Let’s Talk with Nancy J Cohen

Thanksgiving Celebrations
by Nancy J. Cohen

Happy Thanksgiving! Since we are expressing our gratitude this season, let me thank our Booklovers Bench followers for your support throughout the year. Your feedback, reviews and encouragement make our work as writers worthwhile.

This holiday is especially meaningful to me because I was born on Thanksgiving Day. My mother explained how she got a baby on a platter instead of a turkey. For this reason, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love the fall decorations and the food. In normal times, we enjoy a bountiful feast of butternut squash soup, roast turkey with gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and green bean casserole or baked broccoli with cheese. We forego the stuffing since our kids never liked it, although my mother made a tasty variety using crushed Ritz crackers. I use the leftover carcass to make turkey soup, so we have plenty to eat for days.

This year will be different. I am loath to be around other family members unless we wear masks and stay six feet apart. That is possible only for small groupings, not for a big extended family dinner. And even then, we eat in different rooms or at different times to protect each other.

It will also herald a time of change. We are moving to be near our kids. The closing is scheduled for Thanksgiving week.

After a flurry of activities to get the new house ready, we’ll return to our former residence to finish what we have to do there before saying goodbye. We’ll be losing the house we’ve lived in for forty years, but we have happy memories along with saved photos. It will be a loss and a new beginning. Life evolves, and change is inevitable.

How do you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this year?

Let’s Talk with Debra H Goldstein

Touchdown for Me
by Debra H. Goldstein

Yay! The election news is over. The hullabaloo of our local Alabama news cycle has quieted. The constant political ads for Doug Jones and Tommy Tuberville have ceased. Now, it is time to get back to what really matters in Alabama. College football.

We all want to know whether Alabama (University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa) or Auburn (Auburn University) will a) win their grudge match Thanksgiving weekend game; b) make the final four; and c) be the national champion. These are the things the college football diehards are worried about. I’m not.

Three Treats Too ManyDon’t get me wrong, I want to know these things, but only in the same passing way I want keep track of the news of the day. I like the fact that while the game of the week is on, I can easily go shopping because no one is in the stores. It also is a guaranteed time for me to write. Other than a cheer or shout of dismay from where my husband sits glued to the television set, there is nothing to distract me from writing. That quiet time is almost, but not always, better than taking advantage of shopping the stores.

Do you have a time where you have absolute quiet to read or write? Leave a comment to win a print copy (U.S. only) of Three Treats Too Many – a book with the perfect recipes to warm you this fall.

Also, while you’re here, signup for our November giveaway. One winner will have their choice of six books in the vault. Contest ends Nov. 18. (Print book winner must have US mailing address.) CLICK HERE to enter.

Let’s Talk with Cheryl Hollon

Pelicans Everywhere
by Cheryl Hollon

Earlier this year St. Petersburg, Florida declared the pelican as the official bird of the city. It’s been the unofficial bird for decades. It has adorned recycling bins, trash cans, and city promotional materials since the 1980s.

A new sculpture at the entrance to the renovated pier is a large, origami style red pelican. In addition, there are about ten red metal life-like pelicans scattered throughout the space.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the brown pelican is the smallest of six species of pelicans around the world. You can see these seabirds throughout most of Florida’s beaches, particularly over here on the state’s west coast. The brown pelican is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and is listed as imperiled.

The pelican has also made itself a common feature in the murals around town. This latest one is only about three weeks old as a result of the #HappyMural project. Well done!

The bird has already been an unofficial symbol of the city for decades, but Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration made it official January 9, 2020. An outline of the indigenous bird is already on the city’s flag and the city’s official seal.

It brings to mind the famous limerick by Dixon Lanier Merritt:
“A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I’ll be darned if I know how the hellican?”

As St. Petersburg is the setting for the books in my Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series, I’m going to find a way to slip a pelican into my next book.

Does your town have a symbol?

While you’re here,  enter our Booklover’s Bench contest. It runs from November 1-18. We’re collecting entries for a book giveaway from our vault by one our Booklover’s Bench authors. Click here to enter!

Let’s Talk with Maggie Toussaint

Of Ghouls and Saints
By Maggie Toussaint

Many believe that on Oct. 31, the veil between the living and the dead thins, allowing the dead to return to earth. Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain wherein people lit bonfires, offered harvest sacrifices, and wore costumes to ward off ghosts. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated Nov 1 as All Saint’s Day, where all the saints are honored a tradition that also endured through the centuries.

