Thursday, August 25, 2016

A hero in the garden

We’re having a very hot summer and very little rain.  Some of the more delicate flowers will have trouble surviving. We may have lost some coral bells when they just shriveled up.  Fingers crossed that we can bring them back.  But, there’s one plant you can always count on:  the hardy and happy day lily!  They are the best part of our garden this year (please ignore the weeds - it's too darn hot!).  I think they are quite heroic.

My friend Molly Westin actually has a day lily farm (which I got to see it firsthand as a lucky author on one of Molly’s mystery tours in North Carolina).  I am so jealous!  Of course, there’s not much in common between the climate of NC and Ontario, but that doesn’t matter.  Our day lilies are also doing just fine, from the cheerful and resilient tiger lilies that grow wild in the ditches and on abandoned properties to the snootiest of hydrids, they’re all terrific.  To my knowledge we’ve never lost one.  

We do love this hybrid though!

True story: Years back, a day lily was forgotten in an open plastic bag with a bit of soil on the back steps (sorry about that) and spent the better part of a year there trying valiantly to grow on the concrete.   It didn’t do too well, but it lived and once planted in the soil with enough sun and water, it flourished again.  

I am grateful to the day lilies that are starting to fill out around our property.  Both the front and back yard were completely neglected when we bought four years ago.  The day lilies have helped to fill in many of the bald spots. 

I did take some from our previous home, just as I took  a few from the home before that. I think that flowers give continuity.  One of my new neighbors gave me a lovely peach and purple hydrid that her friend had developed.   It meant a lot to her and that meant a lot to me.  A nice welcome, don’t you think?  

I’m happy to say that by next year, we’ll be dividing the first plants.  We’ll pass some on to people who will appreciate them.

So do you love day lilies?  If not, what does make you happy in your garden or someone else’s?   Do some of your flowers have special meaning. There is no one right answer!   But as you know, we love to hear!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Happy Eating...until it’s gone!!!

I just read this in the news...

Chick-fil-A is under fire for killing a beloved menu item: the spicy chicken biscuit. 
The company's Facebook page is littered with thousands of complaints about the biscuit's demise, with many customers threatening to boycott Chick-fil-A unless it resurrects the breakfast sandwich. 

Seems kind of extreme but then I know how these people feel ‘cause I felt that when Friches here in Cincy stopped selling vanilla Coke. Coke refused to cut them a deal so now it’s vanilla Pepsi! Really? Pepsi! This is a huge deal for me. When I needed a little pick-me-up and to spoil myself a bit I’d pull into the drive-up window and order a cheese burger and vanilla Coke, sit alone in the car and pig out. I loved every bite and sip!

My husband had the same thing for White Castles. He’d pull in, order 4 plus onion chips and a Coke. Sometimes he’d even take me with him.

We have Graeters ice cream here Cincy and on I’ve been known to stop in...leave my diet in the car...and order on dip of raspberry chocolate chip and for ten minutes of licking and slurping I was in heaven!!

And then there is my candy fetish of Snickers. I love ‘em. Put them in my books all the time. I will...on occasion...stop by a CVS and buy one an indulge and not look once at the calorie content or grams of sugar and fat.

So what about you? Do you have a guilty pleasure you indulge in and would be pissed as all get out if they suddenly stopped serving it?

I’ll give away 2 copies of Hot Southern Nights, one of the romances I wrote a few years ago. Please check back to this post tomorrow for the winners.

Happy eating. Hugs, Duffy

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Love, Love These Flowers

by Maggie Sefton

I was transferring some photos to my laptop from my iPhone yesterday, and I noticed some of the many  photos of beautiful flowers I'd taken on my trip to San Diego for a recent conference in July.  Those bright red blossoms pictured above were on a plant that was sitting right next to the hotel entrance which was  glass and always wide open and inviting.

Naturally I spotted other beautiful flower photos I'd taken on previous trips---some for writing related conferences and others taken on pleasure trips.  So I thought I'd share some of these photos I've taken over the past few years in a variety of locales.

I admired these gorgeous azaleas at one of the homes on the Garden Tour of Homes last springs in Falls Church and Arlington, Virginia.  My friend from childhood, Diane, and I have made it a point to attend that wonderful tour every spring.  There are several homes on display each year and they're all been re-decorated by the top interior designers in the area.

I saw these cheerful bright hibiscus blossoms in a private garden in Antigua when I took a wonderful cruise through several Caribbean countries last February.

