Friday, July 20, 2018

Camping 101

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

As I mentioned a few months back, I'm fascinated by RVing. Fellow author Sue Ann Jaffarian has become a full-time RVer. She's still got a day job, but she's currently living in her class B RV and will hit the road when she retires at the end of the year. I love to read her posts and hope she becomes a vlogger.

I'm not great behind the wheel. What I mean by that is, I can drive for about an hour and then I want to fall asleep. That would not be good, so I will have to live vicariously by watching Youtube videos.

But -- someone in my family is more adventurous than me.

A few weeks back, my brother said his wife was bugging him to get a pop-up camper. She thought it would be fun for their granddaughter and give them something to do as a family. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when two weeks later he announced, "We bought a pop-up." 

They'd looked at several used campers, and then they found this. I found it almost impossible to believe this pop-up is over ten years old. It's pristine, and they got it for a very good price.

View looking forward.
It was a lot roomier than I thought it would be. I believe one of the "beds" is a king while the other is a queen, and the table breaks down so it could be a bed as well. It's got a little 2-burner propane stove, and outdoor shower, and was spotless.

I had been in a pop-up when I was a kid, when they were still made of real canvas, and it smelled musty, which is why I could never see myself wanting one. But this pop-up not only didn't have an ordor, but it was a hot day and it was actually very pleasant inside.

View toward the back.
So far they've only gone camping one time because kids today are scheduled up the wazoo. (Soccar -- and like why? It's not like this country is a fan of "real football" (as my Dad would say). Our team couldn't even qualify for the World Cup.) So they are going in two weeks--if not sooner.

I kind of envy them, but then I remember there's no bathroom. (Although they do have a "marine toilet." My brother had one on his boat so he knows all about it. Still....)

Now I would want to do some decorating. Nice lamonate on the floor. Maybe paint the cabinets, etc. but they are find with it as is. (As my brother pointed out, they were outside most of the time anyway socializing with their friends.) 

Anyway, I wish them lots of great adventures in their little pop-up.

Are you camper type of person?





Thursday, July 19, 2018

Clues on a Cover!

by Karen Rose Smith

I have a wonderful cover artist for my Caprice De Luca Home Stager cozy mystery series. Since Caprice not only stages houses but finds homes for stray animals who come her way, the artist usually included an animal.  Caprice herself has adopted two cats--long haired calico Sophia and Persian Mirabelle--as well as her Cocker Spaniel Lady.  She believes pets can help, calm, soothe and save their humans.  On the cover for CUT TO THE CHAISE, my December Caprice release, Caprice encounters a Schnoodle.  He looks just like the one my artist has portrayed on the cover.

Before a cozy is set for publication, my editor asks me for cover ideas and I send him photos.  Each element the artist chooses to use on the cover has something important to do with the mystery itself.  Front and center on this cover, you can see Caprice's wedding veil and one of her shoes!  This book is number 8 in this series and it is Caprice's "wedding" novel.  I won't say who she marries in case you haven't read the first books in the series.

Bottles of wine are lined up in the shelves at the back and behind the counter.  Much of this book is set at Rambling Vines winery.  The setting portrayed on the cover is the tasting room.  This is important not only because Caprice furnished it when it was renovated but because Caprice's wedding reception is slated to be held at the winery.

Michelle and Travis Dodd asked Caprice to decorate the winery in a unique way.  They wanted a relaxed but classy atmosphere and asked Caprice to include chaise lounges.  The tasting room is decorated in teal and claret decor from the leather chaise lounges and club chairs to the pendant hand blown glass lights over the wine tasting counter and the crystal and plates that are used for wine tastings.

After you've read this cozy, maybe you can find additional clues on the cover, hints to important elements in the mystery.  There's a story behind each one.  CUT TO THE CHAISE is available for pre-order now.




Pre-order CUT TO THE CHAISE on Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wedding with a Bang!

