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, April 10, 2024


Dianne Ascroft writes the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries, set in rural Canada during the 1980s, as well as The Yankee Years, an historical fiction series set in WWII Northern Ireland. She has a passion for Ireland and Canada, past and present. An ex-pat Canadian, Dianne lives on a small farm in Northern Ireland with her husband and an assortment of strong-willed animals. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

Fenwater’s Big Night

Thanks for letting me drop in, Anastasia. I’m Lois Stone and I’m the main character in the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series. The books are set in Fenwater, a fictional small town in rural Ontario, Canada that was founded by immigrants from Scotland during the early 1800s. The residents of our town have a strong connection with its Scottish heritage so the annual Burns Night supper is the biggest event on our calendar.  

I’m a bit conflicted about it, though. I moved to town about six months ago. My friends want me to celebrate my Scottish ancestry since I live in a really Scottish-Canadian town, but I don’t want to acknowledge my Scottish roots. You see, my grandfather was a bit of a scoundrel and my mother refused to talk about him. My Scottish roots come from his side of the family so I don’t want to explore them and upset my mother. I’m also kind of scared of what I might discover. But I can’t seem to get away from my ancestry here in Fenwater. Everyone around me is excited that Burns Night is coming and they want me to delve into my ancestry. 

I might have been able to avoid all the fuss about the Burns supper if I didn’t play the bagpipes. As The Snow Job opens, our pipe band is practising for the supper. I’m actually looking forward to that part as this is the first Burns supper that I’ve played at with this band. I’ve learned all the tunes we’re playing and I’ll even know lots of people at the supper. Though I’m still new in town, it will make me feel like I’m part of the community. 

Oh, excuse me, I’m rambling. Do you even know what a Burns supper is? If you have any Scottish ancestry, you may have attended one. But for those who haven’t, a Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of Robert - or Rabbie as he is more commonly known - Burns. Rabbie Burns was a poet and song lyricist from Scotland. Born on January 25, 1759, he was only 37 when he died in 1796. He is regarded as the most prominent poet to have written in Scots, a UK regional dialect that is recognised as a minority language. ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is one of his works.

Burns Night is celebrated annually in Scotland, in Scottish communities worldwide, and especially for those abroad, it has also become a chance to celebrate all things Scottish – sort of like St. Patrick’s Day without the green beer. The first supper was organised by nine of Burns's friends on July 21, 1801, the anniversary of his death. The suppers have become an annual occurrence and are now normally held on January 25th, the poet's birthdate. 

Burns suppers are respectful and fun. There’s a traditional meal which consists of tatties (potatoes), neeps (turnips), and haggis, which was a favourite dish of the poet. What is haggis? Haggis is made from a sheep’s liver, lungs, and heart and mixed with suet and oatmeal. Believe it or not, it really is tasty – sort of like a spicier minced beef. Guests are piped in to the dining room, and a Scottish grace is said. The haggis is then piped in with great ceremony, and before the meal commences, a guest recites Burns’ poem the 'Address to a Haggis', which extols how wonderful haggis is. 

After the meal there are several toasts and speeches, including the ‘Immortal Memory’, a tribute to the poet. At our supper, Dave Stewart, who has an antique stall in our market, is giving ‘The Address to the Lassies’, a humorous thank you to the women who prepared the meal. My friend Marge will ‘Reply to the Laddies’, rebutting any comments Dave might make about women. I’m rather nervous about that as you never know what she’ll come out with. 

Preparations for our supper were going well until one of the Burns Night committee members died in suspicious circumstances the week before the event. I didn’t know him but I was sad to hear of his death. Marge worked with him at the museum, and she asked me to help her find his killer. I’ve promised my partner Bruce that I’d stay out of police matters, but Marge is very persuasive. So, I turned my thoughts from getting ready for the Burns Night supper to helping Marge find the killer. What could possibly go wrong?

The Snow Job

A Century Cottage Cozy Mystery, Book 3


A Scottish shindig, a pretty pin, a cold corpse. 

When a well-liked and respected townsman is murdered on a snowy street in Fenwater, it’s up to Lois Stone to sift through a multitude of motives to find the killer.


Middle-aged widow Lois is beginning to feel part of the Fenwater community, and as winter sets in, she is getting ready for the town’s biggest Scottish event, the annual Burns Night supper. But when one of the committee members dies in suspicious circumstances, Lois has more to worry about than the fate of this year’s celebration. She tried unsuccessfully to revive the man and her friend Marge worked with him. So, they want to find his killer even though Lois promised her partner Bruce that she would stay out of police matters.


