Friday, October 19, 2018

A Favorite Fall Treat - One Bowl Pumpkin Bread

by Shari Randall
Yes, I need to work on my food styling.

The joys of fall are many - the blaze of crimson and orange leaves and the satisfying crunch of walking through them on a country lane. Apple picking and corn mazes. The cooler weather, making it a perfect time to wear cozy, soft woolen sweaters.
But pumpkin spice everything? Blech.
There's only one pumpkin flavored fall treat I do love: pumpkin bread.
I've seen many recipes but this version is one I've stuck with for years - the holiday spice aroma and one bowl easy clean up make it a winner. Whip up some up and let me know what you think. You can make two loaves from this recipe or a few more than two dozen generously sized muffins. Bon appetit!

2 1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs
3 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. oil
2/3 c. cold water
1 lb. can pumpkin

Mix all ingredients together with electric mixer.  Grease 2 loaf pans (do not flour). Bake at 350 for one hour.  If you do muffins, they'll take 18-22 minutes. Check doneness with a tester inserted into the middle. Enjoy!

Shari is the author of Against the Claw, the latest in the Lobster Shack Mystery series. Check out her Facebook Author Page for giveaways, appearances, and more. https://www.facebook.com/sharirandallauthor/

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Ode to a Library



Ode to a Library

By Cathy Perkins

When was the last time you visited your local library? 

Libraries have been around for a long, long time. The earliest libraries date back to 2600 BC. Yes, that’s Before we started counting time forward a couple of thousand years ago in the Western World. While we’ve ditched hundreds of ideas and customs as passé, in the digital age libraries are still in style. More than in style, they’ve adapted to the rise of ebooks and audiobooks. In fact, there are several great ways you can access my books from your local public library without leaving the comfort of your favorite reading chair. How great is that?!

My books are available to libraries via Overdrive, a leading digital distribution platform. Overdrive supplies the industry’s largest catalog of eBooks, audiobooks, streaming video and periodicals to 38,000 libraries, schools and retailers worldwide. (Here's the OverDrive link for So About the Mone https://www.overdrive.com/media/2496957/so-about-the-money)

Other upcoming services include Bibliotheca, an up-and-coming library-oriented option for acquiring digital content. Your library can request an author’s book through this program as an alternative—or in addition to—OverDrive. 

These digital access programs mean anyone with a library card can remotely check out an ebook or audiobook if your library owns a copy of the book. After a reader borrows a particular title (say, my Holly Price novel So About the Money), it automatically goes to their reading device through OverDrive. Since “my” libraries are forty-five minutes and two hours away by Interstate, browsing through my phone is a lot easier than driving to the physical building! Instead, the requested book shows up on my e-reader in moments.

If you’re new to OverDrive you can sign up HERE. Signing up is a quick process and allows you to customize your experience by choosing your preferred genres. You can even opt-in to receive book recommendations. You need a library card to access books using OverDrive. I have two library cards (yes, more is better 😉 ) and both libraries appear in my OverDrive account.

Now that I’ve piqued your interest, here are several ways that you can take advantage of this terrific library resource.


OverDrive recommends the Libby app for public library users. I admit, I eyed the app skeptically at first. Why mess with what’s working beautifully for me? Libby is a free app that streamlines the virtual borrowing process and lets you get those books from the library straight to your device. Best of all, Libby is compatible with Android, iOS, or Windows 10, and is one of the easiest ways to access library books on your devices.  

The original OverDrive app may be a better option for you if your library isn’t public, if you are using an older device, or you want to read on your computer (Windows or Mac). This app also has some great features to personalize your reading experience, such as adjustable font size (which I love for reading in bed at night without reading glasses), highlighting favorite passages, and a bookmark function.

 

Sounds pretty neat, doesn’t it? Now before you start borrowing my entire Holly Price Mystery Series, here are a few things about how requesting ebooks from the library system works:

1.    The authors’ and publishers’ responsibility is to make books available to the libraries. We have no control over whether your library will stock my books, unfortunately. Wish we did!
2.    If your local library doesn’t stock my books, sometimes simply asking your librarian to get them for you will be enough. Librarians are resourceful people! Once requested, the library can request a book for purchase or loan through Overdrive or Bibliotheca.
3.    You need a library card to use your library, whether you are reading ebooks or listening to audiobooks on your devices, or physically checking out “tree books” from the library. Ask your local library about their card policies. (For example, one of my library cards is free. I pay an annual fee to use a larger regional library since I live outside their city limits.)
4.    While OverDrive is available at most public libraries, there are still some libraries that are not connected to the program. You can check to see if OverDrive is available at your library HERE.

