Friday, August 29, 2014

Celebrations of life are sweet -- if cake and Nillas are involved!

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

It was just under a month ago that our family celebrated my mother-in-law Mary's 100th birthday.  She was surrounded by her family (her children, her three favorite nieces, and me, my mother, and my sister-in-law).  Mr. L made a video. We all took loads of pictures.

 The nursing home provided pizza, punch, and we brought a wonderful (HUGE) birthday cake that was gobbled up in no time flat. A good time was had by all.  It was a happy day we will long remember.

Sadly, two days later, Mary suffered a devastating stroke. A week later, she was gone.

Wow. How could such a small lady leave such a big hole in our lives?

The Cozy Chicks sent us a lovely dish garden that we will enjoy for years to come. Every time we see it we think of Mary and of the friendships we've made with the wonderful women here on this blog.  (Love you guys!)

Mary loved Nilla wafers and hard candy. We bought her boxes and boxes of wafers and pounds and pounds of candy, which she shared with members of the nursing home staff.  When we cleared out her room, we found the last box of Nillas in a drawer. It hadn't been opened.

Truthfully, neither of us are fond of Nillas (I'd prefer a GIGANTIC OATMEAL COOKIE with walnuts and raisins!!!) so we aren't likely to eat them. But ... I know that other recipes use Nillas as a base.  Among them, bourbon balls.  Our friend Jean used to make bourbon balls and bring them to work every year at Christmastime. Boy, they sure were the hit of the office party.  (She did NOT spare the bourbon!) I'm sure Mary would have enjoyed bourbon balls (although she drank beer when she was younger, and white wine these past couple of decades).

I've made bourbon balls before, but I was wondering if there were other recipes out there that use Nillas as a base and that you guys have made and enjoyed.  I know I'd be pleased to know about them, and I'm sure those reading the comments would, too.  So, if you have a recipe, please share it.  (If I make one, I'll let you know the results.)


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I sat behind you in English Class

Here we go, it’s high school reunions time when we hear the call of days past and feel the need to revisit out teen least some feel that way.  

Maybe we want to go back because high school was a time when much that is good and bad about our identities is forged or better or worse.  If you ever thought of yourself as a jock, Valley girl, or math geek you probably first thought it in high school – probably because someone else called you it.  

Though, most of us have moved on from these identities to form longer lasting ones (e.g. mother, engineer, community activist) our high school identities hang around. I have a cousin who still has his library trophy award on the mantel. 
Reunions seem like a lose-lose proposition.  If you were a bit of an outcast the first time around, why in all that’s holy would you want to subject yourself to standing in a room full of people who made you feel that way.  If you were the prom king or star athlete, you probably aren’t anymore.
So then why do we go?  Maybe because it’s the same reason
why we would watch a Friends reunion show.  We know it wouldn’t be very good, but we still want to know how the story turned out.  All these people from high school were in the story of our lives when it was at its most intense…at least is seemed that way.  
None of us had any idea who we would be 25 years later (or even 5 years later), but now that that time has arrived we want to see how the stories played out. 
 Even when I’m watching a third rate movie on an airplane, I still want to see how it ends before they turn everything off at landing.
Also, I think I owed these people something. They made me better. Neither of my parents went to college and being a girl they didn’t think I needed to go either. But the kids I hung with in high school all had college plans so I wanted to go too. Peer pressure for the better.
So what about you? Are you in or out on high school reunions? Have you ever gone? Plan to go? Would not want to see those kids again for all the money in the world?

Let me know and I’ll give away two romance books from the answers.  
Hugs, Duffy 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Have You Ever Binged-Watched?

by Maggie Sefton

Have you ever binge-watched a TVseries of group of shows?  I have.
Actually, last year was the first time I did it.  My cable TV provider, Comcast, had a week of free, everything you want to watch one spring, and I binge-watched Showtime's super suspense, "Homeland."  Excellent times three.

Well, this year I did something different.  Since Comcast didn't offer a free week, I paid a small fee and binge-watched Season 1 and Season 2 of the Netflix produced series  "House of Cards."  As a lifelong Political Watcher who grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC,  I loved "House of Cards" like a duck loves water.  :)   Hey. . .it's my town.  DC was "downtown" for me.

Why didn't I simply sign up for Netflix and watch "House of Cards" that way?  The same reason I haven't subscribed to Showtime or HBO or other premium channels.  I don't want to incur a regular monthly expense for something I would only use occasionally.   I see movies in the cinema every weekend when I'm in Colorado.  Netflix is great for people who don't go out to the cinema often, so
they can't  see as many moviews as I do.  And, second. . . I prefer seeing movies on the big screen.  Call me old fashioned,  but  the little screen TV and worse, the computer screen significantly
affects my experience.

