Posted in Home

Move Over, Chocolatiers, We’ve Just Made Truffles!

By J.C. Eaton

When we first decided to write SAUVIGONE FOR GOOD, in our Wine Trail Mysteries, we knew we wanted to focus on the chocolate and wine pairings, but the thought of a competition between renowned chocolatiers took center stage and next thing we knew, we had to learn all about the process.

And oh my goodness – what a process it is! First of all, chocolatiers don’t make the chocolate. They make the incredible confections using the finest chocolates in the world. From tempering machines to garnishing, we studied every movement and were spellbound. Then, insanity took over and we decided to try our luck at making truffles.

We had an easy recipe but our method was anything but. Here goes:

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces of softened cream cheese (or Einstein’s plain smear in a tub plus 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder (we used Hershey’s)
  • 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips (buy a good kind!)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • Optional: sprinkles

 

What we did (in sequential order):

  1. Removed cats and stuck them in the bedroom where they screamed
  2. Wiped down all kitchen surfaces with Clorox wipes
  3. Got out 2 large bowls
  4. Hunted around for our portable mixer that we haven’t seen since the discovery of dirt. Found it.
  5. Hunted around for a spatula since Jim said we needed it. He was right.
  6. We put the softened (by an hour) cream cheese in a large bowl and added the 2 cups of powdered sugar. Then we added the tablespoon of cocoa and the vanilla. Plugged in the mixer, turned it to “whip” and kept going until the mix was smooth. This is where the spatula comes in. The mix gets stuck to the blades on the mixer and the spatula removes it.
  7. Next, we melted a bag (2 cups) of chocolate chips for about a minute in the microwave and stirred it until it was smooth. (That’s where the second bowl comes in). We added it to the mix and re-mixed it before covering it with Saran Wrap and sticking it in the refrigerator for 2 hours. (It has to be put in a fridge for at least 2 hours).
  8. Then, we sat at the kitchen table and painstakingly made little one inch, more or less, balls of chocolate and rolled some of them in the cocoa powder and others in sprinkles, because Ann likes sprinkles. (The chocolate mixture is like concrete when it comes out of the fridge, but once rolled in our hands, it warmed up). Once rolled, we placed them on wax paper that covered a large tray.
  1. Again, we put them in the fridge. (And ate a few). We intend to put some in little containers for our friends.img_1545.jpg
  2. Then, we looked at the mess in the kitchen and decided who would clean it and who would clean the cats’ litter boxes instead!

This was an easy, fun recipe, and nothing like the rigors our chocolatiers faced. Still, it brought us into the spirit of the book and hope it does the same for you!

 


Sauvigone For Good by J.C. Eaton Can Norrie stop a murderer’s reign of terror?

The descent of winter on the Finger Lakes means it’s time for the Wine Trail Association’s Chocolate and Wine Extravaganza. Unfortunately, for screenwriter-turned-reluctant vintner, Norrie Ellington, her Two Witches Winery is co-hosting the festivities. Norrie’s duties include wrangling the three international chocolatiers featured at the event—bitter rivals and industry influencers who can make or break Two Witches.

But the heated competition among the celebrity confectioners soon spills out of the professional arena, and before the Extravaganza is over, one of the cocoa pros is dead, last seen sipping a Two Witches’ Cabernet Sauvignon. With spirits souring at the Extravaganza and her winery on the line, Norrie must hustle to find the uncorked killer before Two Witches’ reputation is crushed once and for all.

Posted in Crafts, Home

Find Your Vision for 2020! By Lynn Cahoon

Create your very own magical 2020 by crafting a vision board!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Every year, I pull out a small poster size piece of cardboard.  Then I grab a bunch of magazines, some scissors, a glue stick and some colored markers.  Curled up on the recliner, with a Harry Potter marathon going in the background, I create my vision board.

There’s a little big of magic in this process so bear with me.

First, I page through the magazines, cutting out pictures that call to me. I’m always looking for numbers so I can cut and paste the new year on the finished product. But what else I cut is always a surprise to me. Cars, people, houses, planes, salad bowls, quotes, it can be these things or others that make the first cut.

When I have what I assume is enough, I throw away the used magazines and pull out my blank canvas. (I tried using actual canvas for this but regular glue doesn’t make the pictures stick. Of course, you could use decoupage glue, but for now, I’ll stay with cardboard.

Then I take the larger pieces I want to use and make a background. Then another round of pictures, then another. When you’re done, there should be no cardboard showing. Finally, I add 2020 either in cut numbers or marker.

It’s now time to interpret your vision. What do each mini scene mean? How does it relate to your goals? How does it relate to your business? To your personal goals?

This is also a fun exercise to do with four or five of your closest friends. And a pitcher of mimosas and some coffee cake. If you hold your get together the week between Christmas and New Year’s, you’ll have plenty of time to use the 2020 vision board to build strong goals and make the year amazing.

Have you done vision boards before?

 
Have A Deadly New Year by Lynn CahoonChef Angie Turner of The County Seat—Idaho’s finest farm-to-table restaurant—is preparing a private dinner in the mountains during ski season, but the trip’s about to go downhill . . .