Evie Bloomfield here on Mackinac Island from the Cycle Path Mysteries. We all know not all weddings are created equal but to have the bride shoot the wedding planner may be a new one.
Okay, maybe he had it coming. Maybe he did forget to order the tables and chairs for the reception and went with picnic baskets and blankets for a sit on the lawn affair. Maybe he did forget to order the cake but he did scrounge up those cupcakes from Doud’s Market that weren’t too bad. And what about the good things? He ordered the best Champagne ever and lots of it.
Why did he remember the Champagne when he forgot everything else? Does it have to do with the dead guy on the docks who had a bottle of Champagne clutched in his hands? Does it have anything to do with the smuggling booze operation into Canada?
Not that the bride cares diddly about any of that all she wanted was a wedding to remember and a dead wedding planner with a musket ball in his chest is sure to make that happen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Slipping Back in Time

by Maggie Sefton


Ile Sainte Louis with Notre Dame in the distance

My goodness----Mary Kennedy has done it again.  Her great post yesterday awoke some old memories of the wonderful opportunities I had years and years ago to wander freely about the beautiful city of Paris.  Plenty of memories of wandering about that picturesque area "Le Marais"  filled with bakeries and wonderful specialty food shops----cheese and desserts to die for.  I loved simply poking among those shops and choosing lunch, Parisian style.

My favorite luncheon spot was that 17th Century jewel of a park, Place de Vosges.  Surrounded on all four sides by those gorgeous buildings from the 1600s, it was truly a special spot.   I was writing historical novels back in those days, and I was submerged in what I refer to as my Musketeer Swashbuckler.  Brave Musketeers, a scheming Italian Cardinal Mazarin, plots to kidnap the Queen----it was great fun to write.   The heroine was a widow who had a winery in the Loire Valley where she produced a wonderful white wine popular during those days----Vouvray.  "The finest Vouvray in France, monsieur."  :)  

And that beautiful jewel from the 1600s----Ile Sainte-Louis---hosted many scenes from the novel.  So I had lots of reasons to wander about Paris, gathering ideas and capturing settings.   This was early in my writing career---early 1990s, and England and Scotland were the preferred historical novel settings in those days.  So, my Musketeer Swashbuckler didn't stir any editorial interest.  In fact, I still remember what one NY editor said when I had a 10 minute "pitch session" with her.  "France.  I  really don't like France.  Why don't you set that novel in Scotland instead."  I managed to keep from laughing out loud, since there were....ahem.....no Musketeers in Scotland.  :)   Needless to say, the Musketeer Swashbuckler never found a home back then and it went into the bottom of my file cabinet.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. . .but now it's 2018, and we have an entirely new world of Fiction.  And----thanks to the part of that  world which is Independent Fiction, all sorts of Historical Novels are available.  So, those feisty Musketeers my have their time in the sun after all.  I will keep all of you wonderful Cozy Chicks Blog readers and fans posted.      




Monday, July 16, 2018

TRAVEL LUST--THE LURE OF FARAWAY PLACES

By Mary Kennedy
                                                                             

If I could find a twelve step program for people who are addicted to travel, I'd join! Yes, I'm a travel addict. Do I manage to travel as much as I'd like? Sadly no. My last big trip was to Paris a couple of summers ago. It wasn't my first time in Paris but it was a spectacular visit. 

                                            
I spent some time strolling through the Marais district. (which has become quite trendy, it was different in my student days.)  The Marais is famous for fun boutiques, hipster cafes and historic sights. Winding medieval streets will take you to two of the most famous museums in Paris: the Centre Pompidou and the Carnavalet.  It's easy to spot the Pompidou Centre (no, that's not a roller coaster ride!) because of its distinctive architecture.
                                                                            

And the Carnavelet Museum is great for history buffs; you can learn everything you wanted to know about the history of Paris.  Enjoy the displays inside and be sure to take a stroll through the formal gardens.
                                                                               


Also. one of my favorite Paris parks is in the Marais district, the Place des Vosges.


The  Place des Vosges is the ideal place to have a picnic with a fresh baguette, some creamy brie and fruit for dessert. (and a few pieces of chocolate, or a delicious berry tart, of course!)  Don't be surprised if people passing by smile and say "Bon Appetit!" Just nod and answer, "Merci!"

