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

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Wednesday, August 30, 2023


Authors Alana White, Lois Winston, Gay Yellen, and CB Wilson
at the Killer Nashville Book Signing

My author Lois Winston recently spent a few days talking about her favorite topics, murder and me. I'll let her explain.


It takes a lot to drag me out of my writer's cave. Like many writers, I'm an introvert. I'm much more comfortable spending my days conversing with the voices in my head, AKA the imaginary characters who populate my books. When I do exit the cave, I feel most comfortable among my peeps--other authors whose brains work the same way mine does and don't think it's odd that I spend my days dreaming up ways to kill people and figuring out how my sleuth will solve the crime. I recently had the good fortune to spend a few days doing just that at the Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference. 

Authors Debra H. Goldstein, Maggie Toussaint
and Lois Winston at the Multi-Author Cross Promotion Panel 

I was on three panels: Writing Cozy Mysteries, where I was also the moderator; Writing Humor; and The Power of Multi-Author Cross Promotion, with Debra H. Goldstein and Maggie Toussaint, two of my fellow Booklover’s Bench blog mates. In addition, I’d agreed to take part in an Ask-the-Author speed dating session. Twenty attendees had the opportunity to spend five minutes with each of ten authors to ask us anything they wanted to know about writing, publishing, and marketing.  I also wound up filling in at the last minute on a panel about Using Emotion to Appeal to Your Readers. In addition, there were multiple book signings throughout the conference where I had the chance to chat with lovers of amateur sleuth mysteries.

And now I'm once again back in my writer's cave where I'm plotting Anastasia's next adventure.

Are you an introvert or an extravert? Post a comment for a chance to win a promo code for a free download of Scrapbook of Murder, the sixth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

Monday, August 28, 2023


Today we welcome back New York Times bestselling author Diane A.S. Stuckart (AKA Ali Brandon for the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries and AKA Anna Gerard for the Georgia B&B Mysteries.) Learn more about Diane/Ali/Anna at her website.

To Pee or Not to Pee

Every reader has their own pet peeves when it comes to books. You know what I mean -- those literary and stylistic conventions that make you grit your teeth when you read them. I’ve got a list that probably looks a lot like yours. In the top ten would be the obligatory “characters that are too stupid to live.” I also abhor the drop-dead gorgeous heroes and heroines who pretend not to know just how good-looking they are. Of course, I majorly roll my eyes at spunky female private-eye types who, ten or twelve books into a series, still haven’t figured out how to use a firearm.


However, most of these pet peeves pale before my very pettest of pet peeves…one that crosses all genres. Be it mystery or romance, thriller or horror, it seems you’ve always got folks wandering off to the bathroom to take steamy showers or perfumed bubble baths, with or without company. That, or they’re standing before the powder room mirror applying makeup to their cameo features or studying the manly bruises marring their rugged chin following a brawl. 


But why do we never seem to see a character slip off to the potty to, well, use the potty?


Okay, I’m sure I’m exaggerating…somewhat. Admittedly, my data is subjective, and based on my formative years as a fledgling historical romance writer. As I devoured historical romance after historical romance as fodder for my own first novel, I couldn’t help but notice this particular lack. Maybe it was an unspoken rule from the publishers that characters didn’t tinkle? 


And then I read a scene from one of Roberta Gellis’s novels which has stuck with me almost thirty years later. Not because it was exquisite prose (though I’m sure it was), but because her heroine casually used a chamber pot in front of her new lover! Ms. Gellis immediately became my writing idol, and I vowed right then that I’d put a potty scene in every one of my books. And so I have.


Peachy Scream, the second book in my Georgia B&B Mystery series (written as Anna Gerard), will be out in mass market paperback at the end of September. My innkeeper-turned-sleuth, Nina Fleet, plays host to a troupe of amateur actors in town for the annual Shakespeare festival. And, yep, I added my obligatory potty scene right there in the first chapter, with the troupe arriving from a road trip that did not include a bathroom break. Not only did this scene with everyone queuing up outside Nina’s downstairs washroom provide a bit of mild humor, it also gave me a chance to introduce new characters in an offbeat way. 


I hope Roberta would have been proud.