It’s a rockin’ New Year for Angie and her crew as they cater a bash for a famous band—and as a bonus, they’ll get to stay at the singer’s Sun Valley house for a whole week once the party’s over. But there are hints of discord, and the event hits a sour note when one of the musicians is found with a drumstick in his chest.

Is this a case of creative differences turned lethal or is there another motive at play? Angie’s jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire as she and her fellow foodies try to solve the case before the killer comes out for an encore . . .

Posted in Home

Things That Give Me Chills

By Sara Driscoll

Halloween is a time for thrills and chills. For scary costumes and scarier decorations. For haunted houses and ghoulish stories told in the dark. But one of the scariest things might be sitting on your front porch.

It is… your jack-o’-lantern?

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This chilling Halloween tradition is not only loved by children and adults alike, but by bears—black, grizzly, and polar—depending on where you live. And Halloween occurs just as those giant beasts are storing up calories and really packing on the pounds as they prepare to hibernate from November to March. Every year, conservationists warn about the dangers of pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns, and how they annually draw bears because they’re easy pickings. And if you think “That can’t happen to me. I don’t live out in the middle of nowhere”, keep in mind that only a few weeks ago, a bear wandered onto a front porch in Connecticut and stole their pumpkin. Now that’s terrifying!

Sun bear and pumpkin by Magnus Hagdorn
Photo credit: Magnus Hagdorn

So what can you do if you live in an area shared by bears? The first tip is never leave anything outside that s bear might consider food, including a pumpkin. If you really want your pumpkin on your front porch and not just displayed in a front window, experts recommend bringing your pumpkin in at night to avoid unwelcome visitors. Of course, the next question is what do you do if a bear strolls up to you and it isn’t a Halloween costume?

There are several tips that will help keep you safe if you come face to face with an actual bear:

  • Don’t approach the bear
  • Don’t make eye contact
  • Be non-confrontational at a distance, but make as much noise as you can if you end up in close quarters
  • Make yourself look as large as possible (wave your arms etc.)
  • Back away slowly, but never turn your back

Now, we can’t really blame bears from wanting to get their paws on such a delectable treat. For humans and animals, pumpkin is a very healthy vegetable (okay, yes, it’s technically a fruit, but that’s another topic…). Pumpkin is not only high in fiber, but it’s also high in beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A after eating. It can also be used to supplement the diet of dogs suffering from mild gastrointestinal upset.

Luckily, many dogs love pumpkin. If you’re a dog owner, you can share pumpkin with your dog in a number of ways:

  • Pure canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filler which has added sugar and spices) either in a bowl on its own, used as filling for a Kong, or as a kibble topper
  • Homemade dog cookies made with pumpkin
  • Baked chunks of pumpkin (seeds and skin removed)

Or you can try one of the following healthy treats:

Frozen Melons and Pumpkin

  1. Puree 2 cups seedless melon (watermelon, and/or cantaloupe) until smooth.
  2. Add 1 cup of coconut milk (light or regular), or coconut water per 2 cups pureed melon.
  3. Optionally add 1 tbsp. of organic honey, local preferred, if your dog(s) has allergies.
  4. Freeze in ice cube trays or silicon molds.

Pumpkin and Liver Jerky

  1. Combine equal amounts of pureed beef liver and canned pumpkin (100% pumpkin without spices, sweeteners, or spices).
  2. Optionally add 1–2 tbsp. of turmeric paste with fresh ground pepper per pound of mix.
  3. Spread mixture evenly, about ¼” thick, on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Cut lines through the mixture to make the desired size treats.
  4. Bake until dry in a low oven (150º–200ºF), approximately 3–6 hours, checking every 30 minutes.
  5. Store in a jar in the refrigerator.

 


Sara Driscoll is the pen name of Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan, authors of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries. Jen is an infectious disease researcher at a cutting-edge Canadian university near Toronto, but loves to spend her free time writing the thrilling and mysterious. Ann lives in western North Carolina with three rescued pit bulls, including Kane, a certified therapy dog and titled nose work competitor. You can follow the latest news on the FBI K-9 Mysteries at saradriscollauthor.com.

No Man's Land HCSpecial Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue dog are on the trail of a killer hiding where others fear to tread…

For Meg Jennings and her K-9 companion, Hawk, exploring the ruins of a deserted building is an exciting way to sharpen their skills without the life-or-death stakes they face as part of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team. But deep in the echoing rooms of an abandoned asylum, Hawk finds the body of an elderly woman. The victim couldn’t have made her way into the derelict building on her own. Before forty-eight hours pass, Meg learns of more cases of elders found dead in neglected urban structures.

There’s not enough evidence to link the deaths—yet. But Meg scents a pattern, and when she gets word of another senior gone missing, she and Hawk don’t hesitate. Meg is sure a murderer is hunting the elderly, and she can prove it if she can just find a connection. It will take the expert coordination of her whole team, along with help from Clay McCord and Todd Webb, to uncover the means, let alone a motive. And to stop someone who has operated in the dark for so long, Meg will need to risk more than she has to give . . .