The Rue des Rosiers is the perfect spot if you're looking for falafel, a popular treat you can buy everywhere.  Which street vendor has the best falafel in Paris? If I told you, I'd have to kill you!                                                       


Just stroll along, and you'll find a variety of spots offering falafel, ice cream and crepes.
                                                                                     

Day or night, there's always something going on in the Marais district.
                                                                              
                                                                                    
I found a shop for cat lovers,but sadly, it was August and it was closed. I'll definitely hit it on my next trip.                                                                        
                                                                                 

There were pillows, mugs, art work, and a few whimsical cat beds. 



 These pillows would make wonderful gifts for future contests! The "cats playing tennis" was featured in the window, it's vintage. I think every cozy writer (and reader) I know, loves cats.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of the Marais district. Next week, I'll feature another fun destination! Happy travels.

Mary Kennedy

Friday, July 13, 2018

A message from beyond?

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

Yesterday, I stopped at a couple of garage sales on the way to the grocery store. At one, I saw a brass bracelet that made my heart stop because it looked so much like one my Dad had made for me when I was in college. Mine is in silver, the one I got today is in brass.



Dad often worked in brass, silver, and stainless steel. When I asked the woman where she got it, she said a cousin had given it to her. (I should have asked her who her cousin was.)

 Dad probably didn't make the brass one. He never sold his jewelry, just making it for family. And he went to several jewelry-making classes at the Memorial Art Gallery here in Rochester, so this could have been made by a fellow classmate.

 Still, the lady said to me, "Maybe this is a sign from your Dad. Maybe he's saying hello."

 What do you think?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Summer Is Here!

by Karen Rose Smith


The best part of summer for our family is the vegetables from our garden and the fruits we can find at local produce stands.  This week, the English cucumbers and Black Beauty zucchini were hiding under the huge green leaves.  I bake, grill, broil and saute zucchini in a variety of recipes.  They are easy to insinuate into many recipes...even lasagna!  I use the zucchini instead of pasta.  


 Cucumbers are a mainstay of salad any time of the year.  But when they are plentiful, I use them in salads of their own.  They play well with cherry tomatoes and vinaigrette, also with dill and ranch dressing. I like English cucumbers, the long thin ones because they have fewer seeds.




Peaches are probably my favorite summer fruit.  In my area of Pennsylvania, there are plentiful bushels of peaches when winter has been kind to the orchards.  I believe a peach needs no other accompaniment.  But recipes with peaches are endless from peach cobbler, to peach crisp, to peach pie to peach custard.














I'm constantly being told I should drink more water.  I'm not a water drinker.  But this is a new way that I've found to drink water and like it.  This pitcher has a channel on the left where you can load in pealed and washed fruit.  Then just fill the pitcher with water and refrigerate. I like peaches best and strawberries are a near second.  The fruit infuses the water with a bit of flavor.  The pitcher needs to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to do the job well. 

I hope you enjoy the fruits and vegetables of summer!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Community...all welcome or not so much


I’m a woman alone and that’s just fine but lately I’m finding that my house/yard is a whole lot of work. So the question is...move or stay.
I love my house, I really do. My husband and I planted every tree, bush, flower, fence, trellis, fountain... you get the picture. The thing is he’s no longer here so that means I take care of all that  needs repair or gotten older and now huge and needs maintaining.
I’m not ancient...least I don’t like to admit that I am...but I’m no spring chicken either. So what do I do? Move or stay and hire out some of the work.
Yeah, hiring out the work is a great idea but getting someone is always tough and they will never do it like I do it. I need to compromise.

Or do I move and make new friends and get into a new life style while I’m in the mood to do such a thing. Moving is tough and I’m a loner. I like people and doing things but the new communities are really close with neighbors on you doorstep. The up side is there are bike trails, walking distance to shopping and restaurants, etc. The downside is the neighbor on the doorstep thing. 
So my question to you is... When you get to be a person of age will you stay put in your house or move to something more manageable and make a new life?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Florida State of Mind

by Maggie Sefton



A family favorite, the Betsy Ross Hotel, is one of those lovely Art Deco jewels on South Beach.



