Monday, May 22, 2017

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER LEADS TO A BOOK

By Mary Kennedy                        
 
The girl was young, blonde, slim and beautiful. She turned heads as she weaved her way through the lunch time crowd in South Beach. I watched her from an umbrella table at the News CafĂ© as she bought a bag of croissants and coffee from a food truck and nearly caused a traffic jam.
                                                          
 
 Who was she?  A movie star? A super-model? Paris Hilton? I had no idea. She was completely confident without a trace of  self consciousness. I had the feeling she knew people found her intriguing and was secretly amused by the attention. She stopped to wave to a young man in a yellow convertible...                              
                                                         
 
...before darting under the portico of a very chic hotel. The doorman smiled at her and she rewarded him with a croissant wrapped in a napkin. They chatted for a minute or two and then she disappeared into the lobby.
                                                       
 
I found myself thinking about her over my salad nicoise. Over the next few minutes, I scribbled a few notes on a napkin (which I still have). The notes became the novel, GOLDEN GIRL, the story of a beautiful young woman named Amber Fielding whose father owns one of the most popular hotels in SoBe. I started making up a whole history about her, the "backstory." I filled in details about her friends, her family, her life as a celebrity. I wanted her to be kind and intelligent, not someone who was just "famous for being famous."
 
GOLDEN GIRL is one of the three books in my Hollywood Nights series. All three books revolve around the movie industry (South Beach is known as "Hollywood East" because of the number of movies that are filmed there.)
 
When Amber meets enigmatic Nick Crawford, she falls hard. Nick comes from a different world. Smart, tough and ambitious, he plans to make it big as a documentary filmmaker. Nick confides that he's shooting a film about "the beautiful people" in historic South Beach.
                                                       
 
 Is he telling the truth--or does he have a hidden agenda? Nick could be just what Amber is looking for--or he could blow her world apart.
 
Golden Girl is what many writers refer to as a "gift book." The whole plot seemed to be delivered in one piece. The story just presented itself and I could hardly get the words down quickly enough. I remember I brought an AlphaSmart on that trip and I worked on the book while sitting on the balcony of the condo.                                                                        

 
It was an amazing experience and how I wish that all books came to me that! A chance encounter (I suppose it was more of a "sighting" than an "encounter" since I never spoke to her) led to one of my favorite books.
 
Golden Girl is available as an e-book.
 
You can read about all three books in the Hollywood Nights series right here. Happy reading everyone!

Friday, May 19, 2017

I'm juggling once again

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

There was a time when the only sales on my writing resume were short stories. I was learning how to structure a novel, but I needed some credibility so I could join Mystery Writers of America. Those short stories got me in. (And then after a few years I left when it became obvious to me that what I was writing wasn't being taken seriously. Now...I don't give a damn. Just goes to show you how things you once thought were important don't always stay that way....)

When I wrote my first Jeff Resnick novel, I had wayyyy too many ideas that couldn't be contained in that one book. So I started writing a second ... then a third .... then a fourth. It took me 11 years to sell Murder on the Mind (which, by the way, is FREE for all ebook formats), and during that time I kept cranking out short stories and began work on what became the Victoria Square Mysteries. I was juggling projects like crazy, all while doing volunteer work for two different writing groups, having a booth at an antique co-op, and a full-time job.

I kept writing and writing (and hopefully getting better at it) and juggling projects like crazy.

After a very dry period (January through April, where I only wrote 7000 or so words), I feel like I'm juggling once again--and you know what? I LOVE it!

I'm currently working on three novels: Booktown #12 (Poisoned Pages--yes, that's the title and you heard it first right here), Lotus Bay (novel) #2, and Victoria Square #5 (with Gayle Trent). Collaborating isn't always fun, but so far Gayle and I are doing well and we're actually ahead of schedule. I wasn't going to start Booktown #12 until June, but Tricia seems to be in a hurry to get going, and Tori and Kathy were getting impatient, too.

Meanwhile, I've got finished books that need launch attention.  The paperback edition of TITLE WAVE comes out on June 6th, the hardcover edition of A JUST CLAUSE on June 13th, and the 2nd Life on Victoria Square, A BASKET FULL OF BARGAINS, arrives on July 11th.

Wow, not only am I juggling like crazy, I'm trying to keep all those plates spinning on the end of sticks, too.

I can't wait for you to read what's coming next, and just as important ... I'm having FUN writing again.

Which project are you most looking forward to?