Posted in Home

What Gives Me The Chills

By James D. Shipman

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Heights.  Bloody, God-forsaken heights.  I can remember exactly the first moment I realized this.  I was three or four years old and my family had taken a drive up the North Cascades Highway in Washington State.  Anyone who has travelled this route knows there is a suspension bridge along the way.  We stopped and walked out on the bridge to get a better view.  For some incomprehensible reason my father picked me up and held me over the rail.  Let me be clear, I don’t mean dangling over the edge, Michael Jackson style, I just mean up above the barrier.  I shuddered and gasped for breath.  Didn’t he realize how high up we were?  If you went over that rail, it was lights out for sure.  I yelled and squirmed until he let me down.  My dad turned to my mom and noted, “I believe James is afraid of heights.”  Thanks for that, dad.

After that time, I’ve struggled with a fear of heights.  In high school I worked a few weeks at a Presbyterian Summer Camp called “Tall Timber Ranch,” with my friend Judd.  One of the full-time employees took us for a hike up a local peak called “Butterfly,” or “Moth.” Something with a larvae stage.  About a thousand feet up I lost it and refused to go further.  They decided (because it was the 1980s and you could make these kinds of choices) to leave me alone and climb the other four thousand feet.  I enjoyed myself for about an hour but ultimately discovered I have an additional fear of being alone in the wild.  At some point I decided I would make my way out by myself.  I hiked down a few hundred feet through some heavy brush which ended abruptly in a cliff dropping at least five hundred feet to the base of the forest.  If I had slipped at that moment that would have been the story of me.  I held on to a branch in terrified immobility for a few minutes before I garnered the courage to make my way back up the hill where I was rescued by my friends a few hours later.  The employee warned us both not to mention any of this to the camp authorities.

I made another attempt at height bravery this past year when we took a group of Young Life kids on a hike up the North Fork of the Sauk River to the Pacific Crest Trail.  I probably haven’t mentioned that I’m also in only moderately good shape.  This was a three-day, two-night hike.  The first day trek in is only about a 1,200-foot elevation gain but six miles.  I was ready to call it good after that but I was shamed into continuing.  The second day included a 4,000-foot elevation gain in three miles through twenty-seven grueling switchbacks.  I was dead last in our group and exhausted when we reached the top, but that was only the beginning of my troubles.  The switchbacks were covered in forest so you could never really see very far down.  When we reached the top, the trail cleared out and was about a yard wide with thousands of feet dropping off to the right.  I was so tired I didn’t notice this phenomenon for the first half mile or so, but as oxygen reached my brain I started to panic.  My friend Ken noticed I was having trouble about the same time.  Our guide, John, helped the situation by noting that he’d been up here a year or so before with some pack donkeys and one of them toppled off the edge and rolled 2,000 feet down to a crushing death at the bottom.  Ken grabbed me by the back of the shirt and turned me around.  We trudged carefully back to the tree line and down to our base camp.  I never made it to the Pacific Crest Trail, but I’m still alive.

I haven’t included my fear of heights in my writing as of this point but I’m going to add it to my list.  I’ve certainly reacted to heights in books and movies.  The worst experience of all was watching “Free Solo.”  For those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s the documentary of Alex Honnold climbing El Capitan by himself without any ropes.  He’s literally 2,500 feet up, hanging on by a couple toes and a finger or two, with no noticeable ledges or cracks in the rock.  One twitch at the wrong moment and he would topple off to his death, like apparently pretty much every other free solo climber has.  It’s the most insane thing I’ve ever seen, and I was sweating through the entire ordeal.  Who knows, perhaps Alex is terrified of writing a historical novel?  I hope he’s afraid of something.

I’d love to be able to include a happy ending here.  Some moment where I conquered my fears and triumphed over adversity.  Not true.  I’m as afraid of heights today at 49 as I was at four.  Do I intend to take this on and let my will triumph over my phobia?  I doubt it.  I’ll say a prayer for Alex instead, and keep my feet on the ground.

Learn More About Task Force Baum by James D. Shipman:

TASK FORCE BAUMIn the tradition of Saving Private Ryan and Bridge Over the River Kwai, bestselling author James D. Shipman delivers a powerful, action-packed novel that illustrates the long-buried secrets and unending costs of war—based on the true story of General Patton’s clandestine unauthorized raid on a World War II POW camp.

March, 1945. Allied forces are battle-worn but wearily optimistic. Russia’s Red Army is advancing hard on Germany from the east, bolstering Allied troops moving in from the west and north. Soon, surely, Axis forces must accept defeat. Yet for Captain Jim Curtis, each day is a reminder of how unpredictable and uncertain warfare can be.

Captured during the Battle of the Bulge after the Germans launched a devastating surprise attack, Curtis is imprisoned at a POW camp in Hammelburg, Bavaria. Conditions are grim. Inmates and guards alike are freezing and starving, with rations dwindling day by day. But whispers say General Patton’s troops are on the way, and the camp may soon be liberated.

Posted in Home

Holiday Recipes You Don’t Want to Miss!

By Alexandra Ivy

Once upon a time I used to spend the weeks leading up to the holidays in my kitchen trying to create the lovely plates of home cooked goodies that we all love to receive. I loved trying new recipes while I played Christmas music in the background. But while it was a fun way to get into the holiday spirits, it was also super stressful! Not only are the holidays a crazy, busy time, but I usually have family staying in my house. The last thing I want to do is spend my days in the kitchen when I could be enjoying time with them.

