Posted in Books, Creativity, Home

Writing the Cozy mystery by Lynn Cahoon

Writing the Cozy mystery – why I love the genre.

As I write this blog, I’ve written 24 cozy mysteries. There’s something to the genre that makes me feel warm and comfortable. Like going home to grandmas and eating her oatmeal and raisin cookies. I love the endings where good conquers evil and misunderstandings clear up, and even bad relationships turn at least a bit for the good.

Community. Small towns where people say hi at the coffee shop even if they just told their best friend what a witch you are. Gossip flows from the old men having breakfast at the diner. And most of the town attends one church or the other. Which also leads to a bit of a competition on who’s worshiping the ‘correct’ way.

I grew up outside a small town. We lived on a farm but I had a lot of adult siblings that came home on Sunday’s to visit and have dinner. Food was big in my family. We didn’t have much but my mom put up everything she got. She canned, froze, jellied, and pickled all summer so we’d have food in the winter. I didn’t totally recognize the work she put in the preparation and storage of the food until I was out on my own. Pizza, tacos, and Chinese food were a treat and only happened when we went to the larger town twenty minutes to the west of our farm.  Continue reading “Writing the Cozy mystery by Lynn Cahoon”

Posted in Books, Home

Eating Irish Style with J.C. Eaton By Ann I. Goldfarb and James E. Clapp, writing as J. C. Eaton

For two people with absolutely no Irish roots whatsoever, each year we approach St. Patrick’s Day with a culinary fervor that’s hard to match. It begins with the usual quest to find the perfect corned beef complete with brine packets and directions, even though we could master the process in our sleep.

Then, it’s off to buy the traditional cabbage and argue over what root vegetables belong in the mix. Potatoes are a must, although Jim likes the small yellow ones while Ann favors the strange shapes of fingerling potatoes. We both agree on turnips and small onions but have the same argument every year over the carrots.

While Ann loves to chomp on raw carrots, the minute they’re steamed, boiled, broiled or otherwise altered from their natural state of dwelling in the ground, she refuses to have anything to do with them. Jim, on the other hand, believes carrots add a certain sweetness to the overall combination of meat and veggies. And, unlike Ann, he’ll eat them microwaved, stewed, or heated over an open flame.

Once we’ve secured the ingredients, it’s into a pot of boiling water and off we go. Up until this year we’ve used an 8 quart pot that simmers nicely on the stove, but now, things have changed. We recently purchased our first crock-pot and have been debating whether or not to cook our traditional Irish corned beef and cabbage in it. So far, no verdict has been reached.

Then there’s the matter of Irish soda bread. When we lived in New York we were able to purchase freshly baked Irish soda bread from a wonderful bakery in downtown Geneva. Now, living in the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, the breads are packaged and pre-made. Not a great option for two foodies who want to have an authentic meal. Needless to say, we’ve learned to make our own bread. Continue reading “Eating Irish Style with J.C. Eaton By Ann I. Goldfarb and James E. Clapp, writing as J. C. Eaton”

Posted in Books, Home

Why I Love Cozy Mysteries by Julia Henry

I was always a voracious reader, and mysteries were part of the mix as I was growing up. When I was in high school my family moved to Annapolis, Maryland. The summer before school started was difficult, and my fifteen year old self was in a funk. One day my mother brought home a stack of books from the library, and put one down in front of me.

“I think you may like Agatha Christie,” she said.

I probably rolled my eyes, but I opened the book. The Caribbean Mystery. Not even one of her best, but it was good enough to hook me. The summer got a lot better as I discovered Dame Agatha. I was a Miss Marple fan that summer and for the next year. Then I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and had my Poirot period.

Now, Agatha Christie is more traditional and less cozy, but the puzzle mystery provided me with a firm foundation for my own writing. I not only write cozies, I read them. Here are some of the reasons I love this genre.

Writing a series is a great opportunity to build a cast of characters that continues to evolve. I’ve learned how to not rush romances, how to upend expectations, and how to build a story arc over several books. I’m always amazed that a minor character in one book becomes a central figure in the series. Continue reading “Why I Love Cozy Mysteries by Julia Henry”

Posted in Books

Fave Books by Lisa Jackson

I’ve always loved suspense and mystery novels.  I grew up on Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie, Charlotte Bronte, Daphne Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson. Later I gravitated to Stephen King, John Sanford, Michael Connelly and other suspense/horror/mystery writers.