Next month, September, when I return to Colorado----I'm back "home" in Northern Virginia visiting family and friends----I'll catch up with Season 3 of "Homeland."  And eagerly await,
the upcoming seasons of both "Homeland"  and   "House of Cards."  

P.S.   Don't you just LOVE Keven Spacey in that role of Master Manipulator and Politician, Frank Underwood?   Have you watched either of these hit series?    

Monday, August 25, 2014


by Kate Collins

I did it! I went by myself on the cruise that my husband and I were going to take next. It took four years before I had the courage to do it, but I'm delighted to report that even though I traveled alone, I met  wonderful women who quickly became friends. Yay!

I'd debated about the trip for at least a month and had finally asked for a sign. It was on the morning of my last book signing, with the deadline for reservations fast approaching, when I prayed, "If I should go, if this is good for me, then let someone say the word cruise to me today." And the very last woman in line for the signing thanked me and then out of the blue mentioned a cruise she had been on. Voila. There it was!

So before I left home to head for Seattle last week, I prayed for friends. And in the dining room on the first night onboard the ship, I found myself seated with seven lovely ladies from all over the continent. Most were single, and all were traveling alone. We met for dinner every night and we did some tours and sightseeing together. I was only alone when I chose to be. The best part of all was that each of us had come on a spiritual quest, and in each other, we found a sisterhood.

Alaska was fascinating. I saw breath-taking vistas, rain forests, glaciers, whales, sea lions, seals, and the majestic Tracy Arm fjord.

I even got to go on a dogsled adventure. Because there was no snow, the sled had wheels, but those dogs were so excited to run, they didn't care.

And at the end of it, we were able to cuddle 3 month old Alaskan husky puppies. I almost brought this little guy home with me!

I've come to understand that life is what you make of it. If you always see the negative in every situation, you'll be in for a rough ride. If you can find joy in life, even if it's for the littlest things, and express your gratitude, you're in for wonderful surprises.

Enjoy your day, friends.

And one more surprise.

Starting today, Monday, August 25th, you will be able to peer into the mind of Abby's wacky cousin Jillian through her diary pages, one page each day. She'll be offering fashion insights while a mini-mystery plays in the background involving your favorite sleuthing couple, Abby and Marco. Just a disclaimer: Jillian is who Jillian is. I take no responsibility for what she wrote.  You'll find the pages on my website:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gone to the Birds

by Leann

When Hurricane Ike ripped through southeast Texas a few years back while we were living there, my beautiful giant elm tree was one of many felled by that storm. It was torn away from the earth by its roots and if it had fallen toward our house instead of toward the garage, it would have destroyed our home. We were lucky, for sure, but how I missed the birds that once lived in that tree. I would spend every morning saying hello to a woodpecker or a chickadee or a house finch and I never realized I would miss the birds so much.

Now that we are finally in our new home, we have a big white oak right on the shoreline and a front yard that's a virtual forest. I have been getting acquainted with new birds, some that I have never seen before. An osprey comes by at least
once a day and perches high up on an oak limb. He stares down at the water intently, sometimes only for a minute, sometimes for as long as five. Then he dives head first into the lake and comes up with a fish. Every time. I love to watch that graceful, daring dive.

Mr. Blue Heron roams the shore morning and night, patient, regal and beautiful. At first
when I would come outside, he would fly away immediately. Now he stays. He's wary, but he doesn't interrupt his hunt. Often it's a fish and sometimes it's a snake, but he gets his breakfast and dinner regardless.

Away from the water, wandering along the side of the road are the wild turkeys. They are so different looking that your "Thanksgiving" type turkey--unique and fast. I
had the chance this year to see a mother herding her young across the road. Such a good momma.

The birds that I find creepy are the turkey vultures. Like all carrion, when they're circling,
something has died. I don't want to know what. Or a load of garbage has been lost. Or they're just waiting around for death. Yes. Creepy and ugly. But they have a job to do.

