Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Are you ready for fall…or not so much


I am such a summer girl!! I love summer! The sun, the heat, the humidity, the grilling, even cutting grass and I really love my garden. But summer 2015 is over much too fast and that’s downright depressing.

So to cheer myself up I came up with 14 reasons to get jazzed over fall.

First there’s pumpkin pie to look forward to. We even have pumpkin spice ice cream here in Cincy and it’s terrific and you can only get it in the fall.

And the colors! Lordy, the leaves chaning is amazing. It’s pure magic. And it’s now officially candy apple season. Yummm… 


Then there’s hot chocolate with marshmallows, gotta have the marshmallows. Okay, you can have hot chocolate anytime but you have to admit it tastes best when there’s a nip in the air and nothing gets you warm like a cup of hc.

Halloween is just around the corner with all the decorations and kids begging for candy. Who doesn’t love sneaking a piece?
And then there’s the clothes. Jackets, sweaters, scarves, new jeans and boots! Boots are fantastic and a change of season is a great reason to shop.


Thanksgiving is the best holiday of all. The family gets together and it’s the perfect kickoff to the holiday season. And the food!!! Lord have mercy nothing beats Thanksgiving food.


And it’s back to hot coffee instead of cold coffee, fires in the fire pit and in the hearth, and the beginning of all the new shows on TV. That is for sure a great reason to embrace fall.


So what about you? Are you a summer gal/guy? Looking forward to fall? What are you looking forward to most?

Tuesday, September 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 e gift 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 September 2nd.


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

"But I had bigger things to deal with right now, I thought as I squeezed another jet of warm milk into the pail. Someone had murdered Nettie with a bratwurst skewer, and the local sheriff thought I was the prime suspect."


Ellery's helpful hint - In this book, the character makes cheese from milk she got from her own cow. Pretty impressive, eh?

Monday, August 31, 2015

V is for Victory -- Garden

by Kate Collins

I've been harvesting a crop of about 50 cherry tomatoes a day since mid-July. There are so many tomatoes that I practically feed the neighborhood, not to mention fill my own freezer with enough chopped tomatoes to make sauces for a year.  I love it!

I also grow my own herbs and lettuce, and this year I even planted sunflower seeds in a big pot. The sprouts are super nutritious and delicious eaten raw, in salads, or cooked in stews. As you can see in the photo, I let two of them grow and my little yellow headed guy is standing tall -- with a brother coming up on his right.

I came across a helpful article just yesterday on how to make a home garden grow like crazy and realized I'd been doing some of what was suggested by accident.

As it turns out, tilling the soil is a big fat NO NO!  Tilling destroys valuable soil life and promotes weed growth. When you till, you break up the aggregates, waking up  bacteria that consume the organic matter that acts like a glue in the soil and help retain water. So tilling is profoundly counterproductive.

You can also look on YouTube, which is a fantastic resource. There you can such things as how to optimize your garden and grow your own food. Search YouTube using the keywords "no-till garden."

Instead of tilling, mulch the soil or grow a cover crop. I didn't realize that certain plants grow better when another plant grows with it. The next book I'm going to buy is, Carrots Love Tomatoes: Companion Planting for a Healthy Garden, which teaches you how to do intercropping of vegetables.

The other benefit of growing your own veggies is that you can make sure they're organic by NOT spraying them with pesticides. There are other remedies that are safe to use, such as 20% vinegar mixed with water. Or look on You Tube for ideas.

As you can see in the first photo, I have just a corner of my space devoted to vegetables. It doesn't take a whole lot of room. If you don't have soil, use containers. It's fun and oh, so rewarding to harvest and eat your own crops.

I'd love to see photos of your garden. I think you can share them here. Please do!







Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reclaiming the Quilts

by Leann

At the time I was learning to write fiction--and believe me, it was a steep learning curve--I also took on something else--quilting. Who knew that years later those two important aspects of my life would merge in The Cats in Trouble Mysteries?

I probably took more quilting classes than I did writing classes. Problem was, I didn't even know how to turn on a sewing machine when I decided I wanted to create quilts. I'd been a reader all my life, so writing, though far more difficult than I imagined, came a little easier. Like with my first stories, my first quilts were pretty awful. But I found the two crafts similarly complex and immensely satisfying.