In that same vein, we have sayings like “it’s always darkest before dawn.” Contemporary societies are conditioned to understand that bad things occur but taught that recovery/renewal happen afterward. The message is humanity can “take a licking and keep on ticking” to borrow a catch phrase. So, whether you celebrate Halloween or All Saints Day, you’re assured life goes on.

[Sidebar: Halloween has also become big business. It is the second largest commercial holiday in the US, following Christmas. A Halloween article at History.com claims over 6 billion dollars are spent annually on this holiday.]

For many in this bizarre 2020, the pandemic, social injustice, natural disasters, and politics raised fear, anxiety, and stress to unprecedented levels. Some keep hoping there might be a happy ending to these troubled times, while others realize things will never be quite the same again.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hunkering down, doing what I need to do to get by, and reading books.

My latest release, ALL DONE WITH IT, is a bit like Halloween with the payoff of All Saints Day. Things get dark indeed, with the fate of humanity hanging by a thread. Dreamwalker Baxley Powell Mayes puts everything on the line to save us. And, spoiler alert, there is a happy ending.

My upcoming release, SPAWING SUSPICION, is available for preorder now in print and digital format. In this culinary cozy, Caterer River Holloway stirs up trouble when she tries to clear her brother and his girlfriend from a murder charge.

With this in mind, I’m celebrating Halloween/All Saints Day, by enjoying some dark chocolate and a good book or two, all the while focusing on my blessings. Maybe I’ll light up the firepit.

How will you (or did you) celebrate Halloween this year? Leave a comment and be eligible for a copy of GONE AND DONE IT, book one of my paranormal Dreamwalker Mystery series. (digital or print, but print winner must have US shipping address)

Also, on and after Nov. 1, please check out our monthly book giveaway. One lucky winner will make a selection from our book vault. CLICK HERE to enter the November contest.

Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

It’s a Book!
By Lois Winston

I recently gave birth to a book, A Sew Deadly Cruise, the ninth in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. Better a book than a baby. I can’t imagine going through childbirth nine times!

However, it’s amazing how much childbirth and books have in common. First, the gestation period is about the same, at least for me. It takes me about nine months to write a book. During the gestation period, both pregnancy and writing have a way of keeping you up at night. With pregnancy it’s hard to find a comfortable position for sleeping. Then there’s the acid reflux. Restless leg syndrome. And a child in utero deciding 3am is the perfect time to practice for the U.S. Olympic soccer team.

With a manuscript, authors are often kept awake trying to come up with a plot for the next book. Once they have a plot, they stress over the characters. The scenes. The dialogue. The pacing. The conflict. And where in the world is that elusive muse when you need her?

Sleepless nights don’t end with either the birth of a baby or the birth of a book. The baby has to be fed every few hours. By the time you’re done feeding and changing a diaper, you fall back into bed, stare at the clock, and groan, realizing the cycle will begin all over again in another hour or so. Once the baby is no longer waking to nurse every two or three hours, she’ll wake from colic, teething pains, night terrors, or ear infections.

Of course, you don’t have to get up to nurse a book every few hours throughout the night, but I don’t know a single author who hasn’t lost sleep over book sales, worrying whether she’ll earn out her advance, whether her option book will be accepted, and whether she’ll sell enough books to be offered another contract.

But there’s also quite a bit of joy common to both births. You marvel and beam every time your baby passes a milestone—that first smile, rolling over, sitting up, a first tooth, crawling, standing, walking, talking…

With a book, it’s much the same. The day your author copies arrive is like Christmas morning. There’s the first editorial review, hopefully a starred one, when you have your very own Sally Field moment. Your first book signing. Being invited to give a talk or take part in a panel at a conference. Making a bestseller list. Winning an award. And fan mail. Few things in an author’s career are as priceless as a total stranger reaching out to say how much your book has meant to her.

So, come join me in a celebration of the birth of A Sew Deadly Cruise. Post a comment for a chance to win an e-copy of any one of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. You can find them all here.

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.

Let’s Talk with Diane AS Stuckart

Terms of Endearment
by Diane AS Stuckart

As a child growing up in Texas, I learned that the correct reply was never a bald yes or no when answering an adult’s question. Only yes, ma’am or no, sir would do. (The corollary being that nope, yeah, or uh huh were never an option!) Beyond that, adults were never referred to by their first names but had an honorific assigned to them – Mrs. Carson, Mr. Lawrence, Aunt Minnie, Grandpa Jones. The habit was so ingrained that when I grew up and was invited to call my neighbor Jane instead of Mrs. Johnson, lots of mumbling and glancing about for bolts of lightning ensued.

