Friday, September 18, 2020

Happy Book Day to Gayle Leeson

Happy Book Day to my Victoria Square co-author, Gayle Leeson. Check out her latest Down South Cafe Mystery, Fruit Baskets and Holiday Caskets on sale now. (Don't worry, the Amazon paperback edition will be arriving in a couple of days--you can order from Barnes & Noble now!)

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Thursday, August 20, 2020

A Deadly Deletion

YAY! It's been almost six months since I got a call from my agent telling me that Berkley was interested in at least two more Booktown Mysteries. But then the pandemic hit and everything went on hold. But I'm happy to announce that I signed the contract yesterday. Whew! What a relief. I've been working on the book for more than a month now and while I knew how the cliffhanger would be solved, and I knew who the new victim would be, I was shocked by some of the other things that have already happened. I only have four complete chapters written, but I moved ahead and have written at least 20 partial scenes and now I'm starting to connect them. I pretty much know where the story is going, and it's great that it's finally starting to gel. (It usually takes another 10,000 words before that happens.)

Even though the contract was (very, very) late, they've already had a cover conference. My editor is a doll and he let me have input (which a lot of authors don't get). He made some suggestions and let me choose. I think it will be super cute.

So, what do you think?

Friday, July 24, 2020

Saving Kathy's House

As most of you know, I write the Lotus Bay Mysteries (and not often enough). When I started the series, I based it on a real place.

Over about a decade, I'd watched what I began to call "Kathy's house" (the basis for Swans Nest Inn) fall into disrepair. It made me sad. It made me want to write about rescuing it. Of course, I needed a BIGGER house to act as the inn, so... I just added more rooms. A lot more rooms--and a taller attic. (I figure Swans Nest Inn is at least double the size of "Kathy's house.") The grass was never cut (the picture above was taken in early spring), and it just got shabbier and shabbier. And then one day, the dreaded RED X went up. That meant, if it caught on fire, it wasn't safe for firefighters to enter.  (Ruh-roh!)

Then, two years ago, a FOR SALE sign went up. Yay! Someone was going to save Kathy's house.  Only nothing happened for quite a while. In fact, there's also a commercial building on the lot, and the new owner worked on it before the house. It was finished last summer and looks quite nice. They finally painted (or stained) the house last fall. I was surprised he choose charcoal gray. (Not my choice.) But the house was finally starting to get some love.

The house is by no means finished. And where I took it from four apartments back to a home, the new owner is taking the home and making it a duplex. It looks quite a bit different, but actually very nice.

How do I know about all this?  I met the new owner last week. He's a surveyor and was surveying a cottage near ours. Our neighbor works with him and as I was packing the car, I was called over to speak to him. Not only had our neighbor read the Lotus Bay Mysteries, but he'd loaned the books to the surveyor and his wife. I told him I'd added a big porch, and apparently it's in the works, although I'm not sure if it'll be in the front or the back of the house.

It was so nice to hear about the love and care that's going into the restoration. (You can't see it, but there's a lovely picnic area to the left.)

Don't you just love happy endings?

Friday, June 19, 2020

Welcome to the pool

Yesterday we opened our pool for the summer. It's always a potentially frightening event.  Will the water be clear or murky?  Will the bottom be full of dead worms who wiggled their way under the cover, fell in the water and drown?'s that liner doing?

We were relieved that upon peeling back the cover that the water was sparkling clear. (Whew!)

Last week, while poking around in our basement looking for something else, I came across a plastic yellow duck.

Hmm. Where did that come from?  Neither Mr. L nor I remember ever buying this duck. Did someone give it to us?  Was it conjured up by rubbing a lamp and asking a genie for a wish? Who knows! But it's now in our pool, floating around and looking a little lonely. Should I try to find her a friend? Many friends?  Where would I find it/them?

Since the pool was looking pretty spiffy, I decided to make a video using it as a background. What do you think? (I like the bird tweeting in the background.)

So, yup, if you'be been waiting for the paperback of A KILLER EDITION, it'll be available on June 30th.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Give Sabina A Chance

It's only been 15 years in the making.

Back in the day (which means before I was published in novel-length), I experimented with several different genres. I started out with hard-boiled suspense (the Jeff Resnick series), cozy mystery (the Victoria Square Mysteries) and women's fiction.

Sabina Reigns started out as women's fiction, but then I wrote three chapters as a cozy mystery (for a contest, where it didn't even place), and then went back to women's fiction. But then I got contracts for Booktown and Victoria Square from Berkley Books and the Sabina manuscript went back under the bed. But I never forgot her.

