Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Molly Malone Political Suspense Trilogy

by Maggie Sefton

Every now and then I remember that I need to let readers and others know that I have other published mysteries in addition to the Kelly Flynn Mysteries which now have 12---yes, 12----mysteries in the series in bookstores and online.  Number 13 in the series----PURL UP AND DIE----will be released this June.

Most readers are familiar with the Kelly Flynn Series, but haven't sampled my Washington, DC--based political suspense trilogy----DEADLY POLITICS, POISONED POLITICS, and last November's BLOODY POLITICS.  For those of you who'd like a hint of what's going on in that trilogy, here's a quick glimpse into heroine-sleuth Molly Malone's world in the first book----DEADLY POLITICS---

Deadly Politics

Years ago, Molly Malone was driven from Washington, DC by political back-stabbing, scandals, and personal heartbreak. But now, circumstances have forced her to start a new life in the one place she swore she'd never return to—the city that broke her heart—and face the ghosts and the enemies from her past.
As the daughter of a respected United States Senator and once the wife of a rising star young Congressman, Molly has seen it all in Washington politics—the cynics, the sincere, and the schemers. But the brutal murder of her Congressional staffer niece brings Molly up close with Washington's darker side. "The beautiful monuments and parks are deceiving. Washington can be ugly." How ugly, Molly's about to find out. There are other schemers out there who may not have won elections, but are more powerful than the politicians they ensnare. 

Monday, March 30, 2015


by Kate Collins

On Facebook the other day, a reader posed a question about what she should include in a book review. It not only generated a nice discussion but also got me thinking.

Anyone in the entertainment industry is subject to being reviewed, and reviews can be harsh, so whether you’re a writer, actor, painter or musician, it helps to have a thick skin.  I love reading good reviews and feel wounded by bad ones. However, I’ve also learned to sift through them to see if there’s some truth in there that I can use.

This doesn’t apply to personal attacks, of course, or a rating based on something that doesn’t matter at all to the plot, characterization, or writing. As someone put it, you can’t fix stupid. I once got a one star review because the “reviewer” was outraged that my sleuth, a struggling florist, would own a 1960 Corvette convertible. Too bad this reader didn’t actually read the beginning of the book, where it was explained how Abby Knight happened to come by it. And it’s a cute anecdote, by the way. Of course Abby couldn’t have paid a fortune -- for any vehicle. Yet how many potential buyers were turned off by the one star she left based on an incorrect assumption?

A friend of mine recently was criticized in a review because the reviewer didn’t like her character Georgia. Sadly, no such character exists in that book, and yet based on that false comment, many people won’t buy it now.

But we’re always being urged by various sites to leave reviews, so let’s try to figure out what is fair and what is not.

Fair: A comment on the plot. Does it move along at a nice clip? Is it a page-turner? Does it have twists and turns? Is it suspenseful? Romantic? Scary? Funny? Does it do what it’s supposed to do?

Not fair: A personal attack on the writer. A comment based on a typographical error that somehow slipped past 3 different pairs of eyes. Yes, mistakes do happen.

Fair: A comment about the characters. Did you like the way they interacted? Played off each other? Antagonized their opponents? Showed their emotions, bravery, or humanness? Did they seem real? Would you want to know them?

Not fair: Picking on one of the characters (hopefully one who actually exists) about a look, pet, occupation, or possession to base the entire review on.

Fair: A comment about the ending. Did it wrap everything up nicely or leave you hanging – or wanting more? Why or why not?

Not fair: Giving away the ending.

I’ll end with this beautiful quote my friend Jenn MacKinlay passed along. It’s attributed to Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming...who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

On behalf of writers everywhere, I thank you for allowing us to be human and make mistakes. Have a wonderful week.

Now it’s your turn!

1. When you’re looking for a book, do you base your decision on book reviews?

2. When you read a review, what are the main things you want to know about the book?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Guilty Pleasure

by Leann

One of my degrees is in behavioral science from the University of Houston. I loved my psychology courses but by far, I loved Social Psychology the best. According to Merriam and Webster the definition of this branch is this: the study of the manner in which the personality, attitudes, motivations, and behavior of the individual influence and are influenced by social groups.