You might suspect I’m about to talk about how civility has fallen by the wayside in subsequent generations, and to our detriment. Unfortunately, that seems to be true. Many of my contemporaries decided upon becoming parents that being their children’s friend was the way to go. This resulted in the line of demarcation between adults and kids shifting or, in some cases, disappearing entirely over the next few decades. All the “cool” grownups made a point to tell children to call them by their first names, the typical response being Mr. Harris is my dad–I’m Bill. And from there the Apocalypse ensued (just kidding…but maybe not…try watching the news!).

I, however, staunchly remain Ms. (or Mrs.) Stuckart. Or, in a pinch, Ma’am will do. In my view, addressing an adult informally is a perk reserved for other grownups of one’s acquaintance. That said, the more recent problem I’ve encountered is being called something other than ma’am by strangers. Just the other day, a young man working at a fast-food restaurant rushed out to my car to stop me from driving off with the wrong coffee. No ma’ams from him – he called me mama as he handed me the correct latte. And, sadly, there was no hot implied, other than what was in the cup.

That wasn’t the first time I’ve been mama’d since I hit sixty. I don’t mind when my work friends call me that, but I’m not really keen on such familiarity from a stranger. Miss Manners (aka Judith Martin et al) addressed the issue thusly when a reader asked why the use of ma’am has seemingly fallen by the wayside: What happened to “Ma’am” is that the age factor was injected into it from the recipient’s side. Those who apparently consider it reprehensible to grow older, even as they are doing so, took it as an insult, rather than the indication of respect it actually is.

She adds that, “Royal women are correctly addressed as “Ma’am,” whatever their age.” And her suggested response to being addressed as “mama” in lieu of “ma’am”… a gentle, “Surely if I were your mother, I would have remembered you.”

So, are you on team “Ms. Stuckart and Miss Manners” in preferring a bit of formality in day-to-day conversation, or are you good with being on first name (or mama) terms with all and sundry?

ONLY A FEW DAYS LEFT TO ENTER OUR CONTEST! Our October contest ends Oct. 18, so there’s still a chance to win until then. One winner may select a book of their choice from our book vault. CLICK HERE to enter. 

Let’s Talk with Nancy J Cohen

Pumpkins, Pies, and Pecans
by Nancy J. Cohen

October is when I take out my autumn decorations and festoon our dining room table with orange tinsel, rubbery Halloween spiders and pumpkin spice candles. Scents of cinnamon drift in the air as I anticipate the upcoming holidays throughout the house.

This year, however, those family feasts and ghoulish celebrations might go by the wayside. We can’t gather together, and if we do, we have to wear masks and stay six feet apart. This will be the Fall we’ll all want to forget.

Nonetheless, don’t let yourself get weighted down by the Can’t-Dos. Pull out those Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers. Find the porcelain wild turkey and colored glass pumpkins and decorate for yourself. Order a takeout pecan or pumpkin pie and look for deals on complete turkey dinners that you can eat at home. Meanwhile, think of all the savings for your wallet and waistline from not buying Halloween candy this year. What do you plan to do for the Fall holidays?

Dead Roots, my haunted hotel story, was inspired by Disney’s film, “Tower of Terror.” This fun movie has a ghostly mystery and is great to watch for pure escapism.

Name your favorite spooky family movie below for a chance to win an ebook copy of Dead Roots.

And, while you’re here, be sure to enter our October Book Giveaway contest. One lucky entrant wins the choice of a book from our book vault. Click here to enter. 


Let’s Talk with Debra H Goldstein

October 1 – Let’s Play a Game to Celebrate it!

by Debra H. Goldstein

It’s October 1. Do you know what that means? To me, it means fall, pulling a jacket out of the closet, college football, and thinking about what kind of Halloween candy I want to buy that I like, but promise myself I’m not going to eat this year. From a writing perspective, having a new book, Three Treats Too Many, officially having been a September release, it means a series of virtual events. For the world though, October 1 offers something for almost everyone. It is International Coffee Day, International Day for the Elderly, National Homemade Cookie Day, World Smile Day first Friday of the month, and World Vegetarian Day.

Because I like games, I’m going to play a game, with prizes, against my protagonist, Sarah Blair, and you. I’ll answer for Sarah and me in this blog, and for a chance to win, you leave a comment. Ready? Here we go….

International Coffee Day – I never drank coffee until I became a lawyer. At my first job, the only time approved for you to leave your desk was to take a restroom break or get a cup of coffee. I began drinking coffee. Sarah rarely drinks coffee, but she does occasionally – especially if it means getting close to someone she wants to investigate. For a copy of One Taste Too Many, when did you begin or when do you drink coffee?