This year, I’ve decided to try something new. Instead of waiting for the holidays to make my homemade goodies, I’ve used the natural bounty from my garden to create my Christmas gifts.

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This is the first year for my peach trees, so I was super pumped to try new recipes! I have peach pies and a cobbler in my freezer, but for gifts I decided to make jam. It turned out to be soooo tasty. The tang of the peach goes perfect with the sweetness of the jam.

Next I used my abundance of cucumbers to make frigerated dill pickles. These are easy-peasy to do, but if you want something that will last longer, you can tweak the recipe and use your canner so they’ll be good through the winter.

And last, I love to make up small pots of homemade peanut butter. It’s amazing how different it tastes from the store bought, plus you can get rid of the salt and keep the amount of sweetness under control.

Now, I get to pass out the gifts, while relaxing with family and friends. My new favorite cocktail to share is Sex With an Alligator 😉

Happy Holidays!

Peach Freezer Jam:

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe peaches
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons instant pectin

Instructions

  1. Peel and coarsely chop the peaches. Place them in a bowl of a food processor and pulse until you reach a chunky puree. (Don’t have a food processor? Simply use a potato masher to mash them up in a large bowl.) You should end up with about 3 1/2 cups of puree.
  2. Pour the puree into a large bowl and add the lemon juice and stir well.
  3. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Gradually add the pectin to prevent lumps and stir very, very well. (I like using a whisk here for this part.) Spoon the jam into clean jars with tight fitting lids ensuring you leave about 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion in the freezer. Allow the jars to sit a room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes to set. Store the jam in the refrigerator or the freezer. The jam will last in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks and in the freezer for about a year.

Homemade Peanut Butter:

No recipe really needed. Just pour in a few roasted peanuts (I use Spanish peanuts because they’re cheap) and add in a little nut oil (any type will do) plus I squeeze in some fresh honey that I get locally for sweetness.

Frigerated Dill Pickles:

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I’ve changed this recipe several times. This is just a basic idea. You can add or subtract the spices to suit your own taste.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-1/4 cupsdistilled white vinegar (I’ve also used apple cider vinegar and plain cider vinegar)
  • 3 tablespoonskosher salt
  • 2 tablespoonssugar
  • 2 cupscold water
  • 1-3/4 to 2 poundsKirby cucumbers (about 6), cut into halves or spears
  • 2 tablespoonspickling spice
  • 6 largegarlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 teaspoonmustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoonred pepper flakes
  • 16dill sprigs

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Transfer the liquid into a bowl and whisk in the cold water. Refrigerate brine until ready to use.
  2. Place the cucumbers into jars (I use the smaller mason jars). Add the pickling spice, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, dill sprigs, and chilled brine into jars, dividing evenly. If necessary, add a bit of cold water to the jars until the brine covers the cucumbers. Cover and refrigerate about 24 hours, then serve. Cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Sex With An Alligator:

  • Sweet and sour mix
  • Melon liqueur
  • 12 oz
  • Raspberry liqueur
  • 12 oz
  • Jägermeister

Cocktail/Martini

  1. Pour sweet and sour mix and melon liqueur into shaker with ice.
  2. Shake and strain into glass.
  3. Layer pour in raspberry liqueur.
  4. Layer pour in Jagermeister.

 

Learn more about Alexandra Ivy’s newest releases here:

Conquer the Darkness by Alexandra Ivy  The Intended Victim

 

 

Posted in Home

Meet Gabrielle Marietti

By Sally Goldenbaum

Hi everyone—I love that I have this chance to share with you the opening pages of the next Seaside Knitters Society mystery, A Murderous Tangle.

And here’s a fact about one of the characters in this new book that I hope you find interesting:

I’ve always enjoyed the Martha Grimes mysteries that feature young Emma Graham. I’ve often imagined a storyline in which I could feature a young girl like Emma—and Gabrielle Marietti seemed the perfect choice. As some of you know, Gabby is the granddaughter of one of the seaside knitters. In A Murderous Tangle I finally found a perfect place in which she could be a star. Gabby fits perfectly into this story and now I love her even more than I did in previous books.

I’ll leave the opening below to introduce her to those of you who haven’t met Gabby in earlier books, and for those who have, I hope you enjoy getting to know her a little better. I truly did.A Murderous Tangle_042a45

A Murderous Tangle
Sally Goldenbaum

Chapter 1

It would be days later, after the December days took on ​a ​new kind of chill, that Gabrielle Marietti would look back on the episode in the cove with a clarity—and a fear— that would startle her.

But on that day—a chilly December afternoon—she felt no alarm or fear or foreboding. Instead, what she experienced was a powerful sense of nature: of deep blue-black water, the salty taste of the air, and the shiver of the cold breeze as it lifted the dark hair on the back of her neck. She’d remember the sun coming through the pine trees and the voices that traveled across the cove. The power of nature.

And then another kind of power. Girl power. That’s what Gabby had thought that day.

