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.

Note: This site uses Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024


Today we sit down for a chat with Dr. Maya Maguire from medical mystery author Millicent Eidson’s MayaVerse series.

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

Before my author made me her marionette, I was the poster child for academic introversion. A shy hermit crab, I studiously avoided any form of social interaction. College at sixteen? Check. Dating? Not until I had three diplomas.


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

I have the tenacity of a bulldog on a bone. No setback can knock me down permanently. And when I get to know someone, I relax into humorous banter and the warmth of commitment. 


What do you like least about yourself? 

I'm a certified member of the "What If" club. I spend more time imagining worst-case scenarios than a conspiracy theorist on a caffeine bender. I majored in Catastrophizing 101, and I graduated with honors.


What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? Crawling around in the dirt with Portuguese pigs. Forget swanky adventures; I get down and dirty with farm animals. It was like my author thought, "Why not add a touch of Eau de Pigsty to the protagonist's journey?"


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

Oh, we have our tussles. My author wants me to be this kick-ass dynamo, but I'm like, "Let me navigate life at my own GPS-guided pace, okay?" It's a constant tug-of-war between Dr. Millie’s plot twists and my roller coaster ride through character development.


What is your greatest fear? 

I’m phobic about failing as a veterinarian in public health. I wasn't ready to be the James Herriot of clinical animal care. Instead, all creatures great and small are my global responsibility, and the fear of microbial mayhem keeps me up at night.


What makes you happy? 

Family, friends, and close colleagues are my rock stars. And nature is my Zen garden. Who knew investigating diseases could be so uplifting? I get to solve microbial mysteries, one exotic locale after another.


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

I’d rewrite my personal losses, but those are the price we pay for deep relationships. At work, I had this toxic colleague and instead of reporting him, I tried to suck it up. In hindsight, I should've let the higher-ups deal with him. Lesson learned: not all doctors are heroes.


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

Same guy, Dr. Toxic Arrogance himself. His lack of boundaries was like a mosquito in a quiet room—annoying, persistent, and impossible to ignore. A confidence-crusher deluxe.


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

Dr. Faye Simpson, the older public health vet in New York City, is a ball of fire. She takes no prisoners, and I love her experimental spirit. But a lifetime focused mostly on work? I'd need more than a coffee IV to survive that. Pass on the all-work, little-love gig.


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

My puppet master, Dr. Millie (Millicent Eidson), is also a veterinary epidemiologist and travel addict. She adopted a kiddo from China around the same time as my parents adopted me. Check her out at https://drmayamaguire.com/about and you can see a picture of my real-life “sister.” 


What's next for you? 

In the magical MayaVerse, microbes emerge alphabetically, so stay tuned for “Dengue” which drops me into Hawaii battling deadly mosquitoes. Dr. Millie promises me a “Happy for Now” ending in every book, which is a relief given all the suspense and thrilling adventures she puts me through.



A Microbial Mystery, Book 3


Veterinarian Maya Maguire approaches the end of her training as one of CDC’s elite shock troops for investigating disease epidemics. Despite unfinished business with a toxic colleague, her work and personal life fall into place. Until COVID, and its impact on loved ones. After investigating the first human case in Arizona, her focus shifts to coronavirus in animals. As a Chinese American adoptee, her origin story comes full circle like an ouroboros—a dragon eating its tail.


Buy Links



Wednesday, January 24, 2024


Today we sit down for a chat with author C.J. Shane who writes both private investigator and cozy mysteries. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I’m a former newspaper reporter and freelance writer for magazines – all nonfiction. I’ve also written and published several nonfiction books. I became curious about writing fiction when I learned about indie publishing. I didn’t want to go through a traditional publisher for a long list of reasons. My first mystery was published late in 2017.


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

About a year to get the first book, Desert Jade, written and published.


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

Indie all the way.


Where do you write?

In Tucson, Arizona.


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

I almost always listen to jazz. For writing, I prefer jazz pianists like Keith Jarrett.


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

That’s an interesting question. I never, ever make any of my characters to be like a real person, either a well-known person or someone I know personally. Nor do I tell stories from my life. I do hear stories from all sorts of people about something that happened to them, and I will incorporate some parts of their stories into my plots.


Describe your process for naming your character?

I try to find names that are well-enough known and easily pronounced, but not really super common. For example, the main protagonist in Take Four is named Logan.


Real settings or fictional towns?

Always real settings. My Letty Valdez series is set in Tucson and in other parts of southern Arizona, including the Tohono O’odham reservation. The Cat Miranda series is set in Bisbee, Arizona, on the Arizona-Sonora border. The new series, Iron Horse, is set in a neighborhood in Tucson.


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

Any book by Ursula K. Le Guin, especially her science fiction books. Favorites are The Left Hand of Darknessand The Dispossessed. She was a brilliant, insightful writer. Logan in Take Four named his cat after the protagonist in The Dispossessed, Shevek.


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People who only think about themselves and getting what they want for themselves, no matter the effects on others.


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

Water, food, and a dog.


What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

Working in a sawmill. I lasted one day.


Ocean or mountains? 



City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 

Country, for sure.


