Thursday, July 2, 2015

A great day for a party - despite the rain!










 


We’ve just finished celebrating Canada Day here in the village with a family gathering!  There was a lot of fun including red and white nonsense from the Dollar Store.  This year’s big hit was a red and white fright wig. 




 The incredibly weird glasses were a close second.  Are those pinwheels? The combo might give us all nightmares!



 It was a simple hamburger and hot dog barbecue, early in the day because little ones conk out early and others have parties to go to.

 Of course, we always have to have deviled eggs because we DO NOT feel the need to be hip and stylish!  And as usual there was too much food.  We also had Canada Day Cupcakes that MJ bought with her own two hands (such talent)




We ended it with  BOOK CLUB CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE (homemade) because daughter Virginia said, if she was going off her diet for the event, it had to be for something really good. 


It was a great day for us despite weather. For most of the time it was bucketing rain. Every now and then it would lighten up enough for lads to have a go at the grill, but in the end serious rain gear was needed and the Canada Day fright wigs were no longer enough. 

  It takes more than that, weather gods!!!   We had a our simple barbecue with the kids and five (small) dogs adding fun to the afternoon.  Some dressed for the occasion, but the leis didn't stay on long.


There was almost no barking. We’re not sure why.  Not surprisingly, there was no sign of the cat next door who sometimes likes to drop in and stir things up.

Despite the rain, some children made every effort to escape to the back yard.



There goes Ella!

What do you mean NO?














At the end, we were feeling happy and relaxed (not always our natural state) after a bash.


Some of us headed off to events in the village or in Ottawa afterwards, others will take in the fireworks.  Here’s a shot from last year taken by Victoria.  



All in all, a great day and a day to feel lucky.  Although next year, we WILL hope for sunshine.

 So to our Canadian friends and compatriots, we hope you had a terrific holiday and lots to be happy about and to our American friends gearing up for the Fourth of July: have a great time, however you celebrate – with kids, cats, dogs, food, family, flags fireworks, or even reading in a lawn chair. 


To everyone everywhere this summer, celebrating a national holiday or a special time with family, friend or beloved pets - ENJOY!

And why not tell us how or why you celebrate?  We love to learn more about you!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ellery's Mystery Cozy Contest

Hosted By Ellery Adams

It's the first of the month! Time for me to give away a $10 card to the bookstore of your choice.

This is how it works: I post a few lines from a cozy mystery. You post the title and author in the comment section. Then, I'll draw a random name from the winning guesses and post that person's name on this page and on Facebook by 10 p.m. on July 2nd.


Okay, here we go! Here are the lines from this month's mystery cozy:

"This particular feline's name was Clyde, and I already knew he was a celebrity."


Ellery's helpful hint - The next book in this delightful series is coming out in August. Don't forget to pre-order! 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sherlock is Back!

by Maggie Sefton


For those of us who love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous sleuth, Sherlock
Holmes, we are in luck.  The wonderful PBS Masterpiece series' production of "Sherlock Holmes" is back on television this summer.  There were six episodes in Season 4 which aired last year.  This version stars Benedict Cumberbatch, and some of us think his is one of the very best depictions of the fascinating Holmes character.


I tried to cut and paste one of the photos from the TV production of "Sherlock," but no go.  Probably copyright protection, and as an author, I have NO objections to that.  :)  


Last week was the first of the six episodes.  Check your TV schedules to see when your PBS station will be carrying the series.  We're very fortunate in my area of Colorado because we  actually have two Denver PBS stations which do not duplicate programming in 90% of their scheduling.  So, we have a GREAT selection available.


Check your TV schedules, and if you do not see it scheduled, call your local PBS television station and ask "Why not?"  :)   PBS stations are known for paying attention to their viewers and the local audience.  And, if you have never seen Cumberbatch's depiction of Holmes, you are definitely in for a treat.  :)  


And, I'll give you a teaser alert----one of the six episodes involves the fascinating female character Irene Adler.  If you've never seen these Benedict Cumberbatch episodes, then I'll simply say that you will see    one of the most sensuous (or, if you prefer sensual) depictions of Holmes and Adler's verbal interactions and dialogue I've ever seen on television OR on the stage.  And I've been fortunate enough to actually see Jeremy Brett in the London production of a Sherlock Holmes mystery adventure.  Up until Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Brett's performance was my favorite.  Now, my vote is for Cumberbatch.   No contest.  :)    Watch and  Enjoy!    

