Friday, January 31, 2014

Elizabeth Dove from the Soup Lover's Mystery Series



When I retired from teaching, I was sure my working life was over.  I really had no idea what I would do with myself, but was I ever wrong!  

For some reason everyone I knew in the village of Snowflake wanted me to run for Mayor! 
Can you believe that?  “Me?  Mayor?” I asked.  “Yes,” they all said.  “You’d be the best Mayor Snowflake ever had.  So, here I am.  Working harder than ever, fighting with the town council most of the time, and tearing out my (white) hair over budget issues.  

But on the plus side, every day is exciting and particularly so since Lucky Jamieson returned to town and took over the By the Spoonful Soup Shop.  You see, I never married or had children and Lucky is the daughter of my two dearest friends – Louis and Martha Jamieson.  Since their deaths, I think of Lucky more and more as the daughter I never had.  I feel very close to her and try to help her out with things as best I can or whenever she needs my good advice.  I guess you could call me an old maid, but if so, I’m a very busy and active one.  At an age when so many women are considered “over the hill” or discounted in some fashion, I’ve never felt so vital and so needed.  

Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  And you’re right.  It was very hard on me when I was an integral part of A Broth of Betrayal, but everything turned out all right in the end and that’s certainly not the end of my story.  I’m lucky enough to be a very important resident of Snowflake and since I’m so close to Lucky and she just seems to attract murders and mysteries, I’m pretty sure I’ll be around in every story.  

What do you think?  Should I have given up and stayed home after I retired from teaching?  Lots of people in town don’t agree with my decisions but I don’t think older women are irrelevant.  I certainly hope not.  I want to be in on the action for as long as I can stick around.  

Visit Connie at www.conniearchermysteries.com
Facebook.com/ConnieArcherMysteries
Twitter:  @SnowflakeVT

Thursday, January 30, 2014

To Whom it May Concern


 Submitted not entirely respectfully by Vera Van Alst, of Victoria Abbott's book collector mysteries.


Dear Sir or Madam:

In regard to your inquiry, I hardly know what to say about Miss Jordan Bingham.  She really isn't at all what I was looking for in an assistant.  She has managed to bring any number of chaotic situations to my home, and I have increased the insurance on my collection of rare first editions to reflect this reality.  Although she seems preoccupied with fashion and that cellular telephone of hers, I must admit Miss Bingham has actually been an asset to Van Alst House.  My collection has grown slightly and unlike her predecessor she can fulfill her duties without getting hit by a train.  

She could, however, learn to be more punctual.  

I must mention that the cats have shown a fondness towards Miss Bingham, and the Signora Panatone too, as evidenced by the extra trips to Miss Bingham's garret with various snacks and mid-morning meals.
  
Perhaps one day she will stop hoarding those silly children's books and join me in collecting something worthy, until then, I suppose I shall allow her the privilege of maintaining my library.

In a word, I would summarize Miss Bingham's work as satisfactory.  You would certainly see what I mean by checking the record in The Christie Curse and The Sayers Swindle.

I hope this correspondence meets your needs.

Sincerely,

Vera Van Alst

as dictated to Jordan Bingham
 




Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between Victoria Maffini and her mother,  Mary Jane Maffini. The Christie Curse, their first book collector mystery, launched in March 2013 and The Sayers Swindle, the second in the series was out in December 2013. Please let them know how you like the cover! Look for The Wolfe Widow in September.

There are lots of ways to reach them. Sign up for their newsletter at www.victoria-abbott.com. There are contests, draws and fun!

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Check them out on twitter and Pinterest where the fun never ends.
www.twitter.com/AbbottMysteries  and  www.pinterest.com/jbinghamkelly

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cooking Up a Story



By Maureen Metzger
"Murder, She Wrote"
(Domestic Malice is #38 in the series)

Hi Murder, She Wrote fans,

Maureen Metzger here. Haven’t heard of me? I’m Sheriff Mort Metzger’s wife. His second wife, I should add. He was married to a nice lady named Adele before me. Adele liked Cabot Cove—it’s such a cute little town; you can’t help but like it—but she missed the bright lights of the big city. Mort had been a member of the NYPD before he moved up to Maine. So after a time in what she liked to call “the country,” Adele decided to move back home to Queens.  Mort was miserable. He thought he was a one-woman man, but then he met me. He calls me his favorite redhead. (Not that he knows that many.) We were married by the mayor of Cabot Cove, and have lived happily ever after, if I do say so myself.
My hair isn't as wild as
Merida's, but close.