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Do You Ever Have Enough Towels?

by Karen Rose Smith


Do you ever have enough towels? 
It might seem like an odd question, but I always seem to need more. When I tell my husband that, he rolls his eyes as if our closet is stuffed with them.


Well, maybe it is.  But we have four inside cats and two strays who come into our basement for night time and napping. Towels make great nesting places, easily washed and kept clean. I use them on cushions, on chairs, in boxes and on condo surfaces. The cats love them. Two of our inside cats have asthma so I wash throws and towels often to reduce cat hair flying about.  




Dish towels don't seem to last as long as they once did.  But I cook a lot and wash my hands often.  I like absorbent towels for hands, cotton materials to cover baked goods until they cool and to cover bread dough to help it rise. 


I suppose I should mention decorative towels for when guests visit. I usually have a cute flower or cat towel hanging in the bathroom along with more practical ones. 






I like colorful towels and I prefer good bargains. We have a wholesale store named Ollies that has a huge selection with economical prices on a daily basis.  I check every couple of months to see what's new.  I have been known to buy towels at Target but I like the quality of towels I sometimes find at T. J. Max.  Then there's always Kohl's with sales and coupons.



DO you ever have enough towels? 



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Floating your boat your way

There are certain things that really float my boat. They’re not necessary and there’s probably an easier way of doing it and maybe a bit old fashioned but I still do it.

Like tea. You can plop a bag in a cup of water and nuke it for two minutes and bingo...tea. OR you can put on the kettle. Get out the teapot and brew it on the stove. I must confess I do the plop the bag thing a lot but every once in a while I do the brew thing and it tastes so much better.

Then there’s the pie thing. There are amazing frozen pies out there that make me thing why bother. If you doubt me you haven’t tried Marie Callendar’s Razzleberry pie. Wow. It is amazing, always gets rave reviews and eaten to the last berry. But every once in a while I do my own pie from scratch, my triple-berry pie that is simply delish. And it is better, but maybe I’m just saying that because of all the work and I get to say...I made it myself from scratch.



And what about washing my own car. Yes, I do. I don’t do the drive-thru car washes because I love my car and what if they scratch my baby! Plus there is a certain hands-on connection between me and car that I really like.

Another thing that I really love is setting the table. I know you can get a placemat and a paper napkin and be ready to eat but I loooooove linens. Okay, maybe I’m too lazy for linen but cloth tablecloths and napkins. I love the look of a nicely set table and hate, hate, hate paper plates. Probably from being a kids and having potato salad down my front more than once.

And then there’s the dishwasher. I must confess that I use the dishwasher all the time even with just me and the cats to dish wash for. But I have friends who use their dishwasher for storage and do all their dishes by hand.

So is there something you do that you could be done easier? Something you do the old fashioned way and glad you do?

Hugs, Duffy

BTW...here is my triple berry pie recipe. Not exactly mine but I got it online and love it!




  1. Preheat oven to 400. Combine the berries with a 1/4 cup of sugar and let stand over a sieve for a half hour to drain some of the liquid. Combine the rest of the ingredients minus the crust. Using a 9 inch pie plate, arrange your crust and spoon the filling inches Place the second crust over and crimp edges. Make sure to cut a vent into the dough or use a pie bird. You can also do a lattice top pie which is just gorgeous and is what I did.
  2. You can brush the top of the pie with a mix of one egg yolk and a teaspoon of water (which makes for a lovely golden brown crust).
  3. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 and then bake at 350 for another 40-50 minutes. Remove when crust is golden brown.
  4.  


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A New Kelly Flynn Mystery---Coming Soon!

by Maggie Sefton





That's right, Everyone.  In just three weeks Kelly Flynn #15 will be released!  ONLY SKEIN DEEP will be available in hardcover at bookstores and online at the E-retailers, Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com as well as at the Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin) website.  Also---last year's hardcover Kelly Flynn release, KNIT TO BE TIED, will be available in mass market paperback.    

Can you believe that there have been 14 Kelly Flynn Mysteries before this?  Wow!  I am still in awe of all you awesome Kelly Flynn fans and readers.  Thank you, thank you, Kelly Flynn fans for making Kelly such a regular part of your lives.  :)   I hope you enjoy this next episode in Kelly's life as well as her husband Steve and all of their friends.  Enjoy! 