This winter, when I was between projects, Sabina came out from under the bed and I spent two months rewriting it. I've come a long way in 15 years and so Sabina and her cohorts have a much deeper, more sobering story to tell. But there're still some elements of fun as Sabina makes her journey from housewife to successful entrepreneur. It's also a story about mothers and daughters and how those relationships change.

The book will be available in print and ebook on September 4th. (The print edition isn't yet available to pre-order, but if you read ebooks, it can be pre-ordered now.)

Sabina Reigns Miller had it all: a wealthy husband, a beautiful home, a daughter at a great college. Without warning seven words blow the bottom off her world. "I've met someone else-and she's pregnant." Her husband of twenty years wants a divorce so he can move his mistress into their former residence. Although Sabina loses her comfortable life, she refuses to fall on her face. Her ex-husband's girlfriend may be living in their house, but Sabina has interior design skills and a bucket of dreams.
Can she rebound from the unexpected change, stick to her principles, help out a friend, and find someone to love again?
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Will you give Sabina Reigns a chance?

Monday, June 8, 2020

Saying Good-Bye to a Reader

Last week, I got a note from a reader of my Booktown Mysteries. She wrote:  "I can't bring myself to read on. In every good series there are twists and turns, good & bad,,but killing off (SPOILER) has broken my heart."

A writer never wants to hear that a reader has given up on her work. (Yeah, ouch!) But despite losing this reader, there is a silver lining to this dark cloud.

I'm sorry she feels that way ... but you know, the fact that I was able to make her care so much about that character means I succeeded as a writer.  I brought life to that character. He meant something to her, something that will stay with her for a while. But that also means that she cared more for him than you do for Tricia, Angelica and the rest of the Booktown characters, and that makes me sad.

I'm also sad to know how she isn't interested in how the characters will survive this turn of events. 

I'd hate for her to miss the next book in the series. I wrote that book while my mother was in hospice dying. It kept me going when I felt like I'd lost everything. How I ever wrote such a fun book during that terrible time still amazes me.

Of course, there're more hard times ahead for Tricia and the other Booktown characters because that's what storytelling is all about: conflict. When there's no conflict, there's no story.

I thanked her for reading the first x-number of Booktown Mysteries, and I invited her to check out the other six series I write under my real names. I'm pretty sure she won't give them a chance, but that's her decision. When I write a book, the most important thing I consider is characterization, even over plot. Apparently, that's what keeps readers coming back for more. 

Have you ever given up on a series in the middle? If so, why?

Monday, June 1, 2020

Summer with the good and the bad

Just about everyone around the world has had their lives impacted by Covid-19. Here's my list of things that we won't be doing or having done.

  • No flowers: we usually go to the local nursery and buy flowers for our urns.
  • Nobody to clean the house every two weeks.
  • No one to help me in the garden
  • Not so much meat for supper
  • No interacting with friends and family
  • No trips to the ice cream place
  • No yard sales (oh, boy--for a thrifter, that's a BIGGIE)
But then there have been some good things, too.

  • Our pansies from last year self-seeded, so we do have some flowers after all
  • I  baked bread for the first time
  • I've been baking quick breads (to use for Mr. L's breakfasts)
  • We've been doing more jigsaw puzzles (well, mostly ones we've done before)
  • We're still able to patronize our favorite restaurant via takeout
  • I've been able to stay on my diet despite bread and quick breads (15 lbs down) 
  • I've finished two books and a short story and started another two books
  • I've got everything I need to repaint my kitchen cabinets 
  • Curbside pick-ups & home deliveries
  • The mail still comes 6 days a week

So while this won't be the summer we all wanted, maybe it can still be a good summer.  How will you make your summer special?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Mixing things up

It's Tuesday. I have to look at the calendar or the computer to remind myself what day it is. I also find that I'm forgetting to do stuff I want to do because--SQUIRREL!--I get distracted, which seems pretty easy these days.

Like I was going to post here yesterday, and then...I ended up emptying the cat box and did a few loads of laundry and then it was bedtime. But during those moments between the hauling the clothes from the washer to the dryer, I decided I needed to go back to playing house. By that, I mean doing a better job of cleaning (boo boo hoo! I miss the cleaning ladies who came twice a month to blitz the place), play with my new Dyson (currently still in the box), and get out my spring/summer decorations. But I'm not sure what boxes they are in so...I need to do an inventory. I need to put things away and take other things out. I'm inspired by those French Chateau videos I've been watching (now up to three channels).

If the sun ever comes out, I'll be out in the garden (self-sewn Pansies have suddenly appeared in the urns!!!!!). I need to make every day a red-letter day. Something special needs to happen so that every day isn't just the same.