These stunning hanging garden displays were at a nursery garden center in Juneau, Alaska

Flowers were everywhere in Mexico a few years ago, even in February.  Mild temperatures and sunny skies.  The house that fellow mystery

We'll wrap up today with a photo of spring azalea blossoms at the River house in Virginia's Northern Neck, just a block from the Potomac River.

Monday, August 22, 2016


By Mary Kennedy                      
 Sometimes simple really is better! I was trying to figure out what to do with a LOT of leftover watermelon and came across this fun recipe. I had feta cheese on hand, along with black olives and voila--watermelon and feta salad!

It couldn't be easier.


4 cups chopped watermelon
one small red onion, sliced thin
fresh mint
1/2 cup black olives, roughly chopped
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled.


Add all ingredients and arrange with a few springs of fresh mint on top. It's wonderfully tangy and refreshing.

Bon appetit!


Saturday, August 20, 2016


Meet Jordan Bingham the key figure in Victoria Abbott's  book collector mysteries. We hope that after you get to know her, you’ll understand why we think she was the perfect person to do the sleuthing in our series.  Jordan made her first appearance in The Christie Curse, the first book collector mystery.  

Here’s a peek into Jordan’s story before the first book.  At the start of the series, Jordan has just come limping back to her home town of Harrison Falls, New York,  after the man in her life maxed out her credit card  and cleared out her college  fund.  So much for grad school!  Fortunately her lovable and loyal uncles, Mick and Lucky, were happy to help her pick up the pieces as they have been there for her  all her life.  Too bad the same lovable uncles were as crooked as the day is long.   The problem was that Jordan was the first person in her large, Irish family to go straight, a grave disappointment to the all the relatives.  After all, didn’t Jordan get a set of lockpicks for her Sweet Sixteen?  Wasn’t she taught as a schoolchild how to deal with  nosy cops and their questions? Doesn’t she know how to get around town under cover of darkness without being observed?   Despite her skills and heritage, she’s chosen her own path. Not that she doesn’t adore Uncle Mick and Uncle Lucky, the scamps who brought her up: she does and she loves all the other uncles who pop up from time to time (Hey Kev – stay out of trouble!) It’s just that she sees herself having a life that revolves around books and getting back to graduate school to study Victorian literature.  

Jordan was thrilled to get a dream job as the research assistant to the eccentric book collector, Vera Van Alst, the most hated woman in Harrison Falls.  She figured that this would be the ticket to respectability and continuing her education. Vera may be cantankerous and nearly impossible to please, but the job is in a fascinating (if slightly crumbling) Victorian mansion, comes with three excellent meals a day thanks to Signora Panetone, the live-in cook, and a charming attic apartment, complete with faded cabbage rose wallpaper, a four-poster bed and lots of great hiding places. The climate-controlled rosewood lined library is a place of joy for Jordan.  All to say, most of what she makes will go straight to the bank except for a the occasional trip to local  second hand shops. Lucky she loves all the vintage stuff, because the new stuff is out of her reach.  Might we add, when she brought in a rambunctious pug needing a home, there was not a ripple of objection.  There would be serious objections to being late for breakfast eight am in the conservatory) or dinner (eight pm in the formal dining room), but those didn’t present a problem for Jordan, who likes being dressed for the occasion.

Things (if you don’t count Good Cat and Bad Cat, Vera’s identical and unpredictable Siamese, who seem to be able to walk through walls) were ideal.    All Jordan had to do is find a manuscript for a previously unknown play that Agatha Christie may have written during her mysterious eleven-day disappearance in 1926.   What a perfect situation.  Until, Jordan discovered that her predecessor died trying to find the elusive manuscript.   And someone’s been snooping in her room.  Worse, the local cop,  Tyler Dekker, seems smitten with her.  That can’t end well.   It’s one thing to go straight, it’s another thing altogether to consort with the enemy.  Too bad  Jordan felt the same attraction.  Of course, the relationship was doomed, until fate put them in a position that they had to work together. 

All Jordan has to cope with this unnerving situation is the collection of skills she owes to her uncles, her problem-solving nature, and the fact she knows how to use hiding places, the dark of night and masking tape to avoid getting cut on broken windows.   


We have found that was enough.  Through four books, she’s delivered with guts and humor and never lost her love of the mysteries of the Golden Age of Detection that she is paid to find. 

We love that girl!

Now in book five, we’re giving her a break: sending her off to San Francisco on a holiday with "Smiley" to repair their relationship in the city where Dashell Hammett taught us that you can’t trust anyone.
Uh oh!

