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Lorelei Parker’s Journaling Habits

By Lorelei Parker

All through elementary and junior high school, I kept a diary, regularly recording the minutiae of the day: what boy I had a crush on or why my best friend and I were fighting. Dear Diary, I’d write, as I inked out my teenage angst about how unfair it was that my mom wouldn’t let me go downtown alone at age 14 to see my favorite band in concert or more often how bored I was.

When I grew older, I found journaling to be a therapeutic relief valve for expressing ideas that were difficult to articulate. I could document a problematic relationship to gain some perspective over time or pour out my fears and anger. These types of journals were intensely private and helped me through some of the darker periods of my life.


With the advent of the internet, I stopped handwriting in notebooks and began typing on blogs, which were more public and less conducive to personal introspection while still allowing me to shape my thoughts about various topics, from books to music. I loved how I could interact with readers and get feedback or have a conversation about shared ideas. But I always found it a little depressing that the medium was so fleeting, that the hard work I’d put into my writing would disappear into the void so quickly.

Way back when I decided to write my first novel, I discovered a type of journaling called “morning pages,” a form of stream of consciousness writing intended to clear the garbage from the mind and prime the pump for more creative endeavors. I continued this type of journal for several months as I gained the confidence to draft an entire novel. “Morning pages” form the basis of the type of journaling that Sierra shares in Crushing It.

These days, I’m not the world’s best journaler. I occasionally buy a very pretty notebook and felt markers with the optimistic intent of bullet journaling, but a couple of factors always lead me astray. First, my handwriting could be compared to that of a third grader who went to medical school—illegible. Second, with mounting deadlines, work schedules, and children to juggle, I have a tendency to write to-do checklists instead of journal entries. Last, there are so many places to communicate now on social media that writing a private journal almost feels quaint. Why tell Dear Diary about my frustrating experience at the DMV when I can vent about it in a group chat and get instant gratification.

And really, writing fiction takes the place of what journaling used to be for me. It’s both a creative outlet but also a way to express personal truths in a way I can share publicly by dressing my thoughts in someone else’s clothes. Better still, the works that end up published will endure longer than the blogs of yore. Hopefully.

Crushing It_FINALIn life, as in gaming, there’s a way around every obstacle . . .

To pitch her new role-playing game at a European conference, developer Sierra Reid needs to overcome her terror of public speaking. What better practice than competing in a local bar’s diary slam, regaling an audience with old journal entries about her completely humiliating college crush on gorgeous Tristan Spencer?

Until the moderator says, “Next up, Tristan Spencer . . .”

Sierra is mortified, but Tristan is flattered. Caught up in memories of her decade-old obsession as they reconnect, Sierra tries to dismiss her growing qualms about him. But it’s not so easy to ignore her deepening friendship with Alfie, the cute, supportive bar owner. She and Alfie were college classmates too, and little by little, Sierra is starting to wonder if she’s been focusing her moves on the wrong target all along, misreading every player’s motivations.

Maybe the only winning strategy is to start playing by her heart . . .

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A Deadly Sweet Treat

By Kaye George

How deadly can a sweet tooth be?

Yes, I know all about cavities, the logical results of eating very good things. I’ve always had an active sweet tooth myself. In fact, almost all my molars are crowned. But let’s not talk about that. My sweet tooth hasn’t killed me!


When I started to write this book, the second mystery in the cozy Vintage Sweets series, I cast about for themes that had to do with a “deadly sweet tooth,” of course. (For this contract, I supplied the theme, characters, and plots, and the publisher gave me three titles to work with.) Since sugar hasn’t succeeded in killing me, I couldn’t have it kill m victim. It would have to be something else, right?

I’m not going to give my plot away completely, though. Sorry!

Topic switch! Let’s talk about the good aspects of a sweet tooth. Sure, there are good aspects, right? It’s a natural food. Sugar gives you energy. I know I get a boost from chocolate, for sure. What do you get energy from?

Point Two in Sugar’s favor—it also elevates my mood. Nothing makes me crankier than being out of cookies. Or chocolate. There are other good mood boosters, like sunshine, being outside, being with friends (creatively, at this writing), nice reviews (if you’re a writer or a seller of anything else that people can give reviews for). Other good mood boosters? Other than chemicals?