We have the usual water fowl--ducks and geese and loons--but oddly enough my favorite birds are still the little ones. They stay all year, they fight with each other constantly like a dysfunctional family of tiny, feathered siblings, but they are amazing creatures with limitless energy. Maybe its their energy that makes me appreciate them so much.
One thing is for certain, these flying friends bring me a peace I haven't felt in a very long time.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Help! My Nightmares Are Ruining My Sleep

by Mary Kennedy                        
One of the most common questions my clients ask me is: how can I get a good night's sleep? There is no simple answer. People have insomnia for a variety of reasons, and as a clinical psychologist, I know that "mood disorders" (depression and anxiety) are one of the most common reasons for poor sleep.
Some depressed and/or anxious clients are so troubled by their nightmares they are literally "afraid" to go to sleep. This leads to a vicious cycle--insomnia leads to depression, depression makes it difficult to sleep, lack of sleep causes more severe depression etc. Troubled thoughts can easily lead to nightmares.  What we do in therapy is try to change these negative cognitions or thoughts, into more positive, realistic ones.
People want to have "sweet dreams" like the one pictured above, but more often then not, they're plagued with nightmares or as the literature describes them "vivid, disturbing dreams." (Certain medications also cause "vivid, disturbing dreams," so it's a good idea to talk this over with your primary are doctor.)
People dream about being lost in a strange city at night, engulfed in a giant wave that appears out of nowhere, or they see themselves driving down a long narrow road that suddenly falls off a cliff. Sometimes they even picture themselves strapped into the passenger seat, in a car with no driver, as the car careens madly into a river.
Dark water often appears in dreams, along with threatening skies, thunderclouds, lightning flashes and waves that are straight out of a tsunami. The common theme is that the dreamer feels helpless, vulnerable, overwhelmed by her environment. All this is a metaphor for what is happening in her waking life.
The brain needs to dream to process the events of the day and try to make sense of the hundreds of thousands of pieces of information we experience. Sights, sounds, tactile sensations, bits of dialogue, random thoughts are all sorted into files. But when a nightmare takes over, the process is disrupted and chaos ensues.                          
The brain tries to come up with a "story" to match the dreamer's troubled emotions and it usually invents some natural disaster or some environmental threat to explain it. Until you get to the bottom of what's really troubling you and what's keeping you awake, the nightmares probably won't let up. Either talk over your concerns with a trusted friend, or a mental health professional, but in any case, tell yourself you're going to turn this pattern around. Here's hoping all your dreams will be happy ones and you will wake up refreshed and energized, ready to take on the day.
Mary Kennedy

Friday, August 22, 2014


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

Don't you hate it when a song gets stuck in your head and you can't stop thinking about it?

There are a few that I simply cannot stand that once I hear them, they bug me for days.  (Especially Puff the Magic Dragon.  Ooooh!  Gosh, I hate that song.)

But lately I've had an earworm of a different type.

It's no secret that I'm an insomniac. I'll wake up in the middle of the night and get an idea in my head and won't be able to get back to sleep, and sometimes it happens as early as 1 or 2 o'clock.  That makes for a very unproductive next day.

Lately songs have been coming into my head and I think about them over and over and ... suddenly I'm asleep and when I wake up, it's several hours later.  What's with that?  I'm not going to complain.

The songs?  California Dreaming by the Mamas and the Pappas and (of all things) I've Been Working on the Railroad.

How weird is that?

Anyway, it's working for me and I've been sleeping better for the past 2-3 weeks.

What earworms bother you?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Decisions, decisions!

By Mary Jane Maffini aka Victoria Abbott

The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and I've learned that eventually that brain starts looking for shortcuts. Just make any decision, it says. Who cares at this point?  Of course, it says that whether it’s an important decision or not. 

When you're really tired of deciding, your brain will suggest that you don’t make any decisions:  It’s too hard. Go watch television.

Apparently, the brain works just as hard on a little decision, say, for instance to check out Grumpy Cat or not as it does on a big one: say, what to do about saving for retirement.

As we have so many decisions to make every day,  it just gets worse!

Hmmm. Which dog to pet first? 

I hear that we also pay a price after making good decisions: the kind we call ‘willpower', say avoiding negative things and doing positive ones. 

This price is called decision fatigue. I am really glad to hear about it.

So this explains why at the end of a grocery shopping trip, deciding on many prices, carb counts, and so much more, I hit the cash register where the magazines have been strategically placed to whisper sweet nothings in my ear, and one of those magazine is going to hop into my basket, because I have decision fatigue. At last there’s a name for my disorder and I can try to fight it.
All kidding aside, if I understand this theory, there are so many decisions to be made every day, that any way you can minimize the number of decisions, the better your decisions will be and the longer you’ll keep making decisions, instead of putting them off.

Small suitcase? Or big suitcase? Both????  

This is good and bad at the same time.  It’s good because I’m packing for a road trip this week. Packing is my worst thing.  I’d rather have a medical procedure. I always start days ahead, worried about not having some essential item.  I travel a fair amount for book conferences, events and promotion. It seems important to always have clean clothes and the right ones, the right promotional materials, notes, and of course, half a drugstore.