Writing a novel and making a king-size quilt probably take about the same amount of time. I jumped into both with enthusiasm because,well, they offered me the freedom to be myself. A troubled childhood never quite allowed that before. Then the illnesses came. The Lyme, the fibromyalgia, the multiple chemical sensitivities, the asthma, the Epstein-Barr, the hypothyroidism. They all have one thing in common: tremendous fatigue. I couldn't focus, my vision was affected, my stamina was gone. I only had room in my brain for writing the books. I mourned the loss of me. I had to take early retirement from my nursing job because I feared I might harm someone inadvertently. See, at 3 PM each afternoon at work, I more often than not found myself unable to do more than rest my head on my desk. Thank goodness I left when I did because it only got worse. It was the right decision.

It has been a long journey to accept these invisible thieves. The medication for the newest diagnosis, myasthenia gravis, has brought some relief. For the first time in at least three years, I picked up my hand quilting and stitched. Did I get tired? Yes. Did it feel wonderful? Yes. I doubt I will ever finish all the projects I had planned. Like writing, I can only take joy in the process. And that is what life should be, anyway--joy in the day to day. Nothing is promised.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

THE WONDERFUL, WACKY WORLD OF DREAMS

by Mary Kennedy                               
 
Anything can happen in a dream. You can take on a new persona, explore lands both real and imaginary and have adventures worthy of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.
                                                              
 Since dreams are not subject to time and space constraints, you can share a plate of marrons (two closely related species of crayfish in Australia) with Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake!”)
                                                          
 
 or you might be part of the first space mission (“Houston, we have a problem.”) .                                        
  
But what are we to make of the strange dream images that flit through our minds as we sleep? They seem so real while we’re experiencing them, and sleep studies reveal that our bodies react to dreams with real-life physical stress.

Are you climbing a mountain in your dream or swinging from a zip line like Angelina Jolie? Your blood pressure may soar, your heartbeat may rachet up a notch and your chest may feel tight. If you awake and take a few deep breaths, everything will return to normal in a few minutes.
                                                           
On the other hand, what if you’re dreaming of lounging in a meadow, taking in the sweet scent of honeysuckle as you thumb through a book of poetry? Your body will show signs that you are indeed, at rest. Your heart rate will rachet down and your breathing will become slower as your mind enjoys this respite from the cares of the day.

In any case, it’s fun to explore our dreams and what they really mean, as the characters in the Dream Club do. The members like to think that they're  uncovering clues to solving murders in Savannah and they seem to have had some success. They combine intuition with solid sleuthing skills and some dream work. But do clues from their dreams really solve crimes? Is it luck, or coincidence or a combination of the two? I leave it to the reader to decide. 

Book 2, Dream a Little Scream, is out right now. If you're interested in dreams and like mysteries, why not give it a try!  Book one, Nightmares Can be Murder, is pictured at the top of this blog. Here is book 2.
                                                        
 
Sweet dreams and happy reading!!
Mary Kennedy
 
   

Friday, August 28, 2015

Yard sales ... from the other side

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

And so it's time to empty out my Mum's house of a lifetime's worth of stuff.  But wait!  My brother and I want to downsize, too.  So we've been heaping our stuff over in our mother's garage for weeks.  And sale time had arrived.

It took weeks to clean and sort and price everything.  WEEKS.  Working at it EVERY DAY.  So it was with a bit of nerves that I approached sale day.  Except ... my brother went off on a long-planned vacation.  I decided to go forward with it because we knew we were going to have more than one sale simply because we needed to clear out the house so we could clear out the basement.  (I see more WEEKS of work ahead of me.)

Since I go to yard sales every week, my brother decided that I should price everything but the tools.  (I think he did that just to get out of some work.)  I thought I priced things fairly, because I know what I would pay if I were going to a yard sale.  (Some people want the MOON for their stuff.)

I put an ad up on Craigslist, we put out signs, and the sale started.

I couldn't believe it when four cars showed up at EXACTLY 9 am. One piece of good luck; one of the neighbors decided to hold a yard sale, too.  That meant we were getting double coverage.  YAY!