Peachy Scream

A Georgia B&B Mystery, Book 2


In Peachy Scream, innkeeper-turned-sleuth Nina Fleet plays host to a troupe of amateur actors in town for the annual Shakespeare festival. Unfortunately for Nina, their director is her occasional nemesis, the dashing if unemployed actor Harry Westcott. Grandnephew of the B&B’s former owner, Harry still accuses Nina of stealing the place out from under him. But the pair are forced to set aside their differences when murder ensues during rehearsals for one of the Bard’s best-known works of betrayal, Hamlet.


Pre-order (on sale 9/26)

Friday, August 25, 2023


Today we have a visit from award-winning Canadian mystery author Winona Kent, who has recently published her eleventh book. Ten Stories That Worried My Mother is an anthology of short stories spanning her four decades of creative writing. The Foreword is provided by well-known British Columbian author A.J. Devlin. Learn more about Winona and her books at her website.

Ten Stories That Worried My Mother begins with my first published short story, “Tower of Power—about one night in the life of a rock and roll radio newsman—which won first prize in Flare Magazine’s fiction competition in 1982. The journey finishes with two mysteries starring my professional musician/amateur sleuth, Jason Davey: “Salty Dog Blues” and “Blue Devil Blues,” the former being shortlisted for the Crime Writers of Canada's Awards of Excellence for Best Crime Novella in 2021.

Between these two milestones are seven more pieces of short fiction featuring an unhinged Saskatchewan farmer; a bored secretary in England taking on an opinionated tea lady named Mrs. Thatcher; a shy high school kid with a crush on his soon-to-be-married social studies teacher; a creative writing instructor whose main claim to fame is one episode of the 1960s tv spy series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; a subversive temp working at a Canadian government office responsible for administering grants for cows; and two adventures featuring my time-travelling romantic heroes Charlie Duran and Shaun Deeley.

The collection includes four prize-winners, three mysteries, two previously unpublished works and one where the hero manages to spare-change John Lennon at the premiere of A Hard Day's Night in 1964. 

And yes, these stories really did worry my mother…

Ten Stories That Worried My Mother

“Tower of Power” - One night in the life of a rock and roll radio newsman. The author’s first published story, winner of the Flare Fiction Competition, originally published in Flare magazine in September 1982.


“Dietrich's Ash” - Inspired by an unfortunate situation that arose from a disputed property line between the author’s house and her neighbour’s house when she was growing up in Saskatchewan. Okanagan Short Fiction Award winner. Originally published in Canadian Author & Bookman. Winter 1985 and anthologized in Pure Fiction: The Okanagan Short Story Award Winners. (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) 1986. Also broadcast on CBC Radio, Ambience. 1982


“True Confessions” - A temp with nothing much to do, a tea lady named Mrs. Thatcher, and a rooftop garden overlooking a builder's yard. Originally published in Green's Magazine, a small Canadian literary journal, Volume XII, Number 4, Summer 1984.


“Creatures from Greek Mythology” - A student with a crush on his Social Studies teacher. A high school dance. A fine arts student who paints rainbows around her eyes. (Second Prize Winner, WQ Editors Prize). Originally published in Cross-Canada Writers Quarterly. Vol 6, No. 1, 1984. 


“The Man in the Grey Eldorado” - The first draft of this was written roundabout 1977 or 1978, after the author had spent a glorious few weeks at the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts at Fort San (a former TB sanitorium). Inspired by The Man from UNCLE, this is one of only two previously unpublished stories in the collection.


“Herd Maintenance” - Written in 1981 while the author was working as a temp at a federal government office on the Canadian prairies. This is the second unpublished story in the collection, although it did enjoy a brief life as a short, unproduced film script while the author was at Vancouver Film School in 2003-4. The typewritten letters in the story are real. The names have been removed to protect the innocent.


“Perhaps an Angel” - An adventure involving the two main characters from the author’s time travel romances, Charlie Duran and Shaun Deeley. Originally published in Carnival, a collection of short stories by Fable Press authors, in 2013.


“Easy When You Know How” - Another Charlie Duran/Shaun Deeley short story, in which Mr. Deeley manages to spare change John Lennon at the premiere of A Hard Day’s Night, and snag one of his plectrums. The story is also included at the end of the athor’s time travel romance novel, In Loving Memory.