But, what’s the harm in asking a few questions? Such as does someone want to safeguard their inheritance or give their business a boost? Will finding the motive for the murder lead them to the killer or maybe more?

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Saturday, April 6, 2024


For a limited time, Stitch, Bake, Die!, the 10th book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, those books author Lois Winston writes about me, is on sale at Amazon for only .99 cents! Grab your copy today. Sale ends May, 5th.

Stitch, Bake, Die!

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 10


With massive debt, a communist mother-in-law, a Shakespeare-quoting parrot, and a photojournalist boyfriend who may or may not be a spy, crafts editor Anastasia Pollack already juggles too much in her life. So she’s not thrilled when her magazine volunteers her to present workshops and judge a needlework contest at the inaugural conference of the NJ chapter of the Stitch and Bake Society, a national organization of retired professional women. At least her best friend and cooking editor Cloris McWerther has also been roped into similar duties for the culinary side of the 3-day event taking place on the grounds of the exclusive Beckwith Chateau Country Club.


Marlene Beckwith, wife of the multi-millionaire pharmaceutical magnate and country club owner, is both the chapter president and conference chairperson. The only thing greater than her ego is her sense of entitlement. She hates to lose at anything and fully expects to win both the needlework and baking competitions.


When Anastasia and Cloris arrive at the conference, they discover cash bribes in their registration packets. The Society members, few of whom are fans of Marlene, stick up for the accused and instead suggest that Marlene orchestrated the bribes to eliminate her stiffest competition. 


The next morning when Marlene is found dead, Anastasia questions whether she really died peacefully in her sleep. After Marlene’s husband immediately has her cremated, Anastasia once again finds herself back in reluctant amateur sleuth mode. 


With the help of Cloris, Marlene’s personal assistant Rhetta, and a laptop someone will stop at nothing to find, Anastasia soon unravels evidence of insurance scams, medical fraud, an opioid ring, long-buried family secrets, and too many possible suspects. And that’s before she stumbles over the body of yet another member of the Stitch and Bake Society. 


Can Anastasia piece together the various clues before she becomes the killer’s next target?


Crafting tips included.


Wednesday, April 3, 2024


Today we sit down for a chat with Katherine Jean Wilk, the main character in the Katie and Maverick Cozy Mystery series by author Mary Seifert. Learn more about Katie, the series, and her author at Mary’s website. 

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

Before Mary and began collaborating, I’d been trying to get a job. I met the man of my dreams while attending the Royal Holloway in London, earned a degree in Mathematical Cryptanalysis with plans to work in encryption and decryption for the NSA (National Security Agency), but life got in the way. I found out Charles wasn’t who I thought he was. He had a title--Baron. I ran from him, but Charles had better sense and followed me home. We married. Seventeen days later, he was shot and killed, trying to protect me. I gave up those dreams and felt called to teaching high school mathematics instead, a nice safe, boring profession, I thought. Unfortunately, Mary set me up to find a body while walking my dog, and now I feel like a corpse magnet.


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

Because I’m good at deciphering puzzles and riddles, I’ve been able to help solve a few crimes, even when law enforcement would rather I stay out of their hair. But my favorite attribute is my ability to make math more fun than expected for my students. A few of them have even thanked me, so I’ll put that in the win column.


What do you like least about yourself? 

At times I’m too serious. In my mind, everything happens for a reason, but sometimes I’d like to be able to just let it go. (Wouldn’t that make a great song?) I’m not sure that will happen, but I can hope. I think I’ve fallen in love again, and I have to work at not pushing him away. Pete Erickson is the kindest, sweetest, handsomest, smartest … you get what I mean. He keeps dropping wedding hints to Mary, but she hasn’t picked up on them yet.


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

I hate the cold. Then, you ask, why stay in Minnesota? I love the change in seasons and am mesmerized by our trees budding and flowering in the spring, shading through the warm summer, painting the horizon with oranges, yellow, reds, and browns in the fall, and drifting to the ground before cleaning the world canvas with white snow and beginning again. Therefore, the strangest thing Mary has had me do is ICE FISH!


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

I wouldn’t say we argue, but we definitely have some heated discussions. Some of the characters I meet have a vicious streak and I have no tolerance for them. She also clearly colors within the lines. She’s a firstborn and tries to follow all the rules. I bend them whenever I can.


What is your greatest fear?