I see that lots of you like to bake and cook. Me, too! I’m a big fan of the cooking channels, although I have to admit that not all my kitchen inspirations have been winners. Last year, I entered the blueberry pie contest with a secret recipe I made up. I asked our friend Jessica Fletcher to be my “taster.” Jessica is a mystery writer but she’s a pretty fair baker, too. She was very diplomatic, but I could tell she wasn’t crazy about the combination. It was supposed to be blueberries, avocado, and yogurt. I figured if it worked for a smoothie, why not put it in a pie? But I didn’t have yogurt, so I used cream cheese, and the avocado gave it a strange color. Somehow it never gelled, and ended up pretty soupy.

Needless to say, I didn’t win a ribbon. Jessica did, however. She took third place with her recipe for Aunt Edna’s Whortleberry Pie. “Whortleberry” is just another Maine word for blueberry. There’s also hurtleberry, huckleberry, and bilberry. You can go crazy with the names, but they’re all different kinds of blueberries, some of them wild, some of them cultivated. Most people think “lobster” when they hear you’re from Maine. But did you know that Maine is the number one exporter of low bush blueberries, the wild kind?
 
I won’t give you my secret recipe—I’m still working on it. But Jessica shared her recipe for Aunt Edna’s Whortleberry Pie. You can use blueberries, if you can’t find whortleberries. Whortleberries have dark red flesh and can stain your fingers, teeth, and tongue a delightful purple.

Aunt Edna’s Whortleberry Pie
Have your favorite pastry crust ready. Take 2 cups of whortleberries and cook them down for ten minutes with 2-3 TBS of honey (preferably from Maine) and 1 ½ TBS of cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Let cool and add some fresh berries to the mix before spooning it into the crust. Chill thoroughly.

If, like me, you like to experiment, you can try adding vanilla or cinnamon and nutmeg or lemon zest or butter or sour cream or ice cream or whipped cream.  ;-)

Anyway, I’ll keep on experimenting with recipes. Mort’s a pretty good sport about my cooking. He eats everything I make even when he doesn’t like it. He thinks I don’t see it when he sneaks the rest of his dish into the garbage, but I’m not discouraged. I’ll keep trying and maybe one day, I’ll have a cooking show of my own. Wouldn’t that be fun?

2014 marks 25 years of “Murder, She Wrote” in print. There are 40 books in the series with three more under contract. The books are bylined by Jessica Fletcher, a fictional character, and Donald Bain, a non-fictional character. “Murder, She Wrote” is published by Obsidian, a division of NAL/Penguin.

Do you have a favorite recipe for Whortleberry Pie?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wicked Irish Dancer


By: Vera Matthews

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


So everybody’s worried about me and it’s getting on my nerves. I mean, yes, I’m having a bit of a rough time right now. But who wouldn’t be? My soon-to-be ex-husband is shacked up with a young woman in Charlottesville and my daughter, Elizabeth, and I rarely see him. Not that I want to see too much of him, mind you. But he is her father and she’s only three-years-old, so it’s important that her dad is a part of her life. That’s the part that irks me—and don’t get my Mama going on it, she will talk your ear off about and may even use a few unpleasant words. (Yep, that’s Beatrice, my mother, she just lets it rip sometimes.)
Another hard part for me is leaving my home. We’ve not been able to sell it, so our lawyers got together and thought that renting it would help. So now, I’m moving into to the little apartment about my shop, after a brief stay with Mama and Jon. You see, Bill’s not making as much money as he used to and I’m barely making anything at all, now that wicked Irish dancer Emily McGlashen is in town.
In fact, she’s at the root of a lot of my angst. When she first moved into town, believe it or not, I was thrilled. I thought we might partner on some events, pool our resources, and so on. She’d have none of that. Right from the start, she started spreading brochures around town claiming Irish dancing was better for children than ballet. Well, I never! And I can’t believe I’m losing student over this. So am I stressed? Am I? Hell, yes. But my friends and family don’t need to treat me like a child. I’m a grown-up and I will survive. It sure is nice to have so many people caring about me, but they just need to give me a little space. Do you know what I mean?


P.S. Week from today DEATH OF AN IRISH DIVA is published! One more week to get your pre-orders in! Enter to win a $30 gift card if you pre-order the book, send Mollie proof of purchase to molliebryan@comcast.net or Tweet about it and you're entered!

Check out Mollie Cox Bryan online:
Twitter: @MollieCoxBryan
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/molliecoxbryan/boards/

Monday, January 27, 2014

How to Survive a Montana Winter

by Erin Murphy, from the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, by Leslie Budewitz



In the middle of winter, I am thinking of summer. I love winter—cross country skiing, cocoa by the fireplace, snowshoeing, Mexican coffee by the fireplace, eagle watching on the nature trail, hot buttered rum by the distillery fireplace.

 
Well, you get the idea.

Really, it is beautiful. Outside the French doors of my cabin is a beautiful clump birch and in the morning, when I sit with my coffee, it seems to emerge from the shadows and dance with joy when the light strikes it.

Okay, it’s winter. Indulge me a flight of fancy now and then, and I’ll make that Mexican coffee for you.

