Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Here come the cops!

I’m working on Tandem Demise, the third book in the Cycle Path series. 
     Evie Bloomfield is from Chicago and now living on Mackinac Island. The good thing is she loves the island with no cars and lots of bikes and horses and fudge. The bad thing is she has a black cloud condition that attracts dead bodies. 
     Feeling responsible for the murders and that they involve her new friends Evie sets out to find the real killers. Not an easy task for a graphic designer so she had to acquire new picking locks.
     This means I have to learn how to pick locks too. If I’m going to write about it, it has to be real. I actually keep looking out my window thinking the cops are going to pull up any minute and accuse me of the latest theft in Milford.
     This is not the only time I’ve done research that has me watching for the cops. I think it’s an occupational hazard of being a writer. I’ve done tons of research on poisons and how to make poisoning look like a natural death. Arson is another fave topic. How to set a fire and get away with it. You know, I think I might actually be able to do this one and get away with it...don’t tell anyone.
     There is the usual research of guns and knives but I think those murders are kind of boring unless of course the knife is a wedding cake knife and the gun is a musket. Now things get more interesting.
     So have you ever done research on something that you think the cops are going to pull up any minute and take you away just on general principals of sticking my nose into stuff no normal person needs to know? Have you ever Googled something and thought if Big Brother is watching I am so screwed? Let me know so I don’t feel so paranoid. 
Hugs, Duffy

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Retail Memories of Yesteryear

by Maggie Sefton

Yesterday I returned to my old hometown area of Northern Virginia.  I'm staying with my dear childhood friends before the Malice Domestic Mystery conference in Washington, D.C. later this week.  

Mary's Monday posts always catch my attention, and yesterday's did again.  It brought back so many memories of the wonderful Grand Old Famous department stores of years ago.  Yes, we have large department stores now, set in the midst of brand new shiny shopping centers which are complete with adjacent fancy apartments, cinemaplexes, and fitness centers.  Something for everyone.

Our family lived for fifteen years in West Lafayette, Indiana, in northwest Indiana while my husband was a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Purdue University.  Since we were used to living in northern Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., we had to get used to new surroundings, new landscapes, new weather patterns, and----new shopping centers.  Washington, D.C.  had many beautiful and large department stores, we certainly did not lack for shopping variety.  But once we moved into the heart of the Midwest, we had to get new bearings.

Fortunately, in those days, there was such a thing as a Faculty Wives Club.  I'm sure the name alone wouldn't pass muster nowadays, but back in the 70s  (yes, the 70s) it was totally non-offensive.  There were faculty dinners and various other functions all designed to build community in Purdue's large and diverse faculty and families.   One of the things the club  sponsored was an outing to Chicago four times a year.  Two hours away on the interstate, Chicago was not a place we went shopping regularly. With the travel, it was 2 hours at least to drive up and 2 hours to return.  An all-day experience.  But the Faculty Wives club in those days sponsored a large Greyhound bus to take shoppers up to the Grand Old Dame of Chicago shopping----Marshall Fields Department store, right in the midst of downtown Chicago.

I still remember those shopping trips fondly.  They provided a great way to escape and treat ourselves to a day of shopping, a wonderful matinee theatre experience if we chose, an all day walk through those wonderful museums or lakeshore parks (Chicago, remember, is on the banks of Lake Michigan and has beautiful lakeshore views.  Or, we could simply stroll along Chicago's grand avenues and immerse ourselves in "City."   Yes, some of us do enjoy the City experience, even though it has changed over the years.  And my family always reminded me to bring home some of Marshall Fields' famous Chocolate Mint cookies.  Yummy.  Believe me, they rivaled the Girl Scout's Thin Mints.  Honest!  :)  

Monday, April 23, 2018


By Mary Kennedy                                         

I don't know about you, but growing up, we always called Woolworth's the Five and Dime. What a marvelous place it was. And having lunch at the "five and dime" was always a treat, and included a sundae for dessert. (it didn't matter that we often had a milkshake with lunch, somehow there was always room for a sundae!).
If we were having lunch in "the city" (meaning Manhattan) it was tradition to eat at Schrafft's.

