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, October 25, 2023

WHY MYSTERY AUTHOR AMY M. READE WORRIES THE FEDS MAY COME KNOCKING

Bestselling author Amy M. Reade writes cozy, historical, and Gothic mysteries. Learn more about her and her books at her website.  

Research:  It’s all Fun & Games Until the FBI Comes Knocking 

When I meet a new reader, one question I’m often asked is how much research I have to conduct to write a book.

 

The answer is always the same. It depends. 

 

It depends on the book, the series, the complexity of the subject matter, and the amount of time I’m able to spend on it. 

 

Before I go any further, you should know something about me: I am a research addict. I would research random stuff all day long if I thought I could get paid for it. And though I don’t want to go so far as to say it’s my favorite part of writing, it’s pretty high on the list. 

 

Because I’m almost ready to delve into laying the groundwork for my next two books, I’ve got research on my mind. I thought I’d share with you some of the off-the-wall, I’m-probably-on-a-watch-list stuff I’ve had to study while writing my books. 

 

Some of you will know that I write mysteries. Even the most bare-bones mystery writing lends itself to a lot of questions about bodies, murder weapons, motives for committing crimes, etc. 

 

For example, once a mystery writer settles on a murder weapon, there’s often a good amount of research that must be done before the first murder scene can be written. Does it matter if the weapon wielder is right-handed or left-handed? Is that weapon something that could realistically be obtained by the person committing the murder? How much does it weigh? What does it look like? Could it cause injury to the murderer, too? Can it be used without leaving a trace of DNA behind? Does it require any special ability to use?

 

Likewise with bodies. What are the stages of decomposition? Can you smell a body that’s been dead less than twenty-four hours? 

 

I could go on, but I don’t want to gross you out completely. You get the idea. Even for contemporary mysteries that seem to involve straightforward murders (if there is such a thing), you can bet a lot of reading and studying went into writing about it. 

 

So without further ado, here is my list of the ten most memorable things I’ve had to research in pursuit of a good story:

 

1. How much blood has to leak from a body to turn the water pink in a 25,000-gallon swimming pool? (Alas, this particular bit of research also required some math.)

 

2. What organs is a knife likely to nick in a stabbing of one’s lower torso?

3. What are the symptoms of poisoning by a particular radioactive isotope?

 

4. How much money do good strippers make?

 

5. How long does it take someone to drown?

 

6. Would one’s skin smell if he or she were hit with a hot fireplace iron?

 

7. How likely is it that a broken rib will puncture a lung?

 

8. If a wolf eats a person, do they leave any bits behind?

 

9. What happens if you poke a shark in the eye?

 

10. How long does it take for a decomposing body to begin to emit foul odors in a hot, humid environment?

 

As always when I start working on a new book, I look forward to adding more items to this list!

 

What about you? What things have you read about or written that might make the feds come knocking?

 

St. Patrick’s Fray

A Juniper Junction Cozy Holiday Mystery, Book 7

 

Lilly could use a little luck o’ the Irish...

 

When a business tycoon winds up dead shortly after unleashing a scathing and humiliating criticism of Lilly and her jewelry designs, Lilly finds herself under suspicion of committing murder. And though she has an alibi, the only person who can confirm it is a two-month-old baby.

 

To make matters worse, Lilly’s shop is the target of a shocking St. Patrick’s Day smash-and-grab robbery by an unlikely and frightful assailant. The real horror, though, comes after the robbery, when Lilly and her husband become the targets of an extortionist who’s willing to go to frightening lengths to get what he wants.

 

Can Lilly turn her luck around before the killer strikes again and she loses the people most dear to her?

 

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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

AN INTERVIEW WITH SCARLETT GARDNER, MYSTERY AUTHOR SAMARA YEW'S AMATEUR SLEUTH

Today we sit down for a chat with Scarlett Gardner from author Samara Yew’s California Bookshop Mysteries. 

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

I’m glad my author started pulling my strings because I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to pursue my dream of opening a bookshop on the beach if she hadn’t. I was living in Phoenix (possibly still with my parents) and saving up money to start a new business, but it was still mostly a dream. My author finally gave me the courage to do something about it, so I moved to Southern California and opened up the Palm Trees and Page Turners Bookshop.