Monday, June 29, 2015

Those AMAZING Coincidences

by Kate Collins

Looking back over the years, I've come to realize that a lot of wonderful events and turning points in my life have seemed to happen through a series of coincidences. Meeting my husband, for example. There were so many coincidences that had to line up just right in order for us to meet, that I'm still blown away when I think about them.

When I bring up this subject, people usually have their own tale to share, so I'm hoping you will, too. But here's my latest one, just a tiny example, but it made me smile nevertheless.

The backstory: As a child of four and five, I spent week days at my grandmother's house while my mom and dad worked. Her house was warm and cozy and I loved sleeping in her big high bed with the windup clock ticking nearby. But it was grandma's garden that I loved most. And specifically, her raspberry patch.

My grandmother had grown up on a farm and had a vast knowledge of how to grow things. She had all kinds of fruit trees and a grape arbor, and all manner of vegetables, but the best place of all was the raspberry patch. While she weeded other areas, I would crouch low in the raspberry bushes and stuff my mouth full of the juicy, sweet fruit.  Every so often, Grandma would rise to stretch her back and call, "Are you eating all my berries?"

"No, Grandma," I would call, even as red juice ran down my chin and dripped onto my jumper.

She'd shake her head ruefully and call, "Well, leave some for me so I can make jam."

To this day, that memory is one of my favorites, one of the sweetest I'll ever recall, and I tell it often. In fact, I told it less than a month ago. So imagine this surprise. As I was shopping at a local health food store, I noticed a table with goat milk soaps and lotions on it. (In another coincidence) I had just  read how goat's milk soap is so healthy it can even clear dermatological conditions that other products don't help. Intrigued, I decided to try one.

There were about eight different aromas to choose from, so I began sniffing each one until I found scent I liked. The print on the wrapper was tiny and I didn't have my reading glasses with me, so I couldn't tell what the scent was until I got home and took a closer look. The label is below.

It says, "Grandma's Raspberry Patch." I started laughing and I swear I could feel my grandmother with me right at that moment, laughing, too. How great is that?

Now it's your turn. Tell me about a coincidence that happened in your life.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer is My Winter

by Leann


Most people love summer. They like warm days, being outside and of course, vacations. I am not one of those people--and I really never have been,

Back when I was a child, there are home movies of me on vacation in Canada sitting on the shore,
wrapped in a towel, my lips purple. I was freezing. I hated it. In the cottage we stayed in by the lake, everyone was outside most of the time and I was up in a top bunk reading a book. I was 25 years old when I moved to Texas and I thought it might be the answer. But South Texas does not have a moderate climate. It's either blazing hot
or less hot. That's it.

I would learn from an allergist that this wasn't me being fussy about climate. My body reacts to extremes in temperature and atmospheric pressure. I also suffer from a million allergies and insects love my blood. I have an Epi-pen on hand, it's that severe. So, Western NY and South Texas were not good places for me to live. Upstate South Carolina seems to be a better fit. Except for this past week. I
almost believed I'd been transported back in time to those Texas summers where one July it was over 100 degrees every single day. It's been hot and humid and just plain yucky here for the last 10 days. I become a hermit then. I don't want to even step outside. Good thing we have plenty of windows because I enjoy looking out on the lake. It's very soothing.

We've had rain last night and today, thank goodness. The last two summers here in the Upstate were great and it appears it will be more like that in the upcoming weeks. I still prefer winter and fall. I feel as if I am in the minority. How many of you enjoy the cooler times? Because I really really don't like summer!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

GOTTA LOVE THAT PASTA!

  By Mary Kennedy
 
            
If you've been following this blog for the past couple of weeks, you know I've been on a pasta kick. Lovin' all kinds of pasta including "zucchini pasta" which is made with a spiralizer. 

But it seems that not everyone is a fan of "veggie pasta." That's okay! I thought we'd get back to basics today with a great recipe for "real" penne pasta with a cherry tomato sauce. It's a great way to put all that basil to use, and you'll love the home-made sauce--the tomatoes give such a delicate, sweet taste. Guaranteed to please. So snip some of the basil and let's get started. (remember to snip leaves from the top of the basil plant, not the sides, if you want it to branch out.) See the four leaves at the top forming a cross in the photo below? That's what you want to snip! Hold the four leaves in one hand and cut the stem right beneath them with a scissors.
                                                         
                                                    
This recipe uses penne pasta but you can use any kind you like. It's very simple and I think you'll love it.                                             
                                                            
 
Ingredients:
 
1 pound penne pasta
3 garlic cloves, minced.
1 (10 ounce container) cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
 
Directions: Cook pasta according to package directions. Add minced garlic. cherry tomatoes and fresh basil to your blender or food processor and hit "puree." Stop before the mixture is completely liquefied. You want a sauce with some texture. Add the olive oil and half the parmesan cheese and puree until combined. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Drain the pasta and top with sauce. Sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy!
 
