Monday, October 19, 2020

Luci H. Zahray, The Poison Lady

by Paula Gail Benson

On Saturday, the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime was delighted to welcome as its guest Luci H. Zahray, well known to Malice Domestic attendees as “the Poison Lady.” Luci, who has a Masters degree in Toxicology from Texas A&M, first came to Malice as a fan, but when she heard writers asking how they might dispatch victims with poisons, she offered answers and quickly became the source to be consulted. She has some interesting tales about traveling with her poison “toy box” through airport security.

This year, Luci has been able to spread her excellent information through virtual meetings. During her time with Palmetto Chapter, she focused on household toxins such as methanol, tobacco, hand sanitizer, and anti-freeze. The amazing part of her information was how little of a substance was needed to produce blindness, illness, or death. She calculated based on how the substance would affect a 170 pound man and referred to the amount as LD 50 (lethal dose 50%).

Here’s a link to where she visited The Stiletto Gang on September 11, 2009. Gloria Alden’s summary of a Malice Domestic meeting (found in Writers Who Kill) indicated that Luci’s topic that year had been lead. For another Writers Who Kill post, Edith Maxwell mentions hearing Luci talk about using liquid nicotine, rosary peas, Tylenol, and alcohol as poisons.

If you have an interest in poisons, you won't want to miss one of Luci's presentations.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Where to Live? A Guest Post by Lena Gregory



I’ve lived most of my life in a small town on the south shore of Eastern Long Island, along with four generations of my family. My grandfather owned a deli in town, where I started working stocking shelves and sweeping floors when I was twelve years old. When I was a little older, I started working the breakfast shift, the inspiration for the All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery series.

I’ve always loved the small-town feel, the way everyone knows everyone, especially the families who have lived here for generation after generation as mine has. When I married a man from the neighboring town, it seemed natural to settle down where we’d grown up and start our family.

Then my husband got a job offer in Florida, and he accepted. We moved down right after my daughter finished kindergarten. I had only ever been to Florida once, when my daughter was three and we spent three days in Disney World, so I had no clue what to expect. 

Just like Gia Morelli in Scone Cold Killer, I was in for a few surprises.

I was used to deer crossing signs, since Long Island is home to a large deer population, but the first time I drove my daughter to school and saw a bear crossing sign, I actually turned around and went back to see it again. I thought I was mistaken, but nope, it was a bear crossing sign. Until that moment, I had no clue there were bears in Florida. 

Then there were the love bugs, and they were everywhere. And lizards, which I’d never even seen in real life before I moved, and snakes, sometimes venomous ones. 

In the All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery series, Gia suffers more than one run-in with Florida wildlife. As the series progresses, she gets more used to some of the creatures native to her new home, but others continue to terrify her. 

Aside from the critters, Florida’s weather brought a few surprises for me as well. On the rare occasions Long Island gets tornadoes, they are small F-1s that do very little damage. One night, about six months after we moved to Florida, I had just gotten into bed and turned on the TV, and the weather report came on. A line of damaging storms was coming through. The reporter said if you live on my road, “take cover now,” and I freaked out, to put it mildly, woke my daughter and stuffed her and my dog into the tub, even tried to wrestle a mattress into the tiny bathroom. (That was so not happening.) 

When a line of damaging storms tears through Boggy Creek, Gia is forced to deal with yet another new downfall. Fortunately, she learns a few lessons about living in a small town and how the people pull together in times of need.

Gia moves from Manhattan to a rural area just south of Florida’s Ocala National Forest. The enormity of the forest frightens her at first, especially when she thinks about everything that’s probably living in there, and she has a terrible time trying to fall sleep in all the quiet. Eventually, she comes up with an inventive way that reminds her of home to help her sleep. 

Like Gia, whenever I got homesick, I spent a lot of time checking off the positives and negatives of living in Florida and New York. 

Because there were also amazing things about living in Florida. The natural springs, with their crystal-clear water, gorgeous blue skies—even in the winter when the skies in New York are permanently gray. And who could complain when everyone in New York was shoveling out from under a foot of snow, and I was lying by the pool?

