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Food and the Mystery By Dana Dratch

Photo credit: Ji-yeon Yun on Pixabay.com

It’s the combination that goes together like tea and scones: food and mysteries.

Maybe it’s because writers spend so much time dreaming up plots, characters, alibis and red herrings that they miss too many meals.

Of course, it’s not their fault. It’s difficult to remember to restock the fridge when your shopping list reads:

  • Shampoo
  • Milk
  • A place to stash Colleen’s body

The Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie, was no slouch at mixing murder with a good meal. From Hercule Poirot with his perfectly symmetrical boiled eggs and endless pots of chocolat to Miss Marple, who was just as likely to discover an upper-crust dinner invite or a scrumptious four o’clock tea as she was a mystery to solve. Continue reading “Food and the Mystery By Dana Dratch”

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Crafting The Murder Mystery By Dana Dratch

Photo credit: Devanath via Pixabay.com

A murder mystery is like a magic trick: It’s all about what you don’t see.

That’s why writers need some strategically placed characters lurking not-so-subtly in the background and a little skullduggery to distract readers from the real action. Otherwise, the average 300-page murder mystery would be neatly wrapped up with the villain in handcuffs by page nine.

And a twisty mystery is a lot more fun.

So mystery writers reach into their bag of tricks and pull out a few classic strategies aimed at misdirecting their audiences. Here are three:

  1. The red herring. Admittedly, my favorite. Dangled tantalizingly throughout, the red herring can be a plot line that comes to nothing, a sinister character who’s later revealed to have an alibi, or a killer motive that vanishes in a puff of deductive genius.

But while we readers are out chasing the bright shiny object (the butler did it!), the real crook is getting away with murder.

  1. Atmosphere. Skilled mystery writers can make even Mother Nature do their bidding. Believably. Roads are blocked by snow and ice. Remote locations are plagued by a lack of phone service. Transportation breaks down. And inclement weather sets a dour mood, as bodies pile up like cord wood.

Meanwhile, the characters (and readers), are so focused on how everyone will 1) get out; 2) get the phones/lights/car/boat working, or 3) get off the blasted island, that they don’t suss out the killer until it’s too late. Much too late. Continue reading “Crafting The Murder Mystery By Dana Dratch”

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The Secrets That Inspired Me to Write THE ABOLITIONIST’S DAUGHTER by Diane C. McPhail

What is one great secret of many popular books? Well, secrets, of course. The ones you read the book to discover, the ones your favorite characters are hiding, the ones even you can’t untangle until you turn that last page.

So what inspired me to write this story? Well, the answer is many things: a love of writing, a genuine curiosity about the depths of human psychology, a love of the South mixed with immense struggles over societal acceptance of racial injustice. I could continue with reasons until I bored you into not reading this, nor my book.

But I’d rather tell you a story, a story about a secret and how it came to astound me.

My mother died when I was only nine weeks old. I grew up in an era when people believed that babies weren’t affected by things they didn’t remember. It was also an era in which people refrained from talking about sad or troublesome things in general. No one ever talked about my mother. Consequently I knew only that she had been a teacher and had loved to draw and sew. Beyond that she was a forever smiling face in a photo beside my father.

My father’s sister was my “Mama” until he remarried a number of years later. I remember my excitement when she told me she was taking me to a “ghost town.” Expecting something like those depicted in Western movies, I was immensely disappointed to find only an abandoned graveyard. But the story connected to that lost town and its graveyard was far from disappointing. The story of the Greensboro “feud” echoed through my life. Somehow it haunted me. Continue reading “The Secrets That Inspired Me to Write THE ABOLITIONIST’S DAUGHTER by Diane C. McPhail”

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Embracing Spring by Sarah Fox

As much as I love winter and snow, by the time the end of March rolls around, I’m ready for spring. I love it when the grass turns green and the flowers add color to the world, starting with crocuses, then daffodils and tulips. Flowers are definitely one of my favorite parts of spring and every year I plant numerous pots of gladiolas. They’re my favorite flowers and I like to enter them in the local fair that takes place in my town at the end of every summer. It can be a challenge to have competition-worthy flowers at just the right stage of blooming at just the right time to enter in the fair, so I stagger my plantings, usually over several weeks. Depending on the weather, the flowers can grow faster or slower, so I can never quite predict exactly when they’ll bloom.

 

The only problem with this hobby is that sometimes I go overboard. When I look through the gardening catalogs, it’s hard to restrain myself and limit my purchases. There are always so many gorgeous varieties and pretty colors that it’s hard to choose just a few, and since I usually replant some corms that I’ve saved from previous years, I often end up planting close to a hundred gladiolas. It’s a lot of work, but I don’t mind so much in the spring. It’s in the fall when I dig up all the corms that I tend to regret my overzealous planting! This year I’m determined not to plant quite as many, but I’m sure the spring gardening catalog will test my resolve. Continue reading “Embracing Spring by Sarah Fox”

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The Unexpected Joy of Writing Cozy Mysteries: Guest blog by Sarah Osborne

I have a hundred reasons for writing cozy mysteries—because I love reading them, because I like the comfort and humor they add to my life, because I enjoy inventing worlds in which things go awry and get righted again before the last page of the book.

A pleasure I didn’t anticipate was the joy of learning new things and meeting new people. In my second Ditie Brown Mystery Into the Frying Pan, Ditie’s old boyfriend turns up as a Civil War reenactor. Although I lived in the South for many years, I never knew much about Civil War reenactments.

With the generous help of a real Civil War reenactor, I learned what they were all about. I went to battlefields, talked to people, and watched two reenactments. There was a lot of noise and action in each, but nothing unexpected happened during the carefully planned battles.                                     Naturally, I twisted that around in my book for more sinister outcomes.

My third book, A Fatal Food, to be released in 2020, led me to the wonderful town of Beaufort, South Carolina. It is steeped in layers of history and if you haven’t visited there you should. It served as the perfect milieu for a cooking contest and murder set in an antebellum mansion. I created a small town nearby called Veracrue, so no one in Beaufort would have to worry about a murderer on the loose. Continue reading “The Unexpected Joy of Writing Cozy Mysteries: Guest blog by Sarah Osborne”

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Spring Shopping by Kathleen Bridge

I love vintage shopping and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I love it in the summer. I love it in the fall. I love it in the winter. But I especially love it in the Spring. Shopping for antiques and vintage is something my mother and I have been doing for decades. So, when I called Mom up and said it was time to go to our favorite outdoor market at our favorite shop in Melbourne, Florida, she was all for it.

The weather was perfect. Temperatures in the mid-70s, just a few clouds in the sky, and a light breeze off the Indian River Lagoon. Once a month the shop does an outdoor market, bringing in new vendors that fill the parking lot. This would be their first spring market of the season. And yes, even in Florida, we shop for seasonal items to decorate our cozy domiciles. The shop itself sells items that fulfil both my mom’s and my taste. Mom is into primitive Americana and I’m a fan of vintage, shabby, well-worn, rustic, and unusual—one-of-a-king things I can put in my small cottage by the sea.

My mother collects nineteenth-century wooden butter molds and I collect nineteenth-century cloth books on poetry, history, natural sciences, and fiction. Continue reading “Spring Shopping by Kathleen Bridge”

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Adding A Little Kick to a Campfire Favorite by Lauren Elliott

In my part of the world, as the days begin to warm, we wait with great anticipation for spring to announce its arrival. It’s not a date on the calendar that means little here. It’s when the first blades of grass turn green, and the buds on the trees blossom their leaves. For us, these are the signs announcing spring has arrived, and the frigid winds of winter are just a memory to be packed away with the box of parkas and mittens until next year. It also means it’s time to take the camping trailer out of storage, dust off our home-away-from-home and set it up at our favorite spot: the foothills of the Rockies. And so begins another, far too short season of reading and writing in my secluded little screen house beside the river’s edge.

Can you guess who else loves the scents of spring and gets excited by the start of another camping season? This would be her, Marley, my faithful writing companion. Not only is she the first one to the truck when we’re heading out but also the first one to claim her chair when we get there.

When my co-writer and I need a break or someone (generally her) is feeling particularly energetic. We go exploring on the backcountry trails and when we eventually return to camp. There’s nothing like a cozy campfire to ward off the cool mountain evening. Where frothy mugs of hot chocolate are shared, and precious time is spent with family and friends. To add to the evening’s enjoyment, we adopted this from an idea I saw online for campfire s’mores. We put our own spin on it, and it soon became a campfire favorite.

Campfire S’mores with a Kick

(Photo from Chowhound.com)

Basic Ingredients:

  • 1 marshmallow
  • 1 full graham cracker, break in half
  • 1/4 chocolate bar
  • 1 strip cooked bacon, cut in half: (Optional)
  • Maple syrup: (Optional)

 

Instructions:

  • Roast the marshmallow (on a stick over an open campfire)
  • Place it on half of the graham cracker
  • Add the chocolate piece
  • Top with the cooked bacon
  • Add a small squirt of maple syrup to taste
  • Cover with the other graham cracker half
  • Squeeze together and enjoy

With some imagination, there are endless variations you can make to these old campfire treats. Dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, sprinkles, roasted coconut. However, our favorite is to add the slice of cooked bacon and then a dollop of maple syrup under the top layer of Graham cracker. A word of warning though: you might want to have a couple of paper towels handy. All this ooey-gooey fun does tend to get a bit messy.