Lunch at Schrafft's was usually a club sandwich and iced tea. The perfect prelude to an afternoon of shopping and visiting the museums. Schrafft's was such an iconic place, they even developed an advertising slogan, "Meet Me at Schrafft's."


Before heading to Grand Central at the end of the day to take the train back to Westchester, we'd stop for coffee and pastries at Chock Full O'Nuts.  

And to fortify ourselves for the journey home, we might even indulge in a date nut bread and cream cheese sandwich.  Just a little something to tide us over till dinner time!


Or we might stop at Horn and Hardart for mac n' cheese and a slice of apple pie.  So many choices. The last Horn and Hardart closed in 1991, but I read that they may be making a comeback,complete with quinoa salads and more trendy menu items.

Do certain food and restaurants make you feel nostalgic for days gone by? I can't remember the last time I saw a "date nut bread and cream cheese sandwich" on a menu.

Happy memories from some wonderful days gone by.

Mary Kennedy

Friday, April 20, 2018

Life is short ... so should I eat a pound of chocolates?

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

During January, I became my brother's diet buddy. He was having a tough time and needed a little encouragement.  I needed to lose some weight, too.  So I lost 9 pounds and then plateaued.  (He lost 15, plateaued -- and then he regained it.) I got on the scale today, and those nine pounds (which I learned from a Ted talk, you lose by exhaling CO2, unfortunately--eating less and doing more is also part of that equation. Rats) are still gone.

Okay, that's not to say that I haven't had a couple of relapses. In fact, I had Easter candy.  Um ... included in the Easter candy was a l pound box of Russell Stover (dark chocolates--with nuts and caramels. Yum!)  Um ... I ate it. The entire box. I didn't share. And I gained six pounds. (How can you eat one pound of something and gain SIX???)

I have been PINING to bake. NO WAY. You gained SIX Pounds by pounding chocolate!!!  You know what six pounds looks like?

I will say that because of the guilt (and boy, was there a LOT OF IT), I hopped right back on the diet and have lost those six pounds. (Whew! I was really sweating that.) That tells you the power of the Zero Point Weight Watchers diet. (Of course, it gets pretty boring, but ...)

Anyway, back to baking. I've been thinking about homemade coffee cake.  And muffins. A LOT.  I have this urge to BAKE.  To smell some wonderful aroma coming out of my oven, filling my house, lifting me off my feet....


But there's the spectre of WEIGHT GAIN. So ... I haven't done anything.  I mentioned it on my Facebook Group page and one of my readers told me, "Life is short. Bake the cake."

Yeah, but ... WEIGHT GAIN!!!

And then my brother called me the other day and said, "Hey, Dr. X's husband dropped dead."   Back back in February, she told me about him. That she nagged her husband to exercise more ... and now he was gone. Hmmm.  Did he pass because he exercised too much, or did she nag him too much?

Life is short.

If he'd had a chance just before the last minute, would he have said, "I shouldn't have had that bagel for breakfast" or cake, or a cookie .. or a one pound box of Russell Stover.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away earlier in the week. One of her most frequently quoted remarks was this:

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.”

I'm betting she would say, "Have a piece of cake, Lorraine."

Life is short. Cake can be a treat ... (and I'm planning on freezing most of that cake and/or muffins ... so I'm not tempted). And ... Zero Points Weight Watchers has worked for me.

Would you bake the cake?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Orange Creamsickle Cake...Yummmm!

by Karen Rose Smith

Remember those orange creamsicle popsicles?  This cake is reminiscent of those.  I like to make this recipe this time of year with pot lucks and picnics starting for spring and summer.  It’s easy and delicious.  I hope you enjoy it.


1 (16.5 oz.) package orange cake mix
2 (3 oz.) packages of orange gelatin, divided
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup cold water
1 (4 serving size) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup milk (I use whole milk so it holds its body longer)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (8 oz.) container Cool Whip

Prepare and bake cake mix according to package directions, using a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  Cool.  Poke holes all over cake.  (I use the handle of a wooden spoon.)