In the end, my decision was made for me when my husband and I both got job opportunities in New York. We ended up moving back to New York and visiting Florida every year because we missed it so much. Until last year, when I retired from my day job and we returned to Florida, this time to a bit more rural area, and I absolutely love everything about it. 

Gia is still weighing her options and missing fall in New York. But when Savannah talks her into participating in the local Haunted Town Festival in A Waffle Lot of Murder, she can’t help but realize Boggy Creek is going to be her permanent home, and she wouldn’t change it for the world. 

What about you? Have you ever had a hard time deciding where you wanted to live? 





Wednesday, October 14, 2020

New Things

 by Bethany Maines

I once had a cousin/uncle/grandparent-ish person (he was my second cousin once-removed if you want to get technical here, but the point is that he was in his eighties and I was around ten, you get the idea) who once posed the question that I probably wasn't supposed to hear - what's the difference between naked and nekkid?  Naked is simply having no clothes on.  Nekkid is naked, but with intent.  In other words, the difference is subtle and mostly to do with what you intend to do about it.  Which is how I feel about old and vintage.  

My general preference, when given a choice, is for old things.  Which is to say I like old books, old furniture, old clothes and my grumpy old dog.  Although, usually I say vintage, which is the same as old, but with character.  I don't want new things (unless they're electronics and sometimes not even then).  I want the things I've become accustomed to and work for me.  Which is why sometimes, even when something gets actually too old to use, I still hang on to it.  Recently, my favorite skull-n-crossbones mug developed an unfortunate hairline crack that resulted in it weeping tea over everything.  It was unusable but I hung on to it for two weeks.  What was I planning on doing with this mug?  It wasn't fixable.  It wasn't art.  Did I think it would magically heal itself?  It wasn't until I had resigned myself to it's passing that I was able to let it depart into the recycling bin.

I don't think my preference for the old and familiar is particularly unusual.  I think most of us are little grumpy about being forced into new things.  We're uncomfortable with being uncomfortable.  On the other hand, studies seem to indicate that actively being in a place of uncertainty and learning keeps Alzheimer's at bay.  Being used to a little discomfort makes us appreciate what we have and have grace for those who also in discomfort. And I think that if a few more people were used to being told no and being a little more uncomfortable then they wouldn't lose their cool and have public temper-tantrums in the middle of Target (why is it always Target?).  Perhaps we need new things periodically just to remind us that sometimes we don't always get to keep our favorite mug.  And sometimes we need a new mug to tell us that everything will be OK.  As long as it looks vintage.

And Now.... Book News!

The Cinderella Secret is coming 10.19.20 and there are gifts, prizes, and sneak peeks for you to delve into! The Cinderella Secret is a romantic thriller that continues the Deveraux family saga, this time with Aiden Deveraux, the handsome lawyer going up against Ella Zhao who blames the Deveraux family for her father’s death. With family secrets and thrills at every turn, The Cinderella Secret delivers a one-two punch of passion and action that will keep readers turning the pages.

Pre-Order The Cinderella Secret on all ebook platforms:

Bonus Gift  (but just for my friends)

The Lost Heir, a Deveraux Legacy prequel novella, will be released in December, but members of the Blue Zephyr Press / Bethany Maines newsletter will receive it on October 19 with the release of The Cinderella Secret! 
Join here:


Want a chance to win a free copy of The Cinderella Secret? One lucky winner will also get a copy of Book 1 - The Second Shot.  Giveaway ends 10.17, so snag your entry now!
Enter at:

Try Before You Buy

Read Chapter 1 of The Cinderella Secret! 
Read here:


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, 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 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 Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and BookBub.

👈 The new mug

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Gay Yellen: The Fortuneteller's Prophesy

Ever had and unexplainable, eerily paranormal experience? In honor of Halloween and El Dia de Los Muertos, I offer my spooky, true story.