Hope you are enjoying these pasta recipes. I made a delicious lasagna today using thin slices of zucchini in place of lasagna noodles. If there's enough interest, I'll post the recipe next week, and add a "zucchini manicotti" that is excellent. Thank for stopping by and I hope everyone is having a great summer!
 
Mary Kennedy


Friday, June 26, 2015

The Joys (?) of Audio

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

I'm very proud to say that most of my books are available as audiobooks.  I can't say I'm proud of ALL my books that have been produced in audio.

My first experience with audiobooks was a joy.  Penguin Audio hired the perfect narrator, Cassandra Campbell, and her performance of the first five Booktown Mysteries was nearly flawless.  I listened, and enjoyed, every one of them.  Her performance brought the characters to life. Authors "hear" how their characters sound in their heads while writing, and she nailed mine--particularly Angelica. (My favorite of the books she narrated was Sentenced To Death.)

The producers contacted me to ask for pronunciations and other tidbits, and they paid attention to such things as giving one character the English accent she spoke with.

My next experience wasn't quite as happy.  That's when I went through nearly 30 auditions to hire someone to perform the first three Jeff Resnick Mysteries.  The voice was perfect.  Sadly, the experience was flawed.  So much so, that after the third book, I decided I needed to find a new voice for Jeff.  Another 27 auditions later, I found my new Jeff in Steven Barnett.

Steven is a consummate professional. I don't have to read the manuscript word-for-word as I listen to his performance.  He knows when he screws up, and he fixes any glitches before I even hear his work. So far we've worked on five projects with at least two more in the works for this summer.  I hope to have Steven read the first three Jeff Resnick books in the not-too-distant future, too. (My favorite of the books he narrated is Bound By Suggestion.  OMG--I couldn't believe I wrote the book, it was such a roller coaster ride, thanks to Steven's performance.)

It took me four months to find my next narrator, Heather Masters.  Heather reads With Baited Breath, the first Lotus Bay mystery.  I slogged (and that's the word) through 36 auditions.  You can't imagine how tedious it is to hear the same passage being read over and over again, and then comparing reader A with B, C, D, E and F.  And EVERYBODY sounded alike.  The very first woman who auditioned was the best. I compared her to everybody else.  Unfortunately, her circumstances changed and she wasn't able to read the book.  That's when I found Heather, who did a wonderful job.

I must admit, since I didn't own the audio rights to the Victoria Square Mysteries, I nagged my editor about using those rights or RETURNING THEM TO ME.  That doesn't happen in publishing.  It took three years, but finally the books are available in audio.  They're not too bad.  I've listened to them all.  The narrator sounds like she has a cold, and she reads Katie with a kind of simpering voice, but she really nails the male characters, which is difficult for women readers.  I would listen to those books again.

I wish I could say that about Booktown Mysteries 6, 7, 8 and 9 produced by Tantor Media.  As soon as I heard the audio sample up on their website, I knew the narrator WAS ALL WRONG for my books.  Unfortunately, authors have no control over such things. 

I listened (or should say I BEGAN to listen) to Murder On The Half Shelf during my rides to and from the hospice home where my mother went to die.  I was on the road more than an hour a day, and audiobooks were a welcome distraction.  Well, not THIS one.  Not only did the narrator make every character sound unpleasant, she reads as though she feels nothing but disdain for the material.  Not only that, but she continually calls Angelica ANGELA.  That's just sloppy work.  Even worse, nobody caught it.  I reported it to my editor, who was as appalled as me, but nothing was done about it.

I couldn't even finish listening to the book, and I'm sure as heck not going to waste 8 hours a pop listening to the others.  Therefore, I can't in good conscience promote any of those books.

So, audio has had it's highs and lows for me.

If you like audiobooks, and you're on Facebook, I hope you'll visit The Incredible Indie Authors Audio page and like it.  Just click this link.