My dad has nearly recovered from his traumatic brain injury but I’m sure he was shot and Charles died, because of me. I haven’t figured out why and no one has yet discovered the shooter, but I’m afraid anyone I get close to might become a target. I’m careful, but I’ve noticed my guard has been slipping as I get more comfortable in my surroundings. I need to remind myself to stay alert but not hide away from life. 


What makes you happy? 

First and foremost, being written into stories with my friends and family makes me smile. I have Dad, a great landlady, a reliable best friend, an adorable, loving, hardworking, intelligent, handsome boyfriend, and Maverick, the best dog ever, who has put himself in harm’s way for me more times than I care to count. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him.


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

If I could have rewritten the Katie and Maverick Cozies without Charles dying, I would be happy, but then my story wouldn’t exist.


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

ZaZa Lavigne began as a student at the Royal Holloway six months earlier than me and, unbeknown to me, fell deeply in love with Charles before I arrived. She never said anything, and he never knew. We lost touch and I didn’t hear from her for years, but a teaching position opened up at my school, and she applied. I don’t know why she gave up a job in security in Paris to come here, but she was hired and now is a thorn in my side, reminding me if he hadn’t married me, Charles might still be alive.


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

If I couldn’t be me, I’d trade places with my crazy landlady who knows how to shake up life. She dances for exercise (winning competitions with her fabulous partner) and can cook like a chef at a Michelin Star restaurant. She’s a true artist with her head in the clouds and her feet planted firmly on the ground. She can pick up any craft with a snap of her fingers. She knows how to knit and tried to teach me but I’m still fumbling with the cast-on stitch. She lends me wonderful items to make even my wardrobe passable and I don’t know what we’d do without her. Everyone in town knows who she is, and most love her. 


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

Mary loves making trouble for me. When she’s not writing, she’s making incredible memories with family and friends, walking her dog, whose only speed is faster, carefully deleting reference to murder from her web-browser, and pretending to cook. You can find her nibbling chocolate and sipping wine, both of which sometimes occur WHILE writing and reading. Find more about her at maryseifertauthor.com.


What's next for you? 

The chronicle of my latest adventure, Creeps, Cache & Corpses, a spring break fiasco, is now available. But end-of-the-year activities are culminating at school, and I’ve discovered I have a younger half-sister, Ellen, which means my mother didn’t die as I’d thought; she’d left and started a new family. I’m trying to reconcile my definition of family with my new reality. In addition, my landlady, Ida Clemashevski, confesses to bouts of melancholia and forgetfulness, and we’ve witnessed her unexpected mood swings. I worry the symptoms are a prelude to dementia. Ellen hasn’t seen our long-lost mother in almost a decade, and I found out she’s begun a search for her, but her drive is blinding her good judgement, so Mary and I are trying to work out the next story.


Creeps, Cache & Corpses

A Katie & Maverick Cozy Mystery, Book 7

When Katie’s spring break plans for a romantic getaway with Pete fall apart, she skips the chance to go skiing with her dad and the sister she’s very recently met. Instead, she and Maverick and a group of friends travel to attend the memorial service for a student’s mother, but it is spring break so there will also be salon treatments, shopping, and sightseeing. But, from the moment they arrive, tension fills the air, as Edith Farthington, the oddball innkeeper, and her nephew appear to be harboring secrets and a few unwanted visitors.

The group is in town less than 24 hours when, during a geocache outing, Katie and her students discover a dead body concealed in a remote area of an area park. Unfortunately, the victim just happens to be one of the few people in town they’ve already met, and Katie’s group is getting the side-eye from the local cops.

The suspects are numerous, the motives tricky, but there’s a shock for Katie and those close to her when the sheriff leaps ahead to arrest one of their own. How can Katie find enough evidence to convince him otherwise, especially when she’s been warned to leave it to the professionals—many times?

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024


Today we sit down for a chat with historical and cozy mystery author Patricia Penrose. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

My kids write and have me critique and edit their work. I wanted to know more about the whole process, so I began to study the craft of novel writing. I read Dwight Swain, Stephen King, James Scott Bell, John Truby, and many, many more. My favorite book on writing is The First Fifty Pages by Jeff Gerke. That book gave me the tools to produce a complete piece of fiction. After that, when I turned 60, I began to write my first mystery novel.


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

Within two years of somewhat consistent writing, I had two novels close to completion and, through Reedsy, heard about Amazon’s new serial reading platform, Kindle Vella. Vella was launched in April of 2021. I posted my novels there, episode by episode, got good feedback, and made some money to boot. So, my novels have gone from Kindle Vella serials to eBooks and paperbacks.