In a small bowl dissolve 1 pack of the gelatin in boiling water.  Stir until completely dissolved.  Add cold water.  (Very cold water works best.)  Then pour evenly over cake, filling all the holes.  Chill in refrigerator for one hour.

Combine second pack of gelatin, pudding mix, milk and vanilla in mixing bowl.  Beat well until thickened slightly.  (I mix on high.) It won't thicken as much as pudding.  Fold in whipped topping.  I like orange swirls so I don't fold completely even.  Spread the mixture over the cake.  Chill for several hours before serving.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bouncing the Bucket List!

Just got back from Amsterdam and the land of tulips and windmills. Well...not exactly just got back but landed Saturday an it took till now to feel among the living with recovering from an eye infection, stomach bug, bad cold and no tulips.
Doing the bucket list thing isn’t always a bowl of cherries!
Adventures are just that and not all goes to plan. But there was the art I’d wanted to see all my life (Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Rembrandt, Vermeer). And Amsterdam was amazing even in rain and cold...they were ice skating on the canals two weeks ago so the tulips stay said no-way are we coming out in this! See this pic below...well we didn’t see it at all!
So my question today is, is having a bucket list worth it? Is it just pie in the sky or should you roll the dice and give it a try?
Even with all the mishaps IMHO adventures are always worth it. I travel a lot with my two daughters and their motto is... If something doesn’t go wrong we’re not trying hard enough.
I like this philosophy a lot. Maybe it’s part of my bucket list. To just keep plugging away and trying new things.
So that brings me back to you. Do you have a bucket list? It doesn’t have to be traveling all over the planet and getting sick but maybe trying to really like sushi (I did and still think holding it over a flame would do it a world of good). Or maybe learning how to play Mahjong or go to the opera or give Josh Groban one more try.
So what’s on your bucket list and are you adding to it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ahhhhh. . . . Caffeine

by Maggie Sefton

This post may sound strange, but there are lots of us out here in the General Public who actually welcome that provocative substance called Caffeine.  It's most easily found in a very popular beverage----Coffee.

Although I am a die hard Tea drinker and have been my entire life---the story goes that I actually had it in my bottle as a baby.  Yes, indeed.  As a six-month old baby I was crying a lot with teething pain. So much so, that my born in Ireland---raised in England father finally went into the kitchen and brewed up a pot of hot tea, put some in a baby bottle, added lots of milk and sugar (the preferred way the English like their tea) and gave it to me.  Apparently I greedily drank it and immediately stopped crying and went to sleep.  Story of my life, I guess.  :)

Well, that's hot tea, you say.  What about that even more popular hot beverage Coffee?  Well. . . it took me a while to adapt to it, but I did start adding coffee to my list of regular beverages.  Not for the taste of it?  Goodness, no.  It was because it was the easiest way to guarantee wakefulness when you're sitting up late at night writing fiction.  More about that in a future post.  :)  Whereas I actually love the flavor ot Tea and now drink it black with no sugar or cream, I find the taste of unadorned coffee harsh and bitter.  That's why I have to obscure that taste with cream.  No sugar, mind you.  That's another post for another day.  I kicked adding white sugar to anything years ago in the 90's.  And, I don't even flinch at the calories in whole cream. Bad Maggie, Bad Maggie.

That's right, folks.  The author of the Kelly Flynn Knitting Mysteries with the undisputed Queen of Caffeine consumption, Kelly Flynn, does not actually love the taste of Coffee.  Hey. . .that's the reason it's so fun to write about Kelly's caffeine habit.  I can exaggerate all the traits of coffee drinkers I have known and put them on the page.  :)  That's what we novelists do.  We exaggerate.

So-----if you're reading this post in the morning with a cup of Joe or in the afternoon with a cup of hot tea and curled up in a comfy chair, or at night with a a glass of your favorite wine or stronger beverage, I have one word for you.   Enjoy!  