What’s on the horizon for you? 

I’m an artist as well as a writer. So I’ll be painting and writing tomorrow and every day until it’s time to go over the Rainbow Bridge. 


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


Readers may be interested to know that I’m committed in my works to:

1) telling tales that provide a fun and entertaining read. One of my readers thanked me for helping her get through a hard time with her family because she had my stories to read before she went to sleep.


2) creating fictional characters that are not always present in fiction and who overcome various obstacles, including solving a mystery. Examples are Letty Valdez, a Mexican American/Native American private investigator and Army veteran, and Cat Miranda, an art galleriest who is bi-cultural, lives on the border and (spoiler) falls in love with an Englishman.


In my new Iron Horse Mysteries, I decided to play around with the conventions of cozy mysteries. The protagonist in a cozy mystery is usually a woman and an amateur sleuth. I made my protagonist a man, a fairly young man who is a single parent and father of a five-year-old boy. Logan is my amateur sleuth. As in any cozy, he calls upon a group of friends in his community to help him solve mysteries. At the same time, he does his best to be a good father to a charming handful of a boy named Charlie. Logan is also trying to figure out why he blushes every time he looks at Zoey Corban. (spoiler: Logan really likes Zoey and Zoey really likes Logan.)


I should mention that my mysteries typically have a romantic subplot, but the mystery always comes first.


Take Four

An Iron Horse Mystery, Book 1


Logan Reid, resident of Tucson’s Iron Horse neighborhood, joins forces with visiting Canadian Gwilym Havard to stop assaults on jazz pianist Nina Perry and her band members, all of whom have become targets of a gun-toting killer. The heat rises when the shooter goes after each band member, and when Gwilym and Nina discover they have a growing attraction for each other. This cozy mystery that includes a real love of jazz is a fast, page-turning and captivating read. Take Four is a stand-alone story and #1 in the Iron Horse Mystery series. And let’s not forget five-year-old Charlie who really, really likes ice cream.


Buy Link

Wednesday, January 17, 2024


Lida Sideris is the author of the Southern California Mysteries, loosely based on her former life, working as an entertainment attorney for a movie studio…kind of like her heroine, Corrie Locke... except without the homicides. Lida lives in Southern California with her family, rescue dogs, and a flock of uppity chickens. Learn more about Lida and her books at her website and at Sleuths & Sidekicks, where she’s one of the founding members. 

Scouting Locations

As you may imagine, location plays a starring role in my Southern California Mysteries. Since SoCal spans ten counties and hosts a multitude of terrains, cultures, and industries, there are a lot of choices when it comes to settings. Having been born and raised in SoCal, I enjoy retracing my steps to places that are meaningful to me. Places a reader might like to visit like Balboa Island in Newport Beach. Getting there is a smooth ride aboard a raft-like ferry to a manmade island with an array of splendid eateries, quaint shops, and a miniature amusement park. These same places also have the potential for tripping up my heroine Corrie Locke. When she takes the ferry across the small bay, it’s not exactly a tranquil ride in Murder & Other Unnatural Disasters. She barely makes it across. Or does she?


There are SoCal venues I kind of wish I’d explored more, but I didn’t have the nerve, such as the underground tunnels beneath my alma mater, UCLA. Students typically aren’t permitted such liberties, but that doesn’t stop Corrie when she hunts down a killer beneath a college campus in Murder Gone Missing. Her jaunt underneath gave me a chance to explore the tunnel systems below several campuses, courtesy of online research. I’m still not keen on exploring in-person, especially since these tunnels can be complex, dimly lit, and uninhabited (they’re supposed to be, anyway.)


Corrie’s first job after law school was working in a movie studio, just like me. But she doesn’t spend much time lawyering. How can she? She has cases to crack. As the daughter of a late great P.I., she’s got the skills, which tend to get her into…and hopefully out of… trouble. In Murder: Double or Nothing, I revisited the former movie studio where I worked in Culver City. The place has changed quite a bit since my days of working there, as Corrie showed me, as has all of Culver City, now filled with global dining options, unique museums, even the Blind Barber, a barber shop with a hidden speakeasy.


Although many of the cities in my books are real, my latest novel, Murderous Means, required a whole new town called Los Ranchos. A hamlet, by SoCal standards, the population is 1200 and the vibes decidedly Mayberryesque - where everyone knows each other by name and traffic lights are non-existent. Los Ranchos is squeezed between two powerhouse communities, Calabasas and Malibu, both with small townish vibes of their own. Most SoCal cities are sprawling, but I wanted one that was more self-contained and set apart, sleepy and off the beaten path, with hilly terrain and grasslands, which means plenty of hiding places. 


I created a Western style town complete with tumbleweeds, hitching posts, and a cowboy or two. It’s where SoCal tourists drop by, but not for long. Cell phone reception is sketchy and the town lacks refinements, such as restaurants that stay open past eight pm, as well as a grocery store and places to spend the night. Los Ranchos residents are very protective of keeping their town’s status quo, and keeping the hipsters out… all of which sets the stage for a crime to be committed, and to go unnoticed…almost. Throw in the dysfunctional Means family of Means Well Ranch, a psychic vision, and an old Victorian house that may be haunted, and Corrie’s got a case to solve. 


