflecting on that experience, I believe it became a driving force behind the creation of Blade, a woman characterized by fearlessness, audacity, and a love for throwing knives.


Like Alice venturing into Wonderland, I willingly plunged into the depths of exploration, delving into the world of impalement arts. Through platforms like YouTube, I discovered The Great Throwdini, observing how he skillfully secured an assistant to a circular target board, which freely rotated around its center point. My mind exploded with endless possibilities. Where could she perform? What would the stage look like? Would she use special effects? What would Blade wear? Blade sprang to life within my mind's eye. I envisioned her commanding the stage, striding confidently in a leather jumpsuit equipped with a holster of knives instead of guns.


As I began the intricate process of developing Blade's backstory, a compelling plot began to gradually unfold. With every stroke of creativity, the narrative took shape, weaving a tapestry of an unsolved murder, concealed family secrets, and the enigmatic presence of an ancient Christian brotherhood.


I fell in love with Blade and the cast of characters I created. If you feel comfortable sharing, please comment on what has sparked your imagination lately.


Pierce the Darkness

A Blade Broussard Novel, Book 1


Impalement artist Genevieve “Blade” Broussard’s past and present collide when she accepts a lucrative job offer from Spanish billionaire René Martel. This gig could lead to her big break. Yet the moment Blade arrives on the island, she is greeted by a kidnapper warning of impending danger. Anticipation quickly turns deadly after she overhears Martel’s scheme to assassinate world leaders at the United Nations in Geneva.


Soon an attempt is made on her life, and she is on the run. Blade discovers an unsolved murder, family secrets, and an ancient Christian brotherhood are intricately woven together—and she is at the epicenter of this complex labyrinth. Determined to survive and to stop the attack, Blade turns to Chase Maserati, a soldier of the Soldati di Cristo, with a traumatic past and his own code of honor. Racing from Mallorca to Florence to Geneva, Blade and Chase must use all their wits and skills to stop the attack while there is still time.


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Wednesday, July 19, 2023


Our guest today is cozy mystery author Cheryl Hollon, retired from a career designing and installing military flight simulators around the world, she's now living the dream of combining a love of writing with a passion for creating art in St. Petersburg, Florida. Learn more about Cheryl and her books at her website.

Summertime, and the reading is easy!


I always read more in the summer than in the winter down here in Florida. This is because I’m spending more time indoors in lovely, air-conditioned comfort. The reason? It’s HOT here. It’s too hot to walk downtown in the noon-day sun. In fact, we call it the 90/90 season. That’s a temperature above 90 degrees and more than 90 percent humidity. I do spend a bit of time around the pool – after all my writing is done, of course.


Some of that is habit. As a schoolgirl I always enrolled in the library’s summer reading program. My dad encouraged each of us four siblings to read widely. Not just adventure tales, but also nonfiction books in astronomy, wood-working, photography, gardening, and anything else that caught our fancy.


Summer is also my chance to tackle that TBR (To Be Read) pile of books that threatens to topple over and send me or my husband scrambling to gather up his, mine, and our next-to-read books. Summer is my chance to catch up.


On vacation, I only take about two paperbacks, but I load my Kindle up with more than 50 books. I’m getting fussier about the type of books I’m willing to spend time with. These days. I’ve been known to read the first few pages and abandon the book before the next in line. I know I’m not the only one.


I’ve also started reading series books out of sequence. Right! OUT OF SEQUENCE! I’ve discovered that if I like the current one, I’m happy to get the rest of the series. If it’s well-written, then I’m in good hands.


How many books do you plan to read this summer?

The Paint & Shine Mysteries

The Paint & Shine Mysteries (Still Knife Painting, Draw and Order, and Death a Sketch) are set in the Daniel Boone National Forest. My parents were born and raised in the area, and now they rest in peace in the JJ Adams Family Cemetery in Wolfe County, Kentucky. The characters spend considerable time preparing traditional southern meals and creating moonshine cocktails. Please consider buying locally. Independent bookstores need your help. 

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Monday, July 17, 2023



Image used under license from Shutterstock.com

Debra Borchert is the author of the Château de Verzat series that follows headstrong and independent women and the four-hundred loyal families who protect a Loire Valley château and vineyard and its legacy of producing the finest wines in France during the French Revolution. Learn more about Debra and her books at her website


A Soup-aholic Confesses

I am a soup-aholic. If it grows, oinks, pecks or swims, I find a way to incorporate it in a soup. I also own eight slow cookers, which I use not to make soups but to serve them. My holiday traditions center around an annual Soup Party where I serve eight soups and ask guests to bring bread or a dessert. So popular is this event, requests for the date of the next party roll in around Labor Day. 