Lately though I’ve tried some new authors and I’ve been reading a lot of stories revolving around women who are not only victims, but also villains and/or heroines.  Or maybe a little bit of all three?  Often these women are not what they seem.  Anyway, I find my self rooting for these characters who are so multidimensional and totally flawed, all of which makes them intriguing and fun.

I just finished My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry and I loved it! Lily and Carla are perfect foils for each other.  Lily is a married lawyer is struggling with secrets of her past and a crumbling marriage while Carla is trying to make the best life possible for herself, a girl who has always felt “different.”  Carla, who starts out as a child in the book, doesn’t care what or who gets in her way, but she’s met her match with clever, self-determined Lily whose secrets not only propel her, but emotionally hobble her.  I could not put this book down!  I liked it so well, I’ve got another one of her books, Blood Sisters, teed up.

A couple of months ago I read a preview copy of Nancy Bush’s Jealousy.  Wow! Nancy’s my sister, so I could be a little prejudiced, but I loved the story revolving around three women, sisters Lucy and Layla and their sister-in-law, Kate, all very different women with different, rivaling goals.  The book is set in Oregon and brings in a detective from Nancy’s other books.  Remember September Rafferty?   September shows up to help solve several murders.  Jealousy has a unique set of secondary characters and long buried family secrets that lead to murder and suspense.  Jealousy is right up my ally and one of Nancy Bush’s best!

Right now I’m in the middle of A Stranger In The House by Shari Lapena and I find it intriguing.  I don’t know how it ends, yet, but it’s caught my interest because it’s a mystery involving Karen, woman who seems to have lost her memory in a automobile accident that nearly took her life and left a murdered man in its wake.  I love a good amnesia story and  I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

I’ve also recently read Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough, and The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn, both of which I highly recommend. Both books have strong female characters who propel stories filled with murder and deception and unique twists which keeps the reader guessing.

Loved them all!

London Danvers disappeared almost twenty years ago. The youngest child of hotel tycoon Witt Danvers—and the only child with his second wife, Kat—London hasn’t been seen since. Over time, many women have claimed to be the long-lost heiress. Adria Nash is the latest. But from the moment Zachary Danvers sees her, he believes Adria is different. For one thing, Adria looks just like Zachary’s former stepmother. For another, Adria knows personal details only London could have known.

Just four years old at the time of the kidnapping, Adria can’t be sure if what she feels in her gut, and what she’s been told, is true. She has no memory of the abduction, and confronting Zach is the only way to get answers. Yet she feels a deep sense of dread. London’s nanny also vanished that terrible night. And Kat Danvers fell to her death under suspicious circumstances soon after. If Adria really is London, she stands to inherit a fortune—but will she also become a target?

Adria is right to be afraid. Because someone does believe her. Someone who has killed before and is watching her every move, waiting for the right moment to see how she runs . . . see how she screams . . . see how she dies . . .

Posted in Books, Home

Beach Reads by Charlie Donlea

When I was invited to write a post about Beach Reads for the July newsletter, I reflected back to when I was an aspiring writer, long before I found an agent, signed a book deal, or plotted with an editor. Before I broke in as a writer I harbored a fantasy of someday walking along a beach and spotting someone reading one of my books. Sunglasses in place, cold drink next to them, and a Charlie Donlea thriller in front of their face. Because I’m such an avid fan of beach reading, I’ve forever been curious about which authors make it to the tropics. From John Grisham to James Patterson, Lisa Jackson to Elin Hilderbrand, when vacationing I’m fascinated to see which authors fellow travelers take with them to the beach. I’d always hoped to someday be one of the chosen.

During a signing for my first novel I confessed my dream of one day spotting a vacationer reading my book on the beach. Weeks later, photos flooded my inbox of readers enjoying Summit Lake on vacation. Not quite the same as stomping through the sand and stumbling on a fan who has my book in their hands, but still quite a thrill.