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

Totally DIY indie. I used Canva for my covers, Reedsy for typesetting, and KDP for printing. It’s all basically free, and I am very cheap. ๐Ÿ˜Š


Where do you write? 

I write in my living room, which is open to the kitchen and dining room, so there is no privacy. I tried a “room of my own” but produced nary a word.


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

I do use music occasionally for action scenes. Usually, it's a movie soundtrack. For Death on the Night Riviera, I listened to The Ghost and Mrs. Muir soundtrack by Bernard Herrman. He’s one of my favorites. Also, the soundtrack for Rebecca, by Franz Waxman.


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

I write about what I would like to do more than what I have done. But the human and quirky bits come from my life if that makes sense. 


Describe your process for naming your character? 

Usually, names just pop into my head, but if I’m stuck, I use https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/. It has place names, character names, and everything else you can imagine and is highly searchable. 


Real settings or fictional towns? 

Once again, I use a bit of both. Usually, the localities are real, but I invent appropriate names using the Fantasy Name Generator, which generates names for historical locations and just about everything else you can imagine.


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

One of my favorite characters is Cordelia Gedge. She has forgotten that she has quit smoking and pats herself down, looking for a smoke when she is stressed. It makes her quite cranky.


What’s your quirkiest quirk? 

I am an “oldmovieaholic,” especially film noir. Is that a quirk? I hate mayonnaise to a quirky degree. ๐Ÿ˜Š


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

This is a hard question. I tend to focus more on authors than individual works, but I’d say Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It has everything: gothic suspense, romance, mystery, great locations, and a sympathetic main character without a first name. How intriguing is that? 


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

I kind of wish I had started to write earlier, but I probably would have given up. The technology wasn’t here yet. Now, research and publication are so easy. The writing is the hardest part, but I enjoy it all.


What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

Mayonnaise overuse. I always have to say, “Hold the mayo.”


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

Water, a seaworthy boat, and my husband.


What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

I worked in tailoring at Sears in college and had to start the boiler. That was freaky.


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

I do love Jane Eyre. I tend to admire the mousey types, like the second Mrs. Dewinter in Rebecca, who rise above their own inclinations and personalities and save the day.


Ocean or mountains? 

Ocean, or water anyway. I live a quarter mile from Puget Sound on a pond, and there is something new to see daily.


City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

City first, then country. There are two distinct sides to Washington state. On the west side of the Cascade Mountains, you have Seattle, where I was raised. The eastern side, where I raised my family in the Palouse area, is more rural and drier. Now, for retirement, I have returned to the west side but still live on twenty acres. 


What’s on the horizon for you? 

I have two new Vella serials in the works, one a cozy mystery, Not Just Another Pretty Lace, and another historical mystery, Seldom What They Seem. Also, my daughter wants me to write a YA mystery about my childhood growing up in a shopping mall. My parents owned the toy store. Lucky me. ๐Ÿ˜Š


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

This has been monumental oversharing for me already. You can see why marketing and promoting myself is a challenge. But thank you so much for the opportunity. 


The Mermaid Pool

A Lucky Librarian Mystery, Book 1


When Rory, a reclusive librarian at the Firdrona Branch, wins a writing contest she didn't enter, everyone tells her she's so lucky. But when her sedate life spins out of control, Rory's not so sure. A haunted mansion, a seaplane flight, and a knife-throwing, tattooed woman with purple hair are all part of a prize package Rowena Albright may regret accepting.


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Wednesday, March 20, 2024


Today we sit down for a chat with cozy mystery author S.A. Kazlo. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

Many years ago, at least twenty, I started to write for children, back when an author submitted work via snail mail. I was published in a few children's magazines but had no luck with my novels. After a few years, my interest turned to reading cozy mysteries. They were fun and quirky, so I tried my hand writing them.


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

It took about 5 years to write my first cozy, Kibbles and Death. Then I got lucky. I submitted it to Gemma Halliday Publishing and within three weeks I had an offer from her. I was really fortunate. Gemma is what is called a boutique publisher. She specializes in cozy mysteries. I'm lucky to be counted amongst her many authors.


Where do you write? 

In a small bedroom at a small desk. The operative word here is small, but it works for me.


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

For me silence is golden. My characters are creating enough noise in my head when I sit down to write.


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

I'm fortunate in that my hubby is a retired Pennsylvania State Policeman and I often pick his brain about the cases he handled over his 26-year law enforcement career. I often incorporate people I know in my characters. I'll ask them if they want to be a victim or murderer. They've always said murderer. Go figure.


Describe your process of naming your character. 