Once again, one of Mary Kennedy's wonderful Cozy Chicks Blog posts has inspired
one of my own posts.  Today, tons of memories were stirred awake about my family's very favorite vacation site---Florida.  And, specifically, South Beach, Florida.  Ah, yes-----what can I say about South Beach, Florida that hasn't already been said.  "SoBe," as it was referred to in the late 1990's by the Chic and Fashionable set, was every bit as brash and brazen as depicted in that marvelous and hilarious Robin Williams and Nathan Lane comedy movie "The Birdcage."  That movie was actually a take-off of the wonderful French hit "La Cage Aux Folles."

At night, the main street of South Beach was brilliant with bright neon lights that flashed from all those marvelous Art Deco buildings lining the street. When my husband and our oldest two daughters, Christine and Melissa, visited South Beach years and years ago, we would stay at some of the older hotels which were cheaper.  They were not fancy, to be sure, but they were right on the beach with a drop-dead view of the Atlantic Ocean.  I have always been someone who could sit and stare at the ocean for hours.  Soothing, relaxing, name your own adjective.  And when our family expanded with the births of our two younger daughters, Serena and Maria, we continued to drive to Florida for at least two weeks of beautiful sunshine, ocean breezes, and reading and relaxing under palm trees.


Daughter Serena---now a NASA Astronaut and presently at the International Space Station for six months---when she was just a toddler sitting in the sand at South Beach.  :)  


Funny memories came back as well.  Our family loved those beautiful colorful Hibiscus plants with the bright red blossoms so much that we would try to bring some plants back to our home at that time in West Lafayette, Indiana, where my husband was a professor of Electrical Engineering at Purdue University.  We would buy two or more plants in nursery tubs and then we'd take turns sitting in the back of the family station wagon with those plant tubs between our knees to protect them during the two and a half day drive back to Indiana.  :)  Of course, the plants were happy as long as it was sunny and hot outside in an Indiana summer.  But when Winter's cold winds blew and the plants had to be moved inside, those plants did not take kindly to the dry furnace heat.  Within three years, the plants would die despite all my ministrations----cleaning leaves, pampering them.  

Other memories intruded as well.  I remember floating out in that delightful ocean right across from the main street of South Beach one afternoon in July 1997.  My husband and I had had lunch earlier in the day at the News Cafe.  Our kids were vacationing with other family members.  All of a sudden, helicopters started flying over our section of the ocean and beach.  Not just one or two, but several helicopters appeared---hovering overhead.  That was totally unusual.  What everyone on that beach and floating peacefully in the ocean learned that evening on the news broadcasts was that the famous designer Gianni Versace had been murdered, shot, on the doorstep of his gorgeous mansion behind a black wrought iron fence.  I found a news media quote on Wikipedia that best describes it:   "On the morning of July 15, 1997, fashion designer Gianni Versace is shot and killed outside his Miami Beach mansion by wanted spree killer Andrew Cunanan."  We used to walk past that beautiful mansion every day on the way to the News Cafe.  It took days for police to find and catch the killer.  A very sad memory, indeed.    



  

Monday, July 9, 2018

FLORIDA'S CALLING--YES, EVEN IN THE SUMMER!

By Mary Kennedy
 
All my friends know I'm a huge Florida fan--in any season!  So every year, my thoughts turn to Florida and the Ft. Lauderdale condo. It's right on the ocean (many condos and hotels call themselves"oceanfront" but they are actually across the street--the other side of AIA.) This one really is oceanfront, it's right on the sand. I discovered it 20 years ago when I was headed to Key West to do some research for a Boxcar Mystery. I fell in love with it then, and go back every year.

                                                                           

 When it's high tide, the water comes up so close to the balcony, you can pretend you're on a cruise ship. Here's a picture I took from the deck.
                                                              
                                             


Day or night, it's a beautiful sight...
                                                            


 I have a teen series that features South Beach in the first book. The series is called the Hollywood Nights series (South Beach is known as "Hollywood East" because of all the movies they shoot there). Golden Girl is the first book and books 2 and 3 are set in Hollywood.
                                                         
                                             
Here is how Golden Girl came about. I was sitting in an outdoor cafe in South Beach, the News Cafe, watching the "beautiful people" strolling down the street, sipping iced coffees, chatting about their evening plans.
                                                                             