It began in the other-worldly parlor of a New Orleans psychic, the summer after college. I was making a movie there. As we finished the day's shoot, the cinematographer invited me and another friend to join him and his wife, Donna, for an unusual get-together.

His mother-in-law had recently died. Deeply grieved, Donna had found a spiritual psychic who promised to put her in contact with her Mom beyond the grave. My friend and I were to provide emotional support during the session.

That evening, we parked in front of an old brick two-story in a poorly lit neighborhood near the French Quarter. We rang the bell. Madame, the psychic, opened the door. Round and elderly, with unnaturally black curls framing her pudgy, wrinkled face and a huge antique cameo at her bosom, she wobbled ahead, leading us into a stuffy parlor.

Blood red walls flickered with candlelight from dozens of votives scattered around the room. An altar-sized crucifix of Jesus, eyes rolled back in ecstasy, hung above the mantel. Statuettes of saints populated almost every flat surface.

The cinematographer and his wife sat on a fraying black satin sofa, holding hands. Heavy burgundy curtains blocked the windows behind them. Madame pointed us to two side chairs and settled herself into a gold brocade wing-back.

She asked Donna if she'd made contact with her mother since their last session. Donna shook her head, teary-eyed. Madame said not to worry, because she had indeed reached Mom, and all was well. Donna simply needed more practice.

Madame instructed us to shut our eyes and concentrate on Donna's goal. I tried my best to conjure her mother, sitting beside her, whispering in her ear. But after a minute or so, Madame stopped the exercise. Mom hadn't shown. We all had failed.

Then Madame turned to me. "I am seeing a very strong image over you. Might we pursue it?" Since the woman knew nothing about me, it felt safe to play along. I nodded.

"Are you a writer?" she asked. Was this about Donna, or me? I hesitated. Barely twenty-one, I was focused on an acting career. 
The actress, that summer.

The only things I'd written back then were class assignments, my honors thesis, and a little poetry. I shook my head.

"Hmm," she muttered. "The image is remarkably clear. Someone is writing, always writing—a story perhaps, or a book. Are you sure you don't relate to that?"

I shrugged.

Madame shut her eyes. "The image is too strong. Perhaps someone close to you is a writer?"

"No one."

Madame seemed baffled. She went quiet for a moment. "I also see a dog, a little white dog, running up to you. A beloved pet. The image is very clear."
The white pup.
Totally wrong. I'd never had a white dog. Besides, if I ever got one, white would be my last choice. I shook my head again.

Madame was a fake, for sure. I never gave the incident a second thought. Until...

A decade later, I was playing with the puppy that had unexpectedly entered my life. Out of the blue—as my very white, very beloved pooch ran toward me to return the ball I'd tossed in our regular game of fetch—Madame's vision popped into my brain, like a crazy mind-meld across the years. Goosebumps. Was this the little dog she'd "seen" years before?

Spookier yet, we fast-forward to today. I don't know if Donna ever made contact with her mother, but as I write this post, and I work to complete my third book, I can't escape the memory of that strange night at Madame's. Because now, I am writing, always writing.

Madame was right. I am a writer.

Have you experienced a spooky event like this?

Gay Yellen is a former magazine editor and the award-winning author of the Samantha Newman Mystery Series, including The Body Business and The Body Next Door (Amazon.) Book #3 in the series is slated for 2021. She'd love to hear from you, here, on Facebook or her website.

Monday, October 12, 2020

A Perfect Afternoon

 I'm writing this blog from my front porch from my front porch. Around me the maples are turning. The oaks remain resolutely green, which means I'll still be raking in December.

October is my favorite month. In Kansas City, it's a month filled with impossibly blue skies, mild afternoons, and crisp evenings. Today, a gentle breeze plays with fallen leaves.

I should be writing or editing or focused on the business of writing. But, it's Sunday and the day is beautiful. I ignore work, stretch on the chaise, and eye the book next to me (a travelogue about Greece because that's Poppy's next stop).

All too soon the weather will turn--cold winds, leaden skies--and I'll miss porch sitting, al fresco dinners, and sandals. As I put on a heavy sweater, I'll probably bemoan the words I could have written when I put aside 1975 and watched the season change.