I derive a number of my characters names from people I know. If I go to a function and there is a program, I may lift one or two from it, just changing it a bit to keep me from getting into trouble.


Real settings of fictional? 

The settings of my cozies are based on real towns in upstate New York. They are so unique that I couldn't improve on them if I tried.


What is the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? 

Well, I guess it isn't so quirky in today's world anymore, but my eightyish character Gladys O'Malley dyes her hair to match the change of seasons or various holidays or events—red for Valentine's Day, orange for autumn, and so on.


What is your quirkiest quirk? 

Oh, my I am very dull. I can't say I have a quirky bone in my body. I was raised back in the day when kids towed the line and didn't dare step out of it.


If you could have written any book which one would it be? 

Hmmm, good question? I really love Catherine Bruns Cookies and Chance series. Talk about quirky characters! The books may be murder mysteries, but you laugh out loud reading them.


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

My do-over would probably have started writing cozy mysteries, but then I did learn a lot writing my children's stories. I grew from all of it.


What's your biggest peeve? 

I guess my biggest peeve is lack of manners. It only takes a second for a person to be polite and kind, and it doesn't cost a thing.


You're stranded on a desert island. What are three must- haves? 

My family, dachshunds, and chocolate. With those three, I have it all.


What was the worst job you've ever had? 

Locker room attendant at a swim club when I was sixteen. Being stuck in the locker room when everyone was outside enjoying the sun and swimming was not my idea of a fun way to spend a summer.


What's your all-time favorite literary character? Why? 

I can't say I have one all time favorite. I love it when I fall in love with a series and its characters. I can't get enough of them and am anxious for their next book to come out. Like yours, Lois.


Ocean or mountains? 

I guess I'd better say mountains since I live at the base of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. They're beautiful every season of the year.


City girl or country? 

Country, definitely. Don't care for the hustle and bustle of city life. In fact, I love it when all the "downstaters" who flock up to this area in the summer go back home. Yeah, I know, I'm being a curmudgeon. 


What's on the horizon for you? 

Hopefully, to continue enjoying writing my Samantha Davies Mystery series and having my readers enjoy them.


Anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself and your books? 

Right now, I'm busy working on book 6, Mistletoe, Mutts and Murder, in my Samantha Davies Mystery series. I hope to have it released around November of 2024. Sam's parents are coming to visit from sunny Florida for Christmas. Unfortunately, murder follows them north.


Chilled to the Dog Bone

A Samantha Davies Mystery, Book 5


It's Saint Patrick's Day weekend in upstate New York, and Samantha Davies is excited about the annual outdoor games put on by the local fire company...that is until the grumpy rival fire chief is found dead on the ice! To make matters worse, Sam's fingerprints are all over the evidence at the murder scene. Can Sam find the killer and clear her name before the Luck of the Irish runs out for her?


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Wednesday, March 13, 2024


An interviewer once told my author Lois Winston that she loved me, the reluctant amateur sleuth of herAnastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. However, the character she really, really loved was my communist mother-in-law. “You write the best antagonists!” she said, then asked Lois where she came up with the idea of giving me a communist mother-in-law. 

Ever since Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, debuted in 2011, Lucille Pollack has been the character readers love to hate. Maybe it’s because so many of them have their own mother-in-law issues.


Or maybe it’s because Lucille is such an over-the-top unbelievable character. I’m sure there are many readers who think so, but here’s a little secret: Unlike all the other characters in the series, Lucille didn’t spring from my author’s imagination. The woman who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is based almost entirely on Lois’s own communist mother-in-law.


Yes, you read that correctly. Lois’s mother-in-law was a card-carrying commie. Beyond that, though, she was nasty—really nasty—especially if you dared to have an opinion that differed from hers. According to Lois, her mother-in-law was a self-proclaimed expert on every subject. And she was always right—about everything. No one else’s opinions mattered because everyone else was always wrong. You didn’t have conversations with her; you were lectured—on every subject under the sun. Moreover, on the rare occasions when she failed at something, it was always someone or something else’s fault. Never hers.


A couple Lois knew and whom her father-in-law had befriended, once called her the day after they had dinner with her in-laws. They wanted to know how she put up with “that woman.”


Even Lois’s father-in-law, who had always seen his wife through rose-colored glasses, eventually woke up to her true nature. Toward the end of his life, when he needed her most, she was too selfish and too self-centered to be bothered.


The thing about antagonistic people, though, is that, although they’re insufferable in real life, they make great antagonists on the page. Lois’s mother-in-law grew increasingly nastier the older she got. Lois dealt by bringing her doppelganger to life in the form of Lucille Pollack, my communist mother-in-law. 