Third, sugar also supplies people with a creative outlet, dreaming up candies, and other goodies. Ways to use sugar. It doesn’t do us any good sitting in the sugar bad, jar, whatever. Candies can be original in ingredients, shape, texture, and color. They’re fun to make, whether alone, or in a crowded kitchen full of friends or relatives. Do you have happy childhood memories of baking, making candy, or other sugary activities?

Fourth, sugar as art. Consider marzipan. Since the 1200s, sugar sculptures have been created using this mixture of sugar, nuts, also pastes and gums (to hold it together). Some marzipan is almost too pretty to eat. Almost. Not quite. Are there some people who don’t like marzipan?

Fifth, did you know sugar is a preservative? Hey, I ought to live to be 100! It sucks the water out of bacteria and then the bacteria can’t grow.

Sixth, you can use sugar for rocket fuel. Okay, model rockets, but those are rockets. Some scientists are actually working on making sugary car fuel. I hope this doesn’t use up too much so there won’t be any left to eat.


I hope my Vintage Sweets series is a sweet fix for cozy mystery readers everywhere, an antidote to the present conditions in our world. I’ve set all three novels BV (before virus) so my readers can visit that world and take comfort in what was good there. I also hope that the next iteration of Life on Earth eventually becomes enjoyable again. More sweet than sour. Lots more sweet. Stay safe, my beloved readers, and I’ll do the same.

Note: I got some of these facts from:

Deadly Sweet Tooth by Kaye GeorgeVintage sweets, a deadly surprise, and a mischievous Maine Coon cat—Deadly Sweet Tooth is the delightful cozy mystery you’ve been waiting for!
In a darling tourist town like Fredericksburg, Texas, a vintage sweet shop offering delicious old-fashioned favorites is a perfect fit—until someone decides to debut a recipe that’s lusciously lethal…

With Tally’s Old Tyme Sweets finally—well, almost—turning a profit, Tally Holt is taking one busy Saturday off to host a grand party for her parents, traveling performers who spend most of their time on the road. Tally’s counting on the publicity and free treats to attract new customers. And the event is a sweet success—at least until Fran Abraham, the town’s foul-tempered theater director, drops dead after a bitter confrontation with Tally’s mother.

Murder was definitely not on Tally’s menu, but it’s clear that Fran’s death wasn’t natural. The list of possible culprits includes not just Tally’s mom, but her protective dad too. Relying on Yolanda Bella, her best friend and the proprietor of Bella’s Baskets next door, for help, Tally will need to unwrap the sticky pasts and unsavory presents of everyone from her own parents to her new hires before Fran’s death sours everybody on her fledgling shop….

Recipe included! And this one promises not to kill…






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The Country House

By Renee Ann Miller

Country houses are sometimes the setting for Victorian romance stories. In my newest book, Never Conspire with a Sinful Baron, the reader will journey to several of these homes in the English countryside.

In my research, I found out that country houses in England were often called castles, halls, abbeys, parks, and manors. These residences were a place where members of the nobility and the wealthy went to relax after the London Season. During the Victorian period, several industrialists and bankers built country houses to show they had attained substantial wealth.

Figure 1: Trentham Hall in Staffordshire Morris’s Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen / Public domain

These homes featured elegant drawing rooms or salons with silk paper, impressive moldings, and costly furnishings that were meant to impress visitors. Since a country house might have more than one drawing room, they were sometimes specified by their prominent colors—such as the blue drawing room or the yellow drawing room.

Some other rooms found in these grand homes were libraries, ballrooms, art galleries, banquet rooms, and, of course, numerous stately bedrooms.

Many Victorians who owned country houses hosted balls. Guests at these gatherings could number in the hundreds. These grand affairs would be held in the evening and into the night. Musicians would play country dances and waltzes. Besides music, those in attendance could be treated to a late dinner. House parties were held at these residences as well. Such a party might be centered around a ball, a hunting event, or a holiday such as Christmas.


The insides of these country residences were not the only opulent spaces. The outsides boasted terraces, manicured lawns, flower gardens, and surrounding parklands. The large expanse of lawns could accommodate activities such as archery, tennis, croquet, and lawn pins. Some parklands were designed by famous architects such as Capability Brown. Water features could range from a simple fountain to something as complex as a manmade waterfall. Follies were built to replicate Greek architecture. They were thought of as romantic structures. Many of these homes had glass conservatories were exotic flowers were grown. Some were separate structures, while others were attached to the residences. This way fresh flowers in vases could be set about the residence. Some of these estates even had orangeries for fruit and dairies to supply milk.

And, of course, these grand homes had stables and carriage houses. They might even have a second smaller residence to house the dowager. A dowager is the widow of the previous titleholder who owned the estate.

Sadly, toward the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, many of these elaborate residences were demolished because the cost to maintain them was too extravagant. Part of this was because England switched from an agricultural economy to an industrial one. Tenant farmers who worked the land moved to urban areas. Some of these residences have been preserved because they were donated to the National Trust or other organizations, while others like Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed, are still owned by the family.

Never Conspire with a Sinful Baron revisedLast season, Lady Nina Trent fell for a scoundrel. This year, she intends to choose more wisely . . .
When a duke more interested in fox hunting and sports than womanizing comes to town, Nina thinks him the perfect catch. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to notice her. But Lord Elliot Havenford, Baron Ralston, a notorious flirt, has a proposition: he’ll not only pretend to vie for her hand, hoping to draw forth the duke’s competitive nature, he’ll also give Nina lessons in seduction.

An aristocrat in possession of two dilapidated properties must be in want of a fortune. Elliot’s proposition is a subterfuge, for he hopes to capture Nina’s hand—and her dowry—by slyly seducing her himself. Though he feels guilty over his deception, their interludes, filled with dancing, flirtation, and increasingly heated kisses, are impossible to regret . . . until he realizes he has unwittingly placed Nina in grave danger.

What’s a scoundrel in love to do, except finally risk his heart for real?

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Lorelei Parker on Facing Fears

When I was in high school, I ran cross country and track. The dread I felt before a race eclipsed any fears I’ve had since, and for a long time, whenever I faced a daunting task, I could hearken back to the heart-pounding, adrenaline-in-my-mouth taste of terror I managed to overcome every time I stepped up to the starting line. Compared to that, how hard could it be to speak in public? After all, if I could conquer the fear of a 3K race time after time, knowing the physical pain I’d suffer for the next twelve minutes, how could I squirm at the idea of standing in one place and speaking. Only speaking? Other than stomach cramps, it wouldn’t hurt. It probably wouldn’t kill me.people-at-theater-713149

But the frustrating thing about irrational fears is that they can’t be overcome through mental tricks or sheer force of will. Past success can breed some inoculation against future fears of failure, and true, the more often I speak in front of strangers, the less harrowing it becomes. But that dread never fully dissipates, and woven through those memories of triumph, I have anecdotes of abject, humiliating defeat.

In the spirit of Sierra’s embarrassing diary readings in Crushing It, let me confess one of these moments. When I was in seventh grade, my mom entered me into a cotillion. Each night, boys and girls would line up facing each other, and one couple after another would meet in the doorway, shake hands, introduce themselves, and proceed arm in arm onto the dance floor. One night, I counted ahead to find who I’d be paired with, delighted to discover my dance partner would be the cutest boy in the whole class: Kevin Fox (no really!). The line shortened, and as I came ever closer to shaking hands with Kevin Fox, I imagined the whole scenario in my head: How we’d meet, how we’d hold hands as we danced. Everything was coming together for me and my night with Kevin Fox. At last, it was our turn. We approached one another. I held out my hand. He held out his hand. And then I said, “Hello, my name is Kevin Fox.”

This happened *cough*ty-seven years ago, and I remember it viscerally.

Given my history with some good and some awful experiences, it’s not surprising that my fears of public speaking are inconsistent. I have good days and bad. I’ll have no trouble speaking on a panel in front of a large audience, especially if I share the stage with other authors to diffuse the spotlight. But when I’m the center of attention, my nerves heighten, and I can’t even read aloud from a script or introduce myself to a small group without mild panic. I rely a lot on humor, especially self-deprecating jokes, to get through the most awkward situations. And I’ll remind myself of all the times I’ve conquered my fears and didn’t completely fall apart in front of my peers. But for every uneventful introduction, I can recall a Kevin Fox moment of mortification. (I sure hope Kevin Fox doesn’t read this or I might die all over again.)

I wish I could say I’ve come up with a permanent solution to nerves, but I like to think that true bravery is getting up in front of people despite the fears and not letting them become a debilitating obstacle.

Crushing It_FINALIn life, as in gaming, there’s a way around every obstacle . . .

To pitch her new role-playing game at a European conference, developer Sierra Reid needs to overcome her terror of public speaking. What better practice than competing in a local bar’s diary slam, regaling an audience with old journal entries about her completely humiliating college crush on gorgeous Tristan Spencer?

Until the moderator says, “Next up, Tristan Spencer . . .”

Sierra is mortified, but Tristan is flattered. Caught up in memories of her decade-old obsession as they reconnect, Sierra tries to dismiss her growing qualms about him. But it’s not so easy to ignore her deepening friendship with Alfie, the cute, supportive bar owner. She and Alfie were college classmates too, and little by little, Sierra is starting to wonder if she’s been focusing her moves on the wrong target all along, misreading every player’s motivations.

Maybe the only winning strategy is to start playing by her heart . . .

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Lorelei Parker’s Favorite Games

By Lorelei Parker

I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. Growing up, I haunted the dank, musk-infused arcade deep in the belly of the local mini-mall between the novelty T-shirt shack and the Orange Julius where I dropped infinite quarters into the Breakout or Tempest machines. Then one Christmas, my brother and I became the proud owners of an Atari console, allowing us the freedom to play Space Invaders and Asteroids in the comfort of our own home. One gaming system was enough for one family, apparently, so I’d have to visit the homes of friends if I wanted to experience the power of Zaxxon on their Coleco or Mario Brothers on their Nintendo systems. Later, my brother and I successfully begged for handheld Game Boys to shut us up on the long road trips to Alabama to visit the extended family.

Once I was out on my own, I experimentally branched out to purchase my beloved 16-bit Sega Genesis unit on which I wasted much time beating down Dr. Robotnik in Sonic (after upgrading to the 32-bit). There was no way to save a game in progress back then, so when I needed to quit to go to class or work, I’d have to pause the game or hand the controller to a roommate. We didn’t know any better.

And then everything changed. With the technological leap of Nintendo 64, my obsession with Zelda was born. Caught up in Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, I would literally haul my system with me even if I was only going to spend the night with my parents. I’ve owned (still do) Playstation and X-box consoles, and I’ve lost months of my life in PC games from Myst to Diablo, but I always gravitate back to Nintendo faithfully and transitioned from the 64 to the GameCube to the Wii. Like Sierra in Crushing It, I love to relax playing MarioKart. I’ve also developed an unhealthy crush on Link, and I’ve been known to drool over trailers for upcoming Zelda releases. And I still have PTSD over my role in the great Pikmin genocide of 2004.

These days I kick back and watch my kids play. This way, I get to enjoy the fun of gaming while pretending to adult as I multitask on remote work for my job or draft my next book. The kids have introduced me to their own obsessions such as Minecraft, Undertale, and Animal Crossing. When I do play, it’s with them beside me, mocking me for my inability to master Breath of the Wild, the latest incarnation of my beloved Zelda, enough to finish off the nightmare Lynels that are frankly unbeatable. And terrifying.

I’m too busy to game like I used to. I listen with envy as my friends describe the latest titles they’re playing, knowing that there are only so many hours in the day, and I have other tasks to check off the list. But I do still sneak some time to play. The siren song of a video game is hard to resist.

Crushing It_FINALIn life, as in gaming, there’s a way around every obstacle . . .

To pitch her new role-playing game at a European conference, developer Sierra Reid needs to overcome her terror of public speaking. What better practice than competing in a local bar’s diary slam, regaling an audience with old journal entries about her completely humiliating college crush on gorgeous Tristan Spencer?

Until the moderator says, “Next up, Tristan Spencer . . .”

Sierra is mortified, but Tristan is flattered. Caught up in memories of her decade-old obsession as they reconnect, Sierra tries to dismiss her growing qualms about him. But it’s not so easy to ignore her deepening friendship with Alfie, the cute, supportive bar owner. She and Alfie were college classmates too, and little by little, Sierra is starting to wonder if she’s been focusing her moves on the wrong target all along, misreading every player’s motivations.

Maybe the only winning strategy is to start playing by her heart . . .

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Five Ways to Use Marshmallow

By Amanda Flower

While writing Marshmallow Malice, the fifth novel in the Amish Candy Shop Mysteries, I was surprised at how many ways that marshmallow could be used. More surprising not all of those ways are to eat them. Most are, of course, but I was surprised to learn that marshmallow could be used in both edible and inedible ways. I’ve compiled a list of my favorites. However, I am certain that Bailey King and the rest of the ladies at Swissmen Sweets would only like to see marshmallow be used in candy and sweets. Enjoy!

  1. Make Fondant. Fondant is the icing of choice when it comes to fancy wedding cakes like the one that is found in Marshmallow Malice. For the cake in the novel, Bailey makes her very own fondant from melted marshmallows. Personally, I would not go so far as to do that when you can buy fondant already made, but then again, I would buy the cake already made too. I’m not the chocolatier that Bailey is.

bakery-birthday-blur-cakes-265801 (1)

  1. Marshmallow Animals. Do a quick search online for just about any animals, and the Internet will be happy to tell you how to construct any creature from marshmallows and toothpicks. You can make them edible by using other candies for their features and details. And it seems some people like to keep them forever, so in that case, the sky is the limit for decorations. Easy craft for kids’ parties.
Photo by Anastasia_Panait From Prexels


  1. Marshmallow Sticks. This is the very, very, very—did I mention very?—easy recipe that you will find in the back of Marshmallow Malice. Really all you need is a skewer, marshmallow, and chocolate. Check out the book for more!
Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels
  1. Marshmallow Keeps Brown Sugar Soft. Brown sugar and marshmallow are a match made in heaven, but not just as a delicious topping for sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. Stick a marshmallow or two in your container of brown sugar and it will keep the brown sugar from becoming a concrete block in your pantry.
Photo by Nick Demou from Pexels
  1. S’mores. Yes, I know everyone knows this one, but do you know the twist on s’mores that is s’mores cones? They are delightful. Instead of graham cracker, you use sugar ice cream cones stuffed with chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. Then, you wrap the stuffed cones in aluminum foil to bake in the oven or if you are really in the wilderness on a fire. They are amazing, and personally, I believe better than the original.
Photo by Kelly van Dellen From Prexels

Marshmallow MaliceCaught in a sticky situation . . .
With Juliet Brody and Reverend Brook tying the knot in Ohio’s Amish Country’s most anticipated nuptials of the year, Bailey King is determined to do everything in her power to make the event a sweet success. Except midsummer heat waves and outdoor ceremonies don’t mix, and an exasperated Bailey soon finds herself struggling to fulfill bridesmaid duties and keep her stunning marshmallow-frosted wedding cake from becoming a gooey disaster. Then much to everyone’s shock, the entire ceremony crumbles when a guest drops dead, and the cause isn’t sunstroke . . .

Turns out, the uninvited victim came equipped with lots of dirt on the devout reverend’s hidden past. As Reverend Brook tops the murder suspect list on what should have been the happiest day of his life, Bailey and her sheriff’s deputy boyfriend vow to clear his name. Can the duo boil down a series of baffling clues before Juliet considers her marriage a bad mistake—or the killer whips up another deadly surprise?
Recipe Included!

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Miles’s Guide to New York City

By Tash Skilton

In Ghosting: A Love Story, New York City native Miles Ibrahim is a major advocate for the beauty and glamor of New York, a place that that his rival—and California transplant—Zoey Abot can only see for its anxiety-inducing noise, dirt, and overcrowding. Miles and Zoey are both dating profile ghostwriters who, unbeknownst to either of them, end up flirting with each other online on behalf of their two clients.

At one point in the story, Miles has his client (handsome, Scottish Jude) record a walking tour of New York City as a way to woo Zoey’s client, free-spirited Bree. As Miles puts it: “In New York City, every neighborhood, every single one, has its own vibe, something about it that’s unlike any other neighborhood.”

Here, then, are some of Miles’s favorite places to go should you ever find yourself wandering the Greatest Place on Earth, a.k.a. New York:

1. The High Line

Miles’s number one attraction is a one-and-a-half mile elevated park that runs on the West Side of Manhattan, which was transformed from an old railway into a public park in the early 2000s, officially opening in 2009. The High Line is known for its stunning views, its inspired landscaping, and its rotating and eclectic art installations. A favorite part of the park for Miles (and eventually Zoey) are the Pershing Square Beams, where they scooped out the concrete deck so that you can see and walk on the original steel beams and frames.

Photo by Rowa Lee

2. The Promenade

Head into Brooklyn for one of the most stunning views of Manhattan there is. This wide, pedestrian-only pathway is built right next to the water, with such postcard-perfect sights as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty spread out right before you. You’re also just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the vibrant Brooklyn Bridge Park with its unique playgrounds, tasty restaurants (Fornino, anyone?), ferries to Governors Island, and even a beach. The Promenade was even listed as one of the Top 10 Romantic Places in New York City by TripSavvy. Do Zoey and Miles take advantage of that distinction? You’ll have to read Ghosting to find out!


3. Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

As long as you’re in Brooklyn, you might as well take advantage of one the borough’s other greatest gems: the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. This 52-acre oasis in the heart of the city is the perfect place for a serene stroll through gorgeous rose-covered paths, a Shakespeare-inspired garden or a bonsai museum. In April, the bursting pink blossoms of the cherry trees on the Cherry Esplanade are a sight to behold. The Gardens are a popular place for romantic strolls, proposals, and weddings…as Miles finds out in Ghosting.

By Bettycrocker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

4. Riverside Park

Back in Manhattan, this Upper West Side park might best be known for its central role in the final scenes of You’ve Got Mail (at least, that’s where rom-com loving Miles knows it best from!). Miles takes quite a few jogs through here, overlooking the Hudson River past marble tombs dedicated to legendary war generals and beneath even more cherry blossom trees if you happen to catch it at just the right time.

By Momos – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

5. Greenwich Village

Miles and Zoey spend most of Ghosting in downtown Manhattan, specifically bickering over biscotti and the “only good table” at a (fictional) café on Avenue A. Ever since being the epicenter of the 1960s counterculture movement, associated with everything from Simon and Garfunkel to the launching the gay rights movement at the Stonewall Inn, the Village has never lost its cool factor or its ability to lure young artists with its vibrant history, unsurpassed character, and amazing dining and nightlife options. Get lost in the beautiful, cobblestoned maze that is the West Village where you can also catch some avant-garde theater at one of its cozy Off-Broadway venues. Satisfy your sense of culinary adventure with a pub crawl or restaurant hop in the East Village. Or, like Miles, take a head-clearing mini jog around Tompkins Square Park, soaking in the history of an area that has inspired everything from the musical Rent to trailblazing graffiti artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.


Online Dating Ghostwriting Rules to Live by
Dumped by his fiancée, not only is Miles couch-surfing across New York City, but downsizing has forced him to set up shop at a café. Also, he no longer believes in love. Not a good look in his line of work . . .

Do not present a “perfect” image. No one will trust it. Nor should they.

Zoey’s eccentric L.A. boss sent her packing to New York to “grow.” But beneath her chill Cali demeanor, Zoey’s terrified to venture beyond the café across the street . . .

Think of your quirks—such as cosplaying B-movies from the 1980s—as a “Future Honesty.” Save these as a reward only for those who prove worthy. 
The only thing Miles and Zoey share is their daily battle for Café Crudite’s last day-old
biscotti. They don’t know they’re both ghostwriting “authentic” client profiles for rival online dating services. Nope, they have absolutely nothing in common. . . . Until they meet
anonymously online, texting on the clock . . .

Never remind the client you’re their Cyrano.Once you’ve attracted a good match, let the client take over ASAP.

Soon, with their clients headed for dating disaster, both Miles and Zoey’s jobs are at stake. And once they find out their lines have crossed, will their love connection be the real thing—or vanish into the ether?. . .

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Staying Home With Alexis Morgan

Like most folks, I’m staying home this spring. On a positive note, that means I’m getting a lot of writing done. I love getting lost in the worlds in my head while my characters’ lives play out as if I’m watching a movie. Lately, I’ve been hanging out with the amateur sleuth and other characters in my cozy series, The Abby McCree Mysteries. My current release, Death by Auction, is the third story about Abby’s adventures in Snowberry Creek.

If pressed, I will reluctantly admit that the people in my head aren’t actually real. However, like all writers I know, the characters who populate my stories always become three dimensional and more and more real to me over time. That has to happen if I want the world I’m creating to become compelling enough to hold a reader’s attention for the time it takes to read a book. That isn’t to say that I know everything about my characters from the very beginning. Actually, just as with real life friends, I get to know them better as I spend more time with them.

For example, when I first “met” Abby McCree, I knew she had only recently moved to Snowberry Creek, she was recently divorced, and she viewed moving into the house she’d inherited as a temporary stop until she could decide what came next in her life. With each new book in the series, I learn something new about her. In the first book, I learned that she loves to bake and that all of her new friends benefit from her efforts. It’s Abby’s way of making them feel welcome and to offer comfort when it’s needed.

Although I knew she’d been the chief financial officer for the company she and her ex-husband had started, I hadn’t realized that would translate into her being extremely organized and well suited to running a committee or overseeing a major project. Unfortunately for Abby, the people in Snowberry Creek figured that out pretty darn quickly. That’s why she ends up as president of the quilting guild, helping out with the town’s fall festival, and running a charity auction in the newest story. I can’t tell you what I learned in the fourth book, which will be out next spring, but I can say that it surprised her friend Tripp as much as it did me.

If I do my job right, the reader will finish the story both satisfied with the ending and yet really wanting to hang out with those very same characters again sometime soon. Nothing warms a writer’s heart like a reader saying, “I can’t wait for the next book in the series!”

I’m not only a writer, though. I’m also a reader, and right now I especially love getting lost in a book, especially by a favorite writer. I’ve also discovered a few new-to-me authors and have been binge reading several different series. On some days I turn to what I call comfort reads—books I’ve read over and over again and yet never grow tired of. The one thing that all of these books have in common is characters I love from the get-go. The best of them make me wish we could meet at the local coffee shop and hang out together for a while!

If you have characters you’d really like to meet, please share! I’d love to meet some new friends between the pages of a book.

Finally, on one of the few days that my husband and I escaped the confines of our house, we drove up to admire the tulip fields in an area about sixty miles north of Seattle. I thought you might enjoy seeing a couple of the pictures we took on our outing. As you can see, the fields are really gorgeous when they’re in bloom. The colors are so vivid and intense.

Enjoy and happy reading!

Death By AuctionNot only did Abby McCree inherit her aunt’s house in Snowberry Creek, Washington, she inherited a handsome tenant and a whole lot of trouble . . .

It’s hard to say no to Tripp Blackston. That’s how Abby found herself on yet another committee, organizing a bachelors’ auction to raise money for Tripp’s veterans group. The former Special Forces soldier is mortified when Abby enlists him to be one of the prizes, but she has a covert plan to bid on him herself. Before she can, she’s foiled by a sniper bid from a gorgeous stranger, who turns out to be Tripp’s ex-wife, Valerie.

Still reeling from the shock that Tripp was married and wondering what his ex is suddenly doing in town, Abby goes looking to pay the auction’s emcee, radio personality Bryce Cadigan. She finds him in the parking lot, dead in his car. Valerie appears to be the last one to have seen Bryce alive, so she’s the cops’ best bid for suspect. When she asks Tripp for help—and lodgings—it’s Abby’s turn to block by inviting Val to stay with her. But did she just open her home to a murderer?

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The Great Escape for the Summer of 2020

By Sarah Osborne

These are hard times for many. Everyone has their own way to calm themselves when things get rough. Books, cooking and chocolate are often my salvation in times of stress.

Summer has officially arrived—along with my third book in the Ditie (from Aphrodite) Brown Mystery Series, Murder Most Southern.

Many of us are itching for a great escape as the weather turns beautiful. At the same time, we want to stay safe. Staying safe means wearing masks and social distancing if we go out. Ditie and I are both physicians, so we know the importance of protecting ourselves and our communities until we have a vaccine and effective medicines for the virus.

You can read anywhere!

That means this may not be the summer for that special trip or glorious vacation to parts unknown. But that doesn’t mean we can’t escape virtually.

Books can take us anywhere we want to go. They can do it as we sit in a hammock or on a deck. They can take our mind off real dangers with fictional murder and mayhem that gets resolved at the end of 250 pages.

In Murder Most Southern Ditie and her friends leave Atlanta to travel to Beaufort, South Carolina for a Southern cooking contest set in the antebellum home of famous TV chef Savannah Evans. Ditie’s best friend, Lurleen, has managed to finagle a golden ticket for Ditie, and Ditie can’t refuse to participate. While it means leaving her almost-adopted kids for a week, they’ll love spending time with their uncle, and Ditie will love meeting her favorite Southern chef in person.

The death of Savannah’s husband at a welcoming party in Atlanta almost derails the contest, but when it appears the culprit has been caught, the show can go on.


Savannah’s mansion is gorgeous and the nearby town of Beaufort is chock full of history. Some of it appears to be related to Lurleen’s past, but Lurleen doesn’t want to talk about it. It soon becomes clear that Lurleen isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Everyone in the house from contestants to their host appear to be hiding more than just biscuit recipes.

Technical glitches plague the filming of the contest and threaten the lives of participants. It’s up to Ditie and her crew to sift through a slew of suspects and motives in a murder with more layers than Ditie’s banana pudding. If they don’t discover the murderer soon, someone else may get chopped—from real life.

Secrets abound like Spanish moss on oak trees

The Ditie Brown Mysteries are stand-alones, but there is an overarching story in which characters and relationships develop over the three books. It’s likely to be a long, hot summer, and that might make you want to start with the first book in my series: Too Many Crooks Spoil the Plot. By the third book, you should be very curious about Lurleen whose stories never seem to quite add up to the truth. In Murder Most Southern, you’ll discover what Lurleen has been trying so hard to deny about her past.

Even Bailey loves a good book if it has has a dog on the cover!

The virus has taught us a few important lessons. One is to be creative and inventive about how we live our lives. It’s also taught us to value what matters—connections with the people we love, and respect for the people who put their lives on the line to protect us, from health care workers to other front-line employees who keep our world running despite the risks to themselves.


I give thanks to all of them and try to do my part by staying safe and by trying to keep others safe.

I keep my spirits up by finding something each day that makes me laugh, gives me pleasure, or inspires me. Often, I find that in a book.


Murder Most Southern by Sarah OsborneMabel Aphrodite Brown unpacks her knives—and her detective skills—when she joins a cooking competition that someone would kill to win . . .
Somehow, Ditie’s best friend, Lurleen, has sweet-talked Ditie into a spot on the next edition of The Great Southern Baking Contest. It’ll mean leaving her almost-adopted kids for a little while, but they love spending time with their uncle. And she can’t turn down the chance to bake at celebrity chef Savanah Evans’s antebellum estate in Beaufort, South Carolina . . .
Even when Savanah’s husband dies suspiciously at the welcome party, the show doesn’t stop. As technical problems plague filming and the body count rises faster than a soufflé, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding more than just biscuit recipes. It’s up to Ditie to sift through a slew of suspects and motives to cut through a mystery with more layers than her Georgia peach strudel. If she doesn’t come through with a killer soon, she might get chopped—from real life.
Includes Family-Friendly Recipes!

Posted in Home

The Perfect Snacks & Drinks to Pair With Island Affair

By Priscilla Oliveras

No matter what time of day you’re spending time with Island Affair, here’s the perfect food & beverage pairing for you!


cafe conleche





ISLAND AFFAIR by Priscilla OliverasSought-after social media influencer Sara Vance, in recovery from an eating disorder, is coming into her own, with a potential career expansion on the horizon. Despite the good news, her successful siblings (and their perfect spouses) have a way of making her feel like the odd one out. So, when her unreliable boyfriend is a no-show for a Florida family vacation, Sara recruits Luis Navarro—a firefighter paramedic and dive captain willing to play the part of her smitten fiancé . . .

Luis’s big Cuban familia has been in Key West for generations, and his quiet strength feeds off the island’s laidback style. Though guarded after a deep betrayal, he’ll always help someone in need—especially a spunky beauty with a surprising knowledge of Spanish curse words. Soon, he and Sara have memorized their “how we met” story and are immersed in family dinners, bike tours, private snorkeling trips . . . sharing secrets, and slow, melting kisses. But when it’s time for Sara to return home, will their island romance last or fade with the stunning sunset?