Monday, July 22, 2019

MY NEIGHBOR'S GARDEN, PART TWO

by Mary Kennedy       
                                      
More photos from my neighbor's lovely garden. She's turned her backyard into a little piece of paradise! 

Pots of plants are everywhere...


Lovely beds of shrubs and plants..

She has a great eye for color and interesting combinations...

An old shoe makes a fun flowerpot!


Color, color everywhere....



Hope you've enjoyed this look at my friend's garden. If you'd like to read the original post, with more photos, just click here. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Mary Kennedy


Saturday, July 20, 2019

On the other side of the table

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

My neighbor and I try to walk at least three days a week. Everybody needs exercise, right? On Tuesday, she mentioned that she was going to have a yard sale Thursday and Friday. Mr. L and I had plans for Friday, but I asked her if she minded if I brought some of my stuff down and tried to sell it. "Sure!"

I've had boxes of stuff sitting in my garage for two years. That was the last time I attempted a yard sale. (It got rained out.) While Mr. L is fine about going to yard sales, he's not keen on hosting them. He says we never make any money, and it's a lot of hard work and time wasted.

But, all I had to do was fill the van, drive down the road, and unload it. That was the first fly in the ointment...setting up. I had three card tables, a folding metal shelf, and a tarp, and I needed all of them. There was so much stuff--stuff I considered to be "good stuff." That's the kind of stuff I look for at yard sales. Pictures, picture frames, kitchen stuff, and a lot of what we called "smalls" when I had a booth at the antiques arcade. And at 7:30 am it was HOT and MUGGY. By the time I finished setting up, I was soaked with sweat. (Well, we didn't get to walk, so that was my exercise.)

Before we had even finished setting up, we got a few people stop by--either on their way to work or just coming off the night shift. Right away, my neighbor sold a kid's wagon for $20. Was this a good omen? Well, not exactly. It was another neighbor coming home from work.

We also had a strike against us. We live on a quiet street that is connected on both ends by very busy roads. Unfortunately, there's a bridge under reconstruction at the end one of those busy streets, so the road is closed except to "local" traffic. So possibly thousands of cars never passed our street by the south side.

Highlights of the day:  A woman who bought a sign that said LET IS SNOW. She was visiting our area from Florida. "Hey, we decorate for the holidays," she said when my neighbor laughed. In fact, she lives on the Intercoastal Waterway and said everyone decorates their docks and yards.

Neither my neighbor or I had breakfast, so around 10 o'clock she brought out these JUMBO cinnamon muffins. Holy cow, I haven't had a BIG muffin in a long time and this was REALLY good! And we were sucking back water like crazy, although the humidity did lessen as the day went on.

Around 1 o'clock, another neighbor and her adorable Westie (Cooper) came to visit. So we're sitting there shooting the breeze when something crawling on the garage floor catches my eye. At first I thought it was a cicada (although we mostly see them in August), but then I saw ... THE TAIL.

EEEEEK A MOUSE!  It came in from the side of the garage. My neighbor leapt from her chair (I'd already done so and was going EEEEK EEEEEK). The mouse changed direction and ran outside, and my neighbor tried to chase it into the grass, but the mouse panicked and ran back into the garage. Cooper (a terrier, and they were bred to kill rats) wanted to attack, but his mother held him back. My neighbor had the coolest head and took care of the situation.

Around 4 o'clock there was not much happening, and I wanted to pack up, but my neighbor convinced me to hang on until 4:30. We had one more customer -- and I made $1 and my neighbor made a quarter. Woo-hoo! It took 45 minutes to pack everything up (and not as neatly as it was in the morning). My take for the day: $39.20. My neighbor did much better.

My take?  The reason I find such good stuff at yard sales is because the average yard sale attendee doesn't care for that stuff. It seemed like people were looking for children's clothes, toys, tools, and cooking utensils. Not much in the way of decor, and nobody wanted anything Christmas (In July, no less).

Back home, Mr. L made me a refreshing adult beverage and since we hadn't seen each other all day, we just sat and talked for more than an hour. It's amazing how exhausting it is just to sit around all day doing nothing. I sit around all day working, but it's different. My neighbor was SOOOOO glad to have company that day. (She'd done the yard sale last weekend, too.) She was going to do it again this morning for 4 hours and then call it quits because the heat index is up in the 100s today and that's just too hot.