Of course, I have to ask, what did I ever do to Lois that she’d stick me with the fictional communist mother-in-law from Hades? I’m still waiting for an answer.

Do you know someone who would make a great antagonist? Post a comment for a chance to win a promo code for a free audiobook (US or UK only) of A Sew Deadly Cruise, the ninth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, or any one of the other eight titles now available as audiobooks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024


Joseph Pennell, Second Street Market, Philadelphia, 1920

Today we sit down for a chat with historical mystery author Jenny Adams. Learn more about her and her books at her 
website and blog. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

I’ve always written! I have stacks of notebook-length “novels” that I wrote starting at about age eight. I started writing seriously toward publication in 2010, about a week after I graduated from college.


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

A LONG time! I sent my first query letter in 2011. I signed with my agent, Amy Giuffrida, with my sixth novel, a YA fantasy, in 2021, almost ten years to the week after sending that first query. We went on submission with A Deadly Endeavor in the summer of 2022, and it sold in January 2023. All told, it took thirteen years and seven books.


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

I am traditionally published with Crooked Lane Books!


Where do you write?

I’m a mom to a now-five-year-old and have a full-time job. I write in the margins of life. I wrote six novels on the sofa before I managed to find space for a desk. I’ve written on the bus and the metro, dictated via voice app on my driving commute, on my lunch breaks, in coffee shops, in my mother-in-law’s basement, and at the playground. Now, I tend to do most of my writing in my tiny office at home, from about 4:30-6:00am, before I have to get everyone else ready for the day and head to work.


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

I make playlists. They always have a lot of Taylor Swift, Florence + the Machine, Noah Kahan, and Hozier. 


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

Not many. But I do tend to draw on settings from real life, and I like to think of my setting as a character in and of itself. We lived in Philadelphia for seven years while my husband completed his PhD in History, and so much of my love for the neighborhoods where I lived and worked found their way into A Deadly Endeavor. It’s a very Philadelphia book.


Describe your process for naming your character? 

Edie’s first name just came to me, before almost anything else about her. Her last name, Shippen, is from an old Philadelphia family (remember Peggy Shippen?). Gilbert is named for Gilbert Blythe, of course, and I borrowed his and Lizzie’s last name from one of my favorite people, my first critique partner. Lizzie is Elizabeth, after a dear aunt. Theo Pepper is named for the founder of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Dr. Pepper, because I thought that was funny, and it stuck. My copy editor suggested we change it, but I refused. 


Real settings or fictional towns?

So, this is where things get funny - I consider myself, first and foremost, to be a fantasy writer. Six of my seven books have been fantasy. A Deadly Endeavor is my first mystery, my first historical, and my first book to be set in a real setting that exists (Philadelphia). But it’s not the real 1920s Philadelphia - it’s the version that exists in my head, and I honestly think that historical fiction and fantasy have way more in common than people realize. 


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

Oh dear. I’m not big on quirks.


What’s your quirkiest quirk? 

I always put the peanut butter on before the jelly.


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

Oh, for sure, Daughter of the Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. 


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

I actually don’t have one! I think everything happens for a reason, and honestly, some of my biggest heartbreaks have turned out to push me in the direction I needed to go at the time. I hate to think of what things I have now that I wouldn’t if any one little thing had worked differently.


What’s your biggest pet peeve? 

I’m a librarian, and it drives me BANANAS when people push the books all the way to the back of the shelf. I am constantly pulling books to the front of the shelf. All day. Every day.


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

My kindle, solar charger, and an SPF blanket. I’d happily wait for rescue. 


What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

I worked as a student web developer in college, a job that required fifteen hours a week of coding. I was also working ten hours at the library, taking a full course load, and then got mono. I asked to drop down to 5-10 hours a week while recovering, and my supervisor suggested I drop a class, because there was no shame in graduating in five years instead of four years. I quit on the spot. 


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

Perrin Aybara from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. I read those books starting at age ten or eleven, and I always loved him. He’s gentle and thoughtful, and also strong and loyal; he’s flawed but braver than anyone around him gives him credit for. 


Ocean or mountains? 

Both! I grew up in the Poconos, and I love being in the mountains, but I also love being at the beach. I don’t think I could live at the beach, though - I’d definitely choose to live in the mountains and have a beach within an easy driving distance.


City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

This is another both for me. I grew in a rural mountain town, and I currently live just outside Washington, DC. I LOVE being able to walk anywhere I want - my daughter’s school, restaurants, bookstores. But I also love being out in the middle of nowhere. I’d happily be either very rural or very urban - anything but in the suburbs, which tend to be neither remote nor walkable. 


