Friday, April 29, 2016

If you have a cool (or cold) night--this is perfect.

While we're already deep into spring, Mother Nature doesn't seem to have noticed. We had frost earlier this week, which gave me a hankering for some good English comfort food.  I read a bunch of recipes for Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie and US recipes just weren't going to cut it, so I went to the BBC to find 3 different recipes--and all were quite different. I picked one and had to make some adaptations.  (Example:  Finding ground lamb around here was going to be a BIG problem, so I decided to go for Cottage Pie, which uses mince ... er, I mean hamburger.)

Last summer I found a really cool, OLD casserole dish that I knew would be perfect for this dish.
Casserole dish Here're the ingredients:

 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
 1 large onion, finely chopped
 2 medium carrots, diced
 2 stalks celery
 1 cup frozen peas
 1 pound hamburger
 1 tablespoon plain flour
 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
 3 tablespoons tomato puree or sauce
 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
 16 fluid ounces of or beef stock
 salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the mashed potatoes
 1½ pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into halves or quarters
 ¼ cup milk
 2-3 tablespoons butter
 1 egg yolk
 In a large frying pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and fry the hamburger, stirring, until browned all over. While the meat is frying, break up any lumps with the back of the spoon.  Add the flour and stir. Mix well and add the thyme, Worcestershire sauce and stir. Set aside.

 Boil the potatoes.
 Deglaze the hamburger pan with a little stock. and saute the onions, carrots, celery, and stock. Cook until the onions and carrots are soft.  (About ten minutes).  Add the peas and the tomato sauce.

 Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Add the cooked hamburger to the veggies and bring to a high simmer, adding a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring regularly.  Once it's all heated through, put it in the casserole dish.
For the mashed potatoes, boil the potatoes until tender (about 10 minutes). Drain, add the milk, butter and egg yolk, then mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
 Spread the mashed potatoes on top, smooth over and drag a fork over the top for decoration.
 Put the dish into the oven and cook until the surface is golden-brown. (About 40 minutes.)
 And here's a picture of my dinner.

 Serves 4 good sized portions.  Yum!  Enjoy! (And you just know this recipe is going to end up in one of my books, right?)

 What's your idea of comfort food on a COLD day???

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How I got me a couple of horses

A running gag in the Booktown Mystery series I write (as Lorna Barrett) is that the protagonist, Tricia Miles, is a jinx. She keeps finding dead bodies, and some bad luck, too, and the nickname has stuck.

Could I be a jinx?  Maybe ... I'll tell you why. But first, a little history.

My aunt and uncle are animal people.  For as long as I can remember, they have always adopted pets nobody wants--usually old dogs, cats, and in the past--and present--they have also sponsored retired racehorses. They donate monthly to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.  (You may already feel you know my aunt.  She's become a character in my Booktown Mysteries:  Michele Fowler.)

Having read just about every book Dick Francis wrote about horse racing, the idea of helping retired racing horses fascinated me.  We have a couple of race courses near where I live, and I know that the life of a horse who isn't in the running for the Kentucky Derby can be pretty miserable. That's why I so liked the idea of sponsoring horses who have worked hard and deserve a rest.

I recently got the Cracker Box Palace (Farm Animal Rescue and Sanctuary) newsletter (you can read it here). I've been donating to them for quite a few years now, watching as they started out as a small rescue entity, and growing until now they are able to do a lot more good work. Unfortunately, there are far too many animal cruelty cases in Wayne County, NY, but Cracker Box Palace always steps up and takes as many of the animals as they can. Not only do they have horses, but pigs, goats, chickens, rabbits and often end up taking in cats and dogs, too.

The last newsletter had pictures of a couple of older horses. Tuna and Buddy. When I saw Tuna's picture, it was love at first sight.  His owner had died and he and a bunch of cats and dogs ended up at Cracker Box Palace. I knew when I saw Tuna's picture that I had to sponsor him.  I was feeling flush that day (had just gotten paid my twice-yearly check from my publisher), so I decided to not only sponsor Tuna, but Buddy, too.

Tuna was 24 years old and had a heart murmur. I figured that because he was so old, maybe nobody would want to sponsor him. So I wrote the check and sent it off.  My family's cottage is just a few miles from the farm, so I figured I might buy a big bag of carrots and go visit my horses next month.

But I got a phone call from the director of the farm on Tuesday saying that Tuna had passed away on Saturday, which was a shock to all since he was doing well. He was gaining weight and had just had his hooves trimmed. It broke my heart to hear the news. They have a horsey graveyard and Tuna was buried there.  : ( 

Hearing this news got me to thinking. Am I like Tricia? Was my sponsoring poor Tuna  the kiss of death? (I sure hope not.)

Fortunately, Buddy is doing well, and they will transfer my sponsorship to another horse. His name is Amp and he's a retired racehorse. His windpipe collapsed and he could no longer race. (Horses are a lot more delicate than most people think.) Because of this, he can't "ney!" Cherie said it sounds funny when he tries. I am happy to help Amp have a happy retirement. Too many former race horses end up as horse meat in Japan. (I kid you not!)

So, now my job is to find a place that sells carrots in bulk. I will try to visit my horses next month, and when I do, I'll take pictures and share them with you.

Have you ever thought about sponsoring a horse?  Do you donate to animal rescue sites?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Need an easy appetizer?

I must confess, that I have never eaten a fresh apricot. They just don't seem to be available where I live (or if they, the grocery stores hide them from me), but I have eaten dried apricots.  (Yum!)  And here's a nice recipe you might want to make for a Happy Hour snack. I've included it in my cookbook, RECIPES TO DIE FOR: A Victoria Square Cookbook.