Murderous Means

A Southern California Mystery, Book 6


Corrie Locke may not be the best rookie lawyer in town, but when it comes to catching a killer, she's got enough skills to bring a band of shifty-eyed suspects to their knees.


When the wealthy matriarch of the dysfunctional Means family dies in her sleep, the family is convinced her death was anything but peaceful. They hire Corrie to prove it, but the only evidence they have to go on is a psychic’s half-baked vision that it was murder. To put

the matter to rest, Corrie sets her sights on proving the psychic is a fraud. After all, everyone knows psychics are crack-pots, don’t they? But what should be a simple investigation morphs into something a little more…deadly. 

Buy Links



Wednesday, January 10, 2024


The other day my author decided she needed a break from creating mayhem in my life. Now, when most people need a break, they take a walk, bake a cake, watch a movie, read a book, play pickle ball or (fill in the blank for your own favorite break activity.) Not my author. She decided to create a CafePress store for readers who love me and want to wear, carry, or sip to show their love. And she gave it a tongue-in-cheek name: The Reluctant Sleuth Swag Shop. Try saying that three times fast! 

Lois thought this would be a task that would take her a few hours at most. Ha! Three days later, a link to the site is finally up on her website. I’m not complaining, though. I got three days of relaxation out of it. No dead bodies! No murder! No mayhem! And best of all, no mother-in-law drama! Although I did have to contend with my author’s frustration, which manifested in continual head-banging against the keyboard. 


Even as a fictional character, I know that nothing is ever easy when it comes to computers unless you’re a computer geek. And I suspect even computer geeks do a considerable amount of head banging trying to get programs to work. Then again, maybe the programmers are the problem. What other industry do you know where products that aren’t quite right yet are released into cyberspace? Then, we mortals and fictional mortals must contend with a constant stream of software updates.

I digress, though. I’ll admit, I’m quite pleased with the result, even if Lois hasn’t yet gotten over her frustration. (She’s still grumbling and muttering under her breath, but she’ll get over it eventually.) Anyway, the site makes me feel like a celebrity, knowing that some of you might want to celebrate me with a mug, tote, or T-shirt that sports a cover from your favorite Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery.


Want a peek? Just click here.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024


Award-winning author Maddie Day/Edith Maxwell pens the Country Store Mysteries, the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, the new Cece Barton Mysteries, the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, and short crime fiction. When not writing, she gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. Learn more about her and her books at her website, where you can find links to her other social media, and at the Wicked Authors blog and Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen.

Cooking up a Theme

I’m delighted to be back visiting Anastasia and readers! 


Deep Fried Deathmy twelfth Country Store Mystery, released last week. Each book includes recipes in the back. As I’m writing, I find ways to mention food, which isn’t that hard considering that protagonist Robbie Jordan owns and runs a breakfast and lunch restaurant in her country store.


This book opens on Memorial Day weekend, so it’s spring in southern Indiana. Later in the week, Robbie and her staff brainstorm specials for the next day. Danna mentions that it will be National Coq au Vin Day and that they could prepare a simple version for lunch. Turner chimes in that they could call it Spring in Paris Day and offer savory and sweet crepes as a breakfast special.


Here’s the Coq au Vin recipe, one I make a couple of times a year at home. 

Coq au Vin

The following is a simplified version of the famous Julia Child recipe.



2 pounds boneless chicken



2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup butter

1 onion, diced

12 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 cloves minced garlic

2 tablespoons flour

1 quart chicken stock

2 cups hearty red wine

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1/4 minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.


Remove skin and excess fat from chicken, then pat meat dry with paper towels. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.


Heat oil in Dutch oven until shimmering. 


Working in batches that don’t crowd the chicken, brown on both sides and remove to a plate.


Add butter and saute onion in same pan until it softens. Add mushrooms and continue to saute until they wilt. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Do not let garlic brown.


Return chicken to pan and sprinkle all with flour. Stir for two minutes.


Slowly stir in stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add red wine. 


Cover and let simmer for one to two hours or until chicken is tender. 


Stir in herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let flavors combine. Garnish with more parsley.


Serve hot over or next to buttered wide noodles or buttered boiled potatoes, and enjoy a salad and a glass of red wine with it.


Doesn’t that sound yummy? What’s your favorite way to eat chicken?


Deep Fried Death

A Country Store Mystery, Book 12


Many residents of South Lick, Indiana, claim the Outhouse Race, in which competitors push old-timey outhouse replicas on wheels at the annual Abe Martin Festival on Memorial Day, is the best thing since indoor plumbing. Just because country store and restaurant owner Robbie Jordan has too much to do managing her new deep fryer as well as an old lover reappearing, she’s not going to miss out on the fun. Plus, it’s good for business. But when a dead body and a cast-iron skillet tumble out of the Pans ’N Pancakes outhouse entry on the race route, it seems someone is trying to frame Robbie—in a most unconventional way. Now she’ll need to be privy to the townsfolks’ secrets as she races to flush out a killer . . .


Buy Links