Monday, May 15, 2017

THE NAKED TRUTH ABOUT PASTA

By Mary Kennedy                              
 
You're probably wondering why I called this post "The Naked Truth about Pasta."  Okay true confession time, it was a bit of a tease. I could have called it "The Skinny Truth about Pasta," but it didn't have enough of a ring to it.
 
A lot of people are watching their weight these days and pasta has been given a bad rap. I'd like to share a super-easy, vegetarian recipe for whole wheat pasta with cherry tomatoes, spinach, lemon zest and garlic. Oh yes, and a dash of red pepper flakes.     
         
 
...it's very quick and delish. And if you watch your portion size, it will fit into any diet.                                                      
 
Penne pasta with garlic, tomatoes and spinach.
 
Ingredients:
 
12 ounces whole grain pasta or fortified pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves of garlic (or just use minced garlic that comes in a jar)
2 cups cherry tomatoes
6 ounces chopped, frozen spinach, drain well and squeeze all the moisture out. (I always have fresh spinach in the fridge so I use that instead.)
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped thyme
2 tablespoons lemon zest
Salt and pepper
 
Directions:
 
Cook pasta according to directions. (Note if you don't like whole wheat pasta, you can use the "plus" versions of pasta that are fortified and have extra protein. Be sure to check the labels. You want one that is about 10 grams of protein per serving) 
 
You are going to reserve about 1/4 of the pasta water, right before you drain the pasta.
 
While pasta is cooking, heat the tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes in the olive oil in a sauce pan. Add the spinach and cook for about 3 minutes. Be sure to keep stirring.                                                 
 
Add about half of the "starchy water" you reserved from the cooking water for the pasta. Let simmer for a minute. Now add thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
                                                          
 
Add pasta and enjoy!
                                                           
 
Makes six servings. Only 220 calories each, and 10 grams of protein. great for lunch with a salad.
 
Hope you try this, Mary Kennedy
 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Spotlight is on Tricia Miles!

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

It's just three weeks until the paperback edition of TITLE WAVE, the 10th Booktown Mystery comes out. Here's a brief description.

Tricia and Angelica leave Booktown behind for some much needed R&R. Naturally they choose a Mystery Lovers cruise, where they can ponder whodunnit in deck chairs while sipping colorful drinks and soaking up some rays. But the fun is cut short when a fellow passenger is murdered for real. Is the killer a famous mystery author, one of her fans, or a member of the ship’s crew? As Tricia tries to find the killer before they reach port, she may be cruising for a bruising....

Whatever made me decide to write a Booktown Mystery about a cruise? Well, everything a writer experiences is 'grist for the mill.'  I've been on three cruises (and I think I'm due for another one) and I thought it would be a good way to get Tricia and Angelica out of their home base, but keep them in their own element.  How? Well, by immersing them in a book-lovers cruise. Tricia gets to hang out with mystery authors, and Angelica gets to meet her favorite TV chef, as well as attend other culinary fun demonstrations, etc. And of course, t here's all the cruise FOOD.  There's a mystery to be solved and the cruise line isn't exactly interested in having it solved, so Tricia must come to the rescue.

If you haven't had a chance to read the book, the paperback will be available on June 6th.

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books A Million
Chapters
Book Depository (Free Shipping Worldwide)

Hope  you'll enjoy your cruise aboard the Celtic Lady.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Adventures in Junking!

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

On Wednesday my friend, Amy, and I went to the Ronald McDonald House sale here in my town. Holy smoke! Can you say CHAOS!!! It was 120,000 square feet of STUFF. If I had a bigger house, I would have spent a FORTUNE. As it is, I spent less than $10--but I was there forthe thrill of the hunt.  Amy's a mom with two young boys, so it was inevitable that she wanted to spend a LOT of time in the toy section, while I was more interested in home furnishings. (Like I have any more room in my house to put them.) We wandered away from one another, but since we both had phones, knew we would eventually find each other again.

We walked into the HUGE room and were impressed with how all the (vastly overpriced--since 90% of what was there was donated by average people like you and me) merchandise was arranged.  We walked in to a pretty big Christmas section. Wow!  There were things I would have bought had I not already had similar items (like a dozen or so Made-In-Japan Christmas figurines of which I already have at least 200). So it was this little Christmas book that caught my attention and I scooped it up. It's two years older than me (and I'm not admitting how old THAT is).

This little Christmas book is chock full of wonderful little hints on how to have a great holiday. I saw it and fell in love with it. I'm going to save and savor it after Thanksgiving. Don't worry. I won't lose it. I keep all my holiday books in one spot and reread them (or at least look at the pictures) every holiday season.