Apricot-file641340001417-smallerBacon-Wrapped Apricots
1 package (14 ounces) dried apricots
½ cup whole almonds
1 pound sliced bacon
¼ cup apple jelly
2 tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC, Gas Mark 5). Fold each apricot around an almond. Cut bacon strips into thirds. Wrap a strip around each apricot and secure it with a toothpick.  Place on two foil-lined ungreased baking trays. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until the bacon is crisp, turning once. In a small saucepan, combine the jelly and soy sauce and cook and stir over low Recipes-To-Die-For-smheat for 5 minutes. Remove apricots from the baking pan and set on paper towels to drain. Serve with the sauce for dipping.

Yield:  Approximately 4 ½ dozen

Do you have a recipe using apricots you'd like to share?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bet you didn't know I could write one of these ...

It's a fact: 2015 was not a good writing year for me. In fact, it wasn't a good year at all. (The end of 2014 wasn't much better.)  My mother got sick and died. That put a huge crimp in my writing life, and she would have been appalled to know she was the cause. Every day she would ask me: "Did you get your words today?"

So, this year I've been busting my buns to turn that around. So far this year I've finished a couple of writing projects, and I'm currently juggling two others, with two more on the schedule to be finished by year''s end.

What's my latest?  Off Script, which is currently up for pre-order and will be available on May 24th.
This is something I'm not known for writing: a police procedural.

It’s 1979. Before cell phones. Before computers. Before the World Wide Web. LA Detectives Robbie Howard and Danny Wallace solve crimes the old fashioned way, by relentless legwork. Multiple deaths on the lot of a movie studio look like your average murder-suicide. At least that’s what someone wants everyone to think. It takes dogged determination for Howard and Wallace to write off a Hollywood killer.

iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Smashwords
Kindle US | Kindle Worldwide

I hope you'll give Robbie and Danny a chance.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Don't miss this terrific giveaway!

To celebrate spring, I’ve teamed up with Storytellers Unlimited and over 35 fantastic mystery authors to give two readers more than 35 cozy mysteries, and a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner!

 I’m giving away my book . . . With Baited Breath.

Spring INto Mystery WBB graphic

Tori Cannon and her grandfather return from her grandma’s funeral to find a body jammed in one of their derelict motel units. The victim had no enemies except for maybe the rich woman who wants to level his eyesore of a home, a resentful daughter, and friends who were anything but. Tori’s BFF, Kathy, arrives to help spruce up the place and they are soon mixed up in the deadly consequences that murder entails. Can they save the business and find a murderer or will they, too, sleep with the fishes?

 Enter the promotion by clicking here

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Happy Book Day to my friends!

It's always a happy day when friends have new books out.

Breach of crust-smBREACH OF CRUST by Ellery Adams
Plate up another slice of Southern magic and mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Lemon Pies and Little White Lies . . .


Ella Mae LeFaye’s delicious pies are still drawing long lines—as well as the attention of Beatrice Burbank, president of the Camellia Club, a philanthropic organization comprised of high-society Southern ladies from the charming and affluent town of Sweet Briar, Georgia. To ensure the success of their centennial dessert cookbook, Bea hires Ella Mae to teach the tasty tricks of her trade to the club’s members at their annual retreat. Eager to work on new recipes for customers with food allergies and dietary restrictions, Ella Mae readily agrees.

But when Ella Mae finds Bea’s body floating in Lake Havenwood, she wonders what she’s gotten herself mixed up in. Someone certainly wanted Bea to eat humble pie, and the retreat offers no shortage of unsavory characters, including Ella Mae’s longtime nemesis, Loralyn Gaynor. Ella Mae definitely doesn’t need magic to tell her she must find the killer before someone else gets panned.
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kindle US | Kindle Worldwide | Nook | Kobo | iBooks

Breaking for bodies-smBREAKING FOR BODIES by Duffy Brown
Evie Bloomfield puts the pedal to the metal—in the latest Cycle Path mystery from the national bestselling author of Geared for the Grave.

Moving from Los Angeles to small, picturesque Mackinac Island to work in a bike shop might seem crazy, but Evie knows it’s the best decision she’s ever made. That’s not to say she’s gotten rid of all her stress; after all, the upcoming Lilac Festival has everyone in town riding in circles.

But things really go downhill when a ferry full of tourists—including Evie’s friend Fiona’s former boss, the editor of a sleazy rag in LA—arrives on the island. No one knows why Peephole Perry came all the way to Mackinac, but things aren’t looking good for Fiona when Peep is found dead. Now Evie has to gear up and get a grip on the truth if she wants to clear her friend’s name...
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kindle US | Kindle Worldwide | Nook
Kobo | iBooks

Friday, April 1, 2016

Need a focus group

I'm so lucky to have good friends. My Storytellers Unlimited colleagues, Kelly McClymer and Shirley Hailstock, are just as concerned as me that my Telenia series isn't doing well. First of all, much as I love these books, my usual audience isn't as enamored, so I definitely need to target a different demographic.  (Makes me sad, but it's the truth.)

They think I need to get new covers, and I agree. I'm just not sure where to go.

Shirley is pretty darn talented with Photoshop and did a mock up of the cover. (Of course, if we go with it, the sky would be green and the vegetation would be rust-colored.)

Shirley's mock-up is on the left and the original cover is on the right. What do these covers say to you? If you don't know the background of the books, what do you think is happening? (If you click on the pictures, you'll see them full size.)

I really appreciate your input. Thanks!

Shirley's take on Telenia THRESHOLD-med