Wrapping up


Libraries are a great way to keep on top of your TBR pile without breaking the bank. At my libraries, I hunt for new to me authors or download favorite authors when the publisher prices the ebook at $14.99 (yikes!) 
Digital loans are eco-friendly. No trees harmed in their production. 😉
And an additional benefit? No late fees! (Yay!) Not through reading/listening to the book at the end of the loan period? Simply request it again.
So grab your library card and find out how easy it is to enjoy a slew of library books (including all of mine!) from the comfort of your sofa. 


An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She's hard at work on sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Killer Nashville Claymore Award.
 




Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Before the Wishlist. The Beatles! and Tales of Yesteryear

By Kay Kendall

Ah, the ease of the online wish list. I battled against the concept for years. But I finally succumbed.  What I GAINED: several hours of my precious time. What I LOST: the joy of watching loved ones delighted by their surprise gifts. If you are a boomer (as I am), then you recall when gift-giving before the wish list hit the scene. You tried to surprise the gift recipient—to surprise and delight. My joy of gift giving and wrapping came from my maternal grandmother who reveled in every aspect of gifting. 

In my boomer youth, I watched her decorate packages imaginatively. She could have hired on for Neiman Marcus—a store back in the day that did elegant and fanciful wrapping. (Their efforts today are a sad, pale imitation, fie!) What my grandmother could not do—not to save her very soul—was to keep her gifts a secret. She got so excited that she just had to give you hints--hints so major you could easily figure out what your gifts would turn out to be. I took such pleasure in her enjoyment that I didn’t mind.

Maybe telling Santa what you wanted for Christmas grew into the concept of wish lists. Yet today's wish list has more power. Woe to you if you give someone under-forty a present not on his or her wish list. I fought against wish lists until a dear friend said she gave up trying to surprise her offspring with delightful gifts. Finally she switched to the dreaded wish list or gave gift cards. Otherwise her grandchildren and children were chagrined. That’s how I discovered my offspring was participating in a societal shift. A generational difference, clear and simple. And so . . . I threw in the towel. But I remember a different time. I recall a December when I was a graduating high school senior. I wanted Beatle albums and 45s. When asked what I wanted for Christmas, “Beatles please” was my instant answer. My ONLY answer.

Meantime my mother and grandmother were in the kitchen making cranberry loaves, fudge, and mounds of cookies...all the while talking about the Christmases of their youths. My mother said she’d been pleased with mandarin oranges and pecans in the toe of her Christmas stocking, back in the 1930s. My grandmother recalled helping her mother go into the farmyard in Ohio and select a goose for neck twisting, in the first decade of the twentieth century--the holiday meal to be! I loved their quaint tales of the good old days. (Probably these stories helped grow my lust for history.)

When the morning of December twenty-fifth dawned. I went into the living room with my parents (I, an only child, admittedly a tiny bit or more spoiled). I had expected to call this my very own Beatles Christmas. But no. Arrayed beside the brightly lit tree was a set of three luggage pieces.

“You’re going off to college next year,” Delight shone in Mother’s eyes. “We knew you needed nice suitcases.” I tried to murmur sincere thanks while eyeing other presents. Where were the telltale signs of even one 33-long-play album? But John, Paul, George, and Ringo were nowhere to be found. All was not lost however. My paternal grandparents sent a check that I promptly cashed and turned into two longed-for Beatles albums. But, oh, I still recall the rush of emotion, the dramatic upheaval.

Things are so different now in the high season of gift giving. Well something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day. That’s the way the song goes, Joni Mitchell’s beloved “Both Sides Now.”

So then, what’s your opinion of the wish list phenomenon? What do you remember about gift giving and receiving in the “good old days?” What’s the routine at your house? I’d sure love to know.

*******
 
 

Meet the author

Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and now writes mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. A reformed PR executive who won international awards for her projects, Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff. In 2015 Rainy Day Women won two Silver Falchion Awards at Killer Nashville. Visit Kay at her website < http://www.austinstarr.com/>or on Facebook < https://www.facebook.com/KayKendallAuthor>





 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Where Will Those Ruby Slippers Lead Us?


by Paula Gail Benson

 

Toni L.P. Kelner and Dr. Stephen P. Kelner, Jr.
I’ve read books about and spent time in a number of writing classes where story structure and character motivations were explained by using examples from The Wizard of Oz. One example would be Debra Dixon’s excellent text, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

This past weekend, at a terrific workshop about The Psychology of Writing, organized by the Atlanta Chapter of Sisters in Crime, with Debra H. Goldstein as event coordinator, I heard another analogy to Oz’s characters presented by Dr. Stephen P. Kelner, Jr., husband of author Toni L. P. Kelner (the Laura Fleming and Where Are They Now? series and numerous short stories), who also writes as Leigh Perry (the Family Skeleton series).

First, I have to express my admiration for Toni allowing her husband to analyze her reasons for writing before an audience. I thought it was incredibly brave. When I mentioned it to her, she brushed it off, saying she was used to it. Still, the honesty with which she and Stephen approached the subject made it truly informative for the listeners.

