Getting Cozy for the Fall

fall wreath

It’s the time of year when we start to enjoy evenings before a crackling fire, put on our sweaters and fleece-lined slippers, and swap cooling drinks for mugs of marshmallow-topped hot cocoa. What is a wonderful accompaniment to all this? A cozy mystery, of course!

You will have to wait until January to read my autumn-set Murder, by George, but there are several cozies available now (or soon!) that are sure to please as the days grow shorter and colder.

First on my list is Sliced Vegetarian by fellow Five Star Publishing author Liesa Malik. The second in the Colorado-based Daisy Arthur series (Faith on the Rocks) centers on the murder of an accountant. When Cissy Melato is found dead in a supermarket bathroom and a special-needs adult is the prime suspect, Daisy slips into sleuth-mode once again to clear the young man’s name. A grocery store isn’t a typical murder site; I’m eager to see how Daisy searches for clues among the broccoli, parsnips, and bok choy.

Other Five Star releases on my reading list are Mike Befeler’s Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse, The Musubi Murder  by Frankie Bow, Stone Cold Case by Catherine Dilts, Annette Mahon’s Slay Bells, and A Pallette for Murder by Vanessa A. Ryan.

I have been a reader of Rosie Genova’s Italian Kitchen Mysteries since its debut (Murder and Marinara). The third book, A Dish Best Served Cold, promises all the elements that have made the series a winner: an intelligent sleuth in Victoria Rienzi, romantic complications, a colorful, intergenerational family, and the Atlantic Ocean. Genova raises the drama by putting the Rienzi family’s Jersey Shore restaurant in the path of a hurricane. This should be good.

As a longtime fan of Karen MacInerney’s Gray Whale Inn cozies, I am excited for her new series, the Dewberry Farm Mysteries, which debuts with Killer Jam. In this Texas-set story, journalist Lucy Resnick’s new life as owner of her grandmother’s farm is disrupted by an oil driller who wants to install a derrick on the property. When the executive is found dead, with a jar of Lucy’s jam at her side, you know whom the police will finger as their prime suspect. I’m looking forward to my visit to Dewberry Farm in Buttercup, TX.

Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity paranormal series is very cozy, with its honey-colored cottage in the Cotswolds setting, quirky village denizens, and well-intentioned, but nosy, protagonist. There are no murders in these stories; sleuth Lori Shepherd investigates puzzles such as a garden well that seems to grant the whispered wishes of villagers, the cause of “accidents” at a Renaissance festival, and the mystery raised by a vampire sighting. Atherton’s latest, Aunt Dimity and the Summer King, brings a threat to Lori’s village of Finch in the form of a real estate developer. Can Lori save her adopted hometown from the spectre of McMansions or is this the end of Finch’s idyllic days?

Want more? I also have Tracy Weber’s A Killer Retreat, Fillet of Murder by Linda S. Reilly, Dead to the Last Drop by Cleo Coyle, and Parnell Hall’s latest, Puzzled Indemnity marked as To Read.

What mysteries are you looking forward to “falling” into this season? I still have room on my list for more!

Have a great week, everyone!

fall leaves

Posted in Cozy Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Reading Book Report ’15

A happy Labor Day to all in the United States. I hope you are enjoying this unofficial end- of-the-summer weekend.

Back in June, I shared a few of the books I wanted to read over the summer. I got to three of them (Dorothy Parker Drank Here by Ellen Meister and Alexander McCall Smith’s The Novel Habits of Happiness have been moved to the autumn to-read list) and would like to share my thoughts.

I always look forward to the latest from Anne Tyler, with A Spool of Blue Thread no exception. Tyler is a master at writing about a typical family’s life with poignancy and insight. Often, she creates a loveable character who is drifting through life, moving from job to job, and relationship to relationship, without direction. In A Spool of Blue Thread, the Whitshanks are the family and Denny the son meandering in and out of their lives. I hate to write this: The book disappointed me. I skipped over long sections that took readers into the family’s past and found that I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters. Still, I can’t wait for Tyler’s next offering.

Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman received a great deal of attention this summer, with many readers falling at the extremes with their reviews; some loved the book, others hated Lee’s portrayal of the Finch family twenty years after the iconic events of To Kill a Mockingbird. I fall in the middle, neither loving nor hating the work. I found it an interesting, but uneven, read, enjoying some passages and wishing for a quick end to other sections. I think students would benefit from reading Lee’s portrayal of the 1950’s South; it might help them understand the mindset of many opposed to the changes brought on by Supreme Court rulings.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower was my favorite book of the summer. Brower interviewed dozens of current and former White House staff members, not the people who serve in the president’s administration, but the permanent employees we never see: butlers, housekeepers, chefs, electricians, plumbers, florists. Brower shares their memories here, providing readers with interesting information on the work of the residence staff and tales of presidents, first ladies, and their families. There are no shocking revelations here; the staff holds much respect for the dignity of the presidency. There are entertaining stories on Nancy Reagan’s perfectionism, Lyndon Johnson’s demand for a shower that supplied scorching water with the force of a firehose, and George H.W. Bush’s tradition of playing horseshoes with the staff. There is a humanizing passage on Richard Nixon’s last hours in the White House, and very sad recollections on the days following John Kennedy’s assassination. The people and their recollections stayed with me days after I finished reading Brower’s excellent work.

I’ll finish with another White-House related book that wasn’t on my original list: And the Good News Is . . . : Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side by Dana Perino. Perino, George W. Bush’s press secretary in the last year of his administration, shares with readers personal and professional stories as well as advice to recent graduates (it’s welcome wisdom for those of us who aren’t, too) on how to reach their goals. She reflects on the decisions she made on the twisting path that took her to the podium of the White House briefing room, from what college to attend to moving to England to be with the man she loved. Perino’s you-never-know-where-life-will-take-you experiences prove there just might be a crack in that door you think you’ve shut forever. A very enjoyable, fast read.

What did you read this summer that inspired and entertained you? Please share; I’m always looking for good reading material!

Have a great week, everyone.

Posted in Summer Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Sneak Peek at Murder, by George

Happy Sunday! I hope the day is as beautiful where you are as it is here in New York. You can’t do much better than blue skies, warm sunshine, and chirping birds.

I thought it was about time I give you all a peek at Murder, by George (coming in five months!). I’ve selected an excerpt from the story’s first day; the scene is a confrontation that takes place at The Hearth, Barton’s popular restaurant, a few hours after architect Scott Culverson has unwittingly purchased a valuable painting by renowned local artist George Bradshaw. There’s tension in the room when Bradshaw’s family stomps in and orders Scott to hand over the painting. The high drama, complete with a few prima donnas, is like a scene from Veronica’s former soap opera, without the fun or a director yelling “Cut!”

Click on the new page above to read the excerpt. I hope you enjoy it!

Have a great week, everyone!

Posted in Murder By George | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Cover, by Deirdre

It’s here: the cover for Murder, by George!

Murder By George Cover

Deirdre Wait designed the image; I thank her and ENC Graphic Services very much for putting such a beautiful “face” on the book.

Deirdre included both important and minor details from the mystery to invite readers into the story. You’ve probably already identified the murder weapon: a cheese knife. It’s earned its front-and-center place of prominence on the cover. I like Deirdre’s choice to leave the knife clean, instead placing a drop of blood on a second crucial element in the plot, a painting titled Orchard Street. The valuable work of art is discovered by architect Scott Culverson at Barton’s annual flea market. His find prompts several people to claim ownership of the painting and, perhaps, provokes one claimant to plunge that cheese knife into Scott’s neck.

Orchard Street is found inside a red velvet bag hidden in a plain wooden box. The bag isn’t too important to the story; it’s a part of the overall description of Scott’s flea market purchase. It’s a small detail that enhances the cover, adding a lovely, rich color and texture to the image. As does the cheese and grape platter in the bottom corner. After seeing the platter, my cousin Laura said she was suddenly hungry for cheese. I told her to make sure she used a plastic knife to slice it. Just to be on the safe side.

The velvet bag serves another purpose. Deirdre cleverly uses the bag to conceal the painting, leaving its content to readers’ imaginations. Of course, Orchard Street is described in the story; I appreciate how Deirdre allows readers to finish “painting” it. I like to have some room to form my own image of people, places, and things in books I read and I leave some space for that in my work. Do you like having that space, or would you rather authors’ provide detailed descriptions of their characters and everything around them?

Finally, my thanks to Deirdre for adding a review quote for All Things Murder. It will attract readers of the first book in the Veronica Walsh series and, I hope, nudge those who didn’t read the book to do so, immediately! Always promoting!

The cover has received a wonderful response from my family and friends. I hope you like it as much as they do. Please, share your thoughts!

Happy Sunday, and have a great week!


Posted in Murder By George | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Happy Fourth!

To everyone in the United States, a happy July Fourth! Enjoy whatever festivities you have planned today in celebration of Independence Day.

