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, December 27, 2023


After over twenty years in clinical medicine, Michelle Corbier now works as a medical consultant. Her writing interests cover many genres—mystery, paranormal, and thrillers. When not writing, you can find her outside gardening or bicycling. Learn more about Michelle and her books at her website.

Bike for your mental health

One of the earliest skills I taught my son was to ride a bike. The first bike—only bike—I owned during childhood had orange handle grips with multicolored streamers. It had tall handlebars with a long narrow seat which accommodated me and my baby sister. Because my father served in the Navy, we moved frequently, and I lost that bike. But the desire to speed down a road on two wheels continues. 


Bicycling gives me the sensation of flying like a bird. Free, floating above all life’s concerns and complications. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “Health benefits include improved cardiovascular fitness, stronger muscles, greater coordination and general mobility, and reduced body fat. As with other types of exercise, it can also help improve mental health by lowering stress levels and stimulating feel-good endorphins.” Well said.


In Hollow Voices the protagonist, Dr. Julia Toussaint, bicycles to release stress and remain fit. An activity she shared with her son before his death. While my son never appreciated bicycling, it’s something I still enjoy and wanted to include in my novel.


Medicine is a stressful occupation. While the benefits are many, it wears on medical professionals physically and mentally. The idea for the novel began during one of the most stressful moments in my career. I contemplated leaving medicine, a job to which I devoted most of my life. Caring for people gave me purpose. Medicine provided personal satisfaction, job security, and a stable income. Unfortunately, the work environment became hostile. When things became tense, I resorted to writing. 


In the novel, Julia suffers a total mental collapse following the death of her son. Disconnected from reality, she seeks treatment for her mental health. In time, she recovers and discovers a new purpose. But when the people she loves become threatened, she takes drastic action with fatal consequences.


Change is a fundamental component of life. While some changes are more traumatic than others, how we cope with those events defines our lives. In Hollow Voices, Julia experiences situations familiar to many people, from office politics, personal loss, to a mental health crisis. Books may transform readers to new vistas or reflect current circumstances. In this novel, a mystery collides with reality. 


If I’m having a hectic day, nothing satisfies like biking. Trudging up a hill admiring the scenery, matching my strength against nature, or soaring down a trail with the wind whistling in my ears. Join me. Hop on a bike and drift away on a cloud of endorphins. And when you finish, relax with a good book. 


Hollow Voices

Recovering after the death of her son, Dr. Julia Toussaint starts over at a new job with a narcissistic boss. Suddenly, the past catches up with her when a police officer blackmails her. In a fight for her sanity, Julia struggles to protect the people she loves. 

Time is crucial and she must remember what happened after Evens died because the decisions she makes will have fatal consequences. 


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Wednesday, December 20, 2023


If you’re like me (and probably most of us) right now, you’re up to your eyeballs in holiday prep. Especially if certain family members have been raiding the Christmas cookie jar, and you suddenly find yourself in need of some last-minute baking! Frazzled? Stressed? Already tired of the same old/same old Christmas music that’s been playing since before Halloween? Instead of listening to Grandma getting run over by a reindeer for the umpteenth time, why not multitask and tick a few books off your reading TBR pile while you’re elbow deep in gingerbread dough and sprinkles?

The first eight books of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series are now available in audiobook format. Put Anastasia on the case, and she’ll figure out which reindeer was the culprit in grandma’s demise as she reluctantly stumbles her way through murder and mayhem but always figures out whodunit in the end.

And speaking of last minute baking, here’s a bar cookie you can whip up in no time. You don’t even need to lug out the stand mixer!


Quick ‘n Easy Bar Cookies

Yield: 24 bars



2-3/4 cups spooned and leveled all-purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup packed brown sugar, either light or dark

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 room temperature lg. eggs

2 tsp.  vanilla extract

1/2 cup each mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and butterscotch or caramel chips

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts.

Christmas sprinkles


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides for lifting bars from the pan. 


In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt together. 


Melt the butter and allow to cool for 5 minutes.


In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. 


Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix together with large spoon or spatula.  Fold in the chips and nuts. 


Transfer dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer. Add sprinkles, pressing lightly onto dough.


Bake for 25–30 minutes or until lightly browned on sides and top. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out mostly clean. Don’t over-bake. 


Place pan on wire rack and allow bars to cool at least an hour. Lift bars from pan and cut into squares. (Note: a pizza cutter works well for cutting.)


Remember, along with cookies, if you’re pressed for last minute gifts, don’t forget that an audiobook subscription or a gift card for ebooks or print make great gifts.