Second, I think Stephen’s evaluations and theories, explained in greater detail in his book, Motivate Your Writing!: Using Motivational Psychology to Energize Your Writing Life, are very insightful. They certainly helped me to better understand my own writing motivations and characters.

Stephen suggested that there are three basic motivators:

(1) achievement,

(2) affiliation, and

(3) influence.

He said these motivators described the goals of the characters we see in The Wizard of Oz and in the Harry Potter series.

The achiever wants to accomplish a great deal. This person will do all he or she can to increase production. Like the Scarecrow and Hermione, they are depended upon for intellect and direction. What sometimes makes them less effective is their aim for perfection or their need to micro-manage.

The affiliator is interested in establishing and building relationships. Like the Tin Man and Ron, they want to be liked. Sometimes, they can be too anxious about gaining friends or hurting feelings.

The influencer wants to leave a legacy. This person asks, “Who will remember me?” Like the Lion and Harry, influencers may be competitive. They may push others aside in order to be noticed and get ahead.

Photo from etsy.com
Interestingly, in his studies, Stephen found that although achievement is part of writers’ goals, for most, including Toni, the primary motivator is to influence, to be remembered. When influence is the focus, a writer needs to find a way to measure what has been accomplished. Otherwise, the writer may get lost in being part of a writing community rather than actually producing work. After all, it’s wonderful to go to conferences and discuss craft with others, but that takes time away from producing stories.

Photo from the Harry Potter movies
For Toni, the answer became setting a manageable number of weekly words. She began by aiming for 600 words a day, writing 4 days, for a total of 2,400 per week and approximately 65,000 words per year (at that time the size of most mystery novels). Once she was able to reach and maintain that goal, she increased it to 800 words per day.

Both Toni and Stephen cautioned against selecting a ridiculously high goal, which would just set a person up for failure. Also, realize that life does not always proceed at an even pace. There may be times when, due to other obligations, a writing goal cannot be accomplished. Be forgiving, but get back on track and, Toni encouraged, always do your best to meet deadlines.

The workshop was a terrific success and I commend everyone who was involved with it.

I’m looking forward to reading Stephen’s Motivate Your Writing! and Toni’s latest as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Paints a Picture. (Her next, The Skeleton Makes a Friend, is available for pre-order and will be released November 6, 2018). For more about the workshop, please check out my post tomorrow on the Writers Who Kill blog.

Meanwhile, keep on following that Yellow Brick Road!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Generational Gifts


Generational Gifts by Debra H. Goldstein

When I was four years old, my parents told me I could attend a Broadway show once I proved I could sit through a regional theater performance. To this day, I remember seeing Betsy Palmer in the King and I at the Paper Mill Playhouse, located in New Jersey, only miles from New York City. From the moment the musicians began the overture, I was enchanted. My parents deemed the evening a success. I’ve been hooked on theater ever since. And yes, they kept their word.

I made the same deal with my twins when they were four. The only difference was the regional theater they attended was in Birmingham, Alabama – a far piece from New York. Consequently, my husband and I raised the stakes. They had to sit through shows, basketball games, and the symphony. When we took them to New York a couple of years later, we compromised and saw a show as a family, but on one evening, my daughter and I attended a performance of Phantom of the Opera while my husband and son watched the Knicks play at Madison Square Garden. They still both enjoy theater and sports.

Recently, I spent time during an Alaskan cruise with our just turned five grand-daughter. Every night on the ship, she put on her pajamas and brushed her teeth, so she’d be ready for bed. Holding one of my hands and one of her father’s tightly, she swung between us as we took her to the ship’s late show. Excitedly, she sat on her father’s knees, her eyes never leaving the stage until moments before the show ended when she’d crawl against her daddy and fall asleep.

Upset the next day that she’d not made it to the end of the show, we explained how it was a family tradition to miss the final moments of a show --- when her aunt was six, she fell asleep during the last five minutes of The Secret Garden and we all refused to tell her how it ended. She was forced to read the book and even then, we refused to tell her whether the ending was the same. She had to wait another seven years to see the show again.




But, back to my grand-daughter. She came to Birmingham two weeks ago and while the rest of the family was at an Alabama football game, Abby and I attended a regional performance of Hello Dolly. Dressed in her Sunday finest, Abby loved the show. She is ready to see another one. My hope is that one day, soon, she can experience the tingling thrill I still have when I hear the first notes of a Broadway musical.




There was a time I went to New York often, but life got in the way and I didn’t have the opportunity to go for several years. Then, my sister and I decided, as a tribute to our late mother, to meet in the city and see a few shows. We both flew in and celebrated the memory of our theater loving parents by seeing Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Hello Dolly (with Bette Midler), and Come From Away. This past weekend, I met my daughter in New York for forty-five hours. We crammed a lot into those hours, including Kinky Boots, The Band’s Visit, and the marvelous Come From Away.