I know I haven’t reported on Murder, by George, since April, when I finished the second round of edits. The lull should end this month! The designer has been hard at work creating a cover for the book; I expect to receive a PDF file with the image any day now. I’m very eager to see what will be that introductory look for readers. Once I have the cover, I can start on my own design for bookmarks and postcards. The promotional materials will be ready when I receive the ARCs (advance reader copies), probably in August. So just as kids are going back to school, I’ll be entering my sophomore year of book promotion. My homework will be to contact cozy bloggers, libraries, and booksellers and ask them to review Murder, by George, order it for their patrons, and stock it on their bookshelves. Promoting All Things Murder was quite a learning experience for me; I hope to put those lessons to effective use this fall.

I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s summer! Enjoy the weekend, wherever you’re spending it. And have a great week, everyone!



Posted in Murder By George | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Summer Reading ’15 (Beach Not Required)

I know summer won’t officially arrive for another week, but with temperatures in the eighties, high school students collecting their diplomas, movie blockbusters hitting theaters, and ice cream shops offering coupons for free cones, the season is already in full-swing. I thought I’d share a few titles on my summer reading list.

Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee) – Though this novel (available July 14) looks like a sequel, it actually served as the inspiration for Lee’s masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird. After Lee gave her publisher the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman, a story narrated by an adult Scout Finch, her editor suggested Lee write a novel from a younger Scout’s point of view. Thus was born one of the twentieth century’s best, and most beloved, books. It isn’t known why the eighty-nine-year-old Lee, who for decades vowed she would never publish a second book, agreed to the release of Go Set a Watchman. We can only be thankful that she did.

A Spool of Blue Thread (Anne Tyler) – If Anne Tyler wrote the phone book, I would read it. She has written a number of beloved novels (The Accidental Tourist, Digging to America, Back When We Were Grownups) and won a Pulitzer prize for Breathing Lessons. Her stories, all set in Baltimore, feature families, marriages, and friendships formed by well-drawn characters. No one is perfect in Tyler’s stories, but she always imbues them with qualities that make them loveable and unforgettable. I’m looking forward to meeting the Whitshanks, the latest family of characters created, and dissected, by Tyler.

Dorothy Parker Drank Here (Ellen Meister) – Meister’s Farewell, Dorothy Parker delighted me back in 2013. It was fresh, witty, poignant, and wholly engrossing. In the story, the spirit of Dorothy Parker emerges from the guestbook of the famous Algonquin Hotel to help movie critic Violet Epps become less of a, well, shrinking violet. In her follow-up, Meister gives Parker’s spirit a new cast of characters to “haunt.” I’m ready to sign the guestbook and enjoy the fun.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House (Kate Anderson Brower) – There are plenty of books filled with facts on the administrations of the forty-three men who have served as Commander-in-Chief. Brower gives us a different look behind the scenes after conducting extensive interviews with staff members. Not folks like the press secretary and chief of staff, but the men and women who remain in service when a new president takes the oath of office: the cooks, florists, doormen, butlers and many others who maintain the White House and serve the First Family. Brower’s book covers life in the White House from John F. Kennedy’s tragically short term to the current presidency of Barack Obama. It promises to be fascinating reading for presidential history fans.

The Novel Habits of Happiness (Alexander McCall Smith) – I always have a book by the prolific Smith on my reading list. This offering, which will be available in July, is the tenth in his Isabel Dalhousie series. Isabel is a philosopher and amateur sleuth in this series set in Edinburgh, Scotland. In each book, Isabel contemplates the mysteries of life, morality, and human behavior as she works to solve a puzzling case. Smith’s books offer readers comfort, entertainment, and wisdom;I have no doubt this latest provides the same.

What is on your summer reading list? Is it filled with nonfiction, mysteries, autobiographies, or lighthearted tales for your days in the sun? Whatever your selections, I wish you happy reading! And a great week!

Posted in Summer Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memorial Day


As we celebrate Memorial Day here in the United States, let us remember it is not about the barbecues, store sales, or day off from work. It is a day to honor the thousands of men and women who gave their lives serving this country in war and peace. Every day should reflect on the sacrifice they made while defending our freedoms and protecting our homeland, not just this one day in May.

Let us keep in our prayers the eight Marines who died this month. In Nepal, six Marines bringing relief to earthquake victims were killed in a helicopter crash: Jacob Hug, Mark Johnson, Dustin Lukasiewicz, Sara Medina, Christopher Norgren, and Eric Seaman (also killed were Tapendra Rawal and Basanta Titara, the Nepalese soldiers traveling with the U.S. Marines). And Joshua E. Barron and Matthew J. Determan, who perished after their helicopter crashed during a training exercise in Hawaii.

Have a safe weekend and a good week, everyone.