What’s on the horizon for you? 

Another Edie and Gil mystery! Book 2 releases in Spring 2025, and I am hopeful that I’ll be writing these two characters for a little while longer. 

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

I am so grateful to be writing these stories, and I really, really hope that readers have fun with them. My entire goal with writing A Deadly Endeavor was to create something that was so much fun that people would ignore their responsibilities for an afternoon while they read it. I’m so honored to get to share them with the world!


A Deadly Endeavor

A Deadly Twenties Mystery, Book 1


Philadelphia, 1921


When Edie Shippen returns home after spending years in California recovering from Influenza, she’s shocked to discover that her childhood sweetheart is engaged to her twin sister. Heartbroken and adrift, Edie vows to begin living her life as a modern woman—and to hell with anyone who gets in her way. But as young women start to disappear from the city, her newfound independence begins to feel dangerous.


Gilbert Lawless returned home from the Great War a shell of his former self. He hides away in the office of Philadelphia’s Coroner, content to keep to himself until a gruesome series of corpses come into the morgue. And when his sister, Lizzie, goes missing, he risks his career to beg help from the one person Lizzie seemed to trust: her employer, Edie Shippen.


Fearing the worst, Edie and Gilbert desperately search for clues. It soon becomes clear that Lizzie’s disappearance is connected to the deaths rocking the City of Brotherly Love… and it’s only a matter of time until the killer strikes again.


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Wednesday, February 28, 2024


Today we sit down for a chat with Gabriela (Gabi) Espinosa from author Virginia Kelly’s Gabi Espinosa Mystery Series. 

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

I was playing it safe, raising my fifteen-year-old in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. Turner’s Crossroads became a safe haven when, at age eleven, my parents died, and I moved in with my paternal grandmother. I’d been living in Peru with my Peruvian mother and American father, and although I didn’t fit in with the town, I adjusted. So when my life turned upside down, I came back to Turner’s Crossroads.


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

I don’t gossip in a town full of gossips.


What do you like least about yourself?

I’m big on avoiding painful emotions.


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

I used a wooden cutting board as a self-defense tool.


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

It’s been more of a disagreement about how to handle two people in my life. To deal with a gossipy, grumpy employee, I prefer patience. My author believes a serious talk will make a difference. She forgets I’ve tried that. Then there’s my problem patron (I’m a librarian, but then so is my author). He requires patience as well as acceptance. But when his behavior suddenly changed, I altered my approach, which meant chasing answers.


What is your greatest fear?

Losing a loved one.


What makes you happy?

My daughter and living a safe, no-more-shocks, quiet life.


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

My husband would not have been murdered. If he were alive… Well, my life would be totally different. I would not have moved back to Turner’s Crossroads. I would still work in a large academic library, and I wouldn’t fear losing anyone else.


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

It’s a toss up between Ryker Fordham, my always-a-problem patron, and Mark Stone, the new deputy. Mr. Fordham (he was a friend of my late father’s) always complained about some library books, but his personality, odd to say the least, took a sudden nosedive. Mark Stone bugs me because I can’t figure him out. He’s impossible to read. Why he ever came to our little backwater is a mystery.


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

Not to trade places, but I’d love to adopt my friend Rhonda’s attitude about life. She knew how to live her life fully, her way.


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

My story, an amateur sleuth mystery, is Virginia’s ninth published title. Fully indie, she regained the rights to her traditionally published books. She stumbled into my life after writing romantic suspense novels for years. Why Tangled Secrets is a mystery, is… well, a mystery. Virginia’s one of those writers who sits down to write with barely any plan—a pantser. You can find more about her and her other books at her website


What's next for you?

Virginia’s putting me through another journey to, as she calls it, “complete my character arc.” It’s a rather daunting process, one I’m not sure I can handle. But she’s pulled others I’ve met in her books through their character arcs, so I’ll continue to believe in her ability to guide me through mine.


Tangled Secrets: A Gabi Espinosa Mystery


Turner’s Crossroads, where nothing happens… Until it does.


Reeling from her husband’s murder, librarian Gabriela Espinosa took her young daughter and sought refuge in the perceived safety of her tiny hometown in the Florida Panhandle. Six years later, the murder of her best friend shatters her sense of security and threatens the walls Gabi built to protect herself from grief.


Suspicion falls on an old friend of her late father’s. Though the man is troubled, Gabi believes he’s incapable of violence. In his defense, she begins asking questions which put her at odds with the local sheriff’s department and a mysterious new deputy. 