Despite having planned for days, the night before take-off around eleven o’clock, I am stuffing extra things into the luggage “in case” it snows or there’s a heat wave or a monsoon.  Other items will be sitting on top because, well, I’m too tired to decide. 
Or hat and scarf?

All this time, I just thought I was nuts, but now I realize, it was just decision fatigue. Makes me feel kind of heroic.

But I have drawn a conclusion: when I have to pack from now on, I’ll do it in the morning, before I’ve made dozens of writing decisions or made is as far as the cash in the grocery store. I bet my suitcase won’t be so stuffed with stuff I couldn’t make a decision about. 

What about you? Are there decisions that tire you out or do you love making all of them? What about time of day – better in the morning? You can tell us. We’re all friends here. That’s one thing I’ve decided.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I'm awake"
-Ernest Hemingway

In keeping with Mary Kennedy’s Dream Club series this blog is on how we get to those dreams… Sleep!

I’m one of those people who can sleep anywhere, any time any place. I think I learned it in college with so much do and so little time. I slept in class, curled up on a library chair, on the floor, campus bench, empty classroom, the cafeteria.

This carried over to adulthood. I’ve pulled my car over to sleep and zonked out draped over the steering wheel, I always fall asleep on the TV is just an expensive nightlight.

I can sleep with my head on the keyboard resulting in little squares indented in my face. I can sleep in church, the movies, the symphony and at $60 a ticked that is expensive sleeping.

Some of the worse places I’ve slept are in a tent in the rain with the water leaking through the sides and running in the bottom, a plane to London with two screaming babies behind me, overnight in an airport…there’s a treat not to be missed...the dorm freshman year where no one slept ever, on the sidewalk waiting for New Kids on the Block tickets.

Some of the best places where I’ve slept is in a hotel room after that flight to London, in my own bed after a week of
camping in the woods, under the stars in the Grand Canyon, on a sailboat in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.

What about snoring? I won’t ask if you do but can you fall asleep if the other person snores? Personally I’ve contemplated using a pillow and I don’t mean me to sleep on but the other guy to sleep under...that’s just between us.

What about you? Do you need a special blanket to fall asleep? Do you have a special pillow? Are you one of those people who takes your pillow with you?

Tell us about you and sleep and I’ll give two of these adorable sleep masks from the answers. Just the thing when you want to sleep on that airplane flight. (Please check back to see if you won.)

Mary Kennedy’s Sweet Dreams giveaway is still on. Email with your name and email adders. 

Happy Sleeping
Hugs, Duffy

Geared for the Grave
First book in Cycle Path mysteries
Dec 2

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Movie Time

by Maggie Sefton

Since I was immersed in revision tasks on upcoming Kelly Flynn and
Molly Malone books until mid-August, I've deliberately indulged myself this past week with my favorite form of relaxation:  Movies.  As a storyteller by choice and by trade, nothing is more relaxing for me than to disappear into another storyteller's world.  Some---but not all---of the movies I've seen recently:

A MOST WANTED MAN---I mentioned this movie before when talking about talented actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's many and varied roles.  This movie is an excellent thriller and totally realistic given  the world we live in now and the threat of terrorism.  Definitely a must see.  Hoffman's performance is masterful.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES---An excellent continuation of the background story that we saw introduced last year (or year before) in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.   This storyline has the apes living in their own city-state in the midst of the beautiful wooded island across San Francisco Bay.  Well done and dramatic.   Beginning of a whole new world.

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT----A delightful and charming Woody Allen film set in 1928 in the south of France.  Actors are always excellent, plus the costumes are authenic as is all the great period music, and filled with witty dialogue a la Allen.  Totally entertaining bit of froth you'll enjoy.  Plus any movie with Colin Firth is a winner.

A HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY----I adore British light comedies, especially those either set in India or having Indian characters and lots and lots of delicious Indian food.  Throw in Helen Mirren, Dame Maggie Smith, and/or Dame Judy Dench, and I'm sold.  A solid winner.  And you'll have to go find a good Indian restaurant afterwards because you'll be hungry.

LUCY----A fascinating movie featuring versatile actress Scarlett Johansen as a young woman who finds herself caught up in international intrigue and drug smuggling of some New Age, Mega Avant Garde designer drug that increases brain function.  Since scientists tell us we only use approximately 10% of our brain's capacity (dolphins use 20%), the story shows the super powers that accrue to the heroine Johansen as her brain develops 20%, 30%, 50%, and on up.  Action-adventure for sure, but you'll enjoy it.  