But later, the colors and sounds would change. The breeze turned sinister, the wintry chill a warning. And the memory would make Gabby close her eyes and will it all to disappear.

It was a school day, but her grandmother knew she liked to loosen her legs, wander a bit after being cooped up for too many hours in a classroom. Some days Gabby would wander around the docks, where Cass Halloran’s lobster crews kept their traps and boats, and colorful fishermen wandered around. She loved their stories and jokes and how they welcomed her as if she were ageless, like so many of them.

Other days she and her friend Daisy would head over to Izzy’s yarn shop to help unpack boxes of yarn or watch customers’ kids in the shop’s playroom—the Magic Room, they called it. But the outdoors was Gabby’s natural habitat. That was where she felt truly free. And that was where, one day after school, she’d discovered the private cove that she soon claimed as her own.

Her nonna Birdie said that when she was young, she was that way, too—needing space and time for being alone with her thoughts and feelings. Her nonna liked stretching her arms out wide and shouting into the wind. Something they both agreed didn’t play well in the middle of Harbor Road. But sitting in the cove all by herself, Gabby’s shouts were embraced fully by nature, sometimes with nature whistling or crooning right back at her. And she loved imagining her nonna doing the same thing.

It was through a different lens that Ella Sampson, Birdie Favazza’s housekeeper, saw twelve-year-old Gabby’s need to wander. “Your grandmother worries, Gabrielle Marietti. You keep in touch with her. Always. Always let her know your whereabouts.”

The housekeeper’s words echoed in her head as Gabby checked the time on her cell phone, then tapped in a message: Biking and writing—not at the same time. Heading home soon. What’s for dinner?

Gabby was never sure if the texts were for Ella or for her grandmother. Birdie had told Gabby often that she didn’t worry. Not really, she said. Or at least she tried not to. Pretended not to was Ella’s take. But Birdie was quick to coat both Ella’s comments and her own expressions with the fact that she trusted her granddaughter fully. She knew Gabby had common sense. She knew right from wrong. Gabby agreed.

But Ella had made Gabby swear on a Bible, anyway, promising to keep all worry away from her grandmother. Then Ella had hugged Gabby tightly and told her she loved her like her own child, but she loved her employer more. And if Gabby didn’t do as Ella said, she might be responsible for Birdie having a heart attack, painting the awful possibility vividly enough to give Gabby nightmares two nights in a row.

She loved her grandmother more than almost anyone alive, other than maybe her father. Killing her nonna was a seriously horrendous thought. But for a twelve-year-old who had mostly grown up in a New York penthouse with a globe-traveling father, no mother, and more freedom than God afforded birds (as the cook often told her), reporting in took great effort. But she did it. For her nonna.  And to escape Ella’s wrath.

She slipped her phone into a pocket of her backpack and pulled her knees up to her chest. The old dock rocked beneath the movement, the waves choppy as they hit the shore. Gabby shivered. Winter was in the air. The holidays beginning. She hugged her heavy jacket close.

“Wear this one, my darling,” Birdie had called out that morning, catching Gabby a second before she raced down the long circle drive to catch the school bus. She’d tossed the puffy down garment to her.

Gabby liked the cold—but was happy for the jacket. Her nose and cheeks were turning red and her black hair flew wild and damp from the windy spray.

She loved this hidden cove—her special place. The abandoned dock, beaten by winds into a wobbly plank. The paths, tangled and overgrown with shadbush and greenbrier that challenged her as she lugged her bike through the undergrowth and down to the water’s edge. She imagined what it would be like soon, covered in white, the trees bending beneath winter’s weight. Quiet. Amazing.

She looked out over the perfect half-moon of water, the curve of land dotted with bushes and trees tangled from decades of ocean winds and tucked into the granite boulders that formed a hill rising above the water. This was her place. Her earth, as Tess Bean would say to her and the rest of the class. Their earth, one they had to protect and care for.

A gust of wind swept across the water, sending shallow waves lapping against the old pier. Gabby tightened her hold on her long legs— deer’s legs, people said. Too long. Gabby thought it was a good description of her whole body. It was too everything. Her freckles were too dark and too many. Eyebrows too thick. And her baseball cap only pretended to contain the mass of dark, too-thick waves now damp with sea air. She didn’t much care, not usually, not often. The legs won track meets, and her nonna loved the freckles.

The harsh squawk of gulls broke the silence and pulled Gabby’s attention to the opposite side of the cove. At first, her eyes were drawn to the tide, darkening the boulders at the shore’s edge. And then, as if the rising tide had been but a harbinger, the sounds of foliage and birds scattering from danger drew her eyes halfway up the rocky incline, where a figure emerged from a stand of trees and tangle of sumac and bearberry.

She rarely saw people on that side, especially when the sea air grew heavy and the spray stung and colored cheeks. Gabby liked that—an isolated spot.

She leaned forward now, squinting to bring the intruder into focus. Another followed, emerging from the trees and following the ​other.  Smaller. The first was clearly a man, tall and nondescript with a mud-colored hoody covering him like a monk. He seemed to be laughing at what the woman was saying behind him.

The woman’s head was bare and a heavy sweatshirt covered her whole body, disguising her shape.