International Day for the Elderly – Sarah doesn’t know from old age, she was twenty-eight when she got divorced and twenty-nine when One Taste Too Many began. Me, every day that passes, I’m feeling more elderly – of course, that may be because we just moved, and I’ve been unpacking boxes and boxes and boxes (the picture was some in the kitchen area). For a chance to win a copy of Two Bites Too Many leave a comment as to whether you are or feel elderly or if you feel that is only a state of mind?

National Homemade Cookie Day – Our answer is the same on this one – we will eat them if you will make them. For a copy of Three Treats Too Many, leave an easy cookie recipe. Ours is go to store, stare at all packages, and pick whichever one hits your fancy.

World Smile Day = We all win on this one because nothing brightens up a day more than a smile.

World Vegetarian Day – Sarah and I admire people who can adhere to vegetarian diets. But, being honest, although neither of us is a heavy red meat eater, we occasionally like a good steak. In Three Treats Too Many, Riley, a rising young chef, specializes in vegan dishes. There also are some great vegan and vegetarian recipes included in the book. Share your favorite vegetarian recipe for a chance to win a copy of Three Treats Too Many.

If these aren’t enough prize opportunities, don’t forget to enter the Booklovers Bench Vault drawing this month! CLICK HERE to enter the monthly contest. It’s October, and best of all, that means more opportunities to win from all the Booklovers Bench authors. Enjoy the weather getting crisper, the leaves changing colors, and Halloween coming!

Let’s Talk with Cheryl Hollon

The sculptures around town are masking up
By Cheryl Hollon

Wild Bill Hickock in front of The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art is setting a good example of a masked sculpture. In order to tour the museum during the pandemic, you must wear a mask in addition to having your temperature checked. It was a great visit since we hadn’t been inside since March.

Another example is the bronze newspaper boy in front of the St. Petersburg Museum of History hawking his daily newspaper. Isn’t he industrious? The newspaper he’s holding is a reminder that nothing is forever – The Evening Independent went out of business in 1986. It was famous for giving away the paper the next day if the sun didn’t shine in St. Petersburg.

I recently had a drive-by book signing of Still Knife Painting at TOMBOLO Books and wore my favorite: The Raven from Edgar Allen Poe’s epic poem, “NEVERMORE.” I love the ruby crystal as his eye.

I’ve amassed quite the collection of masks to suit my mood when I’m out and about. Here’s a few of my favorites.

Do you have a favorite mask?

While you’re here, set yourself a reminder to enter our Booklover’s Bench contest. It runs from October 1-18. We’re collecting entries for a book giveaway from our vault by one our Booklover’s Bench authors. Click here to enter after Oct. 1!

Let’s Talk with Maggie Toussaint

September Back to School
By Maggie Toussaint

Across our country, school has varying looks this fall. Some schools are still in distance-learning mode. Some have reopened doors and welcomed students with safety provisions. Some schools offer both distance learning and classroom learning. Many blessings to all teachers, school administrators, and everyone in a support function.

Growing up, our family tradition was to get back-to-school clothes and shoes because nothing worn in May would fit come fall. Often there were hand-me-downs (I had three older sisters!) but there would almost always be something new for the first day of school. Mom might take us with her shopping, but oftentimes, we stayed home, and she brought home the goods. Either way, it felt like a wondrous miracle. Many blessings to all Moms (and Dads!).

I loved getting those blue canvas three-ring binders, the colored tabs for sections, and a thick ream of notebook paper. But the best treat of all was pens and pencils. I believe I emerged from the womb with a love for pen and paper!

Nowadays, as a retiree, I’m not involved with back-to-school activities but I take advantage of seasonal sales to stock up on my favorite ink pens. I do a lot of note-taking before, during, and after typing a book, so I am a high-volume pen user, and I’ve always loved a good sale.

This September, I’m going “back to school” with two backlist romantic suspense books that I’m preparing for reissue. both were formerly published through The Wild Rose Press. After updating and tightening these golden oldies, I have them released through KDP (for the first 90 days)I have high hopes to get these reissued in September, and my readers will be the ones that decide if they pass “the test.”

House of Lies is about what happens when a birdwatcher and a former, injured CIA agent are targeted by her father’s enemy.

Buy KIndle version of House of Lies.

No Second Chance is about a woman who rescues horses and a businessman seeking the top slot at the family firm but someone doesn’t want either of them to succeed…

Buy Kindle version of No Second Chance.

Chime in with your favorite brand/type of pen for a chance to win any ebook in my catalog.

Also, our September contest runs through Sept 18. Click on over to enter!