Meanwhile, Mr. L is took me to a rummage sale.

The stuff that's leftover? My neighbor is donating hers to a church rummage sale. My stuff is going to Goodwill.

And Mr. L and Mr. H both said -- NO MORE YARD SALES.

Neighbor and I will just have to go to them instead.

Have you ever done a yard sale? Was it worth it?










Thursday, July 18, 2019

Book Signing Fun

by Karen Rose Smith



This past weekend, I had the honor to do a book signing at my local brick and mortar bookstore -- Books-A-Million in the North Hanover Mall in Pennsylvania.  It was such a pleasure seeing how busy the store was in a market where it is so easy to one-click to purchase any book online.  Pam, the store manager, said that they still have their regular customers who prefer to shop and actually touch the books they are considering.





















Pam and her staff did a wonderful job of hand-selling my newest release, MURDER WITH CUCUMBER SANDWICHES, as well as the other titles in my Daisy's Tea Garden series.  Due to their efforts, I met many new readers, many of whom were regular BAM customers.  I also was excited to meet several of my Facebook friends who follow me on social media but I've never had the privilege of meeting in person.  It was so nice putting a face and a voice to their online posts. 




I had a great day meeting new friends and building on already-established social media friendships.  It was so good being surrounded by the written words of so many authors who work tirelessly to provide good reading materials on all interest and reading levels.





Daisy’s Tea Garden in Pennsylvania’s Amish country is known for its elegant  finger foods—but now owner Daisy Swanson has to finger a killer . . .

Restaurant critic Derek Schumaker, notorious for his bitter reviews, is about to visit Daisy’s Tea Garden, and Daisy and Aunt Iris are simmering with anxiety. A bad word from the culinary curmudgeon could really hurt their business, but Daisy tries to stay confident. After all, how can he resist her cucumber sandwiches with pimento spread—not to mention the cheesy cauliflower soup and strawberry walnut salad?

Schumaker takes a to-go order when the afternoon tea service is done, which Daisy hopes is a good sign. But when he perishes from a seizure, it looks like his food was dosed with something deadly. Considering a threat that recently appeared on his blog—and whispers of scandal in his past—Daisy has quite an assortment of suspects to sift through . . .






Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Things we learn from our pets...





Just in case you think you have all the answers I’m here to remind you that your pet is probably wiser than you are. Okay, you can drive a car and get the jokes on Saturday Night Live and you can vote but when it comes to the really important stuff our pets get it way more than we do.
I just have cats...Dr. Watson and Spooky, but my kids have dogs...Maddy, Sophie and Ginger. So what have I leared from these furry friends? Plenty! And it’s the stuff that’s counts in life.
From Spooky and Watson I learned...
-nothing beats a warm place to nap and that a place in the sun is the best place of all to spend time.
-you do not have to eat all the food in front of you!
-snuggling is fun
-never trust a two-year-olds to stay out of trouble
-fish is good for you
-sitting and doing nothing recharges your batteries
-you can sense things that aren’t visible
-some healthy food really does taste like crap
-make some noise when you’re happy
-it’s okay to hiss when you’re not
-napping is great
-fuzzy blankets are the best
-and...I am the boss and don’t you forget it

Things I’ve learned from my kids’ dogs...
-you think you rescued me but I really rescued you
-if I wasn’t around who would you blame for those farts
-loyalty is everything
-snacks are good for the soul
-when feeling down having a BFF helps a lot
-meat is good no matter what the doctors tell you
-nothing beats coming home to a friend
-getting left behind on vacation sucks
-don’t trust everyone
-don’t bite when a growl will do
-there is never a bad time for a walk
-play is good
-falling asleep on the couch is the best sleep of all
-don’t panic if the barber cuts your hair too short...your friends love you anyway

These are some things I’ve learned from pets. They simplify life, get to the root of what is really important and get rid of the clutter that occupies too much of our lives.
So, what about you? What have you learned from a pet?