I’m older than four now, but I still feel the same way when the houselights go down. Only now, I can glance at my family members sitting next to me and know I’ve instilled my love of theater in the next two generations. What’s even better? I’ve also shared my love of reading with them.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Supposed to be...

by Bethany Maines


I’m not supposed to be writing this.  I have a pretty stiff yearly schedule on what I intend to write.  And while the Stiletto Gang blogs are on my schedule, I have currently abandoned all sanity and schedules and have started committing time to a project that is NOT on the calendar.  I should currently be writing my San Juan Islands #3.  Unfortunately, while I had a fantastic idea for the opening, my idea pretty much stopped there. And an inciting incident does not a plot make.  But after I stared and stared at the screen and then stared some more, nothing was coming to me. So I started doing a writing exercise to get the creative juices flowing and now… I can’t stop. 

I think I’ve fallen in love with my own characters.  They keep popping up with more things for themselves to do.   And I keep thinking, “What a great idea!  I’m sure that will only take me twenty minutes to jot that down.”  Note to self: nothing you want to write takes twenty minutes.  And now my cushion of time for making my deadline is whittling down and I’m actually starting to worry.  So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stop writing this and stare at my screen and try and figure out why Tobias is in jail.



**
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

THREE FAVORITE BOOKS CULLED FROM DECADES OF READING (ONE IS PERFECT FOR HALLOWEEN)


By Barbara Plum (aka AB Plum)

At a recent writers’ conference, the speaker threw out an epic challenge:

·        Write down our three favorite novels
·        Rank them in order of preference
·        Exclude children’s and YA titles, plus non-fiction, plus our own fiction

Groans eddied around the room. 

Surprised by the reaction, I finished the exercise within minutes and then went a step further. I quickly analyzed several common threads shared by my choices.

I arbitrarily decided to omit memorable characters. In my opinion, characters are the obvious reason that make books unforgettable.

Here’s my ranked list, including some common threads that speak to me.

1.     Valley of Decision by Marcia Davenport.
2.     Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
3.     The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Here’s what puts these books on my shelf of favorite fiction:

First, I read them all at pivotal points in my life:
·        Adolescence (just before leaving college)
·        Freshman year in college (admitted to an advanced English program)
·        Illness (at a turning point in my high-tech career)

Second, they’re all literary fiction (a bit of a surprise since I now more often read genre- fiction). The language and writing are evocative and layered in my three faves.

Third, they paint rich portraits of dysfunctional families (a theme I write about and find fascinating to read about).

Fourth, I compare much of what I read to these titles.

So, if I were marooned on a desert island without my magical red shoes, I’d take these three books. (I’d beg to take the King James Version of the Bible too because each of these favorite novels is told there at least once).

What about you? Is coming up with three favorites easier than naming only one? Of the three you identify, can you select one as “The Favorite”?



****

Barbara Plum lives and writes paranormal romance in the shadow of Google. Books 1 and 2 in Wicked Magic, her latest series are available on Amazon:  
https://amzn.to/2OcG5zH 
https://amzn.to/2pEV330 

As AB Plum, Barbara writes dark, psychological thrillers. Check out The MisFit Series Books 1-4 on Amazon:
https://amzn.to/2C3GdKQ

Monday, October 8, 2018

Red Shoe Musings


Here’s a  truth—if you’re born and raised in Kansas City, red shoes are glittery and have the power, when clicked, to take you home.


  
When I was in college, I dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween. The dress was easy. The shoes less so. Simple red shoes wouldn’t do; I needed ruby slippers. I bought a pair of red shoes, covered them in rubber cement, and dunked them in glitter. I left a trail of sparkle behind me all night.



As I write this blog, I’m taking a mental inventory of my closet. There are no red shoes. There have never been any red shoes (I threw away the glitter shoes the morning after).

For my daughters, it’s a different story. One of them has a pair that makes the Stiletto Gang’s new logo look like flats.

What is it about red shoes? Do they connote power, a woman owning her sexuality, or do they simply add a pop of color to a black ensemble?



Ellison, the 1970s heroine of the Country Club Murders, has a closet like mine. No red shoes. There are navy and black and beige pumps. There are boots (so many boots). There are sandals in delicate spring shades. There are white espadrilles for summer. There are gold stilettos. No red.

Poppy—the heroine of Fields’ Guide to Abduction and Fields’ Guide to Assassins—she might have red shoes. Although, she wouldn’t wear them because they make her feel powerful or sexy. She’d wear them because they look good with her dress.

As for my daughters, this mother doesn’t want to examine the meaning of the red shoes in their closets. Who am I kidding? Their red shoes are tossed under their beds…but that’s another blog.

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders and the Poppy Fields Adventures. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

Her latest Country Club Murder, Back Stabbers, will release October 23rd.