“Salty Dog Blues” - Jason Davey, the author’s professional musician / amateur sleuth, was originally featured in a standalone novel, Cold Play (2012), working as an entertainer on board an Alaska-bound cruise ship. In “Salty Dog Blues,” the author takes him back to that nautical setting and gives him a very tongue-in-cheek mystery to solve. “Salty Dog Blues” was specifically written for and originally appeared in the short story anthology Crime Wave, published by Sisters in Crime-Canada West in November 2020. The story was a finalist in the Crime Writers of Canada's 2021 Awards of Excellence for Best Crime Novella.


“Blue Devil Blues” - This is a short story that was originally written for the anthology Last Shot: Four Tales of Murder, Mystery and Suspense, published in June 2021 with stories by Alice Bienia, Dwayne Clayden, Peter Kingsmill and the author. It tells the tale of how Jason got his permanent gig at the Blue Devil jazz club in London's Soho, and also manages to include the author’s obsession with the London Underground.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2023


The author's daughters
Mary Karnes is a professional wedding planner who resides in New England with her husband, Ken, and her mini-dachshund, Lucky. Her door is a revolving one with her children and grandchildren visiting frequently. Wedding Bride and Doom is her first novel. Learn more about Mary and her books at her website. 

Hello! I’m Mary Karnes, the author of the Wedding Planner Mystery Series from Level Best Books. The first in the series, Wedding Bride and Doom, was published September 22, 2023. People ask me, ‘Why a cozy mystery about a wedding planner? Well, the answer is an easy one, I am a wedding planner.


The more interesting question might be, ‘Which came first, the career as a wedding planner, or that of a writer?’ Well… the  answer to that is a little murkier. I always wanted to be a writer. I was an English major in college and creative writing classes were my favorite. But I also loved to teach so I became a teacher. When my first child was born, I decided to start writing again (that was thirty-five years ago!).


I had three more children, and with four little ones my hands were full, and became fuller still when they became teens. But life moves on. The girls went off to school, got married, began careers. I had time so I decided to try writing again. I had a new love; I could escape the mundane and be creative. I chose as my main character’s profession that of a wedding planner. Everyone knows a little about weddings, right? I had just finished ‘planning’ the weddings of my two oldest girls, so I was an expert, ha ha, or so I thought. 


That book never really went anywhere, but I so enjoyed writing about weddings, I thought, why don’t I actually become a wedding planner? What a ride that has been. The people I meet, the situations I find myself in are truly stranger than fiction. But I love it, maybe as much as writing. I had a wealth of stories and scenarios, so I began a new book, and the rest, as they say, is history. Wedding Bride and Doom was born.


Book two in the series, Save the Fate, is due August 2024, and I can’t wait!


Wedding Bride and Doom

A Wedding Planner Mystery, Book 1


California wedding planner, Kate Ludlow, moves back home to New England after her marriage implodes. In tow is her teen daughter Ellis, unhappy and nervous about the move. Suddenly, Kate’s responsible for turning her part-time wedding planner gig into a full-time business. Kate’s off to a good start, too, when she books the society wedding of the year. The prosperity of her business is dependent on the success of Marcy Simpson’s wedding. The joy of an unlimited wedding budget is intoxicating. But when Kate’s best florist is murdered, her focus changes from pulling off the year’s most glamourous wedding, to saving her own skin – for Kate’s suspect number one for the murder. Further complicating her life, Kate’s old high school flame, Brian McAllister, is the police detective assigned to the murder case. The spark is definitely not gone from their connection, as they have unfinished feelings. Throw in a scavenger hunt for an antique missing family ring, the job transfer of Kate’s ex to New England, and quirky and endearing townsfolk, Kate has more than she can handle – almost. 

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Monday, August 21, 2023


Not Mitchaw, but a reasonable facsimile found on Pixaby

D.S. Lang is a former teacher, tutor, and mentor. She writes historical mysteries set in smalltown America during the Roaring Twenties. Her books feature amateur sleuths dedicated to cracking cases, along with a team of colorful characters—often including a local lawman. Find more about her books and her books on her website. 

The Catalogued Corpse, the first book in my Doro Banyon Historical Mystery series, is set in the semi-fictional town of Michaw, Ohio. I use the term semi-fictional, because the unincorporated village of Mitchaw existed until the mid-Twentieth Century. In fact, it was my dad’s birthplace! Often called Mitchaw Corners, it was set at the intersection of two main roads. The town was tiny and surrounded by farms. These days, the area is part of Sylvania Township, but many more people live there because subdivisions have replaced farms.

I have taken considerable literary license in creating a fictional place. My town is much larger than the “Corners” ever was and even has a college, where my amateur sleuth works as a librarian.

In doing research, I found information about ghost towns (not haunted, just not in existence any longer) and forgotten places (they exist but not as actual jurisdictions.) Almost 4000 of these entities are in the United States. Texas has the most. The majority disappeared in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, often due to inhabitants heading to bigger cities. My dad’s family moved off their farm to a home in Sylvania, not a major city, when he was in high school. Sylvania isn’t a major city, but it still exists as a sprawling suburb.

Around the world, towns and cities have disappeared due to wars, famines, diseases, and disasters—both natural and man-made. During the Battle of Verdun in World War I, nine French villages were decimated. Mitchaw suffered a major tornado in 1920, which may have started its decline. Many surrounding towns have also shrunk or disappeared. One named Ai (and it was named long before artificial intelligence came along) is tiny now, but once had its own high school. I wanted to use it as part of my story. Then, one of my beta readers said people will think you are referring to new technology, so I had to choose another place!

The Catalogued Corpse 

A Doro Banyon Historical Mystery, Book One


College librarian Doro Banyon discovers the body of her nemesis, Professor Hemet Corlon, near the card catalogues when she arrives for work. Evidence points to a terrible accident, but the new school security officer disagrees. Because Doro and Corlon have been at odds over the status of women at the formerly all-male school, she falls under suspicion—and she isn’t alone. Most professors and students supported women’s suffrage and welcomed coeducation, so they stand steadfast against the old-fashioned ideas of Corlon and his handful of powerful cronies. More than one person wanted to see an end to the professor and his ilk. But who made his departure permanent? In seeking answers, Doro joins forces with her best friend to solve the mystery of the catalogued corpse.


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Friday, August 18, 2023


When the cat’s away, the mice will play. And when my author Lois Winston is off at a writing conference, I, the eponymous reluctant amateur sleuth of her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, have decided I need a break. So instead of tracking down a guest author for today’s blog post, I’ve gone into Lois’s files and taken a guest post she wrote about a year and a half ago for author Kathleen Kaska. (After all, this is supposed to be my blog, not Lois’s, right?) In this post Lois was on a rant about grammar. I can’t say that I blame her. I feel the same way about the use of “I” and “me,” but I suppose that’s because everything about me springs from Lois’s mind. Anyway, without further ado, here it is:

I vs. Me

By Lois Winston


Peggy Riley Hughes, my seventh and eighth grade English teacher, was a grammar martinet. Her weapon of choice was a yardstick which she slammed against the blackboards that lined the front and one side of our classroom, metaphorically beating grammar rules into her students. As a result, those blackboards were pockmarked with tiny gouges. Rumor had it that she once shattered one of those blackboards. Occasionally, her yardstick would even come down on the desk of a clueless student. If you had Peggy Riley Hughes for English, you learned grammar—one way or another.


In My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins laments, “Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?” Not a day goes by that I don’t think of that song and Peggy Riley Hughes. I may no longer remember the names of all the parts of speech or parts of a sentence, but I remember the rules Mrs. Hughes drummed into us. And I cringe every time I see or hear certain ones being broken.


I’ll be the first to admit I lost my reverence for the OED when they declared it was acceptable to split infinitives. Do you have any idea the reaming out I would have gotten had I dared to split an infinitive on a writing assignment?


But the breaking of the grammar rule that bugs me the most is when I see or hear a nominative pronoun being used in the objective case. For those of you who didn’t have a Peggy Riley Hughes in your life, the nominative case is the subject of a sentence. It’s where you use I, he, she, and they. The objective case is when a noun or pronoun is used as the object of the sentence. For pronouns, that’s me, him, her, and them. It’s the direct or indirect object of the sentence or the object in a prepositional phrase.


Putting it simply, you wouldn’t say, “He’s going with I” or “Jack drove she to the store.” You’d say, “He’s going with me” or “Jack drove her to the store.” So why would you say, “He’s going with Anna and I” or “Jack drove she and I to the store”? When you think about it, it makes no sense.


Yet I see the nominative being used in place of the objective in just about every book I’ve read for years now. It doesn’t matter if it’s a first-time indie-published author or a multi-published New York Times bestselling author from a major publishing house. Maybe schools aren’t teaching grammar anymore, but wouldn’t you think editors would be schooled in proper grammar usage?