I hoped to find that cabinet for my laundry room, but the only thing that came close to what I wanted already had a sold tag on it.  So I wandered into the first china section. I could have stood there for an hour or more just admiring the china and glassware. I saw this little beauty and snatched it up. I don' t know if it is a "real" Chintz cup, but it was pretty enough for me. It has a hairline crack on the inside, so they gave it to me for half off. Since I'll probably only display it, the crack doesn't bother me a bit.

Next up was the stationery department. Wow.  I bought one thing, and it's the only thing I didn't take a photo of: a very LARGE roll of brown paper for wrapping parcels. In the future, I will use it when I send out prizes to members of Lorraine's Perpetual Tea Party Page on Facebook!  (Want to join? Click this link.)

Across from the stationery was the main (with the more common) china section. HOLY COW -- did they have teacups. Probably 30 or 40 beautiful bone china teacups. I already have 40 or 50 teacups, and since they weren't chintz or even pseudo-chintz, I had to pass them by. But the regular plates were reasonably priced (what I'd pay at a yard sale).

My first purchase was a square plate. I collect square plates. I have about 50-60 of them on the wall going down to my finished basement. They're from all over the place/world. I don't know why I started collecting them, I just did. (Do you have a collection like that?)

Of course, I was drawn to the very small selection of Syracuse China. I'm a sucker for Syracuse China (which is no longer in business, along with Buffalo China). I have quite a few pieces. This is a sandwich or cake plate. I have two bigger plates in this pattern (in blue) so it immediately caught my eye. There were other pieces I could have bought, but quite frankly I'm running out of room. But there's always room for just one more dish, isn't there?

That was it for the Ronald McDonald House sale, but that's not all I bought this week.

On Tuesday, I took Mr. L to the Holloway House in Bloomfield, NY to celebrate his birthday (which was actually last month, but they weren't open for the season at that time). We had a wonderful meal (actually it was their turkey dinner -- which they serve for Thanksgiving. Whoa! Delish!) I love the charm of his historical restaurant, which was built in the early 1800s.  What I also love is their Syracuse china (pattern = Colonial). Isn't it adorable? I looked up the pattern on Replacements Ltd. and I might just have to buy a small plate just so I can enjoy looking at it at home.

Nearby is an antiques co-op. Of course, not everything in such a co-op is an antique, so it was also full of wonderful collectibles. And I had talked myself out of more than a dozen items until I was about to walk out the door, and that's when I saw this (see below).

One of my favorite cookbook authors, Susan Branch, collects what she calls Beatrix Potter "people." The characters from the Beatrix Potter books. (I believe her first piece was Jamima Puddle-Duck.) When I saw "Lady Mouse Made a Curtsy" was (dated 1980 and) marked for less than $5, I snatched it right up. (In real life, I DESPISE mice. Anyone who has had them poop on their silverware would feel the same way.) I looked online and saw the same figurine going for $10+. so I think I got a great deal. Despite the fact she's a mouse, she's very cute. She will live in one of my china cabinets.

So that's my "junking" for the week.  Well, maybe not.  There's still Saturday to go!

What treasures have you found while junking?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring Has Sprung in the Garden and in Patio Pots

by Karen Rose Smith









I'm so happy spring has finally sprung in Pennsylvania!  Within the next week, I should be able to plant planters for the patio and decide what hubby can plant in the gardens.  This year I started seeds for petunias and snapdragons in January on a heat pad under a grow light.  In March, I started heirloom tomatoes. This week I planted zucchini and sunflower seeds and they are already popping up.

I like to raise my own flowers and herbs so that they are pesticide free.  Bonnie and Clyde, the two stray cats we care for, spend napping and playing time in our gardens.  With catmint, lemon catmint, valerian, cat thyme, ornamental oregano, and lemon balm interspersed among the cat safe flowers,  I know in our gardens at least Bonnie and Clyde are protected. 

I'll wait until Memorial Day to plant zinnia seeds. I spread about 1000 of them at various hard-to-grow spots. Zinnias are resilient and strong. However, I do share them with the bunnies. 
 





Since we experienced a warm winter, our rose bushes all have new growth and buds. We should see blooms around June 1.  I keep a log of what blooms when so when I'm writing I can describe scenery accurately.  Both of my mystery series are set in Pennsylvania.

Hoping Spring brings you vivid colors and happy thoughts. 


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What will they take next??



I think this blog comes from going to the bank today and finding the bank teller windows...CLOSED. Yes, boarded up out of commission. No teller to take my deposit, give me money, tell me how much is in my checking account because I never have a clue. I suck at bank stuff.

Well now it’s all online. To deposit you take a pic of your check with your iPhone and it automatically gets deposited. If you want cash you go to the machine. If you have a serious question there are humans in cubes that you can wait for.

I hate this! I want my teller back. And I still want the guy/gal at the check out counter at the grocery to scan my groceries when I have a big order. I hate the u-scan checkouts!! But I’ve said this before so I’m sounding like a broken record.

And I am still one of those dinosaurs who write checks to pay my phone bill, water, electric, Am Ex card etc. There’s a reason for this...it’s easy for me to keep track when tax time comes and I can see who I paid what to. And then there’s the thing that if they lose my payment I can say I paid on a specific date with check # blah, blah, blah.

You think this doesn’t happen? Well it does. The beloved state of Ohio LOST a whole year of my estimated tax payments. Okay, I get losing one check but how the heck do they lose a whole blasted year paid at four different times?? And then I had to go back, get the check # I paid with get copies from the bank and send the State of Ohio copies of the checks.

How the heck would I have done that if I didn’t use checks??? I have no idea.


So is there something that they are taking away from you that you are pulling your hair out over? The teller thing? The grocery check out thing? Signing in at the little med mart to see one of those physician assistants where there is no receptionist but you sign in on a computer? I want a receptionist! I want to tell someone I’m sick. I want a little sympathy here!

Hugs, Duffy





Tuesday, May 9, 2017

At the Riverhouse. . .Again

by Maggie Sefton


Yes, Cozy Chicks readers and friends----Maggie's still Back East.  As I mentioned in
 last week's post, I attended the mystery conference Malice Domestic in Washington, DC last week and participated on a panel.  I visited with my old childhood friends, then I headed for the "River," as they say around here.

I acquired my old friends "Riverhouse" about four years ago and have been escaping there whenever I can.  Since there are not only conferences and writing groups around the Northern Virginia/DC/Suburban MD area, but old friends and family reside here as well, I have an opportunity to visit often.  And it's always so nice to see everyone.

I've noticed a funny thing that's happened as the years have flown by----these old friendships and close relationships have grown even deeper and even dearer to me than ever before.  Have you folks experienced that situation in your lives?  I'd be curious to hear if you have.

Meanwhile, I'm presently here at what I call the "Riverhouse."  An hour and half from the DC Metro Madness and Beltway.  Surrounded by woods and trees, just a block and half from the wide part of that mighty Potomac River, churning by.

Peaceful.  And believe me, that feels good.  :)   Where do you folks escape to when you want to find a peaceful spot?

Monday, May 8, 2017

TEA FROM YOUR OWN GARDEN? YES, PLEASE!

By Mary Kennedy                              
                                                             
 
When a good friend moved, she gave me a wonderful assortment of herb teas and "gourmet" teas. I was familiar with many of them (chamomile, lemongrass, ginger, rosehip, jasmine and mint.) but I found some new favorites!                     
                                                        
 
Since lavender, chamomile and mint are probably the most popular tea herbs, let's take a look at all three.
 
 Lavender is a lovely plant and you can even grow the plant in a pot.
                                                       
 
Although if you have the room (and sunlight), this hardy English lavender makes a lovely border.  
                                                       
 
Chamomile grows very well outdoors and will be an attractive addition to your garden.
                                                             
 
Mint (as you probably know) is a very aggressive plant. Plant a little and you get a lot. Way more than you need and it comes back year after year.
 
 
Mint is delicious in iced tea...
                                                       
 
or in a mint julep...
                                                           
 
Or you can brew your own mint tea.
Here are a few tips on brewing tea grown from garden herbs.
 
 *Use three times as much fresh herbs as dry.
* Most herbal teas require boiling water, or just below the boiling point, for the best flavor.
* Don't be afraid to experiment, combining various. Lemon verbena and mint makes a great tea
* Don't go too far afield from the common herbs, because some herbs can affect medications. Always ask your doctor or nutritionist for advice.
*You can make tea from fresh-cut herbs or air dried herbs.
*Parsley makes a tasty tea and is best used fresh.
                                                   
          Hope this gives you a good starting point brewing tea from your garden. Bon appetit and let me know how you do!
 
Mary Kennedy