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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Beginning of Kelly Flynn

by Maggie Sefton






It's been quite a while since I've blogged about the very first Kelly Flynn mysteries.  KNIT ONE, KILL TWO is the first Kelly Flynn and was published in June 2005.

 I was delighted and flabbergasted when it became a bestseller from the very start.     Today, I thought I'd post a short piece on the beginning of Kelly Flynn.  Next week, I'll post about some of the characters that have contributed to the series. 








HOW THE KELLY FLYNN BOOKS BEGAN
By Maggie Sefton



Kelly Flynn first “walked onstage” in my imagination years ago---September of 2003, actually.  And it’s really weird how it all came about.  In January of 2003, I got this idea to write some non-fiction magazine articles.  The idea surprised me, because up until then I had been writing historical novels and had been for over a decade.  By that time, I had actually written over a million words of historical fiction---medieval, early American, Musketeer swashbucklers, you name it.  My agent was confused.  Even my Muse was confused.  So---I was interviewing all these interesting local business people who had started new businesses.  Interesting stories.  

Then in May of 2003, my agent sent an email to all her clients who wrote non-fiction, and she included me.  Her message said that one of the Big NYC publishers wanted to publish a book that incorporated peoples’ stories how knitting had helped them through very difficult times in their lives---recovering from illnesses and other problems, as examples.  By that time I had  been interviewing many business people and writing their stories about transforming themselves, so I figured that assignment was right up my alley. Problem was---I didn’t knit.  Not a lick.  But I had friends who did.  So I interviewed them and got some great stories.  And  every one of them suggested that I go over to what they called “this great knitting shop” by the name of Lambspun.  They said lots of people showed up on Tuesday nights around the “knitting table.”  Lots of people there, and lots of stories.  So I showed up.  

My reaction to stepping inside Lambspun for the first time is one I have captured on countless pages of the Kelly Flynn novels.  But like Kelly----I fell down the rabbit hole into a world of color and texture and pure sensuous pleasure.  And it took me a half hour before I entered the main room and sat at the knitting table.  The warmth and camaraderie reached out and swept me up.  Great people.  Fun people. And, Kelly Flynn?  She showed up a few months later after I finished writing a proposal for a new western historical.  There she was right in front of my eyes, spinning a scene----on a softball field.  That’s what fiction characters have done my entire life.  They just walk onstage and start spinning their stories.  I guess some of us were simply born to be Storytellers.      






Monday, July 15, 2019

PARADISE IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD

By Mary Kennedy                                             

If you've been following my blog, you probably remember that I've let my own backyard "go natural." It's really impossible to grow anything there; it has just a couple of inches of clay-like soil over solid rock and it's not worth the effort.  The back yard has a woodsy-like feel and I feed all the critters who drop by. (sometimes to the consternation of my neighbors who value their shrubs!)

 I'm always impressed by people who manage to turn their backyards into lovely, cultivated retreats and today I'd like to share some photos of a dear friend's back yard.

There's something to please the eye at every corner. The plant stand holds a green perennial plant and she adds geraniums for color every year.
                                                                                 
                                                                              
An interesting mix of perennials and annuals...
                                                                           
                
A lovely blend of colors...
                                                                                    

Plenty of places to chill out...                               

Benches do double duty for seats and for more flowers...


Interesting brick pathways lined with flowers and shrubs.
..

Hanging baskets to add even more color...


Brick pavers to create flower beds...

These photos only scratch the surface of her lovely yard and I'll share more photos in a future blog.
But I wanted you to see how a little planning and an eye for color and design can pay off in big rewards! 

Happy gardening and I hope you're enjoying the summer.

Mary Kennedy

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Summertime Book Sale

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





Summer is here and it's a great time to chill out and READ. Here's a way to help you do that!

Smashwords is having a great 50% off sale on many of my Lorraine and LL Bartlett titles that's good for the entire month of July.

Check out my hard-boiled suspense titles.


Murder On The Mind  |  Dead in Red  |  Room At The Inn  |   Cheated By Death   

Bound By Suggestion  |  Dark Waters  |  Shattered Spirits  |  A Jeff Resnick Six Pack    

Evolution: Jeff Resnick's Backstory |  Off Script 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Check out my cozier titles:

With Baited Breath  |  A Reel Catch  |  Love & Murder

Tales of Telenia: STRANDED   |  Tales of Telenia: JOURNEY

Mystical Blythe Cove Manor  |  Recipes To Die For: A Victoria Square Cookbook


This is a great time to stock up on my titles!