Most of my customers were very nice.  (Women, of course.)  I understand that it's part of the game to haggle, but some people were truly obnoxious (and most of them were men). The worst are the dealers. Who else would come to a sale within 15 minutes of opening and insult you by demanding less than half of what you have priced an item for?  Mind you, I was a dealer for 12 years, but I never came to a sale and tried to bully anyone to lower a price.  If I didn't like the price, I walked away (and I still do. That could be why I wasn't exactly successful as a dealer, but I never felt bad about it, either).  My brother would have given them what they wanted, but then my neighbor Amy says her husband would do the same thing. ("A bird in the hand" and all that.)  Since my brother had priced the tools, he told me certain prices should be firm.  He said I could do what I wanted about them ON THE SECOND DAY (not the first hour).

One man wanted some big wood clamps. My brother had marked them $5 each.  This man decided he wanted to pay $6 for both of them -- DURING THE FIRST HOUR of the sale.  So, he holds the clamps in one hand and shoves $6 in my face.  "I want these for $6."  Since they weren't a "FIRM" item, I said, "I'll sell them to you for $8."  He said, "No, I want them for $6." I said, "$8."  He started getting louder and louder and then said, "Honey, you don't know how these things work," then he turned around slammed them back against the bench and left.

I felt like sticking my tongue out at him.

It was later that I wondered if I should have stuck to my guns--because I got to thinking ABOUT guns, and how childish and unreasonable people can be when they don't get their way.  And that there have been some yard sale robberies in my town this summer.  But that man was being unreasonable.  And many other people who visited the sale remarked about how fair the prices were.

I know we have one more sale ahead of us, and then we'll be doing Craigslist and eBay for the rest. I can't say I'm looking forward to it.  A couple of friends have suggested I just pack everything up and give it to charity, and take a BIG deduction. But it's not just about money.  It's seeing my mother's treasures find new (and loving) homes. Parting with things was always hard for her, and it's just as hard for me to part with her things. I see her clothes on the rack and think about how she always looked nice in that shirt or sweater. It makes me sad. But she's beyond using the item, and it doesn't fit me. It needs to go.

I'll be glad when the house is empty and it's no longer my responsibility to take care of it and her things. But I will be infinitely sad, too.

If you've been in the same position, how did you handle these things?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Only five more sleeps!






It’s Victoria and Mary Jane and we’re both here at Cozy Chicks today.   

We’re incredibly excited about THE MARSH MADNESS  our fourth book collector mystery coming out September 1st: that’s only five more sleeps.




  It’s hard for us to believe, as a mother-daughter team, with all the possible drama that might entail, that we’re already at book number four in this series that we love so much. Of course, we have had other joint projects over the years.

Piano lessons: an early joint project


Over the course of the four books, we’ve felt very lucky to have met and heard from so many loyal readers. And we are meeting new readers all the time, many through the Cozy Chicks.  You have a relationship with our characters and we develop a relationship with you. That's part of the joy.
You become part of our life of crime.


As for the book collector mysteries, we love playing around with the Golden Age of Detection and thinking hard to create a new set of circumstances and peril for our characters.  As they say, bad news for the character is good news for the author. 



Each mystery revolves in some way around an artifact, character or set of books connected to the author in the title. So far we’ve done Agatha Christie (The Christie Curse),  Dorothy L. Sayers (The Sayers Swindle),  Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe (The Wolfe Widow) and now the great Ngaio Marsh (The Marsh Madness).  Dashell Hammett is next in The Hammett Hex, 2016.  The authors and sleuths fit in well with our contemporary series in which Jordan Kelly Bingham is the research assistant and book scout for Vera Van Alst, the most hated woman in Harrison Falls, N.Y.  Jordan is the first person in her large Irish family to go straight and she’s determined to stay on the right side of the law. It’s not her fault that sometimes, say to save a life or whatever, she may have to make an unauthorized entrance to someplace or other in the wee small hours.  She did get that set of lockpicks for her Sweet Sixteen, but the less said about that the better.  We'r e sure that secret is safe with you.

Writing this series allows us both to live the kind of life we want. 



 Victoria is an artist and photographer who enjoys spending time in the outdoors and painting what she sees.

This huge and mysterious painting of Victoria's hangs in MJ's dining room and gets many comments.



She’s a free spirit with a quirky sense of humor and, naturally, working nine to five, five days a week behind a desk is not for her. She has an affinity for animals and they like her right back.

Victoria’s painting of our friend Erika Chase's

Siamese gave us the spark for Good Cat and Bad Cat in the books.