I admit, this is one of my major pet peeves. In the greater scheme of life, I suppose it’s a minor one, but it’s like fingernails on a blackboard when I read or hear an “I,” “she,” “he,” or “they” when it’s supposed to be a “me,” “her,” “him” or “them.” Maybe it’s a bit of PTSD from all those whacks of the yardstick from back in my junior high days.

What's your grammar pet peeve? Post a comment for a chance to win a promo code for a free audiobook of Scrapbook of Mystery, the sixth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023


Terry Ambrose is the author of more than twenty mysteries. His series include the Beachtown Detective Agency, the McKenna Trouble in Paradise Mysteries, the License to Lie thrillers, and the Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mysteries. Terry just released Dead Men Need No Reservations, the seventh Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery. Learn more about Terry and his books at his website

Planning Ahead for Fall

Yes, it’s the beginning of August, but fall isnt that far away. For those who like to keep ahead of the seasons, its a good time to plan those fall decorating projects. We created this pinecone decoration for Christmas, but it could also be modified to fit the entire fall season.


Until a knee injury sidelined me, I walked about three miles each morning. In. the fall, I always saw lots of pinecones that had fallen onto the sidewalks or into the street. At some point, I began to gather the better specimens. After all, I reasoned, if I didnt snatch them out of the streets, they were destined to be pulverized by passing cars and would eventually wind up in the storm drain in whole or in pieces.


By the time November rolled around, I had about two dozen gorgeous pinecones but didnt know what to do with them. Fortunately, when I showed the collection to my wife, she told me shed seen a project on Hallmark for a Christmas pinecone decoration. A week before she was scheduled for a total knee replacement, we tackled this easy DIY decorating project, so shed have something new to look at during December.


If youre inclined to gather your own pinecones, this is a great time to start planning your collection strategy. Where can you go to find pinecones? How many will you need? And, best of all, how much fun can you have while youre out collecting?


Equipment needed: 


Baking sheet and parchment paper

Hot glue gun and glue sticks


Mason jar


Supplies needed:

Pinecones (I suggest collecting extras just to be safe)

One jar of Mod Podge

Disposable gloves

Fake snow

Faux berries, pom poms, small jingle bells, or other seasonal attachments

Wooden round (or another type of base to mount the decorations)


Step 1: Any pinecones collected from outside will likely have pests and should be baked at 200 degrees for about an hour. Check them every 10-15 minutes to make sure they dont burn. Youll notice that, as they bake, the pinecones will bloom’ and open up. This will help make them easier to decorate.


Step 2: If using fake berries, snip the berries from their stems. Break or snip the stems into smaller pieces. Set both aside.


Step 3: Paint the tips of the pinecones with Mod Podge to give them a snowed on’ appearance.


Step 4: Using the hot glue gun, carefully attach the adornments to the pinecones.


Step 5: Hot glue the pinecones to the base.


Step 6: Apply fake snow to the base around the pinecones.


Step 7: While the snow is still wet, place the stems from the berries onto the fake snow.


Thats it! Youre done. Let your creation dry for a day, then move it to its decoration location. If youd rather create a generic fall decoration, replace the snow with fake leaves and scatter them over the base. There are plenty of possibilities for this type of decoration; all you need to do is visit a local craft store and let your imagination take flight!


Dead Men Need No Reservations

A Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery, Book 7


A party of six guests checks into the Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast, but one checks out early. Dead. 


The Chief of Police asks Seaside Cove B&B owner Rick Atwood to help solve the murder of Snappy Welles, a man Rick viewed as a born troublemaker. Rick quickly discovers that Snappys friends were far from friends. And all had a reason to kill him.


While Rick investigates with the police, his daughter Alex launches a shadow investigation. At thirteen going on thirty, Alex is gung ho to find the killer first. Rick wishes Alex would keep her nose out of police business, but her meddling is getting results. When everyones secrets and lies unravel, Rick must choose between bringing a killer to justice and saving his family.


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Monday, August 14, 2023


Today we sit down for a chat with cozy noir author M.L. Ortega. Learn more about M.L. and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

In the back of my mind, since I was a teenager. Once all my children were in school, I fiddled around with it and joined a critique group. I entered the St Martin’s Press First Novel Contest in 2008. One of the judges, Luci Zahray (the Poison Lady), wrote me such an encouraging email that I was determined to continue. I entered that manuscript, Donuts and Doorknobs, in Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest in 2013, and it made it into the quarterfinals. 