Who are some of your favorite audio narrators?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Coming to our senses







I know you like to step behind the scenes with us every now and then and get a glimpse at the writing life and the techniques behind the books.  So today, I want to talk about the five senses. We authors would be lost if we didn’t use these as a way to connect our fictional worlds with our readers.  We want you to see, hear, taste, smell and touch that world. Just as we do. 

I’m not sure about you, but taste is right up there.  That’s why in our book collector mysteries Signora Panetone is always teetering into the dining room or the conservatory with a massive platter of something delicious.  When we mention the signora’s chocolate tiramisu in The Marsh Madness, we don’t have to tell you what it tastes like.  You have instantly figured that out.  And we've included that recipe in the book for your real sense of taste.

Your mouth may be watering.  Food is a great way of bringing you into the story and into the room and right up to the table. That’s because taste matters so much to most of us. 

Even a humble cuppa pays off in fiction.

If our character gets to share a cup of tea with a friend or colleague, we know what that’s like. We can relax with her.  


On the other hand, if she’s in a tough situation and all there is to found is a cup of cold coffee, we experience that too.   



 I don’t even describe them, because I know you will get it instantly. 

We know if Good Cat sidles up and rubs against Jordan’s bare leg, you’ll feel it too.



GOOD CAT OR BAD CAT? HARD TO TELL UNTIL TOO LATE!
 Of course, you’ll also feel it if Bad Cat gets a sudden slash at the same bare leg.  You should never let down your guard in fiction. 

When I read a book and I notice the author has given me a rose to smell, a delicious treat to nibble, a comfy bed to climb into, a gorgeous view to admire, or the creak of a door to listen to.  I appreciate it.  I am not in an abstract situation. I’m in a real one.  

Of course, the inability to see clearly in the night, also plays on our senses and our atavistic fears.


On a happier note, in the Marsh Madness, I gave Jordan a lovely raspberry vintage wool dress to wear to an important lunch.  Every time I thought about that dress (or read it in the edits) I was transported to the fancy luncheon where all the trouble began. 

Some of these verbal images cover a few senses: take Walter the Pug (aka Peachy)

You can see his long-suffering face as described, feel his soft velvety fur, listen to him snuffle and sort, and depending on what he’s been rolling in, you can smell him too!  Four out of five senses. Not bad! Not bad, Walter.

But of course, our senses can be mobilized in less pleasant ways: our sleuth can pick up the soft squeak of an approaching villain’s shoes, or a sudden gunshot. Maybe she’ll hear the snick of metal handcuffs.   

Yikes! What did I do with the keys?

That can’t be good. She may feel icy cold being stuck in a dank cave or worse or treading water in a stagnant pond.  She may see a skull!  Don't worry - it's just a candle, one of many weird items in my home.



In fact, I may just rush off and write a few scenes with a skull or two and a dank cave and the urgent need to keep treading stagnant water.   I'll be sure to add a cake to the chapter to make it up to you!




 
How about you? Do you feel more engaged when a book uses the senses to bring you into the story?  Do you have a sense that you prefer? Let’s hear it, my friends.






















b

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What’s on your grill…


It’s that time of year when everyone is out grilling. Some are a fan of the cookout, some not. Personally if you grilled a stick and put BB sauce on it I’d eat it.

I love anything grilled. I have one of those kettle grills with a lid that I got when my aunt died nearly thirty years ago. The thing is still goin
g strong. I always use the hood, it gives the food a nice smoky quality.

To get the grill going I have a chimney. I put the charcoal in the top, wads of newspaper under it in the bottom and light the paper. It starts the coals cooking. When they catch and flame is shooting out the top of the chimney you dump the coals into the grill. 

And I’m a fan of the hickory charcoal. Makes things even better.

My fav on the grill is salmon on a cedar plank. Soak the cedar
plank, rub down the salmon with olive oil and garlic salt and cook for fifteen minutes or so. Yummm.

And I love corn on the grill. Pull out the silks but keep the shuck. Soak in water for a few hours and grill for about 40 min.

And then there’s the perfect burger. None of that lean stuff here, but 20% fat and salt and pepper. Make patties ¾ inch thick then use your thumb to make a deep depression in the middle. I have no idea why you do this but it works.

Grilled veggies are amazing. Make a pan out of alum foil and add olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and the veggies of your choice. Asparagus, onions, fennel, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes…it’s all fantastic.


I hear grilled peaches and pineapple are to die for on a grill but I haven’t gotten that far yet.

And of course the best thing of all is that when dinner is over you can gather around the grill with the gram crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars and have a DIY dessert. Now that’s the way to end a perfect cookout.