BE VERY AFRAID
Her real life pug, Peachy, has offered profound insights into the rich emotional life of our fictional pug, Walter. Here’s Peachy dressed for a book launch.  Those of you who are familiar with “The Peach” aka Walter, know she’s ready to party any time. By the way, that 'face' is directed at the camera.  Peachy loves her outfit.


MJ is a lapsed librarian, a former co-owner of Prime Crime Mystery Bookstore in Ottawa and award-winning author of three mystery series: the Camilla MacPhee books, the Fiona Silk comic capers and the Charlotte Adams organizer mysteries. Her miniature dachshunds appear in the Charlotte Adams series. She lives to read and writing the book collector mysteries requires that she immerse herself in the work of the Golden Age author chosen for each book.  For The Marsh Madness she reread twenty-nine of the thirty-two Ngaio Marsh mysteries.  That made her very happy.  Here’s the stack of perfect paperbacks that her friend Nancy Reid gave her.  Peachy liked them too. 


MJ gets to research their authors and find a way to link them to the current story. This may be the best job in the world. She can do that with tea and chocolate in her recliner.

Vic loves all things vintage and antique, and she is responsible for anything that explodes in the books, the layouts of the grand houses and much of the historical research as well as illegal stills.

MJ is in charge of the food and puts in requests to Signora Panetone’s kitchen.  Some recipes appear in the books and The Marsh Madness contains the recipe for the signora’s chocolate tiramisu. 

We both get along remarkably well although every now and then there may be a small “discussion” about this or that.   


We’re glad of the chance to be silly from season to season and to cook up plots.  We enjoy the feeling that we may be just the tiniest bit dangerous. 


We both categorically deny all responsibility for the crooked uncles, especially the unpredictable Uncle Kev.  As the family says, “Where there’s smoke, there’s Kev.”
Uh oh!  Do you smell something burning?  

As you can see, we love the Golden Age and the fun we can have with it.  I hope you’ll drop in today to wave the flag for The Marsh Madness and tell us if you have a favorite author or suggest one that you think we should consider for future book collector mysteries.



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Beach Girl or a Mountain Mamma?


I used to think that vacation meant going to the beach. Maybe because I live east of the Mississippi and can actually drive to the ocean. And there are terrific lakes close by as well all with wonderful beaches.


Something about water is so relaxing, the waves the endless stretch of sandy beaches for walking and riding bikes, the sun setting/rising over the water. And the food! Nothing is more delish than fresh-caught fish!

And if you actually do the fishing that just doubles the pleasure of catching your dinner! If you boat that adds to the pleasure even more. Getting out on the water feels like an escape from the everyday grind of work and schedules. The roar of the motorboats is a fast getaway or the flap of the sails or dip of the paddles for a more relaxing adventure.

At one time I couldn’t imagine a vacation without going to the water. And then I discovered the mountains!

Wow, talk about escape. Heading into the mountains is escape on steroids! There is nothing like a hike in the woods to get away from it all. The tress, the animals, the feeling of leaving it all behind and going for long hike.

I think the quiet is what impresses me most about the mountains. No cars, no motors, few people and when you do meet up with someone it’s just a nod of greeting then you are back on your own again.

And then there’s the camping. Nothing is more solitary and offers the feeling of getting away than camping. No running water electricity, TV. Just you and a campfire. There is something totally mesmerizing about a fire in the woods and cooking your food over it.


So what about you? Are you a Beach Girl or a Mountain Mamma when it comes to vacation? If you could pack your bags right now...where would you go?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Traveling Again

by Maggie Sefton


Apologies for the delay in posting.  I didn't have time to write a blog post ahead of this date, which I usually do.  And I wasn't expecting to encounter Internet connection problems last night when I tried.

I'm presently on a Norwegian Sun cruise ship starting to cruise the Alaskan Glaciers.  We're coming up to the huge Mendenhall Glacier now.  I'll be taking a shore excursion tomorrow.

I will tell everyone all about my adventures next week in my blog post.  But right now, you will have to excuse me so I can go outside on deck and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  :)

Monday, August 24, 2015

DISHWASHER SAFE?

by Kate Collins


I've loved the convenience of automatic dishwashers since the early 1980s, maybe because I'd been the chief dishwasher from the age of twelve. I know there are those who enjoy washing their dishes by hand because it's one of those mindless, relaxing tasks that lets the mind drift.