What would make your day a red-letter day?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Squash seeds roasting in a hot oven

Welcome to WONDERFUL Wednesday.

Are you baking today? I think instead of baking, I'll be roasting (which is kind of the same thing as the oven is involved.) All last fall, I saved my squash seeds.

Today, I'm going to roast them. (Did I mention we've run out of happy hour snacks?) Once they thaw, I'm going to toss them on a tray with some Wegmans basting oil (OMG it's yummy) a little kosher salt, and cook them until they're done. (I have no idea how long that will take. I'll keep checking on them.) Taking them out of the fridge/freezer gives me a little more room.

I've been rummaging in the freezers and finding stuff I didn't know we had. Like bagels. Clam strips. A single chocolate-chip scone. Wayyyyy more hamburger buns than we need and no burgers. It's like a treasure hunt every time I open the door!

Are your cupboards and freezer a treasure trove you didn't realize you had?

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Love those slow-cooker recipes!

I'm on a recipe roll.

Mr. L and I save the newspaper to read in the evenings. After a day at the computer, we just want to chill out with an adult beverage and the paper. We don't read our local paper (OMG--what a disaster), so every day Mr. L goes to the grocery store and picks up the Buffalo News.

The last thing I want to do after relaxing for an hour or so is get up and cook dinner. That's why I love my slow cooker. Toss everything in and six to eight hours later you've got your evening meal read to serve. And one-pot (or crock) meals are a breeze to clean up, too. (Okay, usually the crock soaks overnight and then it gets washed and put away in the morning.)

One of the easiest recipes I make is Slow Cooker Kielbasa and Beans. It literally couldn't be easier.

1 pound smoked turkey kielbasa, cut into coins
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
2 cans (16 ounces each) beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup chicken broth
Pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients to your slow cooker and switch it to the "high" setting.  Give it a stir and cover. If using raw onions and peppers, let it cook for 5-6 hours. If using frozen onions and peppers, give them a quick thaw in the microwave. Heat on high for 2 to 3 hours. (Everything is pretty much already cooked, so you're really only heating it up.)

Yield:  6 servings

It doesn't matter what kind of beans you use. I've used just kidney beans, and I've switched it around using cannellini, garbanzo, black-eyed peas, great northern beans--anything I had in the cupboard--and it still turns out great.

Another great thing about this recipe: if you use turkey kielbasa, there's very little fat, it tastes great, and has very few calories.  Win-win!

Have you got any easy-peasy slow cooker recipes you'd like to share?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Love me a good SPUD

A few weeks ago, Mr. L and I tried a new-to-us restaurant for lunch. I ordered a Cuban sandwich on our first visit. It wasn't the best I'd tasted. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. Mr. L chose a brisket sandwich and he raved about it. He wanted to go back. Me? Not so much. But before we went last week, I went through the menu at least three times and could not find anything I wanted. The only thing that vaguely interested me was a loaded potato. I love baked potatoes and when I'm at home, I usually only have butter and a lot of fresh-ground black pepper. Because I'm trying to lose weight, I ordered it with the grilled chicken, but without the sour cream and cheese ... but that's mainly because I don't care for sour cream or cheese. (Okay, I'm a bit of a picky eater.)

It was GOOD. So good, that days later, I was still thinking about it. And last week, we went back for our third try. (Mr. L and I go out to lunch twice a week. Yeah, not really a good thing if you're trying to lose weight, but I'm down seven pounds with intermittent fasting, could be worse.)

The bartender messed up my martini (ick--he made it dirty, dumping in olive juice), not a good omen but they replaced it right away. And when it was time to order, I had made up my mind that I would try the potato topped with pulled pork instead of grilled chicken. (Just to try it out, you understand.) But when it came my turn to order I found myself blurting "with prime rib."

Where did that come from?

It's been more than a year since I had prime rib. Besides ground beef in a burger, taco, or a burrito, I'm just not a fan of beef and if I eat it once a month, that's a lot. EXCEPT for prime rib. I really LOVE it, but it's so expensive, we only have it once a year, usually on my Mum's birthday--even though she's been gone for nearly five years. We used to invite her (and Dad) over for supper on her birthday and always served prime rib. (We always had lobster on Dad's birthday.)

OMG -- that loaded potato was even better then the one the week before. The beef was cooked to perfection, and though there wasn't a lot of it, it was the perfect amount and beautifully seasoned.

We're planning on going back this week and guess what I intend to order?

P.S. These pictures don't do it justice. I will have to take a photo the next time we go.

What do you like on your loaded spud?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

No one's talking

Mr. L and I go out on a date for lunch at least once a week and the one thing we notice EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. is that most who go out to eat are seated and immediately whip out their phones. Sometimes they only put the phone down between bites. Last week, we went out to eat and the man and woman (who were older than me) sat down and the man immediately whipped out his phone. I could see them through their entire meal. He was on his phone for nearly the whole time they were there. The only conversation during that 45-minute span was when they were ordering. Otherwise, the woman sat there looking around and not speaking...BECAUSE HER HUSBAND WAS ON THE PHONE.

I expect that kind of behavior from younger people, so it was surprising to see it from an older gentleman.

More than 20 years ago, one of my friends confided to us that she told her husband, "I'm not going out if there will be no conversation between us." He didn't have a phone to whip out, but he was reluctant to speak to her when out. So, they stayed home.

I don't get it.  Mr. L and I have been together for (mumble, mumble) years. In all those years, we have NEVER run out of conversation. We both work from home. We talk all day long (albeit sometimes shouting between our offices--which are connected), but we have never run out of things to say to each other.

I feel sorry for these people. If you have nothing to say to each other--why are you still together?  Go find someone (friend, family member--whatever) to talk to.

What's your opinion on this?

Monday, January 20, 2020

I'm Rocking the Cat

My cat, Poppy, is a rambunctious little girl. Her favorite thing to do is to "flip and flop." She loves to roll around on the rug looking as cute as a button.

Unfortunately, she likes to flip and flop on my lap, too, and it never ends well. But I've finally found a trick to keep that wiggle-worm still. I rock her--like a baby. When I'm at the computer and she jumps onto my lap, I scoop her into my arms and we sit and have a cuddle.  This has turned our mom-and-girl time into a much more pleasant experience for both of us. (When I'm sitting on the couch, Poppy likes me to have an afghan on my lap. She'll liable to sit with me more often when I've got an afghan.)

As it turns out, Poppy likes to watch YouTube videos almost as much as I do. Just this week we've watched episodes of Restaurant Impossible and What's for Tea? (Love What's for Tea? It's about Scottish woman, named Sheryl, who cooks dinner (sharing the recipes) often in a crock pot, or a grocery store haul, and she ends her videos with beautiful shots of Scotland. (I love her!) This is the kind of food I grew up with. (My mother wasn't Scottish, but my Dad was half Scot.) This is the kind of food I want to make.  (Poppy is content with 9 Lives.)

But Poppy isn't just a mama's girl. Lately, she's developed an independent streak. Instead of spending all her time with us in our offices, she's been snoozing on the couch or behind the living room drape. Go figure. But our times together are much more calm (with a lot less biting) than they used to be just because I finally figured out what she needed as opposed to what she wants.

Does your pet require you to adapt to its needs?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Drink milk on National Milk Day

I like milk. I like whole milk (which tastes like melted ice cream to me--and I rarely have it), 2% milk, and even skim (now called fat-free) milk. Not such a fan of chocolate milk, but I like hot chocolate (made with milk).

I don't like pseudo milk. (Think almond, oatmeal, etc.)
Are you a milk fan?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

It's Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve!

The Brookview Inn is beautifully decorated for the season and will be booked solid tonight--and tomorrow, the dining room will host a lovely holiday brunch.

Have you ever spent Christmas away from home?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Would you wear this sweater?

Today is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.

Do you have a holiday sweater? I have one--but I didn't buy it. After my mother passed, I acquired hers. It's H-E-A-V-Y and so far I haven't worn it, but I'm planning on wearing it tomorrow when Mr. L takes me out to lunch to celebrate the season.

Can you imagine my character, Tricia, wearing one?  I honestly can't. I can, however, see Angelica wearing one. I think her granddaughter, Sofia, would love it. And I can see her buying them the same sweater.

Do you have an ugly Christmas sweater?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

National Hard Candy Day

Are you a hard candy fan? I like hard candy. Sometimes I'm in the mood for peppermints and sometimes for butterscotch.

What hard candy do you prefer?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Not what I needed to find

Yup, it's flat as a pancake.

Yesterday, I went out to the garage to get the car and run an errand and noticed that my bumper was a lot lower than Mr. L's car. (We we have the same cars.) Uh-oh! A flat. In all the years I've been driving, this is only my second flat tire.

Unfortunately, after Mr. L called AAA, the towing company got an emergency call from the cops, so we had to wait over two and a half hours. By the time the car got to Goodyear, they had finished work for the day (they're short-staffed) so Angelica (that's my car's name) had to stay overnight. Hopefully it was just a nail. That's covered by AAA. If the tire needs to be replaced (It's in good shape, so I hope not), then it's on me. So, I need to wait until later this morning to run my errands (hopefully, the last of my holiday shopping).