Friday, July 12, 2019

What does cozy mean to you?

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

The Cozy Chicks write cozy mysteries (along with other genres like young adult, hard-boiled suspense, political intrigue, and romance). The five of us have written scores of cozies set in cozy places with more than a touch of intrigue.

At the heart of these novels is usually a cozy setting, say a small town or village, with interesting people, and heroines who are just a little more spunky than ourselves.

But what makes the lives of these characters so cozy?

To me, cozy means a hot cup of tea, a good read, a lap robe, and a kitty nestled on my knee on a cold winter's day.

It means comfort food like soul-soothing casseroles with light-as-a-feather rolls and soft butter on a bitterly chilling day.

It means fairy lights to brighten a dark winter's night.

Hmm ... there seems to be a theme here. That cozy is only attainable when the temperatures dip and the sky is studded with a plethora of stars. But that's not entirely true.

Cozy is a vase filled with fresh flowers picked from the garden.

Cozy is a sweating glass of iced (sweet or not) tea on a hot July day.

Cozy is using your Mom's (or Grandma's) dishes for special occasions--or even more rare, every day of the week.

Cozy is the loving care you give to family members when you wash and fold their clothes, or cook a meal--even if it's only hot dogs or mac-and-cheese.

Cozy is what you do to make your home and life a wonderful place to be even when you are in dire circumstances. At those times, I think we need to most surround ourselves in the joy of a cozy life with the people and the things we love best.


What is it that makes YOU feel cozy?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Kitty Birthday Time

by Karen Rose Smith


I always like to share my furry babies' stories on the anniversary of their birth.  With so many of my rescues, their age and birthdays are a guesstimate.  But Paddy is a completely different story.  I know her exact date of birth because my husband and I witnessed it.

Paddy will be five years old on July 29.  Her mother appeared on our patio that spring, thin, pregnant and with a case of colitis.  It was clear she had chosen us and it didn't take long to determine that we were going to rescue her.  Slowly we integrated her into our home that was already teaming with three rescues.  A diet of chicken, rice and pumpkin considerably helped Halo's colitis and soon she was nestling in our arms and savoring the attention. 

Halo had her kittens under the desk in my office and my husband and I will never forget the experience.  She gave birth to three kittens as we watched.  The first born, who we thought looked like a little bear (hence her name Miss Paddington), had trouble latching on to her mother to suckle.  So we assisted to make sure she was nursing as much as her two siblings.  We found forever homes for the other two kittens in the litter and kept Halo and little Paddy. 

Halo was an excellent mother and when the two kittens left for their new homes, the bond between Halo and Paddy seemed even stronger.  They slept together and bathed each other.  Even to this day, they have a special bond.  Occasionally they curl up on a chair together to nap and when there is a feline fracas in the house, Halo immediately goes on guard to make sure her Paddy is okay.  Every night they parade together into my office and spend the night together there, away from the other furry members of the family.

We had no idea when Halo appeared on our patio that she would teach us so many lessons in parenting, motherly devotion and showing appreciation for being accepted into our family.  She is the sweetest feline and is totally happy just snuggled against either my husband or me whenever we settle on a cozy chair on on the bed.  Paddy has her own personality and likes to snuggle on a condo by herself...but usually close to her mother.


When I was plotting SILENCE OF THE LAMPS, my fifth Caprice De Luca Home Staging mystery, I knew that Halo and Paddy's story would be perfect to include since Caprice rescued stray animals.  In the book, Caprice's Uncle Dom finds a pregnant cat when he is pet sitting.  Caprice helps him capture her and Caprice finds a home for Halo with her neighbor Dulcina.  Halo has her kittens in Dulcina's sun room and, like us, decides to keep Halo and Paddy.  Uncle Dom takes in Paddy's siblings.  It was so easy to write the birthing scene and other scenes involving the kittens because I had experienced it firsthand.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Paddy!  And thank you Paddy and Halo for being part of our furry family and inspiration for my writing!       






Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Old dogs and new tricks...

I love anything Sherlock as is proven by me buying a 7 foot tall Sherlock bear. 
When I saw this ad for the play Miss Sherlock I had to get tickets. 
The premise is  that when a young newlywed suspects her husband...who happens to be a high-ranking investigator at Scotland Yard... has murdered his previous two wives, she fears she has nowhere to turn.
But the game is afoot as they say when her case is taken by two feisty intelligent and independent women Miss Sherlock Holmes and her right hand gal, Doctor Dorothy Watson, who refuse to go along with the conventions of their time, 


It should be fun since it’s a clever reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters and pits its heroes against cunning criminal masterminds and the ideas  and rules of Victorian society.
I love new twists to old ideas. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Really Stormy Weather


by Maggie Sefton





My hometown area of Northern Virginia was hit today (I'm writing this post on Mondayj July 8th) by a rainstorm deluge and flash flooding in that entire area including Washington, D.C.  If you watched any of the news channels you saw how high the water came up in just a matter of 3-4 hours.  Several main roads were completely impassable.  People in Fairfax County, VA which is where I regularly fly into at Dulles Airport were stranded in their cars when the water suddenly rose.  Quiet little creeks became raging rivers.  Over 3 inches of rain in just an hour.  

This was totally shocking to me because that exact area of Fairfax County is the location where my two daughters who live in the area reside. Thank goodness they were in areas that stayed dry and safe from the flooding.  Also my dearest friends from childhood live   in nearby areas, and they were also safe from the flooding----just some water in the basements.     Needless to say, I have been on the telephone a lot today trying and finally succeeding in reaching my family and friends.

This just reminds all of us how powerrul Mother Nature is.  Stay safe, Everyone.

Monday, July 8, 2019

I'VE GOT MAIL!

By Mary Kennedy                                           

It's always good to hear from readers. Some of the messages are touching, some entertaining, some may give me food for thought, but they are always welcome! 

Here are a couple of questions I've had this month.

Q. I notice you post a LOT of cat photos on FB and other social media sites. From what I can tell, you have at least four current cats and have had more in the past. Do you realize you've crossed over into Crazy Cat Lady territory? Signed, a dog lover

A. Dear dog lover, it's always good to meet a fellow animal lover. I love dogs too and am currently dog sitting my grand dog.  Because of my husband's allergies, we decided to rescue and adopt cats, not dogs. I love all animals!
                                                                             

I'm not sure what the fine line is between "cat lover" and "crazy cat lady" so I don't know how to answer your question. I guess the real issue is, are my cats well cared for, and I can definitely tell you they are! Thanks so much for contacting me and give your dog a hug for me. 

Q. I'm an aspiring writer and need advice pretty desperately. How many pages do I need to send to an agent? Could you help me find an agent? Could you introduce me to your agent? Could you read a few chapters if I send them to you? I've written about half of a 300 page novel, but I don't want to write the rest of it unless I know it's going to sell. Signed, Loves to Write.
                                                                      

A. Oh dear. Where to start, my friend. Ok, I'll give it to you straight. First of all, finish the book! Don't even think about agents or publishers or book deals until you get that book done. No one wants to read a few chapters, or even one chapter when they don't know if you will ever finish it. Let's face it, if you don't have faith in your book, who will? I don't mean to sound harsh, but that's the truth.

Also, it's very tough to find an agent who will take on an unpublished writer. Not impossible, but very unlikely. The competition is brutal and agents like to make sales. It would be difficult for them to persuade an editor to buy a book from a debut author and agents are deluged with thousands of queries a year. I believe my own agent receives about 6,000 letters a year, all from aspiring writers who want her to read their work and represent them.

Don't forget this is a business. Agents and editors aren't here to love and support you. You have friends and family for that (I hope!). They're here to engage in the very competitive field of publishing.

On a personal note, it wouldn't make sense to put you in touch with my agent because she doesn't take on unpublished writers. Also, you never mentioned what type of novel you write, and agents specialize. My advice would be to attend a conference and try to connect with an editor or agent at the conference. That would be a foot in the door.

But first of all, finish that book! Good luck and keep on writing.

By Mary Kennedy