Then again, to quote a favorite movie of my youth, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

That's right, I'm using Ferris Bueller to justify a lazy afternoon.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention I released a book a few weeks ago. Poppy's in Grand Cayman, and if you've been dreaming of a beach vacation, her latest adventure is just the ticket.

Also, Amazon made Stayin' Alive a monthly deal for October . You can grab a copy for your Kindle for only $1.99!

I hope your October exceeds your expectations!

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.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Fork in the Road

The Fork in the Road by Lois Winston

In 2003 when my agent suggested I try my hand at writing a cozy crafting mystery (she knew an editor looking for one), little did I realize how that suggestion would change my life. At the time I was writing humorous contemporary romance and gritty romantic suspense. I don’t know if it was because I couldn’t make up my mind or if I possessed somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde personality, but I found myself straddling both light and dark worlds in my writing.

To be honest, I hadn’t read any light mystery since I’d consumed every Cherry Ames novel I could get my hands on back in elementary school. I didn’t even know there was such a sub-genre as crafting cozies until one day when I was killing time and decided to Google myself.

One of the hits that popped up brought me to A Murderous Yarn by Monica Ferris. In the book, a character walks into a needlework shop and asks the owner if she carries any designs by Lois Winston. In my non-writing life, I had spent decades designing needlework for needlecraft companies and publishers. I nearly fell out of my chair! Was this merely coincidence? I know of a few other Lois Winstons throughout the country, but it’s certainly not a common name. Lois Lane aside, Lois was never really all that popular, and Winston is more common as a given name than a surname.

I contacted Monica through her website to find out. No, it wasn’t coincidence. Monica was not only familiar with my designs but was a huge fan. She said she likes to mention her favorite designers in her books. Pretty cool, huh?

Of course, a few years later, having been asked to write a crafting cozy mystery, I needed to immerse myself in the genre and started with Monica’s books. I quickly learned that crafting cozies usually include at least one craft or some craft tips. This posed limitations on the types of crafts I could choose, due to e-book and printing constraints.

Once I had read dozens of crafting cozies, I felt comfortable enough to start writing my own. I created Anastasia Pollack, the crafts editor at a women’s magazine. With such a career, I wouldn’t be limited to featuring only one craft in each book should the series sell and continue for multiple books. I could also work around the physical limitations of print and e-books when it came to featuring designs.

I’m glad I made that decision because I’m now up to nine books in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. There are also three connecting novellas. In Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, I featured several different crafts to give readers an indication that the series would be a bit different from one-craft cozies. Subsequent books have featured mop dolls, yo-yo crafts, decoupage, knitting and crochet, scrapbooking, glass ball Christmas ornaments, and crafts made from recycled greeting cards. I chose sewing crafts for A Sew Deadly Cruise, the newest book in the series.

Most of the crafts in my series are designed for people with limited crafting experience. Anastasia and I want our readers to feel confident they don’t have to be Martha Stewart to create something they’ll be proud of.

Before I was offered a contract for the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I sold two other books, a rom-com (from my light side) and a romantic suspense (from my dark side). With cozy mystery, I’ve been able to incorporate both sides of my writing personality into one genre and am now firmly planted in the world of the cozy mystery. I guess you could say I took neither the left nor the right fork, instead forging a new path in-between the two.

How do you feel when your favorite author is no longer writing the books you love to read? Do you give the new genre a chance, or do you move on to other authors?

A Sew Deadly Cruise

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9

Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.

Craft projects included.

Buy Links




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USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.


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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Cathy's Corner


I'm putting this out here so y'all can call me out in case I don't follow through. Ha. How's that for being an obliger? Yes, that's me.

Here's the opening of my "will be published by January 2021" novel. I'm hoping I beat this deadline but it is 2020.

The title is Cathy's Corner. The hero has moved to this small southern town to open a restaurant named after his recently deceased wife. The heroine thinks this is a really awful idea, the name, not the restaurant, ... actually, she has issues with the menu too.