   
    South Beach is known for its glittery night life, and there's a constant round of concerts and clubs where people go to see and be seen.
                                                                           

One girl in particular, struck me as being the epitome of a "South Beach" teen, a lovely blonde who was walking alone. She seemed thoughtful and composed as she zipped up the steps of a fancy hotel and was greeted by the doorman. I decided right then and there to write a book about her, which became Golden Girl.  Just that brief sighting led to a whole plot taking shape in my head. What if she lived in that fabulous hotel and her father owned it? What if she was a top model in South Beach and craved a different sort of life? What if she wanted more than a constant round of parties and photo shoots? What is she had goals and dreams that had nothing to do with being famous? These are the questions I asked myself as I developed the plot.

 If I hadn't gone to South Beach for lunch on that particular day (I was staying in Ft. Lauderdale), the book wouldn't exist!

                                   
From there, I decided to add my two Hollywood teen books, Movie Star and the sequel, Confessions. to the series. They have different characters than the ones in Golden Girl, but they all revolve around the film business.  The glitter, the angst, the roller coaster of fame and success.  If you love books set in Florida and Hollywood, and are fascinated by movie sets, I hope you'll give the Hollywood Nights series a try!

Mary Kennedy

Friday, July 6, 2018

Coming Tuesday -- Poisoned Pages

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

Like a box of a dozen doughnuts, the 12th Booktown Mystery will be available on Tuesday, July 10th.

Tricia Miles, mystery bookstore owner and amateur sleuth, throws a housewarming cocktail party in her new apartment and has cooked all the food by herself--quite a feat for someone who previously couldn't boil water. Then one of her guests is poisoned and dies. Tricia's left to wonder if her cooking is to blame or if there's something much more sinister at play. Either way, Tricia's once again in hot water with her ex-lover, Chief Baker.

Meanwhile the charming town of Stoneham is being disrupted by a vandalism crime wave. It's the hot topic in the race for Chamber of Commerce president which sees Tricia pitted against two bitter rivals. With all that's going on can she find the killer before she's the next item on the menu?

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Do You Remember?

by Karen Rose Smith




There are drawers and hidey-holes that just don't get cleaned out over years despite moves, redecorating and rearranging furniture.  We spruced up our kitchen a bit and I decided it was time to clean out and reline drawers, closets, a secretary/desk and a china cupboard.  They secretary/desk gave up the most surprises!

Do you remember S&H green stamps?  Every time my family bought groceries, participating stores would dole out green stamps for those purchases.  We had paper books to paste them inside.  My mom would sit and study the S&H green stamp catalog for items that she could earn FREE.  Yes, FREE.  There were photos in there of merchandise ranging from small appliances to furniture.  Those prizes helped stretch the budget.

In our secretary/desk the most recent things like paint color books and sachets, pencils, pens and journals were just pushed in.  The surprises were behind those.  First I found this Instamatic camera.  We used this for years on vacations and to take family photos.  I remember carrying along the packs of flash cubes and film cartridges so we didn't run out.  Most of those photos are in albums with the sticky back and cellophane covering that.  They are fading.  But the memories are still alive in our hearts.  And even the shadow of a photograph will bring back an event.







Do you remember fountain pens?  I went to a Catholic grade school and high school.  We had to use fountain pens.  Ballpoint pens weren't allowed.  However, we didn't have to use black or blue ink.  My favorite color ink was turquoise and that was allowed.  But I remember making a mess with filling ink into a cartridge for a fountain pen!









Do  you know the use of this little pot?  It's an egg poacher.  My guess is that when we moved twenty years ago, it was one of those items that I couldn't let go of.  When my son was small, I would make poached eggs for breakfast.  That little poacher has lots of memories attached to it--leisurely mornings before he attended kindergarten, rushed mornings to catch the bus when first grade started, weekends in pj's watching cartoons.  Yep, that little poacher might find a place of honor somewhere.




The secretary/desk is now organized.  I made it my tea cupboard.  But I'll keep this flashcube in one of the cubicles to remember days when life wasn't so rushed, when the telephone was attached to the wall, when conversation was more important than text messages.