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

I self-published Donuts, now titled Turn Key Condition, in 2014.


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



Where do you write? 

My own little room. I’ve rearranged a spare bedroom into an office.


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

Silence – except for the occasional meowing of my co-author, Tiny the cat.


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

I worked in the office of a nearby high school, and some of that seeped into the setting of the series.


Describe your process for naming your character?

A version of my own name, a version of a friend of mine, and some were based on the physical descriptions so the character would become more memorable/visual for the reader. (Think of Professor Lupin, the werewolf in the Harry Potter series. Lupin being Latin for wolf. I think it resonates subconsciously with most people.)


Real settings or fictional towns?

Taking a cue from T. Jefferson Parker, I keep it real. The series is set in Orange County, California, and you can find some actual places mentioned in my books.


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

Fortunado Rocha (Tuna, the police officer and love interest of the main character) frequently drops Spanish proverbs into the conversations. (At least in the first book.)


What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I constantly keep changing my hair color and cut, making a decent profile picture for social media difficult since I keep waiting for one style to be the “right one.” Until then I use “placeholder” pictures for my social media accounts. I’ve gone through at least three.


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

The Last of the Mohicans. The movie was great. Before it was released, I decided to read the book. Holy Cow! I was worried for Daniel Day Lewis. The book was almost unreadable. Kudos to the script writer, though. That book needs a serious up-date. Although, truth to tell, I’m definitely not up to the challenge.


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

I wish I’d started writing sooner. 


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Drivers who leave too much space between their car and the one in front of them, making it impossible for others to enter a left turn lane.

Also, technology.


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

A cell phone, cell service, and someone to share internet jokes with (my hubby.)


What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

A cashier at Zody’s (a short-lived department store)


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

It’s a tie, for the same reason. Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) and Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird.) They both are plucky.


Ocean or mountains?



City girl/guy or country girl/guy?



What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m trying to figure out the title for my next book in the Conditions Series (Turn Key ConditionShampoo & Condition, and In Mint Condition. See a pattern?) Some phrase with the word "condition" in it. Any suggestions from your blog readers would be appreciated.


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

The draft version is the hardest part for me. I enjoy editing and re-writing. I’ve learned to do a little of everything since I’m self-published. I do my own covers on Canva and format my manuscripts and upload them myself. (Although, marketing is my bĂȘte-noire.)


In Mint Condition

A MeToo Mystery, Book 3

Single mom Maggie Chessman finds what might be a valuable Chinese porcelain bowl. When she takes it to be appraised at the local antique store, In Mint Condition, she finds a dead vendor. To her cop boyfriend’s dismay, this isn’t the first body she’s discovered, including a naked corpse in a model home and her dead sister-in-law at a local salon. But, unknown to him, this one is the corpse of a man who abused her as a child.

If the truth comes out, she might be the prime suspect in his murder. Her best friend and her therapist rally around her, discussing other suspects – the victim had a hand in a variety of crimes and sins.

As Maggie discovers, no adult is in mint condition, life takes its toll on everyone.

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Friday, August 11, 2023


Recently, my author (Lois Winston) was asked during an interview to describe how she celebrated the sale of her first book. This was back in 2005. Lois was writing romance, romantic suspense, and chick lit, but she had already pulled me out of the fictional character firmament and started to subject me to murder and mayhem. However, at the time, few people, other than her agent and her critique partner, knew of my existence.

Most people have no idea about the reality of most authors’ lives. For every Stephen King, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, or Janet Evanovich, there are thousands of authors who are the “bit players” of the publishing world. They work just as hard at their craft, but they can’t afford to quit their day jobs because the publishing gods haven’t seen fit to grace them with mind-blowing contracts. Most authors are lucky to be offered enough of an advance to sustain a daily Starbucks habit.


So why do they do it? Are they gluttons for punishment? Is it because they can’t not write? That’s what my author tells me. Writing is a passion, and if you have that passion, you persist, no matter the obstacles. Not writing is not an option, even if the world is out to make life as difficult as possible for you. And boy, was that the case with my author.