 

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

I’m a good listener. My roommate/BFF Lucia says this is something she really appreciates about me. And she loves to talk, so we make a good pair. My sister and other friends have also mentioned this is a trait that makes them feel like I’m a safe person to talk to. 

 

What do you like least about yourself?

Okay, so I’m working on it, I promise. But I’m not the most confident person around. I’ve sort of gotten into the habit of letting others speak up for me, but I’m getting better at doing that myself. I think having confidence might be essential to running your own small business. I mean, I know having confidence is essential. 

 

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

I don’t know why she had to write about me being the police’s prime suspect in a murder investigation, but that was a setup for a whole sequence of strange things happening to me. Following trails of clues, snooping around dingy motels, washing off threatening messages that had been painted on my beloved bookshop. I’m just trying to sell books here!

 

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

We sometimes argue, but not too often. My author really wanted me to date my friend Hiroki. Even in the outline for Murder by the Seashore, she had him listed as my “love interest,” but when it came time to write the book, she discovered (as Hiroki and I knew all along) that we were better as just friends. We’re really close, and I treasure his friendship, but right now, there are no romantic feelings between us.  

 

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is losing my sister. Olivia and I are very close, but sometimes I get scared something will come between us that will drive us apart. She also lives in Australia, so I fear we will grow apart with such a huge physical distance between us. 

 

What makes you happy?

Books and the beach. So much so, that I built my entire business around those two things.

 

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

I would have kept my distance the first time I met Connor Walker—my now-ex. We started Palm Trees and Page Turners together, but then he left both me and the bookshop for a better job offer. I wish I had just started the bookshop on my own from the get-go. I would also not include so much murder in my story if I were to rewrite it. 

 

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

Definitely Connor. Ugh. He’s just so sleazing, and I’m embarrassed I didn’t notice it until after he had left.  

 

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

No one specific, but I often wish I could trade places with the tourists who come into my bookshop. I’m a little jealous that they get to grab a book and then head out to the beach for the day, eating tacos from the Guac ‘n’ Roll food truck and walking along the pier.

 

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

Samara Yew is a cozy mystery author who writes about adorable bookshops and dead bodies. A full-time mom, full-time dog servant, and part-time writer, Samara lives in British Columbia, Canada, where she can often be found watching Psych reruns. Samara loves to travel, especially visiting her husband’s home country of Singapore or donning Mickey ears in Disneyland. Learn more about her at her website.

 

What's next for you?

Not to give away too many spoilers, but I’m planning on expanding Palm Trees and Page Turners to include a café. I’m already thinking of fun ideas for how to celebrate a re-grand opening. Readers can expect to see something about that in the next California Bookshop Mystery. 

 

Murder by the Seashore

A California Bookshop Mystery, Book 1

 

Southern California is where dreams come true—or so Scarlett Gardner thought. When she moved there and opened the Palm Trees and Page Turners bookshop, she thought her boyfriend and business partner would be part of the story. When he leaves her for a better job, Scarlett finds herself struggling to keep her new business afloat. That’s not the only thing she has to worry about—she discovers something underneath the pier by her bookshop that she didn’t outline for her life’s story: the dead body of a book-buying customer.

 

After Scarlett gives a statement to the police, she thinks her life can go back to business as usual. But when a lawyer, representing someone named Lorelai Knight, tells Scarlett that she now stands to inherit a small fortune, she’s left with more questions than answers. Before she can make sense of any of it, the police bring her in for questioning; the body she found was Lorelai Knight. And the evidence they have against Scarlett doesn’t look good. Business is booming as Scarlett returns to Palm Trees and Page Turners, but for all the wrong reasons – curious tourists don’t want books, they want a glimpse of the Bookshop Killer.

 

Who could really be behind all of this? And why frame Scarlett? To clear her name, she’s going to have to get creative—and hope she can remain one page ahead of the killer.

 

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Wednesday, October 11, 2023

IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE A COZY AUDIOBOOK MURDER!