My mind drifts too much as it is, so back to the dishwasher. Before I moved to my current house, I had dish drawers, 2 of them, by Fisher-Paykel, but they kept malfunctioning and needing repairing so we finally replaced them with a Bosch. I loved my Bosch.

But then came the move to a new house in a development where you don't get to choose your brand, just the price point within the brand. So I upgraded the basic GE to a GE Profile. And two years into using it, I'm disappointed. My plates and flatware come out with fine debris baked on. I can and do scrape it off with my thumbnail. That's no fun. And of course the warranty is up, so I'll have to bite the bullet and call the repairman out again.

He knows the way. Within the first two months of my moving in, he was out twice to fix my new GE Profile microwave that blew out the motherboard. Twice!  He told me it was a bad batch from China. Not what I wanted to hear, btw. But so far, the last one has been fine.

But back to the problem -- I've checked the water heater seating and it's at the recommended 120 degrees. I've bought more powerful dishwasher pods, filled the side dispenser with Finish, and rinsed my plates with hot water, which I shouldn't have to do. And still they come out with that fine debris on them (remnants of almond butter and cinnamon, usually).

I'll let the repairman check it out and then, if it keeps happening, I will replace it. I'll probably go back to the Bosch but I'm open to suggestion.  Any advice on what to do about my debris problem would also be welcome.

Happy Monday!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Retail Therapy

by Leann

Thanks to the release of a new book and the end of procrastination on the next one, I found myself very stressed over the last several weeks. Anyone who has an autoimmune illness knows that stress is about the worst thing ever--and yet it cannot be avoided. I also developed an  allergy to one of my long-standing medications and had to switch to a different drug. My gut rebelled--big time!

To keep myself occupied (seeing as how this is the worst summer I can remember for anything good
on TV) I have indulged in daily doses of retail therapy. It IS summer sale time after all and the sales are just too good to pass up right now. My wardrobe was seriously ugly--shirts with holes or with age-related pilling--so I had been purging quite a bit. I had clothing that hadn't seen my body in years. Time to give them up!

My favorite online spots are J.Jill, Sierra Trading Post, Footsmart, Eddie Bauer, Overstock and Kohl's. I have also discovered that Skecher's shoes are seriously comfy--though also seriously WAY too big in my regular size. A full size too big. I'm talking about the newer stretchy clog type shoes. I have to keep something on my feet all the time because I have cold urticaria--basically an allergy to
cold. I get hives if I go barefoot (and it looks exactly like the picture ont the left), even from walking with socks or shoes on our wood floor. Forget tile. That's far worse. This has gone on since I was a kid. It's nothing new but still just as much of a nuisance as ever. But these Skechers? SO COMFY. The pair with a back can get hot but the backless ones are awesome. It's almost like going barefoot.

One thing that is a pet peeve as far as what little "fashion" I indulge in is the Lycra that seems to be in everything. I want jeans with NO LYCRA. Impossible to find these days. I have several pairs of jeans rom three or four years ago that are 100% denim and that's all. Lycra and I do not get along. I am also sensitive to polyester. These are
both hydrocarbon fabrics. I read an article written by a doctor and he said that a person cannot be allergic to Lycra because it's inert. I would like to exchange bodies with that guy for just one day. Call it an allergy or a sensitivity or whatever, but I itch and wheeze when those fabrics are next to my skin. Yup. Crazy, right? Crazy that doctors are so far behind the curve on so many things. I remember in the 70s when schizophrenics had the illness because they had "mommy issues." I worked with many schizophrenics and watching them, I absolutely knew this was a brain illness. Of course about ten years later, it was proven that it is a brain disorder (and incurable. How much money did people pay out for worthless talk therapy?) You can manage schizophrenia but you cannot cure it. Same with the Lycra. One day people will understand.

So, part of my bargain hunting online is to avoid Lycra and polyester. And some days I put 100% denim jeans into a search engine hoping against hope I can find jeans without chemicals--that don't cost a fortune. What about you? Do you shop online? Do you only buy things on sale  like I do? Tell me if you engage in retail therapy, too, so I don't feel so guilty!