What movie have you seen recently?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Believe It!

by Kate Collins

Once a week I lead a creativity group at my local women’s shelter. I call it creativity because I want it to be a fun exercise in tapping into their creative minds. I’ve noticed that most people don’t often go into their creative side because they’re so focused on getting through the business and busyness of life.

The group I work with is ever changing, as the goal is to get them whole and on their feet again. They are all abused and often coming off of an addiction stemming from abuse, hurt in physical/emotional ways that I will never fully understand, and for them this is an hour long vacation where they get to imagine and pretend in various fun situations.

Lately I’ve been focusing on how to get them to imagine themselves in better circumstances. To do that effectively, I’ve been studying, reading, and listening to webinars on the power of the mind, the subconscious mind, the spirit, and quantum physics.  Fascinating subjects to me.

Since I’ve changed over to those topics, the women have really blossomed. I’ve seen sixty-somethings down to nineteen-year-olds come to life as they absorbed the truth of their circumstances: we are what we believe we are.

They learn:
If we believe we can do something, we can. We become what we believe.
If we believe we can’t do something, we can’t. Basically, we create our reality. That’s putting it simply, of course, but when I show them examples, they get it.

At my last class, a young woman named Cheyenne came up afterward to tell me she was moving out the next day into her own place. She gave me a big hug and said she was sorry to go only because she would miss my classes. Then she gave me a gift. You can see the photos of this tiny card that is one of the most meaningful presents I’ve ever received.

This is a young woman who has been tortured, raped, mentally and physically scarred, and yet she has the most cheerful spirit and loving heart of anyone I’ve ever met. I know she’ll make something of her life. She has that kind of determination.

I wanted to share this with you to encourage you to donate your time helping others, human or animal, if you don’t already. It’s so rewarding. We don’t understand the impact we have on others’ lives until we see precious gifts like this.

Have a happy week!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ready ... set ... ACTION!

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

Some people have the (laughable) notion that all authors are mega-rich and that our publishers give us wonderful perks.  Say, for instance, a vidographer.  Yes, someone to chronicle our lives and make us look good.

Well, we all work for the same company, but they haven't blessed us with anything like that. (Although, sometimes they take us out for a very nice dinner.)

The Cozy Chicks are a bunch of extremely talented women, and our resident videographer is Ellery Adams. We need to buy her a director's chair because she's been making videos for us for some time now and just finished one she calls MEET THE COZY CHICKS. (Can you believe it, there are STILL some people out there who haven't heard of us.)  This is our video calling card.

So, here's our video.  It's also been added to our Killer Video Book Trailers page.  Just click this link to see them.

 We'd love to know what you think -- the comments are open!

P.S.  We're busting at the seems with pride because Ellery and Leann's new books (Murder in the Mystery Suite and The Cat, The Vagbond and the Victim) hit the New York Times Bestsellers list at #11 and #25.  Whoo-Hoo!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Daydream Believer--and a giveaway!

by Mary Kennedy
Most writers spend quite a bit of time daydreaming. (not that we have a corner on daydreaming, I bet you do it, too.)  We can gaze at clouds...
or trees...                                        
or the ocean...                                      
for hours and never be bored. (I took the shot above from the place I escape to in Ft. Lauderdale. It was sheer serendipity that I found this oceanfront condo on a quiet stretch of beach.  I was headed down to Key West to research a BoxCar Mystery set in the Keys and just needed a place to stay for one night in Ft. Lauderdale.) I've been to Ft. Lauderdale at least 50 times--you can never have too much of paradise.
Daydreaming (in spite of what you may have been told in grade school) can be a good thing. It's a time for the brain to recharge, to play with ideas and images, making new combinations and coming up with creative solutions.
Daydreaming is essential for writers...
we need to toss around ideas, think about our plots and characters and as one of writer pals puts it, "just our minds roll downstream."
So the next time someone accuses you of wasting time by "daydreaming," let them know that you're engaged in a highly creative activity. (Any anyway, who are they to judge you? Maybe they spend hours a day on Candy Crush!)
Just a reminder that the Sweet Dreams Kit giveaway is still on. We already have two happy winners, Jen Beard and Linda Chudej. They'll be receiving a signed copy of Nightmares Can Be Murder, a Navajo dreamcatcher, a box of tea, a tin of cookies, etc. If you've already entered, that's all good, please don't enter again, it will overwhelm the system. But if you haven't entered, just shoot an e-mail with you name and e-mail addy and DREAMS in the subject line to You could be our next happy winner. 
And remember to keep dreamin'...
by Mary Kennedy