Just then, a billowing cloud shadowing the cove moved on its way, allowing a ray of afternoon sunshine to light the woman from behind, her shaggy yellow-white hair shimmering like an angel’s halo.

Gabby’s mouth dropped open. And then she grinned.

It was Tess. Amazing Tess.

There was no mistaking her now. She had walked onto the smooth plane of a boulder close to the water. Her stance was familiar, resolute and strong, and it made her seem even taller than Gabby’s gangly height, even though Tess was shorter. The haircut was unmistakable. The same one that every seventh-grade girl at Sea Harbor Community Day School coveted: thick white and gold strands that looked like they’d been shaped by Ella’s pinking shears. A careless look— hair escaping from whatever she’d used to control it—hairpins, bands, a baseball hat. Gabby and her friends coveted its cool, exotic messiness, one they all wished they could mimic and that was made even more dramatic by the rumors that said Tess cut her own hair. She was most definitely the best part-time teacher the school had ever hired.

She stood just a foot or two beyond the man, talking, her small hands gesturing in sync with her words. Passionate words, Gabby guessed. Tess was a passionate woman. An occasional word broke free of a sentence and floated across the water to where Gabby sat.

Garbage. Killing fish. Spoiled. Always. Always.

Gabby frowned, not sure of what was happening. She started to get up, to wave at the woman whose convictions and wise words about clean water and wasted food and global warming were still rattling around in Gabby’s head—words she had heard earlier that day in science class. Words she had minutes before recorded on her tablet, along with other things Tess had taught them and her thoughts about it all.

The man seemed unperturbed by Gabby’s tirade, uninterested in whatever the woman was saying to him. Maybe not even listening. Or laughing away the message. Cocky.

He took a step closer to the water’s edge, where the rising tide rose nearly up to his sneakers. He leaned over, picking up a handful of small rocks from the sliver of shore. Then, one by one, he tossed them into the water as if unaware of the woman standing a few steps away. Ignoring her in a way that seemed practiced. As if she weren’t there. Or didn’t matter.

But he did know she was there. Of course he did. Finally he lifted his head and stood up, looking over at her and raising his own hand. He spoke loudly, his words carried on the breeze.

“A tree-hugging babe,” he said. “Bean-babe. Geesh, trees? Plastic?”

His laughter followed his words, rolling across the cove like a bowling ball. Gabby tensed up. The man laughed again and took a step in Tess’s direction, his hood falling around his neck as he moved.

The scene was surreal. Gabby bit down on her bottom lip and willed herself still.

But Tess didn’t look frightened at all. She took a step closer to him and cut his words off sharply, slicing the air with her hand like a machete.

The man didn’t look deterred, his words muffled now. His back was straight and his shoulders broad, nearly blocking Tess from sight. He took a step toward her.

The wind picked up and Gabby felt something building deep inside herself, even more powerful than the beating of her heart. She pulled herself upright and stepped to the end of the old dock.

She stared intently across the water. But before she could frame her emotions sensibly, before she could yell out for Tess to do something—to run or hide—before she could do a single thing, Tess took over. She shouted at the man, a sound that reached Gabby’s ears like an animal sound. Angry and loud. The man didn’t move, not even when Tess took the next step—a long one that brought her inches away from the man facing her.

Tess wasn’t afraid. Not at all. Gabby could see that clearly now, even from her distant post. Just mad. She’d seen it before, how she could stand up to people who were refusing to correct their ways. Fearless. Bold.

Gabby grinned and shielded her eyes from the late-afternoon sun, peering intently at the drama being played out across the cove. A drama, for sure. She wondered what act this one was? And what would the last act be?

She watched as Tess raised her hands out in front of her, and with a strength that betrayed her size, she placed her palms flat on the chest of the man in front of her. And then she pushed.

At first, the man teetered like a wobbly set of dominoes, arms and legs not connecting to his body. Seconds later, he arched backward, arms flailing, and his long body flying into the shallow, freezing water of the cove.

A spray of water rose up to where Tess, still watching silently, stood. Her words were loud, intended to reach the flailing man. “That’s my thanks. For nothing.”

Gabby’s breath came out in a whoosh. She snapped her mouth closed and squinted so hard her eyes hurt, forcing the scene into focus. The man’s hoodie billowed like a balloon around him as he lay on the shallow rocky bottom. Tess leaned forward, her hands on her knees, watching while the man grabbed an outcropping of weeds and began to pull himself safely from the frigid water.

Gabby waited, her breath caught in her chest, her eyes moving from the creature rising from the sea, spraying water wildly, to the woman pulling herself upright, still watching as the man regained his footing.

A stream of profanity floated up as the man tugged at strands of seaweed caught in his sodden jeans and sweatshirt.

But Tess didn’t move. Just looked, watching while the man regained his balance.

Then one word traveled down to the man, and across the water to where Gabby stood, listening, watching, waiting for the next act.

“Payback,” Tess said. And then she calmly turned and climbed back up the rocky incline, through the scrub bushes until the evergreens at the top seemed to part for her, then close gently behind as she disappeared into the fading day.

Gabby stood frozen on the dock, processing the scene that had played out in front of her.