And, here's a cover that I created for fun. Not the final. Bear with me. I've hired an editor and cover designer.

Cathy's Corner, chapter one 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sue Fisk stretched her fingers to reach the remote without disturbing Charley, her terrier-mix rescue, who stretched boneless and warm across her unclad feet. She flipped her television to the proper channel and snuggled down into her thrifted blue velvet sofa, a nod to her late parents’ love of all things Elvis. 

She’d accepted the charity of a hand-me-down Blackberry™ phone from her uncle/boss when she’d dropped her flip phone in Lake Moultrie the other week. The Blackberry which now vibrated sharply, startling Charley who looked behind her like she’d farted and wanted to blame someone else. Sue laughed, squinted at the text, and muttered, “I make it pretty clear not to disturb me on Monday nights when I’m watching my show.”

Hey. What channel is Longmire on?

She stared at the screen trying to figure out the sender.

It’s time 4 Longmire, yes?



Her phone buzzed again seconds after the final scene. The number from earlier appeared on the screen. It didn’t look familiar, but since the lake incident, she’d been piecemealing her contact list back together. She’d learned her lesson about backing up her phone, maybe. And while her meticulous mother’s address book would have come in handy, she’d tossed every cigarette smoke-infused item in the house into the garbage the day after her parents died of lung and throat cancers within hours of each other. She bent her head to read the recent text.

I loved the familiar faces in this show. This is the pilot, right?

Yes. The new season begins at the end of May. They’re re-showing last season.

The answering text dinged almost immediately.

Thanks for the tip. Sleep tight. Don’t dream about murder and mayhem …


What’s :P?

Furrowing her brow, she studied her phone. Her small circle of friends teased her about her favorite emoticon, who was this?

I’m sticking my tongue out at you.

I’m going 2 need to learn more about texting 2 keep up. Enjoyed the show. 

The next morning, Fisk Design & Print Shop’s squat square cement-block building glimmered in the morning light as she pulled into the rear parking lot. Joyce, the co-graphic designer, sat in her car and gestured toward her radio when Sue tapped on her window. Sue opened the passenger door and joined her for the last few minutes of the reading of the Tuesday morning Piggly Wiggly weekly specials on the local radio station. Curtrice Collins, Sue’s best friend, and next-door neighbor read the items with enthusiastic glee. At promptly 7:58 a.m., Joyce’s phone alarm beeped alerting them to get to the office door. 


Robin Hillyer Miles is published in an anthology. Look for her short story, West End Club, in Love in the Lowcountry, by Lowcountry Romance Writers of America, on Amazon.

You can find her author page on Facebook at

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Clicking Our Heels - Dream Locations For Writing

Clicking Our Heels – Dream Locations for Writing

Every writer harbors a dream of the perfect place to write – today, the Stiletto Gang lets you into our secret desires.

Sparkle Abbey:

Mary Lee Ashford - For me, a dream location for writing would be a spot close to water such as a beach or a lake, but I also need to be close to books. And coffee. So, maybe a cottage by the sea within walking distance of a coffee shop would be perfect! 

Anita Carter - Dream location would be anywhere near a beach. It would be amazing to live in an oceanside cottage for a few months while working on a book. I can hear the crashing waves right now!


Lynn McPherson - My dream location is in a small seaside town, somewhere with a small desk by a big window that opens up, overlooking the ocean and allowing the salty breeze to flow through.


Shari Randall - My dream location is a cabana on the beach of a Greek island, fully stocked with cold drinks and snacks, a sunset to look forward to every night, and a catamaran on call. A girl can dream!


Juliana Aragon Fatula - A beach view in a five-star hotel with nice sheets and pillows and room service, free wifi, off season with no other guests, quiet, peaceful, comfy.

Dru Ann Love - Just a nice corner with little distraction, beside the TV on in the background.

Julie Mulhern - There's an enormous picture window with a great view.

Robin Hillyer-Miles - I am a spoiled woman. We have an in-ground pool with a birdcage enclosure surrounding it. I tend to write better while sitting by that pool. 

T.K. Thorne - Like a remote tropical island close to the ocean, or the top floor of an old house on the bay, or a luxurious condo somewhere high overlooking the ocean.  Give me water!

Kathryn Lane - It’s a cabin in the mountains of northern New Mexico, near Taos. As long as the cabin is warm, cozy, and I can periodically peek at the beautiful view, my writing juices flow.

Paula Benson - Oddly enough, I’ve always imagined a dream location for writing as an office building. Growing up, I imagined working for a movie studio and having an office to go to for my work. Going to work at an office where you get paid for your fiction writing. That’s my dream location












Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Tripping Over Research

 By Kathryn Lane

Planning a research trip!

Research is a must for scientists and academic writers who either “publish or perish”. And it’s also a necessary activity for people who pen non-fiction, historical fiction, and science fiction.

But what about genre writers?

To me, authenticity is important in novels. Without it, readers lose interest. Plot, characters, setting, and time period are important elements that often should be augmented with research. For example, a character with a particular illness must be presented authentically, so research of symptoms and treatments could be important.

Sagrada Familia Basilica 

As a suspense and mystery author, I delve into police procedures, murder weapons, guns and how to use them, and even the interior of ambulances. Settings form an important element in my novels I often place my stories in foreign countries. To make the reader feel they are experiencing that locale, I do online research. Before completing a manuscript, I take a trip, camera in tow, to check out my locations. I want to verify I’ve described the environment as accurately as possible, including geography, culture, architecture, historical facts, or even practical items such as how the police are organized in another country.

Before completing my last novel, Revenge in Barcelona, my husband and I traveled to Spain. We spent time imbibing the culture, sampling the food, verifying historical tidbits, and touring architectural sites I’d built into the story. Plus a friend in Barcelona set up a meeting with an antiterrorism agent (who remained anonymous) to discuss the various police and counterterrorism forces working in Catalonia, the part of Spain where the tale happens.

Cave Art from Aurignac

Early in the manuscript, I had protagonist Nikki Garcia and her fiancé visit Franco-Cantabrian caves containing paleolithic art. I’d built scenes where the antagonist followed them, just out of sight, through these isolated parks. I’d personally visited the caves to get them right. While editing the manuscript, I realized the cave section did not fit the story or add real intrigue. It was an information dump. So I cut that adventure, retaining only a couple of passing mentions to the antiquity of cave art since it’s in keeping with Nikki’s character and her love of ancient archaeological history.

How did I realize I had an info dump? Following my rule that research incorporated into fiction should be balanced, I’d highlighted my research in yellow as I wrote to keep track of it. Upon editing the work, the unnecessary research popped out I was literally tripping over my research.


Have you ever researched so intensely that you’ve incorporated an information dump into your writing?


Photo credits: Map - courtesy of glenn-carstens-peters-ZWD3Dx6aUJg-unsplash.

Façade of Sagrada Familia Basilica, Cave Art from Aurignac, and Nikki Garcia Trilogy by Kathryn Lane. 


Kathryn’s books – The Nikki Garcia Mystery Series and her short story collection – Backyard Volcano. All available on Amazon.

Kathryn Lane started out as a starving artist. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with a major multinational corporation. After two decades, she left the corporate world to plunge into writing mystery and suspense thrillers. In her stories, Kathryn draws deeply from her Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.

Monday, October 5, 2020

It's Fall So It's Time To Bake

 By Debra Sennefelder

Happy Fall!

This time of the year I love nothing more than tying on my apron and gathering the ingredients for a baking session. One of the my favorite recipes is a recipe featured in THE UNINVITED CORPSE, book one in the Food Blogger Mystery series. It's a recipe for a chewy in the center, crispy on the edge chocolate cookie.

WARNING: These chocolate chip cookies require a tall glass of water. 



Chocolate Chip cookies were the first cookies I ever learned how to bake. And since then, I've experimented with many recipes until I finally came upon this one. It was born out of a lot of trial and error. 

It takes a lot of willpower not to eat every single cookie when it comes out of the oven. 

What's your favorite cookie?


  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup bread flour
  • 3/4 teapoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-2/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F) and line cookie sheet pans with silicone baking sheets. (Or line with parchment paper.)

  2. Cream butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, about 3 - 4 minutes. Scrape sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed of mixer and then add in the egg and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well to incorporate into mixture.

  3. Beat in vanilla.

  4. Whisk together flours, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Be careful not to over mix.

  5. Stir in chocolate chips.

  6. Scoop dough by rounded tablespoon and drop onto prepared pan, 2-inches apart to allow room for spreading. Then drop another scoop (approximately 1-1/2 teaspoons) of dough onto top of each cookie. Press lightly together making sure to not flatten the cookie. 

  7. Bake for 9 - 12 minutes, rotating half-way through baking, or until cookies have spread out and the edges are golden, but the center of the cookie still looks soft and just slightly undercooked. Every oven is different, so I like to bake two cookies first to get the timing down correctly and then fill up the next cookie sheet.

  8. Let cookies cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. (If they last that long.)


    *I don't have a yield on this recipe because it depends upon how big you make your cookies. The photos are from my latest baking session and I was very, very generous with scooping up the dough with my tablespoon measure. My yield was about 17 very large cookies. 

    Debra Sennefelder is the author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series. She lives and writes in Connecticut. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking, exercising and taking long walks with her Shih-Tzu, Connie. You can keep in touch with Debra through her website, on Facebook and Instagram.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Baking Up Holiday Yummies


Baking Up Holiday Yummies by Maddie Day

Thanks for having me back to the Stiletto Gang! I’m celebrating the release of Candy Slain Murder, my eighth Country Store Murder, and I’ll give away a signed copy to one commenter. I had a two-release month in September, and Linda kindly agreed to host me as a guest twice, once for each.

Can you tell this new book is a Christmas cozy mystery? Robbie Jordan has her country store all decorated for the holidays, and she and her assistants think up fun Christmas-colored specials to serve, like a spinach-red pepper egg bake.

Of course, quite a few Christmas cookies make it into the book, too. I grew up making cookies with my mom, using recipes from both my grandmothers, and continue to do a lot of baking in December every year. I still make Mexican Bridecakes, English Butter Cookies, Red Sugar Cookies, red-and-green spiral icebox cookies, Spritz cookies (otherwise known as Squeeze-Out cookies), and of course, gingerbread people. Both my sons grew up baking with me, and I love that the custom keeps getting passed down.

One year recently my older son and I attempted a Buche de Noel. It was a lot of work and a bit of a fail.That’s definitely one to buy from a bakery. A successful non-sweet thing I baked was a cheesy Christmas tree, with cheese-filled balls of biscuit dough arranged like a tree and sprinkled with red peppers, parsley, and parmesan cheese. It’s a great holiday party appetizer, or it was in the days when it was okay for multiple people to touch the same piece of food (sigh).

Candy Slain Murder includes several recipes, including for gingerbread people and for Holly Cookies, which are sugar cookies cut with a holly leaf shaped cutter and dusted with green sugars. I hope you love a taste of Christmas a couple of months early!

Readers: What’s your favorite holiday sweet? Do you bake family recipes or preferto get your cookies at the bakery or at a cookie swap?

In Candy Slain Murder, Country Store owner Robbie Jordan’s life seems merry and as bright as the Christmas lights glistening around South Lick, Indiana – until a man claims to be the long-lost half-brother of Robbie’s assistant. A fire destroys the home of a controversial anesthesiologist, exposing skeletal remains in his attic. The twin of the long-dead woman is murdered. Unavoidably intrigued, all Robbie wants for Christmas is to stop her winter wonderland from becoming a real nightmare.

Maddie Day
pens the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Agatha Award winning Edith Maxwell writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries and short crime fiction. With twenty-three mysteries in print and more underway, Day/Maxwell lives with her beau and their energizer kitten north of Boston, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. She hopes you’ll find her on social media under both names, on, and at her web site.