Saturday, August 22, 2015

A FEW MORE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DREAMS

By Mary Kennedy                          
                                  
 
As a practicing psychologist, I find that my clients are fascinated by dreams. Most of them have read a little Freud, who called dreams “the royal road to the unconscious.” Freud believed dreams can help us access our innermost thoughts; our fears, wishes, and desires. Think of dreams as a window into our unconscious life. They can be humorous, erotic, tantalizing or terrifying.
   . 
 
When I came up with the premise of the Dream Club Mysteries, I envisioned a group of Savannah women who would meet once a week to eat some fabulous Southern desserts and talk about their dreams. And of course, they would solve a murder or two in every book. I thought this might be an intriguing plot device and could pave the way for some interesting characterization.           
  
 
As the women reveal their dreams, they realize that they hold hidden clues to the crime scene, usually in symbolic form. Sometimes they even uncover the identity of the murderer. But are these clues really “revelations” from the subconscious or merely coincidences? I remembered Freud’s claim, “There are no coincidence.” I chose to sidestep the question and leave it up to the reader to decide.

When I’m asked to speak on dreams, I find that people have strong beliefs—and sometimes misconceptions—about dreams. Here are a few questions I’ve come across.     
                                                         
        
Why do I keep dreaming about a beautiful house?

The “House Dream” is very common and well documented. The house is supposed to represent all the untapped potential in your life. All the rooms are bright and airy, and dreamers report that they seem to stretch on forever.

Sometimes when I’m dreaming, I’m suddenly aware that I’m dreaming. I can choose to end the dream if I want to. Is this common?

This is called “lucid dreaming” and most people aren’t capable of doing it, but it’s an interesting phenomenon. With practice, you can become proficient at it.

I have vivid, violent nightmares. What causes them?

Some medications increase the likelihood of “disturbing dreams.” Also, many people experience nightmares at times of great stress in their lives.

Sometimes I find myself dreaming about being stranded in a strange city at night. I have no car, no money, and no way to get home.

This is a classic anxiety dream. The dreamer feels alone and vulnerable and this usually occurs when things seem to be “spinning out of control” in real life.

Whether or not you’re a “believer,” it’s fun to explore our dreams and try to decipher what they really mean, as the women in the Dream Club do. The members like to think that they are uncovering clues to solving murders in Savannah and they seem to have had some success. They combine intuition with solid sleuthing skills and some dream work. But do clues from their dreams really solve crimes? Is it luck, or coincidence or a combination of the two?  Again, I leave it to the reader to decide.  
                                                        
 
If you are interested in dreams and love mysteries, I hope you give the series a try. Dream a Little Scream is out right now, it's the second release in the series. Sweet dreams and happy reading!
 
Mary Kennedy

Friday, August 21, 2015

Reading for fun and profit!


I'm very happy to announce that my second Tales of Telenia book, JOURNEY, is now available as an audiobook. (You can listen to a sample of it here--just click the link.)

I thought it might be interesting for readers (hey, and me, too!) to find out a little bit about what it is to be a spoken-voice performer.  Let me introduce you to Steven Barnett. He has read not only the Telenia books, but also is the voice of my character Jeff Resnick.  (At least for the last 6 titles.  We'll be re-recording the first three in the not-too-distant future.)

Steven and I recently talked and here's a portion of our conversation.


How does one becomes a voice artist?
I'm not sure there is one generic way to become a voice artist. I started as a vocalist in college, learning to sing opera, but I've always been a talented mimic. I loved to imitate cartoons, famous people, anything I could for a laugh. I did voice-over work when I was in film and tv work and kind of just branched off from there.

Do you read the whole book first?
It depends on the length and type of the book. If the book is fairly short, say on the order of 80-90000 words, I will generally not read beforehand and just work things out in recording. If the book is longer, or has a large number of speaking characters and voices and things, then I'll read the book first and try to get a sense of the characterization beforehand, especially if the book has alien or foreign characters and languages.

Is the dialog the hardest because you have to switch voices?  How do you know which voice to use?  Do you color code them on your script?
For me, dialog between males isn't so difficult, mostly because I'm used to imitating character dialogue. What's hardest for me is dialog between a male and a female. Doing a feminized voice requires a lot of tuning in the musculature of the mouth and vocal folds and it's difficult sometimes to switch between them rapidly. One of my earlier projects involved two main characters, one of whom was a teenaged boy from modern-day Philadelphia and the other was a teenaged girl from 18th century Scotland. That was terribly difficult at first.

What's the hardest part about narrating a book?
The hardest part is consistency. Making sure that when you flub a line, you go back and re-read that line precisely as you read it before. Making sure that if you're recording a book and it's going to take more than a day, that your mic placement and your settings are all the same as they were when you started. Making sure your editing process is smooth and that each chapter matches the others in timbre, volume, and emotion is also a big part of that.

How did you get into this kind of work?  
By accident, like many others have, I'm sure. One of my good friends is an author and he stumbled across the Audiobook Creation Exchange website, or ACX, where authors and narrators of audiobooks can come together. He sent me the link and off I went.

What kinds of stories have you narrated?
I've narrated quite a few kinds: cozies, sci-fi fantasy, superhero stories, erotic fiction (boy, are THOSE difficult to read...), romance... I have a preferred genre I like to read personally, but I'm pretty much a mercenary when it comes to recording. I don't like to limit myself to one genre or another just because it's not what I'd read at home on my own time. In fact, one of my favorite books I've done is a book I'd never have read on my own in a million years-- a Southern romance story with some erotic scenes. It's a sweet love story and I highly enjoyed doing all the characters.

Do you have a favorite genre to read? 
I prefer to read genres where there are lots of distinct characters, so typically fantasy and sci-fi novels. I'm a huge fan of urban fantasy, so I tend to want to get those novels more, but the more and more I work, the more into mysteries I am becoming.

What are your future plans? 
Right now, my plan is to keep doing what I'm doing, but more of it, you know? More titles under my belt, more recognition. I'm working toward being named an Audible-certified Producer, which is a certification that tells authors and producers that I am a narrator of high-quality and able to deal with more expensive, high-level projects. It opens more professional level doors, let's say. But I'll work with anyone, regardless of budget, if the book is quality. In the future, my goal is to broaden my voice skills and perhaps do cartoons. I love character voices and comedy, so cartoons are right in my wheelhouse. I'm a huge voice-acting nerd, so it would be a thrill to work with guys like Rob Paulsen, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Laura Bailey, Grey DeLisle, Jennifer Hale... the list goes on. That's my future.

Where can we find you online? 
Well, I don't have a professional website yet. Too busy to make one, I suppose, though I'm working on it. Right now you can find me on Twitter @PlasmatixUltra. I also have a Facebook page for me as a professional, and you can find that at http://www.facebook.com/letmetellyouastory .  I can also be reached via email at stevenrichardbarnett@gmail.com and a list of the books I've narrated is available on Audible.com .  Just click this link. And, of course, you can always find me at your favorite audiobook retailers: Audible, Amazon, and iTunes!

Thanks for joining me today on the Cozy Chicks Blog.  Any other questions for Steven?  Feel free to leave a comment/question and you might win one of the books Steven has narrated for me.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A real corny post


By Mary Jane Maffini aka Victoria Abbott




 Here we are, in the second half of August and it’s sweltering.  Forget all that whining I did about winter. It’s hot and it’s humid. On the bright side, our local corn is at its peak.  Within walking distance or a short drive there are fields of corn and even better, heaps of it at roadside stands or even in giant bins at the grocery store. The fresher it is, the more we like it.  With that bright color, it really sings of sun and summer. And we do love it!


We love it grilled, smoked, boiled or microwaved.  Here it's smoked and charred on the grill to add to a salad. 


We like it on a campfire, but we don’t do that often. We like it as a side dish or on its own.  We especially like it with our wiener dog corn holders. 




There are probably many other ways to cook it and serve it that we haven’t thought of yet.  

Yesterday my husband and I each picked up a half-dozen ears of corn on our way home.  He was walking and I was driving from my appointment.  Oh well, you can never have too much.
We bought our corn from our friend and neighbor, Anne, who is always reading in (often cozies!)  between customers.  You gotta love that. 


We like our corn best when it’s on the cob. But we also like it in salads and you name it. 

 We’re always on the lookout for new ways.  Maybe corn relish?  Thinking about that!

My favorite add-on is chive butter.  All we do is soften butter to room temperature in a small dish, chop some chives and mix in.  Return to fridge and keep it to slather on the next pile of piping hot corn. 

What about you? Are you a fan of corn?  How do you prepare it?   Do you have any tasty add-ons to share? After all, we’re all friends here.