Posted in Memorial Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Dear Mother

Today I wish all moms a very happy Mother’s Day!

I especially wish a happy day to my mother, Oona. Like many are saying to their mothers today, my mom did a spectacular job raising four children. She has never been anything other than loving, fair, and supportive to her kids. Many words have been used to describe my mother: lady, sweet, kind, generous, best friend. She is all of that and more.

Mom always let us have dessert, even if we hadn’t eaten all our peas and carrots. She let us listen to the radio station of our choice in the car, even if she didn’t care for the music. She sat through many television shows she didn’t enjoy without complaint, including the hockey games my Dad loved to watch. Like many mothers, she was the one who had to clean up when the dog got sick or pooped all over the rug. She consoled four children through vaccinations, upset stomachs, stitches, and broken bones. She has supported those same four through the ups and downs of adult life.

The best compliment I have heard my mother receive came a few years ago from a family friend, who said she always felt at home when visiting my mother’s house. Mom is always ready with a warm welcome, a pot of tea, cookies, and the time for a good chat. She has a gift for friendship, and how she has given it has been a valuable lesson for me.

One of my favorite “mom” stories involves an Alice Cooper poster in my brother Bob’s room. This was the 1970’s, and I’m guessing it was a photo of Cooper with a snake around his neck. It didn’t please Mom, but instead of ripping it down and throwing it out (or burning it), or waiting until Bob came home to yell at him before ripping the poster down and throwing it out (or burning it), she wrote a polite note asking Bob to remove the poster, because “it might scare the kids.” The kids being my sister, Patti, brother John, and I. How many mothers would be so thoughtful and self-restrained? !

So thank you, Mom, for your love, patience, and wisdom. You are always right!


When I googled “mothers in literature” yesterday, five of the first ten hits offered lists of the worst moms in books (hello, Mommie Dearest)! Are we that lacking in excellent fictional mothers?

Of course not. To name a few of the great ones: Marmee from Little Women, Caroline of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, A Christmas Carol’s Mrs. Cratchit, Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Scarlet Letter, and Molly Weasley of Harry Potter fame.

Alexander McCall Smith, one of my favorite authors, has created my favorite literary mother – Precious Ramotswe, star of  the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Precious is the adopted mother of two orphans, Motholele and Puso. She is a gentle, compassionate mom to the two kids, and Smith endows her with the wisdom all mothers need to guide their children. And like my mother, Precious knows many problems can be solved while sharing a good pot of tea. I think I’ve said it before, I would love to have Precious as a friend.

Who is your favorite mother of literature? Do you love the sweet, nurturing moms, the slightly daffy ones, or the entertainingly overbearing mothers?

Have a great week, everyone!


Posted in Mother's Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Things at the Library

I paid a visit to the Sloatsburg Public Library this past Wednesday to meet with a few of its patrons and read a selection from All Things Murder. I must thank the library’s Sue Melnyk and Sandy Welsh for arranging the event and the readers who attended. Among them were my former neighbor Jackie and her sister-in-law Alicia. Jackie, who babysat my siblings and me back in the 1970’s, took delight in mentioning that she was the only person, other than my mother, to change my diapers. Talk about a flash from the past. I’m not sure if it is true, but I wasn’t going to debate it in the library.

For the reading, I selected the passage from All Things Murder in which Veronica discovers her neighbor’s dead body. I thought that would hook those who had not read the book. I think I accomplished that goal; a few books were purchased and one of the library’s copies was checked out as soon as I had signed it.

I answered a few questions after the reading. One related to using the names of real places and people in fictional stories. A great question and one Five Star Publishing addresses before writers submit their work. The publisher sends, along with a document outlining the proper format of the manuscript, a file detailing when permission is needed to use an actual business, place, or person in a story. I used the library as an example in my answer.

If I mention the library in passing (e.g. a character returns a borrowed book), I do not need permission from the library to use its name. If the library plays a role in the story—a character works there, or a major event takes place there—I would need the library’s permission.

Another example. I can write that a character ate a meal in a famous restaurant without getting permission from that restaurant to use its name. But if I write something negative, say the food was terrible and the character suffered a bad case of heartburn afterwards, I would need to obtain permission from the establishment. Permission I probably would not get.

In All Things Murder, a number of characters are worried about a deal that would bring a shopping center to Barton. These fictional shopkeepers fear the chain stores that would fill the mall will put them out of business. In early drafts of the book, I used the names of well-known coffee, book, and greeting card stores as potential businesses at the shopping center. As I prepared the manuscript for submission to Five Star, I decided to change all the names to fictional shops (and no, the phony names cannot be only one or two letters different from the real business name). Though I did not write a bad word about the real life businesses, I felt the characters’ attitudes toward their competitors might be taken as negative. I did not want to disparage businesses that employ thousands and do good work in not only their communities, but also on a national and international level.