As she uncovers a tangle of complicated relationships, there’s a second murder. With fear resonating through the town’s sleepy faรงade, Gabi confronts a dark past that lays bare Turner’s Crossroads’ secrets, putting her, and her daughter, in danger.


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Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Award-winning and NY Times bestselling author Patricia Crisafulli writes the Ohnita Harbor Mystery Series. The second in the series was published this past September. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University, where she received the Distinguished Thesis Award in Creative Writing. Learn more about Patricia and her books at her website.

Why I Write Mysteries—and Why Readers Need Them

I stood before a panel of editors and agents seated at a long table and gave my best pitch for my novel-in-progress. To my thinking, this was women’s literary fiction centered around a strong female protagonist, Gabriela—a single mom who had to leave her dream job as an authenticator in New York City and return to her hometown where she works at a financially beleaguered library. The plot ignites around the discovery of a curious object donated to the library’s rummage sale, which turns out to be a medieval artifact.


When I finished my short pitch (a minute—maybe two), an editor who had worked at major publishing houses, spoke up: “You know what you’ve written, don’t you? Small town, quirky characters, an artifact. You add a couple of murders and you’ve got a great mystery.”


What happened at that conference a few years ago became a pivotal moment in my writing life. I became a mystery writer, which led to the publication of the first two novels in my Ohnita Harbor Mystery Series—The Secrets of Ohnita Harbor and The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm.


Why hadn’t I embraced the mystery genre earlier? Truthfully, I needed an outside perspective—an expert’s eye—to see what was already there in my story. 


In mysteries, I have found a great way to explore a theme that I absolutely love to write about—the intersection between the ordinary and the extraordinary. It’s the hero’s journey—the protagonist’s quest of discovery about herself and the world around her. It takes an inciting incident for that journey to begin—and that’s what a mystery provides!


In the opening scene of The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm, Gabriela and her new love interest Daniel are hiking through the pristine wilderness surrounding a remote chasm. Then suddenly, this outing turns much darker. On the shore of a deep-water lake at the bottom of the chasm, Gabriela and Daniel find a man convulsing with his last breaths. Not far away is a woman—body cold and her face ashen. After frantically trying to revive the two people with CPR, Gabriela and Daniel rush back up the trail for help, but when they return the bodies are gone. Gabriela begins to doubt her own judgment.


“She knew what she’d seen: the man’s body tensing in a seizure and the woman completely lifeless with no pulse. How could they suddenly feel better, clean themselves up, pack their stuff, and paddle away in a canoe? It was impossible, she told herself, except that was what appeared to have happened.”


The twists and turns of the plot not only advance the story, but also unfold a rich emotional topography—anger, fear, sadness, jealousy, hope, longing, love. Gabriela is confronted with all these feelings as she becomes embroiled in the investigation of what happened at the chasm and a nefarious business development that threatens to destroy the wilderness—plus authentication of yet another artifact (in The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm, it’s a 200-year-old nautical schematic). She encounters a host of characters, including an herbalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of plants for healing and for harm. Soon, Gabriela doesn’t know who or what to trust—including her own instincts.


And this brings me to why I believe we need mysteries—and for more than just their immense entertainment value. Mysteries are an exercise in critical thinking. They teach us to look beyond the surface. We ask more questions, dig more deeply, and seek out clues and connections that lead to answers that were previously hidden from us. 


Now tell me, in today’s uncertain world, isn’t that exactly what we all need? As we look beyond what appears at our feet or just beyond our noses, we see the bigger picture and broader issues. I’d like to think my Ohnita Harbor Mysteries help to serve that mission—to explore those extraordinary moments that intersect and interrupt our ordinary lives and lead us to bigger discoveries about ourselves and the world around us.


To me, that’s a great motivation to write—and read—mysteries.


The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm

An Ohnita Harbor Mystery, Book 2


On a beautiful September afternoon, a hike through the pristine wilderness of Still Waters Chasm becomes a path of deadly danger. On the shores of a deep lake, Gabriela Domenici and her boyfriend, Daniel Red Deer, find a man convulsing with his last breaths, not far from the body of a lifeless woman. But by the time help arrives, the bodies are gone. As Gabriela is pulled deeper into the mystery, she encounters a host of enigmatic characters -- from an herbalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of plants for help and harm to a young woman with an old drawing of unknown origin who desperately wants to sell it. Soon Gabriela's forays in and around the chasm put her on a collision course with those who will stop at nothing to prevent her from getting too close to the truth. 


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