Hobby Reads

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Hope for Christmas by Stacy Finz

So I’ve been asked to fast forward to Christmas 2022 and tell you what gifts Clay and Emily of Hope for Christmas exchange with each other. Wow, I don’t know what could top the gift they get in this story. And since I don’t want to spoil it, I’ll leave it at that.

But five years from now, the McCreedy family is going to be sharing a lot of love. Justin will have graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and has a serious woman in his life. Baby Paige starts kindergarten, can you imagine that?

And a big surprise is in store for Emily that year. Her second installment of the Nugget Cookbook is the recipient of the coveted James Beard Award. She and Clay go to New York City for the ceremony and spend a romantic weekend at the Ritz-Carlton, just the two of them. It’s like a second honeymoon.

Not to be outdone, Clay wins Cattleman of the Year. This time, the whole family goes for a fun-filled weekend in San Lucas, California, where he’s feted by the United States Cattlemen’s Association. Continue reading “Hope for Christmas by Stacy Finz”


The Missy DuBois Mystery Series by Sandra Bretting

There are several reasons I don’t commit white-collar crime, in addition to the most obvious ones.

First and foremost: I don’t relish the thought of going to jail. Not to mention, it’d damage my moral compass.

Another reason, though, involves the FBI. What would they think if they perused the hard drive on my computer? Its agents would peg me for a wacko…or worse.

Check out my computer’s search history, and you’ll understand my fear. In the last week alone, I’ve researched the shelf life of arsenic, autopsy procedures specific to Louisiana, and the type of Glock officers carry in St. James County Parish.

It’s all part of writing a mystery series and trying to get the details right.  Since I began my career as a journalist—I wrote for publications like the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle—I’ve been trained to ferret out mistakes before they go to press. Continue reading “The Missy DuBois Mystery Series by Sandra Bretting”

The Secret Ingredient by Sharon Struth

“The name garlic is of Anglo-Saxon origin, derived from gar—a spear, and lac—a plant…”

We hung on Roberto’s words while inhaling in the universal aroma of good cooking. Our Sienese guide led us to a doorway in a blemished, white stucco building with aging-evergreen shutters. A sign read Trattoria. Long gold fabric cords hung from the top frame and danced with a breeze, but Roberto confidently pulled them aside and motioned us through with a wave of his hand.

Our day tour from Siena, Italy was filled with promises of the historical, natural, and culinary treasures awaiting us in Tuscany. Roberto delighted us at every turn with word origins, stops at old Etruscan tombs, and jaunts up narrow alleyways constructed in the dark ages.

And now it was time for lunch at his friend Marcello’s place.

The tiny trattoria had a seating capacity of no more than fifteen. Terracotta-colored walls showed the cracks of age, but managed to hold a few ceramic plates and yellowed photographs.

It wasn’t printed anywhere, yet I knew this was a place for the locals…

Traveling is my hobby. I can never get enough of moments like the one described above.

When I wrote The Sweet Life, I couldn’t stop thinking about my visit to Marcello’s restaurant, a mere dot on a map in the small town of Staggia, Italy. It might have been the best meal I’ve ever eaten.

Marcello served us Tuscan Bread Soup, Pappa al Pomodoro. Pungent garlic, flavorful basil leaves soaked in sweet tomato juices, all surrounding thick chunks of hearty bread. Next came a boar stew. Tender meat drenched in a flavorful broth of rich wine, rosemary, garlic and tart tomato presented on a bed of thick, flat pappardelle noodles. Simple. Nourishing. Unforgettable.

How does a meal evoke such strong memories six years later?

Maybe it was the endless glasses of Chianti. Or learning our chef and host loved to write poetry.

After we ate, he’d appeared with a sheet of paper in his hands, cleared his throat, and said, “Il Chianti.”

He read his poem. I didn’t understand a single word (although Roberto later translated). Yet the rhythm of the beautiful romance language sang in my ears, its flavor satisfying my heart much like the Tuscan soup had nourished my hunger.

Or perhaps I recall the meal so vividly due to the awe on my daughters’ faces while Marcello read aloud. Their attentive gazes drank in appreciation for the special moment; a stranger sharing his heartfelt love of Tuscany and his belief that visitors are always considered new friends.

Marcello gave us copies of his poem, signed and dated. His beautifully written words describe the splendor of Tuscany…the fields yielding their fine wines and olives, hilltops lined with cypress trees – reminiscent of an era gone by, a country table filled with delectable gifts for our taste buds.

It’s his last line, though, that resonates in my heart: Whilst the visitor – always a friend and never a stranger – drinks with joy this sincere wine.

Thinking about that meal, my soul fills with love for my family, a fresh understanding of the pleasure found in new friendships, and cherished taste bud recollections. All brought to me through a secret ingredient…the joy Chef Marcello spread to us through his love of cooking.

If you are salivating after reading this (like I am), here’s a recipe for Tuscan Bread Soup. Now start cooking…

Continue reading “The Secret Ingredient by Sharon Struth”

A Great Hobby for History Lovers – Genealogy by Heather Hiestand

I’d been seeing those ads for years regarding getting your DNA tested to learn about your ethnic background. As an adoptee, I’d always been leery of dipping into dangerous waters. Did I really want to know anything about the people who’d given me away to strangers? Did I really want to know what the circumstances were behind this (presumably) enormous decision?

However, a part of me was always deeply curious about my greater family tree. I had questions, and what little I had been told as a child about my ethnicity didn’t match up with what I’d accidentally learned as an adult. So when my husband expressed momentary curiosity about his family tree, namely to learn if he really was part Native American or not, I jumped on it and bought two DNA test kits when they were on sale over the holidays.

Well, we’ve had so much fun that my parents became interested as well. So now I have four different people to research! And yes, my husband really is part Native American. So am I! I had no idea I’d discover that the “Cherokee princess” myth so many families have might possibly be true in my case. If you have deep roots in the American South it’s something to look into…

I had a connection to my British-set novels, too. On the subject of my Grand Russe series with Kensington, I discovered that I actually had ancestors in London in the 1920s. They weren’t working in a grand hotel, though. They were in the garment trade in the east end, and many, if not all of them, immigrated to Canada and the US during this decade. I’ve been humbled by my imaginings of what it must have taken for my great-grandparents to journey from Russia/Poland to the UK, to Canada, and then to the Unites States, all in one generation. Tough, tough people that I’m descended from, don’t you think? I’m pretty sure that my great-grandparents would have had the moxie to battle the Russian baddies in my books. Continue reading “A Great Hobby for History Lovers – Genealogy by Heather Hiestand”

Canvas Preparation & Supply Care by Kelly Moran

Zoe, the heroine in my recent release, New Tricks, is a pet groomer, but she’s also an artist. Her medium is primarily acrylic and her style is surrealism, so I’m channeling her to offer some advice.

  • Prep the canvas by applying Gesso, which is a white paint mixture that fills in the pores and covers the surface smooth. You can apply as many as ten thin layers or a couple heavy ones. Be creative in application with strokes to set any mood you wish. Allow to dry thoroughly before paining.
  • After care is very important. An alternative to paint thinner to clean brushes is vinegar if you don’t like the fumes. Be sure to rinse brushes thoroughly and completely dry on a flat surface to ensure longevity.
  • Store all materials in a cool, dry place. Recap tubes and close containers to avoid drying or thickening of your paint. You may wrap brushes in plastic wrap to prevent them from losing shape.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” — Degas

Continue reading “Canvas Preparation & Supply Care by Kelly Moran”

Demon Hunting With A Sexy Ex by Lexi George

Author Blog Post:

I love food. I’ve never missed a meal, unless I was sick, and my mama never had to call me twice for dinner. When people—my youngest daughter in particular—say, “I forgot to eat,” I shake my head in wonder.

I have never “forgotten” to eat.

In the South, celebrations, holidays, and times of mourning revolve around eating, and I cannot separate the memories of my childhood from the memories of good food. I remember dancing in the kitchen at suppertime as a child, salivating at the delicious smells coming from the stove and oven, and pestering my poor mother to death to know when supper would be ready. I was an active kid, a tom boy, and I spent my days roaming the woods and riding my bike, and I was always hungry.

Mama, bless her, was a good cook. Fried chicken, tender pork chops, catfish rolled in corn meal and fried to a crisp. Succulent pot roast with new potatoes and carrots, Swiss steak with peppers and onions, and salmon croquettes were a few of the entrees she whipped up. And the sides . . . Oh, my!  Creamed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, oven-fried corn, turnip greens, cabbage, fried okra, peas and butter beans, and hot cornbread, to name a few. Continue reading “Demon Hunting With A Sexy Ex by Lexi George”

Color Me Murder by Krista Davis

ON SALE 2/27/2018

Includes A Front and Back Cover for You to Color!

By day, Florrie Fox manages Color Me Read bookstore in Georgetown, Washington D.C. By night, she creates her own intricately detailed coloring books for adults, filling the pages with objects that catch her eye. There’s plenty of inspiration in her new apartment—a beautiful carriage house belonging to Professor John Maxwell, Florrie’s boss. He offers the property to Florrie rent-free with one condition—she must move in immediately to prevent his covetous sister and nephew from trying to claim it.

When the professor’s nephew, Delbert, arrives, he proves just as sketchy as Florrie feared. But the following morning, Delbert has vanished. It’s not until she visits the third floor of the store that Florrie makes a tragic discovery—there’s a trap door in the landing, and a dead Delbert inside. The esteemed Professor Maxwell is an obvious suspect, but Florrie is certain this case isn’t so black and white. Doodling clues, she begins to consider other colorful characters on the scene, all with a motive for murder. With a killer drawing closer, Florrie will need to think outside the lines . . . before death makes his mark again.


Dark Moon Coffee and Murder Go Round

Carol Perry is visiting today to take us on a ride on a merry go round, for her latest in the Witch City cozy mysteries, Murder Go Round. With all of that spinning, Carol has treated us to a caffeinated beverage with a bit of a kick.  

Murder Go Round is the fourth book in the Witch City Mystery series (Kensington Publishers.) In this one Lee Barrett agrees to attend a storage locker auction with her librarian Aunt Ibby—even though she suspects the forgotten rooms will yield more junk than treasure. But the two, with one lucky bid, uncover a trove of wonderful curiosities, including a stunning carousel horse with gentle eyes and fading paint After Lee leaves the fairground relic at a local repair shop for some cosmetic work, another of the dusty treasures, a Russian silver samovar, awakens Lee’s psychic abilities and shows her visions of murder.

With her detective boyfriend Pete Mondello, and with the aid of her wise ginger cat O’Ryan, Lee follows a trail of deception and death as intricate as the antique nested matryoshka dolls she found in the storage locker. Mystery Scene magazine says “Murder Go Round is entertaining fare, replete with compelling characters and a unique plot.”

* * * *

When friends drop by, Lee and Pete like to make a big ice cold pitcher full of Dark Moons. Readers of the Witch City Mystery series know how much Lee and Pete love their coffee and a Dark Moon is a heavily caffeine-laced version of that old New England favorite, Rum and Coke! The recipe will serve eight. Continue reading “Dark Moon Coffee and Murder Go Round”

Phantom Pearl by Monica McCabe



Recently I went on a hike at my town’s local greenway. I soaked up bright sunshine, admired the lush landscaping and a gently rolling stream that followed the trail. Then suddenly, I had an epiphany. Not the earth shattering, life changing kind. More like a realization, a cosmic connecting of the dots when it comes to being a writer.

It’s no secret that I love travel. I like going places. That fascination has infiltrated into my stories too, which brings us to that moment of truth on the trail. It occurred to me that books and real estate have a lot in common. Location, location, location. It’s also my mantra. I’m always on the prowl for a new place to explore – whether for vacation, movie time, or reading choices.

It also plays into being a writer. Some people start their story with characters. The WHO is important. They want to know everything about them – eye color, hair color, where they went to school. Not me. I start my story with the WHERE. Then I move into the WHAT. Until I get deep into location and plot, characters are just a vague impression. It’s taken me four books and a long nature hike to realize this is my process. Continue reading “Phantom Pearl by Monica McCabe”

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