Has anything kept you from getting stuff done during this chaotic month?

Monday, December 16, 2019

On my Christmas Tree

Because this is our girls' first Christmas (with us), we decided to go light on the Christmas tree decorations, although they've been up more than a week now and the girls have paid very little attention to the tree. That said, we only have about half the ornaments on the tree, but of course, I had to have most of my favorites.

After my mother passed, I got first pick of her ornaments. She found this little cutie at a garage sale. She felt sorry for it because it was naked--so what did she do?  She found a piece of net and made this angel a skirt. Every time I think about this  angel, I smile because Mum gave her something to wear.  She seems much happier that way. It's a must that she goes on the tree every year.

I always loved this little angel. Maybe it's the patches on her little outfit.  For many years she was on my mother's tree, but about ten years ago I begged, sat up pretty, and my mother gave her to me.

My mother had a thing for dolls and had many of them on her tree. I only kept the ones I like, and I liked her.

Another of my mother's tree dolls.  This one is is dressed all in paper, which makes her very fragile. I wrap her well when it's time to take down the tree.

You're probably asking, "Don't you have any ornaments of your own?" I sure do. (Oh, boy do I!) This little kitty angel was a gift from my boyfriend, who a year later became my husband. She's been on our tree since the beginning.

Every year, my mother would go to a quilting conference near Syracuse. Every year she would bring me back something. (One year she brought me a mug of a kitty in a shopping bag because my cat, Kate, loved to play in shopping bags. (Still have the mug, although it's pretty faded by now.) One year, she brought me this pretty paper bow. It sits near the top of my tree and gets packed away in the original pretty paper bag it came home in, plus it's own gold-tone (Forman's) box. (Did I mention that I often buy old boxes of now-defunct department stores at yard sales?)

The first Christmas I had my own tree, I bought this little pink paper angel at Penney's. Along with her were (and I still have them) a paper lumberjack (yes, really--with a little paper ax--you can see him in the left-hand corner of the first photo above--he looks like Santa) and a paper clown. I don't like clowns, but this one wears a red-and-white striped clown suit that reminds me of salt water taffy, so he can be on my tree every year, too.

I got this little Made In Japan angel (along with 5 of her sisters--there were originally 8 in the box) at a yard sale last year. I have a thing for Made In Japan figurines and I was happy to welcome her and t the others to the tree.

For a while, kitty angels were a big thing. My mother bought me this one before they became ubiquitous and for the whopping price of $25. (It's even signed by the maker.)  It's porcelain (not plastic) and it always has a place of honor on my tree. And now I have my own silver tabby angel (my Emma--but I hope it'll be decades before she's an angel),

I have a lot of "animal" ornaments on my tree (even an elephant and a couple of fish--one smoking a cigar!). But I probably have more cats than anything else. This little cutie is asleep in a Santa hat.

I bought this Westie ornament in honor of my parents' first Westie, Buddy. What a good dog. He went to obedience school twice and was a joy to walk. He always sat at the curb, and he never did his business during a walk, so you never had to carry a bag. (He waited until he got home.) His first winter, my Dad trained him to wait to have his feet wiped of snow (or mud). He'd patiently stand there and offer you each paw so you could wipe them. And he stood quietly while you picked the snow from between the pads on his feet. That dog was just a joy.

This is Elga. She's kind of shabby and faded now, but she used to hang from the rear-view mirror of my first car. When I got a new car, I retired her, but I never got rid of her. Now she graces my tree every Christmas. And, as it turns out, she now has sisters. When I married Mr. L, he had several of these little crocheted cuties (all different) and they go up on the tree every year, too!

These are just a few of the hundreds (and I mean that literally) of ornaments that go up on our 7.5' tree every year.  Do your ornaments all have a story?

P.S. My Dad carved Santas as a hobby.  This is just one of them. (They're all different!) I have about 30 of them on my tree. (You can see another one in the top photo at the upper left.)

Monday, December 9, 2019

Coming on December 31st!


A tattoo parlor on Victoria Square? Some of the merchants get steamed at the prospect, but could they be driven to kill to stop it? That's what the sheriff's office and Katie Bonner want to know when the building's owner is electrocuted with his own saw.

Meanwhile, tensions rise when a hot chef takes over the square's tea shop. Will Katie have three men vying for her affections, or will her rival take the tea cake?

Chapters/Indigo | Book Depository (Free Shipping Worldwide)