Monday, April 16, 2018


By Mary Kennedy                                         

I first heard about "secret menus" when I was in California, going to an In-N-Out drive through, looking for a vegetarian snack. I saw a LOT of hamburgers on the menu but  my friend told me 
I could order off the "secret menu." 

I thought she was kidding and then I heard her order a burger "protein style" off the secret menu. This meant that her burger would come wrapped in lettuce leaves instead of a soft white bun.

 "But what will I get?" I asked. "I don't eat meat."And that's when she told me about the grilled cheese option on the secret menu. Yes, it's just what you would expect. A meatless version of their classic hamburger, made with melted cheese on a bun with lettuce and tomato. (and yes, it's tasty!)

Other secret menu finds: If you're a chicken afficienado,you can order a Big McChicken at McDonald's. Two chicken patties replace the bun on their cheeseburger, all the trimmings remain the same. That's a LOT of chicken.
You can get "frings" at Burger King (a mixture of fries and onion rings.)

Or chicken quesadilla at Chick-Fil-A. which is char-broiled chicken with melted cheese wrapped in a tortilla. 

Another find is a Green Eye at Starbucks, 3 shots of espresso into regular drip coffee.

While you're at Starbucks (and not counting calories), you could try a raspberry cheesecake frappuccino. It's actually a vanilla bean frappuccino with raspberry syrup, mocha syrup, java chips and more.

At Taco Bell, you can order their chili cheese burrito. Piping hot chili with cheese, in a flour tortilla.

Did you know that Burger King will make you a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) if you ask for it?

How about you? Do you have any secret menu finds you'l like to share? 

Bon appetit!!

Mary Kennedy

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Visit Blythe Cove Manor on Beautiful Martha's Vineyard

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

Have you ever been to Martha's Vineyard?

Right now, the island, some four miles across Vineyard Sound from Cape Cod, MA, is windswept, but spring has arrived.  And come Memorial Day Weekend, the "season" will have started.

But you don't have to wait until next month to visit. It's waiting for you right now in a series of stories about a unique bed and breakfast, and its hostess, Blythe Calvert. The place? Blythe Cove Manor ... where just a little magic awaits all its guests.

Serious life changes have pushed Paige and Alex Campbell to the brink of divorce.  Still, they win a weekend at lovely Blythe Cove Manor and experience vivid dreams that take them back in time. Is there a chance this magical place inspires the nighttime fantasies that could help them fall in love again?

Kindle US  |  Kindle Worldwide

Nook  |  iBooks  |  Kobo

Will anything heal the pain of a grieving daughter? When a trip meant to be a gift of a weekend trip together turns into a painful solo journey, can the magic of Blythe Cove Manor help heal Jenny Taylor's soul?

Kindle US  |  Kindle Worldwide

Nook  |  iBooks  |  Kobo

All is quiet at Blythe Cove Manor as its proprietress, Blythe Calvert, anticipates a peaceful weekend with her cat, Martha. But then a taxi pulls up and drops off a troubled, runaway teen looking for a safe haven. Can the magic of Blythe Cove Manor heal this young girl’s aching heart?

Kindle US  |  Kindle Worldwide

Nook  |  iBooks  |  Kobo

Looking for more Blythe Cove Manor stories?  Check out those by Shirley Hailstock.

Visit my website for more information on Blythe Cove Manor.

Friday, April 13, 2018

It's Friday the 13th -- are you nervous

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

Like the subject line says ... It's Friday the 13th. Are you nervous about it?  Are you a superstitious person?

I'm not. And the reason?  Black cats are supposed to be unlucky. I've had black cats for most of my life. My first came with a very silly name. I was six and I didn't know you were "allowed" to change the name of a cat. Poor cat was saddled with that name for twelve years. Since then, I've learned that as long as you feed a cat and call it by its new name, it will learn very quickly, "Hey, I'm not stupid name anymore, now I'm called Most Excellent Name!"

Well, here we are on Friday the 13th 2018 (first of two this year.  the other is in July) and I have no black cat. In fact, I don't have two black cats.  We lost both our boys last month (within 12 days of each other) and have been in mourning ever since. We know there is another black cat somewhere in our future, we just don't know when.