Happy holidays from author Lois Winston, her reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, and all the other characters swimming around in Lois's brain.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023


Mystery author Lesley A. Diehl learned early on that cows have a twisted sense of humor. While growing up on a farm, they chased while she tried to herd them in for milking, and one even ate the red mitten her grandmother had knitted for her. Realizing agriculture wasn’t a good career choice, Lesley has she uses her country roots and her training as a psychologist to create stories designed to make people laugh in the face of murder. Learn more about Lesley and her books at her website. 


Growing Older, Writing Older

I can tell I’m getting older. Not only do birthdays begin with higher numbers, but the body has a way of informing me with aches and pains that the years are going by. For authors who write series books, aging of a protagonist faces the same issue. How does the writer age the main character? Slowly by months, less slowly by years, or not at all. The latter is difficult especially with the intrusiveness of technology changes and world events. For example, does the writer ignore the pandemic or insert it into the book? Cozy writers like me prefer to keep our work light—mine includes quite a bit of humor. I’m not quite up to the task of making the pandemic funny. I don’t really know how to do that, and I really don’t think I want to.


One author who managed the aging protagonist issue was Sue Grafton who didn’t age Kinsey. However, characters’ arcs found in most cozy mysteries often include experiences that take place over time such as a divorce, marriage, changes in relationships, births, deaths, or just the daily happenings humans confront. So our characters age. It’s just a matter of how fast.


I have begun a new cozy mystery series. My last one (the Eve Appel mysteries) featured a protagonist who, at the end of the series, was in her late thirties. That was several years ago. My new series (the Maddie Sparks series) features a woman who is on the far side of seventy, closer in age to me. Maddie and I may not survive a ten-book series because I only write one book a year (like I said, I’m old!), but I’ve decided to set each book in a season. The first of the series, Spiked Punch, takes place during a typical Upstate New York summer. The weather is, as usual, changeable with hot humid days and nights, periods of torrential downpour and massive thunderstorms. The fall to come is the setting for the second book. Six books or so in, Maddie will only be a year and a half older, and I think she and I can manage that.


One might think that with an older protagonist, the action would be slower, but I’ve discovered it gets speeded up. Maddie meets a retired county sheriff, and they quickly fall in love. I make that happen in a few weeks. Too fast? Perhaps. We shall see in the second book, but as Maddie suggests, there’s not a lot of time available for putting off action. By the end of the book Maddie and her sheriff have moved in together, Maddie has adopted a rescue cat, one son has been accused of murder, Maddie has begun a new writing project in a new genre and developed a new friendship. It leaves you breathless to see how much ground Maddie has covered. I hope it leaves the reader breathless and yearning for more also.


Because I write cozy mysteries with humor in them, I set myself the task of not only developing a good mystery with intricate plotting and complex characters, but I have the additional undertaking of providing laughs along the way. Humor is not easy to write. Sometimes it seems to simply emerge from the situation, or I use it as a tension reducer where needed. In other cases, it’s really work. What I find easier with Maddie is that I know her well, understand her experiences because I’ve lived many of them myself, and instinctively know a humorous quip I might engage in would be what Maddie might also say. As with humor, Maddie and I are on the same wavelength with respect to what we like. We’ve lived the same social, political and, oftentimes, emotional history. You could call the humor in the book, “seasoned humor.” As such, it should appeal to any age.


The question that arises is will younger readers find Maddie interesting? Will they want to follow her through the series? One reviewer of Spiked Punch mentioned that the book would be for those readers who enjoyed a mature sleuth. Frankly, I like all my sleuths to be mature, up to using their life experiences to sort through clues and solve the crime. Flighty protagonists do not appeal, and I assume readers will love Maddie’s nosy and adventuresome nature and respect what aging brings to the sleuthing process. I hope you enjoy Maddie and her sleuthing team of Zack, the retired sheriff, and Spike, the brilliant rescue cat.


Spiked Punch

A Maddie Sparks Mystery, Book 1


On the other side of seventy, Maddie Sparks decides to spice up her life by changing her writing interests from cozy mysteries to romance. She also determines her appearance should reflect this transformation in her writing career. A sassy new haircut and more fashionable clothes complete the newer Maddie Sparks. Before she can begin this new chapter in her life, a stabbing death in the quiet country village she has made her home shocks the town's residents. 


When her son is accused of the murder, Maddie and the acting county sheriff come together to find the real killer. Their relationship soon blooms into more than one of shared determination to solve the murder. As they enjoy a hike in a nearby park, someone shoots the sheriff, barely missing Maddie. Another killer could be loose in the area, and the person may be closer to Maddie than she realizes. Maddie discovers parts of herself she didn't know existed: real life romance with the sheriff, a talent for sleuthing and room in her life for a fuzzy, orange cat named "Spike." This recent lease on life may be more exciting and more dangerous than Maddie expects.