While researching the French Revolution, I discovered that many families living in Paris could afford only single-room lodgings. Because those homes often lacked a fireplace, people had no heat or cooking facilities.


Enterprising cooks who had fireplaces and a cauldron, often simmered a batch of soup and brought the steaming pot out onto the street where they sold hot servings in wooden bowls with wooden spoons, recycling those bowls and spoons for the next customers. Soup might be the first form of fast food.


During the 18th century, the French believed broths and bouillons were restoratifs, restoratives. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word restaurant was initially used to describe a variety of rich, meat-based bouillons. Since soups were a main culinary staple, I developed recipes for my characters. 


The soups I created gave me an opportunity to reveal characters’ personalities.


In my historical romance, Her Own Revolution, Geneviève, the daughter of the public prosecutor, rescues a fallen noble, Louis LaGarde, a man she thought she hated, from the guillotine. Prison has changed the once arrogant bully into a caring man who transforms his château into an orphanage. The orphans claim the soup tastes like chamber-pot slops, so Louis creates a new soup, including all the things he enjoyed eating as a child. And, when the cook is not looking, he adds a few splashes of wine. To encourage the children to eat it, he claims he used magic. Although skeptical, the children devour the soup. 


As Geneviève witnesses the children’s love and adoration for Louis, she sees him in a new light and is disturbed by the fondness she feels for him—a key ingredient in a recipe for romance.


I include my recipes in my books and newsletters. I also print them on postcards, featuring my book covers, and distribute them as I would business cards and bookmarks. I am currently working on a cookbook I’ll use as a promotion. Not only am I sharing my stories, but also my love for soups.


Bon Appetit! 


Uncle Louis’s Lentil Soup featured in Her Own Revolution



1/2 cup diced parsnips

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced red pepper

1/2 cup diced yellow pepper

2 sliced leeks, white part only

1 small onion, chopped

A few splashes of extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. turkey or chicken sausage, sliced into bite-size pieces (optional)

1-1/2-2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups lentils, rinsed and picked over 

1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)

4 cups chopped fresh kale or baby spinach

Sea salt & pepper

Dash cayenne pepper 


Wash, peel, and dice the first 6 vegetables. Allow them to dry on a towel.


In a large stock pot and over low to medium heat, sauté batches of first 5 vegetables in olive oil for about 5 minutes, do not brown. As they begin to soften, remove from pot, and add more vegetables. Add leeks and chopped onion, do not brown. Cook all vegetables until they are soft.


If you are using sausage, remove vegetables from pot, add a bit more olive oil and sauté sausage slices until lightly browned. 


Return all cooked vegetables to pot. Add the stock and cook on low for about 10-15 minutes.


Add lentils and cook for 15 minutes, until lentils are soft but not mushy. 

Add wine. Simmer for 5 minutes.


Add kale or spinach and more stock if needed. Cook on low until greens wilt.


Add cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper to taste. 


Her Own Revolution

The Château de Verzat Series, Book 2


A Woman Forges a Treacherous Path to Save Hundreds from the Guillotine


If Geneviève Fouquier-Tinville had the same rights as a man, she wouldn’t have to dress like one. She risks facing the guillotine herself when she replaces names of those she believes innocent on the list scheduled for the guillotine with names of those already dead. Her compassion for innocent people leads to both loss and love. 


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Friday, July 14, 2023


Today we welcome mystery author Linda Rawlins who began writing her first mystery novel in fifth grade. She then went on to study science, medicine, and literature, eventually graduating from medical school and establishing her career in medicine. She’s now the author of several different mystery series, including the Misty Point Mysteries, The Rocky Meadow Mysteries, the Doctor Elizabeth Brooks Mysteries, and now, the Cassie Ashcroft Mysteries. Learn more about Linda and her books at her website, where you’ll also find links to her other social media. 

My name is Linda Rawlins, and I was born and raised in New Jersey. I love the real New Jersey. Despite its reputation, NJ boasts beautiful beaches, mountains, equestrian centers, state parks, and farms. I love visiting the NJ Shore as it is a great way to escape for vacation whether for a week or a day. The vastness of the ocean minimizes our concerns and resets our priorities. I also love mountains, trees, and hiking! In addition to trails in NJ, Vermont is one of my favorite states to visit. Over the last several years and due to many changes in the world, my family started watching British mysteries. 