Walk under a ladder?  Well, I wouldn't do that just because it's unsafe.

Breaking a mirror?  That upsets me, because it can be terribly unsafe and I don't like getting cut, but I'm not worried about seven years of bad luck.

Opening an umbrella inside? Fahgettaboutit. Why worry?  In fact, it didn't faze me at all when I bought some "studio lights."  Love them!  Haven't used them much, but I have no problem opening the umbrellas that diffuse light.

Spilling salt? And then canceling out the bad luck by throwing it over your shoulder? No. First, I've already spilled the salt ... probably on the counter.  I'm not throwing it over my shoulder so that I have to clean off the counter AND sweep the floor.  Not gonna happen.

There is one thing that I am wary of ... and only because my mother would have a cow if anyone put shoes on a table. But in retrospect, for me it's more a matter of germs. Eeeek! I know where those shoes have been! Imagine the bacteria they've trudged through!!!

Is there something you're superstitious about?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

TranquilaTEA Tea Room and Lemon Tea Cakes

by Karen Rose Smith


 I’ve visited tea rooms for years. My love of tea and appreciation for teapots, china, and elegant tableware is what led me to write my Daisy’s Tea Garden cozy series. I love to bake and create recipes. Since the first mystery is MURDER WITH LEMON TEA CAKES, I created a lemon tea cake recipe.  Mine is like a lemon sugar cookie and the recipe is included with the mystery. 

Laura Watkins and her mother Nancy run TranquilaTEA Tea Room and Gift Shop in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.  When they heard about my novel, they invited me to tea there for an evening booksigning. 

Their tea room is lovely and filled with country-style as well as elegant quaint decorations and floral arrangements. From the gilded mirror over the mantle to the stylish hats on the wall to their white ironstone tea place settings, everything has a touch of class.

What I enjoyed most besides the delicious food offerings was being able to chat with the tables of readers in between courses.  I learned why they like mysteries and why and how they appreciate tea. 

I came home with a new blend of black tea—chocolate raspberry truffle.  It was difficult to decide with so many to choose from. 

And best of all...  Laura and Nancy created their version of my lemon tea cake and it was scrumptious! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bruce Willis...the other Bruce Willis

         Bruce Wills here. The other Bruce Willis with ears, wagging tail and daily yard-waterer in Lethal In Old Lace and all the Consignment Shop mysteries set in Savannah.

Have you ever noticed all the pets running around in cozies mysteries? And most of them are cats! What the heck? How did that happen? Does a cat greet you at the door, get your slippers, clean the kitchen floor after you spill the bacon and eggs? No! Cats sniff, turn up their nose and prance off.  Dogs have owners, Cats have staff! 

Once upon a time I didn’t have such a great life so I ran away and took up living under Reagan Summerside’s front porch. Don’t know why I chose her. Maybe because at the time Reagan’s life in Savannah sucked almost as much as mine.
But she’s an okay gal, even shared her McNuggets and fries with me but kept the martinis all to herself. I mean to tell you I could do with a martini or two on these hot summer nights.
Reagan has a consignment shop on the first floor of her half-restored Victorian. She and her Auntie KiKi who lives next door were going to name me Calvin Klein to fit in with the upscale clothes she takes in. One look at my mangled left ear, crooked tail and scared snout not to mention my questionable linage and they knew I was much better suited as Bruce Willis.
Life is good right now. Reagan says I’m the worse watchdog on the planet but I sure do make a lot of friends. If I fake a limp I can usually finesse a cookie or two from the customers and if I sit in front of the fridge long enough I get my daily dog…hot dog that is. The warm fall days here in Savannah are just made for me snoozing on the porch and one day I can get a slurp of Reagan’s peach martini.  
So what is your opinion on pets in mysteries? Paw up or down? Do they distract too much from the mystery? Do you like it when they have a point of view? Do you like cats or dogs best in a book? (That’s spelled d-o-g)
Let me know what you think and I’ll have Duffy put you in the drawing for the two Iced Chiffon totes she’s giving away.