The same goes for using real people in the story. It is all right to mention a famous person; in Murder, by George I mention Sally Field and Meryl Streep. But Sally and Meryl cannot be characters in my book unless I obtain permission from the actresses. Which would probably be a difficult task to complete. So they will never visit Barton. Neither will  real life soap opera queen Susan Lucci, as fun as that would be, nor a fictional actress named Susan Lucky, Suzanne Lacci, or Sue DiLucy. That disguise would be a bit thin, don’t you think?

Another reading attendee asked me about the research I did for the book. I used internet and library material while writing All Things Murder, as well as Murder, by George and the third book I am currently writing. I often consult to find out how long it will take Veronica to drive to a real town from the fictional Barton, which I have located to the north and west of Lake George. I also used the internet to check that the business names I created for All Things Murder were indeed fictional. I went through several names before landing on titles that weren’t trademarked or in use by business owners.

The plot of Murder, by George revolves around a valuable painting discovered at a flea market. As several characters claim ownership of the canvas, I researched what their legal standing would be if this were a real case.

I also pose questions to family and friends. I recently asked my cousin Terry, who attended college in Lake Placid, a question about another town in the Adirondacks. Last summer I had a conversation with my brother Bob about will bequests and I’ve asked my sister-in-law Marilyn about her floral business.

Finally, a woman at the reading wondered about the choices I made in creating the characters. I replied that readers would expect soap actress Veronica to be a diva, but I wanted her to be a likeable, down-to-earth character. The attendee laughed and mentioned, to my delight, that I had made murder victim Anna the diva. A series with an actress needs a prima donna. Murder, by George also has several divas on its pages. It was a great compliment when early reader Laura said she hated one character so much she hoped she was the murderer.

That’s my news for the week. It’s much happier than what I’m watching on the television now. Please keep the people of Nepal in your thoughts and prayers as they deal with the terrible loss and destruction wreaked by the earthquake and its aftershocks.


Posted in All Things Murder, Murder By George, Promotion, Research, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Edits, Round Two

This past week I have been working on the second round of edits Tracey Matthews from Five Star sent me a few days before Easter.

Have you ever worked with the Track Changes feature in MS Word? If you have, you know Word doesn’t remove deletions, it strikes through the words and lines so an editor and writer know what changes each has made. The document ends up a colorful three-hundred pages (give or take). It’s easy for an extra space or period to get lost among the changes, or for a piece of dialogue to go without a closing quotation mark. Tracey, a fantastic editor and fact checker, went through the Murder, by George manuscript and corrected these errors.

Tracey also requested an alternative word choice in a couple of spots and pointed out inconsistencies in the text and confusing passages. For example, too many dialogue tags (he said, she said, the dog said) can slow the story’s pace, but attribution is needed at times to break up long stretches of conversation and to identify the character who uttered the marvelous quip or profound insight.

Finally, Tracey went over the Ancillary Materials document I submitted with the first edit. Included in the document are short descriptions of Murder, by George  for the book jacket and Five Star’s catalog and a full plot synopsis for the cover designers. I should have the cover image to share with you by early summer.

Here’s the copy that will appear in the publisher’s catalog for Murder, by George:

Retired soap actress Veronica Walsh leads a fulfilling second act in her Adirondack hometown of Barton. With a new business and thriving romance, she has no time for amateur sleuthing. Then architect Scott Culverson buys a vintage box at a flea market and discovers a valuable painting inside a locked drawer. An argument over the painting’s ownership ensues, with Scott battling both the artist’s family and Ella and Madeline Griffin, whose mother received the painting as a wedding gift. When Scott is stabbed to death and the painting stolen, the Griffins ask Veronica to help clear suspicion from their hot-tempered great-niece.

Veronica’s sleuthing introduces her to a colorful cast of characters. Whom can Veronica trust, and who will lead her to the brink of death?

That’s enough about the second in the Veronica Walsh mystery series. I’m still promoting the first, All Things Murder! I’ll be doing a reading from the book at the Sloatsburg Public Library in Sloatsburg, New York next Wednesday, April 22. I’m looking forward to meeting the library’s patrons and sharing with them a selection from my debut cozy. It should be a fun evening so if you are in the area, come join us!

Happy Sunday, everyone!



Posted in All Things Murder, Ancillary Materials, Edits, Five Star Publishing, Murder By George, Promotion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment