Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back-to-School Blahs


By: Annie Chamovitz

From: The Cumberland Creek Mystery Series
Author: Mollie Cox Bryan
Book 3 Title: Death of an Irish Diva


I suppose I should feel happy when the boys go back to school after a very long and somewhat difficult summer.  I feel like I should want a party. But instead, I drift around in the house for days and wonder what to do with myself

Of course, I always have my writing.
Even if it "beckons" or not, I still have to make those deadlines.

And there’s so much to be done around my small house that it’s amazing. I’m never caught up on laundry—definitely NOT on the house works. I tell myself every year when they boys go back to school, I should be able to use the time wisely and clean the house, really well, and it should only take a few days, right?

But then I get distracted. For example, the other day  I start cleaning out Sam’s closet and found so many things that just took me back to when he was a toddler. (Yes, I should really get rid of those things, I know, and I’m working on it.) Then I ran into an art folder of his when he was in the second grade. Wow. I stopped and looked at each page. What bunch of paper sweetness jammed into a blue folder.

And well.. the next thing I knew, the boys were home and there was homework, snacks, music, and soccer practice. Sigh.

No matter what I do, it seems as if my boys permeate my life—whether they're home with me or not. I guess I don’t mind that—not one little bit.

Check out Mollie Cox Bryan online:
Twitter: @MollieCoxBryan
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dragonfly Days

by Candy Divine, from the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries by Leslie Budewitz

 You know, it’s really hot in Texas? In the summer? So when I broke loose and headed north, I swore I would never complain about the heat again. And I meant it.

But dang, when even the marshmallows melt, you know that ol’ mercury’s just gone plumb-crazy.

Not easy when you make your living making divinity and nougat and all kinds o’ candy. ‘Cept chocolate. People can’t imagine a candymaker who doesn’t like chocolate, but I don’t. Really, truly. It’s all slippery and it gets on your fingers and you have to lick it off. Plus it reminds me of that day when Billy Tom Miller and his cousin found me and Heather Lynn chasing dragonflies down by the swimming hole and they chased us and I fell in the mud and Billy Tom pushed me down in it and the mud got in my mouth and up my nose and ruined my pink seersucker top my Granny Kellogg made for me. Then he pushed Heather Lynn in the water and it was too deep for her and he wouldn’t help me get her out, but his cousin did.

That was a hot day, too.

I gotta tell you, though, Jewel Bay isn’t like that at all. I thought I’d never go back to a small town. Through with all that. Told everyone so. And then I ended up here, in Northwest Montana—we’ll save THAT story for another day—and I couldn’t believe it. Especially when Erin, who runs the Merc? The perfect place for my candy? Well, she doesn’t like nougats and taffy. She thinks if it isn’t chocolate, why bother? But she gave me a chance anyway. And then she asked for marshmallows, and I admit, I blew the first batch, but she liked the second. Even the flavored ones.

Everybody said it never gets real hot here? Ha. So I think I won’t believe them when they say winter’s not too bad. ’Cause the place really has grown me.

And it’s kinda nice to belong somewhere. Plus, this morning, down by the river, I saw a dragonfly.

Leslie Budewitz is the national best-selling author of Crime Rib (July 2014) and Death al Dente, winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The third, Butter Off Dead, will be published in July 2015.  Her Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries will debut in March 2015, with Assault and Pepper. 

Also a lawyer, Leslie won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books), making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. 

For more tales of life in the wilds of northwest Montana, and bonus recipes, visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter. www.LeslieBudewitz.com  Find her on Facebook: LeslieBudewitzAuthor

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lucille's Best Friend


by Flo Baldini from 
Peg Cochran's Lucille Mystery Series

Yo, it’s Flo here.  I’m Lucille Mazzarella’s best friend and have been since second grade.  We know everything about each other—well, almost everything.  I did keep a sort of big secret hidden from her for quite awhile.  At first I thought she wasn’t going to forgive me, but we’re like sisters, you know what I mean?  Nothing’s going to come between us…ever.  Yeah, we have our fights, but we always make up again.

Lucille has the biggest heart in the world even if she can be a bit naïve at times.  I’m always trying to get her to fix herself up, get a new wardrobe, but she prefers the tried and true like that old leather jacket her husband Frankie gave her back when they was in high school.

I’d like to find a man like Frankie.  I’m dating someone now, and I think this might be it.  I’m afraid this might be it.  Am I ready to settle down?  Lucille keeps reminding me that we’re getting older, that we’re fifty now.  Sheesh, fifty ain’t that old!  Not anymore.  But I know what she means—it’s nice to have someone to come home to at night, to snuggle up to in front of the tv, to keep the sheets warm at night.  Who knows?  If he asks I just might say yes.

Lucille and I have been involved in catching a couple of bad guys—murderers.  Who would have thought it?  Here, in this quiet New Jersey suburb.  But you never know what life is going to throw at you.  You got to be ready all the time.  It’s always something, you know? 


For middle-aged “Jersey girl” Lucille Mazzarella, only two things in life really count—her family and her friends. When her brother-in-law’s body falls out of a church confessional, everything she holds dear is threatened, especially when the police arrest her husband for the murder.

Plagued by hot flashes, a thickening waistline, a mother addicted to the home shopping channel, and a sexy old flame who’s come back to town, Lucille really has her hands full. And while she may not know much about solving crimes, this traditional churchgoer with very modern attitudes knows that with some prayers, some fast thinking, and some even faster talk she might just be able to nail the 
 killer and restore order to her life. 


The hilarious Lucille Mazzarella is back and planning a wedding. But even the worst Bridezilla can’t create the wedding drama she’s about to face in this second book in the series.

Desperate to see her pregnant daughter Bernadette married before the baby comes, Lucille is engrossed in all things wedding. Nothing will distract her from planning this Mazzarella main event. Nothing, that is, except for the murder of the mother of the groom.

Monday, August 25, 2014

by Bree Stewart from Picked to Die (Orchard Mystery #8, by Sheila Connolly)

I like my job, working with Meg Corey in her orchard. Well, technically I’m working for her, but she definitely does her share of the work.

And this year’s harvest is looking pretty good, considering the drought we had this past summer. But Meg has a hard time focusing because she keeps getting involved in solving murders. And now she’s done it again, right in the middle of the harvest. Lousy timing.

Okay, she does have a good reason this time around. The guy who died was the nephew of one of the pickers who worked for us last year. He didn’t come back because he wanted to help out his nephew and get a job for him. Problem was, the nephew didn’t want to do the hard and dirty work of picking, so he kind of quit, and then he ended up dead.

Oh, right—I should mention he was Jamaican, like me, and there are rules and regulations for getting a job as a temporary agricultural worker. His uncle really made an effort for this kid, so he felt bad when the kid dropped out of sight.

And if that wasn’t enough, the first suspect the police looked at was this squeaky-clean high school kid—a Boy Scout, even—who just happened to be the nephew of Rick Sainsbury, who’s running for Congress from our district, and who Meg and Seth have butted heads with before. When your likely future Congressman comes around and asks for help in clearing his nephew of suspicion of murder, it’s kind of hard to say no. Besides, having him owe you a favor can’t be a bad thing.

Come to think of it, it’s a wonder Meg gets any work done in the orchard, with all these distractions. It’s a good thing I know what I’m doing, and I have a great team to work with. I’ll cut Meg some slack—at least for now.

Like I said, it's a good year for apples!



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Of Birds, Cookies, and Murder

by Olivia Greyson, purveyor of all things cookie and pursuer of killers, from THE COOKIE CUTTER SHOP MYSTERIES, by Virginia Lowell.

Visit Maddie and me in COOKIES AND SCREAM, our latest sleuthing adventure!

My father was an ornithologist, which would explain why his stories always seemed to relate to birds. Birds helped him understand the world. That’s what he used to say, anyway. When I was about ten, I watched from the dining room window while he strolled around the backyard, chatting with the chickadees or arguing with the robins. By thirteen, I’d begun to wonder if my dad was entirely sane, but Mom insisted he was sort of an academic type and that’s the way they are. Dad was loony, but in a nice way, so I accepted her explanation.

Now I wonder if genetics have caught up with me. It’s four a.m. I’m alone in the kitchen of my store, The Gingerbread House, baking lemon cutout cookies. Usually it’s Maddie (my best friend and business partner) who’s baking at this hour, but I’m caught up in a mystery and can’t sleep. Baking helps me think. Baking lemon cutout cookies helps just about anything.

Here’s the problem: We’ve had a murder in Chatterley Heights. I won’t give away the details except that the clues might be cookie cutters. Or at least, that’s what Maddie and I suspect. We just solved a mystery involving a valuable collection of antique European cookie cutters, but these are modern cutters that look well used. There are only three of them, and they were found under the victim’s body. The intriguing thing is, the three cutters are all bird shapes—an owl (with one dented ear); a parrot; and a red, plastic angry bird.

To Maddie and me, those cutters sure seem to be clues to something or other… maybe about the victim? Or why he was murdered? If the killer left them, perhaps the cutters can tell us something about him or her.

I’ve eaten several lemon cookies in bird shapes, but that hasn’t helped. Ideas are welcomed. We’re stumped.

Virginia Lowell is the author of COOKIE DOUGH OR DIE, A COOKIE BEFORE DYING, WHEN THE COOKIE CRUMBLES, ONE DEAD COOKIE, and COOKIES AND SCREAM.
Visit Virginia at www.virginialowell.com.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

You Found What?






Kath Rutledge, here, from the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. Did I tell you I’m volunteering out at the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm for their “Hands On History” program this month? Some of the TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Fiber) volunteers and I are doing a unit on crazy quilts. Fun, right? I mean, really, what could go wrong? Heh. There might be the small matter of human bones turning up . . .  Here’s an excerpt from Plagued by Quilt that will give you an idea how my crazy volunteer gig turns out. 


“Bones?” Geneva sat up straighter.

“‘The Bones in the Barnyard,’” Ardis mused. “It has a definite ring to it. Kath, you’re wearing your surprised and puzzling-something-out face, and if you ask me, that’s one of the reasons you’re such a natural-born amateur sleuth. You’re always puzzling things out. Even when you give me that less-than-attractive slitty-eyed look you’re wearing now.”

I kept the slitty-eyed look for Ardis’ benefit and held up an index finger for Geneva’s. In the human-to-haunt sign-language system Geneva and I were constantly working to refine, a raised index finger was supposed to mean hold on or please be patient.

“Are you scolding me?” Ardis drew back, looking and sounding hurt. “Why so touchy?”
 
At the same time, Geneva waved her arms wildly and shouted, “Read my arms! I want to hear about the bones!” Her contributions to our system sometimes gave me a headache.

“Sorry, sorry, there really isn’t much to tell yet.” I massaged my forehead.

“Oh, hon, no,” Ardis said, picking up on that sign immediately. “There’s nothing in the world to be sorry for. The heat of the day and unexpected human remains? They’d be enough to send anybody off-kilter.”

Kilt her?” Geneva said. “That does not sound like ‘not much to tell.’ Perhaps Ardis is right and the shock and the heat were too much for you.” She left the mannequin and floated closer. “Would you like me to hold your hand?”

“Do you need to sit down?” Ardis asked.

I looked at Geneva, then at Ardis. Two unlikely peas in a pod, both sweetly concerned.

“I’m okay, but I’ve got three sleuth-type questions for you, Ardis. Who, when, and how?”
 
“Did I hear about the bones? Oh ye of little faith in the Blue Plum jungle drums and texting service. You had two dozen teenagers, on the spot, with phones and itchy fingers. By now it might be quicker to guess who hasn’t heard about the bones.”

I haven’t,” Geneva said.

“Good point,” I said, covering both of them, “and no telling what embellished information is flying around out there because of that. So here are the bare bones.” I paused for Ardis to groan. She sounded uncannily like Geneva. “One of the students, Zach Aikens, found an elbow joint. It might be a whole arm. It might be a whole skeleton. They won’t know until they excavate, but they can’t do that until they get the okay from the medical examiner and the sheriff’s department. That’s according to the archaeologist, Jerry Hicks.”

“How deep did he find it?” Ardis asked.

It was Geneva’s turn to groan. “Please do not turn this into a philosophical discussion, deep or otherwise. Death and bones go together quite naturally, and that is the end of the story.” She paused. “Although, as in my case, it is not always the end of the story, because here I am. Don’t you find that fascinating and worth pondering at greater length? But here are my naturally occurring super-amateur-sleuth questions. Who is this Zach and where did he find these bones?”

“I’ll run and get you a glass of water,” Ardis said. “I don’t like the way you’re standing there staring at nothing.”

“I am insulted,” Geneva said.


So that’s how my volunteer gig is shaping up. And did you notice what hasn’t occurred to Geneva yet? The bones – could they be hers? I think I might need something stronger than that glass of water Ardis went to get. Or maybe some distracting and cheerful stories. How did you spend your summer vacation?            
  

Watch for Kath, Ardis, and Geneva in PLAGUED BY QUILT, coming in November 2014, and available now for pre-order. The award-winning, national-bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries are available in mass market, e-book, large print, and audio wherever books are sold.

Visit Molly MacRae on Facebook and Pinterest, or find her the first Monday of each month at Vintage Cookbooks and Crafts

Friday, August 22, 2014

Just Peachy

By: Olive Greene
Book: MAPLE MAYHEM
Author: Jessie Crockett
Series: The Sugar Grove Mysteries


It seems like everywhere I go lately there are people talking about living in the moment and being present. I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean exactly. I've been present for my whole life and have managed to do it without running around God's Green Earth with a cell phone stuck in my hand so I can send text messages zipping through the air every three seconds.

My advice to the stressed out and unhappy young people out there is to leave the phones at home, grab your loved ones and use this most blessed time of the year to go pick some fruit. Nothing makes you feel as alive as biting into a peach still hot from the sun hitting the tree you just plucked it from.

 Maybe make a day of it and take along a picnic basket full of sandwiches and cake, pickles and cheese and a jug of iced tea. Spread out a blanket at the end of a row of fruit spangled trees and breath in the sweet scents. While you're at it, go all in. Since the family is together why not pick enough fruit to make jam or jelly. Nothing warms the cold winter days that are surely on the way like a sparkling jar of peach jam. It might not be in the moment to plan ahead for winter. It certainly won't be living in the present to be enjoying the memory of a fine day spent picking fruit. But to my way of thinking, the pleasure of the company of loved ones and the joy of a job well done more than makes up for it.

Readers, do you have any fond memories of picking fruit with friends and family? Do you have a favorite jam or preserve recipe? Olive and I would both love to hear about them!

Jessie loves to connect with readers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and on her website.