Halloween is still nearly three weeks away, but every store I’ve been in lately already has their Christmas décor on display and Christmas merchandise filling the shelves. Jack o’lanterns, witches, ghosts, and other ghoulies are jockeying for space with Santas reindeers, angels, and elves. Welcome to Hallowmas! Or maybe it’s Chrisween?

Not to be outdone, we here at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers have decided to jump on the early holiday bandwagon. Drop Dead Ornaments, the seventh Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery is now available as an audiobook through AudibleAmazon, and iTunes. Are you a multitasker? Do you like to kill two birds with one stone? (Disclaimer: no birds were killed in this mystery!) Why not listen to a Christmas mystery while carving your pumpkins?


For those of you who prefer ebooks, paperbacks, or hardcovers, you can find Buy Links here.

 

Do you enjoy listening to audiobooks? Post a comment for a chance to win a promo code for a free download of Drop Dead Ornaments.

 

Drop Dead Ornaments

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

 

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair. At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. 


Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder. Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

CREATING CHARACTERS WHO PUSH READERS' BUTTONS

Lois Winston, she who writes about me, came up with the idea for the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries from a combination of events. Her husband had recently lost his job, and although he’s nothing like the man I now refer to as Dead Louse of a Spouse, it sent her into a tailspin of worry regarding money. She was also dealing with massive mother-in-law problems at the time. On top of that, when Lois first started contemplating the series, The Sopranos was still airing on HBO. Like me, Lois is a Jersey girl. How could she not set a mystery in her home state and involve the Mafia in some way? All of those elements came together to form the basis for Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series. 

The premise for the series (if you’ve stumbled across this blog for the first time and don’t know who I am) is that when my gambling-addicted husband permanently cashed in his chips in Las Vegas, my life crapped out. I was left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and a loan shark demanding fifty thousand dollars. 

 

Over the course of the series, Lois has me look for ways to whittle down the massive debt I’ve inherited, a task made more difficult by my spend-thrift mother, a self-proclaimed descendant of Russian royalty, and my curmudgeonly mother-in-law, a card-carrying communist, both of whom live with me. 

 

And did I mention the dead bodies? It’s not like I work in law enforcement. However, ever since Karl Marx Pollack’s death, I keep stumbling across murder victims, which is definitely not something found in the job description for any women’s magazine crafts editor, even ones working in New Jersey.

 

Lois has always been drawn to quirky characters. They make her laugh. It’s the reason she writes humorous amateur sleuth mysteries. She firmly believes we need more laughter in the world. We all get enough of the grim and gritty from the realities of real life, especially these days. I can’t say that I disagree. I just wish she wouldn’t do it at my expense. I can use the laughs, but I can do with fewer dead bodies. 

 

Lois often bases her characters on people she’s known. Usually, she takes traits from various people, exaggerates them, and blends them together to create the unique characters that fill the pages of her books. That’s because most people aren’t as quirky in real life as they are on the printed page. 

 

The exception is Lucille, my mother-in-law. With a few minor differences, Lucille’s personality (along with her communist leanings) mirrors that of my author’s deceased mother-in-law. In the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, Lucille is the character readers love to hate. Some readers have wanted Lois to kill her off, but most love her, probably because they see some of their own mothers-in-law in her. I chalk this up to misery loving company.

 

Some people think Lucille is a witch. Others use stronger language. Love her or hate her, Lucille pushes readers’ buttons. Lois tells me that’s a good thing because you always want the characters in a book to stir a reader’s emotions. So, in honor of Halloween and the witch (or the stronger word that rhymes with it) the two e-book bundle of A Stitch to Die For and Scrapbook of Murder is on sale throughout October for only .99 cents.


 Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, Books 5-6

Kindle    Nook    Kobo    iBooks

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

#CRAFTING WITH ANASTASIA--MYSTERY AUTHOR ROSALIE SPIELMAN'S DECADE QUILT

The Finished Quilt
Rosalie Spielman is a mother, veteran, and retired military spouse. She was thrilled to discover that she could make other people laugh with her writing and finds joy in giving people a humorous escape from the real world. She writes for the multi-author Aloha Lagoon mystery series and her own Hometown Mystery series. Learn more about Rosalie and her books at her website.

The Decade Quilt

For many years, I strove to express my creativity through textiles, as in quilting, sewing, or yarn related crafts. I do pretty well with counted cross stitch, which appeals somehow to my need for order and precision. I've been taught crochet, knitting, quilting…but let's just say, there's a reason I'm a writer! With writing, I can envision a story and through some magic, make it come out in reasonably understandable form. I might get stuck in that messy middle for a while, but eventually, the story is complete. But creating an epic textile art? Mmm, no magic happening there. Case in point: the infamous Decade Quilt. 

 

Around 1998, I visited my sister where she was stationed in Ohio. She had bought her first house, an older house with some antique wallpaper. After I returned home, I sought out vintage-style material that would go with the wallpaper and set to work. 

 

I was at Fort Bliss, Texas at the time and had friends who were quilters. Under their instruction, I had learned to quilt. My friends were surprised to hear I wanted to do a full-sized bed quilt but were happy to give me advice.

 

I didn't have trouble piecing the quilt top. That's the fun part to me that appeals to my sense of order, like cross stitch does. Then I combined the quilt top with the batting and backing and set to hand quilting it. 

 

Yes, hand quilting a full-sized quilt. By myself. 

 

When I finished the top, I took one square and 

made a pillow to show my sister what she had 

in store. The cat was out of the bag…

 

It was slow going. So slow, that my husband's assignment was up, and it was time to move. Off we went to Germany. Three years later, we left Germany for Virginia, where my son was born. Then after a few years, we headed back to Fort Bliss, where I gave birth to my daughter and reconnected with my quilting friends. They were amused – and probably not surprised – to see that the quilt for my sister was still unfinished. 

 

When we got orders to move on, I asked my friend to use her fancy quilting sewing machine to finish the quilting on the project for me. She said no, that I should finish it for it to mean more. I told her I was not going to move with it again, and if she wasn't willing to help me out, I would throw it out. I was not going to move that thing again!

 

So, finally, in 2008, after my friend finished quilting it with her machine, I finally gifted my sister her Decade Quilt, which in no way matched the walls of her current house, or any houses she had lived in since that one with the crazy classic wallpaper. 

 

She's used it on her bed ever since (at least when I visit) even though she has other quilts. Like her quilt from the Quilts of Valor foundation. Along with my husband, father, sister, and brother, I was presented a quilt in 2018. Quilts of Valor is an organization that creates and gifts quilts to veterans. I included a scene in my newest Hometown Mystery, Murder Comes Home, where my main character Tessa Treslow, her best friend Deputy "Freddie" Frederickson, and boyfriend Nick Hunt, are all presented with Quilts of Honor at the New Oslo Veterans Day ceremony.

 

I have been tempted to give back to the foundation by creating a quilt for another veteran. But I think they'd want it in less than ten years…

 

Readers, do you have an unfinished project out there, haunting you?

 


Murder Comes Home

A Hometown Mystery, Book 3

 

Army retiree Tessa Treslow is as excited as the other residents of New Oslo, Idaho, when the cast and crew of the TV show Picks with Ricks comes to town! Tessa and her Aunt Edna put their car restoration business on hold to let the celebrity antique hunters pick through their old garage, hoping the trash contains a treasure that will help fund their new business. But it turns out that the pickers come with TV cameras, likeable stars, a stressed-out producer—and a murderer!

 

The show’s lead makes an insistent offer on one of Aunt Edna’s renovation projects and won’t take no for an answer. And when Tessa finds the show's cameraman dead in the restored 1965 Mustang, Tessa knows murder has come home yet again. And the mystery takes a very personal turn when the dead man is found with an antique inscribed pocket watch connected to the former owners of Aunt Edna's farmhouse. As Tessa digs into the history surrounding the pocket watch and the relationships of the TV crew, shocking details—both old and new—arise. Will Tessa be able to catch a killer...before they return for a repeat performance?

 

Preorder (available 11/7/23) 

Gemma Halliday Publishing is donating a portion of the presales of Murder Come Home to Disabled American Veterans (DAV).