Mexican Coffee 

For each drink:
½ ounce tequila
½ ounce kahlua
1 cup hot, strong brewed coffee
1/4 to 1/3 vanilla ice cream
dash of cinnamon, optional

Set out the ice cream. You want it partially melted.

Make the coffee. (How much you’ll need depends on the size of your serving cup. Use clear glass if you can, for presentation.)

Combine the tequila and kahlua in the serving cup. Pour in the coffee, add the ice cream, and dash of cinnamon. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite part of winter? (And don’t tell me “It ends.”)

Death al Dente is the first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, published by Berkley Prime Crime in August 2013. The series is set in a small, lakeside resort community in Northwest Montana, on the road to Glacier Park. Guess where my author, Leslie Budewitz, lives! Watch for Crime Rib, coming in July 2014.


Leslie is also a lawyer and won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books). Visit her at www.LeslieBudewitz.com or www.LawandFiction.com

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Life Just Isn't the Same No More

by Lucille Mazzarella from The Lucille Mystery Series by Peg Cochran


Yo, Lucille Mazzarella here.  I grew up in Jersey—New Providence—as a matter of fact, I still live there only a couple of blocks from where my parents had a house.  The place has become all la-di-da in recent years—it wasn’t like that when I was growing up.  There’s a pretty big crowd of Italian-Americans who all went to Mass on Sunday (this Saturday night stuff was unheard of back then and Mass with guitars?  Forget about it) and the women wore hats or those lace doily type things on their heads.

Sunday was dinner at your grandmother’s house—soup, pasta, meat, salad, fruit and nuts and finally cannolis that we got from this bakery in Maplewood.  My grandparents used to go to this place—I was too young to remember exactly where it was, but it wasn’t far—where my grandfather would pick out a live chicken and  later the next day it would appear on my grandmother’s table for Sunday dinner.  My grandfather made his own wine, and they grew so much basil in their garden the whole place smelled of it all summer long.

Now it’s my turn to host the Sunday dinners.  Only life isn’t the same no more.  What with girls having baby daddies and no one caring if they’re in the family way and not married…I don’t know what the world is coming to.  And now my brother-in-law is dead…murdered!  And the police are trying to say my Frankie did it.

Richie Sambucco is the detective on the case.  Richie and I go way back—back to the time in high school when Frankie and I broke up for two months.  It seems Richie hasn’t forgotten.  And frankly, neither have I.

I sure have my hands full trying to prove that Frankie didn’t murder his brother-in-law and none of my family did either.  Every time we sit down to Sunday dinner we wonder if one of us is a murderer.

Follow Peg on Facebook or chat with her on Twitter @pegcochran.  Visit her website for more info.  Confession Is Murder is published by Beyond the Page Publishing and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other ebook retailers and was a "Nook First Book" --compelling stories from emerging authors.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Get Me Out of Here!

Coming out February 4th!
By Althea Melville, from Sheila Connolly's Scandal in Skibbereen (County Cork Mystery #2)


What the heck am I doing in this hind-end-of-nowhere town in Ireland? It’s called Leap because some idiot jumped over a stream (well, his horse did the jumping) a century or two ago when he was running from somebody or other (there’s this plaque in the lunch place that explains it all, except I don’t care), and instead of naming this village after him, they name it Leap because he didn’t break his neck doing it, although he should have.

Can you tell I don’t want to be here? I’m Althea Melville, and I work at a major museum in New York City, and the only reason I’m here is to find this important painting and drag it back to New York to put it in this exhibit I’m organizing. Except nobody knows where the painting is, or if it even exists. On the other hand, if I don’t bring it back, that’s the end of my job—the museum’s money for my position has run out, and only this hail-Mary  touchdown will save me.

And this is the last place I can think of to look—I’ve tried all the rest in Ireland. Most of the people in this soggy country have been ignorant peasants forever, ruled by a small group of rich English people. All those rich English people liked to hang big fancy oil paintings on the walls of their big important manor houses, in case those starving peasants hadn’t figure out who was boss.

Leap has the last manor house that might fit—it’s old enough, and the family who’s lived here since sixteen-whatever had the right connections. So here I am, and all I need is to get inside the manor house and look for the thing.

Except there have been a few problems. First I ticked off the lady of the manor, some dotty old woman who was about a hundred and ten.  And then somebody killed the gardener. Who was the only person who work there apart from a kind of dim couple who live somewhere in the back and take care of feeding the old lady and making sure the building doesn’t fall down. Talk about end of the line!

But the murder is making it really hard for me to find that painting, and I think they might even suspect me of killing the gardener.  Ridiculous, isn’t it? So not my style. At least some of the other people around here have been willing to help me, like the woman who runs the pub, Maura whatever her name is—but she’s American, so I’d expect her to help. But she has this artist friend Gillian who might actually have talent, and Gillian has a boyfriend from Dublin who is seriously hot, and who just happens to be the nephew of the dotty old lady of the manor…so maybe there’s a way to get in there after all.