Why don’t you join Jordan on this big adventure? She can use a friendly face and some support and we know you will enjoy the trip. Why not pre-order The Hammett Hex  here?

We'd love it if you popped in and told how you feel about Jordan or about amateur sleuths in general!  Do they have to be perfect?

Friday, August 19, 2016

In the news -- it's enough to make you cry!

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

I'm swamped working on Booktown #11 -- so my character Jeff Resnick has written today's blog. Take it away, Jeff!
~ ~ ~
Damn alarm clock! Not what you need when you've slept like crap for days. Okay, it could be worse. Having Herschel attached to me like a leach all night doesn’t help either.

Time for the news.

Nothing like sitting in your underwear catching up on the latest news because it’s easier than waiting for the stinking computer to get to your news feed's home page.

Elections: Okay. ISIS: Okay. But what about any big local thing? Here we go; latest from good old Channel 4.

Oh, no!

No more Ralph Wilson Stadium!

Maybe I shouldn’t wake up Rich too soon for this one!

I’ve known about the New Era Cap Company for years, but never realized how big they are. They are changing the name of the Ralph Wilson Stadium to the New Era Field! And here they are a local company willing to bail out the Bills for years. Then there’s my brother, the consummate Bills fan. Poor schmuck.

Okay, Richard you might as well hear the news and see what you think.

But, this may not be bad after all if it works. God only knows the team has tried just about everything to get back into a winning position.

If we finally have a winning season in Buffalo, I will happily share my brother's season tickets! Training camp in Rochester looked very promising these past couple of weeks. This might be the year we can have fun watching the Bills on Sunday, even if we’re staying warm and away from the drunks watching it on the tube!

But, back to Buffalo. I see things are still happening down at the waterfront. Do you want to see those lit-up grain elevators that look like Labatts cans one night or not? I think we need a night out. And if we're lucky, Brenda might even approve.



Join Jeff and Richard on their latest adventure in SHATTERED SPIRITS.

While riding his new racing bike, Jeff is hit by an SUV, an accident which has a cascade effect on his life. He loses his job to a replacement, his girlfriend pressures him to move in, his bank accounts are hacked, and a restless spirit begs for his help—all in less than a week. But it’s soon apparent that his so-called random accident is anything but, and the murder of a close friend has a hobbled Jeff on the run. Can he discover who’s out to destroy his life—and threaten those he loves most?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

My head’s in the clouds. How about yours?

My head’s in the clouds for a very good reason:  because the summer skies are so beautiful. 

Not only the clear blue with fluffy cumulus clouds like a child’s drawing or the inky night skies with distant twinkling stars and swirling mysterious galaxies, but the early evening heavens just before or after sunset, when there’s a show of shape, color and light that really brings joy.  

As a child I used to love lying in the nearby field by the abandoned house,

just watching the clouds float by. Of course, that was when we were free-range kids!

These have been just  a few of the evening skies that have appealed to me lately. 

Evening skies are just one more instance of the best things in life being free. 

Do you share this passion for evening skies? Or are you a high noon person?  Or do you think it’s just time for me to get back to my desk? 

Good luck with that one: I’m on vacation!

Let us know what you love seeing in the sky. Happy gazing!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

High School... The best of times, or not so much.

It’s back to school time and the way I remember it... All of high school is divided into four parts...the popular kids/the jocks, the brains, the regular kids, the weird kids, the wallflowers.

I just ran into a high school sort-of friend who I hadn’t seen in years and years. She was the same as always plus a few wrinkles. She still had a red convertible, her husband still dashing even with wrinkles and lots of fun to be with. High school was good for Evelyn.

It was good for me too or at least it was okay. I was a middle popular person, probably part of that regular kid group I mentioned above. I was lucky enough to have a group of friends to hang with and had decent grades. Still I had no desire to go to any high school reunions or stay in touch.

I don’t think we had any kids bullied, at least not in my grade that I knew about. There were around 300 in my graduating class and with a class that large there was enough room for everyone, at least I like to think so.

I don’t think high school is an easy time, not even a little bit. I told my kids that if they could survive middle school/high school they could survive anything. I got this from my one daughter who had a really bad time in high school. I didn’t realize just how bad she was bullied till years later. If I’d known I would have home schooled her in a heartbeat.

So what about you? What about high school? Best of times? Not so much? You’d go back in a heartbeat? You’d like nothing more than to fly over the place and pee-pee all over it?