Although Lois had won several prestigious writing contests for unpublished authors, she'd also collected a file folder stuffed with dozens of rejection letters. What one editor loved about a manuscript, another cited as the reason for rejection. Those who loved her manuscripts rejected for reasons unrelated to the quality of her writing, like the editor taking another job, a similarly themed book not selling well, or the publisher having recently bought a comparable book.

Through it all, Lois persevered. She wrote for ten years before she sold Talk Gertie to Me, a humorous fish-out-of-water tale about a young woman who leaves Iowa for the excitement of New York City and the mother who sets out to drag her home to marry the boy next door. From what I’ve learned, ten years seems to be pretty much the standard amount of time (give or take a few years) for writers to sell their first book. The offer came from a well-respected independent New York publisher. The advance was $1500.

Her husband’s reaction? “Is that all?”


No flowers. No celebratory dinner. The unspoken subtext was why had she wasted a decade of her life when she could have spent the time taking on more freelance assignments and made that much money in a week or two?


Did it hurt? Of course. But she kept writing.


A few weeks before the book’s release, Lois was invited to take part in a multi-author gathering at a local chain bookstore. The event was being held on the official release date of Talk Gertie to Me. A week before the event, the coordinator emailed to say the store had received her books. She arrived to find stacks of books for the other five authors. None for her.


Is anyone reading this old enough to remember Joe Btfsplk? He was a character in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner cartoon strip. The poor guy with the unpronounceable last name always had a cloud above his head. Sometimes, I think my author is the female version of Joe Btfsplk.


What could she do? She forced a smile, made a few self-deprecating jokes about her lack of luck, and kept writing.


Her book sold well. The publisher exercised the option clause in her contract and offered a slightly higher advance for her next book. Then the publishing house got into financial trouble, stopped paying royalties, and eventually went out of business, stiffing their authors.


And still, Lois persisted.


Shortly after, another editor expressed interest in Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in what was to become the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. However, the publishing house was in the process of being sold. All contracts were on hold until the sale was finalized. Lois and her agent waited patiently. However, once the sale went through, the new publisher’s first act was to change the company name. Then they folded the cozy mystery line.


Joe Btfsplk’s cloud had once again rained on my author. But Lois kept writing.


Eventually, another publisher offered a 3-book contract for the series. Life was good for a few years. The books did well. But Joe Btfsplk refused to stay away. Changes at the publishing house caused Lois to walk away from two additional contracts. Upon her agent’s suggestion, she chose to go indie. 


Last month, A Crafty Collage of Crime, the twelfth Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, was released. Lois has also written three connecting mini-mysteries featuring yours truly.


And she continues to persevere, continues to write. No matter how often Joe Btfsplk shows up in her life, she continues to wreak havoc in my life. Passion. It’s what drives my author and all authors. Or so I’m told. Which means, Lois will continue to thrust murder and mayhem in my direction for years to come. I suppose that means I have my own Joe Btfsplk, but at least Lois was kind enough to drop Zack Barnes into my life.

A Crafty Collage of Crime

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 12


Wherever crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack goes, murder and mayhem follow. Her honeymoon is no exception. She and new husband, photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes, are enjoying a walk in the Tennessee woods when they stumble upon a body on the side of a creek. The dead man is the husband of one of the three sisters who own the winery and guest cottages where Anastasia and Zack are vacationing.


When the local sheriff sets his sights on the widow as the prime suspect, her sisters close ranks around her. The three siblings are true-crime junkies, and thanks to a podcaster who has produced an unauthorized series about her, Anastasia’s reputation for solving murders has preceded her to the bucolic hamlet. The sisters plead for her help in finding the real killer. As Anastasia learns more about the women and their business, a host of suspects emerge, including several relatives, a relentless land developer, and even the sisters themselves.


Meanwhile, Anastasia becomes obsessed with discovering the podcaster’s identity. Along with knowing about Anastasia’s life as a reluctant amateur sleuth, the podcaster has divulged details of Anastasia’s personal life. Someone has betrayed Anastasia’s trust, and she’s out to discover the identity of the culprit.


Craft project included.


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Wednesday, August 9, 2023


Today we sit down for a chat with adult mystery, YA romantic mystery, and middle-grade fiction author Lynn Slaughter. Learn more about Lynn and her books at her website and blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

Following my retirement from a long career in dance, I got this idea for a story about a young aspiring ballet dancer intent upon unraveling secrets both her friends and her parents are keeping from her. That became my first young adult novel, While I Danced. Working on it got me hooked on writing fiction, and I returned to school to earn my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. I just kept going after that!