I really, really hope that painting is there, because I want to get out of here, with that painting!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Who Says Nothing Ever Happens in a Small Town?

by Olivia Greyson, owner of The Gingerbread House, from THE COOKIE CUTTER SHOP MYSTERIES, by Virginia Lowell.

Whenever I think I can predict my future life, the universe laughs at me.

At eighteen, I couldn’t wait to escape from my little hometown of Chatterley Heights, Maryland. I moved to Baltimore, destined, I was sure, for an exciting career in business, marriage to a wonderful man, children… the whole plate of cookies. I did get a business degree, and I married a Resident in Thoracic Surgery. Then the recession hit. I got a job in a grocery store, my husband turned out to be a controlling jerk, and no children arrived. So much for expectations.

So I moved back to Chatterley Heights minus the (now ex-) husband. I figured I’d be bored in a week, but I almost looked forward to that. A quiet, uneventful life sounded heavenly. I assumed there would be no dating opportunities in a small town, and I’d probably never marry again. Okay by me. However… Now I’m dating the Chatterley Heights Sheriff, Del Jenkins!

When I left Baltimore, I was tired of worrying about crime in the city. Small towns are quiet, uneventful, safe… right? Oh sure, I’d read all of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries, and Cabot Cove must have lost its entire population six times over, but none of that was real.

Wow, was I ever wrong… once again. So far, Maddie and I have helped solve four murders, and now we’ve become embroiled in yet another. Del does get a bit cranky when we start following clues that might lead us into danger. Too bad. He can’t deny that we’ve helped him bring four murderers to justice. Lucky for me, Del does not possess my ex-husband’s towering ego and utter self-absorption. I do sort of like it that Del worries about me, but let’s keep that between ourselves.

Life has a habit of ignoring my expectations, but at least I now realize the future doesn’t always disappoint. Sometimes life hands you a plate of decorated lemon cutout cookies when you were expecting burned toast. Has that ever happened to you?


Watch for COOKIES AND SCREAM, the fifth book in the Cookie Cutter Shop Mysteries, in July 2014. Meanwhile, visit Virginia Lowell at www.virginialowell.com

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Portrait of a Librarian



Portrait of a Librarian
by Thea Green from the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries by Molly MacRae

I love everything about books. I love reading them, buying them, lending them. I love what they do for a room and what they’ll do for the room between your ears. I love repairing books when they’ve been read too exuberantly by new readers or when they’ve become fragile after a long life of being read lovingly over and over and over. I also love quotations about books. Here are three of my favorites:

Lucy Maude Montgomery
  
 “I am simply a book drunkard.” ~ L.M. Montgomery

 “A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” ~ Carl Sagan

 “Books! The best weapons in the world!” ~ Doctor Who

 

I especially love children’s books, and one of the best parts of my job is putting the right book into a child’s hands. Talk about working magic!

Last week I handed The Picture of Dorian Gray to Zach Aikens, a teenager who shows up at the library here in Blue Plum from time to time. The book isn’t new, but it was new to Zach. He thanked me, in a minimal way, and went on his way. Today he came back, admitted he liked the book, and then he asked an interesting question – out of any artist in the world, who would I want to paint my formal portrait? A formal portrait is not something I have ever wondered about. But I was unpacking a carton of new picture books at the time, and Zach’s question set me to thinking. So I asked him if I could change the question slightly, and then both of us answer it. He agreed with a minimal shrug. Here’s what I asked – out of any children’s book illustrator in the world, who would you choose for your formal portrait?

Zach’s been over in the picture book corner for the last hour, now, looking for his portraitist. He started out on his feet, flipping pages of random books. Ten minutes later he sat in one of the little chairs at the pint-sized table. Now he’s cross-legged on the floor reading Library Lion to a three-year-old who’s sitting next to him and a two-year-old who plopped down in his lap. It might be awhile before I hear his answer.

The cat in the hatThunder RoseBut what’s my answer? Hmm. Much as I like their books, probably not David Shannon with all those pointy teeth, or Lois Ehlert with her bright geometrics. What about Maurice Sendak? Or Garth Williams? I love their work. But I think, were I so lucky to have my portrait done by a children’s illustrator, I would choose Kadir Nelson. That man creates luminous pictures. His people shine. They’re heroic. Yeah, a formal portrait by Kadir Nelson. That would be sweet. I choose him. Or maybe Dr. Seuss.

How about you? Of any children’s book illustrator in the world, who would you choose to create your formal portrait?

Thea Green and the other characters in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries appeared most recently in DYEING WISHES. The series is available in mass market, e-book, and audio wherever books are sold. They return in SPINNING IN HER GRAVE coming out in March 2014 (now available for pre-order.)

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