She watched the man strip off his soaking sweatshirt and stare into the trees after her, making no move to follow. He was shaking his head, as if in wonder. Or terrible anger. She couldn’t be sure.

Had he looked the other way, he might have seen Gabby standing there on the dock, her face registering awe and amazement and pleasure at what one heroic woman had done.

“Girl power,” Gabby whispered, a smile filling her whole face.


 

A Murderous Tangle_TRDBirdie, Nell, Cass, and Izzy are prepping their coziest handiwork for a holiday gathering in Sea Harbor, Massachusetts. But as murder makes waves in their tightly knit coastal village, can the Seaside Knitters prevent a deadly trend from catching on?

While the Seaside Knitters get ready to showcase their new Danish-inspired event, locals can’t stop talking about Tess Bean—a bright-eyed environmental activist with a way of charming both animals and humans alike. Birdie’s granddaughter is mesmerized by ethereal Tess’s passion for saving the earth and ocean, and even Izzy’s old Irish setter becomes attached to the young woman’s gentle touch . . .

Except not everyone is a fan of Tess and her strong opinions, especially after she starts questioning the “clean” practices of small-business owners. So when a popular bar owner whom Tess publicly calls out for bad practices is found dead from a fall off his club’s deck, it’s not long before she tops the suspect list for murder . . .

In addition to a murderer walking their streets, the knitters are also grappling with an unusual wave of thefts up and down Harbor Road. Now, as Birdie’s granddaughter struggles to protect her mentor’s reputation, the Seaside Knitters must solve a dangerous mystery that not only threatens to unravel the fabric of their community and the approaching holiday, but also the lives of those they care about the most . . .

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Meet Angie Turner!

The following is a letter from Angie Turner, the intrepid sleuth at the heart of Lynn Cahoon’s HAVE A DEADLY NEW YEAR!

Have-a-Deadly-New-Year

Hi, I’m Angie Turner, co-owner and head chef of The County Seat. We’re located in River Vista, just a few minutes from Boise. And the best thing? We’ll deliver your NYE’s party trays first thing that morning so you can warm up and have them ready for your party at a fraction of the cost of having your party fully catered.

As a farm to fork restaurant, we’re in the business of making healthy and fresh food that you can be proud to serve to your guests. Especially with the claim that we use all local ingredients. Your guests will appreciate the Idaho based food as well as the amazing tastes.

From trout and prime rib bites to a large array of comfort food soups with fresh bread, you can determine your menu and work with any food allergies or special diet requests you might have.  All we ask is you order your menu before December 15th because, like you, we have families and friends to entertain during the holidays as well.

Want to check out our menu? Stop by the restaurant or sign up for one of our cooking classes. You won’t regret driving out to River Vista for the experience.

Happy Holidays!

Angie, Felicia, and the County Seat Crew.

 

Have A Deadly New Year by Lynn CahoonChef Angie Turner of The County Seat—Idaho’s finest farm-to-table restaurant—is preparing a private dinner in the mountains during ski season, but the trip’s about to go downhill . . .

It’s a rockin’ New Year for Angie and her crew as they cater a bash for a famous band—and as a bonus, they’ll get to stay at the singer’s Sun Valley house for a whole week once the party’s over. But there are hints of discord, and the event hits a sour note when one of the musicians is found with a drumstick in his chest.

Is this a case of creative differences turned lethal or is there another motive at play? Angie’s jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire as she and her fellow foodies try to solve the case before the killer comes out for an encore . . .

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Cover Reveal: THE EARL NOT TAKEN

The Earl Not Taken by A.S. FenichelLeft standing on the side while their contemporaries marry into society, four young ladies forge a bond to guard each other from a similar fate . . .

Finishing school failed to make a proper lady of Penelope Arrington. But as a Wallflower of West Lane, Poppy has a far more vital role—she and her three best friends have made a pact to protect each other from the clutches of dangerous, disreputable men. So when one of them is about to be married off to a duke sight unseen, Poppy makes it her mission to divine the prospective husband’s true character. If only she didn’t require the aid of London’s most unsuitable rake.

Rhys Draper, Earl of Marsden, has known the headstrong Poppy since she was a young girl, naïve to the ways of men. To her eternal chagrin—and to his vague amusement—they have been at odds over the memory of their embarrassing first encounter all these years. Now, with his services in need, Rhys sees a chance to finally clear the air between them. Instead, he is surprised by the heat of their feelings. If the two do not tread carefully, they may end up in a most agreeably compromising position . . .

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Theatre and Touring by Leanna Renee Hieber

How a background as a professional actress and tour guide makes THE SPECTRAL CITY Series come alive.

I’m often asked if my being a professional actress helps me as a writer. It does, in countless ways. Theatre is a holistic aspect of how I see the world and operate as an artistic professional. One of the most often complimented aspects of my work is my ability to create atmosphere and ‘set the stage’ for my novels. This is most certainly due to a life on the boards. My penchant for diving deep into character, reveling in the intricacies of dialogue and inner monologue all comes from professional theatre and playwrighting training. I became a professional novelist after I’d established myself on stage.

I set my books in the late 19th century because it’s the era that birthed our modernity, a time of fighting for rights, the advent of the telephone and electricity, widespread plumbing and the onset of mass transit. It’s somewhat recognizable to us and yet, the Victorians are rife with conflict and hypocrisy and old-fashioned notions even despite so much innovation that the era is a source of dramatic tension and conflict in and of itself.

One of the most important factors in differentiating the daily life of a modern character from that of any historical character is their clothing. This is especially important for women, whose fashion has changed far more radically and comprehensively than basic men’s clothing through the years. We all wear on average far less layers (and pounds of clothing) in the 21st century than the 19th.  So the most important gift the theatre gave my historical novels is a tactile reality and personal experience ‘existing’ in other time periods with which I can paint details.

How we move in our clothes and interact with our world is an aspect we take for granted, but as a writer I can’t possibly, not if I’m writing strong, empowered women who, while they may chafe against the restrictive society roles and mores around them, still remain influenced and bound to the fashion of the age. Knowing what it is like to move, sit, prepare food, lift, climb stairs, walk, trot, run, seize, weep and collapse in a restrictive corset, bodice, bustle, petticoat, hat, layers, gloves, and other accessories- all of which I’ve personally experienced in various historical plays and presentations I’ve acted in- is vitally important to taking the reader physically as well as visually and emotionally through what my characters experience. The precise unease of chafing corset bones against your skin helps me consider my heroic ladies of The Spectral City that much more impressive considering all the crazed antics I have them do. Just hardly comfortably.

Overcoming restrictions is a big theme in my work. That a restrictive society further enclosed its women in cages of undergarments and elaborate systems of outerwear is too important a factor of world-building not to note. I hope it sets a tone for how readers can feel my work as well as read it. I don’t go overboard with mention of it, but it’s certainly there.

Another vital part of my work is experiencing the spaces and places I write about and making those explorations very real for my readers. I’m a licensed New York City tour guide, so I have walked the streets my characters walk, I know the historic places still seen and celebrated today and the history I pepper in throughout the series is real history, parallel to the ghosts and their stories. I write historical fantasy, yes, but the historical part is real. The fantastical I leave to all my paranormal happenings. But even the ghosts come from reality, such as little Zofia, a Polish immigrant child who perished in a garment district fire. Long before the horrific reality of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, people were dying in sweatshop fires all around the city, part of what led to the dramatic rise in labor movement activism as the 19th century drew to a close, a movement that would boil over into the early 20th century and crest in the Uprising of the 20,000 in 1910 and burst into literal flames after the Triangle fire the following year. Zofia is a precursor to those realities.

The merging of the tactile and the paranormal allows for history, fantasy and reality all to leave their indelible marks. I try to make history and fantasy as immersive for my readers as possible. I try to set the stage I live and work in; New York City, with the characters, alive and dead, that I’ve taken into my heart, made real by my deep investment in every aspect of their character and the history they lived, hoping you’ll all fall in love with them and their surroundings as much as I have.

Blessings and Happy Haunting!

*Fanart created by Kelley Hensing.

 

 

New York, 1899, and the police department’s best ally is the secret Ghost Precinct, where spirits and psychics help solve the city’s most perplexing crimes . . .

There’s more than one way to catch a killer—though the methods employed by the NYPD’s Ghost Precinct, an all-female team of psychics and spiritualists led by gifted young medium Eve Whitby, are unconventional to say the least. Eve is concerned by the backlash that threatens the department—and by the discovery of an otherworldly realm, the Ghost Sanctuary, where the dead can provide answers. But is there a price to be paid for Eve and her colleagues venturing beyond the land of the living?

Searching for clues about a mortician’s disappearance, Eve encounters a charismatic magician and mesmerist whose abilities are unlike any she’s seen. Is he a link to mysterious deaths around the city, or to the Ghost Sanctuary? Torn between the bonds of her team and her growing relationship with the dashing Detective Horowitz, Eve must discern truth from illusion and friend from foe, before another soul vanishes into the ether . . .

“There is something truly magical about Leanna Renee Hieber’s writing.” —Shana DuBois Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi/Fantasy Blog on Perilous Prophecy

“Smart, boundlessly creative gaslamp fantasy.” —RT Book Reviews on Eterna and Omega

“Will have readers chomping at the bit for more.” —Suspense Magazine on Eterna and Omega

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Cover Reveal

Born illegitimate, these sons of medieval Scotland are bound for greatness—and made bolder by the power of love . . .

Brave Lachlan Blair stands ready to become his clan’s chieftain—until a revelation shows he is not a Blair son, but the bastard offspring of a notorious criminal. Faced with banishment to the Highland wilderness, Lachlan agrees to wed the daughter of an enemy clan. But he soon finds himself facing a new battle: an unwelcome attraction to his beautiful wife . . .

Since she was a wee lass, Finley Carson has heard tales of legendary Lachlan Blair. But nothing prepares her for marriage to the rugged highlander. Fortunately, Lachlan shares her desire to leave the union unconsummated in hopes of escaping their dutiful marriage. Yet as they partner to pursue the truth of Lachlan’s birthright, their deepening bond turns to passion. And once Lachlan’s past catches up with them, their love is put to the ultimate test . . .