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Wednesday, December 6, 2023


Multi-award-winning author Judy L. Murray writes the Chesapeake Bay Mystery series. Learn more about her and her books and find links to connect with her on social media at her website.

Why Women Make Great Detectives

If you are familiar with the award-winning Chesapeake Bay Mystery Series, you know my heroine, real estate agent Helen Morrissey, calls upon the individual talents and varied personalities of her own self-made Detection Club to help defend the innocent and seek out justice.


Today, I thought you would enjoy getting to know these women a bit better. Helen is serving as host at her house on a cliff overlooking the Maryland Chesapeake Bay. Nancy Drew, Jessica Fletcher, Nora Charles, and Agatha Raisin join her for tea, scones, and cocktails.


Helen Morrisey is leading the discussion. Let’s listen in…“Nancy Drew, are you willing to start? Tell us why helping me is important and what you think you bring to this group of sleuths? Aren’t you a bit young to be fighting crime?”


Nancy’s blue eyes flashed. “Since I’ve been involved in hundreds of crimes over my perpetual teen years, I don’t think so. I love working with smart women, but there are times when a young person comes in handy, especially if we’re chasing criminals through the woods or up three flights of stairs. I don’t think you would have survived in Murder in the Master without me.”


Helen: “That’s a good point. I am surprised you never seem intimidated by the adults around you.”


Nancy laughed, “Fortunately, I was raised by a father who encouraged me to think for myself. I’m definitely not afraid to speak up, even in the company of law enforcement.”


“Agatha Raisin, you seem to step on the toes of law enforcement, too. Tell us more about your background. How did you get involved in detection?”


“I grew up in a poor section of London and was determined to succeed on my own. Now, I live in the Cotswold’s when I’m not helping you. Sometimes people accuse me of speaking my opinion when it’s not wanted.” She shrugs. “But, there are times when being polite won’t help us capture a killer.”


Helen smiles. “I’m not very good at biting my tongue, either. Is it true you don’t like to cook?”


“It’s another trait you and I share. We’re both terrible cooks but love to eat. It makes the microwave our favorite kitchen appliance. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc helps, too, although I lean toward gin and tonic. I do draw the line at hiding Twizzlers everywhere like you do. That’s your problem, not mine.”


Helen grimaces. “I admit, Twizzlers are not the best dietary habit. I notice you’re wearing your favorite four-inch heels today. Don’t they hold you back?”


Agatha glanced down at her feet and winced. “I depend on Nancy to be our runner.” 


Nancy rolls her eyes.


“Nora,” Helen turns, “What do you think you contribute to my Detection Club?”


Nora tosses her short 1930’s waved hair. “Living with a private detective has its influence.” She straightens her satin robe and wiggles her feather topped, blue satin slippers. “I like to think my smarts come in handy for you. I also know how to make a wicked martini served in my coupe glass, of course.”


Helen grins. “That you certainly do. And, I’ve followed your advice more than once.”


Jessica Fletcher clears her throat. Helen nods. “Jessica, your talent for writing mysteries has helped us get to the truth. We had a few close calls solving Killer in the Kitchen. Have you ever thought to be a real estate agent? I think you would be fantastic.”


Jessica smiles. “We both have a lot of experience asking questions and piecing together clues, don’t we? Sometimes we find out things about people we weren’t expecting.”


“Or prefer not to know.” Helen glances across the room to the sedate, fluffy-haired old woman closest to the fire. “Miss Marple, as our senior sleuth, why do you think we work so well together? Is it just coincidence?”


Jane sets down her needlework, studying Nancy, Agatha, Nora, Jessica, and Helen with fondness. Clear, blue eyes twinkle behind her wire rims. “My dear Helen. You know very well I never believe in coincidence. Just think what we discovered when solving Peril in the Pool House.”


“But Jane, how have we been so successful when other sleuths fail,” Helen asks.


“We’re very clever women. We read body language. We watch and listen. We know the importance of keeping an absolutely open mind.” The senior offers a little wink. “Most crimes, you see, are so absurdly simple.”


Happy Holidays from Helen Morrisey and her Detection Club. May we solve many more mysteries in 2024! 


Peril in the Pool House

A Chesapeake Bay Mystery, Book 3


The grand opening of Captain’s Watch Bed and Breakfast in one of Chesapeake Bay’s historic mansions, is ruined when the body of Kerry Lightner, a high-powered political campaign manager, is found in the pool house with fishing shears in her back. Is the killer a rival politician, an ex-lover, a jealous co-worker, or the ghost of missing harbor pilot Isaac Hollowell? When state senate candidate and B&B owner Eliot Davies becomes the prime suspect, his friend real-estate-agent-turned-amateur-investigator Helen Morrisey and her Detection Club of fictional women sleuths vow to solve the case—even if it means the end of Helen’s romance with Detective Joe McAlister.


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