Because of some seriously flawed social psychology experiments many years ago--experiments that involved things like subjects using electrical shocks on other subjects and probably the most famous
experiment where one group of subjects were designated as "prisoners" and another group was designated as "prison guards," it is now considered unethical to do this kind of experiments with human subjects. The outcomes of those experiments were a disaster.

Then reality TV came along. No rules, just volunteers looking to win--to win money, to win fame or to win love. I watched several of these shows with great interest. Survivor and The Bachelor come to mind. I have never watched even one episode of any "housewives" show or any of the MTV productions.  No Sister Wives, no dropped into the jungle "naked and afraid," either. I had grown
tired of reality shows aside from music competitions long ago. Where was the science? What were we learning except that folks might be more shallow than we ever thought possible?

Social psychology, after all, can teach us so much. For instance, a woman was murdered outside her apartment back in the late 60s while dozens of people heard the crime being committed and did nothing until it was too late. (The victim was Kitty Genovese).  Social psychology offers a valid explanation--that the more people witness a crime or an injustice, the less likely they are to do anything at all. (The "Bystander Effect.")That is why if you ever are helping someone in distress with a crowd present, it is important to point at an individual and say something like, "You. Call 9-1-1." Otherwise everyone around believes someone else will take care of it. That was one of the most important parts of the training I did when I was a CPR instructor way back when. Social psychology also helps us understand "mob violence." Not that we seem to be able to fix it.

But now there is a show on the Fyi network that has me hooked. It's called "Married at First Sight." I
called it "crazy" when I first read about it, but then I happened to see a review--a good review--and found out this is a TRUE social psychology experiment with psychologists, therapists, sociologists, and spiritual advisors involved. It's sure better than dating websites--one of which has so far has duped two people I know into cat-fishing scams. If I know TWO people, there has to be many, many more. The second season has just started and as a writer, there couldn't be a better show to watch for revealing human emotions for a younger age group. I am getting out of touch with that demographic more and more everyday! So I'm calling it research. Arranged marriages have been around for a long time, but not like this. Not with people matched on many different levels by experts using tests, in depth interviews and more. Ever watched it? Don't judge until you have. This is NOT Real Housewives of Anything! It's unique and interesting.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


By Mary Kennedy                                 
In the middle of the night, it suddenly occurred to me that I'd forgotten to thank someone for a favor. (Yes, some of my best thinking/planning/worrying time is done at 2:00 am. I bet a lot of you can relate.). The person who helped me is an acquaintance, not really a close friend, but she was incredibly kind and went out of her way to help me with a project. We only cross paths every few months, so sad to say, her kindness slipped my mind.  My bad! What did I do?  I jumped up out of bed to write her a quick note before it slipped my mind again. 
Could I have e-mailed her instead, or waited until morning and called her? Yes, of course. Chances are she has completely forgotten the favor she did, and being a generous soul, she wouldn't expect a thank-you note. There's something about taking pen to paper that seems more "significant" than just tapping a few keys for an e-mail. At least, it seems that way to me.
I'm always thrilled when someone takes the time to write to me, and one of my most treasured letters is from a former colleague.  I was leaving the practice and she had organized a lovely good-bye party.  She wrote to tell me how much she had enjoyed working with me and she insisted that I'd helped her find her path in life. Wow. I was floored and didn't expect that. I had helped her with a few things here and there, written a letter of recommendation, suggested a few contacts, that sort of thing. I had no idea that my words had had such an effect on her.
I started thinking of all the people over the years who have helped me and how they have made my life so much easier and more pleasurable. Knowing them has been a joy.                         
Do you have people like this in your life?  Sweet friends who are invariably kind, happy to see you and always have a word of encouragement for you? People who will put aside their own busy schedules to help you out of a jam or meet you for coffee to mull over a difficult situation. I have been so blessed that I do, and I hope you have, too.
So the next time you experience a "kindness" from someone, think about sitting down and writing them a quick note. I promise you they will treasure it.
 Mary Kennedy

Friday, March 27, 2015

Go To Sleep

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

"Go To Sleep" is a song from the film On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.  I've heard that song since I was a kid, and I still can't GO TO SLEEP. (What I loved about that scene is Barbra Strisand is singing and her mind is answering back, and her mind is in a mirror image of her bedroom in different colors.  Green, if I'm not mistaken. It's been a couple of years since I've seen the film.)

I don't usually sing when I can't sleep, which is just about every night.  It would wake up Mr. L and whatever cats happen to be in the bed at the time.

The Chicks have all traded ideas on how to sleep, and most of us STILL aren't getting enough. Leann is sleeping better since she got a new waterbed, but Ellery and I are tossing and turning because we can't shut our minds down.  Mr. L took my picture the other day and I had such terrible dark circles under my eyes it looked like I'd been beaten up.

Kate swears by liquid melatonin.  I tried it, but it left such a terrible after-taste that I stopped using it.  (I should send her the bottle.)  I'm back to tablet melatonin--the max recommended, and taking half before I go to bed, and half several hours later.

Actually, I never had a problem dropping off to sleep. It's 3-4 hours later when I wake up that I can't fall BACK to sleep.  Sometimes a cup of warm milk (with nutmeg sprinkled on it (what Jean-Luc Picard suggested to Dr. Crusher in my favorite Next Gen episode Cause and Effect.) helps, and sometimes it doesn't.

I need some sleep.  Anybody else got a home remedy I can try?  (And thank you.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

You sent me a what?

Yesterday, my friend sent me a Facebook message. She’d been trying to reach me and getting no answer after repeated attempts.  Was I all right?

As far as I knew, I was all right, and more than all right. I had no messages on my home phone or Facebook. Where had she been trying to reach me?

On two different cell phones, it turned out. Mine and my husband’s.  But there were no messages.

I scratched my head. 

The messages as you may have already  out were texts and there they were sitting on the text screen of my cell.  This is a place I have rarely been and hope to never be again.

Sure, I have lots of friends who use it to communicate with their adult children and their families. My own grown-up up kids use it all the time.

I just am not keen to have another place to check.  I am not alone. My hubby’s phone makes a sound like a kid’s tricycle bell every time he gets a text. I estimate he has received thousands of them, many in the hours of three to five in the morning.  This is why his phone no longer spends the night recharging in our bedroom.  For the record, I’m pretty sure he’s never read one of them. 

I think texts are a great idea. For other people. Or even for me if I’m in some kind of life-threatening situation or I'm lost in the mall.

But I have plenty to keep up with on email, two Facebook accounts, two Facebook message sections, Pinterest, newsletter, comments by lovely friends on my blog posts, Yahoo groups, voice mail, snail mail and notes stuck on my door by delivery guys.

I don’t want another place to look.  Yes, I realize in the time it took me to type this post on my slightly antiquated keyboard, another three social media sites were probably born. I just don’t want to think about it.  It's enough to drive me to drink. Hang on, I'm reaching for my flask.

So what do you think:: can I get by without texts and texting? If you are a younger member of my family, you have just rolled your eyes.  Don’t care. I’m used to it. 

And how about the rest of you? What kinds of messaging do you absolutely need and what can you live without?  Is there anything that just drives you crazy.  Maybe it’s people who don’t answer your texts. 

You might even want to respond to me by text, but unless you are one of the five (eye-rolling) people who have my cell phone number …  never mind. I hope you do respond here. I always love reading your comments.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

So…you write books

Duffy Brown
Consignment Shop Mysteries
Demise in Denim  April, 2015

One Writer’s Journey
or I always have to write something on a steamed mirror

Maybe that was my first clue that I wanted to be a writer for real.

Or maybe it was that I always thought in stories. Not long ago I asked my husband...So, husband, what kind of stories do you think about? I got this What the heck are you talking about look so I explained...You know, like if you’re board or on a plane and have a little down time, what kind of stories do you make up?

Well, dang, you mean not everyone thinks in stories? I had no idea.

And as long as I can remember I would mentally rewrite books. In first grade if Dick and Jane didn’t do what I thought they should I made up a new story. If I didn’t like an ending in other books I’d rewrite the ending to what I thought it should be and if a character did something stupid, I rewrote him/her.

Then there was the time when I couldn’t find a book I liked and my daughter who was in the eighth grade at St. Andrew’s School tossed me a well-worn, dog-eared Harlequin. A romance? Who reads these things? I read it in desperation and loved it! Only after I finished did my daughter tell me it was the student’s supplement to their sex-ed class! I should have known since all the good stuff was underlined in red!  

I was hooked on romance and I started writing my own stories. At first it was just for me and then it got to be more. Getting that more published took eight years but it has been so worth the effort. Writing is my thing. I can’t imagine not writing. It’s a big part of who I am.

The very best part of writing is the people I’ve met along the way, editors, agents, publicists, other authors and the readers. When I needed a doctor in NYC for my daughter who lives there (and I live in Cincy) I put out a mass mailing asking for doctor references. So many people wrote back with recommendations and the gals from Romantic Times even offered to take my daughter to lunch and be with her if she needed support.

Now that is friendship!

The worse part of writing of course is the rejections of projects you really want to write and no one wants to buy. But the best outweighs the worse by a ton.
My writer’s journey has been like a roller coaster with ups and downs and lots of twists and turns but it is one hell of a ride and I cannot imagine life without a contract and a title and deadline. The special world of books is exciting and challenging and it’s exactly where I want to be.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Is Coming

by Maggie Sefton

The garden patio at the back of the Lambspun shop in Fort Collins.

Okay---you folks have heard me mention how mild our weather in Northern Colorado
was during most of  February and now into March.  Our mountains and ski resorts got lots of snow which is great for them,   but along the Front Range of the Rockies (where Denver and Fort Collins both are located) our weather  stayed warmer and milder.  We had a nice snow early in February and that's the last we've seen here in Fort Collins.  Believe it or not, we actually could use some rain or snow because it would bring much needed moisture.  I've already run the garden hose on several of my rose bushes and large plants like the Peony.

Because of all that warmer weather and the bright sunshine which comes every day, many of our  trees have already budded out and dropped seed pods all over the yards and patios.  Leaves should start to appear by the end of the month.  :)

And, I've sneezed a few times, which confirms that Spring Stuff is floating in the air.  :)  I don't have big problems with allergies which I can counteract with the little over-the-counter pink pills, so I'm not complaining.  I've had scores of friends who have BIG problems with all sorts of allergies, so their lives are seriously affected.  I get to spend most afternoons sitting outside with my laptop writing away.

Crabapple tree in Vienna, Virginia last spring.

Of course, a brief cold front could (and often will) blow across the mountains and drop some light snow in the last of March and during April.   Not a problem.  With our bright Colorado sunshine every day, those spring snows literally melt away in a day.

What's your weather like now?  Still cold and filled with snow?  Or, are you seeing hints of an early Spring, too.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rescued Dogs

by Kate Collins

To celebrate National Puppy Day, the Cozy Chicks are honoring rescue dogs. In my Flower Shop Mystery series, Abby's dog Seedy was rescued from a shelter before she could be euthanized. Abby hadn't planned on having a dog in her life. It just happened. And don't so many things in our lives go that way? (See last Monday's post, "In An Instant.") Seedy's image is in the poster, except the artist goofed. Seedy has just 3 legs. Oops!

I have a friend who rescues Yorkies and finds forever homes for them. She has three herself. Another friend has rescued several big dogs. I've rescued half a dozen cats, and my son, bless his heart, rescued a mother cat and her eight kittens. These stories are all so heart-warming, aren't they?

I'm not the only one of the Chicks who has a rescue dog in her mystery series. My friend Duffy Brown had this to say about her doggie character: "I have a rescue pup in my Consignment Shop series...Bruce Willis. Reagan found him hiding under her porch and shared her chicken McNuggets with him. They bonded."  You can see his "photo" here.

And Chick Mary Jane Maffini said, "Peachtree (aka Walter the Pug) was put up for 'adoption' online after the family had a baby.  It wasn't a complete rescue, but a timely adoption. She's Victoria's dog and we all love her.  Maybe not close enough to a 'real' rescue."  Close enough for me, MJ. A dog's life was saved.  You can see Walter in the poster above. He's such a cutie pug-tootie, isn't he?

And then there's my good buddy Maggie Sefton, who has real life rescues in her family. She told me, "Kate, here are two photos---Max at the vet's office sitting on the 
most vulnerable part of this anatomy and my "granddog" Oscar, Serena & 
Jeff's Dachsund. Oscar was found in a Houston shelter, shivering at the back of the big caged area. 
Now, he gets to be Big Brother to Mastiff puppy Boss."

Here are Maggie's photos.

Have you rescued a dog? Or any animal? Everyone who does should stand up and take a bow. You are an angel on earth.

Have a waggingly wonderful week.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Black Thumb Girl!

by Leann

Spring really is here, even if many of you are still dealing with ice and snow. (And I am very sorry about that!) That means, according to our Home Owners Association, we need to get our new yard landscaped. Trouble is, though my husband is great at growing vegetables, he knows very little about
landscaping. The sad thing is, I know even less. Just one look at the place designated for plants etc. outside our front door created immediate conflict. I don't want conflict. I want this to be easy.

I have an "idea" of what I'd like to see, but I don't know a thing about plants aside from the reality that they need to be cared for. My mother had a green thumb and so does my sister. I have managed to destroy every single plant that has ever come near
me. It really is that bad. I'm proud to say I do know what growing region we are in--7b. Good thing, too, because I might have wanted to add lilacs to the front yard--but they don't grow here.

To compound the matter, I cannot spend much time outdoors. I am allergic to everything, including all the insects that will find me immediately. It's like I have a sign on my back that says "bite me." All I know is I want color, something like what's pictured below. When we had to re-landscape our yard to sell our house in

Texas, I hired two brothers. I had a vision for what I wanted, but of course no names for plants that would work. But they spoke my language! They understood me! They also did a fantastic job.

If I can convince my tightwad of a husband to let me do this again, that's what I'd like to do. Meanwhile, I am sure there is a Landscaping for Dummies book out there, right?

What about you? Is anyone a black thumb person like me? (I need company!)

Saturday, March 21, 2015


by Mary Kennedy
Okay, true confession time. Do you make lists and lose them? Do you write things on post-its and little bits of paper and scatter them throughout the house? Do you write things down on whatever is handy? Like the back of a phone bill, or in the margin of a newspaper?  Do you shove business cards and scraps of paper into your address book instead of entering them alphabetically on a page? I'm guilty as charged of all these things.
I read somewhere that "creative types" are more prone to dashing off ideas, "notes to self," and inspirational material than "normals." Of course, I found this notion appealing because I could tell myself that I was just being creative when I couldn't find a recent "deal memo" I'd written on the back of a greeting card and accidentally mailed!! I'm sure the recipient wondered why I was writing about advances and option clauses on the back of her birthday card.  Like most folks, I'd much rather think of myself as "creative" than "chronically disorganized."
If one of your New Year's resolutions was to "get organized," there are several ways to go about it. You can go for the tried and true day planner.
Or if you prefer, you can use the electronic version.
The late Joan Rivers was fond of writing down jokes and "one-liners" when inspiration struck. She kept a variety of lovely little porcelain bowls scattered throughout the house. At the end of the day, her assistant emptied all the bowls and entered Joan's comments into a computer file that was categorized by topic. Instant organization! Sadly, most of us don't have an assistant who could do this, but I really like the idea.
 One of my friends is so organized, she keeps "lists of lists." Wow--that is so far beyond me I can hardly imagine it. Another friend (at the opposite end of the spectrum) has a novel method of saving any important piece of paper. She simply buys a half dozen picture frames at the Dollar Store and sticks her "must-not-lose" piece of paper in a frame! I know it sounds odd, but it's actually effective. It's pretty hard to "lose" a picture frame.
So what's your secret to staying organized. Do you faithfully keep datebooks and diaries and address books? If you have any tips, please share them.
Mary Kennedy

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring had better sprung!

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

Happy First Day of Spring (for those of you in the top half of the world -- and Happy First Day of Autumn for those of you living down under).

There are FINALLY signs of spring everywhere.

Geese.  I'm not sure if these are travelers, since we get so many who winter over these days, but they've been doing a lot of honking, so even if they live here year round, they're they're making a cheerful noise.

Daffodil points. My mother's little garden in front of the house is coming to life with them, and the tips of crocuses. 

You can see people's lawns again, and the grass is starting to get a tinge of green.

Well, not on my side of the street.  I'm still surrounded by snow, Snow, SNOW!!!  In fact, it seems like everywhere I went yesterday, the snow had done a good job of receding.  Except on MY street. Some of the lawns on the east side of the street have grass, but not on my side.

I'd love to be able to go out back to check to see if there are daffodil points, but ... guess what!  There's too much snow.  Not on the garden, but on the pool deck there's still at least 10-12 inches of ice. (Used to be snow, but now it's solid and you can't shovel it.)

And for everyone who can't wait for the first snowfall, they should be made to look at the dirty piles of the stuff that sits in parking lots until May.

When I look out my front window, I see a shrunken pile of snow, but it's still there. It'll still be there 2-3 weeks from now, too.  (Courtesy of  plow guy, who shoved it all in one pile, at the TOP of the driveway instead of the bottom like every other plow guy. We're going to have a little talk before next winter.)

There's another storm predicted for today and tomorrow in the northeast, but luckily it's going to skirt by us. We'll get some rain.  I hope it washes some of the dirt from the snowpiles.

And how's the weather where you are?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Join me on my Staycation

There’s nothing quite like the relief  I feel when a manuscript goes off to the editor.  I usually like to find some way to celebrate or even better, take a mini-vacation.  But this March, my plans were foiled.  My vacation plans had been rescheduled (a story for another blog).  My hubby was out of town.  Long story short: it was winter in Ottawa. I wanted a break. And I was stuck at home. 

When life sends lemons, we know what to do.  I decided to take a STAYCATION for my lemonade.  No long line-up in airports or getting up at 3 am to catch a connection. No bulging suitcases or realizing that the bathing suit should have come with a tent.  
This was a time to connect with family and friends and do things I’d been putting off. 

I had time to have a longer than usual visit with my 92-year old mother-in-law.  We had a ‘picnic’ with ribs and sweet potato fries at a table the staff set up at her care home. 

You may remember that Teagan and I got to make a pie and enjoy Paddington at the movies. We also had time for Teagan to draw and paint.  I got to keep this one! 

I caught up with my friends, usually over lunch or walks or browsing in stores.  Who has time for that as a rule?  
My friend Christine and I had a great lunch and then explored a shop next door that specializes in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Who knew there was such a place?

The weather didn’t really cooperate, but later in the week, I did enjoy a cup of coffee while basking in front of the ‘lawn’. 

There was time to relax with the pooches (and bribe them) and to clown around a bit with Victoria (courtesy of the Dollar Store).   Even our trip to the vet was more relaxed without the time pressure.


Speaking of St. Paddy's Day, what's that without music?  I got to enjoy my friend Chris Rodgers and his amazing band, The Bay County Bys, play in the village. The roof was coming off our local pub, The Mill Tavern, that night.  

Still a few things to do before I get back to work, a stroll around the village, a visit to the French CafĂ© and (if the snow melts a bit more), the dog park.  I'll try for pix.

All of these things were easy and fun because of the great people involved: people I care about (and excellent dogs too)  Most of them, like the best things, in life were free (or at least inexpensive).

I still have dozens of things I'd like to do on this staycation, but I guess it's time to get busy writing another book.
Victoria and I will be back at the keyboard very soon, plotting The Hammett Hex, our fifth Book Collector mystery. She had her own staycation, but she can tell you that herself.  I think we’ll both have more energy, now that we’re recharged. 
It's your turn.  Have you had a ‘staycation’?  Did you enjoy it and do you have any suggestions for us on our next staycation?