During this time, I was struck by the similarities between parts of England and America, specifically beautiful rural areas. I normally write mysteries set at the Jersey Shore – the Misty Point Mystery Series. However, I recently started to think about writing a mystery located in England. 


Wexley, England is a fictitious village located in Devon County, UK. To the south is the English Channel, leading to the Atlantic Ocean and to the North is the Bristol Channel, leading to the Irish Sea. What a beautiful, rural place to write, find bodies, peace and quiet, and fall in love. 


Mystery at Heather House is my first British, romantic cozy mystery novel about a bestselling American writer, Cassie Ashcroft, who is sent to England to collect research for a publishing company while completing her own bestseller. Never having been to England, she set out to learn about the culture, customs, location, foods, and specific local flavors. 


I had so much fun and passion writing Mystery at Heather House as I learned so many things are very different yet very similar in other countries. By writing this book, I fell in love with village life and all the different personalities that live there. They exhibit the typical love/hate relationship of all close families and friends. I fell in love with the rural countryside of England, the cottages, open spaces, clean air, and simplicity. And I wrote about a very handsome, broad shouldered, single DCI living near the village who happens to be excellent at investigating murders and dead bodies. Sounds like a fantastic combination to me! 


I hope you’ll fall in love with my little village of Wexley and visit Cassie and Heather House often.  

Mystery at Heather House

A Cassie Ashcroft Mystery, Book 1


Best-selling author, Cassie Ashcroft, travels to England to work on her latest novel. While there, she must also collect research on a nonfiction book about the Wexley Police Department. Her assignment introduces her to brilliant, handsome, but distant, Detective Chief Inspector, Alexander Knight, who will be featured in the book due to his impressive solve rate. 

One of the DCI’s most frustrating unsolved cases is a murder that was discovered at Heather House, the remote, charming English cottage where Cassie is staying while in England. 

Forced to work together, Cassie and Alex collaborate to complete her research while investigating further incidents at the cottage. 

As they trace a path to the killer, they find themselves navigating mystery, romance, and mortal danger. After all, at the end of the day, all’s fair in love and murder. 


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Wednesday, July 12, 2023


Today we welcome back Debra H. Goldstein, author of the Sarah Blair Mystery Series as well as several other award-winning mysteries and short stories. A retired judge, Debra has also served on the boards of several writing organizations. Learn more about Debra and her books at her website where can also download a free copy of the cookbook she cowrote with her sleuth.

The Culinary Evolution of a Character and an Author

When my first two books were orphaned by their respective publishers, I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery series. As I analyzed the genre, I realized there was no problem writing a small town, amateur sleuth, or even adding a cat to the story, but I had a dilemma. Most cozies highlight cooking or crafts – two things I hate. I thought my cozy career was over before it began until I realized there had to be readers who were like me. Consequently, Sarah Blair, a woman who finds being in the kitchen more frightening than murder, was born. 


Sarah, who was married at eighteen, divorced at twenty-eight, and only walked away from the marriage with her Siamese cat, was easy and fun to write. The problem came when I was told I needed to include recipes. As a non-cook, this again was almost a no-starter until I decided to only use recipes Sarah might actually make with simple or pre-made ingredients. Because I, in my real life, often bring Spinach Pie, made from Stouffers Spinach Souffle, when I’m asked to bring a vegetable to a potluck, that dish found its way into One Taste Too Many as Sarah’s Spinach Pie. Looking for something comical, I found the perfect recipe advertised in 1950s and 1960s magazines – Jell-O in a Can.


As I was under contract for more books in the series, I had to come up with more recipes that Sarah and I could both make. Not being particularly comfortable in the kitchen, I focused on drinks and hors d’oeuvres for Two Bites Too Many. The result of my efforts was inclusion of the Classic Wine Spritzer, the Howellian Catnip, and Sarah’s Sweet Potato Puffs the Convenient Way.


Until the pandemic closed the world, I envisioned being able to coast my way through the series by adapting recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks (Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cookbook, and its sequel, The Appendix to the I Hate to Cookbook, and Come for CocktailsStay for Supper) or that I found online. Not so. Since March 2020, I have cooked more, with the help a few days a week of Home Chef meals, than I cooked in the previous thirty-six years of my marriage. 


I’ve learned to make a meatloaf that sticks together, chicken that isn’t pink when you cut into it, and a steak that doesn’t taste like shoe leather. I’ve also learned that if the digital readout on the stove reads F3, it’s on fire, while F8 means the brain has blown.


My experimentation in the kitchen and begging from friends for recipes gave me a different perspective for the recipes included in Three Treats Too Many. This time, I included recipes Sarah would make, but also slightly more complex things her twin, Chef Emily, would prepare, as well as vegan recipes the book’s victim was a success with. 


In Four Cuts Too Many, I went with comfort food, something I enjoyed during Covid times – Emily’s Egg Salad, Sal and Laurie’s Tiramisu, and Stained-Glass Jell-O. Despite becoming more familiar with my kitchen during the past few years, I’ve concluded that neither Sarah nor I will ever think of it without an element of fear over what disaster might next befall us or possibly poison those we love. I regret this, but my publisher, doesn’t.


My publisher has decided Sarah and my forays into the kitchen are so funny that they’ve created a cookbook of the recipes from the first four books. It’s called Simple Recipes from the Sometimes Sleuth. You can download a copy of it for free from my website. Who would ever have thought Sarah and my culinary skills would evolve to the point of having our own cookbook?


Five Belles Too Many

A Sarah Blair Mystery, Book 5


When Sarah Blair’s mother is a finalist to win the perfect Southern Wedding in a reality TV show competition, Sarah is pressed into service as Mother Maybelle’s chaperone. After the show’s producer is found dead, with Sarah’s greatest nemesis kneeling by the body, Sarah must find the true killer before any other contestants or crew are permanently eliminated.


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Monday, July 10, 2023


I like to think readers learn something new from every post on Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. Most of us in the US have heard of the Bermuda Triangle. Today we have a visitor from across the pond who will explain the Rhubarb Triangle. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone!


Sue Cook lives in a damp and windy corner of northwest England with her husband and five ducks. She writes both short and long stories and novels which mostly include contemporary or historical romance sprinkled with crime, intrigue, or suspense. Learn more about her and her various publications at her website.


Hello from not so sunny northwest England. I hope the weather is kinder to you than it is to us Brits right now. Outside it’s dreich, as the Scots would say, i.e., dull and damp as you might expect in a cold, rainy island off the coast of Europe!


Which introduces what I’d like to talk about today – things typically British. My cozy mystery Murder at the Bakery started as a writing exercise to describe a workplace. The job that made the strongest impression was my first ever summer holiday post. I packed pies at a pie factory, with an enormous conveyor belt bringing the finished product down from what seemed like the sky. It was, of course, merely bringing them from the top of vast steel ovens.


Oh, those ovens. The gleaming steel walls went from one side of the factory to the other and literally right up to the towering roof. Pies entered at the bottom, cooked as they rotated up, then cooled in the upper part. Occasionally something would go wrong, the conveyor belt would speed up, and hot pies would rain down on us. Then there was panic, I can tell you. Even packing them away four to each hand had no impact on the deluge.


Then there were the mincing tanks, great steel vats bigger than a hot tub, with great steel blades that we tipped the meat into. They were definitely big enough to handle a dead body…


Ok, so now you’re confused. The thing is, these are British pies – savoury, main-course items – not sweet desserts like cherry or pumpkin pie. Short or puff (never sweet) pastry filled with meat and veg or something vegetarian, such as cheese and onion (my personal favourite).


That’s culture problem number one. Then there’s where I set my book. Hands up those who’ve heard of The Rhubarb Triangle? No, I’m not kidding. A small area of West Yorkshire is renowned for growing early season rhubarb that’s forced in darkened sheds. The Rhubarb Triangle once produced over 90% of all the world’s ‘winter’ rhubarb. The pie thefts and murders in Murder at the Bakery take place in a fictional town near there.


Although the pie factory I worked at was in South Wales, where I grew up, the book is set where I now live, on the fringes of West Yorkshire. It’s a place I know well, and frankly, it’s beautiful. 


If you’ve watched Richard Gere’s film Yanks, you’ll have seen our local pub and the village square, because the movie was filmed locally. All those terraced cottages with soot-blackened stone and long rows of windows? That’s typical West Yorkshire. Those rolling green hills and bleak moors? Yes, that’s from round ‘ere, too. Why would I set my book anywhere else?


So, with all that going on, and so much to explain, I decided to leave Murder at the Bakery exactly as it was – a thoroughly British murder mystery with English pies.


Murder at the Bakery

A Cozy Murder Mystery in Yorkshire

Someone is stealing pies from Wright Good Pies, and if the bakery fails, the town of Pickford, West Yorkshire, is in trouble. Georgia Griffiths, Pickford’s newest PI (well, part-time office assistant, actually) is on the case and soon finds herself embroiled in a series of murders, too. Mike, the world’s grumpiest boss, is disinterested. When the bad guys home in on Georgia and plan on making her the next victim, will he finally come good?


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