So what about you? What is your fav thing on the grill? I’m dying to try some new recipes.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hot, Hotter, and YEOW!!

by Maggie Sefton


I don't know where all of you folks are located (Cozy Chicks readers and fans are scattered around the globe), but today in Northern Colorado, it was hotter than. . . you can fill in the blanks with your favorite expression to convey great heat and hot weather---Choose from any of the following or supply your own words:  1)  hotter than Hades;  2)  hotter than  a mouthful of jalepeno chili pepper;  3)  hotter  than a pistol; or 4)  hotter than "a chicken on a tin roof."  That last expression came from my maternal grandmother who was born in Virginia in 1890, so I imagine she was well-acquainted with tin.  As a historical writer, I know that early pots and pans were made of tin because it was a cheaper metal and easy to work with.  Pots and pans were usually sold by salesmen called "tinners" who wandered through cities and towns, crying out about their wares.  As to why someone would put a chicken on top of a tin roof, I haven't a clue.


Anyway------It was 93 today with brilliant sunshine and low humidity which is typical for Colorado and usually welcome, but I actually longed for a stray cloud or two.  It was hotter than hot.  And, of
course, today would be the day when the street repair crew started doing repairs along my street and another one.  Joining together those two streets form a perfect U-shape.  Messages left on our doors and doorknobs informed us all that the long street which meanders its way through our neighborhood was going to be patched with a new coat of asphalt.


That, of course, required our cooperation because no one---and I do mean NO ONE---could leave any vehicles parked on that street for the next 3 days.  They would be towed early in the mornings.  So We all have to park our cars in the streets surrounding our neighborhood and walk a couple of blocks (or more) to our homes.  However, walking a lot in today's super hot sunshine really got your attention.


So I spent a couple of hours today visiting my good friend, Kareen, who also lives in Fort Collins.  All these photos are of her backyard gardens.  Notice all the different types of flowers blooming their colorful little floral hearts out.  A gorgeous display of color.  Kareen and I sat and enjoyed a cool iced tea and enjoyed being outside in the garden as we caught up with each other before we both start traveling again.  In a week or so Kareen will be off to Austin, Texas where her younger son lives and I'll be flying back to Virginia once again.  I have daughters Maria and Christine there as well as grandchildren.  Kareen and I have known each other for years and years, having first met when her son Ashley and my daughter Maria were both in 5th grade at Tavelli Elementary in Fort Collins.  Daughter Maria and Ashley are both now 37 years old.  Wow.  Tempus really does fugit, doesn't it?

How are you escaping these hot summer days?  


Monday, June 22, 2015

THE POWER OF MUSIC

by Kate Collins

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast.
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”

Who would’ve thought that current research now shows that those famous lines from eighteenth century playwright William Congreve are truer than we ever suspected? Not only does music calm us, but it also inspires, energizes, lowers our blood pressure, activates neurons in the brain, and affects our thoughts. It’s better than any pharmaceutical drug out there for altering our moods.

But watch out! If you’re feeling blue and you listen to a song of woe, your mood will stay low. However, if you listen to something upbeat and happy, your brain will respond with a release of good chemicals. Smiling does that, too, by the way.

I’ve always known the power of music in my life. There are some genres I love, some I like, some I tolerate, and a few I just can’t stand to listen to. Are you affected that way?

My husband loved to listen to classical music in the morning as he got ready for work, which I enjoyed until a song played on a harpsichord came on, and then I had to turn the station. I don’t know why, I only know that it set my teeth on edge.

When I write, I don’t usually  have music playing. I’m too busy listening to the characters talk to each other. But when I need something in the background, my standard is Mozart. It’s invigorating and yet doesn’t distract me. But when the CD ends, I rarely realize it, so deep in the zone am I.

When I need a pick-me-up, I have to have a peppy or encouraging song, and since the loss of my husband, I’ve found that I’m drawn to that type exclusively. No sad, depressing music for this writer. No whining or complaining, no songs of revenge, nothing of the sort allowed.

My current favorite upbeat songs are “Baby, I’m Good,” by Andy Grammer, “What Makes You Beautiful,” by One Direction, and “On Top of the World” and “I Bet My Life,” by Imagine Dragons.

What songs do you listen to when you want to feel better? Does music affect your mood?


On a fun sidenote, playwright William Congreve was also responsible for penning these immortal words:  “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”  Ya just gotta love him.