Don’t Believe It is my third novel, and with a June pub date it’s my first summertime release. It has all the elements of a Beach Read, and not just because the book takes place in the Caribbean, but also because I finished writing it there. My wife and I were headed to St. Lucia to celebrate our anniversary when my editor sent his final revision notes along with a two-week deadline to complete them. So, along with my sunscreen and swim trunks, I also packed my laptop before jumping on a plane to the beach.

I learned that there’s no greater inspiration for putting the final touches on a novel than sitting on a patio that overlooks the Caribbean Sea with the twin Pitons of St. Lucia next to me.

Continue reading “Beach Reads by Charlie Donlea”

Posted in Books, Creativity, Home

Beach Reads By Heather Redmond

I have to admit I’m not much of a fan of beaches. When I was growing up, we actually belonged to a beach club on a protected part of Lake Washington. I could dig my toes into the heated sand and catch up on my beloved Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew mysteries while keeping cool with ice pops. These days, the beaches where I live are eroded, and I have to chase a crazed third-grader out of the water and up the steep sandy hills. In summer, we travel around in an ancient Jeep that has windows canted in such a way that I feel like I’m gonna die by falling off a cliff when I’m riding in it.

As you can imagine, my beach reads for this kind of excursion have to take me as far away from the beach as possible! Of course, they have to be mysteries as suits my long-time summer love of them. So here are five of my suggestions for Summer 2018.

I read my first Krista Davis Diva book on a summer morning at a nail salon getting my annual June pedicure. So she seems like a perfect first choice for beach escapism, with her novels set in Virginia, far from any beach. The eleventh novel in the series has just been released! The Diva Cooks up a Storm (A Domestic Diva Mystery #11)


My second suggestion is Lena Gregory. I’m all caught up on her more appropriately beachy Bay Island Psychic Mystery series, so I’ve started into her All-Day Breakfast Café series, set in Florida. Scone Cold Killer (All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery #1) is the first and a great, fun, non-beachy read!

Continue reading “Beach Reads By Heather Redmond”

Posted in Books, Creativity, Home

My Beach Reads by Barbara Ross

For me, a trip beach is inextricably linked to reading fiction.

When I was young, my father’s parents had a house in Water Mill, Long Island; my mother’s parents in Sea Girt, New Jersey. On the day school ended, my father’s mother would show up at our home in New Jersey in her white Thunderbird to pick up my brother and me, and we would take off for two weeks on the Long Island shore. In August, the ritual would be repeated, but with my mother’s parents, who arrived in a sensible Dodge, not a Thunderbird.

In both places, we went to the beach everyday there was “enough blue in the sky to make a Dutchman’s pants,” as my New Jersey grandmother would say. On Long Island, we played in the waves, went to the Penny Candy Store, visited a swimming pool that belonged to a family friend. In New Jersey we built sandcastles, took walks on the boardwalk, and played mini-golf.

And always, we read. We read on the beach, of course. To this day, reading when I am completely disconnected and relaxed, with waves breaking in the background, and the smell of salt in the air, is one of my favorite things. I remember just as fondly the rainy days at the beach, when it was possible to stretch out on the living room floor and read all day. In Water Mill, I plowed through my grandparents’ Agatha Christies and Dorothy L. Sayers. In Sea Girt, I read all the Earl Stanley Gardners that were stored on the guestroom bookshelf, always looking for the part about the naked woman on the cover, always disappointed. But I loved the stories anyway.

Those rainy days made me the mystery writer I am today.

When my children were young, my parents revived the tradition of the beach vacation. They rented a house in Stone Harbor, New Jersey and all of our activities continued–the beach trips, the mini-golf, the Jersey corn and tomatoes. And the reading.

This is one of my favorite photos from the beach. Three generations all with their noses buried in books, except my nephew Hume who is looking at the camera. I think there’s a book hidden in his towel.


Continue reading “My Beach Reads by Barbara Ross”

Posted in Books, Creativity, Home

Subhuman by Michael McBride

“Scientists are closing in on warm caves under Antarctica which could support secret life”


Life always finds a way. There’s no other rational explanation for how anything can survive in Antarctica, a continent where the winter is spent in total darkness and at an average temperature of more than fifty degrees below zero. We’re talking about an environment as barren and desolate as the surface of the moon, and yet trapped beneath the ice is an amazing biome unlike any other on the planet.

The world might be dead aboveground, but it is alive with volcanic activity below. Geothermal heat is responsible for keeping entire networks of lakes and rivers from freezing at depths of more than two miles beneath the surface and, as we’re only now learning, the formation of systems of caves warm enough to support higher orders of life. In addition to bacteria and fungi, soil samples have demonstrated traces of DNA from algae, mosses, and small animals, among them species of unknown origin not found anywhere else in the world.

While exploration of the caves has only just begun, some speculate that these warrens could potentially cover the entire continent beneath the ice, connecting them with the site of the recent discovery of a 13,000 year-old meteorite containing fossilized bacteria theorized to be of extraterrestrial origin. Combining an isolated subterranean ecosystem with organisms that shouldn’t have otherwise survived is a recipe for disaster.

It’s this precise scenario that forms the basis for the first book in the Unit 51 Series, Subhuman, in which a team of scientists discovers that something terrifying has survived beneath the ice, something that’s not entirely human. I challenge you to imagine the possibilities presented by this article and then read Subhuman—coming this November from Kensington Publishing, available wherever books are sold—and you’ll soon learn that far worse things than death await us below.

Continue reading “Subhuman by Michael McBride”

Posted in Books, Creativity, Home

Subhuman by Michael McBride

“Researchers find secret, warm oasis beneath Antarctica’s ice that could be home to undiscovered species”


After millennia beneath the ice, the frozen continent of Antarctica is finally starting to give up its secrets, and what amazing secrets they are. A 13,000-year-old meteorite containing fossilized bacteria believed to be of extraterrestrial origin. The remains of a cat-sized, egg-laying, distant relative of modern mammals. Bodies of water the size of the Great Lakes encapsulated beneath two vertical miles of ice and brimming with the kinds of extremophilic organisms responsible for the genesis of the planet’s earliest atmosphere. And now, an entire system of caves heated by geothermal energy and capable of supporting not just higher orders of life, but species believed to exist nowhere else on the planet.

How did these enigmatic organisms survive? How did they wind up at the bottom of the world in the most hostile environment on the globe? Scientists are racing to Antarctica and braving the vicious elements to find the answers to these questions, answers that could potentially change our understanding of the origin—not to mention the future—of all life on Earth.

In a case of life imitating art, this is precisely the scenario I envisioned when I sat down in the spring of 2016 to write Subhuman, the first book in the Unit 51 Series. These extant species have beaten seemingly insurmountable odds to survive and triumphed over environmental pressures undoubtedly capable of triggering unbelievable feats of evolution. And on a continent so desolate and in such a brutal climate, you have to figure that any physical mutations have the potential to be truly frightening.

Check out this article from the National Post and then track down a copy of Subhuman, coming this November from Kensington Publishing, available wherever books are sold.

Sometimes, even nature makes mistakes.

Continue reading “Subhuman by Michael McBride”

Posted in Books, Creativity, Home

The Scotsman Who Saved Me by Hannah Howell

When asked to do a Western the first thing I needed to do was decide where it would be set.  Not having traveled much in the west – mostly due to a dread of flying – I had to decide what features I wanted first.  Since it was a Scottish hero, I decided a somewhat mountainous area would be nice so researched all the mountainous areas.  I picked the Ozarks because as I looked at all the pictures it reminded me just a bit of the White Mountains area in New Hampshire.

Then I had to get some books on the history of the area, look at a ton of pictures, and then hit the books on the flora and fauna of the region.  It is often the small things, like mentioning the wrong bird, that can trip a writer up. I do have one thing on my side and that is that I almost always use a made up name for my setting so I don’t really have to research every nook and cranny of some town or city.  So after a marathon reading session plus hours on the internet to collect pictures, I started.

My hero Iain and his six brothers came next.  Just the thought of a man with six brothers I find interesting.  I made them pretty much right off the boat Scots.  I often think it would be fun to slip back to that time for a quick visit to listen to all the accents before they all became localized American, but then I recall advances like central heating and bathrooms and decide, maybe not.

I hope everyone finds my Scotsmen in America a good read.   Continue reading “The Scotsman Who Saved Me by Hannah Howell”