After a career working with rare books at the Boston Public Library, Addie Greyborne is back in her seaside New England hometown—where unfortunately, murder is not so rare . . .

Gossip columnists love a bold-faced name—but “Miss Newsy” at Greyborne Harbor’s local paper seems to specialize in bald-faced lies. She’s pointed a finger of suspicion at Addie after librarian June Winslow never makes it home from a book club meeting. And when June’s found at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs, Addie’s not only dealing with a busybody, but a dead body.

It’s a good thing the guy she’s dating is the police chief. But both the case and her love life get more complicated when a lanky blonde reporter from Los Angeles shows up. She’s trying her hardest to drive a wedge between the couple . . . as if Addie doesn’t have enough problems dealing with angry townspeople. Despite all the rumors, Addie doesn’t know a thing about the murder—but she plans to find out. And the key may lie in a book about pirate legends that June published. Now she just has to hunt down the clues before she becomes a buried treasure herself . . .

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Adventures in summer! by Kristin Vayden

Adventures in summer! Summer is one of my favorite times of the year, and I’m especially looking forward to it after this past winter! We had record snowfall, and it stretched into March! I’m ready for warm! This summer we have two new projects, baby goats and bees!

 

 

Last year we acquired two Nigerian dwarf does, and they are expecting within the moth! I’m so excited! There’s going to be frolicking baby goats in sweaters. Can you think of anything cuter?

 

Continue reading “Adventures in summer! by Kristin Vayden”

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Character Q&A With Marley McKinney by Sarah Fox

Marley McKinney is the owner of The Flip Side pancake house in Wildwood Cove, WA. She’s joining us today to help us get to know her by answering a few questions.

What do you love best about Wildwood Cove?

 There’s so much that I love about this town, but most of all it’s the people and the environment. The friends I’ve made since I moved to Wildwood Cove are the best ones I’ve had in my life and there’s such a great community feel. Then there’s the town’s beautiful location. Wildwood Beach has been my favorite place in the world ever since I was a little girl. I love living right by the ocean where I can hear the waves crashing and smell the saltiness in the air. If I need to relax or clear my mind, the beach is the best place for me to go.

What’s your favorite part of running a pancake house?

 Again I’d have to say the people. My employees have become good friends of mine and so have many of The Flip Side’s regular customers. Of course, there’s also the food! The Flip Side’s chef, Ivan, works magic in the kitchen and I never get tired of taste-testing his creations.

Following that line of thought, what’s your favorite dish on The Flip Side’s menu?

 That’s a difficult question to answer! I have so many favorites, including the maple pecan sticky rolls, the apple cinnamon scones, the pumpkin waffles, and the strawberry banana crêpes. But if I have to pick an absolute favorite, I’d say it’s the pumpkin pie crêpes. As a seasonal item, they’re only on the menu from October through December, so I always make sure to get my fill. They’re topped with whipped cream and they’re so delicious that my mouth is watering just thinking about them! Continue reading “Character Q&A With Marley McKinney by Sarah Fox”

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Why I love writing cozy mysteries by Judi Lynn

First of all, I love reading cozy mysteries.  I started out like a lot of others, reading Agatha Christie.  One of my bookshelves is still taken up with lots of her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple novels.  I even read my share of Tommy and Tuppence.

After I ran out of her novels, I discovered Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George, Nancy Pickard and Carolyn Hart.  I fell in love with M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth.  I finally ventured into reading a few grittier mysteries—Barbara Hambly’s historical FEVER SEASON and Caleb Carr’s THE ALIENIST, among others, but when I’m in the mood to read just for pleasure, I turn to a cozy.

I like the feeling of a small world that they create—a small town, a village, a hamlet—a place where people know one another.   I also like tripping over dead bodies instead of vividly watching the murder as it happens.  I appreciate shock value occasionally.  I just finished reading J.D. Robb’s first gritty futuristic mystery, NAKED IN DEATH, and being a voyeur can be fun sometimes.  But again, when I want to curl on the couch and relax, I’d rather have all the gory details off-stage. Continue reading “Why I love writing cozy mysteries by Judi Lynn”