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

That’s sort of a two-part question for me. While I was still dancing, I was moonlighting as a freelance magazine writer. I’d taken some correspondence classes in magazine writing from Writer’s Digest, and it didn’t take too long before I was getting some article acceptances. However, in terms of fiction writing, I worked on my first novel on and off for close to a decade before it was finally published.


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

I’m traditionally published with a small press, Melange Books.


Where do you write?

I’m fortunate to have a home office where I can shut the door to write!


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

I often write to music. When I was working on Missed Cue, I listened to a lot of jazz because my protagonist is a huge jazz fan.


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

Bits and pieces of plots and characters have been inspired by my real-life experiences. For example, in Missed Cue, the protagonist encounters a lot of drama at the ballet company the victim danced with—intense rivalries, love affairs, infidelity, and an obsessed, driven artistic director. As an ex-dancer, I’m familiar with the intensity of behind-the-scenes relationships in a dance company. Thankfully, I never encountered a murder!


Describe your process for naming your character.

I have a baby names book that I love looking through when I’m trying to name a character because it includes origins and meanings of names. I wanted Caitlin to have an Irish name because having grown up in Connecticut, I’d encountered a lot of policemen and women who came from immigrant Irish families.


Real settings or fictional towns?

I’ve done both, but in the case of Missed Cue, the setting is a real city, New Haven, Connecticut.


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

My protagonist in Missed Cue has furnished her apartment with finds from garage sales, consignment shops, and Goodwill that include her 50s style red plaid armchair, Danish contemporary coffee table, and side table painted with flowers. Absolutely nothing matches, and she likes it that way.


What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I’m a winter holiday fanatic. I have holiday lights strung up year-round in my office and start playing Frank Sinatra singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in July.


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

Wonder by RJ Palacio. It’s a beautiful story about a ten-year-old boy with a facial deformity who longs for acceptance and friendship. It is so moving and poignant, and the voice of the main character, Auggie, is unforgettable.


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

Probably marrying my first husband. We were not well matched, and in retrospect, I married him to please my parents, who adored him. Fortunately, both of us went on to have very happy and successful second marriages.


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Lack of kindness and compassion, especially toward children


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

My husband, lots of books, and my computer (Food and water might be nice, too.)


What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

One summer during college, I worked at a publishing company where I sat in a tiny room by myself for eight hours a day typing change-of-address labels. It made me really appreciate being able to go to college and look forward to work that wasn’t mind-numbing.


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

I don’t really have a favorite, but I do love humor and distinctive voices. For example, I adore the character of Lula in the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich.


Ocean or mountains?

Definitely ocean! I grew up on the coast of New York and Connecticut. Anytime I’m near the ocean, I’m home.


City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

I prefer cities, especially New York City


What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m currently working on a young adult novel, Missing Mom, about a seventeen-year-old whose mother disappears. The authorities rule it a probable suicide, but my protagonist doesn’t believe her mother would ever have checked out on her and her little sister and undertakes her own investigation.


I’m also in the process of seeking a publishing home for my middle grade novel, an identity-swapping tale called The Big Switch: Varney and Cedric


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

Except for my middle grade novel, my books have all featured folks involved in the performing arts in some way, since that’s the world I’m most familiar with.


For all my novels, I’m interested in the personal growth and change of my protagonists. As both a writer and reader, characters I care about matter to me more than anything else.


Missed Cue

Lieutenant Caitlin O’Connor prides herself on being a crackerjack homicide detective with the highest close case record in the department. But the onstage death of ballerina Lydia Miseau has her thoroughly stumped.Why did the apparently healthy Miseau drop dead? The autopsy reveals no clear cause of death. Convinced foul play was involved, Caitlin’s investigation takes her into the world of a ballet company where suspects abound who had reasons to want to harm the company star.


Meantime, Caitlin’s dealing with a partner on the job who’s addicted to alcohol, a married lover she’s addicted to, and mysterious threatening phone calls. To make matters worse, two more people associated with the company are murdered, and Caitlin has to face the humiliating possibility she arrested the wrong person. Time is running out, as she races